Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Work poem

When sat at a desk
And watching the clocks
Life doesn’t exist
Every. Thing.  Stops.

Mud fills your brain
Blood pools in your feet
The vitality drains
You’re just meat

Each minute an hour
The seconds slink by
Each moment an eon
Recurring like pi

Slave to the moment
The flickering screen
No doubt about it
It’s no dream

It’s death by boredom
This terrorist time
Each second a cut
A pain sublime.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wedding Poem

Back to you... - by Dr. Rob Burton

Published: 22 Jun 2011 - in wedding poems
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It's icy on the outside
The fields go flashing by
Dark skeletons of tree branch
Against the darkening sky.

White fields of icy sculpture
The grass an icing froth
Sheep huddled against the hayrick
The lakes a solid broth.

Ghostly shapes emerging
From the riming mist
Bushes sparkling brightly
Whitely blushing, frosty kissed.

Quilted horses blowing steam
Above the icy stream
Trains hot blasting
Through this winter dream.

England in the winter
A monochromatic view
From my speeding window
On the train right back to you
Back to your smile
The one that saved my life
Through snow and rain and ice
To the warm arms of my loving wife.

By Dr. Rob Burton

This poem was selected as a runner-up of a nationwide poetry competition run by Marriott Hotels in March 2011.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

That there London by a small town boy.

I’ve been working in that there London now for three months so it’s about time I wrote something about it.

London smells of piss and the tobacco smoke that blows in your face from all the smokers stood outside the buildings, pubs, cafes, restaurants and the underground. This is combined with various food smells, car exhaust and nasty aftershave (or is that just the Lynx effect?). This aroma smells like the last vestiges of the 16th century when piss and shit was thrown out of the windows and people carried stinky posies under their nose, now they wear it all over their bodies. This pissy smell is probably something to do with the dearth of public toilets and the availability of a handy shop doorway, lane or alley. Indeed one doorway on my way to work seems to be the place to have a shit. This is made all the more remarkable that its about 50 yards from Kingston Town Hall and 100 yards from the police station!

This back doorway never seems to be cleaned but I’m sure some young minimum wage slave has the unenviable job of disinfecting shop doorways fouled with piss, vomit and worse from the night before. Indeed one morning I saw some poor guy with a kettle of boiling water trying to wash the hardened remains of last nights’ puke off the front window of the shop simply by pouring hot water over it – he didn’t have as clue and looked like he was soon going to add to last night’s outpourings.

In all of my travels it always astounds me that after 2000 years of so called civilisation human beings still haven’t sorted out how to piss and shit in some form of sanitary conditions once outside of our own homes. In China for example people just shit and pissed (and gobbed) everywhere, In France and vast swathes of the world they use holes in the ground, and just because the put porcelain around them doesn’t make them better. The so called toilets I’ve seen but not used, in Africa are indescribable; mainly they’re just places where people go to shit. I prefer the anonymity and the relative sanitary conditions of the bush.

So yes, London, a great 21st century city, it smells of piss and smoke, diesel fumes, chip fat, burger grease, sweat and dust. Time Out describes it as such:

‘London is an olfactory cornucopia, a maelstrom of elements that attack and delight the senses: at once repelling and compelling us into a blissful, schizophrenic frenzy.’

Or asthma, I might add.

Perhaps as a way of avoiding registering this stink in their brains people in London have stopped looking where they are going and walk now eyes cast down to the screens of their phones, kindles and iPads. That means you are the one doing the dodging. It means not being able to walk in a straight line but having to have a 360 degree awareness to miss the people coming towards you not paying attention. Plus you have to skip out of the way of the idiots on bikes cycling on the pavement, even though there is a perfectly useful cycle lane next to the pavement as well. So one needs to be aware! I admit, in Plymouth I ride on the pavements, but in Plymouth the pavements are pretty empty, in London the pavements are usually pretty packed, so riding a bike through it is idiocy especially when there’s a perfectly good cycle lane about 2 feet away.

This is not to take into account of the people in front of you who will stop dead for no obvious reason and because you are in a stream of people you crash into them. That they are usually trailing luggage whilst looking at their digital thing adds to the jeopardy. On the train and underground stations one is constantly being battered and run over by people’s luggage. It’s as if they have no spacial awareness of how much room they need to get past you so you just get battered. It’s probably more that they just don’t care.

