I woke this morning to a brighter light than normal coming through my closed curtains.

I had seen before going to bed, just passed about one this morning, that it would imminently snow. 

As I was in the garden fagging, I looked up to see the sky; a bright radiant orange.  Sulphuric rays from street lamps bouncing off a bright white sky gave an eerie mandarin luminescence to the whole scene. 

I confess that I woke today feeling far more down-hearted than I have of late.  It was almost as if the snow had been an emotional trigger transporting me back to when enough had been enough (See The Beginning and Ergo I will go).

I thought I had ‘worked through’ my feelings, but I recall last night, I dreamt of small wild ponies running around an area of woodland recently cleared of rhododendron.  I can only guess that the dream was brought on by a memory of a nature reserve near to Ashford (See here) where I have been a few times in the not too distant past.  Wild horses run free there and I have taken a number of walks there.

I have never historically been a big fan of pointless walking to nowhere. so why this isolated snippet of a dream should have such a profound affect is a bit of a mystery.

On the subject of walking; when I was a child, our Dad used to take us for a ‘blow out’ on Sunday.  We would do all sorts of public footpaths which cuts Kent (the garden of England) into a wonderful rich, colourful patchwork of countryside.  

My favourite was nicknamed by us “Seven mile walk”. 

Seven mile walk went from the entrance of Hever castle to a place called Chiddingstone.  We would get a drink of milk in a small tea rooms opposite the church, before turning back again and finally getting back to the car exhausted.

More recently I always liked the idea of walking from A-B (maybe toward a pub).  Walking around for the sake of walking was something I never understood, but I think now I get it again.  I feel as if I have rediscovered an old toy, a long lost taste of the past. 

It’s good to just get out and walk on your own.  It’s nice being in the fresh air.  It’s also good talking to other people and walking rather than just staying in to chat.   Even a short stroll is better than none at all. 

I am sure to most this does not sound too revolutionary but for me it’s almost miraculous.   Those who have been closest to me would be able to confirm how little I used to walk.  Again I think that my old man should take some credit for my not wanting to walk anywhere.  As he got older, he simply stopped walking, or at least very rarely walked – he preferred to drive everywhere.  He would park as close as he possibly could to the entrance of super and hyper markets and if ‘good’ parking wasn’t available, he would sometimes drive home to go back later.  Maybe in my complex psyche I was trying to emulate my father, even the weird bits.

In the past also I never really used to stay in for very long, I was always popping around to different people’s houses or driving between projects at work, so the concept of feeling the four walls bearing down on me never really happened until earlier this year when the feeling of cabin fever took its toll.  My lack of interest in walking may have felt to those close to me like a lack of empathy for their need to get out and walk in the air; and maybe it was.

This may be another area where my work or my life at that moment in time was sucking the goodness out of me.  I was tired, I remember that, but now I feel younger and over the last six months much more full of hope and energy.

Lately with the weather here in the UK getting considerably colder and with the darkness descending much earlier in the day, I can seriously see the benefit of taking a stroll for no particular reason other than taking a stroll and getting out.

Having not pointlessly walked for a while, and having reflected on it I know that I miss it greatly.  I went walking in Lanzarote occasionally (cycling lots) and have been on a few good walks since getting back to the UK including a place down the road from Reading. 

Anyhow, the sight of snow and the dream of horses have left me wanting to walk more than avoid the unforgiving cold.  The balance of goodness has again tipped the right way or at least is tipping.


I find myself knowing the things that I knew

Stranger things have happened but for the past three days I have found myself listening to a whole spectrum of music, some good, some lame. 

“Why is this relevant? So what?”

The following demonstrates how deeply one can change and how change however small can take you by surprise.

Now my lost love had a number of music ‘phases’.  When we first hung out she was mostly listening to “The concretes”, as time went on top spot was taken by “The Magic Numbers” played over and over again for weeks/months at a time.  I got into them and quite liked what I was listening to.

Then Joanna Newsom entered my life…..

She too was played again and again with no let up, over and over again; at home, in the car – everywhere. For whatever reason, I just found her quirky voice resonated in my head in every conceivable wrong way.  It became an ‘issue’.

We would barter what was played in what order so that Joanna was heard sufficiently to satisfy and that anything might be listened to as a break between Joanna tracks to that I did not end up cutting my wrists. 

At one point I bought (as a pathetic joke) a Halloween sounds CD from the supermarket to complement Joanna’s album, with cats screeching and ghouls chuckling to the background of squeaking doors and thunder. That joke did not go down very well as you can appreciate.  Even though it was a silly joke, it really did seem to offend, which was never the intention.  Looking back, for this I am sorry.  I know that at the time I did not realize how hurting this must have been.

