Dogs are bored silly by the
restricted lives we offer them.
Hearing, we do not listen; listening,
we do not hear.
Seeing, we do not notice; noticing we do not see...
...that to be
human is to be insane.
wrote that the main cause of Man's unhappiness is that he cannot
stay quietly in his room. I would counter this by saying that
the root of human folly (and the present world's destruction)
is the insanity of optimism.
And, of course, all cultures
are insane. Our European culture is founded on redemption based
on suffering, and hence on the justification of suffering, whether
for the sake of each individual 'soul' or for the sake of 'art'
or 'progress'. But we are the most soulless of animals. The
greatest art offers no hope, and 'progress' is just the trashing
of the planet.
Only the happy
(such as Oscar) have sanity, and some have said that the only
happy humans are the dead.
is merely the stupidity of constantly setting goals to achieve
and puzzles to solve.
The poor dead
moon, hopelessly in thrall to dying Earth.
Just as our despoliation
and the world and each other moved into the second-highest gear,
Billy Graham was sent to us from W. Randolph Hearst, and chlorophyll
appeared in toothpaste, and "In God We Trust" unconstitutionally
was printed close to the Masonic Eye of God on United States
always dealt in numbers, and thus informed capitalism, which
has bred the pathetic, despicable, phallic culture of self-importance.
Terrorism is much less terrible.
As I said earlier, for some
of us, surviving the tragedy of waking up is the biggest triumph
we can reasonably expect.
I feel like a spade or a blade
which has never been sharpened, like the edge of a cliff which
falls not down to the ocean but into the trash of a landfill.
I am a nothing nearly as noisy as the sound of success, as unheard
as the silence of shame.
After the death of God - the
death of Nature.
Why did life evolve as and then
through struggle ? Is there no other possible way ?
I feel (hypochondriacally
?) that I am in the early stages of Alzheimer's
Disease. I have been in a melancholic, wispy fog for some time.
With Malcolm I watched a fine Swedish film in the Bergman tradition
which he said we had watched before (and produced his diary
to prove it), and not one frame of it was familiar to me. Last
night I left the back door open for the fourth night in a row,
and the scullery was full of rain. Last night I yet again forgot
to wash the pan I cooked my dinner in. This morning for the
first time in my life I took down the coffee-pot and found the
grounds of yesterday's coffee at the bottom. And what I am writing
is just a chunk of defective, almost spastic prose, humourless
black humour, an artless gobbet of anecdote, introspective fiction
that I think is true...
My age is somewhere between
nineteen and dead.
In her eighties, at the end
of her life, my mother, through dementia or (more likely) pressure
hydrocephalus, lost every single one of her friends, all golf-
or bridge-partners. Already in my early sixties I have lost
all my friends. I can no longer see any merit in having friends
just for the sake of it, just to keep up appearances. I have
nothing in common with anyone. Soon there will be only me and
Oscar. The body bags are under my bed.
There is no pain on Mars. Not
Does it matter
if the universe (ekpyrotic or otherwise)
is multiple or limited or infinite ?
Certainly not to Oscar the sufficiently-knowing, the sufficiently-aware.
Oscar is the only
person with whom I do not feel disjunctive and dissonant.
A very strange
thing happened yesterday. I was crossing a busy street in Downpatrick
when the driver of a passing car waved at me, then indicated
he wanted to talk to me. I reached the opposite pavement and
he drew aside from the stream of traffic, causing yet another
- Are you an artist ? he asked. My beard and general demeanour
would indicate some such occupation. "Well - er - yes,
sort of," I replied.
- Would you sell me one ?
- Well, yes, maybe. But I don't actually sell my work.
- Do you paint landscapes ?
- Er, yes, a few.
- Can I come and see them? The boy here is very keen on pictures
and I want to buy him one. A small one - not too expensive,
something around £700-£800.
The boy - about 12 - said nothing.
I said: "My prices are lower than that. I'm not interested
He just looked at me.
I said: "I'm on my way somewhere else and I'll be there
- Give me your phone number.
I gave him my phone number.
I also wrote my address, but I could see that he couldn't read
- I'll be back home tomorrow morning, I said.
- What time ?
- After 11.
- I'll phone you.
It turned out
he was staying on the other side of the fjord. I continued on
my way to Malcolm's.
Next morning I drove home with two quite saleable pictures from
Malcolm's to add to the dozens here..
Two o'clock came.
At half past two I heard a voice at the door (which as usual
was open) - and it was the man himself with his County Clare-registered
car. I wondered how he had found his way to my house without
any directions from me.
I made a few pleasant remarks about county Clare, but he made
- Lovely house
you have here.
- Have you shown in Dublin ?
- No. Once in Belfast, once in Berlin and a couple of times
in Downpatrick. I sold nothing.
He then proceeded to look at most of the pictures in the house,
including the male nudes.
- Did you know Gerard Dillon ? (GD is probably the only painter
of serious merit that Northern Ireland ever produced - a tortured
closet queer who committed suicide in the 1960s.) Ireland's
only genuine Expressionist. I had never met him.
- Have you shown in London ?
- Have you shown in Paris ?
- No. I told you I'm not interested in shows and galleries and
- Have you been to America.
The silent boy
indicated one that he liked - one of the landscapes I had brought
from Malcolm's. A rather good landscape (photo attached) recalling
the "basket of eggs" landscape of county Down, with
fields forming segments of the circular hillocks known as drumlins.
The boy obviously had a good eye.
- How much do you want for it ?
- £500, I said.
- £350, said he.
- £400, I said.
- Who painted
that one there ? He indicated one I have by my kitchen cooker,
featuring hide boats (curraghs) in the west of Ireland painted
by a 'holiday painter'. I had bought this for £25 a few
years ago because I liked its distortion of landscape.
- Someone called R. Browne.
- Don't know of him. Bryan.
- No, Browne. I wrote down the name - but realised of course
that he couldn't read.
- Is he well-known ?
- No - he's a holiday painter. Probably dead. I'll look him
up on the internet.
(No R. Browne Northern Irish painter appeared on Google)
- Would you throw that one in ?
- Well, no. You can have it for £100 . I explained that
I had bought it in a junk-shop some years ago.
- OK. He shook my hand. I'll just take it with me and come back
tomorrow for the other one with the money.
- Well, no. I want to photograph them both before I part with
- Ah. (Pause.)
OK. I'll phone you tomorrow before I come over on the ferry.
No phone-call ever came. I think the guy had hoped to make off
with one picture for free. But surely he wouldn't have thought
that even I would be so dumb ?
The silent boy was a mystery. Was he rendered quasi-autistic
by his voluble father - who was obviously (or had been) a Traveller
(formerly known in Ireland, the only country in Europe where
Gypsies never came, as Itinerants), since he couldn't read.
His refusal to talk about county Clare indicated that his Clare-registered
car was second-hand. It looked expensive, but had extremely
worn front tyres. Since he couldn't read, he couldn't read the
CE (for Clare, as KE stands for Kildare and KY for Kerry) in
the middle of the Irish registration plate.
It was a very strange thing altogether. Maybe he'll come back
in some days' time and remove all the pictures from my walls
when I'm at Malcolm's....
There's nothing I could do to prevent that: locking the house
would be no hindrance when it is completely out of sight. This
is a second reason why I never lock it...
I couldn't live
somewhere I had to lock. Our house was never locked when I was
a child. I rarely lock my car (and never the boot). When I stay
in other people's houses, I go through the distasteful procedure
of locking with...distaste!
years later an almost valueless but cherished VW Polo was stolen
one night from outside my house, up a muddy lane, 3 miles from
the nearest village - so obviously not a crime of opportunity.
I hardly think it was this fellow, more likely someone put up
to it by my landlord's horrible son. It was never found, and
is probably rusting in an old shed somewhere, along with my
camera, my driving-licence, and many items in the boot.]
Consciousness is just a wound.
History is so disappointing.
I am swamped by the hundreds
of narratives of our narrative
civilisation, which, incrementally, rob me of my own narrative.
As the energy of Americans might be sucked from folk like me.
(The news is what
no-one knows how to turn off.)
Does the needle hurt the cloth
Life is very long,
but still too short to waste on washing.
1930s Russia there were personal hygiene posters urging the
YOUR FACE AND HANDS DAILY, YOUR BODY AT LEAST ONCE EVERY TEN
DAYS AND YOUR HAIR AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH'.
This is my régime - except that, being
close-cropped where I am not bald, I don't wash my hair. And
once a month is enough for my body.
Perhaps the best
things about the Tuareg are that they can live their whole lives
without washing, and have no word for 'virginity'. Their poets
are always women.
Because I have
never acknowledged status,
I have refused all my life to compete. I have thus been unemployable.
I am not a member
of any community. Just one who hides among the Lower Orders.
I know so
well what is wrong - but to know what is right is impossible.
Humans talk of pure and true
because their souls are dirt and lies. (O pessimistic intellect,
O nihilistic will! -
or the other way round.)
