A humble look at Love

A humble look at love.

What is love? The eternal question, asked through song and dance, paint and photo, art, and music. Catharine MacKinnon, Judith Butler and Anna Jónasdóttir all produced paradigm shifting ideas about sexuality. But they all look at sexuality from a feminine or even feminist viewpoint. As a man, I want to ask why does love offer women such shackles, or what seem to be shackles? Are women obliged to submit, or can love and sex have an equal and healthy place in relationships? Those three words, are they really meaningful anymore? Or in a time with virtual networks where everyone has thousands of so called ‘friends’, do these ideas need reassessing?

The Ancient Greeks identified 4 types of love, eros, agape, philia and storge. Are these ideas still relevant? Is one word enough to cover the spectrum of love?

Is love just a chemical reaction to oxytocin or is it more than this? Is a crush the same as love? How long do we stay in love? Can we have love without sex? What is the role of the sexual act, and the kiss in a relationship? Who do we fall in love with first?

Do other animals experience love? Can we tell?

Can we explain communities, solidarity and even society through the idea of love? Were the Beatles correct when they said ‘Love is all you need’? Is Jesus’s/Christianity’s message of ‘Love your enemy as yourself’ or ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ really achievable? Or do we see ourselves as valued through the love of others? Can we love ourselves? Or do we fall into Narcissus’ pool?

Hate is seen as the opposite of love, but is it really a kind of love? Or do we fall into the trap laid by Orwell? ( “WAR IS PEACE,” “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY,” “IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”)

Can love have any place in our politics? What should we do about love when it becomes negative, for example a love for too much money or power, or even sex?

How can we touch, reach and influence people in this busy world unless we use love?

I will humbly try to explore all these ideas, and who knows, even find or discuss some of the answers.




Love as shackles or love as liberation?

Discovering love, discovering sex.

Young women and men flee the family home and the control of parents in the search for love and freedom from controlling parents. When parents or teachers or other figures of authority forbid sex, children and adolescents seek out this forbidden fruit as an act of rebellion, regardless of the consequences.Young girls (and boys)seek boyfriends (and girlfriends) due to peer pressure and social pressure. They look to the rebellion of losing their virginity without really understanding the emotions of the sexual act. Young boys often see girls as objects or opportunities, rather than as stable relationships and as an opportunity for forming family units.

The key is to educate young boys and girls about what love is, and how to cope with that. Allowing people to discover sex and sexuality in a no pressure environment is very important. Choosing which sexual path to take isn’t a childhood choice, as the decisions we make have ramifications way into adulthood.

In the homosexual world:

There is still a stigma associated with homosexuality and openness and public shows of affection and displays of love are socially uncomfortable and rarely seen. Homosexuals are still ‘The love that dare not speak its name’ as observed by Oscar Wilde, even though perhaps some people also say now it’s ‘The love that won’t shut up’ with recent demonstrations and controversies over homosexual marriage and adoption in many European countries.


Personal experience with young people: Ten years ago, I was a science teacher in a secondary school and as a teacher I taught sexual education, and we did emphasize the legal aspect, moral aspect and social aspects of sex and relationships. Sex without a relationship isn’t bad in itself if it’s an adult consenting act, but teenagers can’t consent to sex legally in the UK until 16, (among their own age group, however with adults in a ‘position of trust’ e.g. teacher, doctor, priest, nurse…) the age is 18 making sexual acts before statutory rape. There are also questions of disease, and pregnancy and reputation.

Sexual activity leads to its own problems in schools and wider society, with children and parents having conflicting ideas about sex and its implications.

15 years ago as a newly qualified teacher I saw a young girl aged 14 who was pregnant in a school.

Certainly the UK had and has a reputation for teenage pregnancy. However, the UK rate was 42.7 women under 18 per 100,000 in 2001 and in 2009, this had fallen to 38.3 per 100, 000. So still work to be done if society wants to reduce this rate, which can be very low in some areas, for instance in Windsor and Maidenhead

( source http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/feb/22/teenage-pregnancy-rates-england-wales-map#_) having a rate of 32 per 100, 000 and Southwark in London  having 63 per 100,000, almost double.

Society often sees these girls as fallen women, or bad examples, forgetting the role played by men. The shame is for the female, the glory for the male. Pregnancy takes two.

Teenagers fancy someone different every week, lacking the adult discernment and maturity and self-worth and self-value that comes with adulthood. We see this behaviour continue into the twenties and even beyond, perhaps reappearing at moments of crises or doubt (in the 40’s and the middle aged crises).

Perhaps then, is it us loving ourselves which makes it possible to love others.

Very often sexual acts made in haste are regretted at length. So sex then at its best is a sharing of passion, desire, a mutual respect and understanding, a construction and a unit. The beginning of a relationship is often very sexually active; lust and eroticism come into play. What are couples left with when the fire cools? If the relationship is solid, they have respect, and perhaps the knowledge of love, and being loved. Perhaps this ensures a continuation of the relationship “The ever fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken’ to quote Shakespeare. However, Larkin also had a word to say on love, ‘How can you call love conquering, when its brief bloom shrivels in the sour lanes of the living’ So then, when relationships and marriages breakdown perhaps it is because of a lack of communication between couples about what they want or need. There is still a shame in talking about sex, and pressure to be perfect, rather than a healthier learning process where partners can explain and even direct, giving mutual pleasure. Is this love, speaking of what we want but accepting we may not get it, and accepting the other?

Love isn’t something we fall into; it’s something we create with another person. Of course there is an original desire, and attraction, we create a relationship because of this, and break relationships when another person seems more desirable, or differently desirable, and the relationship lasts in the long term if we can resist these temptations (again, we can quote Wilde ‘I can resist everything except temptation’), or judge the current relationship to be of higher value, so we need to be valued and value ourselves, or we will follow the push button path of ‘I can so I will, I will because I can’. And worry about the consequences later. That’s not to say that affairs can be seen as exciting, as they are socially forbidden and a risk, and give adrenaline and excitement, but perhaps the best affairs are with your husband or wife. Keeping the flame glowing needs imagination, patience, determination, honesty and humility. As we are but human, no wonder then, we fail. Some relationships do last, for example you are more likely to get divorced in your adult life than leave your bank. Do we love our bank so much? Or is this just comfortable habit? Or is it more difficult to leave your bank than your partner?

Divorce:When love ends

An annual study in the UK by management consultants Grant Thornton, estimates the main proximal causes of divorce based on surveys of matrimonial lawyers

The main causes of divorce in 2004 were: (http://seidellaw.com/top-causes-of-divorce)

Adultery; Extramarital sex; Infidelity – 27%

Domestic violence – 17%

Midlife crisis – 13%

Addictions, e.g. alcoholism and gambling – 6%

Workaholism – 6%

According to this survey, men engaged in extra-marital affairs in 75% (55%) of cases; women in 25%

(45%). In cases of family strain, women’s families were the primary source of strain in 78%, compared to 22% of men’s families.

