Friday, 26 December 2014

A Time for Beginnings...

I wish I could write poetry about the wonder of new life and not just about endings and (to a lesser extent) death.

These seem to be the default topics for poets (also love, but since love is generally entwined with the other two, I am going to use poetic licence and ignore it just now) but I can think of some notable exceptions. Plath’s famous line ‘Love set you going like a fat gold watch’, for example. Or Eavan Boland’s poetry and – to a lesser extent – Shakespeare’s brief subscription to the notion of ‘save breed to brave him when he takes thee hence.’ And yes, before you ask, those quotes do just roll off my pen and no, I have not Googled them. Ergo, any inaccuracies are entirely the fault of my own brain mis-remembering the information.

Perhaps that very human mis-remembrance is what causes us to glorify endings the way we seldom do beginnings. We look back at endings and obsess over them, we want to think of them as a learning curve, as a growth of our knowledge base, as a beautiful but painful experience – anything to make them more bearable, more tolerable than they generally are.

Or perhaps it is because beginnings are new and exciting and leave us with little time for sitting and writing about them. Even now, I am writing this sitting on a bus (well, I did promise!) to Donegal where I have been forced to sit still for the past 3 hours.

Endings, on the other hand, are generally characterised by periods of reflection, sadness and solitude – perfect writing conditions!

Call me crazy, but I would like to be a happy writer. Please allow me ten years to prove that this is not an oxymoron. If, in December 2024 I have not proven this to be possibly, then I will also concede defeat. I will also quite possible be a crazy person, but we shall see.

I would like to start my explorations at this time because Christmas is a time of great happiness flavoured with a bucket or two of nostalgia (like salt and vinegar crisps – I never can find the vinegar in them). This nostalgia will hopefully provide me with plenty of fuel for my burgeoning experiments.

The starting point will hopefully be the friends’ new baby boy, a mere five days old as I write. I met him today for the first time and managed to hold him for fifteen minutes before he started to scream – a personal best! But for a writer, there must surely be a million things to say about this. Some of them might even be original!

It seems to me to be a good starting point in this season filled with hope and beginnings (an nostalgia).

Now, all I have to do is begin…

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Why I go to the Gym

I hate the gym. Not as much as some things like, say Brussels Sprouts, but I hate the gym.

The music is always too loud, the room smells of sweat, and sometimes I feel a bit like a Hamster running and running and running and not getting anywhere.

I puff and pant on the cross-trainer for the first five minutes thinking 'Damn, this is hell. Damn, I could be at home with a good book and some tea. Damn, damn, damn...wait, what?'

Because around about that last damn, something happens. Maybe its adrenaline or something equally as scientific but all I know is, I get high. Oh yeah, high. I feel alive, every inch of my body working, straining and stretching and wondering how much further it can go. Just a little bit, just a little, little bit more...and maybe we could just go that little bit further...and where will that lead us?
My mind, usually quite like the aforementioned hamster that never quite stops, suddenly shuts up, sits down and enjoys the ride. Believe me when I say, this never happens. Not even when I am unconscious!

My body takes over. It wants to run, to exercise, to stretch itself out and test its limits and it can do that in this sweat-filled, noisy, public room.
This knowledge astounds me.
And what's more, while I am exercising, it would appear that I am also exorcising.
Stressful day at work? Bam, no problem after a work out.
Worried about something personal? Ditto
Tired? Hungover? Generally grumpy? Ditto, ditto, ditto.
PMS? Well, lets admit it...some miracles are never meant to happen, but it does help.

So this is why, on a wet and wild night in freezing December, I drag myself back out of my cosy, Christmassy flat and down to the local gym to spend an hour sweating on space-age machines.

But I still hate the thought of it. That's why that was last night, and tonight I opted to sit by my Christmas tree and make a blog post about it instead!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Mice, Men, Plans...

‘The best laid plans of mice and men…’ one of my mother’s all time favourite quotes. As a child, I hated it. I was just so sick of hearing it repeated that I came to dread anything going wrong for the proclamation that must surely follow.

