Monday, 27 December 2010

3. An understanding

My parents have a cat. Her real name is Vesper, but she also goes by another: Evil Cat. Okay, so she's not really evil but...

Vesper is a rescue cat. Some time in her past, she was treated badly. She has a bit missing from one ear, and only one canine left which sticks out from her bottom jaw and tends to catch on your skin when she rubs against you. The cat is very loving, and wants a lot of love. In fact, so much love, that she'll pat you on the arm if you stop stroking her. She's very cute. But there's another side to her too. Randomly, out of nowhere, she'll attack you. The claws come out and you'd better move your hand away quickly.

The first time she attacked was bad...I wasn't ready. But the more she does it, the more you get wary of her. But I'm starting to look for the tale-tell signs, so that I can understand why she does it. I still show her love but I protect myself too.

Vesper and I have come to an "understanding". She can stay at the bottom of the bed, so long as she doesn't attack me. So far, it seems to be working.

I haven't felt so bad today; perhaps because tomorrow is my birthday and I'm looking forward to going out with friends. That, and I decided to go swimming which always cheers me up (especially the sauna). Little things. But they mean a lot.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

2. A new routine

I'm trying to start some new routines to keep my mind away from things that hurt, and one of the best ways is to get myself active. So I went jogging today.  I'm using the Interval Training technique - a combination of alternating paces which is supposed to be the best way to increase your cardiovascular fitness quickly.

Despite the cold and an old injury playing up (a torn tendon from my badminton days), it was a beautiful start to the day. I watched the sun rise, while a lone raven croaked as it flew up above. I didn't see anyone, so I'm guessing they were all sleeping in.

There is something very therapeutic about running. It releases endorphins into the body, which make you feel better. And, apparently, when we have high endorphin levels we feel less I'm hoping that it'll help me feel less pain...

Saturday, 25 December 2010

1. A Change

When James Blunt wrote "Goodbye My Lover", he couldn't have written a more perfect song that describes a break up. (See below). They are far better words than I could ever come up with, especially now.

I'm still in shock, I think; I'm still checking my mobile in the hopes of a text, a message, anything that will take this pain away. I've even checked my stars and I-Ching readings in the hopes of an answer. But there is something dignified in accepting defeat, I think. And it's true that we were just so different; we always knew it would be difficult. But does the end have to be when you're least ready?

Christmas wasn't lost. I ate more than I thought I could, and spent time with my sister and her family. It was lovely, actually, and it reminded me how friends and family are always there for you when you need them. For that, I will always be grateful.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

42. The question of self

I woke up from a dream. I have no idea what it was. But I lay there in the darkness, the duvet pulled up to my chin, and the cold air on my skin. There was an owl calling from the wood across the way, and the hot water tank clicked as it switched off.

It was one of those times where you have no idea if you're dreaming or awake. Perhaps I was being influenced by the meditation I had had during the previous evening's class, but I began to wonder about things. Particularly, the question "Who am I?".

Rene Descartes, a 17th Century philosopher, wrote "Je pense donc je suis", meaning: I think, therefore I am. In other words, if you question your existence, then you must exist or, at least, your mind does.

I had an introductory book on philosophy once, I didn't get on with it. In fact, I recycled it. The truth is, though, I find life is something pretty fantastical, and the details can be mind blowing. I find it no surprise that people have spent lifetimes contemplating it. I mean, it's amazing! We're made up of billions of atoms that are separated by space...and yet we're solid at the same time. How does that work?!

I was starting to meditate on Emptiness a while ago - something that gets you to question the true nature of things - and my teacher asked me if I had found my 'self'. It's a joke, of course, because the more you look for 'self', the more you realise that you can't find it. But I never truly got a good understanding of the concept.

Last night, I asked myself how I could define who I am. Do my thoughts define 'me'? Or my deeds? My history? But then the parameters would always change and 'who I am' must change too. Which would make sense, because I don't feel like I did a year ago. In fact, I don't even feel like I'm the same as last week.

So. If who I am is always subject to change, I realised that perhaps the question "who am I" should really be: Who do I want to be?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

41. Fitting In

For as long as I can remember, I have always felt like the odd one out; the one that doesn’t quite fit in. I’ve been on the sidelines looking in to a world that I’ve never really quite connected to.

My sister once asked me, when we were teenagers, if I was a hippy. I used to wear long flowing cardigans and liked to meditate even when I didn’t know what meditation really was. I wasn’t into boys (go figure), I certainly wasn’t into “Take That” or “Boyzone”. I couldn’t be bothered with fashion or make up. I was just me, and that’s the way I liked it. There was only one problem; when people began branching off to find groups that they seemed to belong to, I never really found mine. Not that I was alone; I just never felt like I fitted in the group that I’d fallen into.

For eight years, I worked for a small company and a large proportion of my time was spent alone, so going into a working environment with a lot of people hasn’t been easy. It’s been a strange mix of craving for company and a shyness that I’ve never quite shaken off. 

When I first started this new job, I found myself spending a lot of energy into trying to fit in, but with no television – by choice – and no interest in celebrity gossip, diets, or shoes, I found it difficult. It was like school all over again, and, I admit, I got scared.

As the weeks went by, I began to realise that I can't be any different from who I am, and I wouldn't want to change, even if I could. I really don’t like television or Facebook, diets or exercise plans. If there is anything that I have learned over the past couple of months, and from reading buddhist philosophies, is that life doesn't have to be about “fitting in”; it’s about being your self and letting others in.

Thursday, 2 December 2010


It's funny how some things that were once a daily ritual become lost to you. You forget. It never happens intentionally. You just wake up one day and realise you haven't done that "something" for a long period of time. My blogging was like that.

It was never an intentional decision. It just stopped as I began a new journey. Or maybe I was just at a different intersection of my old journey and I just chose to change the direction in which I was going. But it has not all been flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants stuff, of course, even if it feels like it.

