Mosquito-Meddling;Irritability and Dark Humour…

Cease thy malevolent meddling with me, Mozzies, or it’ll be the Spray from which there is no Bodily Return!

Covered in bites – from bastard mosquitoes, I am assuming – and sweating like the proverbial dray horse, I am in no mood to be pleasant or kind or understanding! In fact, my irritability has gone into the red danger zone and is, in many ways, indistinguishable from yer actual bloody furious raging!

Oh, it’s nobody’s fault! Weather affects the old and young, sick and well, saintly and evil equally and indiscriminately. I ain’t taking this personally. But I am hacked off with the heat, infuriated by the insidious insects and am, in general, craving caverns of caressing coolth.

Honestly, this kind of climatic condition does bugger-all for a girl’s self-esteem – seriously! If I were on the hunt for a bloke (not high on my agenda at present), I’d be foraging around for large sacks to hide my body in and adopting a full-face-covering veil to obliterate the red weals, the tomato-hued visage and the constant salty waterfalls of effing sweat.

I feel – and no doubt look – hideous, would be fighting Grendel’s Mother for the Mere-Wife Most Reminiscent of a Gargoyle Award. The only good side of this unending Trial by Heatwave is that I am, and most unlike me, currently off my food (other than a shared splurge on home-made chocolate ice-cream with divers other members of Shadow of the Tor last night, that is!) – so might actually shed some of the rolls of adipose tissue which, at present, cause my outlying areas to settle back down several minutes after the rest!

Honestly, though, this has long been a source of mystery and infuriated jealousy in the Browning Breast: How is it that every other woman I know manages to look gorgeous and sexy and winsomely wet and curvaceous in this kind of weather, while I look like something the cat ate in-advisedly and then sicked up immediately? What is it about me that acts as a permanently open door to every frigging mosquito in a five mile radius, eh? I can imagine the little buggers telling their friends and family, ‘Hey! Got a ripe one here, Chaps! Get here pronto!’


I feel in imminent danger of Spontaneous Human Combustion, and may well end up as one of those medical mysteries in which a lower limb, sock and shoe still in place, is the only sign a person actually ever existed! Either that or instant and rampant Malaria from the Hun-like hordes of rapacious little fuckers feasting upon my dermal largesse!

Right: I’m off to ‘apply’ the cheese-grater to my multiple itching welts…

A Thousand Words in a Facial Expression…


This picture – of an already heat-embuggered Ali seconds after sitting down upon a bollock-witheringly hot chair – sums up my response to the current heatwave most succinctly.

I have already posted this one’s slightly-less-hideous twin sister on Facebook – left the real Wicked Witch of East, West, North and South simultaneously for the blog: There’s kind!

Perhaps fortunately, the magic of the camera cannot reproduce the long and diverse string of swear words that accompanied this spectacular grimace!

Put it this way: Had I been competing in the Annual Gurning Through a Horse’s Collar Competition (Somerset Chapter), I’d have won without any questions being asked…

Heat Hades: I’ll be relieved when it’s cooler…

Yesterday was hard for me – and for many others too. Today? Even harder. I can quite see why the Underworld Realms were given extremes of flaming heat in ancient mythologies, and why roasting of humans is an archetypal religious punishment.

I struggle with high temperatures, especially in this country. But it is not just the physical suffering that has pre-occupied me over the past twenty-four hours: I have descended into a demon-packed Hell of my own, a place crammed with trident-bearing, horned nasties which poke and taunt and whip and find other ingenious ways to attack the edifice I am trying to build post-divorce.

I barely slept last night. The heat, despite open windows and doors and three showers, was borderline unbearable and has brought in its sullen train the whole host of buzzing, biting, itch-inducing insects that make the nocturnal world so vile at times. When you add Jumble to the mix, rapid escalation to complete emotional overload was but a sigh away.

