Cooking Up Another Year

When you think about it, a calendar year is a bit like a casserole.  The end product contains a lot of ingredients and some of them stand out more than others.  There are some you like, and some you don’t, but you include those anyway because you understand that they’re a staple part of the dish.

Especially on the first couple of occasions, you will always start out with some kind of recipe, an ideal list of what the dish is going to include, but in reality your weights and measurements of each individual ingredient might be all over the place.  Your scales might be broken and Tesco might be out of onions (if you don’t believe this can happen, come to my local Tesco, and walk back out with twenty five per cent of your shopping list unchecked due to the sparsity of the shelves).  You may have no choice but to purchase some alternative ingredients instead.  They’re not what you intended but… you’re up for seeing how they go.  Why not.

When you finally get round to tasting your casserole there’ll be times when you mainly taste the dumpling (yum!), and other times when you might only be able to taste the tinned tomatoes (yuck).  If the latter happens, you’ll probably change your recipe and quantities accordingly, because you don’t want that happening again.  It’s the same thing when it gets to this time of year and you reflect back on the previous twelve months.  Some themes and events will stand out more than others.

Personally, I’m not a massive fan of recipes.  I find them useful in providing a bit of direction at first, but struggle to keep in tandem with them after the first couple of steps.  Maybe that’s why each time I cook the same dish it turns out different, and perhaps in a funny sort of way it’s not far apart from the subliminal reasoning behind why I’ve slowly learnt not to create too much in the way of specific, tangible goals for any New Year.

For all I know right now, 2019 could turn out to be the best year yet, or it could be the worst one.  A lot of that will be in my control (‘energies’ and ‘chakras’ and all that modern day jazz music) but a lot of it also won’t (reality, shit luck, the weather, one’s monthly cycle creating emotional havoc and – dare I mention a topic I loathe to ever mention on this site but – British politics).

Sometimes I suppose the best thing to do is understand and embrace this in advance, maybe stockpile some additional seasoning just in case, and prepare the taste-buds for some brand new flavours…

Song of the Day:  Boogie Belgique – Memory

Latest offering from continental masters of innovative electro-swing music.  This nice, chilled piece is perfect for Winter evenings.

 

Fluorescent Grey: 2018

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Seven years ago I wrote a poem on here called, ‘Finding Fluorescent Grey’.  

It was hardly a piece that was going to see me named as the next poet laureate (poetry is really not my strength), but I’ve been thinking about the message behind it a lot lately; to the point where I wanted to try and express it in a more physical form through the scribbles above.

Neither the poem nor the graphics are anything special; if anything, they would probably be the subject of ridicule by professionals (or most other people for that matter) but… they felt so good to create, and in my opinion that’s what should be the priority for any artist, be it a writer, painter or somebody on stage.

I have come across many people who admit to a thirst for being creative but barely give themselves a chance to execute their ideas under the assumption that whatever they produce will be “rubbish”.  The truth is that there is no such thing as rubbish art.  I denigrate my poem because I have read a million better pieces and recognise that there are many areas it could be improved, but I’m still satisfied that the words are an accurate reflection of something I had an overwhelming desire to express.  Likewise the graphic above required no real talent to produce but I think it represents the meaning I was trying to get at in the poem, so I’m happy.  As long as you are working towards this, it’ll never be bad art.

It’s different if you are being asked to produce, with paints and pens, an accurate depiction of something else.  In these instances, it is somewhat more justified to judge. Take that legendary, less-than-flattering portrait of Mrs Mangel from Neighbours circa 1986 as an example, ha!

Image result for mrs mangel portrait

But for everything else, there really are no rules, and I think that’s possibly why I get so much delight from maintaining this blog and uploading my crude cartoons to my Instagram account.  In a life governed by routines, processes and time-slots I relish my time to crawl outside of the cage and get creative, and would encourage anybody else to do so too.  It’s amazing what you can learn from it.

I guess you could say that, seven years on, I’m still in awe of the fluorescent grey…

Song of the Day:  Turtlenecked – Underwear

A sweet, soft little indie-pop song that unfortunately only lasts two minutes.  Really lovely listening, especially for cold Winter evenings.

Living Alone: A Reflection

It had become the topic of a long-running joke and I knew it.  People with whom I hadn’t spoken in a while had gradually stopped asking me if I had managed to move out of my parents’ house, because they would already know that I probably hadn’t:

The retrospectively optimistic sounding, “Ah well, perhaps by the time you’re thirty, though”  comfort-sentence was adapted several times over the years until it basically became something along the lines of “hopefully by the time you’re reincarnated, though”.

I didn’t stay living at home with mum and dad through choice, it’s just that moving out was something that was beyond my financial reach for a very long time, especially given that I was buying on my own.  And because I live in the South East of England, where even the old lady who lived in a shoe probably had to resign herself to a twenty grand deposit and a thirty seven and a half year mortgage for the benefit of cuddling up to a steel toe cap each night.

Everybody knows how expensive it is to buy a place.  I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to do so, and no matter how many sacrifices I have to now make to the amount of ‘fun’ I can have in order to keep myself fed and cleansed, I am so thankful to finally be here in my very own flat, where the cupboards are full of ingredients to create copious Thai curries, and the decor is dominated by my favourite shade of yellowy-green.

I have been single for an extremely long time and have never felt that bothered about it.  In fact, I am generally quite apathetic about the idea of marriage and children, which is maybe why I have been single for so long.  I genuinely enjoy my own company, and whilst I do, of course, also love being around friends and family, I am also a bit of a fiend for wanting regular access to personal space, and am not too ashamed to attend events alone if I want to go but nobody else is interested.  I have always felt very lucky in this regard, and some of my favourite memories are ones in which I “went alone”.

Because of this, I didn’t think I’d have any issue at all with loneliness when I moved into my own place.  Largely, it’s been as fun as I thought.  I watch whatever I want to watch.  I eat whatever I want.  I don’t need to explain to anybody where I’m going or what I’m doing, and the truth is that by the time I come home from work I’m often so tired that I don’t think I’d be a great conversation maker anyway.  It’s nice to be able to sit in silence without worrying about radiating tired or draining energy towards others.  I’m terrible at concealing my feelings, and can’t feign enthusiasm if the reality is that I feel like a dusty old over-caffeinated broomstick who drastically needs a bath and a mug of Horlicks.

