A Life in Trees

A Life in Trees.

I am working on a new novel, or it may be a novella. This was a story I wrote in a dream. I don’t mean it was inspired by a dream, or derived from dream like events but fully written while asleep. Here is what happened (in the dream),

I am late for an important mathematics examination and on my frantic way I realise I have not even looked through the syllabus. I have missed every lesson and although I meant to get around to opening the textbook I never did. For a year or more it simply slipped my mind, so I wonder whether there is any point attempting what I shall certainly fail. As I get to the examination hall (remarkably like the remembered school hall) everybody is already hard at it, writing away.

Silence reigns.

The exam supervisor takes me to one side and whispers that because I am late everybody has already taken all the questions. Not just the question papers, but the questions themselves. This seems to offer a ray of hope. He says I have a choice between two remaining: They are

One. ‘The history of simultaneous quadratic equations’ or

Two  ‘Title Acer’. But I will have to remember them since he has no ‘papers’ left with them written down.

I choose the second and write a story entitled Acer. I write a detailed, fully fleshed out story; characters,plot, circumstances ( in a place I do not know and have never visited) and I complete the last line as the bell rings to stop.

‘You may now hand in your papers.’.

I hand in my story, leave the hall, and wake up.

The hero of my story
The hero(ine) of my story

I remembered every detail of the story I had written and just to show you the problems it presents I would classify it as a Fantasy- Romance, rose tinted with sci-fi dipped in tragedy, deep fried in fact, with garnish of world redemption. Its chief heroine and hero is a tree. Its anti-hero a master tailor with a hatred of the mess trees make in the Fall. It happens in Vermont.

As you can see I have not avoided the marketing nightmare or my curse of pioneering impossible books.

A while ago I came to a halt on writing this story. What seemed lucid, if not uplifting and amusing, in the dream sounded absurd in the telling. While stuck I examined what might have contributed to this driving story nobody will read? That led me to contemplate my relationships with trees.

Not one has ever been fickle, or betrayed or disappointed me. They have sustained me, guarded my back, fed my soul …( You see the hero given birth don’t you?)

So I thought I would give you the stages of my life with trees because they are individuals, personal lovers with whom I have had secret affairs. All because I was poor, and I mean starving poor for some of them.

The Loquat Tree.

Loquat Eriobotrya_japonica_(Syria)

In the baking blistering-under-a-tin-roof house on the borders of Bechuanaland  (Botswana) there was a single loquat tree, an umbrella of black, still leaves that wept against the ‘stoep’ of my grandparent’s house. A square, unadorned house that concentrated heat as though it was a bank vault securing an investment. I was three, alone for an eternity, and longed for water, a swimming pool, a reservoir, a puddle, anything to relieve the inescapable torpor of heat, heat and evermore relentless heat. Heat as punishment for a crime not yet committed; no parole.

Can we not have a swimming pool?

‘Yes dear, of course we can’ said my grandmother. She summoned the gardener and told him to dig a hole, a deep hole, under the loquat tree, tight against the house, in what could be found of shade. Through the loving arms of the loquat she threaded the hose and ran it into the hole in the ground, so deep I was invisible and there I spent all day, in knickers, making mud pies under the trickle of the hose.

For meals I climbed the tree ( too muddy to be welcome indoors) and with a tray on his head the cook was instructed to follow me, climbing the tree which was my ship, my look-out, my escape, my protector. I would not have known the names but I had my own bosun, and a galley that sent up food on order, and I never needed clothes. It was my first Eden. A single tree.

The Jackaranda


My next lover hung over the tennis courts of a school in Johannesburg. I was now seven and imprisoned in a dormitory with twelve year olds. They were in the secondary school and I was still in a primary and walked the half mile between them after breakfast. My very very best (and only) friend was a daygirl in the primary and she brought packed lunches. I was always starving and waited for her apple core, which she was generous to leave well clothed. Her family was pretty rich and apples were no great treat. I still remember the glory of an apple core. Somehow it was better than a whole apple.

After school closed at three I walked back to the senior school where everybody else was still at lessons, and climbed my second friend with its smooth welcoming arms and ate the core in the last and highest triple fork, two to sit upon and one to lean against. It was ‘my’ place and nobody knew about it. In summer I was hidden in a cloud of blue, and nobody was brave enough to follow because the drop below was probably thirty or forty feet. I left the seeds for the birds in a small hollow and that was my secret too. Everyday.

The Copper Beech

This was probably the love of my life, where the others were my playmates and flirtations. In a deciduous wood on a slope above a river, near a village I was beckoned by a deep shadow bowl. Below the smooth grey trunk a hollowed cave enfolded by roots, offered me a home where a dried-blood coloured rug was protected from the rain, and welcomed me at all hours, and often all night. The sky scarcely penetrated and no human ever trod near.

At that point my life was over and my tree embraced me: It rocked grief, incubated recovery, and turned its cheek if inwardly I railed. It doubted nothing, and offered no suggestions, just waited, and put its root arms round me and shared the philosophy of existence without asking anything in return; just was. Just understood. Just stayed silent and certain. Just.

No hero was ever more heroic, no lover more dependable, constant, enduring. My first book was called ‘Copper Sings the Beech’ and it was about losing everything, and finding freedom in nothing left to lose. Not even hope.

My hidden wood
My hidden wood

My Collection. Current Friends

When a man in a cloth cap gave us the hope of a home, and the possibility of a garden I read a marvellous book. Robin Lane Fox wrote a slim book with an unprepossessing title: Better Gardening. We now had a small field surrounded by a dry stone wall, trampled by cows, devoid of anything but nettles. I knew nothing of trees except why I loved them.

Every recommendation Lane-Fox offered came with a history, and every history gave the character a necessary part in the play of this garden. The romantic dinosaur tree assumed extinct and grown from seed by a Chinese botanist, the Metasequoia? Must have one of those. The fig that hid the asp that killed Cleopatra? You bet. The Liquid Amber that clung to summer longer than anyone? Absolutely.  The coral barked Acer that blazed forth in winter? Of course, but delicate, make that two. The field Maple that one day would make a violin or hang a swing? It could do both now but has to be content with a washing line.

