Hide and seek, or something.

4.45am – I played hide-and-seek* with sleep…and lost.
Note for younger readers:

* Hide-and-seek: A game played outside where one kid closed his eyes while the other went and hid. ‘Outside’ is the generic term for out of the house, whether it was sunny, it rained or indeed snowed, it didn’t matter as long as you were home by dinner. It was also the reason why ‘the fat kid’** was an exception and not the rule.

** The fat kid: A term no longer used as a whole generation of kids now growing up rarely go outside and instead play on their computers all day and, well, get fat. The only computers we saw were on Star trek. Plus, it’s not politically correct*** to say such things.

*** Politically correct: A modern concept dreamed up by a few people that are scared of offending a minority of people but in fact end up offending the majority. For examples, see the British government’s fear of the St. George’s flag and the celebration of St. Georges day in general along with Italy’s Matteo Renzi ordering the covering of nude statues at Rome’s Capitoline Museum during a visit by the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.  

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri recently called Inter manager Roberto Mancini “froccio” (Eng. “poofter”) and that’s the only thing we heard on Italian news for 2 days. There are more important things to show on the news.  

In other words, world gone mad.

WTF moments #1

I rarely dream, at least I rarely remember if or what it was about. On rare occasions I wake up in apnoea and it usually follows a particularly nasty happening but it’s ok, it passes. I breath again and sometimes sleep again. If apnoea was the worst of my sleep problems I’d be a happy man.

Ah! Dreams. I’ve never been a ‘sexual’ dreamer as such, sex doesn’t come into my nocturnal mental wanderings. I don’t know why, it never has done and that’s fine by me. I don’t do sick either, I sometimes hear things other people dream about and I scratch my head and think ‘Whoa!!’. I think we live in a world where we have so much information at our fingertips that the mind just becomes inundated with the daily sick happenings via the news, the papers, the internet etc. So yeah, call it a lack of imagination (worrying for someone who calls himself a writer) but sick or sexy dreams are not on my nightstand, so to speak.

This morning though, that changed as a) the dream was strange, and b) it was almost hilariously sick. I have to get this down because I am sure, bombarded with all types of information input as we are, that I’ve never heard of something even remotely connected to this which means it was a work of my imagination. It was this:

I’m sitting watching the news. The camera flashes over to a man swathed in more bandages than Tutankhamen. He is a zoo-keeper and he was…not attacked exactly but…man-raped by a gorilla in its cage. I kid you not; I heard the newsreader then it went over to the ‘victim’ who, through his bandages was apparently distraught but, really, what the fuck?? To what dimension does the mind cross over to allow something like that to enter?

Zoo-keeper royally rogered by Jack the Silverback is fairly hilarious when you think about it, but only in the light of day, maybe in the pub garden drinking a cold one with some buddies. It’s not so funny however when you’ve dreamt the whole thing at 4.45 in the morning and you lay there, in the dark, and think “What the fuck? How did that one slip under the radar?”

As I say, this one I had to get down because it was too damn freaky. To quote Morrissey/The Smiths – “I can laugh about it now but at the time it was terrible.” It was, it really was.

Vicious circle

I’m coming undone, it seems at the seams.

A thousand things in my head, half of which should be got down on paper and I can’t keep up with them.    The other half are things I need to do; some general, more tangiable day-to-day admin that I’m not getting on top of, some others are more important, requiring concentration, dedication and application.  Unfortunately I’m not giving much of any of those.  Why?  Because my insomnia has come back and bit me on the ass.  My creativity bubble is being squeezed by the weight of sleep loss.  The less I sleep the less I do and the less I do the more of a concern it becomes and the more of a concern it becomes the less I sleep.  And the pedal on the bike makes a full turn.  And the chain falls off so the bike can go nowhere.

Will the circle be unbroken?

