Category Archives: My life in London

Talking to plants

 

About a fortnight ago I prepared the narrow strip of soil running along the front wall of our back patio. I loosened the soil, removed weeds and biggish stones and began relocating our darling clematis and lavender from their pot homes of almost 10 years. Yes, I was a bit nervous as, one, I didn’t want to upset their roots and, two, wasn’t sure how they’d react to their new home, which hopefully soon be a cheerful one, densely packed with a variety of country flowers, whose tiny seeds, by the way, were shaken on to the ground and raked in on the same day of the transplantation. So pleased that clematis and lavender have adapted well to their new surroundings…no signs of any traumatization yet… and some of the little seeds having ended their germinating process are already starting to grow! And whilst I check on or water them – oh, I am sooo patiently waiting for clematis’s first flower(s) – I caught myself whispering, hey my little beauties… guaponas mias, a ver…despaaacio, yes take your time now…schööön wachsen, ihr süßen little Blümchen 

_1050042   _1050048

 

I came across John Agard’s Two plants, after reading his poem Talking to plants during a lecture at Goldsmith University a few years ago. Since then I’m often reminded of both poems when tending to my ‘babies’.

 

 

Talking to Plants

 

Always talk to your plants.

Sit back and watch them flourish.

Good advice. Of course we presume

that all plants speak English.

 

Speak slowly, watch them bloom

If necessary shout each syllable.

Their little ears are ready vessels

for a shower of the Queen’s vowels.

 

Never mind if it’s a China rose

or an African violet.

Better yet, recite a bit of English lit.

See abundance spring at your fingertip.

 

So I spoke like an Oxford don

to my wilting rhododendron.

It wilted more. As for my drooping shrub,

my words only seem to draw more lugs.

 

O plants, what is it that makes you grow?

I watch my immigrant neighbour’s patio

with a sense of distant envy.

Tell me, plants, must I address you in Punjabi?

 

First poem in John Agard’s Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2009)

 

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Picnic at Lincoln’s Inn Fields

I’ve passed this beautiful spot, ate my packed lunch or had a nap during the hours in between lessons, so many times. In the evenings there are soup vans providing free food to homeless people.

Last week is was cold even though the sun was out…but that didn’t stop some to take their lunch in the park.

IMG-20160430-WA0000

 

Picnic at Lincoln’s Inn Fields

 

He took his seat, after he’d laid out

his coat with great care, on top of the grass.

 

He pressed his bent back against his black

rucksack, and then stretched his legs. Blissful sigh.

 

He watched an army of people, that matched

spring’s vibrant colours, eat their packed lunch.

 

The midday sun warmed his face. He stretched his

neck and felt the heat spreading in his body.

 

To the cheerful chatter and occasional

loud and hearty laughter he fell asleep.

 

In the evening he stood outside the nightly

locked gate, queuing to wait his turn for some

 

hot food and a cuppa, listening to the

silent chatter of his fellow vagabonds.

Morning Bath

Morning Bath

 

The tide was out and a big white

cloud floated so near, that I stretched

my hand dreamingly and sincere,

to draw your silhouette with my left

index finger on this vast canvas.

 

I imagined how magical scissors

cut along the newly drawn lines,

and suddenly you stepped out,

laughing at my new trick. We walked

the golden shore, our noses filled

 

with fish scented air and enjoyed

the wind messing with our hair, whilst

watching hundreds of playful waves

teasing surfers, who seemed to know

their every move, as they sped across

 

the white glistening foam, holding on

tight to their colourful kites…                     and then I woke up.

I went to the window and pulled up

the blinds and looked at two sparrows

splashing in their early morning bath.  

 

The photo was taken in April 2016 at St. Malo, English Channel.  

 

Locked Door

Two days before New Years Eve we stayed in an apartment minutes from Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun) in Madrid. That square contains, among other, the famous clock with its bells marking the eating of the Twelve Grapes, a Spanish tradition for good luck. I love this busy and historic place, its close proximity to all major sights and shops and bars and cosy squares. Yet, what fascinated me most on our visit this time was a door. The door to our apartment. That is, the inside of the door with its many locks. And that image has come creeping back into my mind again and again…

 

