Friday, 31 March 2017

Armchair Perspectives

A reader, Helen, has kindly written in to say she and her family enjoy my poetry and she thinks my blogs I deserve more followers. Well, thanks a lot, Helen, encouragement is always welcome. Poetry, though, is not everyone’s cup of tea and I am just happy that the blogs are still going strong after six years via my Google Plus site that links to new and historical posts/poems. I have set the statistics so Google does not count my own views; this gives me a clearer picture of readership. 

Now, today’s little poem was written way back in 1979. Sadly, it strikes me as being even more relevant now than it was then. A neighbour had been complaining to me about retirement, saying how he missed ‘the buzz of real life’ because all there was for the likes of retired people was a second hand existence by courtesy of television and cinema. I suggested keeping up with friends, getting out and about and doing things, going places…pleasures for which we often have little or no time when working full-time and/or bringing up a family…? (Mind you, we need to make time.) He simply shrugged and went indoors to watch an afternoon soap opera.

No, I’m not knocking TV, or the fact that we live in a Digital Age, but now I am retired myself, I enjoy keeping up with friends, getting out and about and doing things, going places…the simple pleasures for which it was often hard making time for when working.

Following a bad fall in summer 2014, I was housebound for months and spent a good year or so learning to walk again. I live alone so TV was a great comfort and companionship (of sorts) in between writing up the blogs, three sessions of (ten) physiotherapy exercises a day and chatting to friends who were kind enough to drop by and help out on a regular basis all the while I could barely walk. I missed getting out and about and do so now as much as I can; even though walking is still quite painful, I have a sturdy oak walking stick, and it is always worth making the effort.

So when I talk to young people rushing home to spend hours on social media, I can’t help feeling they are missing out…

No, I am not knocking on-line social networking, but there can be no substitute for real-life, face to face companionship and banter among friends, not to mention getting out and about in the sunshine…can there? Now I am older (71) and less mobile, it is harder to get out and about and meet people, but (still) always worth making the effort.

Social media. the world wide web, TV...all have a place in our lives, of course they do, but no one's real life balance should be tipped in their favour...surely?

Yes, cyber fun can be good fun, but there's no fun quite like sharing fun in the real-life company of friends, forming and developing interpersonal skills that can teach us as much about ourselves as other people, and will see us though the best part of a lifetime. Oh, and it really isn't a case of you can't teach an old dog new (digital) tricks; this old dog knows a few, and all the better for having learned a good few of the non-digital variety...


Little birds singing on the garden wall

I’ll not write you up;
you’re, too sentimental
for the Age, they say

As one to another you brightly call

I’ll shut the window;
a new soap opera's about
to start on TV  

Bright sunlight distorting everything

Screen-lined faces
like grotesque cartoons
in a Hall of Mirrors

Let's close the curtains, better already

More comfy now...
with armchair perspectives
on the world

Copyright R. N. Taber 2001; 2017

[Note: This poem has been revised since it first appeared under the title 'To a Sunny Day' in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; revised ed. in e-format in preparation.]

Friday, 17 March 2017

Discernment, a Developing Consciousness

In the late 1960's, I migrated to Australia. In many respects, the whole episode was a disaster, my dream of creating a new life proving just that - a dream. True, I had been told a pack of half-truths at Australia House that misled me into thinking I was making the right decision. True also, that I was in such a panic about getting my life on track that I could not even begin to see any wood (real or proverbial) for its trees.

At the time, my deafness had not been identified. Self-esteem was not high, since I constantly seemed to be misconstruing (for mishearing) people and facts. I knew I wasn’t stupid so covered for my mistakes with a sense of humour that got me out of scrape after scrape but with which I was fast losing patience.  Having acknowledged - to myself at least - at the age of 14 (1959) that I am gay hadn’t exactly boosted my flagging self-confidence since same sex relationships were a criminal offence at the time. In short, I was a mess and if I’d had anyone to confide in who would have listened to me instead of judging me, they would certainly have advised me to face facts and get on with my life. Instead, I ran away from it all. Ironically, this cleared my head and proved to be my salvation.

If returning to the UK was seen by family and friends as an admission of failure, it was one I found able to take on board without feeling a failure.  I had discovered a new self-confidence which, along with a bent for positive thinking would see me through the rest of my life. Oh, it would be no easy ride (whose life is?)  but I was now equipped with an emotional capacity for looking on the bright side of life, no matter what; this would come to my aid in physical and emotional crisis after crisis, not least the death of loved ones, a severe nervous breakdown and more recently a bad fall during which I sustained a badly fractured ankle which left me housebound for months.

It may sound trite but is true nevertheless that sometimes we have to run away from ourselves to come full circle and find ourselves again, presenting to the world an invented self that was, in fact, there all the time but needing to be coaxed out of its customised shell, not led by the nose through various hoops provided by our so-called ‘betters’ to illustrate invention’s nemesis - convention. For the first time, I began to believe in myself.  The year I was 25, I became a student teacher, fell at the first hurdle (teaching practice) on account of my hearing…and compensated by getting a university education instead. Later, I would do a postgraduate course at Library School and spend the rest of my working life as a professional librarian. Oh, life has been no less a roller coaster for all that, but if I haven’t always enjoyed the ride, at least I live to tell the tale. At 71, I have been living with prostate cancer (treated with hormone therapy for six years and despite mobility problems since my accident, remain a Happy Bunny…Well, most of the time.

I will probably never return to Australia but it will always occupy a special place in my heart,. Australia and Australians gave me what I had lacked since early childhood…faith in myself as I am not as certain others would have me be. (Yes, I learned the hard way, but is there an easy one…?)


I sailed away to a place
in a dream,
only it wasn’t a dream
but a get-away,
running (scared) from a reality
I couldn’t bear

Water, water, everywhere,
of a loneliness closing in
on me, secret fears
demanding open confrontation,
no hiding place

Sea, sky, and wind
(day after day)
expressing an affinity
with the chaos
of mind-body-spirit seeking
a reconciliation

Cloud faces wherever
I look, masks
that have intimidated me
all my life, needing
to be ripped away, exposing
secrets and lies

Each landfall, a thought
for the day;
revisiting native hosts,
naming them,
raging so at some for having
led me on

I try befriending people.
failing miserably,
probably down to having less
to say for myself
than a child’s comic book hero
making pillow talk

Ah, but isn’t that exactly
how it had been,
an inarticulate desperation
to do something other
than dance some light fandango
at a masque haunt?

A dawning discernment,
landfall of a kind
likely to grow on us for integrating
with ‘live’ art forms
not incompatible with the science
of human evolution

Copyright R. N. Taber 1969; 2017

[Note: Much of this poem was written this year, but is reflected in lines I scribbled aboard the ship that took me to Australia in 1969 (The Southern Cross) and which I recently discovered folded between the pages of a novel I hadn’t read for years.]