And finally the birch, Betula jackmontii, with arms so white it throws light into every corner, is both prima ballerina and corps de ballet in a wind, and lights up every day from dawn to sunset. At dusk it is a lamp, throwing light across the lawn, and in winter its skeleton talks to the moon.Betula papyrifera

Do I have a garden? Maybe I just have trees.

That is probably why I dreamt a story and the hero is an Acer. Maybe the one on the terrace crept in at night, and entered my bed.  Actually I now realise it is just a Love Story. That’s what I will call it anyway.

Acer By KENPEI (KENPEI’s photo) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.1 jp (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/jp/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Loquat By Bangin (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Jackeranda By Pawan Tikku (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“Fagus sylvatica forest Rocherath Belgium” by Frank Vassen from Brussels, Belgium
– Beech forest, Rocherath, Eastern Belgium. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Betula https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brzoza_paierowa_Betula_papyrifera.jpg#/media

Pelted with Petals? Or Stoned to Death?

Pelted with Petals? Or Stoned to Death?

Stings and Arrow of Outrageous Fortune
Stings and Arrow of Outrageous Fortune

This may be the beginning of something. It is too soon to tell.

If you visit regularly you may have noticed a long silence. Truth is despair has bitten deep, not the summer despair that lifts hair, or dries the laundry, but the piercing knife of despondency. The mistake may lie in reading the paper, a habit resumed while waiting for the tricksy muse, who has taken itself off on a leave of absence, and is probably wind surfing off Marbella.

This morning there was death in Yemen with hospitals barren of remedy, Kurds against Kalashnikovs in Turkey; Putin on the Path of War and Ukraine begging for U52s. Refugees in Kos begging for kos ( food where I come from), or papers, or better both; Cameron was fiddling in Europe on consent to withhold benefits ( what ARE those exactly?) and a bearded Sandal tipped to win and make better friends with Hamas or Hezbollah in this land with that reputation for sanity!

Why would anybody write? Spitting against the wind just seems unintelligent. So I stopped.Then I did a bit of meditating and the muse sidled in and stuck out a tongue. So I wrote a poem. You can have it if you like…

Words- They Are the Poet’s Fault.

Those who blow word-winds
as easily as paring a pencil,
have never sucked the lead of life…

So they say.

If you had drunk the deep of grief
you would not cascade
a bright loquacious literature.

You would slide silent through pine in the night wood
whittling the matchstick moon
sliver shiver a slow-sleep dawn…

to ignite a blaze.

Had you loved and lost, longed, or watched skies burn,
had a mother bent with labour,
a child with legs thin as a crow’s cry

you would stay quiet, though your eyes would speak.

The currency of clever sounds
is the splashing of a weathered tap
where water is not harvested

in the cellar of the house best left.

To make explicit hangs a carcass for dismembering,
a cleaver phrase glistens,
tendons of a life extinguished hang in the air,

coagulate words drip to the floor’.

See? That’s about it for now.

I have also read a couple of restorative books that have nudged out despair and are claiming the right to be heard. Whispering. Maybe next time I’ll bequeath them to you?


St Sebastian [CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Rose By Melbelle (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Review of Go Set a Watchman- Harper Lee

An individual ‘take’ on ‘Go Set a Watchman’ and writing as an aid to growing up.

Go Set a Watchman- Harper Lee

Go set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth…

In the midst of the current and tempestuous outcry I intend to dive right in. I do not want to wait until the water grows placid and the angers are expended or turn, as they might, to a consensus of disappointment.

I will try to explain why I found the book mesmerising. For you to understand I need you to know where I come from, so that you can decide whether my opinions have any relevance for you. It may temper your judgement. I grew up in that most reviled racist country, South Africa, where my grandfather seemed a kind of Atticus Finch, only he nursed the ambition to undermine the justification for racism ( the image of Africans still immersed in innocent childhood, unready for the world) with his dogged dedication to African education. He was determined to make them ready. If you are interested I wrote about him earlier HERE.  He started at six in the morning and we never saw him except for meals.

I was at a school where our priest was Trevor Huddleston, the man who was remembered by Mandela for raising his hat to a black woman, cleaning on her knees. So my childhood was spent not unlike that of Scout. My heroes were those brave and determined to defy the prevalent racist attitudes. It did not stop them employing cooks and cleaners ( and getting cross with them) or inviting black Professors to dine. If you are colour-blind then other distinctions determine decisions and the company you keep.

I have lived with Mockingbird all my life, as the perfect novel integrating the personal with the political, the pinnacle of the moral absolute, as well as the most evocative account of my own childhood. My second mother Milly was Calpurnia, and Jem the brother I longed for.  One of my daughters is called Jem for that reason. So why am I not indignant that Watchman strips away that perfect Atticus and renders him mortal, complex, and ambivalent?

It is a different time and the time for me to grow up too. Along with this book. Black and white are no longer the absolutes they were. Once dilution happens grey is the new black, and the new white. I cannot say very much without introducing spoilers for the reader in the context of the book, except in general terms. Scout’s need to confront the shining knight of her now frail, but no less loving, a father is also my need to re-evaluate my own innocence. When you are imprisoned by prejudice and fighting to honour your own ‘Watchman’ things are kept simple; they have to be.

I don’t want to summarize the book, or quote what will distort surprise. It is a journey best not described.

I do not think Watchman as perfect a construction as Mockingbird, it is not an outer story of event, but an inner one towards the messy limits imposed by Scout’s outgrown needs of her father at just the point when what HE needs is her.

It is still rare to read deeply psychological novels that deal with the damage that can be done by children to their parents, or the recognition in a parent that only time will endow the qualities they hoped to impart, while time is running out.

I cannot help feeling that Harper Lee regains her own Watchman by this publication. I refuse to find significant all the conjectures surrounding its publication. Those will be forgotten and do not matter.

It must be difficult to write the most regaled novel of the century, to be richly rewarded financially without expressing your misgivings, your qualifying caveats, and do so by restoring both Atticus and Scout to humanity. ‘ Leave me be wontcha

I truly salute her courage, not to want to die before re-stating her independence and restoring the noble Atticus to pre-eminent and frail humanity by stripping away the image imposed upon him.

