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Showing posts from August, 2014

Stuck in my ways

This little series of short essays was started with a simple intention. To force myself to sit at a computer and write. My reasoning being: the daily discipline would reconnect me with the idea of writing regularly as part of my life, one which has slipped a little in the last few years. The other, more nebulous idea was that the regularity would force me to write about a variety of subjects, broadening my outlook and giving my brain a bit of a workout, it’s always a good idea to move out of your comfort zone, I figured. The brevity of the pieces would be a necessary constraint, promoting succinctness (and also meaning it wasn’t too daunting a task).

I was aware that it was unlikely I’d manage one every day, but if you aim high and fall a bit short, then you’ve still got more done than usual. All of which is a long winded way of saying, so far in its short existence I’m happy with what this sequence has achieved. This is the seventh, a weeks worth, which is more than I’d managed in …

The swifts of summer

Out on a run yesterday I was passed by a solitary swift, one of the few left in this part of the world. It described a tight arc in the air and I was struck, as I am every time I see one by the curve and grace of its flight, the elegant lines of its wings, in Edward Thomas’ words “as if the bow had taken off with the arrow”.

There was a tinge of sadness, a couple of weeks ago the swift would have had a dozen or more companions, but slowly they disappear. Like the last Test match of summer, there’s an air of melancholy attached to the last swifts of the year. Each spring I look forward to their piercing, shrill shrieks (so at odds with the beauty of their movement) as a harbinger of longer days and softer air and, bang on cue, as they start to leave the wind starts to get up, the showers grow slightly more chill, the air becomes fresh. You can watch the seasons roll in and out behind their tail-feathers. Time was it was a pleasant surprise, these days I can track their progress up the…

After the flood

Today is August 16th, the anniversary of the fatal flood at Lynmouth, Devon in 1952. A cold front collided with a thunderstorm, and the two slid down the sides of an already-sodden Exmoor. The waters scooping up boulders, debris and fallen trees which dammed the Lyn river. When the dam broke a huge surge of water and debris destroyed 100 buildings, 34 people were killed.

It’s also the anniversary of the non-fatal, but also massively destructive flooding of my home village of Boscastle, in Cornwall when a one in 1300 incidence of heavy rain overwhelmed the rivers Jordan and Valency. You may remember the pictures, overturned cars swirling through grey waters, past pretty cottages, the water’s power terrifying but also somehow unlikely, faintly absurd. This sort of destruction in a place of ice cream and gift shops.

I’d long since moved away, and was actually on holiday in Harrogate when the story broke, I only found out because my phone started going with various people checking I was …

Loose chains of interest

I ended yesterday’s piece by saying I shouldn’t be so ready to slate facebook (fun though that is). After all the quote for yesterday’s title came to me via fb (a link to a Buzzfeed list, so that’s yesterday’s other throwaway target exonerated). It’s a quote from the graphic artist Lucy Belwood, which came via a link provided by the graphic artist Matt Madden, who is a facebook friend.

It’s taken me a while to get my head round the concept of fb friends, I think it’s the emotive word “friend”, once you scrub that mentally and add a more neutral word (say “contact”) the whole point of social media swims into focus. It’s handy for keeping up with family and irl friends, true, but also for roaming the wider shores of your interests (which is where the “curiosity” and “pleasure” parts come in). I’m “friends” with a bunch of interesting people who expose me to things I otherwise wouldn’t encounter, which in turn informs my writing and practices.

Which is the other reason behind this serie…

Curiosity, pleasure and time

As I’ve time, I’ve been thinking about time. I have time as a few days break from my (otherwise all-consuming) day job has given me some. Not a lot, as there are other selves, husband, father, which need to be addressed first, all of which takes time.

Writing these pieces takes a bit, too, necessarily. But here’s the point of time, it needs to be used. This use might involve nothing of immediate consequence (a snatched half-hour zoning out in bed to clear your head), or something of more obvious value (building a lego castle)with your son. On the first morning of these holidays, I abused time horribly, suddenly realising that half an hour had disappeared as I aimlessly wandered through buzzfeed lists and scrolled through status updates of people I barely know, it was then I conceived the idea of this essay series, to give myself some time to write.

Time grows from loci, if you set yourself tasks you have more time, not less. When I finish this short piece and upload it I’ll look at t…

The democracy of grief

The death of Robin Williams has made me look at myself. I’m aware this sounds like the gross self-absorption which typifies the egomaniac’s interaction with the internet, the sort of solipsism which only the monstrous self-importance of the blogger (what I have to say is IMPORTANT dammit) can generate but it genuinely has. Williams’ sad end was for me the culmination of a process which was started in my brain many years ago by facebook, of all things.

My time-line was full, of RIPS and “devastateds”, more than I was expecting. I didn’t feel the need to post anything myself (liked some stuff, disliked other stuff), and it got me thinking. One of my problems with social media is the occasional outbreak of homogenous response, and big outbreaks of grief like this only serve to highlight it. The temptation is to react, to post some snark, burst a few bubbles “Hey, he did Patch Adams, he probably had it coming”, because there’s nothing so tempting as the sight of a load of people saying o…

The drama of intervention

(Caveat: this may seem a little odd and jarring in tone. Apologies, but do bear with me, I’m working towards something, I think).

We wring our hands at the situation, and rightly so. The image is a strong one, people trapped on top of a mountain, their enemies encircling them. The terrain is bare an inhospitable, they have no means of defence. The news story appeals at the same time as it appals due to its high drama.

And as with any good drama, we have stark sides. The black-flagged Islamic state fighters , the flag handily doing the work of a black hat in a Western, the defenceless Yazidis. And we have the deus ex machine, the airstrikes both humanitarian and militaristic. The cavalry arriving from over the horizon. It’s small wonder the story’s gripped as much as it has.

The question can be begged, should the cavalry actually be coming? Should they not, in fact, be minding their own business? It’s a valid one. It seems morally clear that in this case, yes, Western intervention is …