A hollow man

I wonder sometimes why people feel the need to be spiteful and small-minded; comments made by AA Gill about the TV presenter Mary Beard put him in the Fragile Ego spotlight, and in my view, he has made himself ridiculous. Literally, ripe for ridicule. Laughter is the only response to people like Gill; serious consideration of his opinion is a waste of energy.

Actually, Gill’s attitude prompts pity; an ego so fragile suggests a large empty hole inside him which makes him feel terribly threatened by someone like Mary Beard who doesn’t feel she has to conform to current media norms of botox, cosmetics and wardrobe fascism. Not to mention being a woman with a sizable brain, and one who can communicate her knowledge and her love of her subject.

She is well-liked, successful and apparently happy in her skin. One imagines that Gill might claim to be all that and more, but people at peace with themselves don’t need to humiliate others to make themselves feel better.

So let’s show kindness to AA Gill and wish him peace and joy. May he find a cure for the emptiness that engulfs him.

As for Mary Beard – good on yer, girl. A role model for our times.

What do you think? Is Gill justified, or ridiculous?

Give up – you’re surrounded

There was nothing I could do but retreat – the house was under siege and there was nowhere to go but back inside, muttering curses.

Brazen had brought the other ewes and all the lambs; Sobranie had followed his hens to my door; the two dogs were looking optimistic, and the cats were springing through the trees like squirrels.

All but cats belong next door, but they’ve learned that my door is a temple of treats. Entirely my fault, because I give veg peelings to the sheep, bread and rotten tomatoes to the chickens, biscuits and bones to the dogs and – when they appear – carrots to the horses.

So everybody got fed, and once sheep and dogs had retired, I sat on the steps with a cup of coffee, watching the cats leap about and the chickens crop the new grass. The trees are in bud, about to burst into flower; the spring grass is coming through the winter matting and wild flowers are waking beneath the damp soil. On the mountain slopes the beech forest is pink, the new leaves still furled tight in their rosy sheaths, and silver birches are bright with golden catkins.

Life is bursting everywhere, and it’s impossible to feel lonely when everybody is so full of energy and excitement. Humans are just another species enjoying the spring.

In the city, you may have to look a little harder, but concrete and glass can’t stop wildflowers exploiting every crack in the paving, and wild birds filling the quiet streets with song.

If you’re feeling lonely, go outside, find life and celebrate Spring.

Happy deathday, happy birthday…

Today is my birthday, and aptly (as I live in Transylvania), the centenary of Bram Stoker’s death. A mere 46 years to the day after Dracula’s creator breathed his last breath, I took my first. No, I don’t think I’m Stoker reincarnated, so put the spookyscopes away. I’d love his book sales figures, though…

This kind of occasion is where the internet is such a boon. I am having a happy day in my mountain eyrie (or should that be eerie?…) with the cats for company, but it’s made even happier by the many lovely messages flooding in via gmail and Facebook. Knowing I’m in the thoughts of friends and family is very heartwarming.

Facebook is fantastic for keeping in touch, keeping connected and up to date with people’s doings when physically distant, for cheering and sympathising when needed, and for enhancing already jolly days. Nothing like it in the history of the world. But it’s not a substitute for face to face contact and first-hand experience. As a tool, utterly brilliant. As a lifestyle, utterly not.

For fellow birthday people, my hot wishes for a splendid, stellar day. And to Bram, here’s to you.

Existential angst – good or bad?

Jeannette (in her comment on the previous post) makes the point that prolonged loneliness has negative physical consequences, and that this is backed up by various research studies. Quite right – once it becomes chronic it is a hidden disability. But short periods of loneliness can be positive. When good friends leave here after a visit, I miss them. I enjoy my solitude, but good company leaves a hole for a little while.

And there are occasional bad days – yesterday, for instance. It was dark and gloomy because of the (much-needed) continual rain; I’d had a horrible dream; the cats weren’t talking to me because I’d had a short but fierce argument with one of them… It was a lonely moment when I wanted to be back in Blighty or out in Kathmandu where I’d had such fun recently. But it was a spur to sort some stuff out, to get cracking on the book, to light a fire and cook a yummy supper – and I knew that it wouldn’t be long till the bad feelings went. Sure enough this morning it was still raining, but all was well, despite having to cough up £100 for work on the car and getting stuck in the mud. Yesterday that might have been the last straw; today it was funny.

Feelings change; and where would the songwriters be without feelings, good and bad?

Does it, though?

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.’

Does it, though? Not always. Not often. It’s one of the most idiotic bits of smug pseudo-philosophy of the modern age. What do you think? Has a difficult event ever knocked you sideways or turned you inside out? Has illness done permanent damage? Has your confidence been shattered or your psyche shredded? None of them lethal occurrences, obviously, but are you the stronger for them? Or did they have an effect on you that you haven’t yet recovered from?

Once you have suffered damage, it can become a weak spot – physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. After I slipped a disc in my lower back it became a chronic problem; my back’s better, but that’s because I don’t give it an excuse any more. It’s now a weak spot and I have to get help to shove and lift and carry. Let’s not get started on the emotional weak spots now…

What about you – agree or disagree?

No, I’m still alive, honest

Apologies for the long absence. I’ve been travelling, and it’s been a mad trip. My social whirl for the year – fabulous, exciting, stimulating, and inspiring. Lots of amazing new people and even more amazing long-time friends. Then the three-day drive home, and peace. It takes me about a week to get over it, and this time the week will culminate with my birthday (Friday, if anyone’s hankering to send parcels). Lots and lots of new ideas to explore, so I’ll crack on. Look forward to your comments…