I hadn’t noticed any problems at all, until one day I realised how much more anxious I had been since moving.  Combined with a job which whilst enjoyable also necessitates a great deal of time alone, I have been spending a lot more time in my own head and not around others, and am only just starting to pick up on the thought patterns and behaviours that this  has influenced.  When I’m at home alone, or driving around in the car, I overthink and ruminate about things a lot more than I used to.  I see problems that probably don’t really exist anywhere else beyond within that mass of space between my ears, and then wonder if I’m being overly cynical, yet other times, I think I’m incredibly naive about a lot of people and things.  And then I just get confused and don’t know what to think about what I think.

As soon as I’m back around people, those anxious thoughts vanish.  It’s almost like putting on a pair of spectacles that enable me to read situations more clearly (to be fair I seldom wear my  prescription glasses as I just feel that they make me look like Velma from Scooby Doo).  I either conclude that my thoughts were irrational, or realise that even if they were true and the world really was about to end, I could probably get over it anyway.  Perspective comes flooding back and reminds me of everything that I have spent many years encouraging others not to forget through this blog and other means – that the world is much bigger than your living room, pretty much most problems are only temporary, focus only on those you care about, and that even when times are hard, Frazzles exist to make it all better again.

I know all of those things and have often pride myself on being pretty emotionally aware in many regards (though this has not always been the case), but only since moving out have I really started to understand how much of an influence loneliness has on the way we feel.  I haven’t always felt as strong as I thought I was.  Living alone is different to traveling alone, attending a concert alone, or going for a walk alone.  Living alone is having nobody who really understands or knows about everything you’re going through.  You may have plenty of people you speak to about a lot of things, but there’s nobody that has understanding for absolutely everything that happens on a daily basis, nobody who just knows. 

If I sound as though I’m feeling sorry for myself, then please be assured that I’m not trying to.  I chose this way of living and I don’t regret it.  I’ll happily take a few anxious thoughts every now and then if it means be able to watch retro episodes of Bruce’s Price is Right at breakfast-time, or listening to the same song on-loop for several hours, without causing anybody else any unwarranted distress.

I have always believed that the key to inner peace is knowing how to manage alone – emotionally, practically and financially – and so I see this latest challenge as nothing more than exactly that, a challenge, and a learning curve which will make me stronger.  The anxious thoughts I’ve been experiencing recently may disappear as soon as I’m around other people, but I’d like to get myself into a position whereby I can work through them alone instead, from the convenience of my kitchen table rather than anywhere beyond.

I’m writing this post for several reasons; not just for a bit of helpful reflection of my own situation that may resonate with others who feel or have experienced the same, but largely to be open about loneliness as something which is widely known to cause a great deal of emotional difficulty to many people.  As a society, we have become so much better at understanding mental health over the years, yet still many people suffer from the likes of anxiety and other issues to which over-thinking often contributes, and don’t voice it, for whatever reason.  Perhaps they are afraid of what others might think, or they just don’t know that they can talk about it.  If these people are lonely – be it because they live alone or they just feel alone – then it can be even harder to trace or help.

If you are feeling lonely and are finding that the internal thoughts, questions or worries are making too much noise within, then recognise that that noise is just a scream for release.  Pick up your phone and either make a call or send a text to a friend or relatives to make arrangements to meet.  Let the thoughts out and see how different they now look.  Listen to another person’s perspective on them.

You are not really that lonely, and your worries aren’t really that bad.  You just needed to talk.

Song of the Day:  Proleter – Lullaby

Now this one has definitely been played on loop in my flat at least hundreds of times in recent weeks.  It’s the sort of song that just makes everything seem hilarious if you have it stuck in your head.  Which happens frequently.

Arriving Home

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It’s funny how some places can feel like home even if you’ve never actually lived there.  For me, Faversham has always felt like ‘home’, and now it actually is!

It’s been a long old journey to get here, starting around five or so years ago when I was taking a walk past The Anchor pub one Summer afternoon, looked around, and thought to myself, “this is it, this is home”.  There was nothing particularly extraordinary about that moment, it was probably just a random cataclasm of senses inexplicably cascading together, but there was no denying the feeling.  And no forgetting it either.  To live in this town became the dream.

It’s probably the familiarity of the place.  I can’t walk down Lammas Gate or South Road without lovingly gazing at the houses where my grandparents once lived, and where  – as a family – we would come down from Watford  in the ’80s, ’90s and early ’00’s for those cozy stays.  Some of my earliest memories consist of feeding the ducks at Stonebridge Pond underneath those famed tangerine-blush ‘Faversham sunsets’, or of going for strolls along the creek, and whilst I may live alone here, I am not lonely (living frugally at the behest of relentless, monolithic bills, yes, but lonely, no 🙂 )

Home isn’t just about having a place where you return to each night to kick off your shoes, dump down your bags and cook curry (then spend the next few hours vehemently scrubbing sauce stains off the hob), but about being somewhere where you can recharge yourself from the hubbub of everyday life.  It might be where you live, where you’ve lived, or just a place you keep going back to.  Either way, it’s good to spend some quality time there.

Where is home to you, and why?

Song of the Day: Her’s – If You Know What’s Right

These Liverpudlian guys are one of the best kept secrets in today’s music.  I have been listening to this song pretty much on loop for the past three weeks and am still not bored.  Too ridiculously catchy and upbeat a tune not to love.  You can thank me later.

Personality over Perfection: How I Fell in Love with a Hotel

Opposite one of the main railway stations in the Midlands stands an hotel which has been there since the mid-19th century.  Built to resemble an Elizabethan manor house, there is a certain sense of elegance about the structure, which is probably what makes it an attractive option when considering where to book a room for the night.  It’s also incredibly affordable, particularly at a time when even the most basic accommodation can usually set you back about £70 a night, if you’re lucky!

There’s a saying in life that you only get what you pay for, and the first time I stayed in this hotel, last year – a last minute decision to assist with the logistics of a short stay in the area – I left feeling like I shouldn’t have paid anything at all.  A catalogue of perceived calamities – all occurring within the relatively short timescales of an overnight stay – meant I went away completely understanding why three quarters of its reviews are rated either average, poor, or terrible.

But, there’s also a saying in life that everybody deserves a second chance, and I pretty much believe that’s a sentiment that should be extended to services as well as people, when possible.  So – with a new need to stay in the area, and an even smaller budget to play with this time round – I decided to give it another go.  At £40 a night, I would have been stupid not to, and this time round, I even convinced a couple of friends to come with me.

