Sunday, October 27, 2013


Spring seems to be a bad time for old people. I had just come back from a wake for a resident of Evergreen that I was very fond of, to be confronted with an E-mail telling me of the death of another good friend, Livinia. I knew her well. I used to see her every Sunday when we picked up people from Capricorn to take to church. She had been unwell for a few weeks. I had visited her a few times and had intended to go to see her last week, but put it off.  I am inclined to do this. I don't think I am very good at visiting the sick. There is a group of volunteers at Evergreen who do this regularly and do I admire them. I find it a rather depressing chore, but now so many of my friends are frail and housebound I really ought to make more of an effort. I know it is appreciated. I have been told so often enough. Perhaps I should put aside a day every week for this purpose. Of course not a whole day, rather and hour or two in the morning or afternoon. It should be easy enough. My diary may be full of engagements of one sort or another, but almost none of them are urgent.


After a very interesting talk by Mike Nicol about his latest crime novel Of Cops and Robbers, a small group of us  had a poetry study session led by Jim Phelps. The poem chosen (by Jim) was a poem by Seamus Heaney  I think it was called The Follower.  It was about the poet as a child following his father as he ploughed. a field. We were not told the name of the author until after the discussion. The idea was for each of us to say what the poem meant to us without being influenced by knowing anything about its provenance.  I enjoyed the discussion, but felt it went on a bit long. After all, the poem was short, its description of the ploughman and his work  quite clear and the message of the poem plainly stated.  Perhaps I am too impatient and too frivolous for discussions like this. I have often regretted not having studied literature more seriously and not taken tertiary level courses in literature, but perhaps if I am so easily bored, it was just as well I didn't.

At the end of the session, Pam said something about wanting to discuss Evolution. (Darwinian I presume) My immediate reaction was "count me out!" I didn't actually say so. Surely the conflict of religion and Darwin's theory has been done to death. I don't think I can bear listening to the tired old arguments again. Only the very "Bible Belt" type sects want to get rid of the learning and teaching of the theory.  At the way-out Christian School I taught at for a short time, Evolution (in the biological sense) was not mentioned and presumably was taboo in class. Luckily I did not have to teach Biology, but I was tackled by a pupil's mother(she was also on the staff) who didn't like me telling her daughter that the earth went round the sun or that the measurement of velocity was relative. She said it contradicted what was written in the Bible(I have still to discover what Bible verses she was referring to, but I take her word for it. Texts can always be found to corroborate the most strange of prejudices.) I was amazed. I never expected controversy over Newton's laws.  I thought that particular argument was confined to Galileo's time.

I see the idea of Natural Selection, not as a tenet of belief, but as a useful tool for studying the variation in plants and animals just as Newtonian physics is useful for the study of the motion of bodies. Mostly these theories work, but there are circumstances in which they don't.  I think it is ridiculous that anyone thinks that one has to choose between one's Faith and the way one studies Biology.  I also think that we have to accept that there is much in this wonderful Universe that we will never understand and it is arrogant of us to believe otherwise.
 As a post script, I have found quite a few nice poems about Evolution. particularly some by Thomas Hardy. I did write down links, but have mislaid the paper I wrote them on. I shall have to Google them again.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

On being a writer
If I have the affrontery to call myself a writer, then I must do a lot more writing.  I have become very lazy about this. Just because I don't have anyone reading my writings, shouldn't mean that I should give up the practice. I deceive myself by  making the excuse that I am concentrating on poetry, but the truth is that most of the time I just go back to one or two poems and fiddle with them. I did actually finish the mystery story that gave me so much trouble. I might at some time or other end it off properly. In other words give it a more satisfactory ending. But I got so bored with the characters and as  I got to dislike them more and more they became less and less likeable. I feel sorry for them now. They deserved better. In the beginning they had so much promise. Their company gave me so much pleasure. It is my own fault that I fell out of love with them. I did not take enough trouble with them, did not delve enough into their pasts nor give them enough direction to make sufficient futures for themselves.  Now the summer holidays are just round the corner and there will be no dog training and no U3A activities, I must find another (hopefully) worthwhile project. Perhaps I could write about my life in Zambia. The family were quite interested in my memoir about growing up in Wellington. They might enjoy reading about camping in the bush. The prospect doesn't thrill me, but once I get started I might get more enthusiastic. 

Of course I should also be working on another collection of poems. There are just not quite enough  that are worth publishing. It is light verse that is required, but lately I have been feeling so depressed
that it is no wonder that my jokes are not funny and my verse falls as flat as the souffles I never was able to bake sucessfully.

Maybe in both cases I am not following the recipe properly. Perhaps I should heed the advice of experts i.e. Read more, write more and go for long, long walks. On the other hand in my present state of mind it might be better to forget about light verse and try to write about pain and grief. There is certainly enough of it about at the moment. Spring seems to be a bad time for old people. Many of my friends have been taken ill, others are losing their minds. In Evergreen two residents have died recently. Saddest of all, my dear friend Helen died suddenly last week.  I quite like gloom in poems, but unfortunately I am not known for gloom. Gloom is not what is expected of me. 

It might be a good idea to abandon poetry for a while or two or even altogether.  Next year I shall be eighty, a good time to retire.
a good age to retire