The present is too terrible
to talk about. I salvage what integrity I can by refusing to
participate in it.
I wonder if my dislike of (boredom
with) the poetic conventions of simile and metaphor (which are
so rarely mind-altering) is connected with my habit of seeing
words as they are spoken. (Thus I have almost no problems with
spelling.) This strange synesthesia has given me problems in
French, which is such a homophonic language that whole sentences
can pass me by as I try to visualise a word which might have
five different spellings and meanings. Saint, sain, sein,
ceins and ceint are all pronounced alike, and
not so differently (especially in the South) from cent
and sans. Such a pity that the langue d'oc did
not become ths standard language. It sounds much more beautiful
that the grotesque Northern nasalisations and uvular constrictions
of modern standard French!
For a man who doesn't eat meat
or fish or lunch, the best things in life are breakfast and
dinner and bed - and dogs. (Sex is either infantile heaven or
hell.) Trying to share the best things in life is as difficult
as sharing a good onanistic experience.
People have no Way of Life anymore.
They only have 'life-style'. And the word 'wholesome' has dropped
out of the language.
The language eaten
from within by warble-fly.
And the living dead shall be
Why do they think that doing
is good, and that 'mere' being is idleness ?
The saddest of madnesses is
excess of sanity. (This should be added to my Maxims.)
Belief is jumped-up desire.
The greatest blasphemy is the
pretence that we are redeemable.
(On reading Orhan Pamuk's Snow.)
Yesterday I freaked out in a
bank. Door-buzzers, Queue Here, six surveillance cameras, fluorescent
lighting, robotic cashiers, robotic 'customers' - I felt that
I was in the false-ceilinged ante-room to an abattoir. I made
a scene, I threw the pen and its stand at the female robot cashier.
The entrance door was locked. The police were not called. Why
do 'terrorists' not direct their attentions to every capitalist
bank in the world ? Answer: every capitalist bank in the world
keeps them going by financing the arms trade.
My faithful if
intermittent correspondent 'Gerald90' writes:
Yes I understand perfectly well your impromptu rage-fest at
your local bank. They are repulsive, deathly places, the true
churches, temples, of our world. Concrete symbols of what we
hold most dear. That such institutions exist and thrive point
to the premature death of humanity. As I recall Jesus had a
similar "moment" when confronted by the usurers.....
Does anyone like
anyone or is everything veneer and pretence ? Oscar does not
like me: I belong to him in an understated way. But
I do really like him.
I am in the early stages of
Disease. What I am writing is just a chunk of defective, almost
spastic prose, humourless black humour, an artless gobbet of
anecdote, introspective fiction that I think is true...
is time to stop.
When I was travelling around
rural France with my mother in the nineteen-seventies and eighties,
looking for exhibitionists
and related subjects on 12th century churches, and admiring
we could find, there were family hotels offering nice old-fashioned
accommodation and simple meals. Soup might be offered in the
family tureen and left on the table, so one could help oneself
to as much or as little as one wanted. Greater wealth (with
its accompanying meanness and greed) has changed that. Soups
are no longer drunk in France, it seems! No standby and often
excellent Bonne Femme. The concept of wholesomeness tempering
the French tendency to the public grande bouffe has vanished
even in la France Profonde on the borders of Quercy,
Rouergue and the Albigeois. Most of hose family hotels that
remain have gone seriously up-market, with showers (horrible
things!) and WCs - but rarely bidets which I like and sometimes
In the 1980s my mother and I
enjoyed an old-fashioned Hôtel du Commerce in the
village of Angles-sur-l'Anglin - which did not have running
hot water, but jugs carried up by the patron. So untrumpery
was his establishment that we stayed there over a week. His
dinners - cooked just for us since we were the only customers
- were simple and good.
menus are now sheer pornography. Today on my birthday (when
I summoned the chef-de-cuisine and ordered a nice platter of
delicious but unimaginatively treated and combined vegetables)
I have composed a menu for the Restaurant des Cannibales
- a menu which will be far less shocking to the meat-obsessed
French than to squeamish, prudish Anglophones. It includes such
Sautéed Vulva of
Nubile Ethiopian in its Nest of Pubic Hair
Penis of Young Pygmy still
enrobed, and bathed in a coulis of His Sperm
Breast of Bihari Bride
Bathed in her Milk (supplement 10 euros)
Buttock of Bushman en Brochette
Foetus of Filipina en Papillote
Braised Heart of Hutu stuffed
with Foie Gras of Tutsi
on a Bed of Bosnian Tongues en galantine
Sabayon Samoyed Spermatique
Sorbet of Smiling Irish
- and so on ad
We eat out only when we're on
the long road from Cherbourg to the rustic gîte with its
two-metre wide chimney and lovely old floors of flags, tomettes
and wide planks: mostly we eat and sometimes invent delicious,
wholesome, unpretentious vegetarian dishes made from local produce.
Wild figs puréed with a third of their volume of raspberries,
and a few centilitres of marc added, served chilled with
properly soured cream and not the tartaric travesty known as
It is not widely known that
the Russians are to blame for a crime against nature even worse
than those of Lenin and Stalin. It was they who introduced to
France meals in separate courses at the end of the 18th century.
Before that, the rich ate as the rich ate in the Ottoman Empire,
and indeed in the Roman Empire: many dishes spread out so that
the diner could choose which and in which order to eat. In the
mezze were spread
out on low tables and one sat on the floor. In Europe the European
high tables were used and the diners walked as they ate their
buffet. The meal of
courses is part of the totalitarian-infantile trend of Western
culture: get people sitting down at separate tables and serve
them like children. In music, too, there is a similar trend:
the totalitarian orchestra playing what they are told to people
imprisoned in seats in a concert-hall - as opposed to lying
on cushions sipping wine or eating hashish while a couple of
geniuses interpret and elaborate a raag.
In similar vein
to the the chef's immodest proposals above I, having enjoyed
an excellent (fairly) local Gaillac Perlé with Malcolm
compose the following poem in front of the apple-wood fire:
A la Merde
Changing evil to edible:
Every army is edible is the slogan on the back of my car.
Les armées sont comestibles: entartez-les toutes.
Le club des cannibales végétariens. The Society
of Misanthropes. My wine-grower friend thought these remarks
amusing. We watched the carbonic maceration of his grapes.
I have returned from France,
where I kept mislaying things, finding them only after I got
back. But I didn't find my wallet, containing credit-card and
hundreds of euros, which I lost in a field, or dropped on the
side of a country road. I could not be bothered reporting the
loss to anyone. I was more worried about the temperamental starter-motor
on the 11-year-old car, which already had to be bashed a bit
to get it to work.
The Irish Police asked me on
my return how I, having answered their impertinent questions
truthfully, could afford to go to France if I was unemployed.
The lovely sniffer-dog found nothing among the bottles of wine
and packets of cheese, remains of picnic and smells of Oscar,
who vacationed in Dublin while we were away. There was, of course,
nothing to find. The bonnet (hood) was not opened (roomfor many
kilos of cocaine there) nor was the spare wheel (room for two
or three kilos of cocaine there). We were stopped because my
Renault 19 is old and has slogans on the back and because we
are bearded and look marginal. While we were being frivolously
fake-searched, various sharp people in fashionable, ugly, casual
wear brought many kilos of cocaine into the squalid shamrock-isle
by BMW. Some were from Lithuania.
The car was laden with bottles
of Armagnac which I love, Gaillac Perlé sold to us by
the charming, poised and beautiful patronne of Château
Bouscaillous at Noailles near Cordes-sur-Ciel, and the superb
Gris Fumé of the genial Monsieur Morgat at the Domaine
du Breuil in Beaulieu-sur-Layon (which also has a repaired dolmen).
I was often in ecstasy in the
Noble-Val d'Aveyron, where I have been many times and
keep returning to. In much of rural France you have to drive
20 kilometres to find something ugly. In rural Ireland you have
to drive 20 kilometres to find something beautiful and unbesmirched.
Dozens of times, while planting
or driving or trying to sleep, I have thought of Great Lines,
and my thoughts have moved on, and the great lines never got
noted, and were forthwith forgotten.
My doctor was amused when I
asked about my incipient Alzheimer's. He told me of a 25-year
old who came to him worrying about Dementia after losing his
JCB digger for three days. The only way Alzheimer's can be diagnosed
is by psychiatric examination, so I guess we'll pass on that
- since (especially having recently read dog-loving Jeffrey
Moussaieff Masson's Against Therapy) I rate psychiatrists
well below abattoir workers, soldiers and concentration-camp
guards. When I told him of my sudden feelings of rage, however,
he gave me a chit for blood tests which might reveal conditions
other than Alzheimer's. But I could see that he did not take
me seriously. Doctors are just showmen.
big loving hairy lover Paul has promised to visit this evening
- and to stay overnight ! This will be just the second
time ever. The Renaudin champagne is in the fridge. A tape of
the Sabri Brothers is ready to accompany the unpenetrative ecstasy
of loving cuddles. I shall make a beautiful meal for him (as
usual) and (as usual) include something he has never eaten before.
