Thursday, April 29, 2004

War Photographer

In his darkroom he is finally alone
with spools of suffering set out in ordered rows.
The only light is red and softly glows,
as though this were a church and he
a priest preparing to intone a Mass.
Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass.

He has a job to do. Solutions slop in trays
beneath his hands which did not tremble then
though seem to now. Rural England. Home again
to ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel,
to fields which don't explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat.

Something is happening. A stranger's features
faintly start to twist before his eyes
a half-formed ghost. He remembers the cries
of this man's wife, how he sought approval
without words to do what someone must
and how blood stained into foreign dust.

A hundred agonies in black-and-white
from which his editor will pick out five or six
for Sunday's supplement. The reader's eyeballs prick
with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers.
From the aeroplane he stares impassively at where
he earns his living and they do not care.

Carol Ann Duffy

(thanks to james at consumptive)

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe

this image happens to have come from near a village called Dahanu, 120 km north-east of Bombay, but it's worth reminding ourselves from time to time, that, for by far the majority of the people on this planet, this is what 'work' means.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

firsts and lasts

parenting is full of firsts - gurgle, smile, tooth, word, step - each noted with as much pride as if it were genuinely a first. which, in a sense, a child's first always is, essentially irreducible to any of that crass exegesis based on infant development or instinct or learning behavioural theory: all these can do is describe the field in which these things are supposed to or appear to happen - the best we as parents can do is to ensure that that field is cleared of hot and sharp objects - the happeningness of them is always, uniquely, the individual child's individual, unique experience - a miracle, each and every time.
parenting is also full of lasts, although these tend to go unremarked, left behind in the turbulent wash of the diurnal: last nappy-change, last broken night, last visit from the tooth fairy, last time you gave them a piggy-back - a long list of milestones passed, most with relief, some with a wry backward glance over the shoulder.
the boys (twins, of course) announced, a week or two back, that they'd decided - "don't take this the wrong way, dad" - that this should be the last story. I should explain - our bedtime ritual has been the same for a very long time - it used to be bath - teeth - pyjamas - milk - story - goodnight hug 'n' kiss; the bath went years ago, but a ritual nod at self-cleansing still remains, as does the tooth-brushing, the milk, and - amazingly - the story - a fifteen-minute or so reading from a book of their choice. or did - until last night.
I have finished reading the last bedtime story to my boys. I feel utterly bereft.
I know - I'm a damn lucky bunny - how many can say they their kids still wanted a bedtime story at the age of twelve? but I have enjoyed it soooooooo much! I kind of imagined it going on forever. ok guys, put that girl down, story-time. but that's really it - something begun some eleven years ago with Two Heads and Peep-Bo! ends, here, with The Last of the Sky Pirates - Book V of The Edge Chronicles‚ (we've read the other four, of course) by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. having encountered, en route, so many treasures: from Roald Dahl to Philip Pullman, via Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings (my readings of Dobby and Gollum were legendary - Stephen Fry? pshaw!) in their entirety. true, latterly, I've been reading whilst they, too have been reading - either an X-Men comic or the latest Lemony Snicket: I was getting a little pissed with that until I realised that a) they were, in fact, perfectly capable of taking in both at the same time (I tested them) and b) the cultural continuity of my voice was the important thing, not the story per se - Jack, in particular, has always insisted that that sound of my reading voice has been an essential part of his always being able to go to sleep so easily.
in fact, they said this (last story, this one, dad) six months ago, and bottled out after a couple of nights: maybe just one more. but somehow I don't think that's going to happen again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

The Law of Comorientes

my dear father, 88, now so frail he can barely shuffle from room to room, half-blind, parkinson-palsied, pregnant with the inoperable time-bomb of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, yet still capable of remembering the most astonishingly obscure details from his long-since-retired professional specialism in probate law.
apparently, there is a near-obsolete law that applies only in the case of the simultaneous decease of husband and wife (in a fatal crash, for example), when their individual wills have been made on the presumption that one would survive the other - called the Law of Comorientes, it says that the order of decease is presumed by age, and that proper execution of the estate should be made on that assumption.
somehow, I doubt that any of those sharp lawyer-lurkers out there skimming for silly fees on the back of a default document pretending to be a Last Will and Testament has even the remotest idea that such a law ever even existed.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Monday, April 05, 2004

different easters

Participants carry a portable phallic shrine during the Kanamara Festival at Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine in Kawasaki, south of Tokyo April 4, 2004.

Reuters Pictures/Issei Kato

A group of Franciscan monks process through the streets of Jerusalem on Good Friday (right) to observe the Passion of Christ.

(photographer unknown)

well - I've decided which one I'm signing up for next year. it was a tough call, but I've gone for the one that offers air miles.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

chernobyl biker chick is back (at least until her bandwidth limit gets exceeded again)

this is the photojournal of a girl on a motorbike who likes to take day-trips to the hottest place in the ukraine with a dosimeter.