Posted in Fantasy and Science Fiction, Life and Family, Lost in Thought, Music I Like

Remembering in Light and Dark

People are talking about the Beast from the East coming back. There’s a deep chill in the air, and phantoms are hurling themselves through the cat-flap. The lid of a storage bin outside flew up and jammed in the hedge, allowing torrents of rain to pour inside till I secured it with a twig. International relations are frosty, yet there are friends, old and new; there’s warmth, hope on the horizon… and light rising against the dark.

I don’t know if you’ve read the children’s book The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. It’s the second book of a series, but I loved it. It fitted with the topic of a school dissertation I was writing, which I may have engineered deliberately… anyway, I remember a line in the book about light and dark being forever at war. Sometimes one seems stronger; sometimes the other, but neither wins altogether. All or most of the books I referred to had something to say along those lines.

In The Dark is Rising there were Old Ones and Old Ways. The Old Ways were safe routes, and when times were bad, Old Ones from different times and places came together to keep the dark at bay. My memory of the series is fuzzy, but I loved the whole idea of it, along with the high drama. It was as though we risked falling through the ice into the spinning vortex of space and time, never to return.

Today I’ve been listening to music for the first time since my mother returned from hospital. I blogged about the last time in A Ray of Old Sunshine, when everything seemed to be going wrong but I found a moment to fix the speakers of my old hi-fi.

Tonight I was upstairs working, and decided to play my newest batch of CDs. They are powerful albums such as Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, but the song that made me sit up was Clean, from Ryan Adam’s version of 1989.

When I stopped to listen, the screensaver came on with a miscellany of pictures in no particular order, all ones I’d worked on. Cats gazing, tree reaching into the blue, fractals, mother’s silhouette, over-saturated beach with pink clouds, a dark wood, raindrops on a window, evening sunshine on a hill… It reminded me of times in my life when I thought differently about things; talked to different people; had different aims, tried a little too hard (yikes, look at the detail on that one!) Maybe I’m not so different now. Some of it was part of the journey and fell away, but the rest followed right along.

With the song Clean pushing me out into the light, I felt all of a sudden that I could fall in love with my own life just as it is. If it had been unremittingly dull from birth till now, I’d have no reason to… if I’d had no strong feelings about anything or anybody, there’d be nothing to stand out. I’ve been through hell emotionally, and no doubt there’s more that lies ahead, but I love it all for being mine.

It doesn’t matter if it’s completely washed away by time and events… my life took place and is as vivid as it ever was. Some companions came a long way with me and still pace alongside; others were lost long ago, but… my thoughts mirror and yet oppose the lyrics of the song, because while I swim, I won’t forget.

The rain came pouring down
When I was drowning
That’s when I could finally breathe
By morning
Gone was any trace of you

Clean — Ryan Adams

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Posted in Life and Family

UK’s Icy Plight

“Aldi had plenty of bread and milk but no eggs. The shelves were bare of milk at Asda, sparse on bread but plenty of eggs – who can fathom it?!”

– from friend in Yorkshire.

I had high hopes things were returning to normal, but when I got up and looked out of the window this morning, snow was drifting determinedly from the sky.

Ahh, noooo!

Drooped downstairs, and my mother mimed falling snow, if you can picture that!

Nevertheless, people are moving around again, and my sister came in from her icy fastness yesterday with a variety of things from the supermarkets. Everybody seems to be doing a supermarket crawl; traipsing from one outlet to the next. I notice when our tall neighbour calls with food, which he did again today, the items are from different shops.

The cats are getting used to him… they used to slide out the back the same second he came in at the front, but now they just hover beside the cat flap and blink patiently. ‘Just in case,’ you know. In the same spirit, the other neighbour put our bin out for collection. ‘Just in case’, he said, but the bin lorry never came.

I emptied the bag of groceries… fish ‘n’ chips, M&S style. Salad and my favourite Piccolino tomatoes. Cold meat, more bread (wow!) and a copy of the Scottish Sunday Express, screaming in particularly large type: “WINTER HELL TO LAST TWO MORE WEEKS”.

Ahh, noooo!

The ‘TWO’ is picked out in red ink, and in slightly smaller type, it goes on: “Scots told to brace themselves again for snow in aftermath of Beast from the East.”

Reading the article, I get a picture of things being cold and wet, some more snow ahead, and likely floods when the snow melts. Some shops are still frantically putting things out on shelves only to have them snatched up by hungry customers… but on the whole things shouldn’t be as bad as they have been, floods aside.