Emotional and physical abuse were more evenly split, with women affected in 60% and men in 40% of cases. In 70% of workaholism-related divorces it was men who were the cause, and 30% women.

The 2004 survey found that 93% of divorce cases were petitioned by women, very few of which were contested.

53% of divorces were of marriages that had lasted 10 to 15 years, with 40% ending after 5 to 10 years. The first 5 years are relatively divorce-free, and if a marriage survives more than 20 years it is unlikely to end in divorce.

Regarding divorce settlements, as defined by this survey women obtained a better or considerably better settlement than men in 60% of cases. In 30% of cases the assets were split 50-50, and in only 10% of cases did men achieve better settlements (down from 24% the previous year). The 2004 report concluded that campaigns like that of Fathers 4 Justice must succeed in increasing the percentage of shared residence orders, in order for more equitable financial divisions to become the norm.

However, the same study in 2007 cited 27% of cases falling out of love had led to a marriage breakdown.

( http://www.theguardian.com/money/2011/aug/31/divorce-family-finances)


Extramarital affairs, which had been the prime reason since the survey began in 2003, fell to second place, with 25% citing this. Unreasonable behaviour was given as the reason for 17% of marriage breakdowns and 10% of couples cited a mid-life crisis. Perhaps we don’t need to blame other people so much anymore to get a divorce. Divorce rates in the UK have also fallen due to the crisis and the expense of divorce.



Submission and dominance.

Cultural and socioeconomic norms and status have rapidly changed in European and Western society over the last 70 years. My Grandmother (DOB 1908) had to resign from her job as a civil servant in the UK when she got married in the 1930’s as a woman’s place was in the home. Today, women and men have vastly different roles and expectations and the change sees men taking a more acquiescent role in an attempt to meet women’s needs and desires. However, women are still paid less than their male counterparts, and success is perhaps still more possible for white males.

Eurostat found a persisting gender pay gap of 17.5% on average in the 27 EU Member States in 2008. There were considerable differences between the Member States, with the pay gap ranging from less than 10% in Italy, Slovenia, Malta, Romania, Belgium, Portugal and Poland to more than 20% in Slovakia, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Germany, United Kingdom and Greece and more than 25% in Estonia and Austria. http://ec.europa.eu/justice/gender-equality/gender-pay-gap/situation-europe/index_en.htm

Regardless of living in Muslim or Western countries, the gap persists.

One could ask if society needs to move towards a more collaborative place and a less competitive one. Win -win solutions need to be found in relationships, but the reality is that everyone likes to win and we forget the other party.


Sexual practices and positions have also moved on, from the missionary position of the past to the Kama Sutra of the past and present. Sexual toys and images have become almost mainstream, and pornography and online sex and dating clubs have made the sexual act mundane and every day, moving it from the pedestal it was placed on by society. Sex and love are best shared, rather than imposed.

The role of a modern male isn’t to lead the community but to be its foundation, and a very important one it is too. We need to do it well, and we need to get used to it.

We need to look at justice as well as equality.

Equal, but different

George Orwell wrote in his book “1984”

“Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood. If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love.

We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now. There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent there will be no need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever.”

Of course, Winston takes his illegal pen and dares to write “I hate Big brother” In the end, though , after torture in room 101, he loves the figure of hatred, and he gives up on the woman he loves, giving her name up in confession instead of facing pain.

“He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”


Have we moved towards this image with the construction of the internet and the growth of mobile phones and virtual networks? One could state the glance made by many to their mobile phones, looking to an object for help rather than seeking encounters; creating a virtual world, where we are represented as successful, healthy and whole, instead of holding up our demons and working on them, or seeing weaknesses as an opportunity to improve. In some virtual networks, it is possible to ‘like’ something, and this linguistic difference is interesting; Facebook didn’t choose ‘love’ as the linguistic word, nor is it possible to ‘hate’, merely ‘unlike’.

In English and French of course we see adore as a verb, and the Greeks were really good at this semantic rainbow, with 4 words to cover different types of love.

The Ancient Greeks identified 4 types of love, eros, agape, philia and storge. Are these ideas still relevant? Is one word enough to cover the spectrum of love?

Eros refers to “intimate love” or romantic love; storge to familial love; philia to friendship as a kind of love; and agape refers to “selfless love”, or “charity” as it is translated in the Christian scriptures.

Freud and Jung both looked at these ideas, taking from Plato’s tradition. Eros (The desire to live) and Thanatos (the destructive drive) were looked at by Freud, who in early writings opposes Eros with the Ego, and later opposes Eros with Thanatos. Jung balances Eros with Logos, and creates a feminine and masculine force.

(Carl Jung, Aspects of the Feminine, Princeton University Press, 1982, p. 65)

C.S Lewis looks at these four types of love in greater detail in his book  “The 4 Loves” and his novel ‘Til we have faces’

But then there are other loves, the love of a place, or a moment, or even a thing, a pet, or a feeling, the summer smell of rose blossoms in the fresh cut garden in the summertime, with the wind in your hair.

Those three words ‘I love you’. Do they mean anything anymore, oft-spoken, softly and tenderly, or does Larkin’s warning about the “sour lanes of the living” ring true?


Love yourself

The most difficult thing to do is to love yourself, without pretention, with the acceptance of all the imperfections therein. We must resist falling into Narcissus’ pool, inviting though it is with its wondrous reflection. We must gaze beyond the reflection, to the bottom of the pool, to find the other. Can we love others if we don’t love ourselves? I think we can lust after others, and have sexual desires, but creating a solid relationship becomes challenging on the quicksands of doubt. Jesus gave us a message ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’

In the Bible, if we consider Matthew 22:34-40  could ask which is more difficult, loving yourself, or loving your neighbour, or accepting the message to treat all people as you would treat yourself.

In today’s modern world we are also guilty of loving ourselves too much, of not thinking about the other in the relationship, or even the others on the planet. The ways of suffering beyond the cell phone and computer, in the bottom two billion poorest of the world’s population .They deserve our love too. We must remember, then that slaves do not love their masters, rather they fear them, or hate them.

Love others

Is love just a chemical reaction? A cynic would point to oxytocin and its influence on mice, even though it has borderline influence on humans. Some key work was carried out in the 1990’s by Dr Rebecca Turner who looked at voles and found that oxytocin was a chemical produced by these animals and that was why they pair bonded for life. Only 3% of mammal species pair bond for life, and the scientists wanted to know why. The Prairie vole pair bonds for life, the Montane vole doesn’t, and the difference is just a few genes. Genes which produce oxytocin, a chemical which helps pick out and identify individual characteristics and which help the reward centres in the brain. Prairie voles mate, because they secrete the oxytocin and get a kick out of it with dopamine being produced in the brain. Researchers injected oxytocin  into prairie voles and they ‘fell in love’ or whatever the vole equivalent is of that; They wanted to have sex, and get the emotional reward of dopamine from that act.

