Wednesday, 19 November 2014


Beauty is
As beauty does.


Thursday, 13 November 2014


Yesterday, Man put a probe on a comet 4 billion miles away.

Today, I had a poo.

Miracles can happen.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

11. 11

A war - grey sky
Dropping barrages of rain.
No surrender.

Saturday, 8 November 2014



That is what the gypsy thought.

Very cold.

No clouds. Stars, yes. Many. A cold night.

As he walked through the village, there were a few lights still burning in windows, orange pools of light. It was late.

He had not always been a gypsy. It was a way of life he had taken up late in life when a lot of other things had failed. And here he was on Christmas Eve, the only time of the year when he felt at all sorry for his solitary wandering life. Every other day of the year he was contented with it, rain or shine. He walked through the village, a place where in daytime he would have stopped and asked to fill his water bottle and, if the residents seemed friendly, to offer to do some work for food, or a few coins. If not, to move on without complaint.

But after dark he would not make any disturbance. His presence, he realised, would upset people. He had not become a gypsy to do that. So he walked on, beyond the village, out into the fields and woods in the moonlight, looking out for somewhere to lay down his bedding roll.

Christmas, he thought. Before the first Christmas, shepherds had stars, a star. Good enough for them. Good enough for me. He cheered himself with that thought, looking at a sky full of stars.

He looked for a sleeping place with care, searching especially for somewhere undisturbed and out of the wind. He came to a track entrance by a wood, rather disused and overgrown. Exploring it further he found that a short way into the wood, the track was blocked with undergrowth. Ideal, he thought.

He hunkered down and found a soft flat grassy area for his bedding. Then he foraged for dry sticks and logs of various sizes. There were plenty around.

Reaching into his pocket, he gathered in his hand the fluff, and small pieces of paper he kept in there deliberately for this purpose and laid it, surrounded by the smallest of the sticks, as the kindling for the fire. He lit it and it took straight away. Gradually he added wood to it and relaxed by its warmth and light.

As he relaxed he became dozier but not so sleepy that he did not bank up the fire enough to give warmth to last as he fell asleep, and beyond.

Amongst the spits and crackles of the fire, he became aware of another noise. A soft, low burping sound. The gypsy was curious, and as he leant forward to investigate, he realised that he had company. A frog. He was pleased to see it, as he was pleased by almost all the creatures he met, regarding them as his brothers and sisters. Indeed, it was this belief, of all, which most drew him to the life of a gypsy.

“Hello, dear frog,” he murmured. He was, of course, expecting no reply.

“Hello, dear man,” said the frog.

“Did you just speak?”

“Yes,” said the frog. “I am a speaking frog. That is, I speak. But only on one day a year, on Christmas Eve.”

“How so?” asked the gypsy.

“Ah,” said the frog, “that is a little story.”

“I have nothing better to do than listen,”

“Is there anything better than listening?” asked the frog.

“Perhaps not. Please, continue with your story.”

“I wasn’t always a frog.”

“Weren’t you?”

“No. I was once a storyteller and a poet. I used to travel across the land, reading and reciting my stories and poems to anyone who would give me bread, board and a mug of ale in return.”

“What happened? How did you become a frog?”

“One day,” said the frog, “I was walking between villages, and in a field I met a magic crow. Of course I didn’t know it was a magic crow. But I soon found out.”


“I was feeling rather gloomy and upset that my stories and poems were not more well known and that I was not wealthy and famous. I kicked a stone towards the crow. ‘For all the use I am as a poet, I might as well be a frog’, I said. The crow was a magic crow and thought I was expressing a wish she could grant, so she turned me into a frog, there and then. When I complained about it, she realised her mistake but by then there was no going back. She told me she could not turn me back into a human, but she could grant me one other wish for one day of the year only – at Christmas. My wish was to speak to one other living being that day in order to grant, in turn, their wish. Today, Sir, it appears that you are to be the lucky recipient.”

“Dear frog,” said the gypsy. “I, too, was not always a gypsy. I used to be a musician. If I had a wish right now it would be to have a piano so that I could entertain you, dear frog.”

The frog made an unusual noise from deep within his body. The gypsy found himself again playing a piano, as he had done many times before he was a gypsy. For the frog’s delight, he played tune after tune, and filled each with his own kindness, sentiment and love, not only for the frog, but for all living things, all of nature’s miraculous contents.

The frog’s eyes moistened as he listened, as though he were drinking from a deep well of his own happiness, filled by that musical gift. ‘No matter what’, he thought, ‘those tunes will live with me for ever’.