We’re better off than some. Our house hasn’t been buried, or our front door blocked by a wall of snow, and our boiler got its breakdown over with earlier this February. I don’t think there’s a single thing we’re out of, though I finished my cucumber at the start of the storm and had to do without till yesterday! We also ran out of mayonnaise… It’s not so much the ‘doing without’ as the feeling that you are not free to have just what you want when you want. It’s still a land of plenty, but availability is uncertain, so don’t waste what you have.

As I said in the comments to my last post, my sister brought a luxurious Tiramasu cake yesterday. It was strange to be eating cake when folk have been struggling to obtain more basic supplies.

A couple of pages into the Express is the headline, “Finns are amused by UK’s icy plight.”

Well, I’m not surprised…

The paper also mentions a tweet by transport minister Humza Yousaf, who said communities have come together to clear their neighbourhoods of snow, and this weather has brought out the best in people. Our neighbours are great, but a friend is having issues with one of hers. She said they shovelled the pavement but stopped just as they got to her gate! They missed an opportunity to extend an olive branch, it seems. However… there’s plenty positive that’s going on, and we don’t need to focus on the determinedly negative.

A notification has just this minute popped up from The Independent. It says: “Seed vaults protect the world against the apocalypse — but what if doomsday is already here?

Ahh, noooo……

Posted in Life and Family, My Cats

Everybody’s Having a Snow Party

Here in the UK and Ireland we’ve been hosting the Beast from the East and Storm Emma, who were in the mood to party together. In Scotland we had the joys of a ‘red alert’ — apparently the first time we’ve had one. I took a few photos outside and figured out how to use the video option in my camera (nothing special resulted), then wished our snowy guests would leave again… am tired already.

Trying to blog with a cat squirming in your arms is not easy. 😛

Yesterday I lifted my toilet bag from the bathroom window sill and it felt cold. The toothpaste inside also felt cold and was stiff to squeeze out… I think it half-froze! This morning the toothpaste was more relaxed, although people are still not allowed to go anywhere. A local warned on Facebook that roads are closed, buses aren’t running, his car was sliding all over the place on a narrow road, and snow ploughs and tractors needed to be rescued… if *they* were in trouble, what chance has a car?

An old friend who lives locally contacted me via Messenger and said was everybody keeping warm? I said yes, though we heard from a neighbour that the shops were running short. He (the friend on Messenger) said he got the last lot of milk, bread and bacon from his local shop. I said we have fruity flapjack cookies with coconut in (I’m so glad I bowed to temptation when I saw these in M&S!) If he went back to the shop, he said, and raided it for oats, he could make his own flapjacks. I said he won’t be able to if the local old ladies buy all the oats before he gets there. “Then I’ll just mug them,” he said.

Our front steps are covered over almost completely with snow drifts; you can barely see the edges peeping out. I opened the back door at one point to find a set of dog pawprints leading up to the cat flap. Today they are all over the place… scuttling through the hedge and crisscrossing the snow. People let their dogs off the leash around here (though they’re not meant to) and they run into people’s gardens. My sister’s seen dogs let off in the path behind the house who run up the length of the garden and dash out onto the road at the front, with the owners obliviously calling them on the nice safe path behind. One particularly bad-tempered canine attacked my mother’s old cat — my sister intervened and nearly got bitten. The cat (who had been picked up and shaken) was very shocked and had to go to the vet. I remember the blind look in her eyes that day, but she’s still with us and doesn’t seem to remember.

The ‘off the leash’ thing might explain stories of dogs and their owners ending up in icy lakes. Someone was writing about how drivers forget to change their driving techniques in icy weather… they go too fast; drive too close to the car in front, etc… it strikes me that that warning also applies to other things we do, whether it’s getting our stocks right or walking dogs.

I understand it’s difficult when we do things by habit… we can be knee-deep in trouble before we wake out of auto-pilot.

I was thinking to myself that I wished we had more milk and bread. I noted that we’d gone onto freezer rations — tins next! We still have vegetables and potatoes; biscuits and sweets (including my special hoard of Bassett’s mint creams and chocolate peanuts); a very little fruit; rice and pasta in the cupboard; one small loaf of bread in the freezer (the kind Mum likes but I hate)… I knew we would hold out for months and there’s no need to complain, but I still wished the fridge contained more in the way of fresh groceries. I can’t even make simple things like scrambled egg or macaroni cheese, as we are hoarding what’s left of the milk.

