Sons and lovers

Hello Father
I caught sight of you
Reflected in that mirror in the lift
As I was rising up
From ground floor to six.

Funny that
It’s been so long since you died
And though I think of you sometimes
If I said it was often
That would be a lie.

But dream of you I did
Last night in the early hours before waking
You were sitting at the table
In a grey suit, looking smart
I said I like the haircut.

Funny thing
My love she says she is looking
More like her mother each day
I’ve seen her mother too
A look, a phrase, the way
She turns to look at you.

So has it come to pass
That my father and her mother
Are lovers just like us?

Upon a cushion

Zafu (Zen meditation cushion)

Zafu (Zen meditation cushion). Doggerel and crude sketch from sesshin a long time ago.

I sat upon a cushion
And I was feeling very comfy
But the radio was playing
Rock and pop and country

I sat upon my cushion
Or perhaps a cannon ball
My legs and head were hurting
I longed to crawl and bawl

I sat upon my cushion
Or in a snow scene ball
And there it covered all the ground
And glory shone around

I’m sitting on my cushion
Afloating on a lake
And all the water’s crystal clear
And I am bright awake

I’m sitting on my cushion
Surrendered to it now
Just breathing quiet and deeply
And ending with a bow

My cushion is a diaphragm
I rise and gently fall
Before or after giving birth
I’ve no idea at all

My cushion was a hard dry pulse
That now is soaked and soft
And I am ripening like a seed
My ego to throw off

I sat upon my cushion
And I did slip away
To darkness and deliverance
The pilot light of day

What do you think of toilet paper?

Dom and Malcolm

So I went into the pub and sat down with Mr Crown and Mr Sceptre. And I said unto them, speak to me of ‘marriage’. And Mr Crown (C) said, ‘give it a go; I’ll try everything once’. And Mr Sceptre (S) said, ‘I think it’s old fashioned; been there, done that!’

And so I said unto them, speak to me of ‘children’. And Mr C said, ‘give it a go!’ And Mr S added, ‘I would have more. A nice red haired woman, Russian girls, and a place in Cornwall where you can swim every day’.

And so I said unto them, speak to me of ‘giving’. And Mr C said, ‘give it away and then you’ve got more space. I gave my TV away and I got a whole space in the corner where I put a chair that I found in the street. Lovely view out of the window. I gained more than I lost … people have often bought it for themselves anyway.’ Mr S said, ‘giving is important. Universal law. If you give you often get back more in life’.

And so I said unto them, speak to me of ‘eating and drinking’. And Mr C said, ‘it’s a pleasure when it’s a necessity but when you are not hungry it is the worst thing that you can do. If it relates to hunger and that, it’s brilliant. But it can go a bit pear-shaped when it’s for pleasure. Over-eating is a bad thing’. Mr S said, ‘I love it. Meals. Guests. The French way; nine or ten course meal with lots of talk in between. Or a boil in the bag!’

And so I said unto them, speak to me of ‘work’. And Mr C said, ‘it’s good’. And Mr S added, ‘I enjoy it. Work tends to have bad connotations but I tend to enjoy it – it’s not work!’

And so I said unto them, speak to me of ‘joy and sorrow’. And Mr C said, ‘Give it a go; Friday joy, Saturday sorrow, Sunday joy’.  Mr S added, ‘I want to be emotional; be sad and joyful. I think of my daughter sometimes and I cry … both joy and sorrow come together.’

And I said unto them, speak to me of ‘houses’. And Mr C said, ‘bigger than a flat. Parents have houses. OK for grown-ups. Problems with roofs. You can only live in one room at one time. So if you have a house with eight rooms, seven eighths will be empty at any one time. I had a friend who moved out of his house and dug a hole in the garden and lived in it.’ And Mr S added, ‘I enjoy living in my house. But I am sad about the financial side – rents are too high; a noose around the neck. Smaller; should change as you get older.’

And I said unto them, speak to me of ‘clothes’. And Mr C said, ‘as you get older they are a better idea. Pants and socks you should buy new, everything else can be bought at the charity shop.’ And Mr S added, ‘I like to go clothes shopping with the boys at TK Maxx. Bit posh and the click of shoes. Makes me feel better.’