I told them all about the aforementioned catalogue of calamities observed during the first stay, in 2017 – the uncomfortable beds, the feeble running water, the way the carpet changed to a completely different design halfway up the grand staircase, and the way the rooms were so dated, that the welcome booklets contained explanations about where to locate the nearest cigarette machines (banned from England in 2011).  I also told the tale of the unenthused barmaid, who had kept finding reasons to disappear whilst on duty, and failed to answer a simple question about whether or not we could buy a bottle of wine to take away with any sense of certainty, interest or even – dare I say it – intonation:

“Ah don’t kner. Nerbody has ever assked me that”

What felt like an eternity then passed before I realised that she had no plans to elaborate on her ‘answer’.

“Well, is it something we could find out?”

“Ah’ll have to ask the manager”, she concluded, before disappearing for another fifteen minutes, whilst no doubt making great efforts to succeed at her quest for a resolution to our query.  Eventually we were permitted to take the drink away, but not before noticing that the bottle was covered in dust and was probably as old as the building itself.

Regaling the stories this time round I was asked why I would choose to stay there again and – much like the barmaid I suppose – I struggled to give a clear answer.  I didn’t dislike the hotel by any means, I just found the whole place incredibly bizarre, and yet so alluringly intriguing.  And now I had a reason to stay there again, and I leapt upon it.

When we arrived for stay number two my friend vocalised positive first impressions as we walked in through the grand porch entrance.  The receptionist – a middle aged lady with a messy bun in her hair (not that I’m judging as I often sport the same fashion myself) – was ensconced in conversation with her colleague about how much work she had done that day, and almost seemed to forget that she was still on duty.  She dealt with my friends’ booking and I checked-in with her colleague.

A young girl approached the counter behind us, to ask what time last orders was that night.  It turned out that she was the the current barmaid, and she clearly wasn’t enjoying her job very much, as she seemed very keen on calling them sooner rather than later.

“Make it 11pm” her colleague said, before issuing with me with my key, the flimsy, plastic sort you would normally use to lock an old filing cabinet with.  It wouldn’t have surprised me if it actually did unlock a filing cabinet somewhere within building, probably the one containing all the customer booking invoices from 1973.

“You’re in Room 102”, he said, nudging the key across the reception desk, “turn left as you go up the stairs”.

My friends were staying in Room 100, and so when we saw the sign for rooms 100 – 105 we felt pretty pleased to think that – despite booking several days apart – our rooms were so close together.  Not so.

After dropping my pals off in Room 100, I continued along the corridor to where Room 102 should have been, but alas, it was not there.  Room 101 was.  As were rooms 103, 104 and 105.  But not mine.

“Great, I booked a room that doesn’t exist, no wonder it was so cheap!” I thought to myself, before turning back and double-checking to see whether I’d missed it.  After a bit of wandering, and some help from my friends, we found a sign round the corner that pointed the way to Room 102 specifically, and when we finally found it, it was situated between Room 120 and Room 121.

Of course.

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We could only deduce that whoever designed the building had not been able to count, and then proceeded downstairs towards the bar.

The young barmaid was stood slouched with a facial expression that suggested she had recently swallowed an anchor, and was feeling compelled to call last orders seventeen minutes before the time she had been advised to by her colleague.  We went up to place our orders in the nick of time.  One of my friends asked for a pint of beer and got a half pint of beer and a half pint of froth.  “Ah joost need to let it settle”, said the barmaid, leaping upon an excuse to not have to do anything and disappear from duty for ten minutes, to god knows where.  A sense of deja vu came over me, and I immediately identified who her mentor must have been when she started employment there.

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Once we got all our drinks, and questioning – but being in no mood to challenge – how much we had been charged, we took a seat and noticed a pool table next to us.  We fancied a quick game, but didn’t quite have the right change.

“Excuse me, would you mind changing these coins into a fifty pence piece so that we can play pool?”, I asked Waspy at the bar, in as polite a tone as possible to avoid having a dimpled-glass beer tankard launched at my face.

“No I can’t because bar’s clerzin’ and ya need to go into the lounge now” she said, without any slight hint of regret, eye contact, or diction.  In fact, if she’d had a giant broom to hand I’d have easily imagined her sweeping us along into the lounge, next door, so that she could fetch her things from the cloakroom and head out to meet her Tinder date.  Or whatever important thing she had lined-up for afterwards that made her so keen to end her shift.

My friends and I went to the lounge, as instructed, and took a seat on some black leather sofas, the crevices of which you half expected to find some shriveled up peas from the two for £5 mains special, or a piece of melted chocolate Digestive.  I’m sure you know the kind of sofa I mean – you normally see them against the decrepit custard yellow walls of taxi ranks, or on somebody’s front lawn awaiting collection by the rag and bone man – early ’00’s furnishings that just couldn’t stand the test of time and now feel like sitting on giant cushions of spilled cider and black, and regret.  Yeah, those.

Once we’d finished up our drinks we considered heading out to explore a bit more of the town, and maybe see if there was a place for one final refreshment.  We asked the chap at the Reception desk for any ideas of where we could go:

“There’s not mooch around here to be honest, flower” he said, with an unmistakable Midlands tone, “you’d be better off staying for our night bar” which – he explained – was basically when they keep the lights turned off in the bar except for when staff go in to pour drinks.  We were asked to remain in the lounge area, where a couple sat with some enthusiastic young children who wanted us to join in their game of football, whilst our drinks were being poured.

A grand piano sat on tired looking carpet in the corridor just outside the room and I’m afraid I couldn’t resist the urge to stroke the keys and bust out my inner Mozart… except that this was difficult to do, as the piano was sadly broken, with the lid jammed half-shut.  Without wishing for this to sound like a scene from a blue movie, but uncertain how to phrase it any other way, a wine-influenced version of myself managed to poke my fingers in and play a bum note or two in as melodic a fashion as possible.  Before too long, however, a member of staff advised me that there had been complaints from the bedroom above, and asked that I desist with my musical masterpiece immediately.  Alas, my modern incarnation of Symphony No. 40 was not able to reverberate around the confines of the hotel on that particular night after-all.

I’m possibly not painting the most amazing image of this hotel, but I’m being completely honest when I say I love it, and people like Paul are amongst the reasons why.

Paul – you see – was the senior staff member on duty that night, and the one who had taken to giving us botanical pet names like “flower”.  A tall, silver-haired chap in his early fifties, Paul was the kind of person you’d imagine showing up to an extended family Summer barbeque with a bottle of Tia Maria and some Ferrero Rocher.  He’d be the one keeping an eye on the burgers every time chef went to the loo, and geeing everyone up to have a go at the pinata.  In other words, he seemed to be the sort to know how to please a large swathe of people, and that’s exactly the kind of person you want to come across when staying away from home.

