The trouble with food

Food is trouble itself. For me, food equals weight. Every McChrystal has a propensity for piling on the pounds if diet is left unchecked.

Let’s go back to the heady days of my twenties. In fact we’ll go before that. As a child I was podgy. I’m sure it was cute for many but people called me “fatty”. I peaked at the age of seventeen. Lunches involved sandwiches and cake, mid morning would be a bacon butty from the factory canteen and tea was usually full on; oh, and I liked a pint. I’d been going to the pub since I was fifteen. I was never asked my age.

Then it stopped. In a bold move to get some form of life direction back on track, work became academic. No more 7.30 starts. What a shame!

The nearest college of further education “The Tech”, was just over a mile away. I walked.

Lunch was a cup of tea. The weight fell off. By the following summer I was lean and mean. But I was still crap at football. And that’s how it stayed. Cycling, tennis and Snowdonia were my passions.

Any excuse to post a picture from the summit of Snowdon

In 1986, I did the best ever thing and learnt how to swim. I taught myself. Soon it was forty plus lengths a day. Happy splashy days.

But then came the thirties and the onset of the MS beast. The exercise was inversely proportionate to the my rate of decline. I peaked in 2015. Sixteen stone ten and a stomach the size of the 02 arena had taken away all sight of my feet.

That’s the trouble with food. I’m still battling.

Between 1999 and 2003 I’d gone skeletal. Yay! Yay?


Crisps, beer and twenty a day left me thin, weedy and prone to every infection that came along.

Dollarphotoclub_73005406There were days off school; that hurt.

How ironic to then gain six stone.

If you want food advice, don’t listen to thin people. They have no idea. I have many thin friends but if they offer advice, I just smile and nod. Moaning about weight will not help however. I have my guidelines. I can’t be done with faddy half hearted dieting and countless reasons for giving up. If you want to lose weight be prepared to eat the pain of deprivation. (The puns are mounting)

Like the weather, food and its consequences is a popular subject. There are regular reports relating to the war against childhood and adult obesity, staying fit, saturated fats, convenience food and type two diabetes. Then there are also many arguments for and against food types:

Cheese is good for your complexion.

Carrots give you x-ray vision.

Raw sprouts prevent flatulence.

Beetroot makes you blush.

By the way, if you’re preparing beetroot and you need to answer the door, be prepared for your caller to run away screaming in terror. beet-stained-hands

For many of the world’s carnivores, the thought of vegetarian and vegan diets gets them choking on their big mac. So many top TV chefs are quick to denounce the “weirdos” who have chosen to walk away from meat and animal based products.

Imagine feast day at Hampton Court: Henry is sitting at his table dribbling with anticipation.

1280px-The_Banquet._Eglinton_Tournament.His wife (choose any one from six but for argument’s sake let’s say it’s Anne of Cleves) is sitting demurely beside him. She speaks no English.

The servants, standing nervously on the periphery of the banqueting hall are ill at ease. The guests sit either side on their lower tables chatting politely. It sounds pleasant enough. The conversation is gentle and muted with many forced smiles and titters of amusement. Of course no-one understands each other. The church dignitaries are struggling to transcribe their fine words from Latin to English, the in laws nod and smile at the jibberish they believe to be King’s English whilst the French pretend not to know English because they think everyone should speak French.

With great ceremony the great oaken doors part to admit the parade of lowly servants walking elegantly with silver trays encased with decorative shining cloches under which lie the grand first course. At the top table, the largest tray is placed before the great man.

In the desperation of hunger, he pushes the simpering assistant aside to reveal the long anticipated sarter. As the  falling cloche bounces on the floor, our king looks bemused. The cook, equally nervous, approaches gingerly.

“Sire, it iseth a first courseth of hand picked fungeth with a tureen of fresheth greens and noble asparagus. I hope your majesty will enjoyeth this light nutritious opening to our humble offerings.” Henry looks back at him with eyes of thunder. The poor man gulps.

“If your majesty pleaseth, it is on the advice of the palace physician who careth much for your health and complexion.”  He moves closer to the steaming monarch. “It is your gout, sire.”

henryviii (2)The huge platter of steaming beautifully presented vegetables resemble the sparkling colours of a roman candle as they fly through the tense air.

