- journal + blog

++ August 31, 2003

May Photojournal

Erm. Yes. A bit late with this. So, instead, please treat it as a review of the spring, when the weather was warming up instead of cooling down.

Photos are presented in chronological order.

First Row: condensation behind new grape leaves in the greenhouse creates an appealing array of patterns. electric green.

Second Row: two views of rapeseed, the second nearer to sunset. Driving around the East Anglian country has a view of bright green fields interspersed with these yellow so there is an emerald and gold patchwork horizon. Third and fourth pictures: rainwater cupped in young sedum leaves and splashed on aquilegia.

Third Row: A favoured oak on the way to Redgrave from a sitting-back-against-the-trunk-and-staring-at-the-clouds point of view. (in the header strip, this tree peeks up over the end of the path.) Two ducks in an aviary at Bury St. Edmunds Abbey gardens enjoy their own personal pool. The odd no's have it. More emerald and gold, but on one shrub in our garden; soon it will rust and then turn both pink and wine coloured.

Fourth row: A sunset through our front window, in the middle of a storm. Another sunset, bringing a rainbow (the evening heyoka flew out to the American deserts). The purple flowers of the Ceanothus become some dream smoke in the evening. A snap in a movie theater of Samuel Jackson walking up steps in a bank advertisement ends this month.

Above, again from the movie, just before the film (matrix 2) began, warning that evil people should not be taking pictures of the film, and other people should seek them out and beat them to a pulp.

I emerged unscathed.

++ July 23, 2003

800 X 600 Project

In some other blog somewhere, this project was mentioned a few months ago when it kicked off. A collage of 8 pictures by 8 pictures, on one subject. I liked the idea, and planned to contribute, mainly because I've been taking a lot of pictures lately of the garden, over time. So, immediately I thought of the Ornamental Rhubarb as a subject, which I've done.

My entry is presented in chronological order, from the beginning of April to the beginning of July, from the brown blob with red postules poking out, to the unfurling of its wide fronds and the obscene thrust of its spike (which in may grows eight feet in a week and a half), that spews out blood red seed. Snails and slugs chewed holes in the fronds, and, finally, piles of black aphids infested one of the spikes, causing us to hack it all down.

One of the great appeals of the plant for me is the shades and ranges of colours: all the greens from fresh grass to croaking toad, the reds from papercut to the brick of our house, purple bruise to baby elephant, orange fall leaves to discarded tool rust, and burgandy rainy day wine to watching the stars move wine. Some of the leaves seem to catch lightning fire in sunlight, or shimmer with electronic wire-frame fractal program static. Watching the flower spike grow in May, shooting up, last year, surprised us so we were wary that it might turn out to be a Triffid. It was only when I say a couple in the Bury St. Edmunds Abbey garden did we identify it and breathe a sigh of relief that it was a real thing.

I am tempted, as I often am, to make some sort of metaphorical comparison with life/the pursuit of happiness/seasons and this strange floral creature, but i refrain.

++ July 16, 2003

The Bee On The Crown

A bee rests on an Achillea head as a thunderstorm approaches. Yes, this picture should be all in bright yellow, but a tweak in the hue produced this sight, almost mirroring the roiling clouds above.

There were hoverflies, pollen beetles, mosquitoes and several bees all checking out this plant as a place of refuge. As I took pictures of them, a fly walked a crown's perimeter, only to be bitten by a fat green spider with a body like a melon leaping from the cage below and dragging it underneath, presumably to have its guts sucked out, as evidenced by another fly fallen down and caught in the achillea's leaves right below. A glance around the many other cages under the heads showed a few other spiders awaiting prey, and those free of predators filled with bugs taking refuge.

It was a hot day, the mugginess increasing until the cool rain after explosive thunder capped the afternoon. Over in the pond, a dragonfly is emerging from its chrysalis, something I don't remember ever seeing before.


There has been silence in this journal, for the most part as I'm working again, and thus feeling braindead at the end of the day, and too busy avoiding any responsibilities on weekends so that only the most essential of chores are done.

So that should mean that there are a wealth of pictures and tales to come and expect, and that, I'm sure, I can provide, in the moments stolen in between enjoying the warm sunny weather and the yellowing countryside. (first off will be the last few months of selected photos).


The title of this entry is inspired by The Book With No Name, a puzzle book by Kit Williams, in his follow-up to Masquerade. I really enjoyed both books. The first one was given to me by my paternal grandparents (who also gave me Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, with its green and red text. I don't know who advised them on such great presents. More on grandparents in a future entry). I spent many hours poring over the pictures and text, finding puzzles where they both were and were not. The librarian at my high school helped me out, dragging over maps of england, and various other bits and bobs I would ask for. I had finally broke through a few steps on the way, when he showed up one morning with a newspaper, and we shook our heads at the story of the man who found it when his dog pissed on a memorial stone.

