Wednesday, June 28, 2006

On the John

"The virtue of uncertainty is not a comfortable idea, but then a citizen-based democracy is built upon participation, which is the very expression of permanent discomfort. The corporatist system depends upon the citizen's desire for inner comfort. Equilibrium is dependent upon our recognition of reality, which is the acceptance of permanent psychic discomfort. And the acceptance of psychic discomfort is the acceptance of consciousness."

John Ralston Saul, 1995

Read the full text here.

Perhaps, this is the key to enjoying chasing butterflies?

When I grow up, I would like to be a butterfly chaser. When I grow up, I will appear in my own self-portrait.

Butterfly chasing

I think I need to get in on the action.

Monday, June 26, 2006

This is me: 1 of 4

Self-portrait: Window
I was going to say that this image was inspired by the self-portrait marathon over at Crack Skull Bob's, but actually I think provoked would be a more honest description of my reaction.

I didn't intend to take part. In fact the idea made me intensely uncomfortable. I was enjoying it voyeuristically, but found that once the camera was in my hand I couldn't entirely silence the echo of "Who am I?".

So, next time someone asks me Who exactly I think I am, I shall save my breath and point them here.

Delicate web

Forget-me-not and spider's web
Life imitates art. Or at least the saturday-snaps I took!

And the universe continues to astound me.

Sometimes the webs between us, woven by the cosmic spiders, are so finely spun you can hardly see them. And then suddenly the light moves or something brushes your skin and you realise you're not alone in a vacuum, you're gently connected to another real human being in a way that you could never have predicted.

I find co-incidences hard to digest. I don't believe in divine direction, but in happy accidents, given meaning and purpose by the choices made by the people involved. We probably have near misses with these accidents thousands of times more than we bump into them. But sometimes life is just too weird for my math-brain to simply add the data to the scatter diagram. I feel like I've seen the face of john lennon on my toast.

Say you 'met' someone online. As in, you bumped into their blog, via a chain of blog links. And this blog kept drawing you back. Became a funny kind of online home-from-home - a familiar place to return to for somehow 'touching base' in the cyber world. And then you moved house. Real house, in the real world. And you decided to comment a little on this person's blog, email them, start a conversation - for no reason other than it seemed like something you should do at a time when you were feeling a little lost. And then ... you found out that this other person, supposedly remote in the offline world, actually stayed in the house you have moved into, some 30 years ago. Just for a while. Would it blow your mind? I don't know whether I think it's the strangest overlap, or whether it makes perfect sense. That somehow, the forces that attracted us both, a generation apart, to this physical location, are the same forces that attract us to virtual locations.

The co-incidence isn't confirmed yet - I need to send some photos for final checking, but it sounds like this is the case. And it got me Thinking about how we come to be in the places that we are - online and offline. I believe many websites are places. Especially blogs. Whether they are cathedral or bus-stop, they feel to me like Somewhere.

I think I shall be on a technorati trawl for other people experiencing the work of the cosmic spiders.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Love through a Lens

Today, my flatmate has a new camera. And my world rose to the occasion.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Curiosity killed the Cat-owner

It's this way!

I let Ruby lead me on a wander through the wooded banks that surround the new house. She seemed to know where she was going, and I was curious as to where she'd adventured yesterday, so I tried to keep up, and she impatiently waited from time to time ... until we reached the path at the top of the quarry. She trotted confidently round the edge, and I followed until the walkable lip became too narrow for my nerves. I shouted her to lead me down, and she seemed to know what was being asked ... but now I was in a pickle because she bounded down on four legs set to "Mountain Goat", whilst I had only two, one for slipping and one for sliding it would seem.

I took some photos but they were blurred by my shaking. The view from the top was magnificent but slightly tainted by my awareness of how high up I had climbed and how far down I could fall ...

I can't say it was elegant or rapid, but my descent was at least effective. Safely back chez Ruby, she had an enthusiastic drink of water. I think I could do with a brandy.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Cat Narnia

Cat Narnia

This is the world Beyond The Cat Flap.

For my little furry feline friend, five years a city flat-cat with no knowledge of grass or butterflies or the difference between sunlight and shade, it is a Whole New World.

I think she must feel like she is stepping through the back of the wardrobe ...

