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POETRY

poems of the month

fish

vagabondage

measuring my face

ostracism

old clothes

modern iranian poems

my hero

face at the bottom of the world

perhaps (maybe)

the diogenes sequence

where to store furs

i am and am not:
      fragments of rumi

destiny and destination

the zen of no-enlightenment

the iraqi monologues

already backwards

a light in ruins

separate amputations

the sexy jihad

awaiting the barbarians

the smell of possibilities

ultimate leaves

rejoice in the dog

post-millennium maggot

the book of nothing

dispatches from the war against the world

albanian poems

french poems in honour of jean genet

the hells going on

the joy of suicide

book disease

foreground trouble

the transcendental hotel

cinema of the blind

lament of the earth mother

uranian poems

haikai by okami

haikai on the edge

black hole of your heart

jung's motel

leda and the swan

confession from belgrade

gloss on rilke's
ninth duino elegy

jewels and shit:
poems by rimbaud

villon's dialogue with his heart

vasko popa:
a shepherd of wolves ?

the rubáiyát of omar khayyám

genrikh sapgir:
an ironic mystic

imagepoem

 

BETWEEN POETRY AND PROSE

good riddance to mankind

the maxims of michel de montaigne

400 revolutionary maxims

nice men and
  suicide of an alien

anti-fairy tales

the most terrible event in history

the rich man and the leper

disgusting

art, truth and bafflement

 

SHORT STORIES

godpieces

the three bears

three albanian tales

odorous underwear

a little creation story

 

PROSE

after a first cataract operation

helen's tower

extortion through e-bay

schopenhauer for muthafuckas

are doctors autistic ?

single track in the snow

never a pygmy

against money

did franco die ?

'original sin' followed by
crippled consciousness

a gay man's guide to soft-willy sex

the holosensual alternative

tiger wine

the death of poetry

the absinthe drinker

with mrs dalloway in ukraine

love  and  hell

running on emptiness

a holocaust near you

a note on the cathars

happiness

londons of the mind
& dealing death to the caspian

genocide

a muezzin from the tower of darkness

kegan and kagan

being or television

satan in the groin

womb of half-fogged mirrors

tourism and terrorism

the dog from sinope

shoplifting
in britain & america

this sorry scheme of things

the bektashi dervishes

a holy dog
& a dog-headed saint

fools for nothingness

death of a bestseller

vacuum of desire: a homo-erotic correspondence

a note on beards

translation and the oulipo

the visit

 

PHOTOGRAPHS

prelude

metamorphotos NEW LINK

 

MUSIC

tombeau de kurt schwitters

three movements of melting ice

 

MY PAINTINGS


 

Nuadú, God of War

field guide to megalithic ireland

houses for the dead

ireland & the phallic continuum

the sheela-na-gig conundrum

french megaliths

a small town in france

 

 

 

Shakespeare considered his sonnets to be his finest work, and the achievement by which he would be remembered.

One of his most famous ends with the sonorous but meretricious line: 'Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds'.

But most weeds don't smell, and those that do (such as Meadow-sweet, Ground Ivy, Winter Heliotrope, False Chamomile, Gorse, Wintergreen, Honeysuckle and Woundwort) have a range of interesting and beautiful scents.

Even if he meant Rotting lilies smell worse than rotting weeds, it is still untrue: all rotting vegetation smells the same. This is just one example of The Bard's sloppy thinking.

Perhaps the fairest and slightly damning faint praise is Alexander Pope's observation that Shakespeare wrote "...what oft was thought but ne'er so well express'd."

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEATH OF A BESTSELLER
a novel...or short-story...or something

new title
TEACH YOURSELF
CANNIBALISM FOR VEGETARIANS


a text without style (but not a weblog)
begun at Loch Caoláin on the 16th of June, 2004

 

"Little by little I discover in myself
the pain of finding nothing."

Fernando Pessoa

 


I don't intend this text to contain sex.

And probably no romance, no violence. Well - maybe there'll be just a hint of these commercial ingredients...I'm not sure. We'll see how it develops. But there will be no dialogue. I can't do dialogue. As for love and sex, you can add them to this text by (buying and) playing a recording of César Franck's Piano Quintet, the most passion-ately erotic piece of music that I know. Preferably the recording with Samson François.

Or, of course the Brahms Double Concerto. Or the Chopin Nocturne op.48 no.1 played by Pletnev, for this text has no narrative.

This text has no narrative. Hardly any. Not in the usual sense of the word.

I haven't the faintest idea what the next paragraph will be - much less the middle or end of the 'Text' - or half-finished short story, novella or memoir. Sex is limbic and for juveniles. Violence is for politicians. Romance is for the disempowered.

So this is the third paragraph. Here goes: 'all morality is hypocrisy - discuss'. Or close the book, throw it away. Return it to the library tomorrow or the day after. Or surf onwards through the Web, because this text is being written on the www.beyond-the-pale.uk/ website and may never get into print.

The thing is, I have never written a novel before. I can't do dialogue. I don't under-stand a single human being. Although I read a huge number of novels (Russian, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Czech, etcetera, as well as English, American and Irish, I am always aware that fiction is lies in the same way that morality is hypocrisy. Fiction is anecdote - and one of my bugbears is how life is becoming obsessively anecdotal at the same time that it is becoming more and more compart-mentalised into discrete sections, each of which requires a different costume: Work, Leisure, Home, Employment, Exercise, School, Love, Sex, Hygiene, Nationality, Vacation... (you can add more, ad nauseam).

I don't do descriptions, either. I write not for the optic nerve, as Stevenson might have protested.

Technology has increased the effect of writing and speech ten-thousandfold - and thus words have been devalued into meaninglessness.

This was started on the backs of envelopes. [NOTE: Keep the envelopes, some nerd may want them one day, even though there are only two.] I'd better come clean. I'm writing this for the money. I have always been indigent. That is to say: I have never had a job and have no job-skills and cannot abide Authority or Institutions or Structures. I want to go and live in France, where the river Viaour meets the river Aveyron. So I need an income. The only option for a male hermit-anarch who has successfully resisted employment for forty years is for him to write a book which will become a succès d'estime, since there's not chance that I could write a book that would actually be accepted by a publisher, even if I ever finish it.

Money is what makes you poor. This is the sixth paragraph. It is coming along nicely. I am angry.

(Angry to have been born. Angry not to have had the guts to kill myself. But we won't pursue that track here: there's enough of it on www.beyond-the-pale.uk/suicide.htm and subsequent pages of uncompromising poetry.)

In the closing pages of his Seminal Study of Capitalism, The Protestant Ethic, Max Weber prophesied chillingly and accurately about the people-products of the Consumer Society, whose morality is, of course, mere overwhelming majority manipulated by big corporations and news media (in turn inspired by Freud's double-nephew, the maleficent millionaire Edward Bernays). Weber foresaw that people would become mere product-consumers of a financial system, soulless specialists, heartless hedonists, voids and nullities imagining themselves to be at the summit of sensibility, cultural development and evolution.

The planet is a miracle of pain. It is time to introduce another character. Her name is Brenda. She may still be alive. When she and I were four years old we showed each other our Private Parts and swore secrecy. She straightway told her mother. I then went home and took a carving knife from the kitchen drawer, carried it down the street, and attacked her mean, lying, blabbing mouth. There was blood. There were screams. She had stitches. I don't remember seeing her again, though they didn't move away. I guess I kept away from that end of the street. This is the ninth paragraph and already there has been (sort of) sex and violence. No more, I promise.

(Dear Reader, I misled you. I lied. I should pick up a knife and cut off my fingers.)

For years I read that word misled, did not realise it was the past tense of to mislead (instead of to misle) - and inwardly pronounced it mild, because of the isle contained in that word. I have always thought myself an island. John Donne was kidding himself and us. Like we all do all the time. We are all icebergs. I feel like a solitary cold amœba floating in an unpleasantly-sugary liquid. Isle, isola, isolated. Desolate. Anomalous autonomous anonymous. Anomie. Pessoa's desassossego, dissociated-ness.

The English language is full of booby-traps. Who would imagine that the Cambridge college called Caius is pronounced keys or quays ?

I have a note here (keep it for the Nerd, who is now another character) which reads: the totalitarianism of 'Progress'. But I cannot see how I can develop that theme here, let alone in a poem. So I will pull out another of my scraps of paper. The Ekpyrotic Universe. I guess we'll reject that one, too. Third time lucky ?

Perhaps I should have said
there was a wet dog on my bed
when we went upstairs to paw and nuzzle.

Well, a fourth and a fifth character (both male, one gelded) have already entered this typescript without me having the guts to exclude them or the literary wherewithal to explain them. I'm getting out of my depth fast.

I cannot say that I liked prison. But I did OK in the three months I was there for shoplifting food. This was some time after I came back from Africa, having failed to live with the Baka 'pygmies' because I couldn't stand the heat. I had no problem abandoning European clothes and wearing the breech-clout - but the heat got to me and I just lay about panting and thinking about how nice and cold Ireland is.

I almost flourished in prison, as I did not in the degraded rain forest. I was obviously a Lesser Bearded Intellectual, and so I was cultivated by those tough illiterates who wanted someone to write love-letters for them. Because my doubtful sexuality was picked up by the keen antennæ of the Warders, I was given a cell to myself, when others with photos of girlfriends had to exist four to a cell, with four piss-pots and much snoring. Besides, I was in for shoplifting groceries, which everyone thought very amusing. And I didn't smoke.

When I was there I saw a guy being beaten up by several Warders for doing cart-wheels in the refectory. He mistook it for a survival technique. He was a Civil Prisoner - in other words he had been imprisoned for debt, most likely for defaulting on maintenance/alimony for his wife. He died a few days later. This was 1974. Belfast. Northern Ireland. The prisons were crammed with members of gangs and factions, terrorists and politics-by-other-means men.

Do you ever ask where all the paper comes from ? Where all your shit and bleach goes to ? (I think we're no more than the trash we create - but I guess I've done that topic to death elsewhere.)

Do you ever wonder on what fame and influence rest ? Considering the above-mentioned Sigmund Freud a mischievous dreamer, I have never thought highly of James Joyce, either. He is more over-rated than Shakespeare (a writer of much marvellous language but little depth, whom Dr Johnson also thought to be admired excessively) - but much less over-rated than the supreme example, the Stalin of over-ratedness, Picasso, a fairly talentless painter, decent draughtsman, interesting minor sculptor and ceramic-decorator, with a genius for self-publicising even greater than Dalí's. The latter could at least paint well, even if he frittered away his talent in pseudo-artistic masturbation. When one compares the mean and violent, mono-dimensional and colour-poor Picasso with his perceived rival, the glorious, generous and loving Matisse, one realises why the former was taken up by the Anglo-Americans with their totalitarian outlooks. When one compares Joyce with some of his contemporaries in Europe - one need mention only Kafka and Pessoa - Joyce seems just cleverly trivial. But on this very day, the hundredth 'Bloomsday', people are making money hand over fist in Dublin by indulging another philistine orgy of Irish self-congratulation.

Contrived and overwritten stream-of-consciousness - so what ? If Leopold Bloom is "Everyman" - count me out. Being a Marxist of the post-Groucho variety, I define myself through self-exclusion.

(Mr Pooter merged with Friedrich Nietzsche, a 'Man without Qualities' ?)

17th June

Pity our intelligence! We have evolved only just enough intelligence to enable us to wreck the planet, not to nurture it. The nearest that we get to real intelligence is a sense of loss.

Was I born sad ? Or was it just my adolescent reading of Orwell, Kafka, Zola, Dostoyevski, etc who made me so ?