The second book, where one had to find the title of the book, was even better. Glorious pictures with great diversions. It has several solutions. I regret to say, however, that I did not send mine in. Williams had asked for the solutions to be sent as puzzles themselves, and I got a bit lost, in my late teens, trying to get mine together. My puzzle idea was a group of wooden blocks, that, if deciphered Rebus style, would spell out the title of the book. Never really got beyond the doodling stage on that one. It's been a bit of a recurring thing, The Almost and Could Have Been, which sounds like a good name for an unfinished book. (SHIT! I have to finish my book! hmm... maybe if i retitle it...).

However, I have learned that having a lot of good ideas, even if you don't follow through on nine out of ten of them, is pretty good going for a life. If I couldn't think up great things, then there isn't anything great I could do. Yes, this does cause a lot of moments of anguish of despair, but the thrill of creating something out of nothing is worth it.

And I just realised, typing this, that maybe I should just make another puzzle for The Book With No Name and send it now, two decades later. That would give at least me, and possibly the author, as much pleasure as I had with his books long ago.

++ May 17, 2003

flashes of orange

It's the season of spectacular sunsets and cloudscapes, at least for me. When there's the yellow of the rapeseed fields in bloom and the new emerald green flash on the oak trees, with steel stormclouds behind, or those ubiquitous cotton balls rushing to fade the landscape. There are the inevitable sharp shafts of sunbeams, pinpointing some far-off possible treasure. I was sitting in a cafe's back garden, waiting as heyoka tried on bathing costumes (not for an aquatic masquerade party), and the clouds freeing sunlight let the pages of my paul theroux book glow like candlelight, so that the words on the page burned into my retina.

Keep finding the urge to go and document each and every sunset blast, when either the skies go magenta, or tinged with fire, or are banded with pastel mists. Instead, I just miss it, glancing out the window and being astounded, or driving back from somewhere without the camera. When I do plan on heading out, there's a bit of cloud on the horizon holding the colours back. Oh well.

above left, earlier this month, after an early evening taking pictures in a rapeseed field, we returned to go get movies at the next village's store, with the sky filled with fire.

On the right, a success during my many attempts to capture the fish in the pond in focus.

++ May 4, 2003

April Photojournal

I'm taking a lot more photos, tracking the changes in the garden and surroundings, or recording a little of what interests me. The above picture links to a new feature for the site, a journal told in pictures.

A little about the pictures...

Row One

New leaves and blossoms on our apple trees, progressively taken throughout the month. By the end of the month, about three-quarters of the petals have carpeted the lawn.

Row Two

A collection of tulips in one pot, on our back patio, again taken progressively. The petals had begun falling off by the end of april.

Row Three

We've had three red goldfish in the pond, about five inches long, since we moved in. They weren't very active, and we've been remiss in admiring them too much. This has changed with the addition of five shubunkens in the middle of the last month, one or maybe two pictured in a bag at the end of the row. Third in row is a bonus pic of one goldfish plus a waterskater or waterboatman. Now, we sit by the pond and watch the three goldfish frolic and play with their new friends. Tadpoles have appeared, and toads and frogs lurk among the reeds. All is well in the pond.

One or two more rows will be added, with details put in this journal entry. Any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to write.

Splashed across the front page

An encounter while soliciting wishes for the thousand cranes project led to my photo on the front page of one of the local papers, the Diss Express. The reporter had a photographer come over to our house, and I dutifully posed with a smile on my face, a crane or three in my hand, and a tan line halfway up my forehead.

Since I usually wear a beret, a few ungardenings in the sun had browned my face and hands. I'd decided to go capless for the pic, and in fact had been capless for a day or so, letting some sun feed my thinning hair (yeah yeah, like that's going to help). We'd thought that there would be some black and white pic inside under a cute community section, but no, The friday rolled around and there I was, in full colour with a brief bit about heyoka and I folding for peace.

Since our project really isn't fully formed, the article solidified a few plans, as in going down to the market that day. We also had to go an pick up my mother-in-law later, so I didn't have much time, and was on my own.

I'm actually quite shy about approaching people like this. See, I'm safer with a sort of mysterious writer beatnik smokey persona in a corner, with fabulous people surrounding me and thus making other people want to Be My Friend. This is not possible with the cranes project. I've got a clipboard in one hand, which may give the impression that I am canvassing for double glazed windows or parapalegic firemen. I also sport a goatee and a ponytail, which may give the impression that I am soliciting funds for a drum circle or legalisation of pot. Add the paper crane pinned to my shirt or coat, and I'm a walking Hazard Sign.

Anyway, that friday in the market was pretty much a bust, either due to my image, or the fact that I just walked up the first person I saw. After several rejections as I spluttered my intro-- "excuse me, do you have a minute?"-- I curled up into a corner of the street and watched people. Of course people don't have a minute; they're busy using their own spare minutes walking or sitting around.

There was also the reaction of 'it will make no difference in this wicked wicked world.' Which is fair enough. No, it won't make a damn bit of difference. But that doesn't mean one shouldn't make a few small ripple in the big big ocean, as one never knows. maybe. um.

