Why do you blog?

Why am I here? Why have I written six hundred (half are private) different entries onto this site? Because I find writing my thoughts down to be therapeutic. Putting in to words the thoughts in my head and then being able to read them back to myself gives me a clarity which thought alone does not.

Being able to look back at previous events in my life enables me to understand the here and now far better than memory alone does. This blog has served me well. When I forgot about good times this reminds me. When the reasons for decisions is lost, a read of these pages causes them to be found.

I wrote, briefly, about my reasons for blogging here: Why I blog | Blog Boards.

You see, the one thing I have always found about having a blog is the cathartic effects of writing. Sometimes the thoughts in my head need an outlet. They need to be allowed out for a walk. Sometimes they dance across the keyboard and words appear. Writing is therapy.

And it’s helped. It really has. When the thoughts in your head get too much for you to sort out, putting those thoughts down as words on a page or a screen is really helpful; even if those words don’t get published. They can sit in drafts for days or weeks or months. They can be written in private and then deleted. It’s entirely up to the writer.

There is something pure and clean about putting words on a page. Its not easy to explain, but have you ever struggled to understand why you feel some way, why you behave some way? This helps me to understand both feelings and behaviour. Often sitting with a blank page and just letting my fingers relay thought into words has helped me to overcome terrible feelings of loss and anger. Its a release to get it out in the open rather than keeping it bottled up.

I’ve never wanted fame or notoriety. I do not expect to be a ‘famous’ blogger. Its never been in my life plans to write for my dinner. This is a hobby and an excuse to see my thoughts ‘in the flesh’ as it were.

My efforts to populate these pages have been intermittent. When I read back its interesting to see that in the past I have turned to blogging when I’m struggling with life and relationships. The purpose of this challenge is to get back into writing about the good times. Tomorrow’s post will be a HUGE good times announcement. I know I’ll still write about the bad and the ugly, but I want to be able to showcase the good also.

I also want to link in with other bloggers. Not those who write for a living but those who write for their life. I want to read your good times and your bad times, to see the struggle and successes of ordinary people going about their ordinary business. That, to me, should be the purpose of blogging. It’s a journal, a story, a timeline of life.

I’ll finish with a little plug. If you are a blogger or want to make a start on becoming one, check out Blog Boards. It’s a small community for bloggers to get help, encouragement and support with their blogs. Check it out below:

 

Three Favourite Songs

EVERLONG by FOO FIGHTERS

Two of my favourite Foo Fighters tracks are on the ’97 album The Colour and the Shape. ‘Everlong’ just beats out ‘My Hero’. The latter is more anthemic but ‘Everlong’ tugs at the soul. It’s felt as much as heard. It starts low and builds to a quick paced beat which sits at odds to the slow rhythm of Grohl’s lyrics.

Breathe out
So I can breathe you in
Hold you in

It’s majestic.

KNOCK ME DOWN by RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

After first hearing Red Hot Chili Peppers late 1991 following the release of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, I went back through their previous releases. Released in 1989, Mother’s Milk is the band’s fourth studio album and ‘Knock Me Down’ stands out on that album as one of my all-time favourite songs. Like most songs I like it’s the lyrics which stick. The Chili’s are not well known for lyrical brilliance and they make up any glaring gaps in quality penmanship with large doses of showmanship. ‘Knock Me Down’ spoke to me:

Don’t be afraid to show your friends that you hurt inside, inside
Pain’s part of life, don’t hide behind your false pride
It’s a lie, your lie

It’s an excellent inclusion on one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers finest albums.

IRIS by GOO GOO DOLLS

Released in 1998 as part of the soundtrack for the film City of Angels, ‘Iris’ was huge and by far and away the most well-known song from the band. I can’t remember when I first heard it but the song featured prominently in my period of self-destruction following the death of Clare. The opening words said what I was feeling far more eloquently than I ever could:

And I’d give up forever to touch you
‘Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now

Whenever I hear ‘Iris’ I think of her.

Happy Life

I look back over my blog and it’s often filled with angst, worries, troubles, upsets, pain. I was speaking to a wonderful lady recently who I have grown to consider one of the finest people I know. She said she doesn’t hear from me so much recently and I excused myself saying that I didn’t really have anything to say. Everything is fine. Job is good, relationship; amazing, family; great, friends; brilliant, house; getting there, future; Rosie.

And I got to thinking, do we define ourselves by our misery? Do we only tell people things that are bad, upsetting, worrying? Do we only divulge our troubles? Is the only thing we have to speak about sadness?

I am happy. It’s a funny thing. It’s a warmth deep down in your gut. It’s contentment, it’s the ability to be unapologetically you. And right now I am unapologetically me. I met someone who makes me smile. She warms my soul. It’s been a few short months of knowing her but she completes me. It’s like I’ve spent years in the wilderness just wandering and now I’m home. That’s what I said to her last week; she feels like home. We talk about rubbish, we sit and engage in conversations about nothing at all. Days go by and I cannot tell you what we did because to the outside observer it probably looks like nothing happened. But I’m with her and she’s with me and that is all that matters. I feel like, no matter what happens, no matter what the future may hold, as long as we have each other, everything will be fine. Everything will be beautiful.

