About Life

The Hour of the Wolf

My favourite University lecturer in fundamental Physics, a long time ago, a true gentleman with a learned mind, quite old already back then, gentle and wise, reported once about what he called ‘Wolfsstunde’, the hour of the wolf, hours of merciless awakeness in the dead of night. Yet he added back then that those nocturnal periods had turned for him from bouts of melancholy to moments of quiet and peaceful reflection in solitude.

He seemed to have acquired the skill to turn such moments into an art. He would get dressed carefully in his best comfortable clothes, carefully prepare a good cup of something hot to drink and start thinking and reflecting about things for which there was never time during busy days. Those hours of the wolf, so he said back then, had in fact become a pleasant, agreeable and ever so necessary pastime of his life.

For many, such periods of nocturnal times of being unable to sleep are difficult and uncomfortable. Same for me, initially anyway, until I remembered my old Physics lecturer who on that particular day long ago spoke of many insights and wisdoms who weren’t understood at all back then by any of us young students and kept being dormant in my mind for a very long time and which only today seem to start germinating. A little bit anyway.

There are reasons for being awake at night and they seem to demand to be understood. Science tells us of hormonal changes at night, biorhythms, disturbances of all that and unnatural interruptions of our nightly resting period. Still, once accepted for their existence, those nightly hours awake can provide very good experiences, to the point that one looks forward to those moments of peace and calmness with an alert mind and a creative flow of energy. As a musician I have come to appreciate the fact that my best compositions were created at the dead of night, in my head before I even touch the guitar and start singing them later in the morning. No chance for all that during the day, weekends even, too much pressure, telephone calls, work, emails, life’s worries and demands take their toll. However, in the night, once awake and the melancholic darkness shaken off or thoughts like that ‘one’ really ought to be sleeping, then during the minutes and hours of being awake life changing thoughts can emerge at times. Precious, invaluable, profound, lasting.

A book I know has the title ‘Tears at night, smiles at dawn’. That’s how it seems to be for me, at times anyway. The joys, needs, worries and concerns of my loved ones are on top of the pile of things to think about. Then come the regrets over past events I am not proud of and for which I am made to pay daily by those who are unable or unwilling to forgive. Or the grieving over disputes and disagreements which aren’t necessary yet which serve another purpose instead altogether, it seems. We are living in a pandemic, cooped up, the different views, different preferences are simmering over the hot fire of personal resentments and before you know it the sound emerges of irreconcilable arguments where the subject matter doesn’t even seem to matter anymore. All that seems to matter in such moments is to let off steam and to dish out insults and accusations instead of allowing one’s better instincts to guide the moment. A song I wrote a while ago has the title ‘Tired of the fight’. This song too I wrote in the middle of the night. How so very much fed up I am these days of these expressions of irreconcilable differences. We need each other. Now more than ever. Yet we keep on arguing for the sake of it. About nothing really. And nothing good comes out of it except of having been able to let off steam. A strange balance sheet emerges. In exchange for frustration and bad vibes one is rather unhappier than before, feelings of guilt and regret appear, spoiling the satisfaction of having truly voiced aloud an opinion only to get one back, equally poisonously expressed. Pressure was relieved in exchange for everyone being unhappy. How stupid all this is. Perhaps a few hours of the wolf are needed here indeed to calm down, reflect, allow regret and the emergence of reforming resolutions.

Keep your side of the street clean. So it says. But that too some find objectionable. To not participate in an argument carries a great risk to alienate allies and loved ones, those who count on you, even in moments where they’re wrong. Not to take sides in such times inevitably leads to accusations of being a pushover, a coward, a pathetic whimp. Every peacemaker worth his salt knows that trying to calm the waves in the heat of the moment leads to merciless accusations of weakness from some, the pains of which last long until after those who argued have moved on miraculously. Peacemakers always loose for the benefit of those whose fight they were trying to calm down.

Such thoughts too creep into my mind at night. Doing the right thing, including not taking sides in futile arguments, never offers any reward however well earned. But that is ok. What matters is to do and continue to do what is the right thing to do.

To find peace in these quiet moments at night, less melancholy and more reflection. I seem to be able to count on that these days in the hours of the wolf, those invaluable times awake at night.

I will leave it here for today.

Stay healthy, take care and good luck



The current pandemic forces us all into an unfamiliar kind of confinement.