Life is such a deadening experience!

(And only the dead are wise.)

(Marriage is always with the dying.)

(Most people are only pretending to be alive.)

18th June

Other writers I find inexplicably highly-rated, Hispanic like Picasso, are Neruda and Lorca (who at five in the afternoon glorified testosteronal, self-dramatising hubris).

Ridiculously over-rated: Stravinsky, Bob Dylan. Inevitably underrated: the superb poet Wallace Stevens and his opposite, the wonderful painter Alice Neel (both of them American!).

Odysseus was a trickster, shyster, con-man, wide-boy, testosteronal shit rather less appealing (and believable) than Brer Rabbit - who, along with Little Black Sambo and every Ogre in the fairy-tales I devoured, was my childhood hero. I disliked princes and princesses. They were pale and 'clean' and - worse - were winners-for-orthodoxy. Like Picasso.

He was the first painter openly to portray contempt for his limited subjects and for painting, just as he so unpleasantly despised women. He admired testosteronal shits like Gauguin. But he was not fit to lick the balls of Cranach, let alone Monet or van Gogh, or Matisse or Bonnard who painted love, not contempt and hate. Herein partly lies his status - for just as 'pop-music' appeals to the anti-musical and pop-lyrics are loved by the anti-poetic. just as pornography is devoured by the anti-sensual, so the passionless (and therefore) horribly sentimental Picasso appealed to the philistine Miss Gertrude Stein, and his dozens of worthless and dessiccated acolytes (from Auerbach to Warhol) succour the anti-artists who run art markets for money. For with Picasso came the realisation that rubbish can make a lot of money if the Right People call it Art.

Money is what makes us poor.

Of course there have been 'concept-artists' who were not entirely worthless - Dubuffet, Magritte, Duchamp...but I don't want this to be an art-tirade! This is supposed to be the beginning of an Experimental Novel by a writer who doesn't do dialogue, doesn't do sex or violence and can't even write narrative!

Thomas Hardy (who reputedly said that the most brilliantly and profoundly drawn character in a novel is but a bag of bones compared with the most ordinary living person) stopped writing prose after Jude the Obscure, his greatest novel. He continued to write poetry for another twenty years. When asked why he had finished with narrative fiction he said he couldn't understand why he had ever indulged in it. In retrospect it seemed pointless and silly.

I don't see the world as stories, as, it seems, most people do. I have never had sexual fantasies. I guess 'I have no imagination' in that narrow sense of imagination. But daily I feel a fraction of the pain of trees cut down and animals abused, tortured, starved. Is that not imagination ? Or is it just super-sensitivity deriving from an inability to see the world in terms of cosy stories rather than Apocalypse.

LIFE IS NOT A NARRATIVE. Just discrete events. Narratives are lies, attractive because our brains love patterns and are always creating them. 'Love' is a concocted narrative, a pretty pattern, so our brains love love.

But in most of the world, religion is more important than love. If sex is limbic and love is sentiment, religion is probably the opposite of love, fuelled by some limbic drive to hate. Where I come from, too, religion is important. I am a non-practising cannibal. Which probably makes me a minority of one.

19th June

Wines, brandies, trees, music, novels, food and, above all Oscar, are all much more rewarding to me (and much more reliable) than sex. Masturbation is the Greatly Neglected (because denigrated) Private Art.

But music at concerts is neither rewarding nor reliable. Our culture does not now allow food and wine at performances of Beethoven's Archduke Trio. This prohibition is as totalitarian as orchestras.

Have you noticed the puritan and sloppy tendency in the Anglosphere to eliminate rites, rituals and ceremonies ? These were gone through and often enjoyed either to attract success (from supernatural agents) or to assuage guilt. Now people hardly shake hands lest they catch an idea. But ideas can be transmitted almost as rapidly (though not as exponentially) as viruses. And ideas can be blocked as effectively as by a vaccine.

Take suicide-bombers. Hundreds of thousands think it is a great and noble thing to destroy yourself in the process of destroying contemptuous others and their disempowering artefacts. Millions find it as horrendous an idea as eating their own shit or declaring that no god exists.

The idea of self-immolation - if not the practice of blowing passers-by and perhaps dogs and cats to random smithereens - appeals to me. But the results of suicide-bombing negate the idea. I (an atheist, non-practising cannibal, remember) would love to prevent the onward march of global greed and turbo-capitalism by blowing myself up - perhaps outside the headquarters of Carrefour, Wal-Mart or Tesco, organisations which may already have caused more harm and mayhem than all the Nazi parties put together.

Jan Palach the desperate student set himself heroically alight when the Russian tanks rolled into Prague in 1968. Jan Palach's self-immolation was a gesture which ultimately contributed to global greed and turbo-capitalism, which through sheer expenditure destroyed the pseudo-Marxist empire of dirty mirrors and gulags. No matter what anyone does, global greed and turbo-capitalism will benefit. Because they are ideas, and - it cuts both ways - bombs do not destroy ideas.

The epic destruction of the ugly towers of uglier world exploitation has only made militaristic turbo-capitalism more powerful and more ugly.

So I am a non-practising self-immolator as well as a non-practising cannibal.

This causes a certain angst beyond the more usual and universal causes for anxiety.
But this will neither a catalogue nor an analysis of angst. There is enough of that in Literature already. What this text will be...will be revealed...or not...

The older I get, the less able and willing I am to tell lies. As a child I lied a lot - perhaps because of my situation as well as wanting to keep out of trouble. But I am quite the opposite of a trickster. By my mid-twenties I was quite unable to dissemble. Thus I became unemployable - and my only way of keeping out of trouble was to become invisible.

Amongst much else I read Sam Beckett's Malone Dies... An exaltation of entropy.

20th June

"Everyone always knows what The Truth is
like it was toilet paper or something
and they got a supply in the closet."

Dustin Hoffman as "The Accidental Hero"

21st June

Maybe it's now time to write about Sex, Violence and Property s'il vous plaît - the intimate ménage à trois who, inextricable, are always stalking each other. I am a sensualist, which is why sex has been so disappointing. Sticking appendages into orifices seems to me unsensual, merely limbic. Perhaps it is the sheer banality of sex that makes it seem wonderful to those wedded (through rejection of intelligence) to banality ?

Violence I indulged in miserably as a child: I had black rages, tantrums always brought on by interrogation (at home) or teasing (at school). Property I feel to be one of the roots of evil. I hate the idea. So I never lock my (old, dilapidated, rented) house with its two-foot-thick rubble walls, even when I go a thousand miles away.

Those who think of 'honesty' as applying only to property are the most dishonest. And dangerous.

22nd June

At least as harmful to the world as the big supermarkets and trans-national greed-factories is, of course, television. Because, inevitably, it is part of the transnational entertainment industry (as almost everything is becoming) it caters to the highest common denominator that a government or big tv company is happy with. Which is, inevitably, a pretty low common denominator: that of the compulsive television-viewer. For television is a drug as addictive as sugar, or nicotine - or cocaine. Very few people have a television set which they turn on once or twice a week. Many people spend hours every day watching what is served up to them. Watching television is like eating canteen food. The more you do it, the less discriminating you become. You are simply a consumer.

But whereas money spent on sugar, nicotine or cocaine goes to feed the habit, time spent watching television is used by advertisers to sell their products to more and more millions of the passive brain-dead who have already been softened up by the 'education' system. Television has told us that we are here only to consume, and that in order to consume we have to work. Not many people have pleasant work - and the ones that have tend to watch very little television.

Television produces consumers and voters. The decline in interest in politics and government is a result of trivialisation by television - for television (like the Hollywood film industry its wicked stepmother) is triviavision. When it does not trivialise it oversimplifies to the point of idiocy ('Western Democracies') or propaganda ('Rest of the World'). More malign and a thousand times more powerful than the Taliban or the Ku-Klux-Klan, television actually makes us blind. To this extent fortunate these days are those born without sight.

Television is a powerful combination of spoken words and moving pictures. What is considered to be the best of writing is that which produces vivid and convincing images. Despite our invention of language, most people seem to think most of the time in images. I do not. I think in words, in concepts - and my dreams are jumbles of images.

So how can I write in such a way that people want to read it, despite the lack of images, of metaphor and simile ?

Zana, a regular Albanian visitor to this website has written to say that this text is a conversation with myself - not with anyone else. I fear (fear ? 'fear' is Irish for 'man') she is right. Because I have no imagination, I am not malleable, and do not have television. Because I have no imagination I have never had any ambition. Because I have no imagination I have never had sexual fantasies, nor believed in god or heaven or hell. I read all the romantic novels of Dumas as a child - from The Three Musketeers to The Queen's Necklace, but because I have no imagination I have never been interested in fashion of any kind - political, social or sartorial. Because I have no imagination I am fascinated by truth. Because I have no imagination I cannot write interesting prose. Because I have no imagination my unceasing urge to write has to be channelled into poetry of a didactic and apparently unacceptable kind.

O night, nights of sleep without rest, whose journeyless escape from puzzling, almost-nullifying reality is just the involuntary and quixotic observation of inner jumble shared by nobody and unshareable, whose meaning (if any) is inscrutable. Without imagination, I'm trapped by an existential net, or miasma...then waking very slowly, almost-painfully to life - the soiled and spoiled, unwaiting word-world I cannot understand but try to frame with words, receiving me but not receiving me.

So how do I continue ? How can I proceed with writing this ? Do I give up ?

23rd June

I want to live with pigs - and blow up abattoirs and their human monsters. (This is a kind of fantasy!)

I saw God the other day behind the slaughterhouse of right and wrong in an old fur coat, digging up bones.

Though Islam is a religion (and hundreds of millions of stupid people) dedicated to rejecting and abusing dogs, at least the Islamic world is not torturing and killing a hundred million pigs a day as do the parts of the globe controlled by Christians (without whom there would never have been Islam!), ex-Christians and Chinese. Because I feel such affinity for pigs and dogs, the humans I feel most akin to are those with Down's Syndrome. If I had not had a vasectomy and would ever want to fuck (as I did in my early twenties far away with rapture and abandon) - I would hope for a child with Down's Syndrome - perhaps because I feel too challenged by other people's intelligence, or perhaps because I see in Down's people the transparency and integrity of dogs, serendipitous creatures who are masters of creation to be able to live in our world, ignored, abandoned, beaten, starved - or horribly overfed and 'humanised'.

To live alone is not to be disappointed by people, but to be less disappointed by oneself. I call shit shit, not excrement.

The paradox of truth is that the invention of the concept makes false all that is human.

Not many novels change people's lives. Novels are, because of narrative and character, just consumables. Some win prizes. Some make millions for their authors. But few change people's lives - unlike many other products which can turn you into a zombie.

Emotions leak and leap from consciousness to consciousness: envy, greed and misery - and sometimes the illusion of exaltation. This is what novels tap into.

This, of course, is not a novel.

24th June

But I have already covered several pages - defining myself by excluding myself. I have no family and no wish to belong to any group or nationality. I am a reluctant and protesting member of the hideous human race. I always had "rough edges" and "had difficulty fitting in" - as if I were just a cog or a spindle. I admire wolves.

Wolves are the victims of human lies. Just as wheat (in its several varieties) has moved from being a rare kind to grass to almost the most successful plant species on the planet - due to us. While sheep and cattle are - next to ourselves - the most successful mammals, wolves are hanging on by a thread.

There is a thin dividing-line between the stupid and the sensitive - the pathetic thread that wolves are hanging on by. They are threatened by the herd mentality of humans and their herds. That they have survived thus far is a miracle of ingenuity.