Anyway. So here I am. Writing again. The words - the typing - almost feel alien to me. Has it really been that long?! I mean, it's winter already; we've had snow (which really does mean that it's winter); it's nearly Christmas, and I'm almost "30-something" and not just 30.

The truth is, I don't really know what to blog about now. I feel a little lost and out of touch. So. While I'm thinking on that one, I shall leave you with a photograph of the snow. It's still here, a week later and the drive into work is beautiful, though a little scary.


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

39. Proper Job

The temporary post turned into a permanent one, a mere couple of days after I started working for the charity.  It has been a very busy time learning two database systems (one soon to be defunct, and one to replace the old). I've been exhausted - not least because I had so much time off work and I wasn't used to working!

It sounds daft, but when you're used to getting up at any time you wish and having the difficult task of choosing where to go for the day, working is actually really In fact, it's only now that I'm starting to get used to the hours but, wow, it's so good to be in a proper job. I can't tell you how much I missed it.

What I noticed about being out of work was that I never got anything done - why do something now when there is always "later". Now, I have slots of time in the evenings and the weekends where I have to utilise my time or not do anything. I actually get more done now than I did before.

Anyway. I still have an awful lot of things to catch up. So I shall leave you for now with a picture I took the other night at Gwithian. And I'm sure I'll start to catch up with blogs etc soon.


Friday, 17 September 2010


I've got myself a job. At least, a temporary job. I'm working for a charity as a data entry clerk. It's opened my eyes to how generous people can be. I looked through some of the letters that accompanied donations and they were full of support and well wishes. It feels good, even for a little while, to be a part of something so great.

The British don't always have the best of reputations. We're not called "whinging poms" for nothing, after all. And there has been moments where I've thought that all people can do is complain about...everything! The weather, the news, the state of the country, the poor television, even down to whether a certain word (like "amazing", for example) is over used in day time t.v.; I could go on and on, I'm sure. But, the truth is, there are a lot of generous and kind souls out there.

It feels really good to be working again. Full time hours. Work that is constant all day (a new one for me). There's no time for daydreams; that, I can save for my journey home. Today was the first time I came home from a job and felt like I'd actually done a full day's work. I felt I'd achieved something.

The problem with temporary work is that it's, well, temporary. But it's work, so I'm not complaining. And, even better, I'm working for a charity that I've wanted to work for/with for a long time. :-)

Monday, 13 September 2010

37. Spiders

Spiders! It's that time of year again when the house spiders start coming in. We've had four in a week, and I've been on removal duties, glass and cardboard at the ready.

The last spider I removed I felt something crawl on my arm and, girl-like, I ran around the living room until I was sure it wasn't on me. Don't get me wrong: I'm not scared of spiders...except when they crawl on me. That, I don't like. Anyway, after I calmed down, I found the fella running around on the floor. After a trial - it was one of those really fast ones - I caught it. I heard it go "chink" against the glass as it fought against its imprisonment. It wasn't a happy spider. As I carried it outside, it reared up and I could practically hear it hissing. I walked it up to the top of the road, just to make sure it didn't come back. I watched it creep off into the darkness.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

36. Knights of the Road

I have a twelve year old car. At least, I think it's 12 years old...I never bothered to work out her actual age. I think if it was converted to human years, then she might get a bit embarrassed if I told you. Yes, you read "she".

My car is a she and - close your eyes now if you don't like rude names - she's called "The Bitch". It was a name she got when I first bought her and the gears were...defective. She's been good as gold ever since but the name kind of stuck. Oh, she's had her little expenses. The starter motor, and the windscreen wiper (not the blade, the actual metal part, which costs a fortune). But she's a good car.

Today, however, she broke down. In the worst place possible. On the A30 (the busiest therefore most dangerous, and main road - "arterial route" - through Cornwall), in a place where it turns into a single-carriage road, and with a blind corner.

Imagine driving up a hill and then hearing a snap...and then feeling your accelerator pedal turn floppy. I moved in automation: first mirror check; then hazard lights; then keep going as far as the decelerating car could get us to a safe zone. There was no safe zone. Edged into the side of the road, as tightly as I could get, we got out of the car and waded through soaking grass and bushes to get to a nearby gate where I called the AA.

I am so glad I renewed my AA membership this year. It makes sense, with an older vehicle, but sometimes you have to think about budgets. The woman said it could take up to an hour! In the soaking, foggy rain and cars whizzing by like it was a motorway, not even slowing down to overtake. OMG.

There was a little voice inside me, though, that whispered that my car was old: one small dent and it would be written off; the insurance money would come in handy right now. But the worst thing I imagined was that someone would be overtaking at speed and hit someone driving in the opposite direction. There's no way I'd want to ever put anyone in danger. So we called the police.

While we waited, people drove past with glares. Cold, hard faces that were somehow blaming us for causing them 2 seconds delay on their journey. No one stopped. Out of the four cars that used their hazards to warn other people of the danger, two of them were foreign. That, out of hundreds of cars. What has happened to people that has turned them into these uncaring people who get angry about the fraction of inconvenience we caused?

And the knights of the road: the policeman and the AA-man. They were great! Only when the policeman showed up, did the cars slow down and the cold glares change to curiosity. The AA man put us on a tow bar and took us to a garage so he could fix the car with a temporary accelerator cable (being towed with no power steering nor servo-assisted brakes was the strangest experience I've ever had in a car). These are the people who put themselves in danger on busy roads to assist people like us. And I'd like to say a big THANK YOU! :-)

And, after all, it was like a mini adventure. Breaking down. Having the blue flashing lights of a copper come to keep us, and others, safe on the roads. Being towed, and having a police escort (okay, one motorbike up to the roundabout, but it felt good). And the car...fixed and working again. And for some, that's just in a working day.  :-)

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

35. Eden

Summer at the Eden Project

It was our anniversary yesterday. A whole year, can you believe?

The cliche thing to say would be "I don't know where the time has gone". But it is the truth. It feels like longer than that...and shorter all at the same time.

