Before Ramps

Wheelchairs-Schmeelchairs. Great for downhill-racing but when the only loo in the, otherwise cute, village that I was pootling around was in McBurgerland and the only way to get inside was up a flight of frickin’ stairs that might as well have been the long route up Mount Everest as far as I was concerned, they’re not so hot.

But I’m not bitter. Maybe a little tarnished around the edges, but not at all bitter.

We’ve all got stories of how we went from mighty to fallen. Some are just little footnotes about pride coming before a fall. Others are short stories that tell of the transition from young and pretty into someone who’s older and wiser with love-handles. But the epic novels are about teen bombshells like me, striding leggily through town checking the faces of people passing me by to make sure that those fools see me and then turning my nose up at those losers because tall and athletic is just too good for those common folk … and then tripping and falling under a bus.

It was just a small bus. One of those that carry handicapped kids out for the day. Oh, the irony, right? And it it was just a small imperfection in the paving stone alignment; less than a centimetre. But that slight flaw was enough to pitch me headlong into the road underneath a bus that was just heavy enough to crush both my legs beyond saving. Yeah, I know – tragic, right?

They took me to hospital, took off what was left of my legs and gave me a wheelchair as a consolation prize. Congratulations, Charlie – you have come second for the rest of your life and here is your reward.

So, in the absence of my burgeoning career as a hot model, I moved to the other end of the lens and took up photography. I got myself a great camera and toured around places like this pretty village looking for images take and sell on the internet. It doesn’t pay that much, but I’ve got a good eye for it and, with the royalties, I do alright.

It’d been a productive day – I’d gotten a few dozen digital shots of various cute critters, decorative detail and random other stuff, but by the time I got to the spot on the map where it said Toilets I was absolutely bursting for a pee.

When, in the entrance, I found steps, I couldn’t climb them so I photographed them instead and envisaged a place at the top that could take me somewhere else. Like, a nice clean stall with a lockable door and a rail I could grab to hoist myself onto the sanitised seat.

Then I tucked my camera away in the padded, watertight compartment in my bag, adjusted my shades to hide my shame and peed myself.

How to Sleep Well

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

The absolute enemy of the the sleep is rules. In fact, the absolute enemy of most things that should happen naturally is rules. Things that are natural should remain so and any attempt to impose ‘order’ on them is counterproductive.

I want to incorporate a small, furry animal into the story here – one who will be made to do things outside his nature by dint of training involving electricity, but I don’t know such an animal and so I’m not going to. Besides, it wouldn’t be nice to think of training anything with electricity, apart from maybe a toaster. And by that I mean training a toaster to toast bread more efficiently by judicious use of electricity, not training a small, furry animal to toast bread more efficiently by means of the judicious (or not) use of a toaster because that would be inhumane. I mean, the toaster just wants to toast bread, not be subjected to the company of small, furry animals, right?

Anyway – like I said – I’m not going to introduce a small, furry animal into the story. So what’s next?

Oh, okay, yeah – sleeping.

Here’s how to sleep well: stop using other people’s ideas of how to sleep well. So, yeah – maybe you can stop reading (or listening) to this immediately. Except that, you can’t, can you. I mean, what if there’s something entertaining or useful just around the river bend? It’s, like, when you’re walking across the moor, trying to find your way back to civilisation, or, at least, somewhere you can sit down and have a nice picnic without being bothered by those pesky insects that seem to think that you’re an all-you-can-eat buffet. So you walk and walk and walk and all the time you’re thinking: maybe I should turn back now but at the same time you’re thinking: what if there’s a small cottage just over the next rise and so you go on and on with (dwindling) hope in your heart until, finally, all you have energy left for is to sit down and play a game of Candy Crush Saga, even whilst knowing that if you get a high score it’s not going to be uploaded to the server because you don’t have a signal (unless you find that cottage (and even then BT might not have deigned to run a cable to it because, let’s face it, it’s not really worth their while to spend several thousands of pounds if all they’re going to get back is thirty quid a month, right?)).

So, yeah, let’s get to the point now. Here’s the point: if you set rules on where and when you can sleep then as soon as something comes along (and something always does) that breaks one of those rules then you’re not going to be able to get to sleep.

