Dear Silent Ones…

For many months now, certain key people in my life have maintained radio silence for no reason that I can ascertain. They have not told me what is going on. They have not responded to emails, texts, phone calls. I have been left in a nightmare of silent darkness, and the obscurely horrible feeling that I am being punished – though what for, I have no idea.

To the best of my knowledge, NONE of them read my blog – so these words are not meant for any of my readers in the personal sense (though some of you may well be able to identify with what I am saying!).


Dear Silent Ones –

I am, to be frank, at the end of my tether with your behaviour and attitude. Trained in the torture chambers of deliberate silence, I am more patient than many when it comes to gaps in communication. I empathise. I make allowances. I chide myself for incipient insensitivity.

I have written. Many times. For those with phones – and the will to answer them (by no means the same thing) – I have even tackled my fear and rung the wretched instrument. All to no avail.

Why are you refusing to acknowledge me?

That, in its way, is far crueller than the harshest words, the bloodiest argument.

It is hurtful beyond endurance, beyond my ability to cope. I cannot swallow such needless neglect; cannot begin to digest whatever message you are trying to send by ignoring me for so long.

If there is a problem, let me know – and we can thrash it out between us like adults.

If illness, sadness or other problem afflicts you at present, please remember that my love and compassion does not include mind-reading in its package.

If you quite simply no longer wish to have me as part of your life, tell me straight.

If you are punishing me – grow up!

Being in my life is a privilege, not a right. I have value. I am not a toy to be discarded when something glittery and new comes on the market. I am not a punch-ball for your emotional frustrations.

If you cannot bring yourselves to tell me the truth, I will be the one to snap that tether in the end: There is only so much psychological torment I can take.

I have no idea what is going on in your lives – because you do not tell me. You exclude me from conversations with other members of the wide-ranging group.

I have tried my best.

Maybe YOU are not worth the continued effort and heartache. Ever thought of that?


A woman near the end of her tether…


Ghost Weed’s Tug-of War Gig: Pulling their way to Fame and Fortune!

18739080_10156336283588508_4700548638901800880_oGhost Weed – Left to right: Neil Phillips, Mark Halper, Matt Peach and Michael Lloyd.

Ghost Weed, an up-and-coming local Band The Only Dad Band with a Flute (as they, rather endearingly, refer to themselves) – have been strutting their stuff most impressively as part of the Wrington-based International Tug-of-War Competition. Last weekend this happened, Saturday May 27th to be precise.

A fan for many a year, able to trace their journey right back to the start – and their ex-fiddle-player to boot – I was keen, nay homicidally-determined! – to get a ring-side seat at this, their latest gig, and, accordingly, turned up, with a plethora of Band Wives, Daughters and other Hangers-on, at the field behind Wrington’s Recreation Ground, just as the band was setting up and the sun, like a firmamental Banksy, was Graffiti-spraying its warmest colours and designs all over the scene.

I just missed Day One of the Pullers’ (as, I gather, Tug-of-War competitors call themselves) Pugilism – a shame, in many respects, as I am inordinately fond of the old thews and sinews and second to none in my lascivious admiration for a toned male bod. The sport’s quite good as well…

But I did see the odd specimen wandering, sweat-shirt clad, around the tented area:

IMG05374-20170527-1928A last few sound checks and the like having been dispensed with – and Technician, Tom Henry, ready at the mixing desk to mellifluate – Frontman, Mark Halper, stepped up to the proverbial plate to introduce the band.

Without giving too many specific comedic moments away, Mark is ace at this job: In addition to playing a mean saxophone and even meaner flute, he is an excellent lead vocalist, has a fine line in up-to-the-moment banter, bags of charisma and a damn good rapport with the audience. Accordingly, on this Tugging occasion, Pulling jests were thrown thick and fast at us – with all the necessary suggestive implications, I hasten to add!

In addition to his comic skills, Mark sang brilliantly, particularly in new piece, Men at Work’s ‘Land Down Under’ (which included a lovely solo on flute) and gave us some seriously impressive sounds on both flute and saxophone.


Meanwhile, the Paul McCartney of the outfit, left-handed guitarist, Neil Phillips – having done a Loreena McKennitt at the start (broken string, for those not au fait with my reference here) – was in fine fettle all evening, with fabulous guitar-playing and showing his vocal skills in an unexpected, and thoroughly impressive, rendition of  Bauhaus’ Gothic song ‘The Passion of Lovers’.

