Category: Self Development

One of the main reasons it is so important that I try to write with some regularity is that every now and again I am afforded a little insight by the endless ramblings and musings. In an instance over the last couple of weeks I was writing a different post where I had been going through some context to matters about relationships which led me into thinking of my first relationship and contrasting it with others, there is a reason for this. My first was, not by any ones standards, conventional and it is not something I wish to go into an huge depth, I will give a little background but wish to focus more on looking closer at the areas of correlation with others, not least because to dwell on any single one I think it would be dull to read but also because in the case of the first one it is one of the things from my past which I have managed to relatively successfully put behind me. It was intensely painful at the time, I was young, naive and extremely gauche when it came to anything resembling affairs du coeur and I handled the whole thing badly, …then again so did she!

I was 17 and we met on an exchange programme set up by my school, she was German and one of the other exchanges. She was pretty but also had a sharp, dry sense of humour, I liked her straight away. We hung out in a group of people and then only when my group were due to return home at the airport and my own exchange was kissing one of my mates did she approach me and ask if we should copy them. I think I was too stunned to even be as petrified as I would have normally been by such an advance, I had really no experience at that stage, being at an all boys boarding school. We kissed and then I departed with the juxtaposition of thanking my lucky stars whilst also cursing that I had not known how she felt with enough time to have been able to do something about it. What exactly I would have thought I might have done about it I do not know, I can reasonably assume that I would have been rendered utterly incapable had any such occasion arisen.

What I remember though was that on the plane back I felt good but without expectation, just able to enjoy the warmth of the moment and bask as well in a little approval from my peers returning with me. The internet was barely a twinkle in Tim Berners-Lee’s eye in those days and we were not due to see each other for 8 months on the return leg of the exchange, the only form of communication open to us was writing. It would be fair to say that when her 1st letter arrived 48 hours or so later sent by express mail and declared her feelings for me in no uncertain terms I was very definitely off and running. I remember reading it several times to be sure I had read it correctly. We corresponded over the course of that 8 months sending an average of around 3 letters a week, packed full of naive, youthful longings and yearning. I still have all of hers, it never seemed right to jettison such precious things of genuine emotion, I do not read them, I do not need to, they just need to still exist, my own past that smacks of a bygone era, after all who bothers writing that volume of text anymore, let alone with their own hand? These days if I do have to pick up a pen and make notes for any reason it is such a strange sensation that I grip the pen too tightly and leave a mark on my finger which stays for hours after I have finished.

The reason this early event in my life is significant is not to reminisce per se but to analyse 2 points of interest, the first is how I dealt with the inevitable failure of such a relationship. She broke up with me as might have reasonably been foreseen, I was crushed, I felt I had been utterly crumpled up and spat out but the reasons were never really spelled out and I spent much of the time being confused, which gives neither satisfaction nor properly the impetus to move on elsewhere. At that age the dark reflections of the jilted teenager give rise to an almost natural predilection for angst and melancholy. My self-analysis gave me many reasons why it might be the case but what they couldn’t do was give any surety, I have never been good with such things left hanging and in fact didn’t get closure until I was nearly 40. That I had hung on in some way that long was not because I was holding a torch, anymore than one might for ones first, but because something in my head still required that last piece of the jigsaw puzzle in order to box it up. It was as if the lack of her having said anything somehow prevented my being able to complete it in some way. Not such as to be life-changing, just enough to be there until resolved. Resolution came surprisingly easily when through a mutual friend I had come across on facebook I finally got confirmation of what I had always known but never been told. There were no feelings left in that case just an unanswered question, more than 20 years old as if somehow the ribbon was missing to fully tie the box of memories up and put it away. Following a very brief wave of relief lasting possible no more than a couple of hours I felt surprisingly matter of fact, the mystery was solved and needed no further thought. Would that it could have come sooner, or that all relationship ends might have an outcome that could be garnered by a sentence.

This brings me to the second reason I am looking at these matters. That she had put me down just as quickly as she had picked me up says much for how our dynamic was at the time but also on reflection casts a light perhaps as to the nature of the me in print as opposed to the me in person. I might reasonably feel that the me she initially saw amongst friends and laughing, holding court abroad was then deepened by her being able to see my innermost thoughts in lucid form on the page. Both of those environments did not seem out of place for me and thus I was comfortable and able to be myself by and large. The second time she met again in person was different, timid, gauche and inexperienced which must have been such a departure from the person she felt she had come to know. There is no doubt in my mind that people feel an affinity towards confidence and humour, they may also feel attraction to it, underpinned by an in my case newly discovered ability to write feelings at length, this presented a picture to a fellow teenager of someone who surely had his shit together. The figure I must have then cut in the flesh after the 8 months of outpouring was completely at odds with that and yet it was the same person, just denied their milieu. I should point out that the letters from her had stopped a couple of weeks before they were due to come I think, cold feet or such like, who knows but it was enough to make me feel out of my depth which added to the trepidation and is therefore relevant.

If this were the only time that I had engaged in such relationships it might have less significance to offer to analysis in the present, indeed had my dalliances then been ones of wanton abandon, holiday romances to be picked up and put down the way one might the very suitcase with which one travels then again there would be little need to revisit it all. Prior to the internet many people have had attempts at distance relationships, the majority, I would assert have failed and blamed the inability to communicate properly or see one another, perfectly reasonable impediments standing in the way of any lasting bliss. It takes a very particular type of person to wish to persevere in such circumstances, there may be a number of reasons at play internally to oneself and externally as to how much you feel for the other person but there comes a point in time when I think most people would throw in the towel and only a few would not.

