memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for the ‘inmates’ Category

Quack quack

Quack quack.

A room with a view

I have just spent most my morning  admiring the sporadic flocks of migrating birds on their way north in the early spring (while at the same time catching up on Radio 4 podcasts of The News Quiz).

The birds winter in North Africa (lucky them) and then rendezvous in the environs of Algeciras in Morocco to await to their turn for streaming funnel of avian life crossing the Dire Straits to Gibraltar and beyond. My particular contingent then wheel west along the Algarve coast until they reach the Cape of Sagres before turning north and eventually crossing in front my bedroom window – left to right using the narrow corridor of pine and eucalyptus forest between the village and the ocean.

later they will build their nests in the bosky fields of Hampshire (lucky them).

A miraculous cycle of nature, a spectacle laid on just for me. The message is clear – relax and be in harmony with nature. Go with the flow.

The view from my bed in the morning

After lunch (stewed chicken with pasta – a culinary mésalliance in my opinion) I return to my room for a nap/siesta/snooze/40 winks from I wake 30 minutes later. I then dutifully carry out my physiotherapeutic exercises. First an isometric routine for beginners (even I, handicapped as I am) can do them in my chair followed by a lurch/stomp/stumble on my walker/Zimmer frame down the corridor outside my room.

Up the corridor to the right is a bathroom into which I enter/slip/pop to lean back against the radiator for my straighten-the-back-to-improve-my-posture exercise (with some deep breathing thrown in). After a while I get tired/bored with the straighten-the-back-to-improve-my-posture exercise and put my hand into my pocket where I encounter my mobile phone (not a «smart» phone but-pretty-intelligent-for-the-price) and take a rather eery picture of myself, taking a rather eery picture of myself, taking a rather eery – OH JUST SHUT UP WILL YOU!

RATHER EEIRY PICTURE OF MYSELF

RATHER EERY PICTURE OF MYSELF

I return back down the corridor to the end and turn right to admire the fine view of our local church (I don’t mean that the church per se is particularly fine – just the view of it).

After tea (the old dears can’t be doing without their tea, you know – it’s a lifetime habit, useful survival skill as well in case they starve to death between the twin fueling stations of lunch and early dinner. They dunk (good word) their bread or biscuits into heavy outsize cups of tea or milky coffee made from turnips (you have to be a weightlifter to be able to raise them to your lips) instead they crouch devotionally in front of the heavy cups and spoon the resultant pap into their mouths) so after tea, I spend time in my atélier working on my lastest painting.

VIEW FROM ATELIER

VIEW FROM ATELIER

Back in my room I’m beginning to run of steam.

«… Fragments, that I have shored up against my ruin»

And at the end of the day the sun sets at the orbiting rim of our world.

Fruta da Epoca

CHERRIES

CHERRIES

Sweet Cherry.

Vigorous tree with strong apical control with an erect-pyramidal canopy shape, capable of reaching 50 ft. In cultivation, sweet cherries are maintained 12-15 ft in height. Leaves are relatively large (largest of cultivated Prunus), elliptic with mildly serrated margins, acute tips, petioled, and strongly veined.

I love cherries – I reckon they are just about my favourite fruit, except possibly the-perfect-peach (do I dare to eat a peach?)

Consider the cherries which are harvested in due season from the orchards of the Douro valley – red, plump, succulent, delicious.

I doubt that these will end up on the shelves of Sainsburys or Safeways like the strawberries of the Algarve that are whisked away by the waiting refrigerated trucks, throbbing in the misty dawn and driven along the hot dusty motorways of Spain and France and through the Chanel Tunnel to the London vegetable warehouses at dusk.

No, these cherries will flood the fruit markets of Penafiel and Bom Successo and each kitchen-table in the region will have a laughing overflowing abundance and children shall dangle them from their ears and youths and maidens shall dance joyously in the church-squares of the golden valley.

GIRLS DANCING ON BEACH – PAINTING BY THOMAS MILNER

In the Home the appearance of cherries will be greeted by the incurious and unexpressed satisfaction of the continuance of the seasons – of course, cherries, what else? The old people will think.

Because we are not anywhere near this season, the presence of a bowl of shiny dark cherries in front of one of the old dears (brought that afternoon by a visiting daughter) drew tacit attention from some of us.

