WRITING JOURNAL | 2018 |
In 2018, I used several journals. One large notebook called Pagodas (from the illustrations throughout) contained over 100 pages of highlights from every month of my writing and other activities in 2018. This is a shorter version of it.
Reflecting upon my ideas, as they evolve in my thinking and writing, has become very important in my development as a writer. My Pagodas notebook contains some of those reflections. It holds no great literary merit but is perhaps interesting as an historical account of an important year in my life.
2018, for me, began with many challenges, some stress, and a lot of writing. Projects involving investigative journalism, epistemology and literary theory are my main priorities. Articles, books, and other forms of writing jostle for my attention. This is all on top of my ‘full-time’ job on the frontline of Welfare Rights, in Dundee.
The ideas I have developed – particularly for my planned books – offer huge scope for research and writing.
It is creative work about ideas I am mainly engaged in as a writer. Yet, for my writings to have any relevance to other people, I must engage with the world as much as with words and ideas. I need to find things out, which may be hidden. When I read about literary imagination or epistemology, in order to develop my writings on these subjects, it is not enough to mimic other writers or confine my research to the library. I must also understand the world of things, of society and its changing historical dimensions. From Charles Dickens working ten-hour days in Warren’s Blacking Warehouse in pre-Victorian London to the traumatic effects today – of a benefits-eligibility test on the mental health of a man with bipolar disorder. Whether I am writing about the material or social world, or about abstract ideas, it is important that I find enough time to research properly, solve problems, and develop my own concepts and understanding. Unless I find such time, and it is not too rushed or too full of stress , it is not possible to write as well as I can.
Decisions, as a writer, also take time. Deciding – to believe or not believe in a theory; or, deciding to tell a story in a particular way; or, deciding what to investigate and how: these are all vital decisions, and all require time.
Science, wonder, and other things
The sciences have been developed in order that nature and wider reality may be better understood by humanity. Also, there is the hope and intention, and this is forever developing, that: elements of reality may be brought under the domain of our control. Diseases may be conquered; and great advances in technology may one day allow humanity to plan to meet the needs of all; and to leave this dying planet and take to the stars.
In the roads towards all these potential advances – suggested by the sciences – the human capacities for wonder, speculation, and creative thinking have evolved (socially); and our understanding of these capacities has developed and changed.
We could say that Philosophy and Religion have lost their old thrones. Up to a point, this is true: it a partial truth, and therefore undialectical if counted as the whole truth. Firstly, Religion has not lost it’s dominance over the thoughts and beliefs of many people: for many millions, that ancient crown remains firmly in place. And, it is not possible to understand the history of human thought or philosophical assumptions today without studying Philosophy.
Frederick Engels, in notes made between 1873 and 1882, wrote of:
Two philosophical tendencies, the metaphysical with fixed categories, the dialectical (especially Aristotle and Hegel) with fluid categories… p153, Dialectics of Nature (1940), Frederick Engels
Engels criticized many scientists of his own day for a failure to understand the most scientific viewpoint in philosophy, ie dialectical materialism.
The bulk of natural scientists are still held fast in the old metaphysical categories and helpless when…modern facts, which so to say prove the dialectics in nature, have to be rationally explained and brought into relation with one another. And here thinking is necessary: atoms and molecules, etc. cannot be observed under the microscope, but only by the process of thought. p154, ibid
Shorn of their historical limitations, these remarks are of great value today. (In 2009, IBM researchers, using the first Atomic Force Microscope, produced the first images of an actual molecule. It is also now possible to see columns of atoms, pictured through a microscope.).The points made by Engels about Dialectics vs Metaphysics however remain valid, and important in relation to all sciences; and his point about thinking about things we cannot see, I will address briefly below.
If I take Engels’ note (which was originally a note about his reading of Ludwig Buchhner (1824-1899)), I can adapt it thus:
Things which we cannot observe can however be studied through the process of thought. Facts which prove dialectics in nature have to be rationally explained and brought into relation with one another. Here, thinking is necessary.
