Sunday, 30 December 2007

Desperately seeking something

25/10/07 by about five minutes which invariably means I'm drunk. I also have the remains of a beer around here somewhere.

But that's not what I want to write about. What I really want to write about is something I've been putting off for a while - I just finally have to accept is true. I'm an attention seeker.

You've almost certainly noticed. It's not like it's something you can hide. Now I can justify it in many ways. Well, one really, but that's not really good enough. I don't thing I should be an attention seeker. I don't want to be one.

Actually I don't really care. It's just what I do. I spent the night singing karaoke and being filmed whilst doing it. I played to the camera - badly. But I still played to the camera.

A good friend of mine - hey Kelly - once said that you can't get over a bad childhood any more than you can get over a good childhood. I had a good childhood - and it's probably something I should spend a couple of entries on - but it still defines me on too many levels. In some ways I'm not sure if I've grown beyond it.

I'm the youngest of four. I'm much more than that, but ultimately it always comes back to that. I can't help it.

Ask any elder child and they will tell you that they had it harder than their younger siblings, and their right. But the younger siblings also had it hard. It's in a completely different way, but it is still hard.

We never get over our childhood, but this requires too much time and space to fully explore. It's also too late and I'm too drunk. But it's important. So that's what I'll talk about next.

All that's really important now is that I'm an attention seeker, and of the four of us I'm the only one who's single.

Character flaws

Another thing I've noticed about my writing is the people. Now all writing is about conflict. If there's no conflict there is no story. It can be a conflict of people or lifestyles or worlds. No-one wants to go and see a film where boy meets girl and they live happily ever after, or read a thriller where the hero and the villain get on and work together. This journal itself would be rather boring if I wasn't in conflict with myself.

For conflict to occur people - characters - have to be in opposition. They have to be against each other in some way. It can be intentional or accidental. It can be major or minor but it has to be there.

All my characters however are fundamentally flawed. They might be depressed or crippingly introspective. They might be physically disabled or plain racist. They might just have seriously screwed up and have to deal with the consequences. That's fine. That's how it should be.

The problem is that often the women are flawed victims and the men are idiotic bastards. Just to be clear, when I saw flawed here what I really mean is repressed and when I say idiotic here what I really mean is, well, repressed.

It's not totally true, occasionally a man jumps the divide to become a flawed victim. Sometimes a woman is an idiotic bastard. However in each of those cases the character shows characteristics which are decidedly against their gender and the reason they are that specific gender is motivated by the plot. But it gets worse.

The characters that I find myself identifying with the most are the ones that hardly appear at all. They're the ones that exist only to give meaning to the events, or to give the main characters someone to talk to.

Now if life imitates art and art imitates life then this doesn't bode well for either me or the people around me. However since I also know that all of my characters are simply reflections of me I think you're all safe.

I on the other hand am vying between being a victim and a bastard. I am living on the outskirts of the world and it's entirely possible that I'm just a little bit repressed.

My repression is a weird one though. It's an emotional repression rather than a sexual one. I have had far too many conversations with friends about sex to be worried about that and so although I could talk about it I won't. Besides it's far to personal a thing for me to feel the need to share it with the world.

I saw an old friend over the weekend who, having read the blog, asked me if I was okay (hey Matt, you get a mention!). So lets be clear about that one now. I am okay. Very tired, a little bored of living in hotels and desperately looking forward to work calming down, but basically I'm fine.

Beyond that however I feel... loose I guess you'd call it. Untethered. Like I'm waiting for the hook that will drag me back down to Earth and reality.

That'll be work tomorrow then. There's nothing quite like being a non-manager to clarify your thoughts and make you realise how much the stuff in your head doesn't matter.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Birthdays and backgrounds


"A few years ago it dawned on me that everybody past a certain age - regardless of how they look on the outside - pretty much constantly dreams of being able to escape from their lives. They don't want to be who they are any more. They want out. This list includes Thurston Howell the Third, Ann-Margaret, the cast members of Rent, Vaclav Havel, space shuttle astronauts and Snuffleupagus. It's universal"
Douglas Coupland

So another year of my life has dawned and the world begins again. I'd like to say that turning 28 has given me many deep insights into my life, but the truth is I've reached the age where birthdays mean very little to me anymore. It's just another day, plucked out of the ether to mark the time between two arbitrary points in space.

