No one had seen much of Jon in the last two, maybe three years, other than those who had made the effort to not be defeated by the un-returned call after un-returned call and either speak to his parents or just invite themselves round unannounced. It was the only way to see him. It was hard to understand why Jon even still had a mobile phone, considering the lengths he was taking to remove himself from the outside world so comprehensively.

And yet, given that it has been around three years (certainly two) since he gave up on pretty much everything, the presence at Jon's funeral was startling and even life-affirming. That man will be missed, and he will be missed by a lot of people, many of whom hadn't seen him in the best part of ten years, let alone even knew he was an alcoholic. Jon died at the age of thirty-one due to alcoholism. This is extreme, tragic and unacceptable.

The atmosphere at the funeral service, the wake and the gathering afterwards (where a select dozen or more of Jon's old friends met for a late meal) was as good as could only be hoped for. Perhaps it was because there was still enough youth to go around, seeing as most of us were still only aged around the thirty mark, but people seemed quick to joke and remember that Jon was a joker, a genuinely, appealingly funny man. I was told that the eulogy I performed for him read more like a best man speech than what it was. This was a compliment in every respect, but any joke I made, any comical reminiscence made public once more in front of a particularly rammed St Peters Church, Monkmoor, stemmed from Jon himself, his actions, his willingness to entertain, and his words.

Thirty-one. It is unacceptable that he should leave us so young. We will not, and should not, be attending each others' funerals for decades to come. Jon was the first to leave us, and it is already opportune emotional strategy to imply that the love towards him, the respect shown for the effect he had so many he knew is down to simply dealing with his loss: say everything nice you can about him, it makes it all so much easier. But it is so much more than that. Jon really did represent the best of us. He actually was that decent, justifiably loved to that degree, leaving this world with not a single person to have a bad word against him. In the intervening years before we all start passing away (I don't mean to sound morbid with this train of thought) we may all make mistakes, things to move on from, things to learn and live by - Jon didn't really get chance to do these things. Alcoholism could be seen as his biggest mistake, but he never had chance to clean up. The chance never came to learn and move on. This is unnaceptable, yet accept it we must.

At the funeral, his mother and father and younger sister Andrea (pictured here with Jon) held it together as best as they could, but there was a distance you could see in them. He had fallen so ill under his parents' roof. None of us can imagine the despair this must have caused them. Many of us have lost a dearly loved friend but they saw their first child slowly die. Yet people pulled together as best as they could for his funeral, the last ever moment where everyone could get together all at once in tenderness and show each other what he meant to them. This makes things a little more acceptable, when people travel from all corners of the country to say goodbye by being there, talking about him, and laughing at the appropriate times, which, regarding Jon's relentless sense of humour, should have been all the time. Indeed it was all the time that day.

Many of the male friends at the funeral couldn't hold it together, particularly when his coffin was slowly lowered into the earth. It may be easy to understand that many of us will have been thinking that could have been me. To go from such a person of joy to this in a mere thirty-one years displays how easy it is to become lost, never to be found again in time simply because you don't want to even find yourself. The mortality of it is distressing, how easy it could be to slip under. Jon was on the same path as the rest of us for so long, joking and playing, and no one seemed to notice when he chose to leave.

Jon, it feels as if we barely knew you, yet you will be so missed.


"Not every Marta's friends are really Marta's friends"

Some shots from Italy. I was mainly based round Lake Maggiore, due to my friend living and working in Sesto Calende. Managed to visit Turin, Milan and Verona also.

Verona has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. You get to visit 'Juliet's Balcony', there's an original Roman arena still in full use (apart from the feeding of Christians to the lions) and the old town is surrounded by a rushing river. Tourism has yet to destroy the place. One of the most romantic places I've ever seen.

Milan and Turin were also deeply impressive, especially the Egyptian Museum in Turin (the worl'd second best, aparently. I'd like to think that the best happens to be in Egypt, otherwise where will we be? The worlds third best Icelandic museum happens to be in Cardiff?). Milan has all the fashion and money associated with it, but it's also strikingly contrasted by the tram system and certain blocks of the town which feel like they were plucked straight from the 1930s. Turin is just gigantic due to so much of the city being rebuilt in order for the troops to be swiftly marched from one side of the city to the other should needs be.



Arona, lake Maggiore

Rocca di Angera (I should explain: this castle has one of the largest collections of dolls in the world, and dolls from all periods and countries. Some were beuatiful, some were bloody creepy).

Isla Bella. Beautiful as it looks, that peacock proper went mental at the one on the right a few seconds later..


Barcelona Plates

Having now made two trips to Barcelona this year, I can firmly say I've made my mind up about the place. Firstly, there is much to be admired - the Sagrada Familia is astounding, even second time around. The world's only yet-to-be-finished cathedral is so beautiful and original in every way. The views from Mount Tibidabo over the city and the surrounding towns peeling off into the July haze. The Royal Palace, and the Olympic village behind it where the pool is now used by the general public (my first sunburn in about twenty years due to this..) The gothic old town, and the Roman ruins beneath which you can tour round. Hot chocolate at Cafe de L'opera. The MACBA gallery, etc.

