My Photo
Location: Dublin, Republic of, Ireland

Wednesday 31 October 2007

The Wind on the Roof

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Last night, I heard the winter wind bang loudly on the roof. No scurrying mice, only the sudden billowing of curtains. Or perhaps a spring-clean of bedsheets, all fine in the sun. What fun! I went out to have a look and it was so cold I thought cucumber slices were wedged behind my ears. The wind swept itself gaily around my feet like a feathered brush of ice. From somewhere, a curlew quarreled with an icicle.

Tuesday 30 October 2007

A Stroll

We went on an evening walk today , the long, hovering silence of a new winter watching and splayings of dead autumn leaves dressed in yesterday's party colours which waited to caress the footstep. A stroll in the dusk is restful and so too, the picturesque scene of a park, an old museum, a historic fort and a circus top that strained to a lively Latin tune. We stood on the tip of a darkness that was not yet quite and a night so nearly there.

A Forgotten English Favourite

Henry Williamson - this was an author - a country gentleman who lived his heart out for some splendid nature tales in England where pain and hope that blended subtly into rural adventure, were often seen in interesting characterization and startling conclusions.

One of his more famous works turned out to be Tarka the Otter and incidentally, he died on the day, the death of Tarka was being filmed as a drama-documentary. All his tales were gentle but dramatic, tender in its influences but powerful in its retrospection, long after you had closed the pages.

This with the exception that Williamson created his underlying recipe - a mix of tragedy and social injustices, measured with a painful relation to the poor and working class.

Their subdued and anxious souls - especially with regards to financial woes or tumultuous forbidden emotions; often rested against the unsuspecting deeper shadows of farmlands bearing enchanted woods and soothing brooks.

Williamson offered deep insights of rural hinterlands that were intimate, colourful, innocent and dreamy

It was a splendid concoction that he adopted as creative techniques for his story-writing. He specialised in both the short story & novel. I daresay too, that Williamson's work would have been a hit with gentlemen farmers and their families at the time.

Monday 29 October 2007

William Trevor & Bodily Secrets

I've just finished William Trevor's Bodily Secrets. It's a slim paperback and part of a Penguin series of classics, that came free with the newest issue of London Review of Books.

I had forgotten how much I once enjoyed the Irish author. Crisp down-to-earth writing, the simplicity of vocabulary and very little emotion displayed. Yet, his stories were wound around heavy emotional entanglements, followed by resignation and then, acceptance. Trevor used a character's everyday routine to bring these observations to light.

I also noticed now - when I didn't before how astutely the writer had created a unique ending for each tale. He would offer a poignancy that sometimes stretched into a deeper sadness - if sadness was called for - to leave the reader startled. It's really quite wonderful to visit a beloved author after a long time.

Labels: ,


I am re-inventing myself as a writer in Dublin with a new opportunity afforded me. In London I had re-discovered reading. I now brought with me a small pile of magazines and books with which to savour in Dublin and indeed as if that wasn't enough; was still tempted to pick up two more in Heathrow.
The gates to the domestic Ireland flights in Terminal 1 are decoratively laid out - and I never thought I would use this word in an airport - homey. There isn't any more of a noisy bustling crowd. Cafes - Costa Coffee is tops here - tiny little bookshops and duty-free ones create a cheery atmosphere at every turn of the eye.
I am renewing my work in freelance journalism after a long silence and also to hone some new creative writing aspirations. I have friends to read my work for me, to tell me what they think and to help me plan a kinder and easier route to the writing life.
The situation is very different from when I was in Malaysia - here I feel spiritually connected to my environment and inner self. There really should be no more excuses, and especially not on a Monday morning when I have woken up feeling utterly peaceful and contented.
It is a bank holiday in Ireland.

Sunday 28 October 2007


The clocks went back an hour at 2 this morning. I woke up terribly early to catch my waiting taxi to Heathrow. I flew British Midlands to Dublin. Wonderful in-flight crew and ground service. They deserve top marks. Clumsy with my hand luggage, I settled for breakfast on the plane and not at an airport-cafe. I also read a bit of William Trevor. It had been grey in London, the city's pallor showing up in the cold rain and blustery winds. But the sun was now shining brightly in Ireland and I felt that I had stepped into the twilight of a long, burnished summer.
And so begins another strange unspoken joy.

