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


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


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.


The leaves against the wall outside always look particularly nice at this time of year, so I took a photo of them.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Pressing problems for trousers

Thankfully the preoccupations that have plagued me this week are fading into the background, at least for now: the very fact of publishing the previous post - cryptic as it was - helped a little, as did actually talking to someone: and, not least, being a little easier on myself.

Besides there are far more pressing problems to deal with: The Staff Party.

This takes place tonight, and I'm wondering whether to go or not. Aside from the whole concept of office parties, the first question I'm asking myself is, do I really want to spend any more time than is absolutely necessary at my workplace? Given that I'm inclined to paraphrase (or steal from) dj kirkby and rename it The Chateau of Despair, do I really want to spend my Friday evening there?

Here are a few pros and cons:

There's free food and booze (though apart from a couple of exceptions I've not really been bothered about drink lately).

Regardless of my feelings about work itself, I do like many of the staff, overall they're a good bunch (regardless of their feelings about me).

I'm still shaking off a few residual symptoms of the bug I had earlier this week.

I don't really want to get pissed in front of my work colleagues. I'd be happier acting(?) like a boring old fart. Plus if I do drink more than I should, I might start speaking The Voice Of Truth and find myself treading The Path To A P45 (however long it takes, I'd much rather leave work than be sacked). Chances are if I did get pissed I'd speak unintelligible rubbish, but the possibility still remains.

I've got so many other wild and amazing things I could be doing (well, that's technically true, if not especially likely).

Advice is welcome, though by the time anyone reads this, the probability is I'll have already set myself on a course of action (or inaction). I'll report back. And who knows, before the month is out I might even have delivered on my threat to post my "Landscapes of the mind" scribblings.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Navel Gazing

This week, I've not felt very eloquent.
I've been very insular and unsociable (extended conversations with representatives from British Gas don't count).
I've felt very frustrated: necessary change feels as distant (and challenging) a prospect as it ever did.
Old habits and patterns of behaviour are as ingrained as they ever were.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Something calming (but not in tablet form)

I've just spent half the evening wrapping myself in knots (or notes) trying to write a post which has so far proved beyond my capabilities. Weird stuff about dreams, the landscapes of the mind and how they resonate with external experiences and events - you know exactly what I'm talking about don't you.

Sod it, I've given up on that for tonight at least: I might have been a bit too ambitious. I may return to it though (consider that a threat as much as a promise).

Instead, for my benefit more than anything, here's a nice calming photograph (with only a hint of disquiet).

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Walking with Pixie

Those who frequent Prada Pixie's blog might be forgiven for thinking that I've stolen some of her photographs of rather impressive scenery. I took these yesterday, having met up with Pixie for a walk.

I must admit to being scared and nervous before meeting her: I haven't met anyone Off The Internet before, since other such opportunities have unfortunately proven too difficult so far, for a number of reasons. So as I arrived at the station and stepped out onto the platform I was having to make sure I was breathing slowly and steadily to keep myself calm. What would I say? Would we have anything to talk about, or would we walk in an uncomfortable silence?

No such worries, I found her to be a very warm and friendly person and we conversed about life, the universe and everything over a four-hour walk. I even managed not to say anything bizarre (well, not at first anyway). It feels a very weird thing to me, meeting someone Off The Internet, but that really wasn't an issue on the day: we had a very pleasant and enjoyable time.

I shan't try and describe the walk that we did - hopefully the photos speak for themselves, plus there are authoritative descriptions on Pixie's own blog. But the scenery was great, the weather was kind to us, and I had the benefit of someone being able to give me all sorts of insights and stories about the place as though I was on a guided tour. I even managed not to fall and break my ankle, despite my best efforts on more than one occasion.

We rounded off the afternoon with a drink at a lovely pub, and if you like real ales I'd recommend a pint of Rich Ruby (notice how I remember the name of the beer but not the place names where we walked) . All in all, a very fine day was had, so thank you Pixie!

In fact the only downer was later on, courtesy of an otherwise adorable cat: I've been feeding him while his owners (or rather, staff) are away this weekend, and he chose to throw up on the carpet.
Bless him.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Pointless pursuits

I finished a college course today. I enrolled for it two weeks ago. It's work-related, and I was informed that it was compulsory. I shrugged my shoulders and enrolled.

I started a college course today - the same one, approximately two hours before I finished it. Someone had reminded me that we were due to hand one of the units in tomorrow. There are two individual units to complete, each comprising three separate parts. So, six chunks of work in the form of questions to be answered. I finished the lot in one fell swoop.