After serving us drinks from the night bar, Paul explained that the hotel had been very busy hosting weddings in recent weeks, and offered to give us a sneak preview of the function room they had spent the day decorating in preparation for a Harry Potter themed service due to take place the following afternoon.  “If you’d ‘ave seen this place a week ago you wouldn’t have recognised it” he started to explain, “the lasst lot that were celebrairtin’ a wedding in ‘ere completely trashed the plairce.  It took us a whole dair to clear it oop”.

Paul was such a sweet, friendly chap that you couldn’t help but feel incredibly sympathetic at this point.  He went on, “We’re not the most modern of places and ya see them writin’ their reviews on Trip Advisor, complairnin’ about the lack of air-con – they forget we’re over a hoondred years old, and that we’re a lot cheapuh than oother plairces they could stair”.

And you know what?  He was exactly right.

As Paul continued to delve into the history of the building, he told us interesting facts and showed us interesting features that most visitors probably don’t give themselves the opportunity to see.  All the whilst they’re busy complaining that the tiny television screen impedes their ability to see the weather conditions anticipated for at home in Maidenhead next Wednesday, they’re missing out on the things that make up for it.

The more Paul spoke about and showed us, the more I began to realise that I liked this hotel a whole lot more than I had initially thought.  It had a character to it that I now knew to be the thing which had ultimately brought me back for a second stay, and it wasn’t letting me down.

In my last blog post, I explained how the ease with which we can ‘perfect’ images completely negates the true value of a genuinely impressive photograph.  With this hotel I find myself thinking something similar.  Have we become so conditioned to believe everything should be flawless, that we immediately dismiss the value of those which don’t – on the surface at least – look as great?  The quirks of this hotel were the thing I loved about it the most, even being able to see the funny side of having a room that overlooked nothing but a bunch of vents and styrofoam take-out containers that no doubt once contained a portion of cheesy chips:

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For various reasons I have needed to stay in a number of English hotels over the past couple of years.  Most of them have been very nice, with crisp bed-sheets, sleek customer service and breakfast menus that would make Dr Gillian McKeith yelp with glee about the responsible amount of nutritional balance on offer.  The problem is, I can’t tell you anything else about those places.  They were nice enough, there was just nothing really that memorable about them.

But, I can tell you tonnes about this hotel – which I have purposely decided not to name throughout this article – but which for me represents everything that an overnight stay in a different part of the country should be all about:  The clutter of Edwardian furniture that’s seen better days.  The sachets of freeze-dried coffee you enjoy with your 2am bath.  The variety of staff attitudes on display.  The trouser press affixed to the wall, the purpose of which you’re unable to explain to a Brazilian friend…

trouser pressAnyone ever actually made use of these since 1989?

…You don’t stay here because you’re looking for a luxurious base from which to send a postcard, you stay here for the experience, and because you know that the money you’ve saved by compromising a bit of comfort can be better spent on a nice lunch out the following day, or a new colander.

One of my favourite contemporary creatives – a lady called Mari Andrew, famed for her Instagram depictions of modern day life – once wrote that if you’re going to be an artist, or anything else where you seek to provide things others can enjoy, you should strive to be more like whisky than water.  Everybody likes water whereas far fewer people like whisky, she reasons, but there are far more die-hard fans of whisky than there are of water.  Nobody treks hundreds of miles to remote Scottish distilleries for a bottle of Evian, but they would for whisky, because it’s different.

This hotel is definitely whisky, and it has me ordering it by the gallon… well I would be, if the barmaid hadn’t disappeared for the fifth time this evening…

Song of the Day:  Alligatoah – Es Ist Noch Suppe Da (There is still some soup left)

Listening is believing when it comes to this one – German hip-hop which samples a song from some kids tv show in the ’60’s.

I have absolutely no idea what’s going on here, but Spotify recently seemed to think I’d like it, and it was bloody well right.

Flashback to Old Photography #NoFilter

“…And here she is again, pictured with a friend who was unfortunately blinking at the time”

It was sometime in the late 1990’s and my mother was showing some photographs of my sister to my grandma (who was looking progressively bored with every photo that passed through her hands, bless her).

I’m not sure why, but the comment really made me chuckle – perhaps because of the way it was so politely put – and on those rare occasions when we pull out the old and dusty family albums, I still smile when I see that photo.  “‘Unfortunately blinking’. Heh heh.”

Not so long ago, imperfect photos like this were the norm.  The quality of our prints depended highly on a myriad of different things, including having the optimum levels of natural light, sufficient power left in the camera batteries, and whether or not our eyes could hold their own against flashes of extremely bright, whirring light.

There were no options to review, delete and re-take if you hadn’t quite been ready for the photo or if your hair looked a mess, and certainly no way of applying a filter to conceal a rash or wrinkles.  Your choices were a lot more limited, and with an allowance for around only 36 photos on each roll of film, you had to be a lot more restrained on how many you took.  Serial-snapping was not a thing unless you were extremely rich, which certainly wasn’t the case for those of us restricted only to pocket-money funds to buy the various means required to take photos.

You’d have absolutely no idea how the shutter-clicks would manifest until a few weeks’ later, when you’d pick up your prints from Boots, take yourself home, make a cuppa and begin to sift through with eager anticipation, being careful not to let your biscuity fingers touch the gloss.

One thing you were always guaranteed was an element of surprise and a range of reactions as you sifted through.  Some photos would come out great, but a lot of others wouldn’t.  In every roll of film there’d be the token blinking shot, and the mouth wide open shot.  There’d also be the ‘tooclosetotheflashandnowihaveaseriouscaseofmassivemoonfacegoingon’ shot, and the shot where – for some reason – things became a little confused during development and you had either a set of bright squiggly lines running through the middle or just a completely black photo.  Or whatever the hell happened here:

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There wasn’t a lot you could do about the photos you didn’t like, or the ones you didn’t want anyone to see.  Even if you hid them away, there’d always be the danger posed by that person who would take a cheeky look through the negatives to identify those deemed inappropriate for public display.  You could always get some amusement out of that, if not by way of finding something embarrassing, but from the fact that even your most favourite people on earth generally looked pretty damn scary in the negatives:

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Jump forward twenty years or so, and technological advances mean we can all now have a gallery of personal photos made up of the kind of images we once thought we’d only ever see in glossy magazines.  Built-in filters, and drives that can hold thousands of photos, mean you can take a photo again and again until you feel it looks just right, and even if you don’t feel it get to that stage, you can edit it until it does The skill of a good photo is no longer about the person taking it, or even the subject matter, but the equipment being used, or so it seems.

