Posts tagged: narrative

Philosophy, Booklists and The Tiger Who Came to Tea

Under the Rainbow at the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival

Blue sky, white clouds and a rainbow over a beach scene

My day at the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival began with John Gray on ‘The Soul of the Marionette: A Short Enquiry into Human Freedom.

book cover The Soul of the MarionetteThere were a lot of questions:

  • Can knowledge set us free?
  • Will we ever understand ourselves well enough to design a better version?
  • Do we really want to be free?

There weren’t a lot of answers but I did come away with a list of authors who might help with my research: Philip K. Dick, Theodore Powys, Gertrude Bell, Michel de Montaigne might help me see life a little more clearly which might mean less disturbed by the beliefs of the world around me.

I’m all for a closer examination of beliefs, their nature, their shifting sandiness and our unwitting of living as if they were true and this was a thoroughly enjoyable stroll in that direction.



On, then, to A Celebration of the Life and Work of Judith KerrA little girl opens to the door to a huge, lovable, cartoon tiger

What a life and what wonderful work Judith Kerr continues to create. 92 years old and as entertaining, gently profound
and moving as ever, Judith Kerr is an absolute delight.

I read ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ to children at school, to my own children, and now to my grandchildren and it has an irrepressible charm. Who knew that the illustrations include two versions of the father? I must go back and have another look.

And then, of course, there was ‘When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit’ and now we have ‘Mister Cleghorn’s Seal’ based on her father’s real experience of saving the life a seal pup and taking it home to his flat to live on the balcony.

I hope I can be so irrepressible, good humoured and lively when I’m 92.


“Can you remember a time before you could read?

Hilary Mantel’s Life in Books conversation picked up a thread touched upon by Judith Kerr who questioned the content of the Janet and John books she encountered in school.  Whether it was Janet and John, “John has two caps.”; Nip and Fluff “Nip is a dog. I see a dog.”; or Peter and Jane, it seems wonderful that we ever saw the point in learning to read unless, like Hilary Mantel, you managed to discover a world of books actually worth reading.

Amid this fascinating conversation books and authors tumbled like a glorious domino rally with one book prompting another until my notebook was almost full.  ‘Kidnapped’ clearly deserves revisiting as I had completely failed to notice the perfection in its form. Oliver Sacks, Beryl Bainbridge, and Ivy Compton-Burnett are all favourites of my own who were highly commended while I admit my ignorance re Molly Keane, Sybille Bedford and Alison Lurie.

I’ve added them all to my ‘must read’ list, and I still haven’t finished reading “John Aubrey – My Own Life” by Ruth Scurr so I’m ill-prepared for tomorrow!


Thoughts on Transformation

These are some thoughts I collected over a recent weekend workshop.  Most of them are my own (others are credited where possible but if I have failed to credit you, please let me know and I will correct the image).


Narrative thoughts

What I’m wondering is, would these thoughts mean anything to you if you weren’t part of the weekend experience?

  • A conversation can always make a difference.
  • What you see of me is just the tip of the iceberg.
  • What I see of you is just the tip of the iceberg.
  • When you’re looking for the best (in human beings), miraculously, that’s what shows up.
  • Every time I retell the story I notice something different.
  • A rippling moon looking up sees a sister riding the sky.
  • If I peeled my image off the mirror, what would I see?
  • And if I drop the future it shatters into a million sharpened futures.
  • I don’t know. You don’t know. We don’t know. Not knowing is a great place to start.
  • When I am upset about something, that’s not what I’m upset about.
  • Transformation lies in things we would rather avoid.
  • We are constituted in conversation.
  • I came from a nowhere that might have been somewhere and sometimes I glance back.
  • The completion of a story is the beginning of a story.
  • We all have a story, we are not our story and the story does not predict our future.

 Is there anything here that speaks to you and if so, what does it suggest?

If you’re curious I recommend you check the programme out. Here’s a link.