It was supper-time and the rest of us had boring old stewed apple; but not this old dear who set about her bowl of cherries with a will, spitting out stones while the cup of her curved fingers fed another one into her chewing mouth. From time to time she would lift her crouching face from the plate and glance around with a look that said: eat your hearts out, suckers and if anyone thinks that they’re going to get a bite of my cherries, well they’ve got another think coming …

Blessed are the Ungiven for they shall inherit … for they shall inherit what? … I know, for they shall inherit all the cherries!

The mysterious case of the uneatable pears

An  inspirational book (for my generation at least) was CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller.

Wicked and hilarious this book with brilliant wordplay brings paradox to an inevitable  Zeno-like absurdity. Published in 1957 it dazzled our generations and spread across the Anglophonic world like a wildfire.

(Now, of course, we have spawned a generation which, not only has not read CATCH 22 but also hasn’t read much else either – poor them, so many lost conceits, so much lost irony).

Anyway there is a scene in the book where everyone on the base is issued with a pill to throw away into the bushes.

STILL LIFE WITH FRUIT - PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

STILL LIFE WITH FRUIT – PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

So it is in this place. Sometimes we are distributed with green pears so hard and unripe that those of us who still have our own teeth, should we actually attempt to bite into them … but not to worry the pears are not to be eaten but to be put into our pockets or bags and consumed in a couple of days when they are ripe.

That same impulse, the same força de vontade, which is so good for my physical improvement, impels me to be difficult about the pear situation.

I enter the dining room for dinner at 7.00 sharp and notice the small rock-like green projectiles – what’s this, I think, are we going to have a window-breaking contest after dinner or have some of us been distributed with uneatable pears again:

–          Excuse me, I don’t want this fruit because it’s not ripe, is it? I’ll have the fruit pap, please.

–          There is no fruit pap left.

–          No fruit pap left!

–          You have to warn us in advance if you want fruit pap instead of a green pear.

I’m entering The Twilight Zone again.

–          Can’t you just assume that I will prefer fruit pap to unripe fruit …?

Meanwhile someone else has tactfully produced one of the apples that they keep in the kitchen in reserve for difficult cases like mine.

STILL LIFE WITH APPLES - PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

STILL LIFE WITH APPLES – PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

That damned shout

BEFORE THE SHOUT by THOMAS MILNER

BEFORE THE SHOUT by THOMAS MILNER

THE  SHOUT

Breaks my concentration

My brush jerks

Sour clashing colours

Stab into the heart

Staggering loops down

Writhing streaks

Smear the clouds

Obscuring my notions

 

I slump at the margin

Of the brown river

Swirling and turgid

Tethered to scruples

 

I gaze back up-stream

Whence I came

Blue clear waters

Sparkling in the sun

 

I contemplate the spoiled image

That’s not what I meant

Not what I meant at all

That’s for the bin

That damned shout

AFTER by THOMAS MILNER

AFTER THE SHOUT by THOMAS MILNER

And yet after that

the sunset taken from the terrace

that very evening

ABSTRACT.42

Quack quack

His mind is full of junk

Scraps of half-digested information

From third-hand sources

A dash of religious bigotry

Seasoned with cliché-ridden

Commonplace ideas

His understanding of

The planet and universe

Has inconceivable voids

His rare excursions

Into abstract thought invariably

Produce utterances both

Risible and ridiculous

In short he has the depth

And mental clarity of a

Small puddle in the road

And the intellectual weight

Of a poppadum.

old macdonald hat a farm

Old MacDonald had a farm
ee-i-ee-i-o

And on that farm he had a duck

ee-i-ee-i-o

With a quack quack here

And a quack quack there

Here a quack

There a quack

Everywhere a quack quack

Old MacDonald had a farm

ee-i-ee-i-o

(If there were a quacking event

In the Olympic Games

He would stand a good chance

Of representing his country).

Bark bark

Bark on, sister, bark on

At the aged creature who dithers

Listless all day in a mental fog

Who’s queued all afternoon

In a gloomy crowded room

 with a thousand years

Of spent humanity

Nodding off in front of

The stultifying crassness

Of daytime TV

Whiling the long hours away

In senile topor

 

Suddenly whirled into tea

Mashed up dried biscuits

In an oversized heavy cup

Of milk or tea

Or milky coffee

Dunking bread

From time immemorial

Into the turgid liquid

Dazed and confused

Harried and hustled

Hectored and admonished

Muffled shouting

Hardly reaching

Into damaged mind

And broken memory.

 

Bark on, sister, bark on

But consider this:

Nothing divides you from them

But three odd decades.

Your present is their past

Their present is your future.

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