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Little steps forward are important. They count. Day to day life is not all drama and grand gestures. It's about getting on with what needs doing. I recall a story about a Buddhist monk describing enlightenment to a young acolyte. Before enlightenment, carrying water. After enlightenment, carrying water. It's one of those quotes that's always remained with me. A new attitude and outlook necessarily means, for me at least, is about having a new perspective on everything, a perspective that allows and encourages me to make the most of every day, whether it be a grand or simply ordinary day.
I was tired when I awoke this morning. Paul flew in from Tokyo last night and we all sat up late. It was so good to see him again. I miss his company and his presence across the river. I miss those lazy afternoons in his penthouse apartment, listening to ambient music, enjoying a bottle of wine or two and gazing out across the London skyline while we put the world to rights. But I was tired today at work. My patience didn't stretch quite as far as it normally would and a good restorative sleep is now in order.
A chilly morning in London, the first for many months. In the distance, couched between the roof of one of the buildings below and an adjacent plane tree I can see the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral silhouetted against the a blue sky while next to it, the crane of a nearby construction site towering beside it. Elsewhere, through the other windows of the train I can see the London Eye, its glass capsules glittering in the morning sun and the Thames approaching high tide, rippled and smoky blue. In the early light of the morning, London can look enchanting.
8:12pm on a Wednesday evening. It's been dark for a while now, compounding my weariness after a very intense day at work. I could easily climb into bed and sleep through until morning, but I won't. We'll have a meal at 9 and I'll aim to be in bed by 10:30. I've a few things I should be doing right now, like writing up my notes from today, or sending that email that Alice asked me to draft. But I can't bring myself to do it right now. There's really only so much you can get done in one day.
Justin and Peter. Two very special people, now in their late twenties, who were once my students. It's funny how life goes in circles sometimes. We last saw each other five or more years ago after a chance encounter in Soho but for some reason or another we never quite managed to link up again. Until tonight, that is. Sadly, Seb, Justin's brother, couldn't make it tonight. He and I will be catching up next week. But it was so good to see these two and share a few hours deep in conversation and the warm glow of renewed friendship.
If one's worth was measured in terms of the quality and depth of friendship that one shared with others then I am surely rich beyond reckoning. I'm not sure whether it's a function of getting older (and, one would hope, a little wiser) but I increasingly feel as though my capacity and desire to reach out, communicate and share with others is expanding in a way that until recently I'd almost forgotten about. Indeed, in my younger years I was fearful that such capacity was limited to one's youth. How reassuring to have such misconceptions evaporate through lack of substance.
We were all a little worried that the rains of the preceding few days would spoil things, but they didn't. Instead, the grey clouds all scurried away to reveal a beautiful, if windy autumnal day. We threw Frisbees with the kids and munched on sandwiches while catching up on gossip. Paul and Carol, chatting together for the first time in years; Teddy playing happily with Ava and Felix; Andrew and I discussing life back in London; Piggyback rides across the Serpentine and little feet paddling in the memorial fountain. Sunshine and blue skies. Family and friendship. Life's more meaningful pleasures.
I'm enjoying Paul being back in London for a few days. Last night we went to Franny and Dave's. It was a small gathering of warm, friendly people. We sat around a large, candlelit table sharing stories, good food and wine. Such good company; so much warmth and goodwill, and all so reminiscent of the dinner parties Paul used to host in Vauxhall. One was always assured of meeting someone interesting, a like-minded soul to while away the hours while sipping good wine, dining on Paul's infamous Thai curry and bathing in the ambient glow of his eclectic music collection.
It's a daily dilemma. I'm on my way to work and I'm thinking no, I won't pick up a free copy of the Metro. I'll only read something that depresses me and right now I'm feeling fine. But then I get distracted from my novel by the headline of the paper of the person sitting across from me and before I know it I'm thrusting Annie Proulx to one side and picking up the nearest castaway Metro. And then I read it. And all the problems of the world come crashing in on me to spoil a perfectly good morning.
Stuck yet again in a stationary train! So, I might as well write! I'm looking forward to seeing Seb tonight. We're meeting up at six at Embankment Station. As with his brother Justin and Peter the other night, I've not seen Seb for over five years, and prior to that, not since Hayes. Yet I can't help feeling there's a potential spark, a real connection to be made with Seb, as with the others. It's a time of reawakening and renewing friendship, both new and of long-standing. And in the process, London is becoming a warmer, friendlier place to be.
Meeting up with Seb last night was brilliant! We met up outside Embankment Station and wandered over to Covent Garden where we found a cozy, dimly lit downstairs bar. And if ever there was any truth to the phrase, just add water and mix, then undoubtedly last night was a moment of truth: instant friendship, nothing less. Within three short hours, what I had suspected was fully borne out. Seb isn't just a welcome blast from the past. He's a real friend. And while it may have taken us 14 years to get here, we're here now. And it's great!
