Read All About It

Apologies for the radio silence. To say things are hectic is lowballing it. From August 1st I will not be working for 3 months. Put simply, I’m exhausted. Emotionally, psychologically, spiritually even. Some days I dread walking into the building, to a job I once loved.

My inspiration is gone. I am very good at what I do, but now I do it mechanically. I’ve become obsessed with making sure my guys can waltz into any position they want. I want my brother and mother and sister and now nephew to be proud of me. I feel responsible for all those I know who cannot work, who can’t defy the demons and limitations forced upon them. I don’t want to die the way my father did; but everything I’m doing holds a mirror up to him.

He cared about his guys but couldn’t bridge the divide when it came to his family. I didn’t really know him at the end, but my impression was always that we withdrew to the point of implosion. Pushing with some vision of an ideal that couldn’t help but crumble.

The consensus is my stepping away is a good decision. One of my guys is taking over from me, and my faith in her is unbound. I have faith in so many people, but deny it to myself. She tells me that its time for me to start thinking about myself.

Part of me is afraid I’m putting a bullet in my career. At least I know that I’ve been judged on my performance, rather than any machinations or schmoozing, and I haven’t been found wanting. Yet again, I’m not engaged in any way I’d describe as healthy. Given the panic attacks, manic freakouts, paranoia, forgetfulness, suicidality, and seizures; I could easily be signed off on medical. I want to take a sabbatical because I don’t want to be a victim. I don’t want the company to pay for me while I’m not working. Sitting at home playing video games would consume most of my time, because I would assume the role of a patient.

‘The self is not something one finds, it is something one creates’. A great many debates can coalescence around words like that. Thomas Szasz said many things, but this stuck with me. Remaining passive, a victim of bastard luck and circumstance, rather than asserting your moral right to exist on your own terms. I can’t always get my head around the principles of the Mad Pride movement; but I engage with the notion that “We” have the right to our own cultural identity. That we’re bound by similar threads and so have a right to highlight and explore the potential therein. I’m kooky enough to think like a Mutant, to want what the X-Men have, because their stories help me quantify my experience of my life and the world we all share.

The immortal Christopher Hitchens described how his father claimed his service during the Second World War constituted ‘the only time he knew what he was doing”. I’ve always felt that about the Clinic. 13 years ago; a teen who nearly sheared his spine leaping from a bridge. Once I could limp from the orthopaedic ward I was transported to a place where I was surrounded by people who understood, one way or another. We talked and we ate together. We played music and made art together. No topic was off limits, because if you can’t share in your darkest hours then all you’ll ever know are shadows.

While we’re dropping names and paraphrasing, I’ll recall something Brody Dalle said in an interview with The Face about 4000 years ago. Her interviewer lightheartedly called her insane. Dalle retorted: ‘sometimes I feel like the most sane person in the world.’ If you’ve ever been in any positions like mine, you’ll get where she was coming from. I don’t want to pontificate or stake a claim to some hidden truth or grand narrative. I’ll say that when you’ve cut down to the bone, the meat and the seed and the rot of it all gives you some perspective.

I have a little time to assess and recreate. I’m going to travel a little, often on a whim I hope, because spontaneity is something I’ve defied. I want to see things, I want to attempt adventures and meet new people. And reconnect with those I’ve missed, for one reason or another. I want to write and I hope you’ll find something worth reading. Because I want an audience; ego does come into it of course, but also because I’ve been told I might have something to say. And, I hope, it’ll prompt people to say something back.

I want to leave y’all with something for now. It says a lot. Some art bleeds from the edge between inspiration, emotion, power and truth. Art like this:

 

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Rolls like water…

We returned home around 1pm yesterday. Would have been at least an hour and a half earlier if the baggage handlers at Gatwick could distinguish arse from elbow. You know when you’re back in England: temperature drops, skies turn grey and suddenly you’re drowning in phone shops and coffee concessions.

The long journey on the district line wasn’t as bad as I feared. I hate sitting still for too long, which is strange because I have no trouble with long plane flights. Sometimes the destination justifies the weight of the way travelled. We were so tired by that point as to be effectively anaesthetised. I even got to play some ‘wise owl’ thing – discussing hair dye with some bright eyed teen proto-goth.

