On A Wistful New Year’s Day

Thought I would share this from last year’s New Year’s Day. I started this year much as I did in 2016: having a brew stood on the step, watching the rain and a gliding gull overhead. But last year I went on to make a sad discovery in the local woods.

City Jackdaw

I sat outside in the back garden with a hot cup of tea, coat fastened, watching the milky coming of dawn. I can do this as I don’t drink these days, my New Year’s Day vigil no longer debilitated by the night before.

All of the neighbouring houses were in darkness, the windows dark, sightless eyes. There was no sign of life at all. Human life, that is.

The morning was scored by the constant rattle of a magpie, hidden from view. They nest in a huge tree beyond one of the houses, but the tree appeared bare, empty both of leaves and birds.

The call went on. Perhaps the chatter-rattle was bird-talk for come on-it’s morning!

In the spring and summer I plant flowers for the birds and bees, then switch  my allegiance to the birds in autumn and winter, putting out food at dawn and dusk. I hadn’t…

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If Walls Could Talk, Concrete Confess

The post that was Freshly Pressed two years ago, gaining me close to a thousand new followers: family, connections, generations and ghosts.

City Jackdaw

If walls could talk.

If concrete could confess.

If soul could seep through cement.

If only one of those monochrome apparitions could reach out and take me by the hand, leading me into a world of smoke and ale and revelation.

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The woman stood by the door on the right of the picture is my great grandmother. The two little girls are my grandfather’s older sisters. The guy on the far left, in the bowler hat, is my great grandfather. The other two younger men could be family, I don’t know. Will probably never know. Posing with a football and a trophy of an unknown triumph, they remain silent, anonymous ghosts. Enigmas of imagination.

The building itself, its very brick and mortar, contains more than can be revealed in a two dimensional image. It contains that which is valued in meaning.

Ancestors of mine dwelt in that place between 1901…

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My Crazy Kids’ Song

These are two of my children, filmed a couple of years ago doing an improvised ‘Exterminate’ song. (Yes, they are Whovians like their father.)

This is the only video that they have posted onto Youtube, and go crazy every time they get a like or a share over there. If any of you guys can do that, take pleasure in picturing me here in Manchester reaching for the paracetamol!

You may want to turn the volume down a touch. See you on YouTube.

 

 

Fallow Beauty

Fallow Beauty

Fallow beauty,
hungering to be spoiled,

possessing every glance
for a moment,

disobediant eyes
trailing her meandering mile,

a languid sway
into summer's meridian,

barelegged and barefooted,
suffused in bronze.

Wasps are persistent,
seeking out discarded fruit,

a rotten bounty,
stripped and blackening,
putrefying 
half buried in sand

alongside I,
being swallowed whole,
suddenly
breathless and old,

following a shadow
of admirable ruin.


©Andrew James Murray


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In Cold Blood Klub

Five days into the school holiday, I took the children to the local Kidz Klub, the aim being to let them burn off all of their excess energy by diving into ball pools, hurtling down slides, and anything else that works up a sweat.

I knew the place well: the building used to be a social club that was extremely popular when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Of course the decor had changed, but the layout was more or less the same. In my mind’s eye I could still see the jostling forms where the bar had been, all eyes and bluff and posturing.

The kids kicked off their shoes and raced for the nearest rope ladder. I got myself a coffee and claimed a table, taking my battered paperback out of the carrier bag. I emersed myself in the story, occasionally coming up for air to locate the children and again see the building as it used to be.

But, in the gents toilet, there was little need for a concerted re-imagining. The place was a time capsule, exactly as it used to be save for a lick of paint.

Instead of individual urinals, there was one of those long, marble trough sorts that ran the full length of both walls. Night club; kids club: it was still there.

I saw the ghosts of young lads, each showing various stages of unraveling as the night wore on, standing with their heads leaning against the walls as they relieved themselves, eyes closed, awareness elsewhere. Motown thudding against the door.

Coming back out into the regular time zone, I reassured myself that my children were okay and returned to the table, once again picking up my book.

“Excuse me,” a woman on the adjacent table said to me, holding up an image on her iPhone. “I just thought I’d ask, you being a man and all, I need to get a shower head, one of those ring ones, for someone to fit at the weekend. Do you know if this is the right one- it needs to fix onto tiles instead of a wall?”

“I’m sorry, I’m really not a DIY guy. I couldn’t tell you. In fact, if my wife was here, she would be pissing herself just at the fact that you are asking me this question.”

She understood my inadequacy, and said she would take a chance and order it. It was only a fiver after all.

I went back to my book: Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. I picked up where I had left off. Though I had never read read it before, I was familiar with the case, and so knew that Smith and Hickock were nearing apprehension by the authorities.

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As I was reading, I became aware, above the exuberant screams of excited children, that Christmas carols were quietly being played over the speakers.

Christmas carols? In February?

Oh, come let us adore Him, Oh, come let us adore Him, Oh come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

Attempting to tune out the out-of-season music, I yet again returned to my book, and immediately read:

Christmas carols were in the air; they issued from the radio of the four women and mixed strangely with Miami’s sunshine and the cries of the querulous, never thoroughly silent seagulls. ‘Oh, come let us adore Him, Oh, come let us adore Him’: a cathedral choir, an exalted music that moved Perry to tears . . .

What were the odds on that? Reading, of all of the lines, in all of the pages, the very line of a Christmas Carol that was at that very moment being played over the speakers? In February?

It was not the first time that I had been left astounded at such a moment of synchronicity. When, somehow, something implausible and unpredictable breaks through into this ordered universe of ours. When two seemingly random and separate things come together despite incalculable odds. At least incalculable for this mathematics layman.

I don’t know how it happens. But it does.

After taking time to appreciate this bizarre coincidence, I went back to Capote. If there was mention of a shower head, or a pathetic, incapable handyman, I was seriously going to freak.