One canon is scalded, the in laws duck and the Comte de Chou calmly gathers what lay around him before complemeting the now petrified cook on his choice of dressing. The room is cloaked in a deathly silence save for the gentle little staccato grunts of the comte, made by many people who enjoy their food. Henry looks to his wife and pulls a face of disgust.

Even today, the good King Henry reflects the attitude of some meat eaters. The thought of a meal with no meat is as painful as sitting on a spike. Trying to convince such a person that without meat they will not die through veggie poisoning, is a tall order.

Vegetarians have made a conscious dietary choice. A lot of people I’ve spoken to, cite animal welfare and the horror of the abbatoir as their main reasons.

Morally, what right do we have to condone the use and abuse (when I say abuse, we may treat an animal kindly, only to kill it when we see fit) of living creatures with a nervous system? Then again, how many vegetarians are happy to use animal based products?

Please remember, I’m not criticising, just giving food for thought. (Pun intended!) I could also go into the realms of fish and seafood but I might end up drowning in a whole new flood of controversy. (Oh the punnery.)

Some vegetarians go further and move into veganism. I’m sure the impression of many carnivores is that vegans are plain weird. I learned about the vegan diet in 1984 when a friend decided to “try it out”. Again, I cannot criticise. But the stigma was there.

I had an impression of unshaven hippy types nibbling away at dried nuts and shrivelled up lettuce from communal plates. They lived in tents or on leaky canal barges avoiding all forms of work.

1495962280167-VICE_NZ_MAHANA_18The great veggie staple and source of much mockery was the nut cutlet.

How wrong we were to view the meatless diet as a thing of great dullness. In December 1990, I made my first foray into a vegetarian restaurant. It was a curry house in Stoke Newington.

rasan16I had the most delicious thali. Some of my new colleagues in my first teaching job were delighted to provide me with their own recipes.

About sixteen years ago, I began to try pure vegan food. The approach was to think of all the textures and flavours I like. Then it was onto cooking techniques. Cracking the enigma of tofu and chick peas helped. I love falafels.

In the end it was easy. I’m now eating vegan at least two days a week. The whole diet has turned into a hotch potch of food types and I’ve no reason to panic if I run out of meat. This is a long way from my initial scoffing (pun overdose) at the vegan style.

072517_KM_FredFirestoneOne of the secrets is to avoid food imitating food. Vegan sausages? Veggie bacon? Vegan fish fingers or fishcakes?vbites-making-waves-vegan-fishless-fishcakes-01-500-o-500x500

Forget it, there is enough out there to satisfy all cravings for tast, protein and texture. I like the challenge of it all. And the result? My diet is varied and mixed but with a slight (I lie) preference for middle eastern breads and dips.

You can’t beat a bit of maneesh and baba ganoush.


Thank you for reading.     


Why Pythagoras? Why maths?

It’s an age old question:

What relevance does Pythagoras’ Theorem have for everyday life? As we may scratch around for an answer we may begin to wonder about maths itself.

I taught a lot of maths to young children; twenty two years in all. I’ve had to deal with such questions many times.

If you were to type either question into a search engine, the results would be totally unsatisfactory. Even specific statements like “Ten important reasons for learning maths” produce lists of vague nonsense barely relating to the heart of the subject.

For starters, most of the results are American, where they call it math. It’s maths. How can such a massive multi-aspected complex array of information, concepts and formulae be referred to in the singular? It’s not a word like fish.

What have the Americans done for us?


A lot of the “reasons” do not go past the ideas of sorting and gathering before going on about helping us to get a good job, dealing with finance and earning a good wage.

4-1This is frustrating for someone (through teaching) who has developed a blood relationship with the subject. But it’s difficult. I can feel the relevance of maths. I instinctively know how it helps us in our daily lives but putting it down on paper takes weeks, nay years of focused thought and organisation. (There are two significant factors linking maths and real life for starters.) 

I’m now going to attempt to explain it all in a clear succinct manner without inducing the usual soporific vibes which have haunted far too many corners of learning when the “expert” spouts and the “victims” try to fight off the yawns.

tired-clipart-boring-class-19Such is my arrogance, I assume everyone will read to the end of my posts but this time I will simply say “please read to the end”.

