Fear of Happiness

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Cherophobia can be defined as the fear of happiness, joy, bliss, or celebrating. Chero is a Greek word, which means to rejoice happiness or gaiety whereas Phobia in Greek means fear. Cherophobia or fear of happiness is the name given to a specific fear.

Causes of Cherophobia or Fear of Happiness

Cherophobia or fear of happiness generally emerges from a blend of external events especially traumatic incidents and internal predispositions which can be genetics or hereditary. Cherophobia or fear of happiness can be traced back to a particular triggering event; generally a traumatic incident happened at a very young age. Cherophobia or fear of happiness have more perplexing causes that are not entirely known right now. It is believed that genetics, hereditary qualities, and brain chemistry consolidate with life experiences to play a noteworthy part in the development of cherophobia or fear of happiness.

Ah, happiness, that elusive state. Philosophers, theologians, psychologists, even economists, have long sought to define it, and since the 1990s, a whole branch of psychology—positive psychology—has been dedicated to pinning it down and propagating it. More than simply positive mood, happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life—that is, with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction.

Research shows that happiness is not the result of bouncing from one joy to the next; achieving happiness typically involves times of considerable discomfort.  Money is important to happiness, but only to a certain point. Money buys freedom from worry about the basics in life—housing, food, clothing. Genetic makeup, life circumstances, achievements, marital status, social relationships, even your neighbors—all influence how happy you are. Or can be.

From Psychology Today

 

 

Whilst in the Other World…

Why has the world become an asylum for the criminally and socially insane? On the day that some deranged ISIS follower blew himself up along with twenty-two other people, the angry woman in an English department, I once worked at, got madder, and madder, and madder.

 

“I am so busy,” she announced to the three of us who were not her. “People have been noticing that you three have been going for coffee!”

 

She was on to us. He eyes were revolving in their sockets. Her hair, a throwback to Fleetwood Mac (after acid), was far more deranged than it had been for some weeks. Just to talk to her was to invite a plague of locusts and poisonous toads to descend upon you. I felt sorry for her at first, but time has again taught me that indulging the madness of the socially-insane only exacerbates it.

This woman from the heath was in screaming mode.

So, the crux of her current madness was coffee and where it should be drunk. Twenty-two people had been murdered in Manchester and this delusional old hippy was angry about coffee.

 

I dreamt I had died the other night and that I had been sent to Mallorca. I couldn’t work out whether this was positive or a negative. Take the collection of people who are masquerading themselves as normal in this place. Many of the mentally ill have that hang-dog expression that denotes a lifetime’s devotion to the task of  living amongst others who constantly profess to feelings of happiness. There are smiles on faces and feet can often skip along rather than trudge. I have often seen young teachers look this way; for a term or two. Others, who are more experienced, smile forlornly and wait for it to pass. It’s not the norm for a smile, real smile, to appear on the face of anyone, who has been teaching for more than two years, until Friday morning at the earliest. It has a brief summer until Sunday morning and then fades into the dusk of the week to come.

 

I don’t fully trust people who are constantly happy.

They are either faking it, vying for promotion, know some salatious gossip, or are on drugs. Prozac! However, there is a line. We are mostly only human and there are things that ought to bring some cheer into our hearts. At one ‘happy-flappy’ school, we were informed that we should be happy because we were doing God’s work. Isn’t that cheating?

For the chronically unhappy though, teaching is not a profession to enter into. The job drains you of al those vitals that keep you afloat. In many places I have worked at, I have seen other teachers wearing the same look of penitence. Perhaps this is the look they believe they should wear. It is the look of erosion, the look that has been brought about through the daily wear and tear of the teaching day. It is the look of a people who have accepted the unfulfilling nature of life and have decided to continue with it anyway. They go grey; not just in the hair but in the skin. Teaching is torture and what is worse is that it is self-torture that involves hitting ones head over and over again with a flattened stone or flaying the skin off one’s back. The more you torture oneself the better one must be as a teacher.

Torture and Taught You’ sound a little too similar don’t they?

 

So, I digress. Angry woman was throwing a wobbler and winding up the other departmental members. She was on the edge and ready to jump. OOOPS! She began to freefall into name-calling and fearsome accusations. She even squared up to another female teacher in the way that Anthony Perkins would have done when dressed as his mother in Psycho. I didn’t know how she got to this place, but I recognised some symptoms from my own experience. That’s why I changed my life. I should have attempted to counsel her, to make contact, to reach out as a fellow traveler would do, but, having tried that, I thought it was of no use. Wherever she was, she was in the right and we were in the wrong. Perhaps she was right.

