Monthly Archives: June 2015

Lists or listing?

After the solstice;
the sun still practises hiding
in morning mist. A tenuous time,
the longest day gone,  the year turning.
Hard to bear the thought of winter.
Rough weather last week, a week of vende
flattening the peas, turning the umbrella
ninety degrees in the wrong direction.
But today? It’s soft , wood pigeons
in their swimming costumes of rainbow light,
clack, clack their way from poire cidre to cerise sauvage.
On such nights it’s hard to sleep
and morning refracts with all its claims
through the confusions of that misted light.

Brigid Sivill
June 26th 2015

It’s a funny time of year. The demand of the Adlerian object seems to be overwhelming as the fruit and vegetable pousse madly and threaten to overwhelm me. I spent a day devising long lists of ‘to do’, priorities – what each day should contain and a system for regulating meals and preparation, cleaning the floors – of jam, mud, grass – and including blogs, new writing, a day of ‘send-offs’ to magazines, serious reading etc, etc, The lists look lovely – I have one set in the kitchen and one in my work room. The trouble with lists is that once you have made them it feels as if you have done all the things on them.

The first problem is that the first thing on the list tends to take over the rest of the day. Shopping takes a long time here – driving ten kilometres for most things, the nearest shop for bread or groceries is five kilometres away. I get home – having left behind the most important list and finding I have forgotten the sugar that will allow me to proceed to the next thing – doing something with the large bucket of gooseberries that Phil has picked for me this morning.

In the midst of all this I am trying to move on in my writing – also on the list but not at the top. Whoops! I have sent off Field Grammar and Ha Noi 2000 to pamphlet competitions so I can shrug them off for a while. Ha Noi got onto the short list for the Cinnamon pamphlet competition so I have felt a bit encouraged with continuing long poems or series of poems.

I have had a project niggling at me for years. In 1659 Robert Knox was taken captive by the King of Kandy when his ship limped into Kottiyar in Ceylon for repairs. He was a prisoner for nineteen years and during his captivity and on his return he worked on a manuscript that was published as ‘An Historical Relation of the Island of Ceylon’ and eventually included a second edition with editorial additions and later ‘thoughts’. It is a fascinating document – he was a good observer and the natural aspects of the flora, fauna and inhabitants are described in a way that I recognise from my own time in Sri Lanka. There are also critiques of the book from recent scholars of post-colonial studies which raise questions of the kind that have bothered me for a long time as I worked across Asia and Africa on educational development assignments.

Paul Theroux’s ‘Dark Star Safari’ has a savage indictment of aid workers – their tendency to arrive and leave in their white top of the Range Rovers, to stay in ‘marker’ five star hotels and to leave without any idea of the effect of their interventions on the people who stay behind. I know that I learned more from the people I worked with than I was able to give to them but I remember with such tenderness and respect the teachers and children, the trainers and the writers that I shared time and space with and am completely over-awed still with their ability to survive in places that were so remote, so exacting and so beautiful.

It is a long time since my last blog – when I re-read it I see that I was tussling there with the ‘how’ of expressing these things. Reading Robert Knox and Edouard Glissant, thinking about how, still, we exist in a world that is so random in the gifts it gives us or that we find there, I am reaching towards a way of describing, making real, sharing places, people and things that happened in Sri Lanka. It’s exciting, as any new writing project is, but it is having to struggle for space and energy at the moment. Hence the lists!



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