My sister can’t come out because she’s snowed up in her little village. It would be a long icy tramp for me to the local supermarket, though I would do it if it was really worth it. There are no little shops at the end of the block here… one of the not-so-good things about this particular location.

No need to worry, though… Man Mountain to the rescue! He appeared yesterday with milk, bread, and jam doughnuts, and surprised us again today with two bags of food. It was very kind. He said shops are running low in things like milk because the lorries aren’t getting through. The milk he brought today is long-life.

I still mustn’t make dishes that need milk… there are other things we can eat instead. (Eyes the pizzas and and sausage rolls hungrily).

Another neighbour rang up and said he and his wife are making the long walk out to the supermarket and did we need anything, and my mother said “thanks, but we’re okay!”

A friend in Yorkshire says the wind is still whipping up the snow into blizzards. They’re sitting tight and not risking their safety; the only thing they’ll run out of is salad, but they’ll survive without it for a bit.

Now the cat is squirming in my mother’s arms, but that’s fine by me… easier to blog! …D’oh… spoke too soon! This cat (Delilah) is the definition of the phrase ‘in your face’. She lies on your chest and watches your eyes. I escaped by going outside to change a litter tray, and cleaned it with balls of dry snow. Gosh, this stuff has its uses… it saves on kitchen paper.

The following piece seems to be going the rounds on Facebook: “Where are we going, Piglet?”

I don’t go on Facebook much, so don’t pay attention to me if I sound blase! It’s pure gammon. My sister posted me the link and said she visualized Pooh as me and Piglet as The Little Witness. The Little Witness was currently squatting on a box of chocolate-covered peppermint creams, so that doesn’t surprise me.

We don’t have the stocks of red wine referred to in the Pooh conversation, but we have plenty of cat litter, Man Mountain brought the pizzas, and there’s a little bottle of Dandelion and Burdock in the fridge.

It’s odd how differently you view your food stocks when you are snowed in. It goes from “I suppose I should drink it,” to “I’m so glad to see that there!” and “I wish I hadn’t thrown away the year-out-of-date tin of Carnation Milk.”

Ah… a blob of white just flashed past the window.

“Did you see snow drop off the roof?”

“Yes!”

Hopefully this freeze party is ending.

Posted in Life and Family, Observations, Photographs, Technology and Software

What Comes Into Being When You Have No Access

Here in Scotland, drifts of powdery snow lie on the ground outside.

Certain things had to be done before the daylight waned… laundry, changing bedlinen, and bringing the ironing board back from the shed. Whilst pottering around happily in this manner, unaware of a chain of events thus set in motion, one of Mum’s friends turned up for a teatime visit and to sit in my place. 😒

I’m not annoyed… I would rather she sits there. The other chair is too far away and you’d have to yell down the length of the room at Mum. Trouble was, I had forgotten the visitor was coming, and left my iPad set up on the big footstool by my seat. I didn’t want to disturb them by retrieving it (as though to say “hey, you’re sitting in MY spot!”), and my offer of tea was rejected, so I abandoned the iPad and got on with preparing vegetables in the kitchen.

When the friend left, I brought tea and biscuits and settled down. At last I could get some rest! My shoulders and neck were aching as I hadn’t meant to spend so much time flitting around.

But no! The iPad refused to start up… its battery power had gone utterly flat. All that showed up on the screen was a black void featuring the spectre of an empty battery sitting in a little sliver of red. When the iPad’s power goes that low, it takes an age charging it up enough to let me back in.

Sigh…

While your phone or tablet is charging up, you have to find some other way of amusing yourself. Out in the gathering night, a snowstorm began whirling… a wall of white behind the skeletal trees. In the drama of the moment, while Mum and I stared out of the window instead of at the TV, wolves and other hungry raptors came to mind.

Abandoning my tea, I went upstairs to get my camera, opened the window, and leaned out. The trees stood swaying in gaunt silence; cold, sepia and white. I should have been taking photos of the snowstorm but somehow… this happened instead.

After the iPad powered up, I used it to take a photo of the back of my camera, being too lazy to go through the rigmarole of getting hold of the actual photo. If we got more snow here, I would probably be more practised at taking photos of it, but for now this is all you’re getting. 😛

Posted in Notepad Conversations, Weekend Coffee Share

Coffee Chat IRL

Walked through the first snow of Christmas in town today… light, floating flakes.

We had coffee while we were out, and at the table we wrote in my conversation notepad, though it seems to have been mostly me wittering away! It’s been ages since I’ve copied one of these to my blog.

