Hats off to Roy Harper

September 29th, 2013

It’s taken me *this* long to get the hint:


We’re just spinning leaves
In the flight of dawn
Little girl
Falling through an eternal horizon of time
But I’d like to think as we lie
That all we’ve got will be ours forever
Don’t you think we’re forever
I can hear a voice
On the wings of my dream
Little girl
Melting me into love as it touches my heart
But sheltered in the distance of your sleep
Is all that I could love in a lifetime
Don’t you think we’re forever

Open your eyes
To the call of the winds
Little girl
Can’t you here them all saying I’ll always be yours
Lying in the misty morning sun
The pillow of the night still beneath you
Don’t you think we’re forever

September last: Start small

September 28th, 2013

Yesterday morning hurting from the inside out, poisoned, dog tired, worn see-through by the endless cycles.

Yesterday I missed out some of the offending.

Today I woke up after a long night putting the world to rights, tired but not feeling the usual sludge of the toxic tide running through my veins.

Then a friend spent a long time with clever, probbing fingers patiently removing the rusted up, badly put together exo-skeleton nailed through to my bones by the disease and the drugs.  Two hours later I clambered dazed, unsteady and slow to my feet but moving freely not creaking like old trees in high winds, ribs no longer sticking through my lungs at right angles.

And I took a long hard look at the bike languishing in the shed and then rummaged through drawers for unfamiliar clothes before finally being ready to slowly pedal off into the sunset.  No lights in the glooming, birds announcing the end of the day. The smell of September, the breeze hinting all too heavily at the end of Summer and the start of the new season.  The smell of horse sh*t and wet grass.  It still hurt, a missed dose of drugs and a massage aren’t quite a miracle cure but the memories stirred ran clear, blue, rivers through my mind…

Not now, but then and probably again..

September 6th, 2013

Not consciously awake.  The first sensation is just  existence but it’s swiftly followed in a two second time zone into the reality of hurt. Legs flayling under the duvet in a futile attempt to escape the pain flooding through my muscles like the rush of an incoming tide. The pain monkeys prod and poke with stiff, insistent, jabbing, little fingers until my brain joins in and wakes up to the full realization of what’s going on.  Ribs sewn together again with cat gut and rusty wire, spine just a mass of hurt hammered to bits by the hind legs of the midnight mules. The bad news presented impassively on the clock face. 3.30am again.  Always the same no matter what I’ve done in the day, no matter what time the curtains pulled tight across my mind.  The only relief I get from those numbers is when I fail to fall asleep before they arrive, doggedly trudging on through the night because that is somehow better than 3am awakenings.

And a rush of thoughts come tumbling, unbidden into my mind like the debris carried by flood waters.

This isn’t going well is it?


No. It’s not getting any better,  it’s actually getting worse. Any elation from a slight step forward is punctured by the reality of several steps back.

There’s no where to go from here. Well there’s always the end of the track, we know that.  Tempting and obvious just difficult to execute.

Coward. Cowardice. Cowardly.

Am I taking too much or not enough?  Do I need a different stet of pills?  F**K knows.

F**k knows.  Whoever he is. And he’s a he that’s for sure. No woman would do this.

Three months in and one day of relief. One day of three steps forward, heart-singing on the bike.  It wasn’t easy.  Force fed sugar (gels) by patient partner in crime and pushed up the climbs whether I liked it or not whilst trying not to hear my limbs tearing themselves to shreds.  But, still. Fifty-six glorious miles under the belt. And my mind let go, expanded, inhaled and wrapped it’s arms round the possibility of the moment.

And then it’s gone and that’s it. And it’s now 4.30 am (again) my arms are heavy, fingers stiff and swollen.  Legs and back stubbornly refusing to embrace the 50mg of Tramadol thrown down the hatch. I suspect the full dose is needed to make any difference but at this time, that would write off the morning before it’d even begun, stuff the lining of my mind with chloroform and cotton wool. No win.

So shoot me, nice and clean between the eyes or better still the heart for all the trouble that’s caused.


