I’m in them, just like the Ancient Mariner:

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
‘Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, no breath no motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Passing time, not engaged with life, bored, unhappy, no energy, becalmed on another oppressive summer, wishing I were anywhere else but here, and too distracted to even imagine an alternative. Summer is when the Black Dog comes calling and finds me in. The Doldrums.

Hence the disordered condition of Beautiful Railway Bridge. No posts since June 9, maintenance backed all the way up the wazoo, and no sense of what it’s all for. Except to stop me running amok. Needless to say, well behind on replying to comments and reading other blogs.

Ditto all the other bits of social media in which I dip a toe – Google+, KILTR, Facebook, Twitter. I’ve lost the plot, don’t know what they’re for, and really can’t be bothered. More than that, their blandishments are starting to piss me off.

That’s the bad news. Good news is that tomorrow’s the Solstice, when the days start getting shorter and I can look forward to the possibility of change. Autumn reinvigorates me.

To celebrate, I will relaunch Beautiful Railway Bridge in hopefully a more structured and consistent way, beginning with a daily photo challenge to get me out and about. And I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that your blogs and comments are a lifeline.


The best poems come from paying attention to the world, when the raw experience emerges in as few words as necessary to make it vividly real. That’s certainly true of  Adlestrop, by Edward Thomas, where the moment a train stops at a country station is caught as in a raindrop or a bubble of dew. I was going to say, “caught in amber,” but that implies the thing inside is dead. Here, all the birds of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire are still singing on an eternal June day in 1914. Not, alas, Edward Thomas. He died in 1917, during that bout of international insanity history calls the Great War.


Yes, I remember Adlestrop —
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop — only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

– Edward Thomas

A haunting poem, and the basis for this haunting short film.

Eyeless in Glasgow *

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from

At least for 20 minutes, as a surgeon hoovered out the cataracted lens of my right eye and popped in a shiny, new, artificial jobby, which should last a lifetime. They use local anaesthetic for these procedures, so I experienced it as someone excavating the moon, which also happened to be my eye. Fortunately, a nurse held my hand throughout the procedure, to squeeze if I needed to cough or sneeze. Immobility being quite critical. More than that, it’s wonderfully comforting to have someone holding your hand when something like this is going on, and you’re completely aware it’s happening.

That was yesterday, at the New Victoria Hospital in Glasgow. I stayed overnight, not having someone to travel back with. I’m gobsmacked at just how good the National Health Service is at providing efficient, thorough, humane care, as a right to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. There are well-publicised lapses, of course, but most of the time it seems they quietly get on with doing something understated and quite brilliant.

Leaving this morning, I felt utterly happy just to be alive, a mote of humanity among all the others on the bus into the city centre. I could see with a new mind’s eye that was part and parcel of the new depth vision I’ve never had before without glasses. It will take a while for the left and right eyes to balance properly, and for the new lens to heal so I don’t feel there’s a piece of grit there. Plus I really can give someone the Evil bloodshot Eye. But it’s great not to have to wear glasses. I wonder how many years I’ve spent since the age of 11, pushing them back onto the bridge of my nose, a feature clearly not designed for glasses.

This last month or so has been horrible, a slide down a slope, scrabbling for a handhold, then climbing up and falling down again. Snakes and Ladders is the game of life. It feels now that I’ve reached somewhere level, can see where I am, and enjoy the place and its people. Gratitude for the fact of being alive is something I’m not familiar with.

I’ll stop now before you start reaching for your sick bags. Suffice it to say that I’m aiming for daily posts and will backfill. And I will get to your comments and blogs again.

Eyeless in Gaza When I deliberately mangled the quote for the sake of a catchy title, I had no idea what it meant. Here’s an Eighties band of the same name, who seem worth investigating. But then, everything pleases me right now,

Born Again Blogger

A very merry Yule to everyone, and a special message from Uncle Aleister, on the Feast of Mithras.  I’ve been away from this blog too long.  Depression comes as a thief in the night, first taking away my ability to concentrate on reading a book, and then taking away my own words.  Enough left to occasionally comment on CIF, but nothing left over for creativity.  So I’m delighted the world has turned, the days are getting longer, and words have regained their flavour.

I have boredom to thank for this.  Depression is so mind-numbingly boring that there comes a point where you will do anything to break out of it.  Where it becomes so bathetic that you realise there’s an element of performance in the process, and the only possible response is to laugh at yourself for being such a hammy actor.  So, play over for the time being.  (Never say never – I’ll just eat dessert first.)

First up on Boxing Day will be a review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special, which just finished downloading on iPlayer.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying

When I get depressed, I tend not to open my letters.  This last bout has been going for a while now, and there are 5-6 weeks of unopened letters sitting in a pile in front of me.  Delay makes it even more difficult to face the problem, yet I keep inventing displacement activities to put off the feared task.  This blog post is a displacement activity.  But writing about finally opening these letters is one way of forcing my hand.  Even so, I don’t know if I’ll publish it.

Only 15 letters, about the thickness of a novel in total, less than I’d expected after such a length of time.  I could sort them by priority, as indicated by the envelopes, but that would be another displacement activity.  So it’s cold turkey, as they come off the top of the stack.  Promised myself not to eat unless I did this.

  1. Specsavers.  Advertising crap.  Toss.
  2. SPCA, asking for a donation.  Would if I could.  Toss.
  3. Car insurance.  Don’t have a car.  Advertising crap.  Toss.
  4. UK bank, telling me I’m overdrawn.  Already knew that.  File.
  5. Final Reminder from Scottish Hydro Electric.  Pay tomorrow out of my overdraft.  O Lucky Man!
  6. UK bank, telling me I’m overdrawn.  File.
  7. American bank, telling me of changes to the account.  Harmless.  File.
  8. Scottish Hydro Electric, Notice of Termination, dated August 30.  This is not good, but at least the leccie’s still working.  Call them tomorrow before paying the bill.
  9. Pension Credit, asking about changes in circumstances.  Call tomorrow.
  10. Post Office Telephone & Broadband bill, already paid by direct debit.  File.
  11. UK bank, telling me I’m overdrawn.  File.
  12. UK bank statement.  Guess what?  I’m overdrawn.  File.
  13. American bank statement.  In the black.  Woohoo!  File.
  14. UK bank, telling me I’m overdrawn.  File.
  15. UK bank, telling me I’m overdrawn.  File.

That wasn’t so bad.  Cleared the logjam, allows me to eat.  Reasons to be cheerful, 1, 2, 3…Who am I kidding?  This is no way to live.

George Orwell said (and lived) it best:

It is altogether curious, your first contact with poverty.  You have thought so much about poverty – it is the thing you have feared all your life, the thing you knew would happen to you sooner or later; and it, is all so utterly and prosaically different.  You thought it would be quite simple; it is extraordinarily complicated.  You thought it would be terrible; it is merely squalid and boring.  It is the peculiar lowness of poverty that you discover first; the shifts that it puts you to, the complicated meanness, the crust-wiping.