Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep -Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there; I did not die.


I read this poem at my father’s funeral last year. I like to think he would have approved although we never really discussed death. I know he once said to my daughter, quite out of the blue, that he wasn’t afraid to die, but that was pretty much all he ever did say.

I wonder, does the poem make sense? Do you cry for the person or for yourself? And if it’s feeling sorry for yourself, why can’t we just stop being so pathetic and get on with things like we’ve all been told? … It doesn’t quite work like that, does it?

Anyway. I like the imagery of it. The quiet birds in circled flight.

Here Comes The Flood – Robert Fripp and Peter Gabriel

I’m not so sure about Robert Fripp’s instrumentals here, but Peter Gabriel’s vocals are superb…

“Here Comes The Flood”

When the night shows
the signals grow on radios
All the strange things
they come and go, as early warnings
Stranded starfish have no place to hide
still waiting for the swollen Easter tide
There’s no point in direction we cannot
even choose a side.

I took the old track
the hollow shoulder, across the waters
On the tall cliffs
they were getting older, sons and daughters
The jaded underworld was riding high
Waves of steel hurled metal at the sky
and as the nail sunk in the cloud, the rain
was warm and soaked the crowd.

Lord, here comes the flood
We’ll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent
in any still alive
It’ll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you’re running dry.

When the flood calls
You have no home, you have no walls
In the thunder crash
You’re a thousand minds, within a flash
Don’t be afraid to cry at what you see
The actors gone, there’s only you and me
And if we break before the dawn, they’ll
use up what we used to be.

Lord, here comes the flood
We’ll say goodbye to flesh and blood
If again the seas are silent
in any still alive
It’ll be those who gave their island to survive
Drink up, dreamers, you’re running dry.


Undertow by Genesis, from the album “…and then there were three…”, 1978

The curtains are drawn
Now the fire warms the room.
Meanwhile outside
Wind from the north-east chills the air,
It will soon be snowing out there.

And some there are
Cold, they prepare for a sleepless night.
Maybe this will be their last fight.

But we’re safe in each other’s embrace,
All fears go as I look on your face –

Better think awhile
Or I may never think again.
If this were the last day of your life, my friend,
Tell me, what do you think you would do then?

Stand up to the blow that fate has struck upon you,
Make the most of all you still have coming to you,
Lay down on the ground and let the tears run from you,
Crying to the grass and trees and heaven finally on your knees

Let me live again, let life come find me wanting.
Spring must strike again against the shield of winter.
Let me feel once more the arms of love surround me,
Telling me the danger’s past, I need not feel the icy blast again.

Laughter, music and perfume linger here
And there, and there,
Wine flows from flask to glass and mouth,
As it soothes, confusing our doubts.

And soon we feel,
Why do a single thing to-day,
There’s tomorrow sure as I’m here.

So the days they turn into years
And still no tomorrow appears.

Better think awhile
Or I may never think again.
If this were the last day of your life, my friend,
Tell me, what do you think you would do then?

Stand up to the blow that fate has struck upon you,
Make the most of all you still have coming to you,
Lay down on the ground and let the tears run from you,
Crying to the grass and trees and heaven finally on your knees

Let me live again, let life come find me wanting.
Spring must strike again against the shield of winter.
Let me feel once more the arms of love surround me,
Telling me the danger’s past, I need not feel the icy blast again.

A Moment

What makes some events stick in your memory and yet others just fade away? Often it’s the unimportant things, or sometimes things you’d rather forget, that remain while stuff you really want to treasure, like the gems your children do or say as they grow up, just fades away.

Here’s one of those unimportant things that still seems strangely vivid…

We’re heading up MG Road, Anneke and I: East Fort, Chalai Market, towards Secretariat and then Napier Museum. Two kilometres down, two more to go. It’s late morning on that shadeless street; the sun is searing. The air is thick from four lanes of grinding, honking lorries and buses, taxis, tuk-tuks and motorbikes. We need to almost shout and yet not breathe too deeply. Amongst all the workaday traffic an out-of-place, anonymous limousine pushes past and later, a multi-axelled, foreign-tourist-gawping coach.

She’s vibrant, smart, pretty and tanned. The boys stare. The girls pretend not to see. I wonder if they think I’m her father, if they notice me at all.

It’s July, hot and incredibly humid. Our skins glisten with sweat. We should have taken a bus but there’s so much life out here; so much to see and drink in.

We’re picking our way over gap-toothed, ankle-twisting pavement. Past rough, hand-made wooden beds, fake watches and felt reindeer, sarees and brass goddesses. The smells.

