Galavanting is about to commence – the play wot I’m in goes a-touring soon, and the play wot I wrote gets a small outing in the midst of it all. The house wot I inhabit is looking forwards to a holiday from me, and the peeps wot I know both get respite and face-time (depending on the disguises wot they use to hide).

The gutting thing is that artsy spring has sprung in my town and festivals galore are sprouting while I’m away. I’m listening to new music from Sheelanagig (clarinetty, eastern European-style, febrile mania – “gypsy jazz” doesn’t do it justice) and saxophonist James Morton and it reminds me I’m going to miss a whole load of new writing and music stuff.

….Now, I know full well that if I wasn’t going to be away, I’d try to go but worry a tad about the prices and that might put me off doing as much as I would like. But I’d seek out the freebies and try (and fail) to press-gang chums into coming out to play, into being adventurous. Then I’d go on me impling tod anyway…!

But I wouldn’t always appreciate DOING it as much as I MISS it.  Isn’t that funny? Why is the “having” less weighty (if it’s a mediocre experience), less fulsome  than the “missing” of the same item? Why does (even small, petty) loss, subtraction give us a stronger feeling than presence, than experience?

Anyone know? Anyone have a view?

Anyway, like I say, I’ll be away. If no comments appear here, it’s ‘cos I can’t approve them – but don’t let that stop you! I’ll be back as soon as I can. Meantime, go and luxuriate in whatever you think you would miss if you couldn’t have it!



L’homme est né libre, et partout il est dans les fers.”

(Man is born free, but everywhere, he is in chains) – Rousseau

Always skin-shedding – chain-shedding, we worrying people. But….

No sooner do you pat your own back for getting rid of some self-limiting rubbish (you know, like a salary, or feeling you ought to be nice), than you find you’re saddled with another heavy yoke (usually of your own devising) that you’d never even noticed before (like wanting to look acceptable, you know: living free of pustulating sores, for example).

Ok, ok, so I have salted it up a bit.  But pause a second. When you kicked a bad habit, you freed yourself. When you deliberately lost weight, or learnt a new skill, you freed yourself. When you accepted you got it wrong, you freed yourself. When you did something that scared you shitless – you freed yourself. Every time, you changed. You became something additional to what you’d been before.

It would have been very weird, however, if you then said, “Right, that’s it! I’m done! I’m perfect now!” and didn’t allow yourself to make any further changes; stopped yourself spotting any further “chains” or from doing anything about them.

And perhaps that is the nature of life. Perhaps it’s even a defining quality of life? That once you stop unchaining yourself every day, you may as well be dead? Because in all other senses – morally, spiritually, intellectually – you are dead once you stop changing?

I thought this up – to start with – when I spotted that I chain myself to this computer rather too much. It hypnotises me into not leaving it, into not doing all the things I should……


A family meal. Men, women, kids. Smiles, chat.

Adult male turns to adult woman and asks for the salt cellar. (No, it’s not Mr Imp, before you start to wonder. He doesn’t have a salt cellar. And we’re not adults). Adult woman passes the salt. And when he’s used it, he holds it out for her, for her to take back and put down, rather than putting it back down on the table himself.

Now stop, replay that in your mind.  Watch that transaction and think about it. Sound familiar? If you’re a woman, bet you’ve just smiled. Male? Less likely. Sorry, but it’s true. The first time I saw this happen, I just looked at the hovering hand, the salt cellar dangling over the tablecloth. I looked up the arm, to the man  – my supposed beau – and he wasn’t even looking at me. I half expected to hear the words, “Here, Mummy,” dribble from his mouth.

Since then, I’ve watched lots of adult men do this (or an equivalent, “unconscious” action) to the women they’re partnered up with. They don’t do it to friends, male (can you imagine?!) or female: only established Other Halves. What do I think it means?  You may well differ in your interpretation, but I think it suggests several things:

  • He was a typical boy and regularly pandered to
  • As a result of being given such an emotional foundation, he expects people who love him always to “do things for me”; it equates to love and is only what he deserves
  • And he was at the stage in this relationship where he expected his partner to play the role his mother played, viz:
    • he doesn’t need to do things for himself that he can’t be bothered to (like put the salt back on the table, lower the loo seat, or offer to help her…)
    • he expects his needs to be anticipated without needing to give thanks
    • she doesn’t need to be thanked or spoken to, because she’s just there.

