На берегу (On the Bank) by Arseny Tarkovsky

He was sitting by the river, among reeds

that peasants had been scything for their thatch.

And it was quiet there, and in his soul

it was quieter and stiller still.

He kicked off his boots and put

his feet into the water, and the water

began talking to him, not knowing

he didn't know its language.

He had thought that water is deaf-mute,

that the home of sleepy fish is without words,

that blue dragonflies hover over water

and catch mosquitoes or horseflies,

that you wash if you want to wash, and drink

if you want to drink, and that's all there is

to water. But in all truth

the water's language was a wonder,

a story of some kind about some thing,

some unchanging thing that seemed

like starlight, like the swift flash of mica,

like a divination of disaster.

And in it was something from childhood,

from not being used to counting life in years,

from what is nameless

and comes at night before you dream,

from the terrible, vegetable

sense of self

of your first season.


That's how the water was that day,

and its speech was without rhyme or reason.


by Арсений Александрович Тарковский
(Arseny Alexandrovich Tarkovsky)
(1954)
translated by Robert Chandler

Arseny was the father of the famous and highly influential film director Andrei Tarkovsky. His poetry was often quoted in his son’s films.

Beneath is the original version of the poem.

На берегу

Он у реки сидел на камыше,
Накошенном крестьянами на крыши,
И тихо было там, а на душе
Еще того спокойнее и тише.
И сапоги он скинул. И когда
Он в воду ноги опустил, вода
Заговорила с ним, не понимая,
Что он не знает языка ее.
Он думал, что вода - глухонемая
И бессловесно сонных рыб жилье,
Что реют над водою коромысла
И ловят комаров или слепней,
Что хочешь мыться - мойся, хочешь -
пей,
И что в воде другого нету смысла.

И вправду чуден был язык воды,
Рассказ какой-то про одно и то же,
На свет звезды, на беглый блеск слюды,
На предсказание беды похожий.
И что-то было в ней от детских лет,
От непривычки мерить жизнь годами,
И от того, чему названья нет,
Что по ночам приходит перед снами,
От грозного, как в ранние года,
Растительного самоощущенья.

Вот какова была в тот день вода
И речь ее - без смысла и значенья.

Борис Пастернак [Boris Pasternak] by Anna Akhmatova

He who compared himself to the eye of a horse,

Peers, looks, sees, recognizes,

And instantly puddles shine, ice

Pines away, like a melting of diamonds.

 

Backyards drowse in lilac haze. Branch-

Line platforms, logs, clouds, leaves…

The engine’s whistle, watermelon’s crunch,

A timid hand in a fragrant kid glove. He’s

 

Ringing, thundering, grinding, up to his breast

In breakers… and suddenly is quiet… This means

He is tiptoeing over pine needles, feaful lest

He should startle space awake from its light sleep.

 

It means he counts the grains in the empty ears,

And it means he has come back

From another funeral, back to Darya’s

Gorge, the tombstone, cursed and black.

 

And burns again, the Moscow tedium,

In the distance death’s sleigh-bell rings…

Who has got lost two steps from home,

Where the snow is waist-deep, an end to everything?

 

Because he compared smoke with Laocoön,

Made songs out of graveyard thistles,

Because he filled the world with a sound no-one

Has heard before, in a new space of mirrored

 

Verses, he has been rewarded with a form

Of eternal childhood, with the stars’ vigilant love,

The whole earth has been passed down to him,

And he has shared it with everyone.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(19 January 1936)

from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Sixth Book)

translation by D. M. Thomas

A Star In The East by Idris Davies

When Christmastide to Rhymney came

And I was six or seven

I thought the stars in the eastern sky

Were the brightest stars of heaven.

 

I chose the star that glittered most

To the east of Rhymney town

To be the star above the byre

Where Mary’s babe lay down.

 

And nineteen hundred years would meet

Beneath a magic light,

And Rhymney share with Bethlehem

A star on Christmas night.

 

by Idris Davies

A Childhood Memory by Sofia Parnok

for Khodasevich

 

A childhood memory: those pears,

wrinkled. little, tight,

and hidden inside –

tart flesh that puckered the mouth:

exactly so my delight

in the bitter shards of your verse.

 

by София Яковлевна Парнок (Sophia Yakovlena Parnok) (1927)

translated by Catriona Kelly

Chocolate Cake by Michael Rosen

I love chocolate cake.
And when I was a boy
I loved it even more.

