trails of thought

How the Irish have given and taken so very much from me 

Bit dull as far as weather is concerned but never gloomy re me.  First day in Northern Ireland for the last thirteen years will have me reading and writing for my dissertation.  Then this afternoon/evening off to Belfast to have a Guinness!  Fifteen minutes by train my lovely AirBnB host tells me.  Am so happy in Ireland.

And it’s really weird: the thirteen years ago I talk about was when I fell in love with a beautiful woman.  And the time in Ireland previous to that was fifty years ago almost to the day when as a kid, just before the Troubles flared up, we went camping on the shores of Lough Neagh and ate freshly fried eels, still wriggling as they hit the pan.  And as we came in to Lisburn by bus from the airport yesterday, I tracked the journey on Google Maps, and I saw the lough’s name, and I sensed the scenery, and I remembered fifty years ago, and I remember the beautiful four days those thirteen years ago, and I remember the beautiful four hours on Bloomsday 2016 with her beautiful beautiful daughter.  And even though I was on the bus’s CCTV, I couldn’t not become tearful.

The Irish have given and taken so very much from me.

I would never have it any other way – except I would.  Now I would like to make peace with those memories.  Now I would like to see both mother and daughter again.


And on his tombstone it shall be carved: “He wanted more than anything to prove old Tina wrong”

I fell in love with good people.

At least that’s what I thought,

once upon a carefully notched timeline.

But maybe I was wrong.

Maybe the people I fell in love with were

mediocre flotsam cast out by rolling waves which

crashed onto shores stained with crude

thoughts and behaviours which

led them to pretend a love they

apparently showed was real and deep

and kindly enough to rotting boot, when in

fact it was just too damn shallow to be of use.

And maybe the reality as is was something else:

so many of these people were simply there to hurt:

me, them and others rather similarly, in fact

(no reason why I should be particularly

hateful …  nor deserving of any unusual hurt); and so

really what’s happened is they’ve fucked us all up:

these others, these them and this me all along.

And now there’s nothing to be

done but – zombie-like –

live in a misery of fairly grandiose proportions.


There is, in fact,

indisputably, no fucking bloody stupid nor

nicely drawn nor re-engineered

alternative to being properly, utterly and


completely fucked up by all the people we were and all

the people we’ll fail to be.


(So how could I possibly get to the age of 53 will all those illusions

hanging intact – like awful millstone – round my neck?

What idiot-stone – really – am I made of,

dear reader?

What idiot-stone, indeed, shall carve the motto of my tomb?)

short story

A weekness is a long time in the politics of love

She’d just about realised she had basically two options: a) she could wait weakly – weekly even; daily perhaps! – for her white knight to appear with horsepower but perhaps no horse (it was, after all, the Western 21st century we were talking about here); or b) she could gather all her courage together, as if forming a baleful bale of yellow wheat of anciently harvested times – and then become the white knight herself (along with Fiat 500 … not so much a horse as a tiny little pony of delicately designed and elegantly framed features).

So then she had that hugely challenging decision to make.

And the alternatives showed the weakness of her position.

To stay where she was she felt quite impractical to contemplate: to stay with a husband who spent his days saying no to every suggestion and occurrence she made for herself, demanding pointedly – as he did – that she imagine on his behalf, and doubleguess, his every need and whim – that was him, how he was, and he worked his socks off no doubt; she couldn’t criticise him in that respect; she had no desire to do so; to do so would’ve been about as rankly unfair as any spouse could have been in this measuring world of quantitative likings and unlikings: all those secretive beens and gones …

But what she really asked of him – so that maybe one day she could feel positive enough about herself to shine in job interviews, and then prove to him her value as an economic unit of productive addition for the family he was currently breadwinning quite alone for – was the love and affection, the physical cherishing, the bantering bodies of lovers still enamoured after almost three decades of the battered existences that life throws at us all … she needed this bantering, this being able to touch him when she wanted, to not have barriers placed between her and him … and she was clearly starved now of all kinds of affection, she was clearly in a place of deeply dark emotions, she was clearly  – all too apparently, even to friends and family – the subject of some kind of oppressively normalised, naturalised existence.

