Dreams

 

Sit back. My dears, EBL is going to get all reminiscent.

Once upon a time, when the world was young, finding out information was difficult. There was no Google, if toy can believe such a thing and no Ask Jeeves, nor Lycos, nor even Excite. Not so much as a pixel of search engine goodness at the fingertips of even the most advanced computer scientist.

In those days EBL was a keen young thing at school and one day she had a lesson in English where the supply teacher was interesting. This in itself was shocking, with all due respect to Mrs P who was the usual teacher. Mrs P did her best but she was worn down by years of service to the cause of drumming Dickens and Hardy and Shakespeare into adolescent heads more interested in pop music and fashion and dancing. No one could sustain interest in the face of such barbarity.

The young supply teacher was fresh meat though and still had the dewy optimism of the newly qualified, all ready to change the world. So she talked to us about Old English poetry. I suspect my classmates do not recall this at all, but it struck a chord with EBL.  The chord was, however somewhat limited.

I remembered a fragment of verse because it sounded cool. I liked languages, even then, and it sounded interesting – English but not English. I knew it involved a battle. Well of course it did – it was Anglo Saxon poetry after all.

While I was nosing around my local library one day (those were places you could go to find books and borrow them, another feature of life now much reduced) I decided to see if I could find it again. There were no books on Anglo Saxon poetry in our little local library so I moved on and found one on Schiller which was pretty good, along with a copy of Candide by Voltaire. Ah, A-Levels.

So I left it alone.

When I got to university I asked friends who were studying English if they knew what it was. They blinked at me and muttered about The Faerie Queen and drank a few more pints.

So I left it alone.

One day while the Offspringses were older and studying and the Internet had been invented I searched on-line. But there was little to see and most of it was on UseNet which was a wild place not suited to discussing Anglo Saxon poetry.

So I left it alone.

When I was older I spent some time in another library, in a bigger town, while the Offspringses were in the children’s section, looking for Anglo Saxon poetry. But there wasn’t any still.

So I left it alone.

One day a friend mentioned the same poem and asked if I knew what it was, and I had to say I knew of it but not its name or date or even really its subject – beyond a battle, which wasn’t much help.

So I left it alone.

One day much later, when it was a new millennium and I was a little bored and Google had been invented I thought I would try again. The incredible thing is that even after all the years (probably around 35 years had passed by now) I still remembered the phrases and almost the spelling. And the other incredible thing is Google.

Google worked out I meant “hige sceal the heardre, heorte the cenre” when I typed in “hige sceal heorte” – that is one fine algorithm.

Google found the poem.

So I didn’t leave it alone.

I was able to read about it and to read the text in modern and Old English. I fell in love.

I found a study group of like-minded souls and have discovered more about this period of history and had incredible joy from sharing it and learning more about both the history and the language, the culture and the literature. I have met lovely people and been to brilliant events and read amazing books.

Yesterday I went to a course at the University of York on Icelandic and Norse sagas, which inter-relate to the Anglo Saxon period very tightly (Vikings, duh!), and learned how Skaldic Poetry is composed and fell in love again.

This little shoot of happiness has been growing and growing after long years fallow.

Sometimes we have to wait until the time is right.

Never forget your dreams. May the time be right for yours soon.

Namaste.

 

 

Gesalig Niw Gear! (Happy New Year!)

My dears, it is possible I may occasionally write a post. No promises, just a warning.

I am stepping into the unknown this year and would be pleased if you stepped with me.

Set your life on fire.
Seek those who fan your flames.

~ Rumi

Long story short, as they say:

2015 has been a difficult year, although nothing terrible, just draining. I started off dealing with my mother’s death shortly before Christmas, scattering her ashes in March. Work got frantic-er and frantic-er, I got irritabler and irritabler, and eventually I decided to resign. As a result I am now unemployed and we have enough saved up to keep us going until Easter so are both job hunting. So far we have had a couple of interviews each but no offers. Something will turn up in the end of course, but the waiting is horrible.