I am hard pressed to listen in this respect to the British Government advice on all that, given its track record of cock ups, incompetent hesitation and general inclination to politicise even matters like the need to act.

To me, it’s common sense to isolate as much as possible to prevent getting ill and, above all, help protect others. I also don’t much appreciate being questioned in a stern manner by two policeman, as I have been after having been spotted by a police drone, why I have to walk my dog in the park, alone, close to my home.

I appreciate there are fools out there who think they know better but to be threatened with a fine for walking my dog alone around my neighbourhood makes me uneasy and does nothing to change my view that we are currently ruled by a bunch of narcissistic, self righteous, power addicted, pitiful, incompetent half wits

and policed, in part, by partly well meaning but at times also hapless and clueless officers

who are to be pitied too for having to apply half baked, ever changing policies. I might not be popular saying such things but it’s how I feel and if as a consequence of four years of Brexit negotiations to achieve what is wrongly labelled as sovereignty a lorry driver has to surrender his home made ham sandwich when entering Holland, or a British musician needs a work permit to perform in the EU, then I feel even less inclined to believe that we are well lead on our way out of the pandemic through the ever changing rules put in force by this bunch of below average politicians. No, I’m not happy with all that but I do sense that a heavy dose of self imposed confinement is necessary to remain safe and well until it’s our time for the promised shot in the arm.

As confinement goes, I am quite surprised by its effects on me even if it’s partly to be expected. I live a relatively private life at the best of times but the thought of being unable to go to a concert, visit at a whim my favourite bookshop in town, the beach 20 miles north of where I live, this I find unsettling, the knowledge that I can’t that is, even if I might not want to go out into the cold right now anyway. This knowledge of ‘I can’t’ is unsettling indeed. I feel locked in, cooped up, restricted, confined basically. So I end up sitting in front of the screen working from home, know what I need to do to solve a work related problem, know how to approach it, but find myself unable to actually do it. It isn’t procrastination as I don’t put things off. I just don’t want to do them, it seems. Full stop. What I want is to get out. I want my freedom back. I want that confinement to disappear yet it won’t and so I end up doing little or nothing at all at times except getting depressed, irritable or angry or all of those. No point in telling myself to pull myself together. It’s not complaining either. It’s just as if I haven’t got the right petrol in the tank. I have yet to find a way to deal with it better and am taking some sort of comfort in some of my colleagues reporting the exact same.

Court grants prisoner permission to use his laptop in prison cell | News24

Confinement is hideous. It is, remember, a punishment for certain crimes of the more serious kind. It’s known to hurt which is exactly why it is that a certain prescribed length of it is considered an adequate punishment for wrong doing. The only thing is, we haven’t done anything wrong yet are confined anyway. It sucks, it really does.

The biggest comfort in all of this though, is the knowledge that we are not alone in all this. This confinement has hit us all. The risks of breaking out of the confinement are the same for all of us too. As are the pains of having to endure it. Shared suffering is suffering halved, a German saying goes. I go along with that.

Have I got another suggestion as to how to deal with it? Not really but here’s the thing, I found things to do which I wouldn’t do if there wouldn’t be in confinement. I started some DIY, I wrote a few new songs, I have reached out to old friends (not on Facebook!), I am reading more. Somehow I’m doing different things and there are unexpected rewards to be had or so I found. And I am forced to face more than usual the happenings in the world inside. Something we are all so very good at avoiding. There are treasures to be found there. And it beats the time.

And as far as this being perhaps forced a little bit more than usual to look inside is concerned, there’s also this chance to discover our true selves, and for that to happen we must allow the unconscious to have a voice. Carl Gustav Jung said to all that: ‘Looking outwards has got to be turned into looking into oneself. Discovering yourself provides you with all you are, were meant to be, and all you are living from and for.’

For me that look inside usually starts with looking at old photos.

I’m trying to hold onto that. Emphasis being the word ‘trying’. There’s little outside right now. I might as well follow C G Jung’s advice.

Seriously, in this seemingly endless period of involuntary pandemic induced confinement the road signs all point to the inside and the channels, paths and highways towards it are all open for traffic. We hesitate. Sure we do. We can be sure we won’t find stupid politicians there or crazy policies and regulations. We don’t know though what we will find but I as I have quoted before, the dark cave we fear most to enter contains the treasures we seek the most.

Perhaps there’s a remedy against this confinement after all. I shall try it. What else is there to do? You may want to do so as well.

