Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The River Severn

and here I am again.

A different me.  A new post.

Hectic times are here again.

I'm walking again.  Down a river.  Following it as it swells and winds.  Down the trail, through brambles and over stiles.  Past sleeping cows and curious sheep.  Eating blackberries and elder.  All the way to Bristol, where hospital awaits again.

Did I think I'd come here?  Did I think I'd be the same?  Do I even know who I am At All?

Mindfulness helps but sometimes it can eclipse the bigger picture altogether.  I don't know what I'm doing.  Only that I've decided to walk 210 miles to hospital and 130 back home again.  Why?  Because it was there.

I look at rivers on maps and see targets, I've realised.  I see a journey, a beginning, an end, a change in the middle, a tale in the spinning, something achieveable...given time.

Time and workable hips.  Functional knees.  Unbruised shoulders. 
Sharp shootings of pain are infesting much of me below the pelvis.
Not suprising; I just walked out of my front door and went to walk to sea.  Even with or without cancer I was never physically fit.  Just tough.  And determined.  Those will get you a long way, but the fight is harder.

Next year, I say.  Next year I'll take a sleeping mat.  I'll take a bivvy bag.  A sleeping bag liner.  I'll change my socks every day.  I'll get a new rucksack.  I'll cycle all winter until my leg muscles grow enough to carry me all the way round Wales.  All the way from Bristol to Bristol, day by day by day.

I am a hobo again.  With regular breaks every 4 days for a bed and a shower.  I am walking hundreds of miles, to hospital and back because I will not be affected, long term, by a cancer diagnosis.  It's gone.  I remain.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Three distinct stages

I feel like I've come to a new stage of illness, or non illness, or recovering from illness. 

First there was the fight.  Where I had a tumour in my body and everything was an emergency.  Where blood tests showed it might be cancer.  Where I didn't have anywhere to live and was forced into the hospitality of family friends.  Where the tumour would flash and boom with pain, a baby sized lump, floating where it shouldn't be, squeezing my organs out of shape. Where mystery fluid would appear in my lungs then disappear, dramatically, just as they were about to stick in a needle and draw it out.  Where I started not to know what my body was doing any more, where it felt out of control, as if everything was up for grabs - giant tumour appearing out of nowhere, lungs filling and then draining of fluid, cancer cells spreading inside my body, to my omentum, my abdomen, my womb, my guts.   Where I would shortly have major abdominal surgery; 5 days in hospital. 
My stomach muscles cramped as I came out of the black aneasthetic, pain streaking through me; a nurse hovered over me, telling me to breath, bringing me to her eyes, back to the world.
Fight to lie on your side in bed; fight to sit up, fight to cough, fight to shit.  Fight to stand up for longer than half an hour, fight to walk more than 200 metres.
Cancer is a constant presence, hovering in front of your face emanating fear and despair, a black spot blocking your vision, your awareness of anything but itself.

Then, three months later, started the recovery.  No more cancer, no longer in danger.  No tumour in my body.  Just a scar, newly sutured muscles and a shuffling, traumatised person.  I was scrumpled into three small balls, one each of mind, body and spirit.  So I focused on healing myself.  Not fighting but taking care of me.  Finding a path to peace and my new life.  A change of country, a change of lifestyle, a change of everything.  Back to old friends, making them new friends - rediscovering who people have become after a three year gap.  Counselling, art courses, gardening, walking, biking, swimming, crying. Lots of crying.  Small things, daily, weekly.

Now, another three months later, it's the third bit.  Where I've realised that I'm not going to get back to the way I was.  That these changes to my body, to my self are probably going to stay.  And I don't mean the return of the cancer.  It has a more forward looking feel to it, a more outward looking feel.  I can move out into the world again, limping but still moving.  The things that remain in my body, mild nerve pain, scar tissue, they're not necessarily the return of the cancer, more likely just an internal limp.
And of course I'm not who I was, I'm not going back again to my hobo travelling, challenging lifestyle.  I'm delicate, still pink and raw and a bit sensitive.  I'd rather knit on the sofa than go wild camping.  But maybe, in time, this will come back too, this wild part of me.  I won't force it.
The first hospital check up has passed, where they prod my belly and do a blood test and wave me away for another three months.  No cancer, no problem, come back in three months.  And I've realised that it's over.  No more fear. I'm healed, I'm healthy.  And the third bit is a new phase, where I'm back again, not what I was but ready for what the new me is.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Letter writing blog giveaway thing!

I could have used a random number generator but as there were only three of you I wrote the numbers one, two and three on pieces of paper, screwed them into balls and picked one out and it was...number one.

Isabelle! at www.letterstoed.wordpress.com

Congratulations, you win a letter!

This letter was written half in Bristol and half in Sheffield. And that is all I will say about that.
To be posted as soon as we make contact.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Green

Mucinous adenocarcinoma of the ovary. Stage 1A

That's what I had, that's what they took out of me.

It all seems relatively bright, actually. The tumour was floating in the centre of a sac of protective cyst like the yolk of a bad egg...that's done me good, I think. It means the cancer was isolated and couldn't brush its nasty malignant cells up against anything else, and so, judging by the scans I've had so far, it hasn't spread anywhere else.
I just need two more tests to make sure and then I can go into follow up treatment.

So it's kind of a relief. Yes, it was cancer. But I think it's over. All I need to do now is recover. Find my way back to real life. Get a place to live. And start saving money so I can go out into the unknown again. Albeit with a regular schedule to return for belly prodding and pain questions.

Not sure if I'll blog again for a while; at least not until I've gone back to writing rather than news.
But I mean it about the letter, I'll check back in a week and ask someone for their address.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

In the spirit of taking my mind off it....

I wrote a letter. It's the kind of rambling letter that you write to someone when you have nothing to say except the wish to make contact.

Thing is, I'm in much more regular contact with all my friends at the moment, we have texts and phonecalls and skyping and visits. Really different to when I'm alone in an unknown location with a rucksack and I want to send a little five minute view of my dreamlike life back to my friend at home with their important objects like jobs and houses and schedules.

So I thought that perhaps I'd try a thing. You know, a blog thing where I invite comments and then give a prize.

This will combine two of my favourite activities.....sitting for hours in cafes, and the sending and receiving of letters. I have the idea that I will, every so often, go to sit in a public place and fill as much paper as I can with the things I see there. Then I will offer to send it to a reader.

Know this, you are very special because you are one of the miniscule number of people in this world who read my blog and if you want to receive a letter, a real life piece of paper in the post, that will maybe say something important but will more likely say nothing at all, then leave a comment and, in one weeks time, I will pick a commenter at random and it will be you! and I will send you the letter...anywhere in the world!

Here is what you can do in return..

1) Nothing, just keep a secret letter that only you and me have seen and that will never be repeated or published anywhere else because you have the only copy of it, keep it all to yourself, forever.
2) You could put it onto your personal internet world, blog, thing and it would be like a guest post or just an interesting link.
3) You could send me something by return of post (I'm sure I will get my own address very soon).
4) Reveal that you are actually a globe straddling book publisher and you want to make me rich.
5) Reveal that you are in love with me and want to come to my house and ply me with infinite pleasure.
6) Do the same on your blog for someone else, pass it on, like.


And because this is the internet and we are all scared of making real life contact; I will only use your address to send you one letter and then I will throw away the piece of paper it was written down on (and I will scribble over the address first in thick black pen, so you don't get cloned by the people who go through rubbish bags) and I will never contact you using this method again. I won't tell anyone your real name and I won't look you up on Google Earth. I definitely would never come and look though your windows while you were asleep (unless you were my next door neighbour and then the blog/real life coincidence might be so strange that I would not be able to resist taking a little peek....but I would probably tell you about it later in a self-depreciating, I'm so wierd, kind of way and hopefully we could laugh about it).

And while I'm talking about letters and post and other things. I will tell you that I have recently joined this website www.postcrossing.com which is for people to send postcards to strangers. And while it's slightly more boring than I imagined...mostly because it's not full of quirky, creative people who want to write strange things to strangers...some people just want to collect postcards (sad face)...I will tell you about it anyway because in my imagination, being a reader of oddness on the internet, you are interesting and creative and maybe you'll join too and make this website more like how I would like it to be.

