Farming the Battleground

Please my feathered friends, take a seat and join me at my table.  I have put out extra plates, cutlery and cups so that we may drink to our health and continued friendship.  It is true that I have partaken in eating your brethren, please let us raise our glasses to your forgone cousins, brothers and sisters, but I shall dare say that if you had the chance to peck at my deceased body you would too, would you not?  Ah ha, a shifting of the eyes and a quick nod of the beak!

But we are not here to debate such a delicate ethical matter are we!  No, no, such matters of the higher order can be cast aside for today, for this is instead a more mundane meeting of the species.  An exchange of information no more and no less.  Please, have another glass of wine, let your fingers wrap around the stem and your nose smell the lush fruit of warmer climes.  Isn’t it funny how our senses can move us so quickly, how our imagination can cast aside reality for the landscapes of our dreams?  Ah good, you are all enjoying the wine!

I am ahead of myself, please forgive me, eat some of the home-baked bread, baked by my wife, no less, just yesterday!  Can you see how moist the crumb is and how it crumbles at the slightest provocation?  It is a most delightful treat when jam has been spread across a thick slice, goes down a cinch with a warm cup of coffee you know!

Yes, yes, we shall have coffees after our main course and after a few more bottles of wine or so.  There is no rush to complete today’s meeting and, as you know, I have already talked to the head raven.  He is fine in realizing the deal that we have, that I shall pass on what I can as and when I come across it.  You know, of course, that this may be some time as the wars of men are fought differently to the battles of survival that we ourselves fight.  Ho!  Those beastly metallic traps clunking across the soil, those wooden fire sticks bursting forth nothing but pain and death . . .  What a world we have inherited, make no mistake!

But still, we can farm our own foods from this mess, we can survive and I believe that we can indeed thrive in this matter.  It will take some tricks, yes it will, but we can do it.

Don’t give me that look old coop master!  I have seen that look before and I have vanquished it too, so be aware of old man Kerensky!  Sure I may lecture you from the pulpit, but I have been on my share of the battlegrounds as and I will again serve my feathered friends whilst the great nations who rule over us become mired in their bog of war!  Now, let me get my maps to show you where I think it is best to hunt for our treasure.

There is life in the old dog yet you know . . .

Full of Fire: Part 3

(Part 1Part 2)

She never regretted moving to this flat.  It was her bolt hole in this fast paced city, a place where she could flutter and eventually fly free of her parents, beloved though they were.  In fact, they were the reason why she had moved to the city.  She couldn’t quite face looking into their eyes once Robert had been to visit her at the parent’s house.  If they had known of all of the positions that they had made love in then her cheeks would be forever burnished, matching only those of rosy fresh apples.  No, much better that she had moved away to a swanky new flat with him instead, free to both explore their love and to allow their careers to take a foothold upon the employment ladder in their chosen fields.

The flat wasn’t really swanky in all honesty.  Sometimes, especially after a heated remark or two, it could feel like a shoe box and one that she yearned to escape.  It was at times like those that she felt she could happily return to her parent’s house, to become engulfed once again in their loving embrace.  But she realized that this would never happen again, she had flown the coop and would not return to live there in this lifetime.  She visited, from time to time, and had hosted her mother and father in her adopted city, but they would not meaningfully live side by side again.

Robert was her immediate family now, her lover and confidant, her romancer and family man.  Her father wrote often though, kept the familial bonds strong and she wrote back as often as she could, though writing was not her forte and clearly her path in life was not to follow her father.  She loved his letters though, decorated as they were with doodles on each page.  The notes on his latest writing project filled her with hope for her father and his health, as she often mistakenly equated the health of his imagination with the health of his ailing body.  Her mother sometimes added a page or two of notes as well, updated her on school crushes and old boyfriends.  It was these tidbits from her mother that she really enjoyed, kept her in the loop of small town life and let her feel guilt-free pangs of happiness.  In this raging city of 24/7 access, it was grounding to know that life continued as much as it ever had in other parts of the country, parts that the creeping suburbia of the city hadn’t yet reached.

The illness unhinged her for a while though, the images of her father spraying droplets of blood was not something that she wanted to think about, neither was the fact that her parents were indeed mortal and not immortal, as a childish version of her thought still.  Her foundation of independence had just become solidified yet it felt like even as she started to make her mark on the world, the world had started to shake the rock that she built her life upon.