I mean I know I don’t do that. I don’t just barge through any gap I see. I stop and wait (obviously that means those people behind me not looking where they are going crash into me as well). It makes sense to hug walls and stay away from open spaces. On the stations people run for trains with a frantic look in their eyes knowing they’ve already missed it, but they barge right through you anyway as if you are not there. There is no concept of personal space. Just a muttered ‘sorry’, drifting back on the slipstream, if you’re lucky. Or you get glared at and sworn at just because you happen to be filling a piece of space that they seem to believe is theirs.

However, whilst I am complaining about this there still is a modicum of manners that mediate our social interactions in the UK. Despite the bumping and jostling and frantic sprinting across railway termini London is still better than my experience of China. In China people don’t wait, they don’t give way. There are no manners or even the smallest amount of social grace despite this myth about ‘face’ and ‘loss of face’. On the Chinese Metro the hordes of people waiting for the train pile in through the doors just as soon as they open regardless of the hordes inside trying to pile out. Try this with a colleague on crutches with a broken leg. I did. I soon became physical, straight arm tackling people out of the way just so he could get off or on the train.

I have to admit that this is one of the main things that is making me grumpy about London, the number of people, the bad manners, the constant jostling, the rudeness and the general anonymity one feels amongst this mass of people.

The great thing about London is also the self same hordes. Millions of people from all across the globe; all living and working together in generally a harmonious way and generally not trying to kill each other apart from during the rush hour. Never a day goes by without one having heard a multitude of different languages, seen a rainbow of different skin tones, hair colour, style and clothing.

In certain areas there is more than a hint of foreign climes. Tables outside cafes, relaxed middle eastern looking men lounging around sipping espressos and smoking together, scents that take one back to foreign holidays emanating from kitchens and Sheesha pipes, interesting looking food behind glass, welcoming smiles and nods of the head from beckoning waiters. I’m sure that every cuisine from anywhere in the world could be found in London if one wanted it. Anything from Mongolian to Azerbijan to Nigerian to Kenyan they’re all here I’m sure.

Yes there are loads of restaurants and places to eat in London - so is that why all the Metropolitan Police I’ve seen are fat? Or should I say ‘burly’. Burly policemen knocking people over and killing them (oops a bit of politics there). But they are fat, burly I mean and their flak jackets or stab vests make them look even errr, burlier. So that’s why I stay away from them Oh yes we all know about the ‘Met’. I guess all big cities are the same, the rescue services are always busy. So the nights, and it does seem to be busier at night, are full of the scream of sirens and the flash of blue lights. Behind that the rumble of traffic drones in ones ears all night. I’m lucky that I stay in the centre of London and there never seems to be a quiet time.

One can understand why people want to move to the country or have a second holiday home in the country. It’s probably just to get away from the constant noise, and the smell, and the people and the burly policemen. I’m glad I live in Plymouth, even at midday, in the summer, my back garden can be a tranquil haven of sunshine and silence, and I live pretty centrally. The nights are dark and as silent as the grave. That’s another thing where I am in London, it’s never dark, just the acid orange tinge of street and security lighting which slips round the curtains as they flutter in the hum of the night.

You’re never more than 20, er, 10, er 8 foot from a Rat in London is how the sayings go. In Kingston by the river where I work, the Thames, this reduces to about 2 feet. Where I sit and eat my lunch some days the bits of landscaping are infested with rats, big and small. They come out snuffling around the benches, no doubt looking for bits of dropped sandwich as this is a popular place to eat lunch. It’s right next to the river and quite picturesque with boats going past and suchlike activity on the water. They patter about, totally unfazed whiskery noses whiffling, little pink feet pattering; they’d be quite cute, if it wasn’t for the Weil's disease from them pissing everywhere (typical Londoners) and the Black Death of course!

I guess I’m just a small town boy really as there are just too many people for my liking. Too many aggravations on a daily basis, maybe I’m getting all the bad of London and not being here long enough to enjoy the good of London. I have a long day at work, up early for the commute to Kingston and back latish. So I’m not really getting to see much of what’s on or the starry attractions of our capital city. Sadly in one of the most hot and happening Cities in the world, I am usually in bed about 9:30 in the evening, just when everything is starting to happen.

