Maintenant! Encore!

Tall in the saddle again after nearly 7 months. I didn’t think there would be such a gap after posting the last one in March, but re-reading We Want the Airwaves today gives me excellent hindsight into what was about to happen.

Anyway, thank you to all who have expressed interest in reading more. This is a quiet re-launch, but I hope to pick up new readers too. I started the blog 18 months ago on leaving for a Yukon Spring. Engaging with it again in this Shropshire Autumn feels like a significant part of the healing growth that never seems to end. Life is lines. Lines of relationships, roles, learnings, forgettings, desirings. In any multi-faceted life the lines intersect: the crossroads is a wondrous, energising place to be.

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Facts since the last Maintenantman scribblings:

  • I ended my time as manager of Monkey Puzzle Meadow at the end of August, just over one month ago.
  • Over the last 6 months of my time there all the good, thought-provoking, care-giving, insight-enhancing aspects of the service continued, thanks to that dynamic presence created by the stories of the guests and the stories of the staff.
  • The anarchic ‘white noise’ from external controlling influences grew louder and louder.
  • The actions I took to preserve Monkey Puzzle Meadow ended in a stalemate. Which might have seemed better than an outright loss, but because of the power relations, I had to step aside.
  • Life outside work was relatively minimal for nearly a year.
  • No job to go to yet.
Truths since the last Maintenantman scribblings:
  • I should have known better than to let myself get so close to burn-out.
  • There must be reasons why Monkey Puzzle Meadow absorbed so much of my being (see next post!).
  • Toxic hearts beat loud in high places.
  • I have never attempted a more difficult job, and have never learned so much from a work situation.
  • Despite any potential exhaustion or negative impacts, I have a clear knowledge that life is deeply satisfying and exciting in its opportunities to integrate all the learning….to be alive and breathing now.
  • Community makes the difference. The inner life is essential, but more so is the love of Jack, of my sister Carol and Family and Friends, old and new. You all know who you are, and so do I.
*                    *                    *                    *
Past readers will be aware that sheer fun and the life of the senses are very much part of this blog. All that side of life has been hanging on in there over the last 7 months, but it has been a total joy to feel liberated into: more leisurely time with family; re-engaging with Friends and making new ones; spending an ultra-relaxed week+ at the south-west tip of Ireland; writing poetry again; renewing vows to adjust Pick Up The Pieces and get it out there; picking up on other prose and on visual collages; returning to the mountains; scrotting around beaches for cowrie shells; dancing!
As a snapshot of all this side of life, I’m including a recent poem.
Whilst in Ireland I was exploring the rock pools at the bottom of the garden by moonlight one night when I met a mermaid. I don’t think I had encountered one since I was in the womb. Even then I had wondered, since they are presented as so physically alluring, how a human could possibly have sex with one…?


On her slick-liquored back

in the bubblewrap

bladderwrack, her late evening

sunset-drowsy eyes

invite me in, in

for warm, salt-honey juice –

secret succulence

amongst the slithery greens,

the slippery chromes

of the sea-rank clots of kelp.

Heart-pulse ripples of water

and of rhythmic sound waves

from distant rock-broken breakers

lap our silver-oiled skin.

We roll in fleshy cadence,

bursting wet briny breath

from the heat-pressed, swollen

pods of our seaweed nest.

Charming, fey-but-coy, wistful:

mermaids have been censored

into garden-safe disneyed sprites –

but she was all abawd lustrous

lickering, suckling voluptuary,

all sensuous moonlit motion.

Gouts of moist film thick-coat

the silken scales that glisten

the weigh to her tender

plashy pleasure.

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In this present passage of time, I feel very much as I did when returning home from the long trip to BC / Yukon / Alaska in 2007. Re-examining and ordering the physical and the abstract components of life with almost autistic care and scrutiny. Getting accustomed to a life-affirming rhythm….gorging on appreciation of the potential of the crossroads.

Materially it’s a fool’s paradise. Money quicksilvers away into little runnels before disappearing into the earth.

But I have not felt quite so awakened since the nights I built darkness-lasting fires on wilderness stravaigs in Canada, making a space for light and warmth to control various infinities.

Infinities of space, stars, fears, creatures in Canadada. Infinities of the mind in Monkey Puzzle Meadow.

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I mentioned mountain walking above as a valued experience to be returning to. Over the last year I had begun to see myself as the Hill-Walker Who Never Walks a Hill.

A very short book has just been re-published which I would recommend both to those who love mountains and to those who have never quite understood their appeal. It is perhaps my ‘Desert Island’ book, but I won’t over-burden it with hyperbole….do check it out for yourself.

It is called The Living Mountain and has just been brought out in a new edition by Canongate. The author is Nan Shepherd. She wrote it in the last weeks of the Second World War but couldn’t get a publisher until 1977, which seems crazy now that it is seen as such a unique classic. I picked up the 1977 edition, a small paperback produced by Aberdeen University Press, in the early 1980s. It became one of those books that once read and re-read (it’s not much more than a long essay really) gives a warm glow simply be being glimpsed out of the corner of the eye. A friendly flame in the grate when you are engrossed in something else.

I haven’t seen the new edition yet, but I hope it retains the grainy black-and-white line drawings of Ian Munro that add minimalist, shadowing delight to the original text.

Shepherd’s book is nominally about the Cairngorms, but all true essences are transferable. From The Wrekin to the Tombstone Range above the Yukon tundra, Shepherd’s book reminds me of RS Thomas:

“It was like a church to me.

I entered it on soft foot,

breath held like a cap in the hand.

It was quiet.

What God was there made himself felt,

not listened to, in clean colours

that brought a moistening of the eye,

in movement of wind over grass.

There were no prayers said. But stillness

of the heart’s passions – that was praise

enough; and the mind’s cession

of its kingdom. I walked on,

simple and poor, while the air crumbled

and broke on me generously as bread.”

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Warning – I cannot promise that future posts will not contain any of the following words: wonder; life; Oxford United; cowrie; erotic; paranoia; joyful; yoghurt; alienation; Alice Munro; teeming; Beelzebub; moss; love; Robert Crumb; respect; poetry; racketball; Texas; desire; rip-rap; crisis; sensuous; live music; maintenant; topiary; risk; fulfilling….to name but a few.

Ted XoX


  1. Enjoyed the positive messages above. Looking forward to the words that will be trending on the blog, especially ‘bib’, ‘moss’, ‘yoghurt’, ‘rip-rap’ and ‘klaxon’. A possible task to fit them all into a poem or short story? Shoehorn them between adjectives and verbs like those fridge magnet things??

    I hope it wasn’t a Fiji Mermaid x


      1. Don’t worry Maintenantman – readers of a sensitive nature will not be offended by the term ‘Fiji Mermaid’. Owners of freak show circuses would stitch together the top half of a monkey to the bottom half of a fish to fool punters into believing they’d caught an exotic mermaid. Not as pretty as the ‘Disneyed sprites’ mentioned above x


      2. Thank you for this fascinating information. I’m sure that the erotic content of the term would have been much greater had the aforementioned circus owners stitched the top half of a fish to the bottom half of a monkey….x


  2. Great to read that you’re so enlivened. Especially after MP was such a test… And I like the honest appraisal that the cross-roads never stop coming. And rather than them being an issue, they’re another oxygen…


    1. Texas is a big place…I’m sure there is some interesting topiary there….
      The word list is partial, others might include: ptarmigan; bib; Nebuchadnezzar; oil sump; Death Valley; klaxon. As long as people are prepared for such presences on the page I can do no more.


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