Gerry Fenge

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Word Cloud veteran - from back in 2009 (I think). Hey, well done Jericho for resurrecting this sort of thing.



Mm, shall I write about the Big Taboo? Okay, let’s put it this way: if the Voice Upstairs called down to me “Come in Gerry, your time is up”, how would I feel? Well, on a purely selfish level, I’d be fascinated and excited at the prospect of the Great Holiday in the Sky.


There again, people who work on a purely selfish level probably don’t merit the Great Holiday in the Sky.


So how would I really feel? First of all, extremely reluctant to leave behind people and jobs. To widow my wife, orphan my offspring, upset other interested people – not to be thought of. Don’t want. Shan’t do. (If given choice.) As for jobs – well, I won’t go on about this; suffice to say I’m near completing a novel whose title, “Live Again, Die Again”, indicates my outlook…


Next up, how would I feel, part two. Well, death itself isn’t all that scary. I know. I tried it in 1990. When I went into surgery at the Aga Khan Hospital, Nairobi, my chances of survival were 20% or less, and, to be honest, I felt so wiped I didn’t care about survival one way or the other. As a point of comparison, I’d say a vigorous bout of food poisoning is worse – such as after eating some street-food coconut in Athens a couple of years ago. I dare say we’ve all felt the great multi-orifice clean-out at some time or other. Your body isn’t your own any more. It’s some big mad organism determined to get rid of whatever is offending it (including you if necessary).


As I say, that’s worse. And we’ve all had it some time or other. So there you are, nothing to be scared of. You’ve tried it, you didn’t like it, but then it’s over, and you come out the other side. Cheers, you’re a hero, you can handle anything. Sorted.


Third consideration. There is, of course, a natural animal fear, and this is a good thing. It’s what prevents us walking off the edge of a cliff or pranging our car. But we don’t need to take it all that seriously. It’s an instinct, a useful instinct, but that’s all. It’s not us, just a safety measure.


Fourth consideration. What awaits us? Well, there’s plenty of info and indications if we care to look, which I’d summarise as follows. One: a Meet and Greet committee says hello – any friends or relatives who are likely to get a good response – plus or minus, depending on perception, one or more shiny beings. Two: a settling in period – doze, become orientated, get the idea of how things work, including a shiny new mark II body. Three: get going on (a) being useful to others and (b) learning, creating and exploring (yay!) 


(And if you’re anything like me, you’ll give another Yay to the idea of exploring: the moon, under the sea, inside the earth, Saturn, Alpha Centauri, how birds see, how music really works, etc – though don’t let me persuade you out of a more domestic focus: flowers, flavours, colours etc. It’s quality that matters, not quantity.)


Anyway, all this comes under the heading of First Steps. If you want heaven – beyond the sort of heaven we can easily feel on earth, you know, moment of love, joy, peace etc (“Peace ‘n’ Love, man”) – well that’s probably a bit further down the road. It’s a big universe, after all. (And probably an even bigger multiverse – “In my Father’s house, there are many mansions”, to quote from a 2,000 year old book – so there’ll be no end to the learning and exploring.)


Now, I’m a patient sort of chap, so I’m quite content to wait for the Big Treat. In the meantime, let’s all dodge the virus, be nice to each other (and not go feral with fear like we see in some news reports), enjoy some healthy walks (stepping away from clusters and individuals, of course), have some good chats (at appropriate distance), arrange grocery deliveries (there’s a challenge), and – well – do jigsaws, get creative, catch up with reading (or listening: ‘Audible’) and – even – write the occasional blog.




If inclined, you can click on to see this post in a different context…

Hi Jerry - I finished Angels in my Hair. Thanks for the recommendation. It was an interesting read. I did find it slightly unsettling that the author seemed to suggest that certain events in are life are fixed, the angels knew they were coming, and there wasn't anything we could do about it. But it is a lovely idea that we've all got a guardian angel and others available to act as our teachers. I did have a moment a few years ago that made me wonder if someone was looking out for me. I paused on the doorstep before leaving work, something I wouldn't usually do but something made me stop, and in that second the covering from a street lamp smashed to the ground at my feet. If I'd stepped forward I'd be dead. Always gives me a shiver when I think about that.

Have to admit that my sceptical hat has trouble believing the idea, but I will be occasionally glancing over my shoulder in case an angel is hovering there. :)

I’m sitting upstairs in Waterstones café and trying to switch myself on – slot into gear, slide into alignment – but the dear old brain is too full of mush.

I’ve already chatted with the cheery folk behind the counter, bantered about their tattoos, bought an overly virtuous falafel-and-hummus wrap, swept crumbs from a table, sat down with my tray, stared with brain-clenching determination at the cappuccino. 