 

Keeping track on the tracks

As the lights from the carriage flash by, reflecting off the dark, Cold, damp walls of the tunnel, the locomotive races toward the distant light and then explodes from the tunnel mouth, where snow and a mist so thick it could hide a wolf’s cry, mingle and the mountains soar higher than the Eagle flies and the train starts its long descent into canton Uri, winding its way through short tunnels and the river, as cold as the snows that feed it, accompanies us down to where the snow has not yet arrived.  It is January but it is not yet cold and this long valley, with its steep, slate-grey sides, which now hide it from the low winter sun.

Higher up the valley from where we’ve just come, the mountains have lost their shroud as the grey clouds give way to the sun, and emerald banks are dressed in green cloaks that are almost springlike except for the absence of lambs but, before long, the train now kisses the edge of the Four Cantons lake, which mirrors newly-formed low, lumpy clouds as they pass, distorted in the ripples and a wind blows from the north.

Upon our return, just outside Zug on the Zurich side, I see a field of small wooden chalets which at first I take to be large allotment sheds, although the allotment alloted to each appeared small.  Planning wisely, one could possibly grow a season’s lettuce in summer or a winter stock of greens later in the year.  Behind this field rise rounded green hills which are sugar-topped with a thin white crown of snow, tinged with yellow in the late afternoon sun. A sprawl of angular concrete a mile further announces our arrival in Zug.

After a stop of only a few minutes we leave Zug behind and snake our way around its lake, reflecting the growing shadows as the first mountains, their features dark with the setting sun sitting behind, frown down upon us, their peaks gripped in ice and snow as we rise slow and easy up the incline towards Arth-Goldau.

Arth-Goldau is flanked on both sides by white-crusted mountains, the snow level low, only a hundred metres or so above the railway line.  Our journey will now continue upwards and we return to skirt the Four Cantons lake, this time from the north, where straight, slab-sided cliffs rise shear from the still, leaden water, now mirroring the evening sky.  The one regret of travelling by train in this beautiful, ancient mountainscape is the views that are missed as so much of this journey necessitates tunnels.  As the white peaks stand strong against the ever-darkening blue sky with its high, pink clouds floating in the cold airs the view s suddenly lost with guillotine abruptness as another tunel is entered, as we head back to the long Gotthard tunnel and descend into Ticino for the homeward run thereafter.

A look back, and to the future

2014:  t’was a strange year.  From a writing point of view it went much better than expected, and more on that another time.

Firstly, an more importantly, on a personal level it was a year of ups and downs, ending with my long-term partner’s discovery of breast cancer which required two operations and now demands a course of chemotherapy to look forward to in 2015.  However post-op results are very favourable and we, hand-in-hand, are both positive also that all will go well. It was a shock, it came out of the blue as the last mammogram was only done two years ago which was all clear.  Ladies; the mammogram can be a life-saver, don’t neglect yours!

In addition, my eldest brother was diagnosed with Crohn’s diesease in June, also necessitating operations, and the long-term results of which we are still awaiting an outcome.  Both situations have made my partner and I realise that health must come before all else and, in light of this, we decided to forego Christmas between ourselves and donate to both causes.

Cancer research is probably one of the widest-known causes one can donate to and for us a Swiss research foundation was chosen, however Crohn’s disease is another matter: there is a lot of information available on the disease itself but research resource seem to be lacking which is unfathomable given the seriousness of the condition.  A new MAP test is still in the testing stage at King’s College hospital and requires £380’000 of funding.  Yes, you read correctly; only £380’000.  That’s less than two weeks wages for some footballers and is nothing to the authorities that could do but won’t.  Priorities eh?

This isn’t a call-to-arms charity donation post; far from it.  The people who should be responsible for laying out the money for both causes, fully aware of their non-commitment, would do well to look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves why, although having the hide of a Stegosaurus can no doubt come in handy.

