Watch this. What this tells me is that people actually genuinely WANT to feel affinity with each other – not anger, not division, not difference. We WANT to be connected. We are social creatures, this is what we want. Just watch the two women identified as ‘cousins’ and I dare you to not be moved…
… and on the lines of things recalled from Ye Olde Times, there was this bit of silliness in 2010 which I’d almost forgotten… it made me laugh to see it again.
… at York Writers’ Festival. The audience included writers, agents and publishers. The reading was a competition organised by HarperCollins – called ‘Autonomy Live’ – entry was open to authors from the (now defunct) writers’ website, Authonomy.
It was nerve-wracking for one who’d never really shown her work to others to stand up and read to not just an audience of 300, but also a panel of judges consisting of agents and publishers. I seem to remember having at least two double vodkas before starting.
I didn’t ‘win’, but that was okay. Funnily enough, I’m editing that same book now (published in 2013) for a second edition, and I recall what the judges said about this particular extract being too abstract, that it needed to be happening now and not recounted. I took on board very little of what they said at the time, or of what another agent said later in a harrowing long phone crit, or of what HarperCollins’ editors themselves said when they reviewed it on Authonomy… I took in very little of ANY negative comments because I was a proud writer, I’d finished a book, and negative comments were akin to a stranger telling you your baby’s ugly…
Now, seven years on and re-reading the book for the first time in years – recalling all the professional advice I was freely given – they were right. All of them. This particular extract is horrendously over-wrought and dull. Other parts of the book now jar when I read them… other bits I adore, they’re great, and I can readily see the difference between the two, whereas before it all seemed the same (wonderful beast) to me.
Moral of story: if professionals tell you your baby’s ugly, it might hurt, but chances are they’re right.
I went this bright sunny morning to the Shrewsbury Triratna Buddhist Centre for a meditation session – mettā bhāvanā – which cannot be literally translated but means something like ‘loving kindness’.
As I walked to the centre from my apartment – a lovely 15 min saunter up and past the castle, around the now defunct Dana prison (a glorious Victorian building, today offering ‘prison tours – £4.50’) on the high path following the river, in mid-morning sunshine – I already felt calm and content. But I recognise that deep inside, the waters are slightly more choppy and there’s a need to really unpick This Life and My Place In It.
There’s also a need to disengage. From digital distractions, from work, from worries and woes, and just feel.
The session was glorious – two meditations, with some talk in-between – with about 10 or 12 people attending. Shrewsbury Triratna Buddhist Centre is a gorgeous space, lovingly converted from an old church hall (?) which had been out of use for some time. Now, it provides a beautiful calm space, masses of natural light – just walking into the building felt right.
The mettā bhāvanā meditation is about loving oneself and others, without exception. We were asked to – one by one – introduce into our thoughts ourself, those we’re close to, those we’re indifferent to, and those we have issues with… ultimately, in the final stage of the meditation, all these people are brought together within ourselves. That was quite a powerful contemplation, and I’m still churning it over in my mind.
I think this world is currently a dark place – so much scary stuff going on, so much hatred, so much sadness and isolation and dissatisfaction and angst. We need light and love in our lives – and I firmly believe that collective thought is a powerful thing. This morning I sent out good vibes as wide and far as I could… small steps.
“If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love.” George Orwell, 1984
Was looking through some old diaries – 1980 through to 1990 – “what was I doing on this day in…” being the question idly to mind.
In 1984, my old banger of a car was in and out of the garage throughout April (a Mini van, with a number of bus parts on it, as my then boyfriend worked for his family’s coachbuilding company – recall having had a bus reverse honk fitted to my indicators, in fact… amusingly noisy for a small car). Anyway, clearly that month my little car needed work, and the following was the bill:
Exhaust: £20, Engine Mounting: £30, Tuning: £15.50, Suspension: £14.52
Wow. Can’t even contemplate what that bill would come out at in today’s money. (That said, £80 spent on my car in one week in 1984 would have felt slightly painful! Probably hence the diligent entry of the figures).