We’re just chatting, wondering about everything unfamiliar around us.
And then, out of the blue, “So what brings YOU here?” she asks, catching me completely off guard.
“Huh? Oh. Well. You know… I wanted to do something meaningful, did a Google search, found Sebastian, read their story and now I’m here!”
“That’s not what I meant. Why HERE? Why Trivandrum? Why NOW?”
I look at her. I don’t really know you. What will you think? Who will you tell?
“Oh… It’s a long story.”
And like a ricochet, “What was her name?”
I’m knocked aback.
“How d’you know there was a woman?”
“OF COURSE there was. There ALWAYS is! Though I did wonder if it might have been a man!”
I smile and start to speak but she doesn’t really hear me: it’s her story she wants to tell.

MG Road

Cara Dillon

The Streets of Derry – Cara Dillon with Paul Brady

There was a time when I had a television. One of the series I loved watching was “Transatlantic Sessions” where a bunch of folk musicians got together to play some beautiful music. If I remember correctly, it took place in a large old Perthshire house, and the sessions were interspersed with views across the gorgeous Scottish countryside. I have followed Irish lass Cara Dillon for a number of years and saw her once, in concert. She has incredible talent and is quite stunning. Here she is with husband, Sam Lakeman, and fellow countryman, Paul Brady.

After the morning there comes an evening
And after evening another day
And after a false love there comes a true love
I’d have you listen now to what I say

I swear my love is the finest young man
As fair as any the sun shines on
But how to save him, I do not know it
For he has got a sentence to be hung

As he was marching the streets of Derry
I own he marched up right manfully
Being much more like a commanding officer
Than a man to die upon the gallows tree

What keeps my love, she’s so long in coming?
Oh what detains her so long from me?
Or does she think it a shame or scandal
To see me die upon the gallows tree?

He looked around and he saw her coming
And she was dressed all in woollen fine
The weary steed that my love was riding
It flew more swifftly than the wind

Come down, come down from that cruel gallows
I’ve got your pardon from the king
And I’ll let them see that they dare not hang you
And I’ll crown my love with a bunch of green

Bold Jamie

Oh rise up my darling and come with me
I want to go with you and leave this country
To leave my fathers dwelling, this house and the land
So away goes Jamie, his love in his arms

They go over hills and the mountains and glens
Travelling all through the night in the mist and the rain
But her father has followed and has taken his men
And he captured poor Jamie, his love in his arms

Now home she was taken, her room she is bound
While poor Jamie lies on the cold stoney ground
And he knows all the while before the judge he will stand
For the stealing of nothing but his own true love’s hand

In the cold hard iron his hands they are bound
Handcuffed like a murderer and tied to the ground
And the goaler tells Jamie “last night I did hear
That your Lady will hang you or else set you clear”

But the judge says “this young girl being tender in youth
If Jamie is guilty she will tell the truth”
Then the radiant beauty before him did stand
“Oh I’m happy to see you my bold Irish lad”

But the father cries out “Lord have pity on me
For the man came to bring disgrace to my family
And he stole my only daughter, all part of his plan
And if you don’t hang him I will quit the land”

But the daughter is crying and begging is she
“The fault isn’t Jamie’s, the blame lies with me
I forced him to leave and run away with me
And I’ll die if I can’t save my bold Jamie”

“Good Lord he has stole all her jewels and her rings
Gold watches and amber, all my precious things
And it cost me a fortune in thousands of pounds
And I’ll take the life of Jamie before I lie in the ground

“Good Lord I gave them as a token of love
An when we are parted I’ll have them removed
But a true lovers token wear on your right hand
And think of me darling when you’re in a foreign land”


IMG_0767-001 This is what I’m working on at the moment. The handrail is original but I’ve renewed the baserail and am putting in spindles to stop any kiddies falling through the gap. I went to a proper timber shop for the materials where they planed the spindles down to size and machined the baserail from standard stock. OK, it’s not particularly refined but it’ll do! There are a huge number of angles to cut – all at 41.9° – not only the spindles but also the fillets between them at top and bottom. A quick estimate comes to seventy-eight of them! Also, there have to be careful calculations and checks to make sure all gaps are even. Ah, so this is what I learnt that trigonometry for, forty-four years ago! Talking of school, the handrail is oak and reminds me of old wooden desks. I love the natural appearance and feel of it and will see if I can get away with leaving it untreated.

Old Loo


Old Loo

The old toilet pan from my blitzed bathroom seems to be taking root outside. I haven’t managed to dispose of it yet and part of me doesn’t want to. I’m getting used to seeing it outside my back window – it adds a bit of frivolity, quirkiness, fun. I’m seriously tempted to keep it. Maybe not there; maybe somewhere more out of sight, planted with red geraniums.

The Dead Drummer

The Dead Drummer, Thomas Hardy (1899)


They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
Uncoffined—just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crest
That breaks the veldt around;
And foreign constellations west
Each night above his mound.