Sometimes we used to have it for tea
and Mum used to say,
‘If there’s any left over
you can have it to take to school
tomorrow to have at playtime.’
And the next day I would take it to school
wrapped up in tin foil
open it up at playtime
and sit in the corner of the playground
eating it,
you know how the icing on top
is all shiny and it cracks as you
bite into it,
and there’s that other kind of icing in
the middle
and it sticks to your hands and you
can lick your fingers
and lick your lips
oh it’s lovely.
yeah.

Anyway,
once we had this chocolate cake for tea
and later I went to bed
but while I was in bed
I found myself waking up
licking my lips
and smiling.
I woke up proper.
‘The chocolate cake.’
It was the first thing
1 thought of.

I could almost see it
so I thought,
what if I go downstairs
and have a little nibble, yeah?

It was all dark
everyone was in bed
so it must have been really late
but I got out of bed,
crept out of the door

there’s always a creaky floorboard, isn’t there?

Past Mum and Dad’s room,
careful not to tread on bits of broken toys
or bits of Lego
you know what it’s like treading on Lego
with your bare feet,

yowwww
shhhhhhh

downstairs
into the kitchen
open the cupboard
and there it is
all shining.

So I take it out of the cupboard
put it on the table
and I see that
there’s a few crumbs lying about on the plate,
so I lick my finger and run my finger all over the crumbs
scooping them up
and put them into my mouth.

oooooooommmmmmmmm

nice.

Then
I look again
and on one side where it’s been cut,
it’s all crumbly.

So I take a knife
I think I’ll just tidy that up a bit,
cut off the crumbly bits
scoop them all up
and into the mouth

oooooommm mmmm
nice.

Look at the cake again.

That looks a bit funny now,
one side doesn’t match the other
I’ll just even it up a bit, eh?

Take the knife
and slice.
This time the knife makes a little cracky noise
as it goes through that hard icing on top.

A whole slice this time,

into the mouth.

Oh the icing on top
and the icing in the middle
ohhhhhh oooo mmmmmm.

But now
I can’t stop myself
Knife –
1 just take any old slice at it
and I’ve got this great big chunk
and I’m cramming it in
what a greedy pig
but it’s so nice,

and there’s another
and another and I’m squealing and I’m smacking my lips
and I’m stuffing myself with it
and
before I know
I’ve eaten the lot.
The whole lot.

I look at the plate.
It’s all gone.

Oh no
they’re bound to notice, aren’t they,
a whole chocolate cake doesn’t just disappear
does it?

What shall 1 do?

I know. I’ll wash the plate up,
and the knife

and put them away and maybe no one
will notice, eh?

So I do that
and creep creep creep
back to bed
into bed
doze off
licking my lips
with a lovely feeling in my belly.
Mmmmrnmmmmm.

In the morning I get up,
downstairs,
have breakfast,
Mum’s saying,
‘Have you got your dinner money?’
and I say,
‘Yes.’
‘And don’t forget to take some chocolate cake with you.’
I stopped breathing.

‘What’s the matter,’ she says,
‘you normally jump at chocolate cake?’

I’m still not breathing,
and she’s looking at me very closely now.

She’s looking at me just below my mouth.
‘What’s that?’ she says.
‘What’s what?’ I say.

‘What’s that there?’
‘Where?’
‘There,’ she says, pointing at my chin.
‘I don’t know,’ I say.
‘It looks like chocolate,’ she says.
‘It’s not chocolate is it?’
No answer.
‘Is it?’
‘I don’t know.’
She goes to the cupboard
looks in, up, top, middle, bottom,
turns back to me.
‘It’s gone.
It’s gone.
You haven’t eaten it, have you?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You don’t know. You don’t know if you’ve eaten a whole
chocolate cake or not?
When? When did you eat it?’

So I told her,

and she said
well what could she say?
‘That’s the last time I give you any cake to take
to school.
Now go. Get out
no wait
not before you’ve washed your dirty sticky face.’
I went upstairs
looked in the mirror
and there it was,
just below my mouth,
a chocolate smudge.
The give-away.
Maybe she’ll forget about it by next week.

 

by Michael Rosen

 

The Sundial by Gillian Clarke

Owain was ill today. In the night

He was delirious, shouting of lions

In the sleepless heat. Today, dry

And pale, he took a paper circle,

Laid it on the grass which held it

with curling fingers. In the still

Centre he pushed the broken bean

Stick, gathering twelve fragments

Of stone, placed them at measured

Distances. Then he crouched, slightly

Trembling with fever, calculating

The mathematics of sunshine.

 

He looked up, his eyes dark,

Intelligently adult as though

The wave of fever taught silence

And immobility for the first time.

Here, in his enforced rest, he found

Deliberation, and the slow finger

Of light, quieter than night lions,

More worthy of his concentration.

All day he told the time to me.