In the July 1999 issue of Psychiatry magazine, Dr Rebecca Turner talks about the paper thus

Turner and her colleagues tested the idea that oxytocin is released in response to intense emotional states in addition to physical cues. Twenty-six non-lactating women between the ages of 23 and 35 were asked to recall and re-experience a past relationship event that caused them to feel a positive emotion, such as love or infatuation, and a negative emotion, such as loss or abandonment. Because massage done on rats had previously been shown to influence oxytocin levels, the participants also received a 15-minute Swedish massage of the neck and shoulders. Blood samples were taken before, during, and after each of the three events to measure baseline oxytocin levels in the bloodstream and any change.

The results, on average, were of borderline significance – relaxation massage caused oxytocin levels to rise slightly and recollection of a negative emotion caused oxytocin levels to fall slightly. Recollection of a positive emotion, on average, had no effect.

What surprised the researchers, however, was how differently each woman responded. Some participants showed substantial increases and decreases while others were largely unaffected.

“We decided to look at the interpersonal characteristics of individual women to see if there was a correlation with changes in their oxytocin levels,” said Turner, who is also the director of Student Research at the California

School of Professional Psychology, Alameda campus. “We found a significant difference between women who reported distress and anxiety in their relationships and women who were more secure in their relationships.” 

Source http://www.oxytocin.org/oxytoc/love-science.html

So the response to the cynic is that love lasting power is due to chemical and emotional factors ; feeling respected in a relationship and being respected are important. Spraying the room with chemicals won’t make women or men swoon at your feet. However, insecure relationships seem more prone to chemical manipulation.

Friday and 7 years, or a day and a year, or till death us do part?

In French Friday is vendredi and in English Friday. Frīġedæġ, meaning the “day of Frigg”. Frigg or Fraya, (like Venus, the Roman equivalent) was the Norse goddess of love. We still see then, in the names of the days of the week, the importance of love. But we stay in love with people longer than a day and perhaps if we look back to those divorce statistics, we can state that almost no one gets divorced before 5 years of marriage and then the ‘seven year itch’ comes into play, until after 20 years of marriage when divorce rates fall. However, one can’t rely on statistics to save relationships. We could talk of inner qualities and outer qualities. Being with someone because of their outer qualities (beauty, hair colour, eye colour, breast size, etc.) perhaps helps start relationships and inner qualities (kindness, patience, generosity,) help to maintain relationships. The best relationships take time, and 5 minutes isn’t enough. We forget also that people change, with age and illness, professional challenges and stress, children change relationships and so perhaps it isn’t realistic to expect marriage to be ‘until death us do part’ anymore. Perhaps a rolling contract valid for 5 years would be more realistic, as people could decide if they wanted to continue of not. People choose marriage rather than being forced into it in modern western society, in contrast to the organized marriages so common in medieval Europe and perhaps which still happen in some cultural environments. Pagan ceremonies such as Handfasting had periods of a year and a day, which were renewable, or even multiplied to ten years and a day, and couples would promise to be faithful for that period. Couples would avoid taking each other for granted, and even in the Christian tradition couples renew their wedding vows.




Love without sex, kiss and tell.

It started with a kiss. The kiss is probably the remnants of when females chewed food into a mash to give to children to feed when young .Or was it cavemen tasting the saliva of cavewomen to see which were the healthiest? Or is it learned behaviour as in different cultures we have different kisses. In France, you have a kiss in every region, and of course the hand kiss. And the passionate kiss, so called ‘French kiss’ with tongues. Or the ‘Air kiss’ where it’s blown across the room. Even in slang expressions of contempt, such as ‘kiss my arse’

The kiss seems universal, even Eskimos rubbed noses as kissing with the lips was too dangerous. It seems that kissing on the mouth became less popular with diseases such as Black Death and people kept their distance more and more, kissing on cheeks and hands.

Of course we kiss other things, ranging from the Blarney Stone to the Pope’s ring, or even kissing the ground.

Andrea Demirjian talks about the evolution of the kiss and her book

Kissing: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About One of Life’s Sweetest Pleasures ISBN 039953234X   in great detail. As children we played ‘kiss chase’ in the vain hope of being kissed. Kissing certainly reduces stress and encourages dental hygiene.

Love without sex is in my opinion possible. We love our parents and our children and our families without, on the whole, having incestuous relationships. This isn’t a sexual love, but a love nevertheless.  We also love pets, places, and even products, or we say we do, ‘I loved his latest film/book. Nuns and monks and unmarried Catholic priests are celibate and so have a deep love for their faith, tradition and God.


However, does this denial of sex spill over into child abuse and hidden homosexuality or paedophilia without confusing the two? We do need to be aware of the biological need for sex and the dangers of imposed celibacy. We need to heed the warnings of forbidding things and making them exciting, or dangerous. We were all created in a sexual act, for the most part consentiual ,and despite our varied and even blighted family backgrounds we are loved, and we love.


Mind the gap.

So many songs, plays, films and so much art, so much energy is aimed at, caused by love. The Beatles said “In the end the love you make is equal to the love you take’, and that ‘all you need is love’, and as humans we’ve been in love and in sex for upwards of 5 million years. But it’s a drop in the geological ocean, as the world has been around for 5 billion years. What happens when we forget love? Look at the crematorium at Auschwitz. Love was forgotten and people were turned into numbers because of dogma. The end justified the means, and the distance between the humanity and the act were forgotten. We produce enough food to feed 10 billion people, according to a recent Oxfam report,( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-holt-gimenez/world-hunger_b_1463429.html) (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v485/n7397/full/nature11069.html)


 but The Lancet in 2008 said that children still die from preventable starvation, at a cost per life in the hundreds of dollars.


Statistics say every 10 seconds a child dies from preventable hunger, and if we add in the illnesses and diseases caused by poor nutrition, a lot a children do go to an early grave without our thought. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22935692

However, the world is a changing place!

http://www.gapminder.org/world  clickable Here shows the progress over the last 200 years.

We become detached from these images until they touch us personally, as for me when I visited Haiti in 2009.

Do we love enough to ensure everyone gets a fair share of the resources, opportunities and benefits available to communities and society? Or will we continue in our consumer bubble where if we can pay, we can have? Where everyone can have rights but no responsibilities? Have we forgotten the post war socialist experiment at our cost? Will Malthus be proven right finally, as resources run out and populations crash? I call on the audience here and now , and on humanity in a wider context to share signs of love with each other .