And so here I am now. Funny how a brief change of pace can give someone a fresh perspective. Those nights on the balcony; warm breeze, rolling seas, typing by starlight. I want that. More of that. I work in a business where every third person you talk to has aspirations to be A Writer. Hell, put enough of us in a room, throw a bucket of water and you’ll drown dozens of ’em. But I’m not talking about The Novel. I’ve tried fiction and I don’t have the size for it. No focus; a struggle to draw something from the bottom up.

I’m also quite the egomaniac. I love the sound of my own voice or the, er, sound of my own words. Maybe I can type and do something with it too. Another thing I did while sitting on that balcony was look at Journalism MA courses. I have a degree, so getting onto a course is largely a matter of money. What seals the deal is whether or not another degree would actually do any good.

I’m young, but crossing the threshold. If I want to make changes, this is the time to put it in motion. When I was studying film, the best people on my course were the mature students. The most naturally capable was in his 40s, and he put every other one of us to shame. It’s early, but I’ve already been thinking about things Liam could be asking me in the future. One of them is going to be about university. My advice? Leave it a few years. Finish school then get a job. Or travel. Or both. Figure out what you want to do, what feels right; rather than the vague notions and delusions your uncle had.

I was 19. Making life decisions barely 18 month after getting out of a psychiatric hospital. I had no clue what to do, so I went with the path of least resistance. And it feels like I’ve been doing that ever since.

 

Whether I stick with it or not, I need to get out of this place. Out of B&D, probably out of London. Too many old ghosts, and sometimes I just feel like all motivations and concerns are out of whack. I was 19 and now I’m thinking back on that and, more importantly, the kids I knew when I was 17. Tacitly, Icarus implies that we are A People. United by mad gifts. I want to write and I want to do something. Certainly for those who are written off, hurting, abused, left feeling like a voice and a life are more than they’re worth.

There’s one week left to go on Meat Free May. Do something amazing today – donate just a little to the important work of Friends of the Earth.

 

Tobago – Signal

And so to you, my last night on the island of Tobago. My apologies for any typos you may encounter herein – been drinking the local brew, Carib, solidly for the last few hours. I also spent 230 TTD on a single shot of Johnnie Walker Blue. I am very proud of myself.

The ocean’s a little rough this side of the Atlantic tonight. Got a lot of crashing waves, rolling beneath an astonishingly beautiful array of stars. I want to call this view ‘heartbreaking’, because its beauty touches you in places there may not even be names for. ‘Heartbreaking’ isn’t appropriate at all however, because this view is one of those things which reminds you how wonderful this world can be.

That’s a bold load of letters for someone like me to hammer out. Or so I’m told. Or so I tell myself. I think I’m supposed to be some kind of cynical old fuck, but I don’t think my heart’s in it anymore. I’m a romantic at heart, always have been, but you slap enough damage onto something and it hardens. Deadens even, in the right/wrong places.

“Bipolar” is the term on all the medical documents. “Psychotic” is the ‘reclaimed term’ I’ve been using for a while. Now I’m leaning towards “Polarist”, but even that’s wrong. “Person” comes closest I imagine, but any term is riddled with inadequacies.

I refer to it as a ‘signal.’ Its always there in the background; my own private CMB. Its like a conversation you can’t quite listen to, a station you can’t pull from all the static. I love the term “Hall of Mirrors” – its one of my cyphers, riding high alongside Cause. HoM fits here, because anything I read in the sound of the waves or the whispers in these palm trees or the searing beauty of my stars is ultimately born from within me. Within you.

Reflected light is all we are.  Imprinting wants and desires, ideas and definitions and self-assigned certainties onto anything and anyone around us. Maybe it is all about me. From your perspective: you. Seeking something warm, something beautiful or good is ultimately a pursuit of what is better within us all. If we can find something to believe in, something which inspires or gives us reason to hope; then every one of us comes within reach of infinity.

 

Meat Free May: Tobago – An Angry Post about Endangered Species

Nothing lasts like a little context. From a charitable perspective, my primary motivation for signing up for Meat Free May comes from a certain revelatory moment about the impact farming and fisheries smack down on the environment.

My hotel balcony offers a breathtaking view of the Atlantic coast. I could vault over the bannister, drop a floor and limp to the water’s edge all within a few minutes. where grass surrenders to sand their is a sign explaining that this private beach moonlights as a hatchery for the island’s three principal turtle species.

The Green Turtle (chelonia mydas) principally concerns itself with seagrass and algae, though the fates consider viral tumours and the inevitable poaching to be worthy considerations too.