Meanwhile, back at the ranch we had a heart thumping afternoon as Ruby decided to go on an adventure of her own. Missing for a good couple of hours, I have yet to hear the details of her excursion from her, but am simply overwhelmed with gratitude that she returned safe and sound. Sauntering up the steps to the house with a big grin on her face and no idea what all the fuss was about. Now I am fighting internal battles between my paranoia and her freedom. I think more training is required ... Ruby won't mind - training means cheese and crispy bacon!

I popped in to London this afternoon for a meeting. I am struck by how the perimeter has been redefined for me. Suddenly, Clapham Junction is not London - for it has been re-boundaried as the world beyond the ticket barriers at Waterloo station. As we sat outside the platform waiting for our turn, the policeman's hat that is St Paul's appeared from behind some seedy looking prefab huts. I could have cried. I wanted to get off the train, go straight to the city and hug every building I recognised. My new horizon is beautiful and breathtaking, but only in recognition of the familiar did I realise how un-nerved I still am by these foreign territories.

Still, the assimilation is underway. Walking back by the river this evening I even recognised a pink-stained white pidgeon ... incongrously pecking amongst a couple of dozen ducks, resting on the bank in the shade of a willow, with their beaks tucked right in. Are they sleeping? I am never quite sure. Perhaps it is a huge waterfowl game of hide and seek? It reminded me of something a friend of mine says - people talk about how great it would be to be a bird, the freedom of flight and all that - but they just don't think about the preening. So true ... and something I could do with reminding of. I'm not prone to wishing I was David Beckham or Victoria Wood ... but I do catch myself looking at the lives of friends and colleagues and coveting their astounding strengths and talents, and often just their ability to appear so comfortable in their own skin. I forget that even the most well balanced and blessed human is not really charmed - we all struggle, we all have demons and shadows. Of course, that recollection makes the achievements of those around me more remarkable, not less so.

But - yes, next time my eyes glint green whilst watching my cat sleep blissfully through another day, I will try to remember the grooming, claw sharpening and spider-eating responsibilities that go with the job.



For the next thing to do.

The key, Ruby told me after this picture was taken, is to see waiting as doing ... or at least as being. And she knows that being is as important as doing. After all - you can't do unless you are.

She has it all sussed out.

Today is a day of changing weather. The sun flits in and out, and I am trying to enjoy it's warmth without worrying about how long it will be til the next shadow spreads across the garden. The dragonflies are out in numbers ... if I had a better camera and a steadier hand I would snap snap snap and share them here. Dragonflies? What privilege ...


Cross posted to the weird and wonderful : Friday Ark

Monday, June 19, 2006


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Balancing (act)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Fuzzy train

Small (Tom)Boy, Big Thoughts

Watermark's moving warning against letting our guard down to ignorance and fear has given me a more right-sized perspective this evening. My mini-crisis suddenly a tiresome drama.

I'm grateful for the reminder of a connection to a childhood friend. A small boy who helped me, a small tomboy, to dare to think Big Thoughts.

In the new place ... I will try to reconnect with the people who have mattered to me, irrespective of geography. I suspect that once out of London the world feels a little smaller.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Probably not

... probably. More Fuzzy Logic.

This really moved me, intellectually as well as psychologically and emotionally. Possibly physically as well!

The simple idea, that anything to do with probability is, by nature, future ... and thus does not exist (unless you believe in timetravel). So - not only does the thing we are predicting not exist, but the probability itself is just an ethereal concept and shouldn't be treated like a measurable Truth or statable Fact.

As a scientist, I feel guilty. But now my Cat is being sick, and as the Cat, the vomit and the dog's bed it is all over are very definitely measurable and real, I shall attend to those.

Monday, June 05, 2006


... well, according to Fuzzy Logic it is.

I am being roused into agreement. How many things have I robbed myself of simply by thinking that I already know the results of a possible experiment?

What's the point?

I just had my first session of Auricular Acupuncture. After some initial hitches it was a very calming and positive experience. The trouble was the my left ear rejected the needles. Apparently this can happen occasionally, as I was reassured by the practitioner as the first one sprung to my shoulder. When it happened again two minutes later she definitely looked at me oddly, as if I might have a clue how to achieve such a thing deliberately.

I was troublesome again when I left. She handed me a cotton ball, stating that occasionally there are a "few drops" of blood. Then I felt this peculiar warm wet feeling in my ear, and just as I was telling myself calmly that this must be some sort of nice acupuncture after glow, the blood started dripping on to my sweatshirt, notebook and pen. Most alarming. I felt her alarm too and tried to reassure her - ears do bleed a lot proportionally - but she was clearly perturbed. Half a dozen cotton balls and some sustained pressure later I was good to go. Bet she hopes I'm not coming back.