If the public is not adult enough to grow up but wants to retain only black and white and the simple lines of easy virtue they have not begun to understand either of the books, or this compassionate author. Yes there are the odd grammatical infelicities, and occasional clumsy constructions that a less respectful editor would have ironed out. Few books flow immaculate from the pen, for me, in this case, I applaud them. It means Harper Lee is still one of us. I feel rejuvenated by her small and unimportant faults.

That brings me to what will provide the next post: an examination of this injunction of what a writer owes their reader. This has become the new conformity. Behave as you are expected to behave, write what we expect to read.

It is  deadly, and it kills the desire to write at all. Books are gifts, not obligations, and words and ideas are dangerous. We must fight to keep them so. We owe readers nothing but the gift of ourselves. I have just remembered that, and Watchman’s influence may see me through, as Mockingbird once did.

My Calpurnia with Windy my dog
My Calpurnia with Windy my dog

Virtual and Sometime Friends ( Really Careless Talk!)

Reflections on the just deserts of the truly talented writer.

Virtual and Sometime Friends ( Really Careless Talk!)

I have taken a long silence in the past weeks. Many loose threads are now waving at me to be woven into some kind of order. Having briefed the court case and found the book judged ‘not guilty’ I was bereft of purpose. Bereft also of much conviction that anything else I could say would have the value that justified saying it.

Some of those threads. Casual Observations, all.

• Blogging.

Unlike cooking which presents the necessity at least once daily, there is no appetite for a blog that is reflective, philosophically reflective, or too argumentative, or too long. Guilty as charged m’lud. I have perhaps twelve faithful friends who read and comment, and some at extravagant length. That is most warming and I can answer at equal length and never write anything else. This might discourage others who prefer to mwah or contrive pithy aphorisms. I have never prompted virtual kisses, probably not cuddly enough. I have my ‘demanding’ books and odd ideas about life, of no compelling relevance to anyone.

I did start a blog in the hope my books would gain readers, and many of my verbal followers have read one or both- perhaps eight altogether, and given the nature of those books they know me rather well, already.

So how to blog without skills to share for no evident appetites?

Yet without those friends life would be lonely indeed. They have come to be important, each one, and I can track them on the ‘like-lineup’ of other blogs and give a brief wave to their familiar avatars.

Another thing ( and I would like to know if others find this). I have ‘used up’ ideas on blogs and it has prompted suggestions like ‘Turn the Court Case into a Stage play’. But the salad wilts. It has languished on the table of my blog and been mostly ignored. I cannot make anything with it but a sort of spinach soup. I would much rather shop anew, but since very few read it, that is tantamount to waste. I might do it in time when it has been rinsed under a cold tap of neglect.

• Virtual Friends

It occurs to me that on line friendship should never be assumed as having much in common with the stop-in-the-street, have-a-coffee sort. Blog posts are like a brief torch that catches a facet of reflection. We face one another like crystals briefly stilled because we catch the same light. Another facet fails, or catches another nodding head.

For me this is the strength of on-line friendship, we relate to what is important that we share and move along. Many feel that this is indicative of superficiality. I disagree. There is a great economy in acknowledgment (or disagreement). I think where ideas are in the mix it is intimate, and real but perhaps being intimate needs no pursuit, or much time. A firefly should be enough to light up the dark.

If one was to meet for coffee it might spoil everything. One would probably find that we shared only ideas but not tastes, or values, or the use of money. If I had to double the tip for the nice waitress,to save face for another’s neglect, even good ideas would no longer retain their sparkle. It would spoil it for me if someone I really valued for ideas turned out mean, or vulgar, or emotionally up-tight.

I am not saying I suspect my friends of any of those qualities ( they are all extraordinarily generous) but I cannot talk about cricket for long..or show much interest in hair colour. Kindness might demand both!

Grander now than then!
Grander now than then!


I am half way through ‘Go Set a Watchmen’ and now remember why it is I write (and maybe should stop!) I won’t spoil things before I review it (and won’t then) but what is encountered is Harper Lee, who would never need to blog or talk over coffee. She is in every line and between them. I am not venturing to comment on the book but the revelation of someone who took the context of her childhood world and wove Maycomb so discerningly that Maycomb is my backyard and all those citizens, with their idiosyncrasies the aunts I never had, the bus drivers I know to avoid, and the short cuts through the yards I know to take. Yet she never ventured far afield and still could see them with that Austen eye for minutiae that told the whole story.

That's better!
That’s better!

Oh Lord writing! It’s a bugger, it’s a bitch, and such a come hither seduction. Whatever is the opinion of the moral defenestration of Atticus Finch ( and I sense the way we could be headed, but may be rescued?) it has allayed the belief that Mockingbird was a one horse carriage and a kind of happy-catch-the-current-racial-tension fluke. She is a master of time without even bothering to signal what she assumes her readers will intuit. She flips into the past without even putting on shoes or a comb through her hair, and comes back full tilt through the doorway of the present. Scout always broke the rules, with a finger to her nose and thank God, with the-proper-way-to-write police, she did. She pays all of us the compliment of understanding her deeply and seeing a story through her eyes. All the way. No blog necessary!

Yes, I know what you are going to say.

Courthouse By TheHistoryPirate (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Featured Image By Jeff Reed (Altairisfar) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 us (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/us/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Oyez .Same Jury: Second Summary: Defense Closing Speech before the Verdict. Please pay attention.

The Trial of Involution. Final Defense Speech before the Verdict.

Counsel for the Defense. ( Closing Speech) 

The Jury by John Morgan.jpg
The Jury by John Morgan” by painted by John Morgan, uploaded to Wikipedia (en) by SwampyankThe Jury by John Morgan.jpg in Wikipedia (English). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

I thank my learned friend for making my speech to you much easier. His Reason, it would seem, is merely the surface of reliance upon traditional authority, Professors with a vested interest in suppression ( like Alister Hardy and Professor Anon) are unwilling to consider an author untainted by their own influence and running free. Rein her in, is the essence of it.

