Guest Posticles

Towards the start of the month, Linus mentioned that he was about to post a guest blog on somebody called Laura Anne’s Community Blog Party wherein throughout the merry month of September, various bloggers and internet-types would give their ideas on community and so forth. He also recommended reading the rest of her stuff.

This I did, and being a curious character, asked if she had enough guest posts to see her through the month – offering my Party Ring (three very short stories set outside, inside, before, during and after the party of your lifetime). Sadly, this exceeded the required length quite considerably. So I bodged something together and the results can now (or at least, from Monday morning) be seen here.

In other news, I have been asked to come up with “Something about faith/church/modern world/whatever.” to join the hallowed pages over at Changing Worship. It’s due for submission on Wednesday, so any ideas will be much appreciated.

Bee stung lips?

On the way to work this morning, I felt a sharp, hot, stabbing pain in the flesh besides my right knee. At first I thought it was just a bad example of a hair getting caught in the trouser material, but upon further investigation (I stopped and rolled up the trousers when a jiggle provided no relief) I felt a similar pain on the edge of my left buttock. With my lightning reflexes, I pinched the trousers where the pain occurred, shook the trouser leg and out dropped a wasp, ripe for the stamping on.

The rest of the journey was somewhat uncomfortable as the second sting is right where sitting down produces the most pressure.

As I arrived at the station with mere minutes until I was due at work I texted my boss with the following message:

I’m going to be about ten minutes late this morning – I got stung on the arse by a wasp and need to get cream from the chemist’s.

In response I received typed laughter and the affirmation that I had submitted the best excuse for lateness ever.

I now have ointment but it’s not helping much.

Here endeth the story of my painful encounter with nature in an urban setting.

Old Music with Just a Little Bit of History Repeating

As I was driving to work today, I was listening to New Model Army’s Thunder and Consolation album. Two songs, one after the other on the album jumped out at me and got me thinking about possible contributory factors towards the recent activity across some of our larger cities.

Archway Towers
(audio clip)

Rolling up tab ends that the baby’s collected
Waiting for the number that clicks on the wall.
It’s open season on the weak and the feeble
Their meagre ambitions, their impotent fury
There’s bullet proof glass in case there is trouble
No doors in the building between this side and that side.

I’ve tried to wrestle some unbalanced nightmare
Tell myself over that I don’t really live here
But the boys run away leaving blood on the pavement
And a little crowd gathered to watch you pick yourself up
Joining the queue at the video library
To watch ninety five minutes of simulated torture

The conference hall rings to the standing ovation
The people in blue ties rise from the podium
Crazy with power, blinded by vision
The mass-chosen leaders for a brutalised nation

and

The Charge
(audio clip with lyrics on Youtube)

Our history speaks in thunder from a thousand village halls
In blood and sweat and sacrifice, in honouring every call
So the forces gathered against the thorn a-piercing in their side
A brave new world is beckoning so the olden world must die.
In the offices of the city, at all the tables of oak and power
The snares are laid and baited for the approaching of the hour
A hundred justifications and the presses are ready to roll
The gateways to the nation they are firmly under control

Chorus:
On, on, on, cried the leaders at the back
We went galloping down the blackened hills
And into the gaping trap
The bridges are burnt behind us and there’s waiting guns ahead
Into the valley of death rode the brave hundreds

We called for some assistance from the friends that we had known
But this is the 1980s and we were on our own
We never felt like heroes or martyrs to a cause
Just battle-weary soldiers in a bloody civil war
The massacre now is over and the order new enshrined
While a quarter of the nation are abandoned far behind
Their leaders offer the cliché words, so righteous in defeat
But no one needs morality when there isn’t enough to eat
The unity bond is broken and the loyalty songs are fake
I’ll screw my only brother for even a glimpse at a piece of the cake
We only cry in private here behind the shuttered glass
When we think of the charge of this brigade, the severing of the past

Chorus:
On, on, on, cried the leaders at the back
We went galloping down the blackened hills
And into the gaping trap
The bridges are burnt behind us and there’s waiting guns ahead
Into the valley of death rode the brave hundreds

For a less sing-song analysis of events, the following two articles come highly recommended (I liked them, anyway):
PennyRed
New Economics

And, finally:

When you cut facilities, slash jobs, abuse power, discriminate, drive people into deeper poverty & shoot people dead whilst refusing to provide answers or justice, the people will rise up & express their anger & frustration if you refuse to hear their cries. A riot is the language of the unheard.