Quixotically, the only group I belong to (tokenistically) is The Wolf Society of Great Britain. Not just because I live in Ireland, I have never met any of its members. I no longer meet anyone.

25th June

It is six weeks since I had a bath. I am not in a rush to have one. King John, incompetent king of England (and Ireland), was thought to be effeminate for taking a bath every three weeks. The barbarians at the gate (whom we love to hate) are usually and largely our own invention.

Everything I write is my continual puzzling over my perplexed and grieving relationship with the world - what is going on ? how am I to deal with it ? Making friends easily, I hoped that friends and friendship would help me solve at least some of the puzzle. But this was not so. Friendship is virtually meaningless except in terms of self-advancement. Wine and food are more reliable. So now I prefer solitude or the company of dogs, and have no interest in being with people, though I am very pleasant and jovial to the charming staff in the local library.

26th June

How would we cope if we were controlled by creatures up to ten times our size, who shouted, produced loud noises from boxes, lights on and off, beat us, ignored us (probably the best moments!) and kept us locked up and tethered ? We would not have much opportunity to develop our intelligence (to oppress all other creatures) or create (self-congratulatory) works of art.

Even so, dogs constantly forgive us, as we do not forgive them their marvellously minor transgressions.

Other animals seem to live at the full extent of their capabilities, whereas humans (including myself) are constantly retreating from theirs, into fears and prejudices. Ants and cockroaches and spiders are not afraid of us - but we (too huge to be important to them) are frightened of everything we cannot chain or tame or eradicate. We go out of our way to find - even invent - things to fear. This is another example of our Flight from Intelligence.

[inserted later] In "The Behaviour of Moths" I read how ants work frantically to bring pieces of neatly-cut leaf not to their own larvæ but to a big, bulbous grub which has commandeered the ants' communication system.
When it is even bigger it eats the ants' neglected larvæ, too, then directs the ants to carry it to another nest to continue its development.
Such is our culture.

27th June

How good it would be to be sad and peacefully resigned! But I am sad and soul-eatenly unresigned and angry. I hate being implicated and complicit in the despol-iation of the planet (as an AIDS virus is not) - and I can see no way out of my complicity other than suicide - which I haven't the guts to commit.
It is this which distances me from other human beings.
I hate my lying, whining, murderously self-justifying species.
I hate being human.
I hate being.
Thus I have an increasing reluctance to change my clothes. As for sheets, sprinkling with fennel- or cedar-oil freshens them effortlessly. And probably kills a few thousand dust- and skin-mites.

But I love planting and looking at trees. I love eating and drinking. I love music (especially when eating and drinking to the sound of romantic chamber music or Shiv Kumar Sharma with Hariprasad Chaurasiya and Zakir Hussain, Z.M. Dagar, Steve Gorn or dhrupad) - though I spend much of my time in rural silence.

I love food (and inventing dishes) so much that I cannot cope with restaurants and supermarkets.

28th June

I do not feel any better for having had a bath. Perhaps people interpret the shame inside as dirt outside.

The people who have written most originally about anomie and alienation were very social and socialised people - liars of imagination like Sam Beckett. But the grievousness of grief is that it is unimagined, unending, paralysing and meaningless. The alienated can't write narrative because they have lost faith in the magic - the trick - of narrative. They know that narrative is lies. Grief is true and nothing like narrative. In any case, writing is no help. It is one of the lies of narrative that writing is therapeutic.

Grief/anomie is not loss, but realisation. It is the only path to goodness - which is death, non-being.

Neither happiness nor grief is normal. Normality is the suspension of disbelief. Belief is crass. Religion offers the most banal, contemning and trivial answers to the profoundest questions. It is because religions are insults to intelligence that they are so powerful, for humans hate their intelligence. It is always there pointing the finger at us. So we insult it through religion. Thus we successfully limit our capablility (and our humility) through dogma and prejudice. Other methods include alcohol, education and employment.

I have never understood employment or career or coffee-breaks. The reason why I never had a job is that I never found anyone fit to employ me. And I could never have a job because jobs are rôles and rôle-play - and I can't do rôles or dialogue or narrative, remember. And I haven't the energy or the guts to sit on a street with my dog and a begging-bowl, and a sign saying ASHAMED TO BE HUMAN.
People are so disheartening. Perhaps they go about sucking out each other's brains.

29th June

Oh yes, "I have" a dog. Dogs are without doubt the most amazing and deeply-instructive people I have met. One of the most marvellous musics is the sound of a dog licking a plate or a pan or a salad-bowl.

Perhaps "the worst" people on the planet are not military or arms-manufacturers or people-smugglers/enslavers or even mind-destroying teachers - but doctors. They kill more people than terrorists do. Not to mention animal-doctors...

My uncle was a doctor. He kept telling me I was a sissy.

Am I in an 'altered state of awareness' - or in a recovered state of honesty ?

If I had television I cannot imagine how I would feel, split into shame and powerlessness.

"Lighten up!" an imagined reader shouts. But it is immensely hard to 'lighten up' when Guilt steps in to remind me of the fate of the rain forests, of dogs in the Muslim world, pigs in the non-Muslim world, geese in France, children in Moldova and battery-chickens everywhere.

"Get real!" the imagined reader continues. (Now I'm getting close to dialogue!)

Get Real.
Get Married.
Get Kids.

But I don't like getting; I am not "the marrying kind"; and I had a vasectomy in my twenties precisely so as not to be able to visit more misery upon the world.

Senhor Pessoa never allowed himself to 'lighten up' beyond the delicacy and decencies of irony.

I am like a necessary flaw in a Qashqei rug.

30th June

Reflecting on what I have written above, it occurs to me that human intercourse is almost entirely devoted to the justification of the species, to admiring and praising human achievement no matter how terrible. How rare it is for humans to glorify nature - which they dismiss as wilderness. Our attitude to art is another example. What occurs in nature is far more beautiful, wonderful and immense than art - from beach-pebbles (of which I have a splendid and fiscally worthless collection) to trees and clouds in the sky. Dogs - our most interesting creation - we despise.

But don't be alarmed! I shall not sicken the reader with yet another sickly attempt to describe the glory of dogs (especially part-lurcher dogs with greyhound in them, that don't bark) - who are far more difficult to talk about than wines. (Not that people make much effort to talk honestly about wines: those made with Syrah, Garnacha and one or two other types of grape have heady and richly-sensual undertones of fresh armpit- or arsecrack-sweat - but you would never expect it from the literature.) Suffice it to say that the profundity of dogs is in their transparency. The shame which this induces in us makes us - characteristically - abuse them, whether by beating and stoning and nailing to doors, or by constant shampooing in urban apartments.

The second and principal of his nine names is Oscar. Another is Mr Now. The rest are 'silly' and not to be divulged. A second-generation collier-lurcher, he has most of the charming feline characteristics of a greyhound (quiet, fastidious, self-contained, not-barking performer of canine yoga) without the killer instinct. He has managed to kill one small sick rabbit, and one young squirrel which had fallen out of a tree. When the latter died, Oscar put on an expression of self-disgust and ran some hundreds of metres to the car to be taken away from the scene of the crime.

Correspondent 'Gerald90' writes: "This is the best thing you've done so far.....really! I agree absolutely with your comments on Picasso who stole all his ideas from African art...
" The filmaker Wim Wenders said "All narrative is lies." I tend to agree. It is as if we must keep telling and retelling stories to ourselves to avoid what is really going on..."

Correspondent 'Gerald90' writes: "Anthony, the most beautiful creatures in the world are bats. As I write this they are skittering around my garden...just being themselves...refreshingly alien."

I am an admirer of centipedes and spiders.

31st June

The written truth is almost unreadable.

1st July

There is very little of my life that I can remember - and almost none of my childhood. So there is no chance of adding yet another memoir to the pile. (The line between memory and imagination is horribly thin - and I have no imagination.)

And I am fairly convinced of the futility of my self-appointed task of bearing witness.
"I am on the path to goodness" - except that there is no path, just a black hole, on the other side of which is Negative Time. Soon I will be there by thinking that only good and evil are important: a quixotic manichæism. My life is so examined that it is not worth living - or writing about. There is no gap between ought and nought.

A wild animal's unexamined life is well worth living.

Defining myself by excluding myself - even more - but with considerably less talent - than Pessoa, I think cities are hells. They not so much 'sinks' as fountains 'of iniquity', and not so much fountains as choking miasmas of petty striving. A field or a wood or a river - or a dead log - is full of striving (just as dogs are as full of desire and longing as we are) - but it is not petty. The master species is as defined by pettiness as by hallucinations of glory.

Freud and Jung produced some insane theories which millions have subscribed to (the Œdipus complex, the Archetypes) - but Jung had one of the most perspicacious insights ever into the mind of man, his idea of Enantiodromia: because humans are extreme beings, our attitudes and behaviours always tend equilibriously towards their opposites. I see it all the time. The most 'godfearing' are the most arrogant and harsh. Mass-murderers are sickly-sentimental. The most atheist are the most humble. The most extravagant hide unbelievable meannesses. Teachers have closed minds. Computer-programmers are often 'New Agers'. Fastidious people are into coprophilia or 'water-sports'. Victims victimise others as soon as they are able. 'Virgoans' like me seek 'Piscean' release. Dr Jekyll becomes Mr Hyde, and Mr Hyde turns into Dr Jekyll.

And, of course, as Theodor Adorno said, domination is perpetuated by the dominated. Ex-slaves bought slaves.

Without referring to (or knowing ?) the term, Aldous Huxley wrote (in The Devils of Loudun) :

"On all the levels of our being, from the muscular and sensational to the moral and intellectual,
every tendency generates its own opposite."

1st July

I have a friend who very obviously has a form of Asperger's Syndrome. He has been in the local Dickensian asylum for the past 14 years, sometimes under lock and key and abused by the unpleasant misnamed 'nurses', having been diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. He has suffered from Electro-Convulsive 'Therapy' and been given strong neuroleptic drugs (and more drugs to alleviate the 'side-effects' (i.e. main effects) of the neuroleptics, which have turned him into a fleshy pudding. Nevertheless, amazingly, he has never lost his dry sense of humour. He is one of the sanest people I have ever met. But I can no longer go and visit him: I get far too upset by the Downpatrick Asylum (now rejoicing under the title of 'Health Park' !), and I have tired of complaining about his treatment. His rich father and the usual complaisant psychiatrist had him committed: a common story in the British Isles where nurture is considered bothersome.

2nd July

Between reality and desire stands the house.

There is no god (except property), no redemption (except suicide) - and love is a warm honey-bath of hope-based sentiment which can turn to sticky ice. 'The truth' (wrote George Santayana) 'is cruel, but it can be loved, and it makes free those who have loved it.' Free - and isolated.

I was wrong: this is (a pale kind of) therapy - which makes it even more likely to be unreadable. I have never before thought of writing as therapy - more as exudation.

I am the sum of the books I have read (which is the sum of other people's products) and my reactions thereto. (There are so many wonderful novels on the Planet of the Narrative.) I cannot read people, so I read books (which do not help me to read people). And because (continually escaping from - and feeding - my own continuous inner monologue) I read too many good novels and listen to too many splendid BBC radio programmes, I find most people limited and limiting. Dogs, however, offer insights not provided by the written word or the wireless. They are planets beyond literature.

I am always puzzling over consciousness and the difference between mine and other people's, the difference between mine and Oscar's, which may not be very great: the difference between a cake with icing and a cake without icing. I hate icing.