The hapless wretch 30 odd years ago has not been the sum of my experiences, spanning both pre- and post internet era makes it worth a bit of a look. It was a long time between the first and the second, the internet was more in play then but not the proliferation of video call functionality, more just the ability to correspond in a readily more available format but also the corresponding expectation that there would be just as immediate a response. The third and fourth occasions are separate from these two because then video calling made things sustainable that otherwise I think could not have been and therefore I would like to explore if this makes them different to how I had originally planned to analyse them, due to the lesser nature of detached communication and it not being so much about my written words.

The second occasion over distance does not require much explaining other than to note that I was fully bought in to it but never met the person concerned and there remain to this day some questions as to her intent and whether it was malign or not. The messages I wrote to her however contained, what I thought at the time, to be some of the most fluid writing I had done, prose, poetry, songs and lots of what was potentially nothing more than soppy crap, although it was certainly in copious quantity. I say potentially because I had seen no need to keep hold of any of it, I kept her messages but not mine, which is perhaps a shame or maybe spares me blushes. I know that there were darker times during that period, I was not on medication and struggled sometimes when there was inexplicably no contact for days on end, there was always an explanation but I became aware that I was trying to stretch reality in order to cover a multitude of ambiguity that just didn’t make sense. Whether it was early cat fishing I cannot say, the person I spoke to on the phone and via email seemed real enough as therefore did the pain when I finally could not tailor make the narrative work anymore.

The third occasion began more organically, perhaps a little more like the first, boy meets girl, they fall in love, they live the other side of the world to each other and when she returns they attempt to somehow keep things going, which we did, for 2 years, seeing each other in person very occasionally but with the help of Skype factoring each other into one another’s day for almost the entire time. There was some written communication, I did write a few letters, great long missives I imagine. I don’t know whether or not she kept them, I would hope so, for the same reason I have kept mine from others over the years. Again I won’t go into detail about the relationship itself, it would take too long and is not what I wish to look at here but suffice it to say it was the most intensely I had felt towards anyone at that point and when it worked I was as happy as I had ever been or felt I could be. I was during the entirety of it on stable medication. I know that the nature of my language was of significant importance to her, she told me it was the principle nature of the attraction to me. We initially met abroad as well and at a time when I was in an unsustainable bubble of positivity so I would have been projecting an extremely favourable version of myself at the time. I was a little more gauche when we met the second time but for honourable reasons. The end came when the narrative muddied and it no longer seemed clear when we would next see each other, I had stopped believing she would come to me and I was not able to go to her and I think it changed both of our behaviour. We had not seen each other in person for a year when we split up.

The fourth came as a surprise from a situation that ‘couldn’t happen’ and therefore inevitably did so! I had sworn off distance, I thought forever, which meant conversations with someone delightful who lived far away could hold no danger. This meant I was relaxed, there was no agenda when we were speaking it was a genuinely nice and organic communication, I underestimated just how delightful she was though, the attraction whilst physically present was able to grow much more deeply due to uncovering her in the phraseology she used and the character she revealed from that, the depth of the affection that built surprises me still. There was an added dimension here which was an initial significant language barrier but that was overcome by both of us learning each others language, something which I will always be grateful for – what greater long term gift is there to leave someone with than the opening of the door to another culture entirely? As an aside almost what would be interesting to look at here is whether or not my expression in another language came across as similar in personality to how I would have spoken in my native tongue. My suspicion is that there would be differences, the nuances you learn when picking up a language in this way mean that certain idiomatic expression is the norm, such that you garner from the person you have most exposure to and therefore you mirror perhaps more their personality than you might in your mother tongue. For example if that person has a specific accent or dialect and you are good at sound replication then your own language will take on the identity of theirs because what you learn from them is what you assimilate as ‘correct’. 

[The same premise is true in the written form across the ages, English spelling now owes much to Caxton’s personal version of the language when writing the bible such as his use of ‘qu’ rather than ‘cw’ for example just as the Brothers Grimm took snapshots of the nuanced moral oral tradition and created a standardised version for all time in fairy tales the depictions of which we are still aware of now.]

Whilst this might have seemed a slightly self-indulgent trip down memory lane at times the purpose is to look at things such as whether there is a formula as to why I have ended up in situations with the frequency I have, also to determine whether there is a significant disconnect between the me I am able to commit to paper and the me that stalks the corridors of my house. Analysis whilst interesting in itself is not something I enter into for its echo chambers, it should be a tool to better understand and move on so as to develop and hopefully one day to find peace, I don’t feel I have managed to make sense of that just yet but asking the questions themselves is a first step and may yield greater discussion in time.