But no gear has yet been slotted into, no alignment arrived at.

I could try checking my phone for sports news, always good for a semi-irritated time-waste. But that would take me away from – what? – the big slow Okay; the great All-is-Well; the Nugget at the Centre; in a word, Oomph.

So what else can I try? Well, some Books Of The Month seem to be nodding and winking in their box-shelf displays. There’s an idea. If you want to wake up, a bookshop ought to be prime territory. Lots of switched-on minds captured between covers of books – lasso, swoop, splat – and stretched out on the pages.

All those novels haunted-by-death, haunted-by-life; all those non-fictions rippling with questions, bulging with info. Sipping my drink, I envisage the hordes of them, ranged on their shelves, spread on their display racks, basking on buy-one-get-one-half-price tables.

But I can’t read yet. Too much sludge on the brain. 

Focus on the café, then. Seventeen tables and – mm, let’s count the punters – dun-dun-dun – fifteen. Let’s see: a young mum has got her baby in a front sling while she chats with a pal across the table – head tilts to baby, head tilts to pal. Further along there’s a laptop caresser, with side-shaved head and multicolour bob on top – is she a dissertation drafter, I wonder, or masterpiece wannabee? – well, good luck either way. Over there, a lean-forward talker (check shirt, elbows on table) discourses at a pair of lean-back receivers (grey tops, elbows to the sides). Who else? An older bloke, suit-and-tie, sharp of face, is sitting like a resentful wedding guest as he peers through half-moon specs at – what? – ah, The Daily Telegraph. And, look, an older couple chuckling at each other – both with elbows on the table – in grey-haired, jacket’n’jeans bonhomie.

Sigh, what next? I could try scribbling this piece (interesting time-travel dilemma: have I already started, and, if not, how come I’ve got this far?)

But does it matter if I switch on or not? Fair question, which gets an even better answer, because – here’s the point – the world changes if witnessed through back-lit eyes. Beam your light out and everything becomes suddenly brighter. No need to get worked up any more (bye-bye Brexit); no need to get appalled (hey Trump, you’re a waft of passing wind).

But more than that, it’s an ethical force. When you see the world as beautiful, you treat it as beautiful – the great aesthetic switch from matter to morality – and that which is beautiful is loved. And that which is loved is served. People, creatures, the whole planet: beautiful, loved, served.

All of which brings us to the major problem of do I order another drink. (Can’t rush all this. Got to let it mellow.) Mm, let’s look around, check the décor. Pale lemon walls, wood-slat features – tell you what, try filling in the rest yourself. Call it a choose-your-own-décor café. Y’see, I’ve got to focus on this bigger problem of ordering another drink. (Cappuccino? – done that.) (Water? – done that too.) (Falafel and hummus wrap? – undergone that.) (How about tea? – possibly.)

There again – consider the alternative – I could skip the tea and head straight out, stride the streets, see if any Oomph is willing to stride along with me. See, there’s two ways of going with Mr Oomph. Sit still and be full.

Or stride out and be full.

We’ll try the stride in a mo, but let’s sit a while longer (with duly acquired pot of tea). You see, the more I contemplate the room – that is, the more attention I pump into it/out to it – the more it begins to buzz with fullness. Not a literal buzz, of course – not the chat of fifteen or so customers – no, not that. It’s like there’s so much energy in the air you can almost feel it – that sort of buzz – like it’s humming around your eyes, tingling around your ears.

Where does it come from, though?

Ah, here we enter the great mystery of Inner and Outer.

It’s like this: if I finally get to the Big Slow Okay, the great All is Well, the Nugget at the Centre, gather some Oomph – the effect can be truly metaphysical.

Did I ever tell you about the time Beethoven’s Fifth set a whole field on fire? On fire, I say. I’d stayed back at Uni one evening, listening through headphones to his Fifth Symphony (you know the one: bah-bah-bah boom!) and simultaneously I followed the whole thing in the score. Not missing a note. Not missing a cymbal tink. Hence – natural conclusion – the world became entirely Fifth Symphony, no room for anything other. Which was strange, cos I took a bus (a bus? what’s that?) to the Halls of Residence (Halls? Halls?), and the stop was by some fields (what’re they?)

Well, I can answer the last query. They were great green acres of fire, that’s what they were. Except not green at all. They were flame orange. Or green, overlaid with flame. Or green in this world, and flame in another. But – here’s the point – the other world was winning. Those fields were thoroughly on fire. Resonating with Mr Beethoven’s ferocity.

And that, my friends, is how you have visions. Fill up the Inner World, and the Outer World gets overlaid.