In fact if anything the effort of working out what presents I want and making sure I see/speak to/respond to all the relevant people is more of a hassle than anything else. It's a fun hassle, but a hassle nonetheless.

However in an effort to get my creative juices flowing I've been returning to old ideas for plots and stories to see if any of them are worth dusting off. What I've noticed is that they have a couple of themes to them that are worth examining.

The first, and the main one, is that they all revolve around the notion of time. If they're not condensing a story into a short period of time they're expanding it into millenia.

They are all obsessed with repetition and return. In my stories History always repeats and it's in how the characters deal with these repetitions, how they grow and change because of them, that I write.

So, do I see my life as a series of loops? Am I myself stuck in some kind of never-ending limbo? I think that's how I see it. I'm as welcome to endings as beginnings. I recognise that very little of my life is long term and since I believe that I never hold on to anything to make it long term.

Yet equally I concentrate on the ageless saga. How the actions of yesterday expound the moments of tomorrow, and how the conditions of both squeeze the boundaries of today. This concentration on the ages is much easier for me to understand because I know where it comes from.

My maternal Grandfather died a few months after my Mother was born. She doesn't remember him, so she has few memories to pass on to me. But his absence shaped a large part of her life. I think, reading between what she says, that it lead to her falling in love with my Dad.

My Grandmother still gets upset thinking about losing him. She loved him dearly and by the time I thought to ask her about him... Well, lets just say it's not a good idea to upset her these days.

This man has had a huge impact on my life and yet I know very little about him. What I do know is that traditionally I should have been named Alexander after him, and every year I find myself wondering about the rest.

So maybe a birthday is much more than just a hassle to me after all.

Oh dear


I seem to have hit a slight problem: namely the work/life balance. Or at this stage the work/work imbalance. Less than four days back from a weeks holiday and I already feel exhausted. I've also done 50 1/2 hours work and I've still got a day of work this week. I dread to think about the two weeks before my holiday.

Overtime this month will hurt to work out, but the biggest problem is planning. Too many jobs, not enough time. Not enough hours in the day. That's why I have minions now. This is both good and bad. It means I can shift responsibility somewhat, unload the things I have to do, but it also means I have to plan it more.

Basically I need to get a handle on my life at the moment. Unfortunately that's another job on the pile to fit around what I need to do. I need my life to stop for long enough that I can catch up. I'm hoping that will be tomorrow. Or by the end of next week at least.

Let me explain.


After every major seismic activity the shape of the Earth changes. In itself that doesn't mean much, but it does have the interesting effect that it changes the speed of the Earth's spin. That in turn changes the length of a day.

It's not by much: a few milliseconds at most. I believe the Boxing Day Eathquake the year before last added three milliseconds to the length of the day. Just three milliseconds.

It's the type of thing that comes out in the wash. After all the length of a day is constantly changing. Daylight comes and goes, sleep steals hours. Three milliseconds will be lost after the next eathquake, or the one after.

Now imagine it wasn't the length of a day, but something more fixed. The mass of the Earth is pretty much fixed. I mean sure it has small changes: meteors come, satellites go. But overall it is fixed and so gravity is fixed.

Imagine it changed one day. It shifted by a Newton, or two. Would you notice? Would you shrug off the feeling as a bad night's sleep or a particularly good night the day before?

Or would it niggle at you? This weird feeling that something, somehow, was off. Not something you could necessarily put your finger on, just a feeling of wrongness.

This is the best explanation I can find for how I feel. A weird sensation that something inside is off somehow. I don't know what it is, I don't know how it came about, it's just not quite right.

When I started writing this I decided on rules, most of which I've adapted already:
1) All entries must be handwritten in this book.
2) At least one entry per week.
3) Copy them out into a blog.
4) Write them in London or outside of Southampton.
5) The full jist of the book and the blog must be the same.
6) No set routine.
7) Challenge myself once a week.
8) An entry a month should be about the year in total.

You can forget 4 & 6. They're conclusively gone, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that anymore. Hell, I think it's a good thing.

But I also think I shouldn't remove a rele unless I've got something to replace it with. So:
4) Plan more. Take the time to actually think things through as much as possible in advance. It might help matters.
6) Do something.

Now I know 6 is pretty obvious, but it's probably the most important. As you may have guessed this is this month's year in total entry, mainly because after a month and a half I haven't really got anywhere.

Basically I don't feel any different, but then why should I? A month and a half is not enough time to overhaul your personality. It's barely enough time to start and I'm not sure if I've even done that.

