I wonder if anybody else in the world, except Michael Frayn and myself, remembers Gasbag’s [Mr Brady, Irish] English classes at Kingston Grammar School; he was one of the many great eccentrics there under whose spell I fell one way and another. One day, without telling us what the purpose was, he set us, for homework, to make a list of ten ‘likes’ and ten ‘dislikes’. I have forgotten everything except what was at the top of my list of ‘likes’ – LIVING. Bemused, I found I was alone in having to write an essay on that subject; everybody else had to choose a ‘dislike’. It was after this that he advised me to spend half-an-hour a day in what would now be called ‘meditation’; that helped me to define my regular cycle rides to Wimbledon Common as ‘meditation’, communing with trees & ferns & hidden dark ponds & pathways.

Holly Glade on the Common c1951

My visits to the Common were much longer than half-an-hour so I was already doing what he suggested to excess; how many things that I’ve done in my life have I only recognised as having a quasi-official ‘name’ after the event!

This was in the third year at grammar school – 1950/51.

Looking back I would identify all my solitary times – they were so frequent – as grabbing the opportunity for thinking, communing with something much larger than my self, self-remembering even – this is me being me here and now. I fixed many moments, hurled them ‘out of time’ by saying to myself, “I shall remember this moment forever…” Though I think this habit came from my own brainbox, Gasbag was undoubtedly a First Education unsung genius.

I did get much valuable learning during First Education, mostly by accident, I think; I swam against a tide I did not understand for the most part. (Second Education in the Fourth Way is the time when, eventually, having discovered that ‘there must be more to life than this’ you are able to stand back and view the scheme of things in Meta-I)

In spite of my own many deficiencies, First Education prepared me to make the most of four days in Yorkshire in May 2014 during which I wrote two poems:-

in a deckchair

on Cawood Castle gatehouse roof
by ducking down low
you can obliterate all visual clues
to the life of other ordinary human-beings –
it facilitates the observation of trees
both near & far with new spring growth
and a grand covering of clouds
swimming in blue: grey-black
cream grey-blue riven
with the screams of swifts
– their thin black scythes

unless you also shut your ears
you cannot expunge the murmuring world:
dog bark; chaffinches’ wide-apart converse;
an election address of sorts; the emptying
of merchandise on a pavement; an angry shout;
the hammering of wooden frameworks;
the lawns that must be mowed;
jackdaws ca-ing down by the river-wood;
all the indolent machinery of events;
children gaily returning
from some long angelic day of learning
and occasionally there’s ragged rain

the church a mile off begins
to strike an hour – you count
to a stop at four –
rather pleased as it turns out
that your afternoon still has time to read
about ‘the lip-clicks of worms’
and Edith Sitwell’s view that
‘the busy dusty world
is too deafened by the sound
of the machines that it has made
for the trapping & murdering of time
to listen to those sounds
that are clear as the songs of angels’


Cawood Castle Gatehouse – Landmark Trust

the gnat

at the end of the garden
gets forgiven
for the itchy lump on my hand;
I invite it in for dinner
one evening – however what it hears
is by no means my intention
but a terrific vibration of thunder:
it is terrified as if at the beginning
of some great cosmic upheaval
and kneels down to pray

thus we – at the sound of
the notional Voice of God

Thinking about it after the event, climbing up and down the arduous spiral staircase was the vertical plane of no-time, the listing of events was about receiving pure impressions, counting church clock chimes was being on the horizontal plane of tick-tock time and the whole was an act of self-remembering. Being up on the roof was to stand in Meta-I.

The gnat is just one of life’s little annoyances of which you are to observe its positive intention, looking ‘otherwise’, observing it from a slightly different angle.

3 thoughts on “CASTLE GNATS & WORMS (R7)

  1. After reading this latest remembrance of yours, Colin, I find myself hoping that you will find the time not only to assemble your poems into a “Selections” compilation, as you mentioned in one of your comments to your previous post on H.G.Wells, but also that you will consider organizing the stunning memories you’ve been chronicling on this blog into a book-length memoir.



    1. Tom – I’m currently polishing ROOM 6. It consists mostly of expanded downloads from these Globs. I much prefer a proper book to these e-presentations but they’ve been a good discipline and to have a few people respond like you do is rather nicely humbling! I’ll send you a copy when it’s done! Colin


      1. Can’t wait to receive this latest installment of your “Room” series, Colin. I shall have to clear some more space on my bookshelves to accommodate my ever-growing Blundell section! A most pleasant task, indeed ….



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