Saturday 27 October 2007


I woke up this Saturday morning to the sounds of Milkshake, a daily series of sunny cartoons on Channel 5. I forgot how much I once enjoyed them. Perhaps it is this new interest in wanting to write a picture book that did the trick.
So, I watched these cartoons once more... old friends rediscovered where they would have been treated to tea had they stepped out of the telly to share a cuppa with me.
My favourites are Noddy in Toyland, Fifi the Sunflower, Oswald and Franklin the Tortoise. I never tire of these merry chums with their mischevious antics.
Franklin is a bright green little fellow and his stories offer picturesques scenes of flowery meadows and a pretty thatched cottage where he lives with his daddy and mummy The grown-up tortoises measure heavier on the sides, are wiser and display perfect showmanship with etched smiles on their faces. I love the happy moments.
I see Noddy spinning around Toyland in his little car, Fifi the sunflower florist sighing over her strange, colourful friends and especially too, Franklin's relationship with his best friend, Bear who is often gratefully on hand to rescue him from scrapes. They share memorable moments with an exciting schoolife and various philosophies that I had engaged in when little.
The Franklin cartoons appear conspiratorial in their efforts to teach goodness. But they are never smug or self-righteous.
Today is a day of last-minute errands and I shall have to run around London.

Friday 26 October 2007

So I went to the Foyle's event called Modern Poets in Translation and I was glad to be there. The newest series of the journal which had been founded in 1965 by Ted Hughes, was launched by another famed poet and translator of German literature, David Constantine. He was a good-humoured gentleman who conducted the entire event with candour and smiles. I bought 2 poetry books.
I would like to talk about this reading but on a separate blog or post and on a different day.
There were interesting performances by published poets which made me think of many different things like lollipops and windmills.
I've decided that while this stays a lighthearted blog and one for my old acquaintances, I'd probably open another literary one shortly in Wordpress. It will showcase my creative writing. Of course, I would like to be published traditionally for the novel and if sandcastles could still soar in the air, then too, a children's book. There are several opportunities for a writer nowadays and I have been dwelling carefully on what I'd like to do.
Yesterday, I sat next to another poetess and translator of German literature, Ruth Ingram who was a delight. We made friends through congenial conversation and the drinking of wine during the interval and she has invited me to join her poetry group. I do feel enthusiastic about it for when I return to London at a slightly later date. But then, at the time when I put down roots, I will join many different things.
I'm flying once more to Dublin. So here I am now ferrying from Dublin to London in the same way once before, when you still hadn't known me friends, and when I used to fly from Melbourne to Sydney ever so often and once while on Virgin Blue on this Australian route, Sir Richard Branson had played games with us on the plane. It seems that travel cannot escape me no matter how hard I try to elude it and is destined to light up my path. There were also other places of course, East Africa and the Middle-East. Where will it be this time?
Today or rather yesterday, it appeared to be properly winter in London with the sun having hidden itself and this morning after leaving the travel agent's, I saw that many ladies were wearing hats. I can't remember where I put mine but before that I had a prettier one except that a strong gust of wind once swept it from my head and dumped it mischeviously into a muddly puddle somewhere near March Arch.
Perhaps I shall buy a new one in Dublin.
The Christmas shops in the department stores in Central London are starting up a buzz and the lights are going up in Oxford Street.
This is a poorly-written post. I shall write a better one tomorrow.