We did some wonderful things too: a couple of Anglo Saxon events, where I acted as a “scop” (pronounced “shope”) which is a bard,reading my translations of two children’s stories. We also went to Andalucia for our wedding anniversary, and had a couple of weekends away, in York, Lancaster and Woodbridge, along with day trips. I did lots of knitting, Old English translation (one of which is now an official version recognised by the publisher) and am busy with voluntary work too.

Anyway, to celebrate a New Year and New Life, I made Anglo Saxon food. Obviously. You can find the recipe for it here:

Anglo-Saxon-spiced honey & oat cakes

anglosaxonoatcakes

 

Here’s to 2016 my dears. May it be full of light and love and cake.

Namaste.

 

 

Greenness

greenness

One of the changes I have made over recent months is to try and engage in more of my hobbies. The death of my mother just before Christmas means that I have finally reached that point in life, apparently always far off until it landed with a thump at my feet, when I am foot loose and fancy free. No more children at home, no more dependent elderly relatives. Just me and Sigoth at home, wearing slippers and drinking wine and wondering what has happened; not in a demented way I hasten to add. Just a curious and slightly baffled way, as the peace of our lives emerges from the chaos of family and planning for the future. It seems the future has arrived.

Naturally I wondered what would happen if I prodded it.

One of the things I decided to try was to go on a course called “The Seasons of the Spirit” which looked at life and faith through the lenses of the seasons: renewal, light, death, frozen, change, hope and so on.  We did all kinds of creative activities including painting with closed eyes, collage, scrap-book, lectio divina,  and so on. Most of the time we held to silence, and it became very powerful.

For me the highlight was the poetry that was shared. In particular a verse from a poem by George Herbert called “The Flower”.

Who would have thought my shriveled heart

Could have recovered greenness? It was gone

Quite underground; as flowers depart

To see their mother-root, when they have blown,

Where they together

All the hard weather,

Dead to the world, keep house unknown.

This particular verse considered the withering of flowers in late Autumn or Winter, yet recognised that they would return in the Spring, refreshed by a hiatus building up their strength and nourishing themselves hidden away from the world.

Oh, this was for me! Feeling like I would never be able to shine again, that all my juices had been poured out in caring for that tired old woman and those exuberant young Offspringses, all of whom needed that energy from me and were given it with joy (even if it didn’t look that way at the time as I grumped and snarled along, too tired to turn the corners of my mouth upwards, too tired to share my happiness at seeing the children grow or hearing my mother singing to herself, relaxed and secure. Just too tired).

So I have been nourishing my soul at its root for a little while now and have put by some stores of sustenance and provender for the coming days. Perhaps by the time of the anniversary of my mother’s death, a few days before the Winter Solstice when the world turns from the fruits of the Holly to the shoots of the Ivy, then I will be able to say that I am at last renewed, a Green Woman – or at least a Green Bag Lady.

Yet never a green pizza delivery boy.

Of course, you don’t overcome 30 years of effort in 30 days or even weeks. I shall give myself time to grow into my season. But my heart is indeed recovering greenness.

May your hearts find the Green Within.

Namaste.

Random Acts of Strangers

The news last night ran a story about a blogger who is performing random acts of kindness each day for a year. Apparently he is an Internet Sensation. Apparently he is pretty well off too, because it all seemed to be about giving away luxury goods or paying for other people’s dinner. I admit I sighed a bit, although I am sure he intends well, and I am glad he is doing it, if weary that such activity is seen as newsworthy (a bit like the recent naked selfies craze – honestly, is it so brave for women not to wear make-up? Mutter, mumble, snarl…)

Meanwhile, casting abut for a topic to inflict upon my loyal but battered readers, I came across the following in WordPress’s 365 Days of Writing Prompts:

Have you ever had a random encounter or fleeting moment with a stranger that stuck with you?

Well, I have certainly had lots of weird and wonderful encounters, usually on long train journeys or waiting for trains or sitting in hotel lobbies. It occurs to me that much of my job is taken up with waiting.

