(Wikipedia: Kamo no Chomei by Kikuchi Yosai)
Poem based on the above’s An Account of My Hut:
If you live next door
to the wealthy, you will be
for you will have to tone down
your own highs and lows,
or become a sycophant,
in the knowledge that
you are not even rated.
If you live in town,
there are disadvantages
and, in the country,
public transport is lacking.
You can’t win as thieves like both
isolation and big crowds.
99 cone, bhikkuni, birlin' yer wilkies, Chi-Tien, Chick Murray, Dalai Lama, Flake, Gilmorehill, Glasgow patter, Glesca, Huanglong, Irn Bru, Iron Duke, Jakushitzu, koan, laryngitis, Nirvana, Parliamo Glesca, pokey-hat, Rab C Nesbitt, Royal Exchange Square, Saltcoats, satori, Stanley Baxter, The Drunken Buddha, Wuman
(Wikipedia Creative Commons. 99 cone with Monkey Blood sauce:
Handbridge, Chester: 31/7/2009 by nikoreto)
As recent readers are aware, I have been fascinated with all
things Japanese in the past month or so. I came across Zen parables
in the midst of all my reading and was amused by the word ‘koans.’
Somehow it reminded me of a Glaswegian pronunciation of ice
cream cornets. Then I envisaged a conversation between a ‘Glesca
philosopher’ – a glorified Rab C Nesbitt and his side-kick- and so I
thought I’d share it with you:
(Sorry about the formatting- it looks great in
Edit and then won’t transfer properly)
KOANS ‘n’ a’ that
Wullie: So whit’s this Philosophy course yer doin’?
Jimmy: Uch, Ah’ve always wanted tae dae some studyin’ at ra Uni.
W: Whit huv ye learnt aboot?
J: Och, this week it wiz a’ aboot koans.
W: Pokey hats?
J: Whit? Naw – koans. K-O-A-N-S. No like the ice-ey, ‘n ‘at. It’s when a psychological impasse is created an’ then yer intuition takes o’wer an’ ye get a satori.
W: Don’t tell everybody – they’ll a’ be wantin’ one. Ah kwite like stories, but it disnae mak’ sense tae me, aw this.
J: It’s no’ meant tae make sense, ya muppet. It’s supposed tae be ‘an ineffable, deeply-affecting mental flash that illuminates the cosmos.’
W: Like when ye first realise Irn-Bru isnae really made fae girders? Or yer wean pokes a pencil in a soaket?
J: Haud oan! Jakushitzu achieved it when he was slapped. Wuman says…
W: Aye wummen say too much! Wan wumman- mah mammy- used tae slap me aboot the heid and said that wid cure me o’ the wisdom o’ emptiness. If it wis a school day, she ca’d it a rude awakening.
J: Mebbe she wis a bit o’ a … philosopher?
W: Ah dinnae ken aboot that, but she was devoted tae windae hingin.’ That wis her particular form o’ meditation.
J: A bhikkuni?
W: Naw, she preferred a wan piece: a piece an’ jam, actually. She developed her mantras oan the beach. I called it her pokey-hat philosophy. That’s how I got it mixed up wi’ yon koans. See, Ah asked her why Ah could only hiv a ’99’ and no’ a ‘100.’
J: Whit did she say?
W: She said perfection didnae exist in sublunary Saltcoats. And when I complained that the ice cream didnae go a’ the way doon tae the bottom o’ the cone, she telt me that wiz because Ah wuz tae gie the dug the last bit o’ nothingness. Aye, an’ if Ah drapped it on the grass, she said Ah hud two choices: take it; or leave it.
W: ….is a piece o’ string? Aye, that wiz wan o’ her favourites.
J: Ach, awright, Ah’m aff tae the pub. Comin’?
W: Ah didnae think ye’d be allowed…. Yer religion, like….
J: Nae bother. Huv ye never heard of The Drunken Buddha?
J: Chi-Tien… He took aff a’ his claes until he wiz in his bare scud and then he burl’d his wulkies in front of his superiors. Granted it wiz a different culture and century. Ye only get that type o’ behaviour at airports noo, or thirty-eight thousand feet up, but monks like Chi-Tien reckoned non-conformity wuz a good thing. Ah widnae put it past the Dalai Lama either, though he might draw a line at burlin’ wulkies an a’ that.