Oscar's canine complaisance makes me very solicitous that he should have as full a life as possible. Other men - and women - use canine complaisance as an excuse for power-tripping, control-freakery and abuse.

3rd July

Correspondent Bob writes to me: "Intriguing. The initial 'disassociated' text made me wonder if this was the first stage towards repeated entreaties to locate lost hot water bottles... ;-)
It would be even more fun if there were loads more links like the ones from television and dogs. Perhaps instead of one linear page you should break it up into a maze of cross-referencing pages ?"

I am "cheating" with this text. I go back and correct/improve it, add or subtract words and links. I move sentences or paragraphs around. And of course it is a kind a narrative by being linear. Unlike Pessoa's Libro do Desassossego, which was written on discrete pieces of paper to be arranged by his posthumous editor.

One reason why life is such a deadening experience is its sheer surfeit. I seem to lack some kind of filter that everyone else possesses to desensitise themselves and make them blind.

Lachrymæ rerum! Lachrymæ rerum!
Peace of mind is an oxymoron...

I should get out more and kidnap dogs.

4th July

This is the Afterlife.

For an ancient Egyptian the more your name was mentioned after death, the higher your status in the afterlife. (Similarly Catholics think that the more masses and intercessions that are said for your soul, the sooner it will be released from Purgatory.) So Tutankhamun must be the greatest Egyptian in the Otherworld.

One Egyptian (now property of the British Museum) was buried with a bowl of embalming resin stuck to the back of his head. Apparently it had been left by mistake overnight, and the embalmers had tried to remove it - but had torn the deceased's skin. So they left it as it was, confident that nobody would ever know.

Until People of the Afterlife with CT scans and X-rays discovered their infringement of the rules of death, and included it in their 3-D film of the ancient deceased whose sarcophagus and mummy-cloths have never been opened..

I thought this might be a suitable subject for a poem...I will think about it.

And what would Anubis the jackal-god of embalming say to this ? Being immortal, he is still with us - but has lost the old respect, is regarded as vermin, and is (like almost all creatures) the subject of human viciousness.

People of the Afterlife are zombies.

I am very thin.

This is the Afterlife. And after it - the Afterdeath.

5th July

To be human is not to be.

Although dogs are only slightly dulled by it, routine turns us into zombies. My horror of routine was the main reason I never had a job. Another reason was that I did not want to pay tax which would help fund a militaristic and thoroughly nasty state: better to help drain funds from it.

There is no moral resolution, because we are so willingly compromised.

I always thought the only honest way to live was to treat each day as a tabula rasa (and, when I remembered to, as if it were my last), making life up as I went along. This precludes life insurance.

And there was never any possibility of anyone considering me suitable to marry, especially after my hopeless love-affair with a Danish woman who did not make life up as she went along.

After that personal débâcle I joined the R.A.F. for six weeks (when I was thrown out as a security risk) and had my first (and of course ultimately-heartbreaking) relation-ship with a dog. Then I ineptly looked for a buddy.

I was over fifty before I eventually found a helpmeet - uncohabiting, independent, bearded, hairy, unsexual - with whom I share every few days music and food and wine and Oscar, all at the same time. Oscar (author of A Hundred Tales and a Tail for Bipeds, Memoirs of a Kidnapped Wag, Celebrate your Inner Dog, and other uplifting works) divides his time between us.

But this is not a memoir. (Surely not a memoir ?) It seems, however, to be some sort of sub-Pessoan journal.

One of the most nauseating of currently-fashionable words is 'spirituality'. To be spiritual, praise a tree, to talk to God - talk to a dog.

We can't convert, we can't subvert. We can only invert.

I am like the restaurant that closed for lunch.

(TV is the trashcan of 'progress'.)

6th July

The "rough edges" that prevent me from "fitting in". How mechanical our thinking is !

We (even I) live in luxury undreamed by Roman emperors:
life is a limo in limbo.

7th July

Zana has sent me an Albanian proverb: Asht kollaj me ia pre bishtin ujkut të vramë.
It is easy to cut the tail off a dead wolf.

Virtue (as unfashionable a word as wholesomeness) is more than mere performance: it is witness.

Guru is easier to spell than Charlatan.

Three thousand were killed in New York, and we (literally) never stop hearing about it, and never will as long as the US rules our lives and our economies. Thirty thousand were killed by an earthquake in Bam (Iran) - and it was newsworthy only for a week.

8th July

'Gerald90' writes in again: 'I believe that your general premise that human beings are a fuck-up is correct. This observation is a catalyst to your creativity! Without original sin you'd have nothing to write about!'
Without 'original sin' I (and all of us) might be blissfully-unable to write...
(Guilt and shame are personal, while 'sin' is universal.)

The Russian sect of Khlysts believed in salvation (iskupleniyë) through castration (oskopleniyë). I think that (as Australia turns to salt and the fished-out oceans to acid) the salvation of the world would need instant universal human sterilisation, which (like the other cures, mass suicide and mass cannibalism) is not going to happen unless unstoppable nuclear war breaks out.

What is more unpleasant than cancer ? People. Doctors nearly destroyed my childhood trying to rub the rough edges off me.

9th July

Why is it that there are so many good novels and so few good poems in English ? It has something to do with the trick of narrative, which, in turn, is related to our terrible need to belong (to someone else's narrative) to be anecdotal. In a sense, though, everything (the whole cosmos) can be construed as narrative, and it is the sense of the wider narrative that is closed down by our love-affair with the narrow narrative of novels and history, newspapers and television, employment and comfort and funerals. We have made comfort the criterion of happiness - thus reducing consciousness to insulation (which in French is the same word as isolation).

What we call 'reality' is our love-affair with narrative - and our attachment to the fear of boredom. Music is also narrative. I longed to live in Brahms' piano quintet or first piano quartet. Instead I'm trapped in Strauss' Metamorphosen. 'Reality', like 'objectivity' is a bit like infinity or absolute zero: a crippling amount of intellectual honesty is required merely to get near.

Tom (my former ceramics professor who is now a scavenger in New York city) sent one of his yearly e-mails to say that you can find anything on the streets of New York - except peace and quietude and the stars at night.

10th July

At last: for the bored, impatient reader - a few paragraphs of narrative.

The planning was relatively easy. I cadged money from friends. I got malaria pills. I had maps sent to me from Stanford's in London which were largely green, with some ribbons and threads of blue indicating rivers and streams in the forest. I had a vasectomy. I had read what literature there was on the subject of Pygmies.

There wasn't much. Few people had ever taken the Pygmies seriously, relying either on highly-biassed accounts from non-Pygmy Africans who despised - or affected to despise - them, or on the romantic imaginings of Europeans who wrote such books as Dancers of God.

But, in my student days when I stole books from bookshops, I had pounced on and made off with a book by Colin Turnbull called Wayward Servants, an analysis of the relationship between settled Africans and Pygmies. I then read his earlier book (latterly reprinted in paperback), The Forest People. Of the tens of thousands who had read it, only I had written to him wanting to go and live with the Pygmies - permanently.

The first white man actually to live alone amongst Pygmies, Turnbull had found their way of life extremely attractive and sane. They were claimed as subordinates - 'servants' or even 'slaves' - by village Africans, but it was very difficult to say who was exploiting whom in an amusing and creative relationship.

From before the beginning of my adolescence my over-riding concern was with How To Live: How to live the good, moral life, given that morality is usually a cover for greed and that Christianity and other major religions were 90% hypocrisy, silly stories and unnecessary lies. I guess I was a throwback to Socrates, Plato and Diogenes of Sinope. I explored Buddhism, even Islam, but came to the conclusion that religions offer the most trivial answers to the most profound questions.

Then, by chance, I (erstwhile student of philosophy) learned about the Pygmies who lived in perfect harmony not only with the forest which succoured them, but (to a large extent) with neighbouring groups of village-Africans. They had no religion beyond profound and poetic respect for the forest. Their groups were fluid, so that quarrels could easily be solved simply by re-formation and re-location. Children were parented by all in the group, and no child ever felt rejected or unloved. The old were respected and cared for. The crippled could also be integrated - as jester-like truth-tellers in the manner of mediæval court dwarves. Loners could go off and be relative loners. The pleasures of hunting and gathering took up remarkably little of their time, so they lay around a lot singing and telling stories and sleeping and making little toys for their children out of twigs and leaves. Their diet was far better than that of the village Africans, for whom they provided the meat of forest antelope and bush-pig.

Theirs was The Perfect Society, Man Before the Fall - which I traced back to religion itself, property, and writing - and back to language itself: all extremely weird activities when you come to think of it - especially property. But the clear description of this near-perfect society in a popular book (with an anthropological analysis in Wayward Servants to back it up) has had no effect upon the world. Neither have all the wise poems and the great novels ever written. We know pretty well what is right and wrong, and most of us most of the time choose wrong - to make us feel right, and conform. The 'Garden of Eden' story is repeated every day, every hour, and we go forth and multiply, multiply, multiply...

I met Colin Turnbull in London. We went to steam baths together so I could get a taste of the humidity and heat of Central Africa. I took his advice and planned to go not to the Eastern Congo (then called Zaïre) where Turnbull's Mbuti lived, but to the large Likouala rain forest divided between Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroun and the Central African Republic. Turnbull's Mbuti lived in Mobutu's private fiefdom, the largest in the world. I decided to go to the Baka through the much-smaller principality of Bokassa's Central African Republic. At this time - 1972 - he had not declared himself Emperor.

The big surprise for me in Africa was how impressive and beautiful are the women. Even Mediterranean women look awkwardly ghostly by comparison - and Irish women like bedizened corpses.

The heat enervated me. My legs have never been strong. I lost my will-power. But eventually I got to the fringes of the beautiful, cooler forest. Such wonderful butterflies and trees and creepers! I had always loved woods, felt them to be airily homely (in the British sense of that word). The rain forest, with its impressively-buttressed trees, makes a 'great' cathedral seem mean-spirited - which of course it really is. Since being in Africa I have seen several cathedrals and many hugely-impressive Romanesque churches. They will probably and terribly outlive the rain forests of the world.

I entered the beautiful world of trees and splendid sounds, and on the second day of slowly following a track between the well-spaced trees, met a group of Baka. Having bought an American (CIA-funded) primer on Lingala, the trade-language of the Congo (or Zaïre) and Ubangi rivers, I was able to make basic conversation. I was doing well. I was even wearing pygmy dress, the practical groin-cloth which is basically a strip of material passing between the legs and folded over a string tied round the waist.

Under the forest canopy the nights were very cold and I could not sleep. Another surprise was that some of the male Pygmies were as tall as I, although most were characteristically hairy, square-faced and stocky with markedly triangular torsos.

But, enervated by the heat, chilled at night, and attacked by my (innate ?) existential angst, I felt false and useless. I couldn't go through with my grand idea. I had no 'grit'. I would only be a tiresome outsider to these people. Probably a liability. So I left the forest, and altered the much-creased single air-ticket to Brazzaville so as to make it a return ticket to Dublin. I then stressed it further and presented it to the airline office in Bangui. Amazingly, I was not arrested for fraud, but had it courteously replaced by a genuine new ticket - with which I fled back to wintry Ireland in the few thin clothes I had not given away to beggars in Bangui. This was before world-wide computerisation. I still have the Lingala language-book. With the beautiful woollen airline-blanket I took off the plane at Paris to help protect me from the February chill, my mother eventually turned into a fine smock-shirt or tabard. (I love wearing home-made clothes, and I am still wearing her knitted woollen socks five years after her death.)

