Dear Bed

We first met on Fulham High Street.

The only reason that I was on that side of London was because we’d just been to a red wine night at Tim and Gi’s.  We had discussed the usual; life’s curiosities, how to put wrongs to rights and when the guys were going to open their own pie and mash shop on the high street.  The next morning, over a perfectly brewed cup of tea from a teapot, they told us about you.

I wasn’t particularly interested in you at first.  You were just lying there, ginormous.  You seemed high maintenance and quite dull, lacking in energy.  Something that only old people would be interested in.

I had absolutely no idea. 

The sales guy told me how supportive you would be, how you would conform to my being in a way that I had never experienced before.  Each individual aspect of you would enable two of us to make it through the night, without even a peep.  He encouraged us to get closer to you.  I significantly remember how disappointingly little bounce you had on first impact.  As I laid there just waiting, with sales man talking away, everything gradually began to go quiet…  I could feel your cushioning moulding around me, a gentle yet sturdy pressure.  The way you pressed against my waist and yet gave way to my hips.  I had never felt anything like it.

I knew then that I had to have you in my life.

You took weeks to come.  There were so many painful, early mornings, waking up with the cold, hard feeling of the faux wooden floor beneath as the last of the air leaked out from under us.
We go through life, completely unaware of what we may be lacking sometimes.  What beautiful things are out there that could add so much value and joy to our lives, things which we may have never even considered.  But then one day, someone or something enters your life and from that moment, you can barely picture your life without them.

I think I cried with joy when you arrived.

Over the first couple of years, I remember how well you held up.  I really was able to sleep, undisturbed throughout the entire night for one of the first times in my life.  I hadn’t known I was capable of it.  But however fantastic you were at night, during the day you were gradually becoming the mark of things going sour.  Or perhaps you simply highlighted the fact that there was and would always be something a little sour.

Gradually, these sour occasions evolved into something much larger than yourself, and resulted in the huge upheaval that followed.  From here, I no longer even associated you with the bitterness.  Instead, you became my rock.  For a few weeks, I barely left your side, and you stayed with me, supporting me through the longest, darkest nights I’ve ever had.

When it was time to move, I insisted on you coming with me.  So you did.  I made space for you in my life and you stayed with me, as a constant, through the most changeable and mind-shifting year of my life.  Together we experienced a succession of new things, you were open and welcoming to them all.

But you remained mine.  You were mine to come home to at the end of every stupid, wonderful and disastrous day.  Throughout the new, you and I stuck together.  I didn’t need anyone else and I didn’t want to share you with anyone else.

When it was time to move again, this time I couldn’t take you with me but I refused to give you up.  So my parents agreed they would look after you until I came back at some point.

And while I was away, I never forgot about you.  Every night I was acutely aware of what I was missing.  Because once you have knowledge of how great something can be, you can’t undo that.  So I longed for you.  I would tell strangers about you.  You were the only thing that I missed from home.  The routine of having you in my life, was something that I knew I wanted for myself again one day.

The first time I got you back, almost 10 months later, I can remember falling into you.  I laid there smiling for almost an hour, just appreciating having you back.  I felt such enormous gratitude for having you there.  As you are now still, here in this room with me.

But now, the time has come to give you up.

I can’t say that I’m excited about it.  We have gone through so much together.

More recently, you have kept me company whilst going through a whole new range of challenges.  Challenges which I would never have suspected that I’d take on when I first met you.  As I said, I had absolutely no idea what future was to lay ahead of us.

And contrary to my first years with you, my last year with you has been scattered with the sweetest and most beautiful of occasions.  Reminding me, that it was never your fault all that time ago.  And now that I’m willing to share you with someone else.  I think it’s time to let you go.

Be good to your new home because they’re good friends of mine and most of all, because I know you can be.  You beautiful, life-changing object.

Thank you.

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Family

I grew up in a house of hoarded junk.  The utility room cupboards overflowed with collections of old margarine tubs, takeaway boxes, 100’s of jam jars and whatever else my mum could perhaps foresee using in her utopian future where all food she made had its own perfectly sized container to reside in until a later date.  Be it 2 days in the fridge or 20 years in the freezer.

My mum and brother both like(d) to hold on to stuff.