I’m also doing that thing which I have derided in the past. That is ritualising or doing things repetitively, especially when commuting. This starts with wanting to get the same seat on the coach, both to London and back to Plymouth. There is a slight sense of elation and pleasure if I can get the seat in the fifth row back on the left hand side of the coach (walking up the inside of the coach). I am strangely disappointed and discomforted if I don’t get that seat. Also I really want it to be a ‘double seat’ and not to have anyone sit next to me.

Then on the underground I find myself following the same routes (which make sense to find the quickest route) but I find myself drawn to the same spot on the platform so I can get into the same carriage. And you know what, most mornings I get to see what by now are familiar faces, so they must be doing the same thing!

On Waterloo station, I buy a paper, get a coffee and once through the barriers I stand at the second ‘Mind the Gap’ sign, waiting for the train. Once the train gets here and disgorges the 50 odd (I’ve counted!) passengers I suffer a slight sense of unease until I have got to ‘my seat’ which is the one (turn left through the doors) at the back of the carriage, on the right, by the window. Only then can I relax, open the paper and drink my coffee. Going back into London though is a different matter. After 5 the train is a bit busier. So most days I just hope to get a seat. There is no way that I could aim for a particular seat in a particular carriage, and strangely I’m not at all discomfited by this.

I think to sum up this post I must say that I am not enamoured by London. Maybe this is because my experience is part-time and mediated by the time I spend travelling from the centre to Kingston and back again which takes all my energy. All I see of the City are the suburbs rushing past my train windows, some iconic views of the City as we get closer to the centre and the Tower of London, where I am fortunate enough to spend three nights a week because my sister is married to a Yeoman Warder there and the tunnels of the tube.

I miss the sights, smells and sound of the sea, the fresh air and clean smells it brings, the rain, the view from Plymouth Hoe, Coffee and a Cake overlooking the sea, the distant glimpse of Dartmoor and Cornwall on the horizon, the lack of crowds (usually), my dog and friends. Yes I am a small town sort of boy.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The 2012 London Olympics

I’m going to the Olympics
I want to see some sport
I’ll probably ride my bike there
Not going on the train

I’ll take a lovely picnic
Diet Pepsi and some crisps
Maybe grab a great big Whopper
Big hat in case of rain.

I’ll put it in my great big bag
With my great big flag to wave
I’ll wear my bestest Che t-shirt
Vuvuzela to make some sound

Its gonna be a fantastic day
So sunscreen, beer and drum
All going in my great big bag
With my tripod, lens and snacks

I’ll cycle down the Olympic road
With my placard and my pen
Its shines a laser light out
It red and bright and fun


I didn’t get to the Olympics
I didn’t see any sport
They stopped me at the gates
And found me at fault.

They confiscated everything
My Pepsi, beer and snacks
They took away my great big hat
And wouldn’t give it back

They thought I was a terrorist
I’m up against the wall
They couldn’t understand
Why I had that bat and ball

They tried to take my T-shirt
Tried to rip it off my back
I couldn’t wave my flag around
Without causing an attack

There’s soldiers, cops and bully boys
Aggressive stares and macho stance
All waiting at the gates for you
It ruins the romance

Of building a peaceful and better world
One that we all can share
Through sports unifying message
It’s a sad corrupt affair

So now I’ve got a great big fine
For cycling in the road
And a criminal conviction
Plus curfew’ed to my abode.