Well, after watching a good friday ceremony, with a cross being rolled down to the mere, and songs sung off-key while a skateboarder drowned them out doing tricks nearby (a stern old lady shook her finder at him, and he shrugged his shoulders and waved his hands in a 'what? i'm just skating,lady!' manner), i started talking to a skinhead about this and that, his tattoos and why florida really isn't a dreamland. He signed a crane, and i left him to his glorious sunny day and i went off for my own rest of the day of feasts and being nice to the mother-in-law.

- - - -

My picture appeared again the following week, on the letters page to accompany a local 'the end is nigh' personality, who writes to the editor every week, this time penning a few sort of haikus. Still debating a reply.

And, subtly, we were in the paper this week, in the crimes pages, a mention of our planter stolen from outside our front door. I awoke lat sunday morning and, coffee brewing, went out for the paper and immediately noticed the large gap to the left. 'how very odd,' I thought. I walked around it. I tried moving our matching planter, which wouldn't budge. I scratched my head. I wandered down to the newsagent and noticed another doorway missing a planter, and the next one over missing a plant from one of a pair. and again a missing plant further up the street. Ours would have taken two, maybe three people to move. I hope they enjoy the hernia, an exotic plant with unfortunate side effects.

++ April 21, 2003


A Guided Walk

We went over to USAF Lakenheath last Sunday, to join in a vigil there and to 'walk the paths'. It was a two-fold event. First, on April 14 every year, a group walk the paths to commemorate a man called John Bugg, who campaigned for many years over a footpath through the base. After he died, locals commemorated him with the walk, also in honor for a student who died as a direct result of a bomb dropped in Libya flown from Lakenheath on April 14, 1986.

This particular footpath, on which walkers had to be excorted along, was closed again in 1999, and so people are walking the paths around it, much of it also closed following September 11, 2001. I joined a group, of mostly local demonstrators, that went along one side beginning at a brief Peace Camp (they'd stayed overnight in a field and strung a few 'Stop The War' banners high up in treetops) and ending at a heathland overlooking the base.

We immediately got lost, despite there being a detailed map in everyone's hands, and a few people who knew the inside of the base like the back of their hands.

We'd crossed a fallow field, careful not to step on lapwing eggs (one nest pictured above), and steering clear of five hares boxing and running mad circles. And then looked for our next path, which had disappeared, meant to be in between a disused church with barbed wire encircling it and a flint walled house with a lot of thin drooling dogs kennelled around it. This also was the area that two murdered schoolchildren were found last year, so we were itching to get away from the bleak place.

We asked a policeman for directions.

A pair or more of patrol cars followed us most of the way along the paths. At first it seemed they were just happening to appear down the road we'd be walking, or the other side of the field. Once we found our way through our lost bit (the palice had no idea, turned out the owner of the flint house had fenced off the usual path, and we found our way back on it, with the dogs ululating us on our way) we reached one edge of the base and paused at a bridge, watching the guards rumble by on motortrikes. A jeep showed up, and then a truck, and camo'd men had a huddle. A couple of us invited them to come over and talk, but we were ignored. Finally two policeman, one a constable and the other from MOD trudged down the fenceline to us and we exchanged pleasantries. As we mentioned we'd be on our way, they noted that the way along the perimeter of the base was rugh going with streams and such, as they'd just come. "No, no," we said, "we're taking the footpaths". And all along the way, they followed, slowly in their jeep, magically appearing down one dusty road or another.

Up on a heathland, called Primrose Hill, we overlooked the base, and one of the walkers explained what building did what. there are over 20,000 srvicemen at the base, and it is economically inclusive. No shopping or entertaining off base. It's damn ugly. But then, so is war.

Some nice bits around it, though, apart from the clay pigeon shooting farm.

++ April 10, 2003

1000 cranes project

heyoka and i have launched the thousand cranes project. click on above image to find out more (or go later to ).

Starting means, after a bit of planning and discussing, we now go out and talk to people about peace. It means we, er, actually approach people, and ask them to write the word 'peace' on a square sheet of paper. Then we promise to fold them into cranes. And we get other people to do this too.

The idea came from our wondering about ways to broadcast people's wish for peace. we have both been marching in London, attending some vigils, and talking to activists in the area. Pictures of the masses of marchers on Feb. 15 went around the world, and covered the front pages of the national newspapers. We were also marching in representation of other people who couldn't attend the marches. We decided to use another way to represent these millions of people, and the thousand cranes idea fit.

First, there is a tradition of folding a thousand cranes for peace, which people all over the world have done since the 1950s.

Adding to the tradition, the word 'peace' personally written by a thousand different people will show that there is a movement out there, represented by more than the marchers. It will take these people less time to write the word than to write to their MP, or their local newspaper, but it wuld show that these people probably would be more vocal if asked or encouraged.

It starts a conversation, that could start a thousand more. It means I have to practice what i preach: if I believe that my government should always strive for nonviolent solutions to word problems, then I should find how I can play my part in it. I can do this by talking to people about it, and trying to have an informed response to any argument for violent actions.