March 22nd, 2012

It’s like being hit with a brick wall of the  completely, blooming obvious.  Knocked side-ways, shell-shocked, released, calmed, elated and sorrowful.  All in the space of just right now.  I’ve cried rivers of tears, destroyed contact lenses in the process, emerged sodden and blinking in the dusk of the day.  Driven home feeling  small and incapable, familiar roads different and difficult in the haze of what’s happening, of the things I’ve seen.  And I keep seeing more.  And now I see that the inability to sleep, which is making me itch in my own skin and  dull and unsteady, is maybe, quite probably, definitely,  part of the process.   Sleep is the drug I have to go without.

And I”m so, so incredibly tired. I’m wading through water and the smallest thing requires a mountain of thought.  A cup of tea is an Everest worth of effort. My brain  feels tight and dessicated and so shot through with electricity that it can’t shut down.  Yet  later it’s become too large for it’s container, heavy and dull, straining against the sutures of my skull.   Every time I move my unanchored brain feels like it’s drifted across the fluid it sits in and thudded against the sides of my head.  Confused and dizzy.  Everything’s ‘happening in slow motion.  I’m lagging minutes behind the rest of the world.  When I look in the mirror I see eyes like saucers, dilated and glassy from lack of sleep.   I’m desperate to fall into the dark, soft, un-knowing of sleep.

But I can’t, so I’m sleep walking through the days, sodden through from the lack of it and it slowly dawns that I’ve been making connections as I see each dawn come in.  Lying restlessly in the bed that’s no longer a place of solace and comfort but an alien landscape, with no fit or comfort.   In the short space when sleep comes, when I can’t tell if I’m awake or dreaming, things drift into focus and they make sense on waking, when I realise I’d not so much slept as been forced to shut-down.   Sleeping and not sleeping and drifting through the dark, dusty corners my mind and picking up things and re-filing them with newly, focused eyes.

Mission Control has taken over, I’m no longer manning this ship.  I’m lying on my back, looking at the sky, adrift in the  current of a wide, warm river. I’m being pulled in by a benign kind of tractor beam. Ladies and gentlemen I am floating in space.

And standing mundanely in the kitchen it’s suddenly right there.  And the world’s gone still and stopped around me. I’m hollow inside, covered in goosebumps on the outside  and the answers are lying, quite literally right there in front of me.

Just like they told me they would.

And I’m fizzing with the sheer magnitude and joy of it, even though I know that this is just the beginning of it and no one said it would be easy.  But.  This isn’t a mid-life crisis.  It’s a mid-life* revelation.

*I’ll have ‘better late than never’ inscribed on my tombstone if you please.


February 7th, 2012

It’s been one of those days. You know the ones?  The ones that start after a night of unsettling dreams and interrupted sleep which begin out of kilter and just keep tilting.

Despite my reputation for tardy time-keeping I’m rarely late for *official* appointments.  But I’m cutting it fine even before I realise that I’ve left things behind in the house I’ve just locked, things that I really do need in this nomadic life of mine. .  A few hundred yards down the road and it’ s horribly apparent that at least one of my tyres is pretending to be a pancake.

Time’s slipping through my fingers as I pull into the nearest garage and fail to realise  I’m using the air *thing* by the HGV pump until the ignorant —- with the belly, slouched in his flatbed starts hooting and making gestures at the other one. Oh you want me to use that one then, the one almost out of sight, behind the garage in the bit covered in sheet ice.

Now i’m definitely, probably late but still clinging on.  Inevitably despite going as fast as the traffic / speed limit will allow I can’t make up that much needed 15minute cushion. My pins lady sounds mildly put out but tells me not to worry, and no she won’t let me pay for my missed appointment. Guilt factor +10, unsettled, unhappy and discord in treble figures.

Turn around and head home, to a house full of noise sounding not so much like it’s filtering through the party wall but being forced through with blunt instruments. Decide to fulfill request to collect and delivery a parcel from the village shop.  It will definitely give my ears some respite and perhaps help restore some balance to the day.

The car is not where I left it. It’s five  feet further down the road from where I left it, in gear with the handbrake full on…  Clearly the slush I thought I’d parked on clearly had a higher ice content than I realised. Do I feel stupid? Oh yes, pillar-box red stupid   It’s just there, in the wrong place, no damage done, but my heart’s in my mouth. We’ve had one incident here in which my car was the recipient of both my neighbour and her car at roughly the same time.  Suffice it to say  neighbour,  car and my nerves were all fairly broken, damaged and frayed respectively.  That’s one New Years Eve none of us will be forgetting in a hurry.