By the time children get to year six, the different areas of maths should be clear:





Within each subtitle lies a multitude of factors designed specifically to stress out pupils, parents and teachers alike.

Confused-FaceAny teacher will know that parents’ questions pertaining to maths and real life can create severe twitching and nausea before spouting a garbled bag of nonsense. In the early days I would blind them with science. My highly specific esoteric references would create that familiar blank smile when you have lost them by the second sentence.


Of the four above, measurement explains itself. The statistics area has been rebranded from “Handling Data” which again, has obvious links to real life. From experience it’s the other two; number and geometry which can leave many people jibberish, sitting nonsensically in a pool of befuddled  swirling sticky matter. And that’s as technical as I’m going to get. So what use is number?

The bane of so many children and parents is times tables. The chanting, the testing and the whole apparent detachment of them from anything resembling reality gives them a unique air of mystery.

teachers-identifying-in-the-classroom_3Aleady, I can feel myself creeping into a mire of detail which would have us arguing about finicky details, sinking away from the salient points in a vessel of despair and frustration.

I will therefore use the word “modelling”. Number is a tool through which we learn routine methodology and problem solving. Number gives us strategies to make sense of our everyday lives. In every aspect of learning and living we need memory. Hello times tables. I’m tempted to go into great detail of their value but I stop because I’m hearing someone shouting “but we’ve got calculators”. True. So what? Isn’t technology wonderful?

Times tables are a key to opening up the more complex operations which “model” the daily problems we encounter. In relation to the more difficult processes in maths, times tables at the very least show the value of memory. They also show how anything, and I mean anything, can be can be expanded (or exploded) by one other factor. It’s a basic scientific premise. Yes we might learn things instinctively and through experience but number models how to make sense of it.

Sorry, I’m drifting into teacher training text book mode here.

Write it down!

write-things-downIn maths we write things down in a specific order with numbers and signs. That’s a great model for so much.

To do lists, staff rotas, working out cause and affect, expanding ideas etc etc. For me, the most valuable use of number is working out the unknown from what we know. We generally call it detective work. Hercule is a fine example.817f2409971011d081d35c0fe11e19e1

This is where I go back to Pythagoras. If you know the formula, (let’s call it a recipe. That word has more practical significance) you can work out the unknown length of the side of a triangle from the length of the other two sides. Short of finding the height of a tree or a telehraph pole, this does not appear useful. But learning to put things on paper in an organised way is. It can even be related to shape.

The trouble is, Pythagoras Theorem is a complex matter using number and shape in an abstract form and can leave the poor old student in a mess because they are right out of their zone.

There lies another highly significant aspect of maths. Taking yourself to the edge of your knowledge, experience and comfort need not be a cause of anxiety.

689927970Through mathematical processes, we can begin to make sense of these danger areas by applying what we are familiar with and drawing conclusions.

This is very much a whistle stop attempt to make sense of maths and well done if you’re still with me here but I will finish with a reference to geometry; that’s shape and space in junior school talk. 

In geometry we learn about classifying through observation, explanation, accurate (and rough) drawing and number. We learn to use instruments such as protractors, rulers and compasses. Isn’t that such a useful model for so many things we do?

Maths is the mini beast of learning. We learn so much from its processes but because it uses number and vague terminology it’s easy to get lost. This is where the skill of the teacher comes in; sometimes missing unfortunately. If a child “doesn’t get it” for the fifth time, the teacher needs to make subtle changes rather than saying the same thing, only louder.

156089-849x565r1-is-she-angryMathematics uses number and other representative symbolism because like music, it is a universal language. In our modern age however, technology is obscuring our essential learning needs.  All I can say is that the most successful mathematicians learnt their times tables and success in maths sets you up well for life.

My final hint?

If you find a complex problem, try it with easy numbers as a “model” for the more complex numbers. I can never remember how to do percentages on a calculator so I remind myself by doing 25% of 200.

I believe modelling is the real essence of maths.

Thank you for reading.



Tomato ketchup.

Just let it sink in and then reflect of the first thing you thought of. I see the bottle; a traditional squeezy thing with a tapered neck.50596011_0_640x640

Then I realise that I haven’t bought a bottle of it for over twenty years. After that is a pang of irritation.

