Thursday, 25 May 2017

Angel Flung From Space

I'm so far ahead of myself that I forget how far ahead I am. Ahead of what? Time, space, philosophizing, though my feeling of this is subjective and not substantive. My views to, my relationships to everything are personal and though meaningful to me, mostly, are less meaningful to others, if at all. And as you might have gathered, I like making my position, any position, as clear as possible. If and where I can.
Sometimes, thoughts won't be grasped you know, at least not in a way they can be explained. It's like knowing the definition of a word and the context it should be used, but being unable to formulate a comprehensive sentence to explain that term or its usage to someone else. I take information in, some say like a sponge, but I cannot for the life of me pass it on when the moment arises. Not when it's requested or could be volunteered, not when it could help some other seeking knowledge. Knowledge that I already have, a short-cut to wherever they want to eventually get to.
No, the words die in my throat, tail off when I notice the uncomprehending look in people's eyes: what is she blathering on about? Or worse become a burble of mismatched words which don't go anywhere and leave the enquirer no clearer, still, in fact, knowing nothing more than where they started from. And if further questioned as to my explanation, I'm liable to lose the plot, to um and er a lot and to throw my hands up and out in uncontrolled gestures. My hands moving of their own accord as if to divert people's attention: follow my hands and not the words streaming from my mouth.
Nobody has ever fallen into a trance nor stopped listening to what I'm issuing although the hands have been followed. It's a curious effect, not even mildly hypnotic and yet even I, in the midst of talking, get distracted by the other person's darting eyes, so that really all it is does is confuse and make me painfully aware. My hands continue to dance, as if they're separate from me, despite desperate attempts to rein them in, and so in certain situations now, where improvised gestures would be unforgivable I have to sit on them.
I've never asked what the other person sitting or standing opposite me thinks of this shadow puppet show. I'm not sure I'd want to know. How much notice do we take of other people's mannerisms, or even of our own? Perhaps I'm unusual in that respect; self-centred, self-absorbed even or just distressingly self-conscious.
Too much time to mull, I suspect. A writer's failing, not that I really think of myself as a writer. I prefer not to categorise whatever this is, this exploratory outpouring, except to know that if I didn't allow a blank space for it I'd probably go mad; they'd be too many thoughts and nuances running amok up here.
Up where? In the unsolvable maze of my mind whose hedgerows are undefined. What once seemed to lead somewhere becomes a dead end; what was once a cul-de-sac opens out. Its pattern changes on a frequent basis, so that everything that appeared simple is complex and anything anticipated to be complicated is simplex. It's akin to a 3D design, which if viewed on a lit screen, you can look at from every conceivable angle, except the one in my mind runs to a different, though not entirely incompatible, program to its host.
Now, I've heard of independent thinking, but this is frankly bizarre. A sure sign, though not the first, of madness or a contracted virus. And some, it's true, is in a code I don't recognise until I locate the Master Key to unlock that particular door, but for that you need convergency and that rarely occurs when I want it to, least of all when I deliberately give thought to a situation or a puzzling affair. But then perhaps my analytical behaviour is too much of the kind you'd ordinarily associate with a much younger person; my mind lagging behind making that transition to full adulthood, and therefore determined to raise uncertainties for me to ponder over, such as where do we come from? where do we go back to? and could an Angel have been flung from Space to take my place and erase my default settings?

