Life’s Junk

Just over 7-years ago, I arrived in the Czech Republic with one suitcase. Later, I shipped one box to myself. It wasn’t a large box. I left a large house stuffed to the brim with stuff and do you know what, I didn’t really miss any of it. Anything I did miss turned out to have a connection to someone in my life. I did miss being able to look at certain photographs of my family, my boys, my parents, my college days. I did miss the framed picture bought for me as a gift by my Aunt in New Orleans as it reminded me of my Uncle who died too young. I missed a few items – trinkets mainly – given to me by my father and by my mother. All of these have since been retrieved. I also did subsequently panic about where my Ph.D thesis was again because its a one off put together the hard way before word processors and easy printing. My son has it so its safe.

So here I am 7-years later and we begin to pack to move back to Brno from Prague. Once again, I am surrounded by life’s junk. The stuff you think you need but really don’t. The stuff you keep because you may actually one day need it but never do. How did I accumulate so much crap again? Why?

What is it that I really value? That’s the question I ask myself right now. To be honest, it is again the small treasures probably worthless to anyone else that have an association with someone special that are the only things I value. The photograph of my Father on Eigg, the photo of my eldest son sat in the cockpit of a 747 mid-atlantic (shows how dated that is!), the electric guitar that I spent more than a year delivering newspapers at 1GBP per week to purchase, the photo collection of my boys, my parents and my brothers, the letter Gabriela sent to me with a 4-leaf clover in it and perfumed, the family history notes my Dad made as we worked on our ancestry together, the drawings, paintings and scribblings of my daughter saved in folders….. you get the drift.

At the end of the day its about memories but more importantly its about people for the treasured items are people-focused and trigger memories. Those memories are both good and not so good but they are strong and vibrant. When I move, I take with me my memories. I don’t need to pack them in a bag they are just there and a certain item, a certain smell will conjure them immediately in my mind. I suppose these memories, experiences, are the treasure that we accumulate in life while we somehow also accumulate so much bloody material junk.

junk-pile

Moments

A little reminiscing
Passing of a life
Not even thrilling
It’s been a long ride
Dancing through time
Losing my pride

Where did it go
Where did they go
All of those people
All of those places
Those ups and those oh so downs
Times and time, sand grains falling
Moments of glory and moments of hell
Moments when you knew that you’d done well

Listening to second hand Bolan
A Child of his revolution
Just like that Jean Jeanie
Crossing the Atlantic Ocean
Houston, I heard you calling
Or am I confusing you with the Clash?
All that trans Energy wasted
Never did make my splash

Where did it go
What did I really do
All of those faces
All of those names
The heights and the valleys
The passing of my life’s graces
Moments of glory and moments of hell
Moments when I knew I didn’t do so well

people-are-stupid-the-end-of-single-life

Where Is My Enthusiasm?

From time-to-time, we lose our way a bit. Distractions or pure bloody laziness are usually to blame. For the last several weeks, it has been the latter for me. I can’t be bothered to meditate I really can’t. I feel flat – not down – but flat, lacking in excitement and with no zest at all for anything. It’s a strange feeling. A bit like treading water or something. Is it the weather, the time of year, my age???? Who knows? In a couple of weeks or so, we move back to Brno and I am hoping that a change of scenery makes the difference and rekindles the fires.

What is missing is enthusiasm.

enthusiasm-is-gone

Enthusiasm has always been my driving force. The fuel for my engine. My inner fire. Enthusiasm is similar to desire but it supports desire in the sense that it feeds and drives the desire to action and hopefully results. My enthusiasm has gone. But where the hell did it go and why? I have been looking for it around the house but to be honest, I don’t really know what it looks like and so I haven’t found it. How do you get enthusiasm back? Does anyone know? If you happen to see my enthusiasm somewhere, please chase it back.

Thanks!

I wrote a poem many years ago that seems to fit my mood. It’s called Gone again and it appeared in my first book of poetry – Weird Tales. Here it is…

Gone Again

Gone again
Hardly a moment to spare
I don’t know where life is leading
And I don’t really care
Gone again
Was I ever really there?

Slot machine bingo
Maniacal stares
Readily unfolding
In front of me
Unzip and down to flesh again
Automatic eyes
Lasered to see

Pull another cocktail
Molotov type
Shoving it down inside
Deep inside
Dilation and comforting sensation
Try me
I am on your side

Gone again
Not a moment to spare
God only knows what I am doing
And he doesn’t care
Gone again
Was I ever really there?

Sometimes Everything Just Goes Tits Up….

This last few weeks has been pretty interesting. Its not so much that we have a had a run of bad luck but that things just appear to be testing and frustrating us.