~ Martin Luther King, dangerous subversive

And, really finally this time:

If the young men aren’t initiated into the village, they will burn the village down just to feel its warmth.

~ African proverb

Ros

Well, here I am: sitting in a bus stop, looking out across the North Sea and digesting a tasty chip butty (late of Crusoe’s take-away counter). For twelve weeks now, I’ve been going out with a beautiful young lady called Ros – this is still my major news and I can’t believe I’ve not written about it yet (I guess I’m out of practice writing an actual journal). Well, anyway, this entry is dedicated to, and largely about, my lovely Ros.

We’d known each other for a while, at first through church and then through post-church pub-sitting: I made the first real contact and invited her to join a bunch of us for a drink and thought no more of it really – the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned – she was good, boisterous company and livened things up considerably on a Sunday night.

At one point, she and I convinced another of my mates to go out with her and she was kind of wrecked when that ended badly…

I had people around for tea and general hanging-out-ness when she rang, knowing what was coming, I took the call, “Tim, he’s just broken up with me.” I checked with my guests and invited her round. One of them drove to pick her up and the three of us took care of her for the night. Over the next few months we developed a fairly close friendship – helped, at least in part, by her coming for lunch at the flat, twice a week (on my days off)whilst she was on placement around the corner. Well, that and a shared interest in general socialness in pubs with whomever else we could persuade to join us.

About five or six months ago, I got a bit down and needed very much to be around people as much as possible. This coincided with an extended period of free time for Ros and consequently we spent an awful lot of time together – what I now look back on as pre-dating, despite me initially thinking of Ros as just a cool person to hang around with (even going so far as to say so, having become worried that she might be reading more into my need to hang out than there actually was).

This kind of changed the night before a friend’s wedding when after an evening of DVDs, wine and pizza she sat on my lap and tried to kiss me. Being a Tim of very little brain, I resisted her valiant attempt by staring straight ahead of me and not moving my head until the album we were listening to (Trash by Alice Cooper) needed changing. I had hoped to talk to Ros about it in the next couple of days but by the time we got to hang out again the moment had long passed.

Then, on Friday night, three weeks later, the same thing happened again. This time, instead of sitting there like a lemon, I actually spoke – I hadn’t been expecting anything like it, and whilst it would be very lovely to kiss her, I wanted to know that it was a good idea (and, incidentally, make sure of my motives). Because I was going away for the weekend, we agreed to meet up on Monday evening. I don’t think I’ve ever done the trip back from Leeds to Newcastle as quickly as I did then, and given how this entry started, you already know how things went when I got back.

The Party III – In the End, In the Beginning

 
This is how it ends:

At some point, after the real rain has come, all the lamp posts will be fixed, people will once again walk in the street without fear of the dark and the urge to party will become less insistent.

Shortly after this, all the lamp posts will be turned off and the music of the party silenced: the sun rising and the birdsong replacing the noise of desperate revelry. The party-goers will return to the street, awestruck at the thing of beauty it has become and, even so, walk on – leaving it behind with its lamp posts and biscuits and cups of tea and all the other reminders of the dark and the need for comfort: walk on towards, and past, a hope-filled horizon hidden from us by this new and glorious light.
 


 
There is a man. He is sitting in a kitchen. The only light in the kitchen comes from the tiny red bulbs above the high voltage sockets and the cold blue glow of the cooker clock – four zeroes: an incessant reminder of a power cut long since ended. The only sounds from the kitchen are the humming of the fridge, the ticking of the needlessly loud kitchen clock, and the scratching of the man’s chair legs on the cheap and tattered lino.