Distance relationships take a particular path and it is one that certainly in the past has drawn me, there is a lot of hope, you have often a goal to look forward to ie the next meeting and you put a great deal more effort into making those times together something special. Perhaps herein lies the problem, life cannot be ‘special’ all of the time, at some stage reality is going to come around and there will be bills to pay and less enjoyable things to have to do, distance relationships will seldom prepare you for how someone is in a crisis or in a period of the mundane and banal but real life in general doesn’t always do that either and couples who meet in conventional circumstances are frequently finding that when they throw their lot in together they learn the less amenable traits in their partner. Distance relationships allow you to filter the nature of yourself to someone else, whether you give all or part the control is in your hands and this can be helpful and I don’t think it is always a bad thing. That may explain why I have been more comfortable in that scenario because of the ability to regulate much of what I see as the negative in myself and drip feed it so to speak so as not to give too much too soon.  The other advantage to distance relationships is the large amount of time of domestic autonomy, by and large the disruption on your daily life is less outwardly visible if you don’t wish it to be.  You can structure your day, your house, your meals often very much how you would like to and this again isn’t always that simple in real life if you are in a relationship.  Learning to compromise is an important lesson but so is learning not to capitulate and this is certainly something I have not properly mastered satisfactorily so as not to be on a binary switch between dogmatism and abject surrender.  

Song Of The Day ~ The Mysterines – Love’s Not Enough

Clichées are very often that because they are true for so many people in a variety of circumstances.  Or perhaps they are clichées because people say them so frequently whether they are true or not in order to say something when they cannot think of anything original, prefering instead to fall back on a hackneyed phrase or mantra that smacks of empathy without really ever putting themselves out on a limb.  No area is more cliché-ridden than that of love.

Most of us have been at the sharp end of the ‘L word’ more than once and to have been so requires us to have first experienced the very reason that makes us take the risk.  The alternative is the life of the comfortably numb.  Is it therefore a panacea that we seek to give the person newly joining the brother- or sisterhood of the lachrymose succour or is it in fact ourselves we wish to reassure that such things have ultimately a karmic balance that will result in the end all our dreams coming true and all our fears being quashed?  If by every emotional catastrophe of others we allow our own belief to be dented then from where can we draw our hope?

You may feel life has meaning and if so this may bring you a sense of order, of balance or at least of some reason.  You may feel that fate has its plans, that there is a reason for everything and a path we are all destined to walk down.  If, like me, you do not hold with any of those tenets then you have to look upon such events in life as being ones that do not resolve themselves and that we as humans are in fact naive to believe they will, not to mention rather self-indulgent in even thinking they should.

Time does not heal it merely clots the wound, allows a scab to form and eventually, after perhaps some picking at it or the metaphorical application of salt by life events and/or people, to be left with a scar that no longer causes physical pain but reminds us of a time when we once felt it and the reasons we were wounded in the first place.  If we are lucky it is scarred in a place that is not so often visible, if we are not then perhaps we will forever wince when something strays near the area, transporting us back to the spectre of what had caused us the pain the first time or maybe just the last time.  Do we stop undertaking the activity that caused it in the first place? That rather depends on how much we enjoyed it, or what enticement there may be to do so again, but we will never be the same innocent participant as we were before, we will have protective clothing and be watching for the blade that cut us.

I am wounded and the blood is yet to clot, the pain is duller now as my brain has become more used to its ache and it has sought to release some endorphins to help me to function at all.  I do not need platitudes I need morphine derivatives, anything else just seems either callous or patronising and neither of those are any more helpful than vacuous clichées!

Song Of The Day ~ Michael Kiwanuka – You’ve Got Nothing To Lose

I’m grateful to my new blog diving acquaintance Gabriela for providing the inspiration for this post, not to mention being the first new person in the blogosphere with whom I have interacted for some time.  It is always nice to receive inspiration for something from other’s viewpoints and directions.  I have always maintained that I am reactive generally, I cannot create new as such merely stamp my own colour of things on those that already exist.  In this regard, as well as many others I take my lead from the very great WH Auden who said “Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.”  That is good enough for me.


Gabriela’s post was on her alter egos, the facets as defined specific personalities in their own right that make her up as a whole.  This is not, as many still seem to think, anything to do with schizophrenia, look it up should you need to!  Anyway the post immediately struck a chord as I have for some time characterised myself in terms of the very different mood sets in a defined time period that seem themselves often diametrically opposed.  I had thought at first that it was a definite polarity with the two ‘beings’ but there may be more to it than that depending on how granular you choose to look at it.  Certainly there are more than one if choosing to accept the premise, and it interests me so I thought I would explore it.


Fairly obvious, the de facto occupant as t’were, the commander of the unruly force within etc. etc. various mildly humorous analogies yada yada.  I am not too extreme a person, at least not in my opinion, I have passionate views, some might say dogmatic, but I believe in things that treat people as of equal value whilst recognising the myriad assortment of differences between us all.  I feel justifies in being dogmatic about that.  I have a fair few foibles, as anyone does,I am aware of a great many of them and I would assert that my heart is in the right place.  I am all too aware that I am not always consistent, that I don’t always practice what I preach but then I would challenge anyone else not to be the same.  I want to live life reasonably full and need sometimes a little prodding to help get there.  I am not as self-confident as I very often need to be, especially in certain circumstances, when I am comfortable and amongst friends I can relax, if I get too relaxed or if I am amongst a large group of people I don’t know He comes out.

The Baron (often referred to as Him – mainly because of Dom Deluise’s dual personality character in The Cannonball Run which both amused me as well as having a little resonance!)