For wanting to join in the fun
On that Olympic day
But in this country, now, today
Big business gets their way

Restricted Items list for Olympic venues

The following is a non-exhaustive list of restricted items which may not be taken into a Venue (LOCOG reserves the right to amend this list, generally, or in respect of any Venue or Session): food (save for baby food), alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (save for baby milk and other valid medical reasons), liquids in containers of greater than 100ml in size, needles (save as required for valid medical reasons), animals (save for assistance or guide dogs), weapons (including knives), illegal drugs, other illegal substances, fireworks, firecrackers, poles, flagpoles, sticks, large photographic equipment (including tripods), bats, large umbrellas and other blunt instruments, motorcycles, bicycles, roller-skates, skateboards, or other types of skates, electronic transmitting equipment, flags of countries not participating in the Games, large flags or banners, horns, whistles, drums, rattles, musical instruments, lasers or any other devices that in the opinion of LOCOG may disturb a Session, objects bearing trademarks or other kinds of promotional signs or messages (such as hats, T-shirts, bags, etc) which LOCOG believes are for promotional purposes, counterfeit products, balls, rackets, frisbees or similar objects, large quantities of coins, lighters, advertising or promotional material of any kind, printed matter bearing religious, political or offensive content or content contrary to public order and/or morality, bottles or containers made of glass or other material, flasks, thermoses, refrigerators, large objects such as suitcases or bags, and in general any material that LOCOG may deem dangerous or that may cause damage or disruption to a Session." All confiscated items will be destroyed, it says elsewhere. I think the camera note is only for particularly large items and perhaps that's where the memory came from. Also remember that you can only use Visa to buy anything inside the park...no Mastercard. And absolutely no guerrilla marketing!

Monday, July 16, 2012

An English Summer

England in the rain rain rain
Summer gurgles down the drain drain drain
It messing with my brain brain brain
The weather is a pain pain pain

Its just precipitation
Falling on this nation
Creating hydration
And a damp sensation

It’s the constant plip plip plop
Of the rains drop drop drop
Will it ever stop stop stop
The waters slop slop slop

O it's just some little showers
It's just great for the flowers
But it's raining for hours
The clouds have superpowers

It's the splish splish splosh
Our worlds awash awash awash
Over my galosh galosh galosh
I don't josh josh josh

Theres a certain deliquescence
Of my personal assemblance
That creates a certain ambivalence 
To my soggy appearance 

Its just England in the rain rain rain
Pouring down the window pane pane pane
When the rains on the plain plain plain
I'd rather be in Spain Spain Spain

Friday, July 13, 2012

Welcome to the Olympics – Bloody Great!

There they are
Waiting at the gate
Bloody great big coppers
So full of hate

Hate for the workers
Hate for the women
Hate for the students
Do they call it a living?

There they are
Standing in a line
Bloody great big coppers
But they got no time

Time to listen
Time to think
Time for humanity
Their policing stinks

There they are
Looking cold as ice
Bloody great big coppers
Our frontline justice

Justice for the migrant
Justice for the poor
Justice for the protests
These rich mens’ laws

There they are
Waiting in the lights
Bloody great big coppers
Protectors of our rights

Right to come quickly
Right to get kicked
Right to go to gaol
If they say you’re nicked

There they are
The boys in blue
Bloody great big coppers
Got his eye on you

You’re a terrorist
You’re a threat
You ain’t got a chance
He can see you sweat

There they are
The men behind the mask
Bloody great big coppers
Taking you to task

Pushing at your body
Pulling at your hair
Packing in the kettle
They say its fair

There they are
The keepers of the peace
Bloody great big coppers
The Olympic beast

Say hello to chaos
Say hello to grief
Say hello to LOCOG
As you loose your teeth.

Bloody Great Big Copper!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Olympic Act 2012 or the Folly of Language during Summer 2012

I want to write a poem about the Olympics
But I’m told all the words have been sold
That someone had bought all our language
Its now illegal - or so I’m told

To write of the Games or the Venue
London 2012 to be sure
Can’t write Gold, Silver or Sponsor
The copyright rules will ensure

In this years twenty twelve Olympics
We can’t use our English outright
Coca Cola has tied it in law
They’ve locked our language up tight

Now expressions have to be listed
And words we use are all banned
We can’t talk about the medals
Without disrespecting the brand

Because the American sponsors don’t like it
Despite our Olympians bold
That the British people keep talking
About London, Medals and Gold

And its Faster, Higher, Stronger
Three words, the Olympic creed
Tied up in petty laws and restrictions
And in LOCOG’s outrageous greed

But during this sporting summer in London
In the year Two Thousand and Twelve
We’ll take back our language and spaces
As our freedoms they try to dissolve

My language is not a product
With a price tag, restrictions - for sale
I will write and say what I want to
Don’t like it? Send me to Jail!