His backing vocals in such pieces as Bruce Springsteen’s ‘My Oklahoma Home’ and Ghost Weed original ‘Cud Ya Just’ were both effective and harmonious.

Matt Peach, Drummer Extraordinaire, was clad in a particularly splendid red Fez – which harmonised most ambiently with Neil’s signature black and red shirt and caught the setting sun a treat later on! – and was, as he always is, the marvellous rhythm, the heartbeat, beneath the song. He corrals any wayward impulses with the most subtle action of brush and stick and, in his capacity as joint Timer and Pulse, keeps both schedule and life-flow going!

Michael ‘Earplugs’ Lloyd, Boss Bass-man and general wit, spent much of the time lurking far out of camera reach, catching the side flickers of sun beneath a hat and newly-hirsute face, whilst catching, matching and deepening song, reeds, rhythm and guitar. A wonderful sound he adds to the mix.

‘Why the name Ghost Weed?’ you may ask…

Aha! That is for you to find out when you see the band in the flesh! One of their originals, ‘The Ghost’, tells the story in full!

Eclectic, to say the least, their musical influences range from Elvis to Bruce Springsteen, from Canned Heat to Bauhaus, from memorable Originals to the Beatles, and far more besides.

Their final number – ‘My Oklahoma Home’ – has become a real favourite at Redhill Open Mic, and other local venue, evenings, and is now known as ‘Blown Away’ by many Redhillians. To my delight, the lads asked me to come up and join in as a backing vocalist. It was an honour and enormous fun.

It was a tremendous evening’s entertainment – and, by the end of their second forty-five-minute set, the lads were on a high, and enthusiastic audience members (including me) were up and grooving on the grass!

I am now trying to persuade them to grace Glastonbury with their talent! I think I am making some progress – and hope to be able to announce a Ghost Weed appearance in the King Arthur, Hawthorns or the King Billy very soon!

This last observation, to me, summed up evening, gig and band most beautifully: There was a glorious moment towards the end when, sun dripping gold like honey all over the field, the Weeders were caught, briefly, in a flare of exquisite radiance. Symbolic, it seemed, somehow: Their increasing prominence reflected in the brilliance of evening’s best palette; a New Moon overhead foretelling, I feel, the next phase of the Band’s life – their inexorable rise upwards.



Bardic Finals: Gorsedd y Beirdd Ynys Witrin: Billy the Celt, Bardd Newydd! DP

Traditionally, the Spirit of Inspiration is said to descend, a flame from the Fiery Forge above. This was abundantly clear at last night’s Bardic Finals in Ynys Witrin.

There was a moment last night when Nathan Williams, musician trained under the Eisteddfod Tradition, broke into Welsh: To be precise, he told us the expression for silence which, In Cymraeg, translates as the end of battle: Tawelwch. For SILENCE was the theme outgoing Bard, Sarah Mooney, had chosen for this year’s Trial.

Hairs stood up all over my body and a sob rose in my throat, caught, like rain, between two close leaves. It is so long since I have heard the melodious sound of the Welsh language.

But it was more than that: The power and spirit of the Bardic Finals in Glastonbury, held in the Assembly Rooms, crossed artificial boundaries and embraced the diversity of this island we Celts – and, indeed, Non-Celts – live upon, as well as acknowledging, covertly, all other Celtic strongholds. Won by a Scotsman, Billy the Celt; the beautiful Awen invoked at the start – so that the spirit of Groves and the Druidic Tradition was welcomed in; a nod at the end to Ceremonial Magic and Wicca; but, above all, an evening which celebrated the long Bardic Tradition, from Taliesin onwards – and, since time is circular, backwards as well.

Memories of Cynghanedd surfaced. Times in castles and manor houses when the Bard, harp in hand, would tell stories and accompany them with song. The Bardic presence upon the battlefield, still alive in pipers and ‘Flowers of the Forest’ amongst other laments.