There’s more, there’s lots more to say. I haven’t even started on Wordsworth. Haven’t even started on Quality (and its fragmented accomplice, Quantity). Haven’t even started on the two basic premises (Is mind an emergent property of matter? Or matter an emergent property of mind?)

But that’s enough for now. It’s time for the walk. Finish the tea (got three and a half cups out of that pot!). Cheerio caff staff (oh, it’s last day for one of them – “Happy Lastday to you…”). Manoeuvre past the seventeen or so tables with the fifteen or so punters. Get out. Say hello to Mr Oomph. Or ask the blighter where he’s got to.

And I’m walking up Stonegate – with its gem-shops and clothes-shops and pie-shops and antique-shops – and, hey, the ground is bouncing up at me, people swerving before me, half-timbered frontages jumping at the sides, and the air, ah the air – it says a soft hello, breeze stroking my cheeks, gusts murmuring my ears. And way way above, the sunlight comes swarming down, rebounds off pavements, splatters my eyes.

And it’s like I’m swimming through liquid air – soft and surrounding. It holds me, holds all of us, parts before us, merges behind, makes all the people – Italian, Korean, whatever – sway and waver so my every straight-line motion is curved by their grace, their gravity.

And my shoulders relax till I feel the precise spot in the upper spine – that central point where angel wings would take root (if I should just happen to develop any). And the whole head-held-higher thing gets going. And I’m up, I’m flying. Feet on the ground, I’m flying.

Where to? Ah yes, the Minster.

Ah, the great long slow-down.

Ah, the entry desk and shuffle through.

Ah, the eventual, awesome stride through the Nave.

I choose a place to sit, somewhat as I might at Waterstones (though only somewhat) and it all comes teeming about me – the collected mentality of centuries. Here, if anywhere, is the fusion of inner and outer. Those soaring limestone pillars, that cream-white ceiling, those surging arches and golden bosses – together they form a massive casket of thought, a great containing cranium, a silo of mind, filled firstly by medieval intensity and recharged over succeeding centuries. You can feel it, tingling in the side-aisles, burnishing in the stain glass, shimmering from the altar cloth and the stone-flower capitols and the candle niches and eagle-wing lectern.

And it isn’t so much the space above that overwhelms, but the concept of that space – a space gazed at by so many packages of consciousness that it starts to make our sight melt. And the more we melt, the more that ceiling – so cream-white and golden – begins to melt too, till the empyrean is almost there.

Breath stalls, ears ring, flesh goes into alternative mode – forgets itself, becomes something temporarily Other.


And I re-emerge on a city slowed down. Parliament Street, with its wide-spaced stores and tight-coppiced trees, becomes the setting for everyday miracle, the simple discovery that our ordinary world is far more than it habitually pretends. Click. The alias of grey mundanity fades and it expands to become the vastness and wonder it always was.

Every step is now a pulse on the Earth’s surface – my fingers shuffling as if to thicken the atmosphere, mouth muttering unheard syllables, eyes gazing thirty degrees above horizon level – to where the air swells and hypothetical other worlds hover in potential. And – maybe it’s the head-tilt, the neck pushed back on itself – but clouds at the end of the street pass like empires – pass, pass, and go – while behind them the eye-spangling blue transmutes to the wave-front of approaching revelation.

And the big questions dwindle away, the queries about Quality (and its fragmented accomplice, Quantity); the disputes over basic premises (Matter an emergent property of mind? Or mind an emergent property of matter?); even that vital final issue, Discarnate Survival – they answer themselves with a simple easy ‘Of course!’


And that, my friends, explains the transcendent merit of stopping for a cuppa at Waterstones. That, mes amis, tells you the prodigious benefits of a nice long chomp’n’ponder chillax. (Cappuccino? – tick.) (Water? – tick.) (Overly virtuous falafel and hummus wrap? – tick.) (Refillable pot of tea? – indeed.) And don’t forget to say cheers to the caff staff.

The way I see it, blogs are for having a good, general chat. Raise a topic, kick it around, let it take its own momentum. That’s how it used to work on the late lamented Word Cloud, though I don’t know if it’ll work that way on Jericho Townhouse. If it does, though, Coffee and Cake might be a suitable location. Let’s see. Here’s something I wrote about ten years ago, very much in silly mode, but based around a worthwhile topic. Let’s start by repeating the title:


Do You Keep A Notebook?

Thing is, I don’t like t-shirts because they lack a pocket for notebook and pen. Is this a bad thing? Of course: an idea might come at any time.

You’re on the loo – what’ll you do?

You’re in your bed – what’s in your head?

You’re on the train – what’s that again?

You walk in town – write things down!

Notebook, notebook, how I love thee

Without you near, where would I be?

Without your help what would I do?

Notebook, notebook, I love you.

