memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for April, 2012

Concurrence Vital


Why is Vladivostoc

Why is Vladivostoc? When is Rome?

Where is Gdansk, when it’s at home?

How many flies do I have in my ear?

Where are the snows of yesteryear?

Timor mortis conturbat me.

When does the Tagus flow so sweet?

Whence comes the heart at my feet?

How many fell at Sarajevo?

Whither the Euro?

Timor mortis conturbat me.

Which one’s a coward and which brave?

Sean or Howard, Chris or Dave?

And the lords and ladies of Byzantium,

Where have they all gone?

Timor mortis conturbat me.


I’m a grey mood today

I am in a grey mood today.

Sometimes I get into a brown study.

Usually I’m in the pink but there are times when I feel blue.

When my family goes to a Spanish island for a couple of weeks in the summer I’m green with envy.

Occasionally, when I witness something inappropriate inflicted on the old folks, I see red but I’m too yellow to do anything about it.

But when life  starts to look really black

I take comfort from the old saying:

Every cloud has a silver lining


Memento Mori

During the heyday of the Roman Republic the Senate had the constitutional governance, in the name of the People, of the robust and burgeoning city-state – SPQR.

The policy of expansion was at first deliberately gradual and steady; but it was not without its setbacks – the Carthaginian general Hannibal hauling his armoured elephants through the Alpine passes and then drawing up his army on the plains of Lombardy certainly took the Romans by surprise. At the battle of Cannae (216 BC) he soundly trounced the vastly superior Romans legions, by that time a formidable and honed fighting machine, under the command of Consuls L. Aemilius Paulus and C. Terrentius Varro and taught the Romans a valuable miltary lesson – brute force alone was not enough against the genius of a cunning and entreprising foe.

All the African elephants were killed were killed during that battle.

But the pragmatic Romans learned to adapt and eventually their armies prevailed and in due course the famed and beautiful city of Carthage, in the then fertile lands of northern Africa, was laid waste, plundered and the ground sewn with salt.


The commander of victorious Roman armies at the end the Punic wars, Publius Cornelius Scipio was descended from the gens. Cornelli – one of the six great patrician families of Rome. The Senate voted that the agnomen Africanus be added to his name and granted him a Triumph.

Picture the scene: the cheering crowds, tramp tramp of the marching legionnaires, the flowers thrown in front of the triumphant general’s chariot as, with a circlet of laurel-leaves on his brow, he enters the Forum and drives up the ramp in front of the Senate House to receive the plaudits of the Senate and the acclaim of the people!

But wait!

There is another man on the chariot behind him, a slave, who at the height of the frenzy, leans forward to his master and whispers in his ear –  MEMENTO MORIremember that thou art mortal.

Memento Mori - Painting - Thomas Milner

Invisible Paintings


Since last Thursday there has been a little show of my paintings up in the entrance hall.

So far, not only has no one commented on them, but I don’t believe that anyone has even noticed them, which certainly puts me in my place, doesn’t it?

I do believe that I’ve discovered the formula for producing an invisible painting.

What you do is the following:

First you contrive your life in such a way as to end up in an Old People’s Home full of nice, but culturally innocent, inmates.

Then you take a sheet specially treated A4-size gummed paper and with a pencil in your right hand (because you’re experiencing slight tremors/twitches/tremblings/spasms/shakes etc.on the right side of your body because your tumor was on the left side of your brain) and sketch vague lines and shapes in the hope that eventually they get to resemble something or other (anything will do) so that you can later impute an intention or purpose.

Next, with your paint-brush in your right hand, you apply various coloured tinctures, water colours (acrilics only to be deployed in an emergency) onto the prepared surface to see how it turns out and with any luck you’ll produce a painting.

Repeat this periodically over several months and then, and this is the tricky part, get someone to group them together and display them on a large stand in the entrance hall.

Et voilá, there you have it – invisible paintings (painted by The Incredible Shrinking Man).


Love at first sight

It was love at first sight.

I bought her for 50 Pounds, souped-up and thoroughly unreliable. One of her long list of previous owners must have a bit of a hippy because she was painted in a garish livery of yellow and bright purple. She was in seriously bad taste and it was a moot point whether or not she would survive her next M.O.T. test.

She was fun to drive though.