On his last visit I made a caviar coleslaw from red Beluga caviar
brought as a disapproved-of gift by my Russian friends, red
cabbage, capers, yogurt and mustard. This invention was a first
for me, too. Tonight it will be a smooth seasonal compote of
apples and late elderberries, served with cinnamon and sour
cream - and perhaps a glass of venerable Château Coutet-à-Barsac,
if it doesn't seem like painting the lily.
The apéritif will be
a glass of Suze, a gentian-based bittersweet concoction
still widely drunk in France as the unrelated Dubonnet, Byrrh
and St-Raphaël are not.
I love receiving this man. I
feel so enhanced in his presence. I feel that life is perhaps
worth living after all. I want to share my enthusiasms with
him - landscapes, old stones, food, wine, plants (all of which
he loves) - my life with him - or at least a little pied-à-terre
with a garden in or near Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val.
I discovered on
his last visit that his mother was 13 and his father 12 when
he was born. He was brought up by his father's parents who live
just 5 miles away. His father (a shy hermit) lives just a little
further away in the opposite direction, but he and Paul never
meet. Paul's mother went on to have relationships with a series
of exotic and violent men. Paul lived with them for periods
- on la Réunion, in Bordeaux, in Algeciras. I wonder
if this has any bearing on the unbelievable number of jobs Paul
has had, many of them lasting no longer than a week. Mostly
this is because employers tell him to cut his (very bushy, very
dense and very neat, attractive) beard, which he quite rightly
refuses to do. People with beards are disapproved of as much
as any religious minority. Indeed more so when they do not wear
beards to declare an official (i.e. hypocritical) religion.
But for Paul and myself, beard-love (especially our own mutual
beard-love) is very much a religious commitment.
Paul didn't show
up. He sent a text-message to tell me that his ex-lover (who
hates beards and never has a good word to say about him or indeed
anyone) staged yet another fake suicide. Paul claimed that he
had made the mistake of having himself listed as Next-of-Kin.
and so (if the text-message told the truth) at the drop of a
few pills (quickly followed by a phonecall to the ambulance
service) he can be summoned to The Bedside of The Black Hole
who is a drink problem called Martin - and - quite stupidly,
predictably, obediently, cravenly, goes - where he surely is
despised by the manipulator. Having allegedly listened in to
a phone conversation, Martin knew of Paul's intention to visit
me and decided to prevent it by taking further advantage of
free emergency services and hospital treatment. He has also,
apparently, had by-pass surgery because of his thralldom to
alcohol and fried fat.
Failed suicide is true failure
I took the champagne out of
the refrigerator. I wept dry tears of ironic self-pity as I
cooked an altogether humbler meal than I intended, with no alcohol
- which should, of course, only be taken to celebrate with or
to uplift, never to accompany sadness or drown miserable disappointment.
My beard's attempted suicide
left it 4 centimetres shorter. I lacked the conviction to shave
it off: for me a more drastic act than mere suicide.
Malcolm commiserated gently,
with no Schadenfreude.
I masturbated furiously. I had
my October bath, and clean pyjamas, and laid out clean clothes
for the morrow. A lonely, minimalist celebration-compensation.
I burned my painting entitled
"Love is the only reason for living" which
I had taken off a wall to give Paul. 'Love' ? Don't make
I can see how
easily love (or the illusion of love) could turn to hate and
also to self-contempt, for I despise myself for wallowing in
the hope of a few hours' happiness
with Paul , who has often failed to show up - because the "love"
for me which he spoke so eloquently in our snuggles is low in
his list of priorities. Sometime he failed to turn up, I guess,
because of Black-Hole-Martin. It is hard to harden my heart
- but I shall have to, since he can't harden his vis-à-vis
the Black Hole.
I love real roller-coasters
- but how I hate emotional ones!
He came to visit
just three times in 2003, and four times this year. I am low
on his list of priorities. I have never been invited to his
house for love and cuddles because of his strait-laced, drink-addled
great-uncle who shares it with him. Martin has probably been
a frequent visitor, offering no love or cuddles, just whines
I almost despise
myself for joyfully taking cuttings and potting up plants for
the plant-loving Paul, and setting aside little presents for
him, including a portrait in oils of myself and Oscar among
the flowering shrubs on Malcolm's patio, painted by Artyom Kotyenko
- which he later threw in a bin.
It is very galling
when you pride yourself on your rigorous judgement of character
(rejecting most people as either fools or knaves) only to find
that you are no judge of character at all. Perhaps 'the simple
truth' is that every human being is a shit. Perhaps Paul is
just another lying, loony gay and is as worthless as Martin.
As deeply worthless as any human. We could never go to France
together, because Martin would, allegedly, stage another drama,
and the gutless, dishonest but wonderful-to-be-with Paul would,
yet again, choose Martin because "Martin needs me".
And I, the "strong one who needs nobody", would weep
dry tears and rage with stiff upper lip and hope to die. If
I had 'needed' Paul, II'd be dead by now and in the blessed
state of no-pain.
I have always
longed to share by enthusiasm for beauty and landcape and beautiful
things like ceramics with a lover. Malcolm, though sweet and
true unlike the rest of humanity, is half-numb like most people.
I don't have much time left. Paul seemed to be "my last
chance". A few years ago he was half my age. No - not so
much my last chance as the only man with whom I felt enhanced
by and completely at one with - correction: has the illusion
that I felt completely at one with. If he ever phones me (which
is likely to be months from now) I will ask him to choose between
Martin and me, because he can't have paraplegic relationships
with both. He will choose Martin, because "Martin needs
me", and he will have forty years of Martin's Black Hole,
and I will rage and hope to die. I am tending Brocks' Acre where
my grave will be, and have new trees and shrubs to plant there
in November. There I will lie surrounded by my beech-trees and
bore-trees (elders), oaks, hazels, hollies, plums, wild roses
and flowering exotics. I would hope to be dug up and eaten by
the beautiful badgers, whom I treasure also around my house
some 20 kilometres away [and were to be the
End of Oscar].
I think that we
lie to ourselves about people we attach ourselves to - then
we deny that lie. Then we get angry and start to reject the
person involved because they do not fit the lie, the expectation,
the image. Mostly - and most unusually - I see people as they
really are, and reject them. But with Paul I saw and felt something
beautiful. A mirage.
NOTE: In the end, inevitably, Martin succeeded in killing
himself. Out of his large family, only the guilt-ridden Paul
and one of Martin's many brothers were at the graveside.
It may be, of course, that Paul, never having been loved or
thought physically beautiful before, simply cannot cope with
being so passionately loved and thought beautiful by me. Having
reached a weight way beyond 100 kg he latterly has had to visit
a dietician ever week to help him lose weight.
On the other hand, it could be that, because of the joyless
Martin, he associates 'love' with misery rather than fun. A
mixture of both sad ingredients is also possible.
(2009) Malcolm reports that Paul told him last year that Martin
was alive and well and working with Alcoholics Anonymous. Has
the dope totally addled his brain to turn him into a compulsive
liar ? Which story should we believe ?]
strange correspondence >
When you think
people are laughing, often they are weeping.
When you think people are weeping, the worst of them are laughing.
There is nothing
like hurt and anger to clear the geriatric fog in the head.
Weeping is better
I said was over-rated at the beginning of this meandering monologue,
almost never investigated marriage in his plays. There is plenty
of passionate, impossible romantic love (the women were played
by boys, of course) - but the only marriages to be analysed
(insofar as Shakespeare could be said to analyse anything) in
all his plays are those of Gertrude and Claudius in Hamlet,
and the really intimate marriage of the Macbeths. Shakespeare
himself abandoned his illiterate wife and children (his son
died at the age of 11), while he entered the wonderful world
of Christopher Marlowe, boy-loving aristocrats - and Italian
sonnets which he adapted to his own, less subtle 'Shakespearean'
How many other
people prefer the plays of Sophocles, Euripides, Chekhov and
Eugene O'Neill (not to mention Racine, Strindberg and even Tom
Stoppard) to those of the Bard of Avon ? Of course, Shakespeare
is even worse on the radio than he is on stage (except, perhaps,
for King Lear and Macbeth), whereas the other
above-mentioned, like all the best dramas, are better without
the distracting visual mechanics.
I like to imagine
impossible but serious societies - such as the Society for
Drama in the Dark - in the same vein as my Society
of Vegetarian Cannibals which inspired the final title
of this web-page, and my
Society for the Criminalisation of Humanity.
Today is British
National Poetry Day. Which is to say: decreed meaningless. Poetry
in English is a dried-up thing, contrived and controlled, all
words and no passion - the triumph of presentation over content.
