Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Air moves in a mysterious way

its wonders to perform

invisible, divisible, irresistible

insensate blast, engine of all.

Born in the borderland between sea and sky,

falls on land, and brick by brick by brick

reduces ash to ashes, dust to dusts.

Parent to the form of trees.

Shaking, shaping limbs in rage,

bending the child to your whim.

high on heaths in violence abounding

maddening the maddened, making madder, mad kings,

fooling fools and blinding the blind;

whilst lowly heathers and bilberries lie low

sifting and dividing to nothing your every notion.

We hold your madness near, erect barriers -

stone, wood, glass, metal;

catch cubed power, the better to live

in the footsteps of salt men

who, driven before you on lines between life and death,

end: reduced to leather and bones.

Strangely attracted to chaotic turbulence

you (eddy to your friends) whistle up your fluid familiar,

ring-leader in wanton ruin,

gang-leader on the coastal chain,

breaking rock









Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's definitely autumn.....

Dodging the showers this afternoon I got my tripod and took some long exposures (up to two seconds) of moving leaves in the squally winds.
For a short while I became lost in what I was doing and forgot my aching feet and knees.
The colours are particularly startling this autumn - I think that is something to do with the recent warm spell which allows trees to convert and reabsorb a lot of the green pigment (leaving behind the reds and yellows) in their leaves before they fall off. Whatever the biochemistry - the results are an extraordinary range of warm hues that lift my spirits.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I'm back........

.....I haven't been able to get into my blog for yonks - since the spring, at least. I tried all sorts of likely combinations of passwords and user-names. Nothing worked. Appeals to Blogger Support (hah!) lead nowhere useful. And before you suggest otherwise, I am certain that I tried the combination that has just miraculouslyworked ("Many times; many, many times; many, many, many times" as Dame Celia Molestrangler would have said).
Anyway...... I was talking to the magnificently craggy Klahanie on Friday, at a World Mental Health day event, and he quite justifiably castigated me for my failure to put in an appearance here in many a long month. Being the generous soul that he undoubtedly is, he accepted my explanation vis-a-vis Blogger obstructing my every effort to get at my blog, but his interest put lead in my pencil, improved the cut of my jib and made me pull up my socks - and persistance has triumphed - here I am again, large as life and twice as wobbly.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


From some fathomless place in a yawning sky
the lark falls soft, loft on salty breath
(its song-of-place a sharp decline)
to be an unkempt bundle,
post-bound & mundane.

Purpose runs deep
in the bird
in the land
in the standing stones,
old as any named for their place.

here on an edge,
the stones’ cipher, cracked by birdsong,
unbroken remains.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

british winter-time two – Lakeland

rain glosses a jackdaw’s bill
against the promise of a cold bright day
cloud spills through wintergreen wands
the landscape’s spectral magicians
conjuring crags and fells
we deny all magic but draw sharp breath
at the effortless skill of air
and applaud moisture’s motion
that draws modest veils only to strip the bracken-rusted bank
pan left, and water rushing to escape ragging rocks
flings itself into space
divides, and divides again and again to multiply the mere
lost tarns mirror blackthorn ashamed of un-named mist
in the distance the air gathers its breath
and exhales to exalt the jackdaw and split a graveyard yew

You can find 'British Winter-time (one)' here...

Friday, March 21, 2008


to embiggen the photo click here

Sunday, December 02, 2007

work in progress...

Sad, soft, saturated light seeps into Sunday’s corners, and heaps greyness like slush
I ache for snow to overwhelm the sound of improbable traffic
And give way to a deluge of feeling -
Some women long for longed-for babies, tears overflowing; sing songs, make hay, right wrongs
Some men search for words; grasp at songs long unsung; recline, descend into memory without recall, documenting decline
We all make do and mend, do the do-able, try to lead while laughing - dancing out of control
This starts, that ends
Meanwhile I digest poison, it calms me as I listen for news of death, and wait on news of life
I want for nothing but comfort and comforting
Life then, like lava, hot and unstoppable, carrying, charring, hardening, just to hear the sound of cracking rock and falling ash

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

mark my words...