Thursday 25 October 2007

Today, the black London clouds fail to dispel my hopeful mood. It is raining. Gently. Softly. I slept badly, waking suddenly at 2.45am to the noise of someone banging a door. The central heating feels too hot but it isn't really. In the late morning, I read and watch telly. With some relief, I finish the last pages to a novel full of intensity and strife - The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante Then I thought of the decisions I'd have to make in the next 24 hours.
I have to travel again. Tickets, tickets.
I have renewed my work in freelance journalism. Already, my emails move to and fro with an industrious aptitude in my discussions with a popular author. I arrange an interview and now we talk studiously about the questions at large and the theme from which his answers will revolve.
Later, I lose myself in the Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross Road. Each department hides a cluttered maze of topics. In trying to locate Customer Service down the basement, I get lost somewhere between the twists and turns of Cookery and Popular Nursing. Finally, spying the blessed arrow for Exit, I recover my sanity only in Medicine.
The reason I am at Foyles is to reserve my seat for an event this evening called Modern Poets in Translation. Wanting to begin a serious study for my own craft, I view the approaching dialogue with excitement.
I admit though that when it comes to translated works, I am more familiar with prose.
Of course, I had a choice. Gordon Ramsay, celebrity chef giving a talk and signing his newest book Playing with Fire at Waterstone's Picadilly, or even a dialogue with the author Jacqueline Rose, this evening at the London Review Bookshop. The topic is slightly painful, the Holocaust and Zionism.
On the train, I am still not sure but finally settle for the poets.
I pop over to Borders in Charing Cross. The cafe upstairs has been renovated and looks plush. As usual, there are no seats left.
I sigh and make for the Burgers Cafe across the road.
It provokes the right mood for daydreams.
As I wait for my cajun chicken and a small rose, I watch the road even as other restaurant patrons do the same. People hurry about in long coats, donned in gloves, hats, hoods and carrying umbrellas. The drizzle falls. The double-decker buses move along slowly, tailing the traffic as if in funeal procession. Can the colour grey be so mesmerising?
The music which fills the cafe are old Broadway numbers and the odd folksong. I remember Simon & Garfunkel and feeling a little heady, think that I could be running across their songs, my dress blowing in the wind. From Homeward Bound into America and perhaps stopping somewhere to rest in the stalls at Scarborough Fair.
Peace abounds. I am happiest in solitude and when doused by reflection and intospection.
I could walk to the West End and catch a film. There's still time. Yes, I think, that's what I'll do.

Wednesday 24 October 2007

How the sudden cold winds slapped me silly as I walked along the pavement on Cromwell Road this morning to a slightly poky cafe to have breakfast. Not really poky but colourful enough. I found myself roused from a contemplative contentment with pleasure and with ease. The autumn leaves wore wings and fell all around me without warning. They skirted about in a flush of oranges, russets and browns.
This signalled a memory.
A scene, I found particularly delightful about the children's bookshop in Harrods yesterday, was the way memorable classics and fairy tales were lined up along rows of vast bookshelves with such persuasive cajolings so as to tickle my fancy in every way.
What is it about the magic of having been a child that rescues one from dire straits, as a grown up? I only have to imagine the past, remember the picture books that gave me bliss and am immediately revived from sorrow and gloom.
My childhood stays a curtain, still shadowing all my puppets, dolls and wooden toys, and one carefully embroidered with decorative tassels that may tempt me to storybook gifts and imaginings long before Christmas.
I'm thinking of re-reading my favourites which all commanded individual majestic displays in that little arena. I make reference to the complete adventure series of comic book heroes Tintin, Rupert the Bear and some well-loved stories, revolving around Winnie the Pooh and his chums. And there was also the The Wind in the Willows, dressed in a new handsome hardback and all of the famous classics.
A silent party in action and I, the happy gatecrasher.

Tuesday 23 October 2007

In Harrods this afternoon, dashing up the escalators two steps all at once, catching only familiar scenes of antiques, perfumes and furnishings, I had made in just in time to meet with Mark Walden - a children's book author, busy signing copies of his debut novel called H.I.V.E. . It tells the story of 13-year old Otto, who has been chosen to attend the top school of villiany.
Full of baddies, action and lashings of humour, described the Sunday Times.
I found Walden to be congenial and good-humoured, his hair a lot longer now and falling onto his shoulders in dark ringlets.
The author had caught enough attention amongst mums, dads and curious toddlers browsing in the children's bookshop (4th floor), with his jovial laughter and good chat.
He enthusiastically scribbled a message for me - I had told him the book was for someone I knew with a wild mind. And the small crowd which beamed down at him with approval, had laughed out loud.
I found the former video games producer to be highly inspiring. Of course, I'm going to read the book myself before handing it to my friend.
I am considering the idea of writing a childrens' book myself. I was serious about it last year but lost heart. Now I blame London for giving me notions.
From the categories neatly lined along the bookshelves, I discovered that my stories were suited for the 9 to 12 year old age group by British standards. Which meant that I had approached the children's book publisher wrongly in the past.
A crowd of babies and kiddies ruled the scene demanding toys, comics and picture stories. Parents pleaded, argued and debated with sly cunning but to no avail.
Of course, Harrods helped along by an ever-pleasing workforce, always boast a classy festive air.
The Christmas shop was crowded with early window-shoppers browsing for decorations. And the food halls smelt of chocolate, breads and pastries, reminding me of Hansel & Gretel.
I myself felt like a child.
I also picked up the latest Times Literary Supplement magazine with its smashing essays - this time on Plato, Lessing and a review of Indra Sinha's Animal's People amongst others. I couldn't resist buying the newest London Review of Books magazine and it offered a free novella - a collection of short stories by William Trevor called Bodily Secrets.