Somewhere in the Psyche

Australian Aboriginal Rock Paintings which seem to include stylised animals, birds and human hands







Little Things Add Up

What fortune guides the traveller

in empty eggshell boat

sea songs and shanties

notes creating harmony

remains of a greater work

the song of the apprentice

small cherub wearing pickelhaube

sits among red flowers

little things not to be forgotten

raindrops adding up

ideas pushing boundaries

somewhere in the psyche

translating geology


drip drip drip


Little Things Add Up

When we are trying to make sense of something that has happened in our lives we collect evidence from things we remember. We take these memories, which we take to be ‘real’ or ‘true’, and put them together to create a story or narrative that makes some kind of sense.

 We then think, feel and behave in a way that is influenced by the narrative we have created.

But what if those story elements proved to be unreliable, or even untrue?

You can read the poem above and use the images, thoughts and feelings it suggests, to create meaning.

But what if you were someone else? Imagine yourself as someone else; someone you admire, whose opinion you trust.  Recall as much as you can about their life story.  Now reconsider the poem as if you were that person. some, if not all, of the lines will suggest something different to this person.

How has the meaning changed?

And yet the words are the same.

When you tell someone else your story, you begin to hear it differently and this can set you free to think, feel and behave differently. In this way narrative coaching gives you permission to be the person you want to be.


National Poetry Writing Month button


It’s the the 27th day of NaPoWriMo!

Today’s challenge involved plugging the first three words of a well known proverb or phrase into a search engine and skimming through a few pages of results, collecting (rather like a poetic magpie) words and phrases.  Those words and phrases would then provide inspirations and some of the source material for a new poem.

It was a fun exercise although there were several false starts before I settled on my chosen proverb. I’m curious as to whether the original phrase is suggested by the resulting poem. Possibly not.

Interestingly, I think I can see its influence all the way through. But then, I would wouldn’t I?



Finding themes, habits and tendencies

apples bucket



it’s up to you to fill in the gaps

it rained today
the mist cloud luminescent

in the tractor rut in the lane
abscondees have flown the burrows

at night the moon becomes a friend
and singularity

waiting for birdsong and light
I thought of breaking through

everyone in this house has dreamed of flying
but hasn’t looked up for years

unripened apples predict
but know they fall together

like light in mist
the arrow’s lost its point

pebble piles on pebbles piled on pebbles
I should thunderbolt you now

the red morning sun
discovered death and left

falling apart
before I leave
I miss you



For day 24 of National Poetry Writing Month, I followed a prompt from The Poetry School suggesting a found poem. Found poetry, according to a Pulitzer Remix is the literary version of a collage, where authors excerpt words and phrases from existing texts and rework them into new pieces


Personal themes, habits and tendencies

In NLP we speak of meta-programs.  These could be described as a set of unconscious and deeply held convictions which influence how re receive information through our senses and thus drive our thought patterns, actions and reactions causing us to behave in ways which we rarely question.  Although they are unconscious, they can be revealed, particularly in our use of language.

The challenge to create a ‘found poem’ seemed to present a golden opportunity to put the spotlight on my own linguistic tendencies. As you know, I have written 23 poems this month so I decided to re-read them and take, from each, the line which suggested itself and use the resulting 23 lines to create a new poem.

This kind of self-reflexive narrative is doubly interesting because it offers opportunities for both objective and subjective consideration.  I could ask:

What does this poem tell you about me; my tendencies and themes?
What can I learn about myself from the themes that have emerged?
What does your response to the poem tell you about yourself?

It is not only with poetry that we can step back and gain new perspectives on what drives us to think, feel and behave as we do.  The life story you tell me in a coaching session offers a perfect opportunity for identifying your own habits and tendencies. With new insights into what has been driving you in the past, you are much better equipped to make different choices for your future.


