I’m Never Happier Than When I See Your Smile

I’m never happier than when
I see your smile

And remember that pain
is fleeting

You asked me once why I was born
in the middle of the night

I had no answer apart from
to say that I was ready

And you kept asking, laughing
as you did so

‘Why were you born in the middle of the night?’

I’m never happier than when
I see your smile

Taken using a Pentax S1a 35mm camera with Lomography Lady Grey 400 (Fomopan) film. If reused please credit the author.

Scenes from a Neighbourhood

Every day I sit down at the desk that is located in the front room, perfectly positioned for looking out onto the busy street.

Every now and again, as I lift my head from my emails, I notice a hearse carrying a coffin slowly make its way to the graveyard near my house.

Sometimes there is a car or two following, rarely more than three. Often it is just a lonely hearse, carrying a lonely coffin with a lonely dead person inside.

Sometimes, adoring the coffin’s side, is the relation of the deceased to the mourners spelled out in flowers.

I watch it go past and then I go back to my work.

Taken using a Pentax S1a 35mm camera with Lomography Lady Grey 400 (Fomopan) film and developed by hand and then scanned into a computer. If reused please credit the author.

Working from Home

I’m working from home,
and I’m working alone

I’ve forgotten your faces,
and the sound of your voices

The emails keep coming,
and the phone never stops

I remain in denial,
and the car stands idle

The work never ends,
and the job is never done

I’m working from home,
and I’m working alone

Taken using a Pentax ME Super 35mm camera with Lomography Lady Grey 400 (Fomopan) film and developed by hand and then scanned into a computer. If reused please credit the author.

The Eternal Story

I’m currently reading Varlam Shalamov’s Sketches of the Criminal World: Further Kolyma Stories, the second volume of his short stories regarding his time spent in the brutal Kolyma camp system in the Russian Far East during the late 1930’s to the mid 1950’s. It is a work of terrifying beauty and brutality, of the eternal story:

For how many years, distorted by winds, frosts, turning to follow the sun, has the larch stretched out every spring its young green needles to the sky?

How man years? A hundred. Two hundred. Six hundred. A dahurian larch is mature at three hundred years.

Three hundred years! A larch, whose branch, whose twig is on a table in Moscow, is the same age as Natalia Sheremeteva Dolgorukova and can remind us of her lamentable fate: about the vicissitudes of life, about fidelity and firmness, about inner staunchness, about physical and moral torments, which in no way differ from the torments of 1937, with the raging nature of the north, which hates humanity, the mortal danger of spring floodwaters and winter blizzards, with denunciations, the coarse arbitrary bosses, deaths, quarterings, husbands broken on the wheel, brothers, sons, fathers, all denouncing each other and betraying each other.

Isn’t that an utterly eternal Russian story?

After the rhetoric of that moralist Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky’s rabid preaching came wars, revolutions, Hiroshima and concentration camps, denunciations, and executions by shooting.

The larch tree displaced all scales of time and shamed human memory by reminding it of the unforgettable.

– From the short story entitled The Resurrection of the Larch in the new collected edition of Sketches of the Criminal World: Further Kolyma Stories by Varlam Shalamov, translated by Donald Rayfield. New York Review of Books, 2020.

How Literature Speaks Through the Ages

I cannot recommend the novel Stoner by John Williams enough; not a single word is wasted in creating a life and exploring the passions, loves and failures of an individual throughout that life.  These are the moments that history does not record:

Five days before the marriage took place the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbour; and William Stoner watched the ceremony with a mixture of feeling that he had not had before.  Like many others who went through that time, he was gripped by what he could think of only as a numbness, though he knew it was a feeling compounded of emotions so deep and intense that they could not be acknowledged because they could not be lived with.  It was the force of a public tragedy he felt, a horror and a woe so all-pervasive that private tragedies and personal misfortunes were removed to another state of being, yet were intensified by the very vastness in which they took place, as the poignancy of a lone grave might be intensified by a great desert surrounding it.  With a pity that was almost impersonal he watched the sad little ritual of the marriage and was oddly moved by the passive, indifferent beauty of his daughter’s face and by the sullen desperation on the face of the young man.

– From the novel Stoner by John Williams. Published by Vintage, 2012.

The Ending

I know it is coming, and I think about it almost every day.  The door closing, the life ending.  The peace to know that I cannot change a thing and the acceptance to say that I have had a good life: I have lived and I have loved, and in turn I have been loved and lived my life as best I could with others, with my family and friends.  A door is closing, but I am thankful it was ever open at all.