Monday 22 October 2007

I'm reading The Days of Abandonement which is a piece of translated Italian literature, written by the publicity-shy contemporary novelist, Elena Ferrante. The writer was said to have stirred up the keen attention of complacent West European readers with the shocking mood she brazenly provided for her story.

The plot lies on the opposite side of what Kureishi's written. It tells the story of a mother and wife, whose husband leaves her after 2 decades of a safe marriage, so I thought it would be nice to inspect the other side of the coin, which may provide me with a broader feel for wounded relationships.

The first line begins with, "One April afternoon right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me."
So far, the vocabulary is poignant, poetic and enriching although I don't care for the way the female character is shaped. The language is beautiful and serves as an excellent translation.

There is so much inspiring literature around isn't there but the reader claims only one lifeline


Today, London wears its classic mood. The sun has gone albeit a tearful encounter with frost and cloud. It's a rainy day, cold and grey. As usual, I am accustomed to the frequent sound of police sirens. A city painted from a palette which forgot its colours. And yet London stays endearing all the same. I'm feeling lulled and drowsy and may spend the day indoors with the telly, my books and magazines. I've been out and about every single day.

Sunday 21 October 2007


Led by my spirit and eagerly provoked by the nostalgic memory of fascinating bookshop haunts, I have been visiting all my favourite bookstores in London, buying novels and reading all at once with such ferocity as never before. Sometimes, I am so enthusiastic, I may finish a 200-page novel in one sitting. I have allowed my own bliss to lead me as I slowly wade my way back into the once-misplaced and for so long, lost writing life. And books seem to crown all my efforts at tranquility and reflection.
I have been to my favourite cafes to drink coffee, eat pastry and to read. Even cafes have conjured up a personality that I have lugged around as my assortment of life's priceless things. Oh, the kind of cafes I enjoy are nothing significant. They're not fashionable as may be the case, grand or happening.
But rather, they may be seen as little poky things or happy lighted places where ladies gather for a natter after their shoppping. I may name some favourite addresses as the colourful Earl's Court or Kensington's very pleasant high street.
I observe those who lunch or chat with secret delight. I make notes, I write and scribble stories with pleasure and with ease.
For some strange reason, London affords me this kind luxury. There is an instant feeling of connection to a spiritual belonging where my nourishment as a writer and reader is well served. I have been buying books every other day. I feel as if I may die without them.
I make my own bliss. I weave strange gifts from environment, desire and atmostphere. And they don't cost a dime.

Almost finished with Hanif Kureishi's novella Intimacy.. How the novelist has cleverly taken me into the plot, moment by moment, as if I too had suddenly clashed with the same reflections. Here the main character, Jay, had fumbled with a lifetime of introspection, hastily summarised for the reader; as his future path seemed lost in the temporal darkness of his mind.

That while reading the story of a man who reflects on his life one evening, as he planned to secretly leave his wife and sons the next day, that Jay and I, provoked by a silent understanding, had switched places immediately. Surely, this makes me the obedient reader.

The story reminds me too, of Kureishi's genius in extorting the extraordinary from all things ordinary and where the book's subtle questions on the complications of love, may still stay unanswered today.

He adds on monumental imagery while giving a rich account of trivial details eg. describing the things another writer may miss in the form of kitchen utensils, a lounge setting, hobby items or a cafe decor.

How different from the many current stories of emigration in other South-Asian novels where one tale seems to have blended into the other - not caring which side of the Atlantic they may have been published from - and where many echo the same disillushionments.

