Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Closest Things To Angels

The summer of 2007 was to be the last that my father would ever see. Advanced cancer was devouring him, and his time with us was limited. His legs were stick like; odd for a man of 6ft2, whilst oxygen cylinders and various medications were now familiar additions to the modern bungalow he and my Mother had moved to a few years before. He knew he was dying, and prior to the implementation of palliative care his moods were often tearful and forlorn. Whilst he never verbalized it, I sensed a deep and very understandable fear at what awaited. He did as many do under these circumstances; he found Jesus, and I'd often note the presence of a Bible near to him when I visited. In every sense we were traversing an opposite path. My faith was dead in the water, although I had not formally renounced it or ceased attending church. Just as he was seeking affirmation in his new found walk I was maintaining a diplomatic silence, allowing him to live out his final days on his own terms. I cannot recall what prompted this, but the Macmillan nurses who were coming to the house must have sensed that it was time to consider admission to a Hospice. I confess that I had noted no obvious deterioration; perhaps these wonderful women simply had a sense of how things were progressing. The Florence Nightingale Hospice was a calm, quiet, and comfortable place. Dad was in an open ward with other patients, each appearing to draw comfort from the other. The care he received whilst there was just wonderful; those staff are the closest things to angels that we could have hoped for. They were non intrusive yet always available. They respected my father and treated him with dignity, never blind to his personhood. As he faded they were there for him and for us. It made a dark time bearable. The final days were of course stark; I particularly remember how his breathing changed; fluid filled lungs issuing a bubbling rasp that I can recall to this day. It is not painful, however; at least not for the patient. I wonder whether this was what the term "Death rattle" meant? 
Dad's communication became less and less, his periods of consciousness  infrequent. When he did stir he was incoherent; I remember more than one occasion when he tried to get out of bed. The nurses would come, the morphine administered, the consciousness curtailed. In his final days he was moved to a side room that looked out into the peaceful walled gardens. The family would sit around and talk with each other, the hours stretching away and seeming elongated. At one point we all gathered around his bedside, and one of us, me, spoke to him. It had been suggested that sometimes the dying, at the subconscious level, need permission to let go. It was I that voiced this; although I cannot recall the words I used. I would wander in and out of the room, moving from shady interior into bright bank holiday sunlight. On returning to his bedside sometime during the early afternoon I noticed that his chest was hardly moving. It would rise and fall once every couple of minutes. I called everybody in and summoned the nurse, who confirmed that the time was near. It did not take long after that. We watched his chest rising and falling, rising and falling, rising and then falling in a final physical requiem before he ceased. The nurse tended to him, so gently and with such care, before turning and simply saying, "He's gone"
My father was dead. It had been peaceful and dignified. And he died surrounded by those that loved him. It remains one of the most profound moments of my life, an will remain with me always.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

When Mockery Works

Generally, when I'm in discussion with a believer I am civil, attentive, and open to new information. That said, when confronted by a Biblical Creationist, I allow myself to lapse into what can best be described as good natured mockery.
What else am I to do when told that the reason why the T-Rex had sharp teeth was to allow it to break coconuts? Or when taught that some dinosaurs laid eggs in straight lines whilst on the run, and in order to flee from Noah's flood? Or that Adam and Eve were real people, and that there really was a talking snake, and a garden, and a special tree that Eve really shouldn't have been caught scrumping from? Am I really meant to smile and nod when, in all earnestness, I hear that every single species we see today is a descendent of creatures that took a long ride on Noah's boat? Or that the Grand Canyon was formed rapidly due to the flood waters that had engulfed the Earth?
I'm sorry. I can't do it. I can't listen to it with a straight face. Furthermore, I think it's important that we don't. There are times when mockery should be deployed, and when it's ok to laugh out loud, point the finger, and pull a funny face in the direction of those seeking to convince you that any of the above could be true. 
The real problem is that you are dealing with a person so utterly indoctrinated, so wholly (Holy?) immersed in the comic book more commonly referred to as the Bible, and so beyond reason and persuasion, that whatever you say, whatever evidence you proffer will be, has to be, tossed into the intellectual mincer of Biblical literalism. Scarily, these people are abundant, and worse, they want to feed this inanity to children. I know that I've banged this drum before, but it matters. Science is the best tool we have for figuring out both how the world is and how to improve it. Religion in any guise is unfit for this task, but Creationists are particularly nefarious.  So when I mock these people, when I laugh and expose them for what they are I undergird this with the knowledge that I'm doing the world a favor. These loons need to scurry back to the caves from whence they came, preferably taking their silly books and ideas with them. We should then roll a large stone across the entrance and perhaps get a couple of guards to ensure they cannot escape. They can then continue to impersonate the Mad Hatter for as long as they so desire, leaving the rest of us, those of us who actually care about what's true to start solving some of the problems that cripple our wonderful world.
Rant ended. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Fine Tuned?

Francis Collins was the head of the Human Genome Project, which successfully mapped the human genome under budget and ahead of time. Barack Obama later made him head of the National Institute of Health, with a budget of billions and the responsibility of ensuring that wise choices are made concerning US healthcare. A brilliant, charming man, a devout Christian whom is a staunch advocate of teaching evolution rather than pandering to Creationist idiocy. I like him.
This got me thinking about a number of issues however, not least his belief that the universe is fine tuned for life, and also that evolution is completely compatible with the teachings of the Bible. There is a school of thought amongst believers that the cosmos is fine tuned; I.E if the cosmological constants were just a bit different the Universe would either collapse in on itself, or go on expanding at a rate rendering life impossible. It does neither of these things, and we're proof of this because we're here talking about it. Thing is, has it escaped his notice that the vast majority of the observable cosmos is actually hostile to life? If you doubt this try taking a breath on Mars, or a skinny dip on Mercury. What I mean to say, is that when compared with the vast scale of the cosmos life would appear to be rare, so I'm not persuaded by the fine tuning argument one bit. To be sure, our existence is improbable. Actually it's insanely improbable. That doesn't mean we have to accept that it was created by a God that chose to reveal itself to a bunch of bronze age nomads during a time when we barely knew enough to understand that we should wash our hands after taking a poo.
And then we have evolution. You have to study it to fully appreciate what a brutal, merciless, indifferent process it is. Cruelty rules supreme throughout the animal kingdom, with only the higher order primates appearing capable of occasionally bucking this trend. Why, I wonder, would any God choose the one method of creation which from every angle makes him appear surplus to requirements? And why would he offer a completely different, wholly ludicrous alternate story in Genesis? Why would he appear so utterly indifferent to the pain and the suffering of every living creature caught up in this fearful struggle? Perhaps one day, should God exist, an explanation will be forthcoming. One is not automatically obvious to me.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Return To Thornton Weir

