Ah, warmth, how welcome!

How wonderful it is to feel sun on pallid skin; to see colours blooming with confidence, as light licks winter wounds and pours healing upon starved areas.

How delightful it is to sit, in a sunny garden, in warmed chairs, chatting to friends and watching a large white rabbit scurrying to and fro.

How sweet it is, as night falls, and plentiful outside lights flicker into brilliant life, to enact ritual drama beneath a slim golden crescent of moon, an eternity of stars, some falling, and a still-warm bowl of midnight sky.

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Genie: Daily Prompt

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/genie/

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Thanks to RedCafe.net for this picture.

Genie, feral child –

Seventies waif and speechless stray:

Tethered, voiceless, to a chair;

Who knows what dread sight, sound, touch

Met her powerless gaze?

Who can tell what happened, daily,

In the mind of human-made- animal?

Science leapt upon her:

Unholy glee to prove – what?

A nature versus nurture point?

Genie: My age, give or take.

Society failed her.

Language eluded her.

Wild, wistful, Wiley:

Genie.

DP: Sisters – and me…

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fret/

I am inclined to fret. This post has arisen from a few days of sleeplessness and fretting…

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Thanks to Google Images for this.

An old wound bursts. Concealed – and congealed – blood and matter ooze to the surface, trickle down. I am torn back to my lonely and weird teenage years, and the feeling of inferiority around other girls.

It has never left me, in truth, though I cover it up far better these days. It is my most fragile self, and I find it so hard to convey just how utterly silent and lesser I generally feel when in female company. It is not just about physical beauty; it is, I think, this sense I have always had that I am not, in some way I have never been able to pin down, a proper girl, now woman. That the criteria for womanhood were weak, even lacking, in me.

I think it is why I have adopted a loud and colourful persona: to cover up that small grey elective mute being within.

Making friends with other girls was a thorny matter from the first. Society teaches us to compare from the earliest years, doesn’t it? The insistence upon proscribed sizes, clothes and make-up in order to qualify as one of the beautiful people has always been strict, unrelenting. The troublesome (to me) business of attraction to, and attracting, the opposite sex has always proved particularly hellish and fraught with competition and a sense of being the last to be chosen, an afterthought, a revenge pairing, an unwanted guest at the party of sexual bonding.

Though oldest, I felt, from the earliest times, that I was least – and, with three sisters, this feeling intensified each time a new little girl was born. I felt I was ugly, clumsy, lacked talent and grace. The only one with curly hair, I felt a freak: all my other siblings have straight hair and are slimmer than I.

Lively and loquacious, they were – and I often felt that I could not be heard; that my poor mother – besieged by home-coming teens and pre-teens post school – coped only with those who were the loudest and most obviously needy.

Silence and swallowing back tears became my default position within the family. Writing became my voice.

This sense of insecurity around other females has never gone, though I have fought it on a regular basis. Most of my close friends in Glastonbury are women – and I have come to genuinely admire them, enjoy their company, love them…

But that small child still exists, and she withdraws, as she always has, from the sense of rowdy and needy mass sibling-hood, whether blood kin or sisters of the heart. She, quite simply, cannot cope – and so takes herself away, either physically or emotionally, to lick wounds and grow a safe and hard outer skin once more.

I have spent much time and energy working to unite my sisters and sense of sisterhood, both with my actual Browning tribe and the new sisters met here. It has been a vital part of my energy here, and so necessary for repairing rents in the soul. I know I am not alone in my insecure sense of womanly self. I know that most of my friends also carry a hurt small girl within their psyches. The fact that this remains such an area of pain is something I generally hide, even on here.

I love sisters – and yet I fear them too. I love being part of a big sibling group – and yet there are times when I am overwhelmed and feel the lowest, quietest and smallest of the low, quiet and small. I love laughing and carping, bitching and bouncing, sharing and so forth with my band of sisters – and yet I struggle to maintain my sense of who I am in a large group.