He stands up and, in the dark, fills the kettle and switches it on. He opens the fridge door and checks the milk – it seems fresh enough. As if reminded by the light inside the fridge, he turns on the kitchen light. Finally, taking a mental inventory of tea-bags and biscuits: enough for now, he steps out into the the street.

All along the street, as far as he can see (and far beyond that, he knows) there are people at the feet of broken lamp posts – some collapsed in heaps, some clutching at the posts in a vain quest for support, others standing with their heads almost bowed to their chests. And the noise! The noise is terrible. People are crying, screaming, cursing and vomiting in their distress, some are, even now, dry retching over desiccated piles of discarded stomach contents. But it is not the noisy ones who worry him.

He approaches an old lady: she is kneeling in an almost-dignified position at the foot of her lamp post, silently staring up at the broken glass, her body fused to the pavement by a matting of cobwebs, dust and dead spiders – she looks almost less solid than these whispery vestments and it is with great care that the man kneels beside her and ever so gently that he reaches over and places a hand on each shoulder. He too, stares upwards – first at the broken lamp and then far, far beyond it.

It takes such a long time – gradually the woman becomes less ghostly and, as she fades back towards a proper existence, the man begins to cry: the quiet tears of desperation, the tears of one who, once these tears have been cried, has no more to give. Time passes and he feels the woman’s body begin to move as her own tears start: at first, the quiet controlled sobs mirroring his own; the dust and cobwebs gently uprooted from the street. His own sorrow builds up – feeling every unanswered prayer and each misplaced hope from over the years – an observer would be hard pressed to tell him from any of the others lining the street and wailing. The woman’s weeping continues to follow his and the cobwebs and dust shaken to the ground, forming grey trickles of mud where they meet the tears.

After some time, she no longer needs to be led, and the man’s tears die down. He continues to hold her, soothingly whispering to her as she cries and cries and cries. And, just like that! She’s done. Wiping a dusty sleeve across her snot-covered face, she beams at him and says, “I’m ready. Now, how about that cup of tea?”

Holding each other, they walk back along the street to the kitchen where, strangely, the kettle is just starting to boil.

This is how it begins…

Four Dark Days

 
Maundy Thursday, Coming Down

How could I know that it wouldn’t last?
How could I know that you meant every word?
How could I sit, whilst you served me so?
I really couldn’t have known.

How could I stay awake and watch?
And, once awake, not act?
Do you blame me that I ran?
I didn’t go so far as some.

How could I admit you as a friend?
Wasn’t it enough to have watched?
To watch you safely ’til the dawn?
I run from the courtyard and weep.
 
 
Good Friday, Mourning

Christ! I wish I’d died back then
Nails holding me up, next to you.
Rather that than this slow death
Of moments, memories and years.

Christ! I wish I’d known your love,
The joy and peace they say you bring.
I fear the mornings more each night
And dread dreams and the dawn alike.

Christ! I wish I’d heard your words:
A whisper of hope for a dying thief.
Then maybe I could rise with you,
In paradise and not alone.

Kyrie Eleison: Christ have mercy
Kyrie Eleison: Lord have mercy
Kyrie Eleison: Christ have mercy
 
 
How to do Well in a Sponsored Silence

I took part in a sponsored silence once –
I lasted twenty three minutes – a personal best!
I’m not sure I could manage
To keep my peace from three o’clock, Friday afternoon
Until some point on Sunday morning.
Congratulations!
But
People are already saying it was cheating –
Well, being dead and all!
 
 
Three Days After

After the running away,
After the denials,
The betrayals and the spite,
The mockery and the pain,
After the death,
After the silence,
What now?

Is there anything left of us?
Is there anything left for me?
Only emptiness and strangers?
I hear you speak my name,
And I know.
 
 
 
 
With thanks to Linus for the use of his computerliness.

Happy Birthday, Young Hobbit

The Dawn of the Age of Man
A Coming of Age Poem for Robb

Oh, dragons burn the elven kind,
The elves, for sport, hunt wolf;
But wolves will tear off dragons’ skin
And rend their monstrous wings.