How could anyone prefer it to brown sauce?

potato-chips-on-a-plate-with-tomato-ketchup-and-brown-yr-sauce-DP6BJCIs this where I sigh and say “each to their own”?

Never. Ketchup is for sweet-toothed chocolate lovers too scared to risk the tongue tingling sensation of a feisty bit of brown.

At the risk of a vociferous lambasting from the freedom of taste thought police, I will proudly wear the symbol of the brown sauce champion.

s-l300I say this but some time ago, I found the tradtional ferocity of HP had given way to something a lot fruitier. It was an outrage. How very dare they start to dumb down its unique flavour just to suit the more modern palate?

There was only one thing to do. Look up brown sauce recipes on the internet. I developed my own; a truly beautiful thing. I even made a version with mint to go with the things that mint goes with.

Last week there came a revelation. In the spirit of that ridiculous Holman Hunt painting I stood up and cried “eureka”.

Awakening conscience? Or has she just remembered the carrots boiling on the cooker?

Well I didn’t actually stand up. It was a more “slap yourself and mutter words of mock self admonishment for missing the bleedin’ obvious” thing. On Masterchef someone made carrot ketchup. Oh my giddy aunt! The recipe was sitting on the printer before our two belicose brothers in gluttony had even tasted it. Then I made it.

Allow me to present my version of carrot ketchup.


450g (ish) carrots

1 big onion

5 garlic cloves

100g sugar

225ml wine or cider vinegar

225ml water/ tomato juice/tinned tomatoes

(I mixed a good squirt of tomato puree with water.)

2 tbs Worcestershire Sauce

1 tsp ground coriander

half tsp chilli powder

seasoning to taste

In a large pan, gently fry the onions. Allow the onions to caramelise a bit.

Add the garlic and fry until softened.

Add the carrots and let them soften.

Add the sugar, water (or your choice of liquid) vinegar, seasoning and spices and gently simmer until everything is soft. (About 45 minutes.)

Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Using either a food processor or a hand blender, whizz it all up until smooth and silky.

thumbnailCheck for thickness and either reduce over heat or add more liquid to your desired consistency. I went for the same as commercial tomato ketchup. It will thicken as it cools.

When cool, store in sterilised jars.

This is open to all sorts of variations. Make it as hot or as sweet as you fancy. I avoided malt vinegar; that’s strictly for chips. You can mix the carrots with any other root vegetable. Beetroot, sweet potato, a small turnip and parsnip come to mind. There are other classic combinations for carrots. Orange, ginger or celery for example. If you like celery it could be some celeriac or celery salt; celery itself might be a bit too stringy. Like the smug faced pouting Nigel Slater, I’d say “recipes are not to be followed”.

132645a5-3dfd-4037-9cfd-84277bcaad68Actually, recipes are really useful. We need the guidelines.

Finally, what does carrot ketchup go with?

I have no idea but I’ll enjoy finding out.

Thank you for reading.

Stuck in the dark ages

The journey to Tonbridge was long. It will always be that way if you use public transport. But it was a chance to get out and be a human being:

Yes, I have decided that certain parts of the world are anchored firmly in times past. These are times we consider to be uncivilised. This extract relates to the streets of London in 1790:

“Tread  wisely,”  warned  His  Lordship  gesturing  to  the  ground.  It  was  good  advice.  The  surrounding  floor  was  filthy.  In  amongst  the  dried  mud  and  general  litter  were  little  patches  of  stuff  too  disgusting  to  contemplate.  It  seemed  to  have  three  different  stages  of  decomposition.  Firstly  there  was  the  new  stuff,  resembling  the  contents  of  a  baby’s  over  filled  nappy.  It  was  slightly  shiny  and  that  is  all  I  wish  to  say  about  it!  Secondly  there  were  the  older  deposits,  looking  pale  and  withered.  Finally,  the  really  old  stuff  had  transformed  into  dried  flakes  which  rose  with  the  dust  as  people  walked  by.  Then  something  moved  out  of  the  corner  of  my  eye.

