Category Archives: The Remembrance of Things Past

The Ghost of Porlock’s Least Favorite Son

I’ve decided to name Coleridge’s infamous person from Porlock Bennett Channing. By way of background, for those of you who are unsure of whom I speak, the mysterious Mr Channing is that inconsiderate (and previously anonymous) personage responsible for rousing Samuel Taylor Coleridge (STC) from his slumber, at the exact moment the great Romantic poet had been busily composing his masterwork Kubla Khan, while under the influence of an opium-induced reverie.

Immediately upon waking (or so the story goes) STC had next promptly forgotten the greater part of what would go on to become one of the most revered poems within English literature. For evidently the poem as we know it is but a mere fragment of a supposedly more complete work of genius lost due to said misfortune.

Likewise, I too have experienced my very own “Bennett Channing”-moment this very morning. Hence, my obvious eagerness to “name and shame” that oafish interloper who would banish nocturnal poetic invention by visiting unbidden on business unspecified.

In my own case, I had been blissfully dreaming of my writing the perfect blog post, when I was awoken rudely mid-dream by the sound of the bedroom door creaking inward, as though opening of its own accord. Immediately whereupon all knowledge of the “perfect post” in question’s topic and content were completely lost to me, receding after the manner of mist being met by the first rays of the rising dawn sun.

With no logical explanation to account for why the bedroom door should have acted in such a way, I have since been forced to infer that I have fallen prey to the ghost of Coleridge’s selfsame person from Porlock, still roaming the land and looking for dreams of unusual genius to dispel.

There seems to be no other suitable conclusion that I can reach to account for my tragic loss. Which is why I wish to identify both Coleridge’s and my intellectual assailant, for evermore, as being none other than one Mr Bennett Channing. So that you too, who read this, should not suffer the same sorry fate.

But what of the “perfect post”, to which I have alluded earlier, I hear you ask? Alas, I remember nothing more about it other than, maddeningly, that it was truly perfect…

So, damn you, Mr Bennett Channing! Ghost or no ghost, you have no right barging your way into the sleeping sanctity of an inventive writer’s dream-life. Damn you, back to hell, sirrah, I say! For on the honeydew of the perfect blog post [I] hath fed, only to be next awoken and left with nothing but the taste of ashes remaining in my mouth! Good day, to you, most foul fiend!

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Picturing the “Past Perfect” Perfectly

Photographs, like honeycomb
Cells capture sweet memories
Of static moments
Too fleeting to be digested
At the time of composure
A stolen glimpse of carefree
Indolence with friends
Or family gatherings
Around age celebrations or
Announcements of magnitude
Some milestone achieved
And happy, smiling faces
Making a show of bravery
Come what may
Secure in the knowledge that
Tomorrow never, ever will be
A mere facsimile of today.


A Long Time Coming Home to Roost

Homing pigeon

Homing pigeon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember how, when I was still very young, my grandfather used to keep homing pigeons. He housed his prized birds in a purpose-built wooden cote he himself had meticulously constructed down behind his garden shed. On the second Sunday of every month, he would attend this special club he belonged to and race his pigeons against other enthusiasts.

The type of birds he owned were a specific breed called Racing Homers, amongst which his absolute stand-out favourite was a bird named George. George (or Georgie Boy) was a puffy-chested, dapple grey champion racer, who my grandfather lavished all of his spare time on. He’d fuss over him the way a young child might over her “very bestest” and most belovéd teddy bear.

“Come on, Georgie Boy, eat up,” he would coo. “You’ve got a race to win on Sunday!”

Believe me, it fascinated me no end.

I used to especially love to watch my grandfather whenever George took to the air. My grandfather’s face would always immediately light up, after which he would next whistle softly through his teeth.

Almost breathless with pride, he delighted in following the flight of his golden boy, Georgie, through the sky, tracking him through a pair of battered, old field glasses, until George eventually faded from sight. That bird meant everything to him. And my grandfather meant everything to me. So not surprisingly George held an almost legendary significance in my mind, while I was growing up.

All these years later, my grandfather’s hobby, in a not so roundabout way, I suppose, makes much more sense to me when viewed in light of the fact that he had served in the RAF, during WWII, having trained at a Commonwealth flight school, in Canada. Both he and his brother Keith flew Lancasters for bomber command. Only Keith never made it back home.

I didn’t know much about all this back then. But I did know how my grandfather flatly refused to travel absolutely anywhere at all by plane. And I am ashamed to admit that I can recall thinking how his refusal to fly seemed more like the act of a coward than a supposed war hero. I was just a kid, so what did I know?

What the hell did I know about being a twenty-something-year-old farm boy looking down at Dresden, in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 1945, as the Pathfinder flares started marking out the first civilian bomb sites? So far away from home and no longer sure there was anything much left of the world worth fighting for?

Please, forgive me.

Jim McPhie