The democracy of love

Love, like psychology, and death, seems democratic, in that everyone can do it. Everyone access their own thoughts, their own feelings, everyone ultimately dies. Love seems a normal, natural thing, accessible to all, yet it is chased, desired and searched and sought. Everyone wants to be loved, and to love. When people fall in love, or in lust, and this isn’t a mutual feeling, rejection and depression, and loss happen. Death also has a part to play, as long term relationships do ultimately end with death. We measure our worth through the love others give to us, and they measure theirs through the love we give them. How important then it is to love, and be loved. Is it possible not to be capable of loving? I certainly think

that love means different things for a 4 year old and a 16 year old and a 40 year old, and for a man, and for a woman, yet we use one word to encompass all of this. Many religions will say that atheists are not capable of love, or that if you belong to this or that religion or faith or nationality or culture (normally different to the one who claims to be “pure”) or if you have this or that handicap or disease or psychological problem, or if you are this or that colour you cannot know love. We should treat these statements for what they are, a manipulation of people towards a “desired” behaviour. In the end, if we follow this logic, we finish by throwing witches on the stake, or Jewish people into the oven or gas chamber, or Catholics or Protestants into the Loire, keeping slaves because they are a different colour, refusing women the vote and whatever other ethnic cleansing or atrocity or unjust act that fleets before our eyes across the screens of our TV’s phones and computers. We see so much we become numb. Personally I think the research shows that if primates can experience feelings approximate to love, then certainly humanity’s wide spectrum can love, or be taught love.


How this love is shared and demonstrated also differs. Chats and discussions, hugs and cuddles, kisses, holding hands, touch, sexual acts, all of the spectrum of human contact and tenderness. We have social norms which outline what is and isn’t appropriate and legal frameworks to control and protect children and adults. When people leave relationships , be it for a new partner or because of mid-life crisis or even death, the partner who is left often feels a period of loss, even if the relationship was far from perfect, even if it was abusive. A kind of Stockholm syndrome or Lima syndrome feeling. When the pain stops, we miss the attention.

Faith Hope, Love. Philosophy of Theilhard de Chardin and Syntropy

Love is a very human act. We search forward, into the unknown, at the edge of error, and hope for what is and what will be. Every decision is human and we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Love, like science, as Jacob Brunowski observed, is a tribute to what we can do and know and feel although we are fallible. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power and absolute love, closing the distance between the push button order and the human act. Love, like science is a human act.

Negentropy and the Noosphere are not so far away from each other.  In a note to What is Life?  http://whatislife.stanford.edu/LoCo_files/What-is-Life.pdf Schrödinger explained his use of this phrase.

[…] if I had been catering for them [physicists] alone I should have let the discussion turn on free energy instead. It is the more familiar notion in this context. But this highly technical term seemed linguistically too near to energy for making the average reader alive to the contrast between the two things.

Indeed, negentropy has been used by biologists as the basis for purpose or direction in life, namely cooperative or moral instincts [ http://www.worldtransformation.com/what-is-the-meaning-of-life/]

We are all connected, and our actions as our inactions touch . Perhaps we are damned if we love, as Larkin says in “This be the verse” http://www.artofeurope.com/larkin/lar2.htm but we are certainly damned if we don’t love. Love is perhaps where physics, biology and ethics combine.

Let me finish then with the Bible, Corinthians https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+13&version=NIV

Thank you.


Checking the peritoneal catheter

Because the catheter started to leak I had to go back to hospital for another operation to check the catheter; This time just key hole surgery.

I went to the dialysis centre first, and did my dialysis on the Monday morning, then after, walked to the hospital and was admitted after a nice lunch. They put me in a room with an elderly gentleman who had sleep apnea problems, his machine made noises akin to a dying vacuum cleaner. I slowly got ready, shaved, had a Betadine scrub shower and put on my pyjamas. I had a supper of pasta and chicken, nothing exceptional; The sleep;
The night was long. The poor gentleman’s machine honked and clonked , and I was stressed about the operation.

The next day, no food or water until after the operation. In fact, that took place at 4pm. So they wheeled me off, after I’d had a Betadine shower and put on the gown. The gowns have clips on the back, and the two nurses came to check the shaving was ok and helped me clip up the gown. Now I know you’re all thinking that two nurses came and checked out the family jewels, but no, they just checked the pubic area and didn’t get to see those family jewels. How often does one get asked that kind of thing! “Can we check your pubic area please! My long suffering wife did get to look at that zone, and (ad lib here) said it was “like the Christmas turkey” and that she’d “stuff two balls of stuffing up my derrier and put a sprig of holly on it”. Ouch! I’d laugh, only it hurts too much.

So they wheeled me in, did the keyhole. I remember telling the surgeon the time before drifting off in the drug induced stupor. I woke up, gagging on the tube, and they took it out. My throat was like a cat’s litter tray, smelly and dry. Then the pain. If you’ve read Stephan King’s book, Misery, he describes pain very well in there, waves, coming in over, but I hadn’t had my legs shattered. The pain was worst in my shoulders, which sounds strange, as the operation had been on my belly, but the doctor said the two are linked, and they pumped me full of gas( which delightfully escapes over the next week in full Dolby sound ) and the pressure of that gas hurts the diaphragm which hurts the shoulders and then you start to sing ‘Now hear the word of the Lord’ After, I slept, fretfully, with the vacuum cleaner noise from the next bed, waking up to vomit some green bile, which felt like a fishing hook was stick to my stomach and a fisherman was pulling me in, reeling in the biggest whopper ever.

My wife and little boy popped and we smiled and held hands. My little boy was amazed with his latest toy, a camping car from Playmobile. They smiled, and I drifted into sleep.

So it was I beached on the island of pain.The morning came, and I woke. Waddled off to the shower. Reminded the nurse for the third time about the taxi to take me to dialysis that morning at 9.
Like the Beatles song, “Day in the life” ‘Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head, made my way to the desk and drank a cup, and looking up I noticed the taxi was late’
So it was I walked out of the room, with all the stuff i had walked in with. Case, books, computer. I struggled to the desk, and explained about the taxi. If I wasn’t at the dialysis at the right time, they may not take me, and I’d be ill. Where was the taxi? Well they looked a bit sheepish and hurried conversations started in corridors , like a wild fire starting in the bush or a page burning in a book, slow at first then out of control. I picked up my stuff and walked to the dialysis, it would take ten minutes. The taxi guy got me half way to the centre. I just shrugged my burning shoulders. If they cant organise a taxi, then it leaves little confidence in the operation.

At the centre, They looked at me and wagged their fingers. I shouldn’t be walking anywhere. I should have waited for the taxi. I retorted.They should have booked the taxi when I asked. Phone calls were made and opinions exchanged.

Then, after the dialysis, they wheeled me back to hospital. X ray and IRM scan. Let’s check what they’ve done and that the pain is just because of gas.
My wife is worried; I try to reassure her on the phone. The taxi man who was with me at the hospital was supposed to wait for me, but he’s gone to do another fare with all my stuff except my phone and he’s left me. I finish the tests and then wait. Apparently he’s coming back. He’s not coming back, and I phone my wife. Book a new taxi with the same firm as they have my stuff in their office. Another taxi comes, with my stuff and an hour later I get home. Not the best day for taxis.

Armed with all my prescriptions, my wife went to the pharmacy. What a star!
I’ll go back to the dialysis on Friday, and then Monday, and Wednesday next week. Slowly getting better. Slowly appreciating the fact I get treatment.