The gate between kitchen and rest of house works on the practical level, but it does not, and can not, address the problem of separation anxiety (which both Jumbs and I are suffering from) and the frailties of extreme old age (dog more than me on that one). To put it simply, my beloved companion (increasingly blind, deaf and at sea in the world) is the epitome of insecurity when I am not in sight; he follows me everywhere he physically can and barks or howls when left alone at night.

I know there is a no-doubt-very-sensible philosophy that dictates ignoring such cries – both in babies and in pets – until the small and vulnerable creature learns to shut up; but, to be frank, I was never any good at this when it came to my own then-tiny child, and my ability to bear another being’s cries has not improved in the intervening years.

But I also feel, as I did back then, irritable and under-slept and, when roused for the third time at 1.30 am, more inclined to snarl than sympathise. I am not a saint, nor am I perennially good-tempered and nice. Heat can cause me to blow a gasket, aptly enough, and descend, like a screeching Barbarian tribe, upon the masses who have, inadvertently, stoked my boiler of rage.

My night was criss-crossed with a boiling blend of sympathy and nascent wished-for-canicide against my animal. I would never harm him – of course not – but can understand, in this torture of stifled airlessness and pain and panic and lack of sleep, why heat provokes both lust and violence.

Self-doubt multiplies in the early, hot, dark hours, doesn’t it? That and fear. That and the torment of that vast pull all we artists experience at some time or another: Between being kind to/supporting others and pulling out all the stops (even if some of them have the word ‘Ruthless’ written upon them) to advance one’s own cause, in my case the writing and publishing dream.

My inability to ignore the screams of my baby child echoes the equal lack of facility I have always had/experienced when it comes to ploughing ahead, with ruthless blindness, and advancing my own literary needs above the multifarious metaphorical cries of the larger world around me. It is very hard for me to believe that I come first in some respects; that I do not have to put up with those who want to tell me how to live my life (and, believe you me, I attract hordes of these individuals); that I have the right to repel all boarders whose energy is bullying or draining; that I am talented enough to stand with the best of them.

I woke, to a world gone deadly Summer-mad once more; a world in which a terrorist act of murder has been perpetrated – supposedly using, as excuse, revenge and the continuation of values of the Western lifestyle  – against the Muslim Community. Nothing can justify such an act in my view. Rage? Hatred? Revenge? The effects of heat?

No. We all know that dogs can turn during these very hot days, can turn and bite viciously; can cause serious damage, even death. But we are not dogs. The same excuse cannot be used.

Come on: Hands up. How many of us, irrespective of our religious beliefs, were actually brought up to believe that wholesale slaughter was any kind of answer to life’s more problematic questions? I most certainly was not, and I am buggered if I will be wantonly included, albeit by inference, in a society, a religion, a so-called set of values, which actively DOES, and WAS.

I will be bloody relieved, I can tell you, when the current heat wave gives way to cooler weather – and, on the planetary current high terrorism level, when crazed and vengeful hot-headed spates of extreme violence give way to a cooler and saner approach to the problems that so divide our world.

Heat Hades indeed…

Ancient Bottles of Crusted Emotion…

Separation Anxiety, like incredibly ancient crusted wine, lies at the bottom of my Greek bottles. Nothing shifts it, for it is baked into the fired glass by centuries of exposure to scorching Cretan suns, has become a part of the curvaceous whole.

I have travelled far – into a very new land. My imprint in the sands of this beautiful Vale of Avalon is not yet deep or secure; wind storms cover it over and obliterate the shallow mark.

I mourn, at times horribly, painfully, for some of those I left behind in the old world; those who were dear to my heart; those with whom I had a connection and, in some cases, a special language.

This is a time of acute rootlessness suspended, as I am, between two places, two times. Distance in the heart can be nothing – or it can present as an abyss of anguish, a chasm of chaotic and cruel separation, an unbridgeable gap between two nations.