It is all curb and snaffle - for the bloody horse
died some time around 1936. The British (and to a lesser extent
the Irish and the Americans) are terrified of the meanings of
words, which is why they make such a unique and quaint-if-it-weren't-so-pathetic
fuss about fuck and shit and cunt and
nigger and queer and worthless as applied
to people. Cock as a male bird is taboo in America, where
arse (and cunt) became ass - and ass became
donkey (which used to rhyme with monkey)... Shit! has
become shoot! in North America, and bugger has become
booger (and thus is closer to the French bougre).
To call a cock a rooster is as pathetically coy as Victorians
calling a redbreast a robin or a white-arse a wheatear.
Yet, impenetrably, shag is now perfectly acceptable -
even on the BBC - when unpleasantly used as a verb rather than
naming a bird.
is a perfectly acceptable word, but fuck is not. This
says almost all you need to know about our values.
are allowed to kill your children's minds and hearts and sensibilities
through stultifying 'education' - but not to expose them on
an Adoption Rock (as in ancient Athens).
English is a good
language for describing things - especially metallic
things like motor-engines and guns, and a bad language for describing
subtle emotions, ambiguity and resonances. These un-Anglo-Saxon
non-things tend to rely on French and German vocabulary. Similarly,
ideas and emotions in English are expressed in ("down-to-earth".
terre-à-terre prose - often in novels, the quintessential
(and endlessly reproducing) English art-form. The English translate
French poetry (which is something of a tilting at windmills)
but are reluctant to translate French novels.
Because of the fear of the
meanings of words, poetry so-called in English is beautifully
castrated: the scars are very well-heeled. Commercial, entertainment-industry
pap, it receives prizes when it is so clipped and false as to
be mere verbal topiary produced by people who, mere machines
of conformity, have decided to advance into being machines of
poetry, writing like therapists describing their patients...
Yeats' words of
warning may have been right at the time, but now the situation
is quite opposite, for the worst (i.e. the published) lack all
conviction, while the best (writing in languages other than
English) are full of passionate intensity.
In the very
unlikely event that I would be invited to give a poetry reading,
I would refuse - not least because I cannot abide the banality
of applause. This is why I hate the theatre and concerts, relying
for drama and music on the wireless and sound reproduction systems
in the quiet and comfort of my own deeply rustic and unmodern
home, where I can lie on the floor and listen in the dark -
or darn my socks... I live most of my life in silence and (apart
from Oscar) solitude - which, Orhan Pamuk observed, is essentially
a matter of pride: you live immersed in your own scent.
I have, however,
enjoyed a few recitals in the past - the Beaux Arts trio playing
Brahms and Schubert in Belfast's only congenial venue, the 19th
century wedding-cake-Venetian Elmwood Hall, where seats were
unnumbered. Thus I went early and had a front row seat right
beside the marvellous Menachem Pressler and could easily imagine
that I was alone with the trio in this lovely space. On another
occasion I went to a Georgian mansion not far from Dublin one
June evening, so warm that, after a fine performance of Schubert's
B-flat Trio by (I think) the Torteliers, the French doors were
thrown open and we listened to Beethoven's Archduke Trio
while lying on the grass just outside. On another occasion,
the environment of a dreary meeting-hall in Belfast was transformed
by being able to lie on cushions at the back, listening to an
Indian master playing the sarod.
This year the forthcoming
Belfast university festival promises a World Première
of a new work by John Tavener, a composer I admire greatly (but
not for his religiosity). It will be held, however, in the hideous
Waterfront Hall, a cheapskate concrete drum as depressingly
ugly on the outside as it is soullessly airport-terminal inside,
so I will not be present - even if I were to get a free ticket
and not just a £6 reduction for being an old person. However,
Malcolm and I shall attend the performance of a recent Tavener
work and one of Brahms' glorious Piano Quartets in the lovely
Elmwood Hall - at the congenial hour of eleven in the morning.
It is for me a great pity that so much cultural performance
takes place in the evening, at a time when I like to enjoy my
dinner, and then sit by the fire reading or listening to the
wireless. I have never understood the attraction of going out
at night after an early or a bolted evening meal, nor indeed
the evening attraction of bars and pubs. People who go to them
must be very lonely, or hate their homes.
a side-ward of the sordid, Victorian hospital, my ninety-four-year
old aunt lies dying, slowly, slowly, an adjunct to technology,
in a web of catheters and drips. "Why ? Why ? Why are they
doing this to me ?" she moans." I want away." She
looks exactly like a Belsen victim. They are doing this to her
because the same culture which insults suffering produced Dr
Mengele, whose ghost haunts every hospital.
was a passage from my diary of 1996, which I burned to-day.
My decision to wrest control of my aunt, and, later my mother,
from the things and insults of convention, led me to organise
their funerals and coffins myself, without the insulting services
of the Funeral Industry. We have no power against the Medical
Mafia (except through serious and successful suicide), but it
is still possible to escape the undertakers.
is in each of us, armpit and arsehole, foreskin and vulva, cancer
and pustule, dandruff and faeces...
'The Devil' is in words and theses.
truly themselves and use almost the full capacity of their brains.
Humans, however, can be defined by their unique quality of not
being themsleves and of refusing to use their brains to more
than half their capacity. This is another definition of Original
Sin, and why we are irredeemable.
I am globally
sad, locally miserable. But a streak of hope is painted on the
horizon for next Monday, the eleventh of October - for I have
been summoned to appear at my doctor's surgery to be told the
results of blood tests. Unless it turns out to be (like so much
for so long) informational illusion.
Unless it offers
short- or medium-term gain, the last thing humans want to listen
to is reason.
How whimsical that Romanticism has not deserted
you in your dotage. Chapeau (I take my hat off to you) I got
rid of that guff long ago. Still, we shall always pretend what
we are not. No misanthrope you, Anthony...I think you should
stop loving people so much...in the end it's all self-love.
Is it not?
treat on the wireless (BBC Radio 3) a performance of an adaptation
of Brecht's Mr Puntila and his Man Matti. Nearly forty
years ago (in Tide and Undertow, Belfast
1976) I translated one of the superb songs from this
play (set brilliantly to music by Paul Dessau), which I have
never heard until now:
OF THE LADY AND THE FORESTER
There once lived
a Lady in Sweden's cold land
and fair and lovely was she.
"O Forester mine, my garter's undone,
is undone, is undone -
Forester, bend down and tie it for me!"
O Lady, don't look at me so:
I serve you to bind soul to breath.
Your breasts they are white, but my hatchet is cold,
it is cold, it is cold -
Love is a sweet thing but bitter is death."
fled that very same night
and rode to the edge of the sea.
"O Captain, O Captain, take me in your boat,
in your boat, in your boat -
Captain, I have to cross over the sea."
A vixen she once
fell in love with a cock:
"O Golden Bird, don't you love me ?"
And glory was evening, but when came the dawn,
came the dawn, came the dawn,
all the cock's feathers swirled under the tree.
Before discovering Brecht in Denmark, I discovered Georges Brassens.
At the time that I was madly in love with a Danish woman (when
I was 21), I lived for a while off and on the Baltic islet of
Christiansø with the island's teacher who was mad on
Brecht, and went every year to East Berlin to attend performances
of the Berliner Ensemble. The island's doctor was a very comfortably-bourgeois
Marxist called Tage Voss, who was well-known as a writer in
Denmark. (Of course, he wasn't a patch on his Norwegian contemporary,
Tarjei Vesaas, one of the deepsimplest writers ever.) Until
now I haven't really appreciated Brecht very much (apart from
the wonderful Weill-collaboration Mahagonny), preferring
the Greeks and Chekhov, O'Neill, Williams, Racine and the chap
who wrote Penthisilea. But now that I am becoming, despite myself,
a neo-Marxian, I can appreciate the didactic Brecht a little
'Gerald90' is obviously
fed up with all this:
All writers painters, poets are Romantics. ie:
superior beings aloft upon their clouds of peculiar enlightement.
My 48 yrs mingling with the human race have convinced me otherwise.
The shelf-filler at Tesco's [supermarket], the refuge
[sic] collector: they are the true artists of our time.
The rest: just pretentious bores.
doctor told me this morning that I have Vitamin B-12 deficiency,
a condition which is very common - and very commonly undiagnosed.
I am unusual, however, in not having anæmia: my hæmoglobin
is very healthy. Lack of B-12 is a major factor in both dementia
and Alzheimer's disease.
I spent the morning in frustration
looking for the lid of the coffee jar,
then by mistake I e-mailed the foregoing
to an almost total stranger.
Since it is the only abnormality
found, it is likely to be a result of my vegetarian diet - so
no: I simply swallow the free vitamin B-12 tablets which I have
has been appointed President-for-Life of the Animals' Society
for the Prevention of Humans.
We mirror each other, Oscar
and I, in that he is more interested in humans (food-providers)
than in other dogs; and I am more attracted by dogs than by
humans. Indeed, I no longer understand why humans are so interested
in each other.
Which is more insane: the process
of evolution or our admiration of it ? Evolution of the brain
should have stopped at "Good Enough" - chimpanzees,
gorillas and orang-utans. But it went on robotically to produce
us who are like a one-off virus that kills itself with its only
host. The motto of the human species can only be:
moi le déluge.
