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Things for which I am grateful #365/365.


Some folks might think this is a bit of a cheat. I started with my kids and I’m going to finish with them. In my defence, I have two of the little rascals so I’m counting it as one post apiece.

There is nothing more precious to me on this Earth than my two daughters. Anyone who has children will know that something changes inside of you – chemically, biologically – and nothing else seems to matter.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to every parent, and true, the pesky varmints do get on your nerves a lot of the time. And yes, they bicker constantly. And they manage to talk in a stream of consciousness James Joyce would be proud of. But, when all’s said and done, they don’t outweigh all the adorable moments. I simply couldn’t live without them.

It’s been an epic year of blogging. Thank you for sticking by me and I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

Right, I’m going for a lie down.

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Here are my 365 things that I am grateful for:

1 My daughters

2 Water

3 Poetry

4 Baths

5-7 Notebooks, pens, pencils

8,9 Butterflies and moths

10, 11 Softball and baseball

12 Fresh coffee

13 Sound / masts

14 Indoor toilets

15 Stepping Hill Hospital

16 Birds of Paradise

17 Roget’s thesaurus

18 Mother Earth

19 Clingfilm dispenser

20, 21 Yorkshire pudding and onion gravy

22 Jorge Luis Borges

23 Classic cars

24 Curry

25 Tim Berners Lee

26 Charles Bukowski

27 Yorkshire

28 Shiraz

29 Food

30 Katell Keineg

31 Tao Te Ching

32 A roof over my head

33 Peat fires

34 Street art

35 Friends (as in – mates, not the T.V. show)

36 Wilfred Owen

37 The Penguin Café Orchestra

38 The fry-up

39 Wolves

40 W.B. Yeats

41, 42 Cherry blossom trees and haiku poetry

43 Bread

44 Boules

45 Maps

46 Refuse collectors

47 Candy Chang

48 Sparrows

49 The tomato

50 Studio Ghibli

51 Oliver Jeffers

52 Johannes Gutenberg

53 Tom Waites

54 The cello

55 Mothers’ day

56 The Phoenicians

57, 58 Bacon and brown sauce

59 Tulips

60 Fish and chips

61 Giselle

62 Airfix

63 Firefighters

64 Rain

65 Libraries

66 Raymond Carver

67 Toulouse-Lautrec

68 The Goldfinch

69 Wings of Desire

70 Silence

71 Elizabeth Barrett Browning

72-99 Ireland

100 Talking Heads

101 Sylvia Plath

102 Yorkshire Sculpture Park

103 My mum

104 Modigliani

105 Kurt Vonnegut

106-128 Electricity

129 The pop man

130-147 Comedians/comedy

148 Commando magazine

149 Pastry

150-156 Social media

157 David Bowie

158 Football

159 D-Day

160-194 France

195-230 Novels

231 Graphic Design

232 Viva! Roxy Music

233 – 274 Art

275 Betty Blue

276 Writing

277 Joy Division

278 – 287 Scotland

288 – 324 Italy

325 – 352 Photography

353 Leeds Utd

354 Love

355 Universe

356 Advertising

357 Pan’s Labyrinth

358 – 363 Democracy

364 Miscellaneous

365 My daughters II

If anyone wants to read any of the previous posts simply type the title into the search box on the right. (It’s underneath the ‘topic’ cloud.)

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Things I am grateful for #22 of 365.


I know I’ve already made a grateful post about poetry. But it was always my intention to single out a few poets for individual gratitude. My first, is Jorge Luis Borges, (24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986). He was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator who was born in Buenos Aires. His work embraces the “character of unreality in all literature”. His most famous books, Ficciones (1944) and The Aleph (1949), “are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes such as dreams, labyrinths, libraries, mirrors, animals, fictional writers, philosophy, religion and God.”

Below is not just one of my favourite poems by Borges, but of all time.

Jorge Luis Borges

The Causes.

By Jorge Luis Borges.

The sunsets and the generations
The days and none was first.
The freshness of water in Adam’s
Throat. Orderly paradise.
The eye deciphering the darkness.
The love of wolves at dawn.
The word. The hexameter. The mirror.
The Tower of Babel and pride.
The moon which the Chaldeans gazed at.
The uncountable sands of the Ganges.
Chuang Tzu and the butterfly that dreams him.
The golden apples on the islands.
The steps in the wandering labyrinth.
Penelope’s infinite tapestry.
The circular time of the Stoics.
The coin in the mouth of the dead man.
The sword’s weight on the scale.
Each drop of water in the water clock.
The eagles, the memorable days, the legions.
Caesar on the morning of Pharsalus.
The shadow of crosses over the earth.
The chess and algebra of the Persians.
The footprints of long migration.
The sword’s conquest of kingdom’s.
The relentless compass. The open sea.
The clock echoing in the memory.
The king executed by the axe.
The incalculable dust that was armies.
The voice of the nightingale in Denmark.
The calligrapher’s meticulous line.
The suicide’s face in the mirror.
The gambler’s card. Greedy gold.
The forms of a cloud in the desert.
Every arabesque in the kaleidoscope.
Each regret and each tear.
All those things were made perfectly clear
So our hands could meet.