Oh, and the mother fucking hospital visit where I'll Finally end this stupid limbo...tomorrow, 1.30pm. Fuck.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Inhale love, expel hate

And this is about how I am getting better.

to be in pain all the time, I have realised that this is happening for two months. I have been ill for two months. I have never been ill like this before. To be in low level pain all the time, to be dragging around your own body, to be tired, to be delicate. This is unusual for me. I have never thought of myself as poarticularyly hardy; but I suppose that when I wasn't drinking every day and poisoning myself with my own lifestyle, I was climbing hills and living outside and doing active things and being, actually, pretty tough.

My world has shrunk to my illness, I am not able to think around something so big, I don't care about anything else.

Yesterday was my birthday, I am 32 years old. I am waiting to find out if I have cancer.

And I feel sad that I can't write all the beautiful, elegant sentences about pain and limbo that form in my mind and then fly away.

I want to tell you how it feels to lose yourself, piece by piece, in a flood of screaming nerve endings that break you into small bits and parts of you float away, like your love of colour or ability to jump and you think you'll never find them again until later when you realise they just fetched up a little further downstream and now here they are and you can go for a walk and appreciate the cherry blossom all over again.
My cyst that might be a tumour boomed with pain, like a looming thundercloud that lit from within with flashes of white. Pain ached through me when I did too much, when I walked too far, the giant ovary, unanchored save for a small fallopian string that was really indadequate for the gargantuan size the cyst/tumour had become, the giant ovary started to rise up and try to burst out of my body, I had to clutch my stomach, compress myself before I could continue.
Now I just have a seam, a line of thick scab that I can't pick because I feel like I might undo myself, pull a scab and open a hole through which I will see my aching, purple bowel.
And I feel sad because I can only do small things like jigsaws and postcards and when I try and tell you about this, the waiting and the living, the pain and the immediacy of my life suddenly reduced to a single illness, it only comes out in jumbled stupid sentences and I start to cry instead.
So I'm sorry I'm not here, and I'm sorry I can't write. I wish I could because somehow I think it would make my life better....if I could make you see my world. Because if we could all see each other inside and out wouldn't that make everything much more peaceful?
I seem to have become confused, don't take anything I say right now as who I actually am. I'm not operating on sound, rational judgement. I can be quite funny sometimes. People like me. I'm not always depressed. Can you see that? I will have to wait, wait until I feel better. Wait until the doctors tell me what I can or can't do. My life has been handed over to a pathologist, and I must wait until next week when he will tell me, red or green.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Dear Adam,

Thank you for your nice letter of January 12th.

It’s true, when I sent you a postcard mentioning a medical problem, I was definitely skirting around the issue. A pretty vague way of putting it. So here it is.

I have a large ovarian cyst, it’s swollen up out of nowhere to occupy the entire right side of my abdomen. I’ve gone from a flat stomach to a bloomingly pregnant 4 month bump in just 8 weeks. Cysts in themselves are not a great problem, apart from getting in the way when you’re trying to bend. I’ll have an operation next week to remove right ovary, cyst, appendix and omentum. The scary part is that a blood test shows a high level of something (ATP maybe?) that indicates it might be a rare form of cancer. Might be.

The cyst can’t be diagnosed until it’s removed so I’ll find out a week after the operation whether or not I had cancer. Which feels pretty neat and tidy.

What’s happening right now has been a whirl of blood test and scans, following the cancer alarm being raised. There was fluid in my lungs which appeared and disappeared just as they were preparing to draw it off. It’s been dramatic and worrying at times, especially finding a place to stay during the treatment. I’m very independent (as you might have guessed) and the thought of entering the post op period of great vulnerability in a place where I didn’t feel comfortable or welcome was a horrible prospect. But that has been resolved and I can now prepare for the operation in peace.

Another relief is that the CT scan showed no lumps anywhere else which means that I probably don’t need chemotherapy post-op. If this cyst does turn out to be a germ cell tumour then it will be out already and in the hospital incinerator and no other lumps means I just go into follow up treatment, regular scans .
So really it’s exactly as you’d hoped – serious enough to be impressive but not properly serious. I just need to recover after the operation, which is basically a caesarian cut. So a week in hospital and 8 weeks of no heavy lifting. I don’t know how mothers manage this with a brand new baby in tow.


I have half of another letter to you which I started in December, before events overtook me (as they have done quite often this year). I’m very aware that my correspondence has slipped, but the longer I leave it, the greater the backlog of events I have to relate and so it becomes more difficult.

Here, then, is June – December 2011
In Brief.

I went to Germany, bought a kayak, hitchhiked with it for 600km to Ingolstadt where I joined a group of people and together we set off to kayak down the Danube. I made friends, I annoyed people, I drank a lot, I found a boyfriend, I met hundreds of people of varying nationalities, I had amazing and crazy and intense and incredible and beautiful experiences every single day for 3 months, I was thrown out of the organised tour for breaking too many rules (and endangering my life) but I continued to the Black Sea anyway. When the tour finished I bought another kayak for the boyfriend...who I didn’t like very much by this point....and we kayaked alone through the Black Sea, down past Romania and towards the port of Varna, Bulgaria. We hitched a lift with a yacht outside the port of Mangalia, last town in Romania and had a mad 30 hours rounding the point towards the harbour, towing our kayaks behind the yacht and struggling for hours when they became waterlogged by the choppy sea. When I arrived in Varna I dumped the guy, sold the kayaks and lived on the yacht for a month while I searched for a place to live. Eventually I found a small, barely livable house in a small village in the NE of Bulgaria – free in exchange for basic decorating and gardening. I spent very little time there...3 days, then a visit to Serbia, 10 days, then a month housesitting elsewhere. But finally, for the month of December, I was there, preparing to settle for the winter, learning Bulgarian, meeting my neighbours and curious villagers, making tentative friendships, going to help in English lessons in the big school in the nearby town.
Trying, even, dare it be said, to approach the blank page and write something.

I wasn’t planning to come back to the UK but when it came to about the 20th of December, I got an urge. So I closed up the house and set off. 6 days hitching, a detour to Sarajevo and two lorry loads of Turkish tomatoes later, I arrived in London. A few visits to friends, a mention of the strange feeling I had in my stomach, a visit to the doctor and now here I am....nothing to be done but try and keep up with myself.

So there you are; it's been a while since we exchanged letters but now you've got a better picture of what I'm doing, lumps, bumps, travels and all. What's happening with you?

Lots of love

haveyouseenthisgirl

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

We interrupt this scheduled broadcast

Grounded, is what I am. Shackled, hobbled, paused, clamped. I have been hijacked by my own body; my will power, my freedom of movement have been subdued by a stronger force.
Something is growing inside me, an alien thing, the unwelcome expansion of a small organ. My body will kill me if this is allowed to continue.
I must go to the hospital, be cut open, have things removed. Then see the nature of the beast within.

I have the attention span of a bee.
I ache.
My brain cannot read text without stopping mid-stream. I cannot read, I cannot write. I can merely exist, see people and receive love and care. The only thing I have to give is my need. My awareness has shrunk to the size of my stomach.

But I will note this in the timeline of my life. Here it is; my hiatus. And hopefully, in a few months, I will continue, not unchanged, but as planned.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Work

Work I have done for other people for money, taking the name of employment

I have cleaned, wiped and hoovered hotels rooms as a chambermaid.
I walked a dog.
I delivered newspapers.
I have picked strawberries.
I have worked on the checkout of a supermarket.
I have worked as a barmaid in 5 different pubs - a wine bar, a quiet country pub, a big town chain pub, a strangely decorated pub full of chain smokers and artists, a local town bar.
I spent one day on the front counter in a burger van.
I photocopied pensions as a temporary admin assistant.
I worked as an admin assistant for an examination board, first data entry and later examinations administration.
I worked in ASDA as admin staff.
I took money and filed videos in a video shop.
I helped gypsies and travellers to read and write, which actually meant helping them practice for the computerised part of the driving test.
I taught English to Spanish businessmen.
I chopped ingredients and washed up in a sandwich shop.
I worked as night staff in a homeless hostel.
I have stayed still, naked, for hours at a time as a life model.
I have sold pizzas at festivals.
I acted as a personal secretary/general dogsbody for one rich lady near London.
I cleaned an art exhibit.
I planted and prepared fruit, veg and flowers in a nursery.


