Birthday

 

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What a gift for my birthday: sunshine and light among water, glass, and flowers. It’s hard to believe sometimes that light and angle make such a difference. Who would believe, for example, that these are the same flowers taken from a different angle in a later light?

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What is it about birthdays? They are the same length as any other day, 24 hours. And yet, like milestones along the roadside, they mark our passage down the long journey of life. Miles, kilometers: my father could never make up his mind. When driving from Wales to Spain, he loved the miles, because they were fewer in number, yet he also loved the kilometers because, although there were more of them, they passed by more quickly.

Long journeys those: crossing the channel by ferry, then down the various routes nationales from the channel down to the Spanish border where we entered into Franco’s Spain, a very different world. Tricornios, the Guardia Civil, checking everything and everybody. We soon learned to carry an extra packet of cigarettes, some chocolate bars, something small that could be handed over or ‘confiscated’.

So what is it about birthdays, those milestones that mark our ways and our days? And where am I now on my life’s journey? Two years older than my mother, when she passed. Two years younger than my father. I look over my shoulder and see behind me the shadow of a bearded man, with a scythe, walking after me. He stoops at Lords cricket ground and, at six thirty, on the dot, he removes the bails from the stumps to signal the end of the day’s play.

Shadows are lengthening. I check my watch. The days are closing in. The umpires pass the stones they carry from hand to hand. One more over of seam, two or three more overs of spin? I adjust my stance at the crease, back away from the wicket and, like Sir Donald Bradman, I ask the umpire to give me a new guard …

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… I take it, scratch my marks in the crease, and look around me … shadows and the fielders are closing in.

Mini-Mums

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Permit me to introduce you to my two Mexican mini-mums, in the market square in Oaxaca, with their mini-mums. They sell them at minimum price, a giveaway for tourists who arrive with the all-powerful dollar and yell and holler about how this year’s prices are so much higher than last year’s prices. The flower girls giggle and smile. They have heard it all before. They know where each of the prospective purchasers comes from. They now how they walk, talk, slur their words, cajole, bully, and offer absurd amounts of money, either much too much or much too little. Those tourists: they seem to know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Meanwhile, in spit of appearances to the contrary, the cakes are on sale and the flowers are on sale, but the flower girls, Mano y Petate, and no, those are not their names, those things are definitely not for sale.  “Everything,” the tourists say, “has its price.” True, perhaps, in some circumstances. But people are not things and it’s brutally cruel to put a price on people. Occasionally, a tourist will recognize these girls. They are the ones who decorate the altar in the main cathedral in the square. They have also been known to sing, in Spanish, Latin, and Mixtec, along with their mother, before the high altar in Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo, the church with more than six tons of gold and gold leaf layered throughout its magnificence, a true treasure of humanity and an internationally protected building. Once, though, a long time ago, God’s Dogs, as the Dominicans were then called, ran baying through the Valley of Oaxaca, gathering workers with promises of heaven and visions of paradise. The work, they said, was the Lord’s and the Lord wanted them, the people of the Valley of Oaxaca, to build this temple in his name. And here they would stay, under lock and key, until the Lord’s work was done. El Cristo de la Columna: Christ tied to the pillar, stripped to the waist, and flogged. This symbol stands in every church in Oaxaca, and all the People of the Valley of Oaxaca knows exactly what it means, fr it is the punishment meted out to those very people if they do not work hard enough, long enough, fast enough, at their vision of heaven, their taste of paradise, this building of the Church of a Lord who is not even theirs. The tourists marvel at the church, the gold, the paintings, the statues. They praise the mother and her children singing at the high altar: “what beautiful children, what beautiful voices.” But they know nothing about the blood, and the sweat, and the tears that went into the temple’s building.

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Dickhead of the Year

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Dickheads of the World: Unite

So the nominations for official Dickhead of the Year are now open. You are all invited to nominate your favorite Dickhead and, if you choose, to write a brief encomium on the D-H of your choice. Brief: about 50 words should suffice.

I was going to leave this post until April the First, April Fool’ Day, aka Jour des Poissons d’avril in bilingual New Brunswick. I may reserve my own nomination for my cat, Princess Squiffy, who again vomited on my favorite chair. Luckily, I was not in it at the time.

It will be interesting to see whom you nominate and why. I have a couple of other nominations, but I’ll save them for a day or two. Perhaps the dog who urinated on my snow man and caused its base to melt, hence toppling it over. Then there’s the raccoon which ate all the birdseed in the feeder so the deer couldn’t have any. Or maybe the deer who ate all the birdseed in the feeder and didn’t leave any for the birds. Then there’s the midnight deer-dancing group who left their dance steps in the snow all over my lawn. And there’s the snowman who didn’t believe in global warming … nor spring warming … alas, he’s nowhere to be seen nowadays.

