Barbara Gavin 28/2/13
Article for Soul and Spirit Magazine
INSIDE the MIND of Philip Wickham
Philip Wickham is just completing his eleventh
novel and this article looks at ‘the man behind the pen’
Q Isn’t it true that all writers are just self-obsessed navel gazers?
(Following much laughter this is what he said)
A Well, I’m not, can’t even see my navel, it’s down here somewhere! That might tie in with what I said before about making it bigger than it is: a lot of writers give the impression that they are privy to a kind of clandestine literary alchemy; it isn’t, it’s about imagination, commitment and absolute belief in your characters. I could name a famous poet who angst over a poem for eighteen months and at the end it was only half a page long. It was acclaimed because of the length of anguish it took to put it on paper not I feel because it was a good poem. I can only talk about me; I do a bit of scribbling and I certainly don’t look at my navel!
Q Are you well known?
A Only to my bank manager!
Q What are your views about the purpose of our existence?
A Purpose? Do we need a purpose? That’s a very intriguing question, the answers to which could last for hours! I live each day as it comes. I’m very grateful for every day that I can swing my legs over the side of the bed, stand up and walk. If I can do that every morning, it’s going to be a good day.
Q Do you think that we are continually reincarnated?
A To be honest I’ve probably had enough this time around. It’s been good but I think people get tired and like animals and plants, they’re here then they’re gone…and that’s it. I don’t see that we are any more special than any other kind of species; why should we be singled out for coming back? Everything else has to move over, that’s how I see it.
Q Do you think that people fear the loss of their existence?
A Yes, I think there is an inherent apprehension but I also think that people have been persuaded to think that you’re coming back for reasons of for example religious expediency. You can hold people over a barrel, “if you don’t do this or that, you won’t get everlasting life,” it’s been used as a not so subtle mechanism of persuasion to follow certain religions. I think that religion and faith are two very different things. On the other hand, you have people becoming enlightened by sitting under a tree, counting their fingers every day; it may enlighten them but it’s not enlightening or enriching anybody else in life. I guess I’m a bit of a Hippie; for in the end are we not all stardust? I think if there is reincarnation, it’s probably through your children. From a real physical being, not just psychological and mental states, from a bodily thing, you’re reincarnated through them; they look like you, carry your family bloodlines, your gene’s, so when you go, they are the re-embodiment of you. I’m happy to contribute what I can and try not to upset anyone along the way, and then go. That’s fine by me; I’m not looking for any afterlife. I’m happy to be above ground and breathing right now.
Q Just the very basics?
A I’m quite happy with that.
Q But those basics are very important…..
A You can win the lottery and have all the money you desire; if you haven’t got your health…well. Staring out through a window and on the other side is everybody else and you’re on this side in a hospital bed wishing you could feel the rain on your face; all the money in the world doesn’t help that. If I can walk through that door, that’s important to me.
Q You seem happy to let go. Live in the moment……
A Yeah. Reincarnation is not high on my agenda. I’m here for now and then I’ve gone then somebody else is here…I’m quite happy to come, do my thing and go. However, if there’s one thing, a footprint, I could leave behind and this might sound clichéd, but it would be this; to be as good a father as mine was to me. If I get that right then I’ll have achieved something wonderful.
That’s it! That’s all the questions. I really appreciate your time today.
A Thank you. Good questions, a few curved balls there; reincarnation, I wasn’t expecting that one!