First off, we have a had a string of unexpected bills. First we got a fine for having no car insurance last year for a few days – it just arrived in the mail saying we notice you had no car insurance and here is your fine, signed the Czech Government. They are correct actually as the car was leased and insurance included and I forgot to get new insurance when the lease ran out (and no one wrote from said insurance company saying would you like to keep your insurance going)…

Next, we got a gas bill from RWE for our unoccupied apartment in Brno. Its not been a cold winter by any standards and yes, the heating is on but set at minimum just to keep anything from freezing. My expectation of the bill was that it would be negligible but let’s just say it initially looked like I had expected until I counted the zeroes and saw an extra one included. Now this is daylight robbery and I am trying to get RWE o talk to me but emails and voicemails have so far elicited no response whatsoever.

As if unexpected bills (and that is just two out of several) where not enough, the IRS inexplicably denied my daughter a TIN (Tax ID). This after the embassy denied her a social security number. Now this makes my blood boil as it simply means that I cannot get a tax deduction for my own daughter! Of course, the only way to move this forward is to call the 800 number rumoured to connect to the IRS, wait hours while listening to dreary music and an infuriating voice telling me my call will be answered in the order it was received….

Funnily enough, I need to call the IRS anyway because out of the blue and without any explanation I got a tax refund check from them two weeks ago. Ahhh, I hear you say, a change in fortune? Maybe…. maybe…. but neither my accountant nor I can figure out why I got a refund as according to our calculations I owed them! It’s just more aggravation.

There has been quite a lot more aggro from destiny this last week or so including my fight with a TOMTOM upgrade for the car in which I ended up losing everything on the disk and had to purchase a new map! That was 4 hours not well spent…

Its_All_Gone_Tits_Up

I don’t quite know what is going on but at the moment is does feel as if I am forcing my way through jelly to get anywhere and my limited financial resources are being overly strained…

Is there some astrological event going on I am not aware of or what?

That Time of The Year

Usually, as the cold leaden skies of February march onwards and inexorably towards spring, I find myself at the doctors. It could be a chest infection, some non-specific but painful ache or indeed any number of ailments. I know this because last year, my doctor noticed it. Every year, around March time, there is a spike in doctor visits from me. His diagnosis was that I suffer from SAD. Yep – Seasonal Affective Disorder….. otherwise known as seasonal depression.

At first, I was a bit taken aback by this diagnosis but there it was right in front of me as the Doctor showed me how I am rarely if ever at the Doctor at all until the February-April period and then I am there frequently moaning about something. By the end of April, my mood improves and I am OK again. I need sunlight apparently and I am not alone. SAD is an epidemic.

So its no surprise that suddenly I feel down. I mean really down. I don’t want to go out, can’t be bothered to do anything or see anybody. I have no interest in anything at all. I feel tired.. no, exhausted and I just want to sleep. Its SAD and I know its SAD this year so I am pleased that the weather is warmer and even sunnier than most years. Perhaps, that will help and lessen the effects.

Seasonal-affective-disorder

If I get SAD after seeing less of the Sun during the winter months I wonder can I get a form of SAD on Mondays too? I think a lot of people hate Mondays and come to loathe them unable to sleep on a Sunday night and not really knowing why. I shall call this syndrome MAD from now. It strikes me that there may even be MAD and SAD people out there that barely function on February Mondays…..

For now, I’m going to dream of the beach and summer……

Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

Since I quit smoking I have gained weight at an alarming rate. A few months ago I decided to try to address it and I quit sugar and cut down heavily on sweets. Since this seemed to have no impact at all, I quit breads and anything wheaty. Still, no impact. I increased my exercise levels a bit with longer and brisker walks….. no impact. I cut out a lot of milk. You guessed it – no impact. I went out and bought an exercise bike and started doing 20 minutes everyday…..yes no weight loss at all…..So after christmas, I cut alcohol. At the same time, I have changed my diet and eat less fats and carbs but focus on proteins. I have eggs for breakfast, a salad at lunch and dinner is meat and vegetables usually (reduced my potato intake too).

weight

So the alarm bells went off when I saw that I would soon hit 110kg and I was down to two pairs of pants that still fit me. As of this morning, I am just below 105kg and still only two pairs of pants fit me. My question. What am I doing wrong? At this rate, I will be eating nothing and still maintaining my weight. I simply don’t get it. How can I keep taking calories out of my daily intake, burn more calories and my weight stays pretty much the same?

I have also looked at taking vitamins D and C, drink copious amounts of green tea, try to eat peppers and a lot of other small changes that came from internet research. I am not overly stressed (though I was a year ago in my old job) and I think I get enough sleep.

Does anybody have any ideas? thoughts?

The Season’s Greetings to you!