Me: “I seem to remember an old bugbear — cars that don’t signal a turn till the very last moment. So you wait for them and then find you didn’t need to wait at all, but by then it’s too late and another car is coming. Even worse are the ones who think they only need to signal to other vehicles. Pedestrians don’t count.”

Me: “L still looking for a tree — but I’ll use the plastic one if I don’t see anything better.”

Mum: “Get the feeling L house will be better decorated than ours.”

Me: “Currently only has a Turkish rug and a silver wreath.”

Me: “Nigel Farage looks sad in his radio shows.”

Mum: “How can you see him in a radio show?”

Me: “They film him and put it on YouTube as a video. I can’t hear the radio shows — no captions or transcripts. But the YouTube videos have automatic captions — a bit garbled. His name often comes up as ‘Faraj’ or [sometimes] ‘Large Parrot’ or ‘Roger Ferret’.”

[Mum rolls her eyes and sighs].

Me: “I think I made the right choice, buying the teak cupboard.”

Sister: “Why?”

Me: “It looks nice and is quite convenient for clothes — and the house fits on top. Also the Ikea thing [in the same charity outlet] was ramshackle, over-priced, and too big.”

Sister: “Local auctions often sell chests of drawers.”

So that was part of our coffee chat. Bet the blogging world is fascinated (!)

Posted in Computer Graphics

I Should Have Done a Halloween Picture

I got all creative at 05:40 this morning when unable to sleep. My vision was purple, green and white… not sure what happened. Anyway, when I saw the Daily Prompt for today, I rushed to finish it!

“6:00AM: the best hour of the day, or too close to your 3:00AM bedtime?
Photographers, artists, poets: show us DAWN.”

I think they hoped I’d call my post The Golden Hour, but I wouldn’t call this golden — would you?

20131028-000454.jpg
Snowy Cottage: ArtRage (iOS 7).

Posted in Christmas and New Year

Snore

Snow and ice still stuck fast. It’s not showing signs of leaving in a hurry.

It seems the days I get up and do a workout are the days I’m the most hungry and sleepy… I don’t feel like preparing for Christmas; I’d rather lie wrapped in a rug, snoring.

Going to try and break out tomorrow, though. Stupid snow…

Posted in Art, Desktop Pictures, Technology and Software

Sssnowing

I wrote the following post on Tuesday, then got icy feet. 🙂

Been snowing for a few days now. Gets thicker and thicker, but I’m not rushing out to photograph it! Looks kind of dull in the immediate vicinity. Me, I like bright colours and skies with visible clouds…

Funny how a whole load of unknown works by a certain artist has arrived in the news. I was scratching around for a good title for my ‘Not a Picasso’ wallpaper, but decided against it. Went for a more boring title instead, mostly because the only link between my wallpaper and the other title is that I put Paloma Picasso perfume on, and the wallpaper promptly went bad. That’s my private joke, anyway, and I couldn’t expect the rest of the world to understand it without knowing the story.

My keyboard is breaking down… the backspace key is particularly unresponsive! But I have a spare keyboard; I should attach it. I’ll probably do it the next time I have to hammer the backspace key into the desk…

Posted in Desktop Pictures, Dreams and Nightmares, My Cats, Photographs

Fleeting as Snow

Everyone else has been talking about snow… they’ve had problems with gritters and cars, and took photos on their wild and icy walks.

The Diddums family, on the other hand, had deep-looking snow in the areas round about, and on the hills… but did any fall on our own little town and its local villages? Nah. It’s like it has its own internal heating. It’s been that way for years.

Imagine my surprise last Thursday to find this scene through my window:

There was more white out there than not. I nearly keeled over with the shock.

This is my journal entry for that day:

Dreamed about making wallpapers — what else? Someone told me if I was dreaming about making them, it wasn’t a good sign. Anyway, in my dream I was considering the set proportions of the blank canvas I started out with, wondering if the picture would be different if I cut it any other way.

I woke up and smiled — of course it wouldn’t — BUT if I had a different starting point, it might be.

So I’d been lying half awake, thinking about how one didn’t need to start with a blank canvas, and Mum came in, smiling, and mimed taking a photo outside. “Uh oh,” I thought, “let me guess”. She threw open the curtains and pointed at a certain blank whiteness in the landscape outside.

“Are you staying home?” I asked. She mimed phoning her friend — going to discuss what they should do.

I got up and wandered over to the window, and the trees were thick with snow! I went down in a hurry and said to Mum “I thought it was going to be just a LITTLE snow!”