The Baron is everything in the outside world I wished I was all the time (though this would bring it’s own problems.)  The Baron can hold court, talk upon a wide variety of subjects as if well-versed in all of them.  He comes across as confident, erudite and a social butterfly/pompous arse – depending on your point of view.  He can get women to fancy Him (at least He thinks He can!) with His quick wit and cavalier linguistic style.  He looks like me but doesn’t act like me.  He does not need or crave the approval from others, He feels that to a degree He has already attained it and has enough self-confidence that if He has not then He will win people over in the end.  Herein can lie the problem, there are times He hears but does not listen, He looks but does not always see, it is almost itself a pretence, no it is exactly itself a pretence, a mask behind which I may hide.  Not a mask I am aware how to control though.  It is not arrogance I should stress that, it is as if the self-confidence I might have had from teenage years had things gone differently had evolved as a separate person not hampered by the chattels of .

The Father

I am a father but not always a ‘real’ father in the sense that my children do not live with me.  As such sometimes decisions which would affect them are not taken in the context of them actually being there.  There are occasions that the father steps in and makes the correct and rational choices but at others he isn’t quick enough or is suppressed by the stronger darker character.  I am not satisfied with my performance of a father and I think this is probably a good thing, were I to be so I would not be trying to do more and that would be a far greater crime against my children.  Being a father is one of the things of which I am most proud and my children are the things of which I am most proud.  Given the circumstances of their upbringing they are remarkably well-rounded and this has far more to do with them than it does with me, however through them I can take some vicarious credit.

The Melancholic

My nemesis, short-termist, pessimistic, addictive personality.  The melancholic is not in control of the darker sides and is subsumed by them and the less attractive characteristics that goes with them.  He needs constant validation, assuaging, emotional quenching validation, an insecurity that is almost bottomless like a whirlpool into oblivion, it has destroyed much and many and carries on as if never sated.  In the absence of the neutralising validation it turns to short-term external factors such as sex, food, clothes, unwise purchases, anything that breaks the tedium of “normal” the mundanity that eats up the time in great gulps, the parasite of time.  This abhorrence of the everyday, the middle ground, should spur me to look to achieve greatness and probably die trying, better to have flown and be shot down in flames than to stand on the ground doing nothing.  But it is not like that.  The melancholic sits idly, over-analysing, sniping, demeaning the achievements of the other character facets both backdating and foreseeing.  He is the arms attached to my ankles holding me back, making walking forth near impossible, the constant temptation to give in and rest a while, have another go later makes him stronger and so much goes by the wayside because of his indolence and inactivity.  The not wasting a moment by doing anything that makes the time go faster.

Of course one has to be careful not to disassociate responsibility of the deeds of one from the sum of the whole.  This is all me and facets thereof, it is not as if I do not have any control over these aspects of myself, at least not outside the deterministic side of life anyway.  To understand one I have to understand all and this is not always easy, however the understanding is but the first step because I am good at cerebral activity that involves none of its physical counterpart, this is analysis it feeds my interest in understanding whilst staving off the ambiguity that I detest.  When I can tackle the physical side I may well begin to make progress and leave some facets behind whilst empowering the ones that have a positive impact.

Song Of The Day ~ Atomic Rooster – Devil’s Answer

The last post was my 500th and I felt, perhaps self-indulgantly, that the milestone deserved a little marking.  I started blogging 8 1/2 years ago in order to regulate my writing and give me an outlet effectively to replace lined pieces of paper and diary-type books which were constantly going missing.  In that time I’ve met people both online and in person, had some excellent contributions, and hopefully made the odd one or two.  At the beginning this method of communication was comparatively new, there were people doing it who had been for some time but there were a great many more who had never heard of it and looked quizzically when I mentioned it.  I had heard about it through media coverage of the so-called Baghdad blogger, Salam Pax, who started at a similar time to me but was picked up very early in The Guardian due to the currency of his postings in Iraq at the time.  Pax last posted in 2009 from what I can see and largely ramped down in 2006.  By this time there were many people blogging, it was before the phenomena of Facebook and Twitter where people needed an outlet for their mindless inane ramblings.  Some of it was unadulterated tosh, but the same might often be said of mine, why should opinions of the global and national events of the day be any more valid than those of very localised events about the type of clothing one is wearing to parties?!

In the early days I wrote a lot, at time a self-confessional, at time chronicle and usually rants from the rather left wing of the political dial.  Within a few months there were a few people who seemed to regularly read my ramblings.  It was nice to have a connection to others across the world at a time when in my personal life I was confined to a small one room bedsit and writing was the escape.  Additionally the interaction from others often sparked new ideas and new posts and the desire to write often enough was good for regulating my output and stemming the lethargy that I often succumbed to.  I’ve spoken to those who share similar political leanings as me to the holocaust denier on the other end of the spectrum.  There is no greater catalyst to inspire writing than the actions of others, whether one agrees or vehemently opposes.  There was even a period of about 3 months when I wrote every day just to see if I could do it.  As I was listening to the news constantly in order to have subjects to rant about I was very much alive and participating in the online world at large and it spilled over into my work life, an environment increasingly unaccepting of my brand of political diatribe.   In some ways my actions through the formative years of the new job I started at almost exactly the time I did my blog shaped people’s opinions of me that last to this day, for better or worse.  By the middle of 2006 due in no small part to personal reasons my output subsided and became perhaps 2 posts in a month rather than a couple in most weeks.  It became almost a chore, a desire to keep something going that I had held dear to me at a time of flux but my heart wasn’t in it in truth.