What I tend to do with sisters is to take on the role of group comedian, strong, almost masculine, oldest daughter, grounded and sensible one. I do not allow myself to show much weakness, to cry, because the oldest child has to set a good example to the little ones. It is so ingrained in my personality that writing this has been a bit of a shock and a reverberating surprise.

For sixteen years, my parents yearned for a boy child. For that decade and a half, I took on the role of almost-boy – in order to please my father, I suspect.

When my brother was born, just before my sixteenth birthday, I was thrust into a kind of gender no-man’s land: toppled from the status of son stand-in, and not, in my own eyes, a proper girl, I floundered, did not know the rules, was unable to grasp the slippery sides of either sex.

As it was then, so it remains.

But for one thing: I am actively embracing sisters in my world now (for all the insecurity this act stirs up) and this will, I am sure, be healing in the long term. By placing myself as part of the female gender, I am, I suspect, opening myself to a re-jigging of those early expectations and position within the family group. By seeing that I take on the role of almost-boy still, in my early sixties, I can, I hope, challenge and overcome this stuck position from my past.

 

 

 

Crank it up, Baby!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/crank/

Crank your anger up, Baby!

Bring it to the boil!

Mix the rage in cauldron wide-

With venom, pique and comments snide!

Add a quart of boiling oil,

And wait for high Spring Tide!

 

Expose your teeth in gnarled growl!

Throw back your head and yell!

Medusa hair, fly out all round

Ignite the pebbles on the ground!

Fury as a clarion bell:

Evil laughs abound!

 

Do not be afraid, Child!

Of monsters ‘neath the bed:

Those who snarl behind fine masks –

Pouring poison’d wine in casks:

They would see you dead, girl

As sure as lizard basks!

 

Crank up decibels, dear!

Blow that amp apart!

Strum  and pluck your ire guitar!

Slay the fuckers near and far!

Get in there before they start!

And leave them strewn on plague-heap’d cart!

 

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Thanks to Wikipedia for this one.

The Woman in Red…

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/crank/

Am I a crank to wear revealing red at sixty? Read on…

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Lines. Glasses. No make-up. Posing awkwardly to take a self-image. Dress re-created, by hand. Youth fled. Pensionable age now. The big Six-Oh three months past.

Yet. Triumph too. Eyes that meet the world, head on. Hair defiantly orange. Daring to show pale skin. A hint of cleavage.

A woman. Any woman. All women. Girls who have supped on sadness. Young women trusting, overly open – and kicked into submission. Middle-aged females caught in nets, flung in prisons, dulled by fear. Old women – succumbing to grey anonymity…

Women who huddle together – for safety. Ladies who dress down and dowdy and walk a pace behind strutting peacocks.

No more!

Phrases lengthen as confidence grows.

Lady in Red. Not for titillation. Not for the gawps and gasps, of horror, wonder, all the rest. For me. For womanhood. For crones everywhere who get up and dance, reveal their bosoms, dare to be old and feisty, spit in the eye of age!

The Woman in Red: Me, and every other dame willing and able to bend those bars, rip open the nets, brighten and sparkle, overtake and outshine the preponderance of cock bird plumage!

How does a woman look forty? Fifty? Sixty? Seventy? Through the eyes of the soul, of course, and through the spritely spirit, the bawdy laugh, the curve of ageing hip and still-proud, but gentled, breast.

Through the beauty of line and bone, bunched skin and wear-and-tear! Through the aches and pains, the stiffness and resilience! Through the softness of a belly that has grown a babe! Through teeth not as sharp, or as white, as once they were – and hair more snow than fire!

YES!

Song in Welsh: ‘Hela’r Dryw Bach’…

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/song/

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I love singing – and have done since I was a tiny child. Though my voice is nowhere near as beautiful as my mother’s, I was in the choir at school and, as stated in these annals previously, played/sang the part of Ruth in ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ back at the beginning of 2002.

Two years ago, during the wonderful – and moving – Silent Eye ‘Leaf and Flame: The Foliate Man’ weekend, I first heard the haunting strains of ‘Hela’r dryw bach’ (the hunting of the wren) and, later, in my character of Lady Ragnell, danced spontaneously to it.