Disaster Prone Ideas

We hear from Owl

the abscondees have flown the burrows
and boast, with borrowed rodomontade 
hard to tolerate, that they will build a penthouse 
outhouse where they will dine on quahog and clove cheese.
They tease us with their bilious recipes
and we receive their dunderhead disaster prone ideas
as if from messengers mercurial and non-pareil.
They leave themselves open to the cowbird
whose own twice curled unhatched 
will play the owlet while our heroes 
squander their love on a future that proves elusive.


nest metaphorIt’s day 20 of National Poetry Writing Month and I have been becoming a little reckless with my writing over recent days.  

Writing a poem every day has freed me up from some habits that had insidiously made their way into my self-perception. 

My reaction to today’s challenge was to throw caution to the wind and just play.  

Here’s the challenge: write a poem that uses at least five of the following words:






























Letting Go

NaPoWriMo is proving to be a wonderful exercise in letting go. For reasons which may, or may not, include tiredness, enthusiasm, hysteria, …. [fill in your own word here], I have let go of some of my reserve in writing and sharing my poems.

When I re-read the 20 poems I think I detect a loosening or lightening of tone.  I would be very interested to know whether anyone else has noticed changes.  I expect to return to all the poems later to select some for redrafting, and I wonder what I will notice in the future that I’m not seeing now.

If you want to let go of a habit, thought pattern or tendency in your own life, this might be a model you could use.  Let me know what you think. 


Experimenting with a glimpse of a story

double happiness


Double Happiness

it rained today
not transcendentally
just wet.
Do you ever see the rain I wonder?
I bet
you won’t expect to hear me say
it’s twins coincidentally.


national poetry writing month 2013

This is my 18th poem for National Poetry Month

Here, from the NaPOWriMo website, is the challenge for today…
“And now our (as always, optional) prompt! Today’s prompt comes to us from Cathy Evans, who challenges us to write a poem that begins and ends with the same word. You could try for something in media res,”
This, I discovered on Wikipedia, means ‘into the middle of things’ so I stepped right in to the middle of a story as an experiment.

I am playing with the notion of something other than a linear narrative here. What happens when the chronological, linear order we are accustomed to isn’t available?

What difference does it make?

Following my statement two days ago, that we are all meaning makers, I am curious to know what you might make of what may be an unnerving glimpse into a story and whether this unfamiliar standpoint might offer a revealing perspective on elements of your own story.

What does it mean to you?

Sky West and Crooked

Sky West and Crooked

huntedI walked a mile for you today
of course we did not meet.
Quarry out-foxed hounds to stay with
vixen, cubs and rabbit meat.

At night the moon becomes a friend
Its blue my blue, its white my white.
The backyard swing has swung its highest
the gate is fastened tight.

Young elms sway where least expected
a swallowtail, a flail of larks.
Music lingers – white  inflected
silhouettes against the dark.

Red dawn surprised me on the moor
I turned among the glowing trees.
Scent of almond seemed to call
to memories of times like these.

I’m told they’ll never come again
the raggle taggle gypsies – oh.
The fox, the swing, the moon, the stain
are real as dreams you’ll never know.





National Poetry Writing Month – Day 15

Sky west and crookedToday’s poetry challenge suggested the Pantun form. A pantun consists of rhymed quatrains (abab), with 8-12 syllables per line. The first two lines of each quatrain aren’t meant to have a formal, logical link to the second two lines, although the two halves of each quatrain are supposed to have an imaginative or imagistic connection.

Inspired by the idea of imaginative or imagistic connections, I was reminded of the 1966 film, Sky West and Crooked.  A young girl’s emotional and psychological development is halted by a tragic accident which triggers a fascination with dead animals and burial. It takes another emotional upheaval to help her gain some perspective on her childhood trauma.

Putting the unusual form and the strange story together has resulted in a poem which invites you, as reader, to explore your own imagination, associations  and interpretation.  This kind of open ended exploration can be useful when ‘nothing seems to work’ because, at one level, this is nothing.

Having read the poem, or watched the film, a few times consider these questions..

What does it say to you?

When and where do you think your response has its beginning?

