Amazed. (Or even amazing grace.) Amazed that I’m still alive in spite of all the odds being against; and in spite of the Indian palmist* who assigned me 60/65 years as a long lifespan; and in spite of having done some miraculously idiotic things. Amazed that I can still discover new friends in unsuspected places and find new insights under the most unlikely of stones. Amazed, and utterly chuffed, that new-ish shapes of Shoggoth can still emerge from the deep fathoms of my diseased imagination. I am truly and really a lucky bleeder. (Here’s to you Ian!)

*The Indian Palmist. A cute traveller’s tale.
It was long ago and far away, when the wench I then was was young and foolish and brave and didn’t think twice before embarking on chancy undertakings, that I found myself in a deserted train station, in the middle of nowhere in South India. The only other representative of human life was a middle-aged Indian chap also travelling on his own. Naturally enough, almost a given in India, we fell into idle chitchat; you know, “where are you from?” “how do you like India?” “have you ever been tempted to vote Lib Dem?” and so on.
At some point it transpired that he was a spare time palmist and astrologer and he kindly offered to read my palm. Now, I don’t believe in any of this occult, mystical fiddle-faddle, but I am rather fond of astrology nevertheless; it amuses me. So I agreed to have my fortune told and very interesting said reading turned out to be. My heart line revealed, he said, that I was by nature loving and kind but had little or non patience for idiots (guilty as charged) and by the poor flexibility of my thumbs that I was very stubborn (again, culpable, m’lud). The life line, he said, was good. I’d enjoy a long life, “60 or 65”. And indeed, by his standards, 65 might have been more than a reasonable lifespan.
We sat there indulging in some more pleasant chin-wagging. The afternoon was hot but calm and the air was clean and sweet, considering we were in a train station. Suddenly on the other side of the tracks, far in the distance and like in a dream, an all-women manifestation went by in almost total silence. It passed on quietly, carrying placards I couldn’t read and red flags. I liked to imagine it was a communist protest and who’s to say I was wrong. After all we were in Kerala, or very nearby, and in them blessed days Kerala was known as the Red State.
Then his train came so we wished each other well and he went on his way. I was half tempted to hop on that train myself -although technically, as per schedule, it wasn’t my train- as one tended to do in those days in out of the way, middle of nowhere places in India; for you could never be quite sure when the next train, bus or bullock cart would be along, no matter how emphatically the locals told you that “yes, yes, train/bus/bullock cart come, very soon/5 o’clock/two hours”. I didn’t, however. I kept faith in the quoted time-table and eventually my train arrived, a mere 35 minutes late.
There are events that stick in your mind like memory limpets. This is one of them. Not only for the almost surreal, dream-like quality of the whole thing but because, come every birthday after my 65th, the nice amateur astrologer lives again in my mind’s eye and I tell him “For better or for worse, you got that one wrong, mate.” Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, indeed.