Those days

Those days

Crisp, fresh

Curling those leaves

Along those leafy lanes

Sunlight shortened

Shadows lengthening

Across those lonely afternoons

Those leaves

Crunched, work done

Frayed and split, Worm cast

Falling into nature’s hands

Their essence gives new life

Months away after decay

Chilled mornings and balmy afternoons

Mist works its way from the magic Earth

Whisping its way to the sky

Burning off in the afternoon haze

Crisping the leaves dry,shattered

Broken and dropped

Colours from the bowl of God.

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All the trees turn brown

Autumn turns now, and many trees are losing their green colour.

It seem that where I live, the first tree to change is the walnut, closely followed by Acacias, which turn into golden trees. The Horse chestnut, often a victim of a leaf mite, changes colour too, and then the liquid amber, the sycamore and the tree of heaven. Around the hedgerow the brambles change and the wild fruit tree autumns magic want changing them into that display of reds, yellows and browns. Around Angers the plane trees have started to change, the oaks and the ash trees,and even the larch. The last tree to change seems to be the silver birch, hanging on to its leaves well into November. The Beech also hangs onto its leaves, but only when pruned, and they turn brown and stay on the tree

Afternoon musings

I sit on the garden steps, soaking up the last of the summer sun.

The swallows and swifts flew back last week, perhaps just begun.

Their cries and screams in the clear blue cathedral sky won’t be heard till next year.

Ducks come in now, winters long arm to bring us its cheer.

The sun’s on my back, my scars in the shade.

A stone on the path of life near a glade.

A pebble that’s walked on, crunched in the mud.

Shines like a star in the heavens above.

So many points to choose in the sky.

Sit in the garden and see the birds fly,

The trees are in Autumn’s last gasp green.

The thunderstorms growling and lights up the scene.

The flashes skip across the burnt air.

And I sit and write in this garden chair.

Summer has gone now so autumn’s begun.

Its our little boy’s birthday, a chance for some fun.

I’ll hold him so tight and hope a stone he won’t be.

Just a stone on the path like his dad in the dust.

Who sits in his chair and grumbles and rusts.

The raindrops start falling, see the ink run.

Time to go in, the poem is done.

Fitting the fistula

Autumns wispy misty fingers calmly spiraled into those country lanes, leaves turned that last gasp green, fraying and splitting at the edges,dropping, drooping, the colours seeping, seeds and fruits hanging from those branches. There are berries, ripe, black and juicy, in the hedgerows, ripe rose hips and helicopters,winged seeds that will whirl and float through the air, dancing majestically through the sunbeams which filter through the leaves, through that mist. Like dancers in a smoky nightclub, the seeds gyrate, boogie down to the ground.

Up early, my wife drives us through the darkness to the station, I’ll catch the busy train. Kiss good bye, wish good luck. Into the hall, buy the ticket, down the subway, up the steps. The trains pulling in as I exit the subway, climbing up the steps. Platform full of people, doors, open, passengers get on and off.

I climb on into that sleepy carriage. Sit, close my eyes. People sit, listening to music, eyes closed.

The train pulls out, and in 20 minutes we arrive in Angers. Off the train. I stupidly struggle up the stairs outside, looking through the window at the escalator inside the station. That’s when the 80% handicap really hits home, at the top of those stairs. The sun is slowly peeking through, but its twilight, if that’s the right term for this morning gloom. I walk towards my job, the sprinklers are watering the grass which surrounds the pathways and the tramway lines. It’s a warm morning. I walk towards the classrooms, up three flights of stairs, as the lift isn’t working, and when I get there I realise I’ve left the timetables and class lists in the staff room. Back down the stairs, into the staff room. I grab the paperwork, head to the bathroom, clean up  and then climb the mountain of stairs back to the class. I plug in my computer, take the register and explain the course outlines and tasks to the students. They need to do an oral presentation, a written test, a listening test, a conversation class and a final control.We decide when these things will take place, each student is allotted a day to do their oral. They must look at 3 adverts in English. Then we do some grammar, the past perfect. I show a power point, try to explain and then encourage the students to try to use it. I take down emails and send them internet links to practice plus the notes for today. They won’t look at them! They wander out after 2 hours, and the next group comes in, and as its the beginning of term, I run through those same things. I decide to look at the past perfect continuous with the second group, perhaps that’s easier. They try to use it, and I send emails with links again. They go.