But, for me, there is a lot about the city that doesn't make me want to rush back - getting ripped-off no matter where you go (not that I'm anything but a tourist, obviously, but still). The fact that most people my sort of age, and the bars etc they frequent seem to be these cosmetically grungy, trendy places. There doesn't seem to be any great music or culture produced there these days. People just seem content with their strange-fringed haircuts, their tattoos, and their skateboards. It all just feels so artless.

Like I said initially though, very beautiful city, but I'm guessing that one of the reasons it's so popular with the British is the fact that alcohol can be cheap, and therefore it makes the place an automatic Stag/Hen weekend target. I can understand the draw from this point of view, although I intend my stag night to involve zombies somehow..

We made tapas one evening: fried quails eggs on grilled peppers and tomatoes, Palma ham bites, fresh olives, patatas bravas, and sangria. It was immense. It was most definitely evenings like this which I went out there for. On the final night we went with a picnic to a late-night, open air viewing of A Clockwork Orange at Monjuic Castle.

Made a six-day camping trip to the Lake District before I went to Spain. That was immense. Second time I've been there in twelve months (it seems that I can't visit places once for some reason..) Being a bunch of students, everyone seemed to be keen to discover what it was about the Lakes that inspired so many writers over the years, especially Wordsworth, and the Romantics. I think the problem there is that firstly, those guys were going there in order to be awed by it where as these days people go there in order to feel what these writers felt. It's not the same thing. It's not a personal, first-hand feeling. It's in the shadow of several great wordsmiths' take on things, but it is in someone elses's shadow nonetheless.

Luckily there was plenty to say about the trip which were our experiences and our experiences only, like swimming daily in Windermere, being frightened away from breakfast by a swan and her four signets, taking tea in Hawkshead whilst a complaining pair of middle class tossers contrive to moan about a sparrow landing on the female tosser's cake ("It actually landed on the cake. Don't you think you should put a sign up, or something, you know, to warn people?") And of course, the climbs.

I think everyone just found the trip so peaceful. Any minor squabbles were quickly ironed out, I think mainly because everyone was so glad to be there. Sleeping under the stars, the great outdoors - all the old cliches fit fine here. The Lakes are so ancient, so un-disappointing that anyone would have to be working pretty hard to talk themselves out of being impressed, and not finding the same voice to be awed as the Romantics could get you on your way there.

I love the fact that it takes a moment to establish that this is in fact English soil. The sheer age of the land masses, and the way the sun dances over the cliffs, drops and peaks at such high speeds makes you realise that everything about Earth is the same age, if you look at its face close enough. And you can take the beaten path, or you can find a new way down, it's up to you. Only the centuries are watching.

And here we stood for a few days, to take in as much as our eyesight or our attention spans would allow. I feel like it would never be enough, so I'll back again at the next opportunity, not to find something new but to yet again find something ancient.

Read a couple of books whilst I was on my travels. After many months of persistent urging from a friend, I finally read Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Yeah, I can see why it was so highly recommended. It features a fictional religion called Bokononism, which, unlike the sinister trappings of Scientology, is in fact ironic and shouldn't be taken seriously, adopted, promoted, revered or practised..

..although, to be fair, given Vonnegut's humanist beliefs throughout his life and the positive affects achieved there from, it has to be said that Bokononism holds quite a few positive truths that probably wouldn't harm anyone to adopt and wouldn't cause much of a stir other than Vonnegut turning in his grave and calling you a mindless sheep.

But.. hmmm. Look, it's a short book, and it's more of a Bokononist's primer than a story (although the story is amazing also). It's one of those books where after you've read it, you kind of feel like you've shed something that was holding you down, you know? I'm sure you've had that feeling from a book before. Everybody has. And one of the most powerful, soothing aspects of this book is the idea that it's okay to not understand absolutely everything around you, particularly the often complex and destructive actions of others, whether they be murderous, baffling or personally heartbreaking. Stuff just occurs, even from one's self and beyond one's control:
Tiger got to hunt
Bird got to fly
Man got to sit and wonder 'Why, why, why?'

Tiger got to sleep
Bird got to land
Man got to tell himself he understand.

As well as feeling like I've learnt something new from a book during my travels, I've also leaned something from experience: if you want to be found in a new place, sit at the highest point in the town, and wait. They will come to you.


On not drinking

I remember when I first decided that I wouldn't drink again. I was seventeen, and it was after a night at Liberty's (previously The Fridge), Shrewsbury's only alternative night club at the time. I'd been moshing to Rage Against The Machine, Nine Inch Nails, and whatever else was dance floor-worthy at the time. I came away sweating, and had a sip of someone's pint. Even back then I remember thinking This sucks, why do people drink this stuff? Throughout my carefully spent teenage years I had never gotten drunk once, therefore not done anything regrettable whilst under the influence. I saw fellow school friends who were pissed a lot on whatever they could buy or steal, or off their face on cheap speed, and I never, ever related to it and never wanted to be part of it. And these people were still my friends, but what they did looked kind of scary, and absolutely not cool to do, from how I could see it.

