An evening with Julie Carter at George Fisher, Keswick, 24th August 2018 at 6pm
Blur of blue, green and – mainly – orange. Familiar whistling, unfamiliar ratchet being tugged, clanking, several times, followed by coughing sounds, more whistling, humming and whirring, coming and going. All topped by a clean fresh scent on the air that I’ve loved ever since.
Pale blue, white, and grey. Solid. Heavy. Handsome. Noble addition – even if the large hook was disconcerting and responsible for small-boy nightmares about a certain infamous pirate. More whirring and clanking. Like a wooden mallet inviting a bell.
On the same day: Dad’s first petrol-driven Flymo. And Mum drove a brand new Kenwood Chef.
Thoughts become words and words become sentences. Sentences become books and books become a library.
In our town it lay quietly behind the post office and slowly became my second home.
Familiarity with its shelves became a Dewey decimalised memory palace of sorts. Later libraries fuelled flames of rich possibility.
Insidiously, perniciously, they are being inexorably, uncaringly closed. The shallow suburban avarice and deadening, uncalloused hands of our politicians knowingly engineer these crimes.
Our men and women of Westminster, epitomising Eliot’s ‘Hollow Men‘, steadily unpick the delicate fragments shored against our culture’s ruin in the name of their bleak austerity.
A gold rimmed invitation asked Mr and Mrs Johnson to visit the Queen on Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia. Replies to Kuala Lumpur please. It was quite clear my brother and I were not invited.
Mother wore a long dress and white gloves. Father bought a suit and tie.
They left us standing on Kuching’s waterfront, waving our homemade Union Jacks amid a sea of blue uniformed schoolgirls.
But we went for lemonade and ice cream afterwards, with other undesirable missionary children, and agreed, on balance, that we had had the better time of it.
Don’t get me wrong – dry days were fun. We went beach-combing for jerry-cans, glass buoys and cowrie shells. We slashed paths through the woods with scythes.
But wet days were glorious. We holed up in Granny’s onion shed, oblivious to the rain teeming down outside, playing shove-ha’penny with green-stained tuppence bits. We painstakingly decorated empty wooden boxes, her monthly order of Turkish cigarettes from Fortnum and Masons. Tiny brass hinges yawned open and inside the crumpled tissue paper breathed camels and spices, deserts, weathered dark faces and hot dusty leather, and stole you away to another world.
Most infants owned a Pea Shooter. I remember calling at the small general store opposite our infant school to purchase a halfpenny worth of grey peas, ammunition required urgently for the first playtime break.
With no paper bags until a later delivery, I was happy to improvise and had the peas wrapped carefully into my clean handkerchief.
Our teacher, having noticed most boys using their coat sleeves on which to wipe their noses, had urged us to always carry a clean hanky and it was on this fateful day he requested we prove we had taken his advice.
In my exuberation, I snatched out my lovely clean hanky, without a thought for my recent purchase, to see dozens of my much needed “grey farters” explore the whole of the classroom floor.
for MW – during and after corporate meditation
I used to love to walk to school on sunny Spring mornings. The quieter hours still possessed of the mossy, dewy scents of the night – mildest of breezes softly stirring the trees of the park, and dappled light – already suggesting the new dawns that would awaken the synapses of my ever dawdling, day-dreaming brain.
Yes. I have long thought myself familiar with the colours of the spectrum; that I could name them, that I could assign to each a musical note, that I owned favourite orchestral symphonies of light.
But every new day brings surprises – and the sometimes primal response that mists our sight with tears of yearning, or recognition, or unknowing, or delight, or prayer, or a sense of the most exquisite new openness to the charism, the gift of the Universe offering her provision – the ultimate and eternal grace of Love.
And I was surprised indeed by the glory and the colours I encountered in Barcelona’s great Temple of Light. In La Sagrada Família I mistily knew myself a member of the one great and ‘Holy Family’ – the Universe herself. No single one of us ever fully cognisant of the glories of creation’s rainbow – while each of us is graced with ever-changing experience of hues and colours as yet unnamed.