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Showing posts from August, 2008

Stroke My Spaniel And I'll Bite You, Cameron

David Cameron scares me. Somehow he has managed to convince half the British electorate that he isn't Margaret Thatcher in a Tony Blair skinsuit, when he very obviously is. How did he pull off such a confidence trick?

The hopelessness of Gordon Brown's Government helps. Imagine, waiting for a job for ten years (or however many it was since Blair and Brown did their famous Mephistophelian[is that the spelling?] Deal) and then finding out you are utterly useless at it. Brown is a prime minister for a different age, one that passed many, many moons ago. He's just not superficial enough to pull it off in this age of media manipulation initiated by his former boss Mr Blair and his demonic sidekick Alastair Campbell. It's not the message that matters anymore, Gordy. It's how your hair looks when you deliver it.

Cameron's talk of believing in the individual and not the State has even, somehow, convinced cynical political observers that he's saying something new. But…

Earls Barton Gangster

comb stuck in hair,
jeans down around
his butt cheeks,
boxer shorts
on backwards.

talks black london
on his mobile phone.

"yeahyeahyeah
yeah cool man
cool."

big gangster waiting
for the bus to town.

asks for half fare
when he boards,
and gets it.

Palin

We woke up this morning to the news that John McCain has chosen Sarah Palin, the Governor of somewhere or other, and--as the news reports are taking great delight in telling us--an ex-beauty queen, for his running mate in the American presidential elections. The fact that she was a beauty queen, of course, means nothing, and the British media is actually being rather sexist in reporting it so rabidly.
There's a suggestion that one of the reasons McCain chose Palin was to try to poach disillusioned Hillary Clinton supporters from the Democrats. I don't know if that's true, not being a Facebook friend of John McCain's, but I can believe it might be. What I struggle to believe is that anybody's alliegance to a political cause could be so flexible that they'd abandon it just because a candidate with the same genitalia was selected for the other team. But then, I am known for my dogmatism when it comes to politics. A friend of mine recently said, "Bruce, for su…

Changes To The Page

The keen-eyed among you will notice I've made a few changes to the look of the page.Let me know what you think. It looks cleaner and clearer now, to me, and it sports the colours of Ipswich Town, my football club, who, if the first few games of the season are anything to go by, are likely to need all the moral support they can get.
I'm also going to reintroduce labelling of posts from today so people can read the things they're interested in and skip over the stuff that bores them silly. I know some people don't share my interest in politics and only want to read about literary matters, for example. So labels should be of some help.
Excelsior! (as Stan Lee used to say.) Bruce.

The Station Pub

in Wellingborough is gone! I passed it yesterday. It was a fabulous old place, small, soaking in the character of another age when the profit margin and corporate unformity weren't immediate considerations for every new building or business. I'd guess it had been there down by Wellingborough Rail Station slaking the thirsts of travellers and rail workers for a hundred years at least.Lee and I went in there a few times, it being near his house. I've drunk in there alone and with other people too. Now it's just a big (small) pile of rubble behind a wire fence, the space waiting to be developed, no doubt into something that looks exactly like everything else, something no one needs. Overgrown with budleia, the large pointy purple heads blowing in the august wind. The only thing that's left of the original structure of the pub is the doorstep. I stepped over it, went in, sat down on one of the plucked and threadbare seats and had a pint in memory of times and people go…

Leicester

Image
I've been to Leicester today. Wanted to go somewhere I hadn't been for a while to calm my mind down again after all the tension I picked up yesterday at work. Seems to have been successful as well, since I don't presently want to shoot anybody.
I thought, since it was also pay day, it would be nice to be in a bigger place where more of the things I wanted to buy were available. But I was forgetting myself. I don't really want anything! Just the odd book by Philip Whalen or Gary Snyder or Han Shan or Li Po that you can't get in any English bookshops anyway (that's why Buddha willed the internet into existence, right?) So I haven't returned from Leicester with anything except a clearer mind than I had when I went out this morning. But that's got to be more important than anything else, I think. Without a clear mind there's no escape even in sleep.
Lunch in the park in Leicester town centre, a few feet away from this waterfall, across from the town hall…

The Day After Work

Morning on the mountain. Cars circling like swarms of flies down in the world of dust below.