Work I have done for other people for free, taking the name of voluntary work

I sorted and sold clothes in a charity shop.
I was a care and classroom assistant in a school for severely disabled children.
I helped at a summer playscheme for disadvantaged children.
I was a staff member at a homeless hostel.
I helped in the classroom of a EFL college.
I went door to door, collecting money for LEPRA.
I worked on a small plot of land, making cider.
I lived in a farm community, gardening and feeding animals.
I ran an albergue for pilgrims on the Camino to Santiago.
I helped in English lessons in a Bulgarian school.
I decorated tents to make them appropriately mind bending for festival goers.
I was crew for a festival bar/cafe/stage/cinema.

Work I have been made to do by the government of my country, taking the name of punishment

I painted the window frames of a junior school.
I cleared the gutters and undergrowth around a scout hut.
I carried buckets of gravel up a hill.
I laid a path in a graveyard.


Work I have done for myself, taking the name of self employment

I have sold vehicles.
I have taken a stall at festivals and sold vintage clothing, jewellery and my own hand made and hand knitted clothing.
I have sold clothes and craft supplies on Ebay.
I have sold illegal substances.
I have made small things from leather and sold them at festivals.
I have sold cider at festivals.
I served soup and cake to pilgrims in return for donations.


Work I have done for myself, taking the name of hobbies.

I have made pictures.
I have made graffiti.
I have organised art exhibitions.
I have taken photographs.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

How now

I went to watch the sunset; tramping the short hundred metres out from my house to the edge of the village where I could see the horizon. It was far away over ploughed fields, the earth turned from a grey soil, pallid and sundried to a gooey, melting brown. Earth from the deep underneath.

But two things happened and I didn't see the sunset. It's a shame I didn't as the sun was glowing a strong friendly orange, outlining the line of clouds above it in brilliant gold. The clouds were grey and smeared across the horizon but the undersides glowed a surprising pink, as if unable to contain their merry nature.

The first thing that happened was that, as I crouched at the base of the first tree lining the straight rocky road, I saw a walnut and realised I'd chosen a walnut tree to watch the sunset by. So I started to scuff around in the leaves, head down, looking and not looking. It is often the subconscious that will see patterns in the landscape, the telltale circular shape among the curled leaves. I lost my phone the other day; I looked on my bedside table....lamp, book, mug, no phone. It was only after a few hours that I realised I had only looked around the book and not at it. Or on it. There was the phone.

The second thing that happened, back in the landscape, was that I found a cow skull, upside down, full set of teeth, remnants of membrane stretched across the cheekbones and leaves rustled in the nasal cavity. Itchy. There was still a topknot of white brown hair clinging to the bare bone and two fine horns, black tipped, protruded from the nest.

I looked at the skull and the skull looked at the grass, my presence did not amount to much I suppose, a mere whisper in time, a flicker on the wind, stirring leaves for a second and then, gone.

I scuffed some more, making a slow circle around the base of the tree and thought about how unmagical the skull is to me. No shock of a new sight, no amazement at the majesty of nature, still struck wonderment at the purity of the process of decay. The great crawling nature, condensed into an off white cowskull lying beneath a walnut tree in a windblown, bare landscape.

Somehow this magic has become mundane for me. I just shrugged, in a way. "Oh look, a piece of dead cow" and I wondered if I could rip the horns off and use them for something interesting. There was a hoof lying in the road the other day, an abandoned dog toy. Have I gained something with this nonchalance or lost it?

When I looked up to the sky again, the sun had gone and dusky blue light was settling, darkening down upon the land. I trudged back again to the house, pockets full, and stopped to return an axe to my next door neighbour. I offered her some walnuts and she said "Wait, wait", leaving me leaning against the doorjamb, watched by a nervous dog on a short brown chain. A hen fluttered down from the top of the door and I could see a row of turkeys nestled, companionable. She returned and dolloped a beach ball bag of walnuts into my arms. "But I wanted to give you something!" I protested, useless, unintelligible and we both giggled as I pressed my walnuts on her, my paltry pickings. Yesterday she gave me a single hen egg.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Notes From A Dogwalk XIII

Dog rolls in rasping fallen leaves. A stick clatters to the ground nearby and we all pause, startled. We wait together for the intruder to Show Himself. Then, as if on cue, we relax together, returning to writhing, stick chewing, musing on life. The colours have gone now, no ecstatic fireworks, the final shouts of summer have died away to sleeping brown and dignified twigs.

A small stone rolls past me and on down the steep hillside. I will shortly resume my clamber to a new view, the brown one rests his head on my shoulder, waiting.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Notes From A Dogwalk XII

Scratch fingers deep into folds of skin, rough affection; tough love for dogfriends. No herds today, just a faraway horse and cart, heading to the woods for fuel collecting. This land is picked clean by foragers; no stray branches or quiet trunks, all is empty, swept. Maybe that's why I can't feel life in the woods, no rotting detritus, thick layers of squirming mulch, rich in damp wriggling rot. The blood of the earth is missing, where is the regeneration, the bacteria blessing, churning death back to life.
There's life but in a different way; heat and cooking for the village gypsy families, survival in a cold winter. To keep themselves alive they take richness from the earth, leaving stony ground and scrabbling trees.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Notes From A Dogwalk XI

The sun gleams on the yellow grass here at the top of the hill. The haze in the air is thicker today and it veils the land in a white blur, throwing into sharp relief the bunch of dry, petrified flowerheads, clinging to the stony ground near my outflung foot. One of the dogs is shedding hair and I can pull clumps of him out of his body and throw it to the ground. He doesn't seem to mind, standing idly, ears cocked to the shouts of the shepherd on the neighbouring slope. The hair lies like fluffs of scattered feather; more usually a sign of a frenzied attack. Here lies the shameful record of a bird murder. This dog is more commonly the perpetrator than the recepient of such an act. Let his fur lie here as a record of that day.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Notes From A Dogwalk X

Today, as I come to the edge of the ploughed field, I can see two jeeps moving slowly up the far hillside; I see that they both have men standing in the back of them and then I see that the shepherd moving across the flat field at the hill base has his sheep collected together, a small, tightly bunched clump of brown, moving carefully across the wide green. I see all this and I think Hunters.

Today I go West instead of North, through the scrubby trees at the side of the dirt track. I'll walk until the start of the apple plantation. And so I find myself in thorn trees and sharp bushes, all sprouting into multiple prickled twigs, like cancer. The bushes spring from the ground, curling, licking fire at me and the trees hang branches down towards me like groping fingers.

So I walk through fingers and flame towards the apple plantation. There are gunshots in the background and I think about fighting and war. About how all humans could be fighters; every single one of us has that in us, the only difference is that some would be better than others. I think about how lucky I am to have grown up in a country where fighting over my land, in my towns, with murder moving from house to house, is a memory more distant than horses and carts.

The dogs are nervous, they stand attentive, sniffing and listening. Strange howls come from over the hillside; they almost sound like a dog.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Notes From A Dogwalk IX

The leaves have blown away from the base of the walnut tree and I can sit on the thick gnarled rootlump and place my feet, boot heavy, on the bare brown ground. The air is thinly blue and the light hits a white haze on the hills in the distance. I have eaten too many sugary things and feel sticky and sick.

There are no leaves left on the walnut tree now, not one. The twigs spring out like feelers, branches, breathing alveoli and I imagine spongy redness enclosing them like an animal lung.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Notes From A Dogwalk VIII

And of all the things I'm thinking, I can only write about my body odour; how the dog wants to push his nose into every crevice and I don't care enough to actually wash.

These hills are a maze of trees and valleys, I can take a new route every day, find new views of the same village. Sit on a carpet of twisted leaves, rest back aginst another grey rock and watch the dogs watching things.