All day we felt and watched the sun

Caged in its white diurnal heat,

Pointing at us with its black stick.

 

by Gillian Clarke

from The Sundial (Gwasg Gomer, 1978)

Children’s Song by R.S. Thomas

We live in our own world,

A world that is too small

For you to stoop and enter

Even on hands and knees,

The adult subterfuge.

And though you probe and pry

With analytic eye,

And eavesdrop all our talk

With an amused look,

You cannot find the centre

Where we dance, where we play,

Where life is still asleep

Under the closed flower,

Under the smooth shell

Of eggs in the cupped nest

That mock the faded blue

Of your remoter heaven.

 

by R. S. Thomas

– from Songs At The Year’s Turning (1955)

The Cool Night Air

Once more spring has passed and it is now summer. A cool breeze drifts past the window.
I think of childhood and how the days of summer did not end back then.
Now, when the light begins to fail, I want to go for a walk in the cool night air.

Where to? I do not know.
Until what time? I do not care.
If I left I would not return. What is there to return to?

People have dreams and make memories in the dark hours. Especially during the summer when the darkness is a soothing comfort not a sign of insensitive death.

As a child you think adults have freedom while you yourself have routines and people to answer to.
You answer to your parents, your teachers, you community.
When you are an adult you still have chains but now they are invisible.

The barbed wire of etiquette twisted around you harming you every time you allow others to treat you as an inferior for decorum’s sake.
The razor blades of financial worries giving you the death of a thousand cuts.
The pressure of self-inflicted moral restraints contorting who you were, are and will be.

Existentialism poses the question asking what exactly is stopping you from dropping everything and walking away. These tethers we bind ourselves with are not real, physical, things. But they are there all the same.
An adult answers to their employer, to their family, to their peers and to the government that cannot see them as anything other than a statistic to be checked off the page.

The night air soothes the skin. Caresses it like a woman placating the injured thinking this tactile moment of amity, invading the solitude of suffering, will ease the tormented and assure their soul.

I will walk away from the lights of mankind’s pointless struggle against the beautiful night but in the end, no matter what direction I walk in, eventually I will return to it.
The only other choice is to blindly walk off a cliff into the awaiting pitch black sea who will claim me for her own. A phone will ring at the chapel down the bottom of the slope and the Samaritans will be told it was too late but they will go home in the end and sleep peacefully.

I cannot go because I will not return. There is nowhere to go. I am ensnared by responsibilities others have foisted on me because of the choices I made and the indecisions I allowed. I am in a gilded cage of my own creation and soon the night will past. I will wait. Wait until it returns once again. The cycle will continue until autumn kills it once more, dressing the floor with its golden red entrails and we bow our heads during the winter songs where the world is washed away to muddied grey and white tones.

The air is stale in here. I can breathe – but only with a heavy heart. I will embrace the night and sleep. I know when I awake the light wll have been victorious over the night and the cycle of maturity will repeat once more.


I have the past few evenings wanted to go for a walk. I have not though. I don’t know where I would go. There is nowhere but to the town with its glittering lights and dirty covered paving. To sit in a bar and drink until the ring of the bell for last orders and the long, lonely, walk back home. Tomorrow is another day – a day like any other day.

Unplanned piece. Flawed but then it fills the blog until the next entry.

Like, Comment, Follow – Any of these are welcome.

Real Life Lessons: Is It Better To Be An Introvert Than An Extrovert?

A child should be seen and not heard. Introverts are rarely the first to get culled in times of group conflict.

Today’s real life lessons for little children: You know when the teacher asks the class a question and you don’t put your hand up to volunteer an answer? That’s instinct and it is what ensured the survival of many a species over the course of history. ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ eliminates the most visible first not those who keep their heads down and who keep their personal agendas to themselves. You can still excel past your peers but you will not be as recognised as others in your lifetime. It has happened many a time in the sciences most notably between Thomas Edison, the extrovert showman of science, and Nikola Tesla who has now become semi-mythologised.

But where in real life history did this apply? Stalin’s purges of course! When he got rid of the best and brightest in Russian society because he considered them a threat to him! Some intelligentsia survived through the sheer instinctive ability to lay low and not promote themselves in such a way that attracted his attention such as the curators at the Hermitage. They protected it’s abstract art collection, which was of course in storage, by citing that none other than Lenin himself had commended the pieces as examples of exemplary art (and thus it was beyond question to consider destroying them in line with the social realism expected of Soviet artwork as Lenin’s opinions were a quasi-deified ‘law’ in the early Soviet society). An extrovert would be unable to do this and ultimately would have ‘disappeared’ under their own power to foreign lands in exile or through government agencies’ enforcement for a sojourn in a Siberian gulag they would never return from.