It was a time of love and recognition of the word:The Oral Traditon – so rich and ancient; the written form which, although more recent, has given us the most famous Bard of all: Shakespeare. It celebrated the way that Story unites us and gives us back our common heritage; the way that some of the very old languages have stored atmosphere, colour and emotion in the very bones of the sounds which make up words, hence my shuddery shiver when ‘Tawelwch’ resonated round a darkened, incense-rich, room.

I write this in excitement and fellow feeling – for I am of the Bardic Persuasion myself; also in humility, for the five Bards-in-Waiting were so fabulous in their different ways, so moving, lively, funny and talented that I felt but an embryo in comparison. Their grasp of the Celtic Mythology that unites us was profound, their expression of it beautiful. They sent inspirational light to dark area of the Western Mystery Tradition – and, in the case of Stephen Cole, accompanied the tale of Bran the Blessed upon the harp.

His was a wonderful performance and I was mesmerised from the first twinkly notes of his little harp. It touched upon the Matter of Britain and echoed much of my own private musings upon the Wasteland and Grail Question.

Tristan’s words upon the subject of the silence that both divides and contains great emotional treasure; his plea for emotional honesty; his recognition that artifice is dangerous – all brought a deep-seated acknowledgement from the crowd.

Billy, the Celt, was magnificent, musing melodiously upon the identity, meaning, history and purpose of the Bard, singing to guitar and playing ‘Silent Night’ upon the harmonica. The importance of the Bardic Tradition in our troubled world was particularly touching and stirring.

Annabelle’s lovely piece on Bridie was both poetic and emotional. Clad all in white and with a bell to toll certain moments, she looked and sounded beautiful. We were each given a slip of paper with printed words upon it so that we could celebrate and share some of the words with her.

Rik’s take on silence was very different, but absolutely brilliant. He was the Fool, who became two other characters, one female and the other male, in a series of rhyming couplets which, by the magic of his performance and his great acting skills, became spontaneous-appearing dialogue and sobering commentary upon the way we humans are treating this fragile world, so full of song and the Word, we inhabit and share. Hilarious and moving, I loved it.

While the judges were conferring down below, and plumes of incense created spirals and strange pictures in the air, three talented Bards in the Musical Tradition came forward to entertain us. Nathan, I have already mentioned – and he was fabulous, his singing (which we all joined in with) of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound of Silence’ both apt and evocative.

JyaRaine, who accompanied herself on guitar and had a wonderful voice, has terrific stage presence and I loved her songs, all composed by her. Huge talent there.

Dora, who followed her and also sang to guitar, had a very different, but equally effective, musical presence. She had been in Wales and sang of its magical beauty. Her words of love for landscape took me back to my time in the West part of the Principality.

The moment arrived. The judges trooped back. The five Bardic hopefuls stood in a circle, facing outwards to the audience. Tim Hawthorn, Elder Bard, explained that the judging had been both difficult and very close. This did not surprise me. I would have hated to make a distinction between five such fine performances.

But, winner there had to be – and this honour, to be held for a year and a day – the duration between Sir Gawain beheading the Green Knight and his journey through the Wasteland to meet his destiny – was conferred upon Billy, the Celt, to rapturous applause from the audience.

The Bardd Newydd was ceremonially robed and seated upon the Bardic Chair. Sarah gave him the gift of Taliesin’s words as her farewell and handing over act. I felt tears rise at this point.

What is so strange is this: My musings, and my editing skills, have, of late, been turned towards my own Love Song to Wales and to the Bardic Tradition – and this evening very much stirred those stifled embers into new, and I hope exciting, life.

It was a joy to behold – and a reminder to us of the fact that we are all in this business called Life together; that unity within diversity is not just possible but urgently to be desired; that the Bardic Tradition is alive and well – and that the wisdom of past Bards fires the forge of creation still.

Unfortunately, a problem has arisen with my mobile phone connection and I have been unable to download the images I took last night. There are, however, plenty of lovely photos on Facebook.

My words will have to suffice!

Final: Emotional Neglect and its effect upon the Maturation Process

There is no such thing as the final ‘Aha!’ moment, or the final lesson to be learned – though many of us convince ourselves otherwise and are privately certain that we reach our final bout of wisdom at a certain age and are then finished.

So, I write this with no expectation that it will be my final word, thought or insight into the subject, for such a claim would be arrogant; all I can say is that it may turn out to be the final piece in one minuscule jigsaw of the thousands that make up the overall picture of my life – but, there again, it may not!