I find this a helpful starting point in the development of my own ideas about life, literature, and knowledge.
Living & Writing
If I can keep myself – reasonably fit, healthy, and sane – then, 2018 may be a year for making good progress in all my various writings. In January, I worked hard on the frontline of poverty in Dundee, as a Welfare Rights Officer; I went to Loch Long on holiday with Isobel; and I went to Glasgow for work. Sadly, Isobel’s dad died, leaving a big hole in our lives. Somehow, I found time to write an article for Bella Caledonia: The Scandal of Spycops in Scotland.
Throughout January 2018, I continued to make notes about my ideas for major writing projects.
Working & Campaigning & Writing
Throughout most of February 2018, I worked solidly as a Welfare Rights Officer: attending benefits Tribunals, helping clients with forms and debts, and supporting desperate people who had no money. I also began shadowing a colleague at Lochee Health Centre, in preparation for working once a week out of a GP surgery. There, with a clients’ permission, we can access their medical records – to get medical evidence for benefit appeals. This has proven very successful. Many GPs now see Welfare Rights Officers as beneficial to the health of their patients, relieving the severe stress and anxiety which come with poverty. We are not the solution to mass poverty; but we can help to keep people alive.
For 4 days in February I was off work ill, knocked out of action by the stress of worrying about my clients.
On Monday, 5th February, I made an entry in a journal: ‘I am doing a great deal of work, as a writer.’ Much of this involved my investigative journalism – looking into spies. My long article: Dirty Tricks in Scotland, which I had emailed to David Miller and Eveline Lubbers in August 2017 was still not out, so I needed to chase that. At the start of February 2018, I emailed David Miller to ask for an update.
Around the same time as I was chasing up my article, I’d begun work on another, on the same theme: anti-democratic espionage targeted at the Scottish Indy movement. For this article, I kept in touch with Neil Mackay, the leader of All Under One Banner: the grassroots group which organized the largest Scottish Independence marches. Neil Mackay faced the same type of dirty tricks as activists in Hope Over Fear faced.
The campaign to try to get either the UK or Scottish Government to take responsibility for investigating spycops in Scotland continued in February. My article: ‘The Scandal of Spycops in Scotland’ (Bella Caledonia, Aug 2017) was read by hundreds of people. In the article, I argued the case for a public inquiry into spycops – who were known to have visited Scotland many times. I also interviewed other campaigners: Tilly Gifford (targeted by spycops as an environmental activist); Merrick Badger ( an environmentalist befriended and spied upon by Mark Kennedy); Neil Findlay MSP (a Labour MSP who led two Scottish Parliament debates on the spycops issue); Stewart Hume (a blacklisted worker and trade unionist); and Dr Nick McKerrell (a Law lecturer, based in Glasgow). All made powerful points about why we need a public inquiry into spycops in Scotland.
Sadly, the voices of the spied upon and their allies in Scotland were ignored by both UK and Scottish governments. The UK government, under Prime Minister Theresa May, refused to extend the Pitchford Inquiry to cover Scotland – an Inquiry she had ordered, when Home Secretary. And in Scotland, the Scottish Government Justice Minister – Michael Matheson – also refused our call for a Public Inquiry. Matheson’s refusal followed the release of a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of the Constabulary for Scotland. The report, written entirely by police and including advice from current and former spycops, was a whitewash.
February was very cold, with heavy snow.
Writing about Ideas
More and more in 2018, I tried to organize my writing activities around the priority of writing books: A Labyrinth of Lies (about spies); The Spirit of Imagination (about literature); and The Enigma of Knowing (a reflection on epistemology).
In one journal in February, I wrote: ‘The first 2 books are proceeding well: titles, outlines, research & plans are fine, and ongoing positively.’ On the first book (about spies) – a mass of research gathered; and on the second book (about literature) – the main items of a library I’ll need are gathered, and a research plan is made.