The Hawksbill Turtle (eretmochelys imbricata) carries a distinctive bill and a taste for certain corals, sponges and invertebrates which promote levels of toxicity within its flesh which can be fatal to humans if ingested. Because humans can find any reason to slaughter something beautiful, crafts made from their shells apparently justify their reaping. Combined with the degradation of marine habitats and ‘incidental mortality’ from fishing; the hawksbill occupies pride of place in the crosshairs.

For some reason the story of the Leatherback (dermochelys coriacea) resonates with me the most. That any species is endangered is an outrage, but the Leatherback’s demise would deprive us of something truly unique.

Besides being the largest of all modern turtles; Leatherbacks are the fourth largest reptile behind three renditions of crocodile. They have occupied every single ocean on the planet, often as far down as 4000 feet, and have been doing so for the better part of 100 million years.

For scale; and to demonstrate how fucking despicable some people can be.

You’ll note the distinctive ridges and leathery shell (hence the name) this twisted abuse of oxygen is obscuring. Lacking a traditional bony shell diminishes their suitability for arts and crafts; and their size limits their predators to killer whales, sharks and us. Poaching during the nesting season contributes to their endangered status, but entanglement in fishing gear is yet again a critical threat to the Leatherback. Another entirely perverse danger to these beautiful creatures is ocean pollution – often suffocating plastic bags mistaken for the jellyfish which forms much of their diet.

This post has meandered and is far more incensed than I was anticipating. Proximity can do that – in the dead of night I’ve seen men stalking the beach from here. This could be entirely innocent – night fishing is a valued (and legal) practice – but suspicion is justified. Despite extensive education, legislation and committed enforcement; the fight for survival is undermined by a demand for exotic, seasonal delicacies. I can’t think of a more perfect demonstration of the importance of work by organisations like Friends of the Earth. From here, I could transplant something precious and rare from beach to bowl with comparative ease.

Responsibility isn’t an abstract. Its easy to forget that we can all remain informed and that we all have to make a choice.

Even the tiniest contribution can make a difference. Donations to Friends of the Earth are greatly appreciated.

Tobago – Magdalena

This is The Magdalena:

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This is also the Magdalena:

I am only inside of one of these.

The Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort nestles in Tobago’s Lowlands, looking out towards the Atlantic from Little Rocky Bay. By day you get a clear view of the island capital, Scarborough and at night a shimmering, near crystalline rendition of the same.

The image above is one of the many publicity stills you’ll find on Google images. I have my own images, including some night shots. Unfortunately my camera can’t transfer, my iPad doesn’t have a card slot and my phone’s Bluetooth isn’t a team player.

Not that it matters too much. Pictures can’t really convey what I’m seeing right now, and certainly these words won’t do any better. I’m on the balcony underneath more stars than I can ever remember seeing back home. Palm trees sway, lizards dash and dart between the bushes and the rhythmic, enduring tides keep their time.

What really catches my eye is the perfect dark stretching from the sand all the way to the horizon. Last night a full moon, low and yellow, hung over the water. A perfect reflection, moonlight slicing through the few clouds who dared stand to deny it. Beauty is something I’m fortunate to find in the everyday, but this was something else.

The resort’s moniker references the original Spanish name for the island, “La Magdalena.” Besides the obvious deference to the Holy Roman Empire, I’m told the Magdalena was also one of the ships in Columbus’ fleet. “Tobago” itself references “tobacco”, which was one of the island’s primary exports, especially under British rule. The resort is on the Lowlands Plantation Estate, and its not difficult to picture the harvest taking place where the PGA approved 18 hole golf course now resides.

Trinidad is where the action is apparently. This isn’t peak season, so many of the rooms are empty, and the current cliental is predominantly white (a mixture of Scandinavian, Germans, Americans , South Africans and us Brits as far as I can tell). Stages within the bars stand empty, but it’s not impossible that this place can shuffle towards jumping if it wants.

Older couples, affluent families, businessmen on conference/golfing jaunts. Its very much an enclave, putting distance and definite masonry between us and the Canaan village, which leads towards the airport and the beautiful Pigeon Point Heritage Park (which itself is very much secured).

It delivers. I can’t remember the last time I felt this relaxed. Unhurried, despite the ever-present CMB of my polarised mind. A disquiet I cannot shake despite the warmth of the people and the beauty of their home. I’m embarrassed when people call me ‘sir.’ I dislike having someone hop bells and carry luggage for me.

