Burmese Days

After the sun went down, the light became tranquil, somber, and some might even say sublime. The green field, the white of the cattle egrets, the brownish black colour of the water buffaloes, all became softer, less bleached and in the case of the buffaloes turned from an indiscriminate black to the hide brown, sable…

Chekhov: death and dying

There are quite a number of Chekhov’s short stories that deal in the business of dying and death:‘ The Bishop’, ‘Typhus’, and ‘A Tragic Actor’ are examples. However, my favourite is ‘A Dreary Story From the Notebook of an Old Man’. I suppose I am drawn to the story because our protagonist is an aging…

What are so many straight trees to me?

Frieda Weekley met DH Lawrence in March 1912. She later eloped with him, leaving her husband Ernest Weekley and her three children. After obtaining her divorce, they were married in July 1914. This blog is about the complex ramifications of a woman leaving her children and her husband for her lover.   I have known…

The Library of Babel

This morning I am sitting in the Birmingham Central Library, surrounded by books. As you come up, by the escalator, to the second floor you see ahead of you, a circular atrium that towers above you and that is open to a magnificent light coming from the sky. There are circular rows and rows of…

Spitting flames from his gums

The winter solstice has been and gone. Nightfall starts practically mid-afternoon and it is still night well into what would normally count as morning. Even after all these years, my body, my immigrant’s body, that is, still finds this shortening of the day and the reciprocal lengthening of the night disconcerting, if not just short…

Silence and Absence in Rumi

Rumi (1207-1273), astonishing for a poet, was preoccupied with silence. Now, on superficial examination poetry, writing, speaking is the antithesis of silence. But, for Rumi, silence like absence was the ever-present nothingness from which things, including speech and poetry, emerge. This insight, a miraculous insight, upends our usual understanding of how the world is, what…