Luckily, our anniversary fell on a Bank Holiday. So we decided to go on a day trip to Eden, followed by relaxation (reading/sleeping in the sun etc) in the grounds at Lanhydrock house. It was a beautiful day. The perfect day.

The Eden Project has a new viewing platform that is suspended from the roof, 165 foot up from the ground with a view across the whole rainforest biome. We saw it and knew we just had to go up there. Ignoring my fear of heights and the fact that the steps up to the platform are also suspended by cables so that they move and swing as you walk on it, we filled in the health questionnaires ( gets very hot and humid up there - 40 degrees and 55% humidity yesterday, it was extremely hot) and paid to go up.

I am so glad that I went up. There is nothing more liberating than realising that something you've been scared of for most of your life, and you've avoided, really isn't all that scary after all (it's only a state of mind). And wow, what a fantastic view. Definitely a recommendation.

As for us...we're looking forward to the new year ahead, happy that we've passed a whole year in each other's company, where we've had so much fun and good times. And we're keeping an open mind for new adventures and experiences. All in all, more to look forward to. :-)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

34. Whiplash

There's nothing more sickening than the sensation of falling full force onto the corner of a step with your neck. That's what happened to me the other day.

For a long time, I lay at the bottom of the stairs and waited for the pain to die away before I dared to move an inch. Initial checks were okay - I was concerned that my shoulder was dislocated but, on a brief feel, everything seemed to be in place. No breaks, just carpet burn on my arms and a strange sensation in my head. I breathed a sigh of relief. I was okay.

It was only an hour later when my neck started to ache. It's only with hindsight that I realise that I should have gone to the hospital then. A night and a day later, the pain was excruciating and I had an awful headache. I can always tell if I'm "ill", it's when I don't even consider refusing to be taken to hospital.

So I have whiplash. Made more complicated because I can't take ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories. But I think I'm really really lucky...I could have broken my neck. It's things like this that remind me how delicate my body actually is, and that I should actually take care of it.

Here is a photograph of me that I took the other day (before the accident).Life is treating me well at the moment, and I'm enjoying my time away from things. :-)


Wednesday, 25 August 2010

33. They're like buses.

Sometimes waiting to hear back from jobs is like waiting for a bus!
Today, I had another interview confirmation but for the exact same
time as the last. It's all rearranged now but I for a moment there, I
couldn't believe it. It's very exciting to be in this position!
Anyway. Yesterday I fell down the stairs and hit my head. It didn't
seem to knock any sense into me...knocked it out, more like. My neck
has been sore ever since. :-(
And we have an internet fault at home, so i'm going stir crazy without
it. I'm sending this to you via email on my mobile...a test, if you
please, to see if I can get it working :-)

Monday, 23 August 2010


Another Monday and it still feels odd not to be getting up and ready for work, to join in on the morning commute and the daily slog in the office. Instead, I woke up without an alarm, I lounged around having a lovely breakfast with Kirsty, did a little bit of housework before considering doing some kind of "work". I have to be careful that I don't get too used to this.

I do try to treat my day like a working day. I set various projects to do, applications to write out, writing practises etc and try not to have a break until the proper times, but being at home is so subject to distractions (luckily no television) that it's a challenge to stick to my to do list. I now admire people who can work from home and meet deadlines, it's much easier said than done.

There's actually a really good thing about all this time off: it's an enforced rest that is proving to be therapeutic (provided I don't stress too much whilst looking for a job). I have time to review my actions, work on my inner self, and discover things about myself that I probably wouldn't have been watching out for if I'd been working.

Over all, I find it really easy to enjoy life at home but I can foresee a time when things are going to get difficult. Not least: boredom. My NVQ should be finished within a fortnight, so after that it's going to be just completing job applications and writing. So I'm really hoping that I get a job before then...well, there's always hope. :-)

Thursday, 19 August 2010

31. Progress

The letter came in the post yesterday; we opened the door and saw it lying on the floor, face down. It was a crisp white envelope, that certain type used by professional companies. I knew it would be for me.

My hands trembled, just for a moment, as I picked it up and turned it over. The logo, printed with a franking machine, gave the game away. I put my bags down and took a deep breath while I carefully opened it to get to the letter inside. The first words leapt out "invited for interview". I couldn't take in the rest for a little while.

I have a job interview! Two days after sending in the application. It is a morale booster, and it's exciting. It's for a hugely important company in the county and I'm just gobsmacked.

It doesn't matter so much whether I get the job ( would be rather nice, and I would actually like it) but it's the fact that someone looked at my CV and said that they think I'd be capable. Working for a company for years where my morale took a huge hit, this is like a giant leap forward.

I have to admit, I feel tired today. It's like trying to walk upstream of a fast flowing river sometimes. I might only have a mile to go, but oh that current can drag, and then there are the hidden objects that come sailing down in the flow of water and you can't always avoid them. But it's good to look back at times, because then you realise how far you've already gone. Today, though, I wouldn't mind a little island to rest on, maybe have a picnic or even just a bar of chocolate, before continuing on the hard slog upwards.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

30. I'm writing again

I don't know entirely where it has come from. It's like a spring that has found a hairline fracture; water drips out slowly at first but, with each passing drop, the fracture gets larger and more pours out. Only I don't have water pouring out of my mind (or, at least, I certainly hope not!), it's creativity. I haven't written this much in years.

Writing has always come in fits and starts for me but I always remember wanting to write. My earliest memories are of me writing in a corner in the playground. And, even during my "dry spells", I've had a longing to buy stationery...the perfect notebook, or a special pen;  an uncontrollable urge that has seen me stock up on paper that I won't use.

The writing is freely flowing now. I'm a bit out of practise - not having read many books for a long time, my vocabulary isn't quite on the ball. It's like a gate that has rusty hinges: they need to be greased before they'll work properly and stop squeaking. But I have a copy of "The Creative Writing Coursebook" to ease my way back in.

If I was in the financial position, I would want to restart my novel ("The Novel") and finish it this time, and not have to work for another person ever again. But technically I'm skint, and I don't enjoy the feeling of insecurity that is my current jobless state. It would have been more than ideal to have won the lottery last night, if you know what I mean. But I'm a huge believer that things happen the way they do for a reason. it's not my privilege to know what that is.