Except I guess I have. Twice in the last week I've had two conversations that, frankly, terrified me. One was about learning to drive and one was about getting therapy. Both were about fundamental changes to my life and if I'm not ready to face that then what is the point of this?

All the changes have been small so far. I guess the most profound has been getting together with old friends. That's as much circumstance as anything. Being in London I don't get to see my current friendship circle as much as I'd like, but I do get the chance to see people I haven't seen in years.

Yet it also gives me an opportunity to visit old periods of my life and see what I got from them. Some old friends are just that: friendships that are old. Gone and lost for a reason. Some are just twists of fate, lost for a reason but not a good one.

I've said before I've never felt like I've really belonged anywhere. What I have done is leave behind me a string of friends I care about, but don't necessarily see.

Our decisions and actions define who we are. They make us. So we decide and we act and we leave an indelible mark on the world.

Who we are, who we choose to be, is the sum of these actions. It's automatic, ingrained. Something we control and something that controls us.

So maybe I've been going about this the wrong way. Maybe I need to decide where I want to be at the end of the year and decide howe to get there rather than take the time to look at who I am.

Because although knowing who I am is important, it's so natural to me that I don't really know how it works. I'm so used to it that I don't even realise it's there most of the time.

Like Gravity.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Just a thought


These precious illusions in my head did not let me down when I was defenceless, and parting with them is like parting with an imaginary best friend.

Maybe I'm not as great as I think I am. Maybe I don't hide it as well as I think I do.

And maybe I'm ok with that.

Late night ramblings of a broad and pointless nature

What kind of week it has been.

I have about five things I'd like to write about and between them they cover the full range of emotion.

There's something so soulless about London. So many hurt people in such a small area. Me included. But there's so much hope and humanity too. So much life. Like everyone's overcompensating for something.

I became an uncle on tuesday. I reckon I might actually be able to remember September 11th as a birthday. Corrinne Catriona Shiell. A new life, fully formed. So much hope in one small bundle that really enjoys sleeping, apparently.

I'll be a good uncle I think. I want to be a good uncle. The slighty crazy one would suit me fine, but I can't help measuring her potential against mine and I think I fail.

For instance, last night I ended up kissing an old friend. I don't regret it, far from it, but I think we both knew it was just an opportunity to enjoy for a second or two.

It got me thinking, though, about cycles. I seem to run in periods of abstinence combined with acting based upon... Well, that's complicated. Alcohol is involved certainly. Physical, Emotional and Mental attraction is there too. But generally, with rare exceptions, it's much more the need for physical closeness. A need to be needed/wanted/liked.

I'm also just using them to bolster my own inate frailties, but then I think part of the attraction is just that they're using me. Sometimes it's nice to not be a person. To just be a piece of meat. Or at least to be able to create that illusion for yourself.

Needless to say I don't consider this to be a good thing. Not only is it feeding their own issues, it's not actially helping my own. All I'm doing is prolonging how long it takes before I start dating again by convincing myself that I'm still in the game. But I'm not, and with a few exceptions - two that spring to mind - I never have been.

I find women to be wonderful and magical people. There's a way of looking at the world that is both alien and natural to me. There's a range of thought that is completely different to men, that's challenging and compelling. Except every so often I treat one like... I don't know.

It's not bad or nasty. It's certainly not malicious. I always try to be honest about who I am and I certainly do my best to face what I've done.

The only common link between all your failed relationships is you. The only difference between your failed relationships and a successful one is the other people. So is it that there's something wrong with the people I'm attracted to, or is there something wrong with me?

I became an uncle this week. I plan on being a good one. I know that I can easily hide my problems because I've been doing it for years. It's what I do. I'm pretty good at hiding them from myself. But should I? Am I being unfair to Corrinne (well, everyone) by pretending to be someone else, by showing her (them) that you should always put a happy face on things?

There's no right answer. There never is. That's the whole point. If everything was wonderful then everything would be wonderful and wouldn't it be crap.

There are so many things I want to say about this week. But the main ones are that I became an uncle and I really need to sort my head out. One's brand new and special, the other one's been with me forever. In fact I think I've probably been waiting for the two to happen for about the same amount of time. Ten, fifteen years or so.