Sounds float up over the plain; a car revving a loud exhaust, chainsaw buzzing, dogs barking and I am reminded of waking up one morning on a Danube beach in Romania and hearing a village wake up nearby. Just a low, sandy island, thick trees lining the banks, no sign of humans, no cars, no horns, no music, no sirens. Just cocks crowing and dogs barking; a gentle animal cacophony.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Notes From A Dogwalk VII

Hot day, dreams of boats and Danube waters. The dogs stand poised in the sun, heat bounces off sleek coats. I'm lazy today, a morning of deep thoughts in the big town. Thoughts that slide away like melting butter, slipping from reach, back to the dreamworld. What Bulgaria is. What is Bulgaria?
A noisy market of homegrown veg. Gypsies slipping through the crowd. Faces worn, faces weathered. A thousand cabbages. Vans filled to bursting with huge cabbages. A hardy crop, no mango glamour, aubergine celebrity. Just cabbages, mild and reliable. Thousands of pale green footballs.
I hear bells, and goats start to drift over the faraway hillside. A man calls after them, unintelligible.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Notes From A Dogwalk VI

Today I wanted to write about scraps of plastic blowing ragged in the cold wind, scattered fragments of weathered litter; the consensual tipping ground, just out of sight of this village.

I wanted to write about the lacy drumroll of a flock of startled birds, wheeling away from the juicy brambles and up to safety.

But I lost my pen, it fell out of my pocket and so I had to settle for sitting in the silent trees, among the thick leaf carpet and settled branches, watching the dog rip apart a rotted tree trunk. Her nose wrinkled up in a savage growl as she worried away at the powdering chunks and I remembered the time I walked up a hill in Spain, taking a shortcut through the back of a village and how I found a captured wild boar, held prisoner in boards and wire and thick grey mud.

How this boar was round and brown and blind in one ugly scabbed eye; but most of all I remember how its nose was long and flexible, almost like the start of a trunk. It would explore you; gentle, enquiring, grasping, rubbery.

I never saw a wild pig before, only heard them at night when I slept outside; my fear gradually rising as I heard their terrible chomping and snorting, smelt their thick musky scent. It stayed on my bedroll for weeks; dogs would growl at it, hackles rising.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Notes From A Dogwalk V

Last search for rosehips, pushing winding fingers through prickles and thorns; catching my worn jacket, almost in holes, close to unsightliness.

Take these scarlet buds; chop and soak and boil and strain until you have a syrup. My cold weather orange; a guard against illness.

There is a carpet of flickered leaves, fallen in a slow shedding. My dog disappears into the undergrowth, returning with a fresh piece of spine to chew. The eternal fascination of new smells.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Notes From A Dogwalk IV

Today I have made it to the top of the smallest of the three hills that encircle my forest meandering. Now I can see.

I can see the dotted sheep on the hillside opposite; the start of the rising waves of hills to the Northwest that lead into the Balkan Mountains. I can see a flat chequered plain to the East; scattered blocks of vines, neatly aligned, curving round the feet of these gentle rises of earth. I can hear a train and I know that in the next valley runs the main line across the centre of the country; from Sofia to Varna, Serbia to the Black Sea.

The sunshine comes slowly towards me; trailing tips over each ripple of land and fuzz of treetops. One dog has a tree to chew on; the other is happy to push his nose into the wind and simply breathe.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Notes From A Dogwalk III

Sweet dreaming on a hillside, chewing sticks, rolling on grit and scrubby grass. Dogs bark in the distance and my village is laid out in front of me. No apparent road here; just a rise to hills and the village squatting inbetween. Small red roofs nestling in an expanse of trees.

In Spain I felt the essence, the richness of life, alive and present in the landscape. Bulgaria is dour in comparison, struggling. I have seen no vitality here. The land is not brimming, exuberant with energy.

The first rain comes, misty, drifting against my face. Tiny drops that don't know they're there.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Notes From A Dogwalk II

The orange shines from the leaves today as afternoon sun illuminates the treetops. The stalky stems and sticks of these undergrown trees stretch from sight in all directions. They are tight together, intermingling, grasping branches at malicious eye height. Bundles of frantic twigs emerge from the ground; the next generation biting at my ankles.

My stomach hurts; frozen cramp across the surface, muscles in tension, pulsing and contracting in shifting combinations. Underused muscles shriek in complaint and my body rolls in response to the dog lead pulling me, jerking.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Notes From A Dogwalk I

Tinkling goatbells warn of dog danger in the distance. I must veer left, avoid the encounter. Excitable dogs start fights. The carpet of yellow, orange, brown leaves. Shocking green seedlings poke through it; thousands of new lives shortly to fall by the wayside. The struggle for supremacy starts with just two rounded leaf dots. The trees are gnarly and twisted; nibbled by goats, they shoot prickles of new growth from their unduly shortened limbs. There is peace here but only in emptiness. I know it's Autumn, the time of decay, but I don't feel life in this forest. The sky is grey today and maybe I am too. Dogs interrupt. Streaks of running animals in the distance send mine pounding down the hillside to intercept. No fights but I must move on. Bells sound from two directions; one goats, one sheep. I must move on.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The earth will kill you if you try to kill it. Your body heals you if you discipline it.

Space, space, time and a place. My self expression is rusty; my method full of holes.

How do you catch a thought cloud?

My profound views on the workings of the universe gather in wisps; shaped by events and my mental landscape, rising slopes of sunny days and dark valleys of snide remarks. A perfect view floats above me; my thoughts, coalesced, condensed; then it sails away, serene, uncaught.

Friday, 11 November 2011

So, if you're ever in Bulgaria

and you get an urge for a tattoo....here's where you should go.

Go to Varna and find Shorty's Tattoo Studio.

It's a name on a buzzer down a leafy side street. Then a walk up a grimy staircase, I wasn't sure what I'd find at the top. But I found Plamen; he's friendly, really easy to talk to and, most importantly, he took time with me to sit for an hour and make a design together. He's so nice I even bought him coffee and banitsa the second time I went (but then he wasn't in so I drank it while I was waiting). Anyway.



My best tattoo experience so far.

http://shortystattoosvarna.blogspot.com/

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Kitten fur and hope

Back lying, bored, basically. Not sure what to do., it’s just so comfortable here. Easy to dream the day away.. Cats tucked under chin, pushing my lips into soft sweet smelling fur. I am their mum, their caregiver, they lick my face and come to me for comfort. Five feeds a day, sleeping in my bed. Running around, frantic when I walk into the caravan. Come back here little one, calm down, I’m here again and I won’t go away for a while. Come and sleep little one, smell my breath and vibrate with purring. It’s addictive. The caravan is warm and soft, everything padded, cosy, cocooning. My wool lined retreat. Dogs howl in the distance.

And I’m sad somehow. And maybe it’s because I’m spending too much time looking at shit websites (www.lamebook.com?)...the scum that rises to the top of the internet. Distilled essence of the worst of lazy Western humanity.

Or maybe it’s that I’ve lost my traveling mojo. I’m not in cities any more, the heady whirl of life. I’m in the country now. Flat, brown fields. Corn chopped for winter feed. Trudge down one straight yellow road to a copse of struggling trees. Go back home to neighbours I can’t speak to and solitude.

I had the chance to live in a city; small, cheap, cold apartment but in the centre of a nice Bulgarian city. Sitting in cafes, drinking cheap coffee, watching the worn people and the stray dogs. Upstairs from a tattoo parlour. But it cost money you see and I don’t have enough to pay rent. So I came here for free; a cracked and empty tiny house in a cracked and empty village. The shop doesn’t sell vegetables; everyone grows their own. There’s a mosque here and no church. Goats are driven, turkeys forage and tractors rumble past my window. I arrived too late, there’s no garden so I’ve only been able to make rosehip syrup and quince jelly. My bourgeois winter provisions. My house is empty, I sleep on the floor. I made lampshades from twigs and tissue paper to cover the screeching bare lightbulbs. There are holes in the windows and cracks in the walls.