Locked Door

Still lying in bed she recalled how, a few hours earlier, she’d popped each one of the twelve grapes synchronously with each bell strike into her mouth, and how her gaze had been fixed on RTVE and its life broadcast from Puerta del Sol. She remembered how her friends used to make funny faces encouraging laughter when stuffing the sweet fruits in their mouths and that for far too long she’d been swallowing all twelve grapes without choking. And that she’d got used to jumping up from her sofa shouting A Happy New Year into the room and to the people on TV blowing them air kisses. After the main event she’d watched the late show on TV sipping sparkling Verdejo commenting the music and supposedly comic acts. The only difference this time were the bangs coming from outside at twentyfive to one. Fireworks. Slightly delayed, she thought. But she’d enjoyed looking at them all the same after pulling up the blinds, and probably because of the delay they’d seemed so special. After she’d finally gone to bed in the early morning hours she dreamt of grapes shooting down a large water slide and landing inside a pool of sparkling water reflecting the sun and blue sky. That morning, after finishing her first morning coffee of the New Year she went to her door, turned the rusty key inside the lock, unfastened the door chains, unbolted the iron door bolt and swung the door open.

Total Eclipse of the Moon

bloodmoonTomorrow, during the veryveryvery early morning hours, I think around 1.10 AM GMT, a celestial event will take place, that, apparently, has not occurred since 1982 and won’t happen again until 2033. In our sky there’ll be a total lunar eclipse AND supermoon.

Coincidently, when googling total lunar eclipse I came across this fitting song, which is based on Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Sun (bring on the 80s!!!)

I think I might as well stick to the 80’s in order to stay awake to get that glimpse of this rare phenomenon when the moon is at its shortest distance from the Earth and as a result appears much larger and brighter than usual. Yes, why not, I shall be having one of my karaoke nights 🙂 and one song that will definitely feature tonight on my sing-along list is Hijo de la Luna by the Spanish 80’s pop group Mecano.

The song tells the beautiful and sad story of the moon (la luna = feminine), who wishes for a son. The song’s English translation is, as a whole, provided below.

Mecano hijo de la luna

 

 

 

 

Foolish is he who doesn’t understand
Tells a legend
That a female gypsy
Conjured up the moon until dawn
Crying she asked
At the break of dawn
To marry a gyspy man

“You’ll have your man, dark skin,”
Spoke the full moon from the sky
“But in exchange I want
The first son
That you’ll have with him
Because whoever sacrifices their son
To not be alone
Would likely not love him very much.”

Moon, you want to be a mother
And you can’t find a love
That can make you a woman
Tell me silver moon
What do you intend to do
With a child of flesh?
Son of the moon.

From a cinnamon skinned father a child was born
White like as the back of an ermine
With grey eyes
Instead of olive
An albino boy of the moon
“Damn his appearance!
This is a non-gypsy man’s child
And I won’t stand for it!”

(Chorus)

The gypsy man, believing himself to be dishonoured
Went to his wife, a knife in hand
“Who’s this child?
You fooled me well!”
And then he mortally wounded her.
Then he went to the hill
With the child in his arms
And he abandoned him there.

(Chorus)

And in the nights when there’s a full moon
It will probably be because the child is in a good mood
And if the child cries
The moon will wane
To make him a cradle
And if the child cries
The moon will wane
To make him a cradle

Taken from http://lyricstranslate.com/en/hijo-de-la-luna-son-moon.html-3#songtranslation#ixzz3mwXJFtfQ

Heat…or better…A hot ‘n steamy summer’s day

P1030301The hottest day in Britain has come and gone (Wednesday, 1st July), phew…and no, in case you thought I’m about to complain about the hot weather, I’m not, no no no, ’cause I WAS prepared!! Yep, ice pops came to my rescue, hehehe.

Actually, I’m STILL prepared for the next few days of glorious summer-sunshine 🙂 … hm, let’s see, disposable BBQs, beer, sausages, all the stuff necessary for gazpacho, beer, salad, courgettes, hand fan…and beer… uhm sun cream…oh and look there’s my old sun hat…haha very fashionable, still… so….yes….think I got all the really important bits for summer survival…

 

‘Heat’ or perhaps  ‘A hot ‘n steamy summer’s day’ 

 

At the speed of light

you conquer me

leaving no time

to make up my mind:

shall I run or go on a spree?

 

Trickles of sweat

run down my face and back

to the crease between my buttock(s)

and I think,

Might cutting my hair

allow all of what’s left

of that steamy air

caress my neck

like my lover’s lips?

O please, that’s all I need to

get back in sync.

 

I’m gasping for breath

as I decide to wear a skirt

only to discover later, that I

relish the stares,

that follow my laboriously

shaved now snow-white legs.

 

How you turn this town into a place of swelter

and I’m so looking for shelter.

 

With rail tracks melting,

I arrive pelting

one hour late at my destination,

where it’s 2 degrees cooler,

where I feel like a ruler,

where I wear my hair up

embracing a soft breeze

and suddenly feel at ease

 

with you,

you naughty tease.