He fails to mention those, like Konrad Lorenz and Arthur Koestler, who supported the scientific hypothesis ab initio, (and who were dismissed by these later and more arrogant witnesses) or those encountering the Author, like Canon Milford,whose enquiry was both modest and thoughtful and informed by their own long deliberations on parallel ideas in Teilhard de Chardin. Clearly so called Reason has tipping points of view. Yet you are called upon to put full weight upon it!

But I am not going to argue with Reason. Unlike the author who does that throughout the book through the voice of Soul, I am well aware that, in any challenging encounter with reason, only reason itself is re-enforced, but not truth. This book was written to undermine the strength of Reason, so why would I assist Reason to regain the throne?

What I appeal to is something different entirely: Instinct.

Instinct and your own psychological experiences of life and relationships.These are the questions I would like you to ask yourselves.

This book has come to trial with the consent of the Author. Why would an author consent to the potential destruction of a book she has spent a lifetime researching and writing?

Why would she invite the testimony of those bent upon ridiculing it?

Why were the witnesses summoned to support it; the Rev TG; Arthur Koestler; Konrad Lorenz and Canon Milford struck not so much by the intellectual claims of the work, but the self critical and doubtful questions of the author. Is calling them here in public not further evidence of those qualities they all referred to?

Are those the qualities of fanaticism, self-aggrandizement or delusion? Is there any evidence that the book prevailed upon her better nature and distorted it?

Or is what she said— that she would like to hear an honest verdict by a disinterested Jury, exactly and precisely BECAUSE of self doubt? She believed she had something of value to offer. She spent the best part of a life acquiring the requisite vocabulary. Of course the indifference must occasion her to question…yes…even her own sanity!

The Author has little life left. Given that, her choices are simple. Give up pushing a weight up a hill like Sisyphus and let it slide inevitably into oblivion or, (and this is the importance of this Jury decision), be encouraged to continue looking for an occasional reader whose life might, just might, be changed by the work?

You may think that a verdict of guilty would relieve her of her burden. In one way you would be right, (for the years remaining). It would, however, be a relief paid for by laying waste a meaningless life already spent, seventy odd years. Think about that.

The book itself refers to many notable people who died before the value of their contribution was ever recognised. The author knew the risks in the very subject matter she chose. She must have been well prepared for both ignominy and anonymity.

Why then has she brought the book to trial?

Could it be that after all that it required, including accusations of insanity, and incarceration in a mental hospital that she still retains a small flame of belief in its merits?

Not for her, but for the world heading for hell at a gallop? Who else is it for? Now?There is no glory to be had from a belated limping existence.

My learned friend has urged you to rely on Reason. I now ask reason to submit to deeper reason, psychological truth. It does not accumulate, it ‘divines’. It sees the whole, not the parts.

The Author’s testimony referred to the very strength of being anonymous, with nothing to lose but her life, no reputation, no standing, just the time and discipline to make a difference.

The book may be superficially guilty of the charges brought against it, but only judged against the weighing of established precepts, those heavy weights forged by vested interest, jealousy, self-preservation. Or the books already successful? The approved ‘genres’ with Dewey numbers? Are those the weights by which weightless inspiration can be measured? Or finding a new continent across the ice-flow, consciousness not yet mapped?

This book may not reach many, but I urge you to give it the wings of your approval to let it try. Shelley it was who said ‘Poets and philosophers are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.’ For him that legislation was the battle against revolution and oppression.He saw no gulf between poetry and politics, this book likewise sees no gulf between poetry and hard science. That gulf only exists in other minds. Those intent upon its relegation.

There is, as we have surely seen, oppression in the barring of the unorthodox opinion by the institutions of science. We heard of her demolition by the Epiphany Philosophers in Cambridge. The book is full of such instances; its rosary is threaded (and shredded) on them.

Courtroom Drawing Beineke Library Wikimedia Commons

Poetry and philosophy’s legislation is engraved upon freedom, the freedom to be susceptible to the muscle of metaphor, to engage emotionally but that does not imply irrationally. Rationality has not proved adequate or even sufficient a guide, as the world about us amply shows.

To quote Adrienne Rich* But when poetry lays its hand on our shoulder we are, to an almost physical degree, touched and moved. The imagination’s roads open before us, giving the lie to that brute dictum, “There is no alternative”.

This poetic history of Western thought might just ease a few into an alternative road, a new comprehension of how we arrived at the dominance of rationality and materialism, and why we are so embedded in the suck of its safety. Like a quagmire it seems to support our weight while we inexorably slowly sink.

Involution-An Odyssey does not destroy the material world, merely reveals its porous and transient nature, one that makes it permeable to thought. That alone is worth a punt, wouldn’t you say? A new kind of creative thought is hardly an invitation to extremism!

There is always that in poetry which will not be grasped, which cannot be described, which survives our ardent attention, our critical theories, our late-night arguments…’

So do not rely upon the dismissal of Professor Anon who said he could not grasp this work.  Grasping a butterfly invariably kills it.

Let your deliberations rest upon instinct instead, and watch it fly.

I invite you to dismiss all charges and find the book ‘Not Guilty’.

Judge. I urge the Jury to take time to consider these closing statements, and return, when you are ready, to deliver your verdict in the boxes provided.

All Rise.

Court in Session
Court in Session

* the distinguished medallist for her contribution to American Letters (an article in the Guardian)

Oyez Oyez…Last call for the Jury in the Trial of Involution. Closing Arguments: 1 Prosecution

The closing arguments in the trial of Involution. Jury called.

Court in Session
Court in Session

All Rise

Counsel for the Prosecution.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury. You have enjoyed a prolonged recess since the last witness in which to read the book on trial. Before I urge your verdict I must remind you that readers have varied reactions to books. You are not required to assess whether it is a good or bad book but whether it merited forty five years of dominating the author and whether anyone else should give it comparative importance. It is a singular work, unable to be evaluated against others. In that sense you are called upon to judge its adventurous masquerade and its claim to authenticity. Just because it looks like a book, and quacks like a book, is it, in fact, a book? Is it fiction or non fiction? Poetry or science? One book or two? Science or art?