I rarely read long articles on Facebook, so it must have been a pretty exceptional piece to have grabbed my interest in the first place – or so I thought. Actually, and having now read it, I know exactly why it appealed to me: It flagged up something I have long known, albeit at a subliminal level, about myself.

I experienced emotional neglect as a child – and, because of the nature of the scars this leaves, continue to invite it as an adult.

There. I’ve said it.

The article set out the signs to look for very clearly and succinctly, and I read with dawning horror, though not (and you’ll see the relevance of this in a minute) anger.

Emotionally neglected children have real problems accessing, and expressing, let alone emoting, their strong feelings. They learn early that such things will be ignored or harshly punished; that the primary caregiver doesn’t have the time, the energy, the inclination to listen, to soothe, to allow tears and screams and other healthy outlets.

Emotionally neglected children can become overly forgiving and motherly: Listening to everyone else first; diverting the conversation back to the other; genuinely believing that they are bottom of the need pile. They are so used to being ignored and left till last and not answered that, in later life, any silence will have two contrary, but powerful, effects: Absolute soul-wrenching panic and distress, and complete inability to access the anger which such neglect actually deserves.

Children who have been neglected or abused often act out inappropriately while finding it almost impossible to ask for help – and, on those occasions when others notice their unhappiness, to express the deep emotion it brings in its train. Ironically, many neglected children become excellent listeners, and carers, from an early age because they have been taught to put others first and themselves very definitely last. In the frantic time-limited world of their childhood homes, they are trained to respond to ‘I’m too busy’ without sulking or crying or showing any sign other than acceptance. Any attention becomes incredibly valuable and sought after – even, sad to relate, that of a negative kind.

Very often these children are withdrawn at school, or find it difficult to make and keep close friends – mainly because they find it so hard to open up and share and turn most conversations onto the other which, after a while, is unnerving and like conversing with a characterless ghost. Because they learn to close their own faces and turn expressions off, other children often mistake them for aloof, remote, snobbish, superior types – or plain weird – and give them a wide berth. Because they find it so difficult to join in, they are often left out. Because they are quiet, they get ignored.

The bottom line, however, and the most worrying effect of years of neglect, is that these young people accept abuse from almost anyone from childhood onwards. They have a distressing habit of picking emotionally mean friends, lovers, partners. They often marry emotional neglectors – and feel profoundly uneasy when around the emotionally generous because, sadly, such people seem too rich a mixture, too bountiful in the emotional desert that is the child’s inner world.

When I read this article, I was transfixed and appalled. I could identify with every symptom laid out in it. It explained much about my behaviour that I had always found troubling and mysterious, wondering (silently) if I were, in fact, a sociopath or a psychopath because of my inability to cry or feel much in public.

But I also knew that I had been neglected emotionally by my parents; that, as the oldest, I was expected to attain a maturity beyond my years and to accept small portions of hurried affection and listening only when nothing more pressing came up. I learned early to hide my emotions and express them only in the journal.

My first relationship was with a man who had his own insecurities, it is true, but who was not emotionally neglectful; in fact, so generous was he that I felt overwhelmed and flooded after so many years of emotional wasteland. I could not respond and this, I suspect, was part of the reason why we split up in the end.

Since then, I have chosen, and attracted, emotionally neglectful men into my life, where intimate relationships are concerned at any rate. I have dated, slept with and married my parents in other words. The numbness in the face of cruelty and neglect; the extremes of gratitude (almost grovelling) when given any attention and warmth; the absolute terror of being thought cold, even insane, because of my poker face and dry eyes – all of this stems from early childhood.

I put off motherhood for a very long time because I was afraid, afraid I did not have the emotional warmth and depth to care for a child. I was, at a deep level, terrified that I would neglect any child, or children, that I did bear; that something cold in my nature (as I saw it) would wound a growing human being.

When I did get pregnant, at thirty-nine, these thoughts pre-occupied me. I was also scared that I would not be able to bond with my child when he was born; that he would grow up feeling unloved, unwanted, fatally flawed, the way I had.