Here’s how that works:

  • If you set a rule that says that you have to be comfy before you can get to sleep then you’ll toss and turn until every single part of your body is supremely comfortable. If your arm is hanging off the edge of the bed or your toes are outside the duvet or there’s a crease in the sheet under your left elbow or the pillow isn’t at the right angle underneath your neck or you’re too close to the edge of the bed and feel like you’re going to fall off or the duvet is bunched up next to your back or anything like that then you won’t be able to sleep.
  • If you set a rule that says that there has to be absolute silence in the room before you can drop off, but then a car idles outside your window for more than six seconds or there’s an insect whining in the corner of the room or someone is breathing too loud or snoring or someone next door has the TV on too loud or there’s a kind of clicking noise in the far corner of the house or a bird flaps loudly on the roof or anything like that then you’re going to stay awake listening to it and wishing it would stop.
  • If you set a rule that your mind must be completely clear of any kind of thought or worry before sleep can overtake you and then you realise that you’re lying there thinking about what to cook for dinner tomorrow or worrying about whether your best friend will ever talk to you again after you said that unforgivable thing to them today or you’re concerned about what that lump on your big toe is or you’re excited about what’s going to happen next in that bodice-ripper you’re reading or anything like that then you’re going to be prevented from falling asleep.

Here’s the kicker: it’s not these discomforts, sounds or thoughts that are keeping you awake. No, what’s keeping you sleepless is the fact that you have set a rule in your mind that you can’t sleep unless these things stop. It’s the rules themselves that are keeping you awake. Without those rules then you would be free to sleep whenever and however you wanted.

Imagine this:

  • You decide that you can sleep in any position with any amount of bedclothes. You then fling yourself on the bed and, within seconds, you fall asleep – content and dreamless.
  • You make your mind up that you can sleep through any noise and so you drop down on your bed and drop off into sleep without a care in the world for what others are getting up to.
  • You embrace and accept all your thoughts and you plump them up into a big, comfortable thought-pillow, lay your metaphysical head down on them and then sleep and sleep until you’ve done.

Wouldn’t that be nice? Well then, just try it out. Not in the sense that you set a rule to say that there must be an absence of rules. No. Just stop setting rules. Full stop.

And that’s it for now. Happy sleeping, mi compadre.

How to Open Well

This isn’t a good place to write. Not from what I’ve experienced so far. There’s a table by a window that lets in too much light. There’s a bed that’s too soft. There’s someone in the bathroom trying to do their business whilst listening to every creak and groan in the house. There’s another person in the bedroom making creaking and groaning sounds too close to the bathroom. There are too many rules. There’s a head on the edge of ache. There are birds that can’t be heard and a sound of silence that’s too faint to break through into reality.

When I was little, I knew how to play. Then I grew older and I forgot how to be natural and just did stuff by rote instead. Enjoyment fell from me and plummeted into a pit. I can’t find it anymore. It’s as if a part of me has had a snit, hidden the toys and now refuses to tell me where they are.

How do I Open in the face of all of this?

I must do so in the same way that Olympic Divers perform dives. They practice, get feedback, change continually, get good and then hope they don’t slip in a patch of someone else’s sweat in that crucial second before launching themselves from the tip of the board into the air. Go up well and, all else being equal, you’ll come down well.

How does this apply to you and me?

First of all, decide what Open means to you. Obviously it can mean different things to different people. Batsmen and books respond differently to a request to Open. Fists and hearts hear Open with their own unique points of view. Ovens and fridges seem similar, but aren’t. Who are you? Are you a heart or an eye? Meditate on this.

Once you’ve gone within and pulled, kicking and screaming, your version of Open from the depths, it’s up to you to decide on a course of action. Flowers are delicate. Doors are utile. Laptops are sources of information. Cupboards are full of all sorts of stored things. Which are you?

Then what do we do?

Well, your course is your own. I can’t tell, from here, what you are, much less tell you where you go with your being. If I could, I would be called Psychic Bob and have my own syndicated TV Show and be portrayed by some handsome and talented Movie Star on the big screen. But I’m not.

So, in summary: overcome your demons, look within, decide who you are, figure out what you want to do and then practice until your being is expressed by your doing. Then, as natural as a child’s arms, you will Open.

And if none of that works for you, then still have a great day and come back tomorrow in the hopes that I’ve produced something more coherent. Chances are I will.

Y’all have a nice day now, y’hear!

How to Imitate Well

We all imitate. There’s not a drop of originality in any of our bones. Question is: do we choose the things we imitate, or do we do it unconsciously. Frighteningly (or not): whichever way we go will ultimately dictate the type of person we will become: a master, or a slave.

We are all immersed in a sea of experience. Our senses are always alive to sensory impressions, even when we’re asleep and, some say, even when we are in a coma. We cannot help but be affected by these impressions in some way or another. The people we admired as children, whether pop-stars or our parents, influenced the style of dress and mannerisms we adopted as we grew. It’s interesting to sit on a bench on a high-street and try to figure out who influenced the people passing by to dress and walk like they do. Probably you’ll be wrong. Possibly they don’t even know themselves. But the imitators and there imitations will be there. It’s even more interesting to do the same thing to yourself.

