Saturday, February 28, 2009

DIARY 97 - There will be a brief pause.........

Many things have moved on since my last posting. With a bit of persistence from me, wanting the deposit issue resolved ASAP, the letting agent and I agreed on a final deduction amount. Come Monday 2nd March the balance will at last be resting in our joint account. Hurrah!!! Once the Council Tax rebate arrives, that will, over a month later, bring to an end the post move financial reimbursements. I'm looking forward to that fleeting momentary feeling of freedom and elation. At that point I can finally pay off my wretched bank loan. What a relief it will be to be debt free.

The decision I made last week, was to stand down as Customer Services Manager. Having talked to the various folks mentioned last week, and told my team, I still feel it was the right decision. I realise that this is a brave move for me to take at my age, and at this point in an economic downtown. But there seemed no point in delaying it further. There have always been sensible practical reasons for sticking with the situation, irrespective of how I personally felt about it. The emotional cost on me was, however, unsustainable. I can bask for a little while in the wake of this decision, and be vague or imprecise about the exact nature of my future prospects, However, what the possible options are, is becoming ever clearer. I'll stay on as Manager until my replacement is found, either from within the team, or outside it. Depending on that outcome, I may stay on as an ordinary member of the team for a little while (not sure how this will actually sit with me,the new manager, or the rest of the team). I could move on to another, as yet unspecified team (in the current climate not that many options- most likely returning to pick orders in the warehouse. This raises the concern of how I could sustain this, considering the persistence of my back problem) I could leave windhorse for the dole, or who knows what, (I could be doing this anyway in a years time, should the business not survive) Or move on to another as yet unexplored option, (that's the vague imprecise bit). Whatever the final choice, the transition may well be a slowish one, gradually emerging as one or other of these options is ruled out, or in.

The release of physical tension once the decision was taken, was instantaneous. This had been long overdue. It hasn't stopped me experiencing bouts of anxiety since then, about the unspecified nature of my future. I've noticed that this manifests itself in quite a different manner to the previous anxious tension. That was quite noticeably tight across the chest area, whereas the anxiety about my future prospects is more at the base of the stomach, at a gut level. At the moment I'm trying to balance personal feelings and personality, with practical needs. It's never something I find easy to maintain, something tragically gets left out of the mix, and acts up later. Every choice though initially a release, also unbalances,destabilises, and this can provoke extreme levels of insecurity. But as Sangharakshita once advised, you should not leave too many options open, for too long. This would only stimulate a loss of confidence, resolve and momentum. For myself, at some point, anxiety about practical matters can cause an eruption of panic, a grasping for security, usually for financial, rather than emotional security.

Letting go of the strain I've been accommodating has had one consequence, I came down with a cold or virus. I felt a bit nauseous Thursday night. On Friday morning I awoke with the familiar sensations I experience when I'm coming down with something - my brain feels numb, my eyes become tender and I sense them as being swollen and difficult to focus. My whole bodily energy was on full alert, trying to repel whatever it was I was coming down with. I felt quite drained, and took the day off work. Two days later these initial symptoms have eased and as yet, I'm only mildly congested. I did not succumb to any bouts of 'Man Flu' I'll have you know.

David is now on his last few weeks before he goes off to Ghuyaloka and his Ordination Course. He's away this weekend on a retreat, during which further announcements and arrangements will be made. What David and I are going to do before he leaves, has also become clearer. We intend spending four days or so in Brighton, absorbing the diverse cultural, culinary and shopping highlights that the town possesses. Who knows, we might even have good weather. Next weekend we're up north for my niece's wedding. This will be the first public family occasion we'll have attended as a couple. Should be interesting how the elder generations of my family (if they're invited to attend) will cope with that.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

DIARY 96 - For Health & Vitality

The shape that my life has taken, like everyone else's, is a collaborative effort between me and the world. Though we all might like to believe in our independence as self determining beings, this cannot be wholly true. What we are, what we believe about ourselves and the world, is conditioned interactively between all that is us,plus all that our present circumstances encompass - what we did in the past, do in the present, and will be doing in the future. Our working ground in this life can only be 'within' the bounds of this conditioning. This is so whether we are a Buddhist, theist, agnostic or atheist. We have influence over our future direction, but that future is built upon the foundations we have laid down in the past. So, we are never fully free even in our present choices. Dogen would have gone on to say such a linear view is incorrect -it can veer easily into fatalistic determinism, that one thing will inevitable topple after another, like dominoes. For him the past and future are both there in the content of what arises in the present. The present is thus simultaneously impotent and potent.

