Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Weather in the Streets

A book creates its own reality.  Rosamond Lehmann had a vision when she was young; and her interest in the paranormal became almost an obsession after the sudden death of her daughter Sally.  This belief in spiritualism and parapsychology gives a curious atmosphere to her autobiography; the second half dominated by the spirit of the dead.   It is a world most of us cannot inhabit.  Too strange and odd; it is like having tea with a woman who believes herself the Queen.  At the beginning we experience an awkward curiosity; by the end we are mostly weary.  The one desire the kettle to be boiled, the tea drunk; the goodbye kiss on the doorstep to come quickly.  If our imaginations are good we dream up drugs to dethrone her.

Friday, 29 July 2011

And I Always Thought

And I always thought: the very simplest words
Must be enough.  When I say what things are like
Everyone’s heart must be torn to shreds.
That you’ll go down if you don’t stand up yourself
Surely you see that.

Friday, 22 July 2011


A Short History of Russia (before the revolution)

We were sitting – all the family – drinking tea under the limes at sunset.  Beyond the lilacs the mist was already rising from the gully.

The sound of scythes being sharpened came to us.  It was the peasants from the next estate who had come out to mow the merchant’s meadow.  They were not shouting and swearing as they usually did.  The scythes went swinging through the grass, about twenty of them; you could tell by the sound.

Suddenly one of the men started up a song.  Effortlessly, the powerful silvery tenor poured forth, immediately flooding gully, grove, and garden.  What with the lilacs and the mist you could not see anything, but I could tell by the voice that it was Grigory Khripunov singing; only I would never have thought that weedy little Grigory from the factory had such a powerful voice.

The men took up the song.  And we suddenly felt dreadfully awkward.

I don’t know the tune, can’t catch the words; but the song swells and swells.  Never have the neighbour’s men sung like that before.  I feel embarrassed to remain seated, have a tickle in my throat and want to cry.  I jump up and run off into a far corner of the garden.

It was after that that everything began to go to pieces.  The men who had been singing brought in syphilis from Moscow and spread it all through the neighbouring villages.  The merchant whose meadow was being mown took to the bottle and once, when drunk, set fire to his own hay lofts.  The deacon began getting illegitimate children.  The ceiling in Fyedot’s izba fell in completely and Fyedot did nothing about it.  In our family the old people began to die and the young people to grow old.  My grandfather began to say the most stupid things, quite unlike his old self.  As for me, the next morning I went and cut down the ancient lilac.

That lilac was centenarian, aristocratic, the flowers were pale blush and sparse, and the trunk so gnarled it almost defied the axe.  I chopped it all down and beyond it rose a grove of birches.  I cut down the birches too, and beyond them was the gully.  From the bottom of the gully I could now see nothing but my own house rising above my head.  It stood open to every wind and storm.  If I were to dig underneath it, it would collapse and bury me.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Careless George

At what age do people walk away from the left?  The early twenties, for the majority, a few months after their first full time job.  A minority crawl away many years later; when, their faith weakened by repeated failures, they are seduced by the comfortable life; the mood music and soft lights on the other side of the party wall too powerful at last to resist – it is hard, when in middle age, to accept that others, less talented than oneself, are paid more and better respected; and have all the pretty girls and darling acolytes.  A few never change.  Their faith, and in some case their values, are much too strong and deeply embedded ever to be removed.

Friday, 8 July 2011


Where has all the power gone?  The third part of my series on the left puts the spectacles on...  Look at what it finds it here.

Monday, 4 July 2011

They are Bigots

There is no surprise, I have answered the comments referred to in my previous post; which I have only recently read.  The one is extraordinary; and shows, I think, a major problem with the left – its intolerance of different ideas; exhibited here as an attack on the common man. 

Why this should be so is not entirely clear, but seems linked to its historical tendency to splinter into many small groups, each following their own theology.  Part of the reason must be its intellectual nature: everything comes to depend on one’s own set of quite strictly demarcated views.  It is a world where relatively simple ideas become formulas; maintained against all criticism.   An intellectual rigidity results; and intolerance naturally follows.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A Note in Music

At what moment does the present become the past?  This question mark? Yes, if you take me literally, it is true, that last t and this s are now part of eternal history.  This last full stop reminds us so; it joins them. 

The past present with each tap on a keyboard.  We calibrate it so easily, waving goodbye to these odd questions, which dart around like dragonflies over a pond.  The past?  We type it away, each tap reducing thought to our fingertips; tap tap tap to your silly questions.  That is our answer!  The last full stop the last thing we see when the train punctures the horizon.

Ah! if only life was so simple.  So come on, let us think a little more broadly.  About years rather than seconds; let stages of life replace just last week.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Friday, 1 July 2011

When Conservatives Become Socialists

The second in my series on the left for Ceasefire Magazine has now appeared.  You can find it here.  There are a couple of comments; neither of them mine.  They will come, I have little doubt.