Gradually, around midnight, the gypsy found himself so sleepy that he could play no more. He wrapped himself in his blankets, lay down by the fire, and was soon asleep. His awareness of the frog faded, and he wondered if he had been dreaming.

In the morning, Christmas morning, he woke and rekindled the fire. He had only a vague memory of what, by then, he was certain had been a dream. He drew the blankets close around himself as he boiled water on the fire to make coffee. It was then he noticed a dark coloured mark on one hand. At first he thought he had burnt himself on the fire without noticing. But then he saw more closely its shape. It could not be brushed or washed off. It gave no pain, yet seemed permanently scarred upon his skin, much as one would have a tattoo. It was the shape of a frog, sitting atop a grand piano.



Thursday, 6 November 2014

Wednesday, 5 November 2014


Yesterday, fog. As thick as butter.

This morning, a startling clarity. Silver bulbs of dew on purple-dark branches. The air is cold and gold.

Before me, the two largest cherry trees have leaves which hang like Chinese lanterns. A very oriental shade of peach.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014


  • Grey Heron
  • Mute swan
  • Mallard
  • Red Kite
  • Sparrowhawk
  • Kestrel
  • Buzzard
  • Merlin
  • Partridge
  • Pheasant
  • Moorhen
  • Coot
  • Lapwing
  • Curlew
  • Gulls
  • Wood Pigeon
  • Collared Dove
  • Cuckoo
  • Barn Owl
  • Tawny Owl
  • Little Owl
  • Swift
  • Great spotted woodpecker
  • Skylark
  • Swallow
  • Pied wagtail
  • Grey wagtail
  • Wren
  • Robin
  • Fieldfare
  • Song Thrush
  • Mistle Thrush
  • Long tailed Tit
  • Bluetit
  • Coal tit
  • Great Tit
  • Nuthatch
  • Tree Creeper
  • Jay
  • Magpie
  • Jackdaw
  • Rook
  • Crow
  • Starling
  • Sparrow
  • Chaffinch
  • Greenfinch
  • Goldfinch
  • Bullfinch
  • Yellowhammer



I was snooty, but the torch shone a different light on it.

I had trick or treat down as a materialistic, unpleasant, sweetie grabbing American import.

A couple of nights ago, I saw things from another point of view. I accompanied a coven of mini Madams on a screeching after dark tour of Everingham. There were the usual jokes. "Have you got your mask on?" when they hadn't. "When are you going to get changed?" when they had. Ho ho ho. Then off we went, scary faces a-plenty.

The good burghers of Everingham changed my mind.

They had laid a trail of gentle horror, which, rather like Santa's letters, the knocked over wine glass and Rudolph's half eaten carrot, expressed a generosity of spirit, and an imaginative version of caring and the protection of innocence, for which one can only have admiration. The man who answered the door dressed as a wolf. His wife, dressed as Red Riding Hood. The people who mocked up a ghost with his head under his arm. The household who contrived a minor explosion when you opened the gate. The fake wounds and crevices worn in abundance. The generous donation of sweets, chocolates and fruit, to an over excited crew of seven and eight year olds. All these acts expressed the natural revelry in the art of giving.

It was marvellous. It was kind.

Only the churlish could knock it.

Monday, 3 November 2014


Woodpeckers have a special meaning in our house. Big Madam's mum is a woodpecker. When we visited her grave some years ago, in the little cemetery at Lutzelsachsen, a woodpecker insisted upon our attention. The conclusion was obvious. This is the spirit form taken by the maternal soul. Ever since, woodpeckers have been a special reminder. My Dad was a silver birch tree. Our son, who died before being born, is also a birch tree. They too have a special meaning for me.

Some time ago I intended to go for a constitutional, trespassing on what I call the North Wood. Standing in the sunshine on its southern side, no movement for my constitutional was possible that day, as stillness called me along with the flirtations of two woodpeckers, flashes of white, black and red, high in the ash and oak. Their play was of such intensity, and they were so together, so intimate, that I was held in speechless awe. This moment came just after the death of Big Madam's Father. The conclusion was again obvious. The spirit world had brought together what the temporal world had tragically separated. That day I took no further steps. Tears of joy at the unification prevented me.

I used to wear a Shiva medallion. This was to remind me that all creation is destruction. That every destruction creates. That the forces of creation and destruction are intrinsically linked. So, also with togetherness and separation.

Today in the North Wood, another woodpecker. On the very northeast corner of the wood, a holly has come into berry, startlingly red. As red as the robin, making an alarm call at my passing. As red as the feathered flashes of the woodpecker. As red as my eyes.

Sunday, 2 November 2014


That which gives energy, retain.

That which takes energy, discard.