Part of the Stop The War Movement has been gathering various other organisations together. From the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament to the Socialist Workers Party to the Stuckists and the Slacker Generation, all were marching for peace. The 1000 Cranes project is the same, taking all people who want peace together.

The great thing about folding cranes is that it can be done during slack time: while watching a movie, listening to the radio, going over the newspaper, even in the bath. Once you get the process down, it's almost second nature. The folds don't have to be perfect: wonky cranes have more character than precision cranes. So really, the only 'work' is talking to people, which isn't too hard, is it.

Well, I do have a lot of trepidition about that. I remember the 'first' gulf war, and how opinion was divided between 'dude, like, no blood for oil!' and 'Love it or leave it, peaceniks!'. There was very little discussion about the why and effects, about what was truth and what was propaganda, about ways to stop dictators and superpowers without a hell of a lot of innocent people killed.

I have fears that this war-- which is illegal, deadly and bloody-- will spawn more. Because, since there were people who were silent, the US and the UK feel they got away with it. I was too silent when Afghanistan was bombed. Not enough of us said, 'no'. And we need more people to realise they have a voice, instead of letting the ones with the bigger guns get away with murder.

When America and Britain started up their campaign in Afghanistan, I spent my energy growling at the newspaper. Ranting and raving to heyoka, who ranted and raved the same things back. We've been doing the same in the past few months, but also started being more active about it, contacting the local Stop The War group and attending their meetings and vigils. Now, instead of preaching to the converted, we will find out if there are more people who want peace instead of war.

Maybe this project won't work. Maybe it's the wrong approach. But we have to try. I don't like feeling as if I've stood by without standing up to be counted.

++ April 7, 2003


Durn cute pictures of the cats

Finally getting around to updating some photographs. So now, secret link in the home photos section of this site to a collection of images of our cats, zot and kitsune.

I would suppose that showing pictures of one's cats is the same as telling people about your dreams: it's only really interesting to yourself. However, we've had quite a few guests who are rather taken with one or the both of them, so these are as much to gratify them as for my own reminder that when the cats are pestering the heck out of me that they can also be cute as all get out.

Above pictures of zot's shadow on a door taken a several mornings ago, and i was going to use them to illustrate a visit to the movies, in a barn, then i got sidetracked. As usual. Anyway, the movie was Brother From Another Planet (ET with a black man, only made before ET was. Excellent John Sayles film, who makes an appearance-- along with the blind guy in Sneakers-- as one of the Men In Black) and the barn was in a nearby village.

I'd kept seeing posters for very excellent films being shown there (including one of my most favourite, Afterlife) and would always tell myself, 'yeah, go see a movie in a barn!' and then forget about it until the day after the monthly showings. So this last time, heyoka and I popped into the Diss cafe, The Angel, and ran into a bunch of the Stop The War folks. One of them helps run the cafe, and also-- what a coincidence!-- turned out to run the movies at the barn. Literally: he's the projectionist. After we traded old projectionist horror stories-- films splitting down the middle, or spooling out on the floor, or not showing up at all-- I pledged to go, and had a marvelous time. The barn was small and cosy and filled with moviegoers. The screen was A couple of a1 cardstock sheets taped over books shelves. The 16mm projector had a dim bulb, but quickly switched to another for a very fine viewing.

Damn, but this living in the country has many small pleasures.

++ April 1, 2003

April is the Foolish Month

I was tempted to wake heyoka up with some tale that war had stopped, the world had come together for peace and goodwill, and penguins were spotted falling backwards in the shape of the CND symbol for planes flying overhead.

But, no. I refrained.

It was a nice thought, though.

++ March 26, 2003

Whorled piece and shadow

Yesterday, I was reading this, by george monbiot, who writes a weekly opinion article in The Guardian. It's a response to all the cries of Iraq's violations of the Geneva convention by parading POW's in front of Iraqi TV a few days ago. There's the obvious reaction here, of Guantanamo Bay and Camp X-ray's humiliation, and Monbiot clearly goes through point by point how that it a much more horrendous, and still continuing violation of the same international law. And then he describes the massacre of hundreds to thousands of Taliban soldiers and Pashtun civilians rounded up in trucks by the Northern Alliance and machine gunned as they asphyxiated, with US special forces watching later, as they dumped the surviving amid the dead in a ditch, with anything-- no, i mean anyone-- moving shot.

As I read through this, I wept, a shuddering few minutes of breath heaving and eyes tearing. I suppose part of this was from learning of this atrocity, and another part was all the other news just bulding up to a need to release all the anger and sorrow and confusion that is building and building.

Mostly, however, it was giving vent to my fear that all my suspicions and worries are as true as I'd felt all along about this war. That there are people who will get away with murder, as they have in Afghanistan, in Kosovo, in Iraq the last time around. That there are people who will misuse the power given them and there is nothing I can do about it accept recognise who would do so, and mistrust them, and who would be honourable, and trust them. That if I need to cry, to cry, if i need to be angry, be angry, and if i need to take action, take action.