The 2006 Act also introduces "Listed Expressions". These are in the form of two lists, A and B. List A contains the words Games, Two Thousand and Twelve, 2012 and Twenty Twelve. List B contains the words London, Medals, Sponsor, Gold, Silver and Bronze. Use of any two words in list A or any word in list A with one or more of the words in list B is not permitted.

The Olympic Motto: 'Citius Altius Fortius' / 'Faster Higher Stronger'. The Paralympic Motto: 'Spirit in Motion'

Using the words Games, Twenty-Twelve, 2012, or Two Thousand and Twelve, in conjunction with one of these words - London, medals, sponsors, summer, gold, silver or bronze - is also banned as is summer 2012" or "London 2012"

Factory Working

A factory worker I'm proud to be
Working class? Yes that's me
Work with me hands and with my brain
I do my bit I've no complaints

I've no complaints, although it's true
If I sit and think I've got a few
Me wages, well they are quite low
It's hard to know where the money goes

The hours are long and breaks are few
The work is dirty and noisy too
It affects me health, but I don't go sick
Cos I don't get paid and that's the trick

But there's overtime, I can do a lot
It gives me wages a healthy shot
But me wife and kids they have a moan
I'm always here, never at home

I'm a union man but I'm not political
I'll say me piece and I'll be critical
But my vote goes to them that helps me
I bought me house so I'll vote Tory

Now David Cameron he ain’t done badly
He thinks of us - the Big Society
So I ain’t no damn Labour bellyacher
I know we’re all in this together

Like I said I'm a working man
I'm proud of it and I'm sure I can
Get another job when the factory shuts
They say it's because of economic cuts…

Friday, June 15, 2012

Another British Soldier

Another British Soldier dying in the Dust
Another British PM saying I must
Take war to the enemy
Despite it being a felony
Got to protect this liberty
Pursuing our democracy
Amongst the medieval peasantry
Holding advanced western weaponry
We kill them all with enmity
It’s our speciality
We can’t show no empathy
For the Islamic mentality
This Taliban pedigree
Their dying is heavenly
We call it blind zealotry
A murderous recipe
For war almost endlessly
But the bloody legacy
Is our soldiers dying helplessly
With newscasters breathlessly
Reciting the elegy
As the wives cry helplessly
That age-old melody
That scores the serenity
Of the politicians confidentiality
As they bow to the hegemony
Of wars cruel necessity
And the infallible cruelty
That makes children twitch hysterically
On the roads into Ghanzi
As they die so regrettably
By digital telemetry
Sending them to the cemetery
As we look on contemptuously
Not seeing the potentiality
Of leaving the country peacefully
And the children playing happily
Full of life and expectancy
But we know that eventually
Like the great Nations historically
Left Afghanistan unpleasantly
As their soldiers died steadily
On the plains of the Afghani
That our time will be presently
Let us do it now readily
Sooner not later preferably
Leaving Afghanistan is a must
Stop our soliders dying in that dust.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Flowers of the Forest again

Flowers of the Forest again

More war years
Won’t dry the tears
On the mothers sallow cheek

When soldier boys
Have lost their toys
And return in the brittle box

A folded flag
A political gag
Placed in the mothers hands

On dusty street
Sad mothers weep
For the children dead in arms

Across the sand
Come play the band
Flowers of the Forest again

Young women cry
Old men sigh
As they dip red white and blue

It’s freedoms’ stain
And Britain’s pain
As they go marching on…

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The woman that I'm looking for...

The woman that I'm looking for

The woman that I’m looking for
Has got to have a pulse
A boon if she is breathing
And acts on her impulse

The woman that I’m looking for
Will have a working brain
Has strong opinions good and bad
Laughing like a drain

The woman that I’m looking for
Will have a sense of fun
She’ll like to play and mess around
And maybe call me ‘hun’.

The woman that I’m looking for
Ain’t looking for no jerk
Ain’t looking for no idiot
But maybe I’m hard work

The woman that I’m looking for
Is happy to understand
That at this time of life
Not everyone is bland.

The woman I am looking for
Will be sexy, hot and fit
Happy with her self-image
And flirts with grace and wit.

