this too
Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Back soon (pressure of work)
Sunday, September 18, 2005
  O T T

Been feeling over-emotional the last few days. I don’t know why. Hormones, maybe.

On Thursday I met up with two good friends. We hadn’t seen each other since early Summer. I only got to know these two women a few years ago. Long after I thought to make new friends so special. They are though. Delight, complicity, variation, minds dancing.

On Friday after work I went to the Tibetan Buddhist Centre. It’s not a tradition I know much about, but a good place and a peaceful way to end the working week. After the meditation hour, I went home filled with gratitude and so glad I’ve found a way to work on rebuilding my daily practice.

Yes, I have become this very strange person who photographs her lunch in a restaurant before eating it!

Click on the picture for actual size

On Saturday, lunch at the new wine shop and bar. A gem of a place with wonderful wine (all from small European producers and many organic or biodynamic) and food. We had the Cheese Plate. Three cheeses from Neals Yard Dairy, with a golden Autumn apple and a sliver of quince preserve. Perfection.

And today, today I heard some music on the radio which I’m going right out to look for on CD. The Brook Street Band, named for Handel’s London address. Especially a Handel sonata in G major transcribed for cello. The cello is my favourite instrument. Its deep song reaches into the place behind my eyes, behind my tears, the place below the lump in my throat. A strong, strong but refined emotion, leaving room for aesthetic and intellectual pleasure too. And it’s taken on a new dimension lately with cellist Ruth’s extra gift for writing about it.

Ah. Definitely over-emotional.
Friday, September 16, 2005
  Today will be different
From the 7 am radio weather forecast:
"Compared to yesterday, today will be different".
Thursday, September 15, 2005
  Still close

Leaving the house, on a morning like this morning, fresh after rain, I can smell the air, the trees, the weather, as I walk down the street. Just a faint breath. Here, where the inner city meets suburbia, the natural world is elsewhere, but still close. Behind a curtain which waits to be pulled aside.

Sometimes, like this morning, when I smell the air, the trees, the weather, and then turn away, round the corner to the traffic-clogged main road, and plunge into the city - sometimes I stand still on the pavement and think of what’s behind the curtain and think: no. Then I force my feet to keep on walking.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
  Autumnal already

I’ve been reading in US blogs about signs of the changing season and thinking, no, not here, not yet. Then suddenly realised it is here, already. Hotter, more humid Summer, earlier Spring, milder Winter and now earlier Autumn. Disorienting in its own right, not to speak of the hideous implications of climate change.

Some of the immediate symptoms are welcome, of course. Cooler early mornings and evenings, even on hot days. A last lush flush of flowers and buzzing of bees. Autumn fruits: blackberries to eat, red red rosehips and these orange ones whose name I don’t know but there are lots and they are lovely.

And Autumn leaves to rival New England may be on the way, apparently. In today’s newspaper: “Experts are predicting that this year could be the most colourful Autumn in living memory, since the warm dry weather of recent weeks has increased the sugar concentration in leaves which should boost the intensity of colour”.

My first Autumn with a camera. Stand by for a surfeit of leafy stuff.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
  Where the bee sucks

click on the picture for a larger view
Monday, September 12, 2005

Your hands are clenched, my heart is clenched
and I can barely stay my hands
from yours.

You’d think I would have learned by now
to be content alone, I know,
but no.

So now I find there is no choice
but not to come here any more

at all.

Next day: I probably should apologise for inflicting this. I'm no poet. It did make me feel enormously much better, though. As good as howling and sobbing for half an hour!
Friday, September 09, 2005
  Curling up

Cheering light and symmetry: the Courtauld Institute at Somerset House, where I've just been to see an exhibition as beautiful as the building - but that aroused much more complex thoughts and feelings which will have to wait...
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
  "What once was here is now gone"

I was reminded of Choman Hardi's poem, The Greening Mountains, about home and landscape after destruction, as it becomes clear that that sorrow must await so many survivors of Katrina.

I’ve been meaning for ages to write about this wonderful poet whom I was lucky enough to meet at a conference on translation last year. Choman and her family came to Britain as refugees from Iraqi Kurdistan. She’s long been publishing poetry in Kurdish and her first book in English came out last year. Her work is exquisite, unflinching and accessible. Her commitment to her homeland and to the Kurdish immigrant community, racial integration and understanding in this country, her openness and lively sharing of her work at many workshops and festivals make her a poet who has a real impact. She deals in war, destruction, exile and the recent very tenuous renewal of hope for Kurdistan, and in everyday lives – especially women’s -before, during and after war, destruction and exile.