And I’ve never felt this way before. I’ve never felt so content, so complete. We talk about the future, about living together, about starting a family. We talk about all the places we are going to go and all the things we are going to see. We discuss growing old and where we’re going to live, and what our children will be called. She makes me feel young again. It’s rather quite perfect.

Why not share that? Why not tell the world how happy we are? Is it wrong to be blissfully happy and to feel okay and not at all guilty about that happiness? I don’t think so.

People will judge us. People will say it’s too early or it won’t work because of the age difference. People will say that things never worked with anyone else and to anticipate the same this time. People are detractors, they seek to destroy happiness either out of jealously or spite or a desire for drama. For the first time I’m completely open, totally honest, entirely under her spell. To give yourself to someone is to place the key to your happiness in their hands. In the past I have avoided doing this for fear of getting hurt. By not giving yourself to someone completely you will never achieve the happiness which you seek. It takes guts to say, “I am yours” and place yourself in a position where you can be hurt. But if you don’t you’ll never know what it’s like to love and be loved unequivocally. If you do you’ll unlock the secret to a Happy Life.

Visit to Edinburgh

Post nightshift, dragging ourselves out of bed on a few hours sleep, traveling to Edinburgh via train on a rainy Thursday afternoon probably didn’t seem like the greatest of ideas to either of us. Getting on the wrong train because sleepy brains probably seemed like a portent of things to come. But arriving in the city after a couple of beers and seeing the Christmas market was still going, and the lights, and the sights and the sounds lifting moods and put smiles on tired faces.

I was stuck for what to get my girlfriend for Christmas but I’m a firm believer in collecting memories not things, so a trip north of the border seemed like a good idea. Arriving Thursday night we dropped off bags and then headed out into the city for food and a Ghost Tour. By a stroke of fluke genius we were the only two on our tour and had the guide all to ourselves. We passed other much larger tours all umbrellas and shouts in Greyfriars Kirkyard, and never had to struggle to hear what was being said or jostle for position. The guide was a fun young guy dressed as Dr. Robert Knox and he took us on a quick overground tour before we headed into the underground vaults. I’ve never been a believer in spirits or spooks but I enjoy the sinister stories and the ‘feel’ of these underground places. My companion, however, is sensitive to these things and found the sensations underground to be troubling. It was creepy, it was spooky, and knowing you’re stood in a place where a family were tortured and murdered to garner a witch’s confession was sobering and atmospheric. From there we toured a few of the pubs on the Royal Mile and took in some ‘traditional’ Scottish music – and some not so traditional gin & tonics and pints of beer.

Friday morning and after a late start we tackled Arthur’s Seat. It’s been on my to-do list since I first visited Edinburgh; an ancient, extinct volcano which was active some 355 million years ago. The climb was reasonably easy, and the only real challenge was avoiding as much mud as possible and managing to not slip and be dumped unceremoniously onto one’s bottom. The views from the top are spectacular with the entire city arrayed below and the Firth of Forth clearly visible to the north. We didn’t pause long; it gets chilly at the top in early January, but had plenty of time to snap a string of photos.

Despite the inclement weather, slippery surfaces, and ‘quieter’ time of the year, there were plenty of people at the top of the hill. Students, families, kids, dog walkers, and the odd Japanese tourist. It’s seemed like just about anyone could clamber up it’s well-worn paths, as the mini-skirt-clad (clearly not a local) visitor testified.

We walked back down in a different direction and took a slow walk around Holyrood Park drinking in the views and fresh air. It always pleases me to find these kind of open spaces in the middle of urban sprawl – and with it’s history, pretty scenery, waterways and wildlife, Holyrood didn’t disappoint.

I just wish we’d had more time, but a late start and a busy evening planned, and grumbling bellies conspired against us and we called for an Uber to return us to Edinburgh Centre.

Friday night I had tickets booked for us to see Shrek at the Edinburgh Playhouse. We arrived in a bit of a rush and managed to grab a beer before heading to our seats in the front row. Close enough to see the sheet music perched upon the keyboard of the band leader. Shrek was brilliant. Donkey was endearing. Lord Farquaad was a riot. Shrek lost none of it’s magic in transition from screen to stage and my girl said it was better than The Lion King on Broadway. It was a heartwarming, funny, feel-good romp and highly recommended.

Saturday morning we were both a wee bit worse for wear so opted to don our virtual anoraks and tour the city on a sightseeing bus. We stopped off at the National Museum of Scotland for a look about and a slice of cake. Time was running away from us though, and by the time we got back to Princes Street and made our way to St. Andrews Square, we discovered the ice rink just too late. It was time to head home.

Edinburgh, you were outstanding. We shall be back.

