Saturday, 30 January 2016

We Watch Our Shadows Play

The stars are out tonight
Come, look at them glisten.
Let me tell you my thoughts
And let the stars listen.

There's a place I heard tell
Between foul and fair
That under reticent light
Our shadows are there.

I've sat there, perhaps,
In the dark of the day
And in your aimless spell
We watch our shadows play.

They dance from the world
In a mottled embrace.
They tease at my feet
And I vainly give chase.

When my mind closes in,
I can't touch you, you're gone.
Then I burn the world -
So the shadows play on.

The stars are out tonight
Herald the end of the day.
When time has no meaning
We watch our shadows play.

Monday, 25 January 2016

They Matter to Me - Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas (1802 – 1870)

Before I begin, let’s get the childish giggles out of the way. It’s pronounced Doo-ma. Not Dumbass!! (Ok, so dumbass is quite funny - I’ll give you that)

I was 21 when I first read The Count of Monte Cristo and it changed everything for me.
Allow me to set the scene;
I had just finished University and was going on my first holiday with a girl. Not just any girl… this was the girl that I had fell in love with on the second day of University (and from whom I had copied all of my essays), the girl who was clearly out of my league and the girl that would be the base of every decision I would make thereafter. Lots of pressure, I’m sure you will agree.
I decided to go and get myself a ‘clever book’ for the holiday, so I could look cultured to both her and passers by. I scoured the classics section of WH Smith and found a 1,500 page behemoth called ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ and thought ‘that’ll do.’
Little did I know.

I had heard of the phrase ‘couldn’t put it down’ and ‘a real page turner’ but I had never heard of anything like this. From the first page to the last it was in my thoughts. Have you ever had a book that is so intriguing that it becomes your reality and life is just what happens between you picking it back up? Well this is what happened to me. I had found my drug. If I had a spare 30 seconds then I would frantically open it and read one sentence just to get my fix.
In a nutshell I ignored that girl for the entire holiday. (That girl is now my wife and would probably say that she was happy to get some peace and quiet!)

I treat myself to a new Dumas book every year and he never disappoints. Through the 'D’Artagnan Romances' to the 'Black Tulip' we are catapulted into swashbuckling worlds where integrity, friendship, honour and adventure are the cornerstones of our heroes. Worlds that allow villains to hide behind class structure and high society ceremony to gain power. What more could you ask for in a book?

I have been preaching about Dumas to anyone who will listen for a number of years and every now and then someone will pick up ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ – probably just to shut me up. Unfortunately, I then have to hate that person (now that I’ve written that down I realise it sounds a little harsh). I hate them because I can never again read this book for the first time. I can never NOT know what is coming. Oh how I hate those who still have that.

Alexandre Dumas matters to me because he started off my love of literature. He’s the bar to which I hold every writer.

Dumbass….. that’s funny though!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

They Matter to Me - William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)

Here’s the problem with Shakespeare – he is so important to me that in the last 12 months I have ruined 2 parties and 1 Christmas defending his name.
That’s right – somehow the Shakespeare advocate has been the bad guy. ‘Outrageous!’  I hear you cry. You are right!
Let’s see if I can figure out where I’ve been going wrong.
Well Meaning Guest;   Peter, I hear you like Shakespeare?
Peter;                          Oh I really do, don’t you?
Well Meaning Guest;   I can’t say I’ve read much and it’s a little difficult to understand. I like reading to be easy and allow me to escape for a little while.’
Peter;                          You fucking…..
(20 minutes have gone by and Peter is only half way through his rant – during which he has explained to this idiot why they HAVE to love Shakespeare and stop spending their life in front of the TV watching X-factor. Peter has used lots of those words that really pretentious arseholes use including ‘derivative’ and ‘archetypal’ – oh and a host of swear words.)

I’ve lived this scene many times and think I have figured out the subtle way that I’m not converting people.
Instead of explaining to someone why they are wrong for not loving him I should instead just tell them why he matters to me....calmly!

