Lonely as a cloud

When I typed “psychoanalysis” as a tag in my last message, I saw the “anal” morpheme in the word for the first time. My analyst (there, it happened again, I never noticed the “anal” in “analyst” before) is called Brooke Maddux. For the first couple of years I babbled on about the Brooke part, unable to cross the great divide of the space between the two components and cast my mind upon the first three letters of the surname and their possible relevance to me.

The long sulk

The bass player and lead guitarist of Apocalyptic Dream were coming to practice here on Sunday with Billy, their rhythm guitarist and lyricist. I installed some software to let them record themselves on my computer, so that they could have a CD to work on between practices, to prepare for their next concert on April 7th.

I took a picture from their first concert last summer and spent quite a lot of time creating a CD cover for Billy to give to Ryan, the singer.

I suppose I expected him to be pleased, or maybe even slightly impressed (!) but he pulled it out and binned it with hardly a cursory glance.

"I went to a lot of trouble to make that cover” I wailed.

“That photo’s no good, wait till April 7th and take a real photo” he retorted.


That would have been a good excuse to go in the huff, if I needed one, but I don't feel that the world is deliberately trying to offend me anymore. I can't swear that the opposite is not true. Yes, psychoanalysis is expensive. It is a long-term undertaking. It is not for the fainthearted. It is an investment in the not-for-profit enterprise of well-being.

Under capitalism, people who do not own capital spend all their time struggling to survive, and find themselves lacking when they can't quite reach the carrots being dangled at them. Those who fail completely blame themselves. People who manage to survive think the system is ok. Those who profit from it defend it to the hilt. All of these postures are part of the human psychic configuration. We’re living in a winner takes all world.

I see psychoanalysis as a way of toppling the inner, materialistic tyrant, and giving a voice to the altruistic, spiritual side of life. As a way of achieving individual democracy, which is necessary for peace within the individual, which is a requisite condition for peace between individuals, groups, countries, generations, etc.


Love in a cage

This plant is known as L'amour en cage in French; Physalis or Chinese lantern plant in English. Above is the cage on its own.

Below is the cage with the love in it.

A moment's inattention

Oedipus solves the riddle of the sphinx and the said enigmatic creature promptly vanishes. Almost immediately, a wild beast starts to terrorise Thebes, killing livestock and even babies. Fortunately, Diana had given the fastest running hound in the world, Laelaps, to Cephalus' wife, who gave it to Cephalus. When the local people can stand the situation no longer, they ask Cephalus to lend them his hound to track the wild beast.

The hound easily picks up the scent of the beast and gives chase, across a vast plain. Cephalus watches the scene from a hilltop. The hound catches up with the beast, but the beast is cunning and starts running in a circle, so that the hound can't quite catch it. While Cephalus is watching the race, he has a moment's inattention, which allows the gods to intervene. The gods petrify the two creatures into a statue.


Scopic drive

Talking about boats, here are some quotes:

“A central theme in Lacan's work on the gaze is the notion of the gaze as being a pre-existing staring at the subject by the outside world. He recounts the story of being out in a boat with a fishe
rman and seeing the glint of a sardine can floating in the water. His companion, an old salt, asks: ‘Do you see that can?’ and, without waiting for Lacan's reply, states: ‘well, it does not see you’.”

“Desire is in the wailing of the baby as incorrectly, but pleasurably answered by the breast. You can offer an answer to a demand, but you can not satisfy desire or the cause of desire. By satisfying the demand, we stifle the desire.”

Michael Brown in Why the Photographer Does not See

And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses

Had the look of flowers that are looked at.

BURNT NORTON (No. 1 of 'Four Quartets') T.S. Eliot

Which takes me to (all roads read to lhome):

o wad some power the giftie gie us tae see oorsels as ithers see us!”

