Sunday, June 22, 2008


You can't eat this birthday cake. It is made of papier mache. We use it at our junior school assemblies to celebrate birthdays. The Mark One model was an upturned ice cream container beautifully decorated by moi with candles stuck on with plasticine. This cake was made by a kind parent who saw that the cracked and faded glory of Mr Mark One was at an end. I don't know what happened to this old cake. So we now have the new model that has been sung at and blown over more times than I care to remember.

In four more days it will be my birthday and I will be 57 years old (ouch). I am giving you plenty of warning so that you can buy me something small and park it in the driveway or moor it in the river.
Birthdays remind us of the passing years and I have a theory that I learnt from my old boat building grandad. He told me that at his age (he was in his eighties) that every year seemed like about two weeks. I think he was exaggerating a little bit but you are allowed to do that when you are eighty and telling a finely honed theory to a small and inquisitive boy. His theory was that when you are 5 years old one year is a 5th of your life therefore it is a relatively a long time. When you are eighty years old one year is an 80th of your life therefore it is a relatively short time. So my grandfathers special theory of relativity has stayed with me all my life right from the time he told me in his boat building workshop.
Now that I am 56 turning 57 I can say with some authority that my grandfather was correct. I know that one 57th is faster than one 56th of a lifetime. I also know something else which is related to someone else's theory. In amongst the writings of C. G. Jung the great psychoanalist he noted that the future casts a shadow backwards into the present and that if we are very observant we can faintly glimpse some of these talismans of change. They are easy to see in retrospect, but you have to be very cunning to see them before they arrive. It isn't like having a crystal ball and seeing dates and pack drill, its more like hearing a distant song and trying to hear the words and the tune.
I am 57 years old in four days time and I am looking out for a shadow that has my name on it because the silhouette that it casts may be a whisper and glimmer of my future. Come to think of it I know what happened to that old Mark One birthday cake ice cream container. A small boy made a yacht out of it and floated it down a sparkling little stream, the shadow of its beautiful sail a crisp triangle in the bright morning sun -- Hmmmm, .... come on, you're allowed a bit of wishful thinking when you turn 57 in four days time - anyone knows that!!


Katherine said...

Go not gentle into that goodnight
Rage, rage!

Alden Smith said...

Yes, rage, rage against the dying of the light - you are on to it Katherine!

Alden Smith said...

One of his poems I like a lot is 'Fern Hill' it shines with the brightness of innocent youth. Do you know it?

Alden Smith said...
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Katherine said...

'Fern Hill' is lovely. I like 'Under Milkwood' I love Mr Pugh going up the stairs in the morning to the bedroom:
' ... Here's your arsenic, dear.
And your weedkiller biscuit.
I've throttled your parakeet.
I've spat in the vases.
I've put cheese in the mouseholes.
Here's your... (opens door) ... nice tea, dear.'

Alden Smith said...

I think I still have an LP record of Under Milkwood read by DT - haven't heard it in years - must hunt it out.

Alden Smith said...
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Alden Smith said...

I keep publishing my comments twice, sign of old age

VenDr said...

I think it's actually worse than you fear. You are absolutely right that our personalities are subjectively, not objectively discerned and measured. But I think our consciousness is a construct in which the large majority of information is laid down in the first few years. Probably by the time you are ten, you've learned half the stuff you are ever going to learn: effectively, subjectively, your life is half over and it's downhill all the way.
Or perhaps it's just that it's been a particularly downhill, shadowy red raincoat sort of day for me, and tomorrow MUST be better.

VenDr said...

And seeing you are getting all enthusiatic about Dylan Thomas, don't you just love this:

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever....

Come to think of it, it's what you blog entry is about. Sort of.

Alden Smith said...

I retain the absolute right
(I suggest you claim the same) to discern things subjectively or to genuflect to the eye of objectively however the mood takes me, even forsooth to claim their equivalence.

So, I can't speak for you but I am only just beginning to enter the second half of my life and no amount of hard objective evidence to the contary will be tolerated.

Alden Smith said...

As for Dylan Thomas, just great, although I find some of his poems difficult. Another I like of his is "In the Beginning" 2nd to last verse:

"In the beginning was the word, the word
That from the solid bases of the light
Abstracted all the letters of the void;
And from the cloudy bases of the breath
The word flowed up, translating to the heart
First characters of birth and death."

Great stuff :)