My feeling of "What am I doing here ?" has expanded from the rain forest to the planet.
But perhaps I always had it.

My desire and my determination are not commensurate. I am very bad at deceiving myself into thinking that anything is worth doing. "Failure lives." And my utterances are even more pathetic than Nietzsche's messages in bottles upon the terrible flood of 'progress'. With only small periods of respite for the past twenty years I have felt the same lassitude and torpor as I felt in Africa. I will die of this fatigue. But I still love woods and forests, and would dearly love to live among forests by the French river Aveyron, where, and amongst whose natives, curiously, I feel truly at home.

Little by little I discover in myself just the pain of finding nothing.

11th July

We are seduced by narrative, and this is the basis of politics: to invent something plausible. Yet plausibility is not a quality of life, but of description.

Even a single word is narrative: I, ago, why, it.

Writing is termed experimental when the experiment has failed.

12th July

'Solo e pensoso' wrote Petrarch in the 14th century, the first man in modern European history voluntarily to move from the city in a cottage in the country. 'Alone and in the house of thought'. But 'Solo è pensoso' - to be alone is to be already in the antechamber of philosophy.

Petrarch was, of course, quite mad, made so by a psychopathic obsession with a a beautiful woman which furthered an unhealthy fashion fostered earlier (in the twelfth century) by the alienated Queen-Duchess Eleanor's Courts of Love in Poitiers and Angers. This love-for-the-mistress in turn may have owed something to the same Sufi idea of love-for-the-master which inspired Jalaluddin Rumi in the following century. Love merely romantic derived from love quasi-mystical.

Petrarch was so not-of-the-country that he never succeeded in transplanting laurel trees (called bay-trees in English): these reminders of his dream-woman Laura withered and died because he did not think to transplant them in winter. And he obviously did not have the patience to grow them from carefully-removed, rooted suckers, or from cuttings (let alone from seed). Laurus nobilis transplants easily because it is a very tough tree indeed. Signor Petrarca, however, was not in tune with the reality of plants or of women.

Laura is thought to be the young wife of Hugues de Sade, ancestor of an even greater madman perhaps even more famous than Petrarch.

Whole civilisations can be (and usually are) mad.

13th July

Early in his life (1907), under the first of many heteronyms, Fernando Pessoa wrote, in English as 'Alexander Search':

And to the sin of having lived
He joined the crime of having thought.

Dogs have such simple desires that we in our arrogance despise them. Arrogance is a function of narrative, like most of our feelings. We tell ourselves we are superior, and the telling convinces us. I relate only to beings I perceive as 'underdogs'. I loathe power and authority and those people who have it. As a child I wept in zoos and circuses and I hated the clowns, and begged to be taken home.

14th July

Memory is the stories we tell ourselves to explain how we find ourselves at present. And meaning, too. Since so much is false or distorted, the truth-obsessed person (in this case myself) allows himself very little memory. And I have very little imagination, anyway. So what I write (poetry or prose) is always a kind of journal - which is a continuing story of my thoughts.

15th July

The fearsome-looking male stag-beetle doesn't fight even once in his life. He doesn't even eat. All he does is drag his unwieldy body about, looking for a mate, which he'll inseminate - and die.

Our narrative is conquest - but not of ourselves, not of desire which defines us, like other animals. How sad that black people are insulted if they are called Monkeys. I would be honoured - but nobody sees monkey-beauty in me!

'Gerald90' writes in again: "...to rail against the world is to rail against yourself."
True, indeed...but that knowledge doesn't stop us railing against ourselves/the world... Knowledge is no cure for entropy.

16th July

In 2003, long after the Death of Sardanapalus (so stagily and marvellously portrayed by Delacroix) the most expensive suicide in history was enacted.

Two Iranian twins, joined at the head for twenty-nine years, arranged for an expensive and bloody separation-operation in Singapore which lasted over 50 hours. One died, then the other.

I would have no hope of getting a leucotomy/lobotomy performed on me; and even if I could persuade a doctor to help me to die (not that I need to, since the means are always at hand) he (or she) would be committing a crime. Yet in most of Europe and America a woman can get an abortion almost on demand. There is much muddled thinking in 'liberal' attitudes.

Two American twins, also joined at the head, continue to live both heroically and mundanely. One of them fancies herself as a popular singer, and so they both go on stage to perform. Lori and Reba Schappell have very different personalities, but of course they have to rub along together.
They are the best advertisement for the USA that I have ever come across.

17th July

In my house of spiders' webs, earwigs, woodlice flaking paint and silverfish I use strong adhesive to glue the wallpaper back on to the thick walls. The window-frames are rotting. The two-hundred year old roof is sagging under its large, heavy slates. An unrenovated farmhouse, it is sometimes visited by rats, rarely now by humans. It has not been painted for 25 years. (There is something inexplicably French deep inside me.) The creepers and climbers have reached the roof. A lean-to scullery (without a damp-course) added in the nineteen-sixties has a corrugated composition roof covered in pink winterflowering evergreen clematis, a very rare and beautiful (unidentified) cotoneaster, and valerian. The mould that forms on the inside walls of this back entrance is the reason why by law my rent cannot be more than £1 a week (though I actually pay another £1 for a doorless barn), for my landlord refuses to do any repairs. He is a devout Christian who regards me as unspeakable. The county court did not allow him to evict me for degeneracy.

Because I leave the back door open most of the time for Oscar, redbreasts fly in and flutter against the windows, and bees. Today my kitchen is full of honey-bees.

The faerie thicket of climbers, shrubs, small trees and flowers grows higher year by year. Amongst the Beschorneria, Pseudopanax, a Chilean myrtle with delicious berries, Fremontodendron, Abutilons, Choisyas, Indigofera, Piptanthus, Akebia, Puyas, old roses, Ozothamnus - how I love lists! - Cytisus canariensis which, like Medicago arborea flowers almost all year round, winter-flowering Buddleia, Hoheria and hundreds of other choice shrubs, Oscar and I play tug-of-war with his yard-brush, and hide-and-seek. Every five years or so I empty the septic tank and fertilise the little garden in its 'borrowed landscape' which perches on just 5 cms of soil on porous rock, and overlooks the Irish Sea. My 'grey' water and piss also go on the garden, and the ash from my nightly fire on which I boil water to wash. Fourteen swallows sit on my phone-line as I upload this page.

An American who visited said that I had "a millionaire's view" from my tiny livingroom window. (This is how Americans - and soon everyone will - think.) I love the almost-anarchic rooks in the rookery below. As I write, my landlord is spreading his tortured fields with slurry of cow-dung, whose smell I like almost as much as wet dog, which I like nearly as much as horse-sweat.

15 kms away is my burial-ground, a thicket of elder and gorse on rich, deep soil, which I call Brocks' Acre, for it is home to many and mansion-building badgers. My grave-to-be is already marked by an elegant quince-tree and a handsome medlar.

There I have planted many native and some rare and exotic trees (a Podocarpus, a pink Eucryphia, two kinds of Azara, etc.) and climbers, including a vine whose grapes will never ripen (even if they ever form) until global warming really gets going. (Though I heard this week that global warming by Carbon Dioxide etc. is as nothing compared with the biospheric disaster caused by big piscibusiness.) In summer this little sanctuary set among the spoils of agribusiness close to a long, shallow and now fishless fjord, is impenetrable with brambles and nettles.

Oscar likes to threaten the badgers by howling down their setts at no apparent risk to himself. I hope their sleep is not too annoyingly disturbed. He is more constructive in the way he treats sheep: he barks them into a nice, neat bunch in the middle of their field, then trots off very pleased with a good job well done.

Today we picked wild raspberries in the woods. Oscar picks the lowest ones most delicately. Later on, in the same unpeopled woods, we will pick blackberries.

It is wonderful to wake up in the mornings to the beauty and good-natured expectation of a dog. (I rise so late! and I go to bed so early!) I struggle downstairs in a fog which only a bowlful (nearly half a litre) of strong ?fair trade coffee can lift.

Always the question: what am I doing here ?

18th July

In the Bath of July (after cutting my hair in front of the fire) I wonder: Does great empathy depend on small imagination ? The suffering I see around me (from hacked hedgerows to screaming meat- and fish-counters) blocks out or shrinks my imagination.

In a perpetual exile, I am a vegetarian who would like to be a serial cannibal and has not the guts to kill himself. I am enmeshed in the two greatest taboos: suicide and cannibalism. Only these, on a global scale, will save this planet of pain from ever-greater agony.

My exile only seems to be voluntary, here in a beautiful and mountainy, fjordy corner of this deeply depressing statelet. Beautiful so long as you don't look too closely. What am I doing here ? My increasing lassitude decreases my desire to travel - even to the megaliths which are the chief glory of Ireland. Soon will disappear even the impetus to go to my beloved, wooded Aveyron and Viaur valleys, overlooked by the almost-changeless causses (dry limestone plateaux) and the rolling ségalas (damp granite plateaux where the only cereal that can be grown is rye) which are described thus in an encyclopedia:

Plateau granitique du Massif central (Aveyron),
entre les vallées du Tarn et de l'Aveyron, dans le Rouergue.


Pénéplaine de 700 à 1 000 m d'altitude, aux sols humides, anciennement semés de seigle (d'où son nom) puis chaulés au début du XXe s. (céréales, fourrages; élevage bovin). Pays bocager à fort exode rural).

19th July

Narrative manipulates consciousness by engaging it, entertaining it. We love to be engaged, entertained and manipulated - which is why crass cinema is so universally popular. Why do we want to be entertained ? Because we are not happy with our minds. What defines us as human is the drive, the compulsion, the desperation to escape the natural logic, even the proper functioning of our minds - into religion or drugs or sexual hedonism or science...or anything. At the same time we are disgusted by the reality of our bodies and mysticise them into temples.

People write lies and fiction because we think that the truth (like our bodies ? like our minds ?) is too raw and needs to be made presentable.

The truth is nearly as raw (and as boring and opaque) as Finnegan's Wake, which is fiction burnt to a cinder...

I knew I was being crassly manipulated when I saw my first film, Disney's Bambi. That film showed to me even as a child the manipulative sentimentality of our culture and consciousness. That film made me an exile.

Yet now I watch films from Iran, Argentina, Burkina Faso, Mexico, Holland, Belgium - and, of course, France. I go to my beautiful hairy friend's house for dinner twice a week or so, and we share music and wine and Oscar - and the films which he videotapes from little-watched Irish channels.


THE ANIMALS' SOCIETY
FOR THE PREVENTION OF HUMANS

Honorary President: HIS HOLINESS, Dr. OSCAR DIOGENES TAIL
Secretary:
HIS BORINGNESS, ANTHONY WEIR
Treasurer:
HIS HAIRINESS, MALCOLM WALKER


But click here to read about a wonderful group of
animal rescuers
.

Hello Central! give me Doctor Dawg.
He can clear my existential fog...

Oscar sleeps with one of us, then the other, padding between the bedrooms through the night. He, too, likes to be entertained - by games and walks. He has high expectations, based on experience. Desire in fur. So perhaps our need to be entertained is not hard-wired but cultural. Certainly there are some people in some cultures with low entertainment-expectations: for example, women in Arabia, mere skeuomorphs, vessels for men's children.

20th July

(Sipping my afternoon Armagnac) I know this is a generalisation - but we humans love to generalise, which is why we keep imposing one-size-fits-all rules on each other - We dislike exceptions. Yet narrative requires particulars - and exceptions. And we love narrative. And we love music. Music also is highly narrative. Perhaps even birdsong.

I am a person for whom the first straw is often also the last.