Young Hodge the Drummer never knew –
Fresh from his Wessex home –
The meaning of the broad Karoo,
The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
Strange stars amid the gloam.


Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge for ever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow up a Southern tree.
And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally.

House Project at 12 Months

IMG_0723 I moved into my house exactly 12 months ago – boy, time flies! I’ve been busy renovating it so that I can eventually rent out rooms and then go off working in Nepal or Cambodia – it involves replastering, new wiring, plumbing, bathroom and kitchen – in fact pretty much everything! Time might fly but unfortunately, progress crawls. I wish I was a lot further along the road than I am but there’s still much to do. It’s a big project and I’m slower than I used to be.

It isn’t easy when there’s just one of you. I admit that I’ve had occasional help from my son and daughter and from friends, for which I’m hugely grateful, but most of the time it’s just little, old me. For a while, my friend Gabor came round a couple of evenings a week. He was keen and not only did he help with sanding down and painting but his visits encouraged ME to be productive too. But he’s moved away now and so not much gets done in the evenings. Weekends are when work tends to happen but it’s hard to keep focus and maintain enthusiasm for such a length of time… I’m struggling but I won’t give up. Writing blogs? Social life? Pah! That’ll have to wait.

So, what stage am I at? Well, there’s still no bathroom but I have at least now got bath, basin, loo, shower and taps on order, and it should all arrive in a couple of weeks’ time. I still I haven’t chosen the wall tiles though, and they have to go on before the bathroom can be fitted. I’m hopeless at choosing things – whatever it is it seems to take me forever. Friends tell me they simply visit the showrooms, make a selection, and load up! For me, with no car, just visiting the showrooms is an ordeal. And once I’m there I seem to lack the imagination to picture things into my home.

However, the upstairs is nearly complete, decoration-wise. I’ve finished painting the stairs and landing which was quite an ordeal due to the height of the stair-well. A lot of ladder moving and precarious balancing. It’s not the colour I expected it to be – I thought it would be a kind of muted dusky-pink but it’s turned out a lot brighter than I expected. A LOT brighter! Friends have described it as “Gay Cerise” and “Camp Pink”! It certainly didn’t look so bright on the colour chart. Perhaps I should have bought a sample pot to try out but I’d already tried too many and rejected them all. It’ll have to do. It’s durable paint so it’s quite expensive and the cost to change it, and the effort too, would be just too much, so “Camp Pink” it remains. Perhaps I’ll grow to like it!

I painted the bedrooms a very light greyish-creamy-white paint called “Snowdrop White”. The colour is OK but the quality isn’t. Retail paint is dreadful these days – it contains very little pigment so you need more coats to get a decent depth of colour. With “trade paint” you only need two coats at most. Obviously I only learnt this after a bulk-buy of the shop stuff! And then I discovered that it marks very easily, so I ended putting a coat of trade paint over the lot – all three rooms. Maddeningly I then found that the trade paint was just as bad! Aaaarrrggghhh!! This particular paint is flat matt, and looks fine until you rub against it when it kind of polishes up and goes shiny. Well, tough (or rather, not).

I’ve gone through several iterations with the paint on the woodwork too. I won’t bore you with the details. I don’t think I’m being over-fussy, I can accept less-than-perfect, but so many things have turned out not as good as I’d hoped. I know that everything will get knocked and bumped as soon as the place is lived in but I’d like it to start out looking good at least.

I employed a plumber for a few days and now have radiators installed throughout, but no gas boiler yet. There’s no point putting one in yet because there are no hot water taps or shower to test it on. Not having water in the radiators does at least mean that I can easily take them off the wall to paint behind. I’ve also had the gas meter moved from the kitchen to an outside wall – a right palaver to organise and expensive too, but it gives me a bit more flexibility in kitchen layout. The gas will have to be re-connected when the boiler goes in. The kitchen, needless to say, hasn’t been started yet.

I’ve asked the excellent Romanian guys who did my plastering to come back in a month’s time to do some non-plastering jobs – like the tiling and the bathroom installation. I can do all that stuff myself but I’m just too slow. I’ll get them to put up a fence on the boundary too even though it’s my neighbours’ responsibility, and have them cut back the neighbours’ ridiculously-huge over-hanging trees which dominate my garden, create near-permanent shade and draw all the goodness out of the soil. It’s not as if I can sit under the trees either – they’re filled with generously-shitting pigeons! Pigeons love to empty their bowels in dense, dark, hideous, inconsiderate, insensitive, thuggish Leylandii, or so it seems.

I had hoped that the house would be finished by the end of this year but there is still the downstairs and kitchen to do. Unless I get myself more organised, that prospect is looking increasingly remote. I’d better get those tiles chosen…

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