A little piece of me

My Words, My World

Once in a while I look back over my previous writing just to try and gauge whether, over time, it’s improving.  I think it is.  I also look for patterns.  Patterns reveal the state during a certain period.  My writing of late, especially the poetry, has taken a darkened path.

10 years ago I started having massive sleep disruption.  This quickly grew into chronic insomnia, which I chose to ignore at my peril for a few years.  6 years ago I went under the ‘care’ of the local hospital, following visits to psychiatric specialists who tried to fathom out what the problem was.  I was depressed, apparently.  No shit, Sherlock.  A few years of sleeping no more than 4 hours a night was conducive to wiping the smile off my face.  They put boxes of pharmaceuticals in my hand and sent me away.

During this time I started writing.  I…

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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?

 

The morning mission

I heard the mission bell; it sounded like a cell phone ringing, or beeping, or buzzing.  I was on the bus last week.  I use it regularly in winter because two wheels, motorised and un, freeze me slowly.  The walk to the bus-stop clears the lungs and head, at least it does until I step on the bus.

Twenty people on the bus, heads at 90°, texting, Whatsapping, emailing, surfing; whatever they’re doing.  That’s OK, free country and who am I to care?  So I whipped out my notebook and ever-present 2H pencil and started writing.  The noise of lead scratching paper could have been one of H.G. Wells’ Martians yelling “Ulla!” the noise was so alien.

In front of me a head righted itself and probably swum from finding itself in a hitherto unknown position.  To the side of me fingers stopped doing whatever they were doing and someone who could have exited the bendy-bus at the other door decided to walk past, catching a snide glance at my activity.  Fairly bloody surreal for an 8.00am bus ride.

So, I decided I had a mission, not impossible and not even difficult but a mission nonetheless.  Every morning or evening or both, I would write a poem.  Chances are it may not be a very good one but a poem it would be.  Today’s one went OK, at least I liked it and that matters more than anything else, and it goes a little like this:

Hours

The hours slip through time,

as time seeps through the hours;

flowers

mark the beginning

and the end of time

Celebration of life and death

Eyes open for the first time

or close for the last

and tears tear the heart

But now life grows

and time never slows

But seeps through the hours.

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.”

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.

And now for something completely different: A little rap and pickle…

I’ve never been a woman, at least not in this life, so it stands to reason I’ve never been pregnant.  I do however currently nurse a craving, a food craving.  Nothing so severe as Whiskas on toast on a bed of Marmite but a craving none the less.  Pickled red cabbage.  Yep, mainstay of many an English Christmas larder.  Larder? I haven’t used that word since I was about 15… Anyway, it’s now mid September and I have this craving – pickled red cabbage with Cheddar cheese.  So what? you reply.  Go to the supermarket and buy some.  Ha!  Too simple, this is Switzerland and I can’t find any.  Anyway, what I actually want is that my Mum made years ago.  So, following a week of this craving I decided to make some…yes, you read me right, make some!

Actually it was a spur of the moment thing.  I saw the cabbage in the supermarket, thought about it for a few seconds, put it in the trolley then went in search for vinegar.  That’s another thing, I can’t buy malt vinegar for love nor money, although if truth be told I’ve only ever tried with money, so I bought wine inegar instead.  Then I thought about spicing said vinegar, and after visiting 48,324 different websites came up with the answer.  And so it began.

I'd love a shirt this colour!
I’d love a shirt this colour!

On Monday, I chopped the cabbage, laid it in a bowl and smothered it with salt and left it 24 hours.  Tuesday came round, I rinsed it well and let it drain while I prepared my spices – whole peppercorns, cloves, dried chili, bay leaves and fennel – just that which I found at the back of the cupboard.  Cutting up an old, clean tea-towel I laid the spices inside, tied itup and laid it in the now-simmering vinegar for five minutes before taking the latter off the heat, leaving the spices in and putting it out on the balcony to cool.  Then the jar sterilisation; jars in the oven at 150 degrees for 10 minutes while boiling the lids for the same amount of time.

Spice is nice
Spice is nice

With both the jars and vinegar now cool, I initiated my first pickling, ever.  Here is the result.  I’ve never been a woman, hence I’ve never been pregnant, but I can’t wait for these babies…

The babies!

The babies!

Chris’s conscience crisis, a Monday alliteration

Dionaea muscipula – the Venus Flytrap.  I have one and he’s special. I bought him back in May, when the hope of spring was upon me, and just as the weather permitted him to be left outside to his own devices.  Neither he nor I could have imagined a rain-soaked summer like this one; it’s a miracle he’s still alive and eating. Ah!  Eating.  Now it’s a fact that nature throws up some freaks every once in a while: two-headed cows, three-legged rabbits, gay goldfish…whatever.  I though believed I had bought the world’s first vegetarian Flytrap – I kid you not.  I spent weeks checking on his welfare; the soil condition, the balance of sunlight and shade, although I think this summer they seem to merge into one and the same.  I digress.  Not once did I see a trap shut, not once!

Now there are 3 (animals?) insects I detest:  wasps (bastards), mosquitoes (bitches) and flies, yep, those same houseflies that tread and throw up on your food when you’re not looking, so I started patrolling my balcony with an innocent plastic fly-swatter in my hand and, after downing a blighter, I would give it to the plant.  However, after a backhand like Jimmy Connors (remember him?) the fly would be, how can I say, very dead.  That would then necessitate an operation involving a match or toothpick to get the trap to shut.  Tonight that changed. I came home from work, walked out on the balcony and there, sitting on the table fat as fortune, no doubt bloated after a session of stuffing, stomping and spewing, sat a blowfly.  A thumping forehand, minus the swatter, took down the shining son-of-a-gun and it lay motionless on the floor.  I picked it up by a wing and deposited it neatly into a trap.  I guess it must have landed on a couple of trigger-hairs as it started moving, and as it did so…whoops!  I hadn’t actually killed it.  Well, I guess you could say I have now.

Then I had a li’l crisis of conscience.  Giving dead flies to my plant doesn’t bother me, the same as a butcher giving someone a dead chicken doesn’t bother me, but the thought that it had about a second to realise it had a trigger-hair up its arse just as its world closed in on it gave me a pang of guilt.  A little.  Well, I guess all in all about five seconds, time enough to realise that my plant is as nature intended.  Order has been restored.  Good stuff! 20140908_193744

Slightly out of focus picture courtesy of author who can’t stand looking over his balcony…