The stuff of legend

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Today was a Bank Holiday in England and once the torrential rain stopped at lunchtime Sigoth and I ventured out into the spring sunshine, swathed against the elements and blinking in the light like newly hatched chicks. Of course, the obvious destination in these circumstances was some ruined buildings, so we headed for Kirkham Priory.

Scrambling about medieval piles of masonry is a bit of a treat for us. We like the peacefulness of the site, the texture of the stone, the play of shapes and light, the stories in the guide books, the humorous gargoyles and the fresh air. The average ancient monument has a tendency to be in rather decent countryside and the abbeys and priories of Yorkshire, of which there are many, are often in absolutely stunning locations.

Kirkham Priory is next to the railway line so I have a fondness for it based on the fact that whenever I see it on the train heading east I know I am nearly home. Between the railway and the masonry is the River Derwent, the famously perverse waterway that enjoys notoriety for its meandering path away from the sea; it rises in the North Yorkshire Moors, heads towards the coast then swerves away at the last moment before heading inland until it is seduced into the Ouse, swept to the Humber and finally meets its oceanic destiny near Hull. And serve it right too, the cheeky scamp.

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At Kirkham there is a pretty bridge and an old level crossing from the days when there was a station, pre-Beeching. Now it’s just an English Heritage ticket office and plenty of buoyant moss underfoot as you clamber up and down the site. The buildings are split level due to the slope of the ground, with the cloister starting at ground level at one end and finishing on the first floor at the other.

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The church is sadly diminished but once had a gorgeous Rose Window, which you have to try to imagine as you gaze at the stub of stone that remains.

Once we had finished wandering around we called back in at the ticket office which also operates a small shop, and bought a guide to Wharram Percy. This is a deserted medieval village not too far from Kirkham, and free to enter so long as you don’t mind squelching down a muddy slope about a quarter of a mile, with a number of kissing gates and a field of cows and calves to negotiate before you find yourself on a windy hillside looking at a roofless 18th century church, a mill pond and some lines in the ground representing medieval longhouses. I don’t mind at all, as you might guess.

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I know the site fairly well, but it’s always good to visit. Last time I went it was covered in snow; today there were new shoots on the hawthorn all the way down the path. I like a bit of hawthorn. In the pagan tree calendar the rune “Huath” represents May and the hawthorn, which in turn can be interpreted as the symbol of the triple goddess – maiden, mother and crone. At this time of year she gets her Maiden face on, with white blossom and green shoots. The path to the village runs between lines of hawthorn for most of its length, and in the sunshine you walk through a tunnel of green and white, surrounded by birdsong, sheltered from the wind and nurtured by romantic thoughts of Spring, the cycle of life and new beginnings, while wondering if this is what it felt like to return to the village along ancient trackways a thousand years ago. At least you do if you are EBL. You don’t worry about whether the path is the same in fact; it makes sense in a story about life in the Yorkshire Wolds throughout the millennia.

Increasingly fanciful, I wondered if we might appear as ghosts to the people of the past as we flitted between the rooms of their buildings, dressed strangely and clutching demonic devices. Were we the fairy folk of legends, or the devils that haunted good Christians in those days, just as some people claim to see ghosts of Roman soldiers wading along Hadrian’s Wall? Might the glimpses of people from the past in fact be the reflections of their glimpses of us, which they interpreted as things that go bump in the night? Are we in fact the stuff of legend?

I think the sunshine was making me giddy. I’m not used to it at this time of year and the winter has been so very dull.

I hope you are having sunshine and widly romantic daydreams, or at least a good ghost story.

Namaste.

 

 

 

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Old knickers and new friends

Bus

A bus in summer

At this time of year, waiting for the early morning bus at 0645, every day I notice the changing light.

This morning, for example, I had enough light to make out the dim, grey footpath and so avoid the drifts of last year’s old leaves and follow the dips and falls of the tarmac without stumbling.

Waiting for my bus I listened to a cacophony of birds; mostly their calls are a mystery to me, but I am able to pick out the owl from a nearby farm and the cockerel from another. They hoot and crow in some kind of avian version of duelling banjos, while their cousins of hedge and field whistle and warble freestyle feathery jazz.

On the bus I watch the palette of the sky build from charcoal through pastels to acrylic blues. The pink and lilac and lemon drain away as the day begins, leaving only a passing memory. Most of the other passengers are in thrall to small screens of worldwide information and miss the world unfolding.