Why am I taking to this metaphysical turn of thought? Well, it is part of a stream of reflection, winding its way through my current mood. As ever, my body is acting as a spiritual weather vane. As a psycho physical manifestation of the current internal and external conditions, it is bringing something to my conscious attention. All is not well. Since before Christmas I've been particularly experiencing an unusual amount of physical tension, most particularly stiffness in my thigh, calf, ankle and feet muscles. My massage therapist has been working overtime in sessions to encourage these muscles to let go and relax. There has been slow and barely discernible progress. As I mentioned in a previous diary entry, this has now been joined by a persistent band of anxious tension across my chest. It appears to be a nonspecific, almost existential, form of anxiety. I go to sleep with it, awaken to it, go to, and come back from work with it, and go back to bed with it still present. Obviously the last few months have been pretty stressful, with moving and all that entailed. So that is perhaps one factor, I should bare in mind. My feeling about it, and I emphasise it is a feeling not a incontrovertible fact, is that the cause is much more fundamental to my own sense of being. My sense of well being, is unwell.

Now I find myself in such idyllic living circumstances, this has thrown other things into sharper relief. A shadow has been cast across my mood for quite some time. I am starting to become concerned about the consequences of living with this sort of bodily strain at my age. What conditions am I setting up, whose future results might not be at all good for me? I don't want to openly talk here about my conclusions, or what I'm considering just yet. I need to talk this through with David, consult with my closest Buddhist friends, and also absorb it deeper in myself, first. Only to say, that there does come a point when you have to acknowledge what you are, and are not, capable of. Painful or humbling as such a realisation might be, this needs facing, as do the circumstances that cause it to arise. Conditions and conditioning will either break and change, or will break you, particularly if you 'heroically' take something on. Heroism, can in its origins, be blind to the reality of a situation. People wouldn't ever be so brave or foolhardy if they fully understood the circumstances and consequences of what they were doing. To be effective in tackling ones conditioning, you need to acutely discern what sort of thing it is you are taking on, well before you go on to battle with it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

BOOK REVIEW - Cormac Mc Carthy - The Road

Yes, yes, I know I gave up on the last one in complete exasperation with its lurid violence, overwrought, overwritten and completely plot less narrative. Even the friend from whom I borrowed this book said 'I don't know whether you'll like this, considering your comments about 'Blood Meridian'. I have to say, this is almost like it was by a different writer. 'The Road' is sparse, beautifully composed, touching, yet totally unsentimental. This is a hard, unyielding petrified world, informed by panic, that he takes you into. If all society and culture completely collapsed,and the earth was so poisoned that little could be cultivated, what would happen to our civilisation, to our very humanity? What would we turn into under such circumstances? McCormac writes so convincingly and with such a compassionate gaze about this plight. It really is no surprise that the book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2007.

A man and his son (again the central characters are nameless like in BM) are travelling in a unnamed, barely recognisable country, that may or may not be the US. There has been an apocalyptic catastrophe, at times it seems the cause might have been total environmental breakdown, a military or nuclear disaster or disease epidemic,or all of these things combined. What was the cause and what the symptoms of it, is never made entirely clear. The remaining landscape is irredeemable bleak, with a strange ash covering everything. There are no animals, no birds, only matchstick trees frequently burnt to a cinder. This blackened crucible of the world is er beaten by the weather, at times it seems to do nothing but snow or rain, perpetually and heavily. For some reason the man believes it will be better down south. They have a map, a cart and a few dwindling possessions and provisions. All the time they scavenge for food, constantly teetering on the edge of starvation. The man, touchingly, protects and tutors the young boy in the dangers of this new and hostile world, whilst trying to instill a sense of hope, something he himself has almost lost. His only hope is the boy. They are 'the good guys,' but 'the bad guys,' well they seem to have descended to the most brutal level of survival of the fittest - unbridled cannibalism.

Mc Cormac springs a few graphic 'shock' surprises along the way, that communicate how depraved and deranged humankind has become as a result of this nameless 'catastrophe.' The book is not without event, but these are small in scale, there are no large dramatic crescendos. Throughout there is just a palpable tension, of lives in constant peril. A weariness and wariness seeps through the novel like a rotten stench that penetrates everything. At any moment, in the midst of a cautious exploration of an abandoned farm house, looking for food, things can slip into edge of the seat terror. One moment of unawareness, one misjudgement, or miscalculation of risk, could be a fatal error. In a second their lives could be taken without thought or mercy.