I’m one of those people that every year think Christmas is still miles away only to discover its the next day and I am unprepared. Not sure why I am like this but I am. I can say I don’t much enjoy Christmas and I detest New Year’s Eve – why start the year with a hangover and sleep derivation I have to ask and don’t get me started on that stupid Auld Lang Syne song that turns my stomach every time I hear it. I sound a bit like Scrooge I am sure. It’s not that I don’t enjoy some fun and giving gifts, I do. It’s the commercialization I cannot stand. There is really no point in complaining about Christmas decorations in stores by October 31st I know but that is the sort of thing that ruins the season for me. It’s nice to see family and give thanks for a good year (hopefully) and look forward to better times perhaps in the coming year but you can keep the crowds, Jingle Bells played incessantly in the supermarket, the card sending and the reruns of old Bond movies.

Having gotten all of that off my chest let me also wish you all the very best of season’s greetings. I understand that many of my readers (yes – that’s you Bob….my one and only loyal reader…) may not be Christians at all so it is very much a season’s greeting whether that be yuletide (possibly my favorite) or whatever. I hope that it was a reasonable year with something to give thanks for and that the coming year offers you the opportunities to be happy and secure.

Me, I’m visualizing a nice year in 2014 and just to bore you all, yes, lot’s of new readers for The Last Observer and more book sales – If you didn’t buy five as Christmas gifts for your unloved relatives – there is still time and if you get Amazon gift certificates do spend them on a good magical novel!

Cheers – especially to Bob – my one and only loyal reader.

(Please note that I know I have more than one reader of this blog…. Bob’s sister, Muriel also visits infrequently!)

greet

People Are Just strange

I often find myself thinking that people are really just strange. Perhaps it would be better to say self-centered and thoughtless as opposed to strange for that is what I really mean. I observe this every day and all around me. Here are a few examples:-

1. Yesterday there was an event at the school my daughter goes to. It’s essentially and infants and junior school so the kids and the majority of the parents are young. Of course, as hoards of parents descend on the school, parking becomes a nightmare and the strange behaviour starts. First, I observe two cars ‘battling’ it out for a vacant parking space. Despite one car being there, hazard warning lights flashing and obviously waiting to enter the parking space as soon as the current occupant left it, another car pulls up determined to take the same spot. What followed was a game of chicken between the two car owners. Meanwhile, all the traffic is held up while these weird people fight over a parking space.

2. Next, with cars parked on both sides of the street, there is now only room for one car but as this is a two-way street, you can guess what happened right? The vast majority of the traffic is going in one direction but one lone car going in the opposite direction seems to believe that he/she is a superior human being and that all the others should reverse for them. So, I was treated to another stand off – one that last almost 5-minutes – as one selfish driver believed they were more important than fifteen others and fully apparently expected every single on of them to reverse down the street……

3. Another example is when the car in the outside lane is doing the speed limit and doesn’t quiet move into the other lane fast enough for the person who believes themselves far more important than anyone else and therefore passes on the inside. Its stupid, dangerous and illegal but you know, the law nor safety concerns apply to our superior human being.

That is three driving examples I know but look around and observe your fellow humans behaving badly, discourteously, rudely, dangerously at any moment in time. People really do seem to believe that they are more important or that laws apply only to others. Me? you know I like walking. It bothers me not a jot to park a bit further away and walk. Furthermore, not having to compete with these people for a parking space keeps my blood pressure down. I’m not in a rush so if you sit in the outside lane going too slow, I will sit a safe distance behind and wait for you to move. I think laws do apply to me and furthermore I know for sure, if I break one, there will be a police car right there to catch me.

It’s not hard to be courteous. It may take a minute or two more to find a parking space, line up in a queue or whatever. It may involve walking to where you were going from where you parked your car. But does it really matter? Being nice to people, being courteous and respecting people’s safety makes you feel so much better anyway.

People are strange. They really are.

Seeking Neverland

As a young child I think I was quite innocent. Perhaps I was a tad over protected by my parents or perhaps I was just built that way. To be honest I do not know. I do know though that I had (and to some degree still do have) an imagination. My imagination was such that I drew other children in to my fantasy land and when I left it even momentarily, they stopped playing there. It was as if I were the catalyst for whatever fantasy we built. It was I that built layer upon layer of substance out of sticks, dustbins, stones and such. I would often delay having to go to the bathroom simply because I knew that on my return, the fantasy would be lost, gone, over. Looking back, it was if I created and wove the dance we danced in my childhood reality. And perhaps I did.