Work on my third book is necessarily proceeding more slowly, as I am still developing ideas and concepts about knowledge. At one point in February, I briefly abandoned the idea of writing a book about knowledge and considered instead to study the subject for several more years before making a decision on what to say. Then, I relented, and decided that I could write a book, as long as I recognized the limitations of my current understanding and took steps to find out more (envisaged as taking a few years, and not decades!).
In February, I wrote an entry in one of my journals about the nature of words. Here, I have copied most of it but also added a couple of clarifying points:
At the core of all human language are words. Every moment of every day there is a use and exchange of billions of words: spoken from person to person, or across mass media, written, read, and made use of to mediate every human social activity. All words are part of an endless conversation. Words are not things – like bricks or trowels. Yet, just as we can use those material things to build other things, structures of all shapes and sizes, so too – we can use words to create structures in language, from tiny structure to vast structures.’
The above analogy re words and making things appears so obviously or even deeply true, we can easily fall into the habit of seeing words not just like things but as things. And this becomes cemented into our consciousness by the appearance of words or some of their physical receptacles: books, kindles, emails, letters etc. Yet, the crucial essence of words as words is as complex social and psychological processes, not as things.
The relation between words, material reality, and human thought is the beating heart of the nature of words. Perhaps paradoxically, the more we focus upon separate aspects of words, the further we get from seeing what words involve at the most fundamental levels. To begin to remedy this dilemma, and start to see glimpses these relations, we must learn how to think about words as: ‘forms of social interaction.
The range of activities and experiences in my life is rich and often bewildering. In March 2018, I
- Worked 16 full days as a Welfare rights Officer, mostly in Dundee House; and every Friday, I worked in a GP surgery: Lochee Health Centre, where I saw many, very sad cases.
- I had 6 days holiday in March, and weekends off. Me and Isobel used our time together to visit Anstruther, which was beautiful but freezing; and we went out cycling a few times, including going up to Ninewells Hospital Community Garden. We also went to a Vintage Fayre.
- Throughout March, as a journalist and campaigner, I worked on spy stories. I kept in touch with Tilly Gifford about organizing a Glasgow spycops conference; I met with Pat Lee to discuss his concerns about spies in the Scottish Indy movement; and I worked on multiple leads about anti-democratic spies.
- On Monday 26th March, I spoke at an event held by the Progressive Christianity Network, in Dundee West Church. I was invited by a friend, Gordon Sharp, a locum Minister, who also does great work amongst homeless people in Dundee, running a weekly food day and other support. I went along to speak about ‘Welfare reform’ – or, cuts and the demonising of welfare claimants.
- I continued to buy books, partly for research and partly for the love of books. In March, I bought Ballads of Battle (1916), by Dundee writer Joseph Lee. It was a signed first edition, and cost £60 – from Oxfam Books, in Reform Street, Dundee. Joe Lee is a writer I hope to write about. I also bought a 3-volume set of The Universal History of Numbers(English edition: 1985) by Georges Ifrah. My fascination with numbers is something I aim to write about in my planned book on knowledge.
1st March was National Book Day. I marked the occasion with a post in my Blog, Days of Hope, which began:
‘Books are strange things. I sometimes wonder what other animals think of us when they see us sitting, staring at a book, our eyes shifting slowly from left to right, over and over. I think our cat Cleo rolls her eyes at me when I start to read a book, as if to say: “Here he goes again. Weirdo.”
In my notebooks, I began to sketch a few ideas about the nature of words and their relation to knowledge: I described them as ‘events’ and as ‘open categories’. Altogether in March, I wrote 66 pages of notes about this subject and about philosophy and spirituality. Essentially, I roamed around a large house of ideas – going to this room of ideas and then another, considering books and writers and my ideas and those of others. All the time, I was thinking: What should I write about? What do I need to know?