And I said unto them, speak to me of ‘buying and selling’. And Mr C said, ‘buying is easier than selling. Giving away is easier than eBay, boot sales and ads. Buy and give. If you buy, you lose the space.’ And Mr S said, ‘I don’t think of it’.

And I said unto them, speak to me of ‘crime and punishment’. And Mr S said, ‘it’s complex. In America there are too many people in gaol … one in seven are black.’ And Mr C said, ‘I’m a man whose glass is six sevenths full.’

And I said unto them let us cease from this endless questioning but before I stop, tell me, ‘what other questions should I ask?’ And Mr C said, ‘what do you think of toilet paper?’

Leaves in the sun

Pile of leaves

here the bottom
and across the pool,

Seated on a plaid blanket in black bathers, he looks East to where the sun rises. We know when he’s been by the offering at the side of the pool. A perfect duck dive, a bare face and then a clutch of rotting leaves.

He’s not like the ‘serious’ swimmers who toil back and forth with measured stops to check their times or take a drink. While they travel in straight lines, he curves in all directions, diving down into the blue box with the shifting glass ceiling.

One morning I ask him how he is. Eyes set in smile crinkles, he tells me that he is angry; angry with the petty incompetence of his working life and the inability of men and women to rise above mediocrity. Most mornings he is gone before I arrive, but I always know when he has been.

beside an empty pool
a fresh of pile of leaves
catching the sun

Yours and mine

Round and Round in the Circle Game

Yours and mine

It was a long drawn out winter and then such a short, late spring. I’m not sure if I saw the blossoms come and go. As the final separation drew closer, so the paperwork piled higher.

nice and pretty
but my hands are old
in the spring snow

Now, after years orbiting one another, deep space beckons; first a man with a van and a handful of friends, then a truck with a crew from the Ukraine.

sorted into piles
our record collection
once more yours and mine


Surprising View from a Room

Its been so cold and cloudy these last few days and then this morning clear blue skies at 5 o’clock in the morning. That was the view from my bed in Pullman Court.

I’m feeling a bit throaty but remember that when the weather started to clear yesterday, the pollen that feels like grains of acid made its presence known … Very late in the ‘summer’. What has happened to our weather.

Talking about colds, Nick the Framer said he had worn a mask from his workshop when caring for his ancient mother yesterday morning; just so she didn’t catch anything. Charlotte the French Horn noted that the Japanese did this too.

What? I’d seen pictures of this with people masked up in public and always thought this had to do with their own fastidiousness. It turns out that it was thoughtfulness about their fellows. It’s the same mindset that makes them wash before having a bath.

That is what came to mind this morning looking out over South London from the top floor. Sometimes your views say more about you than they do about your subject … and more about your subject than you realise.

The Japanese never cease to surprise and inspire.

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A scrabble of whirlygig seeds lying on a cinder path











It is human nature to look for patterns, to see words in the random letters formed by fallen whirlygig seeds. Well so it seemed to me as I looked for something more than f and v.

cold and damp
the muted chatter of birds
this May day

Just 10 days to completion and we move out of the family home to flats on Streatham Hill; back from the sought after shoreline of Tooting Bec Common and bijou Balham.

Sometimes it all makes perfect sense and then other times no sense at all. ‘Who shook the tree?’ he cried, ‘Not I’, said she.

slow train to Balham
a dandelion clock trembles
in long green grass

‘Twas I’.

‘Easily led’, the school master said …

beyond the fallen tree
green blades twitch beneath
an empty bench


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Life is softening us up

Note to my friend Nick who had just sent me this text on his way from having a dodgy tooth sorted out by the dentist.

‘Just on way home , dentist described tooth as lively as he worked on it . I was expecting him any moment to say, ‘Is safe? Is safe?’

My reply: Just finished two hour meditation and sitting in Pret a Manger on Piccadilly. Had a chat to Brian who has been happily living out of a backpack in London for eight years .. clean, educated and loves his life.

