Saturday 29 June 2013

"God Loves You, Tom!"

Now I didn't know she was going to be there, did I?  Even had I looked at the visitors' book and seen her name, I wouldn't have recognised it.  After all, I had never met her before. In any event it is certain I would have attended anyway, regardless of her presence.  Yes, I know, I would have been 'being silly to myself ', but one has to take a risk or two.  Where did all this take place?  In a retreat house run by a lovely group of Roman Catholic nuns.  The woman who so freely vocalises in this tale was later described by the Sister in charge as a pain in the backside, that being after the woman had left with a full refund of her fee, having decided to retreat no further.  I say this only so that you will not get the impression that I was alone in my opinion of my fellow retreatee. One thing I did discover about her was that she was very, and I mean very, Welsh Chapel.  No, I have nothing against the Welsh Chapel, so long as the evangelical types stay on their side of Offa's Dyke, and leave me an escape route and a running head start.

The theme of the retreat was St. Mark's Gospel and included some related practical art in whatever medium, or mixed media, we chose.  

Resurrection - Rebirth

The man who led the retreat was a certain Reverend B.  He had retired from the ministry to concentrate on retreats and religious workshops.  He was a free-thinking Christian working within the confines of the Church of England.  In private talks with him later, I discovered he was unorthodox, electrifying and intellectually invigorating.  Yes, I liked him a great deal.  In a sense those conversations gave me permission to explore my own puzzling ideas about matters spiritual and religious.  Needless to say, there was one particular woman in the group who disagreed with him.....about almost everything he said.

There must have been somewhere around fifty or sixty of us perhaps, strung out in a double arc in the large room where the Rev. B was talking to us, about how Jesus was seen from St. Mark the evangelist's point of view.  We needed to imagine ourselves following Jesus as he travelled around the Lake of Galilee. We all settled comfortably and waited expectantly for the Rev. B to take us on the journey.

"God loves you, Tom!"

What the hell! I thought.  It's an odd feeling when someone suddenly says your name out of appropriate context.  My ears took on a new state of awareness, like receiving a mild, aural electric shock.  It was as if the whole of sentient creation had focused its omnipotent attention on this single piece of quivering, bewildered humanity that just happened to have my name attached. And I was certain that everyone in the room was looking at me, as if I were guilty of some heinous sin, but about which I could recollect nothing. Who had said that?  I saw who it was in a jiffy.  The people on either side of her were looking steadfastly away from her, which was an interesting way of focusing right on her. I looked at Rev. B, shrugged my shoulders, and he continued with his talk. He said that in St. Mark's Gospel, one only ever seemed to see Jesus from behind, as he hurried on his way.  In my mind's eye I began to see Him hurrying away from me in the distance.  I could still hear Rev. B talking but my attention was in old Palestine.

"God loves you, Tom!"

Oh lord, not again!  This was getting embarrassing, and Rev. B had paused.  One or two people were looking concerned, others appeared to be uncertain as to whether they should frown, or simply pass  the time with a fit of the giggles.  Some even found things of surpassing interest on the perfectly plain ceiling to study.  Anyway, Jesus was gradually increasing his distance from us, so off we went again.

..........As I chased the elusive figure ahead of me, I found that my progress was constantly hampered by fishing nets hung out to dry. Other nets were in the process of being mended, but laid out in a manner that seemed to be designed to catch my feet.  Gradually Jesus was increasing the distance between me and him.  The more I tried to hurry, the further away he became..........

"God loves you, Tom!"

This was becoming too much.  She was beginning to irritate me beyond measure.  Why had the woman picked on my soul to save?  Perhaps it was just that I have one of those souls that is eminently save-worthy;  I'm sure we could all agree on that, couldn't we?  Well soul saving is important;  my father was into that in a big way. 

Now I was sitting at one end of the arc, and the woman so intent on assuring me of divine feelings-support about halfway along the arc, a position directly in front of the Rev. B.  At the far end of the arc was a group of Church of England ministers.  Now those gentlemen of the cloth, to whom I had taken an instant dislike - which is unusual for me - were very far from being amused, but to my relief they said nothing.  They never appeared to have, or desire, any contact with the rest of the group, but each to his own I suppose.  They simply fixed their gaze on Rev. B.  I also noticed at this stage of the proceedings, that one or two people had begun to develop a particularly nervous kind of cough, or had suddenly found the gardens outside the floor-to-ceiling windows of particular and pressing interest, all of which disappeared as Rev. B, after a eyebrow raised and a wink in my direction, and receiving my almost imperceptible nod of assent, continued with his talk.

