My Experience of Taking Herbs

Mandys Marvellous Meds

I thought I should tell you something about my experience of taking herbal medicine.  As I think I mentioned, herbal medicine usually comes in the form of a tincture, an alcohol-based liquid in which a strong form of the herb is preserved.  The usual way to take it is to measure it into a cup, add a splash of boiling water and then drink.  The water is to drive off the alcohol.  But being lazy I usually don’t bother: I take a swig from the bottle.  This leads to me getting my wrists slapped as it’s not recommended, but hey – it seems to work all right.

So: what am I taking at the moment?  The only thing I take regularly is valerian to help me sleep.  This usually works pretty well and it has the added advantage that you don’t feel dopey in the morning.  Apart from that I…

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Yah, boo, sucks Andrew!

And again with knobs on to Andrew Neil; yes he of television and newspaper fame, he of the red braces and abrasive manner, he of the terrier-like interview wherein he tried to get our spokesperson Salman to admit that our conference would be ‘a shambles’ – well nyah, nyah, nyah! cos it wasn’t, so there!

Sure, there were heated debates and strong opinions; there were many disagreements – and of course there would be: we are all individuals and have individual views.  Well, almost all of us: to my left (in every sense) was a block of Communists who all voted in unison and spent most of the day muttering amongst themselves.  So that was annoying.   But apart from that we got through a hell of a lot of business, including policies on Europe, on austerity, on fracking and on Scotland.  It surprised me (though perhaps it shouldn’t have) that many people were against the break-up of the UK; not for the same reasons as the Tories but because it would ‘break up the unity of the working class.’  This is pure rhetoric as far as I’m concerned; to talk about ‘the working class’ in that way is meaningless and I wish people would stop banging on about it.  You don’t have to be working-class to be against austerity, and what does ‘working-class’ mean anyway?

The main achievement of the day, however, was that we got through all that business without a major row, without anyone throwing a hissy-fit or walking out or leaving the party or throwing all their toys out of the pram or anything.  I was standing by with an emergency poem just in case it all kicked off, but no need.  It was all remarkably civilised, and Sheila was an excellent chair.

So that was good.  The conference was held in Manchester at some great industrial museum on Deansgate.  I would have liked to explore it more but by the time I’d passed all those motions I was somewhat depleted.


There will be a video report available here shortly:

And so to bed… this morning I cycled to Quaker meeting, as did just about everyone else, and I spent the afternoon in the garden.  I have mown the lawn!

Kirk out

How Many Revs Per Minute?

What is a hero?  This is a question that has been occupying my mind this morning as I try to follow the way of water.  (Incidentally at the moment my central image has moved on from merely flowing around obstacles to actually dislodging them and taking them with me.)

Last night was good: I went for the first time to a poetry group called ‘Soundswrite’.  They meet at the Quaker Meeting House, which is handily situated just down the road (incidentally, that reminds me – when I went for an interview in t’North, the guy asked me how far I’d had to travel to college in London from where I was living.  ‘Oh’, I said.  ‘It’s just down the road – about three miles.’  He smiled at that.)  But I digress.  Yes, a very personable group of women who discuss poems by other people and also by each other: the poet is supposed to sit in silence while the poem is being ‘workshopped’ and then she can weigh in with her own opinions.  It was all very respectful and polite without being a mutual admiration society – a hard balance to strike, I always think.  Poetry performance groups, while being wonderfully enthusiastic and supportive, do not generally distinguish between brilliance and dross: whereas other groups can be quite critical and leave you feeling scarred and bruised.  Not only that, but the wonderful people at Soundswrite praised my Richard III poem very highly and suggested it should be a part of any future commemorative display.  So on the back of that I have sent it to a local magazine.

I’ll keep you posted.  Meanwhile I’m sorting my poems into categories and re-writing a couple of sonnets.  But back to today’s theme… and what is a hero?

I’m very fond of the sitcom Rev, and it seems to me that he is the epitome of some kind of hero.  He’s not a plaster saint – he smokes and drinks and loses his temper – but against horrendous odds he tries to do his best day after day, unsupported by the church, plagued by the parish down and out’s – I love the guy who calls him ‘Vicarage’ – and overwhelmed by the adverse circumstances in which he has to do his job.  The two women in this first episode are utterly brilliant, by the way:

Check them out – it’s about seven minutes in.  ‘How shall we be church here?’ – it’s pure brilliance.

So I reckon a hero is not someone who swoops in and saves the day, so much as someone who just turns up.  Someone who’s there, day after day, doing whatever it is that needs doing.  Like a friend of ours whose husband has dementia; or another who’s a single parent home-educating a child with ADHD; or – or a writer who keeps slogging away at the laptop-face day after day, submitting stuff she hasn’t a hope in hell of getting published, making no money and living with a gender dysphoric husband and a CHILD WHO NEVER GETS UP FOR COLLEGE!!!!!

