These dreams we have …

… do not always die with the dawn, it seems.

My mother has always teased me about being slightly clairvoyant. This apparently stems from a knack for finding cash on the ground, of always seeming to “know” when and were to look. Personally, I’d say it is something that anyone is capable of – especially when they’re forced to assess the stability of cobblestones, as I so often am, or to watch out for the Lesser-Spotted aqua-crater, which likes to disguise itself as the more common “pothole” (a thing of shallow nature, incapable of holding the gallon or so of rainwater necessary for a dark heart.)

With my eyes flitting between ground and sky, caught on the crosswires of plane-trails and clouds, cobbles and craters, it is perhaps inevitable that I will at some point fix on a shining coin or dropped bank note.

Dawn on a Sunday morning, can resemble New Year’s Day. The teeter-totter empties set out in untidy rows on each lonely doorstep, the wind whipping up a miasma of cartons and kebab wrappers, will tell you all that you need to know about the city’s Night Before. Hair drifting to and fro on a park bench, with a crooked elbow wedged beneath a face cradled in sleep, the eyes glued shut with alcohol. Depending on the clothes, you can have a fair guess at who will be the ones to wake and look about sheepishly, rubbing a pale cheek; rummaging for

– such a burst of relief, in that sigh! –

their belongings, before pulling on heel-slack shoes, to pick carefully out of the park…

…and who will be the ones to stay put on that bench for a little longer, staring into the sky that holds nothing but a new day, a few hangnail pigeons, maybe the arcing wing-wheel of a red kite, all loveless talons.

These, I walk past in the same way I would walk past any slumbering figure: with the greatest care, on feathersoft feet, for we all of us deserve to remain in the safe haven of dreams for as long as possible.

And whenever I find bank notes slippery with dew, or coins flat as the pale sun in the silver-gold mist, I will leave them beside the hand that is cool as marble, or sometimes curled like a kitten around the mouth. It never fails to stun me into silence, how we resemble our child-selves in sleep. Goosepimpled skin gains colour with a cup of fresh coffee, or a bus ride home (if home is indeed an option.) I like to set aside a fantasy, too, that some will use the money to call a long-lost friend or lover; to speak to them in the way they should have many years ago, to say what couldn’t be said then, when life got in the way; to hear the sound of surprise, and a sentiment unchanged. For dawn is that time of purple wine-lips, the quiet before the hangover-storm; there is still that Invisibility Cloak of the night, when we are more apt to say what can’t be found in the full flare of daylight.

Ja, I am a hopeless romantic. This tends to come out more when I am drunk, and the stone walls of reality are worn down to allow dreams to escape. Taking a taxi home on the Friday night/Saturday morning just past, I was brought to a stillness of silence inside, while gaping out of the window at the black-diamond beauty of the City. London, for all her daytime grit and skirling leaves, traffic cones and the thin blue-brown veil of the horizon, is effortless in elegance when found at night, in the quieter hours, when most everyone has passed out in their own bed or someone else’s.
I know I will live under that glittering cloak one day, in a lamplight haven that resembles no other. There will be so much in between, though – yet more change *sigh*

But this seems to be the running theme of the moment, and for once, it is not unwelcome – but a long time in coming, or so it feels. I can hit the ground running … when I’ve had enough sleep.

Where religion is concerned, I will take a look at anything, with divisions of interest. Opinions – everyone’s entitled to one, just as they are to a belief, a theory. So long as no one feels that they have the right to –

Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before.

So why I should feel bound to walk beneath the grey stone arches of my local cathedral – into the dusty stillness of ages that will probably last beyond us, beyond the very structure itself – to offer a prayer for the lives of those suffering in Ukraine and Russia with the current unrest, is anyone’s guess. While outside, in the familiar chill of the wind that smooths over the engraved tomb stones and marble angels with an indifferent hand, I felt my heart contract with something I’m not sure any faith or scientific theory could help to explain.

gunmetal sky

old grave

There was the unicorn, watchful as ever and set above the double doors; a trick of the light (isn’t it always the way?), how she seemed to flicker with a wink, a stir of motion, when the light ceded to shadows and the day to dusk. Her iron strength and seashell elegance, create a pearl fire.

I went inside. The cool quiet is, whether you hold onto faith or not, a haven for the mind. All the hive-thoughts were set to rest, like a damp cloth placed over the sifting dust motes.

I wandered here and there, up and down the aisles, between pews, touching glossy wood of many whorls and colourations; craning my head back to take in the mighty rose window, which replays itself in a kaleidoscopic rainbow on the stone floor, where more scriptures can be found. Candles whispered at my passing, and I was reminded of a favourite hymn in school; a silver-black message of flickering candles in the night, of darkness turning into light. Less of a poignancy in the words, than the melody.