It wasn't necessarily the fact they were doing it that made me not want to partake (even after offer after offer, and a fair amount of peer pressure) but it was the moments when they would be inebriated, but nobody would be looking; what I mean is, when people are pissed in group, they will act according in that group. They will laugh/fight/kiss/grope/vomit, and it's all documented as part of the group experience. But it's when someone has this look on their face, someone who peels away from the group just for a moment, and has this look of What exactly am I doing and what exactly do I think of this? That moment was the only time I really saw the effect of getting wasted on people's faces. In an instant it's all gone, the magic, the coolness, because the individual feels lost in it - and then pow!, you're back in the group, back in the room, and laughing along with everyone all over again.

I was only interested in my friends at those fleeting moments of complete self-awareness, and from what I could see, it looked like they were coming along once in a while to come up for air. The school I went to wasn't shit; it was one of the most respected secondary schools in Shropshire. Over the road, though, you had Meole Brace school - twice as big therefore twice as much shit going on - and I think that Priory kids felt that they had to compete (cue the drink, drugs and general experimentation). I for one never even met many people from Meole Brace, let alone got wasted to show them how hard I was. But when my fellows were not wasted, they were my friends. When they got wasted, I walked away.

So, after this one night at Liberty's, I'm walking back to my friend's house and he's telling me about this movement in the USA where there are loads if bands that promote a drink free/drug free lifestyle, and the positive existence available to you therein. I instantly, calmly and with a sense of relief, a sense of At last, something that suits me and my choices, took up the Straight Edge lifestyle, got into the bands, and felt invincible. At that time, there was maybe a dozen or so of us that adopted the SXE existence, and we formed bands, and we worked hard at them, and we were a formidable presence on the town's music scene (if the word formidable can be used for anything to do with Shrewsbury). And, yeah, at first, we took it all pretty seriously, pretty intense. Persons of a certain disposition run the risk of militaristic tendencies when they adopt what some would consider extreme life choices, and I think that I might have been that guy back then (I speak for myself only, because no one made me turn SXE - or, The Lifestyle).

I was with a girl when I chose abstiance, and she had problems, and she drank a lot and she got into weed and I didn't know what to do about, so I would challenge her about it. I would repeatedly challenge her choices, not noticing the fact that she wasn't questioning my choices. So that was all quite intense (as first serious relationships often are anyway). Anyway, eventually we broke up, and I carried on with The Lifestyle. I found that the main area where I could 'talk about' my unusual decision at the age of seventeen onwards to give up all forms of inebriation was in the bands I was in. At first, it was all quite aggressive, angst-ridden stuff (from my point of view, although people seemed to seriously dig it) but after time, although I was quite an angry man for whatever reasons, the lyrics I began to write for the bands (for the front man, was I) began to seem very positive and inspirational; I dropped all the swearing, sustained the screaming, but wrote lyrics about self-discovery, beating your own path, and generally just looking for the best way to spend your days. The bands I was listening to evolved towards more mature, less aggro hardcore, and more towards a groovier, approachable style. The whole band was into it, and although we weren't all SXE, this was a very good thing, because how exactly can you get four or five people in a band together all with the exact same beliefs and extreme lifestyle choices, and not have at least one of them once in an a while thinking to themselves
What exactly am I doing and what exactly do I think of this? I was in a band as a front man, and I led The Lifestyle, but I would never have used the band as a platform for the intricacies of exactly what it meant to be SXE; I did, however, use it for a voice about what I saw as positive in life, and yeah, obviously avoiding artificial stimulation was important to me, but it never came through in the lyrics other than Go forth and be positive to yourself, all the time.

The band at the time became pretty popular, and we would do shows up and down England, often getting amazing responses from people who hadn't seen us before, and getting repeat responses from people who had seen us previously. Promoters would tell us that we were such fun to put on because, although we were heavy, we were so approachable (Lee, Matt and I even had ridiculous little dance routines to some of our songs. It was bliss), signed bands took us under their wing, and the audience just wanted to talk to us. As just a guy from Shrewsbury who just worked at KFC, this was intensely rewarding. I'd written lyrics and guitar riffs in my bedroom, and here we were playing this music to a happily listening crowd. The scene was, as you probably know, full of elitist types - sticking to their group of friends, their own bands, etc - and we had none of that, not when we got on the road as the four of us and got out there. Local shows became rarer, unfortunately, due to other bands disintegrating and people inevitably going off to university, but we carried on out of town, to give it a proper shot.