Zombie Story

Zombie story
The streets were dangerous, busy, and full of traffic buzzing around: here and there were market stalls, packed together, selling fruit, vegetables. Tarpaulins of faded colours hung over head, bleached by the sky. People walked by, talking, shopping, lively, busy. The roads were poor quality, pot hole filled and full of debris. A 3 legged dog ran, or rather limped out from the sun, seeking the shade, underneath the stalls. Brightly coloured buses, built nearly 70 years ago chugged in the streets. They had slogans painted on them, often religious ones, such as “God is strength” but those buses were rusting their way to heaven. Everthing happened in the street as those metal cabs and wooden clad trailers, full of smiling faces thundered past. People bought, sold, lived, and died. There a man urinated, and over there a baby was born.
How ridiculous they were, the man and his son, on the scooter. Riding tandem, weaving through the traffic, past the people selling honey, rum, mangoes, pineapples, goats, everything you could imagine and more. They weaved past one- handed beggars, their faces grey with fear, their withered hands and stumped arms, the look of hunger in their eyes.
It was easy to escape the beggars. The man pulled on the scooters throttle, but not too fast. These streets were more bomb craters than tarmacked avenues. They weren’t trying to escape the beggars, or the market, but the zombies.
The zombies were on their scent. The boy pointed and the man aimed his scooter at a large deserted building. They could hide up in there. The boy and the man shut the doors and windows they could find, and hid inside the metal building, boiling in the sun. The sun hammered down on the corrugated roof, and so the boy and his father looked for a cool spot. They found the longest corridor, and secured their zone. They opened the doors, one by one, into the long empty dusty offices, looking for barriers, weapons. The last door swung open, they found the janitor’s supply niche full of chemicals and cleaning equipment.
There was a sink. Water.
They splashed themselves with dizziness and glee! Cool, fresh, the water trickled over them as they splashed, cooling down. A moment of pleasure in the heat and fear.
Banging started outside, on the metal walls. It seemed to freeze the water to their skin.
The zombies were closing in, that was sure.
The boy and the man, startled from their daydream, hid under the sink. The tap was running, water dripped over the sink, onto the floor. They watched in the shadows. The zombies staggered past , down the corridor, one by one, their shadows creeping across the wall. The zombies could hear heartbeats, the boy had told his father. But the gushing of the tap drowned out the heartbeat, and the water dripping down hid their body heat; Shivering in the damp, hardly daring to breath, eyes bulging with fear, sweat foaming in their fearful skin. The zombies continued their crazy goose step. The man looked around; here were some cleaning chemicals; that could be useful. But how could you kill something already dead?
In their search for a safe place, the man and boy had become boxed in. The father looked into the eyes of his son. He could see fear, dread, and love. They were crouching; the zombies would kill them if they found them. He scrabbled, looking for a solution, and found a tin. An insecticide bomb!
The pulled off their t shirts, and wrapped them round their faces, trying to cover their mouths from the gas, and then the man pulled the bomb safety clip and threw it into the corridor. Smoke poured out, filling the zone. The boy took his father’s hand, and they ran, pushing at zombies in the smoke, running into the shadows, and out of the building. Haiti had certainly come to life. Outside, they slammed the door, trapping the zombies. They climbed on the scooter and headed for the hotel and then the airport. At the hotel, they grabbed their stuff, paid the bill, and left.
They got to the airport, and took the next plane out, to Miami. It didn’t matter about the cost or the destination, just flee! They just hoped the pilot wasn’t a zombie.


Ah, those clouds
Background blue, changing, deepens from the zenith
Out by the horizon it seems clear
The drum beats of my heart
And the snores of the next man
Paint peeling of the window bars
All the guard rails
So carefully decorated, now a patchwork
Left, In the sun
Waiting for the surgeon to cut
Bowels full of fear
Those sun bleached bones
Dry now, stone walls
The rain feeds those flowers it finds
Filling in those ponds
Hunger, then fear
Those alarm bells of ego
Running through the brain
Look at me, the peacock,
So vain and noisy
Plumage trailing in the mud, feeding in the shit.
Those walks through coloured streets
Holding hands, smiling
Those dusty lanes, by the river side
Those flowers, sprouting in the alleys
Reaching tall, shining like the sun
Climb coldness. Soon they’ll come
Take me to the theatre
Cut, look, bleed.
Those cold lights
Naked, shaved, and weak
The sun seems far away in those cold depths
Struggle through the deep
Fight to reach the surface
Smile and become human again
The beauty of the moment
The roar of the engine, the whistle of the radio
The bread on that dusty table
The loaf, not yet cut
The kitchen, stove and range, tea ready to pour
Sit at the table my friend, have some cheese
Doorway open to the end of summer
With the fields full of barley
And the wind in her hair
Ready for love, and milk, and honey
Children’s laughter, running, playing,
Those surgeons won’t take me away.
Bed, cold cot of bitter comfort
Lying, lying, there beneath those clouds
Shan’t work for them
Work for me. Work for Us. Work for all.
Autumn’s first colors
Its long fingers grabbing summer
Those leaves, falling in those back alleys
Feeding the worms
And my eyes with their beauty
I can feel the cold.
Autumn’s freshness, and winters long, long arm coming in.
These days for remembering, forgetting
Their bitterness, their loneliness, their worries.
Stupid socks that stop the clots.
Time to go now, softly, slowly.
Wheel me away to those painful days.
Thank you for those treatments.
That green syringe holder, administering drop by drip
Those carefree days from the summers of yesterday.
Out from the darkness comes the light.
Those bitter hopes of something better
When we changed the world to a better place
Where people had respect for work not money
And the wealth was collective.
Those stupid peacocks, crying in their gilded parks
Hedges trimmed by the sweat of others.
They’ll have their time in the sun.
Ah past the zenith now, my sun, heading to its nadir,
Burning, or shining bright,
In those dark moments.
Days go, days come, and we live in them
Underneath those clouds.

The Empire Chapter 5

Chapter 5
That was when the opponents got together. They targeted businesses so I had to vet who was newly employed. They hired thugs to control workers organization, and plotted ways to spoil and corrupt that which was done for the whole of the community. They wanted to build another empire, destroying those in their path. Live and let live, our community motto, wasn’t their ethic or moral.