I had a method. I would read one of the questions, then look in the accompanying course book, and there was the answer in the related section. I would copy out the answer into the appropriate space on the question sheet.

With the next question I did the same thing - and so on and so forth, until I'd completed each question in each unit. It wasn't cheating: it was what we were told to do by the tutor.

So I've completed a course in an afternoon. Will I pass or will I fail? With a learning experience of this quality, I couldn't really give a shit. A pass will be as meaningless as a fail.

I haven't learned anything whatsoever, I haven't gained anything from doing this course - except for a mild sense of bemusement at having to do something for the sake of it, and which has no merits otherwise. But hey, if I pass, apparently I get a recognised qualification!

I did remind myself that at least I was getting paid for the time I spent sat in the office copying answers from a book onto a worksheet.

Ho hum.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Noble Pursuits (2)

I'm now faced with the daunting task of trying to convey how good Ross Noble's show was. It's not easy.

What might serve to sum it up is that me and Dave/Reg/Juan/whatever I called my mate in the previous post sat with a beer during the interval, talking about how good it had been so far.

"Trouble is", Tim said (swiftly changing his name again in the process), "I can't recall a damn thing that he's said."

It wasn't just me then. The fact that it was difficult to remember anything other than tiny snippets wasn't because it was unmemorable or not funny: Ross Noble is an incredible improviser, taking so many random cues from quick-fire interaction with the audience and then going off on incredibly surreal tangents. Sure, he'll have a repertoire to fall back on if needs be, but the first hour was a marvel of sheer off-the-cuff inventiveness. Crucially, it was downright-bleeding-hilarious: but so stream-of-consciousness and (somehow) simultaneously multi-layered, that I reckon it's going to take days for it to unravel in my mind.

There were few, if any, jokes to speak of: just an amazing cross referencing of equally daft ideas and scenarios: he would entangle the audience within them, and then convolute matters even further. What results is something just plausible enough to understand and follow, but the sheer oddness of it is where the humour develops and gathers momentum. I'll stop coming out with stuff like this now because I'm falling into the terrible trap of trying to analyse humour. I've also managed to describe something without really saying I'll stop now.

He must have been on stage for more than two and a half hours, taking the brief interval into account, and I was frequently crying with laughter. Those last few words are probably the best way of conveying how enjoyable it was.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Noble Pursuits

That's a terrible title to this post. I'm going to see Ross Noble tomorrow night. It's only been here and there that I've seen him on TV (which might be due to me not having a TV) doing stand-up or guesting on various programmes: but, all the same, his has been the kind of daftness that I like and enjoy.

Thanks are due to my mate the welder (I'll give him a nudge to post another blog sometime soon) for getting the tickets, but now he can't make it after all that for a number of reasons. A big shame, but thankfully my mate Dave (name changed from Reg for the sake of confidentiality) is coming along instead.

I'm looking forward to it, I could do with a seriously good laugh. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Strange tales

I was thinking the other day about the reasons I had started my blog.

One reason was there was a particular story I wanted to tell. It's a rather odd story, but something I've always remembered. I haven't posted it on here though, mainly because it's a rather lengthy, rambling, unwieldy sort of tale. It didn't seem satisfactory to post it up here in its entirety, or chopped up into separate chunks.

So I've set up a page where it now resides, and I think I might use the same page for any further writings which are likely to take up a lot more space and time (then again I might not, but it's there all the same).

It's split up into chapters - not because it's intended as a short story (it's just an extended blog entry), but to make it a bit more manageable.

Apologies in advance, but here it is.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Four pairs of trousers

Here's someone who took up residence on my bathroom windowsill some weeks ago. Let's call him Dave.*

Damn right he's pissed off - I just moved the cord which pulls the blinds, and trashed his web. I must have grown quite fond of his presence there, since I actually found myself saying sorry, before I realised how ridiculous that was. This had to be blogged about.

Update: Well he's finally done some rebuilding of his web, it's all rather half-hearted and slow going though. Reminds me of the opening (or was it closing?) sequence to The Rockford Files, or at least the arachnoid equivalent.

More news as it happens.

*name changed from Juan to protect his confidentiality

Saturday, 1 September 2007


September already.