I'm the kind of sad git that listens to, and watches current affairs programmes on radio and TV. And I am endlessly enraged by the way that politicians speak to us - often patronising and pompous, inevitably evasive, hardly ever informative or convincing, invariably aggressive, but most aggravatingly of all, they use stock phrases that only politicians ever use -

  • "I'm bound to say...." - what, I ask myself, binds them to say the bit of nonsense they then go on to utter?
  • "Let me just say...." - most often said when nothing at all is preventing them from speaking - "Go on then say it" I shout, "get on with it....."
  • "across the piece" - for example - "this policy will be effective across the piece" - the piece of what? cake? (oo! I do hope so)
  • "a raft of "- as in, "a whole raft of measures"

I'm bound to say that I don't like this kind of language used across the piece by politicians, when talking about a whole raft of issues; and let me just say I will not tolerate it any further!

Do you have pet language hates?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Well I shouldn't have worried about having an injection of methotrexate the day before my uni course starts - my liver has intervened - it is protesting that it has had enough methotrexate for the time being. I went to get my first injection today, only to be told that that I should stop taking methotrexate completely - no tablets, no injection.
Good news in the very short-term - I should be reasonably well on Wednesday, but potentially very bad news longer-term 'cos despite its ill effects it was helping to supress the rheumatoid arthritis. I'm not sure how quickly the pain and stiffness will wear on but it could be quite soon.
Back to hospital next Tuesday to find out how I'm doing... keep your fingers crossed for my liver (now there is a strange request).


PS I'll try and post about something else next time

Thursday, September 13, 2007

needling myself...

Well.... all those sleep depriving symptoms that I mentioned in my last post, and one or two more problems too personal to mention, turn out to be clear signs that my body is reacting badly to methotrexate. Much more worryingly, blood tests show my liver is struggling. My rheumatologist (a knowledgeable and decent man who I saw earlier this week) says we need to get things sorted quickly because my joints are continuing to deteriorate.
Now, your liver is not an organ to cross - as essential to life as the heart and the brain, the liver is the biochemical powerhouse of the body. However it is pretty sensitive to "alien" chemicals like methotrexate.
I currently take methotrexate (mtx) tablets once a week - it knocks out the immune system for a day, which then takes the rest of the week to recover. Many of the unwanted effects of mtx occur because it passes through the gut. So a possible solution to those unwanted effects is to have methotrexate injected. From next Tuesday therefore, I will trundle up to the Haywood each week to have an injection. Not too much of a problem with that, I'm not phobic about needles, although I still have to look away when they take a blood sample. However, after a couple of visits they will train me to inject myself, and I can't say I'm looking forward to that.
What I'm most concerned about is that, in an attempt to try and stop my misguided immune system attacking my joints, they are going to increase the dose of mtx - so although some of the symptoms should diminish, others may increase.
It's a high risk approach - they will monitor my liver function very closely to make sure it doesn't suffer permanent damage. The potential benefits are that my joints will suffer less damage.
At this point in the consultation, I asked the rheumatologist if we couldn't just leave things as they are - on a tolerable, slightly reduced dose of mtx - he responded, rather darkly "You wouldn't thank me in a few years time if we did".

Oh bugger, and there was me thinking I was doing alright.

On a very positive note - my MA in Community Arts starts next Wednesday - I'm really looking forward to studying again - the discussion, the reading, the learning - unfortunately I will have had the first injection of the increased dose of methotrexate the day before - I hope I feel well enough to attend...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

wednesday morning - too bloody early...

List 1 ...can't sleep 'cos:

  1. I'm itchy all over
  2. my mouth and fundament are sore
  3. a high pitched discord rings between my ears, punctuated by foghorn blasts (Ah! - the joy of tinnitus)
  4. my eyes are dry
  5. I'm thirsty
  6. my knees hurt
  7. I needed a widdle
  8. the covers were weighing heavily on my aching feet
  9. I'm worried about going to see the rheumatologist next week
  10. the house stinks of vinegar 'cos I made chutney last night (no, I'm not an earwig)
  11. and my mind spins at the thought of all the change over the last year.... and I'm making lists of lists