Oh, wait – that’s me, isn’t it?

Case concluded.

Kirk out

The Way of Water

In the West, if we want to get somewhere we tend to think we need to put all our efforts into it; put every ounce of energy into achieving your goals.  Motivational speakers, tapes, articles and mantras abound; all telling us how to ‘get where we are going.’  No energy whatsoever is spent on telling us how to be where we are being.

And yet that is the most important message in life.  If you don’t appreciate where you are now, what makes you think you’ll appreciate somewhere else more?  oh, of course, that other place will be so much better – what could you possibly find to complain about?

Yes, but like the Princess and the Pea, there’s always something to complain about.  So you move from a horrible house (like we have) to a nice one (like we have).  And for a while everything is paradise, because you’re comparing it to the old one.  It’s like a honeymoon; everything is perfect and nothing remains to be desired.  But soon little things start to niggle.  The curtain that won’t close properly; the door that sticks; the mirror that isn’t quite where you want it but can’t be moved.  And pretty soon you won’t be satisfied until all these problems are rectified.

But!  Once they are rectified, guess what?  Yep, a whole new raft of problems appears.  Because that’s life, my friend; full of imperfections.  And the trick is not to have what you want but to want what you have.

Now, I can’t say I always managed that, particularly with our old house, because bits of it were so horrible.  But on the other hand I was grateful to have it.  I was thankful that it came along just when we were starting to get desperate, and that we were able to stay there for so long.  I was thankful that it was just around the corner from the Martyrs and that we saw so many people we knew every day.  And because of that, the small imperfections of this house don’t worry me – because I’m just happy to be here.

Here’s a thought – what if today the only things you had were those you were thankful for yesterday?

So what does all this have to do with water?  Damn, I went off on a tangent, but that’s OK because so does water.  What I was going to say was that when you have a goal and there are obstacles in the way – as there pretty much always are – instead of going at them like a bull at a gate, be like water and find a way round.  Like the wise man in the Tibetan story who, when everyone was being terrorised by a mad dog blocking a road, came; saw the dog, and went down another road.

Be the water, friends!

Kirk out



Life on the Underside: Swimming in the Red Sea

As I speak the blossom on our tree at the front is just turning, though other trees are coming out and some have still to flower.  The hedge is in its full spring-green and the bluebells are still ringing.  All of this is in stark contrast to the world we have made for ourselves: the world we think of as real.  I refer of course to the stupid economy.

Why is it that we persist in thinking of money as real?  What is money after all?  It’s a representation, nothing more.  First we had gold.  There was some sense in valuing gold, because of its scarcity and its durability: it has qualities that make it worth something.  But then we progressed to little bits of paper which stood for amounts of gold.  And these bit of paper came to seem precious to us; to have value in themselves.  Yet a tenner or a fifty is nothing more than a promissory note: it says ‘I promise to pay bearer on demand the sum of…’ whatever it is.  Has anyone tried demanding that sum lately?  Have you tried handing over a tenner and saying ‘I demand you pay me the sum of…?’  What would you expect to get in exchange?

But it gets worse.  From actual coins and notes we have largely progressed to bits of plastic and figures in a computer.  So that what dominates people’s lives nowadays is nothing more than that: a rectangle of plastic and some digits on a screen.  The more unreal it becomes, the more we cling to it – and that is the ultimate unreality.

But there’s an underside to this, too; an underside where lots of people live.  It used to be called ‘being in the red’, though no-one uses that colour nowadays: far too aggressive.  These days all you get is a discreet little minus sign at the beginning of all your figures; or else the inoffensive-looking but doom-laden letters O/D at the bottom of every page.

People who live on the underside do all their calculations upside-down.  They are constantly calculating deficits; multiplying minuses and adding subtractions.  Two minuses do not make a plus: not in this world.  In this world two minuses make you go down and down until you can’t see the surface at all.  There are people on the bottom of this sea-bed who haven’t seen daylight for years.

Got to go now as I see the man from Sainsbury’s is here to exchange some goods for some of the digits on my computer screen…

Kirk out


I Should Have Listened to Al

I know I bang on about Leonard Cohen a lot, but in my youth this guy was almost as important to me: Al Stewart’s songs kept me company right through my teens and twenties.  From ‘Bedsitter Images’ his first album featuring the song ‘You Should Have Listened to Al’ to the bittersweet ‘Orange’, and culminating in what most people consider his apogee, ‘Past, Present and Future’, Stewart always has something to say, and his lyrics are at least as important as the music.  I guess that’s what I look for in a singer: the authenticity of personal experience.  My all-time favourite track of Al Stewart is the lament for lost love, ‘The News from Spain’ which always makes me cry:

It has some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking guitar-strings I’ve ever heard.  Al also has a keen interest in history and a lot of his songs feature historical figures:

I have to say, though, he’s not as good live as Cohen is.  Cohen always gives 11o%, but Al can sometimes seem lackadaisical, almost unbothered.  The last time I saw him he did a very short set, and the tickets were not cheap.