Anyhow, over the last week whilst clearing the shelf above the TV in preparation for the renters to move in to my house as I am off, I have been listening to a host of random (mostly rubbish music).  I suddenly found myself upstairs on the laptop listening on iTunes to Joanna. 

It occurred to me that even though I thought I was not keen on her, I actually profoundly missed her in the background and foreground of my life.  Bizarre I know, but truth.

I listened to the 20 second extracts and knew all of them, they had settled into my subconscious as familiar as old socks rediscovered at the back of the drawer.  I bought the album (The Milk-eyed Mender).

Milk eyed mender

It’s been playing this morning and it’s a fact that there are some tracks I prefer over others (This side of the Blue/Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowie). 

Generally her voice has not grated as it used to and I have even found myself listening to the language in the lyrics.  Lyrics I had previously been completely oblivious too.  In fact although unique, her tone is ethereal to me. 

I just don't know what to make of it all.  It could be another olive occurrence.  You know, the kind of thing that you hate at first but then cannot get enough of.  Maybe Joanna's voice is like a big sweet delicious acoustic olive (Although Cassiopeia is still just a little too bitter for my infant-like palate).

I suppose when I was first immersed head long
into the world of Joanna, it was done forcibly and against my will.  I suppose too that my head was not in the right place to be ‘hearing’ her.  My head did not need her.

Now, as if a switch has been flicked, Joanna is medicine and I celebrate the harp which in my mind is equal to the clarinet as my preferred instrument of choice.

Maybe in time I will be rid of this affliction and become normal again.  Who the devil knows?

"A Minor Incident"

There's nothing I could say
To make you try to feel ok
And nothing you could do
To stop me feeling the way I do
And if the chance should happen
That I never see you again
Just remember that I'll always love you

I'd be a better person
On the other side I'm sure
You'd find a way to help yourself
And find another door
To shrug off minor incidents
And make us both feel proud
I just wish I could be there
To see you through

You always were the one
To make us stand out in a crowd
Though every once upon a while
Your head was in the cloud
There's nothing you could never do
To ever let me down
And remember that I'll always love you

Lyrics of song by Badly Drawn Boy featured in the feature film About A Boy

Last night a pal came round for a cup of tea.  He had read the blog but was not too sure how or why the running away would help, nor could he get his head around my unchanged feelings for someone he considers abandoned me.  I tried to explain:

I do not want to paint my relationship with my lost love as only a bed of roses.  Don’t misunderstand me, we had our ups and downs due to a host of different stresses we both individually had on our plates over the years, but from my perspective, I remain to this day only grateful for the time we shared.  I am at least in posession of a tableau of colourful memories and lost dreams.

Insofar as the last seven+ months are concerned, they have been extraordinary and difficult for me to cope with.  The time has however, had its uses in terms of reflecting and just trying to make sense of the enormous changes that have occurred since Dad passed away in September 2008, after which I was not myself as anyone close to me will testify. I was caught up in a spiraling world of distracting nonsense.    

When I say I have reflected, I have seen myself and all I see is ugliness. 

I am full of remorse and regret that during that period I neglected my loved ones in the way I did.  Life just overwhelmed me.  Why I took on more nonsense, and ignored my love – my best friend, I cannot reason.  Maybe it was just a diversion, a way of coping with the reality of seeing my last parent going.  I really cannot explain.

So many lost moments where I could have been more present but was so preoccupied that I hardly recognised them as moments at all. 

In any event, on my mother’s birthday (July 30th), my love asked to meet me in the Railway Hotel and by the end of a pint of beer, my love was lost.

By September and October 2009, I was completely barking.  It was clear at that point that I had lost the two people who I had spent the most time with over the last five years; my love and her brown eyed boy.  Up until the time I met her my life had always felt like an unanswered question; a string of days and nights waiting for something to happen.  I didn't know what.  After meeting her I assumed that we would be part of each others lives until the end of my life certainly (bearing in mind the likelihood for chaps to die before their spouse), that our lives would be irrevocably entwined.  In this respect, I was wrong. 

Sure, there were differences in the things we liked, but we liked playing similar games, declaring obscure items as treasure (like matress frames, rusting things, like shells and stones with holes in them, like glass worn smooth by the sea, like spiders webs and dew drops), we both liked peeling signs of a bygone age and things that had lost their lustre. 

I tried to just see her and her boy after her attention was somewhere else, but it was not positive.  My lost love was distracted and I, although pleased just to spend time over a cup of tea, was equally torn apart and destroyed with tremendous grief whenever we parted.  I suppose one can only take so many goodbyes.  I decided that at least for the time being I cannot cope with the new reality and that I needed to stay away.