At  the  base  of  one  of  the  buildings,  I  noticed  the  scamper  of  feet  and  flash  of  a  tail.  It  was  too  big  to  be  a  mouse.  Then  there  were  more.  Looking  further  along,  a  whole  family  of  rats  appeared  to  be  going  about  the  business  of  sniffing  and  inspecting  every  piece  of  human  waste.  As  a  group  of  men  approached,  they  scattered  and  disappeared.  I  felt  afraid  to  walk  on  such  ground.  It  was  as  if  the  whole  street  was  nothing  more  than  an  open  toilet. 

Some may consider more recent times to be “dark”. Living in draughty old houses with no central heating or double glazing for instance. Having an outside toilet or a bath made out of tin could seem inhuman to many. And no smart phones? How did people cope?

Oh those good old days. Waking up for work with the ice on the inside of the window. Dressing quickly into clothes as cold as the ice itself. If you are lucky, there would be some warmth left in the coal fire downstairs. If you are really lucky, it may be already alight. The daily constitutional involves a trip to the loo across the yard.

outside-toiletThe toilet paper is yesterday’s Daily Mirror. Your superfat fried breakfast puts a nice warming layer around your chest.

LardPicture it. Remember it?  

Traditionally, the term refers to the time between the end of Roman Britain and the famous year of 1066.

dark-ages-tom-lovellThat was a long time to be stuck in a country of very little sophistication ruled by cruel despots and local bullies. Such lawlessness is unthinkable.

The sad decline of the bobby on the beat may well have led to increases in petty crime and anti social behaviour but it’s a lot better than the common danger of instant death or injury with no medical recourse.


Why therefore, am I about to declare that the neighbouring town of Tonbridge has been left behind in the dim and dank recesses of 537 AD? Even with its train links, modern high street, convenient retail locations and uber modern trendy shiny new flats mixed with more tradional shops and housing, Tonbridge still has it’s fair share of feral, fag smoking pond life.

mother-sitting-in-a-kitchen-smoking-and-holding-her-child-in-her-arms-BR9X08But surely that doesn’t make it the place that time forgot?

No. I’m thinking of dropped kerbs. Away from the bustle of the busy carbon monoxide infused high street, there is a distinct lack of dropped kerbs. Look:

How on earth is a man in a wheelchair meant to negotiate such a course? This is on a main route to a busy primary school, walked often by parents with pushchairs. There are thousands of stock phrases telling us that our wheelchairs are not a barrier or our disabilities shouldn’t impede our ambition. But KCC? Meet us half way. I have always maintained that the motto for Kent County Council should be:

“Something to moan about? Shut up, you’re lucky to be living here.”

downloadI have experimented with a variety of techniques for these great barriers. I can hurtle at top speed hoping that pure velocity will carry my great mass over the kerb stone to continue peacefully on the other side. But this is not wise. The chair is prone to folding in on itself with me in it. There is also the shock of the jarring bump and resultant effect on my bladder.

A more successful way has been to pause just before the kerb and use my good leg for leverage, helping take the weight off the front wheels themselves. That’s ok but it still involves a bit of bumpity bump.

I once tried approaching the kerb backwards in the hope that the larger drive wheels would carry me over. It needed a sudden lunge forward to maintain an upright dignified position.

Yesterday on my journey from Tonbridge station to Rose’s primary school, I rolled on the road; still not ideal with its speed bumps and danger of the marauding yummy mummy assuming the seas would part for her enormous chelsea tractor thundering to and fro along the narrow pothole ridden thoroughfare.


Well I survived.

The usual bus was not running up Whitehill due to roadworks so I actually took a taxi to Tunbridge Wells. The only difficulty with the train was remembering that I was only going two stops. I had visions of rolling into Charng Cross then realising I was meant to be in Tonbridge. The wheelchair showed no signs of previous injuries. (Spendid job)

We had a thoroughly pleasant chat with Rose’s two teachers and for the first time, I had made it to the school without saturation from the heavens above. The biggest surprise came afterwards. I asked my ex:

“Is there another way to get back to the station?”

“Er no!”

“Is that a footpath down there which leads to Wincliffe Road?”

“I don’t know!” 

The footpath; discovered by me, unknown to many local residents

Please note that said ex had lived just round the corner in one of those roads with the unsociable kerbs for over fourteen years. (Please see my “Bubble” post!)

