Thursday, 29 September 2016


Some words like types of food shouldn't go together but somehow do. Some people you wouldn't think to put together but they somehow work.
Some words share the same letters, yet have different meanings. Some people carry the same genes, yet express these differently.
Some words get mixed up, confused for or with another, so that what they impart is different to what was meant. Some people are confused and don't know how best to convey their emotional state.
Some words are interchangeable, are dissimilar in sound and look, yet defined similarly. Some people are replaceable, are distinct in appearance and demeanour, yet possess the same desirable skills.
Some words shout, some are quiet, some are neither one or the other, some can be both. Some people are aggressive, some are passive, most are a combination of both.
But whilst words can be classified into neutral, positive, or negative, people are not so easily categorised under headings.
The bounds, as laid down in speech, thought or writing, are mitigated when divisions are crossed which nobody thought could or should be crossed to broker new territory. And then there's human error where those unnaturally brought together have a strange allure, almost as if appointed yet were waiting for someone to stumble upon them, and if they hadn't they would never have been discovered.
Although materialised, a few go unnoticed by unsharpened eyes and it takes another sharpened pair to notice. Some eyes see but don't realize the beauty and only want to correct the error; some eyes see and realise the error is an improvement because it alters their thinking. Other eyes see what others have seen but failed to mention, and for them it's a revelation as if these faults were put there to tell them something, which others that came before also thought but which leaves both feeling pleased as if they've realised something that others haven't: they're in ownership of some knowledge that others are ignorant of.
Humans delight in one-upmanship and recognising themselves in another, even fictional beings who demonstrate how they do and how they could live in the world. And as they identify with them they identify with the writer that created this fictionalised person and bombard him or her with crazed letters, become ardent fans of that one novel, and with time possibly extend this to further works. Still, that life-changing novel will be vividly remembered and revisited because of the protagonist and the way in which the writer animated him or her; readers choosing to forget the fact that the character may have been drawn from real life, manipulated but not strictly speaking imagined, because to do that would dismiss the notion that the author speaks for them and has somehow entered their soul.
Through the novel, the writer has stretched out his hands and voiced what is never expressed. The language used and the voice in which it's said achingly familiar, so that what the character does could be true of us if the same situations arose. And that over-identification is a frontier the writer has no control over, though some writers might claim this also occurs with the persons they bring into being.
It's a fine line, like one drawn with a stick in the sand. Because writing is for many a form of therapy. Experimental as in taking an idea or theory and testing it on paper to see what happens; exploratory as in foraging thoughts and memories of different selves and expressing them in a style that's natural or foreign. Things are worked out, absolved. The unknown quantity is in fact the faceless readers and their reactions because in publishing your own, often disguised, psychoanalysing you unleash a brand of pain on the world, to which there are no guarantees others will pick a safe route through the mire which once held you down but now holds them in its sway.
Therapy has no answers, just realisations.