Most of them have been reasonably pleasant, some a bit creepy and some very profound. The most profound were not really fleeting if you call an entire morning substantial. When I was commuting weekly from London to Yorkshire and back I had several interesting and useful conversations on the train with various other people doing the same thing. It usually started with me trying to read a book about configuring Exchange Servers or how to do sub-net masking or the intricacies of Project Management (in summary, use wax crayons and post-it notes. I see now that Agile is flavour of the month we back to that again, except now it has some “cool” jargon to go with it; and yes, that does deserve quotation marks. Plus ça change…)

Anyway, the train people: they often told me things. Many of the commuters were senior manager types who were happy to share their wisdom to someone who showed an interest, so I had long conversations about Deming and Open Source and Servant Leadership and all kinds of groovy things. It made the railway coffee drinkable at least.

That’s a handy tip for you, gratis. If you want to have an interesting conversation on a long journey carry a prop, such as an inconveniently heavy textbook to signal your credentials as a person worth engaging. It’s amazing how often this works, but then train journeys are mind-numbingly boring and being able to talk to someone who doesn’t have their eyes on video games and their ears leaking bass lines is a real treat. Try and make it one that can lead to an introductory question and then you are away. Do not, however, try the trick I came across last week.

I usually book a seat for my journeys so that I don’t have to scuffle for one and can relax getting on the train. I am more than happy to move anyone on who has sat in my place, either in error, or hope, or stupidity. Last week I found a young female in my seat and asked her to move, but she claimed to have a reservation. She was clearly wrong, but as the seat next to her was free anyway, I sat in it. I don’t need to sit in the exact seat; any will do.

A besuited gentleman sat down opposite. She had put her suitcase on his seat, and he was going to move it but then realised he could sit opposite me as that was free as well. We all settled down and the inconvenient miss burbled on about how crowded the trains were and how she had just been to a wedding and it was totes amazeballs (well, she actually said “amazing,” but she said it quite a lot and she meant totes amazeballs; you could tell) and she had held a 6 day old baby and he was totes amazeballs too and now she was going home and that was, well, you get the picture.

The suited man and I nodded and agreed that things were, in general, totes amazeballs, and wasn’t it nice to see the sun after such a dull winter. If we were being a little condescending, forgive us. Speaking for myself at least, I was envious of her joy in small things and wide-eyed optimism about life. That’s because I am a curmudgeonly old Baglady, and if I mock her idiom it’s at least with some affection. Every generation has its new formula for speaking the English as they feel she should be spoke. For myself, I am intrigued: I was fascinated to meet a woman once who had left England for the heady excitement of Switzerland in her twenties and not lived here since the 1950s. As a result she did not know what some basic words meant in her alleged mother tongue, including “roundabout” as an example. How amazeballls is that?

She kept on prattling gaily like a butterfly on acid, but once she learned I worked in IT (which is apparently like, not at all amazeballs, duh) she turned her attention to the gent. They always do, in my experience. It’s probably hard-coded in the DNA or something: here is a successful provider who could ensure she and potential future children were kept fed and warm.

Then she blew it.

“That’s a totes amazeballs pen,” she chirruped as he made some notes in his important manager’s leather-bound diary.

“Thank you.”

“Can I take a photo?” and she whipped out her mobile and snapped the instrument before he could blink.

“Wait, what? You’re not putting that on-line are you?” he gurgled, a bit panicky. Maybe he thought she was conducting industrial espionage on his calendar. Maybe she was. Damn good disguise Amazeballs in fact, like totally.

“I just want a picture so I can find it in a shop and get one.”

Pull the other one, love, it’s got bells on. How much writing do you actually do? Even I hardly use a pen and I write all the time.

The damage was done. He huffed a bit and stopped talking to her. I snorted a bit and sent coffee through my nose, in an attractive and ladylike way I’m sure. She realised she had gone too far and staggered off the train at York apologising for existing. I could have told her: watch your boundaries, especially in the nebulous confines of a public space. Try not to come across all paparazzi.

That is why a passive book is a good prop for conversation and a mobile phone-camera is not. Unless you are a secret agent, in which case, either is a good choice.

Weird travellers, I’ve seen a few. What are your brief encounters like?

Namaste.