Mind really sour today. Don't even have any ear for rhythm. Snappy like an angry crocodile rotating yellow eyes in the undergrowth waiting for a chance to bite.
That's just the world,
the world,
the messy,
angry,
dewdrop
world.

(from my journal)

Me, Women And How It Is Now

Since I broke up with **** I have had a strange existence. I spent most of last year in the company of a woman friend who I never slept with, but who had become like a kind of Siamese twin. That relationship was too intense. I became too intense. Almost had another breakdown because of it. She had me believing (almost) my melancholic nature was due to hell demons attacking me. I can't remember why I'd made them cross, in her crazed demonology. Recommended I cry out the name of Jesus to come and defend me when the blues (and therefore the demons) got really rough. I didn't do that, but I did take to keeping a copy of the Bible in the house, and hanging a crucifix from a nail in my ceiling, just in case.Pretty peculiar for a Buddhist. When I look back on it now I wonder what the hell was wrong with both of us. (Maybe I was missing the nutty relative I'd lived with before, or the psychic dramas I endured in that situation for so long.)

Finally I couldn't take any more …

Drugs and Yours Untruly

I heard something on the radio this morning about mandatory drug and alcohol testing in the workplace. Now, I'm opposed to any impingement on civil liberties, especially when they're imposed by bosses to protect the profit margin, but when I heard about this one I thought, Hmmm, finally, a way of finding out whose life outside of work is real and who makes theirs up.

Because drinking and getting stoned are the only life now. It's everybody's measure of whether you've had a good or a bad weekend. If somebody had spent Saturday and Sunday writing a symphony, they'd probably still go into work on Monday morning and tell people they were massively hungover from a two-day drinking binge with a lot of unnamed (and probably made up) friends.

Mind you, I'm sometimes guilty of ridiculous (and essentially immature) image-making myself. I wrote an email to an old girlfriend some time ago in which I gently castigated her for trying to give up cocaine. "I hang onto …

Three Poems

i.

like hokusai's wave--
that cloud above
the council houses.

ii.

who's bowing down?
who isn't?--
morning meditation

iii.

as far as i know, i've never been
to san francisco--
inspired by the black cat bar
i remember other places.

Meditation

I got in a good twenty minute meditation in the bedroom at work before I went in for my shift this morning. I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it, with everything that goes on there distracting my mind. Ironically, though, one of my old Buddhas resurfaced at work the other day--I'd left it there ages ago and forgot about it, and someone had set it up as an ornament or something in the room--so I was able to use that as the focus for a kind of makeshift altar on the floor.

People are instinctively repelled by the idea of things like altars, bowing and prayer in this time--though it's okay to worship money and have a widescreen telly as the altar-like centrepiece and attention-focus of your living room--but I don't worry about them anymore. The ceremony of morning meditation is a nice way of centering my mind. And the elegance of it is certainly better for your head than the drivel it gets filled with by morning telly. I only bow before the Buddha from time to time, but …

Work

Back to the money job today after 13 quiet, beautiful, instructive days off. Now I have to try to hold onto the peace of mind and the renewed focus I've found with all of the pressures and distractions of the job tugging me away from them. Well, if I really want to stay on the path I will, right? All I've got to do is sit squarely on the ox of my mind and make him go where I want him to. Which is easier said than done, but that really is all it boils down to.

As for the job itself--I can't really resent having to do it, much as that tempts you after two weeks of blissful silence and serene meditation. The job is what buys you the space to find the peace inside, after all.

NOW

There is only now, Zen says
The moment you are in
Sitting in the benjo
with your trousers down
writing "there is only now"
as someone coughs once
in the cubicle next door.

Morning

Coffee, black, times two,
then breakfast.
Shit, shower, shave,
apply deoderant, get dressed,
brush hair free of tangles.
Such work, it seems like
so much vanity.
I'm like a guy from National Heritage
trying to preserve an outhouse
that went up in another age,

listed, though no one's
quite sure why.