It really has been some kind of week.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Normal lunacy

I don't like this week's hotel and I'm not sure why. Well, that's not true, I can point to a hundred little things all of which add up to why: the hoards of tourists blocking the lobby (no I'm not a tourist anymore) the lack of work surface space around the sink, power to the room involving putting the room card in a slot by the door, the list goes on. And on.

The thing is that two months ago I would have been quite happy with this hotel. For the price in Central London it's amazing. At least it is if you don't know that for £20 more how much better you could get.

I know the difference is due to having lived in four different hotels in the past six weeks. I'm used to a certain level of hotel now, at least during the week. I hope I still am my normal self on weekends, actually paying attention to the price and reacting to it, rather than the type of hotel I'm used to.

However it's got me thinking about the norm. This is probably particularly relevant to me right now since I'm right in the middle of not being in my norm. Slap bang in the middle. Last weekend was my parent's Ruby anniversary in Edinburgh, next weekend is Mike's Stag do. Which basically means if I'm really lucky in three weeks I'll be lucky if I spend four nights in the flat, so really my chances of living to my norm is slim.

The norm. What we expect of life. I've had numerous conversations with friends over the years about how you never do the toursity things in the place you live in until someone visits. I remember deliberately doing Clifford's Tower in York because I knew if I didn't do it then I never would. I never did do York Minster's Nave or Tower.

The norm. The weird thing is we always aspire to not do the norm. We're constantly seeking something bigger and better. A new event or experience that we can enjoy. The idea of Go-karting, or paint-balling, mountain-boarding or bungee jumping. A Tango class. Anything that's new, different and exciting. Chasing the high.

Yet the norm is what we do every day. It's what gets us through the day. The week, the month, the year. If a change is as good as a break, then surely the norm is a bad thing?

Well no obviously not, otherwise we wouldn't do it It's comfortable, relaxing. Yet I wonder about the changes. We start conversations with "What's new?". The interesting stories are about differences. New relationships, new jobs, new activities, holidays, babies and the like.

But that's no way to live a life, something new every day. There'd be no fixed point, nothing to revolve around. In short it's the mix of ordinary and extraordinary that drives us.

I've been vaguely flipping into and out of Channel 4's Dumped for instance. If you're not aware of it, it's a reality TV show about a group of people living on a landfill for a few weeks. If they last then they share in a prize fund. I wonder how many of them are staying only because they know they can get back to their norm soon. I wonder what they'd do if they had to live there long term.

One of the guys was complaining because he didn't feel like he was learning anything. It was the same day that the group had built a toilet from junk. He felt like he hadn't learnt a thing. It was mind-boggling. I was sat there thinking about my waste, trying to work out if there was any way I could turn it to my advantage (probably, if I could be bothered) and he was complaining because he hadn't learnt anything from building a toilet.

The norm. I guess we take it for granted and hate it when we have to break from it. We yearn for the safety and security of the everyday, and wish for the chance to escape it.

So maybe I should come back to this hotel, learn to see it for what it is and appreciate that. Push myself out of my current norm to a new level of adversity (ok it's not adversity, more tension). Give myself a little shake to see what comes loose.

Or maybe I should go somewhere I want to be. Return to my norm and pretend I know better. We'll see.

Cancelled flights and Decisions

I'm supposed to be on a flight up to Edinburgh for my parents Ruby anniversary. Unfortunately my flight has been delayed by about an hour and a half until 10:25am. I suppose it's good in some ways, since it means I didn't take the view that I could stay up later, but to be honest I could have really used the lie-in.

Between this working in London during the week and a stag do next weekend it's really limiting my ability to find somewhere to live in London, which is annoying because it limits what I can start doing there. After all I don't really want to start something on one side of the city if I end up living on the other.

I've decided upon three basic things that I want to do:
1) Learn to drive, because it's really starting to get ridiculous now.
2) Start either Tai Chi or Capoeira, because I've always wanted to do them and if I don't start sooner then I won't start later.
3) Learn to play guitar. Dad used to play amazingly well and I'd kind of like to be able to do that.

You'll also note that between the three of them they manage to cover creative, physical andn sprirtual areas. I think I might need to throw in something mental/emotional, but then work covers mental and this journal covers emotional so I guess I've got my bases covered.

I guess learning to drive again should also be considered to be emotional considering my history, but it doesn't feel like it somehow. That in turn feels like a wound that doesn't hurt so I'm very tempted to poke it a bit, just to see what happens.

I think I'll resist though.


