Thoughts and Leaves Falling

A writer’s kitchen, the kettle bottomless, the Buena Vista Social Club, cha cha cha, the keyboard, tap tap tap.

A writing kitchen, with windows open to the world beyond; bees pass petals, buddleia butterflies loll long tongues, spiders spin between twigs, the lime tree lays down leaves with the graceful turn of a dancer’s wrist.

And with those leaves fall these thoughts, faced with all that beauty beyond; this green life, this bright life, this teeming life, this fleeting life: faced with all the beauty of life, they fall.

limetree

©James Bruce May, 2014

Leaving London : A Reflection

The latest journey has come to an end. Looking towards the challenges ahead, so too can we look back:

(April 2014)

The creative writing workshop was almost always a square, bordered by opinion but also quiet; the passing of palms across paper, the scratch of nib-width canals, the fill and spill of ink and ideas. That square span and span in my head for years as a student, in various classrooms lit by varying strengths of light, varying lengths of shadow cast across my journal’s pages. You can become a writer there.

That square spins further and further back in time away from me now. I graduated and took on a bar job, hoping the flexible hours would suit the aspirations of a new novelist. For a while, they did, and friendships were made, and beer was drunk, but London had the better of me, for I could not stay in my beloved Camden bedsit, cramped but crazy above the High Street, on my barman’s wages alone. I took on writer’s work instead, summarising press clippings for a living; an economic use of language all round. The job helped my editorial eye widen, and the evening shift work suited my personal writing ambitions. After a year or so I had a full manuscript and I was ready to find a publisher. I felt like a writer.

Yet seasons in London come quick and pass fast, pushing people on in their routines, regardless of who they are or what they dream. Life spins onwards like that workshop table spins backwards in time: always away from us. I’d since discovered other writers had taken jobs in my office, some of them many years ago. What had become of their books and their plays, their dreams and their aspirations? Did they still say, ‘I am a writer,’ when they met strangers, when they looked in the mirror, when the shuddering need for reassurance woke them in the middle of the night?

Every day on my way to work I walked through Bunhill Fields, past the graves of Blake, of Defoe, of other long-dead writers, to remind myself that my job was a writers’ graveyard too. I felt vulnerable: if monotony choked my creativity, I might as well be buried in some such lonesome lair as well. Death can come to a writer before the oblivion of the end; the end of chance, the end of ambition, the end of ideas can reach into our lives if we’re not careful to keep the promises we made to ourselves ‘round those spinning workshop tables years before. I hoped my daily walks amongst the dead would reaffirm my identity as a writer, and so with each penny I left for Blake, I continued to work, continued to write.

Now that my student days are long since lived, it occurs to me that creativity is not anchored to any one place. It lurks in the subconscious, it can be coaxed and fed with writing and reading wherever you are in the world. It is also true that whilst monotony chokes, experience lifts. I love London; it is home to my heart. But Blake sings true in his song to the capital; London can put marks of weakness, marks of woe into every face it charters. When the opportunity opened to travel in Asia, I seized it. I left my job, left my flat, picked up my journal and said to myself, ‘I am a writer,’ and started to pack a bag.

*****

It is in the warm gloaming that I wake amidst crickets to wait for the foreign dawn chorus to start. Rising melodies played on alien scales, calls and answers in the quiet, warbles and chirps gather my memories, and I picture the graveyard at Old Street, before sunrise, empty and silent, far away on the other side of the world. I see Blake’s grave, just as I saw it myriad times before, flowered kindly with a nosegay, whispering inspiration to generations of writers to come.

The fan creaks. I look over towards my journal, through the shadows of the morning, where the pen waits in the gathering birdsong.

 

©James Bruce May, 2014

Cats of Thailand

WP_20140313_105  Cats on my TRAVELS.WP_20140313_128Put a SMILE on my face.

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Chilling at the bar, under tables and walking across them too. 100_6336

At least there is a universal LOVE of Cats.WP_20140327_006

They don’t mind what language you speak.

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A scratch behind the ear and a rub of the tummy; that means LOVE wherever you are from.