Young Couples In The Age Of The High Street Burger

I have got to stop listening to other people's conversations. It's creepy. But you get so much great material when you do. This morning I saw this young couple--the usual model nowadays: overweight pretty big-mouthed woman and skinny, spotty-faced, grumpy, quiet, staring-out-of-window male--they were sitting on the bus staring into a big buggy that obviously contained a really new baby and discussing what they should call her. "Winifred!" the male said in a rare moment of involvement in the conversation. It was like watching a fish break the surface of a river and then dive back in. "We certainly will not call her Winifred!" the female insisted. Then they started talking about something else. I couldn't hear what the man was saying because he spoke in a whisper. Either he remembered they were on a bus (at least one of them did), or he'd adjusted the level of his voice since getting together with the woman to let the windows and doors settle back on …

Buddha, Jesus and the Church of Latter Day Bank Clerks

I'm an English Buddhist sitting in an internet cafe in Northampton run by Muslims in the next chair along from two American Mormons. Think of it. They're wearing those short-sleeved white shirts and black trousers, the tie, the name badge. An image which is supposed to look respectable and break down the barriers of fear and suspicion, I suppose. But to me they look much more peculiar and intimidating and sinister than the Muslim woman sitting behind the desk in her burkha. I know there's a strong argument against the subjection of women in Islam and that the burkha represents that (is it subjection if a woman of intelligence, as she clearly is, wears it voluntarily?) but it's still a nice outfit, at least according to my prejudices. And with burkhas there are a hundred different colours and designs for women (I presume) to choose from. It's an unfair reaction, but when I see the Mormons coming all dressed exactly alike in the same styles and colours I have an inst…

Colonel Parker Was No Albert Grossman, Dude

It crossed my mind yesterday, thinking about Elvis Presley on the anniversary of his death, what a terrible manager Colonel Tom Parker was. It's not usually looked at that way, but think about it: after buying Elvis out of Sun Records and getting him onto RCA (I think he was with Elvis when that happened)--that was an exceptional move--what did he do? Got Elvis into two good movies and about 150 terrible ones, almost ruining his reputation in the process, and never, after the comeback--which was probably the one time control of Elvis' destiny was put in somebody else's hands (the classic concept of the show in '68 was the producer's)--never once arranged for Elvis to perform outside the United States. (Hawaii is one of the states, isn't it?) Performing across the globe may or may not have stimulated Elvis' creativity--I think it would have, because his repetitive concert schedule in America, echoing the repetition of the movie contract, dulled Elvis and mad…

Quote of the Day

2012 is now only four years away - athlete waxing philosophical about the Olympics on 5 Live this morning.

Southbank: Unions, Racism, Romance And Friends

I was in Kettering again yesterday. Sat under a tree in the park next to the art gallery for a while, chomping on a veggie baguette and thinking thoughts. But then a group of those kids in white baseball caps and cheap sports gear became a little too interested in me. You don't sit under trees in their world, you sit on walls. And you don't go anywhere by yourself either; you have to find a gang of people dressed like you.So anyway, I thought they were going to start hassling me, given how much they were looking in my direction and giggling (or is this paranoia?)(or guilt because I've abused them so comprehensively in my writing and in the County Court of my Buddhist mind?), so I got up and decided to go and do something else.
I went up to visit Southbank. Southbank was where I used to work, at the top of (what road is it?) on the way out of town, a big old residential care unit for people with learning difficulties tacked onto the end of a day centre and a respite care uni…

Credit Crunch Holiday (5)

After doing the internet thang yesterday I bussed back to Earls B and walked out to Sywell Country Park. There are a few of them in Northamptonshire and they're really valuable to people like me with a bit of an Ed Abbey/ Gary Snyder hang-up because they're the only places you can go to sit down and read, or meditate, or think, or talk to the animals, without running the risk of getting your arse shot off by an irate farmer. I was going to say nobody owns the country parks, you see; but of course, all of us do technically.
Anyway, I was out there sitting at a fireburned picnic table (now that must have been a hell of a barbie), and I began feeling so peaceful with the sun on my arms and the ducks and swans thrashing about in the water and the smell of woodsmoke filling my nostrils, that I started writing a kind of thank-you poem in my journal to express my appreciation of it all. I had hoped there might be a little shower so I could take a walk in the woods and have the rain fi…

A Little Movie Moment For You

Two Great Lies Of Modern Life

Think how many times one of your friends has said either one of these to you. And then, before you start to feel all aggrieved about it, ask yourself how many times you've said them to your friends.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I was miles away." (Trans.: I was really hoping you wouldn't notice me.)