Picture credit: Convergence, Jackson Pollock

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Whole in One

Time is a slippery devil!
It gives, it retracts. Yawns and sighs like a person needing their bed in the middle of the day and drags on until the homecoming hour and then speeds up so that it's lost in the end-of-day commute and other preparations for the morrow. Sleep, at the appropriate hour, doesn't last as long as it feels it should, which amounts to a barely awake, glum-looking, glum-feeling workforce.
There are many, I think, who would welcome Death for a long, long, sleep. Blasphemous, yes, but not untrue. If I could prick my finger on a spindle I would do, though I'm not sure I'd ever want that particular curse to be broken. To wake up and resume what's left of my life in a very different world to the one I departed, though possibly having to continue the same drabness as before would be a worse fate. 
This imagination of mine, as helped along by Kurt Vonnegut and fairy tales of old, finds it all too easy to make that leap – a leap of time in the shape of a giant's foot – where a whole world slumbers as the earth's clock goes haywire, to wake up a zillion years later either in a life familiar or in an unrecognisable world.
Would time have frozen, moved backwards and forwards, or passed as normal with nobody to comment on or watch it? Would it matter if it had done all of those if the whole of humanity was dead to the world?
A further, more perplexing question is: are we sleeping now? Drifting through the lives we lead, or think we're leading, in a spaced-out mode. Peace, man.
Awake, yet not. Acting with what we think is Free Will, but is it really? The term redefined to suit whatever doctrine, with barely a hair between what is and what isn't. How many actions are yours and yours alone? All are or eventually become repetitious, with some so finely tuned you don't even realise that a) you're doing whatever it is whenever you're doing it, and b) it's as regular as clockwork.
Hmm, half-past four, time for tea and a dunk-able biscuit. And yes, we do that in the South too, but mainly with Digestives and Rich Tea and not crumblier varieties. The biscuits you dunk is as personal as how you fill (or kill) time when you exercise Free Will, or think you're exercising it. And dunking has a crucial time factor.
Our love of time strikes again! Get it just right and your mouth receives a delicious tea-soaked biscuit, just the right softness in texture; time it all wrong and you not only lose half the biscuit but also get to choke on the buoyant crumbs. There's an exact science behind it: the temperature of tea to the thickness of biscuit, the ratio of biscuit to tea, unless you're aiming for a whole soggy mess in one large mouthful. Whatever floats your boat, takes your fancy, and it's a very useless, yet enjoyable way to fill (or kill, whichever you prefer) time when you have more on your hands than you know what to do with.
Golf, I believe, is a popular past-time for this. Hmm, me and ball sports, ball sports and I, it's an accident-waiting-to-happen combined with a land of missed opportunities where the club or racket hits the turf or the air, and maybe a leg or an arm, and where the ball if, by a miracle, whacked goes in the opposite direction to the one intended or embarrassingly lands at my size six-and-a-half feet (the half in the case of shoe size is important!) with a dull, unsatisfying thud. No, I'll stick to experimentally dunking biscuits in tea. Whole in one!
Seriously, well, sort of, why isn't there a donor bank? No, not to give MY time as in also have to give with my brain or person (i.e. be physically present in a time-donor situation) as I know those already exist, but to donate whatever I don't have a need for to someone who might use it more productively than I would or currently do; or alternatively to save for a day when a few banked hours would be useful.
Way too much or far too little. Do we all have that problem? And what should we do in moments of deja vu – rerun or redo? Peace, man. Dunk biscuits.

Picture credit: Several Circles, c1926, Kandinsky

Thursday, 11 May 2017


Mona Lisa and I share a feature: the close-lipped smile, although I think you can tell when I'm really happy or really glum, but possibly not when I'm neither, when I don't really feel like smiling in either direction, with the corners very obviously turned up or down like a circus clown's painted lips.
Sometimes, even I'm not sure any more when I wear a smile in company if I mean it or not. Of course, a real up-curling of lips occurs naturally and touches other noticeable facial features: the eyes, the cheeks etcetera, and does feel, as your muscles perform it, to have more spontaneity, whereas others half-pulled have half that feeling. A polite half-smile that stops halfway and could, at times, be described as cold. A cloud has passed across the face, the warmth of the sun gone with it.
The close-lipped smile is not a new thing, done consciously due to false modesty or embarrassment, I've naturally always smiled that way; smiling like a crocodile would be most unnatural, and yet, it seems by not doing so I don't convey 'happy' as expected, which sometimes leads to strangers telling me to smile more and so I try harder. Try to exaggerate it as much as naturally possibly: still close-lipped but wider, my cheeks lifted higher like ripe, not-yet-picked apples until it reaches my small eyes and also pushes them wide, but then falls away quickly when released, my face suddenly flat, somewhat deflated as if both my cheeks have been slapped, instead of slowly fading till my features resume their accustomed plainness.
Smiling to a set criteria, or semblance of, is exhausting, like exercising muscles because you know you should and not because you want to. And I'm not sure it's convincing anyway, either to my internal self or to the people it's outwardly directed at. Is there a placebo effect for disingenuous smiles? Well, it works for laughter, the belly-laughing kind...supposedly. Although it is true that witnessing someone else's belly-shaking convulsions can provoke a fit of the giggles, even if you don't know exactly what the amusement is or even if you personally find it funny. Smiles too are returned by automatic reflex, yet, in my inexpert opinion, the spread effect seems, and feels to me, different, particularly if you're smiling back at a person before you rather than a still picture.
Then there are times you genuinely smile so hard you feel your face might crack as if it were as fragile as a china doll's, but still, even in instances like that the guarded smile is seen as just that: guarded.
When did smiles become all about teeth? Bright white, perfectly straight ones.
When did flashing teeth mean personality? There's far too much of the show biz about it.
Is it any wonder that people have smile hang-ups, willing to hand over hard-earned or loaned cash to correct imperfectly aligned, off-white teeth that in spite of these perceived flaws do what they're designed to do? Bite and chew food etcetera. Again, functionality is pushed aside for aesthetic reasons.
The cynical amongst you might say that perhaps that's the precise nature of the Mona Lisa smile: the concealment of crooked, discoloured teeth, which I suppose in that age was more than likely, and yet if it was I doubt she would have been mindful of it, enough to remain close-lipped, since others too would have had worse or similar. Although Da Vinci, I suppose, might have favoured an understated smile, preferred to give the eyes and mouth the look of possessing a long-kept secret.
Alternatively, perhaps people just smiled like that back then, as I do now, and to do so open-mouthed would mean something quite different, something threatening even. Baring teeth as if to fight as a snarling dog might do.
Have I given this too much thought? Probably, but only because I'm perplexed as to how a pencil-drawn smile can arouse people's suspicions.