Look at what you’re wearing on your legs right now. Ask yourself why you chose that particular garment. I wear Levis because I liked Westerns as a kid and that’s what the cowboys wore. Maybe not that particular brand, but certainly blue jeans. Or perhaps they didn’t; but that’s how I remember it. I’m still playing a childhood game of Cowboys and Indians. Or maybe it’s not that at all. My dad wears jeans and pretty-much always has. So it’s even likelier that I picked up the habit from him (and maybe he got it from the movies. It’s a bit of idol-worship I guess. Then there are the songs: ‘I put on my jeans and I feel alright’, ‘Forever in Blue Jeans’ and ‘Blue Jean, I just met me a girl named Blue Jean’. And look at the people singing those songs. And look at Jimmy Dean when you get a moment. I know; it’s so obvious, right?

Now raise your eyes to the top half of your body and do the same self-assessment. Where did you get that top? Why did you buy it? And what made you put in on today of all days? I know exactly why I wear these form-fitting t-shirts. I know why I buy them in small when I’m a medium. I can trace my thoughts back to a day by the beach on a Caribbean island when my bag was stolen whilst I was in the water so that, when I got out, I had to borrow the shirt of a friend who, before me, had penchant for tight fitting clothing. I didn’t want to give him that shirt back at the end of the day because of how good I feel it looked on me and since then I’ve been buying the same style and size of shirt over and over again.

And that’s just clothing. Everything else is an imitation too: the volume at which you speak, where you get your books, what kind of alcohol (or not) you prefer, who you like to spend time with, what kind of movies you will pay money for (and what kinds you watch when they roll around on TV), how you walk, who you give the time of day to, and a myriad of other things that you say, do and think – all imitations of what came before.

If you want to imitate well, then you can. You just have to turn it into a conscious process so that you yourself are the one making up your own mind. You just have to become more self aware so that, in the same way that you looked at your leggings and top, you do the same for every important aspect of your life. If you want to live like Madonna (the original one) and yet find yourself drawn to Machiavelli then it’s time to do a drains up.

Start with the little things and you’ll find that, with practice, that you’ll get the hang of changing them quickly enough. Then, by the time you get to the big things, you’ve got a routine in place to handle them. That and remember to have fun. Change is inevitable, and is largely outside your control; but enjoying that change is well within your remit. You just have to make your mind up how to be. You can do it.

And that’s all we have time for now, because lunch has arrived.
Yeah, not, unfortunately, literally.
I have to go make it.
Enjoy.

How to Crow Well

Who am I to tell a crow how to be? A crow well knows his own mind and heart. He knows of the sky, the earth and the treachery of man. He can read it loud in their minds as they strut here and thither with their too-fat-to-fly bodies perched on hind limbs like the trunks of baby trees. He knows their treason too well. For they were once almost, but not quite, friends.

It all happened long ago, when air was water and water was not yet gathered into the seas. The crow had not taken to the sky, for the sky was not real yet, and besides that, the crows had no wings. Man was there. Man lived with crow on the ground, and sometimes they went out drinking together to the the local watering-hole. Which is to say that they sipped from the opposite sides of muddy puddles and croaked and called to each other across the way.

Worms and water were their fare for they were no quicker than your average rock when it came to catching the faster things of the land – mainly toads and proto-sharks the size of hamburgers that, for all their diminutive stature, were as quick as popcorn flying into your eye. Man, back then, wasn’t much much bigger than a small toad. He’d only just crawled out of the proto-sea (more like a salty lake behind the back a pile of hot rocks) and was not even up on his hind legs yet, much less swinging in the trees that didn’t even exist, it being too hot for that sort of exertion anyway.

One day, a crow and a man were sitting by a muddy puddle looking at their respective bellies, which were as full of dirty water as they could get them. The man was thinking of whether it was too soon to invent marmite flavoured crisps yet and the crow was thinking, typically, of clear blue sky, which was, for similar reasons, as strange as the man’s thoughts of crisps.

They both felt the tremor at the same time. They both jumped to the same height (about an inch and a half) simultaneously and then pretended, with almost identical expressions on their faces (the kind of affronted look that tomatoes get when they’re told that they’re not fruit) that they’d meant to jump in the air anyway.