 

A few days have passed now without meaningful communication between our colleague and ourselves. There are middle-distance gazing episodes as people cross in corridors and there is the shutting of doors and the openly secret liaisons between herself and other members of her sect, but there is not recognisable human interaction. The other followers are planning something. It is an open attempt at usurping the head-teacher and replacing him with one of their good old boys or gals. This is their school and they will have it back in its rightful hands.

 

Personally, I am partial to a little revolution and overthrow. I like the sense of something happening, the-cloak-and-dagger dramas and the hushed voices in darkened rooms. There is something conspiratorially creative about a coup d’etat even when one is caught on the wrong side of it, as I have been on a number of occasions. Nevertheless, it brings in fresh blood and refreshes the moaning-minnies with  new courage and reason d’etre. Unfortunately, you have to invest some energy or passion into the affair or it will simply disappear into dust.

If this revolution was televised, it would get a mid-afternoon slot between some Australian soap about kangaroo doctors and Celebrity Lets’s find and sell Some Junk programme. It would make for tea and digestive viewing. I came here for a little peace and the chance to find myself. Instead, I appear to have landed in the middle of an ongoing conflict between the old and the new. Everyday madness is everyday reality.

 

Heaven or Hell? I can’t work out.

 

I go to bars and access their Wi-Fi networks.  The cost for doing this is the cost of a beer. Lots of times I happen to fall into conversations with complete strangers. They have been here since the days of the Raj and I have been here since metaphorical yesterday. The sunshine, the beer, the occasional cockroach, the more frequent mad teacher, and the otherness which is not otherness at all but something so strangely familiar that it is hard to not think that this is all a dream that I have yet to wake from.

 

I am here as it is part of my recovery from spending time in La La Land looking for my marbles. So, I speak from a position of strength on the issues of mental illness, but my illness belonged solely to me and I didn’t seek to colonise the world with it, making every other thing resemble that which had consumed me. I have been standing outside of myself for such a long time that I think of myself in the third-person. I am a work in progress and every day, in every way, I am a getting better and better type of person. By the time I am dead, I’ll be fine and dandy.

 

Many of the strangers I speak to say that they love it in Mallorca. They drift around the bars in the early evening and chat to each other. They talk about community and get quietly sozzelled into the twilight and then they wander back off to their homes or apartments.  That’s what people did in The Stand. They didn’t necessarily get half-cut, although I am sure that some did, they just went home to die. In many ways, I am living in ‘Kingdom’, the world created by Stephen King. I am here in this twilight zone talking to people who are wandering off into their own dusks. Not a bad way to do that, bar by bar, chat by chat, siesta by siesta. I had dreamt that this would be my long walk into retirement, but I don’t think it is.

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I am not ready to be old, or dead, or confused.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expats and the End-Game

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I have been thinking about other things apart from the rich. I have been considering the shared characteristics of expats. I have done this before and have written about it before, but now I shall do so again.

 

As a group of people, expats are on the run. They are escaping things in their own land and trying to find it in someone else’s. I know this because this is what I am doing; to an extent.

 

Let’s take the little fat lad who was always bullied at school, as a child and as a teacher. He has arrived in his chosen destination to escape his past. He is intent upon rebuilding himself, neuron by neuron. Tabla rasa, a fresh start, a new me. The problem with rebuilding is that it needs foundations and foundations need to be dug deeply. Unfortunately, once you have lived for a number of years, those foundations have to be built on the previous foundations and any builder worth his salt will tell you that that will weaken the structure. In the end, the newly constructed edifice will develop the same cracks as the other one had. You can’t truly rebuild oneself, but only modify.

 

Now, I am as guilty of holding aspirations to rebuild as any other person. Mine, however, were fuelled through the need to have some solid structure. My own house had fallen down around me. The roof was off and the undaunted elements were whipping themselves into a frenzy of invasion as I sat helplessly in the back room. The difference between me and a younger ex-pat seeking to do a personal make-over is that I am older. I may not be wiser but I am wilier. I know my limitations and understand many of the limitations of others. I have started to read between the lines of other people’s dialogue and actions. There is another young teacher who talks about the students “loving him”  and he never stops talking. He continually talks throughout lessons. He certainly engages students with his plethora of anecdotes, but his talking tends to sap the air form the room.

