When I was young, I used quite often to go to London and visit the British Museum. I spent a good deal of time in the Babylonian, Assyrian and Sumerian galleries. The kings with their massive curly beards, the huge winged sphinxes, the way the Sumerians stand with their hands just so, and with neat three-cornered smiles; and the fabulous gold and lapis lazuli goat in a thicket, I found very pleasing.

On Tuesday I found myself with a little time to spare in Bloomsbury and went to the BM – it was nearly closing time, so I just had time to say Hallo, long time no see, to Ashurnasirpal, and admire the great human-headed winged lions – and to read the inscriptions on a pair of statues that stood outside the temple of Nabu, god of writing – with inscriptions that said “Trust no other god”. I so like that. Don’t trust anyone, always get it in writing.

Apparently I have posted nothing here for two months. Doesn’t time fly :-(. I have two excuses – been away a lot and been frantically emptying a storage unit. For which I have given myself a deadline of tomorrow :-). So I will post again after that…

Sorry it’s been so long. I should say that I have a piece in the anthology “Something Remains” from Alchemy Press, due to launch at FantasyCon next weekend, in memory of Joel Lane, much missed author and poet. The book is a collection of posthumous collaborations, where writers have taken one of Joel’s notes and written a story – or in my case a poem – from the notes.

I knew Joel for many years, and he died far too young. I am very honoured to be part of this project.

Many, many years ago I volunteered to help for a day with an organization working for the homeless. I got on well with the homeless people, but found myself awkward with some of the other volunteers, who tended to talk about the problems “these people” had, and why “these people” were unable to cope. I didn’t join in the conversation – I was very aware, as I still am, of how easily I could be one of “these people”. The only difference is that I was fortunate in my family and friends; if I had had no parents, or unsympathetic parents, or if I had been living in a relationship that broke down, or a dozen other things, I could easily have been sleeping on the street. Essentially, I was one of “these people”. I’ve suffered for many years with clinical depression; if I hadn’t had the right people there to help me I could easily be homeless.

There are many people who think that because of the way they are, or the things that have happened to them, the Church would not welcome them. And with some churches they’re sadly right, since churches are made up of fallible human beings. The Church – perhaps the Church of England most of all – has an image of being for respectable people who are sane, stable, solvent and straight. But we are all God’s children – able or not, sane or mad, straight or gay, cis- or transgender, well-off or broke, doing nicely, on benefits, on the street, married, single, divorced, remarried, even addicted, on the game, on the wrong side of the law. God loves every single one of us. And we are all these people.

Given that it is a hundred years since the Easter Rising, I thought I would republish this, which I wrote in the late 70s or early 80s, when there were Troubles:

Ireland

I would bleed at the hands and feet

I would bleed at my head and my heart for you, Ireland.

When I see what the masters of my fathers did to you

How could I grudge you my hands and feet

Ireland?

But the way of hate at last is barren

Violence cankers the heart to a stone

Bitterness burns out the love of God

Leaving freedom crippled

And Christ upon the cross is bleeding still at hands and feet

For Dublin and for Belfast and for London

For the masters and the slaves

For you and for me,

Ireland

           ***

and this, to cheer us up again –

Irish Music

The harp is water dropping into a still pool in the morning of time,

The shrill fiddle and the mellow pipes

pulse to the quickened rhythm of the blood, set the feet to dancing,

The doleful warbling whistle calls the heart out from the body,

And the bodhran, like every drum, is a heart-beat,

an echo in a hall too vast for sight,

trembling on the edge of terror.

                               ***

When I was thirteen I wanted to change the world. It seemed natural at the time; but then when I was thirteen it was 1968, and we believed we could change the world.

Nowadays no-one seems to believe we can change the world – at least for the better – and most people don’t seem to care all that much. This is very sad.

Maybe we couldn’t have ended war, poverty, racism and sexism, but we thought it was worth trying. Of course there are still people who try, and some things are better, but the zeitgeist these days seems to be a combination of fatalism – you can’t change anything – and Blow you Jack, I’m inboard – look out for yourself alone. The rich get richer, and the rest of us are scrabbling to stay alive.

What happened to the positivity we had in the 60s and 70s? The 80s told us Greed was Good, and the world’s been wallowing in selfishness and hopelessness ever since. Or am I being too gloomy? I do hope I am.

I have huge respect and admiration for those who have children and love them and bring them up as well as they can. I also think we should celebrate those who take care of other people’s children – full time or part time, for whatever reason, step-parents, foster parents, or just as random spare adults.

Granted, step, adopted or foster parents are sometimes abusive – let’s face it, so, sometimes, are parents. I understand the Wicked Stepmother was invented because the Grimm Brothers couldn’t cope with the idea of the wicked mother. But the whole business of spare parents and extended families tends to get a bad press, and sometimes it can be wonderful.

I have to declare an interest – I acquired two brilliant stepdaughters (one sadly no longer with us), and my life has been immensely enriched by them. I hope I have not done too badly by them. I was talking recently with friends, one a step-parent, others housing random displaced friends of their own child, all of us doing the best we can with what life hands us, and it occurred to me that this is a valuable thing to do, and perhaps too little appreciated. Wickedness makes headlines; in my experience huge numbers of people just get on with life, being flawed and human, but on the whole, more often than not, humdrumly and unspectacularly good. This is something to cheer about.