I dreamed well too. Better then than now. Lucid dreaming, something I find difficult these days, came naturally to me then. I would willfully continue a dream night after night picking up right where I recalled leaving off. One dream was about a girl. She lived in a castle-like house on an island. It was a small island with steep cliffs all around and it started with me finding a cave and working my way up to find the house. Looking in through a window I saw a girl. She was beautiful and I loved her as soon as my eyes saw her (she was my age in the dream – 6 or 7 perhaps). She looked sad and I wondered how such a pretty girl living in such a house could be so sad?

One day she caught sight of me. We made signs and faces through the window. She even smiled. But she kept looking around nervously. She would shoo me away at times and I would hide and spy as the witch-like lady entered the room and the girl would cry. I eventually discovered the witch-like lady was an evil old hag who practiced black magic in the basement and caves below the house. She abused the girl who was her niece. I discovered the girl’s parents had died leaving her in the care of this wicked Aunt. As the dream continued, she would let me in and we would play happily in that room until the Aunt came and then I would hide or leave or hide and then leave my heart pounding like a drum.

In the end, I was discovered and caught. The girl and I were taken to the basement and we were tied up. Somehow, we escaped and turned the tables on the wicked witch ridding the world of her via her own evil magic once and for all. The girl was free. She was happy and smiled and we would play until, eventually, the dreams stopped.

These dreams took place over an extended period of time and if you analyze them they have elements of all fairy tales don’t they? The wicked witch, the sad and mistreated niece or step daughter and the prince who frees the girl and, in the end marries her. The part of me that faces and confronts something within me and defeats it in order to reconcile other aspects of myself.

When I look back now at my childhood I wonder at how magical it was. I wonder at the abilities I seem to have lost or misplaced as I have grown older and become a part of another world. Imagination is a precious commodity and the art of dreaming is a wonderful and magical tool to heal oneself. I am convinced at times that I really lost something growing up, something truly magical. Some gift I was born with. Perhaps we all have. You see the problem is that “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.

peter pan

JM Barrie and Peter Pan has some interesting quotes throughout in my opinion that now resonate with me. Just consider the following and perhaps you will agree…

There could not have been a lovelier sight; but there was none to see it except a little boy who was staring in at the window. He had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must be for ever barred.”

Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.

You know that place between sleeping and awake, that place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always think of you.

All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.

You see, the thing I miss about being a child is my Peter Pan. Everyone of us has Peter Pan within us and we lose him growing up. Some of us never realize it nor care but others, like me, keep looking and searching for Neverland knowing that, not only does it exist but I once went there all the time…..

My Dunkirk

It was 1974. Unlike many kids from Hull, I had already been abroad. My parents had driven in 1962 from Hull to St. Tropez and back in a Reliant Robin with me in tow. We still have cine film – miles and miles of french hedgerow goes flying by for much of the film as my parents marveled at their bravery of driving so far on small French roads in a three wheel car that attracted looks of disbelief from the locals. I guess they felt like they would never return and so best film as much as possible? The film also has me in it sitting in the warm blue ocean, looking at artists painting St. Tropez harbour and interfering with the locals’ game of boules…. But, I digress. I had also been to Switzerland and Italy in 1969 again camping and driving miles and miles on little French, Swiss and Italian roads – no motorways back then you know!

So, my exchange with a French student wasn’t quite as exciting as it might have been. France was no mystery to this 14-year old. I already knew the country as beautiful and the girls even more so. French – the language that is – was more of a challenge. I have no brain for languages and I was terrible at French. Jean Luc was excellent at English however so all was well. He came to Hull first and was duly taken to such wondrous locations as Brid, Scarboro, Whitby and York. He purchased several LPs by some band called Status Quo and before I knew it, I too was a fan. He also liked Pink Floyd. He had good taste in music.

Jean Luc and I in Dunkirk 1974

Jean Luc and I in Dunkirk 1974

The train ride to Dover from Hull is tedious – it was back then even more tedious. The train was full with strange pairings of English and French kids all over excited and boisterous. The ferry then from Dover to Calais and then a car ride to Dunkirk – or a small village outside of Dunkirk. My adventure had began.

I recall the concrete floors painted green and total absence of carpets. The blinds that wound down to create total darkness at night. The dirt in the streets – yes – it was dirty. The food. New tastes including raw minced beef with raw egg. To be honest much of the trip was a blur. His father was the Captain of a ship and wasn’t home but Mother had a small car and we went all over the region – even as far as Brugges in Belguim. It was all too soon over but it began my love affair with France and all things French.

The next two summers we repeated the exchange – privately however. The summer before college I spent 8-weeks hitch hiking around using Jean Luc’s home as my base. For a while, we were firm friends. I wonder where he is now? I was lucky I know to find such friends and to enjoy so many experiences as a growing child and young adult. It broadened my young mind and by 18, my French was more than passable but not fluent. It was good enough to talk to the girls….