Thursday, 5 May 2016


My brain is undergoing a wash; it's very similar to an automatic car wash – vigorous – with the exception that its rhythm is unpredictable, as are the results.
The scrubbed areas have set so many thoughts swimming. All these bodies thrashing in the water. Their heads sheathed in rubber caps, their eyes hidden behind dark goggles. These are serious swimmers, not pleasure bathers floating or paddling. The stroke is not from the breast but overarm, and some clearly need more practice. With breath, the turning of their head and the slapping of the water; the latter should be avoided at all costs. The aim is not to splash but to develop a smooth technique much like a fish i.e. mostly undetectable.
(I never knew that this is what goes on in my brain. I wonder if others have the same...? Apologies for the interruption but the idea is fascinating, is it not? Perhaps others have a jungle with men in camouflage, or women with supermarket trolleys cruising aisles, picking an item up, studying it, then putting it back. And yes, I know I'm being gender specific and stereotyping, but one's imagination can only stretch so far and it's hard to visualise what someone else might find when it doesn't play to your own interests. Note: I have no interest in swimming. However, I sense your impatience, so let us end this discussion and return to the aquatic scene).
It's a respectable scene (there's no nudists here), and adult. No children are present and there's no childlike vibes i.e. no water slides or inflatables. This is serious stuff. A role the participants are to some degree experienced in as none (now I'm closer) have the appearance of complete novices. They cut through the soup of water or dive from the rocky ledges that encircle it with a skilfulness that only those engaged in continuous study can possess. (What I earlier termed as 'thrashing' I later learned is par for the course here, but then I've never been a spectator of water sports. Perhaps after assimilating this I'll develop a higher regard for it in the outside world...)
As I was saying before I discontinued my description of this inner setting, the swimmers come across as proficient: some fluid, others workmanlike, but as my terrain is in human nature my attention was immediately drawn to the fact that women outnumber men, (I don't know why I'm surprised when I identify as female), and considerably so. The disparity is instantly noticeable since the men seem little more than appendages, part of the pod yet somehow not, particularly as the women are so striking in their one-piece suits with not a tendril of hair showing beneath their bathing caps; their figures as shiny and sleek as multi-coloured seals, whereas the men it has to be said are more walrus-like. (Their washing technique is probably of more interest to you but I thought their physiques were worth a mention).
With their physical structures fleshed for your benefit rather than mine (I mean I'm here aren't I, an inside bystander to this spectacle whereas you're going about some other business I imagine whilst also reading this, as am I writing), I will now direct my gaze to their athleticism. And I have to say it's quite stupendous what they achieve in such a small space (they're packed in like sardines as they say) since there's very little margin for errors, and which means spray is inevitable. The few men being the chief offenders as they do tend to rather flop into the churning waters, and yet once their bodies are immersed their gracefulness is equal to that of the women's.
The purpose of swimming is I assume to agitate my cerebral fluids, and it does have that desired effect for there are so many thoughts popping in my brain, (which I think also accounts for the number of swimmers though this would also infer that thoughts have an X or Y chromosome), which from my inside position looks like a fish-feeding frenzy.
Remarkable, how the outer self is fed.

Picture Credit: Spray, Harold Williamson

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Drought and Flood

Dried up. That's how I feel. I've drained my pools of creativity. Like sponge fingers soak up hard liquor, or earth when it's parched and the first rains after a dry spell fall. A drought, not one brought on by climate change but of my own making, which came on too sudden. I wasn't prepared for these arid plains. And yet I could, at any time, have slowed my pace, locked in moisture.
I might have foretold its coming...
Instead I strode ever onwards until my brain was a fevered hive and my body cried for water. The last drops gone. All gone. But to make it clear you tell yourself so in a loud firm voice “All Gone. No More.” The small child dismissed, the still staring dog less patiently told “Be off with you.”
The child will forget immersed in play, the dog will pass the hours in sleep then wake and again pad to the kitchen for scraps, but when the drought is within the dryness lasts. And lasts...and lasts. It is not dispelled by external hands, nor by substituted juices. Nothing abates this thirst except knowledge. The knowledge that most often comes unexpectedly, the unlooked for moments that causes questions to flower into a bed, a lawn, a wild meadow, which you admire like a painting from afar, or twirl in the centre with one arm outstretched, and the other bent so your hand keeps your straw hat from flying off, as your skirts flap at your ankles. The mental image that of a combined Monet and Degas.
Giddy and drunk on the sight and scent of flowers when your land before was stark, do you pluck and try to keep them alive, or let them wither and die naturally? A profusion gathered in your arms must be arranged in a vase and placed in a sunny spot you can see, whereas those in a meadow must be walked through as much as convenience allows. With either you never know when the bloom will fade, when the petalled heads will wilt. Nature, especially that of the mind, is an inexact science.
Areas can flood. Abruptly. The dripping tap becomes a tap you can't turn off; the trickle then turns into a steady stream, and when turned on full to a ferocious gush that sprays. This is the peak of creativity, and as the feeling is one of ecstasy you lack foresight. The moment is all that matters and being in it. Nothing is allowed to interrupt or slow that frenetic flow. The deluge lights wild fires rather than douses their potential to ignite, which goes against logic and chemistry, and you so enjoy the rush you don't think to build a dam or moat, or even to collect some in a pail for lean times.
You burn: your face flushes, your lips redden, your eyes sting, the heat seeps through and engulfs you, but you don't stop. You would rather drown in this body of fire-water, than let its tide go out. But it does go out, like a light, not like a flood. There's no standing stagnant water to be bailed. Nothing needs to be aired, there's no dampness anywhere nor any signs of rot which in extreme weather-related floods would be a relief. The overhead blazing sun would also be a welcome sight but here it is prophetical, though too late as always in its warning, as when you try to fetch water from the pump none comes.
Moisture. None. Not in the air, not in the usual crevices. Areas that were previously plump are deflated and shrivelled, and incredibly dry and flaky. Everything works but at a tired befuddled tempo. What organ am I? What do I do? Even those that have autonomic functions, that work independent of thought, now require belief in their existence. Your liver makes you feel sick, your kidneys don't give you the urge to pee, and your heart pumps the blood around so sluggishly that your toes develop chilblains and itch. Your pallor has turned a pasty grey with a tinge of yellow, and your eyes are so dry tears cannot be made and so cannot fall.
This will pass, or so you tell yourself, and it will as all phases do, yet the cycle must repeat.
Drought, meadow, flood; drought, meadow, flood. How I long for a meadow, meadow, meadow!