I went on hiatus for a long while, online fripperies took up far more time than they should have done, it was a more immediate method of communication replacing face-to-face contact in many cases, it did make you feel connected for a while but then, at least to me, became far more disconnected a medium due to its short conversational style.  There is little place for wordy monologues now and some might say this is a good thing but I object to trying to shoehorn what I wish to say into 140 characters.  This may make me more verbose than I should or could be but to speak to the outside world with only really the people you know following you, if even them, feels like an admission that the essay is dead, or just in-depth conversation.  I do not wish to play a part in the murder of prose.  I like long words when searching for the correct word or term for something I want the one that is most apt, or apposite, but were I to say ‘more appropriate’ that would already take up 10% of my allocation so I would have to restrict myself and this is low-fat communication, better for you but tastes like shit.

Besides which as an experiment I checked myself occasionally to see whether or not I had a sort of pithy retort the like of which I might see fit to post in so short a space.  The only time I remember thinking that I had a good tweet was –

Drinking Irish beer in a Cuban bar in a German city.

– which I thought possessed both my own activity and one of some interest and would be worthy, in that moment only, in my having such an account to post to.  This was in 2010 so had I been an early adopter of Twitter the endless tripe that might have preceded and ensued would have been a pretty unfulfilling experience both for me and anyone unlucky enough to read my feed more than the once.  That is not to say there are a great deal of people here nowadays, it is like the small town in the Klondike that had its brief bedlam of people and activity when blogging became the online gold only to become a ghost town when the resource was exhausted and people went in search of it elsewhere.  Every now and again a lost traveller stops in to ask directions and I think the Wild West analogy should probably stop there.

I found the silence made my writing more about what I wished to say than what I thought people might wish to hear.  I don’t mean that I was purely writing for the audience but I was probably more likely to self-censor to protect some of my own identity.  Now it is back to barking at the moon, people are no longer blog diving and therefore no longer find you which is at times liberating and at times discomforting.  Anyone who writes does so to be heard, otherwise you wouldn’t write, it is a method of communication just as direct speech, but unlike talking it affords you the time to work out what it is you want to say before someone comes back and tells you that you are wrong and why they think so.  It is also a way to commit one’s life to posterity, even if you write about things that are not related to yourself, the words you use, the way you see things and the experience of your eyes in seeing those things changes all the time as you age and it is in the very style that this is most visible if you know how to read it.  I find the idea of trying to build a picture of someone based on throwaway comments that have been distilled into a mere sentence saddening, as if identifying a body from dental records rather than unearthing a perfectly preserved specimen that tells so much about the individual and the time in which they lived.

Perhaps people have just evolved to the point where demands on their time are so many and so varied that to sit and write long blocks of text is a luxury they feel they can no longer afford.  Maybe it is a fashion the future generations will see as folly and return to the written word.  Or I might just be a dinosaur clinging on to a fading food source as many around have moved on, evolved or died out.  If it is the latter then so be it, I shall go down writing.

Song Of The Day ~ Air – Alone In Kyoto

It was admittendly some years after Fi’onna that I had heard the afternoon play. Initially it was easy to listen to the mellifluous voices, those of actors familiar, the woman’s warm yet vulnerable, the man’s enthusiastic and slightly swashbuckling. The nature of the familiarity of those voices led to a superficial involvement for a time, until the plot deepened it was so carefully crafted and well-acted that it pulled like a plughole and it brought it all back. The play highlighted the highs and the lows of non-physical contact, a relationship that is often more intense than those not familiar with it could imagine, often more intense even than the physical itself. It is something I know, something I got caught up in, an intensity that burns to the touch but is as nurturing as the sun in what would otherwise be the blackest darkness. There is the sensual direction of the person being as much as you could ever hope for, there is nothing to suggest they may not be all you wanted, needed and perhaps more. There is the heightening frisson of getting slowly, almost inexorably, closer and closer to someone, the very denial of certain senses necessitating an inexorable reliance on the others. A reliance we are not used to, a downhill run too steep to be measured or braked. What begins as a safe gradual relaxation of the boundaries, distance affording a cape of seeming invincibility, continues as a headlong dash, the wind whistling past, the thrill of the speed and the knowledge that the sensation is daring, exciting, utterly out of control, maybe there is no end, maybe this time the brick wall is made of paper and the velocity will bring you crashing through to the other side and a world where pain and cynicism is replaced by contentment and a lack of expectation of either good or ill, a living for being alive. It is as much beauty as it is tragedy.

The dynamic whilst not unique to inter-personal relationships is more critical because the lack of the space between. Those undulations of moods the patterns of love, trust, fear and faith coinciding only at specific points on the graph to allow empathy and connection whilst at other times seeming so distant as if reality tries to yank back from the edge of something that could be so much better. The highs of the psychological narcotic are such as to be so alluring, so consuming as to lay waste to the otherwise mundanity of the day. This in turn left the yearning in times of no drug to be as excruciating as to be physically tortured and the effects on mood just the same. There is all too often so little information that just to survive the silence we invent something, anything, just to show we are still there and they are with us, the mind trying to give us one last safety net suspending us over that abyss that spells a pain we cannot begin to speculate on. For me it was as emotionally violent as a previous relationship had been physically so, although on this occasion it had not been by design merely by circumstance.