After, when the house was finished, I would be obliged to invite those very enemies to cocktail parties and social gatherings. They would invite me to their social events too; I would sometimes find excuses, sometimes go. It had become a game. We had stopped doing things for the good of the community, and stopped thinking how to improve, rather, how to avoid each othr or how to destroy each other. I resolved to go to more social events, with my ideas and talk, persuade, argue, enjoy.
I pointed to those fruits, provided by the community. Associations, schools, services, health, roads and water. All for the community. They would argue about the cost, or the influence of the state, or even my influence, arguing that my influence could be deemed negative or even destructive. People had become dependent, they argued, they were not autonomous. The police had become corrupted, and the law was no longer independent. I decided then, to sell the house, and to move further into the jungle, and build again, but this time I would ensure the community was no bigger that it needed to be and that all the businesses were run by me. A social town. I would never be free of those pirates though, I thought, as I returned back to the house. They were always looking for a way to kill those dreams they hated. That paternalism shouldn’t ever be a barrier to progress.
I sold the house for a good price, and set off; I told a handful of people my plans, and started again, building the next step. A smaller house, with farms and workshops, small businesses, a school and a nurse. I planned it, and made the employees partners again. Everyone had the same share, an equal vote. We were 50 kilometers away from the original house. The roads would be rudimentary, and we would rely on the internet for wider communication. All the goods and services we needed would have to be produced and made in the landscape, an attempt at self-sufficiency. We could try to sell the surplus, or store it, making preserves, jams, chutneys, freezing goods in the solar powered unit. But eventually, the real world always seeps in. How do we deal with those basic human instincts of greed, jealousy and move towards a loving world? My grandma’s fortune had faded and with it the dreams of changing the world. The pirates had won, and all that awaited us was dust. We had failed, and the riches of the land would be inherited by the fortunate few, and the poor would be in serfdom for eternity. They would be the barbarians that destroyed our society, creating a new pedestal of wealth for them to worship at. I had fled the challenges of the first house, instead of facing them, and the second fell into the same problems. We hadn’t learnt that greed creates envy and motivates people to do immoral things. People would do immoral things anyway, for the fun. Building those better worlds was impossible, I thought, as I lay in my bed. But tomorrow brings a new challenge, building a better world.
Perhaps our monument was our attempt at providing decency for people, an opportunity to thrive, a way out of the blinding poverty and job insecurity, a way of life with respect as its foundations. The house would be reclaimed. How arrogant it had been to try to bring what we considered civilization to the wilderness, when all along, there was a deeper civilization there, in those trees, birds and animals, living off the land; They had fought every day just to survive; in the end, death is master of all.

The Empire Chapter 4

It was the end of empire, and the last remnants of the former colonies were just islands dotted around the globe, a handful of places with a handful of people. The empire had been gone for a long time, if truth be told. It was better that those places were independent now, that they could make their own mistakes. The history books are already full enough of the mistakes made by those running empires, those abuses of power and acts of violence carried out to ensure the continuity of the status quo. The establishment were good at hiding the horrors, but not so good that the public weren’t aware of the worst abuses. Eventually. Turning machine guns on crowds of spectators seemed so despotic now, but less than a generation ago, politicians and generals, made speeches about making omelettes by breaking eggs
It had taken me a long time to track down the servant’s family. They had been employed by my grandmother, who had hidden behind the facts. She always said that she loved these people, but really what she loved was having servants and being served. The servants had, off course, become dependent on her wealth, and work was hard to find in these far flung parts, far away from towns and cities. She would walk into the local villages, looking for people, or sometimes they would go to the house she had had built. Gardeners, cooks, maids, she employed a staff, from various families at the beginning, then from one family, girls, boys, adults, all working for her. Once they had dipped into the pool, it became difficult to get out.
I had searched for the family using the internet at first, then I went to that faraway place, train boat, plain, and finally jeep, way off the tarmac roads, until we got into the district where the house was. I asked at the inn if it was possible to stay, and from there, I wandered around the district, stopping at what remained of the empires administrative outposts. A mayor’s office here, a bigger town hall over there, and even walking up the marbled steps into the columned building that was the viceroy’s palace. Of course, I’d had to pass through these steps; it was like visiting your family. With my status and wealth, the etiquette meant showering the local infrastructure with raise and bribes, even if it made me bloat.
But the slow drip of information came, and I found the family. The servant’s family.
Of course, the story was that I had come back to try to rebuild the house, renovating the place that nature had probably reclaimed. How like an Empire builder I had become, showering people with what for them seemed like riches, but for me were trinkets. I bought people’s opinions, freedom. If we blame people for that, we need to blame them for accepting the trinkets, and for giving them. How easy it is to say this with a full stomach, with good health, with no fear. I had persuaded the old woman and her son to come with me to show me the way to the old house. She was thin, grey, her worried eyes dark, wrinkled; her face showed life’s struggle, and her son was tall, dark and handsome, as the fortune teller would say. We bought some provisions, and I, paid the boy and his mother what I thought would be a month’s wages locally. Their eyes, of course, lit up. They asked some questions, of course, about what would happen once at the house, and I explained that if they didn’t want to stay, then I would bring them back to their village, and they could keep the money
It took days to get to the house. The jeep took us to the local river, and then we transferred the equipment onto three small boats, and carried on into the wilderness. We camped under the stars, after having found a place to tie up the boats. I made a fire, and cooked a supper from the provisions I had bought; I and the boy set up the tents. The woman cooked, and we set a perimeter around the camp of thorns. There were wild animals around; we could hear the noses of savagery echoing through the canopy. But nature is cruel, and kind. Perhaps we could organize a watch; I sat next to the fire, my hand on the rifle, and took first watch. 4 hours each, it seemed fair, the boy and I would take turns standing watch. Tomorrow we could catch up the sleep on the boats
We survived the first night, blinking into the sunlight, and waded into the cool water, pushing out the boats. The scenery was spectacular greens, browns, flashes of colour as wild birds and insects darted in an out of the luxurious vegetation. Winding down stream. We slept on the boat, feeling the sun on our faces, the shadows flitting over us.
Chapter 2
Somehow there was no need to talk, every need to speak.

Chapter 4
Time swept by, like the current of the river, sweeping us somewhere else, where we are changed. For good or bad, time erodes us, changes us, creates us, we are shaped by the incessant drips from the roof of the universe, transformed into stalagmites or stalactites over the decades.
I went to the big city, retracing my steps. I would need an architect, a builder, and supplies. I would have to pay to get workers to come and renovate the house, recreate those lost gardens.
I also went to the village, and spoke to the mayor. I offered land from the estate to people, to work as they liked, in perpetuity. If they wanted to change its use, they could ask, and the mayor or the local chief would decide. I also created a cooperative business, where the land would be worked by tenants, but the produce could be sold and the money used to build schools, a doctor’s surgery, roads and all those golden fruits. Perhaps I could help those at the bottom climb out from that sticky goo.

The people came, ready to work. It took over two years to rebuild and redecorate the house, but such was my wealth that I didn’t really notice the flow of money. I employed people, building, working, renovating, teaching and curing; People had started to come back to the village, and a shop had opened. A baker, a butcher, vegetable stalls. People came into to the village, with animals or harvests to sell, and the population increased. A well had been built, and then water treatment, pipes, and infrastructure. A small dam provided, finally, electricity, without too much impact on the environment. Babies were born, families grew, and the house grew. I opened the house as a tourist attraction, its vivid history and reconstruction attracted rich people, and a hotel appeared in the village. The village had become bigger, more complex. And with that, came decisions, using police, collecting taxes, maintaining infrastructure. The connections to other places had become easier, but it was still a struggle to get to places. Growth brought problems too. This was the moment to develop, rather than grow. Creating an empire again, that would be a mistake.
Every day, we would gather, and have a parliament. People could and did contribute, ideas, discussions. What was best for the community was decided, for good or bad, by the villagers.