I have this week discovered
a writer every bit as good - and funnier - than Margaret Atwood.
She is Barbara Trapido, and in her Frankie and Stankie
she performs the miracle of giving the reader a potted history
of South Africa while beautifully describing the growing-up
(and eventual emigration to more-tolerantly racist Britain)
of a naïve young girl of German parentage as the mad, fascist,
apartheid state was instituted and increased its racist
Talking of books and writers
- I cannot understand why Stephen King is a best-selling author.
I have read only two of his books. The first one was excellent,
gripping...(can't remember the title)...and the one I am reading
at the moment, Bag of Bones, is a very absorbing, complicated
and quite challenging read. This is not airport-bookstall writing
with cardboard characters having sickly romances or involved
in violent adventures. The prose is as angular and uncompromising
as the ideas expressed. Yet he sells by the million in airport
bookshops. Why doesn't Barbara Trapido ? Is it all down to marketing
and agents, or who has bought the film rights ?
All groups are gangs - especially
Another day awakening to terrible
dismay in glorious weather.
In Brazil a colloquial expression
for dying is taking a space-taxi.
is no more than the maps of human ignorance.
Property is the
opposite of morality (?)
In death is safety. When we're
all dead, we'll all be safe. It is another glorious day.
I shall take Oscar down the field to pick some of the lush watercress.
'gerald90' writes again:-
Ouspensky: One thing is certain, that not one
of the ways out offered to humanity by its friends and benefactors
is a way out in any sense. Life becomes only more entangled
and more complicated, but even in this entanglement and these
complications it does not take any new forms but endlessly repeats
the same infinitely old forms.
PS. You have to be a bonehead to read Stephen
King......and yes.....that's why he sells millions.
Stephen King might be trash compared with Zola, Balzac, Dostoyevski,
Genet, etc. - but he is certainly as good as the revered Dickens.
His powers of description are superb, and he conjures up convincingly
the stifling parochialism and latent menace in small-town America
which is not so different from the bad vibrations that haunt
rural Ireland. I don't understand, however, how a library service
with some fifty branches serving nearly half a million people
has over fifty copies of 'Bag of Bones' - and just
one very used copy of 'The Gruffalo', a superb
book for young children which should have at least one copy
in every branch, if the library service is serious in attracting
custom and promoting literacy in the young.]
In any case, trashy books can
have good things in them. I was once urged to read a New Age
book called (I think)The Celestine Prophecy. It may have
been for boneheads, but within it was the great observation
that more and more people go about sucking out the goodness
and energy of others, especially their children. Indeed the
whole system is built around this vampiric disempowerment.
From another New
Age publication, a psycho-manual called The Tao of Chaos,
I got the 'insight' that words and the concepts they create
are the mesh of the sieve I must pass through.
For the past 18 years my brain
has told me that I have been feeling bad - dismay at being trapped-in-shame-as-human,
or Vitamin B-12 malabsorption ? Or is is a kind of Progressive
Autism as I withdraw more and more from people and their pathetic,
terrifying Normality. But I think I have felt fine - if often
fatigued - in my body most of that time. After all, I have -
living in a beautiful, secluded place with a beautiful little
full of remarkable shrubs - been free of neighbours, employers,
debt and the octopus of family. It is such a pity that my feeling
(feeling-bad) brain so overrides my feeling-good and polysensual
body. If only I could turn it off and be like Oscar.
Because of my feeling-bad brain
(feeling bad about being yet another malignant human) I walk
from emptiness through anger to decrepitude.
Many thanks for taking
the trouble to hand-write a letter to me. I appreciate it.
I could not bring myself
to open your letter, so I gave it to Malcolm, and he summarised
it briefly for me. I wonder why you are trying to keep in contact
with a misanthropic old curmudgeon ? What's in it for either
of us ? We are completely opposed on most social and philosophical
subjects, and I devote my life to enquiry and transparency,
whereas you (like most people apart from Malcolm) are inscrutable,
Everyone I have ever
met has been disappointing - as I was a disappointment to my
mother and her sister and mother who raised me.
I have become extremely reclusive, because I find our culture
and society increasingly obscene and offensive. Everyone in
the world is confronted with the problem of how to cope with
the effects of greed-driven turbo-capitalism and the low-level
liberalism which feeds it. It is not just affronted Muslim societies
who constantly have constantly-shifting and hypocritical 'Western
Values' shoved up their noses, and into their eyes through television,
but the people of Europe as well - people who, themselves, like
the North Americans, are getting richer on the wealth bled out
of Africa and South America. We are all invaded and threatened
by greed-consumerism. The liberalism/libertarianism (these words
seem to have opposite meanings in the US) that it promotes is
of the lowest kind, and deliberately designed to appeal to envy,
lust and greed.
The problem with libertarianism as a philosophy is that it was
devised by and for serious, philosophical, frugal people. But
once it becomes inextricably enmeshed in the culture, it simply
becomes the virus or instrument of invasive capitalism which
seeks to take over our lives by infecting every aspect of our
lives with envy, greed and unmitigated desire. It constantly,
stridently diminishes and ridicules asceticism, the only philosophical
brake to its 'progress'.)
Everything human is deeply superficial - except in its effect
upon the planet. Increasingly I find human beings unattractive.
I warm to dogs, cats, centipedes and spiders - but regard humans
more like slugs and sheep. Slugs individually, sheep collectively.
In groups humans are gangs - from families and New Year's Eve
parties to Amnesty International and Islamic Jihad. I am human
myself, and, confronted by Oscar's
beauty of form and spirit, feel pretty unworthy of him.
I cannot understand why you wish to 'flog a dead horse'. Ever
since the beginning, our friendship has been edgy, and getting
edgier. (In any case, 'friendship' is a myth, a fabrication
like 'love' . Unlike loyalty which is entirely different, it
is nothing but morning mist. In the end we are utterly alone,
because human relationships are pathologically dishonest.) You
and I have almost nothing in common; I have had bad experiences
in your milieu - your boorish husband, your 'friends', and those
awful New Year's Eve parties, to which I foolishly went in the
vague hope of meeting someone exciting, or just someone I could
relate to. It seems to me obstinate masochism to pursue 'friendship'
that was always faltering.
I really cannot cope
with 'normal' people. In
my (irreversible ?) state of incipient dementia, I see no point
in and get no pleasure from brief socialising; it is about as
meaningful as a TV chat show. The one person I would like to
be with is unavailable, and shrouded in cannabis smoke.
But thanks for writing.
I should get out more and socialise!
But with whom...in Northern Ireland, the most antisocial place
on the planet ?
What newspapers I read come
to me weeks later, second-hand. This is from the London "Sunday
Telegraph", 26th September 2004 (Review, page 2):
In his final
column for this newspaper, in May 2002, Nigel [Nicolson] character-istically
wrote: "Virginia Woolf once said to me
as a child: 'Nothing has really happened until it
has been described.'"
On the contrary:
description turns 'reality' to fiction.
I made six or seven kilos of
quince jam...delicious!...and will improve over the years.
For the first time in my life
I have composed a joke: What is an 'axis of evil' ? Answer:
The shortest distance between two banks.
(Or, if you prefer the less neat but more radical
reply: The connection between any two seats of government.)
Instead of being dominated and
oppressed by my thoughts, I should learn to 'inhabit and increase
the space between them'. Easier said than done.
especially this one, are obsessed by the cause-and-effect pattern.
This has taken over our minds, and has produced Recorded History
and its repetitive awfulness. The enormity of cause-and-effect
produces my sense of helplessness, my perception of the chaos
which is the result of Man's totalitarian attempt to master
whose hair or sleeves got caught by ineluctable machines were
whirled to death in their thousands.
Dogs in their blessedness have
little sense of cause and effect, and inhabit the wide space
of acceptance and indifference.
The French Romantic poet Lamartine
(whose poems I loved at school) 'loved nobody but his dogs',
his wife complained.
If I were megalithomaniac enough
to be a preacher or a prophet, or mad enough to found a new
religion, I would preach Bestialism: that man should
serve animals and nature, and not the other way round. My poor
followers would be obliged to remove fences and liberate horses
and chickens and pigs, and each take a few cows home to look
after (as in India)...except that they wouldn't, for they would
compromise with Cæsar (as did the Christians) even before
I was martyred as a terrorist.
Eating my delicious dinner,
and listening to Sibelius' enthralling and always-fresh violin
concerto (of which I never tire) I thought: Most celebrities
are worthless because our culture celebrates celebrity.
A woman can get an abortion
almost on demand, but I cannot get a lobotomy. It was only by
the merest good luck that I managed to get a vasectomy on demand
over thirty years ago.
The nearest that we get to rationality
Having given up
on the stultifying world and mountainous prose of Marcel Proust,
I am continuing my research into narrative and its tricksy power
by reading another American millionaire best-seller, John Grisham.