Picture credit: Corbusier Chair and Rug, 1969, David Hockney

Thursday, 22 September 2016


Science, these days, tells us the brain is malleable, which puts me squarely in the minority camp because mine doesn't seem to have any plastic qualities. It hates change of any sort: big leaps into the unknown, the medium-sized still daunting but not so terrifying, the small stepping stone blips and the microscopic which nobody else appears to bat an eye at.
Most people remain untroubled whilst I spot all the intricacies; my brain busily computing what this means and what I will have to do to make it sit easily with me. There are instances where I cannot and so then the idea gets dropped regardless of whether I think I should or could take myself out of my comfort zone. Other times I just need a bit of familiarity or some sort of reassuring presence whether that be a person or a landmark. And then there are occasions when the rug gets pulled out from under me. It hasn't you understand, at least not in the context that phrase is generally used, but a triviality can upset my carefully thought-out day and the frustration will stay. And stay, carry on into the next twenty-four hours.
You can't be like that, people say, but I am, I tell them. I'm a fixed human being.
Though to be honest, I don't attempt to explain that to many. It's not something you can anyway as to those who conduct their lives flexibly it sounds ridiculous. No, my immoveable preferences are as unmentionable as undergarments used to be. The only person they're able to accommodate is me and they don't even do that sometimes. The fabric holding me in often seeming too tight, too well-fitting, so snug it digs into my lean flesh and leaves dents, ridges and grid patterns. There's no extra room to comfortably slouch and release the tension.
I think I hide it well, not the uprightness but the constant nipping unless it gives me a pinched expression I'm unaware of, along with my so-I've-been-told tendency to frown and draw my shoulders inwards when encumbered. I'm oblivious to these specialities which I'm guessing aren't admired as you might a person's dimples or unconscious gestures, rather a fault to be corrected.
No, such attributes are distancing: keeps me quarantined and holds others away, just how I like it. Is that true? Well, there might be some truth in that but there are other contributing factors which have absolutely nothing to do with my in-elasticity. Factors I was born with and those I gathered to shape my now faceted personality, which I hasten to add is not peculiar to me nor to a subdivision of beings like me. We're in this together, it's just the majority learn to adapt better. Use this happen-stance of nature and nurture to their advantage.
And those that don't are at a disadvantage. Fluidness is valued, whereas an entrenched position depreciates your worth, regardless of what other merchantable traits you might own.
Stubbornness is my ruination, except I dispute its implied deliberateness, as do others who place themselves in this stationary category. It's not premeditated, as in to be purposely unhelpful or unwilling, it's a automated response whereby doing anything contradictory to it goes against every fibre of our being, everything that the wires in our brains and nerves in our bodies are telling us to do, even if a very small part wants to, at times, disagree. To challenge it results in a struggle; a struggle which I'm always surprised others can't see as it manifests at large, annihilating anything in its path until an executable solution or compromise is found, and then, only then, can any normality, as we know it, resume. Equilibrium returns until the next time, which in my case comes all too soon.
There's so much that has the potential to perplex me, particularly social events and occasions where I have to present and represent myself. The thorny issues that circulate then are paramount, even weeks before attendance, and then if I go my attention once there is distracted. More attentive to my internalising and the environment than to those I'm sharing it with. It takes an incredible amount of concentrated focus to keep myself in the room, with whomever I'm with. The eyes glaze, the energies flag, and most, if not all, cognitive sense departs. I have no idea of what my companion is speaking or of what I'm saying in reply.
I take the only course that's wise: retreat and repent my uncultured mores.

Picture credit: For instance now, there's the King's Messenger,  from Illustrations To Through the Looking Glass, 1970, Peter Blake