Picture Credit: Field of Wild Poppies, 1873, Claude Monet

Thursday, 21 April 2016

On the Subject of Love

What can be greater than loving someone from a distance and letting them be free?
That question was the first to form in my mind when I read the words platonic love. A love without physical consummation: feelings divulged but not acted upon, shared but unification undesired. And when I say distance it might be just an arm's length, a person you may see or be in contact with regularly. A relationship which some might define as a mutual regard, but platonic love is so much more than that, though the thesaurus suggests passionless as a similar term. How can that be the case when its equivalent is the non-reciprocated crush?
It's by no means passionless: the shared passion is just directed elsewhere, in the love of similar tastes, intellectual debates or even in admiring looks. It's more head and heart than loins. Each the muse to each other's life-affirming endeavours. Each providing a way for the other to live, to survive, to cling onto a semblance of life they foster secretly, or to give them the stamina and the determination to push that same rock upwards though it repeatedly tumbles down. This admiration of another fortifies and inspires the will of men and women-kind. It gives rise to confidences, those things you might not utter to a lover until it's too late or they're left unsaid forever. The unspoken hanging in the air or locked away.
Why then is this kind of love deemed to be lesser? Less desirous, less potent? For what could possibly be more romantic than a meeting of minds? A relationship like that has longevity, as can a relationship based merely on the sight of each which induces a steady fire rather than a burning flame.

In 1855 Robert Browning, a Victorian romantic poet, wrote a poem about this very matter: The Statue and the Bust, where a Duke falls in love with a bride on her wedding day. The jealous husband learning of this confines his new wife to a room from where she watches the Duke ride by every day. As her beauty fades she has a bust made of herself which she places in the window; the Duke has a bronze statue made in his likeness which he erects in the square outside. That's the heart of it: nothing ever comes of this affair, and yet there's a constancy there. Yes, there's a vainness there also, a wanting to be seen as the best version of themselves like a portrait that though the colour might fade the light of the captured person never dims and their appearance never ages, but with an acceptance of how the situation stands and that their feelings will remain regardless. They build monuments to their suppressed love, elevating that unconsummated bond to an unattainable level.
An impossible love, one without stains! But I'd rather that than a possessive love or an uncaring one as both extremes are equally dispiriting. Why do we wish to possess, to grab? Why do we confess to love when it's not how we honestly feel? We think we apply unconditional love to family, sometimes close friends, but does it in reality exist? Because even in those relationships you often find struggles; there are conditions which if not met can result in love being withheld. Maybe unconditional love, despite our intentions, is not practised at all.
Ordinary love, ordinary in the sense of the usual formula, can be manipulative. Or even turn violent. Platonic love poses no such problems because it never progresses beyond a certain boundary. It's deeper than a friendship, but yet doesn't require an culmination which is where the normal spheres of love always veers. Both parties are satisfied with the companionship they provide to each other. Disappointment is rare as are the demands made. There are expectations, no dizzying heights and no crashing lows. Some would say that's not love at all since it doesn't involve the risks or fears that can make you soar or plummet.
I dispute that. What's wrong with a love that's comfortable and doesn't necessarily have to go anywhere? Far far away from the Fifty Shades of Grey territory. I think we've lost our real sense of romanticism and no, I don't mean in the dominion of Mills and Boon either, but an even more chaste version. Rewards, and sometimes more of them, can be found in a platonic form of love.

Picture Credits:
The Love Philtre (Study), circa 1914, John William Waterhouse
Photograph of an unidentified bust, circa 1951-1952, taken in Italy by Nigel Henderson