These days, I have come to appreciate it. That’s my excuse for missing nearly two months of my blog. That and the line ‘If you’re going to fuck it up, fuck it up in style’. Not for me the mere missing of two weeks, no I wanted to miss a full two months. Next time, I’ll aim for two years (joke!).

So the post today is how about whether this is my fault or the fault of the fates. Well, I have to admit to it being a definite 50/50, with maybe even an extra 10 heading my way. Yes, my head was a little all over the place and yes my social calendar suddenly resembled something from Sex and the City (albeit somewhat nerdier) but I could have taken the time to write one or two pieces a week. Most weeks anyway. And I didn’t. Why is that? Is it that one more thing I just can’t handle or is it pure laziness? How much of it is an excuse that I used to kid myself when I simply had no ideas, no witticisms and no energy? Well, I had witticisms and energy, I was just using those on the aforementioned social calendar (more on the word ‘aforementioned’ in my next post. Yes, there is a plan for a next one. Ladies, gentlemen and others, we have the suggestion of commitment).
I’m going to confess I had very few ideas. My bus journeys suddenly became a precious few minutes to sleep/read/daydream in a hectic schedule and my usual ‘profound thinking’ (written without a straight face) had to take a back seat with the smokers and the junkies. I am hoping to salvage it though. Tonight, on my way home, I intend to give it a shake, pour some coffee down its throat in the hope of sobering it up and beg it to sit next to me and converse a while. I’m sure it will have some lovely psychedelic stories to tell.

Until then…

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Let's Do The Time Warp Again...

The Falklands are back in the news. As I pedalled furiously on my bike in the gym last night, it flashed across the bottom of the BBC news – ‘Falklands Tension’ – and I thought ‘now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time’. Not since the Eighties, actually.
It seems like we’ve done the Time Warp. Not only are we in recession, we are all wearing leg warmers, watching re-runs of Fame and now we even seem to be embracing nostalgia wars.
I am starting to wonder if we woke up from a dream and found ourselves in someone else’s reality; one that we don’t recognise because we’ve lived our whole lives in a dream bubble. But now its ours too, and we feel cheated. The way you feel when the alarm goes off at 7am when you’re just about to kiss the prince. Our alarm has rung and with it we have been plunged back into depression, recession and – most harrowing of all – bad fashion.
The Falklands is just another in a series of re-visited Eighties problems, along with Thatcher. I’m starting to wonder if someone will offer to re-build the Berlin Wall, just so we can tear it down in a few years and declare a wonderful new era to have begun.
Unlikely though, we probably don’t have the money.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Live Every Day as Your Last? Not Bloody Likely, Mate!

‘Live Every Day as if its Your Last’. Famous expression. I have been known to try and do this on occasion but not very often. For years, I have beaten myself up for not doing it, for not being more happy-go-lucky and more feckless. But now I’m kind of glad. While I agree with the sentiment to a degree, on the other hand if you do live like that, chances are your last day will be fairly soon because you will starve to death.

Let’s face it, if I lived each day like my last, you wouldn’t be getting this blog post! I would probably be in a Den of Iniquity seeking out some sexy person to make all my dreams come true. Very, very fast. And I would be smoking like a trooper, drinking like a party girl and probably trying to eat a lot of chocolate and cheese. It’s not like I’d have to worry about the migraine. But those are not all the things I love doing, they are not even the tip of the iceberg. But they’re all you can do on your last day. I mean, who wants to start a book and not know the ending? Who wants to write some beautiful poetry and not have time to read it? Alright, climbing a mountain and watching the sunset is doable and worth it, but it sounds like a lot of exertion for one’s last day.

That style of life would soon wear out. For a start, I’d be really fat and have bad lungs. But I’d have no money, no job, no food on the table and no future. Spending everything and doing everything I wanted would cost me all that.

Living like this is what got the world into this mess. Living as though there is no tomorrow has left us in a precarious situation where tomorrow is looking less and less appealing by the second. Is that really what one wants from life?

