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On goes the circle

Every promise is a debt, says the saying. 
Not that I promised, but I did say that I may have to return to the organ version of A Northumbrian Anthem to update it along the lines of the recent brass band version. I did today
If you are finding these iterations tiresome, Reader, all you have to do is ignore them. I hope you will find future entries more congenial.

Seasonal reading

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Crazy about music as I have always been, it and I have been a little estranged latterly.
Music has been my calling, my habitat, my voice, my ground and my air for most of my life. But July 2018 came with its challenges, leaving little space or focus for music. As time went by and the struggle raged, the mind put up defences against possible destabilisers and, music being a prime stirrer of emotion, it had to be kept at arm’s length. Whether to compose or to arrange, my active interactions with music have been infrequent, gingerly and each time for a specific purpose. As to listening, hardly any.
Which, after half a dozen decades of musical stimulation, leaves me with a problem. The dog needs his bone. The mill needs its grist. The hungry mind needs something to fill its tummy, to prevent it from devouring itself and its owner. Books have come in to fill the void; they light a candle in the vast pit of darkness that could easily be what is left when music goes silent. 
A handful of …

Circle of time

From one viewpoint, being is a one-way stream that flows relentlessly forward, with no hope of stopping or returning. Much has been said and written about the transience of life, the irretrievability of youth and the ephemerality of everything we achieve or experience. Everything progresses without pause towards its end. You could even say that you begin to die the moment you are born. There would be incontestable evidence for that: children grow, we age, relatives die, cultures change. And yet, arguably, the starkest evidence dwells in the mind. Life is the more transient the more you think about its transience. And what a melancholy thought that is! It has been expressed by the wordsmiths with every degree of gloom, often with searing beauty, too. A random example out of a myriad is Atahuallpa Yupanqui’s speaking river: tú que puedes, vuélvete! - “you who can, go back!”.
As a light to guide your steps along the path of life, however, this thought is not very helpful. It can dim yo…

Pause for thought

Hard facts are exhausting to write about. Each fact has to be painfully dug out from a repository of memories which are still very raw. Hardly memories, in fact. Hardly the past, even. The events since July 2018 continue to be an inescapable now, ever present, ever vivid – including those events the emotions of the moment wrapped in a haze that blurred them even as they unfolded.
Of course I don’t have recall of every minute. I certainly don’t remember every word, but I probably remember every fact; every important one, at least. And I recall the nadir moments when the magnitude of what was happening, the sheer awfulness of it, was too much to take in, too much to be true. Those were my ‘narcoleptic dog’ moments, when a curtain of unreality fell on some of the worst passages of the story. I remember those clumps of haze.
Arguing in your own defence is tiring, too. Particularly if you have been doing it for two years, to the systematic disbelief of the institutional listeners, the on…

Voluntarily alive

I have to return to this concept of my being “voluntarily absent” from the proceedings. Aside from exemplifying to perfection the mechanistic inhumanity with which this whole case has been handled from the onset by those in control, it also constitutes a late sample – but not the latest or, I’m sure, the last – of a consistent approach I have seen applied in the last two years: one based on turning everything I do, or say, or fail to do, or fail to say, against me. One of heaping opprobrium on me to ensure denial of rights, then charges, then more denial of rights, then adverse court decisions, then weakened defence, then conviction, then civil death, then ignominious civil burial, then a life sentence.   
It is not that I am biting this red herring like a dog chews a bone, but the issue has a defining significance as to my position in what went on in the last few months.
As any regular reader of this blog knows, I absented myself from the English jurisdiction back in September 2019. I …

A question of belief

Believing can kill, and it has killed. Believing can lead nations to ruin, and it has. Beliefs which have subsequently been shown to have been monumentally wrong were, in their time, held to be true by force of fear, or love, or hate, or guilt, or by the persuasive power of inspired rhetoric or a charismatic personality.
If I had the time – which I don’t at the moment – I would research numbers of believers. The number of people who believe that Donald Trump is the best thing that could have happened to the United States of America. The number of people who believe that Brexit is the best thing that could be happening to the United Kingdom. These believers, think what you may of their belief, can lay a certain claim to authority, in that they are seeing and experiencing the reality on which they are opining.
In another category altogether are those who believe in things they have not seen or experienced. Take, for example, the number of non-Bolivians around the world who, on the basis o…

One fewer

Two uncles of mine, Hugo and Natalio, were active in the resistance against the government of MNR (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario) in the early 1950s. The cause they espoused was championed by a party named FSB (Falange Socialista Boliviana). The historical context is complex and this is not the place to explain it. All you need to know is that at the time, rightly or wrongly, MNR was perceived as the party of people’s rights and equality, whereas FSB, rightly or wrongly, was associated with tradition and protection of privilege; the disparaging term tagged on its members was “oligarch”. Gross simplification, this, but this is not an essay on Bolivian history.
What is relevant is that, following an abortive rebellion, my two uncles, still in their late teens or early twenties, found themselves confined in concentration camps for their troubles. MNR had set up two of them in suitably God-forsaken places: one in Corocoro and the other in Curahuara de Carangas. I believe that each…

Mother's gifts

It is one of the unpalatable facts of life that sometimes one hears a bereaved son or daughter say that the demise of their parent came as a relief. The late parent may have been suffering unbearable pain, or been unconscious for a long time, or been deprived of their cognitive skills. These, as far as I can think, are the most common reasons for loving offspring to make that otherwise heartless statement.
My mother had been conscious, coherent and in possession of her customary dry, naughty sense of humour. She had also been in considerable physical discomfort. It was clear to her children that, in spite of deep-seated grievances against life, she was attached to it and, at nearly eighty-eight, in no hurry to take leave of it.
And yet, in the last month or so of her life she showed an increasing reluctance to take her medication. You could threaten her with a return to the clinic, where, much to her displeasure, she had been kept for a few days in January; the unsavoury prospect of goi…