List 2 - September 2006, I had:
  1. two sons living at home
  2. a job
  3. a reasonable income (for the voluntary sector)
  4. two very used cars
  5. some very good and caring friends
  6. a loving partner
  7. a load of symptoms
  8. fingers that itched to play the guitar (and frequently did)
  9. an urge to take photographs, and about 32,000 images on disk
  10. a feeling that life was getting less exciting
  11. too many responsibilities
List 3 - September 2007, I have:
  1. a second son in less than a year preparing to move away
  2. no job, and my income is a shadow of its former self
  3. a camper-van - aka "Scourge of BMWs / Instant Holiday", and (for the first time in my life) a brand new car
  4. some very good and caring friends (Facebook thinks I have 48 friends - I know I have more)
  5. a loving partner (who is one of the 48 friends, and the best of all)
  6. rheumatoid arthritis, which after years of uncertainty explains the symptoms
  7. a load of new and exciting symptoms (see List 1 above) thanks to the drugs I take to deal with the original symptoms
  8. fingers that ache (quite literally) to play the guitar
  9. an urge to take even more photographs, and about 45,000 images on disk
  10. a melodeon
  11. a book entitled "The D/G Melodeon Absolute Beginners" (nothing like rubbing it in)
  12. a feeling that life is getting more exciting
  13. fewer responsibilities, but still too many
  14. and I am, for the fourth time in my life, about to become a bloody student.

I think this must be what they call "counting your blessings" - no wonder my head is spinning

Sunday, August 05, 2007

how do they do that....?

ever wondered how your computer works - just how does moving the mouse, move the cursor around the screen?
Well - here is a great visual explanation - it takes a moment or two to load, and it's best to have the sound on.
Enjoy the power of education...

Monday, July 30, 2007

the WI

we went to Leek Show on Saturday and visited the Women's Institute tent, mainly to see if there were any cake samples - sadly, all that was left were a few crumbs. However we arrived in time to see the prize-giving, and this group of women, who were from Bradnop (where?), seemed well pleased to get a good many prizes. Most of the prizes were for curiously obscure achievements, one category of which looked like an oversized dolls house packed with vegetables, cakes, savouries and oddments from someones loft, all colour co-ordinated.

I'm strangely fascinated by the WI - someone I respect greatly is a member and I love to hear her talk about her branch and its doings. I'm not alone in this - there are endless TV programmes at the moment about the institute, and the press regularly runs stories about it and then of course there was that calender and a consequent film.
What do you think? Are you a member? If you want to join (and you are a woman) go here... - how helpful is that?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

atypical rides again...

Pen and I have sorted out, spruced-up and re-launched our photoblog atypical...

We've chucked a load of pictures in the skip, changed the layout and chosen a new colour scheme - but most important, we've added a load of new pictures... and we will add a lot more over the next few days... and then we will keep the site up-to-date with regular new posts.

You can copy pics from the site for personal use - but please ask before you use any image commercially, or to promote a product or an idea - see details of our Creative Commons license on the site.
<<< pan people puzzle - Stoke PAN is a purchasing co-op committed to sustainability of food supplies and the environment. They had an event for members in spring 2007 and used an innovative consultation tool based on a jigsaw to put across their views...this picture won the Higher Education Academy SWAP photo competition.
click pic to see a larger version

Thursday, July 26, 2007

always change...

I'm delighted to say that the brown-outs (see below) have retreated. They were replaced for a few days by inflammation, stiffness and pain, and then blessing of blessings, three days of near normality which coincided with a trip to Suffolk to see my Mum. And whilst I was there, the enjoyable, nerve-rack of a joint radio interview with ace mind-bloggler Klahanie**.

It would be good to be able to say that it was wonderful to see my Mum - but we are not close, and time has widened rather than narrowed the gap between us. She is now 86, and I'd like to think that something could happen that would bring us closer again - but that kind of thing only happens in novels.
When I was young she seemed warm and affectionate, but when she met a new partner following the death of my Dad, she became increasingly detached from my sister and I.
I sometimes get the feeling that she resents me moving so far away from the east coast, but there were always very good reasons to be elsewhere - to be further north and west where both the people and the countryside are more friendly and comfortable.