Eventually, it all came to a sudden end when I quite one winter night. I would have been about twenty-one/twenty-two. I just felt a serious dip in my confidence, and I look back now and see it as being a bad year in many ways; my parents broke up, my girlfriend of the time and I broke up (tried to stay friends, but it was bleak for a while) and I knew that I hated my job but didn't know what to do next. I quit the band, and the band therefore collapsed in the form it was, because I wrote such a huge proportion of the music and all the lyrics. I felt so bad for the other guys, but I knew they had the determination to carry on with something new, and they did. I, however, withdrew for some time. I got a new job (the projection job), but wasn't it a band for a long time.

I lived with some friends in a couple of different houses during my early twenties, and even though we had parties and all that, I still never drank or partook in anything at all. Any girlfriend I was with, she obviously drank (some a lot more than others) but all the time I never did - and I know it probably sounds odd to keep mentioning abstinence in this way, but to me it was the most solid thing in my life; the one thing I knew was true and solid, that I did not drink alcohol, that I rejected that most predictable and nasty of hedonistic pursuits, and I was there, always, quite simply , Rich. So much around me could be lost at any time (through my own doing or just because that is the nature of things) but my choice to abstain defined me, if only simply to me.

I got into reading a great deal at the same time as I formed a couple more bands, which is something I still greatly enjoy now. My job allowed me to read and do nothing else, day after day. I felt like I discovered a lot more about anything from so much reading, but I withdrew even more from pretty much everything social (even if I attended social events, I would excuse myself early or just feel uncomfortable being there). As years went by, my friends obviously began to mature, so if any of them started out as massive drinkers, this inevitably calmed down a bit as they calmed down also. My friends are a civilised, fun-loving bunch, and this is a decent set-up for any social scene. The drugs pretty much vanished (not that there had been much anyway) and people began to settle down and find their adult selves. It seems I, on the other hand, got somewhat lost in time.

The thing about that projectionist job was that, firstly, I was good at it ,and my boss/es downstairs didn't know a single thing about how the projectors worked, so they left me the fuck alone. I worked under four general managers in that place (typical place like that, where a manager came and went each year), and all of them left me alone and respected my team of projectionists (even though all we essentially did was drink tea, read books and talk about books, and get really good at table tennis - but this was because we were efficient with the job first, then we could muck about). Secondly, the job gave me enough money to do what I wanted with my holiday time, so I went to Japan, and I went to Iceland, and I went to Greece. I never did the whole year away-thing; I preferred short, intensive holidays, and still do.

Eventually, the repetition (and unforeseen social limitations) of my job, combined with my still somewhat pariah-like lifestyle choices lead me to depression. I never saw it coming, but I was starving for something in my life. Every time I had a girlfriend, I felt intimidated and not at all into their nocturnal social habits (just going to the pub with friends) and, yes, there was probably some form of anxiety going on in their anyway, but relationships ended and friends drifted, and it took its toll. I became sadder than I have ever known, and it eventually took me to see somebody.

One of the first things they said was Why did you never go to university?, and I said that I had done for one year (just commuting to the local one) but that I saw university as an excuse for hedonism, full of young , irresponsible idiots, and I didn't want to be round that. At this time, I sounded like a frustrated extremist,and I knew it, and it was killing me. But I considered university after it was brought up this time, perhaps because the prospect of life in this town and in that job, whilst I watched my friends beat their own path, made me feel distinctly low. A few months later, I applied to university much to the delight, relief and respect of my family and friends.

So, I came to university, and my first year took some time getting used to. I was, indeed, surrounded my hedonistic youth, but if I'd just wanted to see all of that as bad and pointless, I could do that, but part of me also noticed that I was making friends and proving to myself that this was a massively good idea, and that came through. Joining a student society, working with people, and getting a job have helped prove to me that I can do this. But there was still something, some barrier between me and my experience here.

I guess things came to a head around winter time this year. I had my doubts about myself in the course; was I too old to be here? Wasn't it a young person's game and I was an impostor? Things made me question myself, and also getting a part time job at another cinema made me afraid that I had taken a massive step backwards. The speed at which people came and left my life was intense, and I'm someone who naturally makes a connection, gets involved. By March, the society I'm treasurer for hadn't managed to organise the seven-date tour of clubs we had hoped for (sad really, I was sincerely looking forward to being on the road again, just like the old days) so we instead went to Barcelona; that is,the five of us who had shown any interest in the tour.

The exhaustion of the first two terms of the year so far, and the impromptu excitement of this holiday made me feel relieved, and I was intensely glad at that moment of these four people being here, with me, in my life, in, as it happens, Barcelona. So, that first night out there, in a not very good tapas bar, with the fireworks and crowds of a successfully-won Barcelona FC streaming past the doors, I drank Sangria. Nobody gave that much of a shit, including myself. The next night, I got quite drunk on red wine (as I did for the next few nights) but I had a great time, and I was with people I trusted to look after me (although I was fine anyway). Put it like this, if I had started drinking in some student bar (or god forbid, The Venue) then the whole transition might not have worked for the sheer bleakness of it all. As you learn in an English (and also an art degree) context is, therefore, all.