..........More nets were being thrown across my path.  The actions had about them a greater sense of intent, as if I had to be slowed and stopped.  The shore of Galilee suddenly threw up a crop of large rocks surrounded by broad layer of very sharp seashells.  That not only slowed me even further, it also made me lose sight momentarily of the man I was chasing.  And the fishing boats being drawn up out of the water by Jesus' disciples didn't help.  Finally, I called out to the now very distant, fleeing Jesus, asking him to stop.  He called back that this was his Way;  it wasn't mine..........

"God loves you, Tom!"

I did, I must freely confess, make a rather indignant (or was that a tart?) reply.  Well what would you have done?  No, I wasn't rude to her, although I doubt that anything I could have said would have penetrated her psychological armour.  But one has one's pride.  Well I did then; but I'm much nicer now. No, I really am! Now, one neither wished to appear to be too abashed, nor to be seen to be goaded into action either.  Above all, I had no desire to belittle myself in front of those rather haughty-looking churchmen facing me across the room.  Anyone would think it was all my fault, for heaven's sake!.  Anyway, as I have said, one has one's pride, one's dignity.  Yes, dignity, that position of last resort on which one sniffily stands when a suitable quip refuses to come to mind.

At this point the Rev. B decided it was a very good time to break for coffee and biscuits, a suggestion with which we all, or nearly all, concurred.  You can guess who did not concur.  She probably saw my soul slipping beyond her reach on its inevitable path down into the spiritual nether regions.  After the break we returned, minus one.  I also noticed that Sister A, who had been listening in at the morning's session, had not returned either.  I never did get another chance to try to catch up with the fast disappearing Jesus, on the shore of Lake Galilee.  I was left to ponder his words to me for many a year thereafter.  Have I at last understood what he was trying to tell me?  I don't know.     

Finally, the other activity of the week was to meditate on St. Mark's Gospel and produce a piece of artwork that reflected our understanding of "Rebirth" or "Resurrection".  My offering appears above. I was to develop that initial piece into a much larger work that was unintentionally a psychological self-portrait in oils. 

Footnote:    It is only now, many years after that retreat and in the light of subsequent work, that I am beginning to see the significance of the chase along the western shore of  Lake Galilee, and why the disciples were so intent on stopping me from reaching their master.  It all has to do with my changing views of Jesus and who he might really have been, and nothing whatsoever to do with how he was portrayed in the New Testament Gospels by his disciples.  However, that is material for future posts.  

Saturday 22 June 2013

Into the Abyss

This is not the post I had intended to submit today, but maybe it is the one that I need to submit. What is need?  Is it something I feel I must have, for my self?  Rather, should I not have said that I ought to write this particular script?  That sounds too judgemental, too much like working to another's agenda.  Yet here lies a contradiction.  It is my ego that senses need, and also passes judgement.  It is my ego that plays the 'another's agenda' card, whilst at the same time working to its own agenda.  Ah, how subtle, uncaring and uncomprehending is my ego.  My writing does not follow any agenda of mine; it seeks only to describe my being, as it is now.  It only seeks to bind in words that which will suffer no such restraint.

Foolishly, I had thought that at the completion of my latest post, "In Which I Have My Being", the job was complete, finished, put to bed.  And maybe there is some truth in that, except that that post may not yet be finished, if it ever could be.  Certainly, it has not done with me yet.

Into the Abyss

I stand at a brink.  Before and below me lies an abyss that is beyond my understanding, or even my knowing.  The little wisdom of my ego says, 

"Fly!  Do not jump!  It is too dangerous, and I will be lost!  I will surely die."

Something else answers in words I cannot hear, but hear nonetheless,

"Be still!"