¿Para qué poetas?, asks Ernesto, fresh from watching the news. Well…
Tuesday, September 06, 2005

harsher sign
of Summer’s end

Mullein leaves,
now parchment curls

palest softest

healing velvet was.
Monday, September 05, 2005
  Through rose-coloured glasses

In these times, it’s a blessing to be prone to daydreams. I had one yesterday in a café not far from home. An expensive café in an up-market street near the park and the art gallery. The ‘large’ glass of wine here is small, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the ‘small’ glass turned out to be extremely small. But it also turned out unexpectedly to hit the jackpot. This place is known for its prime location, not its food and drink. ‘Very hit and miss’, I heard the owner of the neighbouring bookshop describe it recently to a customer who asked her for a lunch recommendation – I caught her eye and we exchanged a look which told me our experiences there had been similar… So my expectations were not high as I raised my glass of rosé from South-West France to my lips and … ooh! It was perfectly sour and sweet and pink/red/orange and sweatily cold. And it took me right back to the first time I ever tasted good rosé - not sugary sweet, not sugary pink, not Mateus, the pink Portuguese plonk ubiquitous back in the 1970s.

I’d been in Cambridge just a week or two. Girls were a rare commodity back then, one of us for every 10 male students in the university. Which was how I found myself attached to a friend of a friend of someone in my translation class at the Master of Trinity College’s party for the college’s new students – he got the kudos of a female partner at this very formal occasion; I got free drinks and an excursion into gracious society. The Master at that time was ‘Rab’ Butler. He resided in the Master’s Lodge. Students milled in ancient rooms with precious antiques pushed back against the walls and butlers with a small b circulated with trays of glasses. On arrival, we were ‘announced’ to the company: ‘that’s Mr A… G… and…?’ murmured the greeter in my companion’s ear . ‘I can’t remember your surname’, hissed A in mine, scarlet with embarrassment. Drinks, in these circumstances, are a blessing fallen upon and downed rapidly. The first glass my hand encountered was pink, and the taste was heaven, utterly delicious – and the subsequent several glasses no less so. The next morning I had my first hangover, and one of the few that’s been worth it.

I never forgot the sublime taste, but have rarely recovered it. Good rosé, just that blend of sour and sweet, that bright rosy, ruby, slightly orangey pink, is not common and mostly beyond my budget. Chancing upon exactly that never-forgotten taste and colour was a small miracle. So was closing my eyes as I swallowed and recapturing that scene, finding that age has so mellowed me that I can recall it with innocent pleasure untainted by the class consciousness and resentment that descended along with that first hangover. I don’t deplore the blithe privilege I discovered in Cambridge any less than I came to within a few weeks of arriving there. But I do savour pleasure, present and remembered, with far fewer reservations.

...and we have to keep savouring pleasure, I think. It doesn't help anyone if we don't. Lying awake at night listening to the radio doesn't help anyone. Feeling dreadful and functioning less than well doesn't help anyone. Going silent doesn't help anyone, though it's tempting because no words seem adequate... not adequate compassion, or adequate distraction, or adequate in any way.

Well actually, that's not quite true. What Dave and Susan wrote today was pretty adequate, I think. Both manage to perfectly and poetically blend the intimate and the wider perspective.

Friday, September 02, 2005
  Look where it's got us
I was late for work today because I couldn’t stop listening to the radio reports, the lovely Southern voices talking about what’s happened to them in New Orleans and around.

Apart from just feeling terribly sorry for these individuals, and bypassing for a moment the crazy environmental priorities that left New Orleans inadequately protected, and the obscene social and economic polarisation that perhaps explains - though nothing justifies - the apparently horrifying outbreak of violence and lawlessness, all the ifs and buts and complexities which there always are, I was thinking:

The suffering isn’t worse because it’s in a rich country. It isn’t worse because it’s somewhere interesting and historic and beautiful. This concentrated suffering in one place is not worse than the endless, constant suffering in so many places.

But I’m riveted by this because it holds up a mirror to where the wickedly misguided political trends in the US and the Britain of the past 30 years – my whole adult life – have got us. This has been the era when government was a dirty word, big government dirtier words. Privatise everything. There is no such thing as society. But in the face of such disasters only big public authorities have the capacity to help. Who else may we turn to? And, cut to the bone for a generation and more, they seem, unsurprisingly, not to have that capacity.

It’s very frightening. Might this be enough to make some people think again? Or are we too far gone?
Thursday, September 01, 2005
  World Service News
The 3 am news
New Orleans
and a young Russian boy recalls the Baslan school seige:
"I was thinking maybe Harry Potter would come and we would escape"

much pain
in the world

clammy night
of wakeful listening

smaller closer
wide-webbed world

too huge

for one heart

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Location: London, UK

Freelance copy-editor and translator. Keen on language, literature, photography, art, music, buddhist meditation and the countryside.

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