Yes, it happens even today. Yes, even for men born in the ’80s. Perhaps if I were a lesbian or boy imp, I’d say the same thing about women. And there’s no doubt that women do or say things which men see as unfathomable or mad. (I don’t really think that. I’m just being nice).

But lots of guys do this one (not all, by any means;  I mean, really – some of my best friends are men!), and they say they don’t mean to. And if their own fathers behave/d like this, you can see why they find it acceptable, if they give it any thought.

So what is it about – this phenomenon where an adult male accepts his partner to the point where she becomes the equivalent of the infantile “mother-as-ego-extension”? (I say “she” because I’ve not heard of this being an issue in gay relationships, which ain’t to say it don’t happen, of course).  Why don’t these men realise what they are doing, understand how well they have been treated in the past and become conscious that kindliness is not a right, but an act of love which needs to be acknowledged and reciprocated?

If you wouldn’t treat your best mate that way, why is it alright to do it to your partner? Not to say thanks for random acts of kindness? Not to make eye contact when speaking to one another, or to think it’s alright to be late or always look like a scarecrow unless there’s someone else there?

I like that question and think it is a fair way to look at how you treat people who are special to you. The “best mate” test is a great one, because we can have best mates throughout our lives. Those relationships are often longer-lived than romances, even those romances that were most soul-stirring, most deep. Best mates are often (by men and women) treated with more care than loved ones, and that is so sad, ‘cos the kind-givers eventually give up and bugger off, splinters in their hearts (sob).

So, be conscious, all of us! Say thank you and make eye contact, give a smile to all you come into contact with – particularly the ones you love!


Hats off to medics and care/health-worker types. Many fine people in there. ….What inspires this particular random salutation?

It’s the little memory I’ve had just now, that in measuring the success and value of various interventions (operations, drugs, procedures, protocols etc), the quality of the patient’s life is often taken into account. And there are scales of measurement. Which is, natch, where the fighting begins. Quite right too: you have to get these things right.

Quality of life ought always to be a consideration when treating someone’s health.  Seeing the patient as a person, not a “condition” is the only way you can do this, and it takes time. Thoughtfulness always does. What’s so tricky is that things that improve my quality of life are completely subjective (thankfully, otherwise we’d all be quarrelling over the strangest items).

But are you aware of the things that improve your quality of life, really? Today I got a full 3,000 words down, had me hair done, did some proper cooking, had a great conversation with my hairdresser and said ‘screw the tax chores’. All on top of yesterday’s wintry-sun five-mile, peaceful wander and a damn fine sleep. These things make me happy and each one (and other stuff) make my life better.  But it was the writing that made the day so good and really made me feel fine – when I would have thought it would be the walk or the sleep that won.

Of course, it’s not necessarily the activity that generates a sense of well-being. It’s the state of mind generated by the activity. I’m having a jolly fine time right now, thanks to the barber’s shop rendition of “What shall we do with the drunken sailor?” rolling around the kitchen right now [it’s the radio; not me!]. And chatting with you, of course. Although it’s not doing my concentration much good, as you can clearly see.

Lots of us use TV to relax, to switch off – in effect to make the day good after hard work. Some read, others drink, play sport or chat. Do they get you to where you want to be? Have you thought about it? Do you ‘save’ quality of life-improvers for the weekend, thinking they require time? When was the last time you tried or found a new life-improver (without obligations – the horrible fun-spoilers that they are)?

We’re coming up to a time of year that causes so much stress for so many people, when it ought to be enjoyable. Take the holidays and find the fun for you. An Imp on every Christmas tree!


I think any writer who is interesting to me at least has always a very firm sense of place … It is also a very strong sense of belonging to and possession of a particular territory and I think that is true of almost all the writers I am interested in [Blake, Dickens, Hardy].

– Peter Ackroyd


It’s astonishing the Ready-Brek(TM) sense of well-being that a muddy and hilly 5-mile run (washed down with a good chilli and a fat hunk of bread) can generate, isn’t it?

Fuelled by caffeine afore and aft, punctuated with close encounters of the heron/buzzard/cattle kind, I had a cheeky, speedy sally into the winter-sun hills around my home. And it was good.