Or maybe it’s the come down from summer. I kayaked almost 3000 kilometres in 7 countries. I fell in love and out again. I was homeless on a boat. I did very stupid things and paid appropriate prices; exile and infamy. How strange that this is who I am; I never thought I would do those things. Great stories for future tall tales but at the time it was shit.

Maybe I can’t find the start. The tail of the knotted ball of story. So I ignore it and look at ecowhore or clickclackgorilla. The glowing lights of other peoples lives further push mine into memory’s darkness.

It’s a fitful storm lamp, my story, red chipped paint and delicate yellow glass. A curled wire lever raises the shade to light it and it throws a small comforting glow just a short little distance. The problem is, it runs on lamp oil you see; and that’s difficult to find in rural Bulgaria.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

the waiting time

when you have nowhere to live

nowhere to be

and nowhere to go.

When you're tired and exhausted and all your muscles ache and all your clothes are dirty.

When you spent 40 hours awake, crewing a yacht around the Black Sea coast from Romania to Bulgaria, saving your kayaks from drowning over and over again, high heavy seas and 3am bailouts.

When really there's nothing to do but wait in your safe place and see what happens next.

When all the world is yours but if you think about it, you have nothing.

When you've never been more in love but only because they are leaving.

When all your chances of fulfilling possibilities for the winter rely solely on help from people you haven't met yet.

When really everything could be terrible but actually you're just living on a yacht in a marina, eating and sleeping and not really thinking about what you'll do when time runs out.

When everything could happen, you just have to wait and see what it will be....and do your best to get there.

Drinking rakia in the sun.
Paddling my kayak out to lay a fishing net behind the boat.
Eggs and toast for beakfast.
Painting and mending and washing in the layabout rest time before decisions need to be made.

No further information.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Novi Sad, Serbia

clean skin and white clothes. Sitting in sunlight, leaf shades crossing face lines. Look up to sky and clouds, the only view from the seat on a 12th floor. Cherries in syrup, eat with a spoon then a glass of water. A welcome to new guests. Follow traditions, meet the family, feel the warmth of a happy home. A buzz of movement, no-one in the same room, trying to keep one conversation. Changes, children, movement of people.

Skin on sheets, heat of an August night. Boats in the park and the walk to a tower block. Shower to cleanse and a bath to relax. Talking for communication, communicating for love. Clean clothes, not mine, tshirt tied for a skirt and sandals on brown legs. Watermelon 20c a kilo, fresh peaches and fallen pears. Scrambled eggs for breakfast, cooked with dried bacon and onion. Strong coffee, served to me in the bath. Water comes up through the drain on the floor, I mop it with the ragged cloth. A child eats solemnly in the kitchen, a conquered breakfast, a newly mastered skill. The morning sun shines on his face.

One day rest in Novi Sad

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Diary III

6.7.11

Sunset and the sky flows pink and delicate. We arrived early, 4.30ish so first a lazy afternoon and then a walk. Crouched under foliage, squatted on boulders, eating cherries straight from the branch.

Today I paddled alone. It was great, I was part of the flow of kayaks on the river, passing, resting, smiling, chatting. The sun shone on the high banks of pine trees, I pulled my feet from the musty pit opf my kayak body and lolled them either side of the boat, hairy legs to the sun, paddling from the front of my arms. Slowly we all talk to each other, slowly we know each other. There is a couple in a green kayak with the most beautiful paddle motion, an almost imperceptible pause in the change from left dip to right, an elegant twist, always perfectly in time.

I saw M coming from a pirateship cafe, we paddled and chatted then after a while I floated and ate peanut butter, finger-smeared on brown bread. M called me to the side and we picked cherries from a treee overhanging the water.

While we waited for the lock, all arriving one by one, hanging around as giant coal barges passed bym, I talked about walking. That's what's great about being here, everyone has a story. When I say I will walk to the UK from the Ukraine next year, the answer is "Yes? Last year I walked 2800km". We are all adventurers. The Bulgarian national rafting team are here. T starts stories with phrases like "When I had a coffee farm in Malawi". Everyone is special.

We all paddled into the lock together, a fleet of tiny boats, ants in the water, paddle legs dipping and rising. It felt brilliant to be part of this. The fat body of my kayak bobbing and rolling with each push of my arms. I know how to do it now, how to use my shoulders, my sides. First 10km is an achy warmup then the next few hours are a forgetting of muscles, only free flowing movement.

Rain came as we left the lock, I paddled circles around Y as we floated down the final 4km. He had saved me chocolate and I had saved him cherries.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Diary II

4.7.11

In a tent by candleight, side of the Danube in the city of Linz. Saucepan of free food filling the tent with smells of fried chicken and bread. My shoulders ache and my legs are damp; it's amazing how long you can be wet for once you stop noticing it. Serbs outside, chatting. I have retired, tired. A 20km stretch this morning to chatch the first lock, weather with low hanging cloud, floating through the tops of the pine trees in the high, steep banks of the river. The water was still and slow and gave no resistance to the paddle. As I dipped through it and glided, I could have been flying, the gurgles of water the swish of my wing beats.

I am in the water but not of it. I am of the water but not in it.

Sitting comfortably on the surface, but unconnected until I trail my hands in the water and feel a spark of life flowing from the river to me. This water will run 2000 km, down to the sea, winding through countries connected by culture.

As I lie here now I feel the rocking within me still; when all is quiet I hear gurgles and splashes. Land sick, they call it.

5.7.11

Already the dark has stolen the details and I have only hazy images to recall. Soft wet rain falling on me, Y and M as we drink Romanian brandy under a tree. M's fat little body bobbling around under the umbrella he stuck down the back of his neck, yellow fishermans trousers covering his stomach. Paddling away so fast as Y chased him to rearrange his flag, shouting No! No! No! and I laughed, the rain streaking my face and only Y's warm wet lips to tell me I am cold.

When rain hits the water and all is still, there is no sound, only gliding water all around. The ever widening circles of droplets coming home.

Songs, sausages and beer at the side of the river, a sweet Austrian singing river songs and playing guitar.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Diary excerpts

2.7.11

Days are running away with me. Each one an intensity of life, brimming with beauty, cold rain or hot sun. There is no time to stop, to write. I am in constant reflection but it never gets collected, outpoured. We speak to oneanother, share our days, our hard times and our beauty.

The river is alive, when I put my hands into it I feel beauty, slick silken water I forgot we were floating in. Like slipping underwater when swimming, twisting downwards from the hips, the water envelopes me. Each paddle blade dip a pleasure, a sensual twist through the water, swirl of bubbles following the curve of the watter pressure. Over and over and over and over again; the paddle dips, the shoulder pushes, the wrist flicks. Each stroke a balanced, measured amount, designed to keep me in motion, no more no less, and so I will make it through the 8 hours of paddling. Sometimes floating but never sprinting.

3.7.11

Tent is shaking with wind, soggy silver sides bowing down in the gale force, touching the squat gas stove upon which I am shortly to prepare soup.

The river days are paddling and sitting, sometimes together but really, as soon as someone is 10 metres away, you are alone. Pladdling and sitting and looking, watching the swallows fly low over the water, the high banks of trees, dead branches floating and small duck families dabbling. Float carefully under fishing lines, bob in the wake of passing ships. Paddle in rain, in wind, in storm and in sun. Carefully ease out a piee of food from behind the seat, not moving too much so as not to topple the boat, a banana, a radish, some seeds, a piece of bread. Eat as we go, on the cheap. Yesterday Y and I went for a walk to look for food, we gathered ears of wheat and handfuls of blackberries to chew as we walked.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

wind blows

dazed days of river and sun. hot air in my face and shoulders working. Feet press gently against either side of my boat as I push with each paddle stroke, arms, shoulders, wrists.

White beaces and green trees, lazy people reclining at the waters edge. There are a lot of nudists in Austria. People use this river in many ways, an orgy of sport. An exuberance of health. Bikes, boats, canoes, fishing, picnics, fires, families.

It's so much. Never have I lived SO MUCH in the moment. By the moment I mean, what happens today, what happens tomorrow and that's it. When I arrive in Romania I will have nowhere to live and nowhere to go....but I will start thinking about that when I arrive in Romania, right now is just the daily paddle.

