We have retreated into ourselves

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It is raining, autumn is in full techni colour, and winter looms. The white sky merges with mist over the sea. Bardsey, the holy isle of the bones of a thousand saints, disappears from view completely leading us to speculate it has magical qualities or that a secretive organisation, ‘them’, dedicated to the preservation of the bones deciding what measures are best needed has reeled it away for cleaning. Sometimes it appears to float like a spaceship, or be twice as large as it is, or as today, abscond entirely. We joke and speculate what it can be this time.

And so another day passes. The forced togetherness affirms and destroys the relationship we thought we had. New rules are set, new habits formed over the long months it has so far been.

We hear of others’ weekends spent visiting, mingling together, or away, or following interesting new pursuits such as book binding, potting, yoga, I wonder if it is us who has fallen through the net, who doesn’t realise that Covid is so over and it is possible to live as ever we lived in the wider world.

Offers of visits, attempts of socially distanced gatherings, even of under six and outdoors are rebuffed. I’m surprised we are not consigned to Facebook friends with lonely birthday messages accruing annually on the page with infrequent photo updates bathed in the colours of the flag of the country where the latest tragedy or assassination attempt took place to show that perhaps we still exist for real.

Maybe, when this latest garden project is satisfyingly finished and planted, when the latest clutch of recipes has been shopped for, cooked and consumed, the next box of wine sent for and shoulder-shruggingly quioffed with a what can you do nonchalance, we will venture out.

The chance of reprieve is lost as once again we slide with relief into lockdown. It is not just us who is avoiding everyone. We are not so antisocial after all.

And then comes another reprieve: the first dose of vaccine.

What do you owe your parents?

When asked what she owed her parents Bernadine Evaristo said her ‘introduction to Political Activism.’ Her dad was the first black man to sit on Greenwich Council and her mother a teacher and trade union rep.

So I got to thinking.

My mother was also a teacher but not overly political. She was a single parent and we were latchkey kids without even knowing since it was before the terms were current. Her life revolved around the task she had been left with: earning a living and bringing up three girls.

Much of what I owe, I didn’t always appreciate growing up, but Ma’s bright smile, acceptance, fortitude were obvious to the end.

To her I owe:

Unconditional love and the strength and comfort that brings.

A sense of fun and lust for adventure. She was at heart a great traveller and a firm believer in holidays.

A sense of justice, kindness, fair play, honesty, integrity, perseverance.

Appreciation of art, music, education. Love of books and films.

I owe her everything, I suppose.

The Joy

Having taken the decision to eschew Facebook (WHAT KEPT YOU? you might well ask) and turn again to WordPress and a neglected blog.  Among a legion of drafts, many more than published posts, I click on this title: The Joy.  The page is totally blank and I wonder what I could have been contemplating so many weeks, months ago and decide to appropriate the title, today of all days, in my stand against the pernicious Facebook on whom I have relied, turned to for publicity since publication of a first book seven years ago.   If it has done any good, or served a useful purpose is impossible to tell.  The joy I feel at renouncing its middle of the night scrolls in search of sleep I hope will not be short lived. And then a cold voice of reason prods me. What about friends? What about WhatsApp, to which in these Covid times especially, I am slavishly devoted? Facilitated by Facebook: I make allowances for my faiblesse.

Reblog Peace

I am impressed by two poems currently.  One, an ancient prayer and a hymn, a Celtic Blessing that was played at my mother’s funeral, sung by Aled Jones to the tune by Rutter. The prayer, the music and the occasion deeply imprinted until time slowly erodes the memory to the bare bones.   The other, probably also a song,  new year wishes by Jacques Brel.

Both are love songs. Unconventional, in a way, but surely, to wish anyone the deep peace of the universe with or without the inclusion of Christ is an act of love. So too the fervent wish for at least one bounteous dream to come true.

Deep peace of the running wave to you.

Deep peace of the flowing air to you.

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.

Deep peace of the shining stars to you.

Deep peace of the gentle night to you.

Moon and stars pour their healing light on you.

Deep peace of Christ,

of Christ the light of the world to you.

Deep peace of Christ to you.

New Year wishes by Jacques Brel

I wish you dreams with no end and the furious desire to realise some of them. I wish you to love what should be loved and forget what you need to forget. I wish you passion, I wish you silence, I wish you to hear birds singing and children laughing when you wake up. I wish that you respect other people’s differences because the merits and value of each person are worth discovering. I wish that you resist getting stuck, that you resist being indifferent and that you resist the negativity and righteousness of our time. Finally, I wish that you never renounce discovery, adventure, life, love because life is a magnificent adventure and no reasonable person should renounce it without a courageous battle. I especially wish you to be yourself, to be proud of who you are and happy because happiness is our true destiny.