When I was a child I knew every inch of Wallasey. Enough said.

Is it a generational thing perhaps? I wonder when it was when parents stopped letting their children out onto the streets? When I was five I was allowed out on the streets with all the other local children. I think we’ve all been sucked into the safety first aspect of modern living. It could actually be a very long list.

'You don't think you're just a tad overprotective?'It may now be (for fear of ridicule and the tutting of neighbours) our absolute duty to to ensure our children:

Never have the slightest hint of being hungry.

Never ever experience the feeling of being cold.

Will always have adult led intellectual stimulation.

Will never be exposed to the potential dangers of the outside world. These include passing cars, passing strangers, the strange woman from number twenty three, rain, being lost, dirt, an angry wasp, picking things up from the floor…………yawn.

Yes, lists are a great cure for insomnia.

At the station, I met another parent. He was a train employee I’d met at the nativity in December. He was young but dedicated to his job; a thorough gentleman. He had three children at the same school:

“How’s the school been for you? I asked. It was my very first parent to parent moment. There were issues. He felt that he’d been treated with contempt because of his social status. I’m not making this up.

This hard working young lad, dedicated to his family and thankful for his job, felt that he was being sneered at. He had asked pertinent questions about his children but because his manner was blunt and straightforward, he was dismissed as agressive. Controversial question:

Why do the middle classes assume that they know better than those of ordinary non-qualified non- professional status?  Sorry, I’m slipping into rant mode.

It reminded me that there are many different views, formed by knowledge and experience. I felt sorry for that very helpful train man. He was doing his best. Perhaps it’s another example of dark ages mentality:

“We are superior, you are not.”serf_400

Obviously the day left my mind buzzing.

Thank you for reading. 

What time?

What was I thinking?

It was 5.15 AM and I was staring at the ceiling. Well I had things to do. The shopping wouldn’t do itself and Rose needed to present her mum with some chocolate for Mother’s Day.

In the old days, ie the seventies and eighties, I often slept with the curtains open. The family terrace had a lampost directly outside. It was a stock phrase for taxi drivers.

“Second lampost on the right mate”, I’d splutter in a sort of semi drunken drawl. 

It ensured that I’d be awake at first light. Then I had a choice. In the spring, there was the novelty of lighter mornings. And down the road was the river.

What a glorious place it was.


The prom would be deserted save for a few hardy fishermen, looking forward to a fine breakfast after a night’s vigil, waiting for a bite. A fresh breeze would swirl through the soft light of a morning sun, peeping over the Albert Dock.

As the morning broke, the whole scene would take on the sweet air of fresh life. Greens were green while the sky held the complete spectrum of yellows and reds. Further on I’d walk up one of the steep cobbled roads back to Seabank. The silent walk home would be interrupted by the early birds making their way to the early shift.

I usually associated King Street with the busy bustle of daily business. In the silence it was surreal. I loved it.2674352376_557f9be8bf_b

These days however, in my small town on the edge of the beautiful Ashdown Forest, the pressures of fatigue and mobility make such events rare. But this morning I was up. As I rumbled up the hill on my racy little Tramper, I began to relish the memory of facing the morning with the vibrant air blowing across my face.

thumbnailAfter a week of ice and solitary confinement, it was truly cathartic. I chuckled at the state of the road. The potholes had been breeding. They were everywhere. 

Even at that time there was the usual clutch of frantic drivers screaming past. You know when you’ve been stuck behind a tractor on a winding country lane and an attack of impatience tempts you to take a risk and scream past in second gear?

7308842-tractor-on-road-with-traffic-tsI get them on Whitehill. I was fiffteen minutes early for the grand opening. What do you do to pass the time at 6.45 AM?

There is a tiny little bluebell wood nearby. (Let’s off road!)

P1010151-215-800-600-80-cWhile the bird song was mostly glorious, the faint screams of Crowborough’s very own seagull colony added a touch of irony to my idyllic little moment. On the High Street I could see them circling. No ice-creams or sandwiches to dive for today.

This makes me laugh; there has been so much outrage about seagulls “stealing” food from unsuspecting members of the public. Oh the trauma.

MkNvtnRWhich is more in keeping with mother nature? Native creatures swooping for their food or humans tucking into an extra snack they don’t really need? I digress.

