Monday, 31 December 2007

Still walking

I've been tagged again courtesy of wayfarer: I'm going to do this one for a number of reasons, though overall I'll continue to politely decline tags unless it's something that really grabs me (which is why this one looked interesting). Thanks to wayfarer for that: it's an end of year meme and, while I'm cynical about the whole New Year's Resolution type of stuff, wayfarer rightly pointed out that this isn't really about that as such.

But! (it's not a big but....this is a big but) it will have to wait until tomorrow since there are plenty of questions to be answered and I'm not in the frame of mind just now, having come back from yet more walking. This time I was out with a couple of friends in the Malverns, having a very bracing two hours or so in the hills, which I really enjoyed. So, yet more photos for your edification.










We also found this obelisk (though to be honest I've a suspicion that other people may have found it before we did) and decided to recreate the tower in Mordor from Lord Of The Rings, the
one with the big evil all-seeing eye on top of it: I haven't linked to any photos of the one from the film since I think you'll agree that this is a supremely convincing mock-up, without any tinkering on Photoshop believe it or not.


I'm in a pleasantly drowsy state following the walk and a welcome pub lunch and a pint of Old Speckled Hen, though I'll be heading out again later for a gathering round at someone's house: I'm sure it'll be pretty hellish in many of the pubs this evening. I'll take this opportunity to pass on my best wishes for the New Year to those of you who stop by to visit the Press. Hope you have a good one.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Yuletide Blog

I know I know, another terrible pun and I bet loads of other people have done posts with the same title. No points for originality then.

Anyway I wanted to post up a few more pictures: on Christmas Day, following a couple of pints and some serious putting the world to rights with my brother at the local pub, I had a walk round armed with my camera. I'm not sure if pictures of a craneyard, amongst other things, would count as particularly festive for most people but it's something that I've always felt to be very striking visually, and this was the first chance I had to go and photograph it.

Oh, and some pictures in the local cemetery. Cheerful soul aren't I. Well it was a really beautiful afternoon as you can see from the sky, and very calm and quiet.

Monday, 24 December 2007

Fog










I was hoping for fog and, on our shortest day walk, we got it. I'm just back at home briefly and will be heading back up to Derbyshire again later on but I thought I'd take the opportunity to post up a couple of photos from the walk. It started out not exactly bright and sunny, but far more so than we'd expected.

As we got onto higher ground (we were doing a ten-mile route which took in Mam Tor and Kinder Scout) the fog descended and it was beautifully bleak and very other-wordly. We were out walking for nearly five hours and managed to find a sheltered spot for a lunch of sandwiches and mulled wine, after which we got thoroughly soaked thanks to a steady fall of rain which carried on for a couple of hours. So a pint and a chance to get dry and warm in a pub in Edale was more than welcome (I always like the idea that the signs for Edale will say "Abandon Hope..." since that's the name of a neighbouring village).









It's good to have a few days to relax. Here's hoping everyone has a good Christmas and New Year.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Miracles

Yes, they do happen. One happened just yesterday in fact.

Late afternoon, I was walking home from work and I bumped into a friend of mine. We stood chatting for a couple of minutes, then he suggested we go for a pint. I was dubious about whether I wanted to, since I was looking forward to a quiet evening in, then he came out with the classic line "go on, just for one!"

How many times have you gone for "just the one" drink, only for it to turn into several, after which things start getting very hazy and then the following morning you wake up and think, oh shit, I really don't feel very good?

Guess what?

One solitary pint of beer later, I got another round in and that one was followed by another and we didn't fall out of the pub til midnight and threw up all over the pavement NO! we left the pub, I went home, and had the nice quiet evening that I'd originally planned for myself.

Like I said, sometimes miracles do happen.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Days

....four working ones before I finish for Christmas. I'm trying not to wish them away too quickly. The last three years I've not had much of a break, but this year I really felt like I needed it and so, after Friday, I don't return to work until January 3rd. That's still only a week and a half but it's the longest time off I will have had since I started this job.

Which will make it hard to start back again.

That's the negative stuff out the way: whatever happens or crops up this week, I'm off at the end of it and that's that. I'm not really looking forward to anything specific with my time off, just the time off itself. I'll be spending some of it up in Derbyshire, which means peace and quiet (and booze) and plenty of long walks. Last year - or was it the year before? - it was magnificently foggy some of the time (as in the weather, not my frame of mind), and there was a pleasant eeriness to wandering around the lanes and pathways with hardly anyone else in sight. I'll be taking my camera with me and will post any worthwhile pictures up here once I'm back.

I remember last year having a long walk while I was in a mild stupor, and feeling a sheer sense of relief at being temporarily free from the rigours of the daily routine. I summed it up with a rather grandiose phrase which I saved in my mobile phone: the freedom from everyday restrictions tempts me to do what I consider to be normal. Which doesn't necessarily mean I automatically want to do something "weird," but serves to indicate that a lack of externally-imposed structure gives me more space in which to clear my mind, be myself.

Am I thinking about this too much? Perhaps, but these lanes and paths are the same ones as described here, and which carry a lot of resonance for me. I used to also spend time out here late at night with paints and sketchpad (and cans of beer), and it would be so dark that I would have to have a system of remembering which paints I'd used so that they didn't get completely muddled up. The results - when they actually turned out alright - were a sort of cross between what a late Turner seascape might have looked like were he very drunk and very arthritic, and the visual equivalent of eating spaghetti. I'm sure that's not too hard to imagine is it? Probably the above also serves to add context to "what I consider to be normal."

Actually it used to be very enjoyable to go out and paint late at night, though occasionally the sense of eeriness would get the better of me and I'd have to pack up and head back to somewhere slightly less off the beaten track.

Well, following on from the previous post, I would enjoy it if we had a proper fall of snow: but some heavy fog would be enough for me. On Saturday I'll hopefully be meeting up with some friends for the revival of an old tradition, they used to get together on (or as near to it as possible) the shortest day for a walk in the Peak District, with mince pies and mulled wine for refreshments. Followed, hopefully, by a stop in a decent pub with a real fire, good food and some real ale.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Minutes

I tend to get a bit obsessive at this time of year about the hours of daylight: or, more to the point, the lack of them. It never used to bother me as a child. For one thing, there were always the distractions such as Bonfire Night and of course Christmas. Plus, I think, living in a comparatively rural area made a big difference: winter, in that context, seemed to make sense as opposed to being an inconvenience (not to mention a bit of a drag).

Also (adopts suitably Northern accent), when I were a lad, we had proper winters with snow and everything.

Anyway - while I wouldn't describe myself as seasonally affective (far less seasonally effective), it's nevertheless a big relief to get to this point in the year and know that, even just by a tiny margin at first, the days are going to start getting longer again. I know I'm hardly on my own when I say how dispiriting it becomes after a while to have to get up when it's dark day after day, and not return home from work until it's dark also.