The woman that I’m looking for
Won’t stay at home and knit
Or sit focused on the TV
And just don’t give a shit

The woman that I’m looking for
Is relaxed and not to desperate
Laid back and nice to chill
If at times we are separate

The woman that I’m looking for
Don’t need to be jealous, hard or mean
She’s got to be my equal
And then she’ll be my queen

The woman that I’m looking for
Is stuck here in my head
The clichéd thing I really mean
Is, is she hot in bed!

I need to write poetry

I need to write poetry
Perhaps I'm needing therapy
I'm feeling kinda worse
Cos I'm missing my blank verse

I need to write a couplet
Ill be donning Shakespeares doublet
But I don't know if I've the time
To pen such stunning rhyme

Masters of Japan
Say zen haiku form makes clear
The writers hand is

Folded around the word to make
One think the world a better place
With beauty, style and insight
The sonnets scan the speakers soul

But perhaps my soul is empty
My writing hand is still
Perhaps my iambic pentameters
Have quietly become less shrill

So I could be needing therapy
I might be slighty ill
It might be slightly pyrrhic
Spondee or bacchius still

So there once was a poet from Plymouth
Not so sure he was good enough
So he saught therapy
From her by the sea
Now he's better than Roger McGough

Now a poets life is terrible hard
Said a lovely girl called alice
Be it Bejamin, Hardy or Larkin
They'll fuck you up with Malice

So its all becoming quite crazy
I think I'm losing my mind
The words are getting quite hazy
I'm think I'm going blind

So get me into therapy
Beard my bardic brain
Slow down the rhymes and rhythms
Please stop this poetic pain

Lull me with sweet lullabies
And the hosts of daffodils
Give me the succour of your verse
And keep me off the pills

Friday, April 27, 2012

Motivation - now there’s a word to conjure with

Motivation - now there’s a word to conjure with

I think I have SAD. I’m just weary and I can’t put my finger upon it. I look out of my window and sunny Plymouth is officially grey. I don’t think I even have the energy to write another word, that’s how tired I am. I am so tired I don’t even think that a gram of amphetamine mainlined into my central nervous system would wake me up. I am so tired that I can’t even think about a gram of amphetamine let alone spend the energy actually trying to buy the foul stuff.

I am feeling numb from the top of my head to the aching soles of my feet. I feel so numb that if someone where to beat me around the head with a 5 kilo codfish I wouldn’t notice. I am so numb that when I'm asked why my head and clothing are encrusted with scales I would just shrug and look numbly back at them.

I am fatigued. My muscles feel like they have been overworked and underfed. My greatest wish, should I summon up the enthusiasm, would be to lie in bed somewhere being intravenously fed with vitamin enriched lucozade backed up with a glucose drip. My fatigue is so inherent that should Kyle wish to attend and perform the bed bath upon me my penis would lay there like a sleepy snake at midday, mid Sahara.

I am shattered. My energy lies in shards around me, but like an ill matched jigsaw I just don’t seem to be able to pick it up and put it together again. I am so shattered that if the building were to burn down right now, at least my room would be warm for a while and I’d be comfortable. They’d find my burned and charred husk sitting with my blackened stumps upon my desk enjoying the heat, remembering those hot summer days when we are all so full of energy.

I am drained, like a can of peas after lunch; I no longer have any juice. I can’t make my pods go pop with any vigour. I feel slightly greenish and slow and sort of mushy. My vital energy has drained right out of me just when I wasn’t looking, like a slow puncture in my tire, I have been let down. Now I am desiccated, dried and demoralised should someone stand next to me and sneeze I would explode into a thousand million molecules and float around for eternity getting up peoples noses and giving them allergies.

I’ve just had enough and am all-in. If I had the wherewithal I would vote for the one day week and the compulsory Lennonesque 6 day bed-in. I am totally bushed, and have the energy levels of an inmate at Guantanamo Bay who has just been kicked shitless by the guards but given a weekend pass. I’ll pass. Mañana will do for me I couldn’t drag myself out on the town even if I was strapped to a herd of rogue elephants being teased by white mice.