This novel has been made into a film starring Vigo Mortenson. Though its not yet been released yet in the US, so when it will appear here, who knows? It's in the more than capable direction of John Hillcoat, who made Nick Caves, recent grim western masterpiece 'The Proposition.' So he knows how to maintain a prolonged sense of tension and menace, whilst dealing with the numerous grotesque details that creep into McCormac's novel like virulent rats. Hopefully, the Hollywood executives will keep their hands off, and not try either to sweeten the story, nor ramp up the gore/horror elements. In the end this novel is simply a very personal story about the struggle of hope and compassion to survive - the thing both man and boy refer to as 'the fire.'

Sunday, February 15, 2009

CD REVIEW - Antony & The Johnsons


Antony Hegarty's voice has a strange, otherworldly timbre to it, it can possess a warmth and intimacy, and yet also force you to stand back and observe him, like he's an alien life form. He can be simultaneously close and distant. Similar to, 'I am a bird now' that preceded it four or so years ago, 'The Crying Light' has a sparse monochrome richness to its orchestration, and a heightened sense of melodrama, like the photo of Kazuo Ohno that adorns its cover. I heard this new album before 'I am a bird now' his Mercury Prize winning album, and though I can see why it would win accolades, I think this current offering is superior,even to that. There is something about it that appears to be reaching out to life expectant of an embrace. 'I am a bird now', similar to its cover photo of 'Candy Darling on her death bed' is dishabille on messed up sheets, and emerges half alive from a private bed to stare hopelessly out at you from under the sheets.

There are moments here of transcendent, yet chilling beauty such as on the track 'Dust & Water'. His voice hauntingly ululates and mutters incoherently over a droned vocal background, sounding as if it were some traditional primal song of yearning lament or prayer -' Did you think I'd leave you here, for ever' he sings 'Love came soon, dust and water, water and dust.' There is a mood too it, of a radiant sunrise and a mirage breaking up on a horizon. After this there is the glory of the sun bursting forth on the following final track 'Everglade.' This is suffused by an appreciative grasp for true beauty, with rising cadences and a full voiced clarity bellowing from his lungs, like an exultant liberating trumpet, breaking free of restraint. There are times when Hegarty's warbling, if not wayward, style of vibrato, can be a tad grating, but if one can wait and hold ones breath through these moments, he more than repays ones forbearance. Uniqueness can be disquieting.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

BOOK REVIEW - David Foster Wallace - Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.

Please forgive me, I do really admire David Foster Wallace, and at his best he is an extremely perceptive and witty writer. But, this collection of short stories, was, at times, tedious and self indulgent in the extreme. The dominant form of each story is either a monologue, or a Q & A dialogue, where you only read the answers, you've no idea who the other person is, nor what question it is they've asked. As an artifice, this effect of being in receipt of an edited, if not censored, conversation gives them an aura of frank, expurgated confessions, of secret files. These are forbidden thoughts, unable to be given public exposure. It says much, in this post-feminist era, about the self-censoring nature of contemporary masculine discourse. So many things can no longer be openly said, without the collective cohorts of contemporary condemnation decending upon you. As a consequence buried things are turning fetid and corrupted.

Of all the stories here, it is the 'Brief Interviews with Hideous Men' that impress themselves upon you the most. They are such unflinching portrayals of all the messy emotional and psychological tangles men can get themselves into in their relationships with others. These felt like very real people and true to life portrayals, as a result they were often uncomfortable reading, not for the squeamish. One story,has a man who just goes on and on and on to his girlfriend, about how he wants to be honest with her, about how in his previous relationships he'd have bailed out by now, but its a testament of how much he cares for her, and how much he wants things to be different that he is owning up to this pattern. By the end of this endless self obsessed litany you can sense that any woman with an ounce of self-preservation, would have already run a mile.