Twenty five years ago me and my pals would cycle several miles from Winslow through the sleepy Buckinghamshire countryside to a place called Thornton Weir. We'd swim in the river, jump off the banks, spend hours just being young and stupid. Must have been the summer of 86; Madonna was at the height of her fame, whilst Maradona was cheating England out of the world cup. Me? I hadn't a care in the world. I was 15 and a good natured idiot, with all my life before me.
I'd never been back to Thornton Weir. Not until today.
It was the strangest feeling. The place hadn't changed so much. It was still possible to swim in the river, although there were more stinging nettles along the banks now. I was alone, having driven back from Olney having taken my best and maddest mate out to lunch. I walked across the large field that leads to the actual weir and found myself able, albeit briefly, to recall something of what I was. I recalled the music I listened to, and remembered the girl I used to have a crush on but was never fortunate enough to kiss. If you're reading this Emma, I had the hots for you for years. 
And now we're a quarter of a century on. The world's changed. I've changed. The boys I went with are now men with careers, each having walked their own road. Some have faced terrible grief, some have had it good and been successful, whatever that actually means. I wonder if they ever look back, as I sometimes do? I wonder what they see? How do they remember those years. What was important to us then? Would we do anything different? Is it even useful to reflect on such things? The world keeps turning and there are further adventures ahead. Yet those days, those sunny summer afternoons and bike rides home as the sunset flared orange and red . Those moments are iridescent to me.

Monday, 27 June 2011


I don't care what you do in the bedroom. I really don't. Just so long as it's consensual and doesn't involve animals, children, or dead people.
The still leaves plenty of scope doesn't it? Far as I can tell the only limits are those you impose on each other, or yourself if you're going solo. I think we're in a society now that's covertly relaxing into a more realistic view of human sexual choices, which kind of flies in the face of how the tabloids report sexual scandal or indiscretion. There's a kind of double standard at play, I think? You can be sure that when the paparazzi get home they're as partial to a bit of bondage or a spot of dressing up as the average Tory MP. And why shouldn't they? What's not to like about spending a couple of hours tied to a bed? Or a a bit of role play? Or whatever it is that hits the sweet spot. 
Should I have said G spot, or would that be too obvious? Frankly, I'm beyond caring what you think of me or my sexuality, or any of my views for that matter. To be comfortable in your own skin is the most important destination that you're ever going to reach, and for some people it takes longer to arrive than others. I managed it about four years ago, and all I had to do was stop living my life as an apology or allow myself to be dominated by the expectations of others. Not that I ever say no to a bit of domination, but I digress. OK, so I'm not exactly taking this post very seriously am I? Point is, I wonder how many hours we waste worrying about how we're perceived? Why do we do that to ourselves? We'd all do well to let ourselves off the hook. So you crack on, you bunch of lovely deviants. Set about the challenge of being inappropriate and outlandish, kinky and creative. Above all, just have a bit of a giggle. Goodness knows there's no shortage of pain and suffering in the world; don't hesitate to have fun when you can. 
Be safe. Be sordid. Be real.

Get Real

Tomorrow, many hundreds of thousands will awaken and would like nothing more than to go to work. They want to support their children, their partners, themselves. For a variety of reasons they will be amongst those unfortunate enough to be unemployed. If anybody has had a taste of this you'll know how demoralizing it can be. Work is a part of who we are, and a huge part of our lives. To be unable to get a job is a hammer blow to our pride.  Note, I'm not referring to the Jeremy Kyle brigade who prefer to live like parasites, but rather I'm focused on the numerous hard working and genuine souls who just want an honest days work for an honest day's pay.
What then, are we to make of those whom have a job, yet still find time to bemoan the hand they've been dealt? How do we respond to say, teachers, many of whom will be taking general strike action this week further to a dispute over pensions? I'm sorry, but I think you're time might be better spent just knuckling down and helping the nation through the worst economic crisis in decades. I'm not saying that your pension doesn't matter, but are you expecting to be exempt from the radical changes required to keep this country viable? Sometimes I really wonder whether this is willful ignorance, or just plain denial of how bad things are? And whilst the role played by the banks was pivotal, let's not forget that our addiction to credit was also a factor. We're not exactly whiter than white. The world is changing, the old order creaking under the pressure of it's own bloated excess. And all this whilst China and India show us a clean pair of heels. The result? Debt. Stagnation. It's a perfect storm and it rages around us. So with this in mind surely only a baboon would advocate strike action which will further increase the strain upon our critically endangered economy?  You and I probably will have to work for longer and contribute more in order to ensure a decent retirement. Get a grip and start to show a bit of backbone. Get on with it and quit complaining at what a rough hand you've been dealt. 
You have a job. You have options. Many do not.

When The Drugs Don't Work

I've lost count the number of times i've spoken with the desperate parents of teenagers sucked into the dark vortex of drug addiction. The definitive example  informing my opinions however comes from closer to home. I watched a teenage nephew reduced from being a strong and capable lad into a thieving, deceptive criminal, a path stretching over several years,  one from which he may never recover. It started tamely enough; a bit of weed, some whacky baccy. The term gateway drug is over used, but it appears that from the odd spliff he progressed into the insidious world of class A drugs. The journey is grimly familiar to many; the addiction growing, the inability to keep a job, the wasting away, the paranoia. And then there's the deception, the borrowing of money never repaid, the accumulation of credit card debt, the selling off of personal items to fund the next wrap. And then the bailiffs start calling, followed by phone calls made to his mother containing veiled threats from faceless dealers, followed by strangers on the doorstep. And then police enter the fray, not that they can do much.  A criminal record accumulates for mostly petty crimes.  In a sad yet strangely amusing episode, he and his Gran were watching Police,Camera,Action, when who should appear on the television? A moment of tragic comedy, caught red handed with heroine in front of the viewing public, and his family. There were times of repentance, vows to turn everything around. My late father once bailed him out to the tune of thousands, believing that everyone deserved a second chance. Were he alive today, he would have been saddened by what came beyond. Relapse, a fresh spiral, the lies and the deceit plumbing fresh depths of ugliness. My sister reached the point where she literally had to disown her own son, but only after years of anguish that robbed her of a decade. It reached the point, as it so often does, when he would steal from family without batting an eyelid. I often feared that he would target my mum, which would not have ended well for him as I doubt I would have shown much restraint. He is approaching his thirties now, and last I heard he had a job and  was on an upward curve. Good luck to him,  I say. I wish him well. Perhaps I'm too cynical, but only time will appease my doubts as to the genuineness of his rehab. It isn't just the drugs that you have to leave behind; it's the filth that peddle it. They don't want to let you go. They'll offer freebies to the vulnerable, and before you know it, you're down the rabbit hole once again.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Shadow Of A Lesser Man