“But I didn’t come here for lazy generalisation about the Soviet Union” I hear you cry!

Of course not, but it demonstrates a situation where behaviour associated with introversion aided survival albeit via ‘blat’ i.e. blackmarket dealing and knowing the right people in positions of authority (which you could argue required charisma usually associated with the extrovert of society). Ultimately knowing who to trust and not betraying others intentionally, or by having a big mouth, was key to many affiliations. Also it should be said Russians, and perhaps Slavs in general, are not all stony faced xenophobes but, due to their histories, need their trust gained first but then will stick with you through thick and thin. Tough exteriors with a soft centre. Like a particularly luxuriant caramel chocolate bar. Or an egg… yes, they’re good eggs.

Time to do the bullet points as you probably skipped reading the paragraphs…

Introverts will put up with you shit and laugh at your crap jokes – just what everyone wants in a partner though they only ask for world travelling adventurers on dating sites.
• An introvert is not distracted by petty things and can focus on a task. Like a trained army sniper. Like a hypnotised chicken.
They will value interaction. ’SOMEONE’S ACTUALLY SPEAKING TO ME! I DO ACTUALLY EXIST’ they will think.
• Incredibly naïve due to not learning the unwritten, unspoken, ‘rules of society’ at the school of hard knocks/life. Want to borrow something? Sure, of course, no questions asked! Then you need never return the item. Start little by borrowing pens and eventually you will be borrowing cars and squatting in their house, rent free, eating them out of house and home like a loveable little farting gremlin.
People love an underdog. Introverts are underdogs by nature. Eyore is the icon of such in children’s literature. People like Tigger in short bursts but often consider him to be an annoyance. Everything ‘a tigger does best’ turns out to be done badly. People adore Eyore and the house at Pooh Corner was built for him by the others as he was so loved by them despite being a sarcastic and bitter old soul.
If raising an introvert child they will likely not run off and become the subject of news regarding their disappearance. In fact they probably won’t leave your side once their spirit is properly broken and of course due to this they will always fail to have successful relationships as people aspire to partners who improve their station in life which first and foremost requires confidence i.e. extrovert tendencies. Therefore with an introvert child you will have an on hand servant for all occasions for the rest of your life.
They don’t need to be supervised constantly. Stick them in a cupboard for nine months to work and you won’t hear a word of complaint and all the work will be completed anyway without you contacting them once during that entire period. Matilda, Harry Potter, there are many examples of such noble figures in children’s literature they should aspire to be like.
• An introvert, not actively seeking to have their existence validated by others every single moment of the day, will be able to learn new skills quicker if taught properly in a formal situation. If you say jump they don’t ask how high because they already overheard you say what height you desired in a conversation you had earlier in their presence.
• ‘Good Communication Skills’ means that people don’t ignore what you say because you say so little there must some value to it. Except if you say the building is capable of turning into a giant kaiju fighting robot. Then they will either be unsure if you are telling the truth, as you are not one to make general joking banter, or if you are quietly insane and hence there is a reason why people do not speak to you. No the building does transform. It’s the only explaination for it’s design…
An introvert thinks first then speaks. They usually make more constructive points compared to extroverts who adopt a ‘throw everything and see what sticks’ mentality because they ‘work the numbers’. However they will also probably say the boring common sense answers too which an extrovert will have not said as it is obvious and thus admonish them for even wasting their time stating.
An introvert will listen to your problems but there is no onus on you to reciprocate this. Their lives are mostly fantasy in their head, not doing anything actually interesting in the real world as they are so used to sitting in a room alone, so it would be hard to communicate anyway as its all theory. They’re a sounding board for all life’s griefs.
Ultimate team players. Will listen and co-operate with others. Unquestioning cannon-fodder. Yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir! Like dunking a hobnob biscuit they just keep going absorbing more and more and want more still without breaking! Challenges are welcomed not moaned about. More, more, more! Masochists to the end!
• Spend so much time imagining all the variables they are over prepared for many things. Introverts are the real world equivalent of Batman!
Easily fade into the crowd. Super spies are not like James Bond but that person who face and name you can’t remember but you know was there for a long time in the place you used to work at but made absolutely no impression on you. Like Harry Palmer played by Michael Caine in the Ipcress File.
As leaders they are the type to bring out the best in individuals as they consider others views, even if they do not agree, as they want the best outcome… but then they are so poor at self-promotion they will not be a leader without a senior staff member noticing, while the extrovert is vocally announcing each minute task they have completed in order to be praised, or by being the founder of the organisation.
To introverts the happiness of others takes precedent over their own desires. They will not be able to communicate this. It is traditionally the Celtic/Gaulish notion of love i.e. if you truly love something let it go / their happiness makes you happy, even if it is with another/ love is free not something to be locked away / etc. Hence the annoyance from locals when all those padlocks were placed on the Pont de Arts Bridge in Paris by foreign visitors. To the locals it was as if the people who did this completely misunderstood the notion of love. Obviously this means introverts are very lonely people who will wind up caring for their parents in their old age as carers while their peers have gone off having families. End of a blood line but then the world is over populated as it is.
• Introverts will suffer multiple small failures rather than single big failures like extroverts leaping in before they look. Easier to cover up and more forewarning before everything goes to hell.
You can push and push an introvert but be aware: they may be a ticking time bomb and you don’t want to be there when they explode! But most introverts internalise their anger and so will suffer depression long before expressing their anger outwardly. So you probably shouldn’t worry at all. In fact if you hate them just start the snowball rolling and the rest of it will take care of itself. Win/win situation.
Very often the heroes in popular stories are introverts with poor communication skills e.g. Mr Darcy of Pride and Prejudice, many of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti western roles, protagonists in computer games (although in this case they are supposed to be a ‘blank slate’ the player imprints themselves on) and most other action hero roles. Men of action not empty words.
• Ironically though in real life there is a contrast due to the cliché of ‘he was a quiet man, kept to himself…’ regarding murderers in media reports usually the truth is that the person involved was very socially skilled and highly active in their community thereby gaining peoples’ unquestioning trust which they go on to later betray. The most famous and, in a dark way, ‘successful’ serial killers like Ed Gein or Ted Bundy were highly socially skilled sociopaths not introverts at all but dangerous outsiders in society will always be portrayed as introverts as it goes against the basic nature of Homo Sapiens as a social animal living in co-operative communities.
• They will be prone to sarcasm or constant attempts at humour to express disagreement before stating it bluntly and offending others like an extrovert would.
• More often than not they are likely to have taken the moral lessons learned in childhood and maintained them into adulthood. Stupid things others grow out of like telling the truth, being honest, putting others before yourself or superstitions like not screwing others over otherwise it will come back to you three fold.
Will work to the best of their ability and take personal responsibility for their actions. In fact to such an extent they will be hyper sensitive to any minor criticism and likely offer to commit seppuku (also known as hara-kiri) at a moment’s notice to retain the team’s honour. Paranoia and an ever present dread of criticism will likely only aid in motivating they to provide only the highest level of service.
Will work with anyone. Even the most antisocial and aggressive people without uttering a word of complaint. Again may lead them to internalising and self-destructive behaviour but then there are plenty of other people you can employ to replace them aren’t there?
‘Hell is other people’ – Introverts can and probably will prefer working alone for the most part but having people to speak to will remind them they are disposable and ensure their compliance. You may be lucky and they actually get on with the people they work with. Anyway you play it it’s a win/win situation with introverts.