If I had the courage I would fling far apart my arms and throw myself into the depths, and trust.  But please, my courage isn't that strong, and I'm not good at 'trust'.  I step closer to the edge, close my eyes to the enormity of what I am about to do.  In that awe-full and terrifying vortex, stars are ground into atoms;  life is snuffed out in a moment that could not even exist.  I hug my trembling body........I fold, and allow myself to slip beyond the edge, and to fall.  I fall into that which is Life, that sustains my life.


I fall as if forever, yet stilled is my being-ness.  Now is what I am!  I fall further, more deeply, into the abyss of Self-ness.  Ever closer do I come to a far greater Abyss.  Deeper, and yet deeper. But wait!  Is it that the void is rushing up to engulf me, to wrap me within itself?  

..........God lies in the abyss.  God IS the Abyss..........

Silence..........Stillness..........Movement but no passing.  I am here, beyond the vortex, floating in the depths of the abyss.  And I can go no further for there is nowhere else to go.  There is no where-ness or when-ness.  I hang, now motionless, supported by a no-thing-ness that is more than I shall ever need; an invisible hand reaching out like a shadow emerging from the darkness.  Yet still I am becoming..........empty but grounded.  I am no-where;  I am no-when.  I AM..........  

(Picture used in this post was taken from the internet.)

Saturday 15 June 2013

In Which I Have My Being

..........Below me, an airless world of water moves silently through the cosmos.  A wisp of dark, mauve smoke glides across the surface of the deeps.  Shapes, dark, menacing and unidentified, glide below the surface.  In the distance is a galaxy, shining like a brilliant sunset, or a cosmic dawn.  All the while a silvery-white, equal-armed cross hangs in space above the planet. Movement, but no passing.  Serenity, a sense of eternity.  Timelessness.  Spheres within spheres..........
                                                                                 (Images from a meditation journal)

My world, in which the spirit moves, is constrained to move along a preordained path like a planet moving through a dimly lit cosmos.  I am, and must remain, subject to its spiritual laws. Calm.......Aloneness.  

I sensed a struggle, a longing, something trying to be heard.  I would see this imagery in my normal waking hours, and then awake during the darkness of the night to see it yet again. Try as I would I could not hear what I saw:  it continually eluded me.  It was the equal-armed Cross, not a Calvary Cross, that was the seat of the problem.  My words, frustratingly pointless and inadequate, must no longer be called 'mere words', for words are all I have.  Beyond those words lies experience, and beyond experience lies truth.  Perhaps my need is for new words.

It is as if my ego glides over the surface of my beyond-consciousness, that realm that lies at the very foundation of my being.  Whilst maintaining some contact with the watery surface of the planet, the wisp of smoke glides and dances its way wherever it will.  The impression around this image is one of distraction, lack of awareness of its surroundings and self-absorption.  Although it is from the waters below that the smoke appears to draw its substance, it is sustained in its being, its form and motion, by the energy flowing from the distant galaxy.  Behaving as if it were complete within itself, a self-contained entity, my ego or virtual self is no more than a reflection in kind, or imperfect projection of the galaxy that sustains it.  Connected in some way to the remainder of the cosmos this virtual self may well be, but it is only the immediate galactic environment in which the ego lives, moves and has its being, that has any significant impact on that self.  And who can tell what dark and menacing forces may, at any moment, erupt from the deeps to devour the wisp of smoke that moves here and there, so uncaringly and uncomprehendingly?  

The region around the planet appears to become steadily darker the further one moves into the void of space, as if in travelling toward the distant galaxy the beyond-consciousness is itself emerging from a surrounding and yet even deeper unknown.  Unlike the water planet, the airless environment of space neither reflects nor absorbs any energy from the galaxy whatsoever.  It is simply the abyss in which the galaxy also lives, moves and has its being. The galactic light is not that blinding emanation to which one is accustomed when observing the material sun but a gentler, spiritual light into which one can look directly.  It shines as if to herald a coming universal night or maybe the beginning of a new cosmic day.  Perhaps both options are available, a descent into the abyss of spiritual darkness or an ascent into the light.

From an egoistic vantage point, I find it impossible to gain a clear sighting of this galaxy, this symbol of my Higher or Real Self, particularly when viewed directly.  It is only when viewed in a more covert way, that any awareness of shape can be discerned and even then not clearly.  Seen in this manner the Self displays a sense of asymmetry or incompleteness, some otherness that is still in a process of becoming.  At its very centre lies that which cannot, or may not, be seen, some state or energy, a black abyss of Self-ness, that recognizes some affinity to, or even part of, a far greater Abyss.  