So no, I don’t want to live every day as if its my last and I don’t think it’s a good message to give our children or anyone else. Live each day as if you have a future, a wonderful future filled with possibility. It may not be happen and it may not be as wonderful as you would like, but in the off chance that it is at least you’ll be around to see it!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Unnatural Cities

Who decided that cities were unnatural? I mean, they are a product of the brains, needs and creativity of things that occur in nature, i.e. us. So what makes them intrinsically more unnatural than, say, a forest? Well, granted, they do take a bit more active work to create (although I’m sure creating forests is no picnic) but that work is done either by us naturally-occurring humans or creatures we have created, from chiefly organic parts. I am wondering where exactly the line is drawn. And who draws it? Take glass, its created by the application of heat to sand – at what point does that become unnatural? Sand is not unnatural and heat is not unnatural, so why does the combination warrant the term?
In a scene in Terry Pratchett’s Fifth Elephant, Sergeant Colon tells Vetinari that he ‘doesn’t hold with unnatural things’. Vetinari is genuinely perplexed and asked ‘so you eat your meat raw and sleep in a tree?’ This is precisely the point – when do things become unnatural? Who decides? Why do they need to decide? And more importantly, what if they change their minds? Do they then issue a bulletin to every city in the world? How would it read?
‘Dear Dublin,
We have called you unnatural for many years now. We have believed your population secretly wants to escape the gridlocked prison and spend the rest of their lives rearing chickens on a farm in Wicklow.
We apologise for this mis-representation. From now on, we will hold you in high esteem much as we do the country.
Sincerest apologies for any inconvenience caused.
The Board of Unnatural and Natural Liason.’
Bam, suddenly cities would be the most natural things in the world! And when you think about it, they are. Humans are naturally social creatures, so it surprising we choose to live together in one place and to share amenities? Personally, I am fed up with people telling me that some day I will wake up say ‘Argh, get me out of here’ and go haring back to the Wilds of Beyond. I spent seventeen years in the Wilds of Beyond and they are not all they are cracked up to be, believe me.
Unnatural or not, I’ll take the city over the muddy, wet and desolate countryside anyday!

Monday, 16 January 2012

My Cold Hard Writer.

There’s a side of me that I call the ‘Cold Hard Writer’ part. And sometimes I hate it. I walked along the canal at lunch today and I have this tendency not to look to closely at the water. Just in case. I don’t really want to see a body floating there. Now, firstly it’s a very unlikely occurrence but – and this is the nasty bit – my ‘Cold, Hard Writer’ (henceforth CHW) wants to know what it would look like. It wants the story to tell its friends, it wants to know what happened and how. It wants to experience every damn thing in the world and it doesn’t really care much for the sensibilities of the person carrying it!

Because I am very sensitive. I don’t watch horror movies, I don’t like any form of violence. Hell, I even find Tom & Jerry distressing. But the CHW doesn’t think like that, it’s like a hungry dog gulping back everything it’s been given and yearning for more. It’s the bit that wants to see a volcano erupt, feel an earthquake shake the world or watch a tornado pick up a farmhouse (or whatever they do. Ireland doesn’t get many!). The rest of me, of course, is more practical; if it wasn’t, I’d probably be dead by now. A sobering thought, but not for my CHW who immediately gets out pad and pen and says ‘Yes, but what is being dead like? What do you experience?’ (Granted, my CHW is not alone in that query).

I wonder do all artists feel like this? Like there’s a core of them that is steely and will record every little detail even while the world ends around them. It’s quite a fascinating little creature and it come to fore for me a couple of times in my own work. The example that springs immediately to mind is a scene involving a horrible big moth. I hate moths, I despise them with every fibre of my being, and yet I managed to write the scene. I can only assume CHW is to be thanked for that. Of course, editing it should be a barrel of laughs but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I’m sure when we do, CHW will be looking eagerly over the side to see if any corpses got caught underneath.