…apologies to those who have already seen these photos. I put them on facebook, but then deleted them. And even though this blog is just a figment of my imagination, and not the kind of album I’ll ever come across in the dusty corner of an attic, my old-fashioned nature compels me to keep even my illusions in some kind of order. So, here are some snaps from Dordogne August 2010. The baby is Summer’s. 

An Almost Dancer

I’m having one of my poetry binges. I found this one on the TLS website, it was one of their poems of the week, and, for reasons that will be obvious to those who read the Skylarks blog, I instantly copied it to paste into this post. Ha ha! It’s by Robert Nye and he wrote it in 2010. I think I’ll read some more of his stuff as I lie on Tempelhofer Feld this weekend—that is, if I am ever able to prise myself away from the computer screen.

Once, on a hill in Wales, one summer’s day

I almost danced for what I thought was joy.

An hour or more I’d lain there on my back
Watching the clouds as I gazed dreaming up.

As I lay there I heard a skylark sing
A song so sweet it touched the edge of pain.

I dreamt my hair was one with all the leaves
And that my legs sent shoots into the earth.

Laughing awake, I lay there in the sun
And knew that there was nothing to be known.

Small wonder then that when I stood upright
I felt like dancing. Oh, I almost danced,

I almost danced for joy, I almost did.
But some do not, and there’s an end of it.

One night no doubt I shall lie down for good
And when I do perhaps I’ll dance at last.

Meanwhile I keep this memory of that day
I was an almost dancer, once, in Wales.


I’m constantly amazed by how little really useful information I’ve picked up over the years. For example, skylarks. Did you know that skylarks nest in the middle of grassy fields? I didn’t. It would never have occurred to me that such a tiny bird would even consider nesting anywhere but in a tree. They do though. As I found out yesterday on our first spring walk on Tempelhofer Feld (the old airport I wrote about last summer). Much of the middle of the airfield had been cordoned off with red and white plastic ribbons and notices (in German) pitched announcing skylark nesting season. And it seems to be working. Berliners don’t walk on that part of the field (I can’t speak for the poxy foreigners) and throughout our hour or two in the sun, we found ourselves being serenaded by skylark song.

True, the background noise of motorized traffic never really goes away in the middle of the city, but to be able to lie on a blanket, stare at the sky and clouds, and listen to the wind and skylarks was really quite special. (And I must admit, I begin to crave a little house in the country with a large garden. But it’ll never happen…)

The Tempelhof skylarks did have a little more competition than just the traffic yesterday. Andreas decided he wanted to learn the words of a new song as we basked (fully clothed—it wasn’t that warm) and so my left (rather deaf) ear enjoyed his gentle balladeering, while my right (rather less deaf) ear followed the skylark troubadours. Heavenly.

I videoed Andreas as he learnt one song, but all you can hear is the wind… so here’s a recording of a skylark instead.

A Memorable Fancy

The BBC has on its invaluable iPlayer a truly dreadful documentary about the making of the Doors’ LA Woman. We didn’t stay with it for long, and I only mention it because it reminded me of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which I haven’t even opened in more than 35 years.

Worse, I realized, as I tried to bring some memory of that book to mind, that all I could find amongst so many millions of little grey cells, both alive and more commonly dead, was a mush of complicated… well, mush. I even asked myself the question, where had William inserted the now rather over-exposed line ‘the doors of perception…’? I clawed around a bit, failed to locate even a thumbnail, and after a few self-indulgent moments of almost abject despair, resorted to looking it up, because I could.

That was an hour ago. What I was supposed to be doing was working on an edit of the ‘notion of self’ in the context of the five skandhas. And I’m sure that piece of information in itself will explain to you why I allowed myself to leap so gratefully after this particular distraction.

The Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel dined with me, and I asked them how they dared so roundly to assert, that God spoke to them; and whether they did not think at the time, that they would be misunderstood, & so be the cause of imposition.

Isaiah answer’d, I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception; but my senses discover’d the infinite in every thing, and as I was then perswaded, & remain confirm’d; that the voice of honest indignation is the voice of God, I cared not for consequences but wrote.

Then I asked: does a firm perswasion that a thing is so, make it so?

He replied, All poets that it does, & in ages of imagination this firm perswasion removed mountains; but many are not capable of a firm perswasion of any thing.

Then Ezekiel said, The philosophy of the east taught the first principles of human perception: some nations held one principle for the origin & some another; we of Israel taught that the Poetic Genius (as you now call it) was the first principle and all other others merely derivative, which was the cause of our despising the priests & Philosophers of other countries, and prophecying that all Gods would at last be proved to originate in ours & to be the tributaries of the Poetic Genius; it was this that our great poet King David desired so fervently & invokes so patheticly, saying by this he conquers enemies & governs kingdoms; and we so loved our God, that we cursed in his name all deities of surrounding nations, and asserted that they had rebelled; from these opinions the vulgar came to think that all nations would at last be subject to the jews.

This said he, like all firm perswasions, is come to pass, for all nations believe the jews code and worship the jews god, and what greater subjection can be?
I heard this with some wonder, & must confess my own conviction. After dinner I ask’d Isaiah to favour the world with his lost works, he said none of equal value was lost. Ezekiel said the same of his.

I also asked Isaiah what made him go naked and barefoot three years? he answer’d, the same that made our friend Diogenes the Grecian.

I then asked Ezekiel, why he eat dung, & lay so long on his right & left side? he answer’d, the desire of raising other men into a perception of the infinite; this the North American tribes practise, & is he honest who resists his genius or conscience only for the sake of present ease or gratification?

The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of six thousand years is true, as I have heard from Hell.

For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite, and holy whereas it now appears finite & corrupt.

This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.

But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul, is to be expunged: this I shall do, by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid.

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.

Frisch Gepresst Leinöl

Désirée turned us on to the delicious freshly pressed linseed oil she buys at Winterfeld Platz Markt on Saturdays. It’s a great market, right at the heart of pink Schöneberg, and full of good quality, high-end food, plus the usual bags and slippers and what not. I’ve been three times now. Each time it’s rained, and yesterday it even snowed. I appear to inspire a strong reaction from the weather in Schöneberg.

If you do a circumambulation of the outer stalls, the first one on the left is the linseed oil lady. Her press looks like something you might find in India, except of course, it’s clean, works effortlessly and efficiently, and there’s a label in the basket collecting what’s left of the seeds once the oil has been squeezed out.

The label says “Leinkuchen”, which literally means ‘flax cakes.’ They must have some healthy giving property that I know nothing about, but on looks alone, it’s hard to imagine ever wanting to nibble one. They remind me too much of the pellets we fed to horses nearly 40 years ago—when I still loved looking after animals and had yet to discover sex, drugs and rock’n’roll—or worms. Or animal dropping. Basically, nothing I’d be tempted to soak and add to my muesli in the mornings.

Clearly, there are still things about German cuisine that it’s better not to delve into too deeply.

Artist at Work

We used to have what my mother would describe as a ‘dining area’ in our living room, but it’s transmogrified into an artist’s studio. I don’t think the dining area has much hope of a come back—not this lifetime, at any rate.