The time away in Spain, and the time back now, has made me want to embrace things a lot more, rather than just dismiss that which I cannot understand, cannot ever know, or might somewhere along the line possibly cause me harm. That is living in fear, and that is something that rules much of many people's lives. I've seen it in people, wanted to save them from fear, from deciding to stay in when they should go out and embrace things, and I have felt like a failure when I haven't helped them, and in fact possibly hindered them. And I look back at the lyrics I used to write when I was in bands - lyrics about self-discovery, and embracing life for the brief, golden, perpetual celebration it really can be if you sculpt it so - and I try to remember. It's important that I remember.

I began writing years ago - a diary, poetry, short stories - as if leaving bands was one thing, but leaving writing of lyrics or anything like that was impossible to do. And I can do it with confidence. When you embrace things in life, you feel new things. Senses find the right gear, and if they don't, you move on to the next thing. I wrote in Barcelona about the place, about how I feel, about what I think of my companions, and I've written since, and I will continue to write, and take pictures. Whatever neurosis and paranoias I brought with my to university, if I thought they would shake off as soon as I stepped foot onto campus, I was wrong - these things take time, and when you're in your early thirties and certain (perhaps subconscious) hard-earned habits are highly adhesive, it can take longer to shake them. But I'm trying, and I'm attempting to put myself on the right path, otherwise I'm going to spoil a lot of this university experience for myself.

Sometimes things just don't work, and other times things are fluid and move at a befitting pace. But life goes on no matter which path you choose, so fuck common sense, and fuck abstinence, and embrace and care for those around you, and listen hard to what they say. Oh god, just listen hard, even if you're too dumb to understand. And listen to yourself, and what you would like to try this evening, in a bad tapas bar, or in a pub in town, or at the beach, on at a hardcore metal show.

Give me some time, but I'm learning to not say no.


Velvet Waltz

So draws to an imminent close the second year of this pulsating bastard they call a degree. To think and take in all at once the stuff that can happen during the first 66.6% of an undergraduate degree could be enough to cause total nuclear melt down.. only, you know, in your own head rather than in some dubiously secretive yet cripplingly financially destitute former Russian state.

Handed in my final essay for the term yesterday, but I've still got a 4000 word SF essay for when we return, as well as my Creative Writing portfolio. Time is moving very quickly indeed.

Salsa came in the forms of both wonderment and absolute bollocks over the last month or so. On the good side, I was re-elected treasurer for next year with 62 out of 62 votes (I'm pretty sure it was the Dominos I'd ordered for everyone that really swung it) and we ended the year having had some of the most successful socials the society has held, and also up a couple of hundred quid. Christ knows what we'll spend that on.

The bollocks came in the form of the stress and organisation, then failure of the 7-date UK tour we had been planning since January. Unfortunately, when it came to the crunch, people just didn't seem that interested. Sad but true. However, of the few of us that were keen, one member kindly offered us to stay in her dad's apartment in Barcelona during the same period as well, seeing as we'd all be free anyway. And seeing as it's basically cost us what the tour would have done each anyway, that's that. Barcelona it is! Never been to Spain before, quite looking forward to the break from it all now..

For our final SF seminar this week (where Kayte, Luke and I had to present on Nicola Robson's Natural History) we made and distributed Tin Man-style headgear in keeping with the augmentation/cyborg themes of the novel. We insisted that everyone where the helmets in order for the presentation to fully work; they complied and all was well.

Been taking quite a few portraits of friends (ones leaving, ones staying, ones already gone) over the last couple of weeks. Because of the speed by which everything comes and goes at university, I've felt compelled to document it all as much as I can now. Here's some shots (an ongoing project now):





Kenny & Francesca

When I say that things here move too fast and too many to really understand what it going on, I truly mean it. There is so much symbolism, every day. All day long at times. And when it isn't that, it is something else. It is quiet, and this is the time to make lists:

Daylight list (year two) -

The hill, sitting on the bench or the grass ..the potential of it all.
Sometimes the coffee is made well ..a good start to things always.
Laura Veirs 11minutes, Arts the Beat Doctor, 21 minutes
'A sensitive and original approach to the subject' ..nothing to get too involved in. Thank god.
I'll walk you home if you want
Cookies? Rounds slags, more like ..because they go down too easily
Those are my demands ..Fair enough. I think we can appease you.
Does my guitar keep you up? .. We're just lucky you can sing
Then Partridge. ..One more before bed?
Remember the baseball bat guy? He sat on our sofa.
Killing Joke invented everything. ..What, even the Ped Egg?
Random yet affectionate text regarding recipient’s previous geographical location,

followed by hyperbolic reference to the passing of time.
Amusing and ironic retraction of affection.
Iconic representation of a kiss.
Kazuo Ishiguro doing a reading locally .. couldn't make it, but the informing was an act of absolute kindness
New found patience ..never too late, remember this

Night time list (year two) -

Cold in the morning ..but warm by the evening. You know this.
The bricks are everywhere in the morning ..but rebuilt by the evening. You know this.
Someone's parents dying .. what can I do? What can I do here to be brave and to love and listen?
Is this guilt? ..this is pretty big
This must be regret ..come on now positive
10/90 seriously ..come on
Alice in Chains, Jane's Addiction, Soundgarden, Deftones, Helmet, Kerbdog 4 hrs

There is so much symbolism.