Published in 2000, The Brethren is an astonishing description
of modern America. Although he makes the CIA (rather than the
NewCon-spiracy) instal a new President by vicious hook and by
even nastier crook, his novelistic insight into the appalling
milieu of geo-political shenanigans is largely corroborated
by Adam Curtis' superb documentary, The Power of Nightmares,
a sequel to his magnificent Century of the Self (about
the father of turbo-capitalist consumerism, and godfather of
the Cold War) currently being shown on BBC television.
tragedy of the USA is that its people do not believe in Fate
(Mektoub) - only in The Future.
Sex assumes far
too great an importance in the worlds of the Abrahamic religions,
because those religions prevent people from according sex the
respect it deserves, its importance in the scheme of things.
A nice phrase
in Grisham's book: the Juggernaut of Family Values. How
can a man who produces such a neat and radical remark sell millions
of copies around the world, some no doubt even to the Scotch-Irish/Ulster-Scots
religious rednecks and rapists who clamour so frighteningly
about Family Values ?
Tonight is the night of Hallow-E'en
fires: flames to keep the spirits of the dead away on the night
when the veil between the natural and the supernatural can easily
be rent. At this time the rising sun illuminates - through the
iron grille - the back of the neolithic passage-tomb popularly
known as 'The Mound of the Hostages' at Tara. And American websites
carry the banal banner "Happy Halloween" as if Halloween
had anything to do with mere happiness! [Maxim
378: Happiness is blind, which is why, Dear Rilke, happiness
Narrative is our endlessly-repetitive
way of escaping from the pangs and guilt of consciousness. We
keep wanting re-runs because we never actually escape. Stories
(including, of course, descriptions of 'reality' in literature
or in science) are like recurring dreams. We are stuck in the
groove of narrative and can only escape by side-lining language,
searching for nests between words.
If we are such superior animals, why are we constantly demanding,
seeking, wanting ?
Dogs are wonderfully undemanding.
"Humans are gods from outer space," Oscar "Legs"
Tail might say.
The most enduring Terrorism
All the world knows that today
is the day of the American Presidential and Congressional Election.
Such is 'news'. But it is an election between Tweedledum and
Tweedledee. The problem for the world is not the US President
but the United States themelves. How can a two-party state (only
twice as good as a one-party state) without Proportional Representation
call itself a democracy ? (I am not anti-American - but I would
be, if I were a U.S. citizen like three of the few men whom
Walt Whitman, Alfred Kinsey and Blind Willie Johnson.)
The media obsesses over non-news
like this because those who control it do not want us to know
anything about real news. We heard almost nothing about Rwanda.
We are hearing nothing about Chechenya. The wars and pogroms
in Sudan and Congo are only reported on a 'slow news day'. We
were never told about a dozen dictatorships in Africa mostly
financed by the United States, Britain and France, who did or
are doing outrageous things. Hastings Banda in Malawi and Mobutu
Sese Seko in Congo (who were much worse than Franco or Mussolini)
were ignored by the media and the consumers of the media
, the 'ordinary, good' people of the literate world. The Central
African Republic's Bokassa only became 'newsworthy' when he
modelled his own coronation as Emperor on that of Napoleon I.
Idi Amin was wilfully regarded as a buffoon and not a psychopath.
Zimbabwe's equally- and recently-psychopathic dictator only
hits the news very occasionally and briefly when white farmers
are involved. Who knows (or cares) what is happening in the
Caribbean, Egypt, South America, South-east Asia ? 'The News'
chooses not to know, or at least not to tell us. It faded from
news bulletins within hours that 100,000 Iraqis (mostly women
and children) have died since their 'liberation' from Saddam,
and that the country is spiralling downwards to the hugely-expensive
mayhem of a failed state.
Pilger is a lone voice in the wilderness of 'news'.
We know and care
nothing about the sufferings of bombed dogs and other animals
in 'liberated' Iraq.
I have always
loved stone and stones. And I make wonderful self-love when
The lies we're always telling
others are just crude versions of the lies we can't stop inventing
One of the greatest lies we
live by is the lie that human beings are basically 'good' and
so we should like people and socialise. In spite of the history
of the 20th century alone - Stalin, Hitler and Franco, Cambodia,
Rwanda, Turkey, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, East Timor,
Diego Garcia, etc.) we convince ourselves that we (including
the populations who supported and support tyranny all over the
globe) are good and likeable, and that it is outrageous and
inhuman to say that humans are nature's hubris and nemesis.
But we know how horrible we are - we cannot not-know it. We
simply ignore it. We are the only species which rejects the
reason of which we are capable and which rejects the evidence
of our eyes and ears and noses in favour of the propaganda of
our weak and lying brains.
And so millions
congratulate themselves and each other on a sham (and, in fact,
shameful) 'democracy' which elects Tweedledum or Tweedledee
to wreck the world. We know it doesn't matter who seems to be
in charge - the exploitation and destruction which are the core
of capitalism (if not the core of 'humanity') will continue
In World War II,
the boots of lower-ranking Germans smelled of fish-oil. And
German officers painted views of the Seine on Sundays.
'Gerald90' reproves me
The silent stones that you have so diligently
catalogued contain reservoirs of wisdom
on which you have sullenly turned your back in order to beat
your breast and wring your hands.
. Turn your face towards the dark mystery - you may be pleasantly
By the dark mystery, does he
mean death, my long-lost brother ?
to another dark mystery composed today >
I tried to sell 'part or
parts of the frontal lobes of my brain' on horrible E-Bay,
explaining in the description that I was just selling the opportunity
to perform a lobotomy for just $20 and that I would pay the
surgeon the going rate for a lobotomy operation. Needless to
say, although the advertisement went through the system, and
I was congratulated on successfully placing my advertisement,
it was quietly and quickly suppressed and no fee was charged.
The web can erase behaviour such as mine without a trace.
I feel like the edge of a cliff
which falls - not into the immeasurable sea, but - into the
trash of a land-fill waste disposal site.
As a child I got relief from
tension and from thinking by turning on to my belly in bed,
placing my hands upon the pillow, and banging my head against
them while singing a monotonous tune repeatedly - an Ur-tune
that is the basis of many melodies and variations in European
classical (and, for that matter, popular) music, especially
the hymn-like tunes and chorales beloved of Brahms.
When all else fails - philosophise!
Pope John Paul II said that
the only point of freedom is to seek the truth. He of course
believes in a single revealed truth, so the only point of freedom
is freedom to become a good Roman Catholic. Thus the man who
worked hard for 'liberation' of the Poles from 'communism' was
working for one (long-successful) moral and social totalitarianism
against another, merely-social, totalitarianism which quickly
is, of course, also totalitarian. It talks of 'universal human
rights' and other such noble-sounding inventions of the European
Enlightenment and later. But all that liberal secularism has
done is to whip up and unleash human greed upon the stricken
planet, in the very non-Enlightenment name of Progress. This
would never have happened otherwise.
Liberal secularism is, of course,
also a religion - though one denying that it is a religion.
And religions are manifestations of jealousy. The original Hebrew
of the First Mosaic Commandment states: "For I am your
Lord, and my name is Jealousy".
With the Enlightenment (and
Descartes' notorious conclusion that animals were mere machines,
had no souls and could not feel pain) came the greatest evil
ever to have befallen the planet - more malign than any religion
- the Industrial Revolution which first laid waste to Britain,
then the mindlessly-imitating world.
Perhaps the only good thing
about any religion is its ascetisicm.
concrete, from reservoirs, from the swimming-pools of the rich,
from the multi-million methane farts of cattle and pigs are
also poisoning the atmosphere. These are the real agents of
doom and destruction - and ordinary 'harmless' consumers are
terrorists almost as much as the capitalist greedy who feed
their ever-increasing greed by feeding the ever-increasing greed
of consumers like you and me, each of us drowning in his/her
own ego and throttling, trampling to dust the planet by sheer
weight of numbers.
The spider, with
a network of one, seems 'successful'.
'Satan' is the sum of all the
humans who have ever lived.
money is the devil's seed.
is not so long ago that heretics were burned alive and roads
were impassable for half of the year and famines were frequent
and a healthy human was hard to find.
I wish the worst for Man: for
what is 'good for' Man is very 'bad for' Earth.
I was surprised and pleased
today to learn that my dislike of Michelangelo was shared by
Mark Rothko (a painter I fully admire) and is shared by his
How many Buddhists care how
many boys were buggered in Tibet ?
At the end
of a news-bulletin this morning was the prediction that one
in four mammal species and one in eight bird species would 'soon
(I wish the worst for Man: for
what is 'good for' Man is very 'bad for' Earth.)
There is a very neat (but not
very honest) Cistercian
tag or motto:
I think that probably my life
has been determined and governed by my horror of control: of
being controlled (hence my loathing of hierarchies, teams, gangs
and organisations) and of controlling others (hence my "non-anomic"
solitude). This has led me to put myself outside the narratives
of family, ambition and rôle.
Note on global warming: snowdrops
are already peeping through the grass in my garden, while nasturtiums
are still in flower.