In truth I could romanticise about how it all started but I don’t really know, or remember, or perhaps both. What I do know is the chain of coincidences that led to it. A chance comment on a picture put up on a profile to justify the humorous title of same led to a cheerful response because something in the comment had seemed bright, neither serious nor flippant, more friendly than merely polite. Therein began a conversation that effectively lasted 2.5 years and the effect a further 1.5 subsequent to that, the full fallout cannot be adequately measured because all events in our lives shape the people we become. We would be different if not for them and the world and our perception of it and those within it would be altered. We are the sum of our experiences coupled with our genetic predisposition as to what we are able to experience. Given these factors and who we are at a specific time we were perhaps always going to head along certain paths. I was always going to fall for her because she was always going to be the one that drew me in at that time in my life.

Just as the deep rush of positive emotion made me feel childlike, the exuberance, the cradle of a new creativity, a tone to my writing and a sudden outpouring of feelings and fresh awareness of the world and the things around it. The garage door opened, the light coming only from the gap under the door now flooded in with a radiance that brought with it warmth, vivid colour, and a small amount of fear. So the end when it came left a feeling the like of which I had not felt since 17, that first breaking of innocence, the dashing of the hopes that you may have held within you since the notion of deep relationships first starting growing from the soil in your dreams. Such uprooting is not like trimming the leaves or deadheading the flowers, nor even cutting into the stem, it is a wrenching from the roots removing the whole plant. It will not grow back. This is not hyperbole, this is not some idea that the world is over, it isn’t, there may be other circumstances there may not but this strand of innocence is gone, the empirical evidence now replaces the dream, any future moment that appears to be proceeding down the same path will ring alarm bells. Others will inevitably be judged by the sins of them that have gone before, it is unfair, it is unavoidable.

I have long since speculated as to whether given the chance to expunge the events and memories of that period I would do so. At times I have had distance and grace to think that I would not, that the writing to her and the emotions accompanying it were such as to tell me that which I did not know about myself, a level of me I had not hitherto attained not even been aware of, a seam yet to have been mined. There have been darker times when the hastily applied dressing has come off and opened up the wound a little to reveal raw flesh beneath and the twinge of pain that just piques a reminder, briefly spells the agony that once required such hasty binding of the cuts then. In those moments I would go back to the cynical and yet more naive me – a person not aware of that which could be and the consequences of both its successes and failure and I would tell myself to run in order to preserve the little saplings so that they may live to grow in better soil,

Like so much that we have to put away before its time so as to function properly day to day there sits at the back of my mind a box and in it the ephemera of each section of memories and unsolved little strands of them that wait in case ever needed for a little haunting, a little self criticism or just occasionally, very occasionally to be tied up and put on the shelf with the other things that time and closure has rendered benign. The latter is far rarer than the formers but not impossible and the catharsis drawn from such a situation is liberating. I sometimes believe that were I to have neatly tidied all the boxes I would be a happy man living a normal life, but I might also be dead with nothing left to make me live from one day to the next. It is only ever likely to be something I hypothesise about.

To open such boxes is a dangerous business, like chemically induced highs you may never quite know what you are going to get and once the walking of that path is begun there is no turning back for some time. Moreover it is not always within your control to keep the lid on the box and so in this instance it was that the play acted as the catalyst that heated the feelings causing them to expand and push off the lid to release themselves into the air again. It did not awaken the sorts of emotions there had been before, neither the level of love nor the level of anguish. In fact it wasn’t to do with the level of these at all, the detachment itself was both illuminating and disquieting. Time had not healed, the wound was still there but it had not bled for a while and I had forgotten what it felt like to have it do so. It could never be as bad as it was originally, then there was no way I could have expected that severity of pain, now it is just like revisiting something unpleasant but familiar where it is more the memory of how unpleasant it was at the time that causes the emotion than the specifics of the actual discomfort now.

In physical relationships we very often have things that go wrong and breakups that are not of our choosing, but there has often been much beforehand that we have learnt, the very variety of our senses bring us to conclusions of what is going on. After these there is often a proximity to a person that forces us into a state of acecptance or ambivalence, we are forced to confront the situation head on, the person continues to exist in our physical world (even if at times we may wish they did not) and this requires us to act. This is not at all the same with distance, endings are abrupt, feelings forced off like a broken circuit, sinapses still twitching and shaking as the energy of the impulses ebbs away. It is not just that a relationship is dead, the whole world with it has died, the person no longer exists and this is unnatural and allows your brain no peace. The cliff face has collapsed whilst you were standing on it.

Memories of things in the physical world are rounded, colour and odour, a sense of how someone moves and holds themselves, their bathroom habits, their clothing anomalies, the foibles that come together to make up the whole. Yet this means that the life goes on as an undulation the peaks and troughs not always noticable in the way they might be for the lack of stark comparison. But is this not better than the sharp climb to a world of more personal completion and the plummet to a world where the realisation that one is not and has never been whole renders it an aberration, a place devoid of the pleasures one used to take comfort in?

If you return to black and white having seen colour where black and white can no longer ever be the same, would you prefer to have continued life in black and white in ignorance that this is a hollow bliss or a comfortable numbness or is the fact that you then know that colour exists making your world the richer even if you are not able to enjoy it. Answers on a coloured postcard.