"I wasn't ignoring you, I didn't have any credit." (Trans.: I was ignoring you.)

Karma

The perennial question: "So you think a kid with Downes Syndrome is being punished for the misdeeds of previous lives?" (People are always trying to prove to you that your beliefs are wrong, especially if they have none of their own.)
Who says that kid's not a bodhisattva incarnated in this form to teach people to care for something other than themselves? or to make people aware that their hearts are hard so they can begin to make some sort of spiritual progress?
Besides, a disabled kid's life is only a marathon of suffering to those who look on, secretly appalled by what they see as his imperfections.

After Meditation

A pigeon flying down through light
from my thatched roof--
Getting up to stretch my back.

POEM

It stands on top
of centuries of thinkers,
poets, philosophers and priests--
my perfect mind.

CREDIT CRUNCH HOLIDAY (4)

I checked on how my bank card was doing after I left the internet cafe yesterday. Remember? It didn't work in the morning and Worst Direct advised me to try another ATM because, they thought, the machine I'd used couldn't read the chip in my card. As it turned out, the two ATMs I tried in the afternoon couldn't read them either.
Starting to worry a bit, I went home, dug out all my security details, and phoned Worst Direct again. After being put on hold and transferred twice (at least it wasn't three times like in the morning), I spoke to a guy who said he would replace my card, on the presumption, now, that there was something wrong with the card and not all the ATMs in Northamptonshire (seemed a sensible assumption), but that in the meantime he would put an override into the system so that the machines could read my existing card, until the new one arrived, and I wouldn't be left without money for the 5 to 7 days it might take for the replacement to arrive. &qu…

Going To The Shops

To the fly, that dog turd's
just a good, wet breakfast--
both of us out hungry after the rain

Credit Crunch Holiday (3)

As you can see from the little pome (last post) it was righteously raining this morning. The sky looked like it was billowing out smoke and ash from the foundries of Hell. But emboldened--or becalmed--by a 30 minute meditation I decided to go to Leicester anyway. Got into Wellingborough, went to an ATM for the train fare and a message came up: "Your card issuer has not authorised this withdrawal."

Oh shit. This has happened before, so I had a good idea what it might be: in the name of security, the banks monitor your ATM withdrawals and then freeze your account if anything looks irregular. Which you'd think was a good thing, except every time it's happened to me I've been in another town with no cash on me and no way of getting home except either walking--which isn't advisable when the heavens are tipping down on your head--or borrowing money from someone, if you can find anybody you know at the arbitrary times and in the unpredictable places this account free…

Midsummer Morning, Opening My Curtains

for dawn

Car tyres splash through rivers of rain
Lights on against the gloom at 8am.
Woman steps quickly under an umbrella
going for the bus to town.

Credit Crunch Holiday (2)

the lookout

Again that delicious luxury of not quite knowing what to do with your day.
Ah, that this holiday and my money could last forever!
The challenge, not to slide into old conceptual habits because I have time on my hands.

in the benjo, wellingborough market square

Half way to Wellingborough on the bus I realised I'd forgotten my wallet. And I have no money on me at all. Rode all the way into town anyway, smiling at my stupidity. Look on it as a long walk home voluntarily taken.
Plus I really needed to piss.

croyland park

Circuitous route back through Croyland Park, trying not to step on the daisies and buttercups.
An insect I don't know the name of crawling through the tangle of long hairs on my leg. Antennae twitching madly as it hunkers down against a gust of strong wind.