The cars parked by the roadside are coated in crispy shells of frost this morning, which looks very pretty until you need to clear the windscreen and persuade the door to open. Early drivers scrape unenthusiastically, vandalising the intricate lace-work as their breath and the car’s exhaust steam in unison.

I wish the driver would turn the heating up, or at least not leave the door open while we wait at the bus station. She is warm in her cabin and forgets we are exposed. My feet are unresponsive blocks of ice, although once in the office I will regret my winter layers.

Off the bus at last, fumbling with ticket and lanyard and lunchbox and phone, walking briskly to thaw my feet and warm my body, thinking ahead to tea and logging in and emails, meetings, databases thinking ahead to people around me and cake shared and stories told.

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“I can’t believe I’m almost twenty one!” said in the horrified tone of the young, gazing upon the serried ranks of aged oblivion before her, not saying but thinking “Will I end up like them?”

“Twenty one? I’ve got knickers at home older than that!” exclaims the crone to my right.

We three crones exchange glances of misty-eyed remembrance of being horrified at twenty-one.

All three of us roar and cackle, then I answer the phone on script.

“Crone Team, EBL speaking, How can I help?” while beside me the other two rock in silent appreciation of our wit and wisdom.

Rounds of tea mark out the day, then back on the bus, rewinding the morning journey, light fading backwards and more smudges of coloured sky, richer red and purple and apricot before the light fails altogether. Yet still there is enough light this evening to avoid the drifts of last year’s leaves and follow the dips and falls of the tarmac without stumbling.

At home, kicking off shoes, pulling on pyjamas, catching up on all the adventures of the day. A letter from the tax office claims I owe them money. My payslip includes a tax rebate of money they owe me. The two amounts are similar and will take time to sort out for no gain to either of us, but it could be worse.

I sit with hair washed, snuggled in my dressing gown and am thankful for a day of many small pleasures, of old knickers and new friends.

May your days be full of the small joys that keep us sane.

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

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

Namaste.

 

 

Letting go

My dears, this is a sequel to my post about my mother’s move to the care home. She’s doing well, by the way, and much perkier than before. She did have a small stroke due to the pressure, but has since been doing splendidly, although I am not sure she is quite aware of who I am all the time.

Since her departure, and in between other trips to various parts of the country, I have been trying to do paperwork related to her new status. It’s actually pretty much the same as if she had died, while she is in fact living happily just down the road.

So – I have been battling in no particular order with British Telecom, the electoral register, Social Services financial assessments, the hairdresser, the Department for Works and Pensions, the Lifeline provider, GPs and pharmacies, her friend in London, domiciliary care, carer’s support, the library and the chiropodist. I was also advised to set up a funeral plan for her, as she didn’t have one. In a couple of weeks I will be meeting a terribly earnest woman to talk about options for caskets.

This weekend I have been trying to clear out the annexe where she lived, deciding what to keep, what to bin and what to send to the charity shop. Most of it has gone into boxes labelled “charity shop.”

A few years ago my mother asked me what I would do with her beloved belongings when she died, and I told her the charity shops would receive most if not all of it. She was appalled.

“But they were gifts!” she wailed.

“Not to me,” I said.

“From my friends…”

“Not my friends.”

“They mean so much to me…”

“I don’t know who gave them to you, when or why. They don’t mean anything to me. They might as well go to someone who will enjoy them because I think they are awful.”

I was skirting around my true feelings of course and may possibly not have said all that out loud. I probably did though. I don’t lie to my mother.

She tried to persuade me to keep them and I stoutly refused. Too much dusting for one thing, and too much searing pain in the eyeballs for another. I am not fond of those kinds of objects.

So here I am, putting things in boxes and reminding myself that she won’t be coming home. You don’t get better from dementia. She really won’t wake up tomorrow and remember who she is. It’s not Dallas.

We took four large bin bags of clothes and shoes to the charity shop yesterday. My mother loved her clothes and shoes. I reckon there’s another two or three bags to go, and that’s not counting the generously packed suitcase I took to the home, nor the pile of laundry that I will take to the home tomorrow to add to it.

I didn’t know how I would take this clearing out. I thought I would get upset. I thought I would get overwhelmed. I didn’t. I am tired, but it’s quite hard work and we have been at it all day.

I feel I’m in a kind of limbo. I can’t mourn for her because she is happily ensconced in front of a television less than three miles away. I don’t feel guilty, amazingly enough, because it’s easier to do it now than it would be after she died. I just don’t really feel anything about it at all, except weariness.

So that’s all good. I mean, there is no wailing or gnashing of teeth. There is no trauma, just a gentle drifting and waiting for the end to come. Each time the phone rings I am nervous, in case its The Call, but otherwise peaceful.