In all honesty she tried not to think about the condition slowly taking over her father’s life.  To put death at a distance and to keep love close.  That was her motto, though she could never think of the words to articulate it, it was how she lived her live in the shadow of her parent’s slow, earthly demise.  Her father would probably be writing a poem at this very moment and she could just picture it, his pen gliding across the paper in what would seem to be a well-rehearsed manner.  The words would flow, the inconvertible truth that this man was born to give a voice to his generation would be undeniable.

In her darkest moments, sometimes the ones that followed the passionate lovemaking sessions with Robert where she lay in quiet repose resting, the thoughts would intrude into her mind like unbidden shards of shattered glass.  He would be remembered by the many, not by the few.

It would not be long now.

Dreaming in the Winter

Taking turns to sleep, taking turns to keep watch.  I wonder what my life could have been like if I changed just one of a thousand choices.  Would I still be alive?  Would I be living in a different country?  Would I still be as thankful as I am now for what I have got, or would I be hungry for more, oh so much more.

Taking turns to keep watch, taking turns to sleep.  Does she know just what I’ve done for her, even as I keep scanning the horizon, searching for the ever present threat of a life in the balance.  Would he still be dead?  Would I still be living in this country?  I’ll keep my watch, I’ll keep my silence.

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Photograph by the author using a Pentax Super ME camera and Lomography Lady Grey film. If used elsewhere please credit as appropriate.

Blue is the Dream

Blue is the colour of my dreams, the inside and the outside worlds tilting but never quite fully falling over.  The flutter of the leaves in the wind and the beauty of the sky’s colours urged me to look up, to embrace the vast emptiness of existence.  No comfort was found, history meaning nothing to the future, but no comfort was needed.  It wasn’t that life is on a constant knife-edge of imbalance, when is it not?, but the fact that I could embrace the now, the cold comfort of the wind and the cawing of the birds as my own.  Distinctly my own, this moment and nothing more.  That nothing, or rather no moment, truly mattered or matters in the great cosmic life course of universal matter.  We were born and we will die, from whence we began we will return.

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Photograph by the author using a Pentax Super ME camera and Lomography Lady Grey film, coloured using generic software. Please attribute if used elsewhere.

‘On the Beach’ Predicting the Future

Sometimes I read novels and often think that they hit the spot a bit too close to home.  This was the case recently as I came to the concluding pages of On the Beach, which was written by the novelist Nevil Shute Norway in the decades following World War Two.  The scene includes two of the main characters discussing the context for the apocalyptic situation that they face and openly lament the global use of nuclear weapons during an escalation of an international war:

“Couldn’t anyone have stopped it?”

“I don’t know… Some kinds of silliness you just can’t stop”, he said. “I mean, if a couple of hundred million people all decide that their national honour requires them to drop cobalt bombs upon their neighbour, well, there’s not much that you or I can do about it.  The only possible hope would have been to educate them out of their silliness.”

“But how could you have done that, Peter?  I mean, they’d all left school.”

“Newspapers”, he said.  “You could have done something with newspapers.  We didn’t do it.  No nation did, because we were all too silly.  We liked our newspapers with pictures of beach girls and headlines about cases of indecent assault, and no Government was wise enough to stop us having them that way.  But something might have been done with newspapers, if we’d been wise enough.”

Quoted from the novel One the Beach (1957), by Nevil Shute Norway.

It is a wonderful novel and a book that I highly recommend.  For me one of the most moving aspects of the characters portrayed throughout the text was their attitude and civility in the manner in which they led their lives, and how this civility influenced their actions throughout the novel despite the fact that they knew what was to come.

Next up on my reading list is a newly published novel that I have started reading earlier today entitled Here I Am, by the American author Jonathan Safran Foer.  Foer has previously released a clutch of interesting and diverse novels over the past decade and a half that have really captured my attention, especially his first novel Everything is Illuminated, which was published in 2002. Perhaps unwittingly I noticed that the Here I Am novel continues the theme of international and national destruction set in On the Beach.  Perhaps it is somewhat fitting considering the way 2016 has so far developed…

A Respite, A Relief

We pulled up in our rented vehicle, dwarfed quite comfortably by the incumbent coaches ferrying tourists from sight to sight, and prepared to disembark once again as travelers in a foreign land.  In reality the location reminded us, perhaps more grandly than we remembered, of our own homes and the landscape therein, the coast battered by salt-fused waves whilst brash accents announced a population who had become ingrained into the very land they lived on.  Our identities remained the same half the world away and we became a self contained unit, a family of friends.

