Saturday, April 30, 2016

Campbell's soup.

My father was addicted to Heinz tomato soup. 
Warhol only painted Campbells'. 
It will do. 
It will have to do.
A can is a can is a can.

There were cupboards full of cans:
  • Of Heinz tomato soup
There were cupboards full of jumble:
  • Of unworn , previously worn clothes: oversized shirts, trousers, suits, jackets, coats, a round leather box of greasy oversized dog-collars.

The shoes, socks, belts (being adjustable) would still have fit.

The slippers (no longer needed) were under the bed.

He was no longer eating.

It was a morning like this morning.  

So many years on, I find myself mourning yet.

Morning mourning.

It was a morning like this morning.

All horizons were reduced to grey, all was drizzle.

"You can go upstairs, you'll probably be shocked...."

Was it my sister who said those words? 

I may have imagined them.

They will do.

What is truth?

My mother was pottering in the kitchen.

There wasn't much left to do...

I went up the creaking stairs.

I went along the creaking corridor.

I passed the embroidery on the greying walls, the sheets and spare blankets in the chest of drawers.

The door was half open.

I stepped over the threshold.

The room smelt of decay.

The curtain fabric was shredding, its geometric patterns fading, its colour a mourning green.

I don't know if I touched him.

I would like to think I did.

I don't remember if I said that I loved him.

I would like to have thought that I did.

I honestly don't remember too well now.

I couldn't write this when it was raw...when I would have remembered.

It was too raw.

I couldn't face it.

I couldn't face this scene.

I didn't want to go back into the room.

It was his final resting place.

It was the noise which shocked me.

The inflatable mattress to avoid bed sores groaned as it was inflated, as it was inflated.

His head was at an angle, his mouth half open, his eyes shut, his lashes barely flickered.

He groaned, breath by breath.

No continence, no continence, no continence.

It was the smell which repelled me.

His face was more skull.

His smile was more rictus.

His hands, I must have touched him, I must have touched him.

His hands were bones.

There was little softness left.

There was no recognition of my presence.

I must have touched him, I must have touched him.

Didn't I?

I looked at the trouser press.

I looked at the television, its screen covered in dust.

I looked through the steamed up window panes. 

It was autumn.

It was autumn wasn't it?

It was autumn in spring perhaps.

It wasn't winter surely.

It surely wasn't summer.

I backed out of the room.

I walked along the corridor.

I passed the embroidery.

Saying nothing.

My sister and my mother were sitting on the sofa.

Were they sitting on the sofa?

We said nothing.

All was drizzle.

A corpse is a corpse is a corpse.

I never saw the corpse.

My father lives differently.

He is not a corpse.

Are we to be landfill?

I would like to think not.

I saw the rainbow stretch out over the levels.

I saw it arc over Glastonbury Tor.

All was drizzle.

I wept.

A can is a can is a can.

It was Heinz not Campbell's.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Pub crawl...

Shiny lights, sweaty costumes, smearing make-up.

Knowing giggles condense to numbing hum.

Millipede tangle to Bacchanalian torpor,

The creepy, crawly, touchy, feely, unknowing creature crawls...

On to the next pub.

Friday, April 8, 2016

My direction.

This is going in my direction.

Let us leave to one side an instant where you are reading this. (Blogger)

It clearly is not a very evenly weighted exchange.

Google and I.

I own these words...up to a point.

What are you going to do when you grow up?

I never quite knew how to answer that question.

I knew that I would go to university.

People told me that was what I would do.

I had absolutely no idea what it meant to go to university.

I didn't know how to question that.

I did what I was asked to do at university...up to point.

It didn't really fit with any idea that I had about what I would be doing.

I had a very vivid and totally naive vision of what I might be doing.

I spent a fair old time in the pub with friends.

I was at a loss what to do next.

This is 'my direction'.

I have made all sorts of choices.

They weren't all very well considered.

I didn't really have the means to consider them very well.

I didn't really have anybody who helped me consider any choices that I might or might not have.

I was sort of happy to have some choices.

I was sort of paralysed with the idea of all the choices I might have.

It was a heavy weight of responsibility to make choices about what I didn't know.

"Go ahead choose your life."  

"Don't worry you only have one (life)."  

Life for many meant job.

I didn't want a job.

I preferred to hang out with climbers.

My friend who chose to solo up a Ben Nevis rock route in winter made his last choice.

Sometimes, not often, I was almost envious.

He had died doing what gave him meaning.

This is 'my direction.'

I had a short Twitter exchange

What is "'your own direction"?

To what extent do we need to deconstruct "own direction"?

I asked a Romanian girl what her ambition was.

She replied that her dream was to be a cleaner.

I didn't dream of being a cleaner when I was her age.