How do you feel when you look at old pictures? When the ghosts of the past stare outward and residual memories flare? Frozen time capsules of what was, and what can never be again. As I write this my heart feels heavy, each image I view a silent reminder of what was going on in my head.  When I see pictures of Lowenna the overpowering feeling I come away with is one of guilt. I was nowhere near as hands on with her as I was with Holly. In fact I often gravitated towards Holly as it was the easier option than having to go through the baby stage again. A part of me hadn't been ready for a second child and I was subject to a residual resentment. This shameful behavior was to shadow me for the best part of her first year, and to this day I carry a deserved guilt. I was an absent father. Not in the physical sense, but in the emotional one. I sometimes wonder if this may damage my relationship with her in later years; isn't it said that the basic personality is formed by the age of two? Where was I for the first twelve months? I was wallowing in my own selfishness. It was me at my most loathsome. Please believe me when I say I've done much to put that right as she has grown and we now adore each other. But that first year will always haunt me. I will always be ashamed because I failed my gorgeous girl.
The other images that make me ache are those of my father. He was developing a lethal malignancy, an undiagnosed and difficult to detect form of lung cancer which would, in the summer of 2007 claim his life. My father was from the building trade. Strong and yet wiry, sturdy without being overweight. What that disease did to him was truly horrible, yet it could have been so much less traumatic if he'd been diagnosed earlier. For months he was going to his doctor, and on one occasion she had looked him in the eye and told him he did not have cancer. It wasn't until he was practically wheelchair bound that he was given an MRI. Within 45 minutes a consultant told him he had cancer. It had taken months of severe physical pain, multiple ambulance call outs, numerous X rays and GP visits. One day I'll write more about this. Tonight it's too hard.
All those images in an album. How powerful and evocative. They've stirred up a hornets nest of emotion within me. Not exactly conducive to a good nights sleep.

The Real Matrix

My life is like the Matrix. From time to time, via a headset, and for several hours at a time I plug myself into a world that is often alien to me. Where else, in the space of minutes does one deal with a fatal motorway incident, or a runaway pensioner with Alzheimer's, or a report of a puppy's head by the roadside? Welcome to my world. It will be familiar to some of you who read this; you do the same. It lurches from the surreal to the barbaric, from the inspirational to the obscene. I don't think it's the kind of job that can leave you unchanged? The hours add to the weirdness, shifts of varying length, coming and going at different times of the day and night. Funny how the absurd can become the norm. If you can manage the job itself it still leaves the challenge of how to plan out the rest of your life. Not easy for anybody whether single or in a relationship. The transition was massive for Joy, who was content with the relative normality of life before. I turned everything upside down and she's done well to adapt. Shift work gives and takes, and mastering it is a black art. On the good days there's the long country walks, the pub lunches, the hours of fun and games at home without fear of the children interrupting. I know for a fact that many of our friends envy that. There's also the bonus that I get to do school run's, to have at least a partial involvement in all areas of my girls lives. Many men miss out on this. The downside is that I work 8 weekends out of every 12, and that if I get a run of late shifts I basically kiss everybody goodbye in the morning and don't see them until the next day. That can dampen the enthusiasm to be sure.
I wonder how I will look back on this time in years to come? The people with whom I work are truly cool, most of them sincerely wanting to make people's bad days better. We probably all accept that there's only so much we can achieve, but each of us who steps up surely has memories of phenomenal encounters. We see the best and the worst, we laugh and we bemoan. Our chosen field affords a glimpse of life at it's most zany and oblique. There really and truly is no such thing as normal. Whatever the future brings I'm glad I chose this road. I've grown and I've learned. I've been inspired and enraged. Above all, I've had my horizons enlarged, and that's not a bad way to kill a working day.

Friday, 24 June 2011

The Man With No Ears

Today I had the misfortune of being ranted at by the kind of person that I hope I never become. Before I'd even said a word he'd made up his mind about everything we would discuss. I found this rather sad; he was an elderly man and I got to wondering just how you end up this way? Of course there's no mystery. He was just one of those that never learned to listen, that never quite managed to rise above his pre-conceived ideas. The loudest voice audible to him was the clanging drone of his own opinions, formed within the vacuum of his own unchallenged ideas. It really was grim stuff. I suppose if these type of people are of any utility it's as living warnings of what happens when a person cannot see beyond themselves.  We've got two ears and one mouth and I kind of think we should use them proportionately. Surely being open to new information is a strength and not a weakness? Surely there's no greater pleasure than learning something new, something true? We can probably all think of others similar to this old fool; loud, mouthy, brash and aloof. They grate on us, drying us out creatively. Well no thank you. I'm wired about the stuff that I don't know, and anybody who spends time around me knows that I love to hear alternate views. If we can take anything from men like the one I spoke with today, it would be that nobody ever grows if they're not prepared to engage with the world as it is, rather than how they've decided it to be.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

When The Lights Go Out

When the lights go out on free speech to whom will you turn? When sharing an honest opinion becomes a risk too great to take whom will you blame? When western society is choked under the weight of its own political correctness and lack of backbone what are we to say to ourselves?
Well, the one thing I won't allow you to say is that you never saw it coming.
How many red flags do we ignore before we awaken to the fact that our culture and values are being eroded by an ideology that openly admits to wanting to reshape society? I am of course referring to Islam. Or to be precise, to those intent on its propagation and infiltration into all areas of our lives. For those with short memories may I remind you of the world as it was a few hundred years ago? Remember when the Church was all powerful? When those whom dared to dissent were tortured and executed; when the average person had no choice as to what to believe? Thankfully, the enlightenment tamed Christianity, and today it is no more than a fringe cult with no real power to wield. Fast forward and we have Islam, and we must understand that it is a powerful and emergent force. Granted, it has proliferated largely by immigration, but if birth rates continue, and assuming that youths adopt the religion of their parents we can expect the voice of Islam, and the demands of Islam to exceed our ability to tame.  Also, the most vociferous of its adherents are often the most fanatical, drowning out the many sincere and kindly moderates. So what's it to be, people? Are you going to be docile and indolent as the demands Islam makes for special privilege increase? Are you OK with Sharia? Content to see women gradually lose status and respect? And how about the progress of science? How do you expect that to fare under a theocracy? If history is a good barometer we should brace ourselves.
We have freedom of expression in the United Kingdom. We can exchange divergent views with passion and tenacity? But don't think that this freedom wasn't hard won, or that it cannot be eroded by those pretending to know the will of God.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