I hold my sun-warmed, salt-smelling bottles close to my aching chest, inhaling the fragrance of old raki, of thyme and dung and rosemary and oregano; of feelings dipped in herbs and laid out to dry in amphora used millennia ago.

It is about loss. It is about what I was, and no longer am. It is about being cast aside; of being pushed away from the bank of known security and, in a very few cases, love. It is about the deep fear that the frail herb of love, of bonding, will not survive this wrenching transplantation to a new landscape, different soil, a climate quite at variance with any known before.

It is all about my centuries-long habit of filling these wonderfully-wrought containers with emotional wine I do not wish to share, and of seeing its rusted flakes littering the bottom.

It is about a sobbing yowl, across wine-dark sea, and through a tempest of fearful dislocation, as the ship carries me out over bucking waves, crunching and crashing through white-foamed water mountains; it is about the deep terror that safety has gone; that the shoreline getting ever-fainter represents much more than a curved line on an old map.

It is about the power of missing real people; of the raw wound of separation; of having to relocate; of emotions so strong that they pass through moments of hurtful astringency.

It is about the age-old nightmare fear that those left on the mainland will forget my existence – and that, for some, out of sight truly is out of mind.

Papyri of received wisdom do not soak up the tears or soothe the aching soul. This is a Valley of Darkness I must travel, alone. It is part of the moving experience. In every sense. Loss is not neatly linear. The metaphor of the bottle does not suffice as a container for the great frothing tsunamis of intense emotion.

Do I have to obliterate my mark upon that now-distant land in order to truly graft myself on the new one? If so, it is a frightening thought and, potentially, an even more petrifying action.

I do not want to let go. But the bottles, heat-slimed through age and uncharacteristic sun-baking, slither and slip in my sweating hands. They may shatter into antediluvian-dried-wine-spattered shards whether I want this or not, releasing the faint scent of libations long gone and the minute bound mummies of dead love.

Glastonbury’s Unity Candle: Morgana West

Twice in recent weeks I have had the honour of helping Morgana West, the Unity Candle’s Handmaiden, at public events. The first – to send a message of Light, sympathy and love to all citizens affected by recent atrocities in London and Manchester – was filmed by Laura Zaky Wolfers and is up on YouTube. The second, last Sunday’s Mayoral Procession and service at St John’s Church, I shall write about in a sister post to this one.

But first, I share with you Morgana’s words – for she knows far more about the history and purpose of this beautiful and sacred Candle, and its distinctive lantern home, than I do.

The History of the Glastonbury Unity Candle

In 2009, Morgana West explored the idea of creating candles that could be used to represent Glastonbury. Starchild, a local shop, offered to source and sell them on behalf of Glastonbury Pilgrim Reception Centre. The colour was chosen and, in 2010, the initiative was launched.  Each 12 x 2 inch candle is charged with a unique magical herbal infusion made with herbs, trees and flowers including the Glastonbury Thorn. These have been collected in tune with the cycles of the moon from various sites in and around Glastonbury. Blue was chosen because there is a deep spiritual significance to it and is seen in many cultures and beliefs, representing faith, devotion, peace, inner knowledge, love, tranquillity and harmony.

 MW – Diary entry – Thursday 15th July 2010
The Glastonbury Unity Candle was activated today in a moving ceremony that was attended by the PRC team; each one representing a different faith, path or belief.
Everyone took turns in anointing the candle which was then placed in its splendid ‘house’ and lit by the Chair of the PRC, Elisabeth Tham. Her opening words were: “We ask that the Glastonbury Candle will be a constant reminder to all of us that we are all part of the One and help us to be accepting, open and loving towards all the people we meet, regardless of our different backgrounds and opinions. Let us learn to work together in a creative and non-competitive way to do what is best for Glastonbury and the wider world.”

Everyone in the circle then spoke a few words focusing on the intent of the candle to represent the weaving together of all the different, glorious threads that make up this remarkable place. Without each unique thread, Glastonbury would not be what it is.