I am just dead beat, like a deadbeat after a bottle of Thunderbird. A nice soft gutter would do me right now, an eiderdown of newspapers and a mattress of cardboard sounds like bliss. Take me to oblivion on a single ticket and shackle me to the railings. I’m sleepy, no hi ho’s will keep me awake, like drowsy, I’m six dwarves short of a snooze. My lids are drooping, and I’m drooling down my shirt like a bad Pavlovian experiment. I can’t write another word; my fingers droop over the keyboard, neither can I check the thesaurus for another, yet another, synonym – I am pooped. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Simple steps to meditation

Here's something I wrote 10 years ago (blimey!)

Simple Steps to Meditation.

Walking the 100 miles of the Two Moors Ways between Ivybridge and Lynmouth takes about seven days. In those seven days one travels through the ancient landscapes of Dartmoor and Exmoor. Burial mounds, standing stones, hut circles and ancient trails punctuate the walk with the constant reminder that these places have always been special for humans.

Carrying a 20 kilo pack containing tent, sleeping bag, food and equipment forces one to practise one of the main tenets of walking meditation – that of moving the feet. Buddhists are instructed to be mindful of four stages in each step: (i) lifting the foot; (ii) moving it forward; (iii) putting it down; and (iv) touching or pressing the foot on the ground.

And step by step, as I travelled these ways, I entered the meditative state of mind simply by putting one foot in front of the other, or as some practitioners suggest ‘stepping, stepping, stepping’.

Walking the moors, one has to be aware of these actions because to put a foot wrong means a turned ankle or worse. By increasing our awareness of our bodies actions we also become increasingly aware of things outside of ourselves, objects we might trip over, other people we might walk into, and these are many other things outside of ourselves that we will be more aware of than when we are sitting –especially if we sit inside. These include the wind, the sun and the rain, and the sounds of nature and of humans and machines.

But as one finds the natural rhythm (and using a pair of trekking poles forces you into such a rhythm) you find that each and every footstep forms part of a natural mantra. And as the length of the walk progresses, it becomes easier to enter into the detached but aware state that walking meditation facilitates.

While walking long distances there will always be feelings associated with our bodies, from the niggling pain of the blister to a pleasant feeling of relaxation. There will also be feelings associated with the things we see and hear, and with all of the other sensory modalities that we experience – including those that are imagined.

In paying attention to feelings, the important thing is simply to notice them without either clinging to them or pushing them away. When we are unaware, it is very common for our minds to start grasping after experiences associated with pleasant feelings.

Many people say to me when I start walking a long-distance path that I’ll “be able to have some thinking time – to sort things out”, but it always seems to me that when walking I actually have very little ‘thinking time’.  My mind becomes attuned to the mantra of walking, my eyes to the path ahead and my body to experiencing the sensations of physical activity.  By experiencing our sensations, rather than thinking about them, we help to cut down on unproductive thinking and bring about more calmness.

Walking the Two Moors way allows us to ‘be in the moment’.  That moment where we can fill out mind with the richness of the experience of walking, leaving less room for daydreaming and fantasy and becoming deeply aware of our present experience, which becomes far more fulfilling than any daydream.

This detached state then becomes an integral part of the ‘Art of Walking’. The Buddhist monk Thick Nhat Hanh tells us that ‘If we practise walking meditation, we walk just for walking, not to arrive. We have to be alive with each step, and if we are, each step brings real life back to us. The purpose is to be in the present moment and enjoy each step you make’.

Walking alone through the wilderness of Dartmoor and Exmoor is a pure exercise in walking meditation and each step becomes a prayer and each mile dharma. 

(published in Connect Magazine October/November 2002 - Issue 15)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Garden meditation

The tadpoles in the garden
Are turning into frogs
The sun is shining
It’s too hot for dogs
The fruit trees are blooming
The country it is parched
Who could believe it?
It’s still only March

The sky is a deep blue
They’re swimming in the sea
People wearing shorts
And sipping cream tea
The weather is delightful
The sunshine is so hot
I gotta put a hat on
Before I lose the plot

It’s hotter than Venice
It’s hotter than Spain
The headlines in the papers
Make that plain
It’s hotter than Greece
It’s hotter than Rome
Who needs a holiday?
When you can stay at home

So I’m sitting in my garden
I’m watching bees buzz
I’m listening to the flowers grow
The dog just does
The fruit trees are blooming
Pink petals in the sun
I’m doing nothing
Just listening to the hum


Friday, March 23, 2012

How I met my dog....