It's the small things that pain me the most; that I will not hear her sing child ballads again as she tries to get her little boy to rest, that her little boy will not hold my hand again.  It's strange but I did not realise, in so many subtle ways, how she and her son defined who I am, what I do and what I think.   They made me real. Things I discovered I would share with her and her reaction would very often inform my thoughts on a given subject.  This sharing of ideas I miss and her humour.  Making her happy made me happy. That's how I knew I wanted to be with her forever, because simple things shared with her were the highlight of my week; like positive puctuation marks in a landscape of grey.

Understanding a little about the importance of meaningful occupation to distract one from the dark black holes that can easily become all-consuming, from October, I threw myself into obliterating the brown in my house. 

All brown furniture changed colour to a couple of Farrow and Ball shades of either light cream or pale green.  Even the fish tank stand now matches the rest of the newly painted house.  It looks alright and when friends have come, all have said it’s an improvement.

An occupation like painting furniture provides lots of thinking space, time to reflect and the opportunity to take stock.  After stripping away all of the vanity and vexation of spirit, and after all the repulsiveness and ridiculousness has either gone for good or been packed away, probably never to be looked at again, my Christmas Eve conclusion was correct.  The only meaningful reasons I had to go on in this house, in this place, in this life have gone.  Ergo I will go.

This does not explain my undiminished love for her.  No it doesn't. 
The truth is that from the Kings-mile event, I knew that I
loved her.  I loved her then, I love her
now and I have loved her every day in between. 
I am sure I will always love her.

And if there were a chance to meet again?  Well, only time will tell.  Hope springs eternal and stranger things have happened, to use just two more cliches. 

No one said love was rational.

was May 2009.  After seeing a white suited man tending his bees in
Herne I immediately started to watch bee keeping video’s on You Tube
and bought ‘The Dummies Guide to Beekeeping’. 

I was brought up to understand that Granddad had always said, “There’s not time lost in reconnaissance”.

involved not just watching a few short films on the internet and
flicking through the plates throughout the Dummies Guide, I also signed
up with my local branch of the British Beekeeping Association.

leader of the group is called Trevor Tong and he is one of the nicest
and most enthusiastic beekeepers I have ever met.  He is a real joy to
be near when discussing the subject.  There is nothing about bees he
does not know and I have had lots of advice from his wife over the

Armed with a new pair of marigolds and
wellington boots, I went along to my first meeting of the branch at
Honey Hill.  During this sunny afternoon and for the first time, I held
a frame and spotted the queen.  I was hooked and raring to get started.

spoke to all the people there about my plan to keep bees in the centre
of town.  Most were generally enthusiastic, but suggested I practice
for a year by coming along to the club. 

Within the
week I had ripped the corrugated plastic from atop my lean-to at the
back of the house and replaced it with plywood, which I could stand
on.  I had my beekeeping stage set.

I bought a
‘National’ hive kit from the Blue Bell Apiaries in Gillingham and
having put that together in the garage of my lost loves parent’s house,
I was prepared to house and keep a colony of bees.

Doing is the best practice and I was keen to start being a practicing beekeeper as soon as I could.

In my house I have three aquariums.

One is
significantly bigger than the two others and has six coldwater goldfish
swimming in it (one big and five very small).  The two small tanks were
bought for me by my lost love as birthday presents a few years ago.  At
their zenith they accommodated a thriving community of Guppies. 

are live bearing and breed like nothing else.  With such short breeding
cycles you can successfully influence new colours and shape strains
within a matter of months.  Lots of interest was given to 'the
Gupsters' and notes were kept on the kitchen notice board of their
names, with corresponding tail drawings, identifying who was who.  I
would recommend Gupsters to anyone, but most especially for families
with kids.

With the 'no-plan plan' and after I had agreed the placement for Noggin I was now thinking about the fish.

"What to do with the fish tanks?", I said to myself.  Then the answer came, "Facebook!"

try to keep my status updated or at least relevant to where life is and
so I put the problem to my enormous cohort of 'friends' (a minority of
whom I have seen, whilst the majority I probably have not seen or
spoken to for 20 years and some are just strangers who wanted to be my
friend and who appeared to be friendly enough).

a day an old pal had messaged back, her and her boyfriend were happy to
take the big one.  This was excellent news.  The no-plan plan is now
really coming together.

Having the idea to walk away is one thing; actually walking away is another "What about the dog for God sake?"

