Gathering round the fire

This year I’ve had the real pleasure of uniting some of my deepest interests – music, poetry and my humanist outlook on life – to write some songs for the British Humanist Association.

Here’s a song we’ve recorded recently – it’s now released on itunes and all proceeds go to the British Humanist Association, with some of the money going to support the BHA choir to record more music for humanist celebrations.

Flame and friendship, gifts and giving
Defying the winter’s ire
An instinct known to all the living
Gathering round the fire

May your fireside be warm and the people you hold dear be close at hand either in the real world or in this mad and wonderful online network!


I have hung my lute on the wall
And tied it with a green ribbon
I don’t sing my songs any more;
my heart is so full that I can’t find the words.
Once my longing and loneliness poured out in song
But now my joy is so great that no sound can contain it.

Now rest here, my lute
And when the wind stirs your strings
I wonder, Is it the final echo of my songs
Or the prelude of more songs to come?

A paraphrase of a beautiful song from Schubert’s Die Schone Mullerin. And a rather appropriate description of why there have been so few posts over the last month or so…


The path to intimacy
Is not through caressing
But through the mind

Overcoming hesitancy
Through confessing,
Letting stories unwind

Daring to abandon secrecy
Optimistically guessing
The hearer will be kind

Will you love what you see
in the candid undressing
of the curves of my mind?

A tribute

For your willingness to open a window into your lives
The clumsy humour of your personal descriptions
Recieve my thanks

For the places you led me I had never seen before
The jokes and stories you shared with me
Receive my thanks

For the courage of your honest wanting
The chivalrous generosity of your gifts
Receive my thanks

For the open tribute of your intent desire
The sweetness of your vulnerability
Receive my thanks

For your valiant navigation of what it is to be men
For your sincere approach to what is female in me
Receive, again and again, my thanks

Love and friendship

Last night I had to tell someone who was clearly falling in love with me that I was interested in being his friend, but didn’t think it was going to develop into anything more. And he, obviously hurt, replied that he was fed up of being just a friend to women…

He didn’t ask me, but it made me think, what is it that makes that difference for me?

In my quest to find myself the sort of relationship I am looking for, I’m doing my best trying to look beyond the intoxication of romantic love and/or purely sexual attraction. I’m trying to find a person that I could feel happy, on a long term basis, spending lots of time with, relying on, growing with.

So, setting aside hormones as far as possible, what is it that separates a perfectly nice, kind person that I want to be a friend with, from someone that I feel I might fall in love with?

It’s difficult to comment on someone’s personal characteristics and why they somehow “weren’t good enough” without sounding mean and judgemental. Which would be unfair, because he’s a great guy in so many ways, and he certainly gave me cause to seriously consider whether it might develop into something more. I really valued his ability to be honest and was touched by his willingness to expose his vulnerable sides. I enjoyed spending time with him – and particularly liked the poems he sent me!

And yet it was sadly clear to me that it was only nearly right, and that this wasn’t enough. I want to understand, as far as it’s possible to understand such things, why this was.

So although it may sound negative, I want to be honest about what I actually was thinking and feeling – in order to understand the implications of what I’m looking for. To understand which of the things I’m looking for are helpful, which are hindering me from finding a person that I love, and which are completely irrational. And of course, which of all of these is in my power to change and which isn’t!

I don’t think the stereotypical things matter much to me – like conspicuous wealth, cars and other possessions, macho traits such as arrogance or pushiness, or indeed overprotectiveness. I don’t think I fall into the “women like bastards and walk past the nice men” trap. And I’m pretty flexible about what I find attractive… I don’t demand immediate chemistry as I believe it can develop gradually and be the stronger for that.

I think there’s a pheromonal component – I’m certainly not saying he had BO, but the smell of him just wasn’t attractive to me. It seems a trivial thing… and yet bodies are very powerful in these areas!

There’s something about being met as an equal. Which is partly about being neither protected nor put on a pedestal. And partly about feeling an intellectual rapport. Someone who challenges me, makes me think in new ways. Which is odd because he was very clever, and well read, and interesting… and yet somehow I didn’t feel we connected – or rather, not consistently. There wasn’t a feeling of banter, of someone responding to my humour and moods as I responded to theirs. I can’t explain it any more precisely than that. (I think also he probably let himself down by talking about the things he didn’t do well more often than the things he did do well.)

And even harder to define is something that I find core to attractiveness… on a simple level it’s about confidence. It’s also about a seriousness of intent, of desire. A charisma. Which I didn’t feel from him – which seems utterly unfair because there were definitely ways in which he was pursuing his dreams. And yet if I am honest, that is what I felt. Was it that I didn’t give him a chance to shine? I tried to leave space… but I didn’t feel he came to fill it.