From as early as I can remember I had a desire to escape from respectability. When I first went to primary school I was fascinated by a child with a shaven head and broken teeth whose family lived in a Nissen hut. His head had been shaven because of ringworm. I wanted to have ringworm, too.

I drifted also towards a boy disapproved-of in the neighbourhood. He bred rabbits and, at the tender age of six, loved to watch them fucking and produce babies. He wasn't stuffy and prudish and snobby like other kids. He was good with his hands (in all sorts of ways) while I was a confused left-hander forced to use my right and could never catch a ball. I admired him.

But only fifty yards away lived an old widow, a friend of my grandmother's, whom I also loved to visit amongst her Victorian furniture. She gave me buns to eat and buttermilk to drink. To this day I find old women unchallenging. Soon they will be the same age as myself!

In my 'teens I opted out of adolescence. I preferred to read voraciously, and listen to music. I went to a folk-song group and I went camping with friends from time to time. Unlike my peers, I did not find women beautiful or even appealing until I went to Denmark, and, later, Africa and France. My true adolescence occurred my forties when, after meeting a beautiful man in Paris, I became very interested in sexual (non-penetrative) relationships with men - bearded, hairy specimens, who reminded me of dogs or bears. This was a period when I went to clubs and discos and certain insalubrious places and met scores of guys of all ages. From two of these I learned a lot about Indian Classical music.

Where you don't get the marital, you do not get the martial.
(Blood is thicker than water - shit is thicker than blood...)

Had I lived anywhere but the British Isles (and especially in Africa), I would have been interested sensually in women, too. One of the many joys that I experience in France is appreciating and admiring the poise, the capability, the presence and charm of so many of its women.

21st July

Narrative:
A NOT-VERY-TYPICAL DAY IN THE LIFE OF MALCOLM & OSCAR

0830 Malcolm joins Oscar and me in bed, where we all doze for half an hour.

0900 Malcolm struggles up and makes breakfast by squeezing oranges, mixing a muesli, and making a litre of strong coffee. Oscar gets some of last night's dinner sprinkled with a crunchy preparation with the delightful title of 'Moongold'. He also licks the plates.

I wash up last night's and this morning's dishes and clean up his kitchen, then check lettuce seedlings, while Malcolm takes Oscar through the woods to the ornamental lake where he goes off hoping to find a rat or a red squirrel to bark at. He does not bark at people.

1100 I drive Malcolm and Oscar 10 km to meet a clergyman who gave them a lift in his car some days previously. Odd that the clergyman does not have his dog with him. But they go off for a walk in sand-dunes and woods by the sea. I drive home, stopping by the library to pick up requested books and CDs.

1200 Malcolm goes on (by foot) to nearby acquaintance Belinda for lunch.

1400 He and Oscar hitch-hike to Downpatrick (where the library is) and are picked up in heavy rain by a council Dog Warden, who deposits them at the deliveries entrance of Safeway so that they are not seen to have been given an uninsured lift.

1430 In Safeway (outside which Oscar sits and is stroked by entering and departing children) Malcolm is approached by a stranger who says that he was behind Malcolm in the same store several months previously when Malcolm dropped a £5 note near the check-out. The stranger at the check-out had then been unable to follow Malcolm - but now handed him the £5, which was rather wonderful.

1500 They go to the Tools for Solidarity workshop where Oscar makes yet another friend (an 18-month-old Labrador) and teaches him to chase and retrieve tennis-balls at the nearby Mound of Down. TfS is staffed by volunteers, all deemed unemployable for various reasons: injury, age, physical or mental disablement. Some have well-developed skills. Old donated tools - spades, spanners, unpowered sewing-machines - are refurbished and sent off to Africa so that remote tribal peoples can better cope with a worsening economic situation. Malcolm specialises in making lunches for the volunteers, whose gastronomic horizons are thereby widened. But he is also slowly learning how to sharpen files and varnish handles and so on. Oscar is very popular here - as everywhere. Malcolm likes to be there on his own, for he is something of a loner. And I, an utter loner, am not a volunteer. Never have been.

Malcolm was once boarded at a Special School in Lincolnshire. He has cognitive and organisational problems and needs a certain amount of supervision.

1630 Oscar and Malcolm hitch-hike back home (10 kms), and are this time given a lift by a woman with another calm dog, who takes him to the very (and, like mine, always unlocked) door of his rented wooden gate-lodge. He lights a fire - for in Ireland July can be as cold as November. I did not ask how he spent the rest of the day 'in the privacy of his home'. Quietly, I guess.

with one of my male portraits behind

Click the picture to see Oscar and myself.

22nd July

Listening this morning to Member of the European Parliament Emma Nicholson talking about herself on the radio I start thinking about achievers and non-achievers, ordinary or passive people and movers-and-shakers, the solipsistic versus the outgoing and self-confident. (There is a third group, of course: the victims of cruelty, disaster or genocide.) MEP Emma Nicholson has, amongst other great efforts and achievements, fought against the extermination of the Marsh Arabs of Southern Iraq. How wonderful to be able to find something to feel right about - and to be able to do something about!

Modern media, in their obsession with celebrity, constantly point up the difference between consumers and providers, passive and active, nonentities and achievers. Non-achievers can only sit and get fat, lose themselves in spectator sports, celebrities or the National Lottery, take to drink or drugs, go about feeling impotent and aggrieved, or any combination of these. Malcolm is happy to have escaped from his toxic family and the probable fate of most who have been to a school for 'children with special needs', happy to have escaped the clutches of the various Christians who feed on the vulnerable and keep them in controllable congregations, happy to have come to Northern Ireland (of all places) where he feels both free and valued.

I, on the other hand - having defined myself throughout my life by being genuinely different, or, having been to a horrible, mean school for achievers, by excluding myself - am constantly trying to explain to myself my disgruntled state of impotence, my feeling of never having found my métier, my feeling of apartness - a kind of Little Prince in negative. (But Saint-Exupéry committed suicide...)

I am surprised and gratified that I have been able to help two unsired beings substantially, Malcolm whom I feel more tenderly towards when I am alone, and Oscar whom I feel more tenderly towards when I am with him.

Even when I was very small I was different. My playmates were, on the one hand, two little girls with bows in their hair with whom I felt very easy; and, on the other hand, a disapproved-of urchin-boy with shaven head who bred rabbits, introduced me excitingly to his cock, and briefly, uniquely, provided some male input to my life 'in a non-oppressive situation' - i.e. not at the single-sex school I was put into at the age of eight which deprived me of all my natural friends. A little later (but before I was stuffed into the single-sex school) I had a quite different kind of male playmate - with whom I played houses and kitchens. He became a gay theatre designer in London. I became one of the searching, solipsistic lost, who spend most of their days recovering from the disappointment at waking up.

How different - and perhaps wonderful - my life would have been had I had the joy of meeting a hairy, smelly, cuddly, pædophile tramp!

23rd July

At the beginning of this non-non-narrative, I said that there would be neither romance nor sex. But now I think I will introduce a little of both by way of reminiscence and meditation upon the curious and incomplete nature of my erotic relationships.

My first romantic, erotic, sensual love was Danish and female - though gamine. Slow-burning (or should I say limp and outslipping with anxiety, then panic) to start with (not least because she did not permit 'sexual congress' for a whole year) it became passionate. I was in ecstasy when a part of me roamed (as it were) and celebrated in those deep, moist folds. We made love twice a day - in the tram, in the central-Copenhagen park - even in the Øresund and in the snow of a remote island called Christiansø where I stayed for months - and, of course, in the bedroom - usually on the floor for more space to cavort.

She connected my limbic system, my cock to my nipples: my only totally-erogenous zone. (This connection may be the reason why I have never had any problem with erection: mechanical action on the touch of a button!) She introduced me to her own sensual, clitoridal mechanics. For the only time in my life I floated on an orgasmic cloud. But perhaps we were "anime affanate quali colombe, dal disio chamate" as Dante wrote about the adulterous couple .

Then she up and married a poetic-looking guy whom I had brought over from Ireland (because he was jobless and frustrated) and whom I had adopted as my latest Best Friend because I thought I could help him, as I later was able to help Oscar. And I did help him, changed his life completely, though not in a way I had wit enough to predict.

For eighteen years I loved nobody sensually-romantically, except German Shepherd bitches - no, no, nothing erotic or sexual! Then I had - through a series of accidents involving Romanesque sculpture - what turned out to be a very brief episode in Paris. Unfortunately I was a 'bit of a fling' for the Beloved, who had the most beautiful moustache I have ever seen, and the most sensual tenderness I had yet encountered. He was also the most revelatory kisser I had met up to then - my fortieth year. But I (on the dole and beyond the Pale) was his brief side-salad, so to speak.

A couple of years later, also in Paris, I met an accountant (with a night-job two or three times a week as a singer in a gay piano-bar - the sort of noisy, smoky place I hate) who was the best lover I have ever met. He would come to my pied-à-terre off the rue Montorgueil at five and he would leave when we were both exhausted, around 1 in the morning. Or I would pick him up from his piano bar and go to his place for an active night. But, although we made four-dimensional love for six, seven, eight hours at a time (with pauses for cooking and eating and drinking), he was a very cold and withdrawn person 'in real life', which was a great pity. He also was In A Relationship.

It was in Paris that I had created beautiful tattoos of symbolic little snakes interlinking and kissing from navel to foreskin-tip.

At about the same time (my memory is terrible) in London I met another handsome guy (lovely beard, beautifully hairy) with whom I had two or three similar wall-bouncing erotic time, aided by Psilocybe mushrooms - but he was In A Relationship and so our cavortings did not last long. I painted a beautiful portrait of him, which now hangs on one of my never-repainted walls, with portraits of some others of the dozen or so brief lovers: Mark, William, Pierre, John, Mahmoud, Mekki, Karl-Heinz, David, Carlo, Andrea, Charles, Séamus, Richard, another Pierre, Bruno, Sebastián, Ezio, George, Emilio, Reynald, Volker, Richard, Fergus, Séamus, Bruno, Ludovic, Esteban, Alan, Claude, Claude-Etienne, Claudio, Victor, Phil, Philip...and others (all of them bearded, some of them very hairy) lost in the fog of my poor memory.

Cities poison the world. I have only gone to cities for adventure, cultural or sexual. And quickly returned to rustic seclusion. I went to Berlin and met delightfully sensual and caressing lupine lover bought from the East and living near The Wall. I quickly taught myself German, and received him later in Ireland...but he was a chain-smoker and it transpired that he too was already In a Relationship.

Ten years later, after various misconnections and disconnections, I met (also in a city) Malcolm: from the start a soul-mate, a kind of younger brother. On our first night of love I was deeply impressed by how soft and spiritual his cock remained. Our relationship rather quickly moved beyond the erotic into the domestic/canine zone, which is no less demanding, but much less fraught - and much more reliable and rewarding. Malcolm and I share a quietism of sadness, an undemonstrative mutual acceptance. He is a very beautiful man with sturdy legs and a gorgeous neck.

We also share a quaint frugality. (I have just been darning a woollen sock my mother knitted for me over 15 years ago.)