Feeling twisted and turned. Wrung out to dry. Led this way and that. Coiled to spring. But in spite of the dizziness, at the core is a hope and a determination not to lose it.

++ March 24, 2003

Underfoot and Overhead

Again, a sunny day's stroll through London, with a few hundred thousand less people than a month ago. But it wasn't just a dozen scruffy hippies hanging around a skip with a dog, but, police estimate, over 200,000.

Although Diss brought 150 people down last time, only 20 hopped on the coaches from Norwich in the chilly morning hours. There had been debate from some of the organisers whether to even go this time, wondering what was the point. I guess I can understand this, as the news broadcasts and reporting overwhelms me with both depresson, anger and helplessness. However, some activists are claiming that the recent protests are a defining reason why the armed forces are now strategising this to do their best to avoid harming Iraqi Civilians. Maybe this is all bullshit, especially as I hear of a bus from Syria being hit by a missile, and children in Bagdad getting half their heads blown off. Maybe their strategy is to try to not blow as much shit up so there won't be a big bill when rebuilding the 52nd State. Maybe we aren't making a difference. Maybe I'm disillusioned. But it's important to try to find the small positive things, have some hope for the future, that more governments will strive for peaceful solutions to conflict, that more Americans will call for their government to hold back its might and its own weapons of mass distruction.

At the same time I'm frightened and appalled by this world, in which a world power just says, 'Right, Fuck you, We'll invade this country because we can. And you can't do anything about it. Thanks for buying American!'

It's times like this that make me lose comprehension, focus, and sense.


I found myself smiling at the various signs and placards on this march. There were many of the flavour above, poking at Bush and Blair, mostly at the idea of Bush the idiot. Pictures of Bush holding binoculars with their caps still on, as Hitler, as Dumbo dropping missiles with a Warner Bros. cartoon 'Th-th-that's Oil, Folks' caption (really strange combination, that), as a monkey throwing missile shaped feces. So very easy to make fun of Bush and Blair. In fact, that's usually my first reaction to world events, make a joke about it.

And smiling at the dogs and children calmly going with us. Some of the kids were even sleeping.

Yet I felt increasingly unhappy as we marched, mostly at the fact of marching again, for this reason, that the unthinkable yet inevitable was happening.

I appreciate my freedom to express myself, even though that freedom is curtailed here (In the UK, people can only assemble with the permission of the police). I am truly truly grateful for the relatively free health care available to me here, although this service is riddled with the rot of poor funding and ever slower response. I find solace in being able to discuss my views with many people of like political worries, but these seem few and far between those who either don't want to talk about it, or refuse to agree to disagree.

I feel that these freedoms are being more and more curtailed. That my governments are becoming even more and more blind to the needs and happiness of their citizens. And I hope its citizens fight against it.


Above left, one among many messages written in chalk on a pathway in Hyde Park.

Yesterday I read a reference tothis, also referenced here (er, I think), wherein people were arrested for either chalking 'Stop the War' on a building, or carrying chalk.


Not spraypaint. Not animal blood. Or even a sharp instrument that could also be used as a weapon. the last I could possibly understand.

But good old chalk.

I've got chalk.

I'm going to find out how the UK feels about things written in chalk.

(In the search about the chalk incident linked above, i found this, about a person in my old hometown of Santa Cruz, California, arrested for writing on the sidewalk last year. I'm not really surprised, this coming from a city that once arrested people for sitting on the sidewalk. Or for standing around. Or for putting change in parking meters.)

++ March 19, 2003

Dipping Into Dappled
or Paws for the Sun

Sorry about that title.

No. Really. Sorry.




Spent what seemed a few hours today-- but was only a thirty minutes or so-- sitting on our bench, blowing bubbles, smoking, sipping coffee, watching the cats, listening to heyoka scrub pots.

I'd brushed down the patio space yesterday of the built-up algae grime that seems to accumulate too quickly. A good workout, and worth the effort as the water dries off and the clean stone emerges. the cat that is called kitsune above had the right idea today of lounging just out of the warm sun for a few moments. He moves all about the garden. sometimes in a lawn chair, sometimes by the pond, sometimes right behind me, sometimes under a shrub almost but not quite hidden from the bird feeder, sometimes right in front of me, sometimes on the back gate steps, sometimes rolled on his back in a pile of dried cuttings. The garden is his playground, lounge, litter tray (alas), and possible hunting ground.

The other cat that is instead called zot has been refusing to go outside much, choosing instead to snooze under the duvet most of the day. Today we turfed her out, and she grumped around, hunching by the pond in the hopes a goldfish would just hop right out into her paws, or down on the bench by the back door, half in the sun, half out, waiting for us to let back in for her all day nap.

In between more weeding of the infernal unidentified hell weed, I took pictures of entwined things and dead dried things and the cats and the budding fruit trees, feeling all artistic-like and creatively productive. Basically, it's just an avoidance tactic to keep me from swearing at the weeds.


