What the Doctor Said

Raymond Carver poems are like listening to a friend over a drink.BlogCarver

What the Doctor Said

He said it doesn’t look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I’m glad I wouldn’t want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I’m real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn’t catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who’d just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong

Raymond Carver

The poetry of Raymond Carver is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?


Tokyo Sonata

This film from director Kiyoshi Kurasawa is a gem.  The story shows how the man of the house affects his whole family.  His two boys bow to the authority of their father and his wife is submissive.  His authority is built on his sense of self so, when he loses his job, it is not just his self- esteem that crumbles.


As a good middle class father he is unused to the hardships that follow and he starts by hiding his predicament from his family.  His days are spent searching for work and spending time with an old friend who, also out of work, uses a facility on his mobile phone to fool people into thinking he is in demand from its frequent ringing.

His wife suspects that something has changed and follows him only to be disappointed by what she sees.  Their older son joins the military and the younger boy wants piano lessons.  His father does not want him to have the money for lessons but the son takes lessons in secret using his lunch money.

This is a story of a family unravelling with nobody seemingly able to prevent it. All members of the family are sympathetically drawn and the ending leaves a feeling of ‘if only’.


The Best Time of Day

I love this poem by Raymond Carver.

The Best Time of DayBlogCarverR

Cool summer nights.
Windows open.
Lamps burning.
Fruit in the bowl.
And your head on my shoulder.
These the happiest moments in the day.

Next to the early morning hours,
of course. And the time
just before lunch.
And the afternoon, and
early evening hours.
But I do love

these summer nights.
Even more, I think,
than those other times.
The work finished for the day.
And no one who can reach us now.
Or ever.

Raymond Carver

The poetry of Raymond Carver is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

Knowledge of Angels

This novel raises some interesting questions about humanity and belief.  On an idyllic island that is like Mallorca but isn’t Mallorca, a man is swept ashore.  He is from a civilised land but is an atheist.  He is self-assured and has a belief in the goodness of human beings.  However, the island on which he has landed is a religious one with a deeply conservative outlook.  The man’s views conflict with the views of those who rule and, as we know, anyone who threatens the status quo is viewed as dangerous.  When the inquisition arrives on the island, the man’s life is threatened.

In a second strand, a wolf- child found in the mountains is given into the care of a novice nun who is given instructions to look for signs of belief without giving any messages about God.  If this child can demonstrate belief in God, then the hierarchy of the church can claim that knowledge of God is innate.

The novel is set in the 15th Century but the exact time and the exact location are less important than the ideas raised by the author. The concept of freedom of belief is under threat from a society that intends to protect itself.  There is no room for tolerance when the status quo must be maintained.

Given the challenging material, it is perhaps no surprise that, despite being a well know children’s writer, Paton Walsh struggled to find a publisher that would take interest I her book.  She published it herself, with the support of her husband, and was vindicated when it was nominated for the Booker Prize in 1994.

‘Knowledge of Angels’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?

Mending Wall

I am a big fan of Robert Frost and, although I am also a fan of most things American, I was delighted to find out that some of his most famous poems were written in Britain.  This one was!
Mending WallBlogFrostRobert
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbours? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
Robert Frost

L’Enfant Sauvage

Having had an epiphany by watching ‘L’Argent de Poche’ which opened up world cinema for me, I searched out other films by director Francois Truffaut.  The next film I saw was ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’.  This 1970 film tells the story of a child who spent the first eleven years or so of his life away from humans.  He develops as a ‘wild child’ until discovered and captured.  The film, based on a true story, shows the work of the doctor who tries to civilise the young boy.


The film highlights issues of what it means to be human or civilised. Truffaut himself played the part of the doctor who took on the case.  The authorities have placed the boy in a hospital for deaf and mute children.  When he observes the boy, the doctor comes to think that he is neither deaf but mute but is a human whose behaviour is due to a lack of human contact.

He names the boy ‘Victor’ and removes him from the hospital to a house in Paris.  From here, he begins the task of civilising him.  For the director, it was important to work closely with the actor playing Victor.  This is the reason he took the central role himself; he could better draw out the performance from the boy that he wanted by working within scenes with him.


In the end, it is for the audience to decide whether the life Victor faces is better than the one he would have had if he had stayed in the wild.

‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

L’Argent de Poche

This is the film that started a lifelong love of world cinema.  Back in the 70s access to film other than the standard British and Hollywood fare was hard.  BBC television, though, showed films from around the world, late on BBC2.  This is when I watched this film, late at night on my own and I was transfixed.


Before watching this film I would have told anyone who asked that I wasn’t interested in watching a film I had to read as well, so I must have fallen into this film by accident; but fall, I did and I haven’t stopped since, searching out films from across the globe.

‘L’Argent de Poche’ by Francois Truffaut is where it all began.  It dates from 1976 and tells the story of a group of children in a French town.  It is less about plot than about moments and the film reveals the escapades and anxieties of childhood.  There is a haircut prank that goes wrong, a child following a cat along a window ledge and first love. There is also the child whose home life is abusive.  Throughout it all, Truffaut builds a sense that children are reslient and the sense of hope is high.


The title translates as ‘Pocket Money’ but I like the fact that the BBC maintained the original title.  Why not!

‘L’Argent de Poche’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?