 

 

Auschwitz

Just last week it was my privilege to accompany a lovely young lady to Poland for a few days of sightseeing. On the last day we were there we took a trip to the concentration and extermination camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I had been told by people who had been before to anticipate an eerie experience. “There’s no life there” was a typical warning, and very general gist of commentary from the people who had been before me; or who had spoken to others that had been. I’d heard that no birds visit the place where over a million men, women and children were murdered. It’d be wrong to say I was ‘looking forward’ to the experience, but I was anticipating an experience which I would never forget. That’s exactly what I got.

The temperature hovered around freezing when we arrived at Auschwitz-1 and we were taken for a short tour around the camp, into and out of the buildings. There, we saw exhibited, the horrors of the place. Photos of the arrival of prisoners who were then selected for either labour or death. Rows upon rows of shoes taken from men, women and children. The pots and pans and other household items which people brought with them to the camp; under the impression they were to begin a new life. And human hair. Bails of human hair. Which was shorn from the victims of the Nazi’s for use in wartime and textile industries.

I think that was what impacted upon me most from the main camp; that human beings were as sheep or cattle, to be killed and have their component parts rendered down into raw materials to be used as we would use the leather or wool from livestock. Does anything say dehumanised as much as treating people as we would animals?

Before we left this place we were taken to an ammunition bunker which had been converted into a gas chamber. This is one of the first places used to kill people using poisoned gas at Auschwitz. We stood inside and I looked up at the vent where, just decades previously, others would have looked to see granules of Zyklon B poured in. It was chilling. The impact lessened only by the other people on the tour sharing this space. Some were visibly impacted by being in such a place.

From here were took a short ride to Auschwitz 2-Birkenau. Unlike Auschwitz 1, which was a converted barracks, Birkenau was a purpose built linchpin of the Nazi ‘Final Solution’. A place designed and purpose-built for the extermination of Jews and others deemed unsuitable to exist in the Third Reich. It’s a space quite unlike any other. Most structures beyond the reception building either demolished or destroyed. The few remaining wooden buildings could be visited and showcased the conditions people like you and me were kept in. Seven hundred in a building big enough – by modern standards – to house a family of four. Sleeping on triple-bunks with seven or eight people on each level. Staying alive through harsh winters and freezing temperatures only as a result of shared body heat. We saw the area where the trains pulled in and the SS went through the selection process on new arrivals. People either selected to work – if they had relevant skills – or sentenced to immediate death in the gas chambers.

As we walked up the train lines towards the monument between two of the gas chamber / crematorium ruins, my companion turned to me and reiterated the words I’d heard about Auschwitz many times. “There is no life here. No birds fly.” At this I looked to my left and saw three small birds take flight; black shapes across the grey skies, between the stark ruins, towards the sparse trees. There was life.

And then, as we retraced our steps towards the reception building, I saw an image which shall remain my most abiding memory. Two Hasidic Jews, no more than seventeen or eighteen years old, walking along the railway tracks which conveyed so many of their kin to their deaths. Their younger siblings played games of balance along those same tracks. Those young people, along with the three small birds I saw were, to me, symbols of life returning from death. Of hope coming from hate. I’ll remember that image and that feeling for as long as I live. I left Auschwitz Birkenau, not sullen, but uplifted. Not with feelings of melancholy, instead with an understanding of humanities capacity to change for the better.

I believe that everyone should visit Auschwitz at some point in their lives. It needs to be a lesson that everyone is made aware of so that we do all we can to ensure such horrors never happen again.

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ – George Santayana

Remembering lost loves

I think that probably for the rest of my life there will be days which are significant because of Clare. January 14th 2012 is the day we met. Purely by accident. She asked me to dance, I said no. I bought her a drink instead. I asked for her number, she said yes.

It was five years ago. Only five years. So much happened in those five years. One day – I promise myself – I will write it all down. I’ll share what happened. The good, the bad. The battles with ex-girlfriends and ex-husbands. The struggle to be accepted. The passion. It seems like such an extraordinarily short period of time for such an extraordinary woman to be in my life. I feel cheated. I feel like someone took her away from me. All too soon.

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I miss her so much. The touch of her skin. The taste of her lips. Her smile. The way she held my hand. Her enthusiasm for life. Her compassion. Her fire. Her spirit. I miss the way she would dance up to me in a playful manner and try and wrestle or tickle. I miss her laugh. I miss talking to her. I miss the way she made me feel like I could do anything and be anyone.

I give thanks every day for those years she was in my life. It was sometimes painful. It was sometimes ugly. It was sometimes frustrating. It was sometimes difficult. But it was also the most amazing of times. I am fortunate. I got the best of those years with Clare. The pain of losing her hasn’t diminished. I feel the hurt all the time but I have learned to cope – mostly.

But here’s the deal. I accept the pain. I embrace the pain. Because I know that is because she loved me and I loved her. It’s because of how much she meant to me and how much I meant to her. The feelings of loss are matched by the feelings of love. It hurts so because I loved her so.

Goodbye my lover, goodbye my friend. You’ll always be my wonderful special lady and I will always, always, love you.