That is a good question.

love dogs and have lived all my life with them. Honey, Penny, Tess,
Pip, Fynn and Noggin have acted as hairy punctuation marks, defining
episodes both happy and sad. Noggin more so than any I have had before.
A little Lakeland Terrier, I took Noggin to work most days and she was
a great joy to have in the work environment.

Noggin is
a real sweet little thing, whose character is only marred by her
instinct to fight and or kill anything that moves. Rabbits, chickens
and rats have all been mortally wounded by this otherwise cute scruffy
little brown dog.

Well, laying in the bath on
Christmas Eve reflecting on misspent opportunity and a soul destroyed
future, I had not considered little Noggin. What to do with Noggin?

had not really thought about that question at all! In between Christmas
Eve (Thurs) and the Sunday, I had started to tell folk about my broad
plan. Getting out, going off and doing stuff…but nothing about what
happens to lives that depend on me. Maybe that is a clue why everything
went so wrong? Broad strokes fine! Detail – s**t!

it came to the detail of how I was to untangle myself from this life of
things and stuff, I had not really applied myself yet and this included
my responsibilities to Noggin.

Anyway there was time
to think about that after I got back from my sisters in the 'badlands
of the north' – or Scotland as it is also known. Early in the morning
in a slight sleet, Noggin and I set off North.

was a nightmare! A journey that normally takes nine hours, took 12,
through rain, sleet and snow. What was just above freezing down south
had turned into a constant -5°C! But it was all worth it.

I arrived long after the bed time of the average six year old, my
little nephew was awoken. With his eyes still shut and with a floppy
torso a coat was slipped over is pyjamas and wellington boots were
tugged on by his mum.

As is the family tradition,
out in the street twigs and sticks were placed in the shape of arrows
(to guide Santa) whilst 'magic' glitter was sprinkled across the top of
them. Little boy still asleep, he turned around and trudged back into
the house and went back to bed. The whole operation was conducted in

Suffice to say Santa found his way and as a result '2nd Christmas' was a success with all satisfied.

Brother in laws cooking was incredible again and I put on half a stone during the seven days I was there.

was the day after 2nd Christmas Day that a sporadic collection of the
neighbours six children started to pop in and play with the nephew and
Noggin. They're great kids and excellent fun to be with, for my nephew
it’s like have a readymade bunch of cousins or siblings on the
doorstep, both households living in each other’s pockets and sharing
stories, songs and jokes.

I popped next door to have a
chat with the parents (they having travelled and were good inspiring
examples of what happens when people go abroad) a couple of times and
as well as being made welcome with G&T, was entertained with
lively conversation and photo albums of time spent in far off lands

neighbours raised the conversation of the dog. Whether this was
contrived by my sister I do not know. In any event and without any
predetermined agenda, it turned out that they were investigating
getting a dog and were interested in providing a long fixed-term
placement for Noggin.

I consulted via text with my
lost love who confirmed that she was not allowed to take custody of

So the god's had decided Noggin was to stay in Scotland (at
least for 15 months).

The dog had kept me sane over
the last few months. When everything was at its worst and I was in a
dark place, having to look after Noggin, having to feed her and having
to take her out, kept me alive. But if I was no longer tied to my dog,
then I was not tied to anything anymore.

Even less reason to stay where I am.

Now to the beginning:

It's Christmas Eve and whilst in the bath this evening it occurred to me that everything I hung my life on up until now no longer exists. My work, my love, my aim and the very reason I ended up living here has gone in just over twelve months. I am not enjoying my pointless existence and my aimlessness is overpowering me as it does whenever I reflect on where I am and where I am not going very fast.

Apart from Dad passing away at the back end of 2008, at least a proportion of the rest I brought on myself; by way of things I did or did not do and things I said or did not say that I should have.

Most of what I did not say relates to my lost love and her little brown eyed boy.  Both of whom I disparately miss from my life and continue to love unconditionally.

Since I 'retired' from my job in early November I have been trying to create an associate-based consultancy targeting the voluntary sector. I suppose that due to cowardice, this seemed do-able and likely to lead to success. I was successful in negotiating an agreement with a small homelessness charity (my former employer) and looked forward to getting back to work. For lots of different reasons core documents I needed to do the work were not forwarded to me and after two months of trying, I had been informed a couple of days before that the documents I needed were on a PC which had been given away to sell. The documents were effectively lost. I was reassured that the new manager would try to obtain copies, but I was not confident. Reflecting in the bath, the likelihood of getting the documents I needed seemed absolutely remote and represented a last straw.

It occurred to me that I want to change everything I am. Vague words engraved on the Burma memorial by the Embankment struck me about ‘bold acts being the safest’. I need to do something bold (without being rash or stupid). I want to see new places, speak to new people and have new thoughts. My favourite Ghandi quote springs to mind and I am determined to 'become the change I want to see'.