It takes time – at times – not just to remember, but to re-experience, strong  psychological sensations. We can become dulled. When I decided to move to this place, I was hit by a very strong sense of rightness.  There’s only one other place that did that to me, and it’s a long way from here. I knew – for the time being – that ‘here’ worked for now.  That  feeling  really glowed again today, just as strong as the first time – or stronger, perhaps, now that it’s fermented with experience.

Our sense of place (which reminds me I have not sufficiently dealt with the issues about our own physical sense of the space around us that I raised in Peepholes of Perception – I will…) is an important one. For example, I was once asked to move to the Balkans; their arid, golden-grey hills sang to my companion’s soul, but in contrast, nothing (save perhaps the flats of the East Anglian fens) could make me feel more ill at ease. At other times, people have all but described certain cities as magnetic – you cannot leave once you come, they say. As Peter Ackroyd points out in his biography of London, some places always feel the same, no matter what you do to them. No matter how much regeneration cash you spend, how many slums you raze to the ground, the locus genii – spirit of the place – persists (my interpretation of Ackroyd; I won’t sully the poor man with my witterings).

Why is it that a sense of connectedness to the land, to location, to terrain, is so rarely discussed in Western culture? We happily (in many cases) import and so acknowledge fung sui principles in interior design or architecture, which must be related, but we do not overtly allow any more than the casual, “it just feels right / funny/ wrong” type comment about towns or homes. DNA research work reveals that people move, over hundreds of generations, hardly at all from the place of their forebears. Could it be that our DNA has a geographical memory?

At this thought, I paused. It might well sound like random rubbish, I thought, but it interests me, and these guys can always bog off and look for more Teletubby pictures (as many people arriving here do) if they’re bored, so let’s see what the magical tinterweb has to say. Would you credit dna_500it? Even the imp’s wildest wittering is not original. Ho hum. The upside of this is that there are some interesting theories out there, suggesting that we might in fact have DNA memory:

  • like musical or other abilities that we inherit, we might inherit a sense of a place being good for us, because our forebears knew how best to survive in and around such landscapes
  • a sense of an individual’s ‘good’ [safe/healthy/fertile] landscapes might thus be imprinted into their DNA
  • lots of nuts theories, too….

If you remove the air of superstition, make it all sciencey, does it become a more acceptable thing for you to ponder? Native (the clue is in the word) peoples all over the world live wholly through their sense of, and profound respect for, the land. (Check out Symbolic Landscapes by Paul Devereux – an excellent, absorbing book on ancient sites, shamanism and the prehistoric consciousness). It works for them.

Look back, see where you are and why, where you felt most right, where you hope to be next and wonder why. It doesn’t matter, all said and done, whether it’s scientifically proveable; your own feelings are what we’re dealing with and you don’t need an expert to give you a gold star for them- do you?

It’s been a week since a decent posting. You might say far longer! There has been much whirling in the imp (so-called) mind and too much, at times, to filter effectively. There have been peeps coming and going off the world stage (my world, your world, local or global) – babies born, deaths of the young and old; there have been ailments and arguments, beginnings and completions.

So in this wee contemplation of what might or might not be on my mind, I remembered Jacques in As You Like It, and his ‘seven ages of man’ speech, which, to save your googling fingers, I’ll paste at the end of the posting.

And I realised that Shakespeare is saying only what I keep citing (ad nauseam; I apologise) from Bill Hicks. For Hicks’s ‘it’s only a ride’, see WS’s “all the world’s a stage/and all the men and women merely players.”

Both wise commentaries (overtly or by implication) draw attention to the various parts we play in our lives; different parts with different people, at different times and in different places. I’m not always aware of the parts I am playing until I catch sight of myself, or perhaps spot behaviour I dislike in someone else and realise I am just as guilty of it. What a foul, gut-curling moment that can be. Not only are you seeing your own weakness, but hey, let’s throw some near-as-damn-it hypocrisy into the mix for good measure.

I had the odd, uncanny experience of watching the baby-toddler-child Imp on ’70s technicolor celluloid recently, which added “am I that person still?” / philosopher’s axe wonderings to the uncanny sensation of watching oneself that you get at any point in time. Am I right in thinking that very few of us truly understand how others perceive us? Are you still surprised when you hear a recording of your voice? Do you look at photos and, more often than not, wince at the terrible non-likeness you see? The camera must have caught you as you are just one per cent of the time, right?