It’s useful in many ways, yet so anticlimactic in others.  Insta-perfect picture after picture is nice for a while but there’s also something somewhat underwhelming about it, not to mention something quite sickly about the culture of vanity it has embedded into a society that used to be way better at laughing-off the permanent capture of its windswept hair or accidental gurn.  When did we start taking ourselves so seriously, and for what purpose?  I’m not sure I feel comfortable with the way it’s so easy to dismiss aesthetic imperfection these days.  I think that’s something far-better embraced, and appreciated.

I do miss looking through photo albums which – when you think about it – mirrored life itself – mixing the good, bad, messy, amusing, wonky, bizarre, the unintentional, and everything else within a combination of purely natural photos.

And I miss the suspense of not knowing what the photos would turn out like, finding one you love, and instantly being able to stick it up on the fridge door so that every time you reached for the milk, you manouevred the smiling wee face of great-grandma back and forth.

I miss the days when a ‘good photo’ was a result of chance, the ‘one shot’ that truly paid off despite unfavourable technology and too much sunlight.  They had more of an impact that way…

…Perhaps it’s time to buy a new-old camera, before I blink-and-miss the opportunity to…

Song of the Day: Sleepwalkers – Reasons to Give Up In You

Catchy pop-rock from Richmond, Virginia.  I fell in love with this track the very first time I heard it.  If you’re still looking for your Summer anthem for 2018 then here it is:

When Knowledge Isn’t Everything

I’m probably doing somebody I know and care about a great deal a lot of disservice in admitting this; but I can’t remember which one of them told me the most mind-blowing fact about our universe that I’ve ever heard:

“All of the light you see from the stars in the night-sky is thousands of years old”, said he or she, in a conversation probably influenced by a large carafe of wine and a ramekin of peanuts in a dimly-lit bar, “the stars you see tonight probably died many years ago, but because of how far away they are, they still look alive to us”.

The accuracy of the second part of that statement is prone to a lot of debate, usually by people with a greater vat of brain cells than I, who can rigorously punctuate each part of their explanations with the kind of knowledge you’d usually expect to find in a green-leather bound book with yellowing pages found on the bottom shelf of your local library.  (The book was probably written by somebody called Quentin H Pugh and first published in 1929.  It probably hasn’t been exposed to fresh air since 1931 and its main purpose today is residence for a small army of silverfish.)

Yet people are pretty unanimous about the first half of the statement.  Looking into the night sky is, indeed, like looking through a lens to the past.  Consider this: the light from the closest star to Earth (Alpha Centauri) takes four years to reach us, and that’s as quick as it gets!  By contrast, the light from the stars furthest away from us take thousands upon thousands – if not millions or billions – of years to reach us.  How crazy to think that whilst we can’t travel through time, we can effectively view different epochs of history in tandem with one another from the modern comfort of 21st century windows, all because of a bunch of science that the majority of us find difficult to truly understand.

In the past I have tried to engage with all that might have helped me understand all the what’s, why’s, how’s and when’s of everything there is to know about astronomy, but on each of those occasions my brain has switched off as soon as we started to transcend into the realms of Mathematics and other related gablurble.  Mrs Green’s GCSE Physics classes would have been the prime place to learn about things which I didn’t realise would interest me so much nearly twenty years later, but back then I gave up on trying to learn because all I really wanted to do was make hats out of paper-towels for everybody in the class – including Mrs Green – and call them ‘Moon Hats’.  The idea was that we could parade them in the corridors with all the cheap pride you might expect of pupils from the bottom set for Science; except I think the vast majority of them ended up in the bin.  (Moon Hats unanimously failed the generic teenage ‘Cool Test’, so I cancelled the patent application and gave up my dream of a career in fashion design.  I hope that, over the years, those toffee-nosed classmates have been able to find a way to cope with the guilt of this).

Trying to make me understand the rules of Science is like trying to  vacuum up a desert’s worth of sand in a pipette.  I just don’t get it; and if I were to even try it would only explode into a thundercloud of general mess and confusion that would rain havoc on all beneath it.  Yet, I am fascinated by the night sky, to the point where I’d even say that my ignorance and lack of knowledge only makes the whole concept even more exciting.

I’m pretty sure that if somebody was ever able to have the patience and tenacity to get me to understand the finer details of why the light from stars takes so long to reach our vision, it would no doubt satisfy the part of my brain which is hungry for knowledge, and possibly even make me feel vaguely intelligent for a moment or two.  On the other hand, I feel it would serve as something like a cold bowl of porridge to the part that enjoys being able to wonder, and imagine.  Like all magic, once you know how the trick works it’s never as entertaining again.

And then you can’t help but transfer that concept to the more emotional elements of life.  Many of us are so concerned by the idea of not being ‘in the know’.  We like to feel informed and aware because it helps us to feel in control of the things going on around us (or we just enjoy being nosy), and there’s a sense of safety and security in that control.

And that’s all well and good, for sure, but sometimes it can be just as gratifying not knowing or understanding why things are the way they are.  Finding answers isn’t always an easy task.  It can take a very long time, cause a lot of stress, feed you inconsequential information that doesn’t really make you feel any better at all, and not lead to anything of any real substance.  In fact, you can get so side-tracked by searching for answers that you forget what your question was in the first place, because the things you found out along the way multiplied it into a dozen more questions.

I have often been guilty of over-thinking which has lead to worrying and nothing has made this more apparent to me than a recent circumstance.  I know that this is perhaps my way of trying to gain control of a situation, by identifying possible risks and working out how to overcome them in advance.  It can be a really good tool at times, which has probably saved me from a lot of embarrassment and/or broken bones, but much like your favourite pencil it can go blunt and become useless if overused.  When I think back to how much time I’ve probably spent worrying about things that never came into fruition it’s hard not to feel frustrated with myself, so I’m actively trying harder now to stem some of these thoughts and only think about what I need to, when it presents itself to me.  Because if you think the scope and the science of astronomy is what makes light-years hard to comprehend, the human brain is even more complex and easier to get lost in.

And there’s actually something quite comforting about recognising that.  Something relaxing about just stepping back and letting nature and fate do whatever it is they need to do.  More time to enjoy the beauty, mystery and adventure of it all rather than expending all your energies on navigation.