 

icecubes donw your back

Witches and Old Women

 

Mention witches, walks, wolves, midnight, nature, madness, superstition … and my ears grow instantly, changing into wolf’s ears…that made me think, just now, of the one who pretended to be a grandmother to that little girl an a red cap. So when I discovered that Goya’s mini masterpieces of his Album D, The Witches and Old Women Album, were to be exhibited at the beautiful Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House, I knew I had to see it…and just in time, I managed to go and am really glad I did. Goya, already an older and deaf man, created the beautiful, powerful and strangely modern sketches between ca. 1819-1823.

old women fight too

Francisco Goya, Old women fight too, c. 1819-23

Coincidently, when googling long distance walks in England, I

content with her lot_Goya

Francisco Goya, Content with her lot, ca. 1816-20

found this witch walk in Lancashire (about 50 miles) which features Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s poem ‘The Lancashire Witches‘  along the way…now that is one I have to do, yes, it is already on my (growing) list of things to do … I better get my broomstick out of the cupboard.

Here’s a short taster of Carol Ann Duffy’s poem:

One voice for ten dragged this way once
by superstition, ignorance.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Witch: female, cunning, manless, old,
daughter of such, of evil faith;
in the murk of Pendle Hill, a crone.

Heavy storm-clouds here, ill-will brewed,
over fields, fells, farms, blighted woods.
On the wind’s breath, curse of crow and rook.

Love and other old addictions…

I absolutely love this poem… it captures so beautifully possible struggles we may encounter travelling through life and that we are the keepers of our own memories. Thanks Pete!

If you like to read more of Pete’s wonderful poetry visit his site.

O… I AM in a philosophical mood today, probably thanks to several weeks of reading about identity construction and using reflection and reflection and MORE reflection to analyse my personal and also my teacher identity…and the connection between the two…all that in preparation of my research study on teacher identity change and motivation…haha…I even reflect in my dreams…okok…enough of that and in any case, soon it’ll be over as I’m on the final leg of this ‘educational’ journey … and I’m already sooo tempted to start thinking of what next, aaahm booking the long-overdue trip to see family and friends…a new job…a new project…hmm …a new country…hmm…change of career (again?!? appears in red flashing lights before my eyes )…yes, why not, now that I think about it, it has to be different, and nothing, absolutely nothing to do with what I’ve been doing  so far…typical…if a change, make it a proper one…hmmm….so perhaps a wine maker or taster, food taster or baker, gardener, paid walker… hmm, but aren’t those my passions I wish to get paid for?…oh no… nonono…stopstopstop…”Keep focused!”, urges that little voice in my head, “You can start planning as soon as you finish this final course work…so stay on course!” … Thanks God I’m a good listener…so…I better re-focus, and the getting-out-a pen-and-paper-to-start-planning is becoming a reward and another (!) motivational force to finish this final piece of course work.

Pete Scribes

image

Love and other old addictions

There is no glamour in the cigarettes
That I still struggle to resist
Just another longing tug
For a former addict

I hunger for a familiar taste
Like I hunger for your lips
But I can resist desire
I know my time, and place

It’s hard to be the past
It’s hard to be disgraced
To know I’ll never brush away your hair
As it falls across your face

But I have my memories
I cling to them each and every day
I can be the boy that never was
The one that ran away

© 2014 Peter Anstiss

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Birds and tattoos and Cheeky

Arazeli g1ot a tattoo. Yes (!!!), I thought and, I couldn’t have asked for a better giftA better gift? WHY and HOW on earth could another person’s tattoo be a present for me you wonder? Well, first of all, it happened before. Many many years ago, my then other half came home one evening, after spending the day with some friends in town, crying enthusiastically cheerful – evidence of having downed a couple of pints on the way home – Hey little one, got a bonnie wee surprise fer ye! We’ve a new addition to oor ye-an’-me-an’-a dog hoosehold!! Oh no, I feared the worst. Tentatively I asked, But where is it, whilst my eyes scanned for signs of a puppy or kitten hidden under J’s T-Shirt or a holy cardboard box, the means of transport for a hamster perhaps, or a bird, or a chameleon or other lizard-like creature, which I really wanted back then. And as my eyes wandered upwards…slowly, I saw ‘it’ and I can tell you now, I had to look twice. What on earth is ‘that’, I thought, before screaming, Butpepelepew2, but…you’ve got a tattoo…a cartoon tattoo, and my eyes finally rested on the black and white and extremely charming French skunk Pepé le Pew. Pepé, notorious for constantly looking for l’amour in Paris’s streets during spring time, was laughing at me, seductively, through the recently applied cling film, which was tightly wrapped around J’s left upper arm. And J said, that this tattoo was my special present.

