Saturday, 26 October 2013

Descent or perhaps it is the beginning of the ascent

Dear Monty,

Life is full of opinions and we have to filter them through our view of the world, but that has its limitations. There is no one universal human point of view of course.

There is a painful truth in these words from the book of Hebrews written by the apostle Paul :

'What is obsolete and ageing will soon disappear'

So I look for an enduring city.

My garden is a sanctuary whether that is right or wrong I do not know, but surely that is true for a good many of us, even if we let others into it from time to time.

I came home again home again jiggity jig to an imbalanced sanctuary. I realised that I like straight lines and a degree of 'tidiness'. Oh no ! Oh yes ! So my temporary solution to this is to plant some old laths in the ground like sentinels. I have also begun to see that I myself have descended into some kind of imbalance.


It took only one day in the world of preventative medicine, and my soul shrunk back into a hard stone core. This categorised world has become soulless - no-one looks at what has gone before, we deal with parts not the whole.

I feel unwell again, I see negativity everywhere I look, even in adverts, for example "Simply Health - We can be bothered " Implying that those of us in the NHS cannot when in fact we can - but the system ties us up in knots. Then unhealthily I watch a program on C4 which highlighted the cutthroat methods used by middlemen to maximise profits. Employment agencies like the one that employed my son - who do not want to pay fair rates, but will do the legal minimum - and then dispense with you if you are no longer economically advantageous for them to employ. There are no moral boundaries these days just legal ones. We have come to rely on law but law is not capable of generosity or forgiveness. Health care is the same, all we now care about is whether the box is ticked. We seem to be sleepwalking into a mean spirited and unforgiving system that monitors everything about us apart from our spiritual well being and then judges us against 'validated' and 'legal' guidelines.

22/10/13  Even tougher mental fight today, I didn't have the strength to fight or even complete the simple tasks in work. Focus was difficult to maintain. I feel bruised by my own stupidity. I have no energy, no drive, no zeal, I even try to avoid coming home because I couldn't face everyone, but then I saw Sophie Elizabeth my granddaughter who just smiled at me - and from that point I forgot about work and targets and my failures. I invested in her smiles and company and her unmerited favour.

23/10/13  Each minor thing becomes a battle, I get angry with myself and cannot control my swinging emotions. I become unable to brush off criticism, I want to hide or get dying over with. I go to church and instead of keeping quiet I open my mouth.
I cannot face failure - yet know it is an inevitable/inextricable part of life.

24/10/13  Down and out - knocked down by tears - undone by the heroism of another.

'Knowledge can be the key to entrapment'

Perhaps I care too much.


Sunday, 20 October 2013

The dog's holiday. (Exmoor diary)

Dear Monty,

12/10/13  The day of our 28th anniversary is spent on Exmoor.

Retaining a vital connection takes effort. We visited longstanding friends in their noble thatched cob farmhouse. We walked and talked in the rain walking the garden and the lanes surrounding the farm. The building is ancient, and takes up a lot of time, effort and money to gradually restore it as they can afford, but it has a kind of integrity in its crumbling cob walls. It has stood the test of time and hardship.

I am impressed with Richard and Ruth, they have an attitude of humility which is rare to find, certainly in me. Ruth has plans for her garden which include a sculpture wall, she has already painted the stepped wall at the highest boundary point above the cottage in readiness to attach driftwood, old farm machine parts and pots. Both Richard and Ruth are artists who like me had to drop out of the art scene in order to survive, because our work was not in the 'loop' which at that time consisted of performance art, installations etc, indeed we were described by a fellow art student as 'Sunday Painters'.

14/10/13  We walked from Porlock Weir along the South West Coastal  Path for a short 4 mile stroll with Toff. There were shingle banks, and one small garden in the style of  Derek Jarman in the shingle at the back of the house. The Bristol Channel sea was rough.

I lost my temper on the coastal path
Beneath the sweet chestnuts.
A sunlit ship out in the channel could not rescue me
From foolish thoughts
Of inferiority.

The musings of the day unfold me
I am undone
Naked in my stupidity

A rusty hook
A chestnut
And a ruddy soil covered stone
Will serve as a marker

Thus far .... but no further ?

15/10/13  I cannot go back. My eyes look for a way, a path somewhere that leads the eye out of the landscape, a line, a journey. I have to take the next steps like a child without his parent holding his hand. I know thus far God has helped me, but now I have work to do.