Take care and good luck


Happy new Year

We enter into 2021. Forgive me readers, for not sending you all my best wishes earlier. Brexit, this insanely huge step back now sealed, a raging pandemic, frighteningly incompetent leaders, a US mob attacking Capitol Hill…I seem to have missed the cut off point, we just seem to continue carrying on wading through an ever increasing quagmire of a mess.

We are dying in the thousands each day from this awful pandemic yet so many still defy clumsy rules to fight it. We are cooped up into our homes. Something I kept on trying to express in my writings throughout last year now comes to the forefront once more. We all, as individuals, are forced presently to draw from untapped resources within us. Untapped thus far by choice for it has always been easier to buy yet another thing for distraction, travel to yet another beach to search in vain for what can only be found inside through uncomfortable efforts and humbleness. Distractions are an easy escape at first sight from facing the realities. But right now no distractions will do. For me anyway. Facing the facts, accepting our ownership of having to help prevent more suffering, making cuts on our expectations and ambitions, making huge cuts indeed, from what we want to do, being really truthful to the facts, remain objective and, above all, remain kind and compassionate to those, condemned through no fault of their own, to live with us in pandemic induced confinement.

No, these are no easy times. And much is asked of us, in areas mostly where we don’t much like to spend much time and effort on. Compassion, patience, faith and hope where no certainty can be had, with no end in sight.

I don’t sleep much presently. I don’t fret in the dark hours awake at night but I do feel the strange but powerful drumbeat of the pulse of our time and it’s uncomfortable. We are not doing well. We hurt. And it shows.

In such times, it being cold and wet outside, I cherish a warm bed, full fridge, dry feet. Creature comforts. It could all be a lot worse. Yet there’s no certainty. There never is anyway but there are fewer opportunities right now it seems to find ways to deny that fact. Living in the present moment, letting go etc, I wrote about such things last year and, as I said, I am rereading my own thoughts these days.

Perhaps this really is the time to delve back to the inside and resolve what’s been plaguing us throughout our lives, and not go yet again to somewhere else pretending that yet another feast or party at yet another beach in yet another country can lead us to happiness.

It’s all here for the taking. Within us.

When I set out to write, and publish, my thoughts, I didn’t intend to write about politics and the evils of our time yet I found it requires mentioning these days as it does form the often seemingly dark canvas on which I live my life and you live yours. The two are intertwined, the world outside and the one within. Yet it appears that whilst we seem to be able to change very little – not nothing – of what is happening ‘to’ us, we can change very much what’s happening with us, within us. And on that latter aspect I shall continue to share with you this year what my thoughts are in that respect. For even on the darkest canvas a bright spot appears as a star of light. And don’t you have to go out into the darkness to see the stars? And the more stars there are, the brighter the picture will become.

I received a comment on one of my recent entries, from a man I do not know and who lost everything, home, job, family, all of it. He said he saw ‘my reflections that day as a guiding light for the day ahead’. This encourages me to carry on. Try make a little positive difference in your friend’s, neighbour’s or a stranger’s life and you will know what I mean. I also received a message, unexpectedly, from Swiss acquaintances which felt so good at the time and pulled me out of the inner mud for a moment at a time when I felt rather blue about everything. That’s what we ought to do. Help each other, lift each other up. Just as this ageing reforming alcoholic once told me in no uncertain circumstances: ‘we can’t always control what shit gets into our heads, but we can control very much how long it stays there’. A crude way of putting it, maybe, but from someone who knows a bit or too about bad times; there’s truth in it, is there not?

In that spirit then, may I wish you all a very happy new year.

Stay tuned.

Take care and good luck


Christmas 2020

I would like to wish my readers a merry Christmas. May you find some peace today.

It’s a Christmas like no other I remember. My thoughts go out to those who work today, who worked last night, to those who have no work, to those in fear and despair, to those suffering from the pandemic in whatever shape or form, to the lonely, to those who can’t have peace in broken homes. My list is long.

It’s also the last Christmas before life in this country will change significantly. Our foolish leaders may gloat in what they call so sickeningly ‘a deal’ with Europe. With our European friends, so they call them. Throwing over board nearly 50 years of hard fought legislation over cooperation in an act of political vandalism which has no equal in my life time is not what friends do. Not in my book anyway. The utter self righteousness on display together with blind foolishness has finally reached a conclusion, one which will cause so much more suffering. And it’s been sold as a success to the gullible man in the street by narcissistic incompetent leaders who should know better and, frankly, ought to be ashamed of themselves. But shame is a currency of little value nowadays. It’s emetic.