Song Of The Day ~ Gotye (feat. Kimbra) – Somebody I used To Know

The Pre-50 50

Back in 2004 when I was what seems now like a tender age of 32 I created a list My Pre-40 Top 40 which was designed to outline the things I wished to achieve before 2011 when I hit the less than eagerly-anticipated age of 40.  My reasons for making the list public were multiple, firstly I thought it would be of interest to people to see what it was that I wished to do, the things that made up my character, or that which I hoped would make up my character.  Secondly I wanted to put it out there in order to give myself the impetus of doing these things, a kick up the arse in the wanting not to look stupid in front of my readership, like an internal competition as it were, something I need to spur me on a little.  I think were I to have had a steady relationship during this time and had I shared my list with my partner there might have been an overlap in the things they wanted to do too, thus increasing the likelihood of some of these happening.  This may of course be my slothfulness attempting to abdicate responsibility and trying to place the onus on someone else making sure I do what I should want to do enough myself.  I am fairly sure though in my defence that I would be nurtuting enough of my partner to help them complete items on their list whether or not they were something of interest to me.  There is a great pleasure seeing someone you love find or achieve something that makes them happy.  If you have helped and participated in any way it heightens this joy because it makes you feel useful.

I had achieved a fairly derisory number of these items when I hit the magic age, I had however accomplished some other things but it would be disingenuous to claim that this mitigates the fact that I should have done more than I actually did.  It is something that I feel somewhat ashamed of, many were perfectly within my power to do, whilst others could have been done with a little more focus and planning, and quite a lot of determination.  They say you have to want something enough, it is also what I tell my children, but I do believe I want some of these things, many of these things, in some ways ALL of these things, and yet they have not happened.  Did I perhaps spread myself too thin or allow myself to be dictated by the indolence that has defined me more than anything else across my life?  [I did begin the process in certain areas which may have a more long-term effect, I have at various points lost weight, at times quite a bit, at times less than I put on but at present I am about the level I was at in my early thirties but no longer smoking so can officially now say that I have given up and not merely traded one vice for another.  I had not solved my passport dilemma in 2004 and had not been abroad since 1997, it was too long then and it wasn’t until 2008 when I finally sorted it and got out.  Within 45 minutes of my arrival in Cannes I stood outside the hotel having a smoke, basking in the sunshine hearing French radio in the background.  It brought all the pleasure to life back, the brightness of the evening alleviated what had seemed embedded darkness within me and I felt refreshed by the heat, the culture, the proximity to the sea.  It had been 21 years since I had been in France and I hadn’t realised just how much I had missed it.  Such things shape our lives and can herald a whole new series of things we know we must accomplish.]

The purpose of my last list still stands, the desire to do meaningful things that not only seek to justify my existence and therefore render the oxygen I have breathed to have been of some purpose, but also to have been able to derive the pleasure from those accomplishments.  And so spurred on by my actions 8 years ago and my inactions since then, coupled with a post by my erstwhile travelling companion, (the one who is going to get a punch up the bracket if he continues to refer to me as his sidekick!) I have resolved to create a Pre-50 Top 50 – the extra 10 being a penance for not having completed my original 40.  It will be interesting at least for me to compare, to see whether this tells me anything about who I was and who I am now, hence as I write this it is not my intention to look at my last list at all so that the things I choose whilst perhaps duplicating will only be doing so because I thought of them independently now as I did then.

This is not an exhaustive list, though I am likely to get exhausted thinking about and writing it) nor is it designed to be one that includes silly wooly stuff or dreams that have little hope of coming true, or are at least not at all under my control to make happen.  This list must be things that require me to do something, I cannot rely on others to be in control or even to help, if they choose to assist that is another matter.

Personal and Inter Personal Development

1. Move abroad (again) – I can’t guarantee this but I really do need to try, I feel better in Europe and I think actually I am better in Europe, it has to wait until the kids are old enough to come as and when they wish, but that isn’t as far off as it once seemed.

2. Leave IT for something meaningful – This is an absolute must before my soul is erased beyond recovery!

3. Go for custody of my children – For them, for me, at the very least to show that they have someone willing to take on the system for them.

4. Rationalise my stuff into want I need and a little of what commemorates my past for posterity. – This has always been a goal, perhaps the least attainable of the lot 🙂

5. Keep off the fags (been nearly 2 1/2 years now) – one can never say never but I am still pretty strong on this, most of the time!

6. Do an MA either in Linguistics or Trade Union relations – This depends on finance, these days education is not seen as something that will benefit society only something that should benefit the Exchequer and institutional coffers.

7. Write something every week – I need to get back to doing this, I used to and sometimes I write far more but often it just dries up and frequently due to nothing more than indolence

8. Read a book every month – I have long since needed to read again, I used to do so when I commuted on the train but cannot do so whilst driving.  Now I need to find a time and set it aside, it will be its own reward.

9. Write a book every year – and not just part of a book either, perhaps this should have been finish one of the books every year!

10. Finish my play – to avoid it becoming like the books!

11. Get an anthology of poetry published – it would be nice, not vital but perhaps more important than it ought to be, this should be offset perhaps with the goal to stop searching for validation from others.

12. Send more work to competitions and journals – see above

13. Take more photographs – I used to take loads and nowadays I still see beautiful scenery all the time and moments that I should capture but my trusty Praktica BC1 is not in the car and such moments are lost forever.

