Claws For The Weekend:Abstinence

“Ladies, you drive a hard bargain…..”




“….bartender-same again!”


When you indulge this weekend, remember abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.

I mean, just look at those loving smiles.

See you on the flip side.




Love v Hate: A Dialogue

I recently had a conversation on another blog, whose author was asking the question:

‘Which is stronger, love or hate?’

Stripped down, the dialogue, in essence, went like this:

Me: ‘Hate appears stronger because it is extreme. Mostly, (although maybe not in all cases) it is similar to anger in which it is relatively short lived and channelled. The strength shows in the initial burst. But love endures, it has a constancy that stretches on and so does not appear extreme. It’s strength is in the longevity of the emotion. It can outlast hate, I think.’

Blogger: ‘I agree with what you say. I have never thought of hate being similar to anger before. I wonder if holding grudges has any role in this one? Love, yes-I see. But what about infatuation? Can that be classed as love?’

Me: ‘I would say that infatuation is akin to obsession. Love is, or should be, selfless, whereas infatuation is all about self.’

Blogger: ‘That is a new thought, too. So are infatuated people aware of their own ‘selfish’ behaviour?’

Me: ‘I would say that they are aware of what they are doing, because they are feeding their own needs so are not acting subconsciously, but are perhaps confusing infatuation for love. They see only from their own perspective.’

Blogger: ‘Ah, there we go!’

In considering the question set by the blogger, that of which between the two is the strongest emotion, I took this to mean not as the strongest emotion felt, but as an observation in an almost abstract, disengaged manner. I gave my answers as above, but this cannot be definitive. Context, experience, and circumstance must all play a part.

We cannot help but bring to the question our own preconceived perceptions and prejudices.

Also, how we view our life here colours our view. If we see ourselves as living a spiritual life,   and our time here as just the beginning of a long journey, then love must be our default setting. Any straying from this core essence is but an aberration to be corrected.

If we view our existence as purely physical, and temporary, then the process of living leaves us prone to the whole, reasonable gamut of emotions, each as valid as the other.

But back to the original question: which is stronger, love or hate? What do you guys think?

My Dog And I

It has been a while since I last indulged my love of old photographs, so here we go:

Working Class Dog. I can imagine a woodbine and pint of stout being set aside for this backyard shot. By the dog, of course.



Me And My Friend. Kids and their pets, perennially.


Give me back my doll! How can animals understand the emotional outbursts and whims of children? How can we?


Family Shot, Dogs And All. I love this gathering. The old dog looks like it couldn’t be bothered rising from its slumber for the occasion. We’ve all been there. It looks like the girl to the right has a black eye, but it could just be staining on the photograph itself. See how the guys appear manly by holding a rifle and, ahem, watering can.


The Novelty Shot. Even in those days it seems that they weren’t averse to dressing their pets up. Perhaps disapproving, the robust woman won’t make eye contact.


The Sentimental Shot. In a child’s scrawl: ‘Our Billy and Me’. ‘Our’ feels more familial, inclusive, than denoting ownership. But perhaps that just reveals my own soft side. Look how she holds it by the collar, perhaps it has bolted on previous attempts?


Showcase Ingenuity.  A custom made side car has been built especially for the dog to sit in. The dog looks as proud as the boy showing off his catch of fish. The females look like they are ready for bed-but what do I know about fashion, either then or now?


Summer Days. Childhood adventures. Not sure how adventurous the dogs are feeling here though.


Walking The Dogs? I have a large Golden Retriever. This kind of thing has been suggested.



Military Dogs. These three Jack Russell type dogs look like they belong to a regiment, although there is a child present too. They were good for catching rats. The dogs I mean, not children.


An Old Favourite. This photograph has featured in two previous posts on Jackdaw. I like how there is just enough scant information known to enable us to relate to the two people posing on the dusty porch: ‘Mary with her Grandfather, Jasper, around 1900’.The unnamed dog looks a little like that one that wouldn’t wake up in the earlier photograph.


Keep Calm, I Love Her. This is my favourite of the new ones. The old, grizzled, patient friend, tolerating a little ear pulling by a little Shirley Temple.


Hoped you liked this little time-shift foray. I’m more a dog than a cat person, but maybe a future post of the past, yes?

Outdoor Futile Exercises

Summer’s arrival calls us out of our dark hovels. My son and I went for a walk in the local woods, armed with the essential survival kit: 55p bottle of mineral water and a tissue.


Fancy yourself as an explorer wee one? Time to step up.


So much more colourful than the usual urban graffiti.


Where is the summer son?


Futile Exercise #1: Hanging close to the water was a swarm of midges. How do you count them when there are thousands of the things and you can only count to ten?


Futile Exercise #2: How do you locate James when he is wearing his tree life camouflage t-shirt? Can anyone spot him for me?


Futile Exercise #3: Trying to get a smile out of your son when he keeps failing in his attempt to catch damsel flies. Damn-silly flies.