Disaster update: Boiler fixed. Just needed the line bled, but I didn't have the tools to do so. Now that I actually am living in what should be our permanent home (provided I, um, get some work to, um, pay the mortgage), perhaps I should have a proper set of tools. Like a long handled phillips screwdriver to open the case on the boiler to get to where one bleeds the line.

Now waiting for next disaster.


Fascinating fact read in newspaper today: A statistician in Tranent, East Lothian gave birth to a daughter on 1.2.03 at 4.50 am, weighing 6 pounds and 7 ounces. Right on!

++ March 17, 2003

Bleary vision

A week or so under a filthy head cold. One that started as a horrendous headache, body ache, the type that makes one think-- well, one like me-- that there's a good old brain tumour revving up and these are the last days. This thought was underscored with my difficulty in getting crosswords done in the morning.

I hate this. Not finding the words for things, when they are right under your nose. Clues that seem so obscure and once the word comes, there it is, obvious as anything. I've taken to starting one, leaving the rest for heyoka, who fills out a few more, plus corrects all my wrongs ones (I have a habit of assuming a clue is a sentence to be finished. "6 Across: Rubbish, to some. ok, Dinner, to others!"), and later in the evening I pick it up and try to finish them. Still, I look at trying the crosswords as trying to keep my mind exercising.

So the head thing moved from cold fevers to a proper cement headed phlegm hacking cough, keeping me up at night and leaving me with a headache all day.

This coupled with driving to and from Cambridge while heyoka was in hospial again left me a tired, bleary creature. One night, a rain and wind combined into white ghost flurries that blinded the road, with the veritable sheets rushing off sides of trucks to limit visibility and put skidding rivers under tires. Arriving home, however, the sky was clear with bright stars.

But, on the mend, apart from brief forays into coughing my lungs up.


Above, the poplar tree, taken through a frosted morning view in the greenhouse

Growing pains

Still ungardening.

Mostly digging out some evil weed we still haven't identified, except as something ugly and wrong and gets everywhere. It's a green thistlish frondy beast, with small blue flowers that i'm probably allergic to. In the area over by the Great Thing Containing The Heating Oil last year I'd uprooted hundred of em last year, wrenching out huge horizontal taproots. 'There, ya bastard, that's you gone.' A couple months later, a bunch more came up. The old adage about 'One year's seeding, umpteen ages weeding'? It's damn true. So last autumn heyoka weeded the same area, and over winter, sure enough, more came up. So I've taken a spade and thoroughly dug through the whole area, fingering through to get all the roots, as I've discovered any tiny little scrap of root will send more up, as well as the seeded stuff. Sometimes I would even try to keep any of the leafy bits from being buried, in the superstitious thought that even this would send more of the damn things growing, in some even more difficult to uproot form. The weed grows up even in between bricks, and there is some in the walls. I may have to break out a flame thrower.

Combined with the hell that is bindweed, the ungardening struggle is a strenuous day's work, as I've discovered that bindweed's roots also grow deep and windy. I did like seeing the dried bits of this entwined around the branches and twigs of other things. And the thought of this stuff, growing so fast, snaking through grass and up and around things, wrapping them close together, like some invisible cowboy lassoing an errant plant ('Whoa there, little asphodel critter!') --this also gives me a littel pleasure. But, no, the stuff must now have no place in my garden, as again I've learned that once it grabs hold, it is just that much more difficult to get rid of.

I weed and weed, filling buckets that fill bags that get taken to the dump and then start filling them all over.

heyoka has been sowing seeds in the greenhouse, and scrubbing clean some of our myriad pots, of which two are pictured above. I wonder if we could trade chores?


The last of our iron guttering decided to fall apart a few weeks ago. One corner was hanging down by what must have been an extremely strong cobweb. So I called up a probably more expensive than should be guttering type person, who replaced it with that much more sturdy plastic stuff. Along the way, he took a few chunks of plaster out of our wall, shrugged and replastered it.

So that was one disaster solved.

The same day, another disaster was solved: our running out of heating oil. I keep forgetting to check it correctly. There's a little nozzle to pull out that evens an indicator line out to show what's left. When I did this the other day, the amount sank down to nothing. Whoops. But the oil supplying people delivered the next day, so we had our oven, our hot water, and... uh.

New disaster: the boiler for the central hating not firing. And no reply from boiler servicing type people. And it's damn cold out. So, before this disaster is solved, we light big fires in the stove. Fill hot water bottles for the bed. And shiver.

One thing after another after another.

++ March 2, 2003

Some day my prints will come

A misty morning rush down to london last Sunday. heyoka had a seminar to attend and-- Surprise Surprise!-- the trains were buggered. So we jaunted across, coursing along the road from countryside to urban sprawl. Timing wasn't bad. The haze of the morning bleared pinkish orange and then smoked to a grey drizzle, clearing as we reached the destination in Islington. Took longer to find the parking lot than it did to get across London. We split up and I headed across town, taking the Northern Line up a couple of stations, and then down a couple (I love this split up wacked out Line.) to get out at Goodge Street and down the road with a cup of coffee to the British Museum, parking in the Great court with a newspaper for a while, listening to the preparatory echoes and others arriving in the relatively still early morning.