If your child is extrovert and you would prefer an introvert child then you need to do a few things. First break their will. Sit them in silence at meals. Isolate them from other children to ensure their social skills are those of an adult and so they have a hard time acclimatising with people of their own age and generation for the rest of their lives. If they rebel use excess force. You only have to do it once as it will be like a nuclear deterrent. Everyone saw what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and so the atom bomb only ever had to be used once to make sure everyone knew their place despite and the gesturing nuclear powered nations make towards one another. Occupy the child’s time. Get them after school lessons that ensure not only are they indoctrinated into measuring their live via achievement but also during this time you have a bit of peace and quiet for yourself as they are being baby sat. Don’t do anything deemed ‘child friendly’. They are there to serve you. Go to places that don’t cater to children. Insist on sitting around for long periods of time with no activities for them to do. The boredom will make them use their imagination more and more until it overtakes their social skills and they are like a little pack mule you have trundle along after you though of course, like many mules, if you chose to use your introvert child this way they will likely be for all intent and purposes infertile as they will be unable to form successful relationships so do not expect any grandchildren.


This is a satirical companion piece to my previous ‘be extrovert rather than introvert’ entry. https://ramblingatthebridgehead.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/real-life-lessons-be-extrovert-not-introvert/

Both have their benefits and their problems. Most people exist somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between the two extremes. Isuppose the stereotype is that extrovert are living life to the full while introverts leads a somewhat tragic existance not achieving their potential.

Regarding the ongoing ear ache saga: Keeping a hot water bottle on my ear for hour upon hour until my ear was bright red has done wonders. Not fully overcome the ailment but leaps and bounds beyond where I was yesterday. At least I can sit vertically and use a laptop this evening.