When I look up at the stars I don’t want to think about a bunch of algebraic formula that will never make any sense to me.  I just want to think about how tonight’s light is a gift from the past, and how amazing and mysterious the Universe is for supplying something that on the surface of it sounds so impossible.  And that’s where I want to merrily leave that thought.

Pugh and co can take their answers elsewhere...

Song of the Day:  Dreamgirl – Bollywood

Dream-pop from Kansas.  This is one of those amazing songs that you might feel a little indifferent to at first, but then you hear the inexplicable ‘it’, and the song is subsequently stuck on loop for a week or so.  The sort of rare song that makes you want to cry and smile all at once.   Enjoy.

An Afternoon in the Great West

It’s a balmy Friday afternoon in May, the weekend of the first Bank Holiday of the year, and I’m sat on board a Great Western Railway train at Paddington, waiting to depart for the long journey down to Cornwall, the southernmost tip of the UK.

I’m content because I have my snacks, my notebook, my MP3 player, my train wine and most importantly – my seat.  Had I not booked the tickets in advance, this would not have been guaranteed, and as the carriage becomes increasingly busier with the bank holiday rush I have to say an internal grace to good old Trainline.com.  Not only am I – and everybody else who’s seated –  the envy of the masses who are having to stand awkwardly in the aisles, but they took on board (get it?) that little tick I put on the booking form about preferring a window seat.  That almost never really happens.

A young, smartly dressed gentleman asks if he can sit at the seat next to me, just until Reading, from which point it has apparently been reserved by somebody else, according to the little ticket sticking out of the headrest.  Obviously I say yes, and have a giggle to myself about how quintessentially British that brief exchange was; we ask for permission to sit at seats as though the passenger next to them owns them, or brought them in from home.  I have never before wondered why we do this, and cannot think of the reason even now.  It’s not like we can really say no.

Mind you.

Mind you…

As the smart young gentleman suddenly produces a Tupperware of what can only be described as an acrid-smelling food stuff of some dreadful orange mushy sort I begin to wish that I had made up a fib about having an acquaintance who had “just nipped to the loo” when asked about the empty seat.  My nostrils are being completely violated by his lunch, and as the train meanders through West London suburbia I begin to count down the minutes until Reading, and am aghast at just how bottomless the content in the Tupperware appears to be.  I know those things can hold a lot, but sacre bleu!  The mound of mush is just not getting any smaller!

My heart reaches a lofty level of delight never previously encountered when we finally arrive at Reading, and a lady who looks like she should have taught me English Literature in the late 1990’s approaches row 35 and finally displaces the man with the smelly food.  This lady seems far more easygoing a train buddy, for all that she has to whip out of her bag is not a Tupperware of vomit but a book about Queen Boudica, complete with laminated bookmark that has a calendar printed on it.  Fortunately, bookmarks don’t really have a scent and I am able to continue gazing out the window without any further nasal disruption, as she quietly enjoys her book.

I didn’t research this train journey prior to making it so am largely unaware of the route, but slowly I begin to recognise the names of places we pass through, and gather that we are in Somerset.  The scenery – a sprawling patchwork of greens and yellows – is expansive and synonymous with what I would have always imagined it to look like.  A mum and her young son, in matching wellies, wave at us from an allotment as planes leave their cloudy trails in the skies above.  The lady next to me takes a break from her book to finish off a packet of M&S mature cheddar and red onion crisps and then – to my awe – produces a Wet Wipe to clean the crisp dust from her fingers.  “WET WIPES FOR CRISPS?! How incredibly organised!”, I think to myself, recollecting all the times I’ve eaten crisps on a train and never been quite as responsible.  If you should find Frazzle dust on your seat next time you travel with South Eastern then that would be my lethargy at play and for this I apologise.

The clouds pick up and the grey skies begin to contrast with the acidic yellows of the rapeseed in such a way that it seems reminiscent of what is a fashionable colour scheme in contemporary kitchens and living rooms.  We pass a cricket field somewhere in the Taunton area that represents just one of many that we will pass by on this journey, and when we stop at the station there, the main observation will be that almost all of the women on the platform are wearing a floral top.

The population of the train increases by about a third at Taunton, and in a carriage that was already busy enough it goes without saying that there is to be an issue with the seats.  A lady who has just joined us squabbles with the girl in the row behind me about who should be sitting where and for the first time on this trip, I begin to pick up on that West Country dialect so long associated with this part of the country:                                

“Aye think yerr sittin’ in may seat”

That curving accent and visions of pink sunsets over freshly harvested fields are pretty much all I knew of Somerset before making this journey, and, well, remain all I know of it now.  Cider too I guess.  Apples and all that jazz (jazz apple. Ho ho).

harvest(Image taken from Miriadna.com)

Before too long, the train is stopping at Tiverton, Devon.  Lots of people seem to disembark here and so I conclude that there must be lots of Activerton this weekend.

…One of the few setbacks of traveling alone is that there is no audience for any dreadful puns you may concoct in response to funny place names, so I log it in my notebook, and vow to include it in my write-up instead, where even then I will probably remain the only person amused by it.

The landscape of the Devon that runs alongside the railway line reminds me of something from Postman Pat, with all its hills, single-track roads, and perfectly-rounded red brick footbridges that cross over the line.  Absorbing all of this beauty, I start to question Kent’s usually undisputed status of the Garden of England.  Right now, Devon is giving that title a run for its money, and its endearing sequence of streams and rivers are almost starting to give it the lead.  My eyes are loving everything they’re seeing right now, especially the sheep roaming around happily on the hillsides.  As fields go, I bet they’re happy they live on these ones.

Civilisation resurrects itself when we stop at Exeter St David’s, a station that hosts all the hustle and bustle on the platforms that you would expect from a University city.  Commuters scroll through their phones as they stand waiting for their trains, and Pumpkin’s double doors swing back and forth in time with needforcaffeine related emergencies.  On the walls of a nearby pavilion building, somebody has spray-painted the words, ‘Devon Knows’ in bright yellow.  A later Google search will tell me that this particular piece of graffiti was commissioned by Exeter City Council a few years’ ago, and pays homage to Ambrosia custard, as well as a couple of other things that perhaps only locals will appreciate.  I only understand the custard part, but it’s amusing enough.

Powderham Castle comes into view to our right as we head south towards the coast, in parallel with the marshy banks of the River Exe.  The castle grounds are speckled with large oak trees that immediately conjure up images of our ancestors galloping to battle on horseback in heavy winds.  I have absolutely no idea whether it was that kind of castle, but it satisfies my imagination to believe it so.