 

Journeys

Regular readers will be aware that I spend a distressing proportion of my life lumbering about the country by rail, bus and taxi. I know it’s hard to believe but I don’t actually have a driving licence, nor do I really need one. Where would be the fun if I couldn’t moan about public transport?

journey-destination

So when I was confronted with this little piece of wisdom today I curled my upper lip into a practised sneer and muttered under my breath “oh, really?”. That was because the destination in my experience is of some significance and bears on the nature of the journey in no small part.

Still, I was game for a laugh so I gave it a little more thought, and that was because another thing I have come to notice in my experience is that clichés evolve for a reason. The reason being that a cliché is usually based on a wider truth recognised by the population as a whole. That is how and why it becomes a cliché in the first place.

I sat and gave it some cursory attention. “Why this cliché?” I asked myself. “What truth is hidden within?”

Waiting for an answer, I got my metaphorical head on and thought a bit more. “Life,” I pondered, as is my wont, “it’s a funny old thing and a kind of Journey.” This was no doubt the point the said meme was hoping I would reach.

To be obliging, I thought about the weekend I had just spent with the Offspringses home for the Chocolate Festival. We had a good time, playing games, eating treats, drinking wine and watching films. We visited other family members. We talked about stuff. What more can you ask for, and in what better company? I am so grateful my family is a friendly one that can spend a weekend together without screaming and shouting and slamming doors. Occasionally we even share the washing up.

That little leg of the Journey was spent well. We shared love.

I thought about all the actual journeys I take, and how I enjoy chatting aimlessly to complete strangers about this and that, playing games with their toddlers, hearing about a wedding or a break-up, learning about a new author or music, sharing tales of disaster and inconvenience, gently one-upping each other with calamities of the non-serious kind. I am especially fond of the bus ride from York to Whitby on the Goth weekend when most of my fellow travellers are of the pale and interesting variety. It’s amazing what conversations you can have with strangers. We seem to meet the essential part of each other when trapped together in a moving carriage for a couple of hours. Then we go our separate ways, possibly wiser, and frequently mutually amused.

Of course I also have had journeys where my companions have been pretty hard work. There was the young man who thought I was an angel sent from God to save him, which was quite disconcerting as all I did was nod briefly at him when he sat down. Then there was the cactus enthusiast who spent a long bus journey telling me about his cacti and succulents.

Those legs of the Journey are spent well whatever the case. We share our humanity, sometimes easily and sometimes painfully. But we share it.

I might have started to think about the journey from then to now as well, but I was getting fed up with all the metaphysical nonsense and my brain was starting to fizz. Time for a cup of the brew that refreshes.

“And what is the destination anyway?” I mused as I filled the kettle. “What is it all about, really, when you get right down to it?”

Because that’s what clichés are good for, reminding you of the eternal questions, right there.

I thought briefly of the sparrow flying from the wintry tempest through the warm hall and back out into the dark.  That was the Journey. And, as with National Rail, the final destination remained out of sight and ultimately was cold, bleak and mysterious. Take that, you metaphor. (I blame it all on the film we watched this weekend, which was two solid hours of trope layered on top of metaphor and served up with a refreshing side salad of imagery. It means I will be having trouble processing reality for the next day or so.)

My destination, I concluded as the water boiled, was just that: the place I end up. I suspect it will be defined by rather than define my journey. I look at my mother and see she has ended up in her current situation as a result of her choices and decisions years ago. I worry that I will regret mine, but all I can do is make the best of the current service station facilities and hope that the next fork in the road (or points on the line) will let me veer in the right direction. I would quite like to avoid Crewe if at all possible and preferably Birmingham New Street as well. Certainly ending up at Warrington Quays would not be welcome. I have nothing against the places in particular but those stations are abominations.

Meanwhile, for the next few days I will be away in London for work, and hopefully fitting in a trip to the British Library. That’s a destination worth reaching. In the meantime, enjoy your journeys and send me a post card so I can read about where you are at the moment. Is it a motorway café, a main line or a siding? Perhaps it’s a cul-de-sac or a traffic jam or a picturesque bridle path? Feel free to engage the metaphorical muscles, but please remember I am not an angel, nor a cactus expert.

Namaste.