W: Ach, we’re no’ Zenophobic in Glesca, but we dinna care tae let it a’ hing oot. We’re no’ really intae the moment; we dae the past far mair effectively. Changin’ the subject, though, if it comes tae a cone, Ah must admit tae likin’ a Flake and some fake raspberry sauce.
(he clears his throat.)
J: Crushed nuts?
W: Naw, laryngitis! (They laugh.) Stanley Baxter- classic.It might huv been Chick Murray, but Ah’m no’ arguin’ the toss.
J: Naw, doan’t. We Buddhists dinnae go in fur conflict. Ah kin show ye a koan, by the way. It’s jist roon the coarner. Philosophers keep puttin’ it oan The Iron Duke’s heid.
W : Royal Exchange Square. Right! Very funny! Tell me whit’ they keep dain’ it fur. Whit does it mean?
J: The same as a single end clappin’ : a tale tell’t by idiots, signifying zero. It means we’re a’ bampots, or cone-heids.
W: Aye, well that’s hardly a revelation! Ye don’t need tae huv been tae Gilmorehill tae work that wan oot.
J: Next week we’re dain’ Nirvana. Literally it means ‘blowin’ oot.’
W:That puts me in the notion furra curry.
- pokey-hat- an ice cream cornet
- wean- child
- windae-hingin’ – leaning on a window sill to observe proceedings
- scud- ‘birthday suit’; state of nature
- birlin’ yer wulkies – somersault
- Gilmorehill- site of Glasgow University
- piece n’jam – bread and jam sandwich
- single end- type of accommodation
- ice-y – the ice cream van
- bampot- idiot
(Royal Exchange Square: Wikipedia
Image : Rept0n1x)
Advent, capitulum, conceptual art, cultigen, erhu, Five Points Calvinism, gerbera, installation, Lee Mingwei, Let Hundred Flowers Bloom, Magi, Mao, Mark Twain, Melbourne, NGV, Oscar Wilde, predestination
Lee Mingwei at the NGV, Melbourne, Dec 2016. Photo from the NGV advertisement of the exhibition.
It’s Advent and tens of thousands of gifts
are being given all over Melbourne,
anticipating the Magis and God.
There is always a risk in taking part.
Well, think of Mao’s Hundred Flowers campaign!
I am invited to choose a flower
and, before I reach my destination,
I am simply to go out of my way;
electing one beneficiary,
with a kind of Calvinistic tulip;
endowing them with puzzling graciousness.
(The recipient must be a stranger.)
Apparently, in some cultures, people
have been known to grab more than their fair share;
others tend to shun participation,
shy from disturbing the installation.
Confident ones may pluck and then re-place,
avoiding the responsibility
of bestowal; fearing to create burdens.
Out of the crowd, slightly self-conscious,
I step forward; pick a red gerbera.
I want to keep it and, like Oscar Wilde,
use it as a button-hole, or corsage;
make myself an ambulant work of art.
Mark Twain said a man can reduce his age
by several years, if he sports a bloom.
Maybe I should tuck it behind my ear?
But it’s not about gaining attention and
it would be like burying a talent.
Perhaps we will blossom in our giving?
The capitulum looks like one flower,
but botanically is hundreds of them.
One act of bounty could well mutiny.
Cultigens, cultivated by humans,
can be altered by our activities.
Hybridisation is the way to go!
For one hundred days, the artist carried
a lily with him, until it withered.
He’d planted it when his grandmother died.
Was love a burden till he released it?
So, now that I have this omnipotence,
am I involved in predestination?
Is a person’s worthiness the focus?
Should I positively discriminate?
Ought race, gender, or disability
come into it? I think gratuity
might be fun. All eyes seem to be on me.
A Sikh couple have no need of colour;
an erhu busker needs no distraction
and is well- acquainted with interplay.
In the hospital foyer a small girl
is disinhibited and receives it,
understanding the language of flowers,
instinctively, knowing that gerbera
stand for innocence, purity and joy.
- ‘ Tulip’ was the Calvinistic acronym for the’ 5 points’:
- Total depravity
- Unconditional Election
- Limited Atonement
- Immutability of God
- Perseverance of the saints
Lee Mingwei was born in Taiwan. He produces
participatory installations and encourages strangers
to explore their self-awareness, trust and tolerance of
intimacy. He raises awareness of the preciousness of
human connections in the brief encounters of our lives.