Here goes…
I genuinely believe that the complete works of Shakespeare is the closest answer we have to the question ‘What does it mean to be human?’ I think, if there is a soul, then Shakespeare has found a way to bare his and in doing so looked straight into mine.
Yes, he has influenced culture, society and language beyond anything that we can measure. In fact, during my rants (lets call them lectures) I have been known to show how pretty much any work that you can think of since 1600 is just a copy of something that Shakespeare did. (This is the part when I use those terrible words ‘derivative’ and ‘archetypal’)

He has been the subject of numerous lifetimes worth of scrutiny and research with very intelligent, technically minded people explaining his enduring success.
But... I honestly don’t care about the phonological devices he uses or that iambic pentameter is the rhythm of his dialogue. I just care that when I first met Becky (my wife) we acted like Benedict and Beatrice (Much Ado About Nothing), or when I have dark thoughts and questions about myself I drift into a Hamlet style soliloquy, not to mention parallels with Othello's jealousy, Mark Antony's pride and Romeo's longing amongst others. Shakespeare seems to have written explicitly for any situation in which I find myself – humans, it appears haven’t changed much in 500 years.

Some detractors have said to me that ‘Shakespeare couldn’t have written this stuff, he was just a glove maker's son who had never been anywhere.’ Can you imagine being someone who would waste oxygen as flippantly as that? Sadly those people really exist!! Seriously though, I wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t Shakespeare who had written this stuff. All that matters to me is that this stuff exists and, to my mind, shows the absolute pinnacle of humanity in all of its poetic beauty, ugliness, paradox and uncertainty.

I'd like to steal a few words that Alexander Pope wrote for Sir Isaac Newton which may very well have been written for Shakespeare;

Mortals rejoice that there has existed such and so great an ornament of the human race!

William Shakespeare matters to me. I hope he matters to you.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Serene Serendipity

One silent breath on that summers day,
When waves lapped across that silver bay,
A trinket I find upon my way,
Oh serene serendipity.

The necklace felled from your neck divine,
What once was yours is now all mine,
You search that beach, our paths entwine,
Oh serene serendipity.

My little lie, “I did not find”
Your question, “Would you be so kind?”
To help you ease your troubled mind
Oh serene serendipity.

A cry that makes you turn your head,
Just long enough that I can tread,
Your necklace on that shallowed bed
Oh serene serendipity.

As the sun prepares to take its leave,
"Hark! What is this I do perceive?
A necklace shining I do believe."
Oh serene serendipity.

I heard your breath on that summer’s day,
When waves lapped across that silver bay,
My heart you found along your way,
Oh serene serendipity,
Oh serene serendipity.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Love's First Dance

When the Sky was young, all those yeas ago,
All the Stars would dance and the Planets sing.
In their merry play - oh how could they know
That the Moon looked on? Such a lonely thing.

He whispered a wish that a Star may fall
Perchance, to love him and heal his scarred soul.
When a curious Star, revered by all
Swept down and loved him - she would love him whole.

The Star from the North did light up the sky
And the Moon was full for a thousand years.
They hummed a melody - a lullaby -
And the oceans filled with their happy tears.

Alas, a Star that falls is doomed to die,
So her light began to flicker and fade.
To be together forever - a lie!
The Moon in the heavens to live in shade.

Her final twinkle floated to the ground.
Now he pulls his own tears to find her light.
Once per month his soul, eternally found,
Above the clouds and searching through the night.

Her stardust that gleams from your eyes so blue
Still holds the memory of love's first dance.
And I, as the Moon, live searching for you
To defy the past, if given the chance.

She Sees Pictures in the Clouds

If life is hills and hollows
And a journey through the clouds,
I hope to always walk with her;
She sees pictures in the clouds.

When the wind has shown its teeth
And our coats are buttoned high,
She binds our hands with ribbon -
'Til the storm passes by.

She chases the yellow moon
Just to catch its beams.
She believes in woodland fairies
And lives between life and dreams.

I long for tea-cup moments
To discuss a nonsense thing.
She tells of polka-dot ideas
To change the world with a ball of string.