I started to relax. This was the first mistake.

The house slowly took shape, deliveries of wood, concrete, tiles, paint, all came. Sand and cement, metal grids, roof tiles and flooring, all came in. Out here, that took time, and transport was slow and torturous. Products for roads and water infrastructure were carried u by locals on the back of pack animals. Repairing the road would make it easier to bring in machines, and that would take time, as the road had to be built by hand.
People formed communities, tried to protect those things they had acquired. Worker’s association sprang up, as businesses got bigger. The village had become a town, and was moving towards becoming a city. Grandma’s money was invested in many of the business, as well as the farms. But only a small percentage of the money. Money makes money, so they said, and the banker’s advice was to invest. Slowly, the companies looked to avoid paying workers too much, or paying too much in taxes. They devised ways of moving money into other businesses, other countries, or declared a lower turnover, cooking books and sales figures, inventing service provider companies to do so. The taxes not paid meant that services in the community started to suffer. People couldn’t afford to send their children to school, as their salary was too low. Or pay for the doctor, or dentist. Diseases came into the village as the population grew, and as connections improved. Because companies paid little, then little tax could be collected. New taxes, targeting businesses were voted by the parliament. But companies just offshored again, moving funds with the click of a mouse. What was needed was a business tax for those big companies to ensure that when they used our population, our roads and our infrastructure that they contributed to it. Grandma’s fortune was slowly being eroded, by time. I would have to ensure that the pool stayed full whilst making sure everyone could drink from it. This was the challenge. Everyday, people would come to the house with a problem, or a project.
Build a new school, buy new equipment, and contribute to new services. Very few people were turned away, but I ensured that I had a view of the companies and projects that came my way. Money came back into the house, like sowing grain and harvesting wheat
As new people came into the area, they came with different ideas, new ideas, and different attitudes. I decided to organize acclimatization workshops for newcomers, explaining how our community worked, welcoming them and encouraging them. I turned these workshops over to the population, encouraging newcomers to get involved.

The companies set up by grandma’s wealth were run for the community by the community. Then, the villagers decided to sell them for money, money to invest, and so that people could pay fewer taxes. This was voted, much to my dismay, and big companies bought the business and outsourced, moving production and wealth elsewhere, and not contributing to the local economy.
The village started to lose cohesion. It got bigger, became o town, a city. The once ideal vision had become diluted, corrupted. The police now ran the workshops, preventing newcomers from integrating, and the fascists took control, persecuting those different. The religious groups tried controlling the population, this was a new idea, from outside. In my folly the empire had been reborn, and now the grip of power, once held by all was held by a few. People had become richer than I, more powerful. I was the oddity, in my domain. As much as I could, I tried to ensure fairness, justice and equality on the land and in the businesses I still owned. I decided to buy shares in those businesses sold by the community where possible, bringing the wealth back to the town. I would have to rebuild the town as well as the village, and many in powerful positions wouldn’t like that. At first then, I kept the acquisitions secret. All the employees were owners of the businesses, and sworn to secrecy. This socialist dream wouldn’t last long in the fires of capitalism.

The Empire Chapter 3

Chapter 3
Later, I drove them back to the jetty, paid the boatman his fare, and the boy and his mother the wages. They could go back to their village. That’s what they had decided. The journey was silent, haunted, a schoolboy leaving church before the end of the service, eyes looking but nothing said. Head hung in guilty silence. Looking in the woman’s eyes, grey, flecked, wrinkled, and silent. The boy held her hand. He was thin, tall, worried.
The decision had been easy, once they had seen the house. Beyond repair, reclaimed by nature. I kept telling myself that these people didn’t need any more broken promises, any more broken dreams. The back roads and lack of opportunities that had put them where they were.Those broken glass thoughts, smashed like a mirror, that cut so deep; I should have checked out the house before I took them there. Seven years bad luck.
Why do anything? The sands engulf us all, and our monuments. These distances we walk are just tree ring in the cycle of deep time, grains of sand on that big old beach of time. Grooves in the long playing record.
It starts with that itch, that desire to improve things, education, environment, health, to provide a better quality of life for the people, or to offer them the chance of doing that for themselves, and it end with a desire to protect what you build, when it needs change or even a new idea, which of course will be replaced in a generation by another new idea. Networks and communication; that desire to control and own, to enslave and offer none of those golden fruits is the end of empires; Corruption and decadence.
The greatness of the cliffs, hammered by the sea in those endless waves and tides, spume, foam. Those mountains, once proud, eroded over time. The map, so carefully traced, changed before it’s finished. War, politics, plate tectonics.
Doctors say ‘first do no harm’,this was echoing through the dry thoughts in my mind.
Only those who do nothing make no mistakes.
I had said good bye to the boy and his mother, but I turned round, drove onwards. I drove back, through those bitter years, those bitter mistakes. I would rebuild the house, remake my monument. After, the dust would claim it. That was inevitable. I would try to learn from those errors of the past, those mistakes that lead to machine gunning opponents and horsewhipping slaves, in a bid to hold onto the best fruit in the tree. To go beyond that monkey madness which possesses us all. Those who took not just the best fruit, but all the fruit, leaving nothing behind for the bottom, those poor strugglers, honest in labour, futile in work. Taking even their pride, making sure that work wasn’t a solution to their grinding poverty. They were in no position to negotiate building the house, building the society of tomorrow would lead to the temptations of continuity. Ensuring it could never be changed, that somehow this time we wouldn’t make mistakes and that afterwards the country would be milk and honey.
Building the house must have seemed like that, resplendent in its beauty, those well-kept, pristine and manicured landscapes. Sweeping down long forgotten hills. The land had come back to reclaim the house.
I went to work, this time with the land, this time with the people.