Descriptions of Greece
I have had a few people asking me about To Treno Peloponnesus and telling me of their shared love of Greece and the Greek people, that I thought I would add a few captured sentiments and thoughts taken from my journal entries. The journal is not so much used as a daily diary more of a catch the moment as it flies. So for those Greekophiles amongst you…
"The moonlight illuminated the dorsal fin of a lone dolphin. Silently, it submerged and disappeared. We stood in silence scanning the glass flat water for any trace of movement…but nothing. Then, just underneath the hull where we were standing, the dolphin surfaced and leapt out of the water catching the moonlight once more like a sliver of silver and corkscrewed acrobatically through the air and then hit the skin of the water with a splash, and under it went again. I held my breath in anticipation. This was the first dolphin I had ever seen, and she - and I'm convinced it was a she - captivated me. The dolphin surfaced again, but this time there was no performance; she looked at us. I will never forget that look as long as I live. It must have only lasted a few seconds but it felt as though it had always been. It was like looking back in time; it was the present and the future, it was of understanding and knowledge. It was if she had the answers to everything. That she could cure mankind of all its afflictions, madness’ and ills, I was certain of that then as I am now. She slipped gracefully below the surface once more, and she was gone." Sailing to Hydra 2003
"Greece brings you to a defining moment; simple pleasures now: the shade of an olive tree, wine, freshly made bread, cheese and olives, a few good friends and a woman who has the pelvic thrust of a hula-hoop circus performer!” Nauplion, Peloponnese. June 2003
“This morning went for a walk stopping only for an ice cold harbour-side lemon tea.
Early afternoon, a swim in a secluded cove, then a short stroll to a taverna where I sat in the cool shade of a pergola heavy with grapes, some deep green others pale as nipples, delicately freckled.
Late afternoon, lay naked on my bed; the shutters thrown open wide the sea breeze offering a gentle cool reprise from the heat of the afternoon sun.” Hydra, August 2009
“Tranquillity once again settled over the harbour. Across the road and from behind a stack of beer crates a black Labrador appeared; lazily it walked a few paces, stretched out its front legs and with its bottom in the air bowed its back, stretched, and gave the biggest yawn. It then sat down on its bottom and whilst sluggishly scratching itself, looked uninterestedly at me; stood on all fours, farted and sauntered off behind the bar.
A couple of minutes passed when an elderly woman walked towards me; the sombre black clothing and head scarf leading me to believe her to be a widow. She stopped and stared at me momentarily, quite expressionless yet behind her eyes I felt a wounded soul; she was clutching a small poesy of flowers tightly and meaningfully in her hands, then slowly and impassively she turned away from me; I watched as she walked unhurriedly up the hill. A little further on she stopped, went though a gap in the wall and walked down a small path leading to a huge flat rock, and disappeared out of sight. Every morning she comes with flowers for so many years now, that no one in the village can remember why?”
"About half way up the hill with the sea to my right, on my left was a lovely villa; but it was its garden that caught my eye. From the villa it was terraced down to the road - the road at this point now so narrow that it was one-way to traffic – the flowers were absolutely beautiful and the colour scheme was absolutely right. On the first of the three terraces nearest to the house was the multifarious flora, on the second stood a lemon tree dripping with ripe citrus fruit surrounded by organically grown fruits and vegetables.On the final terrace were vines that were struggling to hold on to their swollen grapes; bunches of which overhung the nearside of the small road. There was a wonderful sweet freshness in the air as if the garden had just been watered before the predictable and unsurprising heat of the day comes to full radiance; the pleasing sensation tripped across my skin setting off small goose bumps to rise and fall in ripples. I walked on to the top of the hill where the road takes a sharp bend to the left; it’s a promontory. I stopped and leaned on the railing looking down at the vertigos drop to the sea lapping the rocks below. At this point there was nothing to stop the wind blowing across the open straights. The view across to the Albanian coastline and mountains was quite stunning. My reverie was broken by a motorboat out into the bay beyond me cleaving a distinctive white tipped V pattern in the wake. I stood and watched as the left-hand part of the V widened and separated, the wavelet making its way slowly and inexorably to its end on the rocks below me: Its twin, to do the same on the opposite shore; two countries separated by politics and culture but sharing a brief moment of communality. Kassiopi 2010
“After about ten minutes the harbour seemed to come alive: the sound of motorbikes and mopeds, shop shutters being lifted or thrown open, a small petrol tanker pulling up next to the quayside and the driver, once out of his cab, cheerily greeting one of the boat hire staff as he starts to unravel the pipe to connect to the harbour’s underground supply to provide fuel for the flotilla of boats and yachts that come to and fro each day; pretty Greek children laughing and shouting at each other, their high pitch voices resonantly echoing and drifting across the bay; an elderly Greek man - hosepipe in hand - caringly watering the few shrubs a tree and grass that resides oasis like within a low fenced area that is the harbour side village green; a group of six tourists stood by one of the hire boats listening to a young, tanned and supplely built Greek boy instructing them on sailing and safety. The first of the larger day-trip boats beginning to fill to the gunwales with newly arrived pale skinned tourists, some sat on the deck with their legs dangling through the safety rails over the side of the hull like human bunting, a few of which, in their urgency to get a good tan, on their return, with only parts of their anatomy exposed will resemble a flame griddle ‘big whopper’. A coach arrives at the quayside and it starts to disgorge it’s passengers, the rep stood at the bottom of the steps clipboard in hand giving out the days itinerary as they disembark; a Greek man passes by me on a moped overloaded with his family; his son sat side-saddle in-between his large stomach and the handlebars, his wife behind him and in her arms she holds a young child and strapped precariously on a rack on the back of the moped, a large wooden box full of brightly coloured healthy looking vegetables; and then the steady stream of sun worshipers leading the procession up the hill to the beaches begins; all chattering away in their respective languages. It was wonderful; I could have stayed there all day, but it was time to go…” Kassiopi 2012
"The day my daughter Lucy and I left Kassiopi the rain began to fall. I'd like to think that it was Aphrodite weeping gentle tears, lamenting my departure. In reality, it was a low-pressure system working its way across to the Albanian mountains!