Still, my own darkness would not shift, and I sought some quiet corner to be alone, to speak aloud, for sometimes this is the only way to Know yourself in the world. I do it so rarely these days, that to hear my own voice often startles me, in the same way that hearing a full name can spell Trouble – when you were small, and the culprit.

Away from the crowds of a sunny Sunday afternoon, those vaulted ceilings sang back the whispers and shuffling feet of fellow wanderers.
I finally found a corner of half-light, shifting dust, and the rippled colours of a glaze window. I let the rising ache of my voice go, with a whisper that came from nowhere and seemed to land as such, in empty space, for anyone to hear or none. I could care less, really – it was the act of getting the words out, of knowing they had been said, which left my chest free and empty at last. I so rarely pray, it always feels as though I am taking what is not mine to have. I certainly didn’t see the light. Yet in those moments when reality merges with a recurring dream – or in my case, the nightmares of childhood, now seemingly brought to stark life – we sometimes fall back on what we have known. I was raised in a casual-Christian setting. My grandmother is quietly religious. A cathedral holds serenity at its heart, as a lake holds green-black silence.
It’s a refuge.

I don’t pray for my own actions, for they are my responsibility. But to watch what goes on in the world, is to feel alone. I felt it today – not in the sense of longing for company, but in the knowledge of my own insignificance and inability to help. So it goes with any conflict – watching the scenes in Ukraine, for example, with a dismay tainted by coppery anger, for the wrenching of power and the reticence shown by those who could do a damn sight more than I ever can. But nothing is ever so simple as just picking up sword and spear, riding or walking out to the boundary line and facing off with whichever intruder creep-claws over your wall.

So I was more than a bit perturbed to turn my head and find a man crouched just outside of the diamond-facet light, half hidden in shadows, to watch my whispered words that were meant for no one in particular, but perhaps were seen as the mark of a faith he wished to capture in the lens of his angled camera. A nice Kodak, too. Maybe he was trying to reclaim his own belief, in the epitome of pathos. Or he thought I was posing.

When I am trying to have a quiet cry that has appeared from nowhere (and they’re invariably brought on by helplessness, an inexplicable overspill, these days) the last thing I want is the feeling that I have somehow set up the scene. There was no wish to appear blessed by some invisible hand. I certainly don’t want to appear in an updated coffee-shop table version of Pilgrim’s Progress. I bit my lip on a storm of words; frustrated, not only for the sake of those I spoke for, but for this world of collapsed privacy and solitude. We are accordion-pleating on ourselves. Sometimes, it really does feel like there are too many of us around.

So when I walked away, it was with a lighter heart and a real desire to utter expletives on holy ground.
Swings and roundabouts.

On the way out, I stopped by those flickering candles, and a small pinboard where people passing through can leave their thoughts and prayers if their voices fail them. Like a rebellious child at the Headmaster’s office, I hung back, reading those sprawling notes with a sideways glance; just as I had assessed the paintings in the Rothko room at the Tate modern, which are so organic and composed in their dominance of the walls, that to try and contemplate their presence full-on is to feel diminished (and sullen with it.) But I will always cede to grandeur that is deserving of respect.

When those with the clickety-click cameras and shuffling steps had passed on by, I scribbled out a quick note, and tacked it to the board. There was that push-pull instinct again. No one’s troubles are any greater, or less than another’s. Our worlds are our own. Ripples.

To stand inside that cathedral, is to step outside of Time, through the clock, to a place where we may go to be at once exalted, and diminished. Humbled by tears and reflection, proud in the knowledge of ourselves, whether through faith or the sheer presence of the structure…

…before stepping back outside, into the slanting gold evening and the quickening breath of the wind over gravestones; back onto the endless road of reality.

apola sun

N.B: Not all of my dreams appear without stimulus. Only the other night, reading about the beloved old Routemaster, I then fell asleep and had the strange pleasure of a tour through the midnight streets of London. Crystalline air sang off the Thames, and the open platform’s bar was cold as starlight in my hands.
Make of that what you will.


Looking over the shoulder of the world

Circumstances are ripples, spreading ever further; my own world is small, though not as diminished as it once was. With reading, the absorption of facts, personal accounts and dispatches, comes the inevitable dark coil of fear and sympathy about my throat. Feelings, I must admit, I’m not accustomed to. My eyes are drawn to places where Trouble mutters under its breath, and quiet sobs fill the smoke-hue nights.

It is not as it was in childhood, in my teens, when Kosovo burned and thousands of ethnic Albanians died. Then, it was a TV flickering in the lounge, and my father’s white face (he would understand the implications very well), and statistics pinstriping the screen. But before you knew it, the feed was all run through, the news had shifted on, and I would traipse upstairs to my bedroom, to read about dragons and urban graffiti and rabbits emulating Hitler.