Today if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

A sunny day, we try to recapture the past with the National Trust. The old and the new contrasted in Dunster.
The almost organic sound of the steam engine hissing and chugging in the distance in contrast to the unholy roar of the internal combustion engine on the A39.
The preserved, dead interior of Dunster Castle in contrast to the living and lively gardens. Particularly alive was the 'Dream Garden' the walled garden at the foot of the hill with its dahlia's : white, cream, pink, yellow and crimson.
Dahlia's dreaming.

16/10/13  Middle of the week. The new covenant is not about having our hands held, but about being guided from within. Dusty artifacts being replaced by a vital spark. As I muse on this difference I see that the word is true when it says that once enlightened about the difference it is impossible if you then fall away - to return, because you crucify Christ over again and expose him to public ridicule. I have to fan the embers of a dying love back into flame, passion is the most important thing.

We walk dog from Landacre Bridge to Withypool.

Orange moor tops and howling wind through ancient bridleways.
The reed beds sound like snakes hissing in the grass.
'Wild today' a fellow dog walker said - holding on to her hat.
In the Tearoom a couple instead of talking, communicated via their mobiles to unknown others.
Later in 21st century Dulverton, two young schoolboys fresh from their bus discuss the lesbians in their class.

18/10/13  Sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see.

The dog trembles under the duvet twitching in his heavy sleep.
A dry and cloudy day on the edge of Exmoor.
Last day of the dog's holiday.

We walked from Dunster Bay to Minehead, with its empty seafront and closed cafes and gated Butlins.
The sands along Dunster Bay were beautiful - civilised by the line of beach huts along its landward side.
I feel sad that companionship has replaced passion, but still beyond all this is the heavenly home.

I still want to make decent paintings that say something about this soil we tread, the air we breathe and the light we see. The moor has an ancient unchanged feel about it despite our digitalised lives. The rhythm is faster because of the car - but even this is slowed by narrow roads that duck and dive and twist suddenly. Horse and rider still canter along the lanes as staggs bellow and clouds zip overhead.



I have decided to add a post script.

 When I read the comment by my walking friend, garden maker and photographer Charles Hawes, I realised that sometimes when I write from the ramblings of my thoughts, it may be pure drivel ! I listened to a very interesting discussion on Radio3 last night about blogging and literature, and I agree that blogging can be about provocation and wanting to get noticed, it can also be a place where sparks can be ignited .

I do not want to be offensive in any way, and the observation of the young schoolboys discussing lesbians, was not to suggest they shouldn't, but that when I was their age I didn't know what a lesbian was. The 21st Century has meant that access to knowledge has exploded, and alongside this there is an inevitable loss of innocence. Now I hesitate to know whether innocence is the right word, perhaps the enlightened world would now say that it is not a loss of innocence, but a loss of ignorance - and that (it would suggest) is a good thing. With knowledge comes responsibility, and I for one am not sure that we are equipped to handle it all. It is almost a reflection of the story of Adam and Eve and paradise lost.

I would also like to add that I know that it is possible to return, but not through the strict application of law, or even through wilful ignorance but through forgiveness.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Black hill and butterflies

Dear Monty,

We walked Toff the whippet on the opposite side of the valley.

The 'Diamond Park' is the reclaimed site of an old drift mine, which produced high grade anthracite. The old coal tip is now full of devil's bit scabious, and festooned in small tortoiseshell butterflies. I counted 14, but there were more.

This year the Powys County Council left the grass uncut in the middle of the sloping hillside. The soil here is very poor, only about an inch thick with a layer of clay, shale and coal waste beneath. It is very boggy after the rain. This area has regenerated over the last 20 years and you can now see typical meadow flora. Earlier in the year there was a proliferation of marsh orchids and ragged robin. Now blond grasses and a swathe of purple blue scabious make this former industrial site beautiful, with young oak, ash, alder, birch and willow getting a foothold.

My black hill shone like gold in the early morning sun.

I have to reclaim my garden from discordance.
Last weekend the last remaining pine from the left hand border was taken down. This was an overgrown remnant of a former hedge, which was beginning to shift. It was not taken down to its roots and being a hemlock pine with beautiful scented resin it should regenerate from its existing side shoots.

I am not a knowledgeable gardener, I just look and see what pleases my eye. There is an imbalance between the right and left hand view down this small garden now that the overarching branches have gone. To redress this I need to cut the right hand block of beech down about two feet, perhaps introducing a curve to mimic the curve of the hill behind. (courtesy of inspiration from Veddw). Once the balance in levels has been restored, then I will be happy.

Talking of hills and pines, I have just bought 'On the Black Hill' by Bruce Chatwin, it will be my recommended reading for an October retreat in Devon.

Hope you have a fruitful October.