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Girl Reading Letter

I've done it now and it cannot be undone.
Moments ago I feverishly broke the seal with trembling hands and read the note intended for Aunt and the letter concealed within for Louisa, my fair cousin who set tongues wagging barely two months past.
Oh, if I hadn't recognised Mr. Davis' hand! For in that instant I acted with no thought, though I had the presence of mind to read it by the window in the parlour where the light is better. And it contained such impassioned words I've never seen, only heard from Louisa's lips. After, I re-read it then crushed his anointed letter to my chest and kissed those inked-smudged words as if I was the addressed: My Sweet Girl.
If she wasn't named as christened, I could be she. The one he missed, the one he longed to have by his side, even though she had caused sorrow by refusing him and consenting to their separation. A love match that couldn't be for he had no fortune and neither did she.
Star-crossed. And the stuff that dreams are made of to a thirteen year old girl. How could I not read?! For the forbiddingness of it was part of the intrigue. I was in raptures until I realised the enormity of what I'd done. And that what I was experiencing was a lie. I was not Louisa and I had trespassed, almost knowingly for my subconscious must have known when I snatched the letter from the salver. I had had my suspicions it had not ended for Louisa has been pensive, and unusually dismissive of mine and Mabel's enactments of Shakespeare's comedies, whereas previously she would have gotten involved, as did Mr. Davis when he was a friend of the house.
The spirit has gone out of her since his departure. Now I know why: she's waiting for a reply, as well as answers to questions she would have put for she always asks a great many, and is never satisfied. Her remarks in return can be biting! More so lately when she stirs herself to respond, which since her hopes have been dashed can take a while. Her attention fixed inwards or on a spot which nobody understands why it's so interesting.
But for all that I'm jealous. Jealous of what she had and what she lost. Even her abandonment and her pitiable state seems romantic to a young girl. She has someone to swoon and cry over. Oh, if that were me! To be lovesick! She doesn't play the part as I would to the outward eye, though I am surprised by this revelation of her clandestine nature. I didn't think she had it in her, for she made no attempt to hide her growing attachment when no engagement had been declared. And then when it was and the match was disapproved, she discredited her lover dutifully and without much emotion.
I underestimated, as did others, the strength of her feelings which the letter in my hand testifies to, though these moods have been more evident lately, and yet my compassion remains displaced: all for Mr. Davis and none for her. She does not deserve him! He has been treated cruelly in this affair. How can he still correspond? And how many weeks has this arrangement gone on and at who’s instigation? Louisa's, I wager.
I love my cousin, but the confusion she wreaks!
This won't end well, with or without my meddling. Do I confess to my aunt, or do I elicit the help of the kitchen maid? There must be some way to disguise my nosey act...but then the secret would be out. But oh, the burning guilt if I do not tell a soul. I will surely be discovered! Unless I destroy these crumpled, tear-stained pages...
Hark, is that the footsteps of my aunt I hear? The same impulse, as before, now overtakes me and makes me tear the precious letter into pieces to fling, like a bird released, through the open window, to flutter in the breeze.
Be gone! My Sweet Girl. My Dearest John.

Picture credit: Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window by Johannes Vermeer

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Lady with Pen and Paper

My Dearest John,
So it begins.
Another day, another new week. Another beginning over. The old banished and the new begun like a resolution repeatedly broken then remade, even rephrased, so that it's more suited to my present mood which might suddenly change from stinging words and sulky states to benevolent smiles.
Oh, John. Is this my life from now on?
Ever-watchful, ever-wondering. Why could I not...? Why did I not...? As another week disappears and all, no matter what occurs, remains unchanged in spite of my fluctuations of temper.
At least dear, I can write to you. You, who I think understands me, possibly even more than I do myself. You, who allows me to pour out my uncensored thoughts and grievances and does not console nor rebuke. You, who answers with honesty. What did I ever do to deserve your steadfast friendship?
I wish I'd looked after it better.
Have I lost it forever?
Don't desert me now, dearest, let me write even if you cannot or choose not to acknowledge my letters henceforth. This silence of yours pains me, with the distance between us with you in Florence strengthening your resolve and this enforced separation, but return my letters unread and it will be as if you're taken a dagger to my heart. Read and peace will rest upon my soul.
Since you took your leave I wonder what sights your eyes have seen and are at present seeing, and how I could have been sharing these with you if I'd had the courage to defy propriety. But I couldn't – you must see that? My mother wouldn't have stood for that, nor yours for that matter.
I wish to know so many things of your life there...and if you plan to stay and how long for...Am I never to set eyes on you, be in the same room with you again? Is this to be our only connexion? No, I made a promise never to mention it and I must not go back on my word, though my days are not the same without you in them. And never shall be again.
Speak of happier tidings, that's what you said in our last but one conversation before the bitter recriminations between our families. How can I? When that was said in a very different context to where we stand now.
Are you well? Does your life seem full whilst mine is empty? Oh, I do not wish any remembrance of me to be burdensome. Forget me! Write and tell me you have done so and I will stop. For until then I will carry you with me and try to store up news to amuse rather than continue these pleads. Know, however, I will never consider another as long as there's breath in my body, but you should be free.
So it begins.
You are free and I am not. Live for me and I will live through my memories and imaginings. That's all I ask. And only if it's your dearest wish should you help to furnish these. If you cannot forget, can you forgive, and do this for me? One letter from you would settle this affair and ease my suffering.
Write care of my maiden aunt, my mother's sister whom you met in Brighton, as she, and only she, sympathises with our ill-starred attachment. And only she will be complicit in this secrecy.
Eternally Yours,
Picture credit: Woman in Yellow, AKA A Lady Writing, c.1668, Johannes Vermeer