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Things I am grateful for #19


Bit of a cheat this one as I posted it a couple of years ago. But it’s still on my list of things to be grateful for.

Baco Clingfilm Dispenser.

I don’t know about you, but I’m rubbish at DIY.

I once bought a TV cabinet from IKEA and on the instructions it said assembly time: 45mins.

Five and a half hours later, I was in floods of tears and reaching for the paracetomol and a bottle of vodka.

Even less complicated tasks such as wrapping a packet of boiled ham up in clingfilm, to me, are more daunting than working out the puzzles on the Krypton Factor. (Younger readers might have to Google that.)

It’s hard enough trying to peel back the plastic on the boiled ham in the first place, without then having to perform microsurgery on a roll of plastic thinner than a layer of your own skin.

In the past, it usually resulted in the opened packet of ham lurking at the back of the fridge with curled up brown edges or having to eat the entire packet in one sitting.

Now that I have younglings, the frequency by which I have to preserve a multitude of fresh foods has increased dramatically. Whether it be a half eaten mango, half a wedge of cheddar or my own stash of pork and onion paté, it doesn’t matter. The fact is, I have to face my nemesis on a daily basis.

Then, suddenly…

Cue: A chorus of Angels heralding from on high.

…there came Baco.

A clingfilm dispenser from the gods.

Simply put your [insert food item here] on your kitchen work surface.

Place the Baco clingfilm dispenser next to said food item.

Pull the clingfilm out of the dispenser until you reckon you have enough to safely secure your food’s freshness. (This bit isn’t an exact science, but if your clingfilm looks like a handky on an elephant’s backside then I suggest you air on the side of caution until you get the hang of it.)

Close the lid of the Baco clingfilm dispenser to slice off the required amount of clingfilm and Hey Presto! Simply fold it around your precious bounty.

Job done.

No tears.

No reams of wasted clingfilm.

No mummified fingers.

No divorce proceedings. Well, not for curled up boiled ham, anyway.

What is it they say about necessity being the mother of all invention?

(Though, I do miss eating a whole packet of boiled ham in one sitting.)

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Things I am grateful for #17


Roget’s Thesaurus.

0c33b964dae409bc329b717bf042b3e1If you’re as inarticulate as I am, a copy of Roget’s Thesaurus is an invaluable companion for any writer.

If you’re unfamiliar with it, the thesaurus is a list of synonyms and antonyms. Which, for you and me, is a list of alternative words.

I don’t tend to use it when I’m writing a first draft as it would interrupt my stream of consciousness. I do use it, however, when I’m rereading and redrafting. It’s only then that I notice how repetitious my writing is. After all, there are only so many times one can use the word: fuckwit.

For example, a sneaky peek in my thesaurus would reveal to me that I could also use these delightful synonyms as alternatives: idiot, fool, jerk, moron, nitwit, bonehead, blockhead, cretin, ignoramus, imbecile, nincompoop, etc.

So, if I write, George Osborne* is an indefatigable ignoramus. It makes me sound much cleverer than, George Osborne is a fuckwit.

So, thanks for that, Mr. Roget. Appreciate it.

*George Osborne is the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer. Which means – he runs the Treasury.

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Things I am grateful for #16


Birds of Paradise.

Or, Strelitzia, to give them their botanical name.

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They are native to South Africa and got their name from their resemblance to the actual Bird of Paradise.

Apart from being so beautiful and surreal, they are an incredible feat of nature-engineering.

What’s really clever about them is that when Sunbirds perch on the spathe, (that’s the sheath that looks like the beak), the weight of the bird triggers it to open and deposits pollen on the bird’s feet. So when it flies to another flower… well, you get the gist.

How cool is Mother Nature?

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Things I am grateful for #14


An indoor lavvie.

Or, privy.

Call them what you will, but it wasn’t that long ago that a fair few working-class homes in northern England had outdoor loos.

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I remember going to visit my Great Aunty Ethel in Batley in the late sixties and she had an outdoor loo not dissimilar to this one.

