A Few Small Repairs

Mrs Gripes and I do not customarily fight: we bicker, snipe and grouch; we sulk and use our passive-aggressive wiles; we bear grudges and dredge-up ancient history in order to prop-up our meagre arguments. Such is our unhealthy way of "resolving" conflict. More often than not, we'll just walk away and save our grousing for some other time, maybe even forget it for a month or so until we find an excuse to resurrect our grievance and so start the same argument over and over and over again. This has been our way for around six years.

Like any war of attrition, we don't necessarily notice the losses we have sustained until we are standing alone and exhausted, finally quieted, and look round to assess the damage. And that's where we were this weekend: in the middle of a battlefield, overawed by the damage we had done, trying desperately hard to see how we could make peace.

Unlike our other arguments, which often are trivial and domestic, this one concerned the fundamentals of our relationship: security, trust and personal respect (although, of course, it wasn't couched in those terms at the opening of hostilities...). In fact, at first it did seem as though it was a trivial argument: I'd met up with a friend - someone Mrs Gripes hadn't met - and had spent an afternoon in pleasant company and interesting conversation. Mrs Gripes wasn't quite as happy as I was that I had spent time with an attractive, intelligent and witty woman - particularly one she didn't know. Even more particularly, indeed precisely, a single, attractive, intelligent and witty woman... At first I couldn't quite see that anything was wrong. Then the accusations started.

To see the chasm of distrust and jealousy open up in front of you is an appalling yet compelling thing. The fact I had met with a friend wasn't really the issue. The fact this was a new friend rather than a "historic" one wasn't the issue, either. That I wasn't able to quote verbatim the content of our conversation was possibly a contributing factor. But it still wasn't the problem itself: the problem was older and more basic than that. I saw the chasm of jealousy and distrust in front of me and so I looked in...

Months, maybe years' worth of insecurities, doubts and fears welled-up, bitter and dark and they flooded us. Old hurts were prodded, ripped open and explored - not for the "fun" of arguing but to see if they were still the real cause of pain. Things were said that maybe should never have been said, or maybe should have been said years ago. Certainly I said things that, although I don't regret, I do wish I had said sooner and in less charged times. We didn't raise our voices at all, which was in itself frightening as it suggested a complete control over what we were saying, but took thick, blunt swipes at each other with words aimed to cause most pain. Mrs Gripes disappeared for several hours, driving off angry and fast, leaving me alone, worried and increasingly furious at having no comeback on the silent and absent.

By the time she had returned we had both had time to think about what we really meant to say and so rather than call a truce and let the argument carry over or fizzle out as we usually do, we renewed hostilities, only slower and calmer and more maddeningly cold. However, the time apart meant that we had both formulated arguments and counter arguments in our heads that suited our points best and did not necessarily reflect the views and feelings of our partner/opponent. After another hour or so of restrained raging - and of crying by this time - it was almost dawn and we were getting further and further apart. The initial stimulus for the argument was buried under a rubble-heap of recriminations and acrimony. The broken limbs of the real argument stuck out at crude angles and mocked us. Exhausted and careering further and further apart we went to separate beds and lay painfully awake, each pretending to sleep, each contemplating a life alone. And thinking, thinking, thinking...

I can't remember who made the first move at calling a truce. I can't remember if it was initially welcomed. I can't remember much of the detail of gradually pulling ourselves back together again. I do remember that we started to list the things we both hold dear, that we share and love and respect about each other, that prove that we trust each other with our most fragile hopes and fears, that we would not wish to lose, that we protect in and of each other from everyone else, and I remember that the birds were singing outside, and the sun burned my eyes, and I felt limp and not alone -and the feeling of relief at being held and in being able to hold her.

Our relationship is not perfect. We are not perfect. I know that I do things that are crass and insensitive and I put up with crass insensitivity in turn. I get frustrated, lost and angry and turn my anger inward before even thinking of facing the real problems. Mrs Gripes bottles hers up and lets it explode at the slightest provocation, needing some distance and a full bloody inquest before facing what is at the foundation of the problem. We have a long way to go to fully repair the damage we have done this weekend, but in part this argument is fundamentally part of the repair - the a razing down before building up again. We've already started, but it takes a lot of time and effort to ensure that the foundations are as solid as we need them to be - and we are both agreed that we need and want to be together still. I hope it's enough.