To the outside world still, to many she knew, she was the frigidly cold and confusing half of the couple.  But it really wasn’t her – she responded so well to love: to smiles and saucy glances; to cheeky retorts; to the kind of casual stroke on the shoulder that momentarily pets you into a different world, and makes you wonder: “With this person, what would it be like?”  And it wasn’t that she was of a promiscuous bent: it’s just that she was so hungry for some kind of physical contact.  And the man she really had a right to expect such affectionate contact from – even in today’s politically informed times, even in curiously cold and correctly distanced way – slept in the bed she slept in every night, and he didn’t even like for her to doze on his side of the bed, and they had all sorts of arguments about messy eiderdowns and corners not square and clothes left draped over the edges of a bed which should’ve been there for passionate embrace.

And if he had wanted to touch her body, just occasionally, just at weekends, maybe once a month, maybe every quarter, she’d have felt the most powerful, beloved and positive creature in the universe.

But the reality of the matter was that he neither wanted her to touch him in private nor allow her to consider anything which wasn’t a safe (for him, she presumed) display of public normality: a tap on the forearm perhaps – or a linking of hands as shop window pursued shop window and he bought up the city with the pretty excuse that his job made them money.

And so she struggled to realise, to identify, when it went wrong.

And they’d loved each other the day they’d got married: of that she was sure; of that she had no doubt.  And their children were gorgeous, gorgeous creatures of a love exemplified and held out, through grand anticipation and selfless sacrifice – and a simple delight in the pleasures and treasures of seeing their offspring spring off into wonderful sectors of endeavour.

But what never worked right, and right from the beginning perhaps, she begins to see at least, at least she begins now to see, was the fiery necessity she had to be physically cherished and the simultaneous fear he manifested more and more – always slyly (she now realised) covered up and hidden below a cloaking set of wisdoms, intellect and argument; and this was something she’d pretended not to notice for a while; and this was something that she knew now would never change.

And she loved him so dearly, and cherished his soul, and if the soul of a person was the sole thing we needed, she had what she needed in the soul she obviously cherished.  But then she was quite unable to become that productive economic unit he threw in her face, quite rightly time and time again when she failed once more to put her best foot forward: and the reason she was unable to put her best foot forward was because his crushing lack of physical affection meant her best foot forward no longer existed: his crushing lack of physical affection now acting as a mental diabetes on her heart and soul, on the muscles of her mind, on the sinews of her ability to perform: and so the courage she could’ve expressed now wound down into a crummy simulacrum: and no one was ever now going to be convinced by her daily weeknesses.

So she began to realise the universe was right: her strong desire, her finest wish, to resolve the squaring of these circles by becoming that productive unit which meant the family would finally breadwin together … it simply wasn’t going to happen.  He had refused for so long to cherish her physically; and maybe even at the beginning he’d done it with fear.  And this recent thought had arrived literally to taunt her, and make her think she was worth even less than she’d once thought she was worth, a very long time ago now; too long ago for her to forget.

And she so wanted to save all the good things that had been.

And she so wanted to square the circles of their lives.

And there was nothing she would’ve liked better than to say to him: “Love me as you can, whilst I love another.”

But if she went and said that to the proud man he was … well … what on earth might happen to the woman she still – even then – managed to continue considering herself?

What on earth could happen?  What on earth really wouldn’t?

If truth be told, she was terrified not of change but of leaving behind her the relic and wreck of a person who without her would suffer as she had never done.

She wasn’t terrified of being happy at all – quite the opposite.

She was terrified, rather, of the degree and level to which his sadness might fall in her ultimate absence: once her absence were communicated: once her absence were consummated.

Failure and betrayal were the words that came to mind: and nothing, nothing in any true way, would ever be able to usefully repair his soul.

“Is this how a war veteran feels when they return?” she asked herself.  “Guilty about survival; morbid about the prospect of recovery; tied to the past and to companions who will never return; fighting the future and better times that can never be shared … so is that what a veteran really feels?  And am I a veteran in some terribly similar way?  A veteran without bullets … but even so, with daggers to the heart?”

short short story

“… when an inside is outed (out of love and affection) …”


She was uncomfortable, so often, with the thoughts she had.  She thought she ought not to have them, for starters.  And that was bad.

