Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Bars

Image Source: John Buchanan

Living with pain is not easy but I have been given a number of tools which help me to endure it, one group of tools which I use a lot is the cognitive suite. This helps me keep my thoughts, emotions, feelings and behaviours aligned.

During the last month or so I have been kept indoors by a combination of the rain or the pain. I have tried to keep myself as busy as possible, but there are only so many drawings I can draw, poems I can write or times I can watch ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ on the TV.

As I have struggled to keep my feelings in check I have taken to watching what has been going on outside through the window and I have realised that I have felt imprisoned. A few days ago I realised that the rain on the windows has added to the illusion. This realisation was the genesis for a poem. I hope you like it.

The Bars

Staring through the bars on the window
I watch the distant trees sway in the gale.
The three fruit trees in the garden
have lost the blossom that appeared two weeks ago.
Grubby pink petals now wash along the ground
and gather in the corners of the drive;
it looks like there'll be no plums this year.
The grey sky, full of cloud, seems to brush the ground,
its watery mass drives hard at the faces of passers-by.
They dash from door to door trying to stay dry.
Here I sit in the warm living room
a cosy blanket wrapped around my shoulders,
staring out through the rain soaked window,
a prisoner to the rivulets
which trickle down the glass pane.

John Carré Buchanan
12 April 2013

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Cloud Busting

Image Source: Mike Malaska & John Buchanan

This is a game I used to play with my children when I wanted some peace and quiet on a sunny afternoon. It basically utilised the facts that clouds tend to form and dissolve in roughly the same places, a fact that the kids did not seem to pick up on;-)

Cloud Busting

Lying in the meadow, green grass all around,
up above the Sapphire sky smiles down.
Amidst the grass a myriad of pastel blooms shine.
Despite their beauty my mind is fixed
on the soft white clouds which drift in the sky above.

Small clouds, vaguely reminiscent of cotton balls
drift from West to East
then somewhere out above the sea
fade into oblivion,
leaving a clear blue sky.

Beside me my children lie aghast,
their father has done it again.
I set them a new challenge
pointing at a small puff of cloud
I say “that one”.

Their eyes screw up with concentration
as they centre the thoughts on dissolving the cloud.
I tell them again and again;
“the trick is not to remove the cloud
but to imagine the sky without it”.

Just before the cloud drifts into the area
where they have been disappearing all afternoon.
I say “let me show you again?”
They gasp with frustration as another cloud
melts into nothingness.

I close my eyes, and lie back
to enjoy the silence.
As two children gaze intently at the sky
and practice cloud busting
oblivious to the smile on their father’s face.

John Carré Buchanan
11 April 2013

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Toolmaker

Image Source:

The concept of flint knapping has always appealed to me. I have tried a number of times to make simple flint tools, but every time I have done so it has ended in some kind of minor disaster. A few days ago, I was watching a video on how an expert goes about making these tools and was struck by the effort involved and the sheer beauty of the finished tools.

Toward the end of the video the filmmaker demonstrated the effectiveness of an arrow tipped with a stone micro arrowhead and the cutting power of a flint knife on the carcass of a deer that had been shot. The results were staggering; clearly demonstrating that Stone Age man was equipped with tools that whilst being simple in appearance, were more than adequate for the task they had been designed for.

This made me wonder what it might have been like to have been present at the very beginning of the Stone Age, when someone made a tool out of a piece of Flint or Obsidian and forever changed the way mankind interacted with his environment. Perhaps it happened like this;

The Toolmaker

CRACK, the sound came out of nowhere
shattering the silence of the wood.
There was a brief pause, then another CRACK
followed by a series of lighter tapping noises
and the occasional scraping sound.

She stole quietly through the undergrowth
taking great care to place her feet
where they would not make a sound.
When she reached the outer limits of his camp
she stopped and began a vigil.

Sitting on a fallen tree trunk ahead of her
a man gazed intently at a stone in his hand.
After a moment of contemplation,
he hit the stone with another,
sending small shards and sparks to the ground.

He paused to examine the stone
before tapping it lightly several times.
Each series of blows shaped the stone further.
eventually he picked up a piece of reindeer horn
and started to prise off small flakes.

She watched him work intensely,
as the sun sank a hand’s width in the sky.
Periodically he would lean forward
pick up a shard of stone,
and place it in a small leather bag.

Finally, looking very pleased with himself,
he hefted the stone he had just shaped
and looked at it carefully in the dappled green light.
From her vantage point, a few metres away,
she could see that the stone glistened.