I can see now that I went the opposite way with my son. I was stifling at times, over-protective, terrified of letting him out of my sight. But out of the barrenness came something unexpected, a green shoot in a sandy landscape: The ability to love unconditionally. It was, perhaps, then that I realised I was not cold and remote or unfeeling.

But I have problems to this day which can be traced back to emotional neglect, one of them being my tendency to allow others to ignore me for long periods of time without my getting angry or demanding attention – and then to be so grateful when the period of isolation has passed that I would sell my very soul for those precious nuggets of time and affection (no matter how shallow). This was one of my ex-husband’s chief means of controlling me, and I fell for it every time, too insecure to rage at him and tell him to stop.

It also means that I do not expect anyone to answer my emails and letters, whilst longing for them to do so; that I am unable to find appropriate fury at being ignored by people; that I have very weak boundaries when it comes to other people’s treatment of me. Recent example: Nearly a year ago, I wrote a letter to certain people explaining why I was divorcing my ex. Most of them still have not written back. Did I write again more aggressively? No, of course not: That would be infringing upon their precious time and interrupting more important parts of their lives. It hurt, terribly, but that kind of pain is all-too-familiar and in no way special or deserving of different behaviour from, or towards, me.

Six weeks ago, I sent out another letter, an update on my life in Glastonbury. No one responded. Others would, I am sure, have taken a more pro-active stance in the wake of this kind of neglect and said, ‘Hey, did you get my letter?’ or similar; I have not because, to me, that is like unacceptable hassling and insensitive wasting of other people’s time.

It is the inability to tell others off, to get angry, to assert my rights that so distresses me. It is this level of allowing others to neglect me, to make me wait, that triggers the childhood silence and fear. I was powerless as a child. We all are at some point. But the neglected part of my character has remained powerless and afraid, tip-toeing around others in this fearful way, terrified of giving offence, allowing all sorts rather than risk annoying the all-powerful parent figure.

I am very glad that I read the article, though it hurt to do so. It and the recent fox sighting have become symbols of regrowth, of new boundaries and recognition in my mind and heart. I understand that I have given myself other people’s negative labels and incorporated them within in a damaging way: That I have believed I was cold, insane, difficult and so on because other, more dominant, people told me I was. I understand that such labels can actively prevent us from opening up, being overtly emotional and trusting others. But I also see that these labels are neither binding not absolute truths.

Not expressing my every emotion outwardly does not make me a cold and harsh person; in fact, I am coming to see that I am both warm and loving. Chosen eccentricity (partly as a shield) does not imply actual insanity. Being difficult is, sometimes, necessary in order to keep that firm line drawn in the sand. Gaps in communication are not always sinister – and I am learning to recognise those who are deliberately ignoring me from those who simply have a great deal on their plates.

My final point: Neglected children often find it very hard to push abusive people away. They become co-dependant within the relationship. The constant abuse and neglect followed by charm and affection confuses the inner child so much that he/she does not know how to react. This is why I have kept toxic people in my life far longer than was healthy. Such people are highly adept when it comes to giving just enough apparent kindness and positive attention to make leaving very difficult, whilst continuing to abuse and neglect as and when it suits them.

I am not alone in this. Understanding it helps. I may never become the epitome of emotional expressiveness, but at least I can now discount, and start to offload, many of the more unhelpful earlier labels.

Neglect from others can so easily turn into self-neglect. This has been very true of me for much of my life. But I am determined that I will not neglect myself in this latest phase of my journey; that I will continue to nurture the small inner me and to invite positive and loving people into my life; that I will choose radiators and abstain from contact with drains!

Lifestyle Choices: Red Rag to the Control Bull!

I don’t know why the lifestyle choices of others cause such consternation, fury and downright condemnation in the hearts of some – or, come to that, why metaphorical bulls are so enraged by the red of another’s house, clothing, gender decisions, even food choices that they will threaten – and, indeed, carry out – all manner of nasties to make their ox-like point.

Except, actually, I think I do have at least an inkling as to why this widespread habit persists – and it links with another strand of thought which has occurred to me in recent days: Working on ourselves, or evading the discipline this, invariably, requires.

Permit me to pontificate! During our lives, we regularly come up against the divide in the path which, one way, takes us down the track of Change and, the other, along Stay as I am! Human nature is resistant to change more often than not – and for every decision to go down the left hand fork, we can count another ten examples in which we opted for the apparently easier Stay as I am one.

