Lost, alone, scared… or just in transit

From the outside, life for me looks very typical… work, children, romance, friends, family etc. But each piece occupies its own space… its own room. Where my life may differ from some is in the scarcity of common connections to these rooms. Not a shared lobby or a corridor in sight… at least that’s how it feels for me at the moment. This is not by design… just how it is. Pulling these different elements of my existence closer together feels increasingly essential… I have a fear that these places can’t all coexist in isolation and at some point they need to be more interconnected in order to make something fuller and more rewarding.

...a door to a disconnected life

…a door to a disconnected life

One outcome of my disjointed life is the large chunks of time that I spend alone… more so than at any other time in my life.  A lot of my alone time is spent travelling between my disconnected rooms or when I’m resting between journeys at my little rented house.

Anyone who spends time alone knows that periods of “self-examination” are mandatory. Reflecting on what life has dished up so far and dreaming & planning the future. In my experience self- examination is rarely just about reminiscing and planning. Time alone can weigh heavy and pose difficult questions which often lead to self criticism which can be a harsh experience.  If you take a peek into my car on one of my journeys you can observe man being alone.  And there’s every chance that you’ll see me musing my future but you are just as likely to witness me delivering  a good talking to myself…  after all I’m way beyond the midway point of my life and I’m not sure that my life should be so fragmented… and why so much time alone.

For me these moments of self-deconstruction are largely fleeting. They often leave me with a sense of what true loneliness maybe feels like… but for most of us they are just moments, if we raise our heads we can see the doors to our interconnected rooms and the bigger picture.

For some, maybe many, the loneliness feels more permanent. Maybe they live in a room that is empty with no doors… not even an exit… no way out; or maybe they’ve arrived at what they thought was their ideal place but have accumulated so much baggage on their journey that they feel totally exhausted and now feel trapped by the weight of the things around them; or maybe they are being held hostage by people that were once travelling companions but have become their jailers; or maybe they’ve been in their room for too long and they’ve become too scared to open an unexplored door; or maybe the door is locked and they’ve lost the key; or maybe they’re looking at the doors waiting for someone to come in and rescue them; or maybe they’ve been abandoned and left frozen staring out of an open door.

Whilst I long for a life with connected rooms where my life flows effortlessly between them, I am grateful for the rooms I have… they provide great variety, challenges and opportunities. My fear remains however, unless I can pull them together they may become further detached and pull me apart in the process.

Ironically as soon as my vision of a fully connected existence enters my head I get thoughts and concerns about how I preserve my alone time which I now consider a friend… albeit a “know-all” with a big mouth… maybe I need another door… a door to a shed maybe.

...my resting place

…my resting place

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What does it all mean?

This morning’s Google doodle celebrates Freudian psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach’s 129th birthday with an interactive version of his famous inkblot test.

I’ve been staring into the ink blot below to see if I can discover anything interesting about myself.

Hermann Rorschach - ink blot test

Hermann Rorschach – ink blot test

I’m finding myself strangely drawn to this little chaps big eyes… hmm, what does say about me… I guess it means I’m an eye man… curiously I feel certain that the his beak should be a little lower.

Having read that back I’m now feeling anxious about referring to the little fella as a guy!!! Better get back on the couch.

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Oh mamma don’t cry

Tough words…

Oh Mamma do not cry—Immaculate Queen of Heaven sup­port me always

O Mamo nie płacz nie Niebios Przeczysta Królowo Ty zawsze wspieraj mnie

…”oh mamma do not cry… immaculate queen of heaven support me always” The line is from a piece of classical music by Henryk Gorecki… the words are sung in polish… it’s a beautiful but haunting piece of music… so much so that it got me curious about it’s origin. The story behind the this line, as I discovered, was even more haunting. The text was found on a cell wall at the Gestapo’s headquarters in Zadopane… beneath is the signature of Helena Wanda Blazusiakówna, and the words “18 years old, imprisoned since 26 September 1944.”

Gorecki wrote “She does not despair, does not cry, does not scream for revenge. She does not think about herself; whether she deserves her fate or not. Instead, she only thinks about her mother: because it is her mother who will experience true despair. This inscription was something extraordinary.” 

As I get older I seem to become less immune to the pain of others… funny that… I thought age was providing me with a crusty intolerant surface. Can you have both?

