The Nannu kiss

There’s this kiss that’s the purest of kisses. I’m not sure whether I can describe it or do justice to its nuance of power. It’s greater than any other kiss I’ve known, the epitome of all kisses: moreish without being delicious, deeper than lust and desire crocheted in the intricacy of passion, leather and lace.

I was lucky to have one smack-banged on me recently from a most beautiful soul, a compassionate man who personifies gorgeous that oozes from his insides out.  

I’ve only had a few in the past 20 years, since my grandfather died. I can count them on one hand. My grandfather was a strict man, an ex-army troop sergeant in World War 2 for the British Army Royal Engineers, although he was Maltese. He saw a thing or two with Malta being the most bombed allied country during the War. Forty years on and he would bark orders as though he was still in the army. Us grandchildren, 16 of us, would smirk when we heard them as they were directed at anyone but particularly at our parents and as children, we revelled in our parents being told off! We’d receive his orders occasionally, like if we were washing up incorrectly or cleaning up after a meal in a way that he thought he wasn’t right. He’d direct us to do it his way in his sergeant tone.

But his orders to us were different, they didn't contain the serious undertones so distinct in his orders to others and even when they did, we knew we could disobey them. When we did, he’d have a little grumble then quickly break into a little laugh and invariably, end in one of his kisses. I call them the Nannu kiss and Nannu would kiss us in this way anytime, not just when we disobeyed his orders. It was his signature kiss.

The few I’ve received since his death have come from a gentle giant of a man who I consider an older brother. I’m the eldest of my siblings and so to have this older brother figure is comforting. His kiss normally comes with a hello or how are you. It could be that he kisses me in this way simply because he is almost a foot taller than me and the practicality of giving the kiss is because of his height.

But I don’t think that’s the case, not when I feel such care and a sense of protection in the Nannu kiss. It’s a strange feeling, that of protection, because it’s not as if I'm in any danger. The kiss though, conveys such kindness and respect, and that everything is okay, no matter what. It’s a reassurance that I’m safe, that someone ‘has my back’ and I can rely on them. 

Timing is everything and the Nannu kiss I received from my gorgeous man this week came at the most perfect time, if ever there is such a thing as the perfect. It came with lashings of care, compassion and grace and allowed me the humility to lean into his grounding and know that no matter what, he’s there and I'm okay. It came with the reassurance that he’ll be beside me in the patience of the most enlightened of monks and while he may not be able to stick any broken pieces together for me, he’ll help search for every shard that may have ricocheted into the ethers and catch them if they fall while I glue them together. His nurturing strength is deeply rooted in solid poise, so that anything can be achieved. The Nannu kiss is unwavering.

I hope you get to experience the Nannu kiss in your lifetime and when you do, be sure to draw in all the tenderness that it’s given with. Feel that kiss when it’s coddled, caked or caressed onto your forehead, suck in every minuscule of its giving and feel it spread from the top of your head into every part of your body. Breathe in that cherish of the exchange for it will give you the strength to accomplish even the most difficult of despairs.

And if you’re lucky enough to witness a Nannu kiss being planted on someone’s forehead, observe the lowering of the giver’s eyes, the warmth in their smile before they pucker their lips to kiss the forehead of the lucky receiver, whose head is almost bowed in anticipation of the gift. Watch the receiver tuck into the chest of the giver, their body giving into the comfort of the steady foundation. Appreciate the vulnerability in the kiss being received, and the humility with which it’s given.

The Nannu kiss is the embodiment of love stripped bare. It can empower to achieve and accomplish anything, even the perceived insurmountable. Christmas or not, Nannu kiss or not, the gift of unconditional reassurance and boundless strength is something we’re all worthy of receiving. And giving.


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Found Objects

I found myself walking along the sea.
We are all part sea water and perhaps
I'm on a pilgrimage to the call of the tides.


Living so far away from the ocean, the
beach is unfamiliar and holds secrets.
The water is cold. The sand is soft.



Landlocked, I see the beach and the ocean
with different eyes. I lock away the smallest details.
It could be years before I return -- or never.



That's probably me with my head looking down.
That’s how I walk on a beach. Or I scan the horizon.
I see a few others my age doing much the same.


The gulls call out. They gather and squabble.
The shorebirds taunt the spent waves.
A lone jogger passes by without a word.


This sand is decorated with polished stones.
Washed by each gentle wave, they shine
and leave patterns from the receding flow.



Sand Dollars are plentiful -- maybe half dollars.
They are small and lie flat, awaiting discovery
among the rivulets and tracks in the sand.



I find things that others may not see.
And once again, on this brisk December day,
I found myself walking along the sea.



* * *


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Sharing The Voyage



















It's getting on for five years since most of us said our hasty farewells on the sudden closure of Red Room, surely the grandest literary salon there has ever been. It was a forum for stimulating debate and the time of day, where writers could post blogs and advertise books in respectful company which was representative of many nations and backgrounds and levels of achievement. A truly cosmopolitan place.

This is what I wrote back in 2014:

Okay, I'm trying to smile...