Alresfordism, cupcake fascist, dog to its vomit, fenestration, gentrification, George Formby, Gregory's Girl, Harry Potter, Huffington Post, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Macchiato, New York Times, No True Scotsman Fallacy, one swallow doesn't prove summer, paradoxical analogy, passive-aggressive, Plato, provinciality, pseud, Republic, Socrates, The Guardian, Tom Whyman, twee, ukeleles, Wilde, yummy mummy
(Mindmatrix 21/5/2010 (UTC) uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot)
Brassica was devastated.
I was just reading ‘The Hamster Chronicle’ and came across some
philosopher guy who has just taken a sledgehammer to the values
of the inhabitants of a town not too far from here. It is linked to a
2014 article in ‘The Guardian’ and I found it a terrible excoriation of
market town mentality. He’s called Tom Whyman and he has denounced
all we Suttonfordian-types as ‘cupcake fascists.’
I didn’t even vote ‘Leave.’ And, if I order a ‘nice cup of tea’, he says it
will only go to show that I have a stiff upper lip which is, ‘dialectically
speaking’ a sign of cowardice.
Well, have your usual Macchiato instead, I advised. Look, in all the
years we have been convening in Costamuchamoulah must-seen
cafe, we have never once digested a cupcake. You would never allow
one to pass your stiff, or otherwise, upper or lower lips.
That’s because it is yummy mummy fodder, she smiled through
watery tears. And we could never be accused of being in that
And to what category do we belong? Remind me.
Passive-aggressive, twee, retrospective diehards who lisp while
strumming along to ukeleles- according to him.
Her lower lip wobbled.
I took the article from her and skim-read it.
And have you ever taken up such an instrument?
Of course not.
Was that because you found such an activity incompatible with
your desire to impose your bourgeois values on all and sundry, as
this postgrad Whyman suggested-nay- stated?
No! It’s because that odious little man gave me a window
Which odious little man? Formby?
Yes, every time our window cleaner arrives unannounced, I have to
run upstairs and close all my curtains, in case he is a voyeur. That film-
‘Gregory’s Girl’- didn’t help. You remember that bit when the premature,
but sexually mature school leaver who has a lucrative job to do with
fenestration pronounces: ‘ If I don’t see you next week, I’ll see you through
Oh, well-pronounced. You sounded nothing like a Suttonfordian. Your
gentrification slipped as easily as a window cleaner falling off his ladder,
So, you think Suttonfordians should not worry about being
stereotyped by a Harry Potter lookalike, even if he did have an article
accepted by ‘The New York Times?’
I think that the brutality of your perceived ‘niceness’ should see off a
pseud like him with one flourish of your vintage pashmina. We could
compose a salvo and have it published in ‘The Huffington Post.’ So what?
We have better things to do.
Hmm, you know I am going to have a cupcake just to prove that
I can and that it has nothing to do with how I voted.
(Brassie was defiant.)
Personally, I can’t stand the sickly sweetness of the butter cream
icing, but I will join you in an act of radical point scoring against
anyone who could foul his own nest, as he seems to have done,
considering he was brought up in the hated location.
The thing that really got to me was that he said he was a
philosopher, Brassie persisted. And I didn’t think his argument
was very logical.
Hah! I laughed, selecting the gooiest sweetmeat which contained
the greatest density of food colouring and the vilest polka dot paper
case. It is all an exemplifiacation of ‘The No True Scotsman Fallacy.’
You mean like ‘One swallow doesn’t prove that the summer has
Brassie actually gets to the nub of things fairly quickly sometimes.
Yes, we live in Suttonford and we are the exceptions to the rule. Yet we
are probably still reactionary bitches in his view.
But he doesn’t know us.
True, but, if he did, it would only confirm his worst opinions. But, once
he is older and wiser and re-reads ‘The Republic’, he may be reminded
that the visible world is the least knowable and the most obscure,
according to Socrates.
I thought Plato wrote….
He did. Oh, never mind. Here! Get your teeth round this one. Have
another cup of tea.
So, Suttonford is an example, like Alresford, of a paradoxical
Precisely. And you have to have left the cave of provinciality in
order to attain the ability to rule and to see clearly. He keeps climbing
out, but returns, like a dog to the vomit, to quote a Biblical simile,
to plumb the provincial depths, with a frequency that suggests that
he is a secret speleological lover of all the things he pretends to hate.
Yes, probably even cupcakes. He’s possibly a closet cupcake fascist. He may
be a ‘Krispy Kreme’ doughnut man in the city and a cupcake lover in
the country. How very Wildean!
I’d call that hypocritical, Brassie averred.