Most days at this point in the year I tend to look at the BBC's 5-day weather forecast, especially because it has the times of sunrise and sunset. The shortest day isn't, of course, until near the end of the coming week. But, looking at the 5-day forecast, it's good to see that while the sun sets at 15.52 on Tuesday (round these parts anyway), then on Wednesday it doesn't set until - wait for it - 15.53!

Ok, so it obviously won't make a really noticeable difference for a while, but just seeing that extra minute of sunlight being noted on the forecast makes it feel like a psychological barrier will have been crossed in a few days time.

Right: enough wittering, I'm off down the pub.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Writing behaviour

No this is not following on thematically from the previous post, though there's plenty of food for thought there. But this is a sidestep since there's only so much discussion I can have about such topics without starting to feel like I'm bringing my work home with me. I do intend (he says) to follow it up with some related thoughts, but not right now.

Given the various postings and discussions about music (and photographs, such as the post before last), much of which has been taking place at avantgardening, I was thinking about my own approach to the creative process, with particular reference to writing and recording music. This then is a summary:

1. I get a brilliant or interesting idea (or at least that's how it seems), which may be triggered off by something I've seen or heard during the day. It stays in my head and I find myself working on fully-formed arrangements - still all in my head - to the point of preoccupation. These arrangements sound startling, vivid and original, whether involving layers of guitars, computer-generated sounds, beats, samples, whatever.

2. The process described at point 1 always happens at an inopportune moment, namely when I'm nowhere near my laptop or guitar or whatever.

3. By the time I do get to my laptop, one of three things usually happens:

a. I've forgotten the idea, so I go and do something else.

b. I make a start with playing and recording. In this case, the process of translating the epic/brilliant/bombastic nonsense into something tangible, invariably runs into problems. It doesn't sound the same, in fact it sounds a bit crap. I leave it for a while and go away to think about how I wanted it to sound in the first place. Then it all starts to fall into place again, it's clear in my mind and I know what to do! This moment of clarity is once again at an inopportune moment though and so I go through the pattern detailed in points 1 -3 inclusive.

c. I make a start with playing and recording. It might not sound exactly like the original idea, but it sounds alright and I'm onto something. I listen back, like what I've heard and start to get precious about it so I'm scared to do any more.

4. I then leave it alone for a while and work on something else as a displacement activity: sometimes, this is another piece of music developed from just tinkering around with no pressure or grand designs unlike the kind of thing described in points 1-3. In fact, it's usually a completely stupid idea that seems so ridiculous that I'm happy to work on it since it makes me laugh and it's of no possible consequence.

5. Eventually I come back to the piece described in points 1-3 (this may be within a couple of days or weeks or even months, sometimes it's been literally years) and having lost the preciousness of the original idea, I'm quite happy to rip it to pieces and change it into something radically and brutally different. Sometime after it's started to finally take its own shape, I start to listen back to it objectively and realise it's pretty much what I was trying to do in the first place: it's just taken a hell of a long time getting there.

6. The music done as a displacement activity in point 4, since it involves no pressure or contrivance, almost invariably ends up being the better, more interesting piece of music.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Symptomized

I've been meaning to post up a link to this for a while: it's the published report of an experiment which took place in the early seventies, titled "On Being Sane In Insane Places."

To greatly summarize, a varied group of people who might be considered "normal" (in this context, that should be taken to mean having an absence of any psychiatric symptoms) agreed to become pseudopatients, such that they would each attempt to gain admission to psychiatric hospitals. The way they would go about this was agreed in advance, each one would go to a different hospital and complain of hearing a voice saying specific things.

None of the hospitals or their respective staff knew of the experiment, and each "patient" would not, apart from reporting the particular symptom in their initial appointment, otherwise attempt to behave abnormally or falsify any aspect of their life history.

Once admitted, each "patient" would have to aim towards being discharged by convincing the hospital staff that they were "sane."

Although not without its perceived flaws (some mention of which is made here), it makes for compelling and unsettling reading.

It raised questions about how "normal" behaviours become symptomized when a person is labelled and viewed in a specific context and environment. For example, as part of the experiment the "patients" wrote notes about their experiences whilst in hospital, and in one case this was taken to be a sign of pathology by the staff, noting it as being "writing behaviour" and hence giving the connotation that there was something obsessive about it.

There are numerous other examples of how the ordinary facts of a person's life, background and behaviour are distorted to fit the picture of mental illness now that they are hospitalized.

Interestingly (among many other adjectives that could be applied), none of the staff in any of the hospitals were able to identify the presence of any of these pseudopatients, although many of the other actual patients did cotton on to the fact that there was nothing wrong with them.

I may (or knowing me, I may not... or not for some time) post some observations loosely related to the above stemming from my own experience through work and also from a personal perspective.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Chaos...


...is sometimes bliss.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Inanity

You can tell it's time for a quiet lie down when you can't get the words to "Chick Chick Chicken" out of your head - and you can't stop singing them to the tune of "Folsom Prison Blues."

Go on, try it, it's amazing how well it fits the tune. On second thoughts: don't, or it'll start driving you to distraction too.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Initials

I conceal anger now. The thoughts heavy, it's not known or felt. Although new yearnings take hours, I never get tired of poring over silly things, and taking time healing. Every minute of my evening necessitates this.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Walk on the mild side

I walked home from work today, and as I did so I passed through a part of town that I haven't been through in a long while. I lived there for several years, mainly while I was at college. Perhaps inevitably, it threw up a number of memories.

Here are a few of those memories: I read an article once in which the writer started every paragraph with "I remember...". It was irritating when I first read it, and took some getting used to. Now, I've grown to like it and it seems to suit these recollections. So:

I remember feeling a little perturbed to find out that there'd been some kind of mini-riot in the area a few weeks before I moved in. I'd moved there after a huge argument with my previous landlady, after living on what was apparently one of the most deprived housing estates in Europe, and I wondered if this was a case of "out of the frying pan.." Soon after moving in I was watching the news with a friend and one of the big stories was of a major police operation, I think they were doing drugs raids. I'd remembered hearing lots of sirens early that morning: so that was why the streets on the television footage looked familiar...

I remember one road being a hangout for the drugs dealers, I couldn't walk down there without being accosted: regardless of my then-straggly-haired appearance, I really wasn't into anything stronger than alcohol. The dealers used to scare the hell out of me til I got used to it. Though there were very occasional exceptions, if you didn't hang around or try and cause trouble, you didn't get any trouble in return. I remember one dealer coming up and walking next to me:

Dealer: What you saying?

Me: Nothing.

Dealer: Why not?

Me: Nothing much to say really.

Dealer: You want something?

Me: Yes, I've come down to get fish and chips.

Dealer: Don't go to that one then, the chip shop round the corner's much better.

Me: Thanks, I'll give it a try.