Perhaps above all, while it was clear he wanted a relationship, I had a strange feeling that it wasn’t about me. As if what was looking for was his ideal of a person, and somehow this got in the way of his seeing the person I was. And in a way this was confirmed last night – when I told him that I didn’t think we were likely to go beyond friendship, he fell silent, and I don’t expect he’ll contact me again (of course I could be completely wronging him here – time will tell!). Of course that needs no other explanation than hurt, and disappointment… but I can’t help feeling that he wanted to have a romantic relationship with someone much more than he wanted to get to know me, to get closer to me, as a person.

(Do I do this? So easy a trap to fall into when you’re meeting people with the intention of finding out whether they are potential partners. And yet, when I came to the conclusion that things weren’t going to work out for us romantically, I was saddened, but didn’t lose interest in him as a person that I wanted to get to know.)

I’ve come up with a number of answers but I don’t know which is the correct one… I think perhaps it’s a combination of them all. If more things had been right, I like to think I would have easily been able to overcome the other things. But nothing was quite right enough… leaving him, as well as me, in that sad space of “nearly”.

It’s easy to analyse these things to death… when maybe it’s just as simple and unarguable as pheromones.

And yet it’s fascinating to try and unravel the complexities of attraction…. and in the process, learn more about myself, and about humankind.

My approach to looking for a relationship is simply this – to try to increase the number of new people that I meet and get to know. Like buying as many lucky dip tickets as I can! And welcoming new people into my life is giving me new perspectives on myself and others, and introducing me to activities I’d never have tried otherwise.

And so, even if I never find the relationship I’m looking for, the search in itself is a fascinating journey.

meaning is optional


Below a synaesthete’s numeric rainbow
Daffodils thunder along the roads
Petulant stoats skittle sharply
Past a tigress, smoothing on suncream
And drooling lackadaisically into the dust
I jettison my heart and its whimpering satellite
And my forgotten core hollers with the joy
of metamorphosis


I really find it difficult to write poems that don’t make sense. Indeed I do tend to make my points a bit too explicitly, rather than gracefully (poetically?) allusive. So I found this week’s readwritepoem prompt to experiment with nonsense verse quite challenging.

I also drew on their wordle cloud prompt, and tried to jam together some surreal images… at every step trying to resist my mind’s tendency to try and make some sense out of it all.  It was surprisingly hard!

I wouldn’t claim the result has any particular artistic merit, but I’ve posted it as evidence of my struggle…  and because in the process I’ve learnt that a lot of my satisfaction in poeming comes from finding a pattern and making things fit together!

Mad grin

click to see uncropped image

click to see uncropped image

I’m feeling a bit under pressure at work at present. I start a new job next week. Well, technically I start next week but over the last two days I’ve begun to be hit by some of the new challenges – all complex and requiring to be dealt with urgently from a point of very little knowledge. My predecessor is out of the country, my new boss is on leave, and her boss has only been in the job a fortnight. I have a good team but they’re under lots of pressure and I haven’t quite got straight what each of them does, so it makes it a bit tricky to work out who to ask. At least one of the challenges I’m dealing with happens less frequently than once in a blue moon in my organisation… and yet it comes along in my first week!

But the funny thing is that each time I come across a new problem to deal with, I find the crazy grin on my face has intensified by another degree. I find myself enjoying the absurdity of having to deal with all of this at once. Plus there’s a feeling that if I manage to do anything at all constructive in this situation, it’s surplus to reasonable expectations!

So the photo above taken a few months ago in a wildlife sanctuary, seems to capture the way I’m feeling just now – and possibly my facial expression too! I may wince a bit… but actually I do enjoy a challenge!

Spring in the air?

I’ve just signed up to contribute to the Spring Haiku 2009 blog, and have a haiku up there… do check out the site as something interesting seems to be stirring in the garden!

cold flame, dry potion

This is a follow-up to alchemy of flame:

coals of the firewalk red with paint
glass empty as the dry pool below the diving board 
labyrinth that’s just a paper set, for a play with no audience

all that remains, is an aching heart, its bravery wasted,
empty of the dreams that blazed
in its heartfelt fever


head heavy on the soft void of my pillows
I think about hope, as my tired mind
tries to construct pleasant futures
out of the broken fragments of old dreams

yet staring me in the face, (interrupting dreams
with all the subtlety of an alarm clock’s frantic buzz)
is the knowledge that hopes, thwarted, bring pain
my eyes (still gritty from last night’s weeping)
squeeze shut again, looking for sweeter dreams

yet the sweeter the dream, the harder the waking
into a world that knows nothing of my dreams
why hope? why search? when finding nothing hurts so
and yet what point is living without searching or hoping?

with a sigh, I throw back the covers
stand up, begin to face the day

perhaps hope
is not dreaming
but simply taking one step
after another