I'm still stuck on creativity. I know that the ultimate end here is that I start doing something more creative, but I'm confused as to why I want to and, probably more importantly, why I stopped.

There's a simple joy to creating, a relaxing and purposeful movement of mind and body. Like most things in this world it takes some time to fall into that groove, but once you're there you can shut the doors on the world, lock it all off and just exist. It gives space andn time to truly think about things, to lose yourself in your mind and thus to reath new and sometimes startling conclusions.

Yet as much as it's internal it's also very much external. The drive and inspiration comes from somewhere, something or someone else. Boredom, a random comment, a sight that moves you, all of these things and many more can combine to create an idea that requires more thought and some expression in the wider world.

Concepts of eternity, viewpoints on life, ludicrous thoughts and deep emotions can all combine to create this impetus, this drive, and although it can be focused and honed I'm not convinced it can be controlled.

However, if art is an imitation of life then surely it can be... prompted is the wrong word, but it's the best I can manage right now. The chances of inspiration can be increased.

Creativity itself inspires this. The act of creating, of exploring an idea, leads to new ideas which in turn lead to more creativity. It can be a twist on an old piece or a wholly new one, neither better nor worse, only different. But sometimes better. Or worse.

Is this what happened? Did I stop creating because I stopped creating? Did I lose the impetus to think in the right manner somehow until I could no longer mentally put the ideas in place? Could no longer translate a thought into expression?

Maybe it's more subtle than that. I think I've always taken a medium to it's logical conclusion (to me at least) before moving onto the next. It's not at all that I become a master of it (or even good) simply that I achieve all I can achieve through it. I learn a lesson and move on.

Yet now I find I have no continual medium. Nothing I do to move me forward. Maybe my medium changed. At university I think it all became about groups of people. My art was how they thought and acted. How they worked.

Put like that it seems coldly calculated, hugely maniputlative. I hasten to add it wasn't. It was, well managerial I guess. The action of getting a group of people to effectively achieve the goals that they set before them. This occured both in Nightline and as SU Training Officer, and I don't think it's going too far to say it took over my life.

Once I left university those groups of people disappeared. That chance and ability to effect a bigger audience disappeared and that avenue of creativity, which had become my only avenue and ingrained into who I was dried up.

In direct response to the amount of effort it had taken I decided to be boring for a while. To kick back and chill out. Four years later and I'm still doing that. I'm still not being in charge, well apart from the flat I guess.

Hopefully learning to play guitar will help me get back in that mode of thought. But the more I think about it, the more I write, the more I realise that even that is transitory in its own way. Writing a song can be moving, but it has no physical form. Nothing you can touch and feel and move about. It is simply playing to the extrovert and gives me a limited ability to go back to it and see it anew.

Basically I need to start painting again.

Friday, 31 August 2007

Considerations and Continuation

So for various reasons I'm not seeing Catriona and Sean tonight. Which is probably a good thing because tonight seems to be a night for long, slow thoughts. Quick, bright ones too, like how there's probably a market for restaurants selling good, fresh salads for businessmen and women in Central London, but really just long slow thoughts.

Because I think it's safe to say that I'm one of those people who only want what they can't have. But if you only want what you don't have and you don't want what you can have then maybe that's life's way of showing you that there's more than you can see to the world. That you're missing something fundament'l.

Alternatively, you don't appreciate what you're not willing to fight for. I'm wondering what there is in my life that I'm willing to fight for. What there is that I have fought for. I can only think of one thing and, although I was willing to fight to get it, I wasn't willing to fight again to keep it.

I've never really fought for anything. It's all just fallen into my lap, which makes me very lucky and very stupid.


Anyway really I'm trying to finish off last night's entry on creativity. Interestingly enough I ended up having a conversation with a friend at work about it today. We ended up discussing the difference between creativity, which requires a huge amount of mental focus, and creating, which requires little mental focus and is much more meditative.

Creativity is such a powerful thing. It drives us forward, as people, as a culture and as a race.

As a race it's what singles us out, more than anything else I think, from all the other animals out there. After all can you imagine the world if nobody had ever thought that the bright, hot, flickering thing could actually be quite useful if used in the right manner?

As a culture it's a much weirder one. We both value and hate it. So many things are valued as being traditional, or their ages are considered to be important: cheeses, wines, spirits, films, literature, cars. Not people so much though. Maybe because after a certain age they're considered to have seen and done enough that they're too experienced to make mistakes. It is, after all, nice to watch people make mistakes. Schadenfreude is a terrible thing.