When the ball of fiery rock shot from the top of the mountain that, a moment before, had been nonchalantly pretending that it wasn’t holding in the most enormous fart, they both followed its trajectory with their eyes. It wasn’t quite like watching tennis, but more like watching the sky anxiously on hearing someone shout ‘fore! Fore goddamn it! Move your blooming arse you fool!’ in their direction, And if that’s not plain enough for you, then let’s try this: the ball of flaming rock was heading directly towards the puddle beside which the crow and the man were sitting. And it was much bigger than the puddle. And the man and crow were sitting very close to the edge of the puddle. Now do you get the message?

Well, the man looked across at the crow, and the crow looked across at the man, and they could both see that they both had the same thought, and it was along the lines of ‘oh well’. But then something extraordinary happened. Something that hadn’t ever happened before. Something that would hardly ever happen today but it was a significant something nonetheless. The man leapt up, bounded across the puddle and, with all his muscles straining out like never before, swept the crow up and carried him, with inexorable momentum, out of the path of the flaming rock, which slammed into the ground just a few worm lengths (about eight inches) behind them.

Now, after all that, I bet you’re wondering now why the crow doesn’t trust the man, right? I mean, after all, he selflessly saved his ass in olden days and for that you’d think he’d be a tad grateful, yes? Well it would have been like that but for what happened next.

The crow, then as now, saw man’s mind. He saw the man think of the heat of the rock and he saw him think of the plumpness of the crow’s flesh in his arms. He saw the man lick his lips without being aware that he had done so, but he also saw the recipe for Kentucky Fried Crow appear spontaneously in the man’s mind. And the crow was, understandably, pretty piqued about it.

Well, the crow let out one big KAAAW! and he wrenched himself away from the man. And that was that.

Never again would they sit companionably around the same watering hole. Man realised that he could be quick when he wanted to be and got big from eating proto-sharks, eventually driving them back into the sea. Crow put all his efforts into growing wings and when he’d finished that he took to living in the tops of eerie looking trees and pooping on man’s head whenever he could. And when crow didn’t have any poop in him, he persuaded pigeons to do it instead.

But a part of them never forgot those simpler days when they just squatted and drank water together. When they come into contact now it’s mainly on football pitches after the players have gone home and man fancies a sit down and a snack. Man has finally invented marmite flavoured crisps and he sometime puts one on the palm of his hand and stretches it out to the crow in a tempting fashion. But crow never comes, no matter how hard man tries to mask his treachery with thoughts of the pure, blue skies that crow finally got. He knows man too well from olden times. Which is a bit of shame really, because a good many men today are vegans and would no more eat a crow than make snooker balls from left over feathers.

So that’s that. Now to know how to crow well. Just keep away from man.

Have a nice day.

How to Fall Well

Remember that falling is not failing. And even if falling was failing, there’s nothing wrong with failing (or falling) when you learn, gather, accumulate or recycle something from the attempt.

That’s not to say that you should deliberately set out to fall just so that you can learn something from the experience. Those who deliberately fall need an adjustment. Sure, it’s possible that the fall itself will give them the adjustment (or, to be more exact, the crash at the end of the fall) but that’s no reason to seek out a fall.

Here’s how to fall well: embrace it. Simple as that.

I used to have dreams where I would come to the edge of a precipice. It could have been the edge of a cliff, or the parapet of a tall building. I knew somehow that it has been said that people who hit the bottom after a long fall would not just die in the dream but would die in real life too. Imagine that – waking up dead! Invariably though, instead of being frightened in my dream and backing away from the edge, I would jump off.

I would never die. Something else would happen. Instead of falling, I would fly. And it was always a good flight; the kind where you know how to steer and you know how to swoop and soar. I would always enjoy myself in those dreams. They’ve stopped now. I’ve stopped coming the the edges of precipices. I’ve stopped being in danger of falling. I’ve stopped thinking about it. Until now.

A couple of days ago a work-colleague told me that he’d done a bungee-jump. He told me how he was scared but he did it anyway. I don’t have to fall off a high place to know that I wouldn’t be scared. I’d be just, like ‘woo-hoo’ and I’d be off.

And that’s it. That’s my advice to you: just jump.

Of course, there are other things I’m scared of, like putting my best effort into something, just in case that’s not enough and I fall and smack the ground hard. But that’s my problem. I mean – if I never try then I’ll never fail, right?

–sigh–

Maybe I need to rethink this.

But until then, that’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed. I almost did. Laters.

Good to Eat?

Eighteen years ago, a packet of Nestle Clusters fell down the side of the cupboard. I’ve just managed to get it out now by virtue of a length of string and a pebble-weighted piece of discarded plastic packaging with a hefty layer of glue on the bottom.