History will not be kind with our times and with those who were supposed to lead us through them. Of that I am certain.

And yet, I will doggedly carry on caring for those around me, mend bridges I have perhaps too helped to let deteriorate. I shall exercise compassion where I can. I will not succumb to use the same tools that are the signs of our times. Lies, deceit, near fascist methods in forcing others to think along misguided initiatives and ideologies. I will continue to say what needs saying in these times where free speech is no longer possible without punishment, for radical wokeness and gone crazy political correctness drives fear into us.

I have never been a racist, judged people by their sexual orientation or religion but when things are not right yet we need to be afraid of saying so, then the ‘Never Again’ mantra instilled in my generation when we were young has not succeeded in getting through. When I hear the likes of Trump, Johnson, Gove…the lot of them, when I see the all SS style black clad border force officers in this country….I could go on and on .. then I cannot help but feel that the spirit of Goebbels is alive and kicking, that we have not learned from history, on the contrary, our leaders have perfected their lies beyond anything the Nazi propaganda machine appeared to be capable of.

I can’t change all that but I can make a difference in my immediate surroundings. That I shall continue to do. And I will call a lie a lie, a creep a creep, a wrong a wrong and never surrender my thirst for the very freedom so many gave their lives defending. There is hope in the little acts of kindness we are still free to show a neighbour or stranger even. We are still free to examine our conscience and act compassionately and kindly. We are free to forgive. We are freer ourselves if we do.

To all of you who over the year have been kind I offer my sincere thanks. To those I may have hurt I ask for forgiveness.

I wish you strength, fortitude, patience, hope and courage. We will need all of it.

Merry Christmas


3. Advent – Gaudete

Only a few words this week.

It’s Advent. For me always a time of reflection, anticipation and a certain waiting for Christmas. And tomorrow is ‘Gaudete’ Sunday. It means ‘Rejoice’.

I abandoned long ago the joining of the chorus that decries the commercialisation of it all, the glitter etc etc…No one forces me to join in! Let those who love glitter, have glitter and be happy with it. Let those in need of retail therapy have it too. And let’s also decide to spare those who celebrate Christmas along Christian traditions from the usual cynicism by self proclaimed know-it-all’s.

Advent, to me, provides also a change from the dark and gloom of November. Short days. Long nights. Frost. Wet. Ugh…not my thing.

We all need something to look forward to, do we not? And the waiting in anticipation during Advent is part of it. For me anyway. It gives me hope. Ah, hope, and her little sister, joy, what would become of us without them? So, as in the meaning of ‘Gaudete’ Sunday, rejoice!

I am spending this advent in self reflection as every year, over all the things that happened, are about to happen, are happening, both within and outside.

And I am looking forward to Christmas.

Take care, enjoy Advent and good luck

About Life


Unbelievable. I made it. I remember a time when the prospect of hitting forty was so far off. And now sixty. Without living through a war. Seeing a lot of the world. Good times and troubling ones. Dodging a dangerous virus even. So far anyway.

On my watch many things happened. On the face of it I am grateful for many, family, prosperity, for example. I am bewildered by some others, the seeming decline of good politics, and outright puzzled by fake news and gone crazy political correctness, to name but a few.

Am I taking stock of my life? Am I looking back? Sure I do. It matters. Taking stock, however, doesn’t mean to linger in the past, or to dwell on it endlessly, or get stuck and mull over and over old hurts and angers. It’s about honouring what was and not to avoid the present or the future. If anything, it’s to draw strength from remembering the good and closing the lesser good to obtain strength and perspective to face what is yet to come however much remains of my time. Many memories are hidden within, deeply buried over time, yet ready to be taken up once more, thus setting in motion a flow of energy which can be put to good use in setting out the future.

When you’re young you make plans, if not consciously then unconsciously. When you are a little older you look back and see what happened to all that. You’re amazed over the things you did achieve, in some cases beyond what you could ever have imagined, in other departments you recognise, grief even, that some things you thought you were born for didn’t quite materialise, through lack of opportunities, by deliberate changes of course or by outright failure. Yet again, whilst joy and regret sit side by side, you cannot but notice that there’s a treasure of experiences here, a hoard of lessons learnt. Remembering all of that, going through it all one more time, equips you with a certain strength and resolve to live out what’s next in a much better way. And there’s a lot left I have yet to do, still hunger for, have yet to say to those who matter to me.