Just prior to the session I had the de rigeur conversation with someone I meet regularly. How will you get Here from There? How long does the train take? Where does it stop? How much does it cost? When is the last one? They nod, almost sympathetically ... oh, that's not too bad then ... and I find myself too embarrassed to admit that, actually, I really like trains. I feel this is like confessing some dark submissive fantasy, because I know that to step aboard a train is to invite kidnap.

"So sorry I'm late. I was taken hostage by the Northern Line."

I can't remember who said this to me, but it feels ohSoTrue.

And sometimes I am an unwilling hostage, plotting escape routes and damning my captors, but mostly I have Stockholm Syndrome - perversely grateful for the one-track-minded convictions of the driver of the 14.02 to the Where I need to be.

Freedom in accepting rules and boundaries I guess.

My trains of thought can feel much the same, taking me hostage and whisking me to a place where I may arrive late but never early. As passenger I adopt the same range of attitudes as on the Real Train; counter-terrorist, co-operative, or a tricky third way - appear passive and willing whilst fantasising escape and rescue. Door number 3 seems only to lead back to the waiting room from which I chose it. I am unsure at this juncture whether to vow to stop wasting time with this circular route or embrace it as some sort of holding pattern, useful for getting the timing right. Waiting outside the station for an empty platform ... arriving only so that I can leave again.

Leaving. The word seems so loaded at the moment for many different reasons that I won't be boring you with. In leaving London I have suddenly begun to see it, hear it, taste it, in a way that I haven't (ever? ) for a long time. In the acupuncture room a CD of seaside noises and gentle chords played soothing sounds, and in the background it was accompanied by a pneumatic drill, traffic, sirens and the chatter of the chinese community doing whatever it is that they do so well. In London these sounds barely register. I suspect in the new place they would feel more intrusive.

Speaking of intrusion, I enjoy the privacy that multiple languages enforce. The sound of non-english voices is so much more common in my everyday encounters with People that I find conversations I comprehend quite bothersome. They crowd into my brain, and I am worried that I will miss the luxury of being around people communicating with each other without having to hear their stories. I guess perhaps I hear their stories in a different way - take more from gestures, expressions, breaths and sighs and gasps, but I don't have to cringe over their private details or at my own pedantic objections to the misuse of my favourite words.

So. Today London is in technicolour, surround sound and complete with 3D glasses. On my return home I took the dog to the park where she chased a squirrel, and this strange chuckle came out of the tree, sounding precisely like the crazy woman in little britain. Any one know what kind of bird would make that noise?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

First steps

In six days time I will leave London.

Today the grass in Soho Square was smothered in half naked perfect bodies, boys entwined and squinting, into sunlight through the right sunglasses and cocaine hangovers. 50 quick stares as I walked down the path. Acceptance. Visual identification confirmed - this is the true retinal imaging. Grateful for my long sleeves and short hair.

I wonder whether a week from now I would feel like an imposter in that spot. An outsider. Paying my council tax to the wrong borough to have any right to feel at home in Soho. Entering via a portal at Waterloo Station - as I have many times before - but now coming when I should be going, going when I should be coming.

Waiting for a friend. She lives in Glasgow, was born in Norfolk but feels her heart belongs in London. There - I am already doing it - homogenising the capital city as if Camden and Brick Lane and Wapping and Shepherds Bush were alike. I was born in Glasgow, but like her, I feel a stranger there. A stranger everywhere really. A stray.

I am guessing that in Surrey the world will be the same, more or less. More Daily Telegraphs. Less hair wax.

I came-out in London, and whilst the internal battle was bloody and violent, the external world was accepting and ready. Even in the old-man's pubs in the east end. Clumsy but unafraid. There is a white pigeon in the park - well, white underneath the grey staining of dust and dirt across it's feathers. I wonder if it knows how different it is?

This will be my fifteenth home in 30 years. My first step outside of London for nearly a decade. Swapping the Thames for the Wey, parks for forest, corner shops for chickens and a garden. I cannot keep houseplants alive - how will I cope with a garden? My dog and cat have been briefed. For the cat it will be first steps outside after five years of city loft living. I hope she will be brave. I hope I might be too.