I remember a different occasion where I was coming out of the chip shop and a guy who had an iron bar started giving me some verbal abuse and waving the bar. Without thinking I blurted out my standard response to the dealers, which was "No thanks," and which confused the hell out of him so I just carried on walking home.

I remember a loud knock at the door one day, and three rather intimidating-looking men standing staring at me. Before I had the chance to say anything one of the men looked me straight in the eye and uttered the word "Dosh." Oh shit, I thought, is there some kind of protection racket going on now?

I was staring blankly at him, and he said it again. "Dosh!" I wondered how I was going to get out of this one. I decided to play for time, feeling very nervous since all three men were staring at me, unsmiling. "Dosh?" I asked, shaking my head slightly and frowning.

"Yes, is he in?"

I was completely thrown now. Is who in, I wondered aloud. "Dosh! He does live here doesn't he?"

I couldn't believe it, here was me expecting some attempt at extortion: it finally became clear that they had a mate called Dosh who, as it turned out, lived a couple of doors down the road.

I remember a friend of mine getting mugged in the most passive way possible. On the street with all the dealers, someone beckoned to him to cross the road. So my friend crossed the road, and got mugged.

I remember a guy who took a lot of drugs, who had come to visit one of my housemates. Our cat had gone into the kitchen and helped itself to some mushy peas which were left on a plate. When it ran back into the living room this guy freaked out, seeing what he thought was green foam emanating from the cat's mouth.

I remember I used to love living there.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Ron

Well I'm out to see the 'Klang tonight (he says, as though he knows their music or anything about them), and then I'm away this weekend, since it's my grandmother's birthday: she's just about to reach the age of 92.

Just thought I'd mention it, since it'll be a bit quiet round here until the end of the weekend at least.

Also: it might sound odd, but it wouldn't feel right going away and knowing that the last post on here was one about work, so I had to post something else up. I'd been thinking about blogging a few football-related thoughts, but zola-ink-spots has done a good job of that over at his place.

Oh, and the title of this one is a reference to that saying (sometimes funny, sometimes annoying, depending on who says it), I'll see you Ron: later Ron.

I'll shut up now :)

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Carpet Squad

I thought I'd write something about work. Not a moan this time: my overall feelings haven't changed in that respect, but today was one of those increasingly rare days which reminded me why I enjoyed this kind of work in the first place.

It wasn't an easy day, and to be honest I wasn't looking forward to it. I shan't go into any detail about the individuals that I was working with, for obvious reasons. Suffice it to say that there have been some extremely challenging circumstances for those concerned, and today was potentially pivotal for each of them.

Well I've come home at the end of the working day feeling quite fulfilled and satisfied, I'd practically forgotten what that feeling was like. I feel like I've been able to make use of the skills that I've got, and - to use what becomes an ever-more hackneyed expression - to play a role in making a difference. To be able to help to navigate a possible way forward.

The refreshing thing is that I've been able to do that without any politics or paperwork getting in the way, thus enabling me to get a lot of things done in a fairly straightforward and unhindered manner.

I don't hold out any high hopes of having a similar kind of day again for a while, but today really was quite refreshing. Don't ask me why I called this post Carpet Squad though, I don't have any rational explanation.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Dilemma

The good news is that The Fall are playing this week, and so are Efterklang. Regular readers of this blog (if I'm not flattering myself with the plural*) will know that I'm partial to the Fall's output, having seen them in concert a number of times, and owning one or two or twenty of their albums.

On the other hand, I know next to nothing about Efterklang - even whether I've spelled their name correctly - but they've been recommended to me and, as an added incentive, they're playing down at my local. Which is thoughtful of them.

The bad news is that they're both playing on the same night. So, in short, do I stick with what I know, or do I take a risk?



In other news (I use the term loosely): tonight Matthew, we are going to be Spartacus. Yes it's the pub quiz again. I mention this mainly because when we're in the process of arranging to go, it feels less like a quiz team and more like a bunch of criminals getting together to do "one last job." I think that's how we come across as well.

Last time there was a question asking who was the only Hollywood film star to always be played by a member of the opposite sex: as a joke, I said "Lassie" loudly, and it turned out to be the right answer. Serves me right for trying to be clever.



*or am I being falsely modest by suggesting I'm flattering myself with the plural?

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Diversion

I've put a new post up here. It's not very cheerful, and sooner or later there'll be even more to follow :)

Monday, 12 November 2007

Tags (4)

Now as I may have previously mentioned I'm rather ambivalent as regards being tagged, though I've been known to indulge from time to time. It would be hard to refuse this one though, since it constitutes a twin assault from djkirkby and pixie (though presumably not acting in concert...that would be a bit weird). So I shall do it and make the most of rambling on about myself: let none of my ambivalence appear disrespectful to my two taggers, since it's flattering really.

So thank you to the aforementioned, though I shan't tag anyone else: anyone who wishes to do this one though, feel free to.

8 passions in my life
Art. Both the viewing/experiencing of, and also the making of. Finally, in contrast to when I spoke about this a few months ago, I'm starting to breathe a bit of life (only a bit, at the moment) into the seemingly long-since dormant corpse that is (or was) my own artwork.

Music: similar to above, this relates to the listening thereof (?), seeing in live performance, and also producing my own. Sporadically so at the moment, but unlike drawing and painting, I've never allowed this to stagnate for long periods of time.

Reading: no, not the place. Reading books. It's been less fiction and more history over the last 12 months since I first went to Berlin (yes the place), I feel the need to know about these things. Which serves as an explanation for my book list below, which looks a bit obsessive to say the least.

Languages: especially European ones. My love of the sounds and words spoken in other languages is in inverse proportion to my ability to speak them. I'm fascinated by the relationships between words in different languages. I'm a sucker for hearing foreign accents as well.

Cycling: I'm sure I've gone on about this often enough as it is.

Good whisky: single malt, especially Laphroiag. As a real connoisseur might say, "it's the shit."

Decent beer: similar to above (though not the same, obviously, or my liver would have packed in years ago).

An unrequieted one: I'm not saying any more, but see the point about languages.

8 things to do before I die
A total copout answer here, but more of the above. I was tempted to put "breathe in and out four times each" but that's even more of a copout. I'm stonewalling: for some reason this one doesn't present anything satisfactory. The other thing is, what if I don't do them before I die? That will mean I've lied or I've failed, even if I've had a damn good time trying. Yes, I know the whole point is probably to have a damn good time trying, but still I can't think of 8 things to put here that properly answer this question.

8 things I often say
Definitely
You fucking tosser (usually under my breath since I want to stay alive for now)
Er...
I don't know/ I'm not sure
What/pardon/sorry? (see earlier posts about tinnitus)
That'll be them now (whenever the phone rings)
Bollocks
Shitting Crikey

8 Books I read recently
The Great War For Civilisation by Robert Fisk
Ulli Haarburst's Novel of Roy Orbison in Clingfilm
My Summer of Love by Helen Cross
In Search of Adam by Caroline Smailes
Stasiland by Anna Funder
Rising '44 by Norman Davies
The Berlin Wall by Frederick Taylor
The Fall of Berlin by Anthony Read and David Fisher

8 songs that mean something to me
Oh bloody hell, where do I start with this? Another one which is difficult to answer but for a very different reason, i.e. there are way too many. I'll choose eight which aren't necessarily the most meaningful, or even the most meaningful right now, but still they answer the question.