Where would a librarian shelve it? Under Philosophy? Literature? History? New Age? Evolution? While she is making up her mind I suggest we persuade the author to cover (with nice brown velvet) the remaining copies of the doorstop Magnum opus as literally that. Doorstops. In two hundred years they will provide archaeologists with speculation. They were to ward off the evil eye? Contain the secret doctrine of the Gods? Clean boots? Enough; you get my drift…

With all that in mind  it is now my painful duty to persuade you to find it guilty of the charges against it. To refresh you may revisit the sessions from the beginning

The Jury by John Morgan.jpg
The Jury by John Morgan” by painted by John Morgan, uploaded to Wikipedia (en) by SwampyankThe Jury by John Morgan.jpg in Wikipedia (English). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Apart from brief reminders of the evidence against it, and the authority of the witnesses whose testimony you have heard, my appeal to you is the appeal of reason, against the sentiment you are likely to hear from my learned friend.

If you recall, the book itself relies upon one spokesman Reason, pitted against the whispering claims of Soul. Let’s just examine what that means, and why I appeal to you to let Reason guide your deliberations.

Look at the world we live in! The irrational, so called extremes of religious fanaticism are taking us to the brink of destruction. I am not suggesting this book contributes directly to that irrationality; what I am suggesting is the seeds of danger that any reliance on sentiment carries with it.

This work is an appeal to permit, no, to give prominence to the universal longing for love, and in doing so it relegates the slow and substantial achievements of reason by supplanting them with a suggestion that they THEMSELVES were guided by the irrational: the dreams, the incoherence of inspiration by genius; genius in love with ideas, or contemplation. As though the methodical painstaking history of science can be dissolved simply in the fizzy water of a new hypothesis!

While I do not deny the role of inspiration in forging great leaps of understanding what has to be achieved—and this is THE ESSENTIAL POINT—is the anchoring of inspiration to a language understood by the mass of mankind. It is the interpretation of inspiration that is the measure of its value. Dreams are personal; expressing them forces the examination of their wider relevance.

Has this book succeeded in that?

It has signally failed to do so. You have heard Professor Hardy claim it is ‘unscientific’ and essentially ‘baloney’ ( his word), you have heard Professor Anon claim it ‘slips away from being grasped’. Even the sympathetic priest the Rev TG admitted it was turning ‘everything on its head’ ( Darwin upside down.) These men are the gatekeepers in the world of rational discourse. I urge you to give heed to their views.

I would go further and invite a wider consideration. Have any of you, before this Trial encountered this Book? Heard about it? Read a review? If not, why is that? You would think the media might have run with ‘Old Woman has Big Idea’. Why didn’t they? Okay the author may not look like Madonna or have Random House behind her but you would have expected some excitement, given what she proposes?

Is it because the opinion of the world of potential readers have better things to do than struggle with something calling itself ‘symphonic prose’ to put forward an alternative THEORY OF EVERYTHING written by a NOBODY? If it was half as important to the market of ideas as it has been to the diligent author, we should have heard of it.

However sympathetic you may feel about the struggles of the Author, dominated by a deluded sense of mission I ask you to set that aside in evaluating the merits of a book seeking not merely paper to print it, trees to die in its cause, but vying for attention.

There are rational, logical, graspable books written by rational men, and yes, some of them echo elements contained within this work. If you want poetry read Dante or Milton, if you want science read Dawkins, if you want speculation read Ervin Laszlo. So let us remove this book of confusing baloney from the shelves and let those rational alternatives be more easily found. Do not mistake the few scintillating reviews by ordinary readers, thirsty for a belief in the irrational, or longing to perceive that Western Science has betrayed its promises, deflect the argument.

One of those said ‘It just feels right…’ Well, I am sure that the man who took a hammer to his mother-in-law would say exactly the same. In fact it probably felt the only thing to do at the time.

This is a test case about a market flooded with books. What we are here addressing is whether the time has come to evaluate books claiming importance that threaten the solid achievements of academic prowess, with suggestions of dubious merit, a pot-pourri, an aromatherapy, as valueless as fantasy. If you want fantasy read Harry Potter or Terry Pratchett. They do not call themselves science and are much more diverting.

It is easy at a time of crisis to suggest almost any hair-brained alternative and get away with it!

I am asking you to throw out the solid anchor of Reason and find this work guilty of all charges against it, a deluded and scientifically unproven hypothesis about the encoding of memory; inappropriate language; ill judged timing, and certainly the last, an inhumane indifference to the consequences to the author of single-handedly taking on the wall of scientific opposition and total indifference.

Her arguments may look ingenious, her scientific facts seemingly persuasive, but nobody can say anything about her qualifications for such facts or arguments. That is why we have institutions to impart rigour and peer reviews to examine that rigour. This author has not been refined in such fires of analysis. Even she is not sure, or she would not be here!

Exonerate her and you will condemn others with delusions of importance to lives spent in fruitless pursuit.

Any other verdict would simply encourage the benighted author to continue, and give encouragement to others to do likewise. You heard the author appearing as a hostile witness in this case. Why was that? Because she was as anxious as I am in seeing the book set aside and being relieved of its burden of obligation.

I urge you all to be prepared to be unpopular and find the book guilty. Such a verdict would be an act of courage. Thank you.

Jury box cropped.jpg
Jury box cropped” by Ken Lund from Reno, NV, USA – Cropped from the original, Pershing County Courthouse Jury Box. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

.Judge. We will take a short adjournment before the Defense Counsel’s closing speech. Please return at the same time tomorrow.

All Rise

Court in Session
Court in Session

* the distinguished medallist for her contribution to American Letters ( 2006)


A refreshment in the cold clear air , while we wait for convoluted argument. As always Sivan finds another gem, no a full polished Opel with a thousand changing colours!