My Dad did not.  You could see it in his face.  He really, really did not.

I mostly just didn’t like the mess and claustrophobia that it created.

Seven years since that house has been lived in by my family and 37 years since my parents’ wedding day;  I was moved this weekend when I saw my Dad eye up the tiniest, most ridiculous-sized, little jam jar (which we had just used to cover a scone in) and then pocket it to take home for my Mum.

 

 

Don’t

Don’t build a home in someone else my friend, don’t build a home on moving ground.
Don’t intertwine your foundations to another, don’t live a life of being bound.

Don’t watch life pass you by my friend, don’t sit still and stare.
Don’t take a backseat ride through this world, don’t say life is unfair.

Don’t pass up any opportunity my friend, don’t fail to recognise choice.
Don’t move the way fear makes you move, don’t ignore the power of your voice.

But that’s just it, don’t listen to me my friend, there is no “don’t” worth taking.

All there is, is the way you want to move, and knowing that this life is yours for the making.

If you want to give me something

If you want to give me something;

Please don’t give me money, I can make my own.
And please don’t give me advice, based on your fears alone.

Please don’t give me your worries and dress them up as being kind.
They won’t result in any positivity within yours or my mind.

Please don’t give me your physical presence, just to be absent in your head.
I’d rather you took the time to do what you needed to do instead.

Just give me your attention, when you can be there and willing.  Just give me your honesty once you’ve broken through your ceiling.

Just give me your eyes, your focus, beautiful and true.
This is the only thing that I really want from you.

(13th Feb, 2016)

Throwback

Whilst away in South America, I used to write my thoughts down in a draft email on my phone, usually whilst I was physically travelling.  For example; on one of those crazy-long coach journeys from one side of the continent to the other.

I am currently sat still, in a very different part of the world; the Drysdale building in City University, London on a rainy Wednesday (28th October 2015 – almost 4 months since my return).  Procrastinating from my morning preparation for a lab practical, I’ve come across an entry I wrote on my way from Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina (12th March 2015) which I never posted.

It brought a smile to my face… because as I had rightly pointed out at that time; there was no use in ever worrying too much about the uncertainty of future jobs… Somehow everything always works out for the best (shout out to Rachel and our past blog which went by this name) – most probably because our minds are able to find the greatness in every new challenge and every new opportunity which presents itself in the face of previous ‘failures’ if we so choose to see it that way….

When I finished my Masters in 2009 it was one of the hardest times in recent years for a fresh graduate to find a job in the UK.  Especially in a field like mine.  (Wildlife conservation was not high up on the country’s economic slump agenda).  

During those times of whole-encompassing unemployed frustration I would often pick up items (such as wine bottles) and visualise in a series of rapid snapshots the people involved in getting that item into my hands at that moment.

There were just so many people and things to consider that it would blow my mind.  From the person who sold the grape variety to the vineyard owner, all items and people involved in the process of the wine making, the endless modes of transport and machinery, the people that made those machines, the glass maker, the miners, the bored lorry driver delivering the goods.  So many different people were involved in this process.  Potentially thousands of miles of transportation (and potentially so much carbon).   

That sense of grandness was almost as astounding to me as the times I look up at the stars and remember how massive everything is out there. 

These visualisations would provide me with two strong thoughts:

1. How connected everything is to something bigger than you initally pause to think. 

2. (Importantly at this time) How many damn jobs there were out there and yet I did not have one and I could not get one.

It was a terrible time, made worse by the limitations of where I was living (the lovely yet quiet countryside of Dorset) without even a friend within 2+ hours to distract me. 

Currently sat on a bus on my way back to Buenos Aires, it was the sight of multiple vineyards in Argentina’s famous wine region that reminded me of this time.  That, and the knowledge that I am hoping to find work in Buenos Aires.  

And this thought terrifies me.  

Deciding to leave my job in London and pack it all in for this ‘life changing’ decision was very difficult.  

Ask my brother.  

When I first told him I was going to South America to travel and ‘see what happens’ he responded with a tone of ‘Are you crazy?!’ and words of a similar yet more thoughtfully constructed context.  I told him that I was serious and that I was now going to hang up on him because I could not listen to what he had to say.