Days pass, weeks slide by, one month turns into another and things change. Much as I love the place, the idea of moving back to Australia holds little appeal right now. Having had to get my head around the idea that we were staying here longer than planned I guess I've re-evaluated London and the UK and rediscovered what it was I liked so much about it in the first place. If we were to leave now I'd miss it enormously. More than that, I've made the transition in my head. London is home. It's where I want to be.
It's always there in the background. I turn my thoughts to other things, but it's always there. It's a curious kind of feeling: warm, full of potential and promise, reminiscent of the way I used to feel when I was younger. Back then it had a way of creating excitement and confusion in equal measure. The potential for that still remains. But I'm not the spring chicken I used to be. I know myself a lot better now than I did then. There really are benefits to be derived from getting older that offset the thinning hair and aging skin.
When I was younger I wore my heart on my sleeve for all the world to see. I couldn't help it! Oh sure, I'd kid myself for a day or two that I'd be circumspect and evade detection for whatever it was I was trying to suppress. But try as I may, whatever it was would inevitably ooze out, and there it would be for all the world to see. Maybe it's to do with being a Leo and a fire sign. Who knows? All I know is suddenly I feel like that younger person again. Look! On my sleeve!
The fact is, my mind is crammed with things I need to get down on paper right now, but things have been so hectic, I've not had the time nor opportunity. So many things!!! So much to express!!! It feels like I'm riding a huge wave. The inertia of a few months ago has been replaced with flurry after flurry of activity. And I'm not complaining! There's a part of me that feels more alive and alert than I have done for ages. The details are too lengthy for here. All I can do for now is acknowledge the fact.
Infrastructure. Travelling by train as I do each day, I become increasingly conscious of the complex infrastructure that is London, or any major city for that matter. A city is an incredibly organic phenomenon, for all of its mechanization. Speeding (on a good day, sic!) between London Bridge and Deptford, one is afforded an elevated view of the city, which, in its entirety, is vast and sprawling. London has been here a long time but it's never static, never staid. It's in a constant state of flux; it's infrastructure perpetually evolving and adjusting to meet the needs of its people.
Heading home after an intense and busy day at work, one in which so many people wanted to share with me their anger and frustration about someone else. I guess it goes with the territory. It's a pressure cooker environment. Tempers fray easily and many things go unsaid, though certainly not unnoticed. But for all of its complexity and challenge, I love this job. Seeing people, children and adults alike, extending themselves and growing beyond who they were into who they are is so rewarding because it's ultimately so real. Being in the dance of life is how we grow.
I'm in a melancholic mood, sitting in front row left on the upper deck of a double-decker bus in Lewisham. You know autumn has arrived and winter's not far behind when the best thing on the iPod is David Gray. Sitting earlier on a bendybus facing the opposite way, the wall of forlorn faces staring back at me was enough to dampen the most optimistic of spirits. I experienced a moment of anxiety last night. It carried over into today. Am I expecting too much? Am I being too open? Too honest? Too keen? Too much? Only time will tell.
Melancholy passes, perspective returns. Things are what they are and seeds require time to germinate, grow and flourish. Catching up with Daragh and Niamh in Kudos last night was so much fun. The four of us sat sharing anecdotes, trading news and generally enjoying the warm, companionable atmosphere. On the way home it occurred to me that they've both known Teddy for as long as I have. We were all in the same venue on that fateful night 12Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â½ years ago. And when I shared Justin's story about the scary blonde lesbian at the entrance to Heaven, Niamh absolutely roared.
I'm listening to the stunningly beautiful new album by Ray LaMontagne. I'm sitting on an Underground train. As I listen I notice the morning headline on the Metro newspaper of a passenger sitting opposite me: You Tube Faces Violence Purge. I start thinking about violence as entertainment. Then I start thinking about 'The Sopranos' and how the character of Christopher has become so much harder and unforgiving. Then I'm remembering the scene where Adriana meets a grisly, gut-wrenching death. Then I'm imagining myself as a victim in an execution scenario. And then I'm thinking, fuck! Whatever happened to Ray LaMontagne?
An engaging and enjoyable chat with Seb at Quebec last night. A really good chat with Ben H. on Skype! this morning. 'The History Boys' and 'The Devil Wears Prada' with Teddy this afternoon, followed by a meal at the Moroccan restaurant opposite the Clapham Picture House and a stroll down Clapham High Street afterwards. Rome on Monday. Like I said to Teddy over a candlelit table this evening, London is treating us pretty well right now. Our jobs are going well, we're getting out into circulation more with new and renewed friendships. Honestly, I wouldn't be dead for quids.