Given the opportunity, which I am going to create, what would I do?  “If I’m going to be aimless, and as a result introverted, isolated and miserable, I might as well be warm!”.   I like photography and I liked learning to scuba. I will go somewhere warm, learn more scuba to the point of excellence and take photographs…or something like that.

I have telephoned my late father’s wife, my Godmother and my sister and I told them my bold idea. All have said it's good.

I don't really have a plan but maybe that is the point. No more stifling plans or obligations which only represent 'vanity and vexation of spirit'.

I am now a thirty-three year old man and as I have done so many times before, I close the front door behind me and walk into my lounge.  Looking around I see memories and emotions in the things I own.  The stuff that clutters the shelves, the tables and the countless cupboard tops in an endless collection of what appears to be nonsense curiosity to those who have not been with me in my journey, but I am full of pointless sentiment.  Dust layers these things with a grey film over what could be otherwise shining brown wooden furniture.   The room smells stuffy, a combination of dust, unwashed dishes, unmade bed together with a hint of dog and smoke.  Maybe the dust could be a meaningful metaphor, at the moment it just looks like normal dust, a collection of greyish-brown dead skin.  

In the corner, an upright piano, its walnut burr twists and warps in frozen patterns like those seen when rich dark coffee is watched through a glass just as the milk is skilfully poured or the same as when a dark Irish stout is pulled on a TV advert.  At least, that is what the veneer reminds me of.  The piano has never been played, not properly anyway. 

It was bought when I was a boy and wanted to learn the clarinet.  It was said that because I was a sickly child, tall and thin, my mother thought my long hands would be better to tinkle the ivory than let my weak chest suffer the stress of a wind instrument.  Now the piano had not been played for twenty years and stands bearing the weight of objects at chest and waist height, a bulky pair of staggered shelves.  As I gaze motionless at the hulking object I absent-mindedly ask myself “Except in bad jokes to do with mashed potatoes, are mothers always right?,” my thought trails off without conclusion and I am left with a slight whisper of guilt for even thinking the stupid thought before I look away.  A few years ago, I bought myself a clarinet, but even that has not been played.

Atop the piano a beautiful yet dead expression carved into a bust of Peau d'Âne looks across the room towards me.  As in the story, I feel like the prince who fell ill with longing for a love denied him.  I am haunted now by these things.  I am full of loving and loathing, mostly loathing for what I have become.  

My house, filled with possessions as if from a set from Harry Potter or Great Expectations, a memorial to a life lived in the past, a collection of random objects; some beautiful objects and most revolting shit.  All useless for what I am feeling now.  Casting my eyes over the room I see a ghastly 1970’s dark oak welsh dresser, a Moroccan coffee table, my three goldfish tanks, small chests of drawers, and two display cabinets filled with precious, useless, worthless, interesting things.  Dominating the room is a dining room set of a table and four chairs and a large low set three piece suite, upholstered in bright red leather.  I watch for a moment as scaled fillets of bright orange colour glide behind green algae spotted glass.  Silent, they are oblivious. 

In this eclectic space I used to feel at ease, each thing bringing with it a meaning or a kind of energy which resonated within me.  All of the stuff was reassuring.  If the sum of its parts can be greater than the whole, then my sum was substantial even if my life right now had little to show for it.  To some it was a sum of amassed crap and that new reality was beginning to dawn in my mind as I scanned the familiar room from just inside the crimson front door.

“Too much stuff, too much stuff”.  The refrain was heard over and again as a small measure of loyal friends and loved ones drop by to see how I am, all encouraging me to just move on.  There is simply too much stuff.  I know that they are right.

How could anyone have lived like this?  How could I have expected my love to join me here let alone bring her child?  Again with useless hindsight I see qualities within me which I want to rid my soul of.  Am I destined to live in the end with newspapers piled ceiling-high, with pathways between trash to ‘my chair’ or ‘my bedroom’? Has my self-imposed selfishness and obsession with things driven her away? Could I ever have learned this lesson with her still here?  She did try but the constant whisper of long passed spirits was stronger.

There is too much stuff but the physical world in my home is a little like a reflection of my unconscious and I fear that to forgo the security of things I remember from my childhood and in more recent years of happiness with my love and her brown eyed boy, I risk losing the only triggers to memories I would rather not live without. 

In any event no matter how much I know it will hurt, soon I will be gone from this stuff and these things. 

In the old Ava Gardener flick, Pandora measures love by sacrifice and so maybe too late, I give up my lot for the sake of lost love.