Motherfucker=Redeemer by Godspeed You Black Emperor. An incredible, epic instrumental piece from an incredible, instrumental album by an incredible, instrumental band. I haven't listened to the album that this is from for a couple of years at least, it may well be time to rectify that. Intense and very moving stuff.

Take Me To The Other Side by Spacemen 3. First time I heard this was when I saw them in concert, and I was knocked for six: nearly twenty years later I've still not been to a better gig, and the song in question was an astonishing highlight. Relentless, druggy power-chords and drones: it really had a huge impact on me, and I was stone-cold sober when I saw them.

Jesus by The Velvet Underground. I could choose any of the songs on the first side of their third album. This is beautiful, quiet and has a heartbreakingly simple melody and lyric which gets me every time.

Genetic Transmission by SPK. Because like the album it's from (Leichenschrei), it used to scare the shit out of me and was unlike anything I'd previously heard at that point (early-mid eighties).

Come On In My Kitchen by Robert Johnson. Not sure how I could do this, or its effect on me, any justice.

Yoo Doo Right by Can. Not the first track I heard by them, but the one which instantly drew me in and the one I always come back to, for all sorts of reasons both musically and personally.

Fernando by Abba. Yes it does mean something to me, because as I've written previously, this was the first piece of music I heard, aged about three, in which I felt compelled to ask what the difference between the song and the band was: something which had never previously occurred to me. If we were to talk about an ABBA song that I really like though, that would have to be S.O.S.

Host Of Seraphim by Dead Can Dance. More breathtakingly beautiful stuff (and other such hyperbole). I was reminded of this earlier today: a friend of mine once came round, she was going through a difficult time and we were sat talking. I put this album on and she immediately burst into tears because she knew it and associated it with an even more difficult time. Oops.

Eight Qualities I Look For In A Friend
This might sound disingenuous but it feels quite cynical to list something along these lines. Yes there are obvious ones like sense of humour and so on but if I have to write a list then it feels like it's missing the point really. Sorry!

Friday, 9 November 2007

Emergency

One of the photographs I recently unearthed was this (my deletion of the phone numbers):














I'm unsure of precisely the kind of real emergency in which one would require a painting.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Hostipal

I just remembered that Baldrick, in Blackadder, couldn't pronounce the word "hospital." Hence the title.

Pixie has written a very eloquent post about her hospital experiences from a couple of years ago, and one thing she wrote was about how, at first, being in hospital was in some ways quite enjoyable. This immediately triggered a memory. Now here's where we go off at a tangent in that respect, since I didn't have anything life-threatening or potentially devastating: I had been admitted for a minor operation to remove a lymph node, in order to test for any signs of Hodgkin's Disease.

In the event the results, thankfully, proved negative. My brief stay in hospital, meanwhile, felt like a real adventure.

I was the youngest (aged 18 and 3/4) on the ward: everyone else appeared to be middle aged or older, and I remember the man in the next bed to me had the most excruciating cough, you could tell he was in great pain and I pitied his poor lungs. Still, regardless of our comparative ages, we were all rendered infantile to a degree: the way we were all spoken to (imagine me being referred to as "Mr trousers" at the end of every sentence, in that tone of voice which lowers and then goes higher again); the way a bunch of grown men - and me - were all confined to our beds, wearing pyjamas.

This way, you know your place: you're there to have things done to you, and to be cared for. To be at the mercy of the routine and decisions of others. I'm not saying this in an entirely critical way, but in my experience it's just part of how it all is. In the same way that I like being at airports, but they inescapably make me feel guilty of something with all the scans, questions and checking of details.

Speaking of pyjamas, I'd recently bought myself some magnificent stripey ones, the really old-school kind with the pocket, and little to keep them up except for that cord that ties around the waist. They were rather oversized as well. They were the real deal though, I got them from an oddly esoteric shop situated down an alleyway which specialized in gear which had otherwise not been seen for a long time. On the hospital ward, thus attired, I remember a nurse coming along and, in that tone of voice saying "now then Mr trousers, you need to go to for your x-ray, the x-ray department is down the corridor, through the doors and second on your left."

I had already lost some of my self-consciousness since I had been examined, poked and prodded, shaved - and worst of all, discussed like I wasn't in the same room - and after a while I found I wasn't bothered about the seeming indignity, I was able to view it with a sense of humour. I could have sunk into the ground though when I tottered through into the x-ray department in my oversized, grandad-style pyjamas and found that this was in the outpatient's department. This meant that everyone else was fully dressed, wearing thick overcoats and scarves - it was January - and they all seemed to turn and look at me and to stifle giggles.

Everyone who was waiting was sat in a big semicircle of chairs, and there was one empty seat right in the middle. I decided to be bold and just sat down in the middle of everyone, carefully arranging myself so that my pyjamas didn't inadvertently reveal more than they needed to. I was still getting funny looks, so I just would give whoever it was a winning smile. I felt so incongruous, I just shed my self-consciousness (nothing else though, thankfully) and enjoyed the daftness of the moment.

Later, a couple of hours before I was due to have my operation, I was back in my bed idling the time away and having the occasional moment of anxiety. I remember a nurse coming in and saying "now you've got to take these tablets Mr trousers, and don't get out of bed after you've taken them because you might feel a bit dizzy."

This was what I had been waiting for: pre-med. My mother had told me about this.

Having taken the tablets, I lay back in bed with a sense of expectation. I waited.

Nothing happened.

I waited some more.

Still nothing. This was very disappointing. I had been lying there for maybe half an hour.

Then I sat up, and I felt I had sat up not just at a right-angle to the bed, but at a right-angle to the whole of reality. Shit! I felt great!

A nurse wheeled a patient past my bed. I gave them the victory salute, accompanied by the thoughtful words, "Fucking Dig It!" I then lay back down and saw the clock swimming around on the wall. Time distortion seemed to be happening as well: half an hour went past in five minutes, and vice versa. I sat up again: the transition from lying down to sitting up was like an amazing, epic journey. So I kept lying back down and sitting up again.

People were often walking past: my bed was right next to the ward entrance. Whenever someone did walk past, it was a real effort to keep my mouth shut, so I didn't. "Who needs acid house when you've got this shit?" I asked, not unreasonably (to me, at least). Amazingly, no-one told me to shut up, and I believe that people regarded such questions as merely rhetorical.