And how wordy the stories feel, compared to the crisper tones of Kureishi's voice, still ready to offer similiar observations with a unique eye and with threads of words so thin, their hidden meanings stay hard to spy.

Saturday 20 October 2007


Yesterday, I engaged in a blissful stroll along the West End where once before I had been to see many films and I also spent a great deal of time on Charing Cross Road which is London's bookshop haven.
Nothing appeared to have changed and for me, that was a small miracle.
I wondered if I had really left. But I had and for a time that turned out to be longer than necessary.
I have to write many letters - inform people where I am. Hardly anyone knows that I have returned to Europe.
But there is so much to do and explore at the moment, I can only manage one personal email & a postcard at a time and can only visit 3 to 4 bloggers each day.
I comment now for just a few but this will increase as my time lengthens.
It is hard to read the long fiction my online friends write, but I will attempt this too with ease, in the coming days.
At the moment, I am happy.

I'm presently reading Seven Japanese Tales by Junichiro Tanizaki.I find it rather thrilling. I don't know myself when I first became infused by the fascinating prospect of indulging in Japanese stories. Perhaps it was after Marukami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman or otherwise, it must have been the translated Japanese version of a novella The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea. It was written by the novelist, actor and playwright Yukio Mishima in 1963.
It actually deals with death.
I read the tales very carefully...studiously, tasting each line, seeking each word. What is it about Japanese literature that makes me watch my pages hawk-eyed?
I think it is the way I discover the writers who all deal with highly bizarre elements from cruel deaths, emotional disarray and perverse sexual situations to eerie introspections and regimented lifestyles with a matter-of-fact straightforwardness, as if you felt the author did not blink once while writing the story but kept marching on - not eating or sleeping but only breathing until he turned to the last page.
And so I am the same.
I love the Seven Japanese Tales, written almost a 100 years ago and which appeared seductively bonded together with the numerous short story collections; all so decoratively arranged for the roving reader's eye, by Waterstone's Piccadilly.

Friday 19 October 2007

Yesterday, I strode off into a secondhand bookshop, pretty much drunk. I had a blissful time in Ripping Yarns, a quaint shop on Archway Road, just opposite the Highgate train station in greater London.
It isn't bigger than a storeroom but for the nostalgic bookworm feeling still sane and yearning for dog-eared train books, Blyton, ancient comics and some thoroughly obscure classics - how I savoured the intrigue of an old forgotten title like Fandango Dark with relish - one would be well rewarded with a large colourful library and for me; an unsuspecting cardbox box outside the door where I chose and clutched a handful of Sexton Blake thrillers as if my life depended on it.
It was not without a dreamlike air that I later marched into a deli - still on Archway Road - for 2 generous glasses of red wine swallowed straight down - and a drink which had the power to knock me out for six in the blink of an eye. I was immediately happy and in love with the whole world.
My hedonism I daresay was eternal.
I tried to get to the station and thought I may have toppled a couple of times. I smiled at everyone. The watching traffic stared warily.
I then stumbled with some delight into another haven - a bookshop that served the wellbeing of an individual, one that fought for the state of a sound mental health. The Mind Shop, still on Archway Road. Oops...they must never know and you must never tell especially that I plan on going back, that I couldn't walk in a straight line at the time but just pretended...
I attempted to cover my hiccup with dismal failure.
Lots of exciting translated classics - disguising a surprise treasure and so I picked up my Polish tale and stumbled yet again, almost falling to the floor.
I held on shamelessly and with dramatic pleasure, to the shelves.
I also chose a book of American poetry, printed 30 years ago - the verses still beautiful to the ear. A bulk of its literature cost just £1.
My finds were a steal even as I struggled to stay on my seat on the District Line, my own state of being, a comical battle of wills.

Thursday 18 October 2007

I haven't had a chance to fill in a post today in the way I'd like to. I've been visiting my favourite bookshop haunts in London, all of which I've dearly missed and sometimes even dreamt about furiously.
There's a stack of small books - 4 slim thrillers, an obscure Polish classic, a booklet of American poems and a collection of 7 short Japanese tales, also a classic by Junichiro Tanizaki, miraculously stashed in my handbag just now.

Wednesday 17 October 2007

A Favourite Book Forum

My favourite book forum which was created and is also managed by
the Irish poet, Desmond Swords.
Here you go:
Many commentators are posters - readers and writers from the
Guardian Books Blog, UK.