The "silvery-white, equal-armed cross that hangs in space above the planet" was not very large, but clearly evident.  This form of Cross has been described as embodying the concept of unification between the ethereal and the material.  It is this image that appears to be associated with the idea of the Centre or inner observer.  Although movement is clearly implied, there is also a powerful feeling that this imagery, or perhaps more correctly the process that this imagery represents, stands outside time.  It seems that there is a psycho-spiritual state, or even maybe a truly spiritual force, involved here which makes its appearance as an illusory psychological form, and which is either independent of time or for which time is a meaningless concept.

I sensed a struggle, a longing, something trying to be heard.  Out of the silence comes the word; out of the calm comes the struggle.  What is trying to be heard?  Is it I?  Or is it something far beyond?

When I view the total experience of that which this imagery says I am, I wonder why I would ever have wanted to focus only on that wisp of smoke, my ego, and allow it to assume the status of God.

(N.B.     The 'mood' pictures were take from the internet.)

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Definitions and Synonyms

If there are any grandmothers, or grandfathers come to that, who have no desire to be taught how to suck eggs please look away now.  It occurs to me that I have submitted ten posts for your perusal, and I trust enjoyment, but that I have broken the cardinal rule of presenting material without first defining my terms.  This must be corrected forthwith.  I am of course dealing here with terms that are capable of definition and in anything like a satisfactory manner.

Let me begin by suggesting that our experiences of life can be divided broadly into two categories; those which emanate from "out there" and those which emanate from "in here".  The former group are capable of definition, whilst the latter are not.  The boundary between the two groups exists, roughly and not being too specific, at some interface between the brain and the mind.  The prime function of the ego is to concern itself with the "out there" experiences.  Without the work of the ego, the sub- and/or unconscious regions of the mind would appear to be unable to fulfil their functions.

Ego: This term when used in my posts is a non-pejorative word, is a collective of the intellect or Thinking function, the emotions or Feeling function, and the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, which together form the Sensing function.  C.G.Jung also added the Intuitive function which would seem to lie beyond consciousness. On the other hand, G.I.Gurdjieff does not include the Intuition in his idea of Centres, using only what he calls the Thinking, Feeling and Physical Sensing Centres in his definition of the ego.  (It is of interest that Myers and Briggs further added Jung's Introvert and Extrovert attitudes, as well as the Judging and Perceiving Functions to their personality profiling test to identify sixteen personality types.)  Other terms I sometimes use to describe the ego are the Unreal self, the Lower self and the Virtual self.

Not every region of the ego, however, appears to be conscious.  This finding has already been alluded to above, in the comments on the Intuitive function.  On the Tree of Life, used in the study of the mystical Qabalah, the Intellect, Emotions and the Physical senses are shown as three linked spheres.  However, each sphere is linked to a fourth sphere that represents the subconscious mind, the Treasurehouse of Images.  The ego thus depicted has its roots beyond or deeper than the conscious mind, roots that reach to the very foundations of our being.

Imagery: The use of the imagination, and its symbolic language of images, is very important in some stages of meditation.  I am not talking here about daydreaming, an uncontrolled wandering of the mind, but of something much more focussed.  Pathworking, visualisation, fantasy journeying are all terms which may be used to describe this interaction between the conscious mind and the sub- and/or unconscious mind;  between mind and Mind. It would probably be true to say that pathworking is rather like dreaming, except that the working is always under conscious control. Often the journey or path is decided in advance, in which case it is the unplanned symbols and images that arise that are of importance.  Sometimes, and this is where the real fun begins, the imagery arises spontaneously such as in, "A Walk in the Hills" posted on 25.5.2013.  There have also been occasions in my experience where a form of inner conversation has spontaneously arisen, as in "L'Abbaye de Boquen" posted on 27.4.2013.