As people though it drives us to achieve. Creativity and innovation are considered to help us go further than someone who plods along, following the rules. After all they're just boring.

I don't know. My well of long, slow thoughts seems to have dried up for the night.

Catching up and creativity


I bought a new book for this journal yesterday which means I spent all last night and all tonight copying the entries from one to another. This unfortunately means that my hand hurts, so this will probably be a short entry.

The real shame about this was that I really wanted to write an entry last night but couldn't face having to write it out twice. Hopefully I'll be able to finish anything I have to say off tomorrow evening, but part of me doubts it. I'm seeing Catriona and Sean, so chances are I'll be a bit drunk and a little tired.

The current hotel does, however, have a great restaurant - if a little quiet. Last night I was in there on my own for most of the night, and tonight I as one of only a few. I felt a little sorry for the (rather cute) waitress. She seemed very bored. But it was just what I needed. Some easy listening music, relaxed service, and nice food.

The restaurant also had a grand piano and after a couple of glasses of wine I felt like playing. Fortunately I managed to stop myself, mainly because I couldn't think what I would still be able to play after all these years.

That in turn got me thinking of when I last played (far too long ago) which in turn made me think of all the creative things I've done in my life. I have played piano, I have acted, sung and danced. I have written both poetry and prose, in my own hand and using calligraphy. I have sculpted, modeled and painted. I have rendered graphics. Programming is in itself pretty creative, but I can't remember the last time I was creative that wasn't for work or for an attractive woman. I can't remember the last time I was creative for me.

Most of my projects over the years have ended up on the dustbin of history unfinished, but a few of them have been completed. I'm proud of each and every one. Proud enough to have given most of them away at any rate.

Psychology says that creativity is a good way of dealing with depression. Of turning negative energy into positive energy. So I wonder if this is part of my dissatisfaction. A build up of negative emotion that previously I've just dealt with without realising.

I guess in its own way this journal could be considered creative, although personally I'd have to disagree since there's no creative feel to it. One of my favourite quotes is "Writing is easy. You only need to stare at a piece of blank paper until your forehead bleeds" by Douglas Adams and I think it perfectly sums up the feeling of creating new things. The continual struggle against nothingness.

Anyway, it's late and my hands hurting too badly, so maybe this is another idea I'll have to think about some more.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Commitment and Considerings

So really at this stage I should start to lay down some goals. I mean I've covered where I'm coming from and I've added some structure, but really it's not much of anything unless you have something to aim for.

But then after 1 week I'm already starting to ignore my rules. No. 2 nearly went out the window. I was thinking of trying to write it at some point tomorrow. Probably on the train on the way home. But I managed to stop myself and write it now because I knew I wouldn't bother to write anything on the train on the way home.

The best I can say for No. 7 is I finally got my work email running. Admittedly that did involve a phone call I'd been putting off, so maybe that still counts, but it doesn't feel like it should count. Oh well, there's more to the month than this week.

I've failed horribly on No. 3 this week, I'm already planning on breaking No. 5 to polish it up a little and make it all make more sense (and in fact I have been doing that) and No. 6 is already falling into place. After all simply changing hotels every week doesn't count.

However as a nice change I'm starting to find time to think again, and I mean to actually think. Not my normal round of obsessing over past events and how I should have dealt with them, nor my usual forced conversations that could occur in the future maybe possibly. Instead I've been spending my time on vague considerings and creative offerings.

For instance part of me has always wondered about the idea of just going away. Packing up shop and escaping somewhere completely new with a new life that has no connection to anything I know. A new country with no way for anyone to contact me, not friends or family. But now I'm wondering why.

I mean part of it is a certain sense of disillusionment with the modern world. A feeling that life's gone sideways somewhere and ended up in a place that it shouldn't. Part of it is a need to evade responsibility, a burgeoning desire to be free of everything. There is a chunk there to do with something finally happening in my life. Something worth doing. The desire to wait and see how it'll all fall squarely into my lap.

But really I think it's more to do with a dissatisfaction with myself. The desire is not to be free of other people but to be free of the decisions that I make without thinking. I want to be considered responsible. I want to be dependable. It's a major part of who I am. But I also want peace and quiet. To be left alone to live my life.