James went on ahead to check out the fisherman’s progress. A line from my Dad came to mind:

“I don’t see the point in trying to outwit a creature that doesn’t have a brain to begin with.”


You are here-City Jackdaw, c/o WordPress.


We have had an unprecedented five continuous days of sunshine in the normally bleak north west of England. Somewhere down the line, we’re gonna pay.


Make the most of it people. Slap on the suncream.

Orkney Odyssey #2: From The Air

Two flights take me there: Manchester to Aberdeen and then Aberdeen to Kirkwall. From the Rainy City, to the Granite City, to Kirkjugavr (Norse meaning Church Bay).

This takes me back to the school bus, once more the backseat boy.


A sudden flash of the sun catches me unawares.


Didn’t last long, back to surfing the shadows of the north.


Somewhere below lies the Orkney archipelago, a scattering of around seventy islands.


“Beyond Britannia, where the endless ocean opens, lies Orkney.” Orosius,  5th Century.


I have just started reading a book by Adam Nicholson called Sea Room. Aged just 21, Nicholson inherited three islands, the Shiants, five miles off Harris. He describes his book as a love letter to them. On the front cover it says ‘the story of one man, three islands and half a million puffins.’

I showed it to my wife. I cannot begin to tell you how excited she looked.


Nicholson described his book as an attempt to tell the whole story in as many dimensions as possible:

geologically, spiritually, botanically, historically, culturally, aesthetically, ornithologically, etymologically, emotionally, politically, socially, archaeologically, and personally.


I can relate to all of this when I think of Orkney.


And so we descend, as though through differing strata of time.


In a great expanse of sea, the islands rear up, green, yellow, and moated.


This is my core place-the place where, in my absence, I often return. Picking up a George Mackey Brown novel, I am transported back, walking again the besieged coast, reconnecting with the remnants of unknown lives. When I see the weather forecast, I see the tiny marks off the coast of Northern Scotland, and feel once again the wind on my face, hear the whisper of a long dead tongue.


When I think of Orkney, there is a particular feel that goes with it. It is not a foreign country, with a strange culture or alien way of life. It is not that far away, in travel time.

But somehow, it is different.

For my first visit, I packed my thermals and my waterproofs, expecting to have to brave the elements to get the most out of my time there. I got sunburnt in the first few hours. Locals assured me that this was not the norm.

Returning to Kirkwall airport, after three days, to depart once again for home, an ominous bank of fog followed in our wake.

Blind to omens and portents, I did not know then that I would be returning later that year, in the depths of dark December.



When In Manchester, Nog

I was sat in Starbucks last night, thinking of tax, and people watching.

I had time to kill before meeting up with my wife outside the Apple shop to assist her in the attempted resurrection of her seemingly deceased phone.

Sat to my left were four Asian men, perhaps holding a business meeting or family conference. To my right was an amorous, touchy-feely couple, possibly Latin American. Surrounded by unfamiliar languages, in the safe knowledge that they would hold no distractions, I pulled out the cheap second hand book I had just picked up from Paramount.

I do love those second hand book shops, a lot more than Waterstones. The books smell dusty, show signs of being loved and caressed by strangers hands. Some have notes scribbled inside which you try to decipher and imagine probable cause.

When I’m out and about and see other people reading, I am filled with an abiding curiosity to know what they are reading. I try to steal sly, surreptitious glances at the covers. I get tempted to ask, but I am wary of other people’s boundaries and hate to initiate small talk.

I began to read my book, unfamiliar tongues dancing around me and circling my Americano. After only around ten minutes I became aware that one of the Asian guys, middle aged and not discreet, kept sending curious glances my way. Was he weighing me up, wondering why I would be sitting alone and radiating silence? Perhaps he was gauging how much coffee I had left-maybe there was another, fifth member to arrive and he wanted my seat?  Surely he wasn’t trying to decipher the text on my book cover?

To my right, love’s young dream continued oblivious.

Then, after a studious few minutes, the man asked me:

“What are you reading?” 

There-he just came out and asked the very question that was so often on my lips but had never escaped. And it would have to be when I was holding a book like this-when I had only just started and there were no easy answers.

There may even be the problems of a language barrier.

I could just give the title and the author-Nog, by Rudolph Wurlitzer. But that might come across as a bit curt, a little cold. There was the quote at the top of the book, by Thomas Pynchon:

The Novel of Bullshit is dead.


No, I wasn’t going to risk that misunderstanding. I turned to the blurb on the back,

In Wurlitzer’s hypnotic voice, Nog tells the tale of a man adrift through the American West, armed with nothing more than his own three pencil-thin memories and an octopus in a bathysphere.


An octopus in a bathysphere.

Maybe the other two quotes on the back would help?

Jack Newfield, Village Voice:

Nog is to literature what Dylan is to lyrics.


Or what about good, dependable, Newsweek:

Somewhere between Psychedelic Superman and Samuel Beckett.


He held my gaze as I thought it over. I took another gulp of coffee.