I am thankful she is well cared for and the staff seem kind and patient. She is so happy there it is clearly a success, and that is not a poor way to go.

I worried about what could go wrong, but this time it didn’t.

May you be as lucky as we have been, and find peace through difficult times.

Namaste.

 

 

Into Darkness

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There has been a fair share of darkness around just lately: Rara’s troubles, endless parades of suffering in the news, and seemingly difficulties for many many people at every turn. For EBL there are also a few hard decisions to be made and actions to be taken, and generally the gloom of a British spring matches my internal mood like a carefully chosen designer accessory.

I try to see past it. I try not to allow anger, sadness, pettiness, cynicism and depression get their collective hooves in my door and take their toll. I try to let it go, and then berate myself for my heartlessness.

“What good,” I admonish the demon on my shoulder, “will my crying about it do?”

I act where I can, hold dear ones in my heart, accept that at this time and in this place even I, EBL, have limitations. Obviously once I am Ruler of the World then things will change. Uppances will arrive with vigour. Hens will indeed roost once more in their hereditary establishments. Desserts of a legally balanced variety will be served with gusto. Indeed, everyone will be equipped with a sickle and sent out to reap whatever they have sown. Sadly, until then we wait.

It also occurred to me, either as febrile self-justification or perhaps a sliver of wisdom, that there cannot be light without darkness.

While I mused thus over an early morning beverage, Sigoth read me a joke. I decided then and there that, along with wishing all people peace and joy, I would also wish them a GSOH (good sense of humour). When we can laugh at our petty foibles and pointless posturings, then we can focus on what is important and how we can make practical and achievable changes. And then, my dears, we triumph. The light returns.

So to help me in my new resolve, I want to share with you the joke Sigoth read to me. It’s a Golden Oldie, but I commend it to you as a starter for ten. Brace yourselves.

An optimist thinks the glass is half full.

A pessimist thinks it is half empty.

But an engineer knows that the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

Whether you are in light or darkness, I wish you joy and peace and laughter.

Namaste.

 

Blocks

I have not been writing so much lately and I am not about to make excuses. I did that in another post recently so that’s all the excusifying you will be getting from me.

Calvin and Hobbes sum it up

Calvin and Hobbes sum it up

I wanted to write, though. I still do. But I have a Thing in the way, a Monster under the keyboard, an air bubble blocking the free flow of water through my pipes. I will be draining my radiators in due course, and will tell you how it all turns out then, but in the meantime I just need to sit in a corner for a bit and grumble through the dark reaches of the night.

It’s generational I suspect. No matter that I have worked in IT, woman and girl, a quarter century or more under the silicon. No matter that before there was a web I was using bulletin boards to send messages to people around the world, hopping from server to server. No matter that in the human realm I enjoy holding forth and listening to the sound of my own voice. No matter that at times words issue forth like the flood that floated the Ark, although hopefully without drowning unicorns.

No matter, I say, that any of those things are true, and potentially even relevant. This old lady simply does not share on-line all the potential stumbles ahead. I don’t ask you to help me figure out what to do, although I may happily bore you death once it is all done. Anyway, I know what to do; I’m just waiting for it to be done.

I’m not trying to be mysterious – but the Block Monster did make me realise that so many of you share so much by publishing your blogs. I don’t. There’s nothing I write here I wouldn’t happily read out at work or in the pub. I assume it will all end up one day in the HR department being checked for subversiveness, or in the village newsletter for people to gossip about. So I stick to the past – what has been and can be reported – not the future, despite the fact that most of my time I worry about the future and what may be. Naturally I live very little in the present, because I am poor at mindfulness, but I am working on that and trying to extend my visits.

Catherine Tate as Lauren

Of course, some days I publish very bad writing like this stream of consciousness. Am I bothered? Look at my face. Not bothered.

In addition to being elderly, I prefer to work things out in my head, not with people. I don’t do human very well. I am anti-social. My idea of a brilliant day is to spend it alone, reading, knitting, writing, practising calligraphy or music, or learning to crochet. If I want to push the boat out, I will watch a film. I have no idea why I like to write or publish to a blog, I just can’t help it.

Still, I managed to write something, so I’ll blow a raspberry at the Word-Eating Monster, and hope to resume normal service in due course. Probably about a month in fact.

Do you share or conceal or deflect? Do problems free you up to write more, or befuddle your fingers and tie up your tongue? And yes, I do realise that by definition not everyone will be able or willing to answer that.

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?

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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.