Wake up, pack tent, bring boat to river, a slow slide into the water, balance myself, get in and paddle. Swish and slide the paddle into the water, each stroke a small push forward until I gain momentum and am gliding. For the day. Sometimes a stop for a swim, sometimes to squat beneath bushes in the company of crackling dead branches and eat thick peanut butter smeared on good black german bread. Sun gets too hot in the afternoon, arrive in camp tired, dazed. crawl into a tent and kiss. Talk, chat, make new connections and tentative friends.

Today is a daze, as soon as I sit in front of a computer my head is spinning, I can't express this, it's too much all at once. Every day is a universe of pleasure. I am tired and I am angry and I am in love and I am trapped and I am happy and I give and give and give and then receive tenfold in return. Massage and songs and kisses and food.

Wild cherries, apricots, nettles, flowers. Squatting on boulders eating cherries from the low hanging tree branches.

Diving into cold water, current pushing insistently at my body.

Drinking schnapps in the rain, learning Russian toasting rituals.

Endless sun and endless river. Coal barges flowing past, dwarfing us, we ride their wake, floating up and over the swells of water.

Paddles dipping and rising as we paddle together into a lock, like small insects, struggling in the water. We are the ants of the river, slow swarming, ignored by the huge iron ships, the cruise boats with golf courses atop them, making it.

Everyone here has the spirit of adventure, an open heart....in whatever degree....we are all good people here. And I am one of them.

Today I am in Bratislave, capital of Slovakia. I have paddled 680 kilometres to get here. Another 1800 or so to go. More or less.

Tour International Danubien 2011 this is where I am....http://www.tour-international-danubien.org

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Tour International Danubien

This is what I#m doing.......

For the next three months I will be kayaking down the river Danube, all the way from Germany to Romania. I lack the space and time to descibe exactly how I feel about this. Gibbering panic would be two. But inner steel would be another two. I won't go on. Blethering is something I've been doing a lot of recently.

So, when you come to my blog and there's nothing new here, it's because I'm out on a river, paddling furiously, or stretched out in a tent exhausted, or trying to reach round and massage my own shoulder blades. I will get occasional rest days but computer access could still be out of reach.

http://www.tour-international-danubien.org/pdf/Schedule_2011.pdf

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Mindfulness of body

That's what I've learnt this week. When you spend 10 hours standing at a bench, poking holes in compost pots and delicately shoving in little strawberry plant spiders the body starts to tense, to tighten. Lift two trays of pots, place on bench, arrange, prick plants left hand, make hole right hand, plant pinch, plant, pinch, plant, pinch. Pick trays up, walk up the polytunnel, bend to floor, put them down, align with others. Strighten up, walk to pallet, lift 2 trays, sometimes from floor, sometimes from 5 foot height. Place trays on bench. Repeat, reapeat, repeat, repeat. And each step of bending and stretching anf lifting and planting must, I've learnt, be accompanied by an awareness of your body. Where are your shoulders? High and tight or low and relaxed? When they are high your lower back will hurt....breathe out, lower shoulder blades, stetch neck, plant. Move hands quickly along the row of pots, right hand, two fingers in compost, left hand plunge plant as fingers come out, both hands press earth. Then next. 8 pots in a tray. 2 trays on a bench. 500 trays on a pallet. 1000 strawberry plants in a box. Twenty boxes delivered each week.

A year ago I learnt mindfulness of place, to look at where you are now and be in it, not only think of where you will be when you move on, escape, do imaginary, as yet uncreated, better things.

Now, here, is mindfulness of body, it's smaller scale, it concentrates me minute by minute, it's helping a lot.

Where are the trays? Are they placed so you lean forward and put your weight on your back or closer to you so your arms are close to your body and your weight is in your hips and legs.
Where are your knees? Are they locked and twisting or relaxed and bending? When you turn to your left for more plants, bend your knee as you lean, don't twist the joint, it makes it ache.
When you stand with your shoulders down and your neck straight, try and tense your core muscles, stomach, womb, pelvic floor; it will help support your back and, in time, will strengthen these muscles.
When you walk from bench to pallet, take deep breaths and relax your body, shoulders down, head up. Don't hunch and stoop. Be strong, feel upright. Work.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Notes..............................................

A man walking the sun dried street with a cheap plastic wall clock, offering to sell it to passersby for 5 euros.

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A drunk man, hair falling in his eyes, lazy town square on a Sunday afternoon, trying to take my picture, giving me 10 cents. Fumbling for a lighter with a hand that has a needle stuck in the back of it.

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The sand is grey at the end of the world, charring winds have dried it to a crust.

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Festooned and forlorn with hanging strips of weed and rag, swinging limply in empty breath. Swags of green anchor down to the sand where they spread out like dead hair. Underwater dreamworlds that swim so freely, dry out and die when washed home on rocky shores.

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Children ran round the fire, through floating sparks that swam down through everlasting air. For luck, for bravery, for the future.

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The thing about travel is to go and be alone until you don't feel alone any more. Until your sense of the world replaces your sense of self.

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You see, the problem, my love, is that actually, there is absolutely no point at all. If you want one, you will have to make it yourself.

Friday, 3 June 2011

From a book

Accustomed as we are to live in a world of partitions and frontiers, modern man's mentality tends to consider as natural the appropriation and occupation of living space which is, however, something artificial, the maximum expression of the civilising process which one day detained the nomads and hunters and connected them with a territory.

To become sedentary and end their lifelong pilgrimage, which them from one place to another in search of the sustenance which nature spontaneously gave them, man was obliged to define and defend his territory, give it identity, differentiate it from the land occupied by neighbouring peoples and to lay down the foundations of a legitimacy which would dominate any conflictive issues. And man did this with such ability, and gave such value to the site of his home, that he eventually inverted his perspective, finally reasoning as if the starting point were the land, and not mankind; as if the earth had the responsibility of transmitting to each social group its identity, way of being and way of life.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

in my heart your image still shines.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Funny story

A few days ago Osama Bin Laden was killed. In my staff break room I saw the report on the front page of the Daily Telegraph....."He died cowering behind his wife", it said. "That's a lie", I said, brooking no argument. We joked about how it was because I knew him so well. The next day, the Telegraph printed the White House retraction....he did NOT die cowering behind his wife, they said.

This is why I said it was a lie.

Once upon a time I was hitchiking, it's not important where or when. A car stopped, an impressive, fast car, driven by a man with a sharp shirt and even sharper eyes. The kind of eyes you see in a nightclub shining with frantic sweat and amphetamine frenzy, old eyes, that have seen years before you and know your type, before you've ever opened your mouth. No question unanswered, never embarassed, always got a comeback. Eyes that miss nothing and tell less. He had a memorable tattoo and the air of a genuine Bad Boy, all grown up. Forties, I'd say, lean legs and a desert tan, the kind where skin is shocked by the sun, doesn't have time to bronze or glow, just goes straight to brown over red, oven baked. An air of total confidence.

We talked, chatted. Telling each other who we were in the way you can when you're hitchiking. Sometimes it's open, things you never share with someone else, sometimes it's showing off, all the best stories come out, impessing each other with equal adventures. We bonded on freedom, me and this man, freedom of lifestyle, of movement and freedom from fear. My fearlessness a tenuous thread compared to his solid streak but it existed, nonetheless, and he saw it. So life stories came out. And jobs and work and things we do. So he was a soldier first, Special Forces, Marines. Then later a bodyguard. High up. Parliamentary. Then to the president of Iraq. As you can expect, this dominated the rest of the conversation.

I was disbelieving at first. He handed me a business card, phone numbers in New York, Kuwait. Shiny silver logo and a company name that was later nowhere to be found on the internet. His company does not exist on the internet. I found one mention of it, on a Special Forces notice board that said that the poster had been offered a job with said company and asking for information. Another poster said they would message him off board. That is all.