I have just submitted this article to an american pet magazine.  Theres no money in it or even a prize if one gets published. But I thought now I'm back from China I had better get this blog going again.  Some of you who know me might remind me what my Cocker Spaniel was called because for the life of me I can't remember, isn't that sad?  So I've named him 'Barney' for the purpose of this piece.

How I met my dog...

It was a sunny Sunday in May and I was taking tea on Plymouth Hoe. The Coffee Shack was, and still is, one of my most favourite places in the whole world.  Located on West Hoe in Plymouth one is able to dawdle over tea and look out over the spectacular natural harbour that has seen seafarers from Drake to Darwin sail away.

However, on that day in May, I was alone and was feeling in need of some sort of friendly company so I decided to leave my sunny spot and head off across town to see my friends Mandy and Dave.  I was surprised when I reached their place to be greeted at the door by not one Jack Russell but two!  I knew my friends had Toby the diminutive wirehaired scamp that lived with them, but they had increased their family by one with Molly, a friendly shorthaired Jack.

My surprise and astonishment at being met by two very friendly dogs jumping and wiggling around my feet was increased when I was ushered into the kitchen to peep into a cardboard box where 6 little pug noses were being pushed out to greet me with little yips of excitement. Mandy and Dave beamed at me.

I should have been more aware!

Well, of course, everyone loves a newly born puppy and I am no exception. I had owned dogs in the past but having lost my last two dogs somewhat tragically I had not renewed my relationship with mans best friend.  My last two dogs had been faithful companions. Rosy was an English Springer Spaniel of advancing years I had saved from certain death when her former owner had announced he was leaving the country; she was ensconced on the settee, in front of the fire, that very evening.

Barney was a Blue Roan Cocker Spaniel from good stock that I had from a puppy.  As he had such good, prizewinning parents, I had decided that I would enter the dog into various shows and see how he did.  I thought that this would probably be a good and new hobby that would get me out and about, meeting new people, and of course I knew I had a ‘good’ dog so it might be fun too.

Living and working in Cornwall is a wonderful place to have dogs. There are so many places one can go and with Rosy and Barney I took full advantage until one day I noticed that old Rosy was making heavy weather of her usual walk. Springer Spaniels are full of energy and just want to work. She would always be ahead of me, quartering the ground ahead; doing what she was bred to do, flushing game.  But now she was panting and lying down every few yards, not a happy dog at all.

That week I took her to the vet as she just didn’t improve so she clearly wasn’t just under the weather.  It was bad news. Her heart was failing. The kindest thing was … unspeakable, but it was done. I was distraught.

Within two days, my young energetic Cocker Spaniel was showing symptoms of something; he was lethargic, off his food.  Pining for Rosy we thought.  But he got worse.  More visits to the vet. The vet was nonplussed.  Barney got more and more ill. The vet diagnosed a blood problem and even used his own dog to provide blood for Barney. But to no avail.  Ten days after Rosy had gone, so too was Barney gone.

The house was empty of dogs; except for the phantom dogs I could hear jumping off the beds upstairs.  There was no one to eat my apple cores where once upon a time two pairs of bright eyes were locked on my every movement whilst I ate the apple.

Now two new pairs of eyes were locked onto mine.  Two bright sparkly eyes, attached to a friendly little face, a button nose and markings that gave her kohl around the eyes and huge eyebrows – a seductress! I still wasn’t sure I wanted a dog. I hadn’t had a dog for years.  I worked in an office for goodness sake.  Mandy and Dave were teasing me, goading me on. But I still wasn’t sure.  Yes, we all love puppies and the one that was cuddled in my hands was no exception. And yes she was very beautiful.  But what was that? She was born on March 4th?  But that’s my birthday too!

‘Oh go on then’ - it was obviously meant to be.

I still sit on Plymouth Hoe in the sunshine, drinking tea, looking across the beautiful harbour. But now on my lap, sharing a biscuit, is Snooks, my constant companion. 


Just adding the photo for illumination and extra interest