A year or two later both Malcolm and I met a man called Paul who set my brains and balls on fire (and whom Oscar adores): another bearer of a beautiful beard (this time very thick and bushy) and with a beautifully boyish, happy face. He also has a cute little, perky little pointed mushroom between his legs. Making (my usual non-penetrative) love with him (after champagne and something delicious to eat) was like floating with a twin in an amniotic fluid of bliss and communion, to the sound of the rudra vina played by Z.M. Dagar. Surrounded by the scent of home-made incense (including powdered peat from county Mayo) burned on a little altar of love, I rubbed his feet with oils of ylang and cedar, or vetiver and argana-tree. I ran my tongue down the plentiful hairs of his belly and the lush slopes of his neat buttocks. Our kisses lasted a quarter of an hour. He rubbed his Jovial beard against my Hermetic balls... I buried my nose in his armpit...we hugged so hard we seemed to merge into one big love-mass - for he was big. Having always been waif-like and underweight, I have had an enantiodromic predilection for burly, ursine men, as well as for the more lupine like myself.

Great sex has a hallucinatory quality. Bad sex - that is to say, most sex - is drearily real.

The cannabis helped hugely - and was a problem, for this guy is a dope-head who has smoked (but never tobacco) since the age of 14, and simply never gets it together to travel the 30 miles to see me. He looks after a disabled and alcoholic uncle, so I cannot visit him. He must get through enormous quantities of cannabis (and Speed and E) for he seems to be dependent on them. For me cannabis is only and absolutely aphrodisiac (or, rather, disinhibiting), so I can only take it when erotic sensuality is to follow. And, like Paul, never with tobacco.

I always hoped to meet a partner older than myself, but all were younger. With Paul, a man thirty years younger (who, perhaps due to drug intake and bad diet, doesn't look so much younger than I), my stop-go sensual non-continuum has ended. He appears perhaps twice a year, and always swears to return the following week. He does not have another lover. But if he came one day and asked me to leave with him for Tibet or Chechnya or Guatemala - I would seriously consider going with him, leaving Oscar with Malcolm. Perhaps I say that because I know that won't happen, even though he lived a lotus-time on the Indian Ocean island of La Réunion with his dopehead mother and one of her abusive lovers.

I will not have many (any ?) more erotic-sensual moments in my sixties, unless with him. I have never met anyone I felt so physically-emotionally in tune with as with the many-half-brothered Paul, whom I just have to glimpse to get an erection (and vice versa). But what I feel must be an illusion, despite his declaration of the same feeling: we (as all evolved beings, including Bodhisattva dogs) are as separate as icebergs.

I am a Jamesian victim of the irresistibility of the unsuitable. And with the suitable (Oscar, Malcolm) the erotic is absent, replaced by respect and fondness: much better feelings altogether to have for people. But how rare to have them. There is always something frenetic and desperate about 'love' (whether of a deity or a child), something of thin ice about it - but mutual respect is calm, considered and solid.

In the end, it is Malcolm and Oscar and I - until the end of Oscar, and then it's none of us.

24th July

I don't think I have ever thought human beings beautiful as a species - compared with cats, greyhounds, tigers, bears, porcupines, wolves, squirrels, skunks, dolphins, plaice, bees, herons, etc. etc. My sexual feelings for humans are limbic - æsthetic only insofar as those to whom I am attracted have animal qualities.

But sex is a red herring in a cul-de-sac. "Tout lasse. Tout casse, Tout passe." - Pascal.

Should I delete all this very moth-eaten autobiographical stuff ? (for more of it click here) There is so much missing. Elektra the super-intelligent German Shepherd dog for whom I burned on a pyre when she died, and wept for a week. Shep the rather dim German Shepherd who contracted canine nephritis and whose death just left a chunk of ice in my heart. For thirty-five years I kept away from dogs, until Oscar appeared. Jim the shipyard worker who left his wife to live with me for seven years in a most unsatisfactory, barely-sexual closet-relationship because neither of us was prepared to take on board the other's sexual feelings. I first found Jim sexually attractive at the very end of the relationship, after I had picked up a sexy, bearded Mexican-American dancer in the men's room of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and brought him back with me to Ireland. Jim exploded in rage, jealousy, grief, regret and for the first time, in panic, grew a beard. But it was too late. I had been liberated by Gregorio el bailero and could not fly back into the cage of unknowing.

Why am I attracted to beards and not, for example, to female film-stars ? I am, in fact, repelled by the pathetic painting of faces and dyeing of hair. (But not the wonderful works of body-art once created by the Nuba or the people of New Ireland.) What grows naturally upon us we seem to be impelled to remove, enlarge, mutilate or otherwise alter. (I too have my pubic tattoos.) (Can anything human be said to be natural ?)

Until I was over twenty I had a horror of kissing - because I had a dim, early memory of a leering, painted face bearing down upon me with horrible red lips. (I also hate cut flowers in vases.) As to why I love beards (which were very rare during my childhood) I cannot say. I loved the pictures of ogres and giants in my books of fairy-tales and quickly passed over the princes and princesses, so it goes back before that. Perhaps to the portraits of famous men such as Dickens and Tennyson who adorned the sitting-room walls of my fatherless home. (Not that I ever consciously felt deprived by the lack of a father.)

I have already written a draft of the last paragraph of this text. Should I insert it now and finish ?

25th July

Professor Lisa Jardine (née Bronowski) says that the root of all evil (human malignance is a better word) is religion. But religion comes fairly late in the procession. Perhaps 'Original Sin' is imagination, our obsession with images (and what they can symbolise), with the visual. Or is it our addiction to narrative - which feeds emotion rather than reason ?

That dependence may make even turn this into a narrative, since we see[k] narrative in everything - even in death.

There is no victory, only triumph.

26th July

The exile (self-exiled ?) peers through the windows of the belonging desperate to belong. As I do by reading the novels I have read since I started reading Dumas at the age of twelve.
Novelists, said Margaret Atwood, are illusionists.

My interest in our relationship to narrative in an extension of my interest in the relationship between language and consciousness expressed in poetry elsewhere on this website.

27th July

Correspondent 'Gerald90' has been writing to me on these subjects. He thinks that music is the highest form of human expression, language being 'a very blunt tool': "Wittgenstein had it right that if you can't say it in more than two words it's not worth saying."

But language is a very subtle tool when used subtly (e.g. by Rilke - but not by the religiose confectioner-poet Hopkins). It is perhaps we who are blunt - or have been blunted by 'education'.

28th July

The trashing of the planet by human greed and turbo-capitalism. I am deep in one of the many black-hole days in the 'dark night of the soul'. The vulture of accidie gnaws at my belly, the worms of depression writhe in my brain.
I feel lost in a lost world in a lost universe.
I just want to close my eyes and die.

Oscar does not understand how I feel: he just looks at me hopefully, then with resignation.

When people idly asked my mother "How are you ?" "How are you keeping ?" she used to reply: "Existing". Or: "Surviving". Like her, I hate being asked how I am. In the unlikely event that I should feel important or suffering enough to tell people how I am, I'll let them know.

It was during such a 'low' as this in winter-grey Paris (a city as depressing as Belfast precisely because it is a Capital of Culture) that I had my first tattoos performed - freehand - by an impish, androgynous 'artist' near the Bastille end of the rue de Lappe (where my most saturnine - and very gentle, modest - lover died of meningitis). The last of the Bals-Musette had not yet closed.

About tattoos, Theodore Dalrymple acerbically wrote "The fate of all people who imitate others to achieve authenticity is to live a lie." Getting tattooed, however, is the pettiest kind of stick-on identity in a world where the only authenticity is to be mad - or marooned.

Today Zana writes: "I think we are all lost in this lost world. When people ask me how I am, I answer rather like your mother: Still breathing. Most of the time these people are just trading lies with one another. I want to escape from this world but I don't know how. I am tired of life."

29th July

In fragment 211 of the 1982 edition of his Livro do Desassossego Pessoa wrote of a terrible and yet absurd weariness that resists all cure, that wants not just an end to existence but - impossibly - never to have existed at all!

"Yet I exorcise it by describing it. Provided that it comes from the mind and is not mere emotion, there is no truly profound affliction that fails to give way to the ironic cure of being written about. For the few, this might be one - or the only one - of literature's uses." Yet, he points out, the affliction is not 'real pain' like toothache or childbirth.

He continues:
"I write as in a sleep. My whole life is just a Delivery Note forever awaiting someone's signature.

"Inside the hen-house where his neck will be wrung, the cock crows exultant hymns to freedom because he has two perches all to himself!" [my emphasis]

As I write this Oscar is wrestling with a very, very old black bone he has dug up from among the bushes.

30th July

Picking wild raspberries in the woods today with Oscar I mused that the older I get the less I like people, and the more I see in their eyes the cold determination not to see what they don't want to see. Even to smile at them makes me feel false.

That cold determination is even more evident in governments who fiddle while The Business Community feathers its nest by laying the planet waste.

I soaked the raspberries in rum for my dessert this evening (with sour cream).

The Gobi Desert alone is expanding at a rate of ten thousand square miles a year.

31st July

Another day.
Another massacre. (This time in Darfur.)
Another famine.
Another vast inundation.

Another species made extinct.

When the Europeans so aggressively and competitively went out to civilise the world and grab its riches, they little thought - or cared - that their galloping, galumphing science, medicine and greed would lead to overpopulation (now 10 times what the planet can support), to frozen, false, arbitrary borders, massacres, desertification and famine - and now the terrible migration to the towns and supercities which themselves ensure that the Sixth Extinction is not just the greatest that the planet has experienced, but the fastest. We are the totalitarian species.

Thus we epitomise the pointlessness of evolution.

And so I let the nettles grow beneath Myrtus bullata and among the Beschornerias.

1st August

(Anniversaries of the Warsaw Uprising and the Liberation of Paris in 1944. Four days from now 90 years ago the First World War started, Russia having mobilised in response to Austria's impossible ultimatum to Serbia (whose loose-cannon-citizen-hothead Princip had assassinated the blue-blooded dough-head Archduke Ferdinand somewhere not far from Snipers' Alley in Bosnia-Herzegovina), and France having, under the terms of the Triple Entente, backed up Russia, and Germany having announced its support for Austria attacked France through Belgium, whose neutrality was guaranteed by Britain and France under the Treaty of London...so Britain declared war on Germany and Austria...)

I am reading Margaret Atwood's latest novel. I am a fan. Her Cat's Eye, describing a childhood in Toronto surburbia in the 1940s and 50s so chimed with my own in Belfast at the same time - Toronto before the VietNam war being a version of Belfast (complete with Orange parades) transplanted to Canada, where my mother was so happy, and where possibly my father mobilised from - perhaps (I fantasise) a Québecois - that I felt she was some kind of elder sister. But I would never have allowed her to have that grotesque face-lift -one of the greatest of living novelists looking like a character out of Angela Carter ?!

Referring to yesterday's musings, I quote from Atwood's superb Oryx and Crake: 'Homo sapiens doesn't seem to be able to cut himself off at the supply end...the less we eat, the more we fuck.

"How do you account for that?" said Jimmy.

"Imagination," said Crake. "Men can imagine their own deaths...and the mere thought of impending death acts like an aphrodisiac....human beings hope they can stick their souls into someone else, some new version of themselves, and live on forever."

"As a species we're doomed by hope, then ?"

Not just us, of course, but the planet, as the novel describes. This is the best dystopian novel I have read. Far better than her Handmaid's Tale (also an opera!). Better than Huxley's callow Brave New World and dull Brave New World Revisited. Better than Samyatin's We. Better even than one of the novels that shaped my life, Orwell's 1984, many of whose then-chilling details are now hardly-remarked parts of our daily lives.

When you don't know that you've had enough, you are one of the living dead.

2nd August

The bold text above was...DIALOGUE !! Probably the only dialogue you'll read here.