A journey, of sorts.


see these lines across the sky
defiantly marking passage
through nothingness

souls encased in metal & hope
held aloft by physics & Rolls-Royce,
prayer & a need to defy nature
absurdity & logic

I burn to be that plane,
that air, the vapour even -
droplets dispersing, condensing vastly
yet seeming no more than chalk marks
on a limitless blue board

going somewhere

[ My mind still feels as though it is gradually slipping out of my head - as indicated by dodgy, self-indulgent, poetic blog effort - but the few days away must have done some good. I mean, they must have, mustn't they? Mountains and sea and nature: they are all soul food, of sorts, aren't they?

I grew up in a very flat landscape. Mountains are tumultous, indicating vast historic volvanic eruptions, friction between tectonic plates, valleys carved by slow, grinding glaciation... They are revolutionaries, standing up for action and still maintaining aggression and aspiration. The landscape I grew up in was that of a soft, slow accretion of the sea bed- mud encasing and preserving shells, skeletons and secrets, gradually swallowing-up all that rests there and keeping it blanketed, hidden and dark. And flat - sometimes the land and the sky merged, sometimes the horizon and the sea were indistinguishable and you could feel exposed just by standing up. I don't have the sharpness, nor the trapped fire of someone raised in mountainous terrain. I have the wariness and weatherbeaten nature of someone constantly exposed to the wind and sky...

I suppose, this is a long-winded way of saying in some small way - and for the first time in ages - I am feeling homesick. But with no family left in the city where I grew up, where is home? And why am I suddenly feeling a need for the endless flatness I used to want to escape?

Maybe I need another holiday...]

7 July 2005 London bombings

7 July 2005 London bombings - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I'll say this for Wikipedia - it's quick (and thorough). This was up within hours....

I could add to the mass of reaction to the bombings in London, but I'll restrain myself. I don't think I would say anything useful or insightful and I would well risk sounding patronising. However, a Pogues song has been running through my head all day- and Shane MacGowan manages to capture an image of London that is at once brutally unsentimental and yet tenderly loving of the city. *shrug* Make of it what you will - but it's certainly a London I recognise - and one that is unlikely to change.

London You're a Lady

Ah London you're a lady
Laid out before my eyes
Your heart of gold it pulses
Between your scarred up thighs
Your eyes are full of sadness
Red busses skirt your hem
Your head-dress is a ring of lights
But I would not follow them
Your architects were madmen
Your builders sane but drunk
Among your faded jewels
Shine acid house and punk

You are a scarlet lady
Your streets run red with blood
Oh my darling they have used you
And covered you with mud
It was deep down in your womb my love
I drank my quart of sin
While chinamen played cards and draughts
And knocked back mickey finns

Your piss is like a river
Its scent is beer and gin
Your hell is in the summer
And you blossom in the spring
September is your purgatory
Christmas is your heaven
And when the stinking streets of summer
Are washed away by rain
At the dark end of a lonely street
That's where you lose your pain
'Tis then your eyes light up my love
And sparkle once again

Good grief....

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Bush bruised in bicycle crash

The fate of the world is in the hands of a 59 year old man who still needs stabilisers on his bike...

I could weep.

Now do you understand why I'm not sure the G8 Summit will achieve all that is hoped for?

It's Gr8 when you're G8, yeah...

Guardian Unlimited: Newsblog

(Warning: this may be a somewhat unfocused and long blog entry. I'm still trying to process what I'm thinking: bear with me!)

Edinburgh doesn't often get excited. Glaswegians have known this for years, claiming that there is more fun to be had at a Glasgow wake than an Edinburgh wedding. This past weekend may have momentarily changed that view (but probably not.) Edinburgh is, however, quite excited...