The As It Ought to Be Archive

10259779_10152027363561933_7567284404520260511_n copy

By Patty Paine

Go back to that stream, touch
your lips to the cold, clear quivering,
draw into yourself a time when it was simple
as this to be quenched, to draw in what was
needed. Walk back over the dewed grass
of your past, past the water tower you filled
with dark imaginings, feel
the air crisp & clean on your skin, call
this hope, and carry it
to these moments when a photograph
can send you spiraling, your husband
now six months gone, waiting at the bottom
of an escalator in some airport
or another, everyone hurrying to be somewhere
else, except for this one man, waiting
for you to descend. How a face can be
indelible, yet fade so quickly, is an alchemy
best left unknowable. Hold that sting
of hope, and call out
the name of one who ministered
to you, over & over, until…

View original post 382 more words

Interview with Jane Davis. Featured Guest on Virtual Book Club

Interview with Jane Davis. Featured Guest on Virtual Book Club.

A really challenging interview to dissect out a life of writing, and what contributed.

Verdict imminent! The final evidence in the Trial of Involution-Odyssey.

The insane fool a lot of people ,they do!

The Last Word- A Mental Hospital Attendant Contributes Telling Evidence. (Follows previous session) All rise.

Court in Session
Court in Session

Judge (to Jury) This will be the final day of hearing evidence for all the charges brought against the Book Involution-An Odyssey.

Prosecution Counsel: I call the final prosecution witness Mrs Danvers. Mrs Danvers you were Matron at Sheerstoke Hospital when the Author was admitted were you not?


(Getting close to insane, this trial. Still, more interesting! Court Reporter)

DANVERS Not Matron, no. They was no matrons then. I was Ward Sister, and good at me job , though I say it meself…

PROS  Can you tell the Court the nature of Sheerstoke Hospital?

DANVERS. Not much to tell. It was for the terminally insane, them as was no hope for. We just kept them safe from theirselves, drugs and…other things. I was good at it because I never judged them, never. They was life’s unfortunates…

PROS. Do you remember when the Author was admitted? How did that come about?

DANVERS. I wasn’t on duty when she come in. It was the middle of the night. She was admitted on a Police Order. By the time I came on duty she was already in a security cell, and chained to the bed…

Caught and Bound
Caught and Bound

PROS Before we get on to the sordid detail, can you clarify for the Court the nature of a Police Order?

DANVERS It meant there was no way out, or not for long. Them on Police Orders have to be returned wherever they run to, there’s nothing like bail for them is thought a danger to theirselves, or others…

Judge. To Counsel. Would you both approach the Bench. To Prosecution Barrister. Can you clarify the reasons for calling this witness who is clearly unable to offer any opinion on the merits of the Book on trial?

PROS M’lud. The Book is accused of a callous disregard of the Author in pursuit of its single minded self-importance. This woman is a critical witness to that degrading consequence.

Judge  Who was responsible for taking out a police order to commit her?

PROS  It was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons who summoned the police. Judge  For what circumstance had he encountered her?

PROS. She had appealed to him for help. They had had previous correspondence.

Judge Why was he not called as a witness instead?

PROS He refused to appear. This was the best I could do to expose the callousness of the Book. The agents seem to me irrelevant.

Judge ( to Defence)  Do you have any objection to this witness?

DEF None whatever. Bring it on.

PROS  Mrs Danvers. Can you clarify why the Author was chained up?

DANVERS She tried to run away see, even got as far as the porter’s lodge afore they brought er back, struggling like a ferret in a sac. Even escaped from a locked cell. Had no choice see…?

Goya Laughing women246px-Mujeres_riendo
Goya Black Paintings. Mujeres riendo

PROS. From your experience was escaping a common event?

DANVERS. Not common, no. Most are very sedated, and some, the catatonics, just sit and mope lookin at their feet, don’t they? This one was different, a right obstinate kipper, thin as a whip but strong as they come…Had to chain er up…

PROS  What was your opinion of her condition?

DANVERS Mad as the rest. Just a bit original an’all. She kep on whirling round or dancing like she had invented Spring; and when we let her out into the open ward she just lay under the bed with the covers all down, so we couldn’t get at her…

PROS  Why was that, do you think?

DANVERS Don’t need to think. She refused to take any drugs. Pills never had any effect, even when we made er swallow in front of us, she’d go and spit them out, and injections? Well, whenever I was going to stick in a syringe she just rolled over. Number of needles I wasted! That’s why we had to think of different clinical options.

PROS A hopeless case, would be your opinion?

DANVERS Worse than hopeless, a roight pain-in-the-backside, ‘scuse me French.

PROS Did you know she had written a book before being admitted? DANVERS A book? Never! She couldn’t stop long enough for a simple conversation, not even a how’s yer father. Must have got that all wrong. Never a book!

PROS  No further questions.

Counsel for the Defence/ Mrs Danvers have you ever read a book?

DANVERS Me? Who’s got time for books? Maybe when I retire I could try a book, rather take up crochet or go to the Bingo…

DEF  Did the patient have any visitors?

DANVERS. Twiggy? Never. None of them had visitors. Nobody wants to know people in that ward. The forgotten-and-good-riddance lot we called them. But now you mention it she did get one phone call and I was a fool to let her take it…’

DEF You called her ‘Twiggy’ Why was that?

DANVERS Best to ignore who they think they are, give em all a nickname, saves remembering… and she was thin; it suited.

DEF Why were you a fool to let her talk on the phone?

DANVERS Well it gave her a hope of getting out. Somebody outside missed her. Never should have called her to the phone, but we get accused of keeping them prisoners so sometimes it’s better to…

DEF Who was it called her? Do you remember?

DANVERS I think it was the gentleman who was here last time. He and his wife came to get her out. Bad mistake. We had the operation all lined up for two days later.

DEF What operation?

DANVERS They reckoned shock treatment wouldn’t have any effect because she wasn’t depressed, so they was planning a lobotomy, not both sides, I think, just the one. Anyway she managed to get herself discharged, sly you see…must have got wind…

DEF How did she manage to be sly, as you called it?

DANVERS Well she wrote to a psychiatrist she must have known of, and he came to talk to her and then he authorised her to be discharged.

DEF So she could write and post a letter? What followed?

DANVERS  She gave him some names and he said these people could come and fetch her. The couple said they would look after her. Nearly as mad as she was…

DEF How so? Mad?