Because the pain of unemployment is remembered in all parts of my body.  Like your central nervous system ‘learns and remembers’ as a child that touching something hot brings your body pain, my body has connected a strong and sharp association of unempoyment with unhappiness, depression and ultimately – pain. 

But look.  In the end (after months and multiple job applications to multiple conservation charities) I got a job through a series of fortunate events.  Which led me to another and another and another.  And boom.  I was in a good job in wildlife conservation before I left.  (Although I wasn’t particularly well suited to my working environment in local government.)  

Plus – if there is one thing I took away from the shit storm that 2013 became for me – it is that things don’t always go how you might expect or hope and plan they might.  You never know what opportunities or things might be/not be there from one minute to the next.  

So I forced myself not to worry too much.  After all, the worst had already happened as far as I was concerned.  And the time was then. 

As the is time now.  

A letter to myself

I do this only for future versions of you.

It’s funny because you knew you could get here.  And that you would.  And that it would probably take about two years.

So hello and welcome.  Its been 23 months to be exact.  Perhaps less.  But it has been proven in 23 months at least.

Proven that time changes absolutely anything it wants to or needs to.

So much so that I don’t even feel the need to write to you or document this particularly.  But like I said, this a reminder to any future versions of you, having a hard time.

Unfortunately when one is truly suffering, it is in a way, one of the only times you live in the feeling of now.  And that ‘now’ casts shadows over your past and clouds over your future.

But I think you always knew how strong you could be.  In fact, I think that you went out of your way to piss yourself off with absolutely everything that could ever piss you off or scare you.  And I, here and now, am so grateful to you.

And coincidentally, for the first time I saw a full rainbow today; horizon to horizon, a double rainbow.

image

And you can’t appreciate it here like I did in that moment.  I stepped off the train and stopped still on the platform at Bexley and beamed for a few minutes just looking at it. 

But just like everything – you had to be there.  It’s all about being in the moment.

Always choose options that make you feel happy within yourself at that moment.  And I promise, you will never be unhappy again, (at least not for more than the moments you need to).

It is impossible.

And so what are Ninja Mondays for?

They are for the same as every single other day:

To be kind, to move with love and not fear, to be grateful and generous and to just appreciate everything that you have in that moment, all the fucking time.

Because that is all there ever is.  And the simplicity of it is astounding.  Who’d have thought so many complicated thoughts, journeys and situations could bring you out to somewhere so simple…

Don’t move the way fear makes you move,
Move the way love makes you move,
Move the way joy makes you move.

Medellín AKA The Truman Show

Strolling through the now lush, clean and safe landscaped streets of modern Medellin… a smell of flowers is in the air.

An old man appears.  He has the complexion of a tanned baby.  Dressed in a suit with no shoes, he smiles from ear to ear as he reaches into a bin. 

Pulling out a dirty plastic cap, he wanders over, waddling slightly as he extends his arm to us.  He asks for some water (in spanish).  Ali rinses out his cup and then pours him a new one. 

“I am Eduardo, where are you from?  Ah England?  Welcome to Colombia!
In England there are Eduardos.  In Colombia there are Alis & Sofias.  We are here today and we will be there in England in our future.  We are connected.  We are all everywhere.

“When you understand all that I am saying in the future, you will look back with a smile and think ‘Eduardo, he was right.'”

Finishing his cup of water he reaches out his hand to shake.  His hands, softer than any bed sheets I’ve felt for months, give my hand a gentle squeeze.  Eyes twinkling he says goodbye and goes on his way.

Well that was odd… 

But we continue with our lives, strolling casually towards the metro to meet for the Real City Walking Tour of Medellín.

“I am not the holder of reality” says Pablo (our tour guide) as he opens his arms wide and stares intently with dark brown eyes at each of us.  “Reality is unique to each one of us.  I will however, show you the bad and the good of Medellín and I will answer all your questions with sincerity and to the best of my ability.”

Sat on the steps outside of some kind of bank headquarters, the Paísas (people of Medellín región) begin to take seats next to us, one at a time. 

They tune in to the beginning of Pablo’s English spoken story of Medellín, occasionally nodding in agreement. 