Thought I had while meditating is that we grow up hard and resistant, ripen then soften like an apple; grubs drill down inside, we drop from the tree and slowly merge with the world around us. As people get older they become softer, more understanding, maybe more loving. At the same time our bodies open up to the world and are slowly dismantled until they stop working altogether and we return to the elements. I hope the dentist has done a good job of easing the discomfort that comes with the world’s deep embrace. 😉

His response:

‘Very well said and to the point. Not sure we all get softer and understanding though.’

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

100 Great Things

Bicycles, men, women, some of the 100 great things

  1. Sainsbury ‘Basic’ Tortilla Chips because they are the closest thing to the tortilla chips I used to eat in El Paso Texas and they only cost £0.50 for a big bag.
  2. Reading glasses from the 99p Shop seem to work OK and are great for people who lose their glasses or sit on them. Thank you!
  3. Bicycles. Kirkpatrick MacMillan (1812-78), a Scottish blacksmith is credited with inventing the pedal-driven bicycle so we could get about for free. 
  4. Tooting Bec Lido is the largest fresh water swimming pool in the UK if not Europe. Unheated and open year round, it has become a focal point in the development and popularisation of cold water swimming in the UK.
  5. South London Swimming Club swims at Tooting Bec Lido and ensures the Lido stays open and that the legacy of past generations is preserved for future ones. 
  6. H2Zoom digital recorder is the most incredibly generous piece of recording equipment that for just over £100 enables you to record your sounds and then process with free sound editing software from Audacity.  
  7. Garlic and Tomato Bread at Buona Sera restaurant in Clapham is the lightest, crispiest pizza base topped with a soft tomato and garlic sauce. A sensual delight, bigger than a plate and only £4.00.
  8. The Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park always has interesting contemporary art exhibitions which are free and afterwards you can stroll to the lake for a swim with the swans and a nice cup of coffee in the Lido Cafe. 
  9. Open Mic at the White Lion on Monday nights. Everyone is very generous and the performances cover all genres and range from the sublime to the atrocious, compered by Al ‘The Bass’.
  10. Soundcloud lets you post and share music.  It provides amateurs with a place to showcase their work and network with other musicians.
  11. Moleskine 18 month soft cover diary has that lovely quality feel and if you buy it in January (i.e. 6 months after it is released) you get it cheaper and you have 6 months of pages to use for notes. 
  12. Streatham Hillhas that nice mix of being near the center but by a park, full of interesting people but not too posh. It’s just a very very nice place to hang out.
  13. Guitars. Infinite pleasure and enjoyment and if you have one on the road, someone is bound to come up and ask to play it. They are just wonderful things. And as they say, if you learn three chords you can play any song. 
  14. Wetherspoons pubs have a fantastic selection of beers that are well looked after and cost around half the price of beer in any other pub. What a great gift to the British man with a light wallet. 
  15. Freemind is an open source mind-mapping software. Use it to gather and sort out information and to structure work. Its bloody brilliant and its free. Here’s an introduction: Mind mapping will make you better.
  16. Zen Meditation: a spiritual practice that requires you to just sit and stare at a blank wall. That eschews preaching in favour of personal realisation. Let Ruben Habito explain the Fruits of Zen.
  17. Shepherd’s Pie with peas is just such a lovely comforting dish. 
  18. Green lentils in tomatoe sauce by Nigel Slater is a really simple and delicious recipe; nutritious and so cheap. 
  19. Dogs and dog walkers like Miguel on Tooting Bec Common and Kim in Battersea Park tend to be lovely, caring people with a bunch of canine characters.
  20. Nigel Slater‘s recipes and his attitude to food and cooking which is very down to earth. He likes his bacon butties in a white bread.
  21. Food for Thought is a small restaurant in Covent Garden which has been producing great vegetarian food since the 1970s. The apple crumble recipe using oats with flour is great. 
  22. Making marmalade.  
  23. Red wine, one month it is good for you, the next month not.  
  24. Friendship. 