I would like to thank the people of Kérkira for the many kindnesses shown to me in what has been, and is at this time of writing, such a difficult, complex and deeply wounding circumstance for them as a nation.”
Μόνο και μόνο επειδή η Ελλάδα πονάει,
αρνούμαι να γυρίσω την πλάτη μου και να φύγω.
Just because Greece is in pain,
I will not turn my back and walk away.
Kassiopi, Corfu 2012
To Walk in Blue Light
For my Father
Photograph courtesy of Agni Travel Corfu, Greece.
To Walk in Blue Light
This land of blue light talks to
Talks in gentle ways.
It speaks of:
Thought and reason
Passion and grace,
Completeness of soul
And clarity of mind,
And tranquillity, that is sublime.
The more I walk through this land
The less important everything
Deliverance from a madness,
Indifference and discord.
It returns one to the womb
Then towards a new light,
A baptism of enlightenment
That lays idiotic thoughts aside.
The more I sit in this ancient
A stream of conciousness is sculptured
On a sweet scented breeze,
A sense of purpose, wisdom,
And belief, which gives meaning
And sanity to life.
What greater thing imaginable
there be then, than to walk in this Land of blue light.
Collected Poems © Philip Wickham
Each day they come to swim at the old open sea bathing
pool in an endeavour to delay and elude old age and infirmity; bones, muscles
and taut sinews, less mobile and elastic than remembered in their youth.
Unforgiving and callously deceiving; time mocks them in a falsehood of hope.
The ferryman waits, patiently, unseen:
sentinel like at the stern, hooded and draped in dark, lose linen folded robes,
his boat gently swaying meditatively in the calm, lightly undulating swell of the deep, crystalline, translucent water.
I wish once more to drink
From the bowl of human spirit.
To bask in the light of wisdom and
And listen to the timeless
Of all the world.
To sing out an invocation,
A cheer, for those who have yet
To upon that ancient soul,
Where all at last is revealed
Not by Gods immortal, mythical,
But a blinding simplicity
Which allows one to see
Through the veil of uncertainty,
Of a Utopia, that has always been.
Collected poems © Philip Wickham
What mythical place is this,
Set amongst the crumbling pillars
And temple stones.
Neglect and apathy are now your
Where once Agamemnon strode.
What greatness embraced you
What reveries and intoxication
And what insane madness was called
To cast it scurrilously aside.
Where grape and deity endured
Amidst outrageous laughter,
Eroticism and desire:
Where the name Asine
Was acclaimed in Athens,
Human imperfection has ignored...entire.
And yet, as I stand here,
Amongst the shattered dreams,
I feel the heart beating
Steadfast, loyal and true.
Look you beyond abandonment
And see the beauty that surrounds,
Of gnarled and ancient olive
Azure waters and intoxicating
You will find that, which you are
Not illusory visions,
Dancing nymphs or gods,
But reposeful tranquillity,
Through humiliation, understanding
Poems © Philip Wickham