Tuesday 16 October 2007

Ronnie Wood

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones was coming to Waterstone's,Piccadilly, at 6 but the queue had snaked its way out of the store by 2pm. Mostly men. Passers-by and the standstill traffic were amused. It was cold, grey and raining slightly - the classic London drizzle. I forgot to say goodbye to the sun that slided out of the overcast skies yesterday in Dublin. And Ronnie Wood was coming and my favourite cafe on the lower ground floor of Waterstones was gone. Instead, Costa Coffee offered its regal air proclaiming silence instead of the usual noisy clutter I had once loved and cherished like a surprise party. But my Americano was generous and delicious. And the queue got longer and longer while I walked on. That's cause Ronnie Wood was coming, yes he was.

Book Sale in Howth, Dublin

I went to visit the beautful Howth coastline in Dublin last Sunday. Aside from the busking East Europeans blaring old Broadway numbers from their trumpets, the tranquil bay with its delightful sightings of boats, yachts and seagulls also offers a rich spill of coffees, burgers, crisps, sandwiches and a congenial environment where toddlers and happy dogs may feel they've gatecrashed a party tailored to their let-have-a runaround-without-a-care-in-the-world tastes. And so too, they may be right.
If you're a booklover, you may want to bypass the pubs, seafood markets and quaint craft shops in favour of an old church easily visible from the long stretch of grass for an unexpected exhibition of all kinds of literature to capture your fancy. Hundreds of second-hand books are on sale and going for a steal. Poetry, the classics, Irish literature and various paperback fiction meet and greet the reader with expectation in a big hall.
The quiet studious lady who manages the book sale has her collection up for grabs every weekend from mid-mornings into the late evenings.

And Having Just Read...

I have just completed a novella called, Contre-Jour by Gabriel Josipovici. The slim paperback that may shy away quite happily from mainstream fiction, was published in London, some years ago by Paladin (Grafton Books).

It tells the story - and this while having shaped up, a deliberate form at artistry - of a neurotic painter and his wife who together with their eccentric lives and the loss of a child, stay wrapped in the lonely discourse of their marriage. This effect is studiously illustrated to give the impression of similiarity where a shell-shocked spider stays stuck in the trap of its web.

Everyday habits and routine are recreated to form the sole survival power for this fictitious couple.

The prose may be thought to be a little depressing but only because it is told mainly in a somber narrative - there is hardly any conversation.

I was mesmerized by the intense grip of the plot. The story is open to so much interpretation and the author has cleverly spun his tale in the way of a puzzle or a maze.

One gets to the end only having to guess that perhaps one had actually met the conclusion on page 1 and was then having to read backwards. Or else characters may simply not have been who they said they were. Was the tale then simply a riddle? The read proves immensely startling in this way.

I would like to recommend Contre-Jour for book club discussions as it leaves the room open for so much interpretation.
Or else, such a read would be perfect I think for the playwright interested in exposition scenes and how smoothly different parts of a story may move backwards and forwards without effort or any suspicion from a watchful audience.

This book would also be perfect for any Ingmar Bergman film enthusiast as it captures the essence of angst and reflection with the same magnitude and glory.

Sunday 7 October 2007

Picture Book Mischief

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFree Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Just talking about The Wind in the Willows with a friend in a favourite book forum, left me besotted with longing for my younger self and the colourful picture books that ruled my life at the time; better than any maternal persuasions or secret friendship games could.

But do you remember any mischevious secrets associated with your first library collection?

I recall 2 short devious crimes of a somewhat heinous literary nature - enough to portray my gullibility for life and which robbed me of peace until I had the good sense to let my mother know what was going on.

I studied at the Convent complete with Irish nuns but it was a day school and I didn't board there.
At 6+, I won a prize in class quite unexpectedly but cannot remember why I did.

It was a swell looking picture book. I still remember its tall size and flamboyant splashes of colour. It held wonderful stories on fairies, elves, gnomes and all the usual going-ons associated with magic wands and toadstool parties.

I cherished the book and even tried to hide it in my tub during bathtime until my irate father became convinced that I was going to destroy the beautiful pages in 24 hours. I carried it with me everywhere and left it under my pillow when I went to sleep. I remember I liked it THAT MUCH!