Why? Why? Why? Do people feel the need to talk so much? (I used to do it).  Now, I like quiet. And quiet is a gift that old age brings with it.

 

At night and at weekends, I am at the mercy of quiet. At those times, quiet is to be endured. I read or walk or cycle or drink. At other times I yearn for company, but the sound of the voice of Miss Jean Bloody Brodie coming through the walls, or being fired at me over lunch with opinions and knowledge on everything, is driving me crazy. Hello darkness, my best friend. Just stop talking. Stop being the instant expert on Mallorca’s culture and history. Stop having an opinion on everything. Stop having to add your tuppence worth to every single utterance by others. Stop, me too. Stop anecdotes. Stop talking for a moment and breathe. And listen…

It is the sound of silence.

 

Weekends bring me the sound of silence and sometimes it can be deafening. Books help. A good book drives off the demons of loneliness. Books do tend to become (CLICHE) my friends and companions.

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One of my greatest friends is The Stand by Stephen King.

 

The Stand was first published in 1978 and I first read it in 1980. Since then, King has edited it about twice and rewritten aspects to reflect the change in the cultural environment of the United States.

When I was student, I can remember mentioning to my English Literature lecturer that I thought that King was an excellent writer. The lecturer, smiled at me with something that weighed a little over a tonne of condescension. She laughed as she stated that King was not a real writer. I didn’t laugh or smile. I never talked to her much after that and would bluff my way through her seminars in a manner that was apparent to all and a large section of sundry. Fortunately for me, this lecturer was only there for a year before returning to the States. She did teach me one thing, FECUNDITY which she used lavishly in her description of Gabriella Garcia Marques’ One Hundred Years of Solitude – a true writer. I still have to read that book.

 

The Stand is an old friend. I read it every five or six years. I go back to it in the same way one might go back to the place in which you grew up. My affair with everything apocalyptical probably came from King; well some of it anyway. The landscape of my youth was clouded by the coming apocalypse. But it never came. There was the threat of nuclear war, Aids, over-population, and ISIS (so called), but it has never ended. Neither has my love of The Stand.

 

I picked up a copy of this book just before the weekend and started to read it once again. Some people never go back to books once they have read them. Some people never review a film once it has been watched. I do both. The mind-readers out there will tell you that it will be connected with my psychological hoarding, a need to never let go of the past. I believe this to be true, as this book testifies. For somebody who can launch into new experiences, whilst leaving behind old ones, I am a strange contradiction.  But there are artefacts that I treasure; books, books, books.

Cornerstone-bookshop

The latest edition of The Stand has new chapters and some new characters. All of these are peripheral to the main events yet they work in a way to freshen up the novel for a new audience. Where King falls down a little is where there are obvious anachronisms that have been born out of temporal revision. My favourite character, Larry Underwood, a musician about to make it big before Captain Trips seizes his stage. At that time Larry was mixing his tracks with Neil Diamond. Now, I am not one to put Neil Diamond down, but a new audience wouldn’t really know him. If they had heard of him, it would be in the same way that would have heard of somebody once called Noah. I have a student who goes by that name, but he hasn’t got an arc or a zoo. That to one side, the book gripped me once again and I spent huge swathes of the weekend lost in its many pages.

Once again, I was back to the time when I was eighteen, still wet behind the ears, hoping beyond reasonable hope that I would amount to something in life.  I was afflicted with that good old Jesus-Syndrome. Reading, The Stand is like reading me and about all that has happened during the time that I became what I am today.

 

My favourite characters in the book are Larry Underwood and Nick Andros. The latter is a youngish man who can’t speak nor hear. He is very special in the grand scheme of things. Larry, because he is a tragic figure who is haunted by his own doubtful character. He wants to be good but often does bad things. “You ain’t no good guy!” He hears from women, who would have been complete strangers if he hadn’t have slept with them. I like Larry because he is a little bit like I was when I was young, self-centred, hedonistic, and a dreamer. He wanted  to do the right thing in a world which was not right so, he just went along with it and carved out his own little stretch of land where he could hide from his troubles and the eyes of his critics.