World Of Woo

Welcome to the world of Woo. A place where reality plays second fiddle to all manner of whacky ideas. No claim too outrageous, no belief too absurd. All you need do is leave space in your head for the stuff that you want to believe.
Ghosts? Well come on in. No need for proof. And maybe if you strain just that bit more those chains of doubt will give way? Before you know it you'll be watching Uri on YouTube and putting Most Haunted on series record?
Crystals? Don't be shy. Who's to say that the shop on the market can't sell you a piece of colored rock that can regrow your hair, enlarge your breasts, and help you trap the man of your dreams?
Gods? Oh yeah, baby! We've so many to choose from. And happily, whichever one you settle on will just so happen to be the right one. Better still, once subscribed you'll be immune to counter argument. After all, what about all those lovely people at the Church, or the Mosque, or the Coven? Surely they can't all be wrong? 
Roll up, roll up, the Woo never ends! Inside every brain there's a fool to be had, a sucker to be punched, a sheep to be . . . . .
Err, I don't mean to urinate on your proverbial bonfire, but I'm kind of wondering how you know what you know? Not to be a spoilsport, but has anybody ever mentioned that no evidence for any of the above has ever been found. I mean none. Not a sausage. Not ever.
I've upset you again, haven't I? I suppose I could just leave you to it? Thing is, reality is a really cool thing. If more people tried it the world would be a far richer place. There's a ton of unsolved mysteries, real wonders being worked on by our brightest and our best. We know so much about what our brains can do and how they form ideas, and increasingly even understanding how they are deceived into believing nonsense that even the Mormons blush at. 
At the end of the day we live in an amazing world, part of an amazing Milky Way, itself part of an obscenely vast Universe. Wouldn't you rather live honestly? Without having to leave some of your brain in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory? So quit worrying about things that go bump in the night, or whether that particular powdered crystal will increase the length of your nob. Come take a dip in the oceans of reality. The waters cool, but it's refreshing.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Late, Great, Planet Earth

If the data is correct, human activity is having an increasingly destructive impact on the planet. Just how destructive are we talking about?
40% of the worlds amphibians endangered, coral reefs succumbing to ocean acidification, extensive deforestation decimating sensitive environments where some of the worlds most remarkable creatures once thrived. Now the temptation here is to divorce yourself from this process, but to do so would be both dishonest and factually incorrect. Consider; the lives you and I take for granted are directly proportionate to the resources on which we depend. Everything we do has an impact, and denying this is probably the most lethal choice you and I can make. How bad is it? Only time will tell, but the science now stacking up paints a grim picture. It all probably seems so far removed from your day to day existence. It isn't. It is real and present. And it's no good just expecting big business and governments to resolve the issue. Don't forget, it is our demand for more that drives these engines of ecological death. So what to do? Well first we admit to ourselves that we're not distinct from the problem but rather the cause of it. As with all attempts at change, it starts with an honest and sometimes uncomfortable assessment of ourselves. That 50" plasma? Do you really need that? And that 4x4 you just poodle around in? Excessive perhaps? I bet if we all look soberly at ourselves we'd soon see that there's a lot we could be doing that we're currently not. It's your planet, so I guess that makes it your choice. You and I both know that in isolation our best efforts are incapable of making a difference, but what if we all commit to doing a little? Better still, what if we can teach our kids about responsible living? Now that's indoctrination I'd happily sign up for as it causes no obvious harm and has the potential for untold good. I want my children, and their descendants to be able to enjoy the wonders all around us. I want them to have lives at least as good as my own and hopefully even better. Will you help me in this? Will you do what you can to protect this wonderful pale blue dot? Or will the future be a lament about the late, great, planet Earth?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Coming out

The difference between what people think they know compared to what they actually know about you is usually so wide that it isn't worth losing any sleep over. Funny then, how we can be so swayed by what people think and say. I bet you remember many more of the negative comments others made about you rather than the compliments that came your way? Why is that? Why are we so often subconscious slaves to the whims and opinions of others?
As things go, I'm much more comfortable in my own skin than I've ever been, yet the journey to get there was tortuous. For many years I was way too concerned with how I was perceived. I wanted to be seen as a good person, an upright person, an example of a decent guy. Now whilst there is something noble about this it often proves a double edge sword. I ended up drowning myself amidst the expectations of others, trying too hard, which resulted in me being a kind of  cardboard cut out. On the outside it all ran smooth, yet i was the proverbial whitewashed tomb. Clean exterior, big mess of contradictions within. I reached a point where something had to give, and from that I've evolved into the man I am today. It's absurd, erratic, and often plotless, but at least it's honest. More than that, I'm comfortable enough with who I am not to preoccupy myself with the opinions of others.
Perhaps you recognize something of yourself when you read this? Are you being authentic or are you still a slave to the unspoken expectations of others? What are you still in the closet about? Who exactly are you? Is it really you in there? Or are you just a performer conforming with society's narrative?
I don't presume to know you. This entire post may be missing the target as far as you're concerned. If yes then move along. But, if there's somebody reading this, somebody who wants to be a different kind of person than the one they are today, then perhaps this is the key to the ignition? 
You don't have to live your life as an apology. You're not totally subject to forces beyond your control. Awaken. Open your eyes. Be real and true to yourself. See how far that get's you.

Friday, 17 June 2011

China In The Bull Shop

The older I get, the more I realize what I don't know. I was hoping that this would be the other way around. I've also become increasingly aware of my faults and weaknesses. Again, why has it taken so long?
In my life I've been wrong about a lot of things. I've been clumsy and thoughtless and rash. My words have often caused upset, whilst my actions have been a source of disappointment to many. Rest assured, whatever faults you see in me I probably see them too. I have to live with them. In recent years I've made comments that have caused pain and anger amongst those who once considered me an ally. If you are one of those people, know that I am truly sorry. It was never my intent to set out to cause unease, but I know that this has often been the outcome. Whether I'm right or wrong about things who knows? Perhaps my worldview will change again should that be where the evidence leads? The purpose of this post is to remind everybody of something you're probably already wise to. Namely the fact that I'm a work in progress. Aren't we all? Is there really anybody reading this who thinks they've got it all worked out? I suppose the difference with me is that I go public with my clumsiness, which leads to episodes that range from the sublime to the absurd. I laugh at life, yet weep too. I feel joy and hope, yet often anguish and fear. I grapple with a head full of dirty washing, questions and quandary's all vying for attention. As my blog illustrates they emerge in no particular order and often on the spur of the moment. Very much like my Facebook page I regard this as an experiment. If it works as intended, on a good day, with the wind in the right direction I might get you to think about things that you don't often think about. That's not to imply that I'm some font of knowledge. Heaven forbid. Think of me as a random question generator, a virtual pool of ideas and curio. Some of it should make sense, whilst large swathes may leave you bamboozled. I'm not catering to a particular audience,  nor aiming to appease or alienate. Think of this blog, and if it helps think of me as a whirlpool of randomness amidst a world that doesn't make a whole lot of sense anyway. If you view it from that perspective perhaps it's not so strange after all?