As we all joined hands and silently focused on the Intent, a powerful wave of energy rolled through the ceremony, physically moving everyone as if on a tidal surge of the Avalon waters. It is our hope that this wave of energy will continue throughout the town and into the wider world.

We are all unique; we are all different – yet the Light that resides in us all is the Divine Spark that links us into the One Whole. May the Glastonbury Candle represent the Whole; may its Light shine out into the world; may we all work together in peace, love, harmony and unity and enjoy the differences that make up this wonderful microcosmic representation of the macrocosmic universe.

Since then, the Candle has visited hundreds of events and, in its familiar lantern, has been taken to ceremonies and events of all kinds, attending churches, temples and sacred venues, weddings, anniversaries, christenings, funerals, talks, workshops, conferences, civic events, festivals and concerts. It also stands on the  Glastonbury Town Council table every month – and all members of the council and public are asked to stand and, following its lighting, observe a Minute’s Silence.  A key harmonising factor in Glastonbury, it has also been used to bring the community together in vigils for peace and understanding. Hundreds, if not thousands, of replicas of the Candle have been taken to countries all over the world, perpetuating its light and its message.

​Each host lights the Candle in a way that is appropriate to them so they are personally and energetically engaged in the physical process of igniting the light…and their own light within. Being pro-actively involved in the journey of the Glastonbury Unity Candle, and the bringing the flame to life, reminds us that our individual thoughts and deeds are a vital and integral part of the whole. The flame has been ceremoniously lit by people of many different faiths and beliefs, all bringing their energy into this simple representation that speaks a common language.

Apologies for the font differences: Despite working on this for three hours, I have been unable to correct the problem.

Part 2 to follow…


Blossom: Ali, Ali, Quite Doolally: See How Your Garden Grows!

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I delight in my garden – and couldn’t resist the tweaking of ‘Mary, Mary, quite contrary’ as a title! Even though I do not consider myself doolally per se, just mildly eccentric, the opportunity was too good to waste!

The freesias I planted are almost ready to flower, despite some depredation from local wildlife. Nasturtiums abound, a brilliant blaze of orange in the corner. Apples bulge and, like fecund bellies the world over, swell towards birth.

Many plants retain their mystery. This, I love; the element of the unknown is wonderful: I never know what is going to sprout, unfold and bloom next.

The raspberries, a few more each day, leave a tingle of tangy sweetness on my tongue and a crimson stain upon the palm of my hand.

Paradise Regained!

Phone Phobia…


I am – and always have been – borderline phone-phobic. I loathe speaking on the phone and avoid it where possible. It is not so bad when it is a business call, but personal ones do my head in completely.

I think this is attributable to the fact that I am far more at ease writing than talking by and large. I can express myself more fluently as a writer, and tend very easily to slip into the role of listener when the conversation involves physical voices. I am easily bullied by those who are adept at rhetoric, or intimidation, and find it very hard to hold my own in any kind of argument.

Even writing about this subject produces flutters of medium panic in my abdomen. I allow people to talk over me, to interrupt rudely, to try and ‘sell’ me things and to tell me all the things that are wrong with me. And that’s just friends and family!

There are a few exceptions to this. Lad and Lass have instigated several video calls since they went on their Grand Tour – and these have been a delight, a total beaming pleasure with lots of laughter and a lovely sense of bonding. I have a couple of close friends whose phone calls ARE always welcome, I think because we are on the same wave-length and so the usual pattern does not pertain to communications with these rare individuals.

I would far rather email, message or text – and, very occasionally (when the anxiety is very high), will actually pretend that I have not heard the phone ring if the person at the other end is someone I find especially stressful to talk to.

This post was inspired by a comment left by a friend on Facebook. I completely agreed with what this person said and liked the words written – but the sense of phone-based-panic was such that I could not bring myself to write back.

Anyone else out there find phones uncongenial, even threatening, in this way?