14. Do an anonymous selfless act each week – this isn’t as much of an ego trip as it sounds for whilst it will undoubtedly give me some pleasure it will also brighten albeit briefly someone else’s day and that might lead to another good act.  I cannot expect the world to change to my way of thinking without trying to do something!

15. Think before I speak more often – Yes I REALLY need to do that!

16. Slow dance with someone – I’ve still never done this, in later life the situation never presented itself but the thought is a throwback to those many occasions watching others and having not had enough beer not to care.

17. Sit on top of a hill and watch the sun come up with someone – ok it sounds slushy perhaps and would be almost as good at sunset but I think if you’ve stayed up until sunrise and you watch that and go to bed that’s got to be special

 18. Ask people out if I like them – bit of confidence, I’m better than I used to be and if I were to continue this would go some way to offsetting the ‘what if…’ thoughts.  There is a chance for me to put that into practice sooner rather than later but circumstances are as yet unclear!

19. Go to a film marathon with someone – I guess this is just one of those sort of bonding things, to spend a large but defined amount of time within a shared interest seems a win-win.

20. Spend more time concerned with those who care about me and less concerned trying to convert those who do not. – I’m sure we’re all guilty of this but that doesn’t make it any less necessary.

21. Learn empathy – never been a strong point, I get single-minded abut things, it isn’t that I don’t care I just find it difficult to detach myself from what is my routine for that time.


22. Take someone I’m in love with to Ile Saint-Margueritte (Currently my favourite place on the planet) – were I ever to feel the need to propose to anyone this is the place I would do it, but leaving that unlikely event to one side this really is a special place.

23. Visit St-Guilhem-Le-Désert (again) – This is one of those places that is just nice to visit, it’s a lovely place with a peace about it, in spite of the many tourists

24. Buy a sailing yacht – Given that I do not, nor am likely to own a house the prospect of retirement looks bleak, even were there still to be a state pension or any other kind is doubtful that this will be sufficient to pay all the bills that I would incur living as I do now in a house with a car and the like, to live in one’s mode of transport seems sensible combining the two costs and also having some freedom.  Some might take the VW camper route but I prefer the sea.

25. Learn to sail – if my retirement plan is to have a boat then it would be sensible to be able to use it.

26. Visit Cuba – I have wanted to for many years and would prefer to do so when Fidel is still alive.  I am aware that Cuba is no paradise but they have done a number of things differently to the Western model and I would like to see for myself how this is working rather than relying on Western sources that have a vested interest in the collapse of such a society.

27. Visit Venezuela – mostly because of similar reasons to Cuba, not a perfect place but one that has chosen to be more populous-focused than business-focused, as much of the West is going further the other way it seems like a good time to check out the alternatives.

28. Drive a 1980s BMW 6 series along the French Riviera – this ticks two boxes, I love the old shark-nosed 6 series, it was an iconic sports car of the late 70s early 80s, not a wide boys car this was far superior, it cost around the same as a Ferrari then and costs about the same as a decent old style Mini now.  To drive it along the riviera would probably be the nearest to panache that I will ever attain.

29. Drive a multi-national banger rally in either an old Mini or a BMW E30 – Ok another BMW one, though I’d be just as happy in a Mini, I just think a rally would be fun, not the Cannonball Run I’ll grant you but a laugh anyway.

30. Spend a month travelling round India on trains – THis is perhaps the top travel one, the trip of a lifetime I think, India has always had a draw, the people, the colour, the food, the tea…

31. Spend a week on the Isles of Scilly

32. Leave the country once every year – one of those eminently achievable ones, I had hoped to do it from 4 years ago when I finally left but last year broke that.  This way I could go every year of my 40s.

33. Visit 1 new country every 5 years – which follows on from the last really but isn’t as valid if you just visit the same country all the time, I need to leave my comfort zone and get further afield there is a lot of world out there.

34. Visit 2 continents within the 10 years – I really need to leave my comfort zone!

35. Take the children to Ireland – the trip to the homeland, they already want to go and I want to take them but there are administrative issues.

36. Take the children to France – my Grandmother used to take me to France all the time when I was younger, it was our little excursion, no-one else ever came, I loved it.

37. Walk the route of the old Berlin Wall – I remember Berlin in the old days, I confess I miss it, the uniqueness and the sense that the place was steeped in both history and intrigue it was as magical as it was palpable.

38. Stay in the DDR theme hotel – I have to, a year in Rostock was probably pretty close but I want the full monty!


39. Get into the habit of 4 forms of exercise a week

40. Cycle to work (4.8 miles)

41. Get down to 34″ waist

42. Get down to 14 stone

43. Sort out the health niggles I’m always putting off.


44. Pay off debts (around £7000)

45. Don’t get into any more debt

46. Menu plan every meal – that’s EVERY meal not just towards the end of the month when I’m already skint!

47. Don’t buy mindless things just to make me feel better or less bored.

48. Sell one item on ebay for each item I buy – this is not to say I should be working out small things to sell and then buy a load of big shit, the value and size should be close together.

49. Save some money each month, even if it’s a tenner. – longer you leave it harder it is.

50. If I should be still writing (not to mention alive) at 60 I hope that I might continue the process and that it will be of as much interest as it may be now.

Should you wish to do your own list, whatever the number (!) then it would be interesting to hear/see them.

Song Of The Day ~ Blondie – 11.59