My Leading Lady

There's a line in Jack Nicholson's "As Good As It Get's", when he says to his leading lady, "You make me want to be a better man."
That's how I feel when I spend time with Joy; when I talk with her, when we do things together. Over the last four years she has shown remarkable forbearance as I've turned what was a routine lifestyle upside down. I quit my old job to take another which entailed shift work. Talk about turning life on it's head. Goodbye regular weekends and measurable patterns, hello to trying to adapt to a massive overhaul in our way of life. Add to that me leaving my faith, the thing which had bought us together, which occurred at roughly the same time, and you have some idea of what I put her through. To spend time with Joy is to be with a lady who eschews the natural qualities of womanhood. She's an absolute lady, from the way she speaks to the way she dresses to the way she moves. Quite how she ended up with somebody like me is a mystery; I'm a positive Tasmanian devil of lunacy. I don't think many could manage, yet together we've built something special. 13 years of marriage have passed and I can say that my love for her is deeper and stronger now than at any time. In fact, as the years pass the more her qualities become evident to me. In so many ways we differ; she has a deep and quiet faith, whilst I'm an arch skeptic. She's poised and considered; I'm the proverbial bull in a china shop. Yet from these perspectives we relate so naturally, and we each give each other time to express ourselves, be ourselves, explore  ourselves. Like all couples we've had patches, yet at no time have we ever seriously considered not being together. When I left Christianity I know that many thought that this would spell the death of our marriage. How could we possibly live together? Or reach consensus? Or be a positive influence on each other? Well we've done it. And we're still doing it? And if you're interested as to why then all I can say is that is comes from a desire to continue to build something special, and to treasure a relationship that has borne two children and a wealth of wonderful experiences. Why on Earth would I walk away from that? What exactly am I going to find in any other woman that I don't already have in Joy? I've struck gold, I've landed a lady with a classical femininity and intelligence, and one who gives me the space the holler at the moon, to battle with life's big question's, and be the man that I need to be.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Enough Is Enough

I'd like to think of myself as generally tolerant. I'm unashamedly live and let live, on the assumption that one isn't living at the expense of others. That's my line in the sand, the point where all behavior and perspectives must be measured. What then, are we to make of those whom actively seek to impose upon us laws and values to which we do not subscribe? How to respond when faced with a cultural enemy intent on shaping a society that suits their ideology? Take for example what we've recently seen in Tower Hamlets, where Muslim's have placed stickers in prominent areas which read "Gay Free Zone." By way of a thought experiment try substituting the word "Gay"  for "Christian", or "Black". At once such sentiment is bought into sharp relief. Back in 2008 one man was set upon by 8 Bengali youths outside a pub in Tower Hamlets. A wine bottle he was carrying was torn from him, broken, and returned to him by way of his stomach, part of an attack leaving him quadriplegic. His crime? You guessed it, the unimportant matter of his sexuality. Why, you may wonder, am I involving myself in this? To the best of my knowledge I am not gay, although the guy from Torchwood is quite fanciable. Nor do I live in Tower Hamlets.
Well my concern is one of cultural Creepage. Bad ideas, if left unchecked can proliferate. For example, a recent survey conducted amongst Muslim youths revealed that a high percentage considered that apostasy should be punishable by death. If you're not alarmed by this then I'm apt to wonder what exactly it would take to alarm you? How about the fact that two thousand females  each year in the UK are genitally mutilated? Any problem for you? Should we just put that down to a cultural difference? If you cannot form clear opinions on either of these issues I can only marvel at your lack of interest in the plight of your fellow humans. Come on, people, some things really are wrong. Cutting up a girls clitoris and battering a homosexual would appear to be prime examples.
So what can we do? Well I'd suggest that we're vocal. Whenever we hear of such an atrocity we speak out, we create a culture in which the notion of doing abominable things to our brothers and sisters is deemed an outrage. Whilst silence may appear the safer option in the short term I'd suggest you are merely deferring the confrontation. What kind of world do you want to live in? What legacy do you want to pass on? 
For me, my greatest shame would come the day that my daughters look at me and say, "Why didn't you do something?"
And the shame will be all the greater if I know that I could have done more.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Gospel Truth?

Consider the following; the Gospels are considered to be the primary historical source of information on the life of Christ. Did you know that nobody knows who wrote them? Or where? Or when? Are you aware that we do not even know what sources they used? Or that nothing in the whole of the New Testament was written by eyewitnesses to the actual events they purport to record? Bad start. Only then it worsens. The Gospels themselves do not agree with each other on many of the key resurrection events. If you don't believe me then read the Easter story in each one. If you can put together a coherent narrative afterwards then congratulations; you've achieved what nobody else has. Heading further afield let's consider the work of Paul, alleged author of over half the epistles. Scholarship now agrees that he probably only penned seven. And to cap it all, how did he receive his information? By his own admission he obtained it by revelation. Not from anything written down and not from witnesses. He had it handed to him directly from on high? Of his other books many are recognized as forgeries, so taking everything into account how can we best describe the New Testament? 
It's not history, that much I hope I've shown. So what then? Well at best, and on the assumption we cherry pick only the good bits, which Christians have to do anyway, what we are left with is a set of teachings no better than the best of secular morality. The divinity of Jesus most certainly cannot be adduced from a study of these documents, which should trouble anybody not blinded by cognitive bias. By the time I learned all of this I had been a Christian for 13 years. How could I have been so ignorant of these non controversial facts about the faith? 
The answer is simple. So simple as to be almost banal. I wasn't seeking truth in the right way. My compass was veering towards what I wanted to believe, and I was surrounded by a group of truly beautiful people who had bought into the same bag of empty bones. Combine these two elements and I can just about forgive myself, and I can also forgive those who have remained on the other side of the torn curtain. They are wrong about so much, but my goodness they are the finest bunch I've ever had the privilege of knowing. What a strange world we live in when such an odd reality is even possible.

Monday, 13 June 2011


What do we do when those whom we love leave us? When death so cruelly robs us of a majestic, wonderful human life? We are so impermanent, so fragile and susceptible; we are truly like the stars, burning brightly for only a time before our light is gone.  Those departed leave a chasm, a massive empty space. The world feels smaller, quieter, somehow less. It can never be as it was before, a chapter has concluded. 
Yet the journey continues. Our journey. And in this might I suggest we can pay fitting tribute to those that have gone quietly into the night. The dead remain with us in so many ways. In the memory we have of them, in the lessons they imparted, and in the case of kin they leave us with the DNA code from which our lives were so remarkably forged. It's true to say that the world can seem dimmer when we are bereaved; for a time all seems faded and jaded and surreal. Yet with the passage of time can come a new dawn, the brute pain of raw grief ebbing into something less brutal. Incredibly, there comes a day when we can even smile when pondering the lives of those we cherished, and share warm tales with the others who shared this world with them. 
We are the torchbearers now. This is the role we now assume. As the generations pass the torch passes, and we can honor the departed by living lives that are rich and meaningful and impassioned. I sometimes think that when we fail in this we dishonor those who gave us our lives in the first place. Do we really appreciate the immensity of what they have given? Before we lived all was darkness, whilst what awaits beyond death is known by no man. Therefore our task is clear; we must awaken each morning and inhale deeply, vowing to wring every drop out of life that we can. This is our time in the sun, that brief awakening when we can see, feel, touch and explore the riches all around us. We owe it to ourselves to do this. More than that, we owe it to those whom we have loved and cherished and lost. They were beautiful, but they are gone. You are beautiful, yet you remain. Live powerfully, torchbearers. May the sun warm you, may life enrich you, and when the day comes to pass the torch on, perhaps we can do so knowing that we gave our all.