Last night I found myself falling
into a foamy whirlpool of oscillating cello triplets: the exciting
and warm jacuzzi of Debussy's string quartet. What is narrative
and what is reality ?
Capitalism is (amongst all the
other bad things) the systematic trivialisation of luxury.
Mad, driven people in our mad,
driven and driving culture are praised and fêted for spending
money, people, back-up and equipment on walking around Greenland
or around the world, rowing without legs across the Atlantic
or the Pacific, and other banal and novelistic acts of derring-do.
So driven are some by their own narrative that they even do
such things without back-up or money - though rarely without
publicity, for publicity gives credence to the narrative.
To choose no narrative is impossibly
beyond enlightenment, because enlightenment is narrative - as,
indeed, is God - and each of us has to live a moral life, and
morality is narrative. So beata solitudo has to incorporate
the Diogenean compromise: the narrative of contempt. This is
probably the least-bad narrative to live by: contempt for humans
and reverence for the non-human.
Our culture worships the extraordinary
in deed, while (out of sheer terror of thinking) it suppresses,
misrepresents or cheapens the extraordinary in thought.
I choose the opposite, Asiatic/Diogenean
kind of individualism: eschewing the very notion of achievement,
from the merely dynastic-testosteronal to the dizzyingly successful
in tabloid or historical terms, to have as little impact upon
the planet as I am able to - to have as little narrative (and
property which itself is narrative) as possible. I admire ruins
and love spiders. To deny achievement is, of course, also to
deny redemption and its secular offspring, progress, and this
is unthinkable anathema to the European mind. But I feel I need
to reduce the narratives from many and complex to few and simple.
What is narrative and what is reality ?
The admirable Oscar has memory
but not aspiration. Thus his life is not lived in, through or
by narrative, but honestly. And so it is invisible to
most human beings.
Most people even think that
television is a transparent medium. The thought that language
might not be transparent would never cross their minds.
All thinking is muddled. We
lurch between false clarity and false apprehensions of chaos.
We have abandoned philosophy and poetry for the novel - and
worse: the film and crippled narratives of television.
Money is, as I said, a bit like
pornography. Some love it, others don't, but the world is ruled
by it one way or another. The pornography of greed.
A reponse to Professor Laurie
Taylor, superb broadcaster on BBC's radio 4, who in his regular,
thoughtful sociology programme called Thinking Allowed
asked listeners to answer the question "When did you last
see your uncle".
Of my only two uncles, now long-dead, one was
a hostile doctor who treated me as a despicable 'pansy' (shibby
was the word he actually used), and the other was a hen-pecked
craftsman who thought me stuck-up because I was handless
and fled from Meccano sets and football-teams to books. The
only fathers I would like to have had are two handsome friends,
one of whom is almost young enough to be my grandson. He is
a terrible father.
So I'm glad that, a rape-child, I know absolutely
nothing about my father. Perhaps my greatest privilege is to
be fatherless. As for my mother's family I liked few of them,
especially the males mentioned above. But I liked old ladies,
friends of my grandmother, who were 'safe' and gave me buttered
toast, let me read books in front of the fire and hide under
tables draped with thick chenille cloths. So I never subscribed
to the narrative of Family, just as I never subscribed to (or
do I mean that I have never understood ?) the narratives of
hierarchy, authority or rôle. I have always had a horror
of being controlled and of controlling anything or anyone. The
terrorism of Normality. Dogs adore me. I love spiders, and being
Having coffined and buried my mother, and coffined
and burned (as filmed for BBC2) her sister in my own fashion,
according to my own sense of reverence considered eccentric
or even outrageous, I am very glad to say that I have no family.
I live alone in deeply-rural frugality, without "the
deep demoralisation of the microwave" or the more-deeply
demoralising television. I am definitely not a family man. I
have never locked my door in 20 years. I rarely take a bath
or shower. My largely-vegetarian dog is happy and healthy and,
being an object of respect rather than just an object or a piece
of living furniture, almost never on a leash. He is free to
come and go. He rounds up sheep very beautifully.
Thus the obscene time of year which is Christmas
I don't allow to touch me. It is a time when I get less mail
and spend even less money than usual.
For the desert saints and sadhus, the old men
on top of Chinese mountains who have never heard of Mao Tse-Tung
(as he used to be called), human society is the wilderness and
the desert has integrity. For the narrative of human structures
Unless I suffer some accident like a stroke
and have my old age medicalised and institutionalised beyond
my control, I shall, at an appropriate time, enclose myself
quietly in a plastic bag. My estate goes to a Donkey Sanctuary
- one of the less harmful charities. I shall be buried in an
acre of badger-blessed thicket for which permission has been
granted for my interment in a permanently-interrupted state
of Diogenean anomie. All nice and tidy without the sordid seepiness
of family and false sentiment.
Perhaps the obscene and never-stated
capitalist view of reality is the truest philosophy: there is
only gain and loss - all else is narrative padding. Thus money
is the supreme invention, both abstract and cataclysmic - and
people are (indeed everything in the world is) only its tools.
Why can't we face up to the
fact that life is just appalling, and we make it more so ? We
cling to the memory and the expectation of the few good moments,
and magnify them grotesquely.
We think of 'old age' in terms
of incapacity rather than the abyss of the burden of sadness.
Alzheimer's 'sufferers' have no recent past and no expectation.
They live in the moment. They are how we should be. (For other
species' good, at any rate!)
WHAT IS NOT SUFFERING IS
DENIAL OF SUFFERING.
Religion is the
politics of superstition.
Religions are just mad Theories of Everything, as totalitarian
and utilitarian as cookbooks. They deny the obvious: that blessings
are (if not imaginary) only temporary. Because we invented reason,
we need reasons to keep on living. So we have hope, and we invented
religion. But as I said earlier, perhaps the only good thing
about any religion is its ascetisicm.
I have made a grave error about
the internet, alias the world-wide web: I thought it
was ideal for the dissemination of thought, but, because of
the visual element, simply because of the screen, it is banal,
like television or pop music or self-referential modern jazz.
I don't understand why a book can receive serious attention
while a screen cannot. An internet screen is not a Talking Book,
but, if not a kind of comic-strip, then a kind of newspaper
page, hideously designed and utterly uninformative.
I think the printing
press was (like most inventions) unfortunate.
We ever more insanely
choke our hearts with information. Yet our whole culture is
designed to prevent most people from understanding how 'the
system' works (in constant favour of the powerful and against
emotional and economic, social self-sufficiency). Paradoxically,
our culture is a culture of ignorance - of everything except
Time to junk the
trivia of 'importance'. Time to empty my mind. Dive beneath
the thoughts into merciful, eternal blackness.
So the lone voice continues
wolfily in the wilderness - the only place to have any kind
of integrity. (Do not try to absorb this page on the screen,
out and read at an appropriate
time in an appropriate place.)
click for another photo
We have lost our
Guide (bestowed upon us miraculously by 'Guide Dogs for the
Over-conscious'). Our calm and jaunty psychopomp has disappeared
without a trace but our tears, which also disappear, as we will
deliquesce and melt into the earth where Oscar sometimes was
- our tangly badger-thicket which I named Brocks' Acre, some
15 kilometres from where I live and where he disappeared.
He ran up towards a single badger-sett
about 100 metres from my house (where he was wont to have a
ritual howl and bark) and had already been, as usual, briefly,
before breakfast. We hadn't gone for our morning walk in the
woods. I was raking out the ashes of the fire when he went off,
and a quarter of an hour later I called him, then whistled him,
and went to the gorse-patch where he usually howled, but there
was no sign or sound. He has simply disappeared. Could he have
gone to the country road about 500 metres away and been picked
up by a passing dog-lover or devil ? It seems incredible. But
all possibilities seem incredible.
Among vast galaxies of flaming
and we are falling
though the terrifying emptiness of Space
which is the only
Planning a double suicide, a
suicide pact, is both cheering, for it is the only true human
love, and challenging.
Joy is shallow,
Sadness is profound
And love a tiny hollow
In the trampled ground.
Lacking even the
ability (and youth) to go and help at a bonobo refuge or dog
shelter, or at IntiWaraYassi,
I am a failure as a member of a species which is an unmitigated
scourge upon the Earth.
Joy is a splash
above the depths of sadness.
Oscar was the most admirable
being I have ever known. He was my saving grace. If he is dead,
was his death worse than if we had left him to die from neglect
(malnutrition and hypothermia), six years ago, tied up on the
farm, desperately trying to avoid stepping in his own shit six
years ago ? If his present state is as unpleasant as it would
have been six years ago (his brother was simply - and typically
for rural Ireland - thrown on the rubbish heap after dying of
exposure) our 'act of mercy' was no act of mercy, but another
trick of the human Quantity Game. He lived six years longer,
but that is just quantity, just a statistic. Life is only desire
and consumption, not a quality. It is crap, washed away by the
And his present suffering may
be worse than what we saved him from. I learned today that collie-lurchers
like Oscar are often kidnapped and sold as hunting dogs - even
to England and France. Oscar looked like he was a good hunter,
but he was usually looking in the wrong direction and never
caught anything. So he may be tried as a hunting dog and then
dumped somewhere. The microchip which Oscar has embedded in
his neck can be read by machines which the police and dog-shelters
have. If he has been taken as a hunting dog and then dumped,
he could be traced to us with the microchip. But it is not very
likely...especially since he had been castrated and thus 'useless'
to rabbit-hunters, badger-baiters etc.
