Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Seven Veils

Swn y Mor - M Charlton, 2000

I have been tagged by Preseli Mags to describe myself in seven words. I suppose I could take this literally and make this a very short post (why not, I hear you say). But this seems like an indulgent opportunity to write about me, so here is the longer version.

Thinker. I think a lot. I can drive for hours without turning on the radio; I can happily ponder an issue for days; some problems I've been wrestling with all my adult life. I studied philosophy at university which explains it in part, though it's more about who I am than anything I've learned. During my first undergraduate course (it was in ethics), I was struck by how muddled and contradictory many of my attitudes were; and I remember the joy of sorting them out, bringing a little structure to the chaos. Strange to use a word like joy in this context, but I think it's true.

Polymath. Someone on a writing course called me this; I had to look it up. I have lots of interests; too many in some ways. I enjoy writing, painting, philosophy, kayaking, cycling, climbing, entomology (yes, I know)... At different times in my life I've concentrated on one or other of these, but they all remain in the background. I suppose that I'm quite proud to have done them all to at least a reasonable standard. Ultimately, I think all my interests - writing, painting, a love of wilderness (maybe not entomology) - are a way of better understanding myself and my place in the world.

Father. Without doubt the single biggest change in my life. I'm not at all religious, but it was only after having children that I understood the power of the Christian myth, 'For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son...' I dread the day my boys will leave home and fear the grief it will cause me.

Grateful. I was going to use the word privileged, but that has mixed connotations; lucky doesn't seem right either. Whatever, the point I'm trying to make is that I'm grateful for all I have and the opportunities that have come my way. Sure, I've worked damn hard, I've not been gifted any particular advantage, we make our own luck and all that... But on a big scale, boy am I lucky and privileged and fortunate and more. And I don't just mean this in a glib sense, or because I'm writing this blog post; it's something I carry with me every day and try always to remember. Now, as to who exactly I am grateful to, I'm not entirely sure - you see, there's the thinker in me again.

Nostalgic. I'm terribly nostalgic; my past is always part of my present, good and bad. One of my greatest pleasures is returning to favourite places. I'm sure I could be very happy if, for the rest of my life, I was only allowed to visit half a dozen places of my choosing.

Organised. Lots of people ask how I manage to fit in so much. The answer is a mix of diligence, drive, imagination, prioritisation and a respect for time (or the lack of it). I'm not brilliant at any of these qualities, but I it would be falsely modest not to say I'm good at the balancing act of life. I also have Jane, my hugely supportive wife, without her very little would be possible.

Hopeless. At spelling, at foreign languages, at anything musical, at finding my glasses, at visiting my mother, at letting things go, at listening when I should, at mingling at parties, at using the dishwasher.... I could go on.

And I could so easily have gone on with other words. Interesting that I barely mentioned my career; not something I define myself by, though I like my job and especially the people I work closely with.

Now I get to tag some people, so I nominate Sara, Norfolk Single Dad, Carol, OMG, Grumpy Ken, Cait and Daz who was my first ever blog follower.


  1. Mark, I love that painting!! It's absolutely stunning...the green on the black just jumps out!! Wonderful!!

    Sorry, got distracted!! I really like your answers to this and I'm very glad you decided to expand on the words :-)

    Polymath is a good description!! You always seem to be out and about doing something!! (I'm really not sure about the entomology though). And I love that you included Father in there!! (One of the things I adore about your blog is that it is so clear from your writing just how much you love your family :-D)

    I shall have a go at doing this (bet it won't be as good as yours) but, since I have just posted one, I shall save it for when I've not been up to much :-)

    C x

  2. Gosh - beautiful painting! I like the word polymath too. I totally understand the nostalgia bit and have the greatest respect for anyone who is organised. That's a great list.

  3. I've been struggling to think of my own seven words. I'm a bit of a polymath too, although my interests tend to the geeky side.

    I have a real urge to get into kayaking at the moment though. I have a dream of crossing Scotland using lochs and canals (I know lochs isn't spelt like that but can't be bothered looking it up)

  4. The painting is just wonderful, so zingy yet a bit sombre at the same time in a way. And after reading your answers, feel you are less of a stranger in some ways. I also saw most of them as positives, even some of the things you listed under 'hopeless'.

  5. Stunning art to open, absolutely stunning!

    It is not easy to do this 7, is it, but I have enjoyed reading yours. I have learned a new word, Polymath, and had I known it earlier it might have been one of my 7!

    That painting simply must be inspired by Pembrokeshire. One of my favourite artists is David Dixon of Oriel Albion Gallery.

  6. Thank you for all these comments.

    Celtic Heart - if you would like to see the painting it is on permanent display at the Twr Y Felin Hotel in St Davids, along with a number of other more abstract abstract seascapes