Sunday, 12 June 2011


On January 24, 2011 Constable Michael Sanguinetti from the Toronto Police 31st Division was speaking at a University safety forum. During this he commented that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized".
From this ill conceived, and hastily retracted remark was born the phenomena now referred to as the Slutwalk, during which women undertake peaceful protest on the streets whilst often clad in stockings, basques, and other provocative lingerie. The purpose of this is to raise awareness that a females choice of clothing, or lack thereof, in no way implies that men have the right to harass, fondle, or venture comments of a provocative nature.

There is of course a salient point tucked away amidst the hysteria, yet I wonder whether there is also the barest hint of a double standard simmering away under the surface? When I see an attractive female my attention is naturally drawn and there are good evolutionary reasons why this is no bad thing. I might just find you attractive, or sultry, or sexy, or whatever. Point is, I'm beholden to a nature not of my making. My ancestors were about the business of spreading their genes into the next generation, and believe me this rarely involved polite discussion and candlelight restaurants. Feel free to gasp as I venture the following, but not so long ago rape was route one to ensuring genetic code was passed on. It's almost certain that your female ancestors were forcefully coerced into reproduction.

Our brains have come a long way since then, of course, and we've several thousand years of cultural history behind us, during which we've gradually learned to tame the majority of our impulses. But don't think for a second that all the lights are out. Moreover, be grateful that a part of the human animal remains. Men shouldn't be too sanitized, and at risk of incurring a feminist backlash I don't think you want us to be? I don't even think you have a whole lot of interest in men that are too nice. They bore you and I doubt they offer much in the way of sexual magnetism. What I'm trying to say is that there's a balance to be struck. Granted, unwarranted sexual attention of any kind is unpleasant, but the day men are so cowed that we can't even spare a flirtatious glance in your direction will be the day when something really important about us has been lost.

Be careful what you wish for.

Friday, 10 June 2011

The Man I Could Have Been

If I was single, and I don't want to be, I wonder what kind of life I would be living today? Have you ever done similar? When I try to imagine this the provisional image that comes back is very shallow. I envisage a bachelor pad, all the gadgets and a shiny clean car. There's a massive TV in the lounge, along with a Bose sound system, and the obligatory games consoles and Apple products. I can imagine myself living Stateside, but doing what I cannot say. I think I'd be commitment phobic, shying away from anybody who wanted to change my routine too much. I'd probably go down the shag buddy route. If memory serves they are way lower maintenance than run of the mill girlfriends. We'd get together a couple of times a week, have some laughs and then engage in all manner of deviant behavior. No commitment, nobody demanding a slice of the pie.
Have you noticed the trend?  The rich vein of selfishness running through every aspect of my life. Even I can see what an appalling creature I would be, organizing a life of me-first excess, every aspect geared to ensure the least inconvenience. I have to acknowledge that marriage has been good for me, and children too. Combined, there is no better way to ensure that every last drop of selfishness is sucked out, leaving a better man, a more rounded man, the kind of man that can actually bring something to a relationship. I guess this is my way of saying that I know what I could be if I gave free reign to my impulses, and I don't think I like the view. At best I'd probably be good company for short periods. For the rest of the time I'd be the centre of my own universe, an ugly fool barely worth a second of your attention. Don't misunderstand me; I can still be selfish, but at least I cannot deceive myself into thinking that a bachelors life would add anything to my day to day experience. Joy and the girls have made me a better man. Probably a better man than I could otherwise have dreamed of. As always life is a trade off, and as trade off's go I don't think I've done too bad.

Heavenly Handjobs

You have full permission to laugh uproariously at my expense for the next couple of minutes. At the age of 24 I converted to Christianity. One of my concerns prior to doing this was that I'd have to give up certain, err, practices. The kind of practices that most young men are rather fond of. Now If you're a male of any age you know that chastity is about as appealing as receiving a battery acid enema, so this was a real issue for me. I mean, if the Creator of the Universe was calling me it really wouldn't do to put the old landing gear first. But how to resolve this quandary? Could I completely cease all masturbation?

Are you kidding?

Therefore, I made a decision to limit my activity to once weekly. Saturday morning to be precise, and I promised myself I wouldn't enjoy it too much. If memory serves I managed this remarkable feat for some time, and recall several lengthy conversations with other Christians on this issue. Exactly how permissable were my actions? Does God frown if I exceed my weekly dosage of hand shandy's? At what point does it become sin? Am I allowed to picture that girl in the office wearing the short skirt and the black tights when I do it?

As I matured in my faith I realised I was not alone, and once married the conversations with guys often concerned which of us was "struggling" with internet porn. The hours we deliberated, the vows we made to keep each other accountable. On reflection, I know now that by making such an evil out of this what we actually did was render it more appealing, more delicious, more seductive. These days I've got a very liberal, matter of fact perspective towards sex and sexuality. And I'm no more addicted to porn than I was when I had faith.  I can laugh at myself now. I know you just have. I do pity the poor lads whom are still waging this losing battle, however. They shouldn't have to treat the bed snake as some enemy to be tamed, or some seperate entity custom designed to lead us into sin. Our sexuality is integral to whom we are, a part of us we can explore, enjoy, embrace.

I can safely assure you, chastity is not a lifestyle I plan to return to anytime soon.

The Laetoli footprints

"The Laetoli footprints were formed and preserved by a chance combination of events -- a volcanic eruption, a rainstorm, and another ashfall. When they were found in 1976, these hominid tracks, at least 3.6 million years old, were some of the oldest evidence then known for upright bipedal walking, a major milestone in human evolution."

Extract taken from PBS Evolution home. My point?

Consider the following; If you deny the facts of evolution these footprints do not, in fact, represent an astonishing glimpse into our ancient past. They are an anomaly, best explained by some freak event. And why? Because God created the Earth sometime within the last 6-10000 years.

I want you to reflect on something. Our planet is ancient. It has a vivid history, cycles of change interwoven with at least five major extinction events. Our human story is a tiny part of the greatest story ever told, the grand tale of this pale blue dot we call home. There is no greater epic. It crushes
the purile nonsense spouted in the Holy books, rendering these children's story's as grim reminders of our lack of vision. If you prefer fantasy to the joys of reality then I've nothing to say to you. Nor will I indulge your fantasist inclinations. You see, reality is amazing. Absolutely, totally, jaw dropingly amazing. We've learned so much, and yet so much remains unknown. Why then, do some of you actively deny the facts of history, and in so doing  sacrifice a clearer view of yourself? The answer is religion. A perpetual thorn in the side of real progress. Granted, there was a time when it conferred a certain survival advantage, and in previous blogs I have described it as a lens through which to see the world. But the lens is faulty. It's tragically distorted. It's like wearing glasses of the wrong prescription, blurring the edges of reality and making it harder to see. Yet still you persist. Filing into your Churches and Mosques and Synagogues, convinced that you are somehow fallen, sinful, unclean. Yet fear not, for you've been told that you are children of God. Your sins have been washed away. And there's no arguing with you because you know, just know that you're right. You have the one true religion, the one true faith. What you don't understand you call mystery. What you cannot reconcile with modernity you call metaphor. You shape and mould your beliefs like malleable clay, smoothing here and reshaping there.

