Do it now

This was the scene yesterday. I was by the sea and swam in warm gentle waves. I read some of Wolf Hall and sat with bare arms and legs enjoying what might be my last swim this year. It was glorious.

IMG_4267 IMG_4265

And today about the same time this is what I am looking at. Tommy’s first wet walk.


Everything changes. The leaves that are green turn to brown.  Enjoy it all as much you can. It’s over far too quickly.

And while I am on this theme.

Off now to watch Strictly with my daughter, stir ( and eat) some risotto and help put the boys to bed.

Desert Island Discs

Listening to Jack Dee On Desert Island Discs this morning I was struck how genuine he seemed. He wasn’t playing mind games with Kirsty Young and attempted – it felt to me – to answer her questions with candour. He said he chose his discs with the idea in mind that he couldn’t imagine never hearing them again. Interesting. His selection was not particularly memorable. Some Bob Dylan, Bob Newhardt, the theme to Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads… none of them appeal to me much but they shed light on his world.

Less classical music is played these days and many of today’s guests choose ‘light’ music which is meaningful to them. Likewise Kirsty asks more probing questions, so the programme has a more confessional tone. We feel we get to know the guests better, in the same way that a person’s bookshelves tell yo something about them, their music is revelatory.

Which eight discs would I choose? I have asked this question of myself many times, and driven my family nuts with it.  Because it changes: what I choose today, I wouldn’t tomorrow. Music has associations. If I were thinking of family, I would choose Cole Porter for my father, or should that be Kinderzenen?

Or maybe The Grand Old Duke of York which he played for my grandson William on Tuesday. Him doing this for me is one of my earliest memories. For my mum I would choose The Dream of Gerontius with Janet Baker whose voice I know she loves. For Lydia, so many tunes to choose from, but maybe some Shania – Feel like a woman? All those Sunday lunchtimes belting it out while the roasties were cooking.

But these are my tunes. Not theirs. No matter how meaningful the association may be, this music would be for me. What I could not imagine ever hearing again?

Up there must be Dido’s Lament, either by Jeff Buckley or Alison Moyet.

I first heard this piece in the car several years ago on a programme called Soul Music. It moved me so much I stopped the car and wept.

Another choice would be Simple Gifts:

I don’t go for the pics much but Alison Krauss sings so well.

I get stuck around here at two discs because memories begin interfering and I start attaching songs to people. Which is fine, but like this blog, it’s all about me. Cue McFly.

Anyhow this started me looking at my cd collection which sits neglected in a corner of my kitchen. Which of these tunes have lasting appeal? I can’t remember some of them. So I thought I’d play my way through a few – easier than reading all the books you own and haven’t read, or finished : should be only an hours investment for each cd.

So this morning in between hoovering I played Horslips, an Irish folk band which Mr T introduced me to in Liverpool all those years ago and it (and he) seemed so exotic, energetic and edgy. But when I listened to it this morning the energy was still there but the music sounded innocent and untutored. I confess I didn’t make it to the end of the cd.  I then listened to Eagles Greatest Hits. Hotel California and Take it to the Limit still stand out but that cd remained unfinished too. I just don’t have the staying power. I don’t think I’d be bothered if I never heard them again. So I’ll keep on thinking. And listening.

Rather than being tied to the past and its associations, maybe it’s preferable to be open to what’s happening right now, so in my Youtube search this morning I came across this.

Fitting today as this time last year Helen and I were halfway through the Camino and at our lowest, hungriest and coldest point. Eating, or not eating, snail risotto and rice soup.  But a few days later we had bought our longjohns and things felt better.   Who knows what’s round the next corner? Another corner. Another song.







Breaking Bad

This is a truly shocking confession. You will all think badly of  me after this, but I am addicted in a small way, on wet days, to this series. The subject matter could not be darker, namely lung cancer and drug dealing.

Let me explain to my more innocent readers.

[ As an aside, a very close friend told me I was naive the other day. Naive? Less so after 39 episodes of BB. (Not to be confused with BB,  Baby Bill who is no longer a baby, more like Toddler BIll, but TB doesn’t sound nice, does it? Just so long as he never becomes Burglar Bill…) But I am rambling.]

BB is a revelation. I have a very low tolerance level of violence and depictions of crime, anything more than Morse has me leaving the room to put the kettle on. Indeed I walked out of the cinema during The Elephant Man because of the mocking cruelty of the crowd. I’ve toughened up since then.

Breaking Bad is at one level a slice of life most of us never see and try not to read about. It’s a gruelling watch. However it is very well constructed and throws up a lot of questions.The characterisation is outstanding and the tension in each episode almost unbearable.

A bit of back ground.

Walter White (played by Malcolm in the MIddle’s dad) is fifty, a chemistry teacher in a high school in Alberqueque who has a wife, Skyler and a teenage son with cerebral palsy Walt Jr. At the outset he has second job in a car wash to supplement their income. The family are unexpectedly expecting another child, a girl. One day Walter collapses at the car wash and is taken, against his wishes, to hospital, his insurance is basic. He discovers he has terminal lung cancer and has maybe two years to live, with radio and chemotherapy. More expense.

Early on we discover he was a whizz at chemistry at college and contributed to research which won a Nobel award. His peers all have high flying jobs in elite labs, so why he chose to teach in high school I don’t know yet and don’t tell me, please. But he did and now he has a predicament. How will he provide for his family after his predicted early demise?

His brother in law, Hank, who’s a swaggering hunk, works for the DEA, Drug Enforcement Agency, and takes Walter on a drugs bust. Like you do. They discover a ‘lab’ making the highly addictive substance, crystal meth. Walter meets an ex student, Jesse Pinkman, involved in this enterprise and together they form an uneasy alliance making – ‘cooking’  – and distributing this drug. Seamy does not describe the world we now enter. Terrifying more like.

From being a decent, middle class, middle aged teacher Walter uses his talent for precise chemistry to generate secret income for his family and becomes a drug manufacturer of immense skill, earning the respect and attention of many inside and outside the law.

Layers of lies and subterfuge ensue and he becomes ( initially I wrote ‘ is forced to become’ but he doesn’t, he chooses) an altogether different person. The symbiotic relationship between Walter and Jesse is unsettling and the balance of power shifts continually. Despite graphic scenes of drug abuse and degradation I find myself hoping they succeed in eluding both the cops and the drug cartels, that his wife will not find out about his double life.

Subtly I have been inveigled into their world, when I thought I was straight and so superior. Decisions are so clear cut, aren’t they?

The cancer story line is clever too: we know malignant cells grow unnoticed until something makes us aware of them. This parallels the web of lies spun by Walter which eventually will out. Furthermore of course addiction starts with one drink, one smoke, one snort of cocaine. Users initially think they have their habit under control but after a while the substance controls them. It becomes stronger than they are and takes them to places they never imagined. They become people they never wanted to be. People don’t they recognise. The need for the addictive substance is so strong that everything else takes second place and decisions are made only with short term procurement of the drug in mind.

Tough stuff. This series has made me think. It keeps me awake at night, imagining those many lost souls who were once dearly beloved children. And were I in such a position, what would I do? What would I trade to see my family secure and safe?

Another poem, Wendell Berry this time.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.