From a professional point of view, the changes in the financial sector here in Switzerland have dictated that I’d be better off out than in so, at the end of January 2015, I’ll be out.  Relieved? Oh yes.  Worried?  That’s what drives us, isn’t it?  I will be concentrating on the Cambridge CELTA course to teach English as a foreign language, which will finish at the end of May.  It’s no pushover and it’s high pressure, but the thought of leaving with the CELTA certificate in my pocket, after not-too-inconsiderable outlay, encourages me no end.

2015 has already laid out some hurdles but if you jump high enough, and run fast enough, you can still overcome and succeed.

Happy New Year to you all.

Chris

 

One continent, four years and poles apart

08 December. A bad day for music.

I’m not talking about John Lennon, tragedy and massive loss to the music world that it was.  I will instead pay this little homage to my favourite band of the 80s who, after the events of 08 December 1984, decided they couldn’t go on making music the way they had been doing, new record deal or not.  It’s not a biography: I’ve added a link for that, it’s just a few lines dedicated to a decent drummer and a few thoughts of what could have been.

Hanoi Rocks.  In 1980 Four Finns and one Swede got together and formed a band, with a look and sound winking in the direction of the New York Dolls.  They independently release two albums and a move to London where Razzle, an endearing and talented ‘geezer’ from the Isle of White replaced the strung-out Swede on the drum stool.  The band and their sound stepped up a gear.  A further two albums down the line and CBS signed them and, with a US tour on the cards in late 1984, the world should have been their oyster…

08 December.  Los Angeles.  During a forced break from touring after frontman Michael Monroe fractured his ankle, Razzle and Andy McCoy, lead guitarist with the band, are partying hard with Mötley Crüe at Vince Neil’s house (Neil being the lead singer of the Crüe), partying so hard in fact that they run out of booze.  Vince takes it upon himself to drive to the liquor store to bring back supplies and asks Razzle if he’s like to go with him.  Vince has recently purchased a 72 DeTomaso Pantera and Razzle, a bit of a car nut, says yes.

On their way back from the store, Vince hits water and slides across the other side of the road, and the passenger side of the car takes the full force of the impact.  Neil cuts his nose while Razzle dies from massive head injuries just an hour later.

Hanoi Rocks limped on for a few months but it wasn’t the same.  The man who’d come in, swept out the Swede and forged four Finns with his charm, sense of humour and talent was no more.  Within six months following the accident, nor was the band.  Their legacy lived on for much longer however, with Guns N’ Roses openly declaring the band as a massive influence.

R.I.P. Razzle.  “Give us another pint of brown mate, cheers.”

To darkness and beyond

We have just rolled through Gestnellen; I don’t know where it is, as the light from the carriage interior obliterates almost any view I may have in the darkness beyond the window: almost, that is except lit Christmas trees which to me appear premature but, in effect, probably aren’t.  In one month’s time Christmas will be over and TV programmers will be falling over themselves giving airtime to sunny adverts of faraway places as you glance out of the frost-encrusted window into the cold, grey gloom beyond, wondering if it will snow.

Four young men in military fatigues have joined the carriage.  I presume they are in the army; if not then I guess we’re in the shit.

I would like to know where we are, but I can’t see for the lit Christmas stars, snowflakes and reindeers that suck electricity to show you they’re there.  I look at my watch; theoretically I’m one hour from Zurich.

Songs, demons and general annoyance

A demon has entered my head.  It won’t come out, no matter how much I try and force the issue.

Somewhere across the mists of time, a time in which wars have been won and lost, kingdoms have risen and fallen and territories have been ceded and possessed, someone somewhere has entered by being and possessed me.  A song.  A song damn it, so dire, so horrendous that it has stuck in my head and won’t budge,  I have been zapped by the worst of 1958; that’s 11 years before I was born ladies and gentlemen, zapped by someone who sings with a voice like molten lard, yes lard.  Not lava, lard.

I want to know where the hell I heard the song “All in the game” by Tommy Edwards.  I want to know where, and who and I want revenge.  Of all the songs from that age, that year this one has stalked and found me.  I could have had anything by Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, anything but not this.  This is worse than hearing something slide under your bed in the darkest depth of night.