I pack up, turn off the equipment and head out the door. Jelly legs, potter down those bare stairs, my wife’s waiting for me outside the university. I climb in we kiss, and head off to the clinic. We chat about our respective days. Days of glory, days of shame. We arrive at the clinic, but its the wrong door, so we follow a yellow line, like Dorothy and the scarecrow (I’m the scarecrow with no brain, my wife is Dorothy!). Dragging the wheely case after us. We get to the right door and I realise I’ve left some paperwork in my case in the car. My long suffering wife slowly plods back to get them, and I fill in the forms and book into the clinic.

We go to the room fairly quickly, I change into the sexy paper underwear and gown, the nurse comes to take my temperature and blood pressure, and after, I finish changing. We joke and my wife says she’ll never get the image of the paper pants out of her burning eyes! I drink a bitter clear liquid, to calm me.

My wife has to go back to work, and we hug and kiss. Ten minutes later I’m moved to another cart, wheeled off to theatre. A drip line is put into one arm, and the bitter tasting drug I drank before works its magic. A big light, a mask, my arm is cold suddenly, and then its off to sleepy land. I come round, they give me drugs for pain and nausea, and wheel me to my room. I call my wife, and they call a taxi, I eat breakfast (at 6PM!) and then I go home with the taxi.

My wife’s had to wait for the phone call 4 times in the last few months.She’s tired, worried, but happy to see me. Tomorrow is our little boy’s birthday. Think about that!

My view on Scottish independence

I’ve listened to both sides of the argument and tried to think carefully about this topic. on one hand, being British means being part of those isles and their history and heritage, even though I live and work in France and have taken French nationality. People still view me as English, even though I’ve lived in France for over a decade, and had French nationality for 5 years.

So on one hand, British culture is open, welcoming, we received those refugees escaping war in the second world war and after Vietnam, as well as those seeking asylum from oppressive regimes. On the other hand, we seek to preserve our nationality, seeking the unity of our political body, refusing local or even immigrant identities, religions, cultures or languages. We force people who want to become citizens to pass a citizenship test, and then refuse to let them integrate, forcing them into ghettos of people from similar backgrounds. Nationalism doesn’t offer quick fixes to complex problems, despite its shiny veneer, rather it is the road to excess and chest beating, and differentiation, forgetting we are all humans.

Tomorrow the Scots get to vote to stay in the UK or to form an independent country.

Bundles of sticks are always stronger than single ones. They should stay, and address those problems that need addressing inside the union rather than forcing 10 years of upheaval on both themselves and the rUK.

Scottish nationalists dangle the carrot of a better tomorrow and a better state, where milk and honey will flow and everyone will be in clover, when the reality will be vastly different.

Scottish nationalists have left too many questions half answered or unanswered instead of providing a quality argument, they have relied on puffed out chest nationalism. The vote, with its echos of Bannockburn and images of giving those English a bloody nose is just divisive and will cause sectarian violence to sprout from those fertile grounds walked on by the Orangemen in Edinburgh this week.

We don’t know what currency they’ll use, who will be their head of state, or even what language they’ll be using officially. Whilst Westminster politics isn’t fantastic, Scotland isn’t the only part of the UK to think that. Large parts of Northern Britain think that too, along with others from the East, West and South. The problem isn’t so much one of wanting a better country, rather than wanting better politicians.

Tax avoidance and its results.