In one notebook, I wrote:
‘For most of my life, whenever I have considered the question of ‘knowledge’, it has been in relation to a science, or – a scientific approach to the world. Logic featured heavily in my thoughts. At some point, probably in the early 1990s when I was a prizewinning Philosophy undergraduate at Dundee University, I began to become much more aware of the differences between knowledge in relation to the physical and biological sciences & knowledge in relation to the humanities. As a Marxist, I based all of my attempts to understand epistemology on a core belief: that matter is primary and thought secondary, or – a reflection of the world in thought and to some extent in language. Around the same period I also read two writer’s works which deeply influenced my thinking, adding new dimensions of ideas: the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Russian psychologist and theorist L.S.Vygotsky. Through their ideas, and while remaining firmly under the influence of Marxism, I refined my understanding of epistemology. I came to understand that a dialectical analysis and development of epistemology (and of related issues) was only feasible by developing appropriate conceptual tools and methods of study. It was all very well saying that matter is primary and thought is secondary (which is true) but the big question remained: how does thought reflect material reality and itself? This question was also linked to other large questions: What is language? What are the relations between thought, language, and the material world? How do ‘subjective’ factors – eg feelings of beliefs – shape or influence our knowledge? What methods should we use to understand more about these issues?’
In March, I also kept in touch with grassroots Indy leader Neil Mackay, and I gathered further insights into the details and scale of dirty tricks against Indy activists in Scotland. Strange searches for myself on LinkedIn began to appear. They included individuals from the Royal Marines and the World Association of Nuclear Operators. I’ve no doubt these were spooks.
In April, I worked 20 full days as a Welfare Rights Officer: on appeals; working in Lochee Health Centre; helping people with forms and debts; and taking my turns weekly on the Duty line (always a slightly disorientating experience as you never know what the call might be about. It could last a few seconds or become a case which could last for months).
I followed clues to investigate one spy which led to a conversation with him, but unfortunately – no smoking gun.
Me and Isobel watched a Welsh BBC drama called Keeping Faith, which was very good. It’s become a habit of ours: we stop whatever we are doing at 9 o’clock every night and watch a TV drama or documentary together.
In April, I got word from Dundee City Council, my employer, that my job was safe for another year. At a time of massive cutbacks across the country, this news came as a relief.
One of our Sundays together was very busy. Me and Isobel had a ramble around the Sidlaws ( small range of hills near Dundee). Then, back home, I worked for 5 and a half hours, writing. The following day, I noted: ‘As a writer, I am where I need to be: interested, active, moving forward.’
My reading continued as voraciously as ever. In April, my reading included a long article from 1979 by Evald Ilyenkov: ‘Reflections on Lenin’s book: ‘Materialism and Empirio-Criticism’’; I also read chapter 2 of Bertrand Russell’s book: My Philosophical Development (1959); and Thomas Dilworth’s new biography of artist/poet David Jones.
My journal-writings were full of new and sometimes important ideas. I wrote 50 pages in one journal, including quite a lot about ‘contemplative essays’ – a form of writing I intend to explore.
In another Journal, I wrote this reflection:
‘I am learning about writing as I write. Deciding upon ‘a quite definite aim’, as Colin Wilson* advised me in 1982, was always difficult. For a long time, I didn’t – but I let subjects and forms of writing choose me. That led to writing 100 or so poems (a handful published); 100 or so articles (all for socialist publications). And then there were private scribblings that very slowly evolved into journals, and sometimes into Blogs.’ *COLIN WILSON (1931-2013), prolific writer, best known for The Outsider (1956)
My writing about ideas is frequently interrupted by other responsibilities. Some of these arise out of the blue. One issue like this involved – noticing that a local Labour councilor I know was attacked in the media, falsely accused of anti-semitism. I did some research to back his case. The attacks were blatantly unfair.
Throughout April, I emailed Tilly Gifford, Philip Stott, and other activists to make sure there were trade union speakers at a spycops campaign conference in Glasgow. I also spoke to included Paul Heron, who is a lawyer on Tilly’s legal team. We are trying to combine the public conference with an attempt to get a Judicial Review into decisions by the Scottish and UK governments to refuse to hold a Public Inquiry into the role of Spycops in Scotland.
In May, we planned a holiday to Sweden; and I continued to write and research, and work as a Welfare Rights Officer. For 4 days in May, I was off ill with stress: the difficult cases took a toll on my health.