DANVERS Well maybe not mad but certainly reckless. They listened to the psychiatrist and nodded and said yes a lot, and then the wife hands out the car keys and, this is not a word of a lie, they asked her to drive them home! Like they thought she was normal! I saw her setting off at the wheel, and I thought, that’s going to be three casualties within the hour…Morris_Traveller_(2050242604)

DEF But as we heard last time they all survived. Was she ever returned?

DANVERS Not that I heard.

DEF That fact does not occasion a change of mind about your diagnosis?

DANVERS. If you knew what I do you wouldn’t even ask! You would not believe how clever the insane are, fool a lot of people they do.

DEF I suppose it’s difficult to distinguish the really clever when they are camouflaged in the middle of so many clever catatonics. No further questions.

Judge (To Jury) This concludes the evidence. We will hear the closing speeches from both Prosecution and Defense in due course. I would ask that you retire to consider what you have heard. This witness has certainly added weight to the charge upon the book of a callous disregard to the Author’s welfare.

You heard the plea in relation to this charge: (That this book, Odyssey, was not present when these distressing events occurred). That may indeed be the case, however the skeletal structure of an earlier draft had already been written and it could be argued that this treatment simply added to the Author’s determination to re-write it. After all, stripped of even the assumption of sanity, there is not much left to lose. If anything it adds further weight to the prosecution’s case.

On the other hand the Defence is likely to argue that being committed to a mental hospital by a man who is unwilling to give evidence, to defend his responsibility calls into question the safety of any diagnosis, particularly as the Author managed her discharge without help, and without any medication.

I would ask that you set aside the details of this harrowing incarceration and give attention only to the responsibility of the book as materially contributing to it. It is a moot point, but the Author has repeatedly stated that the Book Wrote Her Life, and given that assertion we must consider elements of that life which included a narrow escape from a lobotomy by being timely and devious!

Balancing Act
Balancing Act

All rise. All images Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons A Circus Queen, timely Absurdity- Francisco Goya  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Francisco_de_Goya_y_Lucientes Bedlam  Chained to Bed This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom. Walls of Bedlam This file comes from Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation based in the United Kingdom.

‘Lady Chatterley Witness’ Appears for Involution-Odyssey

All Rise.

Court in Session
Court in Session

Judge to Jury   We will now continue the case for the Defense on  the  third Charge: That the book Involution-Odyssey persuaded the Author to adopt inappropriate language- something that masquerades as ‘symphonic prose’ and at an inappropriate time.

Bear in mind that even the BBC now operates by Twitter and Soundbite. This Homeric epic must be judged against that prevailing climate.

Counsel for the Defense. I now call Canon Richard Milford to take the witness box. Canon Milford you have appeared as a witness in similar circumstances before. Could you clarify that for the Court?

(An aristocratic old tweed- very frail, it’ll blow him over- gentle man. Court Reporter)

RM Well yes, although I would prefer to forget it. I was a witness for the defense of  Penguin Publishers in the trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Lady Chatterley's Lover

DEF Counsel  Why did they ask you?

RM Well I had just been appointed as Master of the Temple and I supposed they thought my august position would speak louder than ever I could.

DEF Master of the Temple sounds Masonic. Is it?

RM  Quite the opposite. Far from secret. It is a Royal Appointment that came with a charming house in central London and very few duties except to eat dinners and take a few services in the famous church of the Knights Templars. A figure head that still vaguely connects the Law to the Church, historically, but the modern  Benchers, the senior barristers, would prefer to forget that. They have managed to sever Law from morality. It was a retirement sinecure that I hoped to enjoy; being left alone to study and play chess.

Master's House
Master’s House from Inner Temple Courtyard.

DEF Why did you agree to appear for the defence of Lady Chatterley. Presumably you supported the book?

(Hardly one of the world’s shakers CR)

RM I read it, at the publisher’s request, for the first time, and could see nothing wrong in publishing what essentially is a book about love. Love ennobling sex, as I saw it.

DEF So not one to corrupt the servant classes?That was an allegation wasn’t it?…

RM If they could read it, probably not, but I have never had servants since my nanny departed when I was seven, so I would not know.

DEF Canon Milford you were an incumbent priest at St Mary’s Oxford, the Founder of Oxfam, the Chancellor of Lincoln. What made you expose yourself, if you will forgive the expression, for a highly public trial of a questionable book?

RM Frankly I did not anticipate the consequences. I thought it was a moral question being examined. I simply lent a little weight to the argument for creative freedom. I learned a lot from it. We really were an imprisoned generation. The crippled husband in a wheelchair summed us up. I considered it both brave and poetical, necessary for the time. It banished the fetters of Puritanism, to liberate sex as something joyous. It has now been cheapened, of course…

DEF What were the consequences that you say you regretted?

Temple Hall for Dinner with the Templars
Temple Hall for Dinner with the Templars

RM I was blackballed by the Benchers. After that I ate my dinners off a tray in my charming living room. My poor wife had hoped to be released from cookery, (not her forte- she preferred T’ai Ch’i), instead she had not only to cook but to ferry trays. It was a small kitchen designed for a bachelor with a housekeeper who made tea.

DEF Blackballed why?

RM Rigid protocol really. It was not considered proper, as a member of the Temple, to participate in a show trial that might change the Law. Setting precedents was as reprehensible as appearing in court without a wig, or in church without a surplice, but I did not realise that. I read a book, defended its right to exist, and the sky fell on my head.


DEF Well let’s hope this book will treat you more kindly. Please give us your view of this new edition of Involution?

RM Like Lady Chatterley it is equally a necessary new vision for our time. Unlike sex it won’t have the same appeal…God is for Sundays, and rituals, not daily bread and butter.

DEF What does this book require us to banish?

RM  The outdated views of both God (as an external ‘mover’) and the natural world (as also external to us ). There is only consciousness, or God. Tough but there He is. I believe it a valuable contribution to the approach began by Teilhard de Chardin, the perception of the incremental spiritualisation that underpins evolution, what he called Christogenesis…

DEF Which means what?

RM The increasing unity of creation, and particularly in its convergence to Man of a consciousness of all participating in the collective cosmogenesis-the evolution of the Cosmos. I find that a great comfort in reconciling the gulf between science and my own theological belief, it renders the spiritual both magical and rational. Nothing divides us from the world about us, once you understand that.