This evening is one of those rare occasions when I am able to eat what I have grown in this summer-cold (if winter-mild) climate on terrible waterless soil. I had Malcolm's mange-tout peas sauteed in butter with a little onion and tomato and tajine spice from Tafraout with boiled whole courgettes (zucchini in Italianate USA) accompanied by a couple of glasses of cool Côte Roannaise, a Gamay-grape wine from Touraine ideal with vegetarian food. I would dearly have liked to have had this as delicate accompaniment to a roasted haunch of human baby (even with the antibiotics and other unnatural toxins), but this is not possible - so I stay vegetarian, pace the Divine Dean. The onions and tomatoes came, regrettably, from retailers. My yellow cherry tomato plants are only now coming into flower - under glass!

This was accompanied by a performance of Brahms' Piano Quintet in the eternal performance by Clifford Curzon and the Busch quartet. I very rarely play music to myself, living in silence apart from the burbling of pigeons and the squeaks of badgers. A blackbird nests in the Schizophragma hydrangeoides under my bedroom window.

Dessert was Malcolm's rhubarb cooked in the Danish way as oldfashioned rabarbegrød med fløde - a kind of jellified rhubarb cooked with a little cinnamon and served with sour cream.

On BBC Radio 3 later, a performance Tan Dun's Water-percussion Concerto performed at an Albert Hall Promenade Concert by Evelyn Glennie. The BBC is one of the only links to culture and sanity for a lonewolf in the semi-dystopian pseudo-statelet, the get-now-pay-never drab-grabland of Northern Ireland where this Pooterish-Nietzschean writer lives, to the cooing of pigeons and the banter of rooks in his floriferous rustic isolation.

'Gerald90' e-mails me:
"On the above: Firing on all cylinders.....whew! Light the touchpaper and stand back!"

3rd August

I am slowly continuing to savour Atwood's Oryx and Crake. It was strange to visit Toronto after reading her Cats' Eye, because Toronto changed utterly after it was viltalised by Vietnam-war draft-dodgers. Although I am a city-hater, I liked glass-towered Toronto with its humming arty-alternative quarter. I loathed aggressivel;y-touristic Florence, with its hideous Duomo and grotesque statues by Michelangelo - a person nearly as overrated as Picasso. I liked Pisa and le Havre. I liked Berlin (when it was divided) and really dislike Amsterdam. Paris is horrendous and fascinating at the same time. London is just a maw.

Because of the embargo on products from Iran into the USA, Toronto is a very important place for Iranian rugs which are smuggled across the border. I chanced to go into a rug emporium not far from the centre, and saw a most interesting Gabbeh. Gabbehs (see the Iranian film with that title, if you can) are long-pile rugs originally made for domestic use, but now they are made for export. Some modern ones reflect poor Western taste, but some continue the fine Iranian tradition of design which I think influenced Spanish Manuscripts of the Vizigothic period.

Anyway, the man in the Toronto shop started pulling rugs (small enough to include in transatlantic aeroplane baggage) off a pile for me to look at. And I saw this one.

I asked him if he knew what it represented, and he said No. So I told him: It shows a Peacock on the Tree of Life. The Peacock is a Christian and Sufi symbol of immortal-ity and incorruptibility. I don't think the man believed me. Perhaps he was a non-Iranian front man. But I bought it on the spot for a mere $200. (There was a cash point only 200 metres away.) It joined others in my house - from Morocco (a rare green Berber "exhibition piece" which I bought in Tafraout), and rugs from Afghanistan and Turkey which I bought from dealers in the UK, and off e-Bay on my only fraught forays in that intimidating website.

Good rugs are not only useful: they are beautiful paintings. And some Iranian ones are amazing. On the left is a detail of a Qashqei one, not a Gabbeh, featuring a Babylonian lion with a pink cock which is being fondled by a cigarette-smoking tribesman. What this 'means' I should be most interested to discover. What are the strange black objects with hooks ?

On each corner of this rug are coupling lions.

Long before I started buying these rugs (they simply weren't available) I designed and my mother knotted some of my own, featuring Irish Megalithic designs. Oscar likes to lie on one of these. Unlike the ethnic ones, it can be shaken easily and even washed, since the not-pure-wool is dyed with modern fast dyes.

This diversion into rugs came by way of Margaret Atwood and Toronto. Malcolm and I made our only visit to North America in order to go a Faërie Camp in a forest of Eastern Ontario. Radical Faëries are how a certain kind of back-to-nature and usually bearded gay men describe themselves. Of course most of them live in cities.

We had a splendid time in the alternative/arty/marginal milieu of Ontario. Shortly after we came back to Northern Ireland I kidnapped Oscar from the horrible farm where he was tied up. In the seven years since then Malcolm and I have not been abroad together, for we can practically travel with Oscar only within the BritIsles.

God! this is getting boring. Reader - I apologise.

Yesterday I picked two calamondins from the tiny calamondin tree in one of my window embrasures. I made a wooden garden gate for Malcolm. Since we hate buying things new (even underwear), I made it from part of an old wooden floor with attached joists torn up (but not by me) from a nearby derelict house. It is very solid - but not exactly elegant. Like my prose.

4th August

What else is there to sex and money but complication and misunderstanding ?

Artyom wrote to me yesterday from St Petersburg in ravaged Russia. He and I have translated some marvellous poems by Henry Sapgir. I met him through the pictures of my paintings on this website. Just three months later he took a bus from St Petersburg to Toulouse to meet me, and we stayed in a rustic gîte close to Penne (Tarn) in the rural paradise of the Gorges de l'Aveyron . He is a painter and cut-out artist. He sketched and painted, and I read, and we visited megaliths. And we saw a house where I would love to live: utterly sylvan by the river and yet only a kilometre from a railway, and a twice-weekly market. But it was too expensive.

Meanwhile, just after he had (virtually) met me on the Web, he had (physically) met the (bearded, male) love of his life - also through the Internet. It can happen! Both of them came to visit us in Ireland - twice.


Dear Tonchya!

This is the first day I breathed away my troubled mood after the recent intensity.
Together with the hot, humid weather it produced a quite depressive state of mind
that was rinsed and refreshed by swimming in the lake this evening.

I have a secret place in the park not far from the center of the city where it's possible to swim, especially near sunset when there are not so many visitors. Medya and I and my younger sister went quite late and became the last people there in the end. And it was very rare for Petersburg - a calm hour, nice and peaceful, no one around - the moment you really experience the sky, trees and water and begin to absorb their speechless being - even half a minute of this detoxifies your mind.

(Poor urban children!)

I started to read your "anti-bestseller". I've looked just the beginning, but I can say I really like the style and I'm glad I understand the language.
Looking forward to reading more…

Hugs and kisses for Irish Dogs, Wolves, Bears!

TYOMUSHKA

5th August

In Paris, on my way back from my pathetically-abortive visit to the Pygmies, I tried busking in the Métro with a tin whistle, clad in my fetching Air Afrique blanket (which my mother later transformed into a beautiful tabard). After only ten minutes (and no takings) I was 'moved on' by the police... This was the first of my three pathetic attempts to make money. I couldn't even give my paintings away. But I sell one of my CD-ROMs every three or four weeks from a single outlet with which I have only minimal connection.

I admire the bravery of beggars.

6th August

Yesterday a whirlwind of bliss wrapped in hugs and cuddles and nuzzles and snuggles, and served up with Champagne (and incense) to the wonderfully-flowy accompaniment of David Parsons' Tibetan-inspired Yatra: portly Paul-Lovebeard's second visit this year. When he appears I (and, apparently, castrated Oscar too) suddenly feel like a vessel of happiness, a tumescent centre of volcanic but quiet beauty. He is one of only two or three people with whom I have enjoyed orgasm as distinct from mere ejaculation - a distinction strange to many men. The post-Paul- orgasms last 24 hours or more - due I think to the mutual intelligence of our sexuality. Fortunately, he has a penchant for skeletal chaps.

Although we look like a herring and a whale (an old herring with a baby sperm-whale), our non-penetrative love-making is like being two halves of the same ferociously tender (and non-Aristophanic) animal. Facing each other in ritual and actual equality, in proud and helpless trust, grasping each other's balls while our beards intertwine in a ten-minute kiss, my middle finger pressing the perineal root of his cock, massaging his feet with my hands and then my hard-on, running my tongue along the undergrowth of his arsecrack which tastes of wine made from Négrette and Garnacha grapes, kissing the pearly tip of his cock like a humming-bird, rubbing my soft-on in the luxuriant growth of his beard, he seemed for the moment my only reason for existing as the fountain rose from my balls and rushed up through my electric nipples and up to the top of my head, flushing my brain, and cascading down again to bathe my balls in peace and love and lightness and depth and soaringness, both of us performing the One True Rite while witnessing a wonderful mystery. Whether I ejaculate or not is irrelevant, because my whole being is suffused by love. My mind has become one with my prostate: gland of hope and glory.

Yet a body is only a body, while the heart yearns for a heart to inhabit.

Post-cuddle dinner included a pasta invention of mine with Brie and chervil purée. Chervil, like tarragon, is shamefully little used, and, seeding itself prolifically, grows even in winter. In the Tantra of Cooking I composed a new concoction: pear and rhubarb crumble, with a taste appropriately-reminiscent of passion-fruit. And suitably accompanied by a fine performance of Sibelius' Violin Concerto at a BBC Promenade Concert from the Albert Hall in London.

It may be another six months before I see him again. If ever. He is a free spirit. We are latter-day Brethren of the Free Spirit - he, si bien dans sa peau, much less fraught in his freedom than I. Next week he starts yet another job (he has had perhaps twenty in the last three or four years - some of them lasting no more than a couple of days before he walked out, others which he stuck for months) as a Warden in a Country Park. Whether this will be an opportunity to walk with his bouncing dog Streak amongst the woods and along the shore of Belfast Lough, or servitude as a toilet-cleaner, he is not sure.

Here is something for me to ponder: in the early hours of this morning I had an erotic (but not ejaculatory) dream (I almost never have erotic dreams) involving my childhood girl-next-door with whom I almost never played. She was one year older than I, and played tennis as a teenager, whereas I loathed sport. I think we attended each other's birthday-parties for a few early years of our lives. I cannot remember even having a conversation with her, let alone an intimacy. Curious that I should have a hetero-sexual (non-penetrative) dream after a homosexual (non-penetrative) love-session. Enantiodromia again, I guess.

At night, in bed, I draw back my foreskin and smell delicately-smoked oysters from my fingers, and think of Paul.

The 'other side' of hate is not love, but justice, for those who hate always believe that they are just, while those who love believe they are walking on air. But hate may well be the backing-plate of love.

Sometimes I think that Oscar and I are the same person in two distinct and separate forms. When I am with Paul, I feel the same. Oh the self-indulgent illusions of love!

Laurie Anderson said: "We would never have songs without regrets."


[NOTE: Paul Gordon was found dead at his home in 2016]

7th August

The second morning of wakening in a genital glow, as if a very delicate feather were vibrating gently in my prostate gland. While I was receiving Paul, Malcolm was cheerfully rattling a tin with Oscar in cheap-drab Belfast, collecting money for Tools for Solidarity. One generous donor was a happy glue-sniffer. Another was a man with a sandwich-board inscribed with exhortation to Repent before it is too late. The rest were drearies - but at least they put something in Malcolm's tin.

This afternoon I found a wren's nest - a mossy pouch - in the young yew-tree (Taxus baccata var. fastigiata 'Aurea') in my garden.

The problem in writing fiction is not just a matter of imagination, but, having imagined, then to choose a story or story-group in a fractal of possibilities.

8th August

Sometimes I think I hear - or feel - the planet screaming.

 

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