There is an exhibition of Albrecht Durer prints on, so I picked up a ticket to it and wandered about for a bit, thinking it was over in the old king's library. Upstairs by the Sutton Hoo exhibit, noted there was no mention of the new museum opened last year in Sutton Hoo. Anyway, got lost, until I realised that, gee, the exhibit must be in the exhibit rooms across the way from the Rosetta Stone.

Once inside, I spent a good two hours plus looking at the prints. I got fascinated by little bits of humour in his prints.

Adam and Eve are doing that sharing an apple thing in one print. Eve holds out an apple while palming another behind her. In the forest around them a splayfooted elk passes by, and, in the upper right corner, atop a little mountain peak, perches a tiny mountain goat.

In his Large Passion, in the Arrest of Christ print, there's a whole big serious soldiers lugging Christ down from the mount of olives; in a field in the background, a knight chases a maiden! In The crucifixion print, a soldier's horse exposes it's butt and hanging balls to the viewer. In Descending into Limbo there are some excellently silly hell monsters; one blows a horn that waves a flag. In The Falggellation, in the foreground is a scruffy doggy, almost like that in Van Eyck's Arnolfini Portrait. It's a raggy thing, with fluffy bangs and a skinny body, and reappears in his Life of a Virgin: Visitation.

Durer's Jerome pictures are lovely. He had one in color with a sort of evil looking lion, but St. Jerome seated near a Pollard Willow the lion is much nicer, done in drypoint so looking very furry. I really admired St. Jerome in his Study. There's a sense of great comfort. The lion is all curled up, witha little dog curled next to him. Sunlight filters through a window, and there is a wood ceiling with all it's knotty detail. And Jerome is just hanging out, reading. There was a comparison picture by Lucas Van Leydon, which has the lion licking St. Jerome's toes!

Durer's most famous work is The rhinoceros, and there were plenty of knock-offs, including a 'real depiction fo a rhino fighting an elephant', with the rhino taken straight from Durer's fantastic print. I like the fact that this representation of an armored rhino will probably be the most definitive image of one.

After the exhibition, I went down the way towards the cafe (which had a Durer inspired menu: um not rhino, but some trout and potatoes) where Durer's Triumphal arch hangs. It's big. Bigger than a King sixed mattress, and perhaps the largest woodblock print ever, taking almost 200 different blocks to form. It's brilliant. (the above links go to the british museum's object site. a search for the arch will bring up a page where you can look at various sections of the picture.)

I wandered down towards Soho afterwards (giving more dierctions to people trying to find the museum along the way), to get some grub in. At Amato, the manager was just leaving, and gave me a hello. As I hadn't been there in, oh, two years, the welcome made me feel good.

Nice to feel that, although I've left the big City, it misses me a little.

++ February 16, 2003

Everyone loves a parade

On the stroll around London. Took the long way, five hours from Blackfriars Bridge to Hyde Park, via Embankment, Whitehall, and Piccadilly, with a couple ofstops, the first in front of Monty, across the way from 10 Downing Street, where the above pic was taken, a brief sampling of the well over a million other people making London just that bit more congested.

A few things that delighted me, besides the obvious overwhelming pleasure that there were so many many people there: First was that this wasn't just one type of people gathering. Yes, there were the peace-niks and the little old Quaker ladies. But equally there were the young, the middle and the old, of every sort. There were people obviously there to call attention to their own self-styled cleverness. ('No, I don't want to buy a whistle' one guy's placard read. 'The only Bush I trust is my own.' grinned a stoner chick's banner. 'We're only here for the PARTY' tittered two girls, sign-- and yes, they were tittering and tottering under it.) And there were people with dogs, with their children, with their mobiles saying 'IT'S SO INSPIRING-- WHAT?'

I found myself trying to have a conversation with a friend way back in line. Actually, he was just on the next street over, but still had to wind around below Big Ben to reach us. We were trying to wait up for him, and failing. At one point I heard a rush of noise from his end, echoed down the road, and then rushing along the march up to us and then further down. I dubbed this noise an 'aural wave'. The first time I heard it I shivered down to my toes. Just a rumbling into the roar, as people around hear it coming and begin shouting, blowing whistles, ululating, drum playing. Sometimes, it would come from behind and meet one coming from the front of the march and collide, singing the ears. Later, as we chilled over in Green Park for a few, the sound of the waves was still invigorating, being just outside it and both seeing and hearing it move up and down the march.

The march was a glorious peaceful statement, a maelstrom of unity.

The last peace march I was in was a dozen years ago, in San Francisco, again protesting a war in Iraq. That march was a personal reiteration that I wasn't alone in my questioning and misgiving. Over in Santa Cruz, I'd gone to a few candlelight vigils at the Town Clock. There were a couple of dozen of us, shivering, being taunted by people driving by. Up in the City, the couple hundred thousand of other marchers helped me not feel so isolated.