They often say (who "they" are, I don't know. It's like a collective word for random grandmother used to say "they do say", a devonshire phrase) that writing is a therapy in itself. You can go deeper and deeper into your own psyche and discover more about yourself than you ever thought possible. I guess I never got that deep before, but something is changing.

Apparently, I'm going through a new phase. The astrologers call it The Saturn Return. A time when you decide what it is you want in life, and a time of huge upheaval and change. You can come out the other side and even you have changed.

I don't know if this new phase of writing will stay with me. I can always hope...and I can always keep plodding on. I read somewhere that if you try at something and fail then at least you've tried, but if you don't even make an attempt at it then that's the worst failure there is. So today, I'm happy and at peace because I am trying.

Friday, 13 August 2010


It's been a whole week now since I quit my job. I had thought that being off work would be dull and I'd have nothing to do but, on the contrary, I've had the busiest week of my life, it seems.

I've been madly applying for new jobs while relaxing in coffee shops, having a reflexology session (oh my god...if you haven't tried this, I would really recommend giving it a go), having an Indian Head Massage, working on completing my NVQ (again, in coffee shops), meeting new people, meeting up with friends. Today is the first day I've been able to just lie in bed for as long as I want without panicking too much about my next outing.

To be fair, it hasn't all been relaxing and it certainly hasn't been plain sailing. It's been, in fact, a very stressful week. I quit the job I had at my parents' business (so I'm not in their good books at the moment) and filling out all of those application forms is a nightmare. This is why Kirsty was so wonderful to book me in to the spa treatments. It was a few hours of pure relaxation amongst a week of turmoil.

It might sound bad but I feel that things are finally starting to work out for me ( jobs yet, nor even an interview) but I finally have the space I need to be able to work out what it is that I want to do with my life. There are no more rules or obligations. I am free to choose. So if I don't concentrate too much on the what-ifs or maybes, this is actually probably one of the most liberating experiences I can have. :-)

Thursday, 5 August 2010


I've given up my job and I'm scared. No, scrap that, I'm terrified.

It brings back the nightmare of post-graduation when I couldn't get anyone to employ me because I was "over qualified" and inexperienced. Not even the local supermarket, it seemed, wanted me back then. Mind you, times have changed and a degree is not worth nearly as much as it used to be, and I have nearly 9 years of experience behind me. But, still, the fear is there.

I'm beginning to wonder whether this was either a very brave or a very stupid decision. Only time can tell which one.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

27. Getting away from it all

Sharp Tor

I'm a couple of days away from quitting my job...I woke up on Monday and decided I just didn't want to go in. There were other reasons too but I couldn't stand it anymore.

Instead, I drove to Bodmin moor and walked up to the Cheesewring. From the top, I took out my OS map, looked at the scenery and decided to walk to a point I'd never been to before.

I walked as fast as I could, pushing myself. And, getting to the top of Sharp Tor felt like an achievement, of sorts. I wasn't running from my problems, I was working out what to do about them. A personal journey.

I love the moors. Their ruggedness and beauty never change. 

As with my job...the hours are ticking by and my decision is made. The problem is, what next?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

26. Three O'Clock

I admire people who can sit in an office all afternoon without eating. It's not like I haven't tried to ignore the three o'clock hunger pangs by sipping glasses of water and avoiding all thought of food, but those darned chocolate biscuits call out to me from the cupboard in the kitchen with relentless frequency. Once, I even tried to convince myself that there weren't any biscuits there; it worked until my boss (aka Dad) ruined my cunning plan by asking for one to go with his cup of tea (you can believe anything your eyes don't see).

I don't eat biscuits at home. Never buy them. I never even get three o'clock hunger's a work thing. It's got to be. Nevermind that, when I'm at home, I graze all day like a contented cow.

Three o'clock. It's that inbetween time: too early to start finishing up for the day and too late to have a late lunch. The end of work is in sight but not close enough. Before you know it, you can be drumming your fingers on the desk and staring at the clock, willing the time away...that's when the hunger pangs begin.

On my days off, three o'clock usually marks the middle of the day. Hours left to play with the cameras or to finish a long walk. At work, the hands of the clock stick to the numbers and refuse to budge, while I wait and wait and wait.

I'm not an avid office worker. You can probably tell. I'm better suited to more artistic, outdoor pursuits, where time is marked by the quality of light as the sun passes over the sky, not minutes or hours, or by how much work can be achieved in a day. I don't use targets, or SMART goals, and deadlines are just things that other people have to meet. It's no wonder I get so bored. When other people slave at their computer, my mind is in the clouds, flying over landscapes and having adventures.

When I can't ignore my hunger any longer, I usually sneak off into the kitchen and hastily eat my biscuit in silence...then walk back to the office with a glass of water and a look of innocence.

I've decided that I'd never make a good secret agent, they'd catch me way before the lie-detector was brought out: More than once I've found crumbs on my t-shirt that give the game away. 

I say that I admire the person who can sit in an office all afternoon without eating...but I'm not sure, now, if I do. I'd rather have my head in the clouds and my hands in the biscuit tin, while I wait for the clock to reach 5.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

25. On photography

There's a hospital in Cornwall that is in a league of its own. Even the smell is unique. I always knew when a certain ex had had to work there because she would come back with her clothes smelling of the place, despite visiting different hospitals throughout the county. It's not a bad smell...just one that you know belongs there and nowhere else. Yesterday, Kirsty and I both came back with the odour on our clothes.

I've been told that there is nothing that matches the pain of a dying nerve in a tooth.One friend said that it was worse than childbirth. In fact, it was so bad that Kirsty was considering having her tooth taken out without the help of a local anaesthetic. Having a hypersensitive nerve (one that does not react to a local anaesthetic), made it extra difficult to deal with, hence why we were in the hospital all morning: Kirsty had to have a general anaesthetic instead.