Only now the world has changed. There's a new flood coming, the oceans of reason invading the islands on which you inhabit. Some of you who read this will remain faithful until your dying breath, whilst some of you are already considering jumping ship. I know this because I get the e-mails. I know that you question and groan under the dissonance of your beliefs. To you I say be brave. There is a higher reality, a place where truth need hold no fear. There's a world where your mind can be open to new and spectacular horizons, and all you have to do is walk away from something that you never really had in the first place.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Ugly On The Inside?

You've spent ages getting ready. The hair, the clothes, the accessories. You're stood in front of a full length mirror and you know you've pulled out all the stops. The image staring back encapsulates every facet of what this world perceives as beauty. You've ticked every box, read the magazines and watched how the A-list do it. You can walk like a model, flash a smile that melts the heart. Your eyes glint spectacularly, deep and penetrating. You know that the job is done.
So why do you feel so ugly inside?
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not doing this to make you look or feel bad. And perhaps I'm being presumptuous. Maybe the outer glow radiates inward?
Only that's not how it works, is it? I mean, Is it?
Don't fight this. It's a losing battle. Deep down you know that when somebody has an inner beauty it radiates outward. More than that, it warms those lucky enough to be nearby. These people have a certain something, a radiance that you can't buy or barter or steal. We've all met them. You've got somebody in your head right now. Is that just a flicker of jealousy? If you're still reading this; If I haven't alienated you yet then you're probably wondering what my point is? It's crushingly simple. It's almost a cliche. What I'm trying to say is that there are some things that can only be fixed from the inside out. No amount of window dressing is going to make up for being ugly on the inside. And by the way I'm only using the female image because it's the one we typically associate with conventional beauty. The rule applies to men too; perhaps even more so. I'm fighting my darker nature most days; the man I want to be is always so far beyond my grasp. I'm ugly in a whole lot of ways. My mind can be a bleak and uncharitable place; I'm so quick to judge and easily inclined to condemn. What the hell do I do about that? Well I guess I start by admitting my failings, only not out of some pitiful self loathing. No, I'd rather use my shortcomings as a means of motivation. Perhaps that's something we can all do? You see, what we are now isn't always what we have to be. We can change. If  we want to. So what's it to be? What do you want to be? I'm guessing that there's so much more in you, so much untapped potential. Do you really want to just let it grow stagnant inside or are you ready to stir the pot?

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Outside Looking In

Today was an unusual one for me. I attended the funeral of Joy's Grandma, whom had passed quietly at a great age. It was a deeply religious service at both the crematorium and the church, and I had opportunity to observe the ritual and ceremony of the occasion. Once I would have been fully immersed, hanging on the scriptures, singing the songs, thanking God for the life we were remembering. I had chosen instead to adopt a respectful observance without entering directly into the religious aspect of it. This distance made me something of an observer, and I came away with huge respect for the love and the unity of the family of which I am a part. Joy's Dad was dignified and honorable, and his wife quietly supportive. Joy and her brothers, along with the rest of the family did what all families should do during times of loss. They came together. Whilst I do not share their beliefs I recognize that their Christianity is a powerful lens through which they see the world. I don't doubt that comfort was drawn, and they indeed hope for a reunion in heaven, perceiving this life as one stop along a greater eternal journey. Strangely, at no point was I compelled to reconsider my position. I do not expect to live beyond my death, but I do understand why the promise of something more is enticing. I love life and take nothing for granted, and as the token non believer I can safely predict that many would have been offering heartfelt prayers for the salvation of my soul at various points during the day. I love them for their genuineness and am grateful for the love they have shown me. They are fine people. Kindly, gentle, overflowing with many qualities I'd do well to aspire to. Joy's father in particular is a man I admire. He has been an exceptional son to his mother, a hard working and faithful husband, and a superbly involved father to his Children. He has raised three truly wonderful offspring, one of which I am fortunate enough to be married to. My upbringing compared to Joy's was far less tactile. I do not recall my parents nurturing me, or appearing to want to actively spend time in my company. I wonder if this is part of the reason why I was such an errant teenager? Could it really have been something as facile as attention seeking? An outward expression of an inner loneliness? Perhaps this is just conjecture, but it's clear to me that the nurturing Joy's parents gave their kids has served to produce three well rounded, supremely capable individuals. Only a fool would ignore that fact.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The Silent Child

Somewhere in the world a child is being sexually abused, or beaten, or verbally degraded. With six billion people on the planet this is a statistical certainty. It is an equally depressing fact that those most vulnerable often endure misery that defies all decent contemplation, and at the hands of those charged to protect them.  As a student of human morality I am aware of the depths we can plumb, and every so often I learn of things that churn me to the core. I am presently listening to Sam Harris's latest book, The Moral Landscape, and in one chapter he recounts the case of a 9 year old boy who, for two years was subjected to his fathers sexual depravity. The boy would be bound, and a latex bag placed over his head which was taped around the neck. The father would gratify himself as he watched his son asphyxiate, only tearing the bag off when the boy turned blue and passed out. The father would then leap onto his child's chest and orally rape him. This scenario was acted out in various forms thrice weekly. Ask yourself, how does a child recover from this? How do they even function whilst living in perpetual fear?The father, incidentally, was found to have a psychopathic profile. At some level he knew the wrong he was doing, yet was able to continue without feeling remorse or guilt.  As you hear this story you are likely feeling revulsion, disbelief, unable to comprehend how anybody could conduct themselves in such a way? If you have children of your own you probably want to peer into their bedroom, or even awaken them to give them a hug. Earlier this evening I was glancing through our holiday photo's, seeing my girls smiling, running, cycling, playing. Their life and vibrancy fills me with a glow that warms me even in my coldest moments. I recall when my eldest was born walking out of the maternity wing into a perfectly bright blue morning. I realized that even If I achieved nothing else in this life I had created something beautiful. I'd fathered a child. I'd never aspire to anything greater. My girls, my precious Mini Birds are my crowning glory. I don't own them; I'm just a steward for a few short years until they take flight and forge their own life story. As I write this i am aware that I can sometimes get melancholy, and I'd do well to remind myself that Joy and I have achieved the greatest miracle that a couple can. We've made some new people. I can only hope that we can give them a secure foundation, a loving home and enough affirmation to seize life by the scruff of the neck and wring every last drop of goodness from it.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Live A Little, Love A Little, Give A Little