Robert Burns


The Library

When the rain started to fall, everyone was relieved that the drought was finally over, and that we would be able to fill our swimming pools and wash our cars again. It was only when it had been raining constantly for several days, and the river started to swell ominously, that people began to feel nervous, but kept about their daily business nonetheless. It was in this frame of mind that I gathered up my library books, which were due to be returned, and set off to avoid not so much the fines as the penetrating glare of the dour librarian, a red-cheeked, brittle woman with a deep voice and a man’s name, whose dog slept on a blanket behind the counter while she stamped the volumes, silently clocking the titles.

The river was soon viciously high, roaring like thunder, and on my way down to the library building, which was close to the river, I passed many people going in the opposite direction, making their way uphill, mumbling under their breaths that the safest place to be was in the church, which, like many churches, had been built on the hillside dominating the village. I smiled smugly to myself at their naïveté.

Rather drown in good company than be saved up there on that lonely hillside, I said to myself, so you can imagine my annoyance when I found the outer doors of the library locked and a sodden notice pinned to them proclaiming “Library closed due to exceptional weather conditions”. Honestly! Is nothing sacred? She had probably used up her holiday allowance, and decided this was an ideal opportunity to cash in on some paid idleness. However, I was not going to be put off so easily, for the date had the force of law with her, and if the books I had borrowed were not returned that very day, in spite of the library’s being closed, I would fall foul of that implacable superior stare awaiting late returners, or, perish the thought, damagers, of books. Watch out for greasy finger marks, dog ears, ripped pages - nothing escaped that eagle eye.

It was relatively easy to gain entrance to the premises. The rest of the village was by now half-way up the hill, so no-one saw me slip quietly round the back of the building and stubbornly pry open the flimsy service door, all the while thinking that if I stamped the books I was returning, replaced them on their shelves, took out new ones, and stamped them as borrowed, she may notice the trick, on inspecting the register, but she would be powerless to do anything about it! Then she could look at me whatever way she wanted, I would pretend I had found the library open, with a replacement librarian flown in from the capital by SOS Book Borrowers Anonymous, to break the one woman with a man’s name one day(?) strike.

Once I had my plan, the rest was child’s play. As I leaned down over the counter to grab the date stamp, I noticed that the dog’s blanket was damp. Filthy mutt!

It was not until I had replaced all four of my borrowed books that I realised my feet were wet and noticed the peat-coloured water gently lapping in under the door. The river had not ceased to roar. I had to act quickly. In my haste, I simply grabbed four items at random and stuffed them into my shoulder bag, then set about saving what I could.

Place all the books from the bottom shelves on the tops of the bookcases. A gargantuan feat. My instinct was to save the Encyclopaedias first. I grabbed the dusty volumes in twos, and climbed the stepladder, breathing in an unforgettable mixture of dampness and erudition, depositing the large, heavy tomes atop the flimsier novels, the books of poetry, the cartoon strips, thrillers, love stories, adventure stories, every kind of story you could possibly imagine, that would all have to take their chances with the flood.

When I had finished I was exhausted and the water had reached the top of the last shelves emptied. There was no way of knowing how much further the level would rise. I had all but spent my physical strength. It was time to use my head.

What I needed was height. It occurred to me that if I went outside, the water might be higher than on the inside of the library and strong enough to wash me away. I waded over to the window, my tights soaked and my skirt clinging coldly to my legs. My fears were confirmed. The water was indeed half-way up the outside wall, and seemingly rising or, at least, showing no signs of abating. The roof. In three shakes I had lunged up the wide, solid staircase, clambered through the trap door to the attic and prised myself out through the skylight. Astride the ridge, I clung to the weathervane, rendering it useless. Fat lot of good it had been, anyway. Panic gripped me. I had managed to replace my books, but I had not had the chance to stamp the ones I had chosen to take out.

Would the water ever stop rising?

It did, and after two days of hell on a wet roof, clinging to a metal pole with one hand and turning pages with my mouth, terrified of falling asleep and slip, sliding into the murky mixture, the Fire Brigade rescued me and three cats from our desert island.