Picture credit: Advanced Diagnostic Techniques, Barry Kite

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Decibels, The Decibels

The sun shines and yet everything is a little less rosy, not for any particular reason that springs to mind, it just is. Quiet, too quiet, and lazy.
Sometimes it's nice to be able to hear the wind rustle leaves or a tiny bird's cheep-cheep, but there are times when the kind of quiet you long for is for a brief moment unsettling, until it's broken by a child's sobs and then, you again wish for that prior quiet to return. For murmurs rather than ear-piercing shrieks or drawn-out cries: Mummy, Mummy, Mummy...
Quiet does not often descend when it can be most appreciated, so that when it comes it's unbidden and unwanted, and can't be enjoyed; whereas if it's hoped and planned for, the anticipated silence is disturbed. Other factors, those unknown or not considered steal it from you so that what you get is not really quiet but a moderated tone of, which your tolerance of depends on your own sliding scale.
Sound carries, increases and decreases in perceived volume which you either tune out or tune in; sometimes the ear picks a minor sound up and won't let it go, even after it's stopped, or sometimes you hear yet block although the noise in itself might be persistent and jarring. But then there are times when everything else gets drowned out apart from the babble, anything directed at or that requires a response from you is indistinct. You're present in presence alone, your mind floundering like a fish hooked from its watery home; the lips facing you constantly moving but the words uttered unheard, and yet you pull your own face into expressions that you hope are suitable, rather than lean across the table, or, more excruciatingly, ask for everything they're said, during your incommunicable panic, to be repeated.
Babble, babble, babble...which if it was a brook or a stream and you were alone with your thoughts would be quite pleasant, but as a murmur of intermingled voices, no; each vying to be heard above (or below) one another with the acoustics of wherever you are heightening the disharmony of it, as well as your discomfort.
The false pretence or flash of understanding of whatever is passing between you and your companion: I comprehend, I sympathise, I try to equalise with an experience of my own; I nod, I simper, I exclaim in shock or horror, my mouth an 'O'; I observe you carefully with head cocked on one side like a dog studying its funny owner: what is she saying?; I stir the teapot and nibble at a biscuit, and pray the background will soon be muted.
By who? Now, that I couldn't tell you. Perhaps by someone similar to a lamp-lighter who, in olden days, would turn on the street lamps and control their intensity; or the modern-day equivalent: a singular hand on a dimmer knob, although these days this is used more for aesthetic reasons, still, the twisting action of hi or lo in this scenario applies. Lights up, lights down, it's the same with sound.
So, why is it that when I'm at home and all alone, I talk in a whisper or in a lower than normal voice as if speaking out loud and to myself is a crime, or at the very least a strange habit. I talk everywhere, in all three rooms, and possibly even more than I do when in company. I sigh, I swear; I reason things out; I gossip; I read aloud from books; I read back what I've written; and I listen to the rise and fall of the chatter outside: bird, human or operated machinery, to which my hearing makes constant adjustments.
Some days sounds are bearable, some days are not; most days it's a mixture of both as if at certain times my sensitivity is somehow different. I either relish the quiet or I want some form of noise, as if I needed to be reminded palpably of my existence, in this world or as a thinking, feeling person, and yet there will always be sounds that irritate beyond all measure: boozy voices singing and the counted overture to drinking games, and bottles being dumped in their bin and breaking, glass on glass, night and day. My location chose me, not I, it. And away from it there are other dissonances, some of which aren't loud, just annoying, and unavoidable, unless, of course, you're plugged in to another world of sound.

Picture credit: New Neighbour, Barry Kite