  25. Children … are not your children they are life’s longing after itself, says Kahlil Gibran.  
  26. Early morning in the summer before everyone is up and about. 
  27. Birds singing before dawn. You know you are going to have to get up soon and wonder if it is worth going to sleep again. But the birds just sing on.
  28. Friday nights cooking and drinking with my friend Nicholas Kirmatzis, the picture framer and philosopher.
  29. Vegetable steamers
  30. Back packs hold the promise of the open road and a much simpler life.
  31. Facebook for putting us in touch with old friend and acquaintances and making us go a little cyber crazy!
  32. Skype for letting us talk to friends on the other side of the world and even see them. 
  33. Records and record players: The Long Player: Our father on vinyl …
  34. Desert Island Discs
  35. Balls and all the games they enable.
  36. Tea and coffee
  37. The Samaritans: Our common humanity is a shared joy and sorrow.
  38. Women (and for women, ‘men’ I guess)
  39. Pencils, preferably sharpened with a knife and with a rubber on the end. Perfect. And the magic of the lead inside the wood.
  40. Penknives
  41. Hitch-hiking teaches you about life and people, connects you with serendipity and gets you from A to B.
  42. TED talks
  43. Irish drinking songs:  Her eyes they shone like diamonds
  44. Irish accents can just talk and delight without saying anything in particular. 
  45. Hot crumpets with melted butter, sprinkled with some sea salt and freshly ground pepper, eaten on a cold winter evening after a long walk in the wind.
  46. Pancakes eaten with lemon and sugar.
  47. Apples stolen from an orchard in the middle of the night and eaten while still chilled by the morning dew.
  48. Crying
  49. Laughing
  50. BBC Late Junction music show for new and exciting sounds from around the world like Knut Reiersrud’s I don’t feel no ways tired (even better with the Alabama Boys – studio version).
  51. The Turning Ceremony as performed by the Whirling Dervishes of West London.
  52. Ken Jones haiku and haibun writer, Zen practitioner and guide.
  53. Football in the park
  54. Kissing
  55. The South Bank with all its free events and buzz.
  56. Richard Deakin’s allotment on Tulse Hill where you can look out over fruit cages and vegetable plots to Canary Wharf and the City of London in the distance.
  57. Oak trees and copper beeches
  58. The Greek islands in 1978
  59.  Walking through and in towns
  60. Sleeping out under the sky
  61. Making coffee and or tea in a saucepan over an open fire in the morning on a beach
  62. The sound of music on the street: Nellie Furtado’s I’m like a bird coming out of a shop in St Martin’s Lane. 
  63. Visiting Netley Abbey on a moonlit night. Climbing over the fence and wandering in the ruins.
  64. Jamming.
  65. Listening to live music in the Neptune pub Whitstable on a Saturday night.
  66. Wizz Jones a great British folk singer and generous guitar teacher. 
  67. University of Southampton
  68. A cafe in Paris, a cup of coffee and cigarette to start the day.
  69. Bidets … just seems like a good idea to wash your bottom rather than wipe with a tissue.
  70. Making love in the afternoon … middle of the night … morning
  71. DADGAD tuning for guitars
  72. Clubs and societies
  73. London where you can experience the whole world without catching a plane
  74. London parks
  75. Buskers
  76. Riding the freight trains across Canada
  77. Charity Shops
  78. BBC Storyville documentaries
  79. Giggling
  80. Holding a baby or small child
  81. Dancing
  82. Street sweepers
  83. Tim Winton author of Dirt Music and other fine books. 
  84. Crosby Stills Nash & Young and Four Way Street 
  85. Sailing off Rhosneigr in Anglesey
  86. Mussels picked from the Estuary at Maltreith and cooked with white wine and garlic.
  87. Fasching in Bavaria
  88. American folk and blues music
  89. Me voy pal Pueblo
  90. The BBC
  91. Climbing trees
  92. Made up games like handball against the cafe wall and garage football in Apperly Bridge
  93. Playing cards
  94. The Wren Church in St James’ Piccadilly and the Alternatives organisation
  95. Le Creuset wrought iron casserole dishes … just dont drop the lid on your foot
  96. Egg and chips in the cafe
  97. Salt’s Mill in Bradford
  98. Oscar the cat who sits on heads and sticks his paw up your nose to wake you up
  99. Skinny dipping (here are some dos and donts)
  100. Shunryu Suzuki  and his book Zen Mind Beginners Mind

Damn it, we’ve run out of space and still so many great things to talk about. What would you add to this list … or subtract.