Who did it come from?

Does this give you any intuitions, insights or understandings which you might not otherwise have uncovered?

Of course a single poem, or an old film, is unlikely to transform the effects of trauma but, encountered as part of a carefully planned Narrative and NLP coaching programme, art can help gain perspectives that allow you to see life differently.  And that’s what makes the difference.


Trauma, Anxiety and Fear

 Yesterday’s prompt from National Poetry Writing Month was to write a tanka: a poem based on syllables, with the pattern being 5-7-5-7-7.  They work best when those final two 7-syllable lines contain a sort of turn or surprise that the first three lines might not wholly anticipate.

The reference to the turn, or surprise at the end triggered the memory of a story my father-in-law once told me.

I found myself returning to the question “what don’t you want to write about?”



Summer in Croatia

On boughs of my trees
unripened apples predict
sun, rain and harvest
while my husband and children
stiffen in the July breeze.


I didn’t want to write this poem, for all sorts of reasons, but I know myself well enough to realised that the terrible image would stay with me all day if I tried to ignore or deny it.

Sometimes it’s the things we don’t want to talk about that bring the greatest relief once they are out in the open.

Trauma, anxiety and fear don’t go away just because we don’t speak about them but once we let go of a memory which has been ‘haunting’ us, it loses its grip.  We don’t always realise what is holding us back but one way of finding out is to ask ourselves the question.

What don’t you want to think about?


It’s Who We Are Being that Matters


When you say ‘I understand him’ or ‘she doesn’t understand me’, what do you mean by ‘understand’ and how do you ensure that I share that meaning?

Here is today’s poem for National Poetry Writing Month


Not Being Able to Speak the Language

We think we use the same words
but know they fell together
through different history.

Geography played its part.
Geography lies in the heart.
The mind thinks it knows better.

The mind knows when we were born and where
who taught us and what was said
in the languages spoken there.

In your search for clarification
look into my eyes
maybe the time, the place or the lesson
is where the confusion lies.

Words may not be the answer
deeds can confuse us too.
It’s who we are being that matters.
It’s who we are being that’s true.


Poetry and Coaching

However hard we try we will never have access to another person’s thoughts. What they mean by a word will almost always be different from ours however similar the language sounds.

Poetry acknowledges that each of speaks our own personal language.  That’s what gives metaphor its power.  It’s why haiku are so simple and yet so profound. Poetry relies on the mystery of language.

One of the things that Narrative NLP Coaching offers is the opportunity to look at your beliefs as if you learned them from someone whose language you didn’t quite understand.

What difference might it make?

And what might that make possible?




You Sing

Sun moon and stars all in one blue sky





You Sing

I remember the bird who announced your arrival
with the chirping we call song

In the midst of carnival and riot
my eye recalls your quiet smile

Your mother listens
your father listens
through the deepening night

The red morning sun
makes you laugh and say ‘Balloon’

The days, so long you break them into threes,
bring changes you repeat for fun
until they are your own
and then you look for more
your appetite unfailing

You love the moon
and look for it
in blue sky

you climb the mountain of the stairs
and at the top you sing

You sing.

national poetry writing month 2013

Until I signed up to this year’s National Poetry Writing Month, I hadn’t written a poem for about a year. In the past I have used poetry to express my feelings when angry, distressed or depressed.

I had, without realising it, come to equate writing poetry with unhappiness. I had created a block for myself. Joining NaPoWriMo 2013, on a whim, has dissolved that non-existent block.  It wasn’t real. it was a story I was unconsciously telling myself.

Life is full of these stories. Like the child in the poem, we learn by repeating, and sometimes this leads to us learning a habit, or a state of mind, that we would not consciously choose for ourselves.

Narrative Coaching offers an opportunity to discover things we believe without realising it, and then we can change the story.

I am grateful to a fellow poet, Sally Douglas, for introducing me to NaPoWriMo 2013, and for her poem Seven Glances at Time which inspired today’s poem.

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