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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Dear Diary

I have kept a regular journal for over 20 years now. I started writing on Thursday the 28th of July 1998, when I was age ten.

In Feb 2002 I began to write the Daily Mumble, whilst continuing my series of what was by then 50+ diaries detailing almost every day of my life for 14 years.

These days my writing is all done on the keyboard. Whilst it's convenient and 'futureproof', it does lack the interactive nature of real notebooks.

Here's my first ever diary entry dating back over 20 years:

"Today I woke up at about 8.00am, looking out the window I saw that it was a misreble day. We got our Rabbits 13 days ago, today was one of the days we had to clean them out on, so eventuly I got around to doing that.

In the evening we set up a puppet show called "Whinnih THE Pooh', but in the end we didn't do it due to Jessie moaning.


The following day I describe going to the Jones' and playing a game where we had to lock each other in the barns, then started playing a boring game where we had to steal each other's codes.

The day after that I finished making my sugar paper tree at about 2.30pm, and went to see my rabbit, before making a cake with bright pink and green icing, 'it looked horrrible'.

It's a precious gift I've given myself. I just wish I'd started 5 years earlier!

Night.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Back in the Alps


As part of my prep for leaving for Japan, I'm going though my box of diaries, which also contains a few DVDs of TV programs featuring me or my friends, and converting them to MP4 format which I can keep on my laptop.

One of them I've not seen for years is the documentary made about my home of two years up in the Swiss Alps, Kleine Scheidegg. It's extraordinary seeing all those familiar faces again. Albert our station master. Tomoko who worked in the buffet. My boss, Andreas, and other colleagues from the hotel.

Andreas

Tomoko. She was very strong. I was a little afraid of her.




These memories will be with me for life. Watching Tomoko go up the stairs of the station building I'm taken aback by my sudden recollection of the smell of the place. It's not that it was particularly smelly, but it did have a distinct scent, a cross between wood, clean toilets and bratwurst sausage. It's amazing how much information I must have stored in my brain, all these little details - like the train conductors shouting "achi achi" (That way that way!") at the Japanese tourists in a Swiss-German accent, or the trains with their electric folding wingmirrors.

Oh! And there's Phil, from South Africa. He worked as a photographer with Benny the dog. Benny would pose with his brandy barrel in the midst of great gangs of Japanese tourists, the must-have Swiss shot to take home to their families.




Having these records of past lives helps me appreciate just how fortunate I've been to have had these experiences. We've all had them of course, but I personally find it difficult to remember events that happened a long time ago unless I have a trigger - such as a photo or film. I don't want to forget, they've all been such an important part of making me who I am today.

I used to take it to extremes. When I was age about 14 I'd always read my diary entry from exactly a year ago. It became a bit obsessive, and I remember worrying that I was becoming stuck in my past.

I like to think I've found a healthy balance now. A balance between appreciation for what has gone before, planning for the future, and focusing upon the here and now.




I visited some friends last night who are helping a great deal with the wedding. I lived with one of them, Frances, for about a year in the very same Hotel Kleine Scheidegg as featured in the documentary above. She became a dear friend to me, and seeing her again after what might even be years without meeting reassured me that we are still close. It was such a meaningful experience to sit and talk with her, and observe how we've both changed since our time in the Alps. People like her make the world a very happy, caring place.

Frances, about to throw a snowball at me

frances_snowballs




The wedding is really starting to take shape now. This evening I spent some time painting elephants on jam jars for the nightlights on the tables. That was very therapeutic, and helped me unwind after yet another day of sorting through belongings and assigning stuff to the recycle or charity shop pile.




I think *Twinkle* and I are going to have to work very hard together, especially over this coming year. We're both capricorn, both very ambitious, both with strong personalities. Of course, we differ in many ways too. For a start, she's much cuter than me.

I hope that I'm far enough along the relationship road to have learnt to not put pride or ego before love. It's going to be a challenging education, being husband to *Twinkle*, but I'll do my absolute best. She's worth every bit of energy I have.

We've been apart for over 4,800 hours. In 40, we'll be together.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

After 14 years they rose again


Anne Tame the artist, at work

I'm back on the Welsh garden Project site today. It's good being here and doing some physical work. My hands smell of cow skin, and I have a delicious feeling of knackeredness. Thought I'd take advantage of the lack of rain and get the chainsaw out; spent an hour or so doing a circuit of the garden, dealing with the trees that were felled by the recent gales. With a new chain it makes for satisfying work, quickly cutting through broken boughs and branches to relieve the burden being felt by surrounding trees. It appeals to the tidyman in me too. I like natural-looking gardens, but I especially like tidy natural looking gardens. 

Opening the garage for the first time in a while, I smelt death. It was a strong smell, no mistaking it. It was rising from the corpse of a large rabbit that must have been chased in there by Taize the cat some time ago.

Coming back in at lunchtime I found that same cat sleeping with my pet penguin, Pepe.



What you lookin at?



The morning-after shot: The powerful Tom has had his way; Pepe is left with conflicting feelings regarding his own sexual orientation. 


After lunch, it was back out to clear up the polytunnel. 

But I wasn't really in the polytunnel emptying out last year's tomato plant pots. Instead, I was in that sanatorium in Japan with Naoko and Reiko, as described in Murakami's Norwegian Wood which I'm continuing to listen to, and liking very much. I love being read to. 

(I've just come across a source for free audiobooks at http://librivox.org. I'll give them a whizz as it's a while before I can get any more on subscription from Audible).

I'm pretty good at multi-tasking. As well as listening to a book and clearing up a polytunnel, I was wearing my 'new' patchwork trousers.