Currently, the media is focused on yesterday's "Anarchists" Carnival for Full Enjoyment- an anti-G8 protest that saw Edinburgh come to a standstill yesterday and has apparently "ruined" the peaceful protests called for by St Bob Geldof. After weeks of scaremongering, the "riots" amounted to a long stand-off between protesters and Police, some intense skirmishes -some of which were admittedly violent - and some very serious-geranium throwing. 20 people were injured, 100 people were arrested. Not quite the mass anarchy that we were led to believe would occur, but serious enough to make Jenners close its doors. The Guardian newsblog (above) gives a range of eyewitness blog accounts of what has been going on in the run up to the meeting of the G8. I would recommend reading some of the entries - particularly if you are someone who doesn't always take network news at face value (I recommend it even more so if you are someone who does...) The media-friendly rioting is merely a diversion.

I would have to admit to having been extremely conflicted this past weekend. As much as I am certain that the poverty in Africa is immoral and needs to be addressed, I am far less certain about the way in which this massive social and political change can occur, or if the efforts of the paternalistic West are necessarily the best or only solution. Of course, I'm no economist, neither am I a politician and so until I hear of a better alternative, I'll support the mainstream campaigns and continue to read and study widely in order to understand the nature of the problem and thus come to my own conclusions: it is better to do something than nothing, after all.

However, the campaigning itself troubles me -or rather, the expectation of the campaigners troubles me, if I am to be precise. On Saturday, 225,000 people marched through Edinburgh, many of whom had never been on any kind of protest before, all of whom were united in a belief that something should be done to rid the world of poverty. Their optimism, passion and sincerity was palpable: the atmosphere in The Meadows was one of excitement, eagerness to be seen to be doing something -and awe at the potential of being on the brink of a history changing moment. A well organised sea of placards, banners and flags, accompanied by chants, shouts and whistles assaulted one's senses (along with the warm fug of the smell of humanity: apart from deodorant and sweat, I would say that the overwhelming olfactory memory of the day would be of oranges: crates of them were being given out free to protesters in need of sustenance and the trodden on peel littered the grass...) There was a feeling of hope.

I can remember my first protests: Miner's Strike, CND, Section 28, Anti-Apartheid - I was an intense teenager, certain I was right and sure I was going to help save the world. I know the taste of hope well -and I have been lucky: Section 28 has been repealed and the damage of apartheid is finally being repaired: I have been on the winning side of campaigns and have felt the euphoria of change. Conversely, I have also been thoroughly defeated, ground down and have felt like the last campaigner on the block: until the war in Iraq, CND felt like an organisation that was dwindling and losing support - particularly after the fall of Soviet communism. It is a bitter irony that the Weapons of Mass Destruction furore and the war in Iraq helped revitalise the anti-nuclear campaign and has made people aware that as long as we hold an arsenal of nuclear weapons the threat of nuclear annihilation is still present, even if/when "the enemy" has changed. But I digress...

The campaigns I have been involved in have all been based around single issues: keeping mines open; ridding the world of nuclear weapons; removing a piece of bad legislation, changing a divisive, immoral government. Eradicating poverty is far more complex - in order to be sustainable and complete it requires changing the global economy and would affect everyone, with no exceptions. Writing off Third World debt, restoring "trade justice" and having better and more focused aid will barely skim the surface of the problems of Africa. It is, of course, an important start - and it is far from a foregone conclusion that the G8 leaders will agree to any of it- but it will not be an overnight cure: even if all these measures and more are taken, poverty will not be eradicated in my lifetime, and without a change from within many of the African nations any changes that do occur may well be short-lived. I suspect that for a large number of people who watched Live8 or marched in Edinburgh on Saturday, there is a vague belief that they will see measurable and immense change - and soon. Their hopes are, of course, for change for the good of humanity - but also that they will be able to witness it.

And that is, essentially, my concern over the campaigning: unless change is both visible and fast, many of the campaigners may well lose hope and interest. The expectations placed on the G8 summit are immense - and immensely hyped. The causes of poverty in Africa vary from nation to nation and not all can be solved by intervention from richer nations, many can only be solved from within Africa itself. My hope (I haven't forgotten the taste) is that interest in world change is sustained, that people will continue to care long after the G8 summit is over and the media has focused elsewhere, but I am not sure that the message of perseverance is one that has been made clearly enough. If we are to truly change our world are we really prepared for the long haul?