He reached down and pick up a dead rabbit
which, until that point, she had not noticed.
Then he took the stone to its soft underbelly
and began to butcher the carcass.
She gasped in amazement, he looked up.

Their eyes met across the woodland glade
he beckoned her to join him, which nervously she did.
She pointed at the knife he had just made
and with great pride he showed her
the gleaming surface and the razor sharp edge.

She had never seen anything like it.
Her mind raced with the possibilities
this new tool presented.
But more importantly she knew that
here was a man worth knowing.

She stayed with him as the seasons changed,
she gathered food, made clothing
and bore him a child, and in return
he used his mastery of stone to make tools,
to hunt and most impressive of all - to make fire.

John Carré Buchanan
10 April 2013

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Third Bench

Image Source: John Buchanan

Yesterday we had beautiful weather here in Guernsey and I took the opportunity to take a stroll out along the cliffs at Icart. In recent years there have been times when I wished the cliffs were steeper here, but yesterday I was determined to take a walk.

The Image above shows both the third bench and the view from it. This view has travelled all over the world in my mind. It has been used as a benchmark against which to compare all other views. In my opinion, it has seldom been surpassed.

According to Google Earth, the third bench is one hundred and eighty meters from where I parked the car, which means that my round trip was three hundred and sixty meters, it took me about two and a half hours.

On my return home I wrote the following poem, I hope you like it.

The Third Bench

I went for a walk today,
out on the cliff paths.
As I hobbled along
the familiar foot worn path
I could hear the gulls mock me.
I'd plant my sticks carefully
then advance my left foot
just a few inches and then
I'd move the right, just a touch
trying to stop my trousers
brushing against my skin.
Then, braced for what was to come,
I took all my courage in hand,
and placed my right foot.
Instantly pain seared up the leg
like a bolt of lightning,
it surged through the knee
and scorched my soul.
My body screamed at my mind to stop
It refused, forbade a pause,
not before the bench,
the third bench.
Plant the stick, breath, left and then
bite hard on the scream.
Sometimes a moan or gasp escapes.
Tears of frustration wet my cheeks.
I used to run here,
‘used to’ is no good.
I will make the bench,
the third bench.
I was less than ten meters out
when a dog walker crested the hill in front of me
one hundred meters away.
He walked slowly with two Malamutes.
Left foot, place my sticks, right foot
another searing blast of pain
one step closer to the third bench.
I move the sticks again,
the walker passed me,
passed the man with tears rolling down his face
and I took another step
toward the third bench.

John Carré Buchanan
06 April 2013

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Let Sleeping Cats Lie

Image Source: John Buchanan

Socks is the oldest of our three cat’s and is by far my favourite. We have had him ever since he was a kitten.

Unfortunately when he was a couple of years old I found him lying in a hedge with his elbow shattered and this resulted in him losing his front right leg. His recovery was incredible and I am often amazed when I watch him nimbly hop along the top of a fence. I must admit that I take quite a bit of strength from him, as he never seems to complain or get grumpy about his leg he simply gets on with life.

He is the only one of the cats which will come to me. Indeed he quite often comes into my bedroom at night and curls up on the bed next to me, particularly when I am really suffering with pain. It is almost as if he appreciates what I am going through and comes in to give me support.

This poem is about the way he reminds me that he is a cat and not a life coach ;-)

Let Sleeping Cats Lie

Socks dozes peacefully on the king-size bed.
His small frame dominates the huge bed spread.
With chin tucked to chest and both eyes closed
he gives the impression of deep repose.
Yet, should you approach him,
an alarm bell will chime,
somewhere deep within his mind.

His outward demeanour remains the same
yet inside his sleek fur covered frame
a highly tuned nervous system prepares
and he opens an eye and at you he stares.
In that instant an assessment is made,
which end of the cat will prevail?
the roll of the head or a flick of his tail.

The head roll is not an invitation to run amok,
It’s merely permission to push your luck.
Place a finger behind his ear, or gently rub his chin
enjoy his fur, the soft warm comfort within.
if lucky, you might feel him purr.
But when he tires, or his tummy tempts too much
His tail will flick, perhaps just a touch.

The tail flick is best not ignored
If you don’t take heed your hand might be scoured.
as four razor sharp claws flash through the air
the tail flick was telling you; ‘don’t you dare!’
But he also uses it when he’s having fun,
so take care when Socks flicks his tail
or I’ll have written this poem to no avail.

John Carré Buchanan
03rd April 2013