Obsessiveness, seems to be a recurring theme in these stories, the level of narrative detail Foster Wallace uses, itself borders on obsessive compulsive too. The form and the content often mirror each other in this way, and it can be unnerving in its daring. The characters are so self absorbed, and totally blind to anyone else's needs but their own, or are simply creepy, in a sicko sort of way. For most of the book I stayed interested and alongside Foster Wallace, but by the last quarter I began wishing he'd stop being so damned artful and clever. The final stories I largely skipped through, out of petulance and imaginative impatience. Some of them seemed more like the sort of thing you'd do as an experiment in a writers workshop, but wouldn't by any stretch of the imagination envisage them as being interesting to read. Quite often they're written in an abbreviated code, like excerpts from a shorthand note, the sort of form you might use if you were writing a psychological profile, a medical assessment, or were a policeman. This often felt far too self-consciously contrived, and detrimentally affected my final feelings about this book. Though it undoubtedly has some superb pieces of writing in it, he spends far too much time self indulgently showing off, which is real shame.

BOOK REVIEW - CJ Samson - Revelation

CJ Samson, has over the space of the three previous books, 'Dissolution,' 'Dark Fire' and 'Sovereign,'established himself as the writer of historical detective fiction of this century. From 'Dissolution' through to 'Revelation' his eye for telling historical details, and conveying the atmosphere of 16th century London, has been consistent and richly textured. Peter Ackroyd, is the only other writer I know of, who can conjure up so vividly the periods feel, and its historical issues and conflicts. Always partly using the background of real historical events, Sampson in 'Revelation' bases his story in the period when Henry VIII's final wife to be,Catherine Parr, is playing hard to get, and all the political intrigue and subterfuge that ensues as a result. The character of Matthew Shardlake has now become well established,as a wise and sharp witted man, but not without a tender flaw arising out of being a hunchback. He's a lawyer, but above all he is a loyal, kind hearted, ethical man. Often honour bound, he keeps getting drawn back into the dangerous arena of the royal court and environs. In 'Revelation' he is on the track of a serial killer, whom he discovers is murdering according to a passage from The Book of Revelation. When one of his best friends turns out to be victim number two, he makes a promise to his friends wife, an old love,which leaves him morally bound to track down the culprit,

Of all the Shardlake novels this is perhaps the most morally complex, and certainly gruesome subject matter. As ever, Sampson keeps you guessing about the motive and identity of the killer, with plenty of red herrings and false trails. There was a bit of a sense when reading this, that the pace was too leisurely, with diversions dwelt on at unnecessary length, and as a consequence the storyline sometimes sagged or felt overstretched. This could certainly have been a slightly tighter and shorter book. It hasn't quite the same quality of being a compulsive roller coaster of a read, that all his previous books possessed. It maybe that the character of Shardlake, and the style of Sampson's writing having fully established itself, is now set, and has become a little restricting as a consequence. It is, nonetheless, a successful formula, both with the critics and with his readers, regularly getting into the top bestsellers list. Four novels in, it may be proving difficult to extend the compass of the genre, and develop interesting new twists within it. As he is nearing the final period of the reign of Henry VIII, one does wonder whether he should take a well earned break from Tudor England, rich though that seam is with material to mine.

RANT - I Predict.....the end of.......

In the current recessionary climate, banks, monetary institutions and all manner of economic pundits, are falling over themselves to predict the depths of destitution to which it will drag our countries industry and international business. As they singularly failed to predict the origins and speed of its arrival, why we should pay a blind bit of notice to any of their pronouncements about its extent and expected time of departure, beggars belief. Each appears now to be vying for a future 'I was right' prize, the winner of which will see them rise to the top of the economic astrology charts, sell advice books to redundant 'short sellers,' become a much sought after business guru, and be fated as an oracle for the shareholders of 'Middle England'. Until, of course, they inevitable fail to spot the next economic downturn, and all kudos disappears rapidly down a cavernous plughole. It reached a height of ludicrousness this week when some burk (it may have been plural) announced this recession would mean 'the end of finance'. Oh, really!!! tell me another one do.

Competing with the economists for this 'Enlightened' status, are the cultural trend setters, out to be first to spot what the credit crunch will mean 'the end of'. People stop doing a lot of things in a recession, because they can't afford them, this doesn't mean that when better times return they've learnt their lesson and will never touch a silver plated 'blackberry', or a white buckskin sofa, ever ever again. I would like to make my own contribution to this parlour guessing game with a few modest predictions of my own.