A week or so ago, I looked up the Welsh words online and had a go at singing the song myself. As an aside, lyrics have always proved more problematic than tunes where I am concerned – and, while I can play or sing the latter almost instantly, the former have to be rote learned.

But, singing in Welsh?

Would this be a bridge too far? My Waterloo? (to continue the vaguely watery imagery)

Confession time: I did start beginners’ Welsh (taught by the lovely Professor Teddy Milward) in the autumn of 1976 – but, with the kind of ‘aptitude’ for languages found in remedial classes, I soon saw the error of my ways and switched to Classical Studies. However, the grounding in pronunciation has stuck with me – and, for all that I can neither speak nor understand the language (more’s the pity), I can handle the ‘ll’ (and all the rest of it) with a certain amount of flair (and, probably, phlegm!).

Why am I singing at all? You may well ask this question – in both the transient and the absolute sense!

Well…

I have mentioned in a previous post my casting as the Lady of the Lake in a soon-to-be-performed Shadow of the Tor production. Said Moistly Magical Female enters the stage warbling.

What made me choose Welsh, though? Easy! My feeling was that, back in Arthurian times (mythical or otherwise), the denizens of the land would not have been speaking, let alone singing, in English as we know it. The Celtic languages were far more likely. Latin was another possibility – but I gave the language up when I was fifteen (with a relief shared, I suspect, by my poor Latin teacher) and certainly never got as far as singing a solo in it!

A risky venture, you may say – and I would not disagree! I last sang the Welsh carol I am practising forty-one years ago, and was in a large-ish mixed group when I did so. The little ditty about the hunting of the wren I have only ever heard – and, to be frank, fitting the correct Welsh, pronounced accurately, into each line may defeat me yet; already my tongue is tripping over a muddled mouth of ‘medde‘s and oodles of ‘wrth‘s, and that’s before you factor in the Advanced Level (to me) Welsh in verse two!

But I adore this song. It speaks to my depths, brings tears and takes me right back to a certain red dress (not this year’s!), a veil thrown back and leading the dance out at the end, falling over backwards onto my head (naturally!) in the process.

I am purposely keeping the details of the other song hidden: It is, on balance, the one I am more likely to sing and, therefore, I do not wish to spoil the surprise (well, that’s one way of putting it!) when I glide on stage and launch forth in flawed Welsh!

Fortunately, Ross, our Director, is a fluent Welsh speaker – so, if my uvula gets stuck on a particularly troublesome mutation, or I start to cry in croaky cynghanedd, he will be on hand to set me straight…

Yes, song is incredibly important to me. Often when I am troubled, I will either listen to music or sing it – and the song either manages to lift my spirits, if only infinitesimally, or has the opposite, and cathartic, effect, and causes floods of tears.

I just hope the Watery Tart doesn’t start dripping salty fluid half way through her musical entrance; I am not sure, ‘Hela’r dryw bach…waaaaahhhh! I want my mummy!’ would go down terribly well with the audience!

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Thanks to Fernhill, and Youtube, for this image.

Death by Drowning: Linda

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Thanks to Midwest Communications for this image.

She would have been sixty a few days ago: Linda* – friend, enemy, rival, part of an intense quartet of adolescent vibrancy, crushes and high octane emotions. But she did not even reach thirty, checked out of life way back in the earliest eighties.

We met in the first year at our girls’ grammar school, though friendship did not blossom, and wither, blossom and wither, until our third year.

She was quiet, very bright, enormously talented: a fabulous artist and writer, good at games (which I, most assuredly, was not) – and part of the North Oxford set who, corporately, seemed a world above me and impossible to reach.

Both from large families; both with a predominance of female siblings; both insecure and shy, we should, by rights, have been inseparable. But we were not. Our friendship was always troubled, uneasy, competitive.

Why?