Tommy Edwards, I will now publicly attempt to cast you out.  Be gone from my head, never to return.  Go!

 

The writer who forgot how to write

It could be the title of a book, albeit a not very inspiring one. It could but it’s not, it’s a reflection of someone, somewhere. It’s a reflection of me, looking back at me from the glass with shadow-circled eyes and skin paling in the fresh autumn breeze as the rain falls while the leaves take their time to turn from green to brown and the summer (what summer?) looks around, sighs and departs.

It seems a long time since I wrote anything ‘creative’, and by that I mean fiction, my first writing love. I looked in my diary and saw the last entry almost a month ago; that is terrible! Even laying aside a brief bout of ill-health and outside stresses it’s still a long time – too long. Thi is only alleviated by the fact I’ve managed to post poetry on my writing blog since July. I would sometime use the blog to air some of my morning writing exercises, at least those that could be aired. I’ve always used those hours in the morning when I should be sleeping but can’t, to write.  Just lately, for a number of reasons, I just haven’t had that get up and go to, well, get up.  There’s a correlation between no longer writing in the morning, my most creative period, and not producing fiction.  And I have a theory:

Contrary to my fiction-writing habits, my poetry seems to take a peek behind the curtain later in the day. I feel about as disposed to write poetry in the morning as I feel disposed to go to the office… yeah, enthusiasm eh? Although the latter will change from 1st January but more of that another time. Anyway, my theory is my poetic soul picks up on the sins of the day; the tensions, arguments and darkened thoughts. Instead, the writer in me, the storyteller, likes a new white canvas, the first breath of cold, clean mountain air as he opens the window, thoughts untainted and summed up in five words.

From a jar in motion to a jarring motion

Bear with me on the title…

During the last 6 days following my last post and the reluctant concealment of my home-made pickled red cabbage jars for at least two weeks, I have to confess to feeling not quite myself.

Last Wednesday I came home early from work, sure that by the evening I would be running a fever; it didn’t happen. Looking back on it now I wish it had. Like the forest fire started by the lightning burning away the old growth to allow the new, a fever can work a treat to blast the bugs from the bod. No; this time it decided to ignore me and instead left me feeling shattered, mentally numb, unable to work (day job) and unable to work on what I like to have time to work on, which is writing.

I had about as much creative inspiration as a bunch of limp water-cress. It happens, especially when one is feeling crappy and is confined to stay at home and not infect an office full of colleagues. Ordinarily I don’t worry about it: the lack of creativity that is, not the infection of colleagues. After all, it comes and goes and I find it easier not to force it. I decided instead to turn on the computer and start researching the world of freelance copywriting; I’ve made reference to my interest in this in previous posts. However, it didn’t stop there, as soon as I started a-Googling I had all sorts of additional aspects thrown at me, such as content writing, web marketing; even, I hasten to add, HTML. HTML? It took me 10 minutes just to remember what is stands for! It does however seem to be a useful skill addition for a copywriter.

So I entered “freelance copywriting jobs” in the search bar. What a mistake that was. Suddenly a host of job auction sites flashed up at me, offering me $10 an hour in India, $15 an hour in the US, £10 an hour in the UK – My God, is this what the freelancing world has become? Are there any freelancers out there who read this blog or are reading this post (yeah, small chance I know…)?

I really enjoyed the copywriting course I took last year and I received a very positive feedback from my tutor, with whom I still in contact.I would trade dollars (or in my case Swiss Francs) for a little job satisfaction. I love the idea of freelancing;: the freedom would allow me to pursue other interests, some of which also pay (that doesn’t include selling my body…at least not yet). Teaching English, even at conversational level, is always welcome here. It would allow me to concentrate on “serious writing” also. It’s a dream to embark on a professional path which may not bring in the same wage but will give me a hell of a lot more enjoyment, challenge and sense of fulfilment. I guess the Googling, and Elnace in particular, brought me back down to Earth with a jolt.

You see, it was all in the title.