In my posts, wherever I write passages in italics and with indented paragraphs, beginning and ending with a short series of full stops, that is where I am quoting from my private diaries and journals describing my journeys into the beyond-consciousness.  In all these passages of script I feel bound to report my findings as truthfully as possible, whatever the conclusions that may be drawn.  Otherwise it would seem like lying to, and about, a state of being that lies beyond my ego. Unacceptable.  Of course, interpreting the imagery is another matter entirely.  Sometimes the imagery can mean different things at different times, or different things at the same time.  I always try to look for consistency as against randomness, and confirmation from the material world where possible.   

Synonyms: Inevitably some indefinable words such as 'God' will arise in my posts.  When I use that word I do so as a synonym for some power, or pyscho-spiritual presence, that is far stronger and wiser than my ordinary consciousness.  Without that energy - another indefinable word - that drives that presence (or that is that presence) I would probably simply........stop!  Of course I could use other synonyms like Mind, the Infinite, the Ultimate, the Life-force, Mindfulness and, yes, the-experience-that-is-God.  But these synonyms are becoming all too pretentious for my taste.  I understand all too well people's aversion to the God-word for I lived with it long enough myself. (And please let us not get into the Father-word!)  

There is a mountain ahead that I wish to climb.  I will not stand and worry about the nature of this boulder that blocks my path at the foot of the mountain, whatever name is written on it.  If I cannot climb over it, I'll go around it.  I know that in the end the experience of climbing the mountain will far outweigh any problems I might have had with that boulder now lying so far below, and getting ever smaller as I climb.  And if one still can't call that obstacle below a 'boulder', why not call it a 'rock' instead.  As I said, I have a mountain to climb and I wish to get on with my journey.  I want to see the top and the far land that lies beyond.

In conclusion, I hope this weekday post has not been too boring, dry and academic.  Definitions can always be debated, but my purpose here has been to explain what my understanding is of the above terms, so that  what I write may be better understood.  The onus must be on me to respect my readers and therefore to make my writing intelligible.  The responsibility does not lie on the reader to figure out what I might have ineptly tried to say.

Saturday 8 June 2013

..........And Grandma's Gone

I would like you to imagine that we have all jumped forward about three years, give or take, from grandma's visit in the last post, to the second visit by grandma and aunt V.  The war is now over, but little else seems to have changed.  In this fast-forwarded time, I can hear the murmur of conversation between my parents and grandma rising from below.  You see, my bedroom is immediately above the kitchen (where we eat, but not cook.  Come on people, keep up, it was all carefully explained in last week's post.).  The floors in these old houses are very thin, as are the walls.  In a few years time, I will lean out of bed, pull back the rug and place my right ear to the floor, somewhat like Beethoven.  I don't know him yet, but our purposes coincide.  I will in that fashion listen to "Sunday Half Hour", a wireless programme of hymns, to be followed by an hour long programme, "Your Hundred Best Tunes". I will undoubtedly learn a great many of the lighter classical works, although I won't know what they are called, or who wrote them.  It will only be the music that I'll hear.

As I lie thinking in bed waiting to sleep, it is clear to me that grandma does not like my father very much, and it would seem that the dislike is mutual.  Now I have to say that what I am about to tell would not stand up in a court of law.  It's hearsay evidence.  But it is all I have. Father fought in the Great War (WW1) as a gunner in the Royal Flying Corps.  (He was tall, and put his age up.)  From what my mother told me, and from my own researches, I can only assume he was the front gunner in an FE2b.

WW1 Aeroplane - FE2b

"Mmmmm?  Well of course I don't know for certain.  I wasn't there at the time, now was I?  Actually, come to think of it, neither was mother!  Now where was I?  Ah yes!"

Although father flew in the RFC, he was a huge disappointment to his family, allegedly, and when father married my mother, he was cut off from his family completely, without a penny, dime or nickel.  It was a 'class' thing you see.  My father was born into an upper middle class, Victorian family, the sort that bred for business, king and empire. What! What! Don't yer know! Alright so they were Roman Catholics, but what the heck?  In his family's opinion, father married way below his class.  As far as my mother was concerned, well she had hardly reached the first rung of the class ladder.

Now all that is probably why father thought the absolute world of King Edward VIII and that woman, that Mrs. Simpson.  Well they were cut off from his family weren't they?  And they were both rakish sorts (Edward and my father I mean).