Is it at all different for actors, TV presenters, people who are used to their own image, do you think? Do they alter their perception of how others see them because they join the ranks of Others when they watch themselves? Do they find themselves behaving a tiny bit differently as a result? Is it unhealthy to be so self-conscious? To be so eye-led, in fact, by anything (particularly oneself!), instead of being led by consideration of other things: the planet, your family, the job well done etc etc?

Those questions might, to a degree, answer themselves, but I will push: is there in fact gain to be had from that kid of self-knowing (external, not internal)? Can it make you better at all? Perhaps NLP coaches and assertiveness trainers would say yes?

Basta. Time for some bard.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin’d,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

Life forms illogical patterns. It is haphazard and full of beauties which I try to catch as they fly by, for who knows whether any of them will ever return?

– Margot Fonteyn

I hope you enjoyed that period of Imp quietude. I had nothing to say. HOWEVER… that’s all over now.  What an odd blog it would be if the point was just silence. Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy, he of “in Duran Duran before they made it” fame, once told Smash Hits that as a student he was asked to run a talk on anarchy. He agreed. Then didn’t show up. “‘Cos that’s the point of anarchy, innit?”. I thought that was really clever. When I was 12.

Now, today, I’d like to witter on about superstition, fate, coincidence, pre-determination, randomness. I am very grateful to the ever-patient ear of the imp’s lover, who smiled politely as my babbling brook of  consciousness tickled these ideas by the river this week, and who then pushed them to grow. Any blame lies  entirely with the author, however.

OK. Let’s take two extreme views:

Extreme 1) There is no higher power (god or gods)

  • no afterlife
  • no purpose in life except life itself (ie continuation of the organisms that make life – see past Impery on this here)
  • As one of my personal heroes said (yup, it’s Mr William Hicks), it’s just a ride.

Extreme 2) Our lives are – to a lesser or greater extent – governed by a power higher than ourselves (god or gods)

  • live life carefully, according to that power’s (moral) code, because (a) there is an afterlife and reward or retribution for your actions and (b) the code says you have to strive to be good to one another (viz. Bill & Ted)
  • your life is (again, to lesser/greater degree) determined by that higher power’s whims/grand plan [the hamster died to teach you about hygiene; your boobs fell off because you were vain enough to like them; etc etc]

Now, I’d always thought that these two extremes were just that: at opposite ends of the spectrum; unmixable. But then I was hit by a thought, inspired by going back to the idea of us just being cell-carriers, and nothing more. And that thought was this…

Part 1: Throughout nature, everywhere we look (and the better science is at seeing, the more this seems to be the case), there are patterns. Not random weirdnesses, grand exemplars of uniqueness after uniqueness, no, but each and every individual thing is made of the same building blocks, the same patterns – fractals, basically. Yes, there’s singularity – each leaf, each snail, each fingerprint, each person, is different. But when the Darleks call us “carbon creatures”, they’ve got it right. There is newness, from development and growth (evolution), but it is based on what has gone before, inspired by surrounding conditions, and born of what potential already exists within the evolving organism.

Part 2: Now here’s the bit that surprised me. What if – and remember, ideas should always seem batty at first – what if there are patterns not only in cell growth? If you think about it, we can see patterns in geology: erosion, mountains, rock formations, glaciers, caves. And in the weather, too: cloud formations; rainbows; low and high pressure etc.  So that, to me, says that actually, there are not random happenings, but rather there are sometimes huge, sometimes tiny fractal-like patterns of “nature”, that guide these processes.

Part 3: So – what if there are patterns in the way our lives flow, just as there are in these other things? Not ‘cos of a god on high (extreme 1), but in a way that also contradicts extreme 2’s view that everything is completely random? That would bring about a link between the two ideas, wouldn’t it?

Think back to your last funny coincidence, or sense of something prophetic; the strong feeling  that you just knew something would happen. If you’re religious, you might have seen it as something from your god. If you’re not, you may have rationalised it (“my brain knows how to predict things without my consciousness being aware of it”).

What about a third view (after all, being binary is so dull)?

What about it being a case of you spotting the coming curl in the fractal? And that fractal being the flow of the life that is around you? I say “the life that is around you” rather than “your life” for a reason.  It may just be a ride, but we’re all in it together, this primordial soup. It doesn’t mean that the meaning of life is determined by any god, but it doesn’t mean it’s entirely random, either. Nor does it mean that this posting draws a final conclusion…Just enjoy the ride.

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