The Empire Chapter 2

Somehow there was no need to talk, every need to speak.
Communication was somehow important. I wondered about that, reflecting that every great civilization and empire had been formed, founded and even perhaps broken by changes in the communication system. The creation of alphabets, papyrus, paper, books, printing press, and the computer, with the internet, the telephone and telegram, all of these had changed Egyptian, Babylonian, Roman and even the British Empire. Ours would be no different. The changes were radical; being able to communicate instantly with anyone was a two edged sword, and needed cooperation and understanding. Be it Ogham script or Phoenician alphabet, clay or bronze scrolls, papyrus or telephone, or internet or telepathy. These systems create the great empires, but ultimately destroy them. Knowledge and information can be shared, manipulated, twisted and turned into propaganda and the truth is lost, washed up on some desert island, discovered later, when the actions of those responsible are beyond challenge. Our empire had fallen, every empire falls; I laughed, the old woman and the boy looked at me. I decided. They would be free, whatever that meant. Rebuilding or renovating the old house would need money, logistics and time. Perhaps it was better to abandon the house, but I had yet to set eyes on that challenge. Perhaps I could sell the house, that monument to crass ownership, Ozymandias’ monument crumbling into dust. Even mountains get eroded. If natures force could be worn down, what chance the temporary changes we try to make, in our arrogance and deceit?
I would try to rebuild and invest in the local economy, building my own Empire. Perhaps it was better to walk away, give the keys to the boy and his mother gift to ease the guilty conscious of the past. What would they do?
So it was that communication started.
What did the boy and his mother really want? They had come for the money, that much was sure, we all make that mistake, but the house was far from anywhere, the rich person’s excess. The nearest village was 10 kilometers away, the nearest neighbor the same distance. The village was small, dusty, and full of old people and a few children. The grandparents had stayed, working the land till they dropped, and the children were left by the younger generation, who had left the village to work, going to the big cities 100’s of kilometers away. They had abandoned the fields, and had gone to the comforts offered by city life. How incredible it was, the rich searched the calm of the country, the poor searched the wealth of the city.
I decided. Cut down the trees that bare no fruit. What was futile in our lives boiled down to almost everything? What one person had struggled to build, robbing people, using people, providing jobs for people, even building structures to help people, all of these could be undone. Argue what you like.
The boy and his mother, why had the taken that offer, what did they really want? Did they want to stay and work if I paid a good salary, and gave good conditions? They were days away from their village, already dependent on me; they couldn’t go back unless I took them. What then, did they want to?

The Empire. Chapter one

It was the end of empire,and the last remnants of the former colonies were just islands dotted around the globe,a handful of places with a handful of people. The empire had been gone for a long time, truth be told.It was better that those places were independent now,that they could make their own mistakes.The history books are already full enough of the mistakes made by those running empires,those abuses of power and acts of violence carried out to ensure the continuity of the status quo. The establishment were good at hiding the horrors,but not so good that the public weren’t aware of the worst abuses.Eventually.Turning machine guns on crowds of spectators seemed so despotic now, but less than a generation ago,politicians and generals,made speeches about making omelettes by breaking eggs.
It had taken me a long time to track down the servant’s family.They had been employed by my grandmother,who had hidden behind the facts.She always said that she loved these people,but really what she loved was having servants and being served.The servants had, off course, become dependent on her wealth, and work was hard to find in these far flung parts, far away from towns and cities.She would walk into the local villages, looking for people, or sometimes they would go to the house she had built. Gardeners,cooks,maids,she employed a staff, from various families at the beginning, then from one family,girls, boys,adults, all working for her.Once they had dipped into the pool, it became difficult to get out.

I had searched for the family using the internet at first, then I went to that faraway place, train boat, plain, and finally jeep, way off the tarmac roads, until we got into the district where the house was. I asked at the inn if it was possible to stay, and from there,I wandered around the district, stopping at what remained of the empires administrative outposts. A mayor’s office here, a bigger town hall over there, and even walking up the marbled steps into the columned building that was the viceroy’s palace.Of course, I’d had to pass through these steps, it was like visiting your family; With my status and wealth, the etiquette meant showering the local infrastructure with raise and bribes, even if it made me bloat;But the slow drip of information came, and I found the family.the servants family.
Of course, the story was that I had come back to try to rebuild the house,renovating the place that nature had probably reclaimed.How like an Empire builder I had become, showering people with what for them seemed like riches, but for me were trinkets.I bought peoples opinions, freedom,.If we blame people for that, we need to blame them for accepting the trinkets, and for giving them. How easy it is to say this with a full stomach,with good health, with no fear.
I had persuaded the old woman and her son to come with me to show me the way to the old house.She was thin,grey,her worried eyes dark, wrinkled; her face showed life’s struggle,and her son was tall, dark and handsome, as the fortune teller would say. We bought some provisions, and I ,paid the boy and his mother what I thought would be a months wages locally.Their eyes, of course, lit up. They asked some questions, of course, about what would happen once at the house, and I explained that if they didn’t want to stay,then I would bring them back to their village, and they could keep the money.
It took days to get to the house.The jeep took us to the local river, then we transferred the equipment onto three small boats,and carried on into the wilderness.We camped under the stars, after having found a place to tie up the boats. I made a fire, and cooked a supper from the provisions I had bought ; I and the boy set up the tents. The woman cooked, and we set a perimeter around the camp of thorns. There were wild animals around, we could hear the noses of savagery echoing through the canopy. But nature is cruel, and kind. Perhaps we could organize a watch; I sat next to the fire, my hand on the rifle, and took first watch. 4 hours each, it seemed fair, the boy and I would take turns standing watch. Tomorrow we could catch up the sleep on the boats.
We survived the first night, blinking into the sunlight, and waded into the cool water, pushing out the boats.The scenery was spectacular greens, browns,flashes of colour as wild birds and insects darted in an out of the luxurious vegetation.Winding down stream. We slept on the boat, feeling the sun on our faces, the shadows flitting over us.

Write and rewrite

Here is the creative process in action!
original poem: then edited poem.
original poem
The crow By RM JENKINS
The crow, its call cawing,
Across these ploughed fields , Autumn’s leaves falling
Swift blown and swirled through those grey skies,
Bitter sounding, echoing, haunting,
Simple, yet haunting, gnawing.
Simple-black, but beating,
Iridescent arrogance above the clouds,
Majestic but ignoring, watchful but scary,
Still, The Jack of the skies, but master of none.
Its tearing, strutting carrion-cleaning, clockwork-eyed,
Beaded blood- filled beak, Crow -spread crowed,
Above our lives, brazen-black, sinking, rolling.
October’s bell is the crow’s calling
Rising, it’s simple acrobatics, gripping and scraping,
The sky, the clouds, merciless, tearing, pecking,
Perching, swapping -gripping and hopping, imagined God but simple beast.
Lord of the skies! Indeed, with streamlined plumage,
Berry- black, reflected, refracted, with fiery eyes, wingtips and weary dawning,
The crow
So simple at first glimpse, yet then so daunting.
In its simple chaos calling.

So I was quite happy with the images and thought “not so bad” and then a colleague said “oh read G Manley Hopkins” so off I went, and read some of those sonnets, and thought about poetry again. Perhaps if I boiled down those images into a stricter format, and created something tighter, more adult? After a few scribbles , counting syllables, commas and trying to get the “sprung rhythm” I came up with the following edited version, but I’m still not really convinced, and it does feel pretentious to even try !

Apologies to Gerard Manley Hopkins!
Edited version.
The crow its calling-caw
Echoing through those damp dark chocolate fertile sillions
Stirring, striding its haunting claw
Berry-black, blooded beak, boned and gnaw
Brazen arrogance above those minions
Master of none,yet Lord of the skies!
Perching, swooping, gripping, hopping!
Imagined God, yet simple beast.
Wingtips burning, scrapes the sun,flies
Clockwork-eyed, for the eyes a feast.

Anyway, what do you think.?who inspires you,? and was Paul Valery correct when he said “Poems are never finished, just abandoned”