Currently many companies , mainly those which are multinational, are using ruses, loopholes and strategies to avoid paying taxes. But these very companies are happy to take advantage of the taxation used to create and provide education, heath care, roads,and other social structure essential for their operations.The result is that these structures suffer from under investment, and the quality and depth of these services suffer; So companies will eventually be forced into having a sicker, less well educated workforce who can’t come to work, or even not being able to distribute their goods and services as transport networks rust and crumble; morally, logically and even legally, the tax strategies of companies like Facebook, Google,H and M, Apple,

some of which can be seen here http://contentviewer.adobe.com/s/Wired/5857345fd35d4d1f9a1f00273013f68a/WI0414_10_Folio/2000_2204IN_taxes.html

As long as this continues, civilization is at risk.

Savour life

Savour life, its precious sands
Slip away through our hands,
Try everyday to hold them tight
And hope they’ll care enough to fight
Yes savour life, its highs and lows
And know them both between the blows
Look them squarely in the eyes
And then pretend you’re not surprised
Yes savour life, enjoy the ride
I’ll try to be right by your side
And in the end the journey’s done
And in the end no one won.

Facebook

With apologies to “King of Pain” by Sting

There’s a little blue triangle on my page today.
It’s the same old triangle as yesterday.
There’s a black hat caught in a high tree top
There’s a flag-pole rag and the wind won’t stop

I have stood here before inside the facebook page
With the world turning circles running ’round my brain
I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign
But it’s the triangle’s destiny to be the king of pain

There is a photo of me up at the top
(it’s my soul up there)
Facebook’s never gonna stop
(it’s my soul up there)
They think they know just what I want
(it’s my soul up there)
The blue triangle’ll suck your life away
(it`s my soul up there)
Algorithms rule OK
(it`s my soul up there)

There’s a friend on a throne with his pant’s pulled down
There’s a rich man looking for a shadow of hope
There’s a poor man sleeping on a broken bed
There’s a weirdo choking on a crust of truth

King of pain

There’s a red fox torn by a huntsman’s pack
There’s a black-winged gull with a broken back
There’s a little blue triangle on the page today
It’s the same old thing as yesterday

Waiting room

Hushed and quiet, forms to fill in.People sit and look at the wall, the floor or through you.

They come and their names are called,they go, to see the anesthetist

People come.A couple with a young girl

He is angry or upset, frustrated or worried.His brow furrowed like the earth on an autumnal day.

His wife sits with their daughter on her lap, hoping, wishing.Worried.

Another man, heart tattoo on his sleeve, reads the pamphlet and thinks of death.His neck is red from the sun or from smoking or drinking too much. Or just stress.

Another woman, wheeling herself in on her walker.She’s lost and needs the toilet. “Its under the stairs” She wheels herself off to that destination, hoping her turn won’t be taken by another patient.

More people come and go, time drags on and the afternoon heat becomes stifling. The clock seems to move backwards, on the wall are posters with health messages and information, as well as the “no smoking” , “no mobile phones” and “no praying” messages.I made that last one up!

An elderly couple arrive, hunched and ragged.

She has silver shoes,white beret and a striped top. Quite jazzy!

She’s dressed for the 60’s though she’s over 80. I imagine her, dancing those nights away.

Her arms wrinkled, baggy and spotted with age, nails yellowing and teeth turned brown.

The skin on her throat and chest looks like scales on a crocodile.

Her husband sits, tired. He’s bald and hot, worried perhaps.Alive, together. How long now till we see the doctor? How long now till we see the undertaker? How long till the next glaciation?

Then a couple come in , close, holding hands. They sit, huddled or cuddled in the corner. Feet entwined as they read those magazines.

Another elderly man with a cane comes in. He sits and shakes his head.The door opens, closes. Ill people come and go

Here, people say “Hello everyone” as they enter and “Goodbye ” or “Good evening” when they leave, but in between there is silence, like in a toilet or elevator or even in church.

People try to whisper, but age defies their hearing and they speak, but softly. We pretend we can’t hear.Those mumbled words.

People pick up those dog eared magazines from 1970, with the crosswords already done.They put them down, having wiped their bogies, and leave them, drying in the sunlight that drifts in through the closed windows, frying slowly in the baking summer heat. The pages curling, yellowing, decaying.In the shafts of sunlight the dust dances, trying to remind us of our destiny.