Since one or more of the tablets was a muscle relaxant, then finally I succumbed and just sank back into my bed, languidly watching the time pass in its uneven way, punctuated by people going to and fro: my exclamations to them were now rather more lazy. Finally a nurse and a couple of hospital orderlies came along with a trolley, on which I would be transported to the operating theatre. I looked at the trolley and started burbling on about whether they had any ice cream. I was still burbling on about it after they had lifted me on to the trolley and were wheeling me down the corridor.

They starting asking me questions: my name, my age, where I lived. I couldn't give them a straight answer, since as far as I was concerned they were asking such hilarious questions. Finally a rather stern tone of voice from one of the faces looking down at me signalled my need for compliance.

General anaesthetic was fantastic too. They put a plastic widget in the vein in my hand through which they gave one injection. A masked face looking down at me then informed they would be giving another injection, and asked me to count to ten. "How cliched," I thought, "you won't get me counting to ten". I could feel a cold liquid spreading through my hand as the second injection went in.

"One...two...three...four..." I could hear my voice counting. Was that me? I was disappointed in myself. I then felt my legs detach themselves from the rest of my body and drift at some speed to the ceiling. Then my torso followed, and I was out.

The seemingly psychedelic distortions of the pre-med tablets had worn off by the time I was being brought back to consciousness, to be replaced by a weary kind of weirdness. As I was slowly coming round I was perturbed to see a familiar face and hear a voice I hadn't heard since I had been at play-school, perhaps fifteen years previously. More than three quarters of my life ago.

"Hello trousers, remember me?" Shit! One of my play-school teachers! I must be dead! I was convinced of this - why on earth else would she be bringing me round after an operation? The haziness of this slow return to the offices of awareness was like one of those rather hackneyed dream sequences you see on television. Here was a figure from my past as seen through a soft-focus lens. I think I asked her if I was dead as well, though I'm not sure whether this too was taken as a rhetorical question. The more I came round, the more convinced I was: her facial features became ever clearer and this seemed to confirm my thesis.

Finally she told me she now worked as a nurse, and suddenly that made sense. So, I was still alive after all. Back on the ward, I witnessed someone die late that night, but I'll save that for a different (and no doubt very cheerful) post.

Meanwhile, completely unrelated to the above ramblings, here is a picture of Iona, especially for Merkin.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Sweet solitude

I finally got round to installing my old hard drive (called "Dave", as I realised when I got it set up) onto my new computer at the weekend, with a bit of guidance from a friend. Well, when I say "new" computer, I've had it since January. Anyway one of the main reasons for this is that I've got lots of music files on there: now I can listen back to them or rework them using better software than I had previously.

I spent much of yesterday transferring the files and listening to a lot of them, and there were so many things I''d worked on - half finished ideas, most of them - that I'd forgotten about. It was a genuine (and thankfully not unpleasant) surprise when I heard them again.

The other good thing was that on the same hard drive were some photographs of a holiday a few years ago: I went with a few friends to Mull, and found it to be one of the most beautiful places I've been to. When I came across these photographs I lapsed into silence, I was immediately transported back there.

I remember really enjoying and appreciating the company of my friends, but I remember also just how much the wide open spaces, often breathtaking scenery and surprisingly mild weather (we went in February) really lent itself to blissful solitude.

Outside our accommodation (it's there in the photograph at the end), all was silent, save for the cry of an owl late at night. In the evenings, we would all sit around the huge table in the magnificent dining room to drink, talk and to have good food. It was amazing, it felt like we were in a castle and we had it all to ourselves.

At some point each evening I would take a walk outside on my own for a short while (a bit like Captain Oates without the snow or the heroics) and would unfailingly feel a wave of emotion hit me, such was the incredible stillness. The echoes in the little valley; the last vestige of the evening sunlight; the gentle, soothing lapping sounds of the water: it was all so uncomplicated, each little detail or event really moved me.

People often talk about how open spaces, incredible vistas, areas of natural beauty can make them feel humbled, puny, worthless even. This wasn't like that: it was calming, comforting and sometimes just a little melancholic. Out here was somewhere I could just be, and I was sorry to have to leave.

Thanks (in part) to these photographs, the memories are stronger again.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Drawn (2)

As threatened here are some more drawings and a photo I took the other day. I think the main point I'm trying to make with the photo (apart from the obviously nice evening sky) is that I'm looking up and around a lot more now - not always a pleasant thing to do round these parts - and hence recording what catches my eye.

Really it's probably a case of looking for the same thing anyway: a trigger for thoughts, recollections and resonances.

Anyway: too many big words already for a Saturday morning.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

A nice moment

What a shit title for a post. "A nice moment."

Anyway, before I rip my titles to shreds any further: a friend popped round earlier, someone with whom I've had periodic discussions about work, my attempts to change direction and get more involved in art-related activities. Lately I've been conscious of the fact that I'm still where I am work-wise, but at least starting to move on in other ways. None of this was on my mind however when she came over, but as we were sat talking she noticed the ever-growing pile of drawings on my table. I've not told anyone about my recommencing drawing, except here on this site.

"Wow, looks like you've been busy," she said. Yes, and about bloody time I've been busy: finally doing something, on however modest a scale, rather than continuing to say I need to do something. It spawned a discussion occupying similar territory to the conversations summarized above, but it felt a little more real this time, that further goals are ever-so-slightly more feasible, since I've at least made a start.

So that was the nice moment, in a nutshell. I still feel like I need to make a further qualifying statement to add on to that and maybe to diminish it, but I'll relegate such a qualification by putting it in brackets at the end of this sentence (yes I still need to make so much more effort to change my present circumstances but I'm not using that as an excuse to further delay things that I can be getting on with in the meantime). There. That's that out of the way.

I'll perhaps post some more drawings soon. It'll have to wait until the weekend though, when the following two things

daylight
being at home

will be something experienced concurrently (so that I can photograph them properly).

Sunday, 28 October 2007

ircbtlbiopa

I'm putting word verification on to comments, for a few days at least, since I've been getting a number of spam hits since the end of last week. Just thought I'd let you know.

For the sake of pedantry though, "word verification" doesn't describe it very well - after all they're not proper words are they, just a random jumble of letters.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

A couple of things

Firstly, being in a busy, wonderful real-ale pub last night with a couple of friends, I saw something which reminded me why I love cats. The pub was pretty busy, a little hectic but with a good atmosphere. Meanwhile a black and white she-cat was sat looking out of the window onto the street outside, occasionally craning her neck having apparently spotted the most interesting thing ever: ears twitching like radar (does radar twitch? You know what I mean anyway), and paying no notice to the goings on in the pub. She seemed to be making a statement: fuck you lot, you bore me. It's all happening out there!

Secondly, today I finally got my hands on the new Einstürzende Neubauten album. I haven't listened to it yet, but I'm going to shortly.

At last. It's mine, mine!

Mine, I tell you! Mine!!!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Gutes Year (or how to ruin an anecdote)

After the way, that the discussion went on the prior thread, I only this had to try: write a post, translate you it into another language (I become with German for the will of the logical consistency stick) and translate you then it behind to English and give you it on the place out.

