Take a deep breath

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So now I’ll begin.

Once upon a time I had a blog in which I promised myself to put up only pieces of writing that I had published. It started well and as time went on I got immersed in the writing process itself and neglected to keep it updated.

Now that I’m a little bit older, but certainly no wiser, I’m going to give this blogging lark another go. Only this time there will be thoughts and ideas to share and comments on life, the world and just about everything.

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A Steep Learning Curve

Right – having survived a few weeks of the ‘it’s going around’ thing, losing most of January and part of February, I’m now back to almost fighting fit and ready to tackle another aspect of blogging. Following the detailed instructions of a very generous fellow blogger, I will attempt to add a photograph to this post.

A few years ago My husband and I went on a mystery road trip with a cousin who lived in Madrid. She insisted on doing all the driving – what? she didn’t trust us on those Spanish roads?!? Well, she was probably right. One afternoon we were in a fairly deserted part of the country when we came to a crossroad. She turned to me and said “Left or right?”. Not having a clue where we were I replied “Left.” And that was how we found ourselves in Portugal. But that’s another story.

We spent time in travelling through Monfragüe National Park in Extremadura on our  adventure. Remote, wild and majestic. I found it inspiring.

Extremadura

Black vultures cruise the skies on thermals, 
spiral round razor peaks of brecciated granite
that slash the sky above a dusty copse of wild
olive and butchered cork.

Beneath stands of stunted oak cerdo ibérico
snuffle, root for acorns. Balancing on a knife-
edge between here and eternity their ebony
hooves tack between twisted trunks.

Air buoys the scavengers to near nothingness;
a dot to the naked eye. Circling in silence,
two, three, four, fixed-eye stares scan
the rusty plain for signs of imminent death.

 

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The Saga of the Abandoned Leg

A couple of nights ago I was waiting to meet some friends at a cosy pub after a writing workshop. It’s thirsty business, this writing. I spied a bone-white leg projecting at a peculiar angle from the top of a nearby litter bin. Curiosity got the better of me and, looking to left and right as I approached the sight (well, who would want to be caught raiding a litter bin?), I yanked it free to have a closer inspection of my find by the light of a department store window.

It was exceedingly long and shapely and tapered off to a slim, perfectly formed foot with toes that looked as if they had had a recent manicure. Very attractive, but what was I going to do with it now? I didn’t want to be seen stuffing a leg back into the bin so I attempted to arrange my coat over the top of it thinking it might be less conspicuous. At that moment one of the other writers walked across the street and spied my antics. Was the third leg really that noticeable? Well, by her extreme reaction to the sight I guessed it was. When she straightened up and rearranged her face into a kind but rather concerned look, she squawked “What are you going to do with that?”  I didn’t consider plans for the leg and asked if she had any suggestions.

It was decided that the best thing to do was to walk into the meeting place carrying the leg under my arm as though it was nothing out of the ordinary.

It takes a bit of courage to walk into a pub carrying an extra leg, but I girded my loins, so to speak, and held on while I pushed the door open and walked regally – head held high in the manner of an ancient Egyptian queen, and leg held tight in the manner of some sort of human sacrifice. I don’t know. Did Egyptians do dismembered human sacrifice? Must look that up…  Some of the looks I got from those imbibing in strong drink or cheap wine will be etched in my memory – such as it is – for at least a week. However, I marched on and eventually (it was slow motion in my mind) arrived at the table my friends had chosen – which, of course, was at the furthest end of the establishment. A few of them guffawed and a couple of them choked on their fizzy water as they saw what I was carrying.

Did I blush and make apologies? Not a bit of it. They’ve known me long enough to accept me as an individual and free-thinking spirit. At least that’s what I tell myself. I plonked the leg down on the bench between myself and Mary who, after lowering the initial raised eyebrow, continued her conversation with the person across the table. I ordered a double espresso to keep me calm.

The discussion finally got around to the leg and its future. Everyone had a good look at it and someone whose partner is needing a new  hip insisted on taking it home to him and telling him to look what she brought him. A great idea, we all agreed. She left the pub later proudly carrying the leg before her.

Now we think that we should share our leg and each person in the company can have a chance to take custody of it between meetings. That way, no one will feel left out of the adventure, including The Leg herself (well, it has to be a her, doesn’t it?).

If anyone who reads this has another suggestion concerning the fate of our leg – yes, it has become ‘our leg’ now, please let me know and I’ll pass it on.

 

Indian Memories

So it is almost time to take down the Christmas decorations and store them for another year. I was going to write about that today – until I read a blog about how the elephant almost became a whale. It was dense read and very interesting too, but it threw up a word that took me right back to time I spent in India not so many years ago.

The word was Gondwana, the name of a southern continent back in the age of the dinosaurs. It was also the name of an express train that I spent an overnight on as we rumbled across the great expanse of plains from Jabalpur to Delhi.

This is a poem I wrote about the experience.

Gondwana Express

Engine howls across endless plain,

magnifies solitude, echoes in the night.

Stuffy bogies rattle, sway. Blue plastic

mattresses soften beneath heated bodies,

release pungent odours. Passengers stare,

wide-eyed into blackness, coax sleep.

Beyond one-way glass they observe

silent people who move in slow motion,

huddle in dreamy groups, prowl platforms,

clutch treasures in thin arms, wait for sunrise.

In the aisle seat a crumpled man sits alone

sucks neat rum from a Listerine bottle.

Just one of the many, many unforgettable memories I brought back home with me from that mysterious, enchanting country.

Happy New Year everyone!

Walking off the mince pies

Think I should have been walking with you instead of finishing off our mince pies!

Mary Smith's Place

Christmas Day (doesn’t it already seem a long time ago?) poured with rain so I was more or less forced to stay indoors eating chocolate and mince pies and watching feel-good films. Boxing Day, however, was bright and sunny so there was no excuse not to head off with the DH on one of my favourite walks in Dumfries & Galloway – Balcary Heughs. This is a great walk at any time of the year, though not if it’s very windy as the narrow path goes along clifftops.

From the village of Auchencairn a single track road leads follows the shoreline to the Balcary Bay Country House Hotel, built in the 17th century by Messrs Cain, Clark and Quirk who ran a shipping – or smuggling – business. The area around this part of the Solway has an exciting smuggling history.

A car park for walkers is situated close to…

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