 

Larry is an artist who has struggled to be heard properly. He hasn’t had the breaks and when one sashays his way it is blown away by a combination of genetic engineering and the end of days conducted by Randall Flag. Old Randy is the Devil in-definite-carnate. And poor old Larry, and the rest of the world, are swept away by this janitor from Hell. Larry is a guy who has always been good, at heart, but indifferent in actions. The last stand of good against evil is one in which he will play a major role, surprising himself and others with his bravery and selflessness. At the end of it all, Larry is a “good guy” but dies in the process. So, is this Jesus thing in my DNA or has it been placed there by the writers I worship?

images-34    Randall Flag

If I was a lawyer, I would possibly say that this particular case ought to go to litigation. Through their poetry and prose, these writers have led me all the way along a narrative that quite possibly would not have been written in the same the way that it has turned out. Or is it that I was always predisposed to this type of existence, and that I chose the literature that best reflected me?

 

Thanks goodness that I never liked Jane Austin – although with zombies it is a lovely treat.

 

Mr Blue Sky

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Prozactly, prozacted, prozactive, prozaction

Prozac is now in the dictionary, no more a slavish noun but a fully fledged adjective with rights of its own. According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, someone lively and excited may safely be described as ‘on Prozac’.

From an article entitled: Eternal Sunshine. The Guardian May 13th 2007

Anna Moore

 

Prozac doesn’t care to remind you to take it.

I would like to part company with my crutch but fear what may happen if I do. I still take the drug knowing that I may do without it.

Just in case the sky falls in.

The sky outside of my apartment is blue, so blue it is almost untrue. The sea has the same unreal quality. It’s dotted with boats of all descriptions, all owned by rich wankers who think that this is their birthright. In fact, I have just moved from my comforting, if sterile, existence in the two hotels of Palma Nova to a wonderful apartment overlooking the bay of Palma (not bad for a fuck-wit?). I shared my hotel stay with lots of old people but the first bunch was much nicer than the second. I am now old-peopled-up and I want my writing again.

 

I spoke to my lovely wife again this morning. It is her birthday and I’m not there for her. We talk and talk and never want to stop talking, but we do. Then it’s back to me, just me, just me, and just me. Fuck me; ME can be so boring. I have also taken on an indifferent attitude to my passing days. Part of me tells me that this is fine, all part of the process; stop thinking, stop over-thinking. Over-fucking-thinking, a new part of the common lexicon which really means not thinking because thinking fucks you up. Thinking does fuck around with you, but it is also the reason that we know we are here. I think therefore I am…thinking…over-thinking!

 

Now, what was it that I was thinking about when I first took to the laptop again? I was thinking about not thinking and the waste of time that it would be if I didn’t get my shit together and start thinking again. The problem with the UK is that it does present problems to think about. Take my wife and the bloody lawn mower that refused to start. I knew that it would do that. I knew that it wouldn’t help the situation. There is my loveliness on her birthday and she wants to do something that needs to be done; the lawn. So the mower, the mower, decides, as it always does, to refuse to start.

 

“Why did you buy a piece of shit like that?” She asked me; and that was on her birthday.

 

“It’s not shit. It just takes a bit of coaxing.”   Don’t we fucking all?

 

“That’s a rhetorical question isn’t it, sir?”

 

 “Who fucking knows?” 

 

I just caught myself in the mirror. I was playing some music on my iPhone in order to stop the progress of the day, to slow me down, to halt the Big-Dipper dipping into screaming madness.  It was eighties music, Simple Minds, I Promised you a Miracle, and I saw myself, ME. I looked at ME and nodded. It was like looking at an old friend with whom I had parted company with a long time ago. We looked across the decades and smiled.

 

“You are okay, aren’t you?” I asked and the mirror ME nodded.

 

“We have been through a lot haven’t we?”

 

YES.

 

“Thank you for coming back, my old friend. Dude, I like you.”

 

I looked deep into him and he smiled. I thought I had gotten through it, I thought I had made it to the other side. No. There were more surprises. Perhaps the wine had been enjoyed too much yet I was fairly compos mentis.

 

“Did you do Latin when you were at school?”

 

“Caligula est in atrium. Fuck knows why.”

 

I am half way through my life and looking for meaning. When I looked at myself, I was reminded of all the things that I sought to do. I tried and I failed. It hurt. It hurt a lot. It hurt so much that I wanted to stop it all from hurting ever again. And I am here, on an island that is some way between Spain and England. It is not even strange.