On the first weekend in September last year I was up in the Yorkshire dales, amidst the kind of weather we've had for most of this summer - windy, rainy, generally unpleasant. I was on a mountain biking weekend with a mate of mine and, as we sat in the tent on the Saturday morning drinking tea, we thankfully found the nonstop rain to be a source of amusement.

It wasn't going to stop us cycling. We waited for a window of opportunity: in real terms this meant a reduction in the rainfall from "torrential" to merely "very heavy". When such conditions were met, off we went.

It was pretty liberating really - within minutes we were soaked through to the skin - but as long as we kept moving we kept warm. It also meant that when we got to what would normally be a small brook, but what was now at waist level, we just waded through and carried on since we wouldn't exactly be getting any wetter than we were already. It was good fun.

What was also good was that I was as fit as I'd ever been. My mate is one of those people who can sit and do nothing for weeks on end but still be fitter than you even if you've been training hard. So I was surprised that, on the Saturday, I was frequently having to wait for him. We were out for hours, much of it off-road and very rugged. It was great to get back and get warm, then head down to the local.

On the Sunday, the weather began much the same. Still we went out, and if anything it was even tougher: the sky went dark, it was much windier and colder. We spent what seemed like hours cycling through horizontal sheets of rain, and the wind was so strong we had to pedal hard even when going downhill. It was maddening and funny all at the same time.

Time went on and we were nearing the end of an enjoyable if heavy couple of days of cycling. We were heading down into less exposed territory and the wind and rain were finally easing off. Even the sun had decided to show itself - typical, when we only had about 20 minutes left of our route.

My mate seemed to have regained his form on this second day, and was just up ahead of me. I wondered whether a burst of energy might be in order, to try and catch him up (though we weren't in competition). Having been over goodness knows how many cattle grids over the course of the weekend, I wasn't about to give the one just ahead of me a second thought. I remember feeling the judder as I went over it.

Just as I had gone over most of this cattle grid, something weird happened. Thump. That being my backside hitting the road. Another Thump. That being the bike landing just ahead of me. I had only the vaguest sense of what had happened between the grid and the first thump, it was so quick.

Reflexes kicked in, and I stood up. Well that was fortunate, I could stand up. There was blood oozing out of my knee, also down my arm, and I had numerous aches and pains.

"Are you alright?" This was a woman in a white car who had just pulled up.

"I think so," I said, moving but wincing as I did so.

"It's a funny cattle grid that one, seems ever so slippy, lots of accidents happen . I live just round the corner. A couple of weeks ago a woman fell off her bike and bust her face open. Very nasty. Do you want to come in for a cup of tea?"

I wasn't sure I appreciated all this information. By this time my mate had arrived back on the scene.

"No, I think I'd be better off carrying on thanks." I was bracing myself for pain to kick in and, possibly worse, to start feeling extremely cold. I suggested to my mate that we get back to the tent as quickly as possible. A further 15 minutes of cycling felt like a real hard slog, particularly the last uphill stretch, and I was perturbed by just how buckled the front wheel of the bike was. That must have been caused by the cattle grid, so thank fuck I'd been thrown over past the grid and onto the road or who knows what might have happened.

We got back, I cleaned myself up and got changed and warm. I can't be too bad, I thought, the shivering never kicked in, though I did feel very short of energy. At least, as well, this had happened right at the very end of the weekend. I was sure that a good rest and a good night's sleep would make me feel a lot better, and that I would be right as rain in a couple of weeks.

Not so. I was limping badly for days, pockmarked with magnificent, huge bruises, and had to get checked over to make sure I hadn't cracked any ribs or caused other such damage. What A and E didn't spot, when I showed them how far I could move my right arm (about an inch before the pain caused me to scream), was that a joint in my shoulder was about half an inch out of place. I was on co-codamol for weeks (having found out that I was allergic to Ibuprofen), had a course of physio, and it was about 4 months before I was able to start being physically active again.

One year on and, although more than manageable, I still feel the after effects especially in the shoulder joint. Really though, I was lucky, compared with what might have happened.

So what have I been up to so far this weekend? I've just been out on the bike for a couple of hours. Regardless of what I've described above, cycling (on top of enjoying it for its own sake) feels like a painkiller. You'll have noticed in a couple of recent posts that I've hinted how fucked off I've been lately. Going on a bike ride cuts right through that and brings back, however temporarily, a sense of contentment and calm self-assurance. Chances are I'll go out on the bike again tomorrow. I'm not worried about a repeat of what happened this time last year: it's worth the risk.