Drive cautiously into the village to collect the parcel and nearly get hit by an haughty old bag in a Chelsea Tractor.  Yes I am making a really, really bad job of parking but I was doing it long before you appeared…  Anything else?  That not so funny, comedy shadow is still looming over my not very tallness and everything’s just wrong.

Home again and I’ve just heard the forecast which apparently will see the thermometers plummeting to minus eight . Decide to scrap the ice off the path by neighbours house. She may act like she’s 20 years younger, but 83 year old bones don’t take kindly to falling and I figure that doing something else *useful* might help with the balance thing.  So head down, merrily scraping  (yup that’s solid ice) and I realise I’m not the only one scraping. All four Polish builders (the ones currently just doing their job, but making my life hell) from the house next door have joined in. They make a far better job of it and work up from where I’m working down and clear the pavement to the end of the street.  I tell them they’re kind, give them the thumbs up and try to explain about Pat (you know the lady with the dog) they give me a nod and a smile.  I’m not sure they understood much beyond the thumbs up but I’m definitely going to buy biscuits tomorrow. I hope Poles *do* tea and biscuits.. Or maybe donuts…

(maybe the scales did get some balance – the day ended with a hug, supper and the pub)

Slow puncture

May 15th, 2011

London, people, lots of.  Want to escape but I’m trapped in a metal tube, jerking along in a blaze of stark strip-lighting.  Country mouse, nay dormouse .   Stink of hot bodies, beer breath, most looking like they’ve already downed a nights worth.  I feel alien here.  Something’s changed since this was part of the daily grind.  A lot has changed and it’s not just the passing of time.

Go through the motions of the evening.  The company’s good.  A friends birthday, his friends making an effort, do my best but I’m floundering.  Surreptitiously glance at my watch, long for quiet, pillow, book.

Rewind a week.  Lying in a tent listening to the rain beat down on it’s not necessarily waterproof flanks. Pitched at 12.30am in a downpour, towels sacrificed to sop up the flood.  No bike this time but another wet field in a long list of fields,  perhaps one too many.   Most recently they’ve been inhospitable.  Wonder if it’s the endless repetition of being soaked through and ferrying home a car full of sodden kit or is it that I’ve got old, that I’m too tired, too broken?

I saw friends in that last muddy field; they were in all honesty my main reason for being there.  I’d gone sans bike ostensibly to do other things but those long, not seen friends were the main draw.  I’d gone prepared as always and with no expectation of seeing the sun.   I could see  folk having fun, that it was probably special but I couldn’t get there.  Unhappy, tired, sick well differently so, getting dizzy getting out of bed in a tent you can’t stand up in is unusual even for this bag of bones.

Fed up, very. Questioning things that I’ve always looked forward to, always enjoyed no matter what the weather gods threw.  Reminisced cheerfully under dripping shelters about the days when a gazebo acted as sun block rather than a way of keeping dry. Opened another beer, stayed up too late encased in wellies, waterproofs and occasionally a sleeping bag.  Chatting, having fun with people I love,  doing the thing I love, or was that ‘loved’.

Maybe I just need a ride, maybe that will re-set my mind which has defaulted to ‘give up’. There’s the rub, until I can shake this bug which encased my lungs in barbed wire and filled my legs with lead the bike lies redundant, unloved in it’s corner by the fire, with a flat tire and a coating of dust.  Yes dust.  It’s only been a few weeks but my mind feels like lungs underwater and  I’m looking at the list of things entered and curling into a ball of disinterest and dread.

Strange Brew

January 11th, 2011

I thought I’d remind my bike who I was today.  We’ve seen too little of each other of late for one reason or another, not least of which being college, over-due coursework & toes of the ‘energy leaking forever out’ variety.

The sun came out which seemed like an omen of the right sort.  Naturally it had hidden itself behind a shield of grey by the time we got ourselves sorted, I’d coaxed glove liners and shoes from various hiding places and done all the usual pre-ride faff.  It was a strange ride, not entirely a bad one but a strange one nonetheless.  My heart was pleased to be pedaling.   My legs weren’t entirely displeased but they huffed up the hills and gave me resigned looks whilst they struggled with the Chiltern slopfest and too many of the ‘oh that puddle’s quite deep then’ moments.  My circulation trudged round slowly trying to work out what it was supposed to be doing, which wasn’t much on the energy front. We plodded on watching tortoises on zimer-frames make short work of the mud n’ puddles.