So, no glorification here of the past, no dwelling on old wounds and mistakes, but a chance to let go of old griefs, leaving be ancient grudges and by that I really mean leaving be this time. No more holding on to the past, getting stuck yet again in it, but allowing it to say everything that it can say in retrospect – for we can’t wish for a better past – but allow the past to instruct us and encourage us for the future, in terms of outlooks, new plans, conduct and hope.

There’s a treasure here, not just for us, but for those around us too, our loved ones especially. Everyone with a bit of mileage can use that treasure, even those who struggled, maybe those in particular. A reformed addict, for example, or recovering alcoholic can truly tell you how it is, was, spell out warnings, talk about the telling signs, consequences. Many such warnings will probably fall on deaf ears initially but seeds are sown many of which, in their own time, may well grow into insight and positive change. So even the failings carry important messages which can, and should be, passed on.

Or the necessary crisis which occur, particularly during the great transitions in life, when what one once held true and dear all of a sudden no longer holds and new territory awaits with all its hidden treasures and trappings. These crisis too carry messages, insights and acquired wisdom which can be passed on or reflected upon anew to help prepare for the time ahead.

The lived life is like an old tree. Its weathered and hardened stem carries a large crown teaming with life, life we support, provide a home for, a world to live in and prosper. What a waste it would be not to recognise this, not to revisit it, and move ahead with confidence gained through past successes or insights from failure or suffering.

And as I said, time too, to bury old hatchets at last. Rekindle relationships too maybe and finish what had been started in so many departments but left to languish unfinished since long ago.

I have been asked what I would say to my readers now that I have reached this milestone. I reply without hesitation: Create good memories for they make your life and one day affirm back to you that you have lived it well despite setbacks.

And I would also say, that for my mistakes I am truly sorry and ask for forgiveness. And for all the good I received I am truly grateful.

This milestone matters to me more than others. I didn’t know what to expect but now I can feel it. I cannot as yet articulate it in any other way or detail. But the look angle has changed. No doubt about it. On this, the writing was on the wall even if I couldn’t read it yet.

A new journey begins. One I am looking forward to. I shall let you know how I get on.

I would like to close today with the lyrics of a song I wrote in 2016. In a sense, all else I can say today in contained in it.

Never Ready

Been on this path so long

It’s hard to going back

think of the


Where it all began

What is time and memory

But a jaded faded song

Just the melody

It lingers on

I can’t say back then I was ready

To leave it all behind

Yet in the morning hit the road

Drove to England nice and steady

Through the night alright

Since then the world many times turned upside down

Over all the years

I never thought of giving up hope

In the end

There was always another way

And at times I didn’t think at all

About the wonders of this life

As they happened

Couldn’t find a word to say

Can’t say I was ever ready

To comprehend this life of mine

Yet every morning hit the road

Did what fathers do for life

And brought the bounty home

And all the while the world kept turning upside down

In the twists and turns of life

Sometimes you fall and rise again

There are victories

At other times you might feel blue

there’s no shame in bad times being a broken man

Nothing ever is in vain

You pick up the pieces

And start anew

When it hit me I wasn’t ready

To turn the other way

In a sense I hit the road anew

Rebuilt the castles

Planted seeds, not just a few

But there were bitter tears

As the world kept turning upside down

And all the while the time is passing

And the children find their way

In the mirror I sometimes don’t recognise my face

Ageing eyes that burn from deep

Within that fire of love

Is there joy or sadness

Near the end of the race?

Even now I fear I ain’t ready

To leave it all behind

Yet wanna hit the road again today

Do what men are born to do

To love and care, be kind

While all the while the world keeps turning upside down

Take care and good luck

About Life

My Rucksacks

For Ali

During a recent emergency in the Brandauer family, the paramedic gave me 15 seconds when I asked him if I could grab a few things before getting into the ambulance. I needed 5 seconds.

As younger couples with a baby on the way know (well, they should know), there needs to be a readily packed bag by the door for when the moment comes. I have had a bag ready ever since our children were born. I won’t tell you what it contains but it is all I need to survive for 48 hours or longer if necessary. It’s one of my trusted rucksacks which helped me on the Camino in Northern Spain, on many an urgent weekend journey, at work, on business trips including a four week stint last November, pre-Covid, somewhere in Southern Egypt. It is always readily packed. I don’t know exactly why I do this.