 

Discourse marker: so, this is where I talk to you and have a chat with my inner self. What could possibly be on my mind when I am looking out to sea, a blue azure cliché that is trapped at the bottom of my balcony? Fucking rich people; and the occasional Dane who wants to reclaim Dane Law. More about the rest later as the real enemy is and probably always will be the rich. (that’s just my inner-sixth-form-proto-socialist knee-jerk).

 

I have taught the offspring of my masters before and never fretted so much about it. The old ME had become a new ME and cast aside such idealistic worries. I thought I had lost both MEs forever until coming here. Let’s get this right, I am still of the left but in the same way that only a western individualist can be. I hate orders, structures and regimes. I would last only minutes in any political party, especially the one that is now under the supervision of the career socialist, Jeremy Corbyn. That said, I am returning to the fold; I am starting to see the truth which is out there and all around me. The rich are amongst us and they are revelling in it. Again, I find myself teaching their over-privileged issue and it is becoming an issue.

 

They expect. They expect absolute fealty for the fees they fork out. Not only are they to be taught well, but they will have their work marked well and with as little input from them as is possible. A teacher of their children can never do enough for them. Take coursework. There was an expectation that I was really below-stairs staff, there to serve. Therefore, I was expected to complete the coursework for the students to a standard that would gain them a top grade. “All the teachers do it,” I was assured.

 

Now, I know these students had been through a rough time with the disintegration of the English department, but hey? Was the expectation that the teacher would write the coursework for the students and then mark it to the top standard? Perhaps, this may go some way to explaining the department’s Lady Macbeth attitude to coursework.

 

When I said that I would help them along with improvements, they sneered in a way that only rich kids can sneer. It was as if the gardener, whom they had kept imprisoned in the shed, one day turned around and refused to cut the lawn. How very dare he? If these rich girls had had the dogs with them, they would have set them on me; right then, right there.

 

This was a time to reach for my happy tablets. I was about to be savaged to death, torn to literal bite-size pieces, Peterloo’d for my insolence.

images-27 A shot of me when I got back to the apartment that evening.

In truth, many students who I have taught have wanted more than I was prepared to give. As a teacher, we have our lines, and those lines are not to be crossed. I have heard of some state schools going in for whole-scale-manufacturing of coursework. I have heard of cupboards being full of ‘just-in-case’ coursework. I have heard of arguments that centre on the fact that the rich kids have all the advantages so the disadvantaged need more assistance. It wasn’t the fault of these well-off offspring, it was me without Prozac.  

 

I didn’t know if it was helping me or not. Like many people, I had a fear of being addicted to the drug for the rest of my natural, but, without it, I felt vulnerable. Interestingly, reports gained through the Freedom of Information act revealed that in half the 47 trials used to approve the six leading antidepressants, the drugs failed to outperform the sugar-coated placebos they were up against.

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When they did, it was by only two points on a 52-point depression rating.

Not Taken, But Stirred!

 

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

Robert Frost

 

I am back there now, at the first reading of this poem. Something clicked. It was akin to love at first sight, like the moment I met my wife. I was pulled towards it and it spoke to me. It said that I should always be myself and, as being myself was not being anybody else, I should shun the ways of others. EGOCENTRIC NUT!

So I read and digested Frost’s words and put them into action for the rest of my life. Even now, I cannot read them without wanting to walk, or run, through the woods, find an overgrown trail and follow it rather than choosing the designated footpath. Oh, what a quintessential American frontiersman I would have been. Unfortunately, the American Frontier has been officially closed since 1896. Nevertheless, there are other frontiers and they seem to constantly want to find me.

So, my latest frontier is Mallorca. No matter how much I try, I cannot convince myself that Mallorca is an undiscovered country. In the course of a year, just less than ten-million tourists visit the island. It is a European ‘bolt-hole’, a place to kick-back and relax, stop and enjoy. It can provide the most beautiful of landscapes, the richest of the rich, the quiet and serene; or just a place to get drunk and brown for two-weeks. For me, it was what I hoped to be the final leg of my pilgrimage back to normality. Again, there’s the rub. For somebody who lives by The Road Not Taken, normality is not what I want nor need. So, why was I there?

 

images-26Because it was there.

 

My life has followed this pattern for as long as I can remember. There is something freewheeling about my approach to it that is both bothersome and engrossing. Tiredness ought to have settled upon me by now and I should be at that stage when I put my feet up, relax and just accept the onset of evening. I am going all Robert Frost again with my backwoods approach to the business of living; the three most important things he taught me about life were:

  1. It
  2. goes
  3. on.

 

So, Robert Frost, thank you!