You’re not the only one, apparently, I observed, taking a look at some of
the replies and comments on Social Media. But I like his neologism
‘Alresfordism.’ Maybe it is akin to Suttonfordianism.
Yes, but which is the easier to pronounce?
The one you form with your mouth untainted by cupcake crumbs.
I’m with Benjamin on this one, I said, sipping my Macchiato.
Benjamin? Brassica interjected.
Yes, the cynical one.
You surprise me. Brassie can be ironic sometimes.
Yes, we are all being taken to the knacker’s yard in a battle bus. No one can
read what it says on the side. Benjamin had a good memory. Things can
never be much better or much worse. Hunger, hardship and disappointment
are the unalterable laws of life.
You surely don’t believe that, Candia? What about the vision of Sugarcandy
Mountain? We can build our own windmills. The Three Brexiteers
have promised that we will all be better off and the NHS and pensions
will benefit our own old and retired once again.
Hmmm, do you recall that by the fourth year of Animalism and
independence, Animal Farm depended completely on its trade with
the wider world? Rations were reduced and lighting was cut in the stalls.
There was no such outcome as the three day week and the full
Yes, Candia, but the animals had a feeling of dignity and held
spontaneous demonstrations to celebrate their own triumphs.
Yeah, and a lot of history was re-written as well. The animals felt
that they had re-gained what they had before. As for Snowball and
Napoleon, they were in cahoots with the Enemies and eventually
traded with whichever partner promoted their own selfish,
So, who do you reckon are Snowball and Napoleon?
I leave it entirely to your own judgement, comrade.
So, are you on your way to vote now? Remember, old Jones was not
so bad, even if he was a Fascist.
Yes, I had better watch out for the low-flying campaigning pigeons.
I don’t want to be crapped on. Nor do I want to be savaged by a band of
And I left, humming ‘Beasts of England’ cynically.
Brassie appropriated a couple of sugar cubes for Post-Revolution
sustenance, adjusted her Alice band and went to check her parking
ticket on the gleaming new dog cart, between whose shafts she
willingly reined herself.
As for moi?
Well, no one has ever seen a dead donkey. And being interested in
etymology, I remind you that le bon mot: ‘revolution’ has the inbuilt
concept of ending up exactly where you started.
disempowerment, exploring sexuality, fobreglass figures, gender fluid, Glasgow School of Art, LGBT, Matron, nursery rhymes, orienteering, phallic symbol, Scotch egg, seahorse, Twelfth Night, Venice Biennale
(54th Venice Biennale. Photo by Gianpiero Actis, 2011)
Mr Poskett threw a sickie and Mr Snodbury threw a fit.
The fact was that the Staff were uninterested in exploring anything
other than signing off their end of term reports. They were not
disinterested- no, they were absolutely NOT interested.
Their charges were of an age which displayed other concerns. Perhaps
this was owing to maturational unpreparedness, or, as the enthusiasts
for enlightenment felt, it may have been because of a lack of education.
Whatever the reason(s), the boys seemed, on the whole, happy to assign
themselves to the male gender. And, although they had been deprived
of the older stalwart nursery rhymes which used to be features of
kneeside anthologies, such as:
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and all things nice…,
they intuitively accepted that they were composed of rats and snails
and puppy dogs’ tails. They knew that was the case, as the little girls-
if not the Bible-told them so. They behaved accordingly in the school
yard, changing rooms and playing fields. If anyone cried, he was a
But now such cruelties were being challenged by PSE teachers, some of
whom had been ‘blubbers’ themselves.
(Yes, Dear Reader, it has always been a cruel world.)
Occasionally one or two pupils had explored their sexuality under cover
of darkness, but Matron merely arranged for their sheets to go to the
laundry a few days earlier, and nobody said a word.
Believe it or not, some boys had even had a passing crush on Mr
Snodbury- not that he had ever noticed. Perhaps they had mixed up
their enthusiasm for cricket, with the Master who supervised them at
John Boothroyd-Smythe, at least, had an inkling (very CS Lewis noun) of
what the fuss might be all about. Remember that his older sister, Juniper,
had been diagnosed (by whom?) as gender-fluid. John had mixed this
term up with Jeyes Fluid, which was something that his mother had used
to scrub the patio, so no wonder he had been confused.
Anyway, Juniper was expressing all that fluidity by sublimating it and
creating installations of an international rating while in her final years
at Glasgow School of Art. Not for her any cliched phallic symbols, or womb-
like apertures in sculpture. Oh no, she challenged assumptions
about the male/female brain.