In fact, I have three rucksacks. Each one packed for different occasions, opportunities and eventualities. I wonder what a depth psychologist would make of it. ‘Carl Brandauer is ready for a quick get away’, he or she may say. ‘He wants to escape in his heart of hearts. There’s a shadow lurking inside that wants to break free’…that sort of thing. Actually, I think it’s none of that. I just hate packing in a hurry and forget things I need if I do. In any case, I was certainly rather grateful it was there two weeks ago when the crisis struck.

Built to order by a lovely lady somewhere in the South West Country (probably surrounded by insanely beautiful countryside ), they are simply beautifully made as well. I have never met the lady who made them for me, yet her bags have helped me everywhere I have been in recent times. Beautiful things make you smile. Useful things help you out. If objects are both, and knowing they weren’t made by an exploited underaged pair of hands in some hot country…I don’t know quite how to spell it out. It feels right. It feels good.

And with such a ‘ready bag’ you also learn to only pack what you really need. I can’t say what that is for you but I know what it is for me. As the song I wrote some time back says:

…the pilgrim sheds what’s not of use

Without excuse

Each thing needs carrying

Each thing has weight

The same with worries

Grief and hate

You shed it as you climb the slopes

And joy emerges

Freedom, hopes

You may find it odd hearing someone talk about rucksacks but here you are, I love those bags.

Take care and good luck

ps. Just to save you asking, you can get a rucksack like that from

About Life


To loose a loved one, maybe the loved one, or rather just living for a short while with the knowledge of that it happened or might about to be happening, is an experience I wish no one. Yet, I guess, we all will, to some degree anyway, live through something like that one day. Your Carl Brandauer has just been through such an experience. Everything got resolved in the end, surprisingly, ending in baffling fashion, as unexpectedly sudden as it began, yet for a while it was real and the effects of it all really rather linger inside. I’m definitely not over it yet.

A friendly priest once said in a sermon I listened to ‘we will all suffer one day’. Those words have acquired a new meaning for me. That much is certain.

A whole lot of nice things, never said before, are now said, whilst there is still time. Time, oh you illusive beast. We spend it as if we had infinite amounts of it. We haven’t. If you have anything kind to say to those who matter in your life, say them soon. You might not get another chance for surprises are just that, surprises, and they always knock on the door of your life when you don’t expect it. We never do, do we?

Wake up from that denial and let go of your little inconsequential and futile angers with those around you in your life. Forgive too, whilst you still can. Settle what you can settle and settle it well. It sets you free and you won’t have regrets when crisis strikes.

I wrote in earlier reflections about Living In The Present Moment and Letting Go. I am going to read those again this weekend.

I have a lot of thinking to do now. Who knows, maybe some of it will be worth sharing with you all at some stage.

Take care and good luck

About Life

The Wanderer

‘No man is wise until he lives many winters

In the kingdom of the world.’

So it is written in the ancient Anglo-Saxon poem ‘The Wanderer’. It was one of my daughters who sent me these lines and they struck a chord. And the poet goes on:

‘The wise must be patient,

Never too hasty with feelings nor too hot with words

Nor too weak as a warrior nor too witlessly brash

Nor too fearful nor too ready nor too greedy for reward

Nor even too feverish for boasting until testing his fibre.

A man should wait before he makes a vow

Until, like a true warrior, he eagerly tests

Which way the courage of his heart will course.’

Here is a man who has seen all the victories, the joys of allegiance to tribe, fellowship, surrounded by kindred spirits and led by his trusted and beloved leader and chief, all lost long ago, in battle and ruins, so it seems, leaving the wanderer, the lost and lonesome he has become, grieving, wandering, searching for words to express the wisdom such loss has wrought. Not for a long time have I read such a moving account of human despair yet also utter insight and wisdom concentrated in tears of loss.

What is wisdom anyway? Some young may well scoff at the word as they can’t have it, yet, and some older ones who know they do have it, a bit of it anyway, deep insight, take no joy in it, as they know too well that the wisdom they might call their own was earned through countless painful crisis, every bit of it. That’s the thing with wisdom. It comes at a painful and often bitter price, one we will inevitably pay for in life or we haven’t lived. It wipes the smug grin of one’s face. St Augustine was wise, St John of the Cross and many others. They too had their falls, trials and tribulations, their drunken bouts and questionable encounters with the other sex before reforming themselves and turning into the wise men and teachers we remember them for. As for me, I have done things I am not proud of and what I’ve learned I learned the hard way, made me ask for forgiveness to this day, still makes me try to make amends every day. How about you?

