Sunday, 26 July 2015

In search of headspace.

Life is a bit full at the moment - and so reflective times have been precious.

Some years ago I saw an interview with Germaine Greer. When asked what her favourite pastime was she replied, 'thinking.'

I get that - thinking is the most wonderful, creative, energising way to spend an hour or two. If only those hours were more easily available.

The problem - for me at least - is that my current thinking is less creative and more like cogitative soup. One thought doesn't lead logically to another, in a way that might disentangle a problem or two. Instead ideas leap on top of each other like mating frogs, without allowing any breathing time.

I tried writing things down. At least the creation of lists gives an appearance of organisation. But when I tried to write my reflections (often a useful way to make sense of muddled feelings) all I could come up with was general angst.

Soon after that, I needed to cut the grass. Hurrah - an hour for thinking, while I trudged up and down the garden with the lawnmower. Surely there would be logical thought in the sanctuary of my garden. I even put a notebook in my pocket, ready to stop and jot down anything inspiring.

So why could I think about nothing more exciting than to wonder why my socks always fall down under my wellies but not in my shoes. Then I contemplated the lack of intelligence of toads: they hop off into the long grass, while if they were truly bright they'd leap over the mown stuff and hide among the weeds. Then I wasted energy on raging about the dog that had jumped over a fence and left poo on my lawn.

I gave up. Decided I needed a shower. Then, when I was at my wettest and soapiest, I had a flash of insight ... if I tackled this task, then that would become easier ... and then everything would unscramble. Hurrah! If only I could remember what that first task was when I got out of the shower ...

I give up. I'll just carry on snatching thinking time when I can. And if anyone knows of a waterproof notebook please let me know.

Sunday, 19 July 2015


Back to my Barcelona thoughts - postponed by last week's news.

Just in case even a mention of the word Barcelona gets you singing, here is the link to accompany you:

Right, now we're all humming, I'll add a word or two about the city.

Another time, I wouldn't choose to go in July. I went with a friend, and we were limited by her leave arrangements. We had a wonderful time - but did have to weave our way through crowds. There were stag and hen parties (why they go all that way, spend all that money, just to get drunk I've no idea. But they were having a good time.) Then millions (or so it felt) taking a break before the mayhem of the school holidays. Several of the major sites had so many visitors they were organising timed entrances with three hours to wait - which is not a problem in such a lovely city, but does give you an idea how many people were there.

I have heard that there are local people who are complaining that the city is drowning in tourists. I can see what they mean - it was hard to find any local people going about local things unless they were dealing with tourists. On the other hand, tourists are now the life-blood of the city.

It's the extraordinary Gaudí architecture that draws people there. And it is wonderful - much of it on such a huge scale that photographs cannot possibly do it justice. So here, to give you a flavour of the city, are a few photographs of chimney stacks.

These two were taken from rooftops:

This was taken from the top deck of a bus:

And here's another rooftop:

Finally, a facade taken looking up from street level - to hint at the breadth of Gaudí's extraordinary vision. Not a straight line in sight!!

It's such an unusal city I can only give you a hint of its complexities. Architecturally it's unlike anywhere else - and a worthy city for the wonderful song!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

A time to reflect.

No pictures from Barcelona - they will have to wait a week.

For a woman I've known since I was a small child died while I was away.  She was very old, and frail, and had made no secret of her wish to put living behind her.

I would love to write about her. But she believed that the internet was the sperm of the devil and if she is looking down (or up) from wherever she is now she would curse me forever. (Actually, I have no belief in an afterlife. But I shall respect her feelings after her death as I did when she was alive.)

Nevertheless, it has rocked me. Her death was expected. Dying is what happens when people are old and frail. It's as much part of life as birth. The whole cycle of existence is predicated on people dying, to make room for all the new people being born. That's how it works.

And yet - in spite of all that common sense - it's hard to adjust to the loss of someone who has been a part of life for so long. One minute she's here and then - poof - no more. A shocking not-being. Just the detritus of her living (she was a frugal woman, I'll tell you that much), and memories.

But then I reflect. These adjustment times are necessary. However much this was expected, it is right that I take time to hold her in mind - she was part of me for so long I can't just close a door on her. I must let her linger in my thinking - in an absorbing, almost obsessive way - until this feeling of dislocation passes and I can rethink my world without her.

Somewhere, as she slipped away, a baby was born. His or her family will be equally obsessed - babies take up far more thinking space than one can possibly envisage. Family stories are founded here. For babies, too, need to be held in mind - the prerequisite for the love they need to flourish. Gradually the obsessions lessen and family life takes shape.

And so, at the end - as at the beginning - of life, when we are unable to care for, or even think about, ourselves, we need others to do it for us.

In the meantime, S, I shall miss you.