For lots of reasons (mostly to do with being brought-up there) I have never much liked East Anglia - it's flat, and the light is cold and glaring - well, to my eyes. But Pen and I had a great day out in Orford and Aldeburgh - a boat trip, ice-cream, cake, fantastic fish and chips, a paddle and a walk - since the onset of RA, a proper walk has become a rare treat.
We took hundreds of photos - including a couple that I think are amongst my best yet. Pen made a wonderful video starring that perennial heart-throb, the sea.
I'll do a gallery of Suffolk coast images very soon - but left is a taster - taken in Aldeburgh, at the origin of the remarkable spit of shingle that is Orford Ness. (click to see a bigger pic).

We had a nasty journey back - long, tiring, queue-ridden and hassled by faster vehicles. But when we got home - a really good surprise - a letter telling me I have won first prize in a photo competition organised by the Higher Education Academy. And then, while looking in a magazine published by English Heritage, Pen noticed another two of my pictures - they'd asked ages ago if they could use them - I thought they'd forgotten.
Less good was opening my payslip - sick pay has stopped this month - from this point on I'm unwaged and effectively jobless. If I could cross my fingers, I would that work's sickness insurance will pay-up - it's not a lot of money but it would really help.
Perhaps you'd be good enough to cross your fingers for me?

It was four years ago today that Sara died - in part a victim of ill-funded and ill-founded mental health services, her last few years were troubled and anxious. Those who knew her, will remember her caring ways, a clever mind and an uproarious sense of humour. She is most greatly missed by our sons Phil and Rich who lost the best Mum either of them could have had.

** - you can hear the interview about mind-bloggling, along with a chunk of Radioman's podcast about Sanity Fair, on Radio 5 live on Tuesday 31st July at around 2-o-clock in the morning or on the BBC's listen-again facility

BTW - If you have been - you can un-cross your fingers now - Thanks

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A brown-out is not a form of political protest against a new head of state, but a term used by workers in the electricity industry to describe power reductions that fall short of a complete blackout - bulbs dim, kettles take ages to boil, tv pictures shrink and lots of other stuff just stops working.
Well... I've been getting brown-outs, sudden bouts of fatigue - not just ordinary tiredness, but a sense that if I don't stop doing what I'm doing and rest right now, I will collapse. My brown-outs always happen in the afternoon - usually around four or five-o-clock - and the only way I can cope is to sleep for a while. Sometimes a ten minute nap will do, but recently I have been waking after several hours, having intended to have a short restorative doze.

Fatigue is one of the main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis - for many, unaccountable tiredness is one of the earliest and most distressing signs of the onset of RA. Quite why fatigue has been affecting me so badly again, is difficult to know - maybe the underlying disease process is very active? I've had to up the dose of the main drug I take - and that has made me feel pretty lousy at times. Also I seem to have taken on too much (see my last post) and I certainly overdid things a few weekends back.

I've had lots of anxiety-provoking things happen recently. In some ways the anxiety has been the worst thing of all, because it feeds on itself, working away insidiously, robbing me of energy at a level at which I'm barely aware. And for me, anxiety points towards depression - and it takes a lot of energy to fight that decline. Studies show that around three-quarters of people with RA experience moderate to serious depression.

However, I feel I may be having a lucky escape - last night I slept solidly for seven hours, despite sleeping for four hours during the day yesterday (and the day before that). I woke this morning feeling truly refreshed, and as well as I've felt for ages. I turned on the radio and the first thing I heard was that Alan Johnson had been released... it is so important that news keeps coming from places like Gaza where ordinary people suffer terrible deprivation and oppression. Unhindered, fearless press access and comment is central to the maintenance of decent societies. Alan Johnson's release is a bright point of light at a time when trust between differing communities is under threat. It gives me great pleasure to be able to remove the "free Alan Johnson" banner from my blog!

So.... a good start to the day. Later I'm off to see Spiers and Boden play - they are among the most imaginative and skilled of musicians playing in Britain today and are a joy to see live. Then... a couple of days off travelling with my lovely Pen, who is simply the best partner I can imagine for me.
Not out of the woods yet, but I'm heading for higher and brighter land.