You're not a pedo, You're not a pedo..

Quick run down of recent excitement:

Actually managed to get in some top-notch Aerobie with Mary, Charlotte and Max, due to a brief spell of nice weather. Hadn't had a proper session since.. oh, god.. maybe last June? May, even? Christ. And I remember when there was a point when this here blog seemed to be about nothing but those little flighty sods. Anyway, after a few rusty moments of shit throwing/catching, loss of the disc over the fence (repeatedly, but regained due to Mary and Charlotte's ninja-like agility) and general filth of the muddy field we resorted to (can't beat Parkwood sports field, let's face it) it turned out to be a good session, and no mistake.

One strange thing that happened right after was that we were walking back towards the house when two young girls (no older than eleven) come running up to me; one grabs my Aerobie and says "Wow, cool frisbee, mate! Can I have a go?" and starts to swiftly walk away with it. Before I could chase her or do anything, she falls on her arse onto the pavement, and the disc is retrieved. Before she gets up, she just kind of looks up at us. I ask her is she is okay, and she gives me a look as if she was about to from saying "Fuck off, clean-shirt." We moved on.

Had a visit from Chris back home. Somewhat epic weekend, beginning with taking him straight to Orange Street on the Friday, followed by two 4am-nighters out and about, seeing people, talking like we'd just invented it, etc. Truly great to have someone from back home to show everything that goes on in this here town. Makes it all seem a bit more real, in a way..

Put up Duncan and Becky for a couple of nights whilst Duncan visited old friends from university. Became good friends with Becky during her final year, and subsequently friends with Duncan through her. Took the pair of them to a Salsa event in town on the Saturday, where I think they were both into it enough to join me at a London club in a few weeks..

Speaking of Salsa, we're currently planning a seven-date tour of the south coast salsa clubs.

Photographic evidence of a change in the weather:

Marcelino and Charlotte basking (Charlotte was back from Tokyo for a brief time recently)

Agnieszka out and about. Beautiful sun, but harsh winds that day. So it goes.


Rehearsals for the International Showcase (Salsa won the Dance Section, obviously).

We've signed up for 88 Tenterden Drive again. It all seems to be moving pretty fast. Soon comes Manchester..


In this manner, the issue was decided.

Losing weeks pretty quickly now. Keeping on top of the reading, though (currently Last Orders by Graham Swift (1996)) and soon the assignments will need proper attention. Had a very strange situation in the Gulbenkian cafe the other day; a girl walked in and sat on the sofa opposite me. I waved and she waved back, and I picked up my stuff to sit by her and the conversation went something like this;
Me - How's it going?
Girl - Ok, I guess. I'm finding it tough to meet people, though.
Me - What do you mean?
Girl - Well, I only really know the people in my seminars. I don't really have anyone to hang out with.
Me - That's a shame. I thought you were quite funny when we met.
Girl - ..I'm sorry?
Me - When we met. In the library cafe.
Girl - In the.. ?
Me - Yeah, you remember. I bought a coffee, and then asked for a cup of water, and then asked for a teaspoon and then ended with 'Those are my demands'. You replied with 'Fair enough. I think we can appease you.' I thought that was funny.
Girl - I've.. never met you before today.
Me - ...What? Then who..?
Girl - That wasn't me.
Me -Oh. Right. Ermm.. sorry about that. God, you really do look like this girl who..
Girl - I just know you from Salsa.
Me - ..What? Salsa?
Girl - Yeah. I've seen you teaching Salsa.
Me - Have.. we danced before?
Girl - No. I've never met you until today.
Me - Right. But we both do Salsa?
Girl - Yes.
Me - Ok. Right. What's your name then?

And so on and so on and so on. Sometimes, and this goes without saying, this campus is very small indeed.

The above picture of two white hot chocolates in at Chambers Cafe, where Kenny and I popped in for lunch on Wednesday. When ordering, I couldn't remember if it was 'hot white chocolate' or 'white hot chocolate' (the second one makes me think of the centre of the sun for some reason), so our drinks were presented to us thusly to assay any confusion. The end.

Bit of a literary wet dream for me on Tuesday night. China Mieville was doing a reading and Q & A session in the Missing Link building, much to the fawning adoration of Paul March-Russell ( my Science Fictions module convener) as well as to many a wine-sipping SF-head, including myself. It was highly entertaining to hear him read excerpts from Kraken, his soon to be published latest novel, and also to hear him almost childishly stamp his feet in defence of the much maligned genre of SF as a whole. In the audience was none other than Scarlett Thomas, brilliant author and undoubtedly one of the reasons why I decided to take writing seriously for myself as well as reading, and my eventual decision to go back to university. I unashamedly asked both authors to let me have my picture taken with them, throwing dignified caution to the wind. If you know not of these authors, you are dead to the joys of life. Get out.

