memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for January, 2012

19th Nervous Breakdown

All the thousand pin-pricks of exasperation
All the thousand needles of annoyance
All the thousand grits of irritation
That we are heir to,
Accumulate drop by drop,
Month by month,
Dripping inexorably into my mind’s chalice,
Filling it, filling it to the brim
And then, pausing at the lip,
Surface-tension brimming
Suddenly spills over, silent wine-red tears
Flowing down the silver vessel’s curved side
Staining the white cloth,
Running down the table-leg
And spreading a damp pool
On the dusty floor.


The Witch-Finder General

Tuesday 6th July 2010
There’s this disgruntled old dear who just sits around all day doing nothing (don’t we all). What is different about her is that every now and then (about a once a month) she opens her mouth and out comes a stream of obscenity and profanity.
Ouch! Where can she have heard that one, I wonder or from what cess-pit of her subconscious did that come from? Let’s just say that it’s socially inappropriate and leave it at that.
She’s also a bit twitchy. It may be some form of Tourette’s Syndrome, I surmise, which is a bit unusual in someone who has lived in the same Portuguese village all her life. One day I mentioned her case to one of the care-workers and mentioned that it could be Tourette’s ; she stared at me, I don’t anything about that, she said, all I know is that she not quite up right up there and she tapped her head significantly.

(During the Middle Ages, I suppose she would have been burnt as a witch, so at least we’ve made some progress).

With the recent exposure of the extent of the systematic sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests of children in their pastoral care, a great deal of attention has been focussed on the Vatican itself. While watching one of the many TV programs on the subject I was astonished to learn that the Holy See actually employs an official exorcist and that this official, (with a PhD. in Demonology perhaps), is kept very busy, carrying out about 20 exorcisms a day!
It is hard to resist not falling back onto satire here:

Possession by the Devil, sir? It’s the first door on the left;
Being tempted by demons, Miss? Second door on the right;
Your cat is speaking in strange tongues, Madam? Just take a seat and The Witch-Finder General will attend to you shortly…

Joe Bloggs is a serial paedophile. He is tried by a Criminal Court, found guilty and sentenced to ten years imprisonment.
Father Joseph O’ Bloggs is also a serial paedophile. But he is tried by Canon Law, found guilty and sentenced to a course of counselling and discreetly transferred to another parish. The local police are not informed and the victims are too ashamed to come forward.
That’s just not right, is it?  It really isn’t.


What a year!

It is about a year now that I published my book The Waiting Room.
And what a year it hasn’t been!
I travelled to neither North nor South Carolina. (Ditto the Dakotas).
I didn’t occupy squares in Tunis, Cairo, New York or London.
Rome, Florence and Venice knew me not.
I took a cruise down the Nile as far as Luxor only in my imagination.
(Q: What’s denial? A: The longest river in Africa) I didn’t read that on the back no cornflakes pack.
I didn’t take no lady to no fancy restaurant, not no how.
I neither witnessed nor wondered at the Northern Lights or the Southern Cross.
Yes, it hasn’t been quite a year!


I’m Home-sick

Noise, noise, noise
Loud voices cracked and graceless
Bounce around the walls
Of the chamber
Of my damaged skull.
Irritation blurs my vision
Sunspots inside my eye-lids.
I am depressed but I can’t think why.

The figures wrapped in blankets slump
Lacklustre and inert, crouched to
Withstand some in-coming stuff
The bombardment of imprecation
The barking tirades
The high whine of moral indignation
The boom of the opinionated
The squawking and the bluster
«Oh she’s so stubborn, that one»!
(No, not stubborn, just old;
Old and weary and quirky
Just as you will be one day my dear).

After the skirmish the captain has a debriefing session with his Sargent
–    Well Sargent, any casualties?
–    Yes Sir; one Sir, Fernandes Sir, blanket-job Sir
–    Was she stubborn at all would you say Sargent?
–    Ooh yes Sir, she could be so stubborn, that one!
–    I see. Anyone else?
–    Two others lightly injured Sir; they was caught in the-friendly-crossfire- of-verbal-abuse Sir.
–    Jolly good; any other business Sargent?
–    Yes Sir, permission to request transfer, Sir!
–    Good lord, Sargent, any special reason?
–    I am Home-sick, Sir.
–    But I thought this was your Home Sargent!
–    Yes it is, Sir, and I’m sick of it!

I am depressed but I can’t think why
I can’t paint, I can’t paint, my hands tremble so.
I am demotivated shred by shred
And please witness the dismantling
Of my fragile self-esteem.

I am on the terrace now,
Soothed by the cold evening sun
And contemplating a misshapen cactus
Against a brick-red wall.
On the terrace
In my peace.

«Midwinter-spring is its own season, sempiternal
Though sodden towards sundown»
So I think, quoting the Poet, as I gazed through smoky chimneys
Then lift my eyes towards the open sea.



When NASA first started sending up astronauts, they quickly discovered that ballpoint pens would not work in zero gravity. To combat the problem, NASA scientists spent a decade and $12 billion to develop a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, on almost any surface including glass and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to 300 degrees Celsius.

The Russians used a pencil.

Pax Britannica

In the 19th century during the Pax Britannica people took an austere pride in being a British citizen. It was an unstated assumption of superiority of belonging to a people had subjected in a seemingly benevolent manner a quarter of the human race and held territorial sway over a seventh of planet’s land surface.
(Yeah, it was really great to be British in the good ole 19th century! Being a Citizen really rocked!)

Meanwhile, up north,
The dark satanic mills
Rained cotton-snow
Obfuscating black-stone

And the ragamuffin urchins
Scampered down the new
Sewers of London-town,
Their bare feet skittering and scrabbling
For a hold along the slimy
Dark little tunnels
Encrusted with human excrement
Regurgitating into the un-sweet Thames.

And up above the ladies and gentlemen,
Citizens of this brave new world,
Strolled in their laid-out parks
Exchanging gracious formulae
Out of sight out of mind.


My great-aunt Mary had the incredibly bad luck (and bad timing) to be stranded at Geneva, Switzerland, where her father had just taken over the British Chaplaincy for the month, on the 3rd August 1914, the day that the Great War broke out.
The day that the lamps went out all over Europe.

What’s in a name?

Has it occurred to anyone else that the right wing of American politics is becoming more and more paranoid and loony?
Barack Obama – there is something fishy, slightly un-American about his name Barack (actually it means «blessing» in Swahili, the language the President’s Kenyan-born father spoke).
No, what we need is a candidate with a good old American «Christian» name, you know like Mitt, Newt, Jed, Brett, Todd, Bristol, Chad or Tig.

As for Cutting Taxes for the Rich …. let’s not even go there.

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