30 August 2019

Shropshire; Oh Mercy.....

Most of the Time....

Most of the time

I’m clear focused all around
Most of the time
I can keep both feet on the ground
I can follow the path, I can read the signs
Stay right with it when the road unwinds
I can handle whatever I stumble upon 
I don’t even notice she’s gone

Most of the time 

Up on Offa's Dyke (Hey, You! Get Offa my Dyke...!) it's not hard to forget, for a moment, the things you should remember. 

I am blessed by fine weather on a day in Shropshire, and I climb to the heights where Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Offa organised a ditch and earth wall to form a hard border between his eight century kingdom (Mercia) and Wales..... Oh Mercy.

In Offa’s Dyke: Landscape and Hegemony in Eighth-Century Britain, Keith Ray and Ian Bapty explore how the Dyke may have been built and what it achieved, and consider what can be learned from it.

Besides being built to impress, the Dyke was also designed to exclude the Welsh from their former lands and was probably used as a means to raise revenue by customs control and to monitor what was going on in the area immediately to its west. 

Nope. Doesn't remind me of anything.... Hard border. Customs control..... Nope.....

In c895 AD Bishop Asser [biographer of King Alfred] with the benefit of hindsight.... saw Offa’s Dyke fundamentally as a vainglorious exercise by an unscrupulous and ruthless king..... 

Nope. Can't think of any contemporary who might be thought of as vainglorious, unscrupulous, or ruthless.... Nor any man who would be king....

So it's just another day when I free myself and wander in cloud loneliness, skipping like a girlie, crying Hullo trees! Hullo sky! and I can wrap myself in blue dismembered hills.....

Most of the time
It’s well understood 
Most of the time 
I wouldn’t change it if I could 
I can make it all match up, I can hold my own 
I can deal with the situation right down to the bone 
I can survive, I can endure 
And I don’t even think about her 

Most of the time

Yes. Most of the time any of us can manage our daily needs, and life goes on. Such incidentals as birth and death mere bookends to our feeding and growing, and growing old, and incidentally socialising.....

A road is just a road, whoever travels along it....

A signpost means little to a stranger, and less to a passing fox, but it will stand, pointing, as placed, until some idiot rearranges it.....

And a closed door is still a closed door. But still a door. Which need not remain closed.

And an inn is still an inn, even when closed. Until the law is changed, and the designation is redesigned. By law. 

It is a beautiful day, and I move on up to the Bury Ditches, an Iron Age multivallate hill fort above the village of Clun. The lower slopes are forested, and green,

Though there are seductive angels by the wayside; messages from the destroyers of memory, the disease of conceit.....

But above the trees, on the ridges, the palette is different,

And I am blessed with pale views of hills....

What are these blue remembered hills
What spires, what farms are those?

(A E Housman)

[Answer: The Long Mynd, the Stiperstones]

Most of the time

My head is on straight
Most of the time
I’m strong enough not to hate
I don’t build up illusion ’til it makes me sick
I ain’t afraid of confusion no matter how thick
I can smile in the face of mankind
Don’t even remember what her lips felt like on mine

Most of the time

I move on down to Craven Arms, and to Stokesay Castle.

House Martins career past the windows:

Rest on the battlements:

Preparing their tiny selves for unknown, instinctive journeys; thousands of miles to equatorial climes; no passports, no questions, just strength of will without understanding....

Though on their way they may sing:

Most of the time
 I’m halfway content
 Most of the time
 I know exactly where it went
 I don’t cheat on myself, I don’t run and hide
 Hide from the feelings that are buried inside
 I don’t compromise and I don’t pretend
 I don’t even care if I ever see her again

 Most of the time

Dylan's words - wherever he garnered them from - lend themselves to any interpretation.  My play here is on the idea of taking time out to refresh my mind in the pleasures of free landscapes, taking a break from the tribulations of my family life (Most of the time/I’m halfway content.....) But on interacting with the ancient past I find that we can be brought to face our present.  The present, however, does not then encompass just our own personal circumstances, however difficult, but also the public, political circumstances which may be even more daunting.  But then, above and beyond this, these can pale into insignificance when we realise that the world of small things (for example juvenile house martins) may be way more challenging than anything we (or should I say I?) have to face from day to day.....

I can survive, I can endure 
And I don’t even think about her 

Most of the time

Oh Mercy!

Thank you to:

Most of the Time

Bob Dylan

Copyright © 1989 by Special Rider Music

24 August 2019

Bleaching the Mind in Powys

Brain Cleaner

I was in Orkney, as one is, and I thought I had met my match, in, Skull Splitter,

One of our strongest beers, named after Thorfinn Einarsson the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney

A rich fruity wine-like complexity on the palate includes fresh and dried fruits, warm exotic spice and light summer citrus fruits. Sophisticated, satiny smooth with a deceptively light character.

ABV.  8.5

HOPS.  East Kent Goldings

MALT.  Maris Otter: Crystal: Chocolate: malted Wheat. 

But, this is another occasion, and after a very long, wet, congested and disrupted drive from Bristol on a Friday evening, I reach The Tanners Arms at Defynnog, in mid-Wales, and..... I find myself with a bottle of Brecon Mind Bleach at 10% abv.