Simple: In the hot-house environment that is an all girls’ school, our budding sexuality centred upon our fellow pupils (though, later, we all went on dates with boys from St Edwards’, a minor public school in Oxford) – and falling for our friends, unattainable sixth formers and the younger teachers was by no means unusual.

Linda and I, both, as I say, one of four (I, the oldest; she the penultimate), segued into that familiar bonding almost without thinking. Unfortunately, not only had we fallen for the same youthful educator, we compounded this by developing a crush on the same girl within our group: Let’s call her Suzanna.

Suzanna did not join the school until the third year – and she and I became best friends pretty quickly, though it was always an unequal pairing: I needed, wanted, her far more than the other way round. She, too, was part of the much-envied North Oxford bunch, as was the fourth in our troubled quartet, Meredith.

The lines of affection ebbed and flowed. Alliances were made and broken. Twosomes became fraught threesomes when one person was away ill. The other three lived in the hallowed part of town; I did not. This created a distance both physically and emotionally – and I still recall watching as the others cycled in through the school gates, laughing and joking.

I felt – inferior, left out, a lesser being. Not their fault, I hasten to add: These feelings were already a part of my personality. For some reason – perhaps because of my poor mathematical ability – I had always felt that I was an only-just Eleven+ success, and convinced myself, over the coming seven years, that I was useless at pretty much every subject.

In the summer of 1973, when we were all fifteen (and coming up to our O’level year), we went on a cycling and Youth Hosteling holiday to the Peak District. This high-lighted several weaknesses, both in the friendship group and in my own character. Unable, even then, to say what I wanted, meant and felt, I wrote it all down in my diary – and much of my rage was centred around Linda. She found, and read, the particular entry, of course – and a nasty evening followed. Served me right.

Feeling left out, I hid myself – wanting to be found; not wanting to be found – and, earliest back from the next day’s ride, ran into the shelter of a marshy end to a field and watched (by no means the last time this has happened), and listened, as the girls cycled back, laughing, letting hands leave handle-bars, at ease (or so I thought) with life, adolescence, the holiday.

I suppose, looking back, I saw them all as golden girls, blessed by life and nature and family. So self-obsessed we are as teens, aren’t we? It is all about us – and in many ways it has to be this way, otherwise we would never attain our own individuality and leave the, in my case crowded, nest!

Even back then, I was the group listener – and was not always as reliable and honest as I could have been: passed information on occasionally in order to gain Brownie Points and be liked, popular.

I sensed, through the mists of teen exaggerated misery, that all was not well with Linda either, although she was, by and large, better at putting on a brave front. But I can remember one day, when we were both in the sixth form, seeing her standing still, bike resting between her legs, tears streaming down her face.

The four of us went our separate ways at eighteen – and, although I heard of the other three courtesy of a contact who still lived in Oxford, only ever saw Suzanna again (and that, just the once, soon after I started teaching).

It was through the contact, Laura, that I heard of Linda’s deteriorating mental health and regular stays in a local psychiatric ward. I felt deep concern and a kind of residual guilt, as if my on-off liking for her had, in some way, contributed.

The call, from Laura, when it came was a huge shock: Linda had drowned herself.

I am not going to go into the details – and have given all four females mentioned in this piece false names – because I would not wish, on the off-chance that Linda’s family members were to see this post, to cause any more grief in an already-tragic loss.

I could wish all manner of things: that I had been nicer, less jealous, less fearful, more trusting; that I had been an easier friend to be with and had not been so selfish and over-dramatic. I say ‘I could’ – and, in all honesty, that has, at times, been a much more raw, ‘I wish…’ statement, for perhaps all of us who lose someone to suicide share this irrational guilt, this sense of having contributed to the eventual end.

I know now, at sixty – and, having paused, for a sombre moment and a few tears, on the day she would have reached this age – that nothing I did, or did not do, could have made any difference to the eventual outcome; that teenagers, especially girls, tend to over-estimate their effect upon one another; to see the brief, and passionate, pairings and more-ings as far more life-shattering than they actually are.