One of life's greatest frustrations surely has to be the way things disappear into black holes. Take my glasses for instance. I distinctly remember wearing them while reading the Dorling Kindersley 'Eyewitness Travel Guide to Rome' this afternoon. Yet no more than half an hour later they were nowhere to be found! I haven't left the flat. I haven't thrown anything out. They've simply vanished! Kaput! Gone! I've turned the place upside down, looked in all the obvious, not so obvious and downright ridiculous places, all to no avail. They've simply disappeared into the nether regions of a black hole!
12:55am, Hotel Aurelia, Rome. What a day! Tension in the morning over lost keys and a late night. More tension over a lost document. Then further tension compounded by the trip to the airport, the uncertainty of where we were going, the 20 minutes standing on the runway, the train we ran for but missed. Still, here we are, nestled near St. Peter's Basilica, and after a long walk to find some cannelloni and a toasted foccaccia, the tension has dissipated, the angst of the day has passed, my mood has lifted considerably and a good night's sleep now beckons.
The uncertainty of honesty is disconcerting. You ask me what I'm thinking, and I have to decide how honest I am in my response. Ideally, we would all be honest 24/7, but realistically, who is willing to take the risk? And if not entirely honest, are we therefore dishonest by default? And isn't it strange how easily we can unburden our souls to some, yet to others, often those dearest to us, we sometimes hesitate, choosing to be evasive or less than fulsome. And the sadness and loneliness that can ensue from that can be soul destroying if left unredressed.
Why here? Why now? This is not a new scenario. This is not the first time I've been in this headspace, or even this city for that matter. To be sure, I'm enjoying our time here. The weather is warm, the history and culture are extraordinary and it's good to be holidaying together again. But all the while, my mind is preoccupied with a multitude of fears and concerns, some old, some more recent, that keep getting in the way of simply being here and enjoying myself. I'm trying to banish it all from my mind, but to no avail.
The Colosseum is impressive, the Pantheon extraordinary, the Vatican overwhelming, the Spanish Steps, well, they're there, and the Trevi Fountain has a delightful Disney quality to it, but noting prepared me for the splendour of the Sistine Chapel. Whereas some great works of art have a capacity to, if not disappoint, then not quite live up to expectation and/or hype, the Sistine Chapel is breathtaking in its size, scope, grandeur, complexity and sheer beauty. To think that one man could be responsible for so much, not to mention his other many achievements, leaves me feeling humbled to say the least.
Words are not coming easily to me at the moment. I try to recount what's going on for me but it all seems too difficult to get down in writing. I feel myself in transition between where I've been and where I want to be. And it's not about leaving something bad behind. It's not about regret. It's about moving on: nothing more or less. I feel like I'm juggling a lot of balls of late and I'm mindful of the fact I've got more IU want to get up there and be juggling with. It's a question of how.
I really don't take well to being unwell. I've spent most of today in bed, either sleeping, listening to music or just lying here thinking. It's been a long while since I've allowed myself the luxury of spending a whole day where I don't get up, and while I hate feeling unwell, rediscovering what it's like has not been altogether unpleasant. I'm feeling quite exhausted and wrung out. It's been a day of burying myself beneath the quilt and letting the world get on without me for a while. Sometimes it all gets to be too much to deal with.
With the turning back of the clocks, I become conscious of the long, dark days of late autumn, winter and early spring that lie ahead. And having been unwell during these past couple of days, I've found myself in a reflective and melancholic frame of mind. Random thoughts intermingle with more studied ones. I cringe over things said that were better left unsaid; impulsive sentiments that do more to defeat purpose than serve it. I drift in and out of semi-waking wondering where I've managed to conjure up such strange and beguiling imagery. My desire for connection leaves me vulnerable.
I hate being unwell: it saps all sense of optimism. Dark, depressing thoughts come crowding into places that are usually light and airy. Thing that normally bring a smile to my face leave me cold and indifferent. I find myself focusing on the grimmest, most depressing of scenarios about just about everything. All that said, I managed to get through the day without displacing all of this negative energy, while a soothing massage this evening has done much to wash it away. We all go there. It's just that I like to kid myself I'm immune to such dire imaginings.
Being unwell brings a different perspective to things. There's the desire to do those things that can't be neglected, but commensurate with that is the need to pace myself very carefully to ensure I don't collapse in a heap and make prolong the recovery process. I've been sleeping long hours and having intense, vivid dreams. I've managed not to lose my cool with at work despite feeling well below par. It hasn't been easy but I'm pleased with my efforts. And I know I'll feel better soon. But it's a bit of a lack-lustre finish to an otherwise full month.
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