I can’t deny that this downtime has been needed, but my instinct is to get stuck in. Disappear into Scarborough and seek out the lesser measured angles. Follow my powerful desire to run into the ocean and swim towards this midnight sun.

Everyday distractions drift away, and new ideas are breaking the waves. I need to change or, more importantly, make changes.

The moon is rising again. On the horizon a cruise liner ferries souls towards a light I jealously consider to be mine. I made an offering to it earlier; carving “Grace” into the sand. A sigil representing beauty, for the stars to wonder at and the waves to carry out into the world.

 

 

Meat Free May: Tobago – Temptation Waits

I won't be churlish enough to state that I haven't received any support from my loved ones during Meat Free May. Shared meals and excursions have easily accomodated my sudden change in diet, with little disruption and healthy support. However, I do feel that the principle behind this is somewhat obscured.

We've made friends with an energetic, and powerfully helpful tour guide. There was a long conversation by the poolside; sharing life stories, touching on our perspectives and experiences. She was making recommendations on things to see and do; giving us information beyond the polish of the brochures and reps. The topic of food inevitably came up, and I explained how I'd given up meat and fish for one month, for charity.

She was astonished. My mother fell back on a rejoinder I'd heard before we left Blighty: "Eat meat and make up the days in June." Our new friend told me to keep any ravening I do secret. Just don't tell anyone.

I hope I'm not making too much of us, especially since I'm talking about a person I love dearly and a bright young woman who has been so warm and generous to us. I think what unsettles me is that I've heard things like this multiple times since this began.

Don't tell. For me, the principle is more important than any temptation this beautiful island can offer. And believe me, temptation waits. Enormous, juicy steaks; constellations of exotic, mouth watering seafood, usually with little delay twixt salt water and plate. But I signed up for this, knowing full well I was coming here. To an island paradise which chalks up much of its appeal to its culinary delights.  

The message of Meat Free May is an important one. For me, its about keeping informed and accepting that, while guilt shouldn't necessarily follow, we should accept some responsibility for what finds its way onto our plates. I wouldn't describe myself as the most moral of individuals, but I've always recognised the value of open eyes.

Namaste.

I've not gone into withdrawal yet. Help keep me on track, and contribute to an important and worthy cause here.

Meat Free May: Tobago – Outbound

Written somewhere over the Atlantic:

One thing I love is a sense of momentum. Staring out of a train window, and now, as I type this, cruising at roughly 35,000 feet. Polarity is very much a part of my nature. Black and white, high and low. Static and taking flight.

JG Ballard had a thing about airports. I have a thing for Ballard, and I think I know where he was coming from. Airside you find yourself in an approximate world – recognisable with subtle, uncanny adjustments.

I’m here in this cabin. South African wine out of a small plastic bottle, splitting my attention between typing this and Catching Fire. Here’s a meal from on high:

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Macaroni with spinach and lemon crumble. Lemon very much to the fore. Not quite overpowering; but strange enough to make itself conspicuous.
I’m not sure what the side salad was. There was a little feta, I think, and some little round things I can’t quite place. I want to say vinegar, or vinegarette, or some other thing I have no goddamn clue about.
One thing which I’ve so far found surprising about Meat Free May, is that I can think and talk about food without a rising desire to scratch my own eyes out. A concern I have is that I’m not focusing on my initial reasons for signing up in the first place. The environmental concerns, globalisation, the realisation that subtle, uncanny adjustments in our daily lives present some kind of opportunity.
I’m over the mid-Atlantic. I love flying. That sense of disconnect, natural defiance even. The whole world compressed into …ft of steel and glass. I love turbulence and ears popping even. But I’m suddenly conscious of the enormous energy cost of what we’re doing up here. Flying somewhere frequently tagged ‘paradise’, inside of a device which poses its own threats to this rock of ours.
I’m no luddite. I was once tagged as a Transhumanist: I look forward to our cyborg future. I’ve been an uncle for just under 3 months, and I keep fascinating over the type of world my nephew is going to come of age in. At the pace with which technology and information are infusing themselves within us, everyday presents exciting new possibilities. My iPod Nano is 4 years old still has a greater hard disk capacity than my first PC. What on Earth will be within his finger’s reach?

This genuinely excites me. Tantalising prospects but, again, polarity. I get to eat a half decent vegetarian meal high above the clouds. There’s no guilt, just a greater sense of responsibility. That everything, everyday is tipping the scales.

If you would like to make a donation to Friends of the Earth’s “Meat Free May”, you can here.

Namaste.