The elves go hunting the dire wolf,
Dire wolf destroys the wyrm;
But dragons burn the elven folk
To stump, and ash – to smoke.

Grey wolf packs dine on dragonflesh,
Dragons, aflight, burn elves;
But elves slay wolf for sheer delight:
Hunt warg both day and night.

In death Ouroborous descends
And thus begins the age of men.
 

Sorry I can’t be there tonight, and that this is neither stage lights nor a Harley. Have a great day, and enjoy your first taste of being properly old – it’s all up or down hill, depending on your point of view, from here.

The Man from the KitchenThe Party II: Screaming on the Inside

Somewhere, at the end of a long, dark road, the sounds of a party can be heard. The only light in the street comes from within the party and, outside one of the windows, it is possible to make out a forlorn, broken lamp post – standing straight and tall: a guard against the darkness, not realising that that it had been overcome long ages hence.

Inside, there is a man – one man amongst many – and he sits, fidgeting and glancing every now and then through the window at the broken lamp post outside. As he sits, he is vaguely aware of memories of the time he spent helping in the kitchen: happy times learning to cook, how to throw a meal together from whatever was available – salads, steaks and sandwiches, peaches, pies and puddings – he became the master of every type of food he could imagine and others besides. His main impression though, was of a large number of years that had passed very quickly indeed. Eventually, he had asked for a chance to serve the food to the guests. He took one tray through and was invited to join the celebration – he looked back towards the kitchen door, saw the chef smiling encouragement and nodding, and began learning a whole new set of skills.

Soon, his conversational art was second to none – his witty repartee, his eloquence and generosity in argument, and his breathtaking ability to spin a story out of the most meagre of beginnings were balanced by his talent for listening: other guests would open up to him, and many found themselves, quite unexpectedly, sharing their darkest secrets and most joyful desires with him. He found himself very-much in demand among the talkative element of the party.

And, so it was with the musical, dancing, artistic amongst the revellers. The man from the kitchen had something to offer all of them.

He would sing – dirges and ballads, limericks and love songs – all as the mood demanded, often seamlessly moving from one style to another as the night went on.

He would play the piano or guitar – sometimes as part of a group, sometimes to accompany his own voice, and sometimes simply as a solo performance – and the guests danced and sang along and partook of all he had to offer.

Sometimes he would dance and whoever he danced with left the floor feeling like they were the only one in the world that mattered, but were more than happy to see somebody else take their place and dance with this extraordinary man.

In dimly lit corners of the party were the artists, poets and painters – all practising their own particular arts and sharing their work with any interested party-goers. The man from the kitchen, whilst not an artist himself, would provide helpful suggestions and valued criticism, which when acted upon would improve the works in question. His manner was such that nobody even thought to take what he said with bad grace – his eye for detail was simply one of his gifts.

Time passed and the party went on and, having thrown himself into all the party had to offer, the man grew tired and restless.

Now, he sits at the window, his eyes looking outwards but seeing nothing. He is troubled by the memory of a sound he heard long ago and, deep within his chest, he can feel the locks and restraints clicking gently open. In his mind, the noise grows and he struggles to recognise it until its volume, mass and speed are an inescapable disaster, rushing towards him, that he can do nothing about. He stumbles to his feet, remembering a time outside: if he can only get back to that time, then everything will be all right. He takes one step towards the door, two, three, another lock opens but two more steps and everything will be all right. One more step, his hand grips the door handle and the scream tears itself from him: a sound so raw, bloody and terrifying that the guests (who have never heard such a thing in the entire history of the party) for moment stand rooted to the spot. By the time they turn to stare uncomprehendingly towards the door, asking themselves what the hell that noise was and what will become of the party now, the man from the kitchen has slipped outside and closed the door behind him.

Some time later, when he has gathered his thoughts together and decided that it’s quite possible for him to sit forever, leaning back against the lamp post and quietly watching the shadows on the window – it’s then that he feels a hand on his shoulder and hears a warm, inviting voice that he remembers from a time before the kitchen say, “Thank you.”