A man wearing a lab coat holding an empanada walks behind Pablo, staring at us – the crowd of foreigners – with the curiosity and brazeness of a 3 year old.  He brushes past Pablo despite metres of space in all directions.
Neither of them acknowledge anything.

Okaaay…

We move on, to sit within what used to be a crack cocaine den, ruled by the drug lords of the 1990’s but what is now the city’s centre of education. “This is a symbol.  You being here in a place that was once the most dangerous place on earth – is a symbol of how far Medellín and Colombia has come.” 

He takes us to a square, he explains the strategic battle that has been taking place against Medellín’s past.  “I remember when I was a young teenager, there was a curfew.  No teenagers allowed out after 9pm.  Any teenager seen past 9pm will be shot. And I remember because I had my first girlfriend, so when I was at her house, I was constantly checking my watch as the night drew in.”

We all stand there, mouths slightly open, contemplating our own complaints from childhood….

“MUY BIEN INGLES” yells a passer by, “BIENVENIDOS A COLOMBIA.”

We look around; approximately 15 middle aged men have all paused at different points mid-walk during Pablo’s talk.  Heads all turned towards us; “Heeeello.  Welcome to Colombia” says one of them…  “El mejor cafe del mundo?”…  
We move on, pass by a street, once a legitimate road with functioning traffic lights is now entirely pedestrianised (thanks to one ballsy street vendor putting his kiosk up one day which dominoed into hundreds and therefore prevented cars from passing).  We arrive at our next stop – a church.

“Don’t all look at once.. but all around here there is one main profession at play – can you guess what it is?”

“Yes.  All these women waiting… they are waiting for a man to ‘repent’ his sins right after he drops her back here.”

Where?! I thought… I can’t see any prosti.. Ohhh.  Oh wow.  They are everywhere.   Young, old, lone, together, none speaking, all just waiting…

An older women hands us a flier with an artistic drawing and today’s date.  She looks into our eyes as if to pass some kind of message.  The symbol is a pattern of church peaks and high heels.  A paper version of the oil and water sculpture painting just to our left which demonstrates the mixture of two such opposite human desires which shouldn’t mix but yet seemingly work in harmony.

image

Everyone in the group looks confused.  We are asked to put our rucksacks on the front and pay attention to the dvd selection on our right as we walk through a narrow street.

I glance down at the array of random shite for sale in this street.  Ah look – dvds; Poccahontas, Snow White, The Lion King, Big Black Ass 2, Aladdi… What?!?

Licking pu**y, Big T*t W*nk… Finding the G spot, Finding Nemo.

“DVD? 3 for 2? Mix and match?” Says an old man with a tooth missing as he winks at me.

“Errr… no, gracias” I say as I fold my eyebrows lost in the confusion that is selling hard core porn next to disney classics.

We arrive at a large square.  Men, women, young, old, rich, poor, homeless and working cover the area.  “BIENVENIDOS” yells a young man, “Helllooooo” yells a little boy, “Welcome” says a girl dressed as a pipe cleaner.

Taking a perch next to a monument, a guy dressed in a dress of blown up rubber gloves comes and sits next to us. The people move in. 24 tourists surrounded by 30-40 smiling Colombians. The bristle brush girl hangs around at the side. 

  
Apparently she is a piece of art that represents how you feel on the Metro with too many people around you.  The glove guy is the over-feely opposite.
Pablo begins to recall the miserable affect that cocaine demand from over seas has had on this city and this Country.  He calls it our country.  “It is your city as it is mine.”

“Muy bien inglés, él habla muy bien inglés!” Says a Colombian guy who inserts his head into the circle and rests his chin on my shoulder.  A girl from the group puts her hand up; “but why are you all so happy?!”

“Because when you have seen darker days and had such a difficult past, you can find hundreds of tiny reasons to be happy.”

We sit, looking at all the smiling Colombians who have surrounded us.  Some completelty unaware of what he has said but looking very content.  Others, nodding and yelling out ‘Siii!!! Bienvenidosss” in agreement.

The tour ends.  Ali and I look at each other.  “Crazy place huh?”

I walk towards a street vendor to buy an ice tea; “2,000 pesos por favor.”

“Dale” I say giving him the money, “gracias.”

He hands me back the change; “You’re welcome Truman.”