The end came as I was driving home late one snowy winter night from a pub on the edge the moors.

It was a beautiful night and flakes of snow fell thickly in my head lights as I drove slowly along the deserted white road bordered by a white ditch, a low white wall and beyond the white fields. Cold softness was all around and I could see in my rear-view mirror through the dancing flakes the double white tracks of impacted snow.

A bend in the road loomed and I turned the wheel accordingly but she had other ideas and just serenely carried on and crashed neatly into the ditch up against the wall.

I got out, shaken but not stirred, and just abandoned her, lying tilted into her little white ditch and already partially covered in the canopy of her white shroud and plodded stoically home across the snowy fields.

That was the last I saw of her.


My life is a canvas

My life is a canvas, once painted with broad free strokes of the brush with a bold design of colour and movement, now become crabbed and petty, crouched into one corner, which is then enlarged to fill out the vacuum left by my lost physical freedom.

Now and then the small things creep out from the shadows,

From under the damp stones,

Tiny lizards slithering out silently to bask in the warm sun.


Time, my lord, keeps a wallet at his back,

wherein he puts alms for oblivion.

(Troilus and Cressida)

A star is born


Meningiomas are a diverse set of brain tumors arising from the meninges, the membranous layers surrounding the central nervous system.

Monday June 28th 2010

I’m feeling a bit nervous today about my consultation at the hospital when I will receive the results of the MRI brain-scan that I had last month, despite various assurances from people claiming to have some inside knowledge of the workings of God’s mind (Deus é Grande).

I sit in the doctor’s office while he intently studies the images on the screen (while I intently study his face). He is taking longer than usual: no, he concludes, the brain is clean …

(whew! what a relief!)

… but you do have a new one forming, its tiny, nothing to worry about for now.

He points out, on the contrast-imaging, a white speck of light on the black perimeter of my brain.

I am crestfallen and struggle to maintain my equilibrium.

Great, I think bitterly, that’s all I needed – another bleeding little star is born.



The Wisdom of Solomon

Or will it simply be, I wonder, as posited in The Wisdom of Solomon (book 2, verses 2-9). My spirit finds these words incredibly moving and beautiful but my mind remains doubtful in the face such total nihilism.

For we are born of nothing, and after this we shall be as if we had not been; for the breath in our nostrils is smoke: and speech a spark to move our heart.

Which being put out, our body shall be ashes, and our spirit shall be poured abroad as soft air, and our life shall pass away as the trace of a cloud, and shall be dispersed as a mist, which is driven away by the beams of the sun and overpowered with the heat thereof.

And our name in time shall be forgotten, and no man shall have remembrance of our works.

Come therefore, and let us enjoy the good things that are present, and let us speedily use the creatures as in youth.

Let us fill us fill ourselves with costly wine and ointments: and let not the flower of the time pass by us.

Let us crown ourselves with roses, before they be withered: let no meadow escape our riot.

Let none of us go without his share in luxury: let us everywhere leave tokens of joy: for this our portion, and this our lot.



Do you believe in Gravity


In considering American right-wing politics one enters Alice in Wonderland territory where that lovely word liberal has become a term of abuse and religion has become fatally intertwined with governance.

I recently watched a TV show about the Republican Race to be nominated to square up against Obama; (by the way for us in Europe it’s the greatest show in town and we follow it with horrible fascination – you will laugh, you will cry at the goofy adventures of the candidates on their zany road to the White House; you will be amused and bemused at their gaffes and solid ignorance of even their own history… in short its must-viewing for you all folks out there).

Anyway back to this show with clips of questions put to candidates for a beauty contest to find the new Miss (I can’t quite remember which State it was … let’s call it Arcadia) yeah, the new Miss Arcadia.

One of the questions put to these shapely air-heads was:

–          Do you think that Gravity should be taught in schools in this state?

Some of them answered that although they themselves had doubts about the existence of Gravity, all points of view should be taught …

Other hardliners claimed that as it wasn’t mentioned in the Bible better to play it safe and not talk about …

Only the last candidate, with cute little frown of concentration on her pretty face, thought she remembered studying it in a science lesson and yes she reckoned it did exist.

(What I was thinking at this point was anyone who doubts the existence of gravity should just jump out of the nearest window and find out)

But, seriously, what can they have thought it meant, I wonder.



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