4: Imagine

Continued from 3: Send in the clowns

I was also saved by my imagination and, if you like, the weird alternative-brain thing itself. That was – and is – by far the strongest form of defence, less costly than human relationships, far more flexible/portable than a husband. I always had the ability to tune right out, and this happened automatically whenever I began to get bored or things got rough. When things got very rough indeed I used to practice Silent Singing, most often The Sun Has Got His Hat On. I had my own way of distributing my consciousness between several places at once. I disappeared into books and stories, daydreams and plans. Inside my head was something like the Holodeck on the Spaceship Enterprise – the entire range of alternate universes on demand – and I spent many aeons away on my holidays on distant planets.

Later I started writing poems and stories. I found out how I felt through the poems and learned how I worked and what I thought through the stories. Together they became my Voice. I didn’t fret greatly that little I wrote was ever likely to get published – that wasn’t why I wrote. Much later I came to understand that a poem written (or a song sung, a painting painted, a love loved, an experience experienced) is engraved on the fabric of the universe, and will never be lost. You may have forgotten all the words or lost the old envelope it was scribbled on, but the poem is still there: all is taken in by the All That Is, which is constantly Becoming, in us and through us.

My parents were pretty bad until I left home. Almost as soon as I did they became pretty good. They did what they could to support me through the trials of what passed for my ‘adult’ life, though I never ceased to bewilder and exasperate them. I relied heavily on them for company as Ex seemed to be drifting further and further away, and when I found myself divorced, as a middle-aged ‘teenager’, basically – I had to learn how to change a light bulb and get petrol – I was glad of their support. I think they loved me. If only they could have told me so when I was young enough for it to have made a difference.

I would say to parents: even if you don’t understand what’s ‘wrong’ with your child – even if there is no medical word for it yet – even if (he or) she seems uncomfortably different to you or anybody else you have ever met – even if she is neither what you wanted nor what you anticipated – try to accept and love – or at least appear to love – what you did get. It works both ways. Your child has absolutely no choice but accept and love you, even as you shout abuse and raise your hand to strike.

When you are many years dead, do you really want your now elderly child to remember in technicolour what it felt like when you slammed her head into a door, trumping any good memories – like the day you taught her to swim; those Stanley Holloway monologues that made her laugh; the communal singing in the car?

If one approach fails, try and think of another. Watch and listen to your new child, as you would a new and exotic pet: work out what she needs. If you can’t work that out, talk to other people and be willing to ask for help. Be kind. Be gentle. Be creative. Think about what you are doing.

The moon’s on a biscuit

This is apparently the only statement of note uttered by me during my infancy. As far as I recall I was walking down our street after dark with Mum – no idea why – and happened to look up at the moon. Observing it surrounded by a circular, brownish haze I exclaimed Oh look, the moon’s on a biscuit. It is not a clever statement. It is not even a poetic statement. I have since written poetry, some of it rather good if I say so myself, but that night I was being drearily literal. I had never seen the moon surrounded by brownish haze before and a biscuit was the only half-suitable circular object I could think of to liken it to.

I think what depresses me is that so much was made of it. Did I never say anything else, that anyone can remember? I believe my niece’s first words were something to do with the stock market having declined by three points. Or maybe that was somebody else’s niece… no, I think it was mine. Now that was spectacular, though I doubt if she actually understood the risings and fallings of the stock market. Who does?

I can also remember my mother confessing to mistakes she had made in parenting which had resulted in my ‘turning out the way I did’. Apparently as a young first-time Mum she had been very much under the influence of Dr Benjamin Spock’s book Parenting and Child Care which had advocated not picking a child up when it cried – ever, according to my mother. So when I was a baby she had stood outside my door crying because I was crying, not daring to open the door and pick me up for fear of incurring the Wrath of Dr Spock. This is a particularly stupid idea and I wouldn’t be surprised if its implementation did cause a great deal of damage, but that wasn’t what bothered me. It was her saying that I had ‘turned out the way I did’. Until that moment I had assumed I was more or less normal and that it was my parents who had ‘turned out the way they did’. After that I felt like a mug with a missing handle or a toy soldier with only one arm.

Anyway, moons. This post was going to be about full moons. It is early evening as I write this and I keep going to the back window to look out, since tonight is the night of the November full moon known as Moon Before Yule according to Old English almanacs. It is the last full moon before Christmas. The dates vary from year to year.

Full moon names have also varied over time and from one hemisphere to another, since seasonal changes take place during ‘opposite’ months in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The sequence for this particular calendar for 2015 has been running:

  • Moon After Yule (January 5th)
  • Wolf Moon (February 3rd)
  • Lenten Moon (March 5th)
  • Egg Moon (April 4th)
  • Milk Moon (May 4th)
  • Flower Moon (June 2nd)
  • Hay Moon (July 2nd)
  • Grain Moon (July 31st)
  • Fruit Moon (August 29th)
  • Harvest Moon (September 28th)
  • Hunter’s Moon (October 27th)
  • Moon Before Yule (November 25th)

and 2016 goes on:

  • Moon After Yule (December 25th)
  • Wolf Moon (January 24th)
  • Lenten Moon (February 22nd)

I found Wolf Moon in a Witches’ Date Book earlier this evening – which is what started me off on the moon-post thing. I bought the Date Book for a friend of mine, who is a witch. I try not to read people’s Christmas present books, but never succeed. As least this one is spiral-bound, so it won’t be all creased around the spine when she gets it. If she gets it. At the moment I’m too fascinated to wrap it up.

Naming full moons was a good way of recalling the passage of time and important events in a time before clocks and calendars. The Algonquin tribes of New England and westward to Lake Superior, had their own names. For example January was their Wolf Moon, February the Snow Moon, March the Worm Moon, April the Pink Moon, March the Flower Moon, June the Strawberry Moon, July the Buck Moon, August the Sturgeon Moon, September the Harvest Moon, October the Hunter’s Moon, November the Beaver Moon and December the Cold Moon.

Most seasons have three full moons but occasionally a season will have four full moons, and the ‘spare’ one is known as a Blue Moon.

And, apropos of nothing, the Matala Moon referred to in Joni Mitchell’s 1971 song ‘Carey’ refers to a place called Matala on the Isle of Crete, where hippies hung out in Neolithic caves for a while, in the 60s.

A few days later, Penelope and I were on a ferry to see what Matala was all about … Most of the hippies who had traveled there slept in small caves carved into the cliff on one side of the beach.

After we arrived, Penelope and I rented a cinder-block hut in a nearby poppy field and walked down to the beach. As we stood staring out, an explosion went off behind us. I turned around just in time to see this guy with a red beard blowing through the door of a cafe. He was wearing a white turban, white Nehru shirt and white cotton pants. I said to Penelope, ‘What an entrance—I have to meet this guy.’ … He was American and a cook at one of the cafes. Apparently, when he had lit the stove, it blew him out the door. That’s how Cary [Raditz] entered my life—ka-boom.