I still read such things, for they are just as important, but the perspective has changed – over the years, I’ve come to read them through the filters of personal and learned experience. Whether this is detrimental to the suspension of disbelief, the magic, remains to be seen. It can enhance certain aspects of a narrative, ja – it’s far easier now to visualize and comprehend the mustering armies, the tactical “gameplay” of warfare, which once left me cold while reading (for example) the books of the Dragonlance saga, many of which are based on campaign-setting. Likewise, I can sift back through memory to those fictional governing bodies ringed about one large table after another, their faces mapped with the roads of responsibility, as the voices of hundreds – thousands – of people, cry out for justice in their minds… and I find among their number, the authoritative figureheads I watch and read about today.

It used to be only the battlefield and the rank ‘n files which caught my attention: the ready hearts, and the ones who couldn’t control their bladders; the letter writers, and the rapists; the bitter truth of what “glory” is (blood turning black as it seeps into the ground, and the twisted face of your friend as he is trampled beneath the shit-shod hooves of a horse.) Now, it is the political side of things too, the economical aspect of conflict, which forces me to jump from one article to another, reading and reading and reading, until finally –

*now being well enough to grasp what it all means, to the best of my abilities*

– I find myself watching the horizon. “Dark have been my dreams of late.” Such coils of fear and apprehension, and I find symbolism in the strata red-gold nimbus that layers up the horizon, stabbed through by the evening sun, because I’ll only ever be a dreamy metaphor-fiend, and the world still has need of those.

For clarity, I took myself off, wandering over the world and looking for what it’s got in its pocketses.

It was a grim road, full of tanks and revolutionaries and agi-prop. I ducked and wove through the crowds, finding an enemy long thought to have had his teeth pulled, but no – still very much alive and well, if perched upon a glass mountain.

Certain narratives will leap out, full of pathos and personal inflection, while others cause me to falter on their stepping-stone facts. You know the ones I mean. They read like bank statements. But then again, there is a need for this style, as there is any other – to suit circumstances and audience etc. We can’t all write flowery prose.

Here is something I’ve learned from Twitter, incidentally. Those who wish to know about this stuff, will go looking. The rest will wait for items to drop into their feed, or will remain blissfully unaware. Every option is fine. I sometimes wish I could do the latter, but am too nosy, and too worried now. Blame a military upbringing, and a meddlesome nature.

The question is, if I give a damn so much, why not just write my own narrative truth based on the facts and personal accounts gathered and stored? Why not put all the research to use, if it is interesting?

One example, based on current events: I can’t speak a word of Russian or Ukrainian, nor string a sentence in cyrillic. I haven’t the necessary experience of such writing, nor the full historical grounding / first hand perspective, on which to firmly set my feet. Who am I to pass judgement on Mr. Putin and the dictators who have come before him, and will no doubt rise after? Who am I to speak of the plight which may face Ukrainian citizens this winter, as the Kremlin ups the ante with further economical pressure?

What I see, isn’t so much the data. It is the aftermath. The people on the ground, who will (as ever) be the ones to suffer. The civilians who didn’t ask for this conflict, and even if they did, certainly do not deserve the hardships which may come to them, in the form of gravelly hunger pangs and the blue chill of an unheated home. That’s assuming, of course, that they get to keep their homes at all.

Dear friends, I can only speak from a limited experience, but my truth is this: to feel the sleeplessness of adrenalin-fuelled nights, while your body desperately tries to keep warm as it craves nourishment – these are all too familiar memories. And even though mine were created from a mental illness, the fact is, hunger hurts. So does cold. And there may well be Russians who feel that pinch too, by the end of the year.

These are but a few examples. I am 30 years old next year, on the tail-end of anorexia, and so far behind those I wish to talk to, and missing so much of what I’d like to talk about, that it makes my head ache with all the cramming-research. But I’m a bit obsessive like that; and would quite like a Pensieve, to extract some thoughts / feelings for later reference, while I eagerly download whatever’s caught my interest – basically, what I would have liked to have learned about, in further education (or have forgotten about from school.) This is another sore point for me, dear reader – the illness left my mind diminished, to the point where memory is not what it was. I find myself having to take “refresher courses”, leaving all company behind, to wander the roads and campaign trails and library archives of the mind (full of gold dust and blessed silence), picking up this book and that, loading and linking one file to another.

Leeloo Dallas Multipass.

My long-term memory tends to be stuffed with innocuous things, like cat coat genetics (e.g. variations of patterning in fur – ticked, smoke, shell/cameo, solid etc), and odd-end guitar chords from many different songs, which when stitched together might make a harlequin cacophony, but not any melody conducive to good listening.

I hoard a wealth of titbits in this head. Odds ‘n ends. Extracts from books, the plots of which have long since blurred and run; the title and date of a painting which formed part of the pivotal gallery of some notorious artist, though I know it only by the manner in which it spooked visitors to my grandmother’s house, and the cool lap of hardened oil under my fingertips – the Braille of a sensory creative.