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Photograph by the author using a digital camera. If used elsewhere please credit as appropriate.

On Love: The English Patient

I have been away for a while but nothing much really changes within the hearts of humans.  We are all flesh, we all feel, love and grieve, and we are all united by life and divided by it.

“What you find in him are cul-de-sacs within the sweep of history – how people betray each other for the sake of nations, how people fall in love… How old did you say you were?”
“twenty.”
“I was much older when I fell in love.”
Hana pauses. “Who was she?”
But his eyes are away from her now.’

Quoted from the novel The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje.

Through The Window

The final flight to a familiar destination, my body sighs with relief.  You are my final stranger, the person who sits one empty chair away from me of who I do not know one bit.  I see your passport briefly, possibly from the Emirates judging from the silver cross of swords potent on the cover and the colourful shawl draped across your delicate face.

Your body is tiny in comparison to my towering torso and broad hulking shoulders. You curl up in your seat as soon as the plane starts to taxi, covering your head fully and aiming for a fitful fifty minute sleep.  I am envious of this talent, I can only stare straight ahead, dipping into a satirical magazine to ease my boredom.  This is the shortest flight that I have been on for some time now, but even here my eyes cannot rest.  I reacquaint myself with the politics and humour of this land, smiling to myself as the plane carries on heading to the north.

I look across from time to time, partly to see the green grass of home but also to check that you are still resting.  Your left hand is placed across your stomach, holding steady as your wrapped head lolls from time to time.  The silent movements in sleep stand in great contrast to the roar of the engines situated just a few metres from where we are.

We smile at one another as I let you pass me by to get into the aisle, we have arrived at our destination and I am glad.  I am finally home whilst you, I feel, may be very far from it but I hope you find a home here too and a loving family of friends.

The Corridor

I love you and I need you, I wish that I could see you.  I’m travelling down this corridor alone, strapped to this trolley with doctors by my side pushing through door after door.  I can see the light shining but I’m not sure if it’s for me or if it’s for everyone around me.  I cry out, not pain not in horror, I cry out in confusion.  I need you and I want you, to be by my side again.  Memories flood my frazzled mind, a skeletal hand clasps my own and tells me it will be alright, it will be okay.  I can help but feel that this is a denial, that my body is failing even as I flail in the half-light of an under-funded hospital, staffed by sleep walking staff with the warmest of hearts.

I need you and I want you, I can hear voices in the corridor, not my own or those around me but others, crying out in equal pain or in anger at the wait.  Where are my sons, where are my daughters?  I wanted to say to grow up in peace, to love your family, friends and neighbours as one, to move on or to leave if you need to.  We understand, we want you to be happy, we need you to be with us.  I love and I need you, and I wish that I could see you.

The final corridor, my body is checked in.  Checked once that I am who I say I am, that the arrows painted on my limbs are correct and that my brain is related to my body and my body is related to my name.  I say I am who I am and they take it on board, and I’m made to wait at Heaven’s Gate.  Two blonde angels guide me, make me comfortable on the slip green sheets which matches their sleek outfits.  Only bras and knickers must be under their gowns I think, wondering who they share their bed and younger, supplier bodies with at night.  My own is broken, battered and torn.  A mess of surgical scars, shortened limbs but above average, well we won’t go into that but it is according to a litany of my previous lovers.

I want you and I need you, I wish that I could see you.  I laugh, laugh at the futility of it all.  The drugs, I yearn for the warmth of the morphine, of the wicked sleeping potion to crawl up into my veins and up into my arm and to flood the chest cavity and consciousness itself.  I yearn to sleep with no dreams, where the minute that passes is not a minute but a moment between awake and awake.  My eyes linger on one of the angels, filling in the paperwork in the corner of the room, haloed by broken bodies on stripped back beds.

I need you and I want you, I wish that I could see you.  I’m moving, I’m moving, but I’m not moving, there are no words for this.  Through the first set of doors I am pushed, name confirmed once more.  Am I aware of what is going to happen to me and why it is happening?  Yes, yes I scream still dreaming of the green robed angels in the theatre waiting room.  Just do it, yes the heart always beats fast.  I need you and I want you, but I just can’t seem to see you.  I stare at the anaethetist’s eyes as the plunger is gently but firmly pressed down, a milky white liquid seeps into my own bloodstream diluting reality.