I think it's probably one of my biggest conflicts, maybe even the root of my greater problems. I'm an exuberant introvert. A shy extrovert. I've never really questioned it before, if anything I've rejoiced in my ability to be both an introvert and an extrovert - sometimes at the same time. But maybe I need to look closer at that and pick one.

For instance it's not too much of a stretch to say I'm an introvert who uses extroversion to cry for help. Neither is it much of a stretch to say that I'm an extrovert who uses introversion to see if anyone really cares. I don't think either of those is true, not really, and that I actually I lie somewhere in between.

I think I need to think about this some more.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

The rules of the game and a new name


Any good game must have rules, and if going to a new place and reinventing yourself is anything then it must be considered a game. So:

1) All entries must be handwritten in a notebook.
For now it's one that I happened to have lying around, but I think I'll try and buy a new one so that it's all contained in one place that's solely for this diary/self-exploration.

2) At least one entry must be written per week.
No exceptions. If I miss one week then I'll end up missing two and before you know it I'll have given up and got nowhere.

3) I imagine there might be people out there who find this interesting, so I might as well make it a blog.
This'll mean copying it out by hand which sounds like a good use for a Sunday evening. Although I'll probably end up transferring it to my work laptop mid-week. We'll see. But I'll be posting every Sunday at the latest.

4) All entries shall be written in London.
Except this one which is being written in Letchworth. Steve has a job interview and we're on our way up to Manchester to meet some friends from the forum. So that had better be "All entries shall be written outside of Southampton."

5) Any differences between the blog and the handbook can only be to fix spelling and grammar errors.
No editing for clarity, brevity or taste. If write something late at night whilst drunk that I wouldn't normally want people to know about then I'll just have to live with it. Be warned.

6) No falling into a set routine.
Some routine is allowed, but I should never be in the situation of having had a "normal" week. Even if it's only walking around a new port of London on a Friday afternoon then that is all I should do.

7) Try to do something that makes me nervous/scared/wary each week, or maybe month.
It doesn't have to be big, or spectacular. It can be as simple as a phone call I don't want to make. But if I'm not challenged then how will I ever get anywhere? It can be a mental/emotional/physical or spiritual challenge, but it should be new in some way.

That should do for now. We'll see, but I think this list will grow as time goes on. It's only intended as a basic, generic unbreakable set to get me going. I'll probably have to create some guidelines or something for all the other stuff. We'll see.

In fact I might have an open rule per week. That might be fun. Like be a vegetarian or tee-total for a week. That kind of thing. In fact:

8) One entry per month should be about the year in total.
This is to make sure that I don't lose sight of my goals here and settle into a malformed rut. After all setting challenges can in itself be a challenge, and being different can end up being the norm if you let it.


Last night I went to a reunion for a production of The Tempest I did ten years ago. It was done as a musical and involved a group of about thirty 16- 20 year olds. I seem to recall there were about nine weeks between the decision to do it in a pub one night and the actual production. That included writing and learning all the songs (and then re-writing one of them when it turned out the actress couldn't actually sing). In those nine weeks we basically lived in each others pockets.

The weird thing is that I got nicknamed "Cammers" during the show, which I'd completely forgotten about. It made me think about how many names I've been called over the years, and how many of those names are linked to specific periods of my life. Apart fram my family I'm pretty much universally known as Cam now, but in the past I've had such varied names as "Smelly", "Cheesegrater", "Cazymodo", "Camel" and "Ginger haired freak" or "Ginger" for short. Hell, some of them I'm still known as in some cases. There's still a group of people online who know me as 'Shu (a group of people that I'm on my way to see now with Steve).

Anyway, I think for this period I'll start being Ron. I have no idea how long that'll last (although by the looks of it not long). The only other time I've consciously decidede what I'll be called was when I became "Cam" at the start of University. That was pretty easy to do since I was already vaguely called that beforehand. I also think I'll have to stay as Cam at work - it'll be too confusing to try and explain it to them otherwise.

The thing is I've never really liked the name Ron. I've always considered it to be normal and boring. Not at all in keeping with myself. I made the mistake of telling this to a few friends a couple of years ago and so they deliberately started calling mu Ron so that I'd get over it. Maybe it worked, I'm not sure, but mainly I think I'll start using it because it feels like something of a grown up name. Maybe it always did and that was the problem I had with it.

