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21 April, 2017
Good Friday; this morning, Jet 2 alone has six full flights out of Edinburgh – security hall is bedlam. Our Malaga flight carries a dozen ‘gals’ – black tee shirts with gold lettering: “Mona’s Hen Do – Marbella 17”; party time. When I was that age, in the 1960s, Europe was still remote; I know we’re burnin’ the planet – but it’s great what the EU and cheapo flights have brought within reach of ordinary punters.             Once again, I`m dazzled by the heat and light of April sunshine in Andalucia – life enhancing. It’s not surprising that 300,000 UK citizens now officially reside in Spain – over a third of them claiming the UK pension. It’s for the 'oldies' I feel most sympathy midst the Brexit turbulence – their looming healthcare uncertainty. At present, 75,000 seniors registered with Spanish doctors are paid for by the UK; but if we leave the European Economic Area – this reciprocal arrangement will cease; skint oldies heading home? I really hope we don’t abandon freedom of movement with continental Europe; like turning the clock back.             Wednesday afternoon sunshine – ten of us in Pepe’s beach restaurant (chiringuito); joyful children scamper to and from the sea. This is a mixture of family and friends – all living here; I listen to their 'snap election' reactions - Brexit options. Colin, next to me, has been here eight years – he’s a graphic artist – smart; when I ask what brought him to Spain, he, wordless, points to the sky; we both look to the high, blue, shimmering heavens; ‘nuff said. - Read full bulletin

13 April, 2017
Don’t know why, but a recently watched DVD keeps replaying scenes in my mind – trying to tell me something?   It’s the 2011 Italian film by Michelangelo Frammartino called Le Quattro Volte (the Four Times); it’s slow-moving with absolutely no dialogue – just the kind of art house nonsense I avoid; yet it opened a new perception of the world and my place in it.             The ‘Quattro’ in the title refers to nature’s four categories - mineral, vegetable, animal and human; each is observed from a dispassionate distance in the lovely Calabrian countryside.  The film’s extraordinary achievement is that it treats all four with equal dignity; human affairs are not the centre of the universe but seem at a distance. The focus becomes a burning charcoal kiln - a sensational pine tree - a new-born goat ....  From this viewpoint – rid of human grandiosity – we can see the seamless interconnectedness of all nature – in harmony with the seasons. It feels 'religious' in its true meaning.             The film reminded me of this poem by Rumi: “We began as a mineral.  We emerged into plant life and into the animal state.  Then into being human, and always we have forgotten our former states, except in early spring when we almost remember being green again.”  That, I think, is what’s happening with the film – the power of nature – to ‘startle us back to the truth of who we are’.              This will be my fourteenth year in this garden – my infinitesimal part of the universe – which contains it all. - Read full bulletin

07 April, 2017
Leaving Waterstones (Edinburgh Princes St) on Thursday, catch sight of advert for book launch – in one hour! – Dilys Rose reading from her new novel ‘Unspeakable’; I knew her 35 years ago – so many memories - decide to wait. During the 1980s, when I lived in Edinburgh’s St Stephen Place, the nearest café/bistro was the Blue Parrot, run by Dilys and Brian McCabe – aged about 30. They were both aspiring writers but also took food seriously; the ‘Parrot’ was my main gang hut for years – good pals.             Easily 50 people are crowded into Waterstones upstairs café; before the event begins I find Dilys and say hello – I’m Laurence Demarco from a different life; she stares – probably doesn’t recognise me – but remembering, gives me a nice kiss. Handout, listing her published works, informs she is also Director of Edinburgh University’s online BSc in Creative Writing. She answers questions and discusses her novel with a confidence and personal authority gained over the years; a professional writer – comfortable in her craft.             Buy a copy of Unspeakable but because of the long ‘signing’ queue, don’t linger. I would really like to go with Dilys somewhere quiet for supper – ask all sorts of questions about how her life unfolded since I knew her – how she changed – the defeats and victories which honed her writer’s voice. But just as much, I want to tell my own story – to someone who was around 35 years ago - when we were much younger– when we lived with different dreams. - Read full bulletin

31 March, 2017
This bulletin usually links to around a dozen articles or reports; selecting what’s useful involves sifting lots of stuff that isn’t – which can be dreary.  So my leisure reading is overwhelmingly escapist – typically some dogged/dysfunctional detective – up against the bad guys: Philip Marlowe is my prototype.  Once I ‘adopt’ a character I read all those books – so I have 13 Kurt Wallanders – 10 Martin Becks – all the translated Hanne Wilhelmsens etc; all are iterations of essentially the same archetypal ‘flawed hero’.             In recent months, four of my A list authors have published novel’s which disappointed; I managed to finish the Anne Holt and the Jack Reacher stories – but the latest Fred Vargas and Ian Rankin’s recent (feeble) Rebus offering – are abandoned.  Four successive duds seem unlikely – so I’ve been wondering if it’s me that’s changed.  It’s also over a year since I’ve been to Spain – which I don’t understand either - some general 'disaffection'?  A good friend was asking me about travel – I explain that ‘with age’ – the ‘inconveniences’ of budget airlines become ‘privations’; - the journey becomes an ordeal.  That’s a real pity, she says, because you always returned from those trips ‘energised’.             She’s right of course – the very process of ‘getting away’ activates my ‘reset button’; so I’ve booked a Malaga flight for 14 April; my spirit will once again roam the beaches and the mountains –in the special light of Andalucia. Other than my age, I don’t think anything much has changed – they were just four rubbish books. - Read full bulletin

24 March, 2017
Human progress has always been driven but utopian visionaries – 'partly mad’ individuals who dared to think the earth could be round or humans could fly to the moon – crazy stuff.  Scientific progress has its own accumulating dynamic – becoming uncomfortably fast; I’ve always felt more drawn to the artists or social reformers who, of necessity, start from scratch; in particular, I’ve a lifelong fascination with the legend we know as Francis of Assisi.  There are two insights which this extraordinary individual shared 800 years ago – which remain as important today: he had a ‘Buddhist’ conviction of the unity of all natural life – a lyric love of all creatures; and he believed that the issue of wealth and poverty divides humankind: the instruction to his followers was to ‘be with’ the poor.             Although I avoided it for months – knew I had a responsibility to see I Daniel Blake; watched half of DVD but got upset – saw remainder next day.  The film’s enduring message for me is however, a hopeful one – captured in the triumphant solidarity between Daniel and Katie with her two kids: ‘if you want generosity – look to the person who has nothing’.  I was reminded of linesfrom Ursula le Guin’s ‘The Dispossessed’: “I’m trying to say what I think brotherhood really is.  It begins – it begins in shared pain”.  If we’re prepared to look at the reality of poverty around us (and it’s not easy) there are people out there who tell it the way it is; Ken Loach is a true prophet of our times. - Read full bulletin


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