I needed you and I wanted you, but I just can’t seem to have seen you.  I wake as if I have been asleep for years.  I crave water, yearn to drink a thousand litres of the freshest water available.  I want to drown in crystalline lakes and to never wake.  A tube has been down my throat, a mainline into the neck is still present.  I wish that I could have seen you, I’m sorry to have left you.  I close my eyes again.

The Fly: A Short Story

Peering at it he saw translucent wings that could be seen against the screen which, in turn, were attached to a fat round body with pinprick legs.  Looking more carefully he could just about focus onto the fly’s multi-lensed eyes and searching feeding tube, flickering as it was here and there.  The folded first pair of legs rubbed against each other seemingly in pure joy at the location that it had found itself in.

A flicker of disgust rose in his belly on seeing all of this.

To top it off that incessant buzzing noise was so annoying!

‘Hey there, do you mind not staring at me as I try to feed please!’, politely opined the insect under view.

Jumping back slightly and slowly rocking in his seat Joseph sensed that this was not quite right, flies did not normally respond in such a manner to human inspection.

‘I… well I beg your pardon Mr Fly!  It seems as i you have chose a rather inconsiderate position, upon my computer screen where you currently reside, to settle yourself’, he stammered with half empty lungs still gulping down air in mid shock.

‘Well be that as it may but give me some peace please!  I am more than half way through my life cycle and my weary wings need a rest!’ replied the fly curtly.

‘Also, could you please stop spraying that awful chemical around your house!  You have already killed my brothers and sisters willingly, at least let me give your screen a quick clean’.

At this the fly gently patted his first few limbs against the screen’s surface and shook his head slowly to express his disappointment.

‘Well yes of course, please make yourself at home’.

His default manner in shock was one of prime consideration to his fellow man and, in this instance, insectoid.  If the fly really did make itself at home and start to feed in such a manner flies are known to feed in, well then he felt that he really wouldn’t be able to keep the rising bile contained within his throat and would have to let rip in full bodily disgust.

‘So… how did you come to be able to speak?’, his question contained mild awe at the somewhat deep voice that the fly had spoken in.

‘Well sir, you are really asking but two questions there and I shall have to go into them on a granular level’, counted the fly in reply.

He started to regale the fellow as to how he first noticed he could talk to these upright lumbering beasts…

‘Since my answer is granular on a most profound scale, could I ask of you that you lay out some bread crumbs first so that I may feast before I tell my tale?’

‘Yes, why of course I shall be back in a moment’.

In the kitchen Joseph couldn’t quite believe he was rubbing pieces of bread together to collect a small surfeit of crumbs for his winged guest.  Winged speaking guest no less!  A dab of water was needed to cool his forehead but he did as Mr Fly suggested and brought the crumbs through to the office room and lay them out on a small dish.

Choking back the sickness that had welled in his throat he watched Mr Fly saunter from screen to saucer, hop onto a large crumb and attach his sucker.  Presumably he digested it there and then, but his human audience did not care to look upon this part.

‘Just the ticket!’ squealed the fly in sheer delight.  A small leg pad rubbed his belly and Joseph almost swore he could see a smile on his little insectoid face.  He had to admit he was growing quite accustomed to his winged guest and admired his good behaviour.

‘Thank you Joseph for the food, it is much appreciated.  Now let me start my tale of when I first knew I could speak to you humans…

On a summers day I found myself seeking shade from the blazing sun, we flies can get too hot you know and I could spy a blackbird, a hundred seagulls and more, who were all desperately trying to peck me.  So I flew and I found shade and safety in an office, the door magically opening as I followed a human in.  This human was bald, not like the rest of you haired apes (Yes Joseph, I too know my animals!).

He moved into another smaller room within this office and closed the door, but not before I snuck in and latched upon the wall, resting, tasting.  I could hear him speaking but at first I could not make out the words as to what he was saying.  This was to be expected! Fly speech is very different to human speech, our special buzzes hide all sort of sonorous tones that emit signals for how we are and what we want.  You may hear our buzzes and
think nothing of it but we are speaking Joseph, we are speaking to each other!