In reality, I don’t need much coaxing.

 

“You, we, have a big decision to make,” Sophie told me this morning.

 

We had both been awake for quite some time, me in Mallorca and she in Beverley. Both of us had been thinking about the possibility of the move out here on a semi-permanent basis and both of us had had to consider the Brexit ramifications. Again, the absolute uncertainty of the world pervades our own.

 

“I can’t make this decision for us,” I told her with some honesty. “It is not my place. I am here just as a pathfinder.” Backwoodsman once again.

 

She agreed with me and then gave me a list of things that I had to find out, for certain.

 

In truth, the certainty of anything is temporary. Time flies, it waits for no man, it is a healer and a destroyer. Time could be on my side or it could be playing for the other team. After a lifetime of treating life as a tapas bar, I find my choices now limited to a decision to stay or go. If, and for a two-letter word it is massive, if I stay there will be changes and I know that my wife is not good with changes. If could mean that we are thrown into the abyss of uncertainty again and if could be the undoing of everything we have worked for, including our marriage. If we move here, there will be a household of ifs, each demanding our attention. If is a cliff edge that presents us with a possible panorama of possibilities and potential anxieties; we could move to the edge and take to flight or we could plummet.

 

This is where my father comes in again. For my eighteenth-birthday he brought me a framed copy of Kipling’s famous poem, If.

 

If you can dream and not make dream your master,

I f you can think, and not make thoughts your aim

 

Yes, I get it. I was supposed to dream but not to become a dreamer. This, I failed in. I was expected to think and not make thoughts my goal in life. I failed this too. Sorry, Dad, but by your reckoning I never have become a man. The conditional would never allow me to graduate from teenager to manhood. I dream and I think, therefore I am (a two-penny tosspot). And yet, IF stands in my way. IF, IF, IF. All a bloody bit IFFY is you ask me, but you won’t because the pun is too bad or you’ll never get to read this bloody whatever it is.

IF you and your friends do read this, then I’ll be a MAN.

 

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From To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

 

I love an Atticus quote. But his one must have been overlooked because I too often gave in and walked away.

 

Being an individual in a culture that prizes the group over all else is difficult. There have been times when I thought it to be impossible. Even so, I pulled away from the general gravity and tried to free-step into a space where few had gone before. A little Captain Tiberius Kirk, eh? But it is true. It seems that all of my basic philosophy has been completed by mainstream writers. Surely, that does not make me an individual. What it makes me is a ‘sucker’ or a dreamer. Perhaps that is it, I am a dreamer and always have been. I have also built.

 

I think that I am a ‘creative’. That means something to me because it tells me that I do belong, but I belong to a small tribe of strange individuals who rarely meet. The thing with being a ‘creative’ is that you do create, but you follow a very different path to that taken by others.

Creativity is very messy.

 

According to one prominent theory, the creative process involves four stages: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. This is all well and good in theory. In reality, the creative process often feels like this:

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Taken from:

The Messy Minds of Creative People

By Scott Barry Kaufman

 

This is a little like mine but there are some subtle differences. When I was young,  loved the challenge of creating something new. Unfortunately, I spent most of my time thinking about it and then forgot to apply myself properly to the finished product. My processes went something like this:

 

images-22  (Freudian mistake)

 

This:

The-Creative-Process-1024x935

Somehow, knowing that I was who I was, right from the off, has made my decisions for me. I am a fish that finds it impossible to swim backwards. I didn’t chose the road-less traveled-by, it chose me.

 

I knew I was licked before I started, but I did it anyway. 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Taken, But Stirred!

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

Robert Frost

 

I am back there now, at the first reading of this poem. Something clicked. It was akin to love at first sight, like the moment I met my wife. I was pulled towards it and it spoke to me. It said that I should always be myself and, as being myself was not being anybody else, I should shun the ways of others. EGOCENTRIC NUT!

So I read and digested Frost’s words and put them into action for the rest of my life. Even now, I cannot read them without wanting to walk, or run, through the woods, find an overgrown trail and follow it rather than choosing the designated footpath. Oh, what a quintessential American frontiersman I would have been. Unfortunately, the American Frontier has been officially close since 1896. Nevertheless, there are other frontiers and they seem to constantly want to find me.