For over a week, the dying nerve had Kirsty in tears...though she still thought of photography and told me to get a shot for the "Kirsty Project", a series of photographs I've been taking of Kirsty and her general life.

This is where photography can better writing. A photograph can tell a whole story in one image. It can fill a page with emotion and pain. A private moment, captured forever.


I took Kirsty home while she was still technically under the influence of the G.A. We watched some movies and she dosed for most of the evening. If anything, it was a relief for her to finally be rid of her pain.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

24. The One that Got Away

Last night we sat in the Bahuaja lodge drinking Peruvian lager listening to tales of tourists who had been dragged into the water by anacondas, never to be seen again; and of lonely trekkers being stalked by jaguars.

Having little knowledge of this environment, I became alarmed at the idea of tarantulas hiding in the wooden shack that was our toilet. It seemed bad enough that the lodge’s adopted ‘pet’ Paca, cute guinea pig-like face or not, had taken to trampling on my clean shirt and used it for a litter tray.

Carlos, the local medicine man’s son, had interrupted with news of a jaguar in the area. With booze-encouraged excitement, we followed him down to the muddy bank of the river where he began to “call” the beast to our camp. The strange grunt-like noises made us giggle and even Carlos laughed in the end. It was fun, a game even, but now, as I sweated in the mid-morning heat alone, it was a different story.

The Singing-Tree Trail seemed to narrow and become a suffocating throw of shade and humidity. The hum of the cicadas became a shrill shriek: a soprano to the painful beat of my heart.

A grunt echoed around the tightly knitted trees but I couldn’t pinpoint where it came from. I clenched my jaws, my hands already tight balls by my side. I was beginning to regret the decision to come out on my own to photograph a termites’ nest I’d spotted on a previous hike.

Another grunt: definitely to the left. A huge buttress root, at least fourteen foot across, was in my direct line of sight.

I swallowed back a whimper. Despite the heat pulling beads of sweat from my forehead, a cold shiver swept down my spine. That grunt was just like Carlos’s imitation last night: a jaguar.

I forced myself to remember the instructions we had discussed: what to do when face-to-face with a jaguar. One thought came to mind: If I run, it’ll think I’m prey.

But there was no need to stop myself from running; my feet had become cemented on the earth, unwilling and too weak, it seemed, to move for anything.

I remembered someone had said: if you see a jaguar and are in danger, scream at it so that it doesn’t think you’re prey.

Right, I nodded to myself, business-like to cover my fear, if it looks like it’s going to eat me: scream, wave my arms around and look like a complete idiot. Reason told me that screaming at a dangerous creature was not a good idea, and I tried to remember whether it was someone experienced who had recommended it. Besides, I couldn’t help but think that if I did see a jaguar leaping out of the forest with my jugular in its sights, the screaming part would come naturally anyway.

The seconds trickled past and the emptiness of panic was drifting away, I could think more clearly. If it’s grunting, it can’t be hunting, right? I felt the tenseness ease from my shoulders. My hand tightened around my camera as I realised that this could be one of those rare opportunities to take a photograph to be proud of, but the stories from last night made me hesitate.

I took a step backwards. My foot caught. A root? I closed my eyes tight as I felt the brush of fur against my trousers. There was a shrill shriek. Was that me, I wondered, as I waited for the inevitable agony of teeth sinking into my thigh. Wait, I didn’t scream. A low gasp escaped my lungs, catching in my throat.

I looked around. The paca’s dark brown eyes stared innocently back.

‘Sassy!’ I said between rapid breaths. The sudden release of tension made my head feel helium-light. ‘You little…’ It hadn’t been the first time she had followed me into the forest.

I reached down and ruffled her fur; I felt a fool.

‘Come on you,’ I said, as I picked her up, ‘I think we’ve had enough adventure for today, don’t you?’ I giggled to myself as I walked back down the path.

An hour later I wasn’t so amused. An afternoon trail-hike with the rest of the group had led us down the same trail and there, not far from where I had been standing, was a paw print in the mud. It could only have belonged to one animal, and that wasn’t the paca.

Afterwards, I was annoyed at believing tall-tales and for not trying to get the shot of a lifetime; the photograph I kept of the paw print was just not the same.

I made sure I found out what I should do when face-to-face with a jaguar, but never went into the forest alone again.


(NB: This was an article I wrote for a nature-writing competition a couple of years ago).

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

23. Photography Tuesday

Summer Grass

I didn't want to tell the tree or weed what it was.  I wanted it to tell me something and through me express its meaning in nature.  ~Wynn Bullock

When I go out with my camera, I rarely know what it is I want to photograph. I just take the camera whilst I go for a walk. That way, I keep an open heart and an open mind, and enjoy everything I see.

Monday, 19 July 2010

22. Less is More

I turned down a Blackberry today (no, not the fruit, the phone). I've coveted after a Blackberry for at least two years; today I finally had the chance to get one and, to my own surprise, I said no. What was I thinking?!

I was left slightly flabbergasted by my own snap decision. But, the truth is, I don't actually want to be contactable 24/7 by email, text or phone call. Sometimes, I might want to be "unreachable". If I got the latest all-singing and all-dancing mobile phone, I would be contactable almost wherever I am. I'd never get any peace, even when going for a quiet walk with my girl.

Besides, any object that seems to be "that good" never really is. (As an aside, I remember when I bought my first Playstation when I was 18 years old: it cost a bloody fortune but I was determined to get it because it was the must-have gadget of the year...only not long after that the price started to drop and I realised I could have waited until it was cheaper, the games were more expensive than I could afford at the time so I was stuck playing the demo for months, I didn't play on it for 10 years and, finally, it only sold for a fiver in a carboot sale. Was it really worth it?!).

To be fair, it's not just my like for gadgets that has gotten me into trouble with the bank, it's also the clever advertising that seducts you in every way possible. "You need this item", it tells you. You see, when you have money, there is always the need to spend it on something. Anything.  That "anything" is, we are told, the thing that will make us happy...until it breaks, of course, or we decide that something else will make us happy instead.

