Affecting

What you read and what you watch affect what and who you are. For whatever reason, I’m on dystopia right now. I’m watching a series on Amazon called Utopia, but don’t be fooled by the title – it’s as dark as they come. I’m also watching The Walking Dead: World Beyond; just the title alone should tell you what I’m in for there. And finally, I’m reading a book called Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds, which is about life on an Earth in her dying throes.

You know what? I feel absolutely terrible. These constant doses of doom, gloom and despair are dragging me down like you wouldn’t believe. But you know what? It’s fine.

Underlying all the darkness is a light. I’m okay because I know that what’s happening in my psyche is just temporary. When the movies are done and the last page is turned in the book I’ll just move on to something else. Maybe it’ll be the most sparkling light-hearted piece of fluff imaginable. Perhaps it’ll be a rom-com with the most smaltzy happy ending ever. Or possibly it’ll be one of the former and two of the latter – who knows!

And I’ll feel absolutely wonderful. Those constant doses of fluff, light and love will raise my spirits like you won’t believe! But you know what? That too will pass.

Underlying all the light is darkness. But that’s temporary too.

It does however make me wonder what’s underneath all these layers of dark and light and up and down. I wish I knew. Do you know? Pray tell.

Life on the Beach

Whereas before I would be in some other country, now I am in the comfort of my study. Travelling the world has been exchanged for walking from the bedroom to the bathroom. Train journeys have become tootles around the block and jet planes are just pie in the sky.

We grow, we shrink. Our bodies expand on the in-breath and contract on the out. What we were before is gone and what we are now is a downsized dream. Where will we be in a year’s time? It depends. Some parts of life will be calm and quiet and others will have tipped over the edge into insanity. Who’s to tell which of us will be up and which one south.

I know one thing, though – chocolate will still taste good. Whether we get it will be another matter. Travel corridors shorten and the time it takes to travel will lengthen. We’ll be home more than away and the new norm will be darker or paler than the one before.

Then again, this might be the last crisis ever. We might pick ourselves up, learn our lessons and then move on at an enlightened pace. We could finally say enough is enough and just do things properly from now on. Chances are that we need to.

I’m Robert and I’m sitting on the futon in the study and talking out of my thumbs. Of course everything and everyone is going to be okay. How could it not be! This cushion is as soft as it ever was and the traffic swishes by as it ever did. The sun will rise, the rain will fall and the grass will grow – why the heck shouldn’t it? Time flies like an angel. Thoughts leave us to circumvent the universe. Life does what it always does: it comes and goes, ebbs and flows. And we remain as we always were: flotsam and jetsam on the beach – taking in the sun and the scenery. Why not come visit me? Kettle’s on – what’s your poison, my friend?

Oh, wait – maybe we should wait a while. At least until … until … until …

Vanquish Anxiety

Anxiety is the kind of feeling you get when there’s something in front of you (mentally, physically, socially, spiritually or any other -ally you can think of)  that you’re not keen on. Not an official definition, but it’ll do for me for now.

There are three main ways you can do to deal with the things that make you anxious, and I’ve ordered them here according to how much psychological strength they take:

  • Move away from them
  • Imagine them away
  • Move towards them.

Move away from them. This is what we do when we have little or no strength. We see something bad and we say ‘meh’ and just turn around and head in the opposite direction. Or perhaps we say ‘argh’ and then run away. But it’s always away that we go to. There’s nothing in our tank to fuel any opposition to the threat and so we basically avoid it.

Imagine them away. Contrary to what you might think, it actually takes a lot of mental energy to construct a barrier strong enough to deal with the things that make us anxious. Standing your physical ground and erecting a psychological fortress takes strength. Try reading (or writing) a book the next time a tiger is chasing you and you’ll get what I mean.

Move towards them. This takes real guts to do but it’s the most effective way to deal with worries, problems, challenges or threats. You’ll grow, learn and become stronger by using this option. You’ll have fewer problems in the long run if you do this, butbbe warned: it requires real energy, strength and resolve. Scared of your boss, frightened of barking dogs, terrified of busy roads and nervous about falling rain? Have a quiet word with her, bark back, cross them and leave your brolly at home. You’ll find that you survive. You might even thrive. Either way, your anxiety will recede like the tide.

Just a final thought: don’t do anything dangerous in your pursuit of peace and calm; I trust that you know what I mean. Just take care of yourself, stay safe and eat more fruit. Oh, and be good; you know that it makes sense.

Dinner’s Coming

Dinner is about to magically appear and so I don’t have much time to chat to you. Erm …

Okay, we just did yoga. Yes, all of it. Hmm.

My mind’s blank. Not not from the yoga. It wasn’t that kind of yoga where you clear your mind. It was more a kind of a stretching yoga. It’s doing wonders for my left shoulder and my neck. The tightness is from working with a laptop all day. And sleeping in the position I sleep in. And doing what I’m doing now (typing this one a phone). And just generally being me. I’m me a lot. More than is perhaps healthy.