But clever games can be played at these crossroads of life – and, let’s face it, often are. The first – and one I have used myself countless times – is to deny the reality of the Change path, or state defensively that one does not need it! Another good wheeze is to claim that one has reached such a high level of spiritual growth that one has slipped, by default, into Guru status and one’s job, therefore, is the ushering (at the end of a gun, if necessary!) of others souls along that Change path!

To put it another way, it is the kind of denial which insists that other people’s lifestyle choices are the problem and only intense work on themselves – supervised rigorously by the Denier, of course! – can shift the energies, re-align the Chakras and turn a substandard human being into something vaguely acceptable.

But, change comes from within, does it not? Nobody else can make lifestyle decisions for us. Nobody else can dictate the pace, or direction, of our spiritual and personal work, or punish us because, in their eyes, we are not progressing as fast as they would like.

Those people who avoid their own mirrors and Change! prompts – and we all do at some point! – whilst insisting that everyone else is in need of major restructuring are, to my mind, mole-blind at best, bloody dangerous at worst. Those who see themselves as being, in some way, more sorted, and thus superior, to the rest of us are dallying with deadly delusion!

It becomes poisonous when irritants within the Denier’s soul, ignored and locked away, are projected onto the lifestyles of others. This can reveal itself in many ways, from the superficial (what we eat, how we arrange our homes: All wrong in the Denier’s mind!) to the seriously prejudiced (the all-too-common responses to members of the LGTBQ community, for example, whose lifestyle choices trigger terror, and aggression, in the hearts of those not at ease with their own gender affiliation and sexuality).

My question is this: Why is it so important to some people that everyone else subscribes to their take on life?

And, allied to that thought: Why is it that some people are convinced that they, and they alone, know how someone else’s life should be lived?

Is that not a tad arrogant? To say the least! Is that not giving oneself the power of a God or Goddess? Certainly a Dictator!

Most times, when you dissect the cadaver of logical ‘argument’ (read emotional rant!), it actually comes down to these bare bones: ‘My choices are indubitably RIGHT and, therefore, everyone else in the world should be doing as I do, say and think!’

It is like a primary school playground chant, isn’t it?

‘My lifestyle choices are better than yours – na na na nana!’

The number of times we all say, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t do/buy/eat that, if I were you!’ would, I suspect, horrify us if we counted them up. But the reality is this: We are NOT the other person (that’s the whole point); our opinions are just that – opinions – and what works for us may well be totally inappropriate for the other.

Coming back to my metaphor of the crossroads/paths, one thing stands out with grim clarity (I use the word ‘grim’ because I know how often I have denied, avoided, run away and made excuses!): The appearances of these dividing paths in our lives are meant for US; they are not for others. We can, of course, pathwork together – and it can be highly rewarding – but that does not change the basically solitary nature of the Hermit’s path, be it spiritual, emotional or academic. It is when we insist that WE don’t need to change that we are showing the universe that, actually, change is our greatest need and challenge, and no amount of pinning the spotlight on other people’s lives is going to make a ha’porth of difference!

It is terribly, and terrifyingly, easy to take a controlling stance when it comes to the perceived faults, weaknesses and lifestyle decisions of those we know. It is frighteningly easy to think that we know best, have all the right answers – and would, let us be blunt here, live the other’s life so much better given half a chance and a prevailing wind!

It is laughably easy to react immediately, and furiously, to the red cloak of another’s weird (to us) lifestyle choices and to try and horn in on the vulnerable underbelly that comes with most decisions in this life of ours.

People make thousands of choices in their lives. Some will be excellent and serve them well; others will be daft or dangerous, badly thought-out or made when under the influence. But we do not have the bigger picture of another’s life. We cannot tell which strange choices will, actually, turn out to be amazing one way or another, and which, though perfect in our eyes, do not lead to a Path with Heart.

We may not approve. We may feel dubious. We may express our doubt and give advice. But I think it behoves us to look in that clear inner mirror first and make absolutely sure that our red rag moment is not the result of massive and widespread denial of our own flaws: That we are not forcing others down our own Paths of Change so that we can continue to take evasive action.

Lifestyle choices are precisely that. They are not Commandments engraved in stone tablets. They change as we grow. We adapt them as our soul’s journey continues.