“Why didn’t you go up to the church like everyone else?” they asked me, incredulous.

“I didn’t think things would get that bad”, I lied.

My ordeal was not over. Short of an earthquake, how was I going to put back those illicitly borrowed books without arousing suspicion?





Heard on the radio: a man was out fishing and lost his diamond cufflinks over the side of the boat. One week later he went to his favourite restaurant and ordered a whole fish. When the fish was served, he cut it open, and his cufflinks weren’t in it.

I started this blog recently, about a month ago, and so far have included only two links, one to an artist who paints, and one to a thinker, or, more precisely, to a journal about a thinker. Both these links go to people who were born in what was then Yugoslavia. Strange coincidence.

My friend Tamara was born in London, but her mother is from Yugoslavia. I remember when Belgrade was being bombed, she said it was so close it could just as well have been Glasgow.

At the beginning of the eighties, just before I left Britain, I heard Casper Weinberger on television saying “Britain could be totally destroyed, or worse…”.

I still haven’t got my mind round it.


Starting out

This is the easy bit. The beginning. Everything is new and interesting. All senses are keen and attentive. Nothing has happened yet so there is no programming. There is, however, an innate sense of danger. Life is fragile. You could be crushed. Just popping your head out of that womb is a critical act.

Starting out is essential. It can even be put off. It is the beginning and the first step but it is possible to not take that first step that is so vital.

Starting out means getting on the train. Starting out means beginning the journey. Beginning the journey means admitting that there are beginnings, middles and ends.

So I got into the train. I was worried. I was scared in case the train was not going to the place I wanted to go to, the place I had bought a ticket for but in this instance I was forced to admit that this particular worry did not make sense because I had not chosen a destination but simply a method of transport. I needed to be on the move and I needed to be in that train. Most of all I needed to get rid of the sensation that I had missed a train or that I was running after a train or that I was in some sense a runaway train with no driver. For a long period in my life that is the feeling I had. That my life had somehow run away with itself and I was rushing, running, straining, trying to catch up with it and jump in the wagon but the train would not slow down or stop and wait for me.

That lasted for a long time until I was forced to let that train go and decisively decide to deliberately climb up into the next one.

So here I am sitting in the train. It hasn’t started to move yet but I am in it. That is a big relief. There are so many opportunities for missing it. I have often missed trains, or had to run after them, or tried to run after them, as I said, but the worst experiences in my life have been when I got on them and I shouldn’t have. O, well, I did it and that’s that. But oh my how I should have stayed put, and avoided the heartache.

Today, I have a window seat. That in itself is extraordinary. I will be able to see for miles once it leaves the station. If it ever leaves the station. Yes, I have become a little cynical over the years. It may not even be enough to have taken the decision to get in the train. The train still has to leave the station. And that is not my responsibility. Surely it is enough that I have put myself in the train? Isn’t that laudable behaviour? I have stopped whinging and whining about not going anywhere and I have boldly stepped along the platform and into the door and am now seated in a carriage and all set for a new life. Or at least a life that is going somewhere, even if I do not know where the life is going. I am going. I am in the train. You must be impressed by that? Surely somebody is impressed by that? I don't hear any cheering or applauding.

At this point I could keep the train sitting in the station and describe the station and describe my state of mind describing the station – the station could be run down or beautifully kept, my state of mind could be melancholic (or even suicidal, why not?) or high spirited and optimistic. But I don’t choose to do that. I want to get on the move. There is just something about being on the move. Life is a journey and there is nothing worse than feeling stuck or standing still. Movement is pleasure and the feeling of moving is better than the feeling of not moving so here we go, the train leaves the station we did not even take the trouble to situate, except that it stood at the end of a long period of stagnation, and heads out into open country, towards a place equally mysterious.