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A friendly MEOW will always be appreciated and never go unnoticed.WP_20140329_036

                                                             Not by ME anyway…


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©Hannah Glennie, 2014

Snorkeling at Hin Wong Bay

The first glimpse was at breakfast. Shade from the awnings kept the flies from the fruit, the ants could be brushed away whilst over there, in the knuckles of warming boulders, the bay, now azure, now turquoise, now sapphire, played upon by the sun’s whitest rays, those of innocent morning hours, its secrets, unquantifiable by the green reams of home realms, welcomed the delicate imagination of early onlookers, welcomed plans to cut the lapping surface and swim excited in.

‘Whole bay is one reef,’ one local said.
‘Fifty baht one mask,’ another.
‘I’ll come back this afternoon,’ one tourist said, swatting at a bluebottle.

*****

The midday sun fires across Koh Tao setting waves of crickets calling frenzied to its lengthening heat. Escape for some is met under a bungalow porch, in the swing of a hammock, the turn of a page. For others the bay glimmering below the hillside portrays its crystal waters as a better getaway. A gull wheels through the cloudless sky as palm trees whisper to the offshore breeze, murmurs of the draw, the pull, the impatience to be in the ocean.

*****

Once the trade is made one local points to a path and the heat of those boulders is felt underfoot. Alone amongst the clicks of crabs one tourist turns to look up the hill and spot the slip of white arm hanging from a hammock but the distance is too great, so to the lapping waves he turns. Closer, the rocks are sharper, the water darker. Folding his clothes he negotiates a way in and the water comes quick and cold; it’s much, much deeper than it looked and paddling he pulls on his mask, spitting salt.

*****

To the blue world, to the faint sound of breath, to witness, to watch; creatures float just beyond fingers from reef to reef; scale and fin, pecking at stones they pass in mimicking shoals, in wandering pairs, a lonely swimmer here, and there another, another; another in yellow pink grey, another in orange blue neon, and behind there are others; others which seem wary, others which were missed in the deeper blue of the peripheral; it’s unnerving to turn, to try to see the unseen, but the traffic draws the eye away from the rocks to follow a school, a wandering pair, a lonely swimmer into the blue, over the deep, above ancient eyes in the sand – some which keep their distance, others which are curious – to the faint sound of breath whilst fingers wrinkle, and always the unnerving deeper blue behind, until, there, ahead; a slender fish floats surveying the reef; a predator; a long spike of silver, sparkling in blue shafts below the shimmering surface, long as a leg, straight like a sword, jaw poised in the quiet beneath bleak eyes that peer and ponder. To turn to see how far the rocks have drifted is unnerving, to swim back to the faint sound of breath is unnerving, then to look back again and see the slender silver predator, hanging motionless in the water, speculative, watching the mimicking shoals, the wandering pairs, the lone swimmer, is unnerving. Swimming back, the weight of the ocean’s indifference sinks the secrets of the bay, and breaking the surface to climb back onto the rocks one tourist catches his breath bewildered.

*****

With night comes darkness to the waters of Hin Wong Bay so complete it is impenetrable by all but imagination. One tourist sits in the whispering breeze with beer beneath the buzzing light of the awnings picturing the reef, seen serene in the blue just hours before, a place of blackness now.

 

©James Bruce May, 2014

Night Train to Prachuap Khiri Khan

Again again, again again,

hard wood for a hard class,

every window every door open,

dusty dreams breeze through

 

again again, again again,

the woman opposite stands

grim whilst her daughter

sleeps on the hard wood,

 

again again, again again,

gone are the rice fields to

the dark, gone the sun-bleached

stork to the crickets’ call,

 

again again, again again,

hawkers call their wares,

small money between fingers,

the crowded carriage snoozes,

 

again the mosquitoes,

again the turn, the stretch,

again the hard wood,

again the mother’s grimace,

 

and now the wheels screech,

the train stops, the night

comes loud and warm against us,

and now the wheels groan and turn,

 

the crowded carriage lurches,

tracks beat restless beneath us;

again again, again again,

again again, again again.

 

 

©James Bruce May, 2014