"Well I know Edward wasn't exactly penniless, but surely you can see the connection;  no?"

"I heard that!  Someone at the back's talking!  Who said Tom's away with fairies?"

Grandma, as I have said, didn't like father because she also was of the opinion he had married below his class.  Well the educated toffs shouldn't be allowed to mess with the lower classes, should they? Suspicion and dislike rule both upwards and downwards.  Yet for all that, and although neither of my parents ever worked during my conscious life-time (he was genuinely too ill, his nursing skills rarely ever being put to best possible use, even during the war, and my mother needed to be on hand to look after us all) grandma and her brood were not averse to using him when it suited them.

It is now growing dark, my bedroom illuminated by the lights from our neighbour's house, but I can still imagine them seated in the kitchen, just waiting for the time to come when they could leave and 'catch the bus home'.  Grandma is probably still sitting in father's corner, a study in black.  She even keeps her hat and coat on.  All you can see is a pallid face across which an occasional flicker from the fire passes, looking out from an almost shapeless blackness.  But her eyes, ah those eyes, they pierce me to my very soul.  I can't look away.  Earlier, I sat and watched her wrinkled lips drawn back over continually-sucked, toothless gums; her pale, inelastic flesh drawn in under her cheek bones; but most of all, her eyes - the windows to her soul.  There is something in her eyes that is certainly neither hatred nor even great dislike. She would not deliberately harm me I am certain, but there is that indefinable look of a life spent engaged in the hard grind of living, a life spent in non-stop emotional pain, and brimming over with animal street cunning and a sense of waiting and wanting.  It is that sense of waiting and wanting that is so unnerving, even a little frightening.  I would have liked to know her better, but would have felt too vulnerable, too powerless.

As I said earlier, this is her second visit, and mercifully those uncles were left behind.  That's correct, they didn't come on this visit.  Shame!  She did, however, bring my young aunt V with her.  My mother is nineteen years older than me.  That makes her twenty eight-ish, give or take, maybe a little more give than take.  The two uncles who came on the first visit are both younger than mother, and aunt V is even younger.  Now that puts my aunt in that age bracket that even young boys find "interesting".  She accompanied grandma on the previous visit, but I just didn't get around to talking about her, before being sent to bed.  On this second visit I spent much more time in aunt V's company than before.  I can't remember now what we talked about, probably nothing very important, but she listened and made me feel....someone.  I love her company, but I fear that has not gone unnoticed.

Let us fast-forward to the present day.  That second visit was the last time I ever saw any member of my mother's family.  When some years later I asked why aunt V had never visited again, mother simply said that she was no longer welcome.  And that was that;  no explanations offered.

I find it passing strange that although I have tried to keep this post as light as possible, somehow it just keeps slipping and sliding back into the mood of those times.  All my childhood seemed to have been spent with an impoverished superficial fluff that overlaid a deeper, darker experience which I could never escape, and never quite understand, if at all. People just seemed to slip out of my life without my noticing.  It appeared to me as if the universe were gradually getting ever smaller, and I was becoming ever more isolated.   I have to say it didn't bother me too much at the time:  it was only later when I realised that people I had once known were no longer around me that I experienced a sense of loss.  Gradually, life took on a sense of rigid simplicity, a life reduced to the froth of mere daily activity, a life that was cut off from any sense of depth and meaning.  And that left me unfitted to cope with confidence the adulthood that was to come.  Life was an odd mix of rootless formlessness, of loss - recognised and unrecognised - and bewilderment.  Most odd!

Saturday 1 June 2013

Grandma's Been..........

Did I ever tell you about the first time, at least of which I am aware, that my grandma decided to visit us?  No?  Well if I did just let me know, I'd hate to repeat myself.  Now I know old people tend to do that, but I'm not old even if my body is getting on a bit.  Have you also noticed that the older people get the more they tend to finish any statement they make with a sort of laugh? Not a belly laugh mind you, but the sort that is bordering on the apparently hysterical, and implies they might have said something a little more interesting, given enough time and some assurance that they were not about to have a 'senior moment'.  Well I'm not laughing ............. Ummm........ What was I saying?