I think the current recession will mean....

the end of..... paper
- facebook will continue to increase phenomenally in popularity. What social conversation there is, will be conducted in short twelve word sentences, with no complicated syllables allowed. Grunts, coughs and 'cool,' will now count as penetrative social comment, and will be treated as a dehydrated sound bite. Anyone habitually more verbose than that, will risk being ostracised as suffering from acute 'social diarrhea.' Newspapers will as a consequence become referred to in street slang as 'arsebooks.'

the end of...water beds
-water will be far too expensive, even to drink, we become a nation of meths drinkers - the slogan - 'I could throttle a bottle' - catches on.

the end of.... Tracey
Emin - oh, how I wish this could be true.

the end of.... testicular jock straps -
as finances get tight, men will want everything else to hang loose, rather than have their manhood trussed up like a turkey. It will bring a whole new meaning to the word 'austerity' i.e - to visibly hang your bollocks out.

the end of.... smiley badges,T shirts, flags, balls etc -
these will just get soooo annoying, when they are used as part of a government backed 'cheer up Britain' campaign - with the catch phrases 'Its not that bad, really' and 'why worry Wally?' being heavily satirised.

the end of.... living in houses with tiled roofs -
green tarpaulin slung casually over scaffolding and roof rafters to flap wildly in a gale, will make a huge come back as more new houses are left unfinished, and the owners of older houses cannot afford to complete repairing them.

the end of.... handbags - car use will decline, so - as you need a rugged four by four to transport your leather arm candy in - shopping trolleys will make a spectacular return. In the Karl Lagerfeld designed advert, Posh is seen dragging a black and silver bondage strapped trolley, like a dead designer punk, whose snow white mohican fringe aesthetically sweeps the pavement behind her. Women learn from this to treat the litter strewn, retail desert of our UK high streets, as just another very long catwalk / photo opportunity, and to blithely step over all on-coming beggars. 'They're a lot more use than my husband,' Posh wryly winks to camera. This remark does itself becomes a matter for conjecture, as its unclear whether she was referring to the shopping trolley, or the street tramps.

There, I'm sure at least one of those will prove themselves an outright winner.

My predictive acumen, once verified by the passage of time, will open up a whole new career path for me. Not only getting me a regular column in the Guardian weekend magazine, but numerous appearances on radio and TV quiz shows, where I'll make sweeping generalisations at the drop of a hat, be grossly rude about every minority social and disability group, exciting controversy on Radio 4 with my cavalier use of 'ironic offensiveness.' I'll become fluently adept at just opening my mouth and saying the first thing that comes into it, beginning or ending each sentence with an obligatory 'fuck, fucker or fucking', occasionally scattering the odd'twat', 'cunt,' or 'arsehole' around as a further verbal condiment. I'll have them rolling off their sofas in Surrey in outrage, before you can say Jimmy Carr was cloned from the DNA of Bernard Manning's sweat.

DIARY 95 - Fresh VIstas

Well, we've been here in Abbey House now for three weeks or so. Still no sign of the deposit from our old flat being returned. One of us is going to have to get stroppy soon, and it looks like that role will fall to me, as David is on retreat for the next nine days. David being on retreat is a bit of foretaste of what it may be like when he's away for four months on his ordination retreat, which is coming up sooner than I think. I'll just have got used to his long term absence when he'll be back, and I have to re-adjust once more. I can imagine it feeling as if I've been temporarily widowed for four months. For some reason this brings to mind the film The Return of Martin Guerre, where this chap returns saying he's Martin Guerre, but no ones quite certain, then most folk become convinced he is who he says he is, until its revealed he was an impostor after all. So, David goes off to be ordained, returning under a different name. Does he return the same person? There is an tiny little anxiety gremlin about whether our relationship will also undergo some sort of subtle change? But the, I've been through the same course, and yes, you can return with a stronger sense of who you are, and your potential, but on a certain level you do remain much the same bloke.

Perhaps this is what I've needed all along - a sleep bra!!

I can sense a gradual change for the better in my well being. Having regularly slept well, surprise, surprise, I feel more rested, sharper in mind, and hence more alert and engaged. I'm meditating every day without fail, which is also a boon. I also think not sharing a bed that was too small for two grown men to inhabit comfortable,helps too. Each of us can be a very restless sleeper. Many is the time that David's sleepless shifting and tumbling around has shook me awake, I'm sure its been the same for him. Now ,we just have literally more physical space around us, I don't have cold damp air falling down overnight onto my shoulders from the bedroom wall, or being disturbed by noisy inhabitants of the other flats. Or the increasing amounts of extraneous noise from drunken folk staggering home from clubs and pubs, the loud swearing, arguments and bellowing conversations down their mobiles, all of these things were having a deleterious effect on my state of relaxation and mind. With this stuff largely history, I have consequently been feeling a growing stability and confidence re-establishing itself. I feel more able to engage with and tackle elements in my life that I have previously felt discomforted by. I am still getting tense and anxious, but I feel more capable of containing that, without it overspilling and preventing me from taking action.