Anyway… if you’re feeling a bit melancholic and need a shift in perspective, have a listen. The piece will sound very familiar as it has been widely used…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miLV0o4AhE4

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Free thinker or organised controller

Some might say “a well ordered desk makes for a well ordered mind.” Hallmark Cards maybe. I’d hazard a guess that any quote extolling the virtue of being organized will be from a far less interesting source than Einstein.

Einstein or Bush

Here’s to a cluttered desk

Free thinking vs organised control. I think you need an element of both… but control should be the sidekick… on its own it will get you nowhere.

Looking at my desk I might be about to make an important discovery. What’s your desk saying about you?

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Cuadrilla Vs Swampy… WTF

It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything from Cuadrilla that fire breathing mythical creature of the 1960/70’s B movie fame but like everything else from our past he seems to have been revived. I was never exactly sure whether he was a force for good or was a baddie. But this time around he appears to have been resurrected on behalf of the poor consumer struggling to pay the gas bill… excellent.

cuadrilla energy exploration

For the past few years we’ve had to rely on organisations like OFGEM – a toothless litter critter created by the government – to champion our cause for lower energy bills, but not anymore, we now have our very own fire breathing 100ft energy creating monster from the B movies… Cuadrilla. In the 70’s I seem to remember Cuadrilla obtained his power from biting on electricity power lines… oh, that could be a showstopper…  might add to our problems. But we needn’t worry, just like other 70’s revivals he’s been improved and no longer feeds on the power grid… his new superfood is a fast growing share price and government subsidies. So I guess that makes him green too. And like all superhero fire breathing monsters he has a special weapon the Frack… WTF.

It appears however that the Frack or Fracking is a little controversial… but hey, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get a subtle answer to our energy crisis from a creature with a name like Cuadrilla.

So as Cuadrilla trawls across our green and pleasant land should we care that the ground shakes a little and there’s the occasional accidental blaze caused by his fire breathing shrill. Personally I’m a little weary but maybe it might be worth it for the low cost gas that he promises.

But like all superheroes Cuadrilla has a nemesis… Swampy… this little fella claims to be one of us and fights for the good of mankind. But can we trust him? After all it turns out that Swampy is the bastard child of Dr Middleclass and Miss Nimby. His image is not helped by a group of grubby looking disciples that have the same hippie based outlook probably born out of a background of wealth and privilege. I doubt that any of them have ever had to worry about the cost of gas and keeping warm during a cold winter.

Swampy gets his power by praying on our fears and conscious whilst reassuring us that he knows best… his special weapon is the promise of Armageddon if he doesn’t get his way. Sounds like a cult religion to me.

So where should my loyalty and support sit. Personally I’m not a Swampy fan, I like my heroes to be strong, reassuring and something to aspire to… for me Swampy is a weaselly character who has a poisonous message of negativity and doom. The world today has been shaped by exploration and pushing boundaries. What would the world look like if our decisions were based on the fear of the unknown and doing nothing because we’re too scared?  I like that Swampy prods my conscious and raises questions – but is that really his motive. To me it seems that he and his disciples crave the power to decide what’s best for others without a clue of what others have to do to get by… including paying the gas bill.

So that leaves me with Cuadrilla the people’s fire breathing cheap energy giving dinosaur. I’m not totally comfortable with a hero that seems to rely on brute force and fire. Maybe he just needs a makeover …a softer image and a new name, how about Barney the Fracking Dinosaur. Ahh…WTF

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When is a man’s home really his castle?

When we’re up against it and it feels that everyone is conspiring against us, the sight of your house is a reassuring one and wouldn’t it be nice if you really could pull up the drawbridge and forget all your troubles if only for a few blissful hours.

But at what point do you feel the need to actually turn your house into a castle.

I took the snapshot below from the side of a dual carriageway on my commute. The house is one of those bland 70’s chalet style properties… nothing remarkable so far except there’s a transformation taking place… this house really is being turned into a castle. Not sure if he’s going to build a moat… in fact I’d hazard a guess he’s more at home laying a driveway than moating… is moating a word? Sounds like a night time activity… dogging in a ditch maybe.

Castle

An Englishman’s home… really

So why has this chap decided to pull up the drawbridge?