Not long afterwards, I was approached by a classmate who insisted that I give the book to her or her uncle who was a 'police inspector' was going to catch me and throw me in jail. I don't know why she picked on me. Was it my buck teeth or my starry eyes? But I was a willing target for intimidation. "Bring the book tomorrow", she growled but I never did.

Her threats grew larger and sharper and she kept winging me stories during recess and in the schoolyard of how her uncle caught crooks and took them away and threw them in jail and they wouldn't be released.

Prisoners were said to live with very little food, water, no sunlight and no friends. There was also no telly available so my favourite Moby Dick cartoons were out of the question.

She insisted that particular book was solely hers...that I had stolen it...that she was not aware of the book prize I had won but that I had taken HER picture book WITHOUT permission. She gossiped with enough malice to a few friends - bad hatters, all - in another class. They promptly sent me to Coventry. I was quite wary thinking that I may have had no one to play 'Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Pot", with anymore.

Either that or she would turn up at my house at midnight to kidnap my book properly once and for all, came the new threat. My beloved picture book was going to be kidnapped and I, the victim, held for ransom!

The bullying got so bad and she gave me no peace and one day, she said that her uncle was coming the next day to catch me at the school gates if I didn't return the book to her. I cried to my mother who had a word with the teacher.

Nothing happened really. My classmate was let off with a right ticking off and it was discovered that she had no uncle and no police in her family. In fact, her familyl ties lay heavily bound to a couple of robbers with passions devoted to the beer bottle and locked cars. She just wanted to rip me off. Not a tale I'm proud off but still... it was my first bullying adventure associated with a picture book.

I had another one the very next year when I accidentally made a little tear on another classmate's picture book. She had just bought it at the school fair. It was a 12-page tale on a duckling who was afraid to swim.
I had to pay her money for compensation - from my school allowance for a week, yes, she extorted money from me on the sly for that tiny tear. She kept waving the picture of what I then cursed to be the idiotic yellow duckling in front of me. The open-beaked bird appeared to be cracking up at my displeasure!

That too came to a stop when I had to lamely explain to my mother why my tuckshop money went missing so quickly and she said to tell the girl that she knew what was going on and if the nonsense didn't stop, she would give her an unforgettable bit of what-for! There I was finally perplexed and caught in the middle of 2 fierce females! The girl never approached me for another cent again.

Silly little episodes but heartwarming now in a strange forgotten way. What I would have given for that childhood innocence, already gone and never to return. Did you have any strange episodes associated with your books when you were a kid?

Tuesday 2 October 2007

The Poet's Mantle

How raw poetry feels to me after such a long absence.
I try to remember my old poems but fail sadly. I try to catch them in the wind but they have been rescued by birdlings and will no longer be seen.
So I rest in the memory of a kinder time when I could write of strange things and still be happy.
Now, I want to scribble words with a pencil. I want to carry a notebook once more as I haven't done for years. I want to sit in a quiet room with a heavy brocade curtain, listening to Callas firing an aria in the background. I want the curious rain, peeping cautiously through the window, to watch my mood. And the tea from the pot to stay unfinished. I want a dusty old painting from somewhere in the shadows to smile down indulgently. Oh the picture? Funny old man downing vodka in a nightdress! All this as I bend my head down to write, pretending an industry I feel rather bashful of.
I pray my clumsy house of cards built from these budding dreams, will not topple. And if it does, that toy soldiers will summon a battle to save it.
Isn't it funny. The laptop will not do...nor the pen but I want to bite of my pencil stubs and chew carefully on old rubbers as i write untidily all down my page. A very bad habit. I never follow lines.
I remember the odd eccentricity with Rozanav in Iris Murdoch's The Philosopher's Pupil. The philosopher himself had a craving for pencils, using a different one each day, with which to make thoughtful notes. How such a character would nourish my humour. When I picked up the book at the library years later, Murdoch could just as well have written about me, thousands of miles away at the time, I too had the same unnerving passion and a similiar assortment of coloured pencils from where I would experiment with my verse.
Which is a crazy way to appreciate a novel but then isn't fact stranger then fiction.
I like my clumsy poetry and I like my funny stubby pencils and I like where this winding road is taking me. Only I musn't spill the tea.