As for the poem, I cannot help but smile yet ponder too over words of old celebrations in mead halls, friendship, the profound sense of belonging. All lost, however, gone, in ruins, in the past.

And yet there is solace too:

‘Often the lonely receives love’, so the poem begins.

And the knowledge of the price of victory and loss is here too. It’s all here in fact and this was written when? A very long time ago. How little we have changed as a race. I can’t help but think there’s a profound message for us here in our time, from old, and not just because the days get shorter and colder and nights longer and darker. You have to go out into the dark to see the stars.

This poem resonates with me and I will ponder for a while longer, I guess, just why that is so. One thing is for certain, the poem has survived to this day for a reason, and is not known by many for other ones. For it takes courage to recognise that we must fall, that even kingdoms must fall at some stage, for there to be something new. It also takes willingness to accept that we should cherish and look after what we have for it will not last. Not for our own sake we should do that but for those we care for, for the world too, which we inherited and have yet to pass on, are in the constant process of passing on. Not to squander lightly what we are blessed with, for as the wanderer reflects

‘The good warrior must understand how ghostly it will be

When all this world of wealth stands wasted

As now in many places about this massive earth

Walls stand battered by the wind,

Covered by frost, the roofs collapsed.

The wine halls crumbled; the warriors lie dead,

Cut off from joy; the great troop all crumpled’

I am grateful to my daughter for giving me this poem. It made me stop in my usual tracks and listen differently for the moment to what is happening these days, realise what may well happen, will happen, appreciate differently what did happen. I give it to you herewith, this beautiful and powerful poem. Spend some time with it, it is well worth it.

Take care and good luck.

About Life

Camino Primitivo

A vista from the Camino Primitivo, the oldest of the Camino Santiago routes in the North of Spain. It is less well known than the more famous route, the Camino Frances, and doesn’t lead across the Pyrenees from France but starts on the Northern coast of Spain. It’s a rocky affair, this route to Santiago di Compostela, across the mountainous region of Asturias at first. Having walked on it three years ago, I look back these days more often to this momentous pilgrimage. You walk with very little in your backpack. You have to carry everything. It sharpens the mind as to what you really need. Every day on 20-30 km long rocky routes full of obstacles, always up and down. I always thought that walking such distances is not really such a big issue. In a way that’s still true but to walk it every day, day after day, that is different. It can’t be explained. You have to do it, felt it, and you know.

A lot of what is wrong in terms of thoughts will be left across the wayside. The mask drops off and the real core comes to light without veil and falsehoods. What’s left is the real self and nothing else. There can be tears flowing when the rain starts and hours of challenging terrain has yet to be crossed, distances braved before the next hostel, without there being shelter along the way, exposed to the forces of nature, alone with yourself on long, difficult paths. To walk across Asturias is not for the faint hearted and you need to have stamina. There’s hardly ever a straight stretch of way. Up and down, as I said, often steep and dangerous, above all when it rains, or, as happened to me, when it snows in April. The weather in the North of Spain can be tricky.

During these uncertain times, with many great worries to carry, for so many and for me too, I can’t help looking back at this trek through Asturias. Existential questions are on the table, about job, livelihood, security, health and more. To live with it all is not easy. And yet I recall this pilgrimage during which I got into serious trouble. That too is part of the Camino, the way. The danger, the accidents, crisis.

How light, or heavy, the load really is we need to carry isn’t always for us to determine as it is on a long walk. And yet you have to let go from bad thoughts, grief and hate, from anything that isn’t really authentically you. In a sense there’s no choice on the matter. No, we can’t always decide how much there is to carry but we can decide very much how to carry it, how fast we go forward, how many breaks we take, we need to take, to carry on. I have to remind myself more often of that these days, even without Coronavirus.

At the end – and there always is an end – a warm stove may be waiting, or the generous heart of a stranger with whom you can share your burdens and he can share his. Or an unexpected change in the weather occurs and the glimmer of hope lifts your spirit when the sun breaks through the clouds, the sudden certainty appears inside that all will turn out ok in the end. I hold on to such thoughts presently as I find them helpful even in the darkest of times. As St Julian of Norwich once said: ”All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Take care and good luck.