A short while later and the expanse of water within the River Exe that had been running alongside us has transformed into a full-blown sea.  This signifies that we are reaching Dawlish, and the part of the journey that many people enthusiastically encouraged me to pay particular attention to.  For several minutes, all you can see out of the left hand side of the train is the sea, and it’s pretty impressive.  This is the part of the UK that you have no doubt seen on the news during periods of heavy rain and flooding, for back in February 2014 much of the track was swept away in the storms, requiring significant levels of repair that virtually annexed this part of Britain from the rest of it.

Dawlish                                                 (Picture from official Met Office site)

We are rattling through the stations now.  As one of the main modes of transport down here in the South West, the stops are becoming more inclusive, taking in places like Newton Abbot, which seems to be a popular place for people to get off, and Totnes.  Amongst our travels round here we go past a miniature platform for the South Devon railway.  It’s decorated in bunting, a telltale sign of a quaint English visitor attraction, and there’s a steam engine nearby too no doubt.

The carriage is full of activity.  The lady next to me (not the probable English teacher.  She and her Boudica book got off at Newton Abbot and her seat was swiftly re-occupied) asks me if I know in which carriage she can find the buffet cart.  The man in front of us overhears, and tells us it’s out of stock anyway.  It seems that this really is a much busier service than usual.  Clearly everybody else here is also looking for a sunny weekend break with an ice-cream.  In the meantime, two pals from the University Rugby Club (a massive assumption, I admit) bump into one another unexpectedly in the aisle, and say hello with shoulder slaps so hard it’s a miracle that neither of them will alight the train with a dislocated scapula.  I gather they haven’t seen one another in a while.

As we approach Plymouth, my nostrils are overcome with an intensity of scent not felt since vomit-in-Tupperware guy, who by now – as we enter what must be the 3rd or 4th hour of the journey – seems like a feature of a previous century.  Instead all I can smell now is a mass of waterproof jackets that have probably spent the past Winter in the confines of damp, under-stair cupboards, next to boxes of spare washing powder and kitty litter.  It’s not an unpleasant odour by any means, more the smell of childhood holidays and the outdoors; and cottages you might have once rented by the sea that were furnished with worn-leather armchairs in shades of deep maroon.  We’ve all stayed somewhere like that at some point, I’m sure.  We took our buckets and spades but it ended up raining every day so we stayed in a lot watching the likes of Casualty and This Is Your Life whilst mum struggled to work out how to light the hob in order to heat up a tin of soup that nobody was expecting to eat.  We all know that smell.

Plymouth is a city of varying gradients; and so the slate grey roofs – from certain angles – are a little akin to the scales of freshwater fish… or the brushed up sequins of a dodgy silver skirt; either or.  There’s a particular street just after the suspension bridge at Saltash that makes my legs hurt just looking at it, in fact it would probably be a miracle if no parked cars had ever rolled down and submerged into the River Tamar!  I’m glad that Kent is comparatively flat by these standards.  I’m also delighted that I don’t live on a hill, and vow never to do so.  I can’t bear to imagine a life in which the daily walk from the doorstep to the local shop requires copious amounts of Lucozade and Kendal Mint Cake, fair play to those who manage that.  You’re good.  Really good.

It’s difficult to distinguish the point of the Devon/Cornwall border, but when the conductor announces our impending arrival at Liskeard we can gather that we must have passed it.  Where my ignorance of Somerset meant my understanding transcended little beyond accents and combine harvesters, my ignorance of Cornwall is probably even greater.  To me – right now – it’s a place full of beautiful beaches and Kelly’s ice cream that seems to have a language of its own, made up of words that all have ten thousand syllables and begin with the letters TRE.  I don’t quite know why.  Other than that, I am Cornish-ly clueless.

“Liskearde – for trains to Looe”  reads the sign at the station.  I could do with being at Looe right now after this whopper of a rail journey, but you can never be entirely sure what you’re sitting in when you use the on-board facilities so I’ve held off…

(There we go with another dreadful joke that nobody was around to hear at point of origin)

I’m very excited to finally be in Cornwall and satisfying the frequent hunger to visit new places.  Several people have told me that everything changes once you reach this county.  They speak of a single road that seems to serve the whole area, and now I guess they were probably talking about the A30.  There are certainly no motorways in these parts, and whereas in Kent (that ‘Garden of England’ remember) many of us are sandwiched between the M2 and M20, the nearest motorway to Cornwall is the M5, last seen way back in Exeter, some sixty miles away.  Now there’s a sign that you’re truly out in the sticks.

The next stop is Bodmin Parkway, which proudly proclaims itself a part of the Bodmin and Wenford Railway.  Bodmin became famous in the 1970’s when there were several reported sightings of an unusual panther-type creature (‘the Beast of Bodmin’) roaming around the area.  The case was never truly resolved, though the most likely explanation is that the creatures were pumas set free by animal trainer Mary Chipperfield upon the closure of Plymouth Zoo in 1978.   I highly doubt the Beast of Bodmin still exists, but it adds interest to the visit, and it makes it more fun to imagine that the ‘person’ who’s just got on the train will suddenly open their trench coat to reveal four legs and a body of thick, black fur.

‘Lostwithiel’ is one of the final stops of my journey.  Lost with what now?!  In my head, I assume that this is probably one of those regional words pronounced completely differently to how it looks phonetically, and with that, the train departs the place I will personally refer to – rightly or wrongly – as ‘Lozule’ forevermore.  I’ll remember it as the place with the beautiful barn conversions that sit between the railway line and the river behind them, that gave me considerable amounts of home-envy.

With only a further twenty minutes to go of my journey it is around this point that I decide to pack my notebook away and spend the final part of the ride sitting back and gazing out at this unfamiliar land.  It’s approaching 7pm and having got on this train at 2pm I’m feeling somewhat numb and ready for a pint of holiday Doom Bar by the harbour with my friend.

I go to bed later on thinking about all the places I’ve seen, and remember why I always prefer to travel by rail or road if I can.  The beauty of longer-distance journeys is seeing how the landscape unfurls with each mile that passes by.  A plane would have got me here much quicker, but I’d have only seen the clouds and smelt the choking mixture of fragrances on sale at the Duty Free.  In all honesty, I think I’d rather have smelt a pungent Tupperware and seen the sea, a dozen cricket grounds, and a bunch of happy sheep…

I won’t forget this journey.

Cornwall1
Song of the Day: BOAN – Babylon

BOAN are an American synth-pop duo who released this song about 5 years ago.  I have only just discovered it.  Good song to drive to.