Taken using a Pentax ME Super 35mm camera with Lomography Lady Grey 400 (Fomopan) film and developed by hand and then scanned into a computer. If reused please credit the author.

Add New Post

Those words stare out at me like a challenge, needling my sides as I sit down and put my fingers to the keyboard, ready to type but nothing ever seems to happen.  They just hover for a short while before I retract them and think about putting the kettle on for another black coffee to help stimulate the mind.

It’s morning, perhaps it is too early, maybe I should go back to bed and have a nap?  Dreams are a great place for ideas to collide after all.  The afternoon is a much better time to write, perhaps even the early evening?

These thoughts twirl around my head as I set up the rest of my day with the routine tasks of living.  Soon I find I have no time to sit and write, life is falling into place and I do have to work for a living and help with the upkeep of my young family.  The joys of feeding toddlers and playing imaginary games, the book can wait can’t it, if I just take this quick break to think I’m a fish ready to nibble her little feet?  To see that laugh and that smile lights me up like nothing else could or can, even the thought of being a published author is pushed to the back of my mind.

Here then is my kingdom of heaven.  Let me turn off the television and turn down the radio, the news cannot intrude into paradise today.  We are alone in our tight family unit and we are happy here.

The book niggles at me during the night, when I am lying down trying to both sleep and to escape.  Instead the demon rises up in the form of a thousand empty pages, all flickering to the bitter empty end.

My bank account could do with the advance that I’d surely get, my name too could do with the prestige.  I could do with the look of pride and honour that would radiate from the faces of those that I love most.

Add New Post.

Those words haunt me so.

Wanted To Know You

With apologies to Leonard Cohen

I wanted to love you
but you made it hard,
Turned away my cheek
and instead raised the card

That declared your hostilities
and declared a war,
It was then I knew
that I deserved so much more

I wanted to love you
so you made it hard,
I wanted to know you
but you made it hard

I wonder where you are
wonder who you became,
I wanted to love you,
but you made it hard. . .

Anger as a Fuel

On life in a Soviet Gulag labour camp in the Russian Far East:

We were all sick of the barracks food. . . Any human feelings – love, friendship, envy, charity, mercy, ambition, decency – had vanished long along with the flesh we had lost during our prolonged starvation. The minuscule layer of muscle that was still left on our bones, and which allowed us to eat, move, breathe, even saw beams, fill barrows with spadefuls of stone and sand, even push a barrow up an endless wooden ramp in the gold mine, had only enough room for resentful anger, the most lasting of human feelings.

– From the short story entitled Field Rations in the new collected edition of Kolyma Stories by Varlam Shalamov, translated by Donald Rayfield. New York Review of Books, 2018.

This Industrial Heartland

The ties that bind the population to the land can seem inhuman: dominant structures and architectural wonders that can stretch across the landscape, not embracing the natural features in any meaningful way but instead suggest that the wilderness itself has been tamed and conformed to the rules of humanity instead of nature.  The hidden foundations, the tunnels, and the pipes, to these structures are anchors that have been violently forced through, and rendered into, the land itself; yet here is where the beating economic heart sits, almost contentedly by the sea.

Only on seeing these structures, I ask myself have we learnt the lessons of the past? Are we slowly turning our gaze to how we can instead ally industry with nature, working with it instead of against it?  Is it too late?  Only time will provide us with that answer. . .

Taken using a Pentax ME Super 35mm camera with Lomography Lady Grey 400 (Fomopan) film and developed by hand and then scanned into a computer. If reused please credit the author.

Taken using a Pentax ME Super 35mm camera with Lomography Lady Grey 400 (Fomopan) film and developed by hand and then scanned into a computer. If reused please credit the author.

Taken using a Pentax ME Super 35mm camera with Lomography Lady Grey 400 (Fomopan) film and developed by hand and then scanned into a computer. If reused please credit the author.

Lethargy

It is a Sunday afternoon and Father John Misty states that he is in ‘the business of living’ to mournful tones.  I can’t help but agree with him – then again here I am, sat staring at the screen and trying to ignore the world outside.

I sit and I am barely speaking to anyone, just thinking about the current state of my country, the continent it is a part of and the fool that sits in the house across the water.  How did it get to this?

Christmas cheer has never seemed so far away.  When I think about the trees that are burning, the refugees that are drowning, the continents dividing and the politicians scheming, when did it all come down to this?  Hasn’t it always been the way?

We fall into disrepair by inaction and we are actively doing that now.