Chug chug chug

The train moves out of the station and I think to myself this is what I have dreamt about for so long and have longed for and waited for and wished for and here it is, finally happening, the wheels are turning and the train is moving and I am in it. And it doesn’t feel as wonderful as I thought it would. So all you dreamers out there thinking of a better future and of wonderful improvements in your life inside or outside, don’t forget to hug the moment and enjoy each day as it comes and as it stays and then as it passes.

So here I am in the train, for better or worse, and it has left the station behind and is out in open country. I could jump out of the train and run away but what would be the point of that? I don’t even know for sure where it is going so why try to avoid un unknown destination? I will stay put and admire the view and enjoy the travelling. After all, I am very lucky to have a window seat. The train is quite busy and there are few windows and so I am really very privileged to have a window seat.

Funny how what you really, really want becomes anxiety-generating when you actually begin to have it.

Anyway here I am, in the train, the train moving and no longer at the station.

At this point it does not matter what the station was like or whether I miss it or not, the station is history. This train may well go all the way back to that station but I doubt very much whether I will be in it at that point. So it is goodbye station and good riddance!!! I didn’t even know you that well. I am in my train and my train is moving and we have left you behind.

Now we are out in the open country. I am lulled to sleep by the gentle rolling and the chug chug chug of my train. Finally moving. Finally in the train. Finally in the right place at the right time. Tra la la la here I go here I am and here we are and here it is.

The moving, the journey, the travelling. There is nothing else. The occasional tunnel, but I am unbothered by it, for I am inside a moving carriage.

And the engine!!! Oh, well, let’s talk about the engine!!! Well, I know absolutely nothing about engines and don’t want to know anything about engines, not how they work or how to fix them if they break down. No. I have bought my ticket and that ticket entitles me to a journey and if the train breaks down they will supply another one and get me there, nothing can stop me now from getting there even though I have no destination and do not know where I am going or where the train is going all I know is that I must be on the move and be travelling towards some destination even if I never reach there, I know that it is not important to reach anywhere or to know where that somewhere could be but to have the impression of moving there’s a fine thing. To be on one’s way. Alive. In action.

How else could I put it?

And what is important for me here? Because, after all, if I have put myself in this situation there must be something here that I must be trying to find out? Is it important to me to have the satisfaction of having “caught” the train? What a funny term. Catch. Like an illness. Or a fish. I caught the train.

In any case, here I am and it is all going swimmingly and fabulously well and I am very happy with all this. I am happy to be in the train and not to be standing still any more. I am feeling, in fact, extremely self-congratulatory. Guilt immediately sets in. It is not good to feel proud of oneself. That is very nasty indeed – a sin, in fact, if one believes in sins. Well, when all is said and done, that is a matter of fact, sins are not good for you or anyone else. It can do the known cosmos no good whatsoever that I feel proud of myself at having ‘caught’ a train.

It doesn’t take very long for me to realise that the setting off is over, the start of the journey is finished, and this is now the middle. I am right in it. The thick of things, the going, on and on and round the bend and along the straight and narrow again, yes this is it! Not yet the end, no, a far cry from the end. There is no end in sight or well, nigh and it would be premature to talk of terminals because the train just caught has just taken off and left the station but it is really absolutely far too late to talk about that last station (and too early to think about the next one, if there is one, and well, we know there is one because trains move generally between stations, otherwise nobody would ever be able to get on or off).

So here we are, already in the middle, the beginning botched or at the very least contrived or in some way mistaken, getting in any old train not even knowing where it was going. And the beginning was much shorter than we expected it to be so we have to make the middle last - don't want to spoil it by allowing it to come to an end too soon.


homogenising template

Zizek - "My big worry is not to be ignored but to be accepted".

Slavoj Zizek was on French television the night before last! Or at least, a video clip of him, speaking French. He said that ‘old school’ French intellectuals like Badiou reach a wider English-speaking audience than the “new school”, including Bernard Henri-Levy (oops, that’s Bernard-Henri Lévy), present in the studio. BHL said Badiou’s voice has been totally silent on big issues (Kosovo). Irrespective of his personal karma, BHL spoke convincingly, suggesting the West use the Olympics as leverage to put pressure on China to stop buying oil from the Sudan. He reminded us that while we are discussing the French Presidential Elections, in Darfur there is a huge population being excluded from history, who have no state at all.