So there you are.  I’m trying to think of something witty to say to finish today’s post.  Meanwhile here is some light music:

Kirk out

Spring has Pingked!

Yes, it’s official: spring is here, the muse has ris: I wonder where the poet is?  The poet, let me tell you, is at Embrace arts – along with all the other poets and participants in the excellent series of workshops put on by Bobba et al.  I know whereof I speak, for I was one of those poets: along with Mike, I led a workshop on rhythm in poetry which was supported by a tabla player with a dozen hands (or so it seemed when he was playing).  We had seven people and after some warm-ups we did different rhythms in poetry, rapping them, clapping them, slapping them and flapping them.  Then they divided into groups and worked on a piece which was going to form the basis of a performance.  They did really well in the end, setting a poem to dance and moving around the stage with scarves and saris while I strummed my guitar, Rishi played the tabla and his amazing sitar-playing friend played the sitar amazingly.  The whole day wound up with Mellow Baku and everyone coming together to sing and dance.  Terrific!

And so to bed…

Today I’ve been working on an application to Embrace Arts to run a series of workshops in the autumn on the theme of rhythm and rhyme.  Should be fun… I have also hit upon a novel kind of business card – a poem card!  I’m sick of those boring rectangular business cards that everyone has a million of in their wallet.  There they sit like men and women in business suits, all the same and all BORING!  So I have come up with the poem card.  These are great: they not only have a short poem on them, but each one is also uniquely shaped.  So now not only do you have my details, you have a poem to read and to ponder.

What’s not to like?

I’m also writing a review of a book of short stories which has to go off soon, and various bits and bobs with which I shall not bother your pretty little heads.

Pinggk tomorrow.  See you there I hope.

Kirk out

Under Thorpe Cloud

Now, I’m not what you might call a fitness freak.  Every time I pass the gym on Upperton Rd and look at the row of people all cycling towards me without getting anywhere, I feel like laughing.  Joggers are more liberally-sprinkled on our pavements than lamp-posts, but I think jogging is a form of torture and marathons an extreme form.  On the news, both national and local, there are daily reports of outlandish feats of endurance raising money for this or that; but I don’t begin to comprehend why anyone would want to put themselves through something like a triathlon.  My leisure time is taken up with reading, watching TV, drinking beer with buddies and listening to music.  And when I go on holiday I enjoy a gentle walk; a stroll along the beach, a little light climbing perhaps, a bit of a swim.  Nothing too demanding.  Yet the last two church holidays I’ve been on have involved rather over-enthusiastic types who think nothing of shooting up a steep mountain the moment they’ve pitched their tent.  Such as this one:

which I declined to ascend at that point as I’d spent all night in a freezing tent and had to get up twice to pee.

The beach holiday, years ago, was much nicer.  Still on the first morning I wanted nothing more than to laze in the sun and hope my children didn’t drown themselves.  But it became clear that a group of these said hardy individuals were planning to latch themselves onto a rope for the purposes of pulling a bus along the promenade!  Why they would wish to do such a thing when they could be soaking up the sun, was a mystery to me, and when they had all charged up the shingle yelling ‘huzzah!’ I expressed my view to someone sitting near me.  ‘They’re bonkers, aren’t they?’ I said.  ‘Why don’t they just sit and enjoy the sun?’

She gave me a look, part-sorrow and part-anger.  Turned out she was just putting her trainers on so she, too could dash up the shingle and go pull a bus!!  I ask you!

But recently all this determined non-climbing and non-bus-pulling has started to catch up with me.  Living where we now do, I need to cycle a fair bit to get around; and so I’m having to supplement  my usual diet of fairly gentle yoga and sporadic walking with some good hard chugging up slopes and down again.  I’m getting better at it; and the other night when it was cold and wet I actually broke into a spontaneous jog!  Whatever next?

Better save me a bus, I guess…

Spring! workshop tomorrow, folks at the Embrace Arts centre.  Our workshop starts at 12 so see you there!

Kirk out

My Working Week

You might be interested to know what I’ve been up to this week. Well, work-wise, I’m finishing off a short story for a competition on a Jane Austen theme, I’m also writing a review of a book of short stories by various authors.  But the bonus ball this week comes from a meeting last weekend with a publisher. Turns out they are accepting submissions now, so I got some poems together and sent them off. Apart from that I’ve been deciding what to do with the novel and writing an account of my recent dark experiences. So – a full week!

All this and Morecambe and Wise too!

Kirk out