Purple on the inside

birthday cake

This is the time of year when I start to think about age. My mother’s birthday was last week, mine is next month (she remembered hers alright, unlike the names of her grandchildren or when my father died; it’s so ingrained she won’t forget that until the last), along with Sigoth’s and two of the Offspringses. It’s pretty much birthday time all the time at EBL Towers just at the moment.

Ageing is not a popular pastime in western culture. I think that’s a shame, because we all do it every day and we can’t change that, so we might as well enjoy it. For example, I am about to become 52, which sounds like fun. There was a song my mother liked when I was a child about a deck of cards. It’s mawkish and sentimental, but at least it makes 52 a magic number. I have to say, 51 is not very exciting unless prime numbers are your thing. I like proper numbers that are made up of other smaller numbers, in different patterns and combinations. I think it makes them more interesting. I am not interested in a number you can only make by multiplying it by one. It leaves no room for creativity.

Perhaps I will invite friends round to play cards and eat cake.

There are many reasons I enjoy getting older. I have mentioned before that I suffer from depression. I have done so since I was a child and there hasn’t been anything anyone has been able to do about it, myself included. It doesn’t sit well with me, because I am a fixer. The pills don’t work, no matter which ones I try. Talking therapies are too expensive, although the occasional short series of sessions I have managed to access have been partly helpful but insufficient for any long term benefit. Pulling my socks up has only made holes in the toes.

It turns out that in my case ageing seems to be part of the answer rather than part of the problem. I know many people don’t like it or see it as positive but I really enjoy it. My depression has generally been worse during times of hormonal excess – puberty, pregnancy and menopause were all especially difficult, when the demons were at their worst. Now I am past all that nonsense, things are calming down.

I don’t know how other people experience depression, if they do. In my case it has been like a veil between me and the rest of the world. At times the veil has been relatively thin and I can reach through it and make contact with people. At other times it has been so solid and unyielding that I am trapped, able to see dimly through it but disconnected, unable to be heard or seen by others. The veil is always there, but lately it is gossamer thin, at least most days. It has worn away to a cobweb over time and I for one am cheered by that. Perhaps it will turn out that I am the mightier, that I have more staying power, that I will be the one to win the race. That is not what I expected, and I am glad for it. Who’s the stronger now, eh?

And I blow a raspberry at the veil. It mutters to itself in a corner and I start to see it for what it is – a bully, not insuperable, not immortal and not intact.

Today the veil was thin, yesterday it had a burst of energy. But I think I am winning the war, if not every battle. The tide is turning.

I like ageing. As I grow older I become careless. I care less what people think or say or do. I not only quote Jenny Joseph but actually wear the purple on the inside as well as the out.

Namaste.

 

Peeve

One of the things I try hard to stop myself doing, and fail miserably to achieve, is getting wound up over silly little things. Life is really to short to worry about the fact that the books in Waterstones are not shelved alphabetically, or that some nincompoop newsreader doesn’t know the difference between a mountain and a molehill, or that the well-meaning buffoon next door (WMBND) has never actually played Dungeons and Dragons but thinks they are an expert on it because their younger cousin’s best friend’s boyfriend once borrowed a copy of the Dungeon Master’s Guide from his next door neighbour.

I have played Dungeons and Dragons.

I’ll have you know my Illusionist was quite exceptional.

And don’t let me get me started on my amazing Ranger.

Although the incident with the wolf cubs eating our Paladin was a little embarrassing….

Anyway, picture the scene. There you are trying to coordinate a day of sparkling entertainment, and you have been asked specifically to set up and run a game of Dungeons and Dragons for old times’ sake. You dust off the DM’s Guide, break out the Monster Manual and unearth the Deities and Demigods. You spend a nostalgic weekend prepping a dungeon, supplying back-stories for all the orcs and goblins, setting intricate traps and hiding treasure. You plan out complex tricks and puzzles to stimulate your players. You order in snacks and drinks. You sharpen pencils, dust the dice and produce copies of character sheets.

The team gathers and cracks their collective knuckles in anticipation of a great session. The air is electric with anticipation.

Then the WMBND arrives with a draughts board and disrupts the party.

How does that make you feel?

That’s how I feel when someone utters the dreaded phrase “Oh, I know how to fix that database error! It’s simple. ”

Just saying.

Namaste.