Zizek intrigues me. I sometimes wonder whether to take him seriously or not, but it doesn’t occur to me to wonder how rich he is. There is no big Other who has all the answers, we have to learn to think for ourselves. With BHL, the silver spoon seems to taint his discourse, or, rather, my ears. Whatever he says I am not really listening, because I am looking at him and imagining his discourse to mean “just because I am filthy rich doesn’t mean we can’t all be equal without me giving up any of my wealth”. In contrast to “God is dead but my hair is perfect” Lévy, I remember how exciting it was recently to watch Arianne Mnouchkine in an interview, and thinking how impressive she was spiritually, how her appearance did not draw attention to itself and stop her message from getting across.

Rwanda came and Rwanda went. Darfur is here. How can we be so aware of a situation and yet not be able to affect it?

I google Darfur, come across a number of sites where I can sign a petition and make a donation. Is that it? Once again do = pay. If you can’t pay you can’t do anything. Yet if you can pay, that is all you can do. You can’t even be sure that your money will make it to destination. I click on a link called “Darfur crisis: How to help”- the date is July 2004. I wonder how many children have died since then. How many inconsolable mothers?

At the opposite end of the smotherlove scale, Lionel Shriver’s “We have to talk about Kevin” comes to mind.

If I overcome my personal demons it won’t save Darfur. It won’t make the world a better place. But it won’t do anyone any harm either.

Walter Benjamin: “It is half the art of storytelling to keep a story free from explanation as one reproduces it.”

At the moment I am more interested in what is not written than in what is written.

First of all because what is left out is often the very reason behind the writing, the thing that cannot be said or written about but that creates the compulsion to write. The thing that demands to be expressed indirectly.

Secondly, because saying too much makes writing unreadable, like loving too much makes life unliveable.

Rather than the words, any words, being a triumph over the silence of nothingness, it is this particular pattern of words that is a triumph over the homogenising template



Last night I went to the music workshop. We didn’t work on “Only one feeling” but on “Starlight” by Muse. It was great fun singing “hooooold you in my arms”. The rest was patience. Two hours practice under the indefatigable guidance of our pro for a few seconds of delight.

Françoise met me afterwards and we went to a Spanish restaurant at Arnaud Bernard that is popular at the moment. The other restaurants in the street were empty. I felt so sorry for the waitress in the Chinese next door I almost suggested we eat there instead, but our restaurant was busy for a reason. The food was razor sharp – fricassée de couteau – the service excellent, and the tables so close together we could pass the aioli and friendly remarks. We were offered free brandies to quit our table after the coffee.

When I got home I could see at a glance everything Billy had done since he arrived home from school. This did not include homework or preparing schoolbag for the next day, for his bag was lying face down inside the door where it falls like a ton of rubble when he comes in. Every drawer he had opened was still open, every room he had entered was still lit, all the appliances he had used were still switched on and arguing with each other, everything he hadn’t wanted to eat was still in the dog’s dish, including the first crêpe which didn’t look like it had been a total success.

The only thing that had been put back in its proper place on its secure wall stand was his guitar, the disposition of the plectrums and cables acting as evidence that it had in fact been plunked.

He had not noticed the note I pinned to his bedroom door, to remind him I would be home late. Before I left, I spent some time thinking about where to put it, but obviously got it wrong. Next time I will tape it to the television screen (but would he actually read it or just remove it as a nuisance?) or stick it inside the cereal box.

He is always amazed that I know what he’s been doing and not doing. I grow old. The other day I found myself inside his school when the pupils came out for their break, and the feeling that came over me was of being surrounded by a throng of aliens.