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Not Again

In a third floor room locked from the inside a person who identifies as female sits consumed by random thoughts, what they might mean and where will they lead, and how to follow and capture them on a rectangular document. The two can't always be done simultaneously: either her fingers type with conviction, the sentences forming themselves unthinkingly, or these same fingers stay mostly inert, with just the occasional twitch, as her mind tramps an inner country like the Pied Piper with no pauses given to catch the impressions made; this will have to happen later when any sense she might have had of any especial meaning will in all likelihood be lost. Sometimes irretrievably; or what is managed to be salvaged isn't quite the same. The significance, as was, can't be recreated or explained in a commonsensical way so that it confuses even her when she reads it back. What was she trying to get at? What was it she thought she had wanted to say? And why can't she now?
Neither approach boasts coherency, and the results like her thoughts are haphazard, but then her mind though it prefers a controlled environment dislikes being inwardly or outwardly governed. This stubbornness borders on lunacy, once in a while crossing that line and committing her to an obsessive spell until it's just as swiftly broken. She watches out for these undulations, tries to temper them, despite knowing the source of creativity lies in them and not in her and so they must be ridden. She reasons there's a method in this madness and yet has never to date figured out what this method is.
Perhaps, after all the hows and whys don't matter. She has nothing else to do – no other pressing engagements – and even if she had these waves would still come and pay no heed to such affairs. The act of thought carrying more import than anything considered domestic and trivial. Those kind of concerns can wait, or better yet, be done with less than half a mind so that they accommodate rather than occupy. Thus, her cognitive side is pacified believing it holds the upper hand, which it does but not full-time and not to the extent it conceives. There are moments when it doesn't require her undivided attention, and through that smaller than average window she makes her escape. Never for very long, but much to her surprise her over-thinking side doesn't appear to notice nor to retaliate; it allows her a short break at any rate from internal debate and rumination.
So what's outside her thought-proliferated cell? Distraction of the sort her intellect mind regards as trashy: reality, dating and cookery shows; radio phone-ins and rants; soaps and foreign translated dramas; face-to-face meets with friends to gossip and moan, because what her inner dictate fails to see is that whilst this employment may not feed her intellectualism, or indeed her imagination, it enables her to contend with the strait-jacketing effect her thoughts demand.
But as I said this form of respite is brief; sometimes the window through which she makes her usual escape doesn't appear, and sometimes when it does it refuses to open so that she can only look out despondently and speculate about the other lives being lived around and below her. The air then grows close, almost asphyxiating, so any that by some miracle finds its way into her constricting lungs catches and releases a spasm of what can only be described as polite little coughs with some genteel throat clearing that wouldn't be out of place in a more public setting where the atmosphere is conspicuously quiet. More noise enters from outside than any that is made within the room; outside, voices are audible in all their varying pitches, inside, speech is internalized or whispered so that often she has to repeat herself. This effect, it has to be said, can be maddening, particularly during the hot months of summer, which of course makes distemper in someone of her disposition far more likely, that is if she hasn't fainted already from the lack of life-sustaining oxygen.
And so it goes on, always in the same pattern. She calmly sits in front of a blank screen, fingers poised over the white lettered keys, to find the nagging voice that likes to revisit themes will not now allow the thoughts pertaining to these to be thought or written.

Picture credit: Help Me, Barry Kite