Yes, I could have been kinder. But don’t we all think that in the wake of death? Don’t we all waste tears on launching the leaky ‘If only…’ boat?

I do not know what, finally, caused this fragile and talented young woman to take her own life – a tangled skein of problems, I suspect. I do, however, wonder sometimes what she would be like now, at pensionable age. I do wonder what the world has lost as a result of her abrupt ending.

And, finally, I know, have always known, how lucky I am: Despite anxiety – and, at times, depression – I am still here, still alive and kicking and rebellious at sixty years and three months.

Linda is not.

I wish she were.

*not her real name.

Emotional Vampires: DP

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/deplete/

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Thanks to HubPages for this image.

 

They hover, bat-like cloaks outstretched;

Sharpened fangs trained upon

Victim’s vibrating jugular;

Crouching in a sniper’s nest of need

Pale and cadaverous souls

Coffined during the bright hours

Squinting and fading in daylight;

They await the darkness within

To strike from mind’s distance,

To deplete another’s vitality,

To drain redness from cheeks,

Hope and confidence from lives,

Energy from all they encounter.

No precious fluid can sustain;

No sucking can fulfill;

They are empty vessels,

Multiple holes causing leaks.

 

Avoid! Defend! Eschew!

Cram crevices with garlic paste!

Sharpen stake! Anoint with oils!

Barricade the door! Lock the windows!

Renew this year’s subscription to

Psychic Defence!

Beware! Flee! Hide!

Bite back!

Wrestle them casketward

And raze with fire!

Silent Eye: Sixth Weekend Draws Nigh!

https://thesilenteye.co.uk/

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Silent Eye: A Modern Mystery School has been an important part of my life since its birth way back in 2013; though, actually, the story starts even before then…

I first met Stephen Tanham and Sue Vincent (who, along with Stuart France, comprise the Silent Eye Directors) at Savio House, during either an SOL Gathering of the Light weekend or a Ritual with Purpose one. We clicked. I enjoyed the company of both.

I was, therefore, intrigued and tempted when they set up the Silent Eye School of Consciousness – and was keen to be at the Opening.

Five very different ritual experiences later, I can safely say that this initial enthusiasm has never waned, and I am now getting very excited about the forthcoming, Jewel in the Claw, weekend.

The setting is beautiful: The Nightingale Centre in the little village of Great Hucklow, deep in the heart of the Peak District. The drive up is always a journey of magnificence -especially when we leave the motorway and meander through Bakewell (for the tarts, you understand!) and the stark peaks and mountainous roads of this atmospheric part of Britain’s landscape.

The subject matter has been fascinating, thought-provoking and inspiring: From a monastery setting through Egypt, right to the heart of the Arthurian Mysteries courtesy of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, stopping at seers and spaceships along the way, we have now arrived at the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First – and Dr John Dee (among many other colourful characters).

We each get given a character to play – in advance, so that we can think about this person, create a costume and be ready to ensoul him, her or it. We keep this character over five separate ritual dramas, spread out over the two days and interwoven with talks, food and social time.

I have met some absolutely lovely people through my association with Silent Eye, and two or three have become close friends.

This year’s character – which I will reveal in post-weekend pieces – has amused, stunned, gratified and terrified me in equal measure. Way before setting foot in the Temple, this soon-to-be-borrowed other self has pushed me to the limits of an important aspect of my self-denial and self-denigration, forcing gates padlocked for so long ajar.

The red dress – which I mentioned in a previous post – has been an integral part of my preparation and has caused blood and tears as I confront the symbolism and the reality.

It is now finished.

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Red, as I have said before, is bold, brave and frightening for me as a colour. I rarely wear it, preferring the cooler end of the spectrum and finding safety in blue, green and purple. So, presenting myself in this vibrant shade is going to test my courage.

It is, I know, going to be a spectacular weekend; they always are. There will be much laughter, much bonding – and the thread we will all be following for five ritual dramas will unfold in all its depth, richness and beauty, allowing each of us to confront, learn and heal.

Do visit the Silent Eye site to find out more!