Alone, aware, mind ranging through the thoughts that haunt the night.
How reconcile the ways that people meet and interact?
For what else is there?
The shop, the club, the tourist launch, the school, the bank, the residential home
arise from people meeting one another.
The skills are honed by life – some never gained
Destroyed by power, greed or selfish trait.
And who am I?
I am a link between two generations
A factor in the thoughts of other minds.
Who else is more?
Two gulls together flying very high
a span apart, intent upon their course.
Pair-bonded or companions on a flight
small dots, identified by wing-beat and by size.
Gulls surely fly for pleasure but why so high?
far higher than the nearby hills
and out of sight of food
and why together?
We 'd share our thoughts and friendship
discuss the landscape or the track
comment on plants and birds.
and go our way.
What empathies and needs keep them together?
We only know that there exists
a realm beyond our thought
wherein they fly.
"Enquiry" and "Two Gulls" were read by John Riminton at the opening of the Godley House Memorial Walkway on 11 November, 2012.
When I was doing the Busker circuit in southern England, they used to call me the Great Illusionist because I would occasionally perform the Mango Seed Trick. You know mango seeds are so rare in England that , like money, you would think that they don't grow on trees, but, of course, they do, but that does not make suitable seeds easier to find and so I only did the Trick on BIG occasions.
I don't know whether you have ever seen it performed but it really is fun. I would take the seed (you know what they look like), put a bit of soil on a concrete pavement, cover it with a cloth, chant a bit, and you would see the seed sprouting under the cloth, leave it a few minutes, take the cloth away and there would be a young mango seedling!. I'm not going to tell you how it is done, but it always got a great reception.
I first saw it performed when I was a kid visiting some distant relation in Sri Lanka and it blew me away. I decided then to find out how it was done but I had to wait until my OE year when I went to India. It all fitted in well because that was the time, in the 1970s when half the young world was flocking to one or the other of the various gurus running Ashrams around India and I was really serious about my dharma. Anyway, I visited an ashram near Mysore and settled in for a year of contemplation that included learning some Tamil which is the local language down there. In fact, I became quite a proficient Tamil speaker and towards the end of my stay decided to go walkabout. In the smaller villages, the locals were intrigued that I spoke the language and offered me all sorts of hospitality and, in one of the villages, I met a snake-charmer/conjurer, back home after a season in Madras, and became quite friendly with him, staying in his home. I told him my childhood fascination with the trick and, after some earnest soul-searching on his part, he showed me how to do it, plus a couple of other, much less spectacular but useful tricks – may his kharma glow.
Coming back to England was a shock. No shortage of people in India and the Mysore pavements were crowded but the atmosphere was so different. Back in Guildford, everyone was so earnest, and worried about something – usually money or property values, the difficulties of commuting, whatever - but with none of the humanity that I had seen everywhere in India. I was expected to do a degree in Economics at Reading but it just didn't work out and I dropped out after the first year – but what to do? That mango seed stuck in my mind. I found a place that would give me some instruction in conjuring, took to it like a duck to water and became a Busker – it was wonderful. Can you imagine what it feels like to stand in a street, everyone ignoring you and then, ten minutes later, to have a small crowd watching your every move, laughing, applauding and leaving money for you? And it wasn't just in England – there was already a circuit that took you to the continent so that one became part of an elite group of musicians, acrobats and other performers where we found our partners, lovers and friends.
Occasionally some of us would perform in central London or other big cities among the scurrying suits that had put me off economics in the first place. Afterwards we would gather in some pub for a drink and talk about the performances and the reactions of the crowd, momentarily absorbed by what they were watching before recovering their worried frowns and returning to their offices where they would resume their efforts to reassure their clients that the financial world was all Triple A and that economic growth could go on forever.
We used to laughingly drink to the thought that maybe we were not the real illusionists.
"Than these November skies
is no sky lovelier. The clouds are deep;
Into their grey the subtle spies
of colour creep.
The opening lines of John Freeman's beautiful poem about English skies came unbidden to his mind as he looked across the range of low hills, partly obscured by clouds through which shone a single ray of sunlight.
The scene, in fact, provided an excellent metaphor for his thoughts.
By any reckoning, it had been a terrible eighteen months. Professionally, he had been working on the complex relationships between peak oil, global warming and the various financial crises springing up around the world. That would have been depressing enough but the problems faded into a grey background to domestic events. First of all, against his wife Julie's advice, he had invested most of their savings in one of the vaunted Loan companies which, of course, had gone bust and into receivership so that they would now be lucky to get-/10cts in the dollar – eventually. Then, there had been the small matter of the earthquakes and being red stickered in a Red Zone. With savings (if any) inaccessible and insurances late to be paid and impossible to get on a new property, they had been forced into rented accommodation that Julie hated. Her family had suffered badly as well so that she was also grieving on their behalf. Then, to cap it all, their teenage son David had been suspended from school on some pretext that fortunately did not involve drugs. How do you get off a via dolorosa like that? He had tried counting his blessings – he still had a job, Julie spoke to him occasionally, he was quite healthy, but they didn't quite seem to tip the balance back to even and then.........
Late last Friday he had received a call from an old colleague in Sydney: "a job has come up that would suit you well especially as the company would provide you with accommodation for six months. I have told them your name and CV and they are prepared to offer it to you, without advertising, subject to interview but you would have to attend at your expense. Are you interested?" Was he ever!! The week-end had been spent discussing it with a Julie reluctant to leave her parents but who could, nevertheless see the advantages. David seemed grateful for anything that would get him out of his present hole..
Suddenly, the closing lines of the poem came back to him
"In all the myriad grey
In silver height and dusky deep, remain
442 Faint purple flushes of the unvanquished sun".
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