Which is sort of what I came for.  Something to wipe the smeared and claggy brain.  Something to wash away the fusions and cons of daily angst.

I've met big beers before - the great Trappist beers of Belgium for example - but this was something else.  A baseball bat of a brew; a leaded sap with no regard for nicety.

I will not delude.  I finished not the bottle.  I had not driven through a foul Friday evening with its upturned cars and unhurried ambulances to wake up like an inverted beetle, incapable of useful movement.  So I left the residue of my mind bleach to the 4x4 sheep rustlers at the bar and settled to slumber in my single room upstairs, dreaming of nothing at all.....

And as the sun rose over the spangled grasses around me I arose with a clear head, refreshed by local harpic, devoid of responsibility, and, after a very decent breakfast, I moved on.....

And to Talgarth I ventured, between the Brecon Beacons and the Black Hills, between the Wye and the Usk, a pretty, sleepy town, where little happened since yesterday and tomorrow is a frightening concept....

Do not misread me.  I shun not the company of fellows, but there are times, for better, for worse, when it is necessary to ingest a length of gauze and to filter the traces of worldly preoccupations that, like microbial infection, damage appreciation of life....

And so it is good to have moments of peace, and an open mind, and views across the face of the world that are not contaminated by the impurities of politics nor the pressures of the press....

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

I leave the town, and walk up through fields, speaking kindly to sheep and cows, crossing streams, respecting trees, up and up to the ruins of Dinas Castle, ancient in origin, but wasted now, looking north to the Wye and south to the Usk.  

I meet no one - I do see others about their walking - but in ten miles of perambulation I am greeted by no other human.

Way below are some that have been before and now sleep deep beside the chapel door,

And silently above are the few who dare to glide superbly in the azure.....

Though they hold not a feather to the magnificent Buzzards who mew their young into unwanted maturity as time creeps towards the darker months.....

I walk on.  My sermon on the undesirability of ticks mesmerising my flock.....

And I stumble on, the soft air a delight, the fresh grass a welcome change from rucked carpet.  It is good to roam, and good to be alone.....  for a time......

Though the carefully managed hedges and fields below do not really speak of nature.....

It is more the shapes of the hills that holds some sense of history.....

Though the ever changing shape shifting of the clouds reminds me of impermanence.....

Nothing will come of nothing.....

Back in Talgarth a young girl delights in her relationship with her dog,

But she completely ignores me.

So I turn my attention to the history of tractors.....

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

W H Davies

Time for another bottle of Mind Bleach......

Before the real world comes around.....


15 August 2019

Ain't Talkin'

Just Walkin'

Ain't talkin', just walkin'

Through this weary world of woe

High summer, and the harvest is coming in, despite the variable weather. Warm days, and pleasant walking in the Hertfordshire countryside, on the dip side of the Chilterns, near our home.

The brightest of the flowers have faded now, but there are still traces of colour about,

The hay meadows are ready for cutting, and   some fields are splashed with hardy ox-eye daisies hanging on,

But the creeping thistles have lost their flowers, and painted ladies are now replaced by drifts of downy seeds on the wind....

Though the smooth sow-thistle still colours the wayside....

As I walked out in the mystic garden
On a hot summer day, hot summer lawn

Excuse me, ma'am I beg your pardon
There's no one here, the gardener is gone

The oaks that dot the farmland, or shade the hedgerows are still in full leaf, 

At least most of them are, though nothing lasts for ever,

And while the farmers have brought home some of their harvest,

There is still much work to be done, and our paths are sometimes the only cut the fields have seen,

We walk, often without talking, enjoying the quiet and the sights and sounds. But then sometimes Amanda will point to an aeroplane high in the sky, excitedly exclaiming 'Look, up high!  I didn't know that was available!  She's lovely!' 

Or some bird will be startled by our approach, and she will tell it, 'Oh God is giving you lots of happy times, darling.'

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
Through this weary world of woe

Heart burnin', still yearnin'
No one on earth would ever know

As the closing track on Bob Dylan's 2006 album, Modern Times, Ain't Talkin' is a powerful and haunting song, which also exists  in a slightly different version on Tell Tale Signs.  The song draws on elements of Irish and American music, nods to Merle Haggard and Ralph Stanley, and suggests that the singer is a troubled pilgrim:

They say prayer has the power to help, so pray for me, mother
In the human heart an evil spirit can dwell
I am tryin' to love my neighbor and do good unto others
But oh, mother, things ain't goin' well

We walk most every day, sometimes twice.  Me and my wife of thirty something years.  But we don't talk much.  Semantic dementia has stolen sense from her words and from her understanding. She greets strangers with, 'Oh, you're having a lovely time,' as they walk, run or cycle by, and loves seeing new things around her.  But conversation, discussion, communication is bit by bit becoming very difficult.

They say prayer has the power to help.....

Though sadly I don't see it happening.

And sometimes it rains,

As I walked out tonight in the mystic garden

The wounded flowers were danglin' from the vine
I was passin' by yon cool and crystal fountain
Someone hit me from behind

Ain't talkin', just walkin'
You ride up high and down you go
Heart burnin', still yearnin'
No one on Earth will ever know

Ain't Talkin'
Bob Dylan

All photos taken on my iPhone