I found them under the bed the other night. They aren't really 'new', as I've already worn them for a couple of years, from early 1994 to 1995. I  got them when I was about 16, and had them coat my legs almost everyday during my year at sixth form college. I think they were supposed to attract girls as they have home-installed zips running almost the entire length of each leg. Unfortunately they didn't really work, and in the end I had to leave the country to lose my virginity.

Anyway, they still fit me, both in terms of waistline and length, so I think I'll give them another spin.

Righty ho, on with 'stuff'.

[edit] it has been pointed out that the cat has had his testicles removed, and thus it is unlikely that he was actually having sexual intercourse with Pepe, which is a bit of a relief as if they had become too close Taize may have taken advantage of his being a cat and eaten him.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Organic vegetables, Nelson Mandela, and your own thought processes

Ha. It's another of those nights. Those nights when I go to bed, but feel so excited about everything and nothing that I have to get up again.

Part of it's the music, I know. I'm listening to Everything But the Girl - Walking Wounded. One of the few CDs I ever owned. Bought it in Switzerland I think, Interlaken. That was before I knew any Japanese. I remember that as the CD case has a bit of Japanese on it, and it was only a few years after I'd bought it that I realised what it said (Eee bee tee jee = EBTG). It's truly wonderful how music can take you back in time to a place, to a feeling, to a state of mind. Listening to this and looking at my swiss photos sees me up that Alp in 1997. Caw, that part of the world is staggeringly beautiful. I do hope that *Twinkle* and I end up back there one day (by that I mean that I hope that that remains one of our goals).

My weekly Organic Vegee box from Beanies

Doesn't that fruit and veg look delicious?! I love organic vegees so much, more than any form of processed food - including Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. The taste of a fresh organic salad is, according to the interaction between my taste buds and mind, the most delicious taste there is. The taste of this pile of fruit and veg could only be surpassed by an identical box of produce that I'd grown myself. It will happen.

I had a difficult day yesterday. I was feeling troubled by Nelson Mandela's treatment having finished his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. What an incredible story. Certainly puts things into perspective. I think of his 27 years of incarceration, and of the appalling hardships endured by black South Africans under Apartheid, and then I think of complaints that I or my friends might have about noisy neighbours, our language course, or what so-and-so said... and I am reminded how spoilt we are. We have so much to be grateful for. Every single day.

Thank
.

You
.

When I reached the part of the book where he described his release I paused and paid a visit to You Tube, where I observed the same scene from outside of his body. Having just gained an insight into what had led to that moment I found it to be incredibly moving. I wiped the tears away, and bang! I was back there. Not South Africa, but our lounge, in front of the TV. It was the 11th of February 1990; I was 12 years old. ...I can vividly recall watching that live news report on the BBC. I'd heard of Nelson Mandela and Apartheid, and I remember being excited, and so happy, running around the dining room and the lounge.

It was cold outside.

Sun shines down beyond the Arts Tower

I went to give blood today. Unfortunately due to my history of epilepsy, I'm unable to be a donor until 2011, and was actually advised to never give blood. It's not that my blood poses a risk to others, it's that giving blood poses a risk to me in that it could trigger a seizure.

The nurses were very good about it - they could see I was upset. In fact, they treated me even more nicely after that, insisting that I go and sit down and have a cup of tea and a biscuit.

So, I'll just have to make do with saving people when I die instead :-) ...and keep on buying cakes all week from the Bone Marrow Society. (Bloomin' good cakes too).

I was pretty surprised by how many people were there. It was like discovering a whole hidden culture of Good Samaritans. How come I had never tried to donate blood before?



Been missing *Twinkle* a lot this week. In a way I wish I could bottle this experience, and keep it as a reminder for future years when we are 'always' together, to ensure that I don't get complacent, to ensure that I stay concious of how fortunate we are (will be) to be able to share our lives with one another.



I feel I've become more aware of our differences this year. Having so much space enables one to step back and think about how differently one sees some things. That's not a bad thing at all. I see her as my teacher, thus the more differing perspectives, the more we can both learn (I would add that I don't think that the differences would be so welcome if there was not an underlying meeting of spirit!).

I'm grateful that over the past year I have been encouraged to explore the idea that there is no right and wrong - there is only differing perceptions of 'reality'. This proves to be especially helpful in situations where social norms would normally dictate that conflict was the appropriate response. With there being no 'right' and no 'wrong' there is no impulse to convince the other that one is 'right'. One can have a completely different opinion from someone else, and yet accept that they are just as 'right' as you. After all, the 'thing', whatever it is, just is. It has no implicit meaning, it only has the meaning that we assign to it.

This way of thinking has really helped me to back down and accept *Twinkle*'s way of thinking without my pride getting in the way. I've not quite got it down to a fine art yet though - far from it! But, being aware is the first important step, and I'm glad to have taken that.

Changing the subject, this past week I've been marvelling at the brain's ability to assign meaning to things I see. I've been playing a little game whereby I look at something, and then observe my thought process as meaning is assigned. Of course normally it happens to fast that we barely notice (you look at a traffic light, and before the you know it, you know it's a traffic light!), but you can slow it down. One method is to turn the lights off so the room is pretty dim, then look around until you make out a shape. You can actually see you brain sorting through an amazingly comprehensive database of images, experiences, feelings, meanings! Absolutely amazing (and we think Google is clever...!). Another way to set yourself up for this experiment is to reduce the exposure on a bunch of photos, so the subjects are barely visible. Or, next time you meet someone whom you know you recognise but can't actually place or name, watch your brain sift through your memory bank in a bid to come up with a match of sorts.

Ahh, the pleasure of introspection!

Well, I'd best be off to bed. Up early tomorrow, and my list of things to do is almost as long as my nose :-)

Mush love xxx

p.s. I want this girl's voice.

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