A pertinent question to ask is this: Why does Person A’s lifestyle enrage me so much?

The answer can be very surprising!

Musical Roots: The Drum’s Song


The drum called, its stick an instant friend in my hand, unexpected tingle of familiarity up my right arm. I knew the figure crouched at my left, bright streams of Sun colour a solar-fall down the cloak of pure gold. I recognised the tall shadow of the Shaman, dark feathers shining unearthly green and blue, pelts still giving off the slight whiff of the animals which gifted them, sharp beak a stern reminder of mortality.

Stones – tall and weathered, humming and sparking with energy – surrounded us; the steep slope, shawled with grazing kine behind, a powerful shoulder for the people to gather strength from, or weep upon. The Circle fizzed and fuzzed with expectant silence. Sun, a radiant smile overhead, blessed the sacred site with its vernal benison, though the catch in the throat and the infinitesimal darkening and deepening of Sky’s evening palette suggested imminent transition. Darkness waiting in the wings of the land, its bridge of colour hovering.

The Shaman’s eyes met mine. The kneeling priest, poised, offered the perfect taut circle of the drum, the dermal sacrifice of creatures long forgotten ready to find, emulate and ultimately match the Mother’s deep heartbeat.

The Tall-stone in the South-East, blood red in places, flared, as if injecting the dying sun with stimulant. Shadows lengthened upon rough grass. Birds held their noise.

Stick, a bony finger calcified by time and loving use, settled into the palm of my hand. I raised my right arm, worried that this virgin descent upon the waiting surface would cause harm, break its hide, sound so faintly that magical energy would be trapped and trammelled. As, indeed, had I been for so long. The irony, aptness and wonder of my new role had not escaped me in the robing up and long walk, a flurry of villagers on all sides, to this high place.

Creaking at first, the lengthy descent gathered pace as arm fell and muscles readied themselves, electricity I did not know I possessed singing an ancient song of power.

The Mother’s heartbeat was uncertain at first, faltering with my fear, as hands held back for years remembered the lyre of Logres and its plaintive wondrous song. But flat and flabby thump gave way, with dawning excitement meeting waning light, to a staccato immediacy and a thrumming pulse that took me away from the ego and its insistent demands; a rhythm, known long ago and forgotten, picked up, cradled and nurtured by the mother within my own nature. The rhythm of song and blood and life and heart; the steady beat that informs the Land and accompanies us from first falling through Mother’s pulsating tunnel to final spasm of darkness followed by brightly-lit transition.

As the beat strengthened, its tone ever fuller in the gloaming, an urge, which goes back to the Ancestors, came upon me: It was the urge to push, to go through the labour of Song-birth, to bring a new being of raven-dark, moon-lit, Earth-cradling luminescence into a world whose heart is faltering and whose natural song has been flattened by artifice and inertia and distance from source.

This need, every bit as powerful and impossible to resist as birthing my own child, took over and the spears of natal agony and ecstasy took over, banishing mind’s control and society’s rigid rules.

The I, ‘prisoned deep within ringing stone cavern, lay manacled. The silent eye took over, its harmony with the Earth-connection and Bardic Lore from the past instinctive and unassailable.

My frail human heart became the Mother’s. The drumstick a maternal finger smoothing a tight full belly, the beat of Mother and Child in unison a warmth and weeping, the Nativity of song a gift to the land.

It is a measure of my new start, that…

…days, like today, when I am feeling subdued, unhappy and in pain, are far fewer in number than the happy days – and certainly rare in comparison to April 2016.

What has kicked this low mood off? Some things I can trace: News which, though none of my business per se, has ripped the scab off a wound which has been lamentably slow to heal anyway. A reaction to my photographs, which I’ll expand upon in a moment. The pulling of muscles in my back, which has brought physical pain and some degree of a return to my habit of anxiety.

Let me go back to the photos – for there have been many of them – and the delayed, though, I can now see, predictable reaction to them.

Brought up to be modest, unassuming; taught that self-display was almost a sin and certainly a sign of a monstrous ego; rebuked for flirting, trying to attract sexual attention; aware that women, in this light, had to avoid being gaudy and posing with any skin on show; told time and again how embarrassing I was because of my dress sense, my hair, my footwear – and all of this internalised so successfully that, until very recently, I would as soon have beaten myself up as shown an image of my face in public.