We talked about many things, about corruption, about bribery, about the large scale movement of masses of people to make space for oil pipelines, about how I could not possibly realise how truly insignificant the ordinary person is. It's hard to relate now, years later, the things that he told me, there are no specific stories, no memorable facts, it all blew away as I got out of the car, like sand in the wind, leaving me clawing for truth like a jabbering mind lost in conspiracies and delusions, bleared eyes imploring you to believe.

There was one story he told me though, and I can tell you that here.

Saddam Hussein was not discovered cowering in a bunker. He did not have his secret bare hiding place where he lived alone on tins of beans and bitterness, the fallen emperor. He was living in gated luxury, surrounded by bodyguards. One of whom sold him, received a reward of millions of American dollars, gave him to the conquerors. The American army came to his house, they took him, captured him. Exchanged his uniform for ragged cloth, did not allow him to shave. Then they took him to the hole and put him in it. Called the media and discovered him all over again.

Saddam Hussein was not discovered cowering in a bunker. The Americans put him there and took his picture for propaganda purposes. The ex-bodyguard of the President of Iraq told me.

Now I know that one thing is true, he really was who he said he was. How do I know if I couldn't find him on the internet? Well, a year or two later, one year ago from now, a friend sent me a newspaper clipping. The same man had been in court, a memorable crime, concerned with the gathering of money. The ex-bodyguard to the President of Iraq, said the paper. Independent, verifiable. So he was who he said he was. And it makes it all the more likely that his stories are what they say they are. So I retell it. A conspiracy theory all of my very own.

Now you may be wondering whether this actually matters at all. Does it? The wars continue; millions of people, moment by moment, continue to do unspeakably nasty things to each other; we are still, collectively, through our massive greed and apparently incurable blindness, destroying the earth we live on. Who cares about another piece of information propping up the conspiracy riddled internet. But this really did happen to me. And so I'm sharing it. My story is a grain of fine sand, rolling on the bottom of the ocean, pushed by tides, dragged to shore. If you look away from it, you will never see it again. Concentrate, remember it.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

time is never with me oh internet....I am sorry

Thursday, 27 January 2011

forest

I´d forgotten what it was like to sit silent in a forest; something deep rises up inside me, turns over and settles again and I let out long breaths and watch the trees. The eucalyptus branches curve for no reason, they just twist in the air, undulating elegantly, swaying in the breeze. The wind changed today, it has something new in it, like the restlessness of a full moon where small shining clouds sail, glowing in the black sky. Small flecks of snow settle in the dogs coat. He is barking a lot today, he knows that the breeze is but a brittle, scraggling string, held taught against a sail full of booming snow. Me and the trees, we sit and wait for it to break.

Monday, 17 January 2011

more photos






two months of time, running from autumn to winter.

Mixed media







The day I left the village they killed the pigs. We passed Jesus, the husband, scraping anxiously at the old ice under the new snow as we walked through the concreted street to see if we could make it to the road, tractor next to him with an attachment on the back, just a long, thick spike sticking out of the back of it. Throaty, high screams rose out of the cluster of grey houses and floated down to us, the last house on the edge of the hill, the churchtower view falling all the way down to rolling hills and a forever snowy mountain. We waited for the postman. If he came, we had two cars, if he didn´t, everything got bundled into the orange van and we left the car here, squat, bereft of numberplate, an unwanted connection to the place that was spitting us out. We wanted to fly away, free, released but instead we were spiralling out on a thin thread of misery. The pigs screamed and we packed our final bags. The pigs screamed and we waited for the postman.

We drove the car to the edge of the village, in case the snow came again. We passed a wide barn mouth where they were chopping heads in half and pouring boiling water over huge prone bodies.

They were touching death and nothing we had ever done would ever come close to that. Their eyes looked on us and through us at the same time, so charged and so brilliant. The dogs snapped at fleshy neon-red tatters hanging in the grass at the edge of the road. And the water ran red beside us as we walked down the hill. I was carrying the bread machine and she had a bag of wool and the mustard and ketchup from the fridge.

___________________________________________


Sehr geehrte Frau .......,

Sie schreiben mir auf Grund unseres (ich nehme an, Sie meinen den Verein ........ e.V.)
Umgangs mit Ihnen.

Ich darf feststellen, dass wir mit Ihnen keinen Umgang hatten. Ich weiß bis heute nicht wer Sie sind, nur soviel dass Sie ......... heißen und von dem her weiß ich auch nicht, was Sie vom Verein ........ e.V. wollen. Ich weiß desweiteren nicht, was Sie für ein Verhältnis zu Frau ........ haben, jedenfalls wenn ein solches vorhanden, müssen Sie sich mit Ihr auseinandersetzen.


Mit freundlichen GRüßen

.........

Sehr geehrte Frau ........,

eigentlich wollte ich Ihnen nicht mehr antworten. Ihre dreiste Argumentation und Aneinanderreihung von unwahren Sachverhalten bedarf jedoch einer letztmaligen Klarstellung.

Sie schreiben mir nicht als Hospitalera, dafür haben Sie keine Legitimation.
Ich verbitte mir, von mangelndem Respekt Ihnen gegenüber zu sprechen. Sie ernennen sich selbst zur Hospitalra, fordern irgendwelche Dinge ein, die weder mit der Vereinsführung noch mit irgendjemandem sonst vereinbart wurden.

Da am 16.11.2010 Baumaterial im Bereich Padres eingelagert und Vorbereitungen für Renovierungsarbeiten getroffen werden, fordere ich Sie auf, diesen Bereich bis dahin zu räumen.


Mit freundlichen GRüßen

.........
Präsident

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

the car and the caterpillar

this is a story about how, once upon a time, I was walking down a sunny country road, a back road, no cars, no traffic, when I saw a caterpillar squirming onto the road in front of me.

No, it´s not. There are no stories right now. No flights, no words. Just grit and teeth and tiredness. No energy for flights of fantasy, just enough to keep living, day to day, waiting for the end of this particular piece of my life.

lost my mojo....my centre. Never assume, I think this phrase forms part of general received wisom about the state of things. I think I forgot this. Also, blinkers will blind you to the entire world behind you, it´s just waiting to receive your tired mind and body with its open patient arms.
Focusing too much on the bad energy, putting more of yours towards it to try and get your centre back. Ugliness is not yours to keep, whether received or taken in recompense, let it all go and you will build yourself back again, clean, refreshed, slowly.

Or, in literal terms. What a shitty two months. Working for nothing when I thought I would receive money.

"No, we won´t pay you. Because we never were going to pay you. We just didn´t tell you."

And so, to fight on after the final bell is to cling to an assumption, the assumption that I entered this situation as an equal. But it never was that way. Not this time. And there is nothing I can do about that.

No contracts, no legality, just word of mouth and I am invisible like a squashed fly.

So I have to walk away and breathe and look to where I can feel free again. I´m only writing this because I haven´t written anything in two months. And this is the only collected stream of thoughts that I have. All my writings go into letters, I don´t keep things with me. I send out fragments of a picture of me; a jigsaw, never to be completed. Each friend has a different piece.

It´s not that things are different now, it is only that I have forgotten that they are the same. I am still strong, I am still free, the mountains and the sea are all here, ready for me. So I walk away, and I breathe, and I remember to think about Now, again.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

the space inbetween things

this is how I feel when I am tranquil in the city, taking other spider threads of whirling lives and spinning story webs around me.

It´s one thing to be white and rich, dreadlocks and bars, laughter and living, gritty urban beauty; it´s another altogether to hawk roses to strangers in kebab houses at midnight. Where do you consume your culture, you sad middle aged man, scratching a desperate living, thousands of miles away from your birthplace? What happens if noone buys a flower? Do you have food? A safe bed? A pension? A woman? A future?

A city is built on layers and layers of humans, there is much a tourist does not, cannot see. When I want a beer at 3am, an anonymous human will provide one, so I can return to a scratchy, sketchy hangout for lonely people, walking though a city that noone can take hold of.