Sea Fever

I’m trying to commit Sea Fever to memory. Mostly for the last line about the long trick being over. The pandemic being the long trick in point. Spike Milligan often intrudes on the Masefield version.

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky. I left my shoes and socks there – I wonder if they’re dry. Of course, vest and pants also works here.

Sea fever seems preferable to cabin fever and while we still have the option of daily exercise and we live by the sea, I must go down to the sea again. Etc

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Return to writing

Spread this far!

Rage at the duplicity of the government and the simplicity of people who follow them but do not see the suffering caused before our very eyes.

A gap of at least a year with not much written bar a few earnest letters to a new friend on death row. Suddenly the old urgency is back. Unfinished stories locked in the computer with far too much backlog altogether shake their cages.

Let’s hope some of them find freedom.

Epiphanies

An angel poking the three kings, don’t you just love this concept? To say nothing of the three Kings as bedfellows. Perhaps travelling together meant they had to rough it a bit. I wish an angel would poke the conscience of Theresa May and her bed fellows and open their eyes. ‘Oy you, leave it out!’

Real Refugees

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Wooden Boat with Seven People, by Kalliopi Lemos (2011), a monument to the lives and deaths of refugees, sits in the busy marketplace in Spitalfields the area of London where refugees have often found shelter and welcome.

The little wooden boat was abandoned in Greece having carried real refugees from Turkey. Daylight shows between its timbers where water would insinuate and weaken its joints.
Life-size metal migrants now sit forever forlorn in the gunwales where once men, women and children cast themselves on the mercy of the rest of the world little suspecting that the world has forgotten the meaning of the word.

Did they really set out in an open boat to cross an ocean? How many people? What are their stories? Where are they now?
Interesting in this context to read Andrew Rawnsley’s interview with Madeleine Albright in the Observer today, herself a refugee who became America’s first female secretary of state.

Interview with an Author”

Honeymoon is your second novel, tell us about Honeymoon.

It’s a love story but it’s not a romance. A complicated, inconvenient past unravels during Rosie and Fergal Pierce’s short honeymoon on the West Coast of Ireland with revelations of death, betrayal and deceit that would seem to implicate Fergal. The truth is hard to find and threatens to wreck not only the honeymoon but lives of others too. Rosie faces hard decisions and decides to trust her own judgement and find her own way to help Fergal reclaim his past.

What was your inspiration for the book?

During a trip to research my family tree to County Clare I spent some time in a churchyard that overlooked the wild Atlantic Ocean. It was such a desolate and haunting place, a good place to lie for eternity and a good place to start a story.

What about the cover?

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? That silver embroidered moon unravelling. The artist’s sister is a friend of mine and I was cheeky enough to ask and she was kind enough to agree that I could use it for the front cover. The picture is called Moon Wave by Lateefa Spiker

What inspires you to write? Have you always been a writer?

I came late to writing, after I’d had a family, after I’d had a ‘proper’ job but the compulsion write was always there. Or, to be more exact, the compulsion to make up stories and what ifs and other endings to films. A story is rather like gossip. You want it to pass from mouth to mouth like wildfire, be embellished in the telling and the retelling. Writing it down it is a much slower process – never mind turning it into a book – but the wish for it to spread, hand to hand, by word of mouth is similar.

Why chose self publishing?

Life is short! My first book, Murielle’s Angel, was traditionally published and it’s a long, slow process even after you have a publisher.

Are you available to speak to local book groups?

Certainly. I would be delighted to discuss the book with reading groups. Authors need readers. All the characters a writer dreams up need readers to breath life into them.

What is the most valuable help readers give authors?

Apart from reading the book and talking about it and passing it on, one of the best ways is to write reviews on Amazon or Goodreads.

Where is the new book available?

The library should order it for you, the little shop, Pieces for Places in Barmouth stock it, otherwise it’s on line from Amazon. I have copies and can be contacted via my website. https://maryjhowell.co.uk

Do you have plans to write more?

Stories come from everywhere and nowhere. I’m always dreaming of something, and I certainly hope to.

Your first book is set in Spain, Honeymoon is set in Ireland would you say setting is important in your books?

Setting is important for me, personally, so I would think yes, very important. I am currently working on a story set in Dyffryn. I’m not sure where it will lead yet. I’ll have to wait and see.