They were cold. They were damp. They were dirty. They didn’t have a light bulb. And, they had spiders.

I’ve grown up in an era where going to the loo indoors in the comfort of your home home is taken for granted.

But let’s face it, a lot of people around the world don’t have this luxury.

So, for that, I am truly grateful. Which is more than can be said for anyone that’s shared a house with me.

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Things I am grateful for #8 & 9


Butterflies and Moths.

Moths get a bit of a bad rap for gnashing their way through our clothes and being so dull. But they are only dull in this country. Presumably, to blend in with their environment. Go abroad and moths are a different proposition altogether. Take a look at this Comet Moth native to Madagascar.

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The easiest way to tell a moth from a butterfly is by their wings. Moths lay them flat on their backs. Whilst a butterfly’s wings are folded back vertically in the air. This is a Glasswing Butterfly from Central America.

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Apart from their obvious beauty, I think one of the reasons I am so fond of the wee beasties is the metamorphosis they have to go through to achieve this extraordinary transformation. I think it is a good metaphor for life.

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This ‘little’ beaut is called The Cairns Birdwing and, as you might well imagine, is native to Australia.

While I was sitting outside a café in Nice one summer, I was visited by a Purple Emperor butterfly. It just floated down and landed on my shoulder. Now, I’m sure a lepidopterist could tell me the exact scientific reason for this visitation but, to me, it was nothing short of a miracle.

Slowly, I turned my head to face it. Trying to control my breathing so I wouldn’t frighten it away. Its antennae probed the air between us as it seemed to be regarding me as much as I was regarding it.

I’m not sure how long it stayed. But long enough to inspire me to begin writing a novel called The Music of Butterflies. (Which is still unfinished.)

So, to that little butterfly, and all the others that brighten up our world – I am grateful for your presence.

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Addendum.

Here’s a stunning piece of prose written by my friend, and fellow writer, Shane Holohan. It encapsulates perfectly the process of metamorphosis.

Leaving

By Shane Holohan

Bright white silk in the morning sun, crisscrossed her view, and beyond the thin threads the translucent green reduced, ’til the thick white frame became the picture. Fear filled the closed space. She willed her limbs to tear her free, but they were not listening. Inside she screamed, while outside she busied herself with her own incarceration. He alone felt her pain, and it hurt him to know it could not be otherwise.

He watched as fear became sadness, as sadness became stillness, as stillness became sleep, as sleep slowed heart and stilled breath. But this was no ordinary sleep. They were close now, more one than they’d ever been as their trajectories intersected. His body in hers, still. Her’s round his, silent. Her breath fading then returning in stuttering gasps, and still he waited. He did not know how he would know, just that he would. That when her final breath came, it would be his.

One by one the small things in her let go. Blood slowed to a trickle. Hierarchically her brain functions stopped: movement long gone, emotion soon after, thoughts, dreams, urges without names moved out of the neurons and ganglia that had been their home throughout her long life. Control of even the simplest functions stopped, her heart beat but only because it always had, and her breath swung back and forth only because back led to forth led to back led to forth led to back led to forth, ’til finally, the last tiniest wisp of breath slid almost imperceptibly from her.

He sucked it in, desperately, deeply, his lungs delighting at their first taste of life. The idea of him had preceded him, as had the will in that idea, for without the will the idea had no way to drag itself into this world. And drag it did. Now that it had lungs and heart, and eyes and limbs, the idea of him, the will of him, the shape of him dragged themselves out of the shattered remains of her existence.

Free from her at last, but still caged. The soft walls of his prison beaded with her condensed breath. He smelt her, tasted her and felt her fear. His powerful mandibles attacked the tough silk. Within minutes he had his first glimpse, with his own eyes, of what lay beyond. Greens were greener than he’d ever imagined, and everywhere was damp, glistening, sparkling. High above he caught a glimpse of the bright sky. And it was not just his eyes that were assaulted, the air that now blew through the birth-crypt was awash with smells. So many he couldn’t disentangle them. They assaulted, intoxicated and demanded him. He tore with at the walls of the chrysalis, ’til at last he was free and as he fell his deep blue wings instinctively opened and held him. He hovered there briefly and saw her, or what was left of her, suspended from a mossy branch by the few remaining threads. She faced down toward the dark earth below, as she had throughout her life, a long gash in her back marked his road to this world. She was still, empty, more gone than dead. Her face had a look of calm, perhaps a hint of a smile, though he knew that was just what he wanted to see. A light gust blew through the leaves and tumbled him over, wrapping him in frangipani, rose and jasmine. His wings beat strong against it and he was gone.

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