This time around, the same, only grown exponentially. Instead of feeling more and more helpless about inevitability, I feel that, yes, I have made myself known, that I say 'NO' to conflict, NO to war, NO to being complacent.


Later, we stood around under Marble Arch, waiting for our coaches home. As we'd expected, they were late. A group of the Diss marchers had brought drums, and set to work providing a rythm for our frozen tired feet. We grooved. Eventually, this wasn't enough to keep us warm, so some placards were broken up and a nice little fire started by a little kid.

Under Marble Arch.

With 3000 police in the area.

We warmed ourselves for a while. About 20 minutes later a group of police arrived and scattered the fire, mumbling criminal damage. A fire truck arrived, the fireman took one look at it, laughed and went away. Severla minutes later, an old man peered around, and tossed a crumbled lunch bag on the coals. Then a few more sticks. And a few more.

When we finally climbed aboard our coaches 45 minutes later, the fire was still going strong.

++ February 14, 2003

florid and twigged

Picture above left taken six months ago, and on the right, the same taken yesterday.

Ungardening the past few days, trimming back last year's growth. clearing a mound of withered grape vines and tomato plants from the greenhouse, uprooting persistant weedy things in the garden, mopping off algea from the patios.

The labour feels good, with a sense of purpose, although all around me is in ruin, knowing that with persistence, it will grow through spring into another jungle of delights.

Tomorrow, we head down to London for what looks like a very large peace demo. We've kept meaning to go to these and, for some decent reason or another, put it off. A couple of weks ago we deicded, 'right, can't put it off, have to go to this thing.' Again, although part of the process seems bothersome, there's also a sense of purpose, that if i didn't go, then i would continue having a feeling of no purpose, that I must make a statement by putting by body in a place that sends a message: I am here, this is what I feel.

I keep feeling angry and find myself shouting back at the radio or growling at a newspaper. This is all in the comfort of my home. So, what is really just a small bit of effort --ride a coach down to London, walk around for a few hours, ride back-- makes me feel like I'm actually doing something.

Turns out there's three fully booked coaches going from Diss down to the demo. Pretty good to think about.

++ February 8, 2003

Chill out session

Last week a cold snap meant our entire area closed down for a day, with cars and trucks on the highways stranded for, oh, the whole day. It never fails to amuse me. A few inches of snow and it's chaos. In this case, the Roads folks had a week or so warning to grit the roads, which they seemd to have forgotten to do and thus, shutdown.

Above, a view across the street from the bedroom during the heavy weather, which looks like it was altered via photoshop filters, but, no, what you see is what I took.

Nothing for you here

Terribly exciting news in the village. Last wednesday, the new Co-op store opened over in Rickinghall. The old one was a little square box with towering shelves packed full of things one might just need in an emergency, but more than likely just out when one actually needed them. I mostly went there to pay the stupidity tax.

There was a flyer in one of the papers the other day, advertising the opening of the new store, a 'Co-op Local'. With the statement (used twice!) that it was 'A local shop for local people.' This is unfortunate, as it is a catchphrase from the comedy show League of Gentlemen. In the show, the very ugly and scarytoothed shopkeeper follows the above phrase with 'There's nothing for you here!'

So, with a little trepidation, on wednesday night i headed down to the shop with a collection of three items to fill out the ingredients for a potentially delicious pasta salad. These items, in the order of difficulty that we thought could be available in the new store were: two bulbs of garlic, one bottle of black olives and a bag of pine nuts. The first we thought there would be a good chance, if not sold out. The second was usually only available around Christmas time in the old store. The third was just a laugh.

The new store has a paved parking lot, a lovely view over the back fields of the village, and-- Gasp!-- automatic doors! First item easily found on arrival in a pleasant vegetable display. Small bakery noted as I turn down an aisle to find the second item, although in only a small portion. A first gander in a spices section didn't bring the third to light, nor a second. As I wandered around the relatvely spacious store, I realised that it probably won't be necessary for me to drive the seven miles into Diss any more for most of my shopping, as this place had it. From various pastas to cooking chocolate, and cold beer and haagen-daas ice cream, the back of my mind envisioned never leaving the comforts of the village as it ticked off various nessecities. People positively promenaded about, cooing to each other and stroking their basket full of delights.

It took several minutes of scanning shelves, but item number three, the pine nuts, was found. Hurrah! Returned home to interjections of disbelief until I displayed the solid truth.

We also decided that we should continue to go there after various obscure items, mainly for the fact that in the early days, the men in suits in the back room (a pair were wandering the shop with clipboards) would be keeping an eye on what was actually bought from what was stocked.


The only sour point of the Trip To The New Shop was seeing the large quantity of newspaper and magazines they now sell. Before, there was a sort of unstated agreement with the newsagent not to carry any, but now all gloves are off. So, when the following morning, was too late for my paper to be available at the paper shop, I stumbled down to the co-op and bought one there, skulking shamefacedly past the paper shop on the way back.