I just wanted to say goodbye in this forum and to thank Ivory, dear Hunti, and all the team for their part in making RR such a fantastic experience and an astronomical learning curve in the best possible sense. Little did I expect', when, having returned to authorship in the 'noughties' and was seeking showcases for work, that I'd stumble upon such a warm, vibrant, cross-cultural, wise, inspiring, dynamic community. You know - I have to say this - it never really was about fame and selling books...for any of us. It was about recharging, sharing and discussing what there was no occasion to discuss in the busy context of 'real time' and the obligations of our daily relationships. It was about examining what really made us writers in the first place and affirming who we are as individuals.

Make no mistake, the warmth, friendship and appreciation I have received in this wonderful cyber salon have been life-changing. And no way would I have thought of producing a book of poetry (with two more in the pipeline!) without it. Like the old pioneers, I have crossed many frontiers in the New World!

I wanted it to go on for ever.

So thank you team and Red Room friends from the bottom of my heart. I wish you all the very best. We shall meet elsewhere, I am sure.

Now it is time to look to new horizons, braced by having known... This may be my last post, but it's not the past lost.


That was then.

A few days later, some of us boarded the Green Room barque and set sail on a voyage of our own. Sometimes the waves roll and sometimes there is a tempering breeze. It matters not. Several of you have called this vessel 'a refuge', 'a haven of peace', and have been brave enough to embrace a different technology. So I want to say thank you to the loyal bloggers who value this space and to tell you how much you are appreciated. It would be lovely if a few of those other writers who, at the outset, signed up with us to comment only, would share a post or two of their own. It's a great way to keep in touch!















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That Wondrous Pleasure

You know that feeling, you open a book – yes, I’m sounding old-fashioned already having not yet truly joined the burgeoning kindle brigade – but on reading that first page I was hooked. Well and truly hooked. As I continued to read I felt the smoothness of the writing flow like a clear-running river as it navigated effortlessly the descriptions of the various bumps and eddies the main character of the book was experiencing in her life. But beneath the smooth surface there is an edge to her tale with murky depths not far off. 

In fact, I realised that as I read with increasing pleasure, I was consuming the book far too fast. I slowed down to savour the enjoyment of such incredibly good writing. I marvelled at how this writer broke the rules of authorship with finesse, redefined the word ‘silence’ for instance and then in a manner that was so ‘right’ manages to intertwine the physical and the abstract worlds that she was describing in her writing that I thought: “Gee whizz, this author knows her stuff”. I have grown envious of her well-honed and inimitable skill that at a touch adds drama to what she is talking about. Her phraseology can take on the essence of an expertly-flung, luminous javelin as it hurtles through your imagination with an unparallelled spiritual kick to it. It pierces deeply and you can feel it. It rocks you to your core so that somehow her moral thrust enters into your soul and you realise that she is forcing you to re-examine the most sensitive DNA of your ethical make-up. Permit me to quote a relevant part of the story I’m reading as the heroine skis down a mountain: “A keen wind that had been hiding itself struck me full in the mouth and raked the hair back horizontal on my head …… I plummeted down past the zigzaggers, the students, the experts, through year after year of doubleness and smiles and compromise, into my own past.” It also has the air of the confessional about it.

So far I’m half-way through her story and I’m amazed at my reactions and thoughts. It’s not often you read a book which makes such a unique impression. Now, here is a work written by a young woman some fifty years ago in America and I know her writing has affected me – a middle-aged man living 3,000 miles away in England in the 21st century. She has touched me profoundly and it is such an exciting discovery. There is something in her poetically sparse yet honest style that is so articulate which captures exactly what is being described at any given point in her book. But that’s not all. Somehow within this richly-endowed but concise technique of hers, the author can convey imagery and emotions with pinpoint accuracy. Every time she’s on the money with a minimum of narrative that is easy to read while communicating so much to her reader. Let me give you another example: the main character – a woman – is at the top of a snow-covered mountain in winter and the scene as experienced by her reads, “The cold air punished my lungs and sinuses to a visionary clearness.” It's her use of the word 'visionary' in this context that gives new meaning to the clarity of perception experienced on a freezing mountain during a clear winter's day. But yet at the same time within the same pithy sentence there are spiritual overtones verging on the poetic with the author penning the words, 'punished' and (again) 'visionary'. To pursue the quasi-religious metaphor further, she even touches on the idea of someone having a vision in connection with a supreme deity who might be living on high. In this way, her words multi-layered in meaning with differing 'connections' resemble James Joyce et al. in the use of this literary device.

I'm sure I've given you a sufficient number of clues as to who I'm reading at the moment and the well-known writer and poet who was married to another poet who went on to become Poet Laureate of England but, the author in question, sadly took her own life shortly after the publication of this her only novel in 1963 - a half century ago. I recall coming across this book as a first-year undergraduate way back in 1973 (only a decade after the author's sad demise) but was dissuaded from reading it because a group of militant feminists in Trinity at the time had hijacked this oeuvre loudly brandishing it as their pressure group mantra. But I'm glad to say that 40 years later I have rediscovered this gem and it is a wondrous pleasure. 

There is nothing like writing excellence and my goodness don't you know it when you come across it? This author's creative verve, in my opinion, provides us with an exclusive insight into the main character portrayed and the world around her. Why? Because as readers we have been most fortunate in being bequeathed a distinct 'visionary clearness' by this exceptional author, Sylvia Plath in 'The Bell Jar'.

(First appeared in Red Room, 18 September 2013) 


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