After reading Lenin on Hegel last month, I resolved to get hold of Hegel’s Science of Logic – to study his work directly. I need to take a more systematic approach to studying dialectical materialism if I am to write well about epistemology. Studying Hegel, alongside Marxists critiques of his work, is an essential preparation for me.
In May, I wrote 71 pages in Journal (3). Entries were about – stories, naming things, Subjectivity & Objectivity, Inklings, and ‘the way of the contemplative essay’.
Throughout May, preparations for a one-day Spycops conference in Glasgow continued. On 30th May, I advertised the event on my Blog ‘Days of Hope’.
This month, I started a new Blog: Paths of Imagination. * On 22nd May, I posted a very short essay: ‘The power and mystery of words’. It ended with the statement:
Stories hold much of the power which I feel that words have; and for a long time I read in a state of awe about the stories written and lived by others. My life, my jumble sale of ideas, my story seemed unimportant. Eventually, I realized, everyones’ story is important.’
*My Blog was renamed and is now called Harvey Duke : www.harveyduke.com
On 25th May, at night, I went with Isobel to see two plays at the Dundee Rep: ‘Eve’ and ‘Adam’, produced by the National Theatre of Scotland. I wrote a review on my Blog called ‘A question of gender’, and received an appreciative response from one of the playwrights: Jo Clifford. Both plays were powerful accounts of the lives of transgender people.
In May, I received a tip-off about an alleged undercover cop who infiltrated Timex strikers meetings in 1993. I investigated but was unable to get further evidence.
On 31st May, I went through to Glasgow to sort out a new passport, for travelling to Sweden. The same day I also had a meeting with Tilly Gifford.
A few of my Welfare Rights cases were traumatic because I felt those individuals are close to suicide.
I find that I can write thousands of words, month after month, but still feel that I have achieved little. This feeling seems to be tied to the fact that my published writings are far fewer than my unpublished writings.
One very positive development over the last year or so is a higher number of innovative journal entries. Like this one:
In my own life, I was first taught the importance of “naming things” by Isobel Duke. The “things” were worries; and I learned that: by naming them, I could stop them festering in my unspoken thoughts, and talk about them. This had the very healthy effect of reducing stress in my life…
The power of naming things can be witnessed in many other ways. In physical and social sciences of every kind, it’s vital that we can name – things and their component elements; natural and social processes; and ideas, concepts, and theories. (Journal 3, pp101-102).
(Note: I’m not really referring here to giving titles or names to things, but to stating what it is that is of concern or the subject of investigation.)
Journal entries like the one above help me greatly in my work as a writer. They are launch pads for future pieces of writing. Other kinds of entry, which help me to survive and organize, are also valuable.
In June, I worked 21 full days as a Welfare Rights Officer, with no days off from stress. To try to stop my stress levels increasing by too much again, I’ve started to get regular counselling. It helps.
At work, on the 19th and 20th June, I attended a training course on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It was a basic introduction – but useful: for my work, and for me.
I ordered online – a 2-volume edition of Hegel’s ‘Science of Logic’ for £70. When it arrives, I’ll need to set aside time for looking at it properly.
Online, I also ordered Walter de la Mare short stories: ‘Short Stories for Children’ (2006); ‘Short Stories 1895-1926’ (1996); and Short Stories 1927-1956’ (2001). These are to help me to write a chapter in my book: ‘The Spirit of Imagination’. Altogether, the volumes cost me £45.
On 11th June, I wrote a journal entry:
Some aspects within ‘The Spirit Of Imagination’
I did not choose any of the 10 chosen writers because of their association with any other on my list. I did however know that some knew one another or wrote about on another. Eliot and Woolf knew each other; Eliot wrote appreciatively of the works of Charles Williams and Walter de La Mare. Today, I received the 3rd volume of Walter de la Mare’s ‘Collected Short Stories’…On the back flap of the cover, I spotted this quote: ‘De la Mare is a master of mis-en-scene…Prose with the most vivid and unsettling intensity, which resembles some of what the surrealists were producing in France…’ It is from Angela Carter’s Introduction* to Memoirs of a Midget (by Walter de la Mare, the 1982 OUP edition.). So, Carter read and wrote about Walter de la Mare; and I may come across other connections between the 10 writers. (Journal 4, pp7-8)
*Carter’s Introduction can also be found in her ‘Expletives Deleted’ (1992), pp51-56.