 

 

The Indonesian Effect: Eight Years On

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For about the first year after returning I could think of nothing else.  Indonesia had gripped my heart and I tried to create any opportunity to bring a small part of it to the UK.  I would go to the local oriental grocers and stock up on imported Indomie noodles with which to make nasi goreng, order Indonesian films from the internet, and read books written by the 19th century explorer, Alfred Wallace, who had traversed the islands collecting the skins of exotic birds.  I would get cross anytime people mistakenly proclaimed that the likes of batik and satay sauce originated from Malaysia, and filled many notebooks with countless graphic accounts of what had happened out there so that I would never forget a thing.  No encounter.  No scent.  No awkward occasion of getting lost in translation. No entertaining bus journey.  I would forget nothing and kill no memory.

I was desperate to go back, and so I did go back – twice – but never to Padang, where I had stayed whilst volunteering.  Instead I went only to Jakarta, the capital, which was far less enchanting a place but which was home to several of the good friends I’d made.  After graduating, very few of them stayed in West Sumatra.  These were among some of the most determined and ambitious people I’d ever get to meet and they were keen to evolve from the humble lifestyle of rural homes to lucrative careers in finance, working in the country’s biggest and most modern buildings.  And that’s where they are now.

Catching up now is not the same as the original experience.  Of course it wouldn’t be; life changes and it changes fast.  Nowadays they tell me about their marriages and their children and the relatives I met who have since passed away, like the sweet old man who came to pick me up from Padang airport as I arrived into the country dazed and sweating my jeans off in May 2010.  They ask me whether I am married and I remember the tip from my guidebook that advised me to say “Not yet” as opposed to just, “No”.  It is very surprising to them; not because they think I am a prize catch but because over there, everybody gets married.  And they don’t hang about to do so either.

Whilst gossiping with a friend in front of a mosque one warm evening in 2015 – when I last visited Indonesia – she told me about her new boyfriend.  “We will marriage soon” she declared, “and then we will be able to sex”.  It reminded me of a conversation I had had with her five years earlier as we sat on the cool tiles of a classroom floor waiting for an Earthquake project meeting to start:  “Kak Sophie, do you kissing boyfriend with tongue? How does it feel?  Kak Sophie, what about sex?”.  Fortunately, she inadvertently timed her question with the moment that the meeting got underway and I remember feeling silently relieved that an answer was now redundant.  She has since married and had a child; so will at least know now the answer to her own question, and perhaps when we next meet, I’ll be asking her what childbirth felt like.

I am not being hyperbolic or mawkish when I state that Indonesia changed my life.  I said it countless times during that initial year after, when each and every day I would experience an intense longing to return.  Every time I bought those noodles or ignored the story lines of the Indonesian films in order to focus on observing the scenery I was trying to satisfy a need to go back that was emotionally hard to manage and was stopping me from feeling happy.  I was miserable because I didn’t want to be in England, but the truth is I probably did, I just wasn’t doing myself the favour of living in the present.  I taught myself some Bahasa Indonesia and dreamt of working in the charitable sector doing a job where I could help develop the part of the world I had fallen in love with.

Whilst I was away, I went from being somebody who didn’t really know what they wanted out of life to somebody who absolutely did.  I was able to identify the things that meant the most to me and conjure up plans on what I would do to keep those things present in my day to day life.  I knew I needed a career that wasn’t about money but about daily meaning and purpose.  I knew I needed to keep writing because it made me happy, and I knew that I needed to keep exposing myself to new things because it tantalised me.  Prior to Indonesia, I knew none of those things about myself, and that scares me.

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The perverse thing is that these days I no longer have that same burning desire to go back.  Well, I do, but it’s an occasional desire to go back to the moment, not necessarily the place, and such an opportunity is – and always will be – impossible.  I am still in touch with my friends, though nowhere near as often as once was.  A birthday message here and there, the odd ‘Memory’ flashing up on Facebook, congratulating them when I see they have a new addition in the family.  It’s a world away from those deep conversations about life and dreams on the beach at night whilst eating barbecued corn, watching the moon shimmer on the surface of the Indian ocean.  When paths cross – which they fortunately do every now and then – we get together and reminisce, usually over a coffee or dessert, before we bid one another goodbye again, and that tends to be it.  But that’s fine.

It’s fine because no matter how occasional the contact, and no matter how much things change, nothing can interfere with the memories or the moment.  Nothing will change the fact that one day we had to wade through a rice paddy because our Leader knew of ‘a shortcut to campus’ that turned out not be a shortcut.  Nothing will change the time my host sister and I spent a whole bus journey home laughing together about two (unknowingly) different interpretations of the same sight.  Nothing will change the fact that one afternoon a group of us spent hours in the river in our t-shirts and shorts, or the way that when we started walking home one of the girls realised I didn’t have a bra on underneath my shirt.  Nothing can change the way she then asked a lady living nearby if I could get changed in her hut, next to her little baby who stared at me wide-eyed as I started to undress, in a situation awkward for both of us.  Nothing can change any of those things; but even putting the same people in the same places we would not be able to replicate those moments.  Our lives have changed too much for that, and the river that we once bathed in has since disappeared from the landscape completely owing to natural disaster.

Every now and then something might trigger the memories rushing back.  Bollywood songs like ‘Maahi Ve’ – though not Indonesian, but popular within its pastimes – will evoke graphic images of colourful wedding parties and the taste of luminous green pandan cake.  Sweetened black tea makes me think of waking up to Equatorial heat and having a plate of noodles topped with a fried egg for breakfast.  There will be fleeting sounds that remind me of extremely loud television sets with fuzzy screens blasting fast Indonesian speech into the dark evening air, or waking up to the sound of prayer as it reverberates around the neighbourhood from the nearest mosque.  And when the memories come back, so do the feelings.  All of them: The initial uneasiness, the awe,  the laughter, the paranoia that comes as part of spending time with strangers, but above all that feeling of “wow” that is so hard to define.  The thrill of being thousands of miles away from your comfort zone and realising that – even though it may not be easy – you’re coping.

Nothing will ever interfere with that, the Indonesian effect will always be there.

But I’m glad I think about and miss it less, because I will only ever be able to travel back to the place, not the moment.

IndonesiastrawberrryFriends Reunited – 2015

Song of the Day:  D’Bagindas – Apa Yang Terjadi

One of the few things to be the same in each of my three visits is the popularity of this band and songs like this that are played everywhere, and I mean everywhere.  In homes.  In restaurants. On buses.  At market stalls…