I have been reading Boris Cyrulnik's autobiography.

He was sentenced to die for being Jewish at the age of six.

He didn't even know what Jewish meant.

He only knew it was bad.

Was that his "own direction"?

Are these dreams "our own"?

As a teacher in an institution how can we focus on "independence" of students when often the only reason they spend time with us is that they depend on us for a grade.

Are we really interested as teachers in learners not being dependent on us?

If no learners or students depend on us how can we be teachers?

"What do you do?"

"I'm a teacher."

"Oh yeah? But there are no students."


I was reading a critique of Ken Robinson's book "The Element" this morning on Torn Halves' blog.

That is me going perhaps foolishly in my direction.

Torn asks some good questions.

What are we to do, he asks, about what he, after Max Weber,  calls the 'Iron Cage'?

I don't know.

I worry about using the word 'own'.

I worry about using the word 'independent'.

On leaving university I thought of all the things I couldn't do in this society.

I wasn't really sure what I could do.

I remember drawing a picture of myself in a cage.

I even started writing a script for the scene.

I have it somewhere.

I was screaming out of frustration.

The cage wasn't mine...or perhaps it was?

I only drew it.

Our fictions are never innocent.


I found the page with the cage that I had drawn at the age of twenty one on graduating.

It is an eery page.

How on earth did I know the word "widget" or talk of "touch screens" in 1983?

I half-remembered a T.S. Elliot quote.

I had no idea what "Picketty Witch Girl" referred to.

I had to look it up on Google...

"And the wind shall say: these were decent Godless people, their only monument the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf-balls."

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Récits de résilience.

Je ne pourrais vous dire pourquoi cette envie m'est venue à cet instant.

C'est ainsi.

Peut-être cela vient d'une fatigue d'être trop "compris"?

Peut-être cela vient de l'ennui?

Peut-être cela vient d'une fatigue d'être celui-là?

Voilà ça doit être ça.

Je suis fatigué de celui là qui m'est trop familier.

Je ne suis plus celui-là.

J'avais presque oublié.

En tout cas, j'écris ainsi à l'instant.

Je me suis lancé un tel défis.

Mais non, ce n'est plus un défis figure-toi!

C'est curieux.

Ce n'est pas dans mes habitudes ici.

Pourtant, cette langue me baigne depuis si longtemps.

J'oublie presque qu'elle m'appartient...presque...idiot va!

Pourtant, cette langue m'a servi de moyen de sauvetage.

J'étais épave, je ne la suis plus.

Je me suis éloigné en ramant.

Ces répresentations trop familières se transforment en parole libre.

Oui, je fais du sens ainsi...aussi incorrect soit-il!

Je largue les amarres.

Pourquoi n'avoir pas oser auparavant?

Au théâtre j'avais osé bien plus.

Petit joueur va!

Je fuis les habitudes, la sécurité.

Je passe quelques heures à creuser le sillon de la résilience.

C'est un champ fertile.

Il m'a fait découvrir les récits de Boris Cyrulnik.

Il m'inspire cet homme ou d'autres m'ennuie à mort.

Je me suis tombé sur une conférence de Cyrulnik et de Kaufmann entitré:

"Comment la technologie modifie la manière dont on se pense."

Il est à revoir.

Je me suis acheté l'autobiographie de Cyrulnik: "Sauve-toi, la vie t'appelle."

Alors là, je suis captivé par son narratif.

Je pioche, à droit et à gauche.

En le lisant je me rends compte pourquoi je me suis mis à écrire en français, je me sens claustrophobe soudain dans un groupe devenu trop familier.

"Quand, dans un groupe, on partage un même récit, chacun est sécurisé par la présence de l'autre".

En effet:

"Les récits partagés, les mythes racontés, les prières récitées côte à côte sont d'excellents tranquillisants culturels."

Je me vois un instant devant une église.

"Tant qu'une institution s'appuie sur des instincts forts, elle n'admet ni ennemis ni hérétiques: elle les massacre, les brûle ou les enferme."

Pendant longtemps je me suis tu.

Je fuyais un paradis prisonnier.

"Ce serait merveilleux de vivre ensemble dans une cité pure et juste d'où le mal serait éradiqué. Nos relations seraient angéliques. Nous serions transparents puisque tous pareils, sans différences, sans étrangers, nous n'aurions rien à cacher, nous penserions comme une seule âme."


"En Utopie, il n'y a qu'une seule représentation du monde, celle du Chef vénéré qui programme notre félicité, les lendemains qui chantent et mille ans de bonheur."

On peut bien se demander comment établir

"Une relation réelle, alors que notre utopie nous coupe de ce réel?"

Je me reconnais un instant à lire ce passage, cette personne que je suis devant une église.