Secondly, ever since I saw a tattoo for the first time, as a young girl, I knew that one day I’d be displaying some beautiful inky art somewhere on ‘moi‘. So, Arazeli’s tattoo was a gift in a sense that it brought back my long forgotten wish to get one and it made me think of that perfect first design and that perfect first bodily area that should serve as its canvas…ah…yes…by the way…this whole tattoo thing is NOT even the slightest possible sign of a (mild) mid-life crisis! (ha, I would say that, wouldn’t I?).

As of today, hurray hurray, I finally know which design and where to place it leaving only the when to be decided.

What: Birds. Why? Well, I’ve always loved birds. I remember that back home in Austria, I used to wake up and fall asleep to their morning and evening songs. And in the neighbours garden, in an old oak tree, that stood amongst other trees, I think acacias and chestnut trees, there lived this beautiful woodpecker whom I enjoyed listening to as he pecked the bark to get some grub from underneath it and whilst listening I imagined how he’d pull out a long worm from the freshly made hole in the oak’s thick trunk just below its branches. And then in winter, there were little robins and sparrows and blue tits, who’d come to our birdhouse and my grandmother’s windowsill, where we’d left some seeds after breakfast to watch them feeding.

After I’d moved to London I missed our garden and the birdsong but soon one white bird with a yellow crest and orange cheeks, became my feisty friend. I called him Cheeky. Cheeky, who came from a bird rescue centre soon felt 1 (1)comfortable in his new home. And what clever bird he was. He knew the first chords of the theme song from Eastenders! What talent, I thought, and from that moment on I’d spent hours on end sitting in front of him whistling, determined to teach him a new song. The first time he imitated my tune I nearly fell off the sofa. From then on, as soon as I came home after work and I’d whistle our song, and Cheeky would jump onto the side bars of his cage, raise his crest, stretch his head towards the main door, climb out of the cage (the door was always kept open) and fly straight onto my head. There, he would preen my hair or hammer softly on my head before roosting. 

So, my first design will be a flock of 5 little birds flying towards … not telling… use your imagination!

When I found the pictures of me and Cheeky I thought of the following …

Cheeky

How upset he was 

squawking and walking 

up and down the sofa 

when he’d noticed

my shaved head.

How he ignored me, 

punishing me for having 

to now sit on short sharp 

bristles, that replaced 

his curly nest. 

How he screeched at me!

Did he look back to when

he preened my curls

carefully drawing them through

his strong beak

thinking I was his mate?

I remember the day 

when he returned stalking 

around my head again and 

I felt his warm feet and

knew I’d been forgiven. 

United again Cheeky gently

pecked my head 

perhaps searching for the curls 

he’d once preened and I wondered: 

Did he forget?

Soon after and sitting on my

shoulder he puffed himself fluffy 

and grinding his beak

he fell asleep before

returning to his perch.

Spanish karaoke night – Resistiré (Dúo Dinámico)

So I watched a bit of the 29th Goya Awards ceremony last night. I thought that I would get a nice summary of which film to add to my ‘to watch’ list, because I hadn’t really followed Spanish Cinema last year. But my ingenious plan didn’t work out. As soon as the ceremony’s opening – a medley of songs performed by actors and singers – had finished with the song ‘Resistiré’,  a song that I hadn’t heard for ages, the last time probably when I watched Pedro Almodovar’s 1990 dark romantic comedy ¡Átame!, my evening had turned into a spontaneous Spanish-songs-of-the-80s-and-90s-karaoke evening. Yes, I filled my lungs with air and sang along but only after I had looked for this and other song(s)/lyrics on the net silently thanking people who’d go through the time-consuming work transcribing and uploading them.

Anyway, that song was one of the first Spanish songs I’d ever listened to attentively and repetitively, some 12-or-so years ago. It was during a language class that we Spanish language learners who’d just (!) began to learn about one of the many uses of the subjunctive (ah you wonderful Spanish grammar) were asked to pick out all subjunctive words we could hear or think we were hearing. So, our language instructor would play us that song again and again and again.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did then and yesterday! (The version below is not the original but one I particularly like; you can find the original version by following the link English translation below)

If you don’t know (much) Spanish and like to know what the song is all about, here’s a great website – Foreign Language Music. There you’ll find links to the song, an English translation , an extensive vocabulary list and grammar explanations.