NOTE: The ’10 writers’ in my book was later reduced to 8.
From my own readings, I found a connection of similar effect between the writings of Walter de la Mare and those of Haruki Murakami.
On Saturday, 23rd June, I was in Govan, at the Pearce Institute, for the one-day conference on Spycops. It was well-attended, with around 100 people listening to some very good speakers. I was interviewed by Common Space; and I wrote a detailed report for Bella Caledonia, which came out on 24th June.
I am trying to write poetry again but I don’t feel that I have fully developed my own voice yet in that form of writing.
On 9th June, I had the bizarre experience of contacting ex-MI5 officer David Shayler, who worked for MI5’s political and counter-terrorism department. I’d heard years ago from a friend that Shayler attended the Timex picket line in 1993. (Shayler was in MI5 from October 1991 to October 1996).
One of Tilly Gifford’s friends now lives in a commune in England, alongside Shayler. Tilly messaged me to say Shayler was with her friend and did I want to speak to him. I said Yes, and later got his number. I called him. No answer. I then messaged him and he replied. I was not able to get him to confirm that he was at Timex. So, another lead that fizzled out.
I’m reading a novel based on the life of Alan Turing, called ‘Murmur’ by Will Eaves. Marvellous writing – moving in and out of a Turing-like mind.
In July I worked for 12 days as a Welfare Rights officer, and I was on holiday for 2 weeks. This was the summer of the hunt for 80 giant penguins. They were made by local artists to raise money for Maggie’s Centre, a facility for cancer patients. The penguins were dotted around Tayside. Thousands of people were trying to tick them all off on a special map and list. By bike, car, and on foot, me and Isobel joined the search. We found and photographed all of the penguins – in Dundee, Monifeith, Carnoustie, Perth, St Andrews, Broughty Ferry, Kirriemuir, Forfar and Brechin.
On 9th July I spoke on the phone with Ciaran Tracey, a BBC reporter who is still interested in my spies story. He first got in touch with me 4 years ago, but it did not lead to any TV coverage.
On 19th and 20th July I attended the Judicial Review brought by Tilly Gifford in the Court of Session. This was the legal attempt to get either the UK or the Scottish Government to organize a public inquiry into the activities of spycops in Scotland. I later posted in another Blog: Days of Hope, about some strange characters who were snooping on my LinkedIn profile while I was the court. There was some media coverage of the Judicial review on BBC & STV news, radio, and in the National newspaper. I’m not sure what decision the judge will come to. It will be months before we find out.
I wrote a lot of notes in various journals about epistemology.
In August, I worked 20 full days, as a Welfare Rights officer. I had 3 days off on compassionate leave. My mum died, at 1.30 am on the morning of Friday 10th August 2018. She died in a hospital in Edinburgh, in her sleep, and with my dad by her side. She was 78 years old.
On 17th August, I went through by car to the funeral in Edinburgh. As was my mum’s wish, it was a very small funeral. The music playing was ‘No Regrets’ sung in a recording by Edith Piaf. There was me, Isobel, my dad, my two sisters and one of their partners.
Two days earlier, I had gone to Glasgow in a failed attempt to find my brother. I left a note at his flat.
The day after the funeral, on the 18th August, there was a huge demonstration through Dundee, in support of Scottish Independence. I wasn’t sure if I would up to going until the day, but then I decided to go. On the march, I spoke to Gail Sheridan, who was very supportive about my mum dying, and I met a lot of other people I knew, including Tommy Sheridan and Phil Stott. I took dozens of photographs. It was a beautiful day, with a wonderfully hopeful atmosphere: people of all ages and overwhelmingly working-class.