Even at that hour, in that vast empty theatre of hell, there were people shopping like their life depended on it. What drives them I wonder?

I was home by 7.40. There is something really satisfying about an early morning excursion. I return to a warm flat for tea and toast. Bliss.

I think I’d like to turn empty car park photography into an art form.thumbnail

Thank you for reading.   

The darkness

It takes a late hour and some drip feed whisky to face reality. The darkness is outside, rendering the staccato drips from a damaged guttering into the dull pulse of a lone drummer.

downloadHe stares blankly at the skins while prodding an effortless static rhythm with the tip of a loosely held stick. He cares not for its sound. This is no performance. He plays because it’s there and by doing so, it helps clear the mind of the dark stark truth, waiting for its chance to flood his being with the brutality of his fate.

Inside, I hear the song of the night. With the silence of the hour, the hum of the fridge creates silence itself. Neither comfort nor pain, its low wavering rumble tells us of the way we are.

thumbnail (2)We are still. We are blank. We are nowhere. Is this the true darkness? Do I lie back and be submerged in its viscous numbness?

I think of the days ahead. There is little to break the soporific monotony of my daily performances. I imagine others. They too are alone, facing the weeks of endless tedium. Are they tied to their lowly castle? Does the outside world present them with the hardship and pain of striving for those precious instances of normality?

I can hear the sighs and profanities of frustration as the instruments of the routine fall to the floor. Knives, forks, tins and peelings deliberately block the movement of your busy hands.

Heartattack-PSA-messy-kitchenTasks once managed with energy and expedience are now resulting in a sea of bent broken, temper infused implements, lying defiantly around them. I don’t ask for sympathy or help.

Somewhere in there is the stifled laughter of irony.

sardonic I just want to know that darkness will lead to light. The pangs of uncertainty are chewing at my insides. Am I crossing that cruel rubicon into a life so dull, I forget how to smile? Each day leads to bigger crescendos of bitterness and guilt. But why is there guilt? I’m guilty for myself. I’m guilty that I became so concerned with the journey into disability and social ineptitude, that I have lost sight of beauty.

But wait:

It takes just one fleeting glimpse of a beautiful thing to snap me out of my darkness. I know that when the morning light floods into my rooms, there will be a sign of joy waiting to greet me. And it is not just me whose heart is lifted by the emergence of a single flower.

thumbnail (1)We all know that the modest yellow of the daffodil is Spring in its virgin form. After the gentle snowdrop and the rude variant richness of the crocus, the daffodil stands tall and proud. Whether alone, in small groups, perched neatly on parade, on the edge of garden beds or just sprawling out amongst the freshening green of urban embankments, the daffodil screams of hope and fulfillment.

By the time our spring pacemakers have led the way for the impending explosion of vibrant colour, the clocks will have sprung forward and we’ll all be seeing brighter evenings.thumbnail (3)

Life will change up a gear and we will begin to think and talk of doing things. They may be modest things but spring has the ability to expand our world. That is, I’ll go out more, I’ll think about day trips and even have the courage to plan a holiday or two.poolside-holiday-swimming-summer-sun_1203-5026

But I’m not going to dismiss the winter as something dark and evil. It gives me time to think. How many times in our working lives have we craved time to think?

“Give me a break.”

“Can I do one thing at a time?” 

“What did your last slave die of?”

Picture me, in a class of needy ten year olds trying to sort out a mortgage, a new kitchen or a new car whilst trying to emphasise the importance of using appropriate connectives.

stressed“Yes, I know it all anyway so why don’t you go off and learn them yourself while I ring up my solicitor about the rising damp?”

The little ones scuttle away in a state of disenchantment and sadness.

Imagine it?

Don’t even go there.

The fact is, in the darkness I think of the light; the light in children’s eyes, the rich glow of meeting friends and the burning satisfaction of my daughter’s avarice for reading and knowledge. When I started this article, I wanted to portray the gravity of some old Shakespearean bemoaning his decline into the luvvie pit of alcohol and old age. But I can’t even pretend.

189935-fullI love writing, the winter is a time for reflection and the pit of darkness is a trampoline from which I come shooting back up into the light.trampoline kid

Thank you for reading