Being a bit of a gadget-geek, I've come up with a clever plan to keep my spending in check: to test whether or not I really really want something I make myself wait for at least 6 months, if I still want it after that then it's worth getting (and it will be cheaper by then too) but, most of the time, I discover that it was merely a desire for something that I had no real need for.

So, I've decided to try to practise a little contentment with the things that I already own. I actually want to make do. I don't want to waste what little resources I have and I don't want to be told that my two-year old laptop is "obsolete" and too slow (note, this is usually by manufacturers who would conveniently make a bob or two from selling me the latest "dream machine"). I'm actually quite happy with my laptop, slow or not.

Venerable Cheng Yen said: "Happiness does not come from having much, but from being attached to little." And I ask myself on a daily basis: how many things that I am attached to will fall apart or sell for a fiver in a few years time? If I wasn't so attached to these things, would it matter to me if I owned them at all? There are more important things in life than the latest gadget.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

21. The Carboot Sale

There's something about carboot sales. It's the early morning bustle as the sellers park up in the chosen location, and the unpacking of boxes worth of goods onto foldable tables; the mad rush of what I would call the "professional" carbooter - the ones who have a keen eye and know what to look for and what price to ask; the bartering; the cheap cups of tea in polystyrene cups and the smell of cooking bacon (a carboot tradition).

It's not the first time I've tried to sell things at a carboot sale but, since then, I've learnt some tricks:
  • The first one thing to remember how much you bought something for and then realise that you're probably only going to get 10% back for it. It really can be as low as that. 
  • If you have anything above £5.00 at a won't sell. Or, at least, that's my experience. 
  • When it comes to the day, you have to be ruthless. Ask yourself: do you really want to take something back home again? Or are you willing to sell it cheaper for the sake of getting rid of it.
  • When it comes to bartering you've got two types of people: 1. The type who actually like to barter and play by the rules. They say "will you take a pound for the two of these" (knowing that they've been labelled as £1.50 each), you say "two pounds", they say "£1.50". That's the way it's supposed to work. 2. The second type of barterer will say "will you take a pound for the two of these" (knowing that they been labelled as £1.50 each); you say "two pounds", they say "a pound", you say "one fifty" (hoping), they say "a pound".
  • Having a 50 pence "bargain" box is like a lucky-dip for adults. Make sure that it's filled with little trinkets and junk and they'll spend ages rifling through it in the hopes of finding that real bargain. 
  • Keep your eyes peeled. Nobody likes to think that there are thieves around but items are quite apt to just "walk off" into someone's handbag. 
I'm not a materialistic person, but watching people look for a bargain as they rifled through my belongings was not easy. It made me feel...grubby.

This was the stuff that I'd bought, saved for, and been given over the past fifteen years or so. By mid-morning, half of my things were sold for a fraction of what I'd bought them for and it slowly dawned on me: I'm thirty years old and selling my life. Or a life...a "past" life.

I've been through this all before, of course, when I had to de-clutter when I moved last. Hundreds of books were thrown in the bookbank, carloads of crap was taken to the dump, and the whole process actually hurt me emotionally. Why? They're only inanimate objects, after all.

Over the last year, I've really wanted to sort out my belongings but storing tons of boxes in the attic felt better than having to dig through it all and get rid of what I didn't need, because I knew that digging through it would bring back unwanted memories. And that's the point. I realised that it's not the objects themselves that I wanted to keep but, perhaps, the emotions and memories I've attached to them I wanted to keep buried. It was avoidance. But it was also a weight around my neck and now that I've sold nearly everything, the weight has gotten lighter.

Friday, 16 July 2010

20. Bumblebees


The bumblebee lay on its back amongst the gravel of the dirt-track. Her little legs moved weakly as she tried to right herself. It was a sad sight. My friend gently picked her up and, with a tenderness I've rarely seen, brushed some of the dust off and gently tried to get her to feed from some heather. But, despite his best efforts, it looked like the bee was a goner. We left it on a flower, knowing that we did the best we could.

The bumblebee population, for reasons not entirely known, is on the decline, and not just in the UK but worldwide. There are many possible factors, including a loss of habitat, disease, the use of insecticides, and climate change, that have seen the populations plummet and could theoretically lead to a total loss by the year 2035.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

19. Goodbye Old Friend.

The television set was taken. There was no time for farewells or even, I dare to say, time to wipe off that thin layer of dust off the stand. The woman bustled into the house and, within moments, it was gone.

Monday, 5 July 2010

18. Studying


I've been spending a lot of energy on my studies this week, especially the weekend. I can now successfully remember what CPUs fit into Slots 1&2; Sockets 370, 1, 2, 3, 4 &5, Slot A and Socket A. Sounds easy...but, I can assure you, it most certainly isn't.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

17. Life


A fly bit me. It was a horsefly, boldly clinging onto my arm while gingerly piercing a hole in my arm ready to sup on my blood. It would not get off. I don't blame it; it was doing what any horsefly would do. 

Thursday, 24 June 2010

16. Beached


I've been off from my day-job today. I woke up unable to get up! So it's been a day of forced rest.

It has not been too unpleasant. The sunshine has been very welcome and I've spent the afternoon looking through my portfolio and deciding where to go from here. It has been an interesting experience looking at my old work and seeing how much I have developed my own style.

Over recent months, I have found it difficult to know exactly where I want to go with my photography and writing. Before, I was led by luck and circumstance but now I have the opportunity to choose what I do from now on. However, I have been hesitating because I get the feeling that whatever I choose now will be something set in stone in the future.

Much in the same position I found myself this morning, unable to get going, I have floundered like a beached whale. But now that the tide is turning, and I know what I want to do, I will soon be able to be free again.

Monday, 21 June 2010

15. Contentment

Gwithian Beach

I have been very busy over this last week, although on Saturday I caught a train to Plymouth so that I could attend a meditation day course. It was entitled "Freedom from Attachment", which was extremely beneficial.