Question is – will the cereal be good to eat? The packaging hasn’t been opened and the expiry date is only March 2003.

How to Act Well

Acting on stage is much the same as acting in life except that it’s a little more expressive because your audience is further away. In order to get your facial expressions, emotions and voice heard by those people out there you have to project them further. This essentially means that you have to exaggerate everything to almost clownish proportions. You have to talk louder, your emotions have to be turned up to ten and your face and body have to uber-express.

Acting for the screen is actually a lot more like life than acting on stage is. The key here is not to turn your expressions etc. up but to make them uber-clear. Clarity is the key. To be able to do clarity you have to be in touch with your inner being. You can’t expect to be able to give the camera your best anger-face until you know what your best anger-face looks like. And you can’t just use a mirror as a prop to find your emotions. You have to actually experience them on the inside before you can express them convincingly on the outside.

Consequently, there’s a lot of similarity between disciplines like mindfulness and meditation and the craft of acting. Both are routes to your inner being. And sure, they have different aims – one is to discover and the other is to express – but they are very compatible practices. It’s no accident that the home of the mecca of movies in the west (Hollywood) is in one of the more deeply spiritual place in the US of A (Los Angeles). Those guys are riding the synergy wave.

Acting classes will obviously do more than take you on a deep inner journey, but all the rest is peripheral and can be encapsulated in the phrase ‘look after yourself’. If you want to look good on screen then you need to moisturise, if you want your voice to last then you have to exercise your larynx and surrounding structures, and if you want to be loved then you have to stay young and beautiful because, let’s face it: everything after thirty is just charity.

So, yeah – hope you enjoyed. Tune in next time for more tips from someone (me, Sklugoo) who knows nothing at all about stuff. After all, I’m just a small, green meditating frog living the dream on a kitchen window ledge. And that was your disclaimer. Laters.

How to Xerox Well

I could be wrong but I think that Xerox is one of those words like Hoover or Jockey that are actually brands that have come to be used instead of the thing that they actually do. Hoovers are vacuum cleaners and Jockey make undershorts. Hence, when we say that we are going to hoover the carpet we mean that we are going to vacuum it. Similarly, when we say that we are going to put on a clean pair of jockey shorts we mean that we are going to put on clean underwear.

So, yeah – Xerox is, I think, a company that make copier machines. Thus, when you say that you are going to Xerox something, it means that you are going to make a copy of it. Of course, no-one does this anymore so all this is kinda moot. Other technologies have taken over the Xerox machine.

Personally I use the camera on my mobile phone when I want to make a copy of something. Say, for example, I see a document, or a page from a book that I want to keep a copy of, I can take a picture, use a piece of software to convert this to text and then I can store it or send it wherever I want. Isn’t it wonderful how life has moved on!

If you want to Xerox well then you just need to pick a piece of tech that gives you a copy in a form that is convenient to you. It’s not much of a stretch to say that taking photographs of a particularly beautiful sunset is the equivalent of taking a Xerox of it. For that you can either use the camera on your phone or, if you want a more detailed shot, shell out for a more expensive camera. Simples.

This applies to everything you want to copy. Nowadays you can buy 3D printers that’ll make a three dimensional copy of whatever you want to scan. In the future you’ll be able to get computer software that’ll scan your brain and make a copy of your memories. Further forward, you’ll be able to scan and copy your entire consciousness into a machine that you (or your copy) will be able to move around as if you were moving your own body. Imagine that!

The key to making a good copy is to make it faithful enough to the original for your purposes. It doesn’t have to be exactly like the original, it just has to turn out how you want it to turn out, and that’s for you to decide.

So decide.

That’s all. Happy copying, my friends. Come back soon for something more intelligible.

How to Zigzag Well

There aren’t that many verbs beginning with Z and so it’s not as if we’re spoilt for choice here. Zigzag was the best I could come up with and so that’s what you’re stuck with, so there.

Once, when I was walking through the fields I noticed the non-straight nature of the paths. It wasn’t a case of ‘here’s an origin and there’s a destination so let’s find the shortest route through the long grass to get there.’ No, it was more like ‘here’s this dog that’s pulling my attention hither and there as he makes his way from one interesting smell to another across this field so I’ll follow him.’ Consequently the paths across this field alternately zig one way and zag the other way until you reach the other side.

The best way to Zigzag well is therefore not to walk the highways and byways of the city planning folk, but instead to walk on the paths across fields that have been laid down by dogs.

Dogs are cool. Enough said.

Hope you enjoyed this episode of How to. Hope you’ll be able to Zigzag with ease in the future. Hope that it’s not too late to watch a movie before bedtime.