David suggested this week, that having a Web Cam installed on my computer would mean I could talk face to face with friends, who live distantly, or abroad. Rather than nattering expensively down the phone line, I could do it for nowt online. Good idea I thought, so I acted immediately and bought a Web Cam. Poor David, must have lived to regret making that suggestion. For two nights before he went off to have his 'brahmas vihara'd', he grappled to install two different types of web cam thingy onto my computer. The first version proved not to be even compatible with Vista. So we tried again with a supposedly Vista compatible version, and still no joy. Everything seems happy to go ahead with the installation, except Vista. It seems to be a complicated matter of convincing Vista that the web cam's driver and software is not an alien invasion, so it can stop being defensive. Paradoxically its Vista that behaves like a virulent virus, lurking unseen in the background,and subversively sabotaging. After all, this is just my computer, its filled with stuff that's largely inconsequential to anyone else but me, there are no secret files, it doesn't need protecting as if its the Pentagon. In the end David was getting so tense and frustrated with it all, he decided to leave it until he returns Sunday week. This is a guy who spends his every working day with computers and their contrary behaviour. God knows what I would have done had I been attempting to do this myself, well, actually, I'd just have given up on the idea and got a refund on the camera.

From my experience of it, Windows Vista seems to be the first genuine attempt at a regressive software package, that noticeable worsens the ease and accessibility of Home Computing for the general public. It sets it back ten years, rather than taking it forward. I can wait up to fifteen minutes after first turning it on, before I can do anything on it that doesn't take an age to log on to, or instantly freeze. It never informs you exactly what it is doing at any moment, or asks you whether its a good time for this, it just goes ahead benevolently installing all its own updates (never anyone else's). David keeps threatening to take off Vista and install Windows XP instead, but that's a bit of a large job to ask him to do. But then, perhaps, life would be truly be perfect.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

DIARY 94 - The Shock Of Things Staying The Same

When they said it was going to be the worst winter weather for eighteen years, I was not unduly alarmed. So far as Cambridge goes that's really not saying much. We had a couple of inches of snow, instead of the usual thimble full. So it was all quite distressing. As ever the snow itself in its pristine freshly fallen state, was a visual delight. White foamy lumps and layering on everything. It was the slush and half thawing ice that followed you had to be wary of - lethal stuff! Then there was the gauging how many layers to wear, shoes v boots, walk or cycle to work. These were now highly important questions, vital not to get wrong. Otherwise, you'd find yourself slipping all over the place in shiny soled shoes, held up solely by your bike, that you're gripping onto for dear life, like I was on Tuesday morning. Ever hopeful that the snow would be short lived, I was caught short by my own expectant optimism.

Dealing with this slush of discontent may or may not have been a contributory factor in my feeling persistently tense this week. There has been a taught muscular band across the middle of my chest all week, most noticeable when I woke up in the morning. I've not found really relaxing easy. Move wise, financially, all the bills are now in from BT and electric, so we now know what our outgoings will be. It's our incoming money we're still waiting for,such as how much of our deposit returns from our letting agents, and if any money at all will come back from the council tax. I've found working with work,and my team, on top of coping with the weather,a strain at times.

This last weekend, we finally found a home for David and I's remaining kitchen stuff. This involved a good rooting about in, and turning out of the communities cupboards. If you've ever lived communally you'll recognise the scene. There are always lots of really odd stuff abandoned in the kitchen, with no apparent owner, gathering an oily patina, flocked with dust, ingrained and otherwise. No one will risk throwing it out,however gross a health hazard it might be. It might cause an unexpected outburst of indignation from someone in the community whose precious supply of dried shitake mushrooms you've ruthlessly evicted, because it was merely seven years passed its 'best before' date. In a Buddhist community where we all practice renunciation, and non-attachment to material possessions, this obviously wouldn't be likely to happen, would it? You'd be suprised, if not shocked, I'm afraid. Anyway, regardless, we threw some of the dirty deeds away. Mostly it was on the micro level, deciding how many varieties of measuring jugs we really needed readily to hand. The rest were sent below for storage, because that's what our cellar is for.