I was glad to be on that wall, the pesky bumble bee bastards were buzzing me earlier in the day and getting me agitated.  I knew I had to find a safe and clean place, and what is more sterile than a human office!

As I tuned in a most magical thing happened!  I could understand partly what he was saying.  I caught the odd word as he stared at his face in the mirror world.

I could hear ‘ha ha ha, haha haha haha, haaa haaaa’ and variations within.  Every once and a while the words ‘game plan’, ‘going forward, go-ing forr-wood’, ‘in this instance’ and that most special of words – ‘granular, grain ula, gran-ular’ were spoken a hundred times, each inflection more varied than the last.

I admit it Joseph, that word had a special effect on me.  I could feel the bass notes shivering through my thorax and my wings fluttered in simple delight.  I felt I must try this word, I must speak it myself!’

At this Mr Fly shivered and slumped upon the remaining breadcrumbs and remained quiet.

‘Are you alright Mr Fly?’ ventured Joseph to no apparent reply.

‘Mr Fly… ? Hello… ?’

After what seemed like an eternity Mr Fly shook his wings and re-awoke.  Joseph shook too, but with with thankfulness that his little insectoid friend had not become the late Mr Fly and instead resumed his previous courteous manner.

‘And so, when I had heard those words uttered from this humanoid form I could not help but be bewitched and in turn wanted to utter those words myself,’ he stated having not realised he had momentarily passed out.

‘But.. but how could you?  You do not have the right anatomical equipment to utter such words nor the brain to understand them!’ stammered Joseph, at a loss to explain how this fly had gone from pest to best friend within a matter of some minutes.

‘Well all you see is not what you all get my dear fellow’.

A forelimb wiped gently at his lensed right eye and a quick shake of his wings indicated Mr Fly had something rather further more to say on the matter.

‘I practiced again and again at getting the words just so, how I yearned to emulate my master in the mirror world and utter the word ‘granular’, how beautiful did it sound to my fly ears and how each letter reverberated across my thorax!  You see you humanoids all think that we insects are the same, that we cannot think individually and act instead as a mass of self denial, acknowledging only our queen or basic instincts but this is simply not true!

We lead lives just as you do!  We too have feelings, thoughts, desires and romances, our hearts, little though they are, burst forth with the beauty and decadence of this life as do your best writers, painters and actors, thinkers and do’ers.

But of course we cannot express this – we are entwined with nature in such a way as to be invisible without it whereas you humans, you create whole new worlds of meaning, locked away in sterile isolated buildings full of arbitrary rules and regulations to govern each and every action and reaction.

No, I know of your world but I am not of it.’

Mimicking a courtesy head bow Mr Fly prepared to fly off into that world once more.

‘But wait!  Why mimic human speech?  Why become fascinated by something so much that you emulate it and then cast it aside?’ questioned Joseph, an imploring look plastered across his shrew-like features.

‘Why use language, we could talk you and I, our species could talk!  Good God Mr Fly, could you think of the implications!’

At this Mr Fly shivered, cast his multi-lensed eyes across the room and wiped them once more with his tiny forelimbs.

‘No, I have seen your kind, preening in the mirror world.  Only for today are my words for your ears Joseph.

I thank you though for sharing your bread with me, it is much appreciated and it will not be forgotten.  But now I must go and join my own!’

‘Thank you, a thousand times thank you!’, cried Joseph in return.

The fly raised its head as if to sniff the air and then flew off, out of Joseph’s home office and back into the world of the living.

Meanwhile, in the work office in which the fly had learnt to use the language of humans but briefly, the balded man sat at his desk staring into his computer screen.

First his arm spasmed, then his left leg jerked uncontrollably.  He tried to speak, to shout out in mounting horror but no words emanated forth from his now twitching mouth.  Instead, only a series of low buzzes poured out which attracted each and every fly around to dance around his shoulders and atop the crown of his head.

The staff, not quite used to seeing the spectacle of winged insects invading their office, quickly shrieked and shirked in primal horror and abandoned their workstations en masse.

Mr Fly, at the centre of it all, landed on the computer screen observing each and every movement made by the now crowned man and his flailing colleagues.  Yes, he thought, they may run now but in time each will respond as did Joseph, with warmth, kindness and compassion.

He flicked his wings, clicked his forelimbs and took flight.