I thought, select would have lost becomes that I an anecdote that (hanging therefrom off, like well it is told) a very orderly punchline to see only like much, that it in translation twice over:

I was sat on a bus at Derby bus railway station a Friday evening ago some years to break open waiting, on that in Derbyshire because I wanted to visit my mother. When the driver sat there idling the time away, before he was due, to depart, asked a couple of youth that is received on the bus, and it if the bus led to Nottingham. The conversation is likes gone somewhat this:

Youth: Two halves to Nottingham would ask. They do not go are to Nottingham you.

Driver (somewhat laconic) : Nottingham? They will not have came much chance of to Nottingham on this bus. We go to Chesterfield.

Youth: Are you certain?

Driver: Very certainly. Chesterfield. You come along want, you, but you must pay to like everyone this other good passengers.

Youth: But it says Nottingham on the side of the bus! Why does it say that if it goes somewhere otherwise?

Driver (even more laconic) : Does ah yes, and it not say was has on the tire just as "goods year", but if so far it"?



Tranlated from: After the way the discussion was going on the previous thread, I just had to try this: write a post, translate it into another language (I'll stick with German for the sake of consistency) and then translate it back to English and publish it on the site.

I thought I'd choose an anecdote which (depending on how well it is told) has a very neat punchline, just to see how much it gets lost in translation twice over:

I was sat on a bus at Derby bus station one Friday evening some years ago, waiting for it to set off into Derbyshire since I was going to visit my mother. As the driver sat there idling the time away before he was due to depart, a couple of youths got on the bus and asked him if the bus was heading to Nottingham. The conversation went something like this:

Youth: Two halves to Nottingham please. You are going to Nottingham aren't you.

Driver (somewhat laconically): Nottingham? You won't have much chance of getting to Nottingham on this bus. We're going to Chesterfield.

Youth: Are you sure?

Driver: Very sure. Chesterfield. Come along if you want but you'll have to pay like all these other good passengers.

Youth: But it says Nottingham on the side of the bus! Why does it say that if it's going somewhere else?

Driver (even more laconically): Ah yes, and it says "Good Year" on the tyres as well, but if hasn't been so far has it?"

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Lied und tanzt

That title is probably very wrong German. Anyway, following last week's post in which I was waiting with some urgency for this week, it now appears that the release of Neubauten's new album has been delayed by another week or so.

Drat.

The only thing that's helping to pass the time is this. Hilarious, mesmeric and weird in equal measure.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Drawn

The last couple of days I've finally started to draw again. The process of blogging has been a trigger in some ways: the sense of wanting to articulate something, and hence having to find ways to actually articulate what that something might be. There have been other triggers as well including, for instance, a lot of good conversation over the weekend with different people. Not to mention the notion of having felt stuck for quite some time.

Perhaps this is a small part of (in the best possible way) getting myself unstuck again.

Here are a few of the drawings I've been doing: a further attempt to recommence the process of articulating something, if only for myself. I don't think as yet that they are succeeding in any way, but it's a start. The fact that there is now a they - the drawings - to actually be able to refer to, is the main thing right now: in itself, it's quite liberating.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Ringtones

It's a particular source of frustration to me that I wake up at the same time on a Saturday morning as I do during the week, and rarely get back to sleep, regardless of the lateness of the hour at which I went to bed on Friday night. Such has been the case this morning, though on the brighter side it's equally a relief to realise that I don't have to get up and go to work.

This morning something else was impinging on my consciousness as well: a long, steady ringing tone, medium in register, occasionally fading for a brief moment before returning, sometimes seeming to come from the left, other times from the right. In other words, the internal orchestra that comprises my tinnitus (not that I want to give it too grandiose a description or anything) appears to have a temporary new addition.

I'd almost forgotten what this was like, lying there and listening in, trying to distinguish between external sounds and internal ones. I've become so used to the repertoire of ringing, whining and whistling that goes on, that for the vast majority of the time it really doesn't bother me at all. It used to scare the shit out of me: I'd be constantly finding somewhere quiet to sit and listen and work out whether the noises were fading or getting louder or whether there were any new ones (which would mean another nail in the coffin for my hearing). These days I'd probably find it more unsettling if the ringing disappeared.

The new tone I heard this morning shouldn't last. It was triggered by going to see a film last night: Control, the dramatisation of the life of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. Normally I'd have the earplugs in for loud music (and the music is done particularly well in the film) but on this occasion I just couldn't bring myself to do so. Much like the handling of the rest of the film there was something very satisfying in how the rawness and immediacy of the band's live performance was captured.

I normally steer clear of biopics: if the subject is one you're very familiar with, I find it tends to be an unsatisfactory experience, defined as much as anything by what has been missed out, misrepresented or glossed over. Not so in this case: apart from one or two slight irritations, I can't see how it could be improved upon. My friends and I were talking about it long after it had finished, which is always a good sign: as is my willingness to tolerate the ringing in my ears.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Testing

so, does this work?

Monday, 15 October 2007

Salivating

Because this is being released next week, apparently.

I do hope it's good.

*drums fingers for next seven days, waiting patiently*

Is it next week yet?

*continues drumming fingers*

Is it next week yet?

*drums fingers ad infinitum*

Is it next week yet?

*drums fingers even more than ad infinitum if such a thing is possible*

Update: is it next week yet here's a review of it for those interested.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Stream of consciousness (ish)

I'd threatened (if that's not too harsh a word) to anna mr that I would do a stream-of-consciousness post after she did one, a few weeks ago now. So here it is. It seems a good idea to do it right now because, following the previous post I wrote, and the wonderful responses it got from everyone, I've remained deep in thought about the whole blog-thing in relation to what I do and don't reveal. This has moved on to reflecting on what I choose to reveal - or not - about people around me.

I really don't want to think about it too much or it will stop me from writing about anything whatsoever. It would prevent me from writing about my mother, in whose company I've spent the weekend. It would also prevent me from writing about my grandmother, who lives close by to my mother and who will soon, all being well, reach the rather fine age of 92.

Again it feels like a question of motivation: I shouldn't really have any worries about privacy issues since no one here knows that much about me apart from what I've written, and anyone who does know more about me certainly doesn't know any of my family.

So where's the problem?

I tend to worry about these things, that's where the problem is.

But I want to write about how twisted my mother's hands are from arthritis. Not that arthritis is restricted to her hands (to understate the hold that the condition has on her): but they are, maybe, the area that I focus on other than her face. Hands are pretty crucial things after all. I'm used to seeing hers as they are now. I can't imagine the pain and frustration.

I used to feel guilty for not helping her out more. I go back home every so often and get mothered, and for a good while I used to think, I should be cooking for her, I should be offering to help out with whatever needs to be done. I changed my opinion, though, or came to a point of realisation: whenever she wants something done, she will ask. Otherwise she'll damn well get on with doing it herself, and she keeps as much independence as she possibly can.