The day was beautiful, the food wonderful, and, by the time I got home, I felt a wonderful sense of calm that can only be experienced, not described. And, if that wasn't enough, we went out for a walk to our favourite beach when I got home which was the "cherry on top" (the ideal way to end a day).

I've always been very wary about mentioning religion or spirituality on my blogs. On my old blog, I noticed that I would either invoke negative responses or get no replies at all when I wrote anything that was even close to the subject. This has always fascinated while, at the same time, confused me. Doesn't all spirituality have the same aim? To find some kind of peace and happiness?

I came back from my day out with a little bit better understanding of my current practise; that practising contentment can bring happiness, and that it is important to live for the moment and let the past and future go. I think that in today's world of commercialism, and after today's announced budget changes, a little bit of contentment can go a long way.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

14. Last Light

Last light

We were walking in the countryside, enjoying the last of the warm, Summer light: "The Golden Hour". There was a fresh fragrance of wild flowers, the hum of bees making their last minute rounds and a wren telling us off with a shrill call for trespassing into its territory.

After the busy weekend, and an expected visit from an "External Verifier" for my course tomorrow, I really needed some downtime. I've been finding it difficult to switch off the "you should be doing this..." thoughts lately, especially when I have the computer course and my desire to write fiction, together with the NVQ work, plus a huge list of other things that I never seem to get around to, so when Kirsty asked if I wanted to go out for a walk, I nearly said no. I'm so glad I didn't.

I was talking to a friend at the weekend who has made me really think about taking care of myself. He said that if you don't pay attention to your body's little warnings when you're 30, it'll stop you in your tracks when you hit 40. Coming from a man who knows, I'm rather inclined to believe him. My body is definitely telling me that I'm doing
too much. And, although I want to live as much as I can now, sometimes I have to save my strength for another day. ;-)

Monday, 14 June 2010

13. Buried


I've been buried in work over the weekend (hence the topical photograph). As well as my computer course, I'm working on an NVQ level 3 in Business and Administration.

Coming from a predominantly academic background, I nearly always underestimate the amount of work required for vocational courses. I thought it would fit in nicely with what I'm doing and, you know, be a back-up qualification if my plans were to fall apart with the computer course. While I underestimate the work, I also tend to over-do the work that I'm required to do because I'm so used to writing up detail when, in fact, I'm only required to write down skeletal information. I find it confusing. This weekend, for the first time, I asked what is too much, hoping to cut down my workload.

It's times like this, when there seems to be too much on my plate, that photography comes into its own. While meditation helps calm my mind and makes me feel at peace with myself, photography is my escape.

Friday, 11 June 2010

12. London

Canary Wharf

A weekend away in London had me feeling exhausted by the time I got into work on Monday morning. It wasn't so much the travel, even though the trains were both delayed, but the endless walking we did through the heat-saturated streets. Waves of warmth rebounded off pavements and buildings, and there was little shade to protect us from the fierce pounding of the sun on our skin. Nevertheless, it was time well spent.

We visited the Gherkin building, the Tate Modern (always a favourite of mine) and the Imperial War Museum. The journey itself was useful for giving us both time to relax and study. It was a very good weekend away. And, of course, it helped very much that we were in a four star hotel happily ordering room service and luxuriating in the little creature-comforts that every hotel offers.

I love visiting London. Not because I crave busy city streets, but because of the culture, the museums (always the museums), and the underground (I love going on the Tube). It's like a blast of "life" that the quiet lanes of Cornwall just do not have. Of course, it's always nice to be able to retreat back to those same country lanes when I've had enough of the city too.

This time, I didn't feel like I'd had enough of the city. I would have been happy to have stayed another few days. A pity, then, that work was waiting for us both. And, for me, piles of papers to organise, and an NVQ to prepare coursework for.

The above photograph was taken outside our hotel - directly opposite Canary Wharf. It was a superb view.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

11. Clinging on


The other day, we stopped off at a local nature reserve in order to find things to photograph. I was particularly interested in finding some damselflies or dragonflies. After much hunting, I finally found two tiny ones (one of which was above, although it moved off pretty soon after this was taken and I wasn't going to follow it through the marsh!).

Most kinds of photography require a degree of patience but I think that Macro-photography requires a special amount of it. It's hard work just focusing on something that small, let alone having to deal with whatever it is flying off and leaving you with nothing to photograph! But I think that's why I like it; it's an excuse to practise patience, which is never a bad thing.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

10. The perfect evening

Trevance Cove

Last night, we went for a little walk around our village. We could hear the distant roar of the waves at the cove as we ventured into new areas. The weather was perfect, a blue sky with little cloud, and that low-lying Summer Sun which always seems to bathe everything with a golden hue. There was a certain feeling in the air: Summer.


I always feel that if I'm not out there experiencing life, then I'm not really living at all. I'm really not the stay-at-home type who watches soaps (far from it). So when I get to go out and really make the most of an evening as beautiful as last night, I'm living my life well. :-)

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

9. Life on the Edge

mamma bug

We were on a photowalk last night, taking photographs in a field left to fallow, when I came across these little beetles. There were females, like the one above, heavily laden with eggs, and males that were wandering in search of the females. I've never seen such beautiful beetles before.

The thing is, the females were so heavy that, because they were often in precarious positions such as gripping onto the underside of leaves, they would sometimes lose grip and fall off with a tiny thud into the undergrowth. A life in macro, with no awareness of the hugeness of the world, that one tiny drop was probably like half a lifetime of a huge event for those tiny creatures.

I watched the beetles and thought about how each of us have our own little dramas with little grasp on how small they really are in the grand scheme of things. Like ranting at the person who has just cut you up on a roundabout (because it's such a big event, right?), or the argument you just had with your partner is like the end of the world as you know it. I'm as guilty as most people for making such small little molehills seem like mountains.

I love macro photography so much. It allows me to view the world in a completely different way. Sometimes, it's not just about seeing the grand scheme of things but also seeing that even the smallest thing can feel so huge.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

8. Simplicity in a blank page


I've been working on breaking my writer's block once and for all. There are some dark forces afoot but I'm working my way through the murkiness, with thanks to Kirsty and her perfect understanding of an artist's mind, I might add.