And then there were the things… It started with a trail of pristine, white, cushions in the middle of the road as I climbed out of the village.  Each one  carefully placed on the verge so as not to frighten passing cars.  It ended with an ostrich.   In between I had row with a man in an anorak armed with an alsation, ate cake mix (possibly not the best idea as my Mother’s approach to ‘it’s a bit dry’ was another pint of brandy), had a chat with the police, drank a gallon or two of tea, procrastinated lots (it was cold out there)  borrowed my Mother’s  clothes then  remembered that you warm up when you do pedal even if it’s slowly (sweaty mess).  It finished in the dark.  Just me a petzel, a bucket of soapy water and the bike, alone together in the glooming.  The way it should be.

When’s summer?


November 2nd, 2010

Every year it’s the same.  That first hint of damp lingering in the air like thin silvers of smoke.  The slight chill that raises a rash of goosebumps. The hard dry turning to plasticine and puddles. That evening ride finishing in the glooming that chivvies me home to the box marked ‘Lights’.

Every year it’s the same.  My spirits start the slow annual tumble down into the dark that gets earlier every day.  I  grieve for the summer I’ve been waiting for, that I always wait for.  Every year I feel cheated it always seems that she’s just paused before hurrying on to another place that’s never quite ‘here’. And I think back to bygone days that  seemed to stretch on into forever of nights searching for cool spots on hot pillows, peeling skin, tide marks and tanlines, dust stained socks and bikes that can just be let go and left at the end of a ride.


Every year I go barefoot till my toes go blue. Clinging on, pretending till the inevitable miserable digging round for warm layers and the driving inside for lack of light, reluctant getting up to dark mornings.  The dank grey smog that creeps in and clings limpet like to the lining of my mind,  sending lethargy into my legs and muffled sadness into whatever’s left.

Every year the same. I shuffle through, hating the shortening evenings finding no comfort in a lit fire until at some always undetermined point something: a line of trees ablaze, wall to wall blue sunshine, a sharp breeze in my face, something triggers the warmth that spreads across the wastelands.  And suddenly those armwarmers,  the  second layer of socks, the muddy splatter and the chasing of the light don’t seem quite so much like the end of the world…

Adjustment, it’s a process. It’s been this way since almost always, but every year it feels like the first time,  I think it always will.

Watching the whites of your eyes turn red

October 16th, 2010

‘I had slept badly and spent most of the night, neither awake nor asleep, in that state that collects troubles from both the conscious and unconscious worlds… I realized …that I was beginning to feel rather desperate with fatigue…

As I stood there feeling myself to be three-quarters fantasy and only a quarter real…’

Laurens van der Post

Petrol head

June 9th, 2010

4am tired, hollow eyed and empty. Peer at alarm clock. Late. Fling self out door, Blood Buzz, loud. Eyelids peeling back, driving to the wire. Boy racing cross-country. Twenty miles of back road winding. Winning.

No! Stymied by a 30mph, flat-capped, silver surfer with time to kill. Really not now. Glance at clock make that a double no with an eye-bleeding espresso on the side, no sugar.

Don’t tail-gate, don’t. Not big, not clever and he’ll just let the speedo drop to just above zero. I know I would. Hang back, be polite, be polite.. Know this road like the back of my cat-scratched, washed-out hands. One chance, maybe two if the oncoming isn’t. Hoping and it’s a clear ahead. Change down, opportunity snatched. Foot flat to, engine howling happily, let loose, wolf at the moon. And we’re past.

Twelve years and the suspension’s a bag bouncing spanners but we can still pack our punches. Drive like there’s actually a hole in the bonnet and the devil’s on my back, eyes fixed on the road, but there’s a persistent red light in the corner of. I swear it’s getting brighter, more insistent every time i steal a glance.

And the parking gods are looking down kindly and we’re there by the skin of. No 30 zones violated, the invitation to an open road accepted gratefully and the engine didn’t putter to a halt for lack of food. Whispers heartfelt thank you. Oh may the wheels of steel last forever more. For when my legs aren’t fit to carry me I’ll just drive till I drop off the edge.

We’re going to run out go-go juice driving the 200 yards round the corner to the garage aren’t we?