She had an operation on one of her hands some time ago, to try and get the individual joints realigned to a more manageable degree. I rang her regularly and offered to go and see her at weekends if she needed help with anything at all: she responded with a list of jobs which needed doing, and she then described her frankly ingenious methods of getting round the problem of each individual task with the temporarily-limited means at her disposal . In other words, she didn't need my help or anyone else's, thank you very much: or if she did, as mentioned, she would ask.

My grandmother is becoming increasingly dependent on her: but at her (my grandmother that is) remarkable age, the fact that she still lives in her own home, the one she moved into when married, is quite something as far as I'm concerned. She's getting more unsteady as time goes on, and not just physically. At the end of each visit I say "I'll see you soon" or words to that effect. I'm increasingly conscious that there's only so many more times I'll be saying that: while that sounds like a sad thought, it's tempered by the fact that whatever happens, (to resort to a necessary cliche), she's had a damned good innings.

I'm often reminded of something my late grandfather said one birthday in the final few years of his life. He had a lengthy spell of illness and was clearly ever more aware of his own mortality, and one of his apparent coping strategies was to specialise in a fine brand of gallows humour. For a birthday present I'd bought him a new shaving kit. As he opened the box and saw what it was his eyes lit up, he smiled at me and said with enthusiasm, "Thanks! This will just about last me!" I remember bursting out laughing though being highly aware of the the truth behind the humour.



Note: I have to be honest (well I don't, but I'm going to be), this wasn't completely stream-of-consciousness, I had to stop and think and change a couple of things, but it's a lot more off-the-cuff than most of what I've written previously. It's a lot more spontaneous than next Thursday's post is shaping up to be, put it that way.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Advice welcome

A small favour, if anyone can grant it.

Does anyone have any clear guidelines on confidentiality issues with regards to blogging? There's a post I'd like to write, relating to someone I knew when I worked in a particular setting and they were a client there.

But at present, although I think the story is worth telling (and is fully respectful of the client), I feel uncomfortable. I think it's partially because I could do with a clear sense of where I stand in terms of confidentiality (maybe I'm wrong, but it feels like a whole different ballgame online as opposed to within the context of work itself).

It's also because the very act of writing about a client - regardless of the context - feels somehow disrespectful and, almost by definition, constitutes a breach of trust.

But I still think the story is worth telling.

As mentioned, any advice or pointers in the right direction would be most welcome.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Award (2)


Yes, I'm positively swimming in the things now. Well, I've got 3 anyway - thanks be to djkirkby who has deemed me fit to receive an award for making her smile. Which seems to be no mean feat given that she has confessed to me on a previous post that she has no sense of humour.

Not that I, nor anyone else for that matter, should believe such a thing: there's plenty of fun and games to be had at her site, one of the latest being a rather bizarre game involving mice and tea (don't ask - just go to the site and have a go, it's tagged onto the end of Monday's post I think).

Well it's a very nice thing to have had another award, so thank you very much dj! I do appreciate it. I shall bestow this very same award onto but why?: reason being, straightforwardly enough, that many of her writings make me smile. Hopefully, these are the very same ones that are supposed to have that effect.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Spartacus

Before I deal with the very nice business of accepting yet another award, I thought I'd note that I attended a pub quiz tonight: the first time since I wrote this post.

I mentioned this to my prospective team members (sorry, you'll have to click on the link to get the context) and, although they liked the idea, we settled on a workable compromise and called our team "We're Spartacus." Sod's Law reared its ugly head, as we submitted our name and our fee, the quizmaster informed us that they'd had an entire round on Spartacus last week. Typical! Oh well: plus points tonight were that

a) we didn't come last (third from last in fact, which seems quite respectable given the competitors and the good at quizzes/good at life ratio)

b) thanks to a good showing in the music round, we ended up winning 8 pints for ourselves (for a team of four, so that works out at roughly 2 pints each, according to my calculations)

c) it was a pleasant diversion from the mania that occurred between the hours of 8.30am and 4.30pm (at which point I was at work)

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Fireworks






















Been meaning to post these up for a while, they were taken during a thunderstorm (obviously) between around 9.30 and 9.45pm in late July. This was not long after I got my digital camera and I was stood at the back door filming with a mixture of patience and excitement.Thanks to a friend of mine I've discovered at last how to convert the images into stills and into jpeg format.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Tragedy

I saw this headline on a newspaper stand today:

Win Family Break At Alton Towers

I didn't get the chance to read the article. At such a difficult time however, my thoughts and deepest sympathies are with those who knew and loved the Win family.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Award


Thanks to the dynamic blogger that is prada pixie, I have another award to add to my list (of one). I must admit to being rubbish with these things : I haven't doled out the last stack of awards in response to the previous one that came my way. My excuse is that I'm waiting for an ultra rainy day. Yes I know, we've had plenty of those, but it wasn't the right kind of rain.

I don't even know how many I'm supposed to give out, but what I like about this one is that no-one who has received it seems to know exactly what it's for: for me, that is precisely its appeal.

So, thank you pixie!

I shall bestow this on to just one other person, otherwise I'm in danger of passing it on to a number of people who already have it. For general all-round good bloggyness, frequently playful, thought-provoking and/or poignant writings, I salute you anna mr.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Landscapes of the mind (2)





I've the small matter of accepting another award to put up on my sidebar (thanks pixie!) but before I do that, here's something else.

I went to take photographs of the spot mentioned in this post. Here are the ones which best capture the atmosphere I was trying to, er, capture: it might be interesting to compare them with the drawings in the aforementioned post. It's a shame I forgot to change the camera settings back up to the highest amount of megapixels, but such is life.

Friday, 28 September 2007

(An) observation

Such is the excitement of my daily journey to work (roughly four miles), that if I'm not already miles away in thought, I'll play little games to pass the time. Hardly amazing stuff: counting people I recognize is the usual one.

Today I decided I would count all the security cameras I could see: this being on the bus journey and then my ten-or-fifteen minute walk through town to work. I was expecting that I would see maybe 25 or 30. I'm sure I didn't count them all, due to the limited viewpoint from the bus, the fact that the windows were steamed up, and I didn't want to crane my neck. There were 86.

On the journey home I noticed a few that I missed as well.

Update: On my way into town this afternoon (unencumbered by steam or other inhibiting factors) I decided to have another go, and reached 116 before I lost count (clearly I can only count up to 117).

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Dream

This was my dream on Monday night, i.e. after a day spent at an Art Therapy workshop-event-taster-type of thing:

I was being tormented by someone who was bullying me: it was causing me much pain, fear and resentment. It was also greatly inconvenient (not that you hear many victims of bullying coming out with such a complaint I'm sure...."Stop Bullying Now! It's Inconvenient!") because it was the day before a wedding, and I was to be Best Man. I was trying to out the finishing touches to the speech I'd prepared, and I'd also been asked to do an extra piece because someone was unable to make it to the wedding.