For precisely the thoughts she had, they so often remained at the forefront of her beautiful mind … the whole day long, too; from dawning to dusk.  From the early morning when she opened her beautiful green eyes to the end of the evening – that time when, exactly when, the shadows of memory reflected in shady red wine would remind her of moments where lonely remains of love were the main (by now) desperately vultured carrion of her most inner hopes.

She wasn’t a morbid person by nature, either – let this be clear.  It’s just that the kind of life she’d been obliged to live had meant the very best of her being had been inhibited from showing itself to the outside world.

They say that what’s truly of value of any person out there is what hides inside the hider’s inside.  And so – through the loneliness imposed by the circumstance of confusion – she’d become a fairly professional hider of the inside she could’ve shared with others for most of her life, clearly lived more as a survivor than a living human being; clearly lived more as a now quietened soul of a humanity of the lukewarm.

She didn’t have less than others had, of course.  But she could’ve had far more: for precisely her inside was the most astonishingly wrought forging of ingenious and loving patterns that pattered like toddling feet in their innocence and gravity: she was such a gorgeous entity, too; the real crime was that no one had realised the reality in time.

Or maybe they had: maybe they’d said: maybe they’d told each other: maybe the grapevine had already spread the truth about her hider’s beautiful inside, and that reality it contained.

And so in truth, it was all she needed right then.  Some real living love and affection to out the inside that beautifully adorned the inside she’d hid from the man she had loved the entire section of her life she’d only survived (never lived, my love – believe me; never properly lived at all).


poetry, short short story, trails of thought



He never thought to con-

template the

day that words heard in corridors so beauty-

filling were passages of candle-lit rites –

never wrongs tho’, never wrongs in a thousand years of

wrongs – nor that a redeem-

tion of sorts could be theirs to take on and

win – lottery-like – the very best prize-

d bull you’d suddenly want to go and take

by the horns.

What was wrong tho’ was to say it could have been

any other way: the ways of life have many

paths and roots and shoots of impish green and

elf-like lovened breads of browned

tradition where reasons why became causeways

of explanatory flot-

sams: men and women who realised that being

woman or man means outgrowing the

child we carried around until we

noticed surprised, like news only to ourselves … for the rest

of the world had heard the words that were

written like passages of rightings to make the


fine a-

gain: in its splen-

dour and dolor, but importantly, manly, womanly,

in a love which had never failed a true

test of time: a test so unwillingly, slowly, gradually breached and yet

gladly suffered for far too long.

How foolish we are in the love that is plain for

Jane and her followers to see: nothing is plainer than love

fully felt; nothing more velvety than the rough touch

of tongue on tongue on tongue of wrongs

now awaiting their




* A beautiful comment by the author, anthonymize, of the magnificent poem one dot- leads to a blot, led me – provoked me perhaps I should say – to write today’s post.  Do read the comment when you can.  It contains a wonderful short video of Eminem on words, which I’ve already reposted at the top of today’s trail of thoughts.  There’s also a quote attributed to banksy:

Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.

To which I found myself replying:

Bend the words – so we don’t bend ourselves out of shape.

And if truth be told, this is a thought I have lived with for the past decade or so, since a person I really treasure – as one would locket with sepia photo, buried intimately next to timeless heart – used to insist so proudly, so finely, so grandly, so correctly, so lovingly, so encompassingly, so kindly … that the prime goal in life should be to ensure we were never bent out of shape by its march: neither by its arrival nor its leaving.

Life is there not to be survived but lived throughout in full.

And she was the ballsiest, handsomest woman you ever met.

And I would hope we might all fall in love with the person I treasure.  I would hope we might all fall in love with this idea.  I would hope one day I might treasure – once again – the daily expression of the love I once briefly saw.  But if none of the above might occur ever for me, by remitting myself once more to the thoughts that heard such words, I know I could now survive only surviving without her.

Except that I’m no longer prepared just to survive.

I want more of life than survival.

Don’t you?