As soon as I could, I took photos from doors and windows — tried a couple of shots just outside the back door, but the snow kept coming down, and it was wet. Not good for cameras. I waited, but it was so wet, the snow, it was melting and thudding off branches and soaking away into the grass, and when it finally stopped snowing, everything was more brown and green than white.

At least I got a few lousy shots as evidence that it was there. It wasn’t even sunny and bright — started off a bright white like my blank canvas, then dulled gradually to grey, and finally to night.

The pictures weren’t exciting. Edited one of the garden… nearly threw it out, it was so boring, but finally came up with something I quite liked.

Got an email from Woolworths — they’re delighted in people’s interest, and are going through all the comments to work out what we want to see.

Racing Frogs: I looked in a frog’s photo album and was rather surprised by a photo of it riding a motorbike. “Where did it get that?” I wondered. “I don’t remember buying it a motorbike!” Then realized it must be the ‘scooter’. I was visualizing the type children scull around on (or used to!) Have they stopped selling kids’ scooters now?

I’ve been thinking twice about the anti-competition articles I read. I agree to a degree, though the neg space contest got me doing a picture I wouldn’t have thought of if left to myself. I was trying to figure out last night why I like to put things into these contests. I think the answer is ‘wanting to put forward my take on things.’

Have begun going through my stockpiles of wallpapers from various sites. I’m surprised how my own tastes have changed. Most are still good, but here and there I think “WHAT’S that?!” It’s good that I can throw some away now… though I’ve noticed the ones I find less attractive are generally with very low JPEG sizes. Just chucked out one with a JPEG size of 60 KB. That’s futile.

Because of the low light (and my too-deep DOF) I got some noisy shots with the camera today… including of Samson, unfortunately. But I made quite a sweet wallpaper (will probably decide later that I hate it) of him on a chair, lying with his back to the camera but his ears listening backward. Light ahead of him, from the snow glowing through the porch windows.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. 🙂

Posted in Lost in Thought, My Cats, Observations

Early Morning Driftings

Yesterday morning when I woke too early, I thought I might fall asleep again if I tried a little meditation.

I’m unused to talking about any such thing, and have to keep fighting off the urge to say ‘medication’. Meditation would be more relaxing if they called it something else. Anyway…

It’s difficult ‘meditating’ when the kittens have woken up and are thrashing around playfully, but I closed my eyes anyway, attempting to visualize something pleasant. The other day I read about a mother who took up meditation with her little girl; they would sit together and fall asleep. When they closed their eyes, the girl liked to think of her cat. So do I. When I’m trying to come up with a pleasant image, I always end up filling my mind’s eye with Sharky. He stares at me with his clear green eyes and blinks contentedly, and that dark stripy tail wraps itself round his feet.

Feeling guilty, I’ve tried to think about the kittens instead, but in my thoughts they fix me with their devouring gaze, giving rise to the unsettling feeling they’re about to thunder over my feet with their claws. That doesn’t make me relax. So I summoned up a beautiful sparkling blue-green wave. It was tight and rolling, rearing up higher and higher – the pit of my stomach dropped away when I imagined the wave swallowing me up along with forests, villages and towns.

I shifted my thoughts to the nature photos on the Caedes desktop wallpaper site. I thought of sunlight arrowing down between tall green trees… beautiful. Static, though; no real depth. I needed something that moved.

Said hello to Sharky again and buzzed past… thinking there must be other images out there I could hold in my mind. Finally I had it – winter snow in Edinburgh. Not just any snow, it has to be early 1980s snow. You would get up in the morning for school, and look out into the blackness, and it was whirling down. Through the back window it disappeared again into more darkness, falling behind the rose bushes and apple tree, but when you looked out the front window, the sky seemed lighter and the snowflakes flew into the hedge.

Normally I hated having to face school early on a cold dark morning, but heavy snow often meant we got to stay at home. That makes it a positive memory rather than a negative one.

In my mind’s eye I tried to be part of that scene, looking out of the window at the hypnotic motion of the snow. A distant pair of headlights appeared at the far corner of the vision, startling me. Headlights? Where did they come from? I didn’t ask for headlights. But they would have been there… cars and buses creeping cautiously through the slush, window wipers beating, leaving plenty of room for each other.

Funny how those headlights beamed out of my memory all by themselves.

The kittens gradually stopped pummelling the lights out of each other, and in my mind the snow spiralled down against a dark grey backdrop… now lashing with fragile fury; now drifting implacably. Next thing I knew, the sun was high and Delilah was curled against my neck, chewing my thumb.