My friend Anabela came over Sunday and cooked traditional Portugese food for all of us, basically confirming that all in all university life is often arse-shatteringly good. As well as pea, chicken and chotizo stew, we also had a chicken, peppers and onion casserole type-thing, and vegetarian quiche. All of this was rounded off with home made banana cake and coffee.

Saw David O' Doherty live on saturday also.

Boo yah!


They are driftin' from do' to do'

Doesn't matter how busy I find myself with work, everyone seems to be more busy and more I know what I'm doing so get out of my way with theirs. Anyhow, still ticking along. Keeping my eye on the prize.

There's this cat who keeps hanging round the Gulbenkian at night. Not seen him during the day. I know he is a him because he has a cat's penis. Quite a nice cat, actually. We fed him some beef the other night and he loved that, but he doesn't look starving. Where the hell does he keep coming from? I was stroking him after my shift, and he put up with it for about two minutes before swiping his claws along my arm in a very I don't see any more beef in that hand of yours, so dangle kind of manner. Some of the staff wanted to tempt him into the building. What's that about? Where is he going to go for starters, let alone the hygiene concerns and all that. Clearly from this reasoning, I am too sensible, and they are too taken in by fur.

Decided after much deliberation with people that the best movie of the last ten years was the Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Are Thou? (2000). Hard to explain why. Just ticked a lot of boxes for me. I'm sure there have been 'greater' films in the last ten years (for want of a better word) but I'm just in total admiration of it, not least because of Chris Thomas King's cover of Skip James's Hard Time Killing Floor Blues. This is a song to drown to, and I have done a lot recently.

By coincidence, I showed O Brother at the Gulbenkian recently. I also came downstairs that night to find a giant hand-painted tapestry depicting scenes from the film hanging over the windows. There was also a few country musicians performing in the cafe. Weird, unexpected evening. Good start to the year, though. A continuation of nice things to come, let's hope.

Got three essays back: 63% for Media (better than 40% last term..), and I also got 76% for Language in Literature and 71% for Theories of Discourse and Culture. The TDC is the one I'm most happy about. That was a hard essay. Deconstructionism is a tough gooch, no matter which way you wax it. However, the source material (Raymond Carver's So Much Water So Close To Home) was something I have profound interest in. There's something about Carver's stories that almost gives away the fact he died young. I know that's a strange thing to say - they're not suicidal or anything. It's just that Carver wrote stories where everything is forthcoming, and characters seem at ease with this. This is also something I myself am beginning to understand; dwelling on the past. What's the point? If you're here now, you're here now, and the future is forthcoming, but you're here now. My degree is happening now. My PGCE is forthcoming. Where ever I end up after I get out of this very small town is forthcoming. Has anything ever been so tender on the mind?

Other news; got a new tattoo (pics to follow) inspired by the cover to Michael Marshall Smith's SF thriller, Spares. The idea came about when I was sat, turning 32, in the Yorkshire House pub back in the Shire with Ted and Dominic, and I recalled that about 10 years and 1 week to that day I'd been recommended it by a friend. Since then, pretty much every single person I know (especially ex-projectionists) have gone out and read it and loved it. I can seriously see several people back home getting a similar tattoo now - Aidan and Ted for starters. After I got it done I sent them the template and said 'Ok, your turn'. They're getting theirs next week. Almost feels like we're forming a cult.

Charlotte is addicted to Pac Man. She seemed almost genuinely furious when I first showed her the various free online versions you can play, knowing full well that she would be instantly hooked. I often get home late to hear the inimitable wakakakaka of the pill-popping wazzack, followed by shouts of despair and 'Fuck you Pinky' emanating from the front room. She even got a Pac Man mug for Christmas, which hasn't actually got Pac Man on it. Bit strange.

Read a couple of books recently which have had the odd effect of making me well up because of a powerful relation I've found with the protagonists. It's a strange feeling, and it means I'm either finding, by sheer coincidence, books that seem to tap into something emotionally sensitive about myself, or that I'm looking too hard for any kind of relatable symbolism. Probably a bit of both. Anyway, I found the character Karl in Michael Moorcock's Behold The Man (1969) highly interesting. I think he displayed an honesty in men that not many are prepared to admit. I also read Haruki Murakami's South Of The Border, West Of The Sun (1992). First Murakami book I'd read in a long time (seven months is long for me), I can always rely on his books to say something to me. How gruesomely self-indulgent I find reading at times. I positively wallow.

Saw Richard Herring performing Hitler Moustache at the Horsebridge Arts Centre, Whitstable last Saturday. Another fine 90 minutes of stand-up. Always an interesting mix of people there too. People like Richard Herring always manage to bring fans out of the woodwork I notice.

Stay off the drink and drugs, kids.