There will be no more walking, for a while. No more uncertainty, no more hard physical effort. I have the prizes, a better body, a better head, memories of owls and moonlight and grapes and water and the silent sounds that fill the spaces where humans aren´t. Now I must return to living. I have a place to stay, I have a future, I know what will happe to me allllllllll the way to next April. An expanse of the same bed, of the same view, of a kitchen shared with a friend and of time. Time and time and time is what my winter gives me. Nothing to do except fill empty pages. I am ready for this. I will create a chrysalis of rustling paper, page by page and emerge, next year, skin shed, new.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

deep thoughts

There will come a day, one day when I will tell you my stories. I will tell you the story of Dulcelina and our tears in the town square, of eating tomatoes gone to seed, of facing wild pigs in the night, of crying in churches, accidentally attending a funeral, drinking wine with peasants, all the animals I hear in the night.

But what I´m not sure I can tell you is how it feels to realise that you are alone, deep in the forest. Suddenly I looked again at the huge trees that were slowly burying this ancient church and I thought....I don´t have a map, I don´t have a compass, I am following chipped and faded stripes of colour painted onto stones and trees and if they don´t appear then I don´t know where to go. There are no humans, no villages, no shops and no phone signal for miles. And I am not afraid.

Should I be afraid? Maybe I just Think I should be because I know that many people, many women would not be able to be here alone. But I feel fine. There is no particular pleasure in this self-imposed isolation, I´m just doing it. I know that if night comes, I am carrying shelter. I know that when hunger comes, I have food. I know that when problems arise, I have the wits and the strength to deal with them. I have scared off wild pigs in the night, I have nearly drowned, I have climbed steep slopes of granite boulders, slowly boosting the rucksack up a step then clambering up myself. I am alone and I solve my own problems. I have walked and walked and walked - 200 km and counting. I have done this alone.

I am starting to believe that what people tell me is the truth, I am brave. I can do this.

I used to be waiting for the worst to happen so that I could test myself, see if I was strong enough.
When I was young, too young, I used to know that my mum and dad were fighting downstairs. I can´t remember hearing the blows but I remember being there, all of us gathered together in one room and thinking that if he kills her he will turn to us and kill us next. And I must be the one that stops him because the others are younger than me.
Could a child face down an angry man? Probably not, no. But into my psychology came the fact that I had to try. It left, I think, a sense of a challenge to be faced, a monster to fight and my strength unproved. It´s not about the fight itself but the thought of whether I could stand up and face it. Could I be strong when the time came?

But he never did kill her and I never had to face him that way....and I grew up and discovered, after many years, that he wasn´t a monster after all, just another man with no emotional intelligence, too weak to express himself except in anger.

Well I think I know now that I can face tests, I have. I don´t have to wait for the worst to happen because I know that if it does, I can cope. I am calm in a crisis. I am strong. I am brave. These are good feelings. It´s good to know myself this way.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The River Miño

On being content

On being lonely

On being alone.

Oh yes, that´s what I came here to do. I forgot for a minute. I think i should provide a clear paragraph about what I´m doing. No fluttering, absracts

I´m following a river from the sea to the spring...all 300 km of it. It´s not a tough task, Spain in the autumn is still hotter than a British summer....in two months I´ve only experienced 3 days of rain, lucky me.
I could do this a lot more quickly than I am, I think it´s because it´s so amazing that I don´t want it to end. Walking every day and then sleeping outside, wherever you find a nice place. I´ve been keeping a note of where I wake up every morning, always different. Abandoned houses, forests, benches, churches, on grass, on rocks, tops of hills, by the river, in vineyards.
I´ve also stopped, a lot. 3 nights in a handbuilt forest shack with a curly haired cynic, 2 nights in hot springs with punks and their children. Now I´m here, in a city. 2 nights with a nice guy in his house of gadgets. I´d forgotten what it was like to live with money, in civilisation. We went out for a meal yesterday, I´m meeting him and his friends for another meal in an hour - the two together will cost the same amount as I´m trying to spend...per week....on Everything. But to most people it´s a flutter of cash, a flash in the wallet, here today, gone tomorrow. There´s always more coming. And look what I´ve discovered my Iphone can do.
Not for me, any more. But it´s interesting to visit. Somehow I don´t have the anger to tell them why they´re wrong. I don´t want to contradict people, tell them why they´re killing the earth, why they´re killing society. It´s their path, not mine. And my path does not include anger and protest, for now anyway.

But the river. Oh the river. So cool and cold. To slip into running water when you´re hot and sweaty and tired is, I´ve found, the best thing Ever for inner peace. The water calms me, it cools me. I don´t even swim. I just submerge myself, walk in until I´m standing up to my neck and then stay there, still as the current pushes past me, wavering frills of water flicking up and down me. I watch fish jump for flies. I feel little dots on my skin as their smaller relatives come and investigate my body, to see if it makes good eating. I stretch my feet, slipping over rocks and pushing into sand. I just stay there until I am chilled, inside and out. Then I go and eat and sleep.

I want to do this for longer than a month. I want to walk everywhere. I want to go to Eastern Europe and walk back. I want to Kayak to Romania from Germany, all the way down the Danube and then walk back. I think it would take me a year. First I need to learn how to kayak.

But for now, today, here, this month, I am walking this river. And it is fucking brilliant.

Monday, 13 September 2010

spinning wool from ether

it´s only my way of marking the day, to put a date in a list where before there was nothing. Time passes so slowly that by the time I notice the internet again, entire months have gone past.

And, have you noticed that the interent never changes? Every time I return to The Internet, it is always exactly the same....this blog only talks about sex....that blog only talks about plants....the next one only talks about babies. There is no news. Fashion is still debating over the shoulder bag or the satchel. Nothing has changed, or maybe it´s only I that have changed.

I have discovered life outside. I have found that I can survive outdoors for weeks at a time. I have almost stopped reading. I have almost stopped writing. I have very little contact with the internet. I have discovered that we don´t need to wash every day. That clothes smell good after 3 weeks without water. That it´s ok to have animals crawling on you in the night. Little tickles of ants will not kill me. That when my muscles hurt I can rest and carry on later. I am not dying from over exertion. I am not living in fear. I am not in constant search of comfort. I am tranquil. Sitting on earth is comfortable.

Somehow I am doing both nothing and everything at the same time. But I suppose all that really happened was that I walked into an empty bar in an empty village in the hot heat of a Spanish afternoon and ordered a coffee from the grandmotherly owner. She thought I was Spanish at first then was amazed when she realised her mistake, even more so when I told her my story of walking a river and sleeping outside. Aren´t you scared? she said. Of what? I replied. It´s not that I have never heard other answers to my question, I just want her to say them out loud. Maybe we should talk about what we are scared of and make it go away. She realised that she hadn´t given me the glass of water I asked for and, when I said it didn´t matter, was, I think, overcome with a rush of feeling for me, this gentle stranger, and gave me a packet of biscuits and some chocolate, telling me, If you ever return, pass by here.

Nothing is happening to me but I am experiencing everything. I have light shining out of me. I am slowly learning to live outside of my head as well as inside. That probably sounds more mental than it actually is. One day, when we meet in real life, we will talk more about it.

Monday, 16 August 2010

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Stretching out, icecream luxurious.
Dappled sun circles have streamed out towards me for thousands of miles just to break into my beleafed cocoon.
Inquisitive wings flutter when alarmed.
I explore my skin for overnight intruders. And lie, becalmed, allowing existence to wash over me. Awaken.

Friday, 13 August 2010

these are the things of now.

Dear mosquitoes,

Please stop eating my face. Thank you.

In beaches and woods there are no clocks so really my day could be three hours long. Breakfast, beach, evening meal, bed. Is this really all there is to life? It seems so.

Writing things down, trying to separate something from the flow and immortalise it doesn´t seem to have meaning for me at the moment. Just trust that I am having a good time. The best in fact.

I have changed colour. I have changed shape. I have changed my clothes. But I think you would recognise me from the light shining out of my face (even the bits with mosquito lumps). I am myself and I have transended myself.

I told myself I would write for 5 minutes. That 5 minutes is over now.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Update

When you find youself, after 3 weeks of solid festivals, squatting an abandoned castle with professional vendors of psychadelic chemicals; you can be assured that the direction your life is taking is both satisfactory and enjoyable....although neccessarily temporary in nature...for the sake of your precious braincells.