The swimming baths are gone! Nothing at all remains of the building except in my mind, where it is as real and loud and echoing and chlorine-smelling as it was before.
In real unreality (as Kerouac called it),…

CREDIT CRUNCH HOLIDAY

Okay, it has nothing really to do with the credit crunch. I just don't have any money. Result of taking a £3000 loan out to fix up the house I grew up in; I'm still paying £100 a month back on that on top of £510 a month rent, which has just been raised to £525 thanks to (I reluctantly surmise) the credit crunch and the Labour Government's general mishandling of everything. There are a bunch of other smaller debts that I have to pay off every month too. AND I live nine miles away from work and have to use public transport to get there. AND I've had to move house twice in four years, which isn't the best way for a man to start piling money up in the bank for bourgeois luxuries like holidays. The last time I moved I lost my deposit too. Shame I put the money down on my present property before the new regulations, ostensibly putting tenant's deposits in the hands of an objective third party, came into law.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I have two weeks off…

Hugs

She sees her friend in the street, rushes towards her with a squeal of joy, opening her arms. Inches away from her friend, who is mirroring her movements and her pleasure, she stops, turns her head, sneezes, giggles, then jumps into the other girl's arms.

Later she waits outside Sainsbury's smoking a cigarette in the rain, talking aimatedly to her friend from earlier. She sees a boy walking out of the car park towards her. "Jude!" she shouts. A smile seems to consume his entire face as he realises who's calling him. She chucks away her cigarette and opens her arms theatrically."Hug me, you big black bastard!"

Yo Yo Yo

I actually heard somebody answer the phone by saying Yo yo yo a little while ago. A priceless moment. I would have laughed till I peed myself if he hadn't looked so scarey.

He was one of those blokes who dressed as if he'd just stepped out of a hip hop (do they still call it hip hop?) video. Cap and oversized lurid-coloured clothes. I bet he tried to roll his shoulders and bounce at the hip when he walked too. I don't know, I didn't hang around; I had to go somewhere with my derision so he didn't notice it and stab me.

Those blokes, of course, are more palatable than their more common, cheapskate equivalent, those pale, underfed, spotty-faced kids who wear white baseball caps and crappy jogging bottoms from Primark. All they seem to do is sit on walls with their mouths open shouting monosyllables at each other and trying to frighten old people.

But they appear to listen to the same sort of music half the time, albeit with a little brainless bang-bang-thump-thump elect…

TV: The Enemy In The Room

I watched half an hour of television this afternoon. I had to; I was in a hospital waiting room and I had to turn my head towards the tv screen to stop the other people in the room talking to me.

I was struck by what a sedative television is, all this time after giving up my own set. Within five minutes of watching the programme in front of me--some cooking competition compered by a tv dancer dressed like a Burton's window from the 1980s--I was almost asleep; and within ten minutes I felt like my brain had died.

Somebody said to me earlier, apropos of my not having a tv set, you're missing EastEnders. Her tone was rather incredulous, as if I had revealed I'd gone three weeks without water. You walk down any street at night and glance through any window, you'll see at least one person sitting dumbly in front of the glowing box in the corner with nothing on their body moving except an arm forking biscuits into a half-open mouth. And usually a whole family will be doing it…

Sport And Politics: The Olympics Are Here

According to the New Statesman, 209 people have been murdered by the Chinese Government or their jack-booted thug lackeys since Beijing was awarded the Olympics. But sport and politics don't mix, do they, so what does it matter?

The BBC's Olympic coverage is going to be linked with a long animation featuring characters from the classic of Chinese literature, Monkey (which was also a rather fabulous tv show many Chinese moons ago). I don't think it'll feature Chairman Mao accidentally murdering millions with a dangerous and unworkable agricultural policy or Buddhist temples being destroyed and statues being melted down in Tibet by Communist soldiers; I can't see it depicting the forced sterilisation of Tibetan women when they go into hospital with a urine infection or a broken toe either. That might be just a little bit too much for the overweight narcotised armchair athletes to swallow after they've had to endure an episode of the spectacularly banal daytime soa…