Okay – learning point: be less like me and more like some healthy version.

Dinner has arrived.

Goat Mouth

I did something that I’m really excited about today but I’m not going to tell you about it in case it puts a goat in my mouth.

Goats, as any fule kno (Wordsworth) are smelly creatures that no sane person would want in any part of their body, much less their mouth. And when I say goat you should know that, as a vegan, I’m not talking about stew or any other kind of cooked delicacy.

Goat mouth, as told to me by my beautiful Caribbean wife, is a phrase that originates in Trinidad and Tobago that means … erm … well it means don’t talk about things that you want to happen in case you blight them.

The equivalent phrase that I know from my upbringing in England is don’t jinx it. If you are looking forward to some pleasant event in the future like, for instance getting a kiss from Mary Jane on your upcoming date and then you tell your friend what a sure thing it is then, when it doesn’t happen he would, quite rightly say that you jinxed it. In other words: you goat mouthed it.

Actually, when I think about it, this has nothing to do with putting goats in your mouth, it’s more to do with talking as if you’re using a goat’s mouth instead of your own (and making a horrible bleating noise in the process). I suppose in that case then it might be the equivalent of talking out of your ass.

Hmm.

Or maybe not.

Anyway, like I said – I can’t talk about this exciting thing for reasons like what I’ve explained. Sorry about that.

Bench Views #19 – Withens Top

This is lovely place to sit and contemplate my mortality. To the left of me is a building that was built 500 years ago and is supposedly the inspiration for Wuthering Heights by You Know Who.

Behind me is something making a weird noise and I’ve just realised I’m utterly alone here. Oh, another one making that same funny noise – like a screechy kind of rustling noise. And they’re both getting closer. I’m off. I’ll continue this later.

Okay, so it’s later now. The events in the previous paragraphs happened two weeks ago and since then I haven’t been followed home by strange, screechy creatures. They haven’t been tapping their claws on my windowpanes at midnight whilst whispering ‘let me iiiiin!’ in with their high-pitched voices. They haven’t snuck into my house through the keyhole and started to nest under my bed from which they don’t ever creep out at midnight and drag their furtive bodies up and down the carpet and sneak their clawed fingers under the cover to fondle my ankles speculatively as if they are wondering if there’s enough flesh on the bone to bother with. Nope, nothing like that’s happened at all.

Whew!

Hell Ship by Philip Palmer

This is a review. I said that because I don’t usually post reviews on this blog. I mean, I write loads of reviews (I read 108 books per year (apart from this year (because I gave up novels for a few months))) but I put them on Goodreads. Not here.

Okay, enough of this boring preamble – let’s get into the meat (vegan alternatives are available) of the matter.

Hell Ship by Philip Palmer is a book I wanted to love so it’s a real pity that it didn’t live up to my expectations. You see, I … hold up, I need to eat that snack bar that’s been sat watching me for the last hour.

*sounds of snack bar being bitten, sucked, munched and otherwise masticated*

Okay I’ve had a couple of bites so that’s should be enough. Or maybe just one more morsel.

*munch-chew-munch*

Oh heck, this is much better than writing reviews. Oh, yum!

*sigh*

Control yourself, Robert. Or at least pretend you’re not eating. Just write!

Thing is, I’ve already read a couple of novels by this author and they were great. Science fiction in a subtly humourous style (not like Robert Rankin or Terry What’sHisName (the guy with the stacked tortoises)) agrees with me. You see, I write a bit funny myself and so, well, y’know.

This one, though, is a bit too long and a lot too repetitive. There’s just not enough story for all those pages. The premise is fine, but it could have been comfortably finished in 250 pages rather than the bloat-filled 450 pages it took. The same things keep happening in the story, and they keep happening over and over again. One kinda gets fed up of repetition, especially when it keeps happening over and over and over and over again. You get the idea?

So, yeah – characters were interesting and varied, the events of the story were inventive and out-there, the plot was diverting and entertaining, but it was all stretched out a little (a lot) too much.

And that’s about all I have to say for now.

Oh wait – here’s the cover:

The cover of Hell Ship by Philip Palmer.

One last thing: that snack bar would have gotten a really good review!

Snack bar corpse.

In love with …

On the turntable (anyone remember turntables?) at the moment is Ex:Re. I’m in love with the music on this album:

Listening to these songs makes me feel like I’m eating chunks of chocolate. I get high. I float. The mainline of my energistic self is attached to upwards and I’m pulled into ethereal space. I feel like nothing can touch me. I’m invulnerable. I’m in another place that exists as a layer above life. I’m insulated and protected by a sonic spirit-mother. A hyperfluidity. I’m serenely, sweetly floating away on a leaf excised from the jungle. A lake of bliss buoys me. I empty out and fill up with a landscape of pure, transcendental goodness.

And that’s just the first song.

It gets better after.

Listen.