Sorry to have not been around for a while - there are people (not least fellow mind-blogglers) to whom I would like to have given more support recently, but, I suppose you can only do what you can do....

Saturday, June 09, 2007

busy, busy, busy...kind-of

Re my last post ...I've been doing lots of stuff over the last few months -

  • doing a short course on community arts at Staffs Uni
  • applying for Disability Living Allowance - got it!
  • getting a Motability car - I got an adapted, easy-to-drive Yaris - which is completely liberating - I can go places again
  • getting a blue badge - got it!
  • making an insurance claim - not got it (yet)
  • challenging the insurance companies decision that they couldn't pay 'cos I should have known I'd got rheumatoid arthritis 11 years ago!!!
  • applying to Staffs Uni to study for a part-time MA by negotiated study
  • trying to negotiate a programme of study acceptable to me and the university
  • trying to get some money to support my study despite a bizarre rule that denies Disabled Students Allowance to anyone who needs to spread their study over a number of years
  • volunteering at MAGMH for a few hours a week
  • trying to make and eat a bowl of porridge each day (it's good for you)
  • going up to the Haywood hospital and to my GPs a lots
  • getting involved in patient participation / consultation stuff at the Haywood
  • up-ing my dose of methotrexate (because my joints are still bad) - and dealing with the consequent sickness
  • trying to perform at least some of my duties as a trustee of N Staffs Mind
  • ditto as trustee of MAGMH
  • trying to take some half-decent pictures
  • designing / setting-up a website for my friend Bernard
  • trying to enthuse all sorts of people about my idea for a project which seeks to engage people experiencing enduring mental distress to take photographs as a way of challenging stigma and discrimination
  • getting involved with the Happy Man-days project
  • thinking a lot about disability, stigma, disablism, mental distress
  • learning how to negotiate with organisations who want to buy photographs from me (a good feeling)
  • growing food and flowers
  • de-cluttering our house, so when we move (sometime in the next year) we don't have to do it in a rush
  • not worrying about what I'm going to do for money when I "formally" retire
  • keeping this blog going and visiting / commenting on other blogs
  • counting the different sorts of birds visiting our garden
  • doing bugger-all on days when I feel crappy - as Klahanie says "busy being ill"
  • eating lots of ice-cream and cake
  • giving love and support to family and friends who have given me so much support and love
  • talking a lot, about all sorts of things, with my best friend Pen
  • seeing lots of people, making new friends and generally having a good time

I don't know whether I'm coming or going a lot of the time... but I guess it will all settle down sometime soon - and it's better than sitting on the sofa

Friday, June 08, 2007

deep and important questions...

...has anyone ever made a left-handed piano?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

apologies... posts recently, but more importantly, no time to look at other people's blogs and leave comments - sorry.

Life has been so busy - either busy re-organising for life after retirement, or busy being ill (thanks Klahanie for recognising that - it was good to see you today).

In all of this I'm remarkably cheerful - in the past I would have been very anxious about the future - and all but paralysed by that anxiety. But these days I seem to be able to be more philosophical.

I'm very occupied at the mo' with developing ideas for work around photography and mental health - in particular working with people who have enduring mental health problems. And I'm trying to link this with a programme of study/research at Staffs University - I'm doing a short course about community arts there at the moment and really enjoying it - I'd forgotten how much I enjoy academic work. It feels odd to be a student again, but not unpleasant...

Anyway - I will be looking at other people's blogs very soon...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

pj and peggy...

PJ Wright sliding on a resonator, with Dave Pegg, in Leek, on Wednesday night.
PJ is a fine guitarist, vocalist and writer - his latest solo album "Hedge of Sound" is rattling the cones in my house a lot at the mo' - you could do worse than get yourself a copy.
I managed to get a few shots - including this one (left) which I like a lot - about half the audience seemed to be taking pictures.
Sadly I had to leave at half time because of a minor-ish family crisis, and didn't get to chat to PJ and thank him for using one of my images on PJ & Peggy's latest CD - so - Thanks PJ, long may you prosper, and may the licks always come nice and easy...

click the pic to embiggen it - snapped with a D80/Nikkor 70-300 @ 300mm, ISO3200, handheld.