I could have asked him in person, as shortly after taking my first pic he came out of his castle and was crossing the road looking as though he wanted to have a chat with me… maybe he wanted to offer me the chance to purchase a few sprigs of lucky heather – I was thinking I might need some. Looking at his expression however, I’d hazard a guess that he was preparing to offer me some renovation work… and I wouldn’t be getting a quote for the work he had in mind.

Got to dash…

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Rescued on a wipe clean couch

I see this sign quite a bit at the moment on the M25. Free recovery… Await rescue. Kind of appealing in a non motorway setting… some might say a little romantic.

Be careful what you wish for

Be careful what you wish for

But if you’re unfortunate enough to be sitting in your chariot broken down on the M25 and feeling grateful for the prospect of a free rescue… you may want to think again.

Sitting in your car stranded in the road works is very unpleasant and you’d think I’d be grateful for a free rescue but as a guy, being rescued is emotionally a little uncomfortable…

…in “normal” life when things go wrong you tend to get some sympathy – warm looks and maybe a hug. But that doesn’t happen when you’ve inconvenienced a fellow motorway traveller by adding a 15 minute delay to his journey.

So I’m sitting there apologising to everyone that chooses to look, with their hate filled eyes, into my car as they pass me by. I’m mumbling expletives to myself as I patiently wait to be rescued. Eventually my knight in shining armour arrives… not on his trusty steed, he’s riding an over-sized tow truck, the kind of truck that tows other trucks. And my knight… he’s not wearing his traditional shiny armour his chosen protection is a thick layer of body fat squeezed into a grubby boiler suit which has been fully waterproofed by layers of grease.

“I bet you’re glad to see me” says Stevo. He quickly hooks up my ride to the Beast (the tow truck) – his words not mine – he gives me a wink and gestures me towards the front of the truck. I look back at my baby, she is now attached to the Beast’s giant hook. It looks as though she’s about to be dragged back to its  cave where she’ll be violated by a selection of greasy attachments belonging to Beast… not a romantic scene. And me… well Stevo tells me I’ll be riding up top! As I climb into the cab I could feel a wave of sympathy from other road warriors… yes death was the punishment they had wished for but this scene, and what might ensue, looked a little too harsh… after all it could be one of them next time.

Up top in the cab, it looks, feels and smells more like a beasts mouth. I’m sitting on what appears to be a couch upholstered in “wipe clean” black plastic…  a very convenient surface Stevo told me later. At this point I felt the need to remind myself that I too am a man… but did that actually matter to Stevo.

Fortunately there’s not much chat up top – not much anything infact – we just listen to Rod Stewart banging out “The first cut is the deepest” and “If loving you is wrong I don’t want to be right”. Stevo’s about the same age as me but that’s where the common ground ends. Clearly we went down different paths at a very early age. Stevo’s path was more a trip around the block than a journey, stopping off at the corner shop to get fags, picking up his wife Kaz at the pub and buying a scratchcard as an investment for his future. Whereas mine has been a path and journey that has taken me to the great unknown, a place where anything is possible and where dreams are made real… ironically the M25 has now reunited me with Stevo; we’re the same age and in the same place but I’m the one broken down.

Thankfully a motorway rescue is short affair… we pull into the next motorway service station, Stevo looks at me “there you go that wasn’t too painful was it” he jumps out the cab and lights up a fag. I gingerly climb out of the Beasts mouth and Stevo gives me a wink… really was that necessary? “Let’s get your girl off the Beast’s hook”.  I walk around the front of the Beast trying not to make eye contact with its headlights. The beast was huge and grubby… I’m sure it was smiling. We gently lowered my baby off the hook, which was now curiously very hot, and released her from the Beasts grip. It may have only been a 3 minute ride but she didn’t look the same girl. I got this feeling that she rather enjoyed being on the back of the Beast, bumping and vibrating along on his giant hook … would she ever be able to respond to me in the same way. Thankfully my own experience with Stevo was a little less traumatic… and maybe we’re a little more alike than I first thought, after all, I spend much of my time going around the “M25″ block. Maybe I should invest in a scratchcard and some wipe clean material for life’s spillages.

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So you like it thick and slow…

Thick and slow is never a good a thing when I’m in traffic on the M25. And thick and slow is rarely something to be applauded. But thinner and faster is not always better as pointed out by Frijj who recently reminded me, on a trip around the M25, that not everything can be improved by an increase in speed and a reduction in size.

and available in many flavours

and available in many flavours

This got me thinking… as a guy I’m occasionally reminded by the fairer sex that some things indeed are better thick and delivered slowly… but I’d never quite made the connection to milkshake. So now that I have been enlightened I have a questions for you girls… do we apply the Frijj milkshake topically as part of a sensual massage or is it best served in a glass as a post climatic refreshment?