The three diaries in the picture represent 1984, 1985 and 1986. (apologies for blurring out my hugely interesting entries… protection of the innocent, and all that jazz 😏). Party years – my God but each week is filled with events. What blissful freedom exists when one is 20-22 yrs old.
My Diaries of the Past are in no way literary works of art (not journals, merely a litany of “places I need to be/was”), and I’ve often regretted never keeping a proper journal, but it’s still heartwarming to glance back through these things and I’m glad I kept them, scrappy little throw-away items that they are. They reside in my Little Box of Special Things, along with a few treasured letters, some photos, tickets and invites… I maybe look at them once a decade. It makes me smile.
I keep a more dedicated, expansive journal now – and have done for the past two years – a little late to the game, and no idea whether that will induce the same smiles when I’m 92 (should I ever reach that age!!). Think perhaps not – there’s no innocence, no blithe freedom, in my entries as ‘responsible adult’.
Though am sure there’s one or two bits in them that’ll make me smile, one day… 😉
We two kept house, the Past and I, The Past and I; I tended while it hovered nigh, Leaving me never alone. It was a spectral housekeeping Where fell no jarring tone, As strange, as still a housekeeping As ever has been known. As daily I went up the stair, And down the stair, I did not mind the Bygone there -- The Present once to me; Its moving meek companionship I wished might ever be, There was in that companionship Something of ecstasy. It dwelt with me just as it was, Just as it was When first its prospects gave me pause In wayward wanderings, Before the years had torn old troths As they tear all sweet things, Before gaunt griefs had torn old troths And dulled old rapturings. And then its form began to fade, Began to fade, Its gentle echoes faintlier played At eves upon my ear Than when the autumn's look embrowned The lonely chambers here, The autumn's settling shades embrowned Nooks that it haunted near. And so with time my vision less, Yea, less and less Makes of that Past my housemistress, It dwindles in my eye; It looms a far-off skeleton And not a comrade nigh, A fitful far-off skeleton Dimming as days draw by.
~ The Ghost Of The Past, Thomas Hardy
He’s quite lovely, it makes things far less irritating when I accidentally conjure him up with a too-long key press, which happens regularly.
Je n’ai pas bien compris ce que vouz avez dit, Sandie, he’ll say.
Don’t worry, Siri. You’re not alone.
My body is my soul.
Waves repeat, blurred edges,
Where’s the start, the end?
Ripples shine, fog truth, blur.
What is becomes what may
have been. Reflections. This
is all a mirage, isn’t it?
I saw clarity, you know.
Saw strength where there
was only wavering.
Soggy foggy reflections.
Now I lie in water, still movement
with patience, stoic skill.
Now I reflect.
You have wounded me.
Those jagged edges softly distort
caressing my skin, lapping gently
against my flesh, my soul.
This was all harmless, right?
Idle moments, idly expressed.
Harmless. Soft. Blurred.
Who would have thought?
I see only reflections.
Sandie Zand, 20th September 2016
We drank and talked, as friends do, about stuff… stuff that cannot be altered or fixed, from long ago in fact – pre-dating said friendship by decades (and continents) – yet stuff that somehow curiously needed to surface right now, be discussed, be shared, be exorcised.
A strange thing: the talking over of stuff long past – school, upbringing, Larkin’s theory of parental error – and how this arises from a slight comment, a passing memory, taking over all conversation as each recalls significant moments, a growing crescendo of them… until two hours later the world has shrunk completely into those memories, their clarity, the sensory resurrection of emotional impact.
And we are little girls again.
For some curious reason, as I walked home – and I guess analysis will come in a dream, on waking, whatever – it put me in mind of this song by Amelia Curran, Tiny Glass Houses:
There’s a crack in my memory,
As if something has gone
And split the foundation
Of shadow, of song
And rattled the windows,
And the tiny regrets
And the tiny glasses houses
That I tried to forget