Where these people will go after I don’t know, and what illness they have is a mystery to me. We are all seeing the anesthetist, which means all of us will have surgery of some sort.

Finally the door opens and the Dr calls my name. But as usual he can’t pronounce it correctly so I stand and check the folder and tell him that it’s me. He’s fed up, as he’s seen many patients , working on the production line. He’s lost sight of our humanity, and perhaps even his. He has no joy in his job, and wants to go home.

People have become a blur for him as his office is cramped and hot, and he has a waiting room full of people , some without appointments as illness isn’t something that we plan. He moans about the computer, about his secretary who hasn’t kept the files up to date, about me.

I tell him ‘We are all human” and he replies, in an Orwellian way, that “Some of us are more human than others”. All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.I blink, tell him “Perhaps they need training or time”, and he just reads the folder and ushers me out.

Before I saw the anesthetist, I saw the surgeon for the vein operation. He was full of joy, passion, knowledge and put me at ease, relaxed yet professional. His office is clean, airy, cool and relaxed. He has time to chat, to joke, and even to telephone the dialysis centre and check out the scenarios.The contrast between the two is remarkable, the conditions of work very different.

The anesthetist hasn’t eaten, and orders a sandwich from the secretary, he doesn’t care what flavour. “I eat to live, take no pleasure”. A rare attitude in France, where food is culture.

Quick fire questions and bundle me out of the office. Pressure means that barely have I sat down, the questions are spurted, no breaking the ice here. He has by folder and as its the 4th surgery in 3 months, he’s sick of the sight of me.

He’s just going through the procedure, there is no real need to be here, other than the legal point of view. He knows the medicines I take, my blood group, weight, age, sex, height, allergies and what operations I’ve had.

He ticks his form and opens the door, waves me out, walks to the waiting room and opens the door, calls a name. Someone else looks up, relieved the wait is over, or scared at what will happen next. I follow , like the ugly duckling follows mummy duck. Waddling to the secretary’s desk. “Quack quack quack” in my head. Another one bites the dust.

They walk past me as I hand over my health card to his secretary, along with the consent forms and the information forms. I’m apparently invisible now. Behind me are more people, waiting to go into the waiting room, and in the waiting room are many people. A couple wait with their young daughter.The girl is blonde and beautiful, but she’s grunting and crying as she is mentally disabled. Her parents smile, tiredness in their eyes, their faces worn thin with the judgments of others. Waiting to go into the waiting room, where they will wait to see the anesthetist, who doesn’t want to see them as he’s fed up. He’ll be there for hours yet, ticking forms and asking questions.They’ll be there for hours, waiting to see him.

I gather my things and wander off to the car.

I go home, and they will to. Waiting for the operation.

Picking blackberries

So we walked, Tupperware boxes in our hands down those leafy country paths,bushes and plants towering over our heads, giving the impression we were walking into natures green cathedral. Its a Sunday afternoon, the heat is shimmering on the tarmac, and the breeze is slight. Its not so hot that you have to lie in the shade panting though, and this afternoon looks promising. We walk towards the Méron Marshes. Along the hedgerows we see many bushes bearing fruit, rose hips, hawthorns ,sloes, blackberries, all laden with ripening fruit. Autumn is early this year. Here and there, in those deep dry ditches, we can here animals scuttling, lizards, birds. I warn Tom about snakes, and stay close. But they are just lizards, darting over the stones.

Picking sloes and blackberries, the summer heat beats down on us, walking through those country paths, chatting in the long grass, being stung by nettles and buzzed by insects.Our hands are scratched, blue with juice. Tom and I fill up our bowls with fruit, and head back home.The crunch of the stones as we walk, the summer sun slowly sinking, shadows lengthening.We get to our kitchen and empty the bowls, and head out again.We’ll make a blackberry pie, and the sloes will go in the freezer, and I’ll make sloe gin with them. The warmth of the summer sun can still be tasted then, even in the depths of winter.