I was happy to do this (despite my fear of public speaking). However when I tried to work on the text of the speech, my tormentor would suddenly appear and start dragging me away and beating the crap out of me. I was scared, he seemed to have power over me, yet somehow - though it wasn't clear in the dream, the implication was that it was through sheer persistence - I managed to get the speeches sufficiently prepared.

It seems the bully didn't want me to be at the wedding. He made threats that there would be more torment if I was there and if I made these speeches. These threats made me feel weak, but I knew I couldn't miss the wedding.

On the day of the wedding, the bully was there, glowering at me, his eyes communicating yet more implicit threats should I dare to speak. I was painfully aware of this and yet enjoying the throng and the sense of occasion, and speak I did.

The speech seemed to give me power: my tormentor hadn't stopped me, despite his threats.

Soon after, he came over and started to cause more trouble with me, hissing words of pure malevolence and threatening more pain. I took a step back and told him loudly to stop: lots of the other wedding guests were all around and they noticed this. In front of them all I confronted him and let everyone know all the efforts he had been making to cause me pain. He began to deny it and shrink away, but I persisted, categorically running through all the things he had done to make life difficult for me. He seemed to be visibly weakening, and I continued to denounce him. It carried on for minutes: by the finish he had no power to reply.

I even got a round of applause from all the other guests.


Funny what an Art Therapy taster-session-workshop-event-type thing can cause your subconscious to tell you, loud and clear, innit?

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Awake

I had an amazing day yesterday. It's not very often I say that about Mondays, especially working Mondays. It wasn't a normal working Monday for me though: I was at an event focusing on Art Therapy. It was a hands-on, participatory event aimed at interested parties such as practitioners in the arts, caring professions, social workers and so on.

I've been to similar events before but not for a long time. I was accompanied by a very very senior person from our organisation who had approached me about it thinking it was likely I would be interested. Oddly, when I first thought about it some weeks ago I wasn't sure. My previous involvement in anything linking the arts to my daytime job had always been with an emphasis on using it as a recreational activity: therapeutic, undeniably, but not Therapy. I'd never considered this as being something that I might be interested in pursuing (not least because it would involve lots more study and expense).

I got a hell of a lot out of this event yesterday though, primarily due to being able to take part in the sessions: which meant being able to draw and to express a number of things as a result. I felt in my element, reconnected to something essential but all-too-often-neglected.

There were a number of other potential positives arising from the day. I'm not going to spell them out here because it would feel incautious, and at the moment any grounds for optimism in this context have to be tempered with a very liberal sprinkling of caution. All the same, it gave me a bit of a boost.

Last night, following on from all this, I had a very telling dream: I'm debating whether I should write and post it, though it won't be this evening.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Landscapes of the mind (or summat)

It'll be interesting (to me at least) to see if I can manage to explain this without getting myself wrapped up in knots, or leaving myself sounding like I need to take a very long lie down in a darkened room. I'm not at all satisfied with how I've written this but I'm posting it all the same.

So, this is all about dreams and real life. About what goes on in my head sometimes, and finding some vivid connections with the outside world. I'll try and tell you what I mean.

My dreams (when I have them) have tended to be very strong visually, and also in terms of having quite a clearly defined sense of place: or to be more accurate, being descriptive of a certain kind of space. So much so that I often get a sense of what I assume might be described as deja vu, say when I enter a room or building, or external space for the first time. I'm definitely not saying it is deja vu though, I'm just trying to put across how strongly evocative the feeling is.

I remember three particular dreams from childhood, and when I recall one of them I always recall the other two. They're primarily visual, and full of a very loaded kind of atmosphere that is difficult to describe, so I know damn well I'll never do them justice with words. In fact, I've done drawing after drawing and painting after painting trying to capture the atmosphere of two of them in different ways (I've not gone as far as the guy in Close Encounters, I've never tried to sculpt them out of mashed potato).

Still, I'll give a very basic, cursory explanation of them. The first one was of a long road, slightly curved, and stretching into the distance in either direction. It was wide enough for a central reservation, on which I and a few other people stood. On the reservation was a curious structure, almost like scaffolding, with a couple of platforms on it. It was a beautiful late evening in summer, and everyone was in silhouette against the deep golden glow of what seemed like an eternal sunset. The atmosphere seemed to be one of timelessness - the road stretching on forever, the evening not getting any later. A sense of stillness prevailed, although there was constant flux due to cars passing and heading into the distance: this distance, what lay over the horizon, seemed mysterious and tantalizing.

The second dream revisited this from a slightly different perspective - that of me looking upon the scene more as an observer rather than a participant. The two were intricately linked though.

Aged 18 I was doing a lot of photography and stumbled, one summer evening, across a dual carriageway stretching through the countryside near home. Here was that startling effect then, since it immediately linked me with the atmosphere and space of that first dream. The late evening light, the strangely complementary feelings of stillness and motion. I stood there for ages, no doubt looking a bit odd since I remained there on the central reservation for a good while, trying to take in this huge sense of resonance.

A couple of weeks later I was out taking photographs again, and had a friend in tow. I was telling him about all this (and he was wondering what the hell I was on about), and in my enthusiasm I took him to where it had struck me as I just described. As I stood there prattling on, I suddenly felt the same strong connection to the second dream, since here I was acting more as an observer, and from a slightly different angle. Not that I told my mate about this, he thought I was mad enough already.

Now I'm not trying to suggest any element of precognition to the above. I'm sceptical about such things. For me it's more about happening upon the kind of places or events which one has a predisposition towards. Not the best analogy here, but I see it in the same way that you can meet someone and feel like you've known them for years; or the way that a few notes of music can completely change your mood and demand your whole attention, because they connect with something within you.

If they carry any meaning I think it will be within the realms of the purely personal and symbolic, rather than carrying any objective truth.

The third dream was different: it had a similar atmosphere, the golden glow of the late evening sun and what have you, but it was in an entirely different place. It was more of an urban space, a number of tall, shiny, glass buildings quite close together in a certain formation. Another link is the scaffolding-type structure which was evoked this time in the buildings themselves. As with the other two dreams, it has remained with me since childhood. It too has an atmosphere, something very loaded, which is hard to describe.

A couple of weeks ago I was walking through town on my way home from work, and suddenly found myself looking up at a spot where some building work is in a state of near-completion. Once again things suddenly slotted into place: the space created by this building and the ones which loom nearby, are immediately and vividly evocative, and I now cannot walk there without this other dream coming straight to mind. It's just as startling, and it's odd to have something trigger off a recollection of the workings of my subconscious mind stretching back more than three decades.

Like I say, it may be silly looking for any objective meaning in this, but I'm still bound to wonder about it on a personal or symbolic level. As I wander through there I wonder why this place carries such a resonance, why I've only just become aware of it, and whether I can do anything useful with that information.