He is probably suffering much worse than we are, trapped between
our grief, our contempt for self-pity and our contempt for everything
One of the 20th century's great French writers,
Raymond Queneau (whose surname means little dog), refused
a literary prize because his dog, Dino, had just died.
The beauty of the amazing weather
only makes it worse.
The first time Oscar was invited
indoors (Malcolm was renting an annexe, built as a Granny-flat,
on a depressing concrete slum of a milk-and-potato farm) he
ran up the stairs and lay against the hot press, where he curled
up into a tiny ball and stayed there overnight, much to the
outrage of the unbendingly Christian, animal-hating farmers
next door. Who used to go into Malcolm's minute kitchen and
cook meat in his oven when he was away from the house, for they
had only a microwave in their own vast, sterile kitchen.
The first time he was taken
in a car, he retched and he shat and he quivered. We took him
to a forest. He quaked and trembled when he saw trees for the
first time. He quaked and trembled all the way back home. But
the next time we put him in the car he smiled, and did not retch
or shit, and jumped out and ran into the trees and was happy.
And respected. As he has been ever since, with us. Until now.
(Oh, I have lapsed into narrative again!)
Malcolm mercifully found another
house (a clapboard lodge among trees) and took Oscar with him
when he moved. Oscar was kidnapped. Yet not exactly - for I
had registered him with the local authority, and I was his official
(if not exactly legal) owner. The farmer would not have dreamed
of registering him (as required by law) - and they made no attempt
to reclaim him. We heard that they simply got another pup to
neglect. Neglect and abuse of the vulnerable is the human way
of life - and not just for the religious.
Oscar was a bandage on the wound
of my awareness, my local abatement of chaos.
In a few days there will be
pictures of Malcolm and Oscar in one paper, and a very visible
boxed advertisement in two others. Pictures of Oscar have been
posted in the public library and in supermarkets.
Love is more terrible even than
sex. It is hate which 'makes the world go round'.
The greatest lie we're told
and tell ourselves is that life is good - when it is only animated
'Gerald90' writes: "We
prey upon ourselves - because there are so few animals left
to prey upon. What a sublime fate befitting the arch-predator!"
Oh, the banality of 'A Love
How fed up I am with consuming.
Survivors are the hard of heart,
the living dead. I refuse to harden my heart. Better to die
by my own hand, honestly, and move on from the banality of suffering
to the dark magnificence of death.
In rural France - probably even
in beloved Rouergue - dogs are stolen and sold to laboratories
for vivisection and testing drugs.
What separates us from Nature
- the definition of Humanity - is malice aforethought.
Malice is our madness.
When people say that they are
devastated, do they mean that, like me, they wake up weeping
in the small hours of the morning ?
I certainly now realise the appropriateness of the colloquial
Every day is worse. (Entropy and the second law of thermodynamics.)
I find myself driven to clean
things, and keeping the radio on. Do people who clean their
houses all the time and have the radio on all the time suffer
from permanent grief and misery ?
Darning my socks,
I reflect that my life has been largely without ambition and
without goal this side of integrity. An icicle formed out of
O that the days and the nights would cease.
Life is stupidity starving and striving;
death is the infinite wisdom of peace.
Oscar was our teacher precisely
because a perfect being who was not a teacher - for all teachers
and teachings are likely to be false, no matter with how many
truths they bedeck themselves.
Sanskrit has 40 words for dog.
English has just one for love.
The revelation of the world
The task I set myself (why ?)
was (consumingly) to express the inexpressible, explain and
understand the nonsensical, even simply to deal with the outrageous
(or my own outrage).
But to try and tell big truth
(as opposed to lots of little discrete ones) without threading
and shrouding it with lies is pointless. Nobody wants to hear
or read what leads only to sanity, an intolerable condition.
Words speak me more than I speak words. What I have written
is unreadable. All that has resulted is the gurgling of despair
down the sink of my heart.
It is time to
a doomed gay correspondence >
is Sunday, May 29th: six months since Oscar's disappearance.
The bereavement does not diminish. This week I wept several
times a day, partly in self-pity of course, but mainly in
sympathy for whatever fate he suffered, and in commiseration
with all lost and unhappy dogs.
I hear Fauré's piano piece 'Dolly', the tears
pour down, because that piece of music sums up Oscar's openness
and jauntiness - and his depth as well. So I treasure it,
but can rarely play it - more able to deal with the less canine
arrangement by John Williams and Julian Bream for two guitars
- which they recorded Together with the wonderful second
movement of one of my (many) favourite pieces of chamber music:
Brahms' first string sextet.
Oscar was down a badger-hole, with only his tail sticking
out, he could not hear anything. How he actually died, filtered
slowly - very slowly - through some kind of incredulity-barrier
in my head.
horrible, bloated, wife-beating, Christian landlord,
who hates me but cannot evict me,
saw Oscar one morning go on his regular morning howl down
just 100 metres from my old, unrenovated farmhouse - The
House of the Four M's:
mildew, mould, mice and moths. Unfortunately that morning,
our departure for a romp through the woods, and Oscar trotted
off for another howl.
Stockdale & son had taken note that Oscar was virtually
blind and deaf while barking down a hole,
so all thye had to do was pull him out by the tail and pound
him to death
with the sledge-hammer they were using to bash in new fence-posts
How to get hold of Veterinary Nembutal (Sodium Pentobarbital)
the drug of ease that is used to slide dogs into eternal rest
is better than talking.
Grief is also celebration.
Even if I had a soul
why would I think it worth saving ?
They reduce the
'most important philosophical question' (the question of suicide)
to an act of desperation, or - worse - a cry for
help - in order to diminish and demean it. They are quick
to sympathise with friends and family, who are 'devastated'.
Thus, in a few trite phrases, they turn a selfless into a
selfish act - for selflessness cannot exist on its own transcendental
terms: it must be life-enhancing, and life must on
no account be considered an aberration or disease best cured
Many months later
and buoyed by the uplifting drug Duloxetine which I finally
discovered after considerable web-research, I eventually managed
to buy a house in Saint-Antonin
in the 'Noble Val', the only place where I feel authentic
- at least for a while. I couldn't resist this little old
town-house (four vaguely-triangular rooms on top of one another)
with its bowery stoop. Diverse forms of 'nature' (from wooded
riverbank to causse-maquis (scrub-oak, juniper, box etc. on
limestone karst) are two to four minutes' walk away in six
directions. It would have been no good for Oscar, not least
because of the horrible mobylettes that he would have
was very lucky to get this unusual, quirky house - already
rather well renovated. I was greatly helped by Dutch estate-agents
with whom I became friendly while I was looking for somewhere
to live. They knew exactly the sort of place I wanted - and
could afford. In the end, they waived their commission. I
now translate the descriptions of their houses into good English
as a thankyou.
global warming becomes more and more evident, air fares get
less and less, so I can fly from SW France to Dublin for £20;
or I can take a train to Paris for £25, stay overnight
there and catch a plane to Belfast for £25. So I can
shuttle back and forth to the Ulster Nomansland in the sordid
and increasingly-totalitarian UK for economic reasons - and
to be with Malcolm. The house is 16th and 17th century, four-storey,
stone and half-timbering, not a right angle to be seen - and
beautifully restored. Malcolm also uses the cheap air-fares
to visit. Oscar was never in Quercy, Rouergue or the Albigeois,
so the landscape there is not imbued for us with his spirit
- for which I still leave a water-bowl at the back door of
my unrestored and damp house here in Ireland. Sometimes a
fox or a badger will drink there.
who cares whether I forgive (for example, my murderous
not ? But for the record, I don't forgive human history, nor
my faceless father and his despoiling sperm.
may seem 'bad' that people die. Much worse is that we get
boys with Asperger's are the lucky ones. I wasted sixty years
trying to work people out and relate to them, but now
I've worked out that it's better with Asperger's...so now
I don't have very much to do with people apart from the mouthing
and smiling. There is certainly a touch of autism in my brain.
Now I shall start to discard my memory as I discarded friends
- or let memory drop me as friends did, and just read, and
listen to music and write poems that nobody reads (not even
I) and make music programmes for Malcolm.
I have painted some new and good pictures.
no longer feels so bad - now that I am not trapped there.
In fact the arrival of East Europeans and Middle Easterners
has improved the atmosphere. The religious bigotry has shrunk
to a few ghettoes. Police are rarely to be seen. The British
Army has left and the the whole of Ireland is rich and raging
with obscene consumerism.