Convinced, from the earliest age, that I was plain, even ugly, and quite without any kind of sex appeal, loathing all attempts to capture my likeness on film – and sure that the resulting images were uniformly hideous – I hid, in fantasy, in reading, in writing, in music, in nature, in corners and hidey-holes, in dreams, in humour.

My measure of myself was infinitesimally tiny. I was, in my own estimation, little more than a tool to be used by others: To listen; to make them laugh; to be kind; to be the plain friend set against the glittering sex goddess type; to be the quiet one next to the flamboyant Character.

To be, above all, un-photogenic. Goddess knows, I had this ‘truth’ instilled into me enough times, and by enough people.

So, my recent habit of posting selfies has provoked waves of guilt and terror. I fear that I have become as self-centred as a gyroscope; that I am trying to persuade myself that I am still young; that I am in a cloud of utter delusion and arrant stupidity; that this endless displaying of self on posts is cringe-worthy, tedious, repetitive and shallow.

I guess I am trying to measure up – and always have been, at some level – to a physical ideal: The epitome of femininity as decreed by twentieth/twenty-first century taste.

It is not even that I genuinely believe that the physical appearance is the most important part. I do not, never have. Perhaps I am more afraid of reaching sixty than I am aware of. Perhaps, the spectre of lonely and, in the boyfriend sense, unloved old age is tickling at my subconscious, even though, on the surface, the idea of an intimate relationship fills me with absolute terror.

I do crave attention. I know that’s childish and selfish, but I am being honest here. I want to be noticed – and yet I don’t. I want to be loved and desired and thought beautiful – and yet I panic and freeze at the thought of male, or female, attention. I want to be seen – and yet I also want to retreat, to hide, to be invisible. I want to cheer people up, to make people laugh – and yet I also want to cry, alone, unseen. I want to be thought talented and loving and friendly – and yet I am also shit-scared of trusting, of being used, of being rejected.

I can see that these conflicting thoughts and feelings reflect the bitter measure of nastiness which so permeated my life in 2014-2016 – and, in lesser ways, still does. I can see that, for each inch of skin (metaphorically) I assume to be healed, there are another hundred still weeping, bleeding and hurting. I can see that, sometimes, nay oft-times, I am trying too hard, am Marathon-running before I have even mastered a basic baby crawl. I can see that I am impatient with my own rate of healing – and that, if I am rock-honest, I want all the after-effects of the past few years to be behind me, in my past, a sepia photograph from a bygone age and get very agitated when I have to confront the truth: That I am far from healed and that I WILL get days like this.

The reduction of my self-image to shards of grotesque, almost monstrous, matter; the measuring of my personality up against a variety of strait-jackets; the nurturing of uncertainty, anxiety and fear have all resulted in a rattling hollow beneath the surface cheer and loud persona. As I have said before, looking at photos taken in safety (by me), gives me a moment of material existence. Not that this certainty lasts, of course.

I know I am real – but it is, at times, a piecemeal version of reality. I cup my cheek with my left hand and can feel the warmth of the palm, the bony jutting of face, the fluttering of eyelashes on the little finger. But my face is as mysterious and unseen as ever. Photos are not me – and yet, logically, they capture moments of who I am. Weird, eh?

But here is the rub: The images captured by mobile phone (I don’t own a camera) are a measure of Ali, the Corporate Being as seen by the world (if you see what I mean) and do not correspond terribly closely to the Ali within. My persona – orange, larger than life, dramatic, loud – is the hooded cloak I have woven to cover my absolute sense of nakedness and, I guess, vulnerability inside.

I think, ironically, the photos reflect the persona most readily. This is because I am so terrified of being seen when vulnerable that even camera images, which supposedly reveal the soul, are a measure only of the me I am prepared to show.

Three recent images – which showed my fragile centre unambiguously – have been shared only with two close friends. Why? Because, with them, I have no need to pretend to be anything other than the self I truly am. Because they got my measure long ago and I do not need to advance and then retreat in their company.

But, back to the beginning, I still maintain that it is a measure of increased strength, confidence and happiness that days like today are relatively few and far between.