You see being the youngest of four I was in something of an odd position. Most of my formattive years were spent with people much older than me which meant I matured a lot faster to try and match their level (it was sub-concious and I failed horribly, but I tried). However as the youngest I was the one to be protected and looked after. I was the baby, which I guess I played up to. It leaves me in a weird position where I'm both very mature and yet at the same time very immature.

Living in a hotel and carrying a work laptop around with me I've started to feel, not my age as such, more what age I am. This was compounded when I randomly buped into a friend in London who asked me if I was in town "on business". My instant reaction was that being "on business" was a terribly grown up thing and that I'd been sent to London "with work". It was almost as if work was just a friend that I happen to be on holiday with.

Words shape our thoughts and our thoughts shape the words we use, and I think I was deliberately avoiding the term "on business" to try and pretend I was still younger than I actually am. But I am living in a hotel, I do have an expense account and I am away on business. I've clung to my immaturity because I like the sense of wonder and naivity I get from it. But wonder and naivity can still exist as a grown up, so I think it's time I did grow up, and that change needs some form and shape in my head. If I at least start to think of myself as Ron then I change the thoughts I have. This in turn changes the words I use and the actions I take.

Maybe it'll be a good thing, maybe it won't, but every change to the world starts with a change to yourself and every change to myself has started with a new name and a new sense of identity. And it's got to be better than whatever sense of identity "Cammers" would bring to me now!

A marvellous beginning and a magical ending.


Today I discovered that I'll be in London for over a year now. It feels like I should chart this journey, and journey it is, hence the creation of this blog. But I should explain first.

I have a great life in Southampton which I enjoy. But that's always been about the people and not the place. Southampton doesn't fit me. It honestly never has. I enjoy my time there, I like the place, but it's not me.

My time is spent seeing friends and using my computer. The gym took up time for a while, but there are gyms everywhere. I have nothing that really ties me to Southampton. To the south coast in fact. Not since my parents moved to Scotland a year ago anyway. Just a job and some friends. The majority of my time is spent on the computer and two months ago I wiped the entire thing. Everything gone in a second. Well, a Microsoft second so really it was about an hour or so. But whatever.

I saw Sam on saturday and she suggested it was fate, or a subconscious desire. I'm happy to accept either. All I know is that it probably needed to be done. Otherwise I'd never really be free of the the machine.

But now I find myself far from home, with not just one but two mobile phones and a laptop. I have no internet connection and I have no one to call. I am free of the modern world.
For five days a week anyway.


I've started to suspect that there is something wrong with me. Some flaw buried deep in my psyche. Not too long ago I was forced to accept that there is no such thing as magic. Obvious I know, but it was still something that I hadn't really accepted before. Even now I catch myself pretending and hoping that it's not true. It's a realisation that both depresses and enlivens me.

Because there are some truths that are buried so deep, and are so obvious to us, that we never really question them. We don't even really think about them. They are such a part of us that an entire section of our self, our inner being, is based upon them. So we can't refute them because to do so would be to refute ourselves.

But sometimes something happens. It may be huge and spectacular - a raging shower of fire and blood - or it might just be a tiny moment of introspection. It could be anywhere in between. But when it does happen it forces us to pull out one of those buried truths and take a long hard look.

If we're lucky that truth is still true. If we're less lucky it's nearly true, it just requires a bit of tweaking. If we're unlucky it's plain wrong, and a piece of our personality breaks free.

There's no such thing as magic. Such a simple lie, and yet so profound to me. So much of who I am was based upon it and I didn't even realise I fundamentally believed that magic existed. All around me if I could only see it.

At first I thought that was it, I just had to accept that and let me mind settle back into a new (hopefully better) place. Unfortunately it appears that it's worse than that. You see that's not the problem. It was a problem certainly, but not the problem.

I'm not the person that I want to be. Not yet anyway. I like the person I am, but it feels transitionary. A stepping stone between here and there. I just need to get there. I want to get there, I just don't know how. Or even where there is. I still don't. And that's the journey. That's what this year is going to be about. Getting there. Or somewhere close to it. Or even just on the way to it would do.

So here I am, cut lose from my life for long chunks of time, but still tied to it. Lost in my own mind and all the many personas I've created there (more on that another time) and yet grounded in reality by the very mundanity of my job. Alone in London and yet surrounded by people - friends, family and the faceless millions. No clear goals and no way to achieve them, but a thousand possibilities if I'm willing to risk it.

The Past is Prologue, let the play begin!