Other candidates include the pigeons who decorated the head of the famous man in the square (with guano). And the man who remembered everything, except his own name, address, and telephone number. The lady who lost her car in a snowdrift gets an honorable mention, as does the American tourist who was so addicted to the accuracy of his GPS that he drove right down the slipway into the sea at Tenby, South Wales, and still didn’t think the GPS had any problems when he did exactly the same thing down the lifeboat ramp on the Mumbles Pier (Swansea, South Wales).

A word too in retrospect for all those drivers, especially in the UK, who suffer from Real Red Road Rage, the strongest kind. And a double word (you clown!) for the driver who, while suffering from Real Red Road Rage, stopped his car, got out, and tried to start a boxing match with the then world welter-weight champion who just happened o be driving the car that gave the man the RRRR.

“It wasn’t a very long fight, Howard.”

Reyes 2019

 

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Reyes

On the night of January 5 – 6, The Three Wise Men, Los Reyes Magos in Spanish, visit all the children in the world as they travel to Bethlehem. They bear gifts to these children and January 6 is a time of visitors and gifts.

First: the visitors. Three deer walked out of the woods this morning (6 Jan 2017). They paraded in front of the garage, luckily we had the door open, and equally luckily, I was able to get these photos of them.

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This is the lead deer. At this stage, the road was empty and I hadn’t been seen.

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The camera’s click sounded the alarm. The deer froze … and so did I. We gazed at each other for several seconds. I was afraid to move.

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I took another photo. The feet picked up as the camera clicked and away the deer went.

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Baby came last, but didn’t stay long.

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Up went the tail and away baby sped. Wapiti, White-tailed deer, tail in the air.

After the visitors, came the gifts.

Below is a link to my first Poetry book of 2008: Iberian Interludes. It arrived just in time for Reyes … the little boy that still dwells within this old man’s heart is delighted with his gift: the majority of my best poems about Spain gathered together beneath two new covers. Click below and open the box!

https://www.amazon.com/Iberian-Interludes-Bulls-Blood-Bottled/dp/1539911411/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

May you all have a great visit from the Three Wise Men (los Tres Reyes Magos), and may you all have a prosperous and joyous New Year, full of excellent writing and wonderful new accomplishments.

Mums

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Mum’s the word: in this case baby mums. Here they are, just starting their third week. Incredible how they have lasted. Wedding anniversary > Christmas Eve > Christmas Day >  New Year’s Eve > New Year’s Day > heading for Reyes (on January 6). Who knows how long they will go.

Some friendships are like that. They appear out of nowhere and go on, seemingly for ever, in spite of so many changes. I guess a few good friends are worth a great deal more than many casual acquaintances who flicker in and out of our lives, or those fine weather friends, who are there when all is merry and well, and gone at the first sign of a dark cloud gathering on the horizon.

Think too of the caring, giving friends, who are there when you need them. They are a pleasure to be with. Then there are the friends who always borrow, and take, and never return … nice to be around, while they are receiving. Gone when they realize they can take and receive no more.

So, here’s to those faithful friends who stand by and with us. Like well-watered flowers, they hang on and are loved and respected. Carpe diem: seize the day, and hold both friends and flowers tight while you still have them, for one day, like it or not, much sooner than you think, we will all be gone.

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Friends

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Friends

This is the time of year to think about family and friends. We all need friends, especially friends who bring flowers, who stop awhile and talk, who bring comfort to us when we doubt ourselves, and help forethought, and insight when we are troubled and need knowledge. And flowers are best. Here are some from Gwen and Victor. The picture was taken the evening of their arrival. They sat on the table and spread their color over our wedding anniversary, our Christmas dinner, and now, with any luck, will last into the new year, bridging, as good friendship does, the gap between the old and the new.

Plants

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The plants in this photo were given to Clare and I by Barry and Susan in 2010, the day I was made a Professor Emeritus. It’s hard to believe that happened over eight years ago. The memories of that day have faded. The certificate has gathered dust and sits somewhere in a frame, hidden from sight, at the bottom of some cupboard or other. But the flowers of friendship planted that day by our two friends have last and lasted. I showed these plants to David, their son, when he visited the other day. Eight and a half years … some bonds and friendships are never forgotten. Others wither and are taken by the frost of loss and the ice storms of neglect.

Flowers

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Those same flowers, snapped 8 days later in the morning sunshine. Carpe diem: gather ye rosebuds, and baby carnations, while ye may. And celebrate the joys of the season: plants, flowers and so many friends, too many to be mentioned here, and I apologize to all I haven’t mentioned by name, you are never forgotten, even though your names don’t appear in this tiny snippet from the indoor winter garden where you are always welcome and friendship still blossoms and blooms.