One of her latest works had been accepted for the Venice Biennale.
She had moulded two fibreglass figures: one male; the other female.
Then she bought an old couch from a re-cycling centre. The male was
recumbent on the sofa, in front of a defunct television ( also from the
same site.) The female had an over-sized remote in her hand and was
zapping the man.
(Juniper had had the fake device cast at a local blacksmith’s, but he had
shared none of the glory. That was because he was a craftsman and
not an artist. There seems to be an aesthetic distinction, Dear Reader.)
The title was: Untitled, even though her tutor had advised something
about disempowerment gaining strength, or the worm turning. Juniper
felt that a work of art should speak for itself, even if most were silent.
So, on this day of exploration, the school kitchen entered into the spirit
of the occasion, as keenly as boy bishops had embraced a day of misrule.
To Mr Snodbury’s chagrin, Spotted Dick and other meaty favourites were
‘off‘ menu. Themed sandwiches and labelled salads were on the
menu du jour.
Gus stood perplexed at the counter. Usually, he didn’t have to make a
difficult decision. The queue was building up.
Oh, I’ll have one of those bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, he
addressed the girl (but was it a girl?) behind the serving hatch. He
removed the toothpick with the little pink and blue flag which proclaimed
The breezy reply was : Oh no, sir, it’s nothing to do with lettuce etc; it’s a
Lesbian, Bi and Trans versatile brunch snack. You should try something
new every day. The ‘g‘ doesn’t stand for ‘gherkin‘ or ‘garnish‘…
I’ll take a Scotch egg instead, grouched Snod.
Yes, men can have eggs too, smiled the girl. Seahorses…
Indeed, curtailed Snod.
Nigel was behind him in the queue. He indulged in no prevarication,
but merely placed a mini-salami on his plate, without a word. He
eschewed salad, as he wasn’t over-keen on cucumber, or it wasn’t keen
on him. He could never remember which way round it was. His mum
That’s not much, cautioned the girl. Would you like an ACDC apple cake?
You’ve got to keep your strength up now that I hear you are to be married.
Is it to a boy or a girl?
Nigel ignored the latter part of the dialogue. He simply asked for
clarification as to the dessert.
It’s just an apple turnover, sir.
Okay. Thanks. He blushed to his specially worn pink socks .
To cover his embarrassment, he turned to the PE teacher behind
him. What are the lads doing after lunch? It must be difficult to theme
Well, we thought we’d do a spot of orienteering, Dave winked. What are you
Just exploring cross-dressing roles in Twelfth Night and the like, Nigel
Fascinating, said Dave, whose eyes were riveted on the turnovers. Hey,
can I have two , please?
Some people are just greedy.
So, you went to Salisbury at the weekend?
Yes. To the ‘Celebrate Voice!’ Festival.
And heard what?
I sipped my Monk Pear tea. Schubert. Susan
Bullock, the Wagnerian soprano. She was singing
lieder. But I think that she was upstaged by the moon,
You can read my poem and decide for yourself.
Schubert in Salisbury
Our invisible feet traverse The Close
and we are shrouded in darkness. It’s there:
luminous, transcendent, yet immanent,
its sculpted details sharp in the moonlight.
Together, on this frosty evening,
our hearts ache from Schubert’s yearning lieder:
betrayal, grief, regret and bitterness.
Oh, farewell to the world- let them feel love;
they may thank you yet – sooner or later,
but tearfully– and probably too late.
In the medieval hall she sang to us
and we were insulated by the warmth,
the spotlit dais; the shiny Steinway.
Elbow to elbow, we brushed each other;
applauded to show solidarity.
But, propped up, in the great closed porch, a lone
cold, shadowy figure, tightly cocooned
in damp, lumpy bedding, breathes not a word.
The stone finger of God points to the sky,
as if to seal the lips of the divine.
Before us lies a man who has no voice,
but merely craves some heat from God’s stage door.
The singer did not bow to him tonight;
he did not hear the piano lid come down.
He falls asleep and hears the angels sing-
the spire above, his ladder up to Heaven.
And we, like Jacob, rooted to the earth,
wrestle and wrestle with our own demons.
The moon vanishes behind a dark cloud.
She sang: Und finster die Nacht, wie das Grab!*
The frozen sleeper turns onto his side
and we hurry, before the gates are locked.
*’and the night dark as the grave.’