With this final vetting of personal and community objects done with, what then? I found I was more than a little bored during Saturday afternoon and evening. I seemed consumed by a state of mind that was resolutely unable to just be with what was, wanted to do something useful or meaningful, but lacked the initiative to either choose one, or having chosen, to get on with doing it. This not knowing what to do, can turn back in on me - the reason why your bored and finding things meaningless, is because your dull and shallow. I tried more cleaning therapy, and attacked the admittedly grubby walls of the bathroom on our landing. A sense of achievement failed to materialise from doing this, only frustration. So instead I endured moping around like a recently divorced man, whose just lost his job and his beloved dog, his only true companion had died from a wretched skin disease. Well, not quite that serious, but you know, it was truly serious, grim, mordantly important stuff I was grappling with. Pah!!

I think I've spent so much of my time in the last month planning, packing, preparing to move, then unpacking, cleaning, tidying and organising the practicalities of our new life in a community. The lack now of this obvious way to occupy my time productively, does leave an empty feeling of being abandoned to a life of inactivity, when it stops. Now this activity is largely over and done,and the excitement of the move is passed, so what comes next? My tendency then is to look for further excitement and fresher faced developments in ones life. How could this new lifestyle be made so much better, than it already is? Do I go back to my writing, or do some painting for a change, or take up something else entirely unexpected and radically new? On a personal level, things returning to how they were before the move, is just not on. Everything must change in response to moving. Everything must move on, and that includes me.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

FEATURE 21 - Bring On The Trumpets

This is nothing if not a bizarre piece of advertising.

DIARY 93 - Re-Depositing Ourselves

Well, David and I are now moved into our new room in Abbey House. It's a substantial panelled room, with a high ceiling and view over the walled garden. It has so much space we could waltz around in it, should we ever wish to. From the moment we arrived, we experienced a strong reluctance to even going back to our old flat. But return we did on the Sunday, to finish off the cleaning. I'd taken time off the following week, so I spent much of the Monday, letting in carpet cleaners, instructing window cleaners and paying both for their time. Tuesday was a final check over the flat before I handed the keys back. It was such a relief to hand them over, I finally felt I could let go of responsibility for it.

There is still the issue of how much of the deposit will be returned to us. The estate agent did their final inspection on Wednesday, and seemed remarkably to find only relatively minor things, to niggle over. So how much it ends up costing us, is any ones guess. It's a bit infuriating, that as tenants, we have to expend so much energy and time on leaving a flat as near spotless as is humanly possible, when it was far from spotless when we moved in three and a half years ago. We also have had to produce receipts to prove we carried out the window, carpet and curtain cleaning. I bet there wont be any receipts forthcoming from our landlords agents to justify the money they'll take off our deposit. The whole thing feels distinctly unbalanced, unfair, and not a little unethical.

That moan aside, David and I are very happy in our new abode and community. It's, obviously, still early days, our 'honeymoon' period is not yet over. But having said that, the house is a much more very supportive environment for us to live and practice in. Having a designated shrine room, separate from your living space is helping both of us in the regularity of our meditation practice. The house is quiet, with no insensitive noisy residents, beside or above us. I'm not getting cold air landing on my shoulders as I lie in bed. Both of us are sleeping better. I've felt a bit depleted in energy at times during the week, just about coming round, physically, by this weekend. Getting into town from Abbey House is also a much shorter journey, and most of the other Buddhist communities are within easy walking distance. A few things have gone missing during the journey from Newmarket Rd to here, well at least we've yet to rediscover where they were hidden in the flurry of packing.

We are both re-adjusting to the community lifestyle,which is not overly restrictive, so is no hardship. Also deciding, between ourselves, which little traditions of our life in the flat can be continued here, and which cannot. This weekend has partly been spent finding a home for the few remaining bits of our kitchenware. Some to be integrated into the communities, the rest boxed up and stored in the cellar. We certainly have accumulated a lot of crockery over the last three and a half years, which only confirms our 'foodie' status, I guess. It remains to be seen what further lifestyle changes develop during the next months. David goes off on his four month ordination course at the beginning of April, so he'll have barely settled before he's whisked off to the Spanish mountains. And I? Well I will do the best I can in these (much improved) circumstances.