Now the first time she came, I must have been about six-ish, give or take, maybe a fraction more give than take, she brought with her two of my three uncles.  I shall draw a veil of forgetfulness over that pair, because they irritated me beyond measure.  Well it was my toys they broke!  I didn't have many;  there was a war on, and we were not exactly rich you know.

Now while my parents and grandma are talking let me tell you about my home.  We live in a standard, one storey terraced house with a reception room for visitors (the front room), a parlour (the back room), a dining room (the old kitchen) and a kitchen (the old scullery).  The upstairs rooms match the downstairs rooms as you might expect.  To avoid any confusion, I should point out that the original, old kitchen used to have a cooking range installed which my mother ripped out to have it replaced by a fireplace.  Hence the old kitchen was transformed into the living room in which we all now eat.  The scullery used to have an old stone copper in it, which my mother removed, thus making enough room to have a gas cooker installed.  So that old scullery is now our kitchen.  Oddly enough the current kitchen continues to be called the scullery, and the dining/living room is still called the kitchen.  I do hope no-one is confused.

One further point that needs to be made, so that you get a feel for the place, and that is that the kitchen (where we all eat, but don't cook) is lit by a rather dim gas lamp on the chimney breast.  It is the sort that houses the flame inside a very fragile mantle, the whole contraption being surrounded by a glass guard, with two 'ears' to let out the heat.  And it never stops buzzing!  (Gosh, it's all coming back now!)  The only other light came from a bay window which looks out onto a back yard, about a yard-and-a-half wide at its widest point.  Between us and 'next door' is a very tall, peep-proof, wooden fence.  We are so close that from upstairs, we can look directly down into their kitchen (where they eat, but don't cook).  As you can imagine, I hope, our downstairs rooms were not exactly flooded with light.  But we managed well enough.

My father sits in one corner of our kitchen, by the fire, in an old armchair.  The door to the scullery (where the cooking is done!  Yes, I can see you're getting the hang of it now.) is situated immediately to his left.  That's important to remember.  Now today grandma, by dint of magnanimity, courtesy and thoroughly gentlemanly conduct on father's part, is sitting in his favourite armchair.  At the moment he is stting at one end of the table, leaning forward uncomfortably on the edge of his chair to hear what is being said (father's deaf you see), and I am at the other end. Mother is sitting in her accustomed place at the other side of the fire. Hold on, there's a break in the conversation;  mother and grandma are looking at me.

Mother is saying,

"Give granny a kiss, Tom!"   (Oh yuk!)

Actually, she never uses that name:  she uses the diminutive form which I have always loathed with a passion.  (Do you know, my middle sister still calls me that.  For pity's sake, I'm 75 years old!!)  What does father call me?  Nothing, but I always know when he's talking at me. My grandma responds, witheringly,

"Naah!  'e don' wanna kiss no ol' woman like me!"

The lady speaks the unvarnished truth!  Fortunately, she didn't request confirmation of that statement from me.  Had she done so, I would have been put into the unenviable position of agreeing, and thus risking the ire of my father, or disagreeing - and thus lying - and being submitted to the indignity of being kissed.  Well she is very old, and not all boys like to be kissed by old people, or even their less aged aunts, unless of course it's by my young aunt V, my mother's younger sister.

"Carn'cher put anuvver bi' of coal on the fire?  Ar'm cold!"  whines the aforementioned, presumably shivery, grandma, to which mother responds,

"We're a bit short, mum.  And yer si'in' in the draft from the door." (Remember the door leading to the scullery where the cooking was done?)  Come an' sit over 'ere, near me."

"Don't wanna si' over there!  Wanna si' 'ere!"  (Suit yerself!  Sorry.  Suit yourself!)

Gosh, is that the time already?  Oh dear, I seem to have run out of both time and space, that's the problem with spacetime, they're connected.  Einstein said so.

"It's six o'clock, your bedtime," said mother.  "Now go before your father tells you."

"But I haven't finished my story."  Mother looks meaningfully in father's direction.

"Give granny a kiss, Tom!"  (Oh yuk!)

"Ahem!  We've already done that bit, mother.  Goodnight!"

And that means, I fear, you'll all have to tune in again next week to read the next and final instalment of this gripping drama.  I tell you, "Eastenders" has nothing on this stuff.