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What’s that smell…

HAPPY NEW YEAR… like most of us I spend way too much time trying to put meaning to things that have gone against me or not quite to plan. So to help me keep perspective this year I have a new mantra…

every dog will have its day

For me that means “get over it”… because someone will soon be along to give me a stroke and tell me that I’m a clever boy. In the meantime does anyone have any tips for dealing with piss stains?

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Masculinity… the optional extra for BMW drivers

Increasingly in life what used to come as standard is now an optional extra… I’m not against this as I don’t like to pay for things that I don’t need or use. But some things are essential. As a man, for example, I want to feel masculine and just like any other guy I want that feeling as standard and not as an option. But my masculinity was recently challenged and maybe eroded slightly… forever.

Before I share, I need to give you a bit of background. We all know that car makers are well known for the optional extra and BMW, the maker of my particular chariot and the source of this story, has a history of making you pay extra for just about everything. I’ve never owned a BMW before and up until recently I was very happy with it – I think a car says something about its owner, a BM; sporty, well engineered, stylish… yeah… that’s me… arrogant… no.

Anyway me and my ego have enjoyed the car… but I recently had a puncture. No big deal I thought. I opened the boot, lifted up the carpet and looked down into the ample space that housed the spare wheel. But where was it; had they forgot to put it in… no, not the Germans… there sitting in its place was a little white box and a mini compressor – the emergency tyre repair kit. I can hear all you BM drivers shouting at me now telling me I don’t need a spare wheel, the emergency repair kit is all I need. Well, we may have swallowed the sales spiel in the showroom… I remember the salesman massaging my ego, spewing the features and benefits and telling me how well engineered the car was and what an inspired choice I was making… but when you’re standing there having been stroked for an hour, with a semi-erection, no man is equipped to make a decision about anything… at that point it’s all about the grunt and performance. So even when he’s telling me about the emergency repair kit we believe him, we believe there is no room or point for the added weight of a spare… after all why would you want to compromise on performance.

Well I’ll tell you why the spare is an essential and not and optional extra.

My puncture… It was dark, cold and wet. I was returning to my car in a Morrisions car park. And it was when I open the boot that I noticed my tyre was flat. Other than the inconvenience of a puncture, a wheel change is a standard piece of maintenance which is performed by the machismo side of my person… a challenge that reminds me of what it feels like to be a man. In control; I know what to do. Strong; lift out the spare. Technical; expertly jack up the car, remove the bolts and replace the wheel… job done. Oh yes, this is a blue job, one of the few opportunities that a man can and is expected to exercise his masculinity. But on this occasion I had been robbed of doing my duty and being a man… with the emergency repair kit things don’t quite run the same way.

It’s dark… I take the little repair kit out the boot and attempt to read the instructions… mmm, without the aid of my “middle-aged” reading glasses and in the dark this was a bit tricky. Then the first of the Morrison shoppers walks by, not marvelling at my manliness but wondering if I needed a hand reading the little label… I’m now feeling like an old woman. After managing to read some of the instructions I hook up the compressor to the cigarette lighter and the special gunk container to the deflated wheel. I was hoping not to draw the attention of anymore shoppers but then I turned on the compressor. Oh dear… the noise… it was like a beacon, I got the attention of everyone and was now beginning to draw a small crowd… the women in the crowd looked on with an ahhhh face “I wonder if he’s alright” and the men looked on with a “you tosser what’s the matter with you… can’t you change a wheel”. The little compressor didn’t have much puff and took a while to re-inflate the wheel. As the wheel inflated my ego was deflated. I felt a total “man failure” yes the repair kit worked but BMW had failed.

BMW promised that the car would say everything that anyone would need to know about me – well engineered, sporty, sexy, and technically brilliant. But when they took away the spare wheel they robbed me of my birth right… the opportunity to be a man… yes I was a still reflection of the car… but not the man I thought I was… I was now Gary, the middle-aged effeminate hairdresser who was fighting a losing battle with old age and refusing to except that he needed to wear glasses.

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