Apparently, the above picture, which I took during a trip to Cardinham woods at the weekend, represents my life at the moment. There are two personalities in the picture: an old "me" and a new "me". The new one is growing strongly in the foreground but the old one has crossed its arms and isn't happy at being in the background (in other words: the old me is fighting the change). An interesting concept and quite accurate. I love how these things can be put into art to give it more meaning.

Anyway. Part of the writing work was to write about something; anything. Just so long as I wrote. And this is what I managed to achieve:

Blank Page
Blank pages frustrate me. It means that I have to force myself to think of words to fill the vacant lines, like I know anything in the world!
Blank pages whisper incriminations; they spike your nights with frustrated dreams. Grey lines - flat liners. No cadence, no rise and fall. Monotonous existence of a vast emptiness.
A blank page can bleed tears from stories never written. The empty space can warp perspective into a never-ending fear.
Then I must fill them - write something in the vacuum, my voice unheard unless I scream and then, still unheard.
I could lose myself in an empty page. My thoughts sucked out and absorbed into the fibres. The ink in the pen dries as the nib hovers above the paper. A wordless sight. Invisible.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

7. Beauty in Nature

Purple Flower

I've always had an interest in nature. It stems, I think, from all the walks I went on with my Mum where she would tell me about everything we saw; it would feed my thirst for knowledge and fascination in the world around us. It was only natural, then, that I would start taking photographs of nature too. There is nothing manmade that can beat the beauty of nature.


Monday, 24 May 2010

6. You Scratch my back...

Ponies - Sepia

A photograph taken on Bodmin Moor yesterday. It was the second day of blissful adventure. The weather was perfect all weekend. The day before, we visited Cardinham woods where we headed off the footpaths and followed deer tracks into the woods. We weren't lucky enough to see any deer but it didn't matter. We didn't need to see them to make the day any more wonderful. It was the adventure and the experience that mattered.

We were driving home yesterday, and I told Kirsty that I've never felt such a sense of being completely content before. And it's true. It's like a comfortable, light warmth that makes me feel like I'm at peace with myself, and that I'm perfectly happy with all that I have and need nothing more. I think it's the feeling you get when you begin to accept who you are as a person, and when you know that you are living your life and enjoying the world around you to the full.

"Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, 21 May 2010

5. Storm in a buttercup

storm in a buttercup

I'm trying to get myself back into writing again. It's been such a long time that I can barely remember the last time I wrote a story and managed to finish it. Due to various factors, I lost my confidence in writing a long time ago.

There's one thing that I know is my biggest problem: my constant need for perfection. It has given me such angst over the years: I want to be good at everything I do. I guess it's something that is "built in". I have little patience for things that I'm not good at.

In writing, there is no way of creating the perfect piece without spending time editing. It can be hard work, and then you have to wait for a couple of weeks to read through it again and see if you like it! There's no immediacy with it. I think that's why I like photography so much: you can see almost instantaneously whether you've got a good shot or not!

But I like writing. I spent hours and hours in my own little world, creating stories. I loved the written word and the way I could transport myself somewhere completely different. But my need for perfection gets in the way.

My whole world in this past year has been turned upside and inside out, and improved so much for the better. I have been working really hard on self-improvement (confidence; patience; compassion; understanding etc etc etc). So I know, at least intellectually, that it is okay to do something merely because you enjoy it...I don't have to be the best at it. If I enjoy it, then I don't even have to be good. I know this but translating it to something I actually feel can be like a storm in a buttercup ;-) But I am trying.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

4. From a single candle

Carrying a flame

How many times have I answered the phone with a grumpy attitude to experience the same back from whoever has called? Seriously. Bad moods can be catching. Luckily, good moods can be catching too :-)

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." Buddha

Monday, 17 May 2010

3. Wax on; Wax off

Wax on, Wax off

"I hungry" is all I heard drifting across the field while I was taking a photograph. Next thing, a bored Kirsty started pretending to be a martial artist under a tree. I captured her on "film", of course.

We'd been out for a walk after work, trundling around Pendennis Castle with cameras in tow. It was a warm evening, with a beautiful light; bluebells were everywhere. Kirsty encouraged me to take a little "diversion" off the path up a steep embankment, through undergrowth and brambles before heading back slowly to the car. We had a wonderful time.

I always have a good time with Kirsty. No one else has ever given me the room to grow and spread my wings, nor encouraged me so much to try my best at everything I do. She teaches me a lot about life; maybe we teach each other, I don't know. But I do know that thinking about her gives me the most unfathomably warm feeling I've ever had.

This photograph, called "Wax on, Wax off", is perhaps one of the better photographs I've taken that demonstrate Kirsty's character. And I post it to say thank you, for all the support and the simple belief in my work. It's given a new life to my photography, which means more to me than can be imagined.

There’s a light
A certain kind of light
That never shone on me
I want my life to be lived with you
The Bee Gees

Saturday, 15 May 2010

2. The Details of Life


Life becomes jaded with our own preconceptions and habitual behaviour. Trapped in our own prison, we see things the way we have been programmed to see. Circumstances repeat themselves and we react with the same old patterns; arguments flare up over the same small issues and we still do not learn. But we can choose to change.

Hard work though it is, it is possible to retrain the mind to see things from a different perspective; to view the world with different eyes; reprogram ourselves to form positive mental pathways; to view the details of life and realise that they are merely the synopsis not the story itself.

"One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak". G.K. Chesterton.

Friday, 14 May 2010

1. Like A Dream

Like a dream

We measure time: seconds; hours; days. We even have a name for what's been and what is about to be: past, present, future. We even think about the quality of time: whether something is a "waste of time", or whether something is worth the time. But, what is time really but an experience?

The past, to me at least, is like a dream. The future is merely a potential. It is the present that exists now. It is the present that I want to learn to embrace.

"Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment". Buddha