Sedentary Sunday

Sunday morning. Palm Sunday morning.

Reading outside in the sun.

Slowly the town awakens, quite some time after the world had awoken.

Blackbirds are nesting in the bushes that border the garden; jackdaws in the tall chimney pots.

All unnoticed by the people returning from the shops with their six packs to greet the sun with, or driving around the estate on their noisy quad bikes.

Flaubert comes to mind: ‘Civilisation is a conspiracy against poetry’.

Maybe I’m getting old. Given to moan a lot.

A Matter Of Record

Thursday evening. It’s not quite weekend yet, but it has that loose feel about it.

I was at The Royal Exchange in Manchester, to watch the play The People Are Singing, directed by Ukranian Tamara Trunova on her UK debut.


The play deals with war, and war was the subject before the doors opened. There was a man pontificating in the middle of the room, drinking wine with a matching scarlet cravat.

“America won’t do anything to Syria. They won’t do a thing-because of Russia. It’s posturising, that’s all.”

He ventured further into global politics until the doors opened and he ceded the stage to the professionals. The play was good, Cora Kirk shining on her professional debut. As it closed we were sang out by a Ukranian choir, following us out into the mild, Manchester air. Then my phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Is this Andrew Murray?”

“Yes.”

“This is ***.” (It’s a clinic I’m set to take part in a medical trial for.) “Can I ask if you are still taking medication for penile dysfunction?”

“Pardon?”

“We have your records from your GP. Is your penile dysfunction still ongoing?” 

“Penile . . . ?”

“Dysfunction.”

“I’ve never been to the doctors about that.”

“It says here you went to the doctors on the 22nd of December 2009 about it.”

Of all the random things to be asked. I thought it was a mate winding me up. But, as the conversation went on, I asked:

“Are you sure you’ve got the right records?”

She asked my date of birth. I told her.

“Yes it’s you. The doctors want to know if you’re on medication for it.”

“Well I have absolutely no recollection of suffering from that.”

“It says here that you have.”

“Well if that’s the case I can definitely verify that I’ve never had medication for it.”

“What about now?”

“No.”

“Okay, thank you. See you tomorrow.”

She hung up. I stared at my phone in disbelief, then began to doubt myself. I googled ‘penile dysfunction’ on my phone to see if it can mean anything else apart from impotence. Penile dysfunction . . . erectile dysfunction . . . Nope.

I called the clinic back to see if they had the right records for me. I didn’t want to make the journey by train to my appointment for it all to be in vain. A different member of staff assured me that they had.

I called my wife but, by mistake, I told her that my doctor claimed on my medical records that I’ve suffered from penile malfunction.

“Penile malfunction? What the hell is that? How did it malfunction?!”

“No, I mean penile dysfunction. They say I’ve had penile dysfunction.”

“And what’s that?”

“Impotence!”

It was at this point that I realised I was speaking quite loudly on a busy Manchester street, and was attracting a few glances.  My wife was finding it all hilarious. She said “They probably think you’ve rang them back in denial. ‘I’m a man! I have no problems in that department at all!'”

I told her that I’d speak about it later and put my phone away. It was then that a man, handing out flyers for a club, approached me.

“Would you like to go and see the Dreamboys?”

I felt then that someone must have spiked my drink, sending me off onto some kind of Freudian trip.

In the morning I’d probably wake up pregnant.

** In the morning, alas, my cravat wearing friend would have found that America did indeed take action against Syria.

**At the screening test at the clinic today, there was no sign of penile dysfunction on my records. Hope it’s not a sign. An Inspector Calls comes to mind.


The Kingdom Of Memory

I first encountered John O’Donohue when I picked up a copy of his book Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World. (Anam Cara is Gaelic for ‘soul friend’.) It is a beautifully written book that I have returned to time and again. Described as a ‘poetic priest with the soul of a pagan,’ O’Donohue died unexpectedly in his sleep, at the age of 52.

Not so long ago I bought a copy of another of his books, Eternal Echoes: Exploring Our Hunger To Belong.  Although I haven’t read it yet, I recently came across an excerpt from it which I have shared below. As we get older, the number of family and friends that we lose increases. It is inevitable, for that is the natural order of things, the price of life. And, for me personally as an avowed creature of nostalgia, my memories are precious and form a connection between the person I was and the person I am. The people who were, and the people who are.

John O’Donohue:

As we journey onwards in life, more and more spaces within us fill with absence. We begin to have more and more friends among the dead. Every person suffers the absence of their past. It is utterly astonishing how the force and fiber of each day unravel into the vacant air of yesterday. You look behind you and you see nothing of your days here. Our vanished days increase our experience of absence. Yet our past does not deconstruct as if it never was. Memory is the place where our vanished days secretly gather. Memory rescues experience from total disappearance. The kingdom of memory is full of the ruins of presence. It is astonishing how faithful experience actually is; how it never vanishes completely. Experience leaves deep traces in us. It is surprising that years after something has happened to you the needle of thought can hit some groove in the mind and the music of a long vanished event can rise in your soul as fresh and vital as the evening it happened.

So, Tonight’s Conversation . . . 

 . . . between my wife and I.

Me:”I’ve just picked up a book about Julian of Norwich.” 

Jen:”Why?” 

Me:”You know who Julian was?” 

Jen:”Of course I do.” 

Me:”Who?”

 Jen:”A bloke from years ago. See-I surprise you don’t I? I might not know what he did, but I know he lived years ago. So there!”

 Me:”Julian of Norwich was a woman.” 

Jen:”Whatever.”