But none of it is anything you could pin a career, a profession on.
A Jack (Jill) of all Trades.

So when trying to (re)learn things – right now, for a bit of historical context, it’s the old Soviet Union, Stalin and Kaliningrad Oblast, the enlargement of NATO, etc – I pull whatever strings are available. Simon Schama’s good for research; I cannot recommend his “A History of Britain” enough; nor indeed, for you fellow creatives, “The Power of Art“. His vernacular style always did spin a decent narrative, and he’s such an affable presence, that to see him onscreen is to know him as your mate down the pub. Oh god, what a dream that would be. If asked about that Desert Island thing, I would take Schama, and an endless supply of Chilean Merlot.

Distraction has always been a key feature, when I couldn’t handle personal reality. One memorable occasion was when I was 12. My older sister had brought a couple of friends around to watch the film “From Dusk ’til Dawn.” They had curled up in the lounge, and were laughing – as most mid-teens might, having the experience to realize just how silly it all was, how unrealistic the gore and stabbings, the peelings and flesh-eating, etc.

But for me, it was all too real, and a nightmare. I’ve always had a thing about being stabbed in the chest, for as long as I can remember – which is faintly funny, considering my penchant for blades. But I can’t watch things like “Kill Bill” without averting my eyes, every time a blade comes near the sternum.

So that day, I managed to get roughly halfway through the film, trying to prove I was tough enough, before whiteout fear sent me scuttling up the stairs, to sit on the top step, arms crossed over my chest and head on my knees. Looking back on it now, the reaction seems fierce, overblown. But I can distinctly remember going to my bookshelf and desperately pulling down stories which would not feature death – in particular, murder. There was this terrible, wrenching horror inside, when I realized I couldn’t face reading my beloved “Redwall” books, because they feature a significant amount of blades. But if you were to read how beautiful these narratives are, how homely their perspective, you wouldn’t find enough to trouble the 12 year old I was. It’s very strange. I never forgot that experience; it took me three hours to leave my room. And no, I have never seen the end of that film.

Right now, just thinking about it, I have one of my arms looped diagonally over my chest, like a sash, clutching the opposite shoulder. This is how I used to walk, through town and through school, as a kid, such was the fear. It’s lessened somewhat, to the point where I can actually allow a bag strap to do the job; but I still can’t sleep on my back, and refuse to let anyone touch me there.
Which is just as well, all things considered.

It’s why I don’t entirely discount past lives. How can a small child be terrified of knives coming near her from the front, yet I have never once been bothered (by the thought of) being stabbed in the back? Anymore than a rational person, of course, who wishes to live. But you know what I mean. It’s a strange paranoia.

Anyway. I have more reading to do, before I can ever hope to write such fact-based narratives as the one mentioned above. If only I’d had a clearer idea in my head, back in school – could’ve saved a lot of hassle (and time), by taking a more direct approach in further education. Could be out in the world by now, combining the two prevailing passions of my life – travel and writing – to form some kind of consistent profession.

Oh well. Wishes, fishes, water, sea. It’s not over ’til you’re dead.
There’s time yet. I am still young, and naive enough not to know any better.

This is my truth. Tell me yours.

What answer could I give you now
That you would call your own?
A word, a promise, bent about
The needs of both, of loss and life,
Of things we know can’t be undone
A truth of petals, raven-blue
About our feet; a thorn I knew
Would never leave my darker side
(I keep it close, awake, aware
A story waiting to be told)
The woman-child has far to go
To learn of what she cares for with
An open heart and aching eye
This lamplight haven, eyrie heart
Is Smoky Lake and City Found
By one who waits beside the shore
With silent patience, visor down.

As ever, dear friends – just thoughts, really.
I wandered down that road. It was long, and sometimes the dust got in my eyes, the grit in my throat; but I wasn’t alone, and for that, wasn’t lonely.
Now I am back, still reading, still learning, and watchful as ever, from under this too-long fringe.

The Mid Blue Line – a police perspective on public protests

A significant perspective.


Over the past week I have taken part in a live web-streamed debate on policing protests as part of the Sussex Police 10 Days Live event, which also prompted many other interesting and useful conversations on Twitter. There was a large amount of interest in the police role at demonstrations, a variety of perceptions  and clearly an appetite for more information, much of which has been generated by the fracking debate. I have always tried to write blogs according to interest and needs, and as those of you who have read my previous offerings will know, I try to provide something which is not in any way academic or claiming to have all of the answers, but offers some personal insights which might provoke thoughts and discussion elsewhere.

It is a substantial subject area, but I will try to cover key points relating to cultures, common practices and dilemmas. What…

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