Pretty sleeping patterns

Sleep isn't coming home any time soon, and I'm tired of waiting up for it. Keep checking the time, but it hardly makes me feel any better. Weather today was the colour of gravestones. Still, work was peaceful and passed swiftly, and I've written 2850 words of a 4000 word essay in just over 24 hours, so, when I'm actually done complaining about meteorological events that I have no control over, I have to concede that it's been a good day.

Had a 10-hour power cut yesterday that scuppered my original essay-writing plans. If I can't stick to my original preparations, I feel as if it's all going to turn to hell. Maybe a residual element of this carried into today, hence the weather-based foreboding. Anyway, that was a very long power cut. I drove to Asda and bought candles (seems like half of Hales Place had the same idea as me only hours before, because all that was left was posh, lightly-scented ones that did the job, but gave the house a sort of Gothic/amateur porn video look). I went and sat in the office at work, then I stayed over at Fran and Chiara's, all in order to continue with the essay. Managed to chip away at it quite well.

It's always the same with essays; I make reams of multicoloured notes, emphatically digging out all the information, and when it comes to putting it all into a decipherable entity I suddenly feel something along the lines of 'Oh my god, I've researched the wrong thing!' or 'Oh my god, this is completely illegible!' I browse the Internet for a few minutes, then I get going. Once I've made the leap from daunting slab of marble to first chip of the sculpture (not trying to say my essays are works of art or anything quite so sanctimonious) I am very much away.

..oh god, just had a flicker in the lights..
.. power might go out again soon..
.. I don't think those Scottish 100% quarter pounder beefburgers with herbs will last another half-defrosting..

Anyway, nothing I can do about it. I wonder if Fran and Chiara are still up and about..?

I've wanted very much this week to get up early and go swimming each morning, but lack of sleep has prevented me from achieving this. I remember the last term of my first year was enriched by daily trips to the swimming baths, followed by hard revision and essay work, all of which made me happily fall asleep by midnight ready to do it all again the next day. This year so far, the earliest I've found myself nodding off has been 2am - the latest, 6:15am. This is not good enough if I want to be up by 7:30am. And, yes, it's true; the older I get the more sleep I need. I think, if I can't get up that early, I need to do things to make myself very tired like running around the block (or at least walking even further). It seems that just having the occasional anxiety attack isn't actually what qualifies as exercise. Of course, the last term was in the summer, so that was enough to make me want to be up and about nice and early. This weather makes me just want to dash from one sofa to the next in as quick a time as possible. I will pick up some exercise soon and I will stop wasting your time with this.

Whenever I do feel out of sorts, I find that something usually comes my way that brings me out of it with a shock, reminding me why I do what I do. Reminding me how to adore things all over again. It's my nature to get deep into the things that don't need such depth, but it is also my nature to come out the other side electric with that which surrounds me. I've had conversations recently with people that have just come along and reminded me of everything all at once.

I need you to know that our talking means everything to me, it's the reason why I keep going.

Facts, desires, sleeping patterns.
What offends you?
House mate's bizarre nocturnal habits.
Dreams about losing teeth.
That perfume again.
Good car journey.
Mutual respect.
Do you think you could work here?
That Raymond Carver story again.
Giggling under my duvet.
Fear of judgement over the phone.
An album bought and an album loved.
How long since we spoke?
Do we need to take things this seriously?
Calm now.
Just keep quiet for a moment.

The power might cut out any second.
Just keep quiet for a moment.

Keep it up.


July flame

2:09am. Good time for a walk after it's been snowing. People can't get in and others can't get out of wherever they need to be. How can something so peaceful cause so much trouble?


The traveller has come

A brief pictorial run-down of the last two bastard weeks:

An epic day of Doctor Who and concerning foodstuffs (note the burgers with waffles, melted cheese and chili ketchup above) with a good friend before heading home the next morning..

Let's get ready to ramble! Christmas morning atop Pontsford Hill (usual chilly routine of dad's) with neighbours Mark and Alan. Tin of chocolates had been left at the top by 'Grandad'. The chocolates were molar-fracturingly cold..

Wished I'd remembered to bring my camera home for this. The Wrekin, as viewed from Pontesford Hill, 9:05am Christmas morning. The mist surrounding the base of it makes it look dramatically mountainous (but it isn't a mountain it's a massive hill and nothing more so don't believe any exaggerating locals)..

Superb Christmas gift from mother - a make-your-own plasticine Morph! A genuine childhood hero. Here his is lovingly recreated precisely as he appeared in the short animated adventures I watched as a child after school. No difference whatsoever...

Ben and Ted, 27th December. It was decided at this moment that, should I die young, they promised to turn up to my funeral in full Nazi officer uniforms. No real reason, just to detract from any sadness, I suppose..

The journey home was 4 1/2 hours of precarious snow-covered crawling back to Canterbury. Never before has any godforsaken services looked to pretty...

First night back. Chiara, looking like an erotic hot drinks advert..

Handsome devil, ready to take on term 2, 2009/2010. The painting behind me hangs on dad's front room wall. It is truly immense.