Thursday, 27 July 2017

Beside The Mountain


For the last few days I’ve been proofreading a manuscript given to me by a friend of a friend. She’s just written her first book and after reading the first draft, I gave a few recommendations and then offered to check it all. This is, after all, one of my skill sets.

Now. Proofreading is dull and laborious and requires an extremely high level of accuracy. The main reason it’s dull (and also the reason that the author should not EVER proof read their own stuff) is that you can’t “enjoy” what you’re looking at. You are there, like an Olympic judge, to check for flaws and errors. You are not there to get stuck in to the prose.

Case in point would be my first fantasy novel, The Catastrophe of the Emerald Queen. This was a labour of love that took about a year to write, edit and get published. I didn’t see a whole shit load of mistakes that were in it because I was emotionally attached to the text. The adventures of Mordalayn, bodyguard to the child queen of Alegria as he fought the wicked King James of Anghofio. Even typing that now I can feel a little tingle. Worst mistake in the first edition was “and the shoulders shouted out for their king”, which the spell checker didn’t flag up and I was oblivious to as I was too into the excitement of the Anghofian King’s Daggers taking on Mordalayn on the steps of the Emerald palace.

The book I was proofreading was about spirituality and enjoying life. One line that the author wrote that stuck with me is that it is about the journey and not about the arrival or conclusion. We all die one day, so enjoy what you have and embrace each new day.

The book also talks about seeing and interpreting signs in life and acting upon them. Also, that we are where we are supposed to be at any given time and things come to us as they are meant to, in a time/ space sequence.

Like me, the author had read You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay and has adopted a lot of that wonderful lady’s philosophies.

Something that became clear as I looked through the book (yes, I know I wasn’t meant to be “reading” it but it kind of seeped in) was that by letting go of a lot of horrible shit, life can become a lot more “flowy” and much less of a struggle.

Recently I came back from Australia. I’d just completed but failed a course to be a Krav Maga instructor. The whole thing was, at the end of the day, an attempt for me to prove to myself that I could go for something that was extremely difficult and happening WAY beyond my comfort zone. I came out of it exhausted, disappointed and sore (with hip and back issues that still haven’t realigned). However I also felt elated and proud. I knew I might fail but I chose not to be Schroedinger’s Pussy any more and for that I feel good.

But….

There were many other ways I could have done this course.

Part one was 12 days in the Australian Gold Coast in April 2017. I applied for it while travelling out in Australasia and had a whale of a time. Determined to get my mind on the wavelength of “I will pass” I booked a return flight from London to Melbourne to take part 2 in July. I had to leave Oz during the gap because my visa is good for 9 months of the year but only in 3 month spurts.

Once I got back I realised that I could have opted to take part 2 anywhere in the world (66 countries belong to Krav Maga Global, the organisation that run the General Instructors Course/ GIC) but with a non changeable/ non refundable, Doctor Dao-esque return flight booked...well, I either did the course or I stayed but lost the money for the flight.

As proud as I am of having gone back to attempt part 2, what I have recently realised is that I could have done it in London or Rome or Athens or anywhere. I booked flights to return to Melbourne way back in April because I was too focussed on what I wanted to even consider that there might be another way.

All that travel and back pain and airline food and jet lag and exhaustion and A FUCKING AUSTRALIAN WINTER!!! could all have been avoided if I’d just sat back and let life flow with me, as opposed to wading against the current up river.

Years ago in Mad magazine I saw a short, 3 or 4 panel cartoon of a guy climbing a mountain. He was tired, dirty and injured by the time he climbed over the summit with his bare hands...only to find that there was a McDonalds at the top, full of people and a road next to it, leading down, that he had failed to see.

I try to do yoga regularly but am unable (at the moment) to assume the Full Lotus position due to stiffness in my hips, partially due to sciatica and partially due to a knee operation on my left side. I found out from a yoga teacher after at least 4 years of working around the issue, that it wasn’t even necessary to perform Full Lotus and there were a multitude of other positions that would allow me not to need it.

I always had bad BAD BAADD hangovers. My record for time in bed with a right stinking one is about 36 hours. It turns out that all I needed to avoid (most) of this was lots of water before, during and after a boozing session.

I found out that when economy airlines board their flights, every bugger and their aunty stand up and just queue like lemmings. I now sit down and wait until the herd has thinned, then get up and walk at a leisurely pace to my seat.

Life can be an uphill struggle if you don’t take a breath and just go with it.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Set Fire to the Rain




I never really knew what that meant. I mean, I loved the song but hadn’t a clue what the fuck Adele was singing about. After extensive Googling it turns out that even English teaching forums don’t know either BUT the best guess is that it’s about having the courage to confront a situation that is draining you.

Yeah, can go for that.

Basically I’ve lived my life buoyed by a mix of highs, lows and procrastination. I would have hateful thoughts that I would bring out occasionally and stroke like an albino python, just to keep my spirits from sinking into an oblivion of null and void

Rage, bitterness, unrequited love, anger, frustration…you name it. I had them all from about the age of 4 and they built and built as time went on. My life was a jigsaw puzzle of interlocking shit bits, punctuated occasionally by a corner bit or maybe a piece with a big chunk of the sun on it. 

Anyone who’s read this blog on a regular or even casual basis will have seen the vitriol and venom that I’ve poured out.

I regret none of it as it has proved very therapeutic and was a coping mechanism for what my life has been up to this point.

But…like Adele said. Maybe it’s time to do what seemed impossible. Get rid of an established “normality” and just get on with life.

Recently I flew back to Australia to do 12 days of what was basically a fucking horrible yet at the same time thoroughly enjoyable course in how to be a Krav Maga instructor.

This was just shy of 2 weeks of the most intensive, hard, brutal and soul destroying training in how to teach other people in the finer nuances of an Israeli self defence system. 

I didn’t pass.

I had dragged my scared, vulnerable arse from London to Melbourne to complete the second chunk (whole thing was 24 days, they split it up to avoid having the participants keel over and die). During that time I felt many times like quitting. I faced my own limits and then spat in their faces. I felt like crying. I felt like giving up. I felt tired and weak and sore and unhappy. But I kept going because doing this felt right and pass or fail I knew it was what I wanted to do.

For far too long I have spent my life in some kind of masochistic masturbatory dance over the bad elements of my life. I was badly abused growing up and my imagination provided a refuge to keep my sanity in check and to stop me from becoming suicidal or taking a loaded shotgun to school.

Problem was that this self defence mechanism has existed for much longer than it ever needed to. 

I have defaulted to a dream state of rain and smog and mud and grief and used my own revenge fantasies and vivid imagination to cope with it. A necessity as a frightened, bullied child. A nonsensical and self destructive path for a man in his 40s. 

So now I’ve moved on. I love my life. I’m sitting here with my second beer of the night and I don’t feel the need to drink another one. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. 

Rage has been a switch-to option for a long, long time. Now I know I’ve travelled across the world to prove to myself that I can step up to the plate. I no longer feel the need to caress the scorpion.

I heard a great expression some time ago. It was “This too, will pass”. 

It was meant to be used when facing hardship, trauma or prolonged pain. 


I think for me, it has now passed.