"Malheureusement, j'ai eu très jeune le goût du doute qui donne plaisir de ne pas se soumettre à la récitation commune, mais qui prive en même temps du plaisir de se soumettre à la récitation commune."

"On est mal à l'aise quand on doit choisir entre le bonheur dans la servitude qui nous sécurise et le plaisir du cheminement personnel qui nous isole."

Je me retrouve devant l'église.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Resilience or Resistance?

What's in a word?

I try to think back a few years...





Consumer choice.

Portfolio career.

I think of a few words that I am hearing at the moment.

Life-long learning.


Share economy.








I have been hearing this word recently:


There is no question, I have developed resilience over the years...

I have had hard knocks.

I tried breaking.

It hurts.

It's better to bend.

You learn to reduce expectations.

I quickly read an article of Dave Cormier.

"In search of a new resilience for learning."

I shall start reflecting on what this word might mean.

What worries me is less (perhaps) what the word might mean for Dave Cormier and more how the term is used as an attractor for neoliberal discourses.

I remember something about MOOC's being massive.

Massive attracts...

I have started to collecting bits and pieces on a Pinterest Board.

I shall see where this leads me.


I was working on an article with a colleague last week.

Outside there was a massive demonstration against the French government's new work laws.

There is a rejection of laws which increase the powers of employers, increases the working time of apprentices, increases the flexibility of contracts, fragilises the young.

I thought to myself, the more you are fragilised, the more you need to develop resilience.

The dramatic rise in the use of words: entrepreneur, resilience, personalisation runs parallel since the 1980's.

Big data makes me feel uncomfortable.

I took a look at the trend for resistance.

Foul Brood.

They were the "Monsters", a curious assembly.

"What are you doing Simon?"

"I'm playing with the Monsters."

Monsters All.

The gang leader, Yip, was a pink poodle who only stood.

His side-kick was Little Bear, a small, rather insignificant looking, orange eraser bear with lopsided ears.

The main body of the monster crew was made up of rubber dinosaurs of varying vintage.

Brown Brontosaurus, Bronto, was a good deal smaller than two yellow Ankylosaurus who had developed abilities of flight - hence Wings and Little Wings.

Over time, each creature had revealed individual gifts and talents however unlikely.

There is no respect for paleontological accuracy in child's play.

The only concession to probability was the monster who drove the Jeep.

Only Yip could do that.

The dinosaurs wouldn't fit into the driver's seats due to issues of anatomy.

Little Bear was just too goddam little to reach the pedals.

For whatever reasons, these inanimate creatures became heroes to months of incongruous adventure.

Their heterogenity, the very unlikelihood of a pink poodle being friends with:

  • Stegosaurus
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex
  • Horns the Triceratops 

stimulated creative thinking and made for interesting battles.

Child's play is nothing if not inclusive.

Shock of the scale.

I stood there looking up.

I was dwarfed and not a little disappointed.

The brontosaurus skeleton saured above my head and took up a large part of the Natural History Museum's ground floor gallery.

Scale mattered now.

There was no sign of any Jeep.

There was not a pink poodle to be seen.

I put away childish things.

Natural History had murdered the monsters.

I returned home to play with Action Men.

The monsters were dumped in a box.

None of the Action Men could drive the Jeep due to issues of anatomy.

Monsters All.

"You want a whip?"

"We have a whip."

"You want Marxism?"

"We have Marxism. We do a special offer. You can have Trotskyism for only 30% extra." 

"You like dinosaurs?"

"Come to Dinopark."

"Out now! Steven Spielberg's Jurassic World."


Foul Brood.

"Well why the hell can't we have dinosaurs with poodles?"

"NOOO!! The Tyrannosaurus Rex will rip off the bloody poodle's head!"

"You can never trust a carnivorous dinosaur with pets."

After a good deal of soul-searching the monsters decided that they could live happily together.

The Tryannosaurus was simply misunderstood.

He might be a bit clumsy at times but you just had to avoid the slashing tales, the claws, and the vicious teeth. 

After much wrangling they decided on a name for their tribe.

They would be the "Foul Breed."

It gave them an outlaw sort of mystique.

It recalled swarms of bees.

Well, a rather sickly swarm of bees.

Even this sickness was turned to something positive.

They were a virus.

Viruses are powerful.

Outlaw viruses spread.

The Foul Brood group took on a heroic importance.

It was quite out of scale with reality.

From another perspective...

They were only toys.

Their arguments, their battles, their icons, their likes, their dislikes, their victories matttered not a jot.

“Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. Not indeed that we personally are needed. Others would meet the case equally well, if not better. To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late! Let us represent worthily for one the foul brood to which a cruel fate consigned us! What do you say? It is true that when with folded arms we weigh the pros and cons we are no less a credit to our species. The tiger bounds to the help of his congeners without the least reflexion, or else he slinks away into the depths of the thickets. But that is not the question. What are we doing here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in the immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come -- ” Waiting for Godot. Samuel Beckett

Friday, April 1, 2016

Be kind to monsters.

I am sorry.

It's ingrained.
It's under my skin.

It comes from my education.

We were open to the parish.

The local witch comes to tea.

We had witch biscuits and scones and jam.

A week goes by.

Monday comes.

She is found hanging from a tree.

How do you make sense of this?

Local alcoholic comes for respite from the bottle.

He will never hit his wife that one time too many.

He loves the kids so.

He love the kids so.

He loves the bottle more.

He hates himself.

He sobs.

How will they make sense of this?

Grieving family comes to bury their differences.

Troubled souls share their distress.

Dead Papa drums his thumbs on the kitchen table, the time of the evening dinner.

Mama shivers, kiddies shake, won't Papa be at peace yet?

Be silent, be still, be gone, please be gone.

How will they make sense of this?

Lost, infirm, insane, abusers, addicts, losers. rusers, terminally ill all.

We come to find counselling.

We come to mark our births.

Another page turns.

I am born.

I sat on the stairs at the age of four tapping my feet and waiting for the bloody hymn-singers to go home.

Won't they go home now?

"Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty."

I felt wholly not at home.

I didn't swear when I was four.

I would have done, if I could have done.

Those bloody hymn-singers.

Won't they go home now?

How to make sense of this?

Lighted windows rush by, the time of a train journey, to school.

I feel the cold window, pain on my cheek, condensation streams down

Lives flash by.

Lives flash by.

What sense do I make of this?

I have no home.

Little homes, little people, big dreams little means, short lives, sadness and joy,

They fly past, too fast to know, slow enough to reflect some home I miss.

They will miss those little lights when they are far, I think.

"I love working with people," my father said.

"I love working with people," I say to my father now.

He is long gone.

He is dead.

He is here by my side.

We are at peace.

How do I make sense of this?

So here we are.

So here we are now.

We are here together.

What lies behind your smile, your tears, that grin, that bravado, that triumph, that despair?

I feel for you.

I feel for us.

I believe in kindness.

Throw that stone at the monster.

Will it hurt?

Will it scream?

How shall we make sense of it?

Don't you recognise yourself?

It is you, that monster.

Deny, deride, delete.

Go on. Go on. Go on now.

I drum my fingers on the kitchen table.

It shall haunt you yet.

"I was taunted and sneered at so that I would not go home to my meals, and used to stay in the streets with an hungry belly rather than return for anything to eat, what few half-meals I did have, I was taunted with the remark—'That's more than you have earned.'"
"The Autobiography of Joseph Carey Merrick

Joseph Merrick.

Love,Terror & Forgiveness.

They are wrong. He is wrong. She is wrong. I am wrong. You are wrong. It is wrong.
We are wronged.

It came from discussions, conversations,
tangled monologues, challenges, squabbles,
crossed swords,
that alienating platform 
ended in
feelings of hurt
hard words. 

We are right.
It is written.

Striving for moral high ground we crash
Icarus wings flaming
to Stygian mire.

Nobody is listening.

Nobody knows.

Nobody cares.

We feel bad.

We think, and we think, and we think, and we think, and we think and we are lost to our thoughts.

We can not think freedom.
We feel bad.

“ if I do not love the world if I do not love life if I do not love people I cannot enter into dialogue.” 

― Paulo FreirePedagogy of the Oppressed

Does freedom lie in love?

“The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.” 
― Maximilien de Robespierre

Does freedom lie in dialogue?

“To defend the oppressed against their oppressors, to plead the cause of the weak against the strong who exploit and crush them, this is the duty of all hearts that have not been spoiled by egoism and corruption… It is so sweet to devote oneself to one’s fellows that I do not know how there can be so many unfortunates still without support or defenders. As for me, my life’s task will be to help those who suffer and to pursue through my avenging speech those who take pleasure in the pain of others. How happy I will be if my feeble efforts are crowned with success and if, at the price of my devotion and sacrifices, my reputation is not tarnished by the crimes of the oppressors I will fight.” 

― Maximilien de Robespierre

Who are our oppressors?

Is there justice in vengeance?

“This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well.” 

― Paulo FreirePedagogy of the Oppressed

Does liberation lie in forgiveness?

“To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is cruelty.” 

― Maximilien de Robespierre

Oppression lies in terror.

“[T]he more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into a dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side.” 

― Paulo FreirePedagogy of the Oppressed

I steal words of others.

Others remain silent.

Am I oppressor?
Am I oppressed?

Who will name me?
Who will love?
Who will listen?
Who will forgive?