            (Tennyson, I think)

So:- do you have a notebook? Big one, little one? Carried everywhere, locked in a drawer? Plumber’s phone number in the back? Fragments of conversation at the front? Shopping lists in the back? Chapter ideas at the front? Thirty old ones chucked in a cupboard? Burn them to get rid of embarrassing bits? Index them for University of Texas?

Do you write blogs in them (like this)? Have you just been cooking vegetable curry when you broke off to write an idea in it? (Thought so.)

Notebook, notebook, always there

You and me, we make a pair.

Notebook, notebook, soft yet tough

Shuttup Gerry, that’s enough.

Dunno if this'll work, but I'm interested that my gender option is no longer 'male' but 'man'. Brings to mind this classic from 1969. Wow, how evil that fuzz guitar sounded (evilgood, course) - opened the floor to all sorts of subterranean strobes and flickering dancers, half human/ half elemental (including me...) 

Earlier today I posted a silly comment about tilted heads, having just uploaded a profile pic incorporating just such a cranial tilt of my own. But here’s the question: why did I select that picture? Why not go for an image more sternly vertical? Did I imagine it denoted, perhaps, a more considerate stance – more listening, more querying, more flexible, even – narrow the eyes – more wise?

To help find an answer I enlisted someone I could reasonably expect to maintain an upright head: The Incredible Hulk. What would it convey if he broke off from his green and rampaging endeavours to suddenly tilt his head sideways? Sarcasm, I’d expect – a bogus willingness to consider the other person’s point of view.

For instance:

Hulk (head at 10image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=1&dpx=2&t=1556811170 angle): Would woo like-ums Hulk be more friendly now?

Snivelling Wrongdoer: Uh, yes please, ah, Mr Hulk.

Hulk  (head at 15image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=2&dpx=2&t=1556811170angle): Hulk thinking... 

            (head at 20image_transcoder.php?o=bx_froala_image&h=3&dpx=2&t=1556811170angle): Hulk consider… 

            (head snaps upright): Hulk decide.

Fist descends. Wrongdoer no longer capable of snivelling.

So there we are, Hulky says a tilted head equals thoughtfulness and consideration, no matter how temporary or unreliable.

And that’s very handy when we remember how useful body language can be to a writer. The gurus of ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ recommend ‘showing’ emotions via bodily gestures (ironically known as ‘tells’). Thus ‘Hulk was angry’ is less effective than ‘Hulk drummed his fingers’ (on the table edge, reducing it to splinters).

Fair enough, but here comes a question: which way should we tilt a character’s head? I used to know a bit about eloquent eye-directions. For instance, if we swivel the eyes leftwards it means ‘looking back, the past’ (I think) whereas swivelling the eyes rightwards means ‘looking forward, the future’. But might I be misremembering (my eyes failing to swivel sufficiently leftwards)?

There again, I have an even dimmer impression that one of these eye-directions means ‘dishonest answer’. I’ve forgotten which one (crap writer, me). Perhaps it’s looking down? Or up?

Anyway, let’s extrapolate to head tilts. Might a leftward tilt mean ‘looking back on a dishonest past’? Or should we bear in mind the observer effect – i.e. my right direction is the observer’s left, and thus our many leftward tilts on profile pics are actually rightward tilts and, hence, future orientated, honest and – well – downright admirable.

To clarify all this, I tried experimenting with different tilts in the mirror, and – quelle surprise! – the neck muscles said No. Only one direction allowed. Pourquoi, I wondered. Why can I only tilt to the right (observer’s left) with any ease? Have the muscles got fixed in position by my habitual sleep position? Incroyable, I’d have thought, cos that would mean many Townhouse newbies must be sleeping on the same side of the bed (are you?) and curled at the same angle (are you?) – so far as cramps, acid reflux, etc allow.

Let’s try another theory, then. How about compooter positioning? If we’re all right handed (are we?) then we’re likely to be stressing the same neck and shoulder muscles (and yes, folks, those muscles really can grumble, can’t they?) (and no, left handed mousing is never so convincing) (it’s that middle finger – can’t waggle the double-click fast enough). But here’s the question: have we forced a specific head-tilt directional bias on ourselves because of how we sit at our pooters whilst pooting?

Obviously we require a control-group of left-handed poot-people to upload their own head-tilt photos so we can – scientifically – decide if writing selectively withers neck muscles on the mouse-guiding side. Or not.

It’s a noble endeavour, seeking scientific truths, and we should not hesitate to follow the scope of our enquiries, to gaze nobly into the future (whichever side it may reside), to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield (I nicked that last bit from Tennyson). (Ulysses.)


And thus concludes my inaugural Townhouse blog. It is to be hoped I come out with something more sober and grown-up next time…

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Gerry Fenge
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