We've all said it. We probably all meant it. Ever wondered what it would be like to have enough free time to do the things you wanted to? I mean all of them. Every last one. Just what would you have to clear out of your life to make that possible? Would you still go ahead? That job you need to do, those children to raise, those chores, the often endless demands on your time.
Ok let's role play. Not literally, I'd get myself in all kinds of hot water. I mean conceptually. If you had time and unlimited resources what would you do with it? Go on, dream away. You have my full permission. Somewhere you want to go? Something you want to do? Visit a place, a friend, or a lover?
What would the perfect day be for you? Now believe me, I'm never bored, and I always crave time I don't have. Yet as I imagine my own perfect day I grow aware of a certain selfishness. Fact is, we'd need to put a lot of things in temporary boxes to clear the space, and some of those things would be part of what enrich our lives in the first place. So I guess what we're left with is a trade off, which dovetails into the question of how we balance what we've got with what we want? And let's accept that unless you are unhealthily selfish there has to be a trade off somewhere. If I lived a completely selfish life my wife and children would suffer. And It seems to me that a person who wanted everything on their own terms wouldn't be a person I'd want to spend too much time around. The more I reflect, the uglier the person I'm imaging becomes. Egocentric, self oriented, self absorbed, self consumed. Are these qualities that we want to aspire to? Thought not. So then here's an idea. How about taking aboard the following mantra; Love a little, live a little, give a little? Or if your squeamish about the term "little" exchange it for "A lot". Whichever way the message persists. Look outward as well as inward. Seek not just your own good but the good of all. And maybe, just maybe, if enough of us take this on board we might make for ourselves a better world?

Friday, 3 June 2011

Every Waking Minute

As I write this I'm sat on a windowsill with a bottle of raspberry cider to my left. To my right is a four poster bed, source of much entertainment this week, whilst through the window beckons a landscape of pure natural beauty. Green pastures, horses grazing in meadows, a quaint village  about a mile distant. Someway beyond the landscape lurches upward, cresting to a  hillside of pine trees, whilst the rugged Northumbria landscape sweeps away to the east. Imagine a place with pristine rivers, vast inland waters, and a coastline with castles and ruins. It's inspirational in any season, but in the sunshine seems to me as wonderful as anywhere I've been in England. Now I'm normally happy to head home at the end of a holiday, but this time I've genuinely fallen for this place. The locals are a delight, the absence of unnecessary bustle marked, whilst the environment teems with wildlife and the glories of creation. Next week normal service resumes, the ebb and flow of work, the absurd shift pattern, and the total lack of routine. I find myself wondering where the road ahead may lead me? Only then I catch myself. The road isn't leading me anywhere. I have to write my own script. Now in an ideal world I would be a writer, but on the basis of sales of my last book I would make enough money to feed a couple of hamsters for a couple of weeks, on the assumption that they ate conservatively. So I don't think I'm going to be living that dream. But what then? Continue as I am? Growing in cynicism as it increasingly dawns that my job amounts to little more than putting out small social fires? What I'm saying is that I don't know what comes next, which I guess is nothing new. All the really key moments in my life have erupted from moments of spontaneity. I'll probably just know when to write the next chapter. Whether it's a good one, I suppose only time will tell. I'm not sure there's a specific point to this entry other than to observe that our time on this planet is short. We're at the wheel of a remarkable thing we call life. We don't know when the journey ends, but we know that we've a limited time. Can I encourage you to use what you have wisely? I don't know your hopes and dreams, or whether life has been cruel or kind. But whatever has come to pass is water under the bridge. It cannot be changed, merely filtered through the lens of experience. The road before you stretches on, and there are possibilities great and small on route. Where will you alight? What experiences await you? Again I have no insight, but this much I know. Live as if it means something. Live in the power of it. We're the latest batch of humanity and we're just passing through. Remember this. Feel it in every fibre of your being. Today matters, and so does tomorrow. So enjoy the ride, and may treasures await you all.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Poker Face

I haven't got a poker face. I find the whole idea of having one bizarre. With me what you see really is what you get. No games, no deceit, no hidden agenda. And now a confession; I'm not bad at discerning who's genuine and who's not. There isn't much of a secret to it; I'm just observant. One obvious tell tale sign is to listen to what somebody say's about people who aren't around. I don't mean the occasional frustrated asides we're all guilty of, but rather the trend of consistently running other's down. There's a certain kind of person that seems to delight in this. You've probably got an image of them in your mind right now. Well all I do is figure that if that person can denigrate other's they can probably do the same to me? I tend not to form meaningful relationships with these folks. On the flip side I've always warmed to those who are prepared to be vulnerable, to be honest about themselves and just plain real. These are the people I've always gravitated towards. Perhaps in them I see myself? 
Generally, I adore listening to you. I love spending time hearing about how you're doing, about what's going on. I'm genuinely interested. Please forgive me if I ask the occasional impertinent question, or stray beyond those unspoken terms and conditions. I can be clumsy sometimes, and I expect I'm missing a few of the genes that regulate self control. No matter. If you're the type of person who get's me that won't bother you in the least.

Dead Of Night, Light Of Day

Have you ever lain awake at night worrying about something? Strange how it get's magnified, how we can find ourselves gripped by an anxiety that can make our hearts race and our bodies sweat. Come the morning matters rarely feel quite so bad; with the light of day comes a perspective and a balance that seems to desert us during the dead of night. But what when the morning brings no relief from these powerful emotions? Or worse, what if things seem harder? This is probably a good indicator that you're going through a genuinely tough period, in which case you have my warmth and best wishes. As I look back on the toughest times in my life the surprising thing is who sticks around to help us through. It often isn't those we expect, is it? As I reflect now, I had to get myself through a lot; this despite having no shortage of family or friends. Many of them simply did not understand, or couldn't face asking themselves the questions I was asking myself. This theme was a constant amidst my nearest and dearest, a reflection of the grip that religious belief can exert on an individual. You see, I was extricating myself from the tangled bank of unreason and contradictions otherwise known as Christianity. When you pose a tough question on this issue, one typically receives a bad answer, or worse, you hear the intoxicatingly banal phrase, "I have to hold that in tension." That's shorthand for saying I don't know, I don't want to know, or I'm unable to face the implications of obtaining an answer that will destroy my worldview. I recognize I am being a bit direct here, but after a while the excuses begin to grate. Another comment I have heard is that "I'd prefer to live in Narnia", which amounts to a willful vow to deny the nature of reality. It basically acknowledges that the faith held is possibly nonsense, yet asserts that despite this the believer will continue to live as if there is some truth in the proposition. This to me is a ghastly notion, a refusal to accept the way the world is. Now I still love these people, but what am I to do when I hear such a thing? I tend to stare back blankly, nod weakly, all the time marveling at the mental gymnastics required to live out such a contradiction. You see, I can't do it. Such self deception is, to my ear, a wretched way to live out one's life. It's an abdication of courage, of truth seeking, and of personal honesty. I recognize that I'm alienating a whole swathe of people who've already put up with a lot from me, but plain speaking is a part of who I am. I'm not blind to your beautiful qualities; your kindness and your warmth and your tolerance, but am I really required to ignore the proverbial elephant in the room?