(Good point. He is quite sharp for all the etiolated frame and thick glasses CR)

DEF  You support this poetic prose language to express that? That scientific view?

RM I suspect it is the only language worth attempting since science will not take this Author seriously anyway. She seems to have found a new way of expressing a very old  and universal understanding, just as de Chardin did.

DEF  We have heard the charge of inappropriate authorship and the book was cleared. So writing poetically addresses another readership?

RM I believe it might. Not many, but some will understand it, if they are ready to…It is not difficult.

DEF So it does not trouble you that the Author has been lassoed by a book for which there will be few readers?

RM That has been true of many. I don’t believe she expected otherwise. To be ignored, or even shunned, is not a crime. You might as well suggest that everyone who fails should never have tried.

DEF No further questions.

PROsecution Counsel. Canon, you befriended the Author over many years. Don’t you think you should have made that clear?

RM I was not asked the question but it is not material to my opinion. Had I thought the Book of no value I would have been the first to spare her both the effort of writing it, and the vilification from the heartless world of academia. That I am more than familiar with; it is brutal.

(Knows whereof he speaks -an otherworldly fellow who started Oxfam! and walked smack into the strong arm of the Law! CR)

PRO What attracted you to the Author and her book?

RM (silent)

PRO Will you answer the question?

RM I will but I doubt you will understand the answer. You are bound to misinterpret. I had spent close to sixty years looking for belief, real belief. I have read widely from the theological convictions of others, but they never reached the core to afford me any kind of peace. I have preached about love, and not practised it enough. I have never been blessed with religious fervour, much as I might have wanted it. When the person you call the Author blew into our lives, barefooted usually, destitute, yet full of joy I knew it could only be because she had found what I had been searching for. She was infectious. I was infected, perhaps at second hand, but undeniably. Not something a court would understand. It wasn’t her theory, although it was interesting as a means of conveying her experience, and something to hold on to, it was simpler than that, simply an irrepressible joy, and a great deal of humour…I loved her. As did my wife…The language of the book is the language of joy, admixed with enough factual logic to make it comprehensible to those whom Joy had eluded…

PROS  Yet it was you who recommended her visit to the Inquisition at Cambridge? You were happy to risk her innocent joy to that destruction.

RM I hoped they might be both kinder and more interested. It was an error of hope over experience. I try and believe declarations sincere…they claimed an interest which proved untrue. But she also understood that, and could forgive it. She was a good mimic and gave a great performance of her reception…

PROS You did not, perchance, hope they would kill it off?

RM I did not. The Author was truly impoverished, living in our modest caravan through the winter, without her children, and I hoped…

PROS That someone would take her off your hands? She and her obsessive Joy!

RM How base a suggestion! No, if she was weighted with anything it was the belief that she had to impart a critical new vision before the materialist viewpoint did any further damage. I wanted to help in any way I could. Contrary to your suggestion, we thoroughly enjoyed her company, my wife had it through the days of sewing and searching for a place for her to live, and I had her in the evenings over the washing up, when we talked about her extraordinary experiences…and de Chardin…and played games finishing each other’s limericks. She taught me some biology, especially about the structure of DNA which she made fascinating; I taught her chess. She was not good on defensive play, good on the attack…

PROS  Extraordinary in what way?

RM  Well constant synchronicities, some almost worthy of calling mystical… They happened to us when she was about. That’s when I began to see the integration of thought and event, not as theory but a living reality. I am naturally sceptic, much too absorbed intellectually to notice such things but once I suspended disbelief they started happening all the time. The more I accepted her reality, the more it became ours…I found a renewed love for my wife, and indeed life itself. It was a wonderful period.

PROS Are you saying that her mere presence distorted time?

RM No, nothing so inflated, what it altered was my perception, and therefore influenced the unfolding of events; they became immediate,

PRO You can judge these? You have had similar encounters with the allegedly mystical?

RM No, unfortunately. I usually take my theology straight, not laced with visions and voices, but I have read enough of the mystics to recognize their qualities. I believed her entirely without pretension, or grandiose inflation. She is very straight forward. That above all is what convinced me that her book was based on genuine experiences, akin to de Chardin… He failed to find the following his work deserved, as she has. Luckily I am not sufficiently worldly wise to rely on the opinions of others. I form my own opinions from what calls to me…Her dedication in the face of extreme hardship was another reason I believed she had something valuable to convey.

PRO What has been the legacy of your relationship with her?

RM That s the first meaningful question you have asked. I came face to face with inhumanity, I leaned about the hypocrisy of academics who claim to seek truth, and the so called spiritual organisations who seek to suppress it. From her I leaned that I needed blinkers to carry on living, and ploughing a narrow furrow. It is not the book that should be on trial but the world itself. You are asking all the wrong questions.The book is on trial because it failed, but its failure was presumed before it was read. Neither it ,nor the Author fitted the mold. Who decided on that mold? The vacuous, conformist, correct-way-to-do-things… It should be the sardonic, contemptuous, self serving institutions…

Judge Thank you Canon. You may stand down…

RM On the contrary it is time to stand up…

Judge. Canon , if you continue I shall hold you in contempt of Court…

RM Don’t worry. I have taken contempt for myself. Save yourself the trouble.

(Wow! Who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him. Must interview him before the fire goes out. This will be worthy of a front page tonight…Yippee. CR)

The Temple Church-Inner Temple London
The Temple Church-Inner Temple London- the original round church visible at the far end.

Judge (to Jury) I direct you to ignore the outburst of the last witness. It is not relevant to your deliberations.

All rise

Barred and bolted. The Inns of Court- Temple gate.
Barred and bolted. The Inns of Court- Temple gate.

(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons Masters House By Herbert Railton (1857–1910)[1] [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (Masters House drawing) By Matt Brown (http://www.flickr.com/photos/londonmatt/4272503062) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons (inner Temple Hall) By Patrick Nielsen Hayden (http://www.flickr.com/photos/pnh/464206477) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons (Gate)

Court in Session
Court in Session

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