I carried out some investigations into far-Right activists who have caused some trouble at the edges of Scottish Independence events.
In September, I worked 20 days as a Welfare Rights officer. Poverty and cutbacks continue to cause huge damage to thousands of people in Dundee. We do what we can to alleviate the suffering, but there is a desperate need for more help. There’s a need for a political solution – the reversal of Austerity.
Last month, I began trail running, and I kept going this month. One of my runs was an hour through Tentsmuir forest, on the coast of Fife. Good fun, but I hurt my ankles so I’ll need to take a rest from running.
On 24th September, my sisters and dad visited Broughty Ferry beach and scattered my mum’s ashes on the River Tay. I did not feel up to going, but I wrote a poem which I sent to my dad.
New old poem
Leaves with veins –
All the way back
To Broughty Ferry beach.
Round pebbles –
As smooth as summer.
Orange juice and lemonade –
Mixed into forever.
Yet, repeated – never.
And remember that high kite,
In a vast blue distance?
Or, the library stacks
When books always held
Sunlight, or echoes of whispers.
That was then.
And that is now.
Harvey Duke, 24th September, 2018
In my studies of Hegel and other thinkers, I have been greatly assisted by the work of Andy Blunden. He has placed masses of useful information online – in the Hegel Reference Archive and in the Marx-Engels Archive. He has also written commentary on L.S.Vygotsky. It was Vygotsky’s work which re-invigorated my own thinking about Psychology; and some of his ideas provided an approach which I have begun to adapt for use in my epistemological work.
In October, I turned 56 years old. I worked 14 days as a Welfare Rights officer, with one day off ill. I had 7 days of leave.
From 9th to 16th October, I travelled with Isobel to Sweden, to visit Michael, Lisa, Marcus, Sinead and Justin in Skelleftea. It was a magical holiday. I rode a horse for the first time; and walked through stunning countryside. I took hundreds of photographs. As long as I live, I will remember forests of gold.
On 17th October, me and Isobel took a day trip to St Andrews. Beauty on an almost miniature scale, after Sweden.
On 21st October, I posted an essay on my Blog: ‘Our Minds Sometimes Stutter’. It was my first serious attempt to write about 3 deaths which have affected me deeply. Bob Thomson, my father-in-law was 81 years old; Alice Duke, my mum, was 78; and Andy Armstrong, a friend and fellow socialist was 52.
One of the things I mentioned in the essay was my discovery that my mum had written about subjects close to my own interests.
It would appear that language is required in order that sight of a world external to the self might be mutually understood in society. But there is an aspect of language which is always hidden from others, that of the silent inner voice which, while appearing to make sense of our external view, at the same time offers us our own personal vision that at times may go beyond logical analysis.
From: ‘Conflict and Resolution in the Poetry and Thomas Hardy (1992) , Phd Thesis. Alice Chrytyn Bain Duke.
In November, I worked 22 days as a Welfare Rights officer, helping dozens of people – face to face, and over the phone. It was very stressful this month.
I also went back to the gym – 5 times.
In my Blog, I wrote about Sweden; and Dundee poet Joseph Lee who fought at the Somme. I have a signed copy of his 1916 book; ‘Ballads of Battle’, and others of his works.
I also wrote about a large commemorative stone in Balgay cemetery. On it is carved the words:
Gone But Not Forgotten
This commemorative stone is dedicated to the memory of around 10,000 people who were buried in the Common Ground of this cemetery in unmarked graves between 1870 and 2004.
Later, I found out that the stone was the result of a campaign led by the father of a friend of mine – Charlie Malone.
In November, I wrote over 100 pages of notes about science, imagination, and other subjects I aim to write about.
I worked 14 days as a Welfare Rights officer in December. I had one day off ill, and days off for Christmas. Work days were very busy with Duty calls, Appeals, and people desperate for help because an unfair system had cut their benefits. Some of the cases I dealt with were so unjust and protracted – that the months of pain felt by my clients got to me deeply. It’s hard not to feel responsibility for what happens to people, even though I know – it’s the system which is to blame.