So, my latest frontier is Mallorca. No matter how much I try, I cannot convince myself that Mallorca is an undiscovered country. In the course of a year, just less than ten-million tourists visit the island. It is a European ‘bolt-hole’, a place to kick-back and relax, stop and enjoy. It can provide the most beautiful of landscapes, the richest of the rich, the quiet and serene; or just a place to get drunk and brown for two-weeks. For me, it was what I hoped to be the final leg of my pilgrimage back to normality. Again, there’s the rub. For somebody who lives by The Road Not Taken, normality is not what I want nor need. So, why was I there?

 

images-26Because it was there.

 

My life has followed this pattern for as long as I can remember. There is something freewheeling about my approach to it that is both bothersome and engrossing. Tiredness ought to have settled upon me by now and I should be at that stage when I put my feet up, relax and just accept the onset of evening. I am going all Robert Frost again with my backwoods approach to the business of living; the three most important things he taught me about life were:

  1. It
  2. goes
  3. on.

 

So, Robert Frost, thank you!

In reality, I don’t need much coaxing.

 

“You, we, have a big decision to make,” Sophie told me this morning.

 

We had both been awake for quite some time, me in Mallorca and she in Beverley. Both of us had been thinking about the possibility of the move out here on a semi-permanent basis and both of us had had to consider the Brexit ramifications. Again, the absolute uncertainty of the world pervades our own.

 

“I can’t make this decision for us,” I told her with some honesty. “It is not my place. I am here just as a pathfinder.” Backwoodsman once again.

 

She agreed with me and then gave me a list of things that I had to find out, for certain.

 

In truth, the certainty of anything is temporary. Time flies, it waits for no man, it is a healer and a destroyer. Time could be on my side or it could be playing for the other team. After a lifetime of treating life as a tapas bar, I find my choices now limited to a decision to stay or go. If, and for a two-letter word it is massive, if I stay there will be changes and I know that my wife is not good with changes. If could mean that we are thrown into the abyss of uncertainty again and if could be the undoing of everything we have worked for, including our marriage. If we move here, there will be a household of ifs, each demanding our attention. If is a cliff edge that presents us with a possible panorama of possibilities and potential anxieties; we could move to the edge and take to flight or we could plummet.

 

This is where my father comes in again. For my eighteenth-birthday he brought me a framed copy of Kipling’s famous poem, If.

 

If you can dream and not make dream your master,

I f you can think, and not make thoughts your aim

 

Yes, I get it. I was supposed to dream but not to become a dreamer. This, I failed in. I was expected to think and not make thoughts my goal in life. I failed this too. Sorry, Dad, but by your reckoning I never have become a man. The conditional would never allow me to graduate from teenager to manhood. I dream and I think, therefore I am (a two-penny tosspot). And yet, IF stands in my way. IF, IF, IF. All a bloody bit IFFY is you ask me, but you won’t because the pun is too bad or you’ll never get to read this bloody whatever it is.

IF you and your friends do read this, then I’ll be a MAN.

 

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From To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

 

I love an Atticus quote. But his one must have been overlooked because I too often gave in and walked away.

 

Being an individual in a culture that prizes the group over all else is difficult. There have been times when I thought it to be impossible. Even so, I pulled away from the general gravity and tried to free-step into a space where few had gone before. A little Captain Tiberius Kirk, eh? But it is true. It seems that all of my basic philosophy has been completed by mainstream writers. Surely, that does not make me an individual. What it makes me is a ‘sucker’ or a dreamer. Perhaps that is it, I am a dreamer and always have been. I have also built.

 

I think that I am a ‘creative’. That means something to me because it tells me that I do belong, but I belong to a small tribe of strange individuals who rarely meet. The thing with being a ‘creative’ is that you do create, but you follow a very different path to that taken by others.

Creativity is very messy.

 

According to one prominent theory, the creative process involves four stages: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. This is all well and good in theory. In reality, the creative process often feels like this:

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Taken from:

The Messy Minds of Creative People

By Scott Barry Kaufman

 

This is a little like mine but there are some subtle differences. When I was young,  loved the challenge of creating something new. Unfortunately, I spent most of my time thinking about it and then forgot to apply myself properly to the finished product. My processes went something like this:

 

images-22  (Freudian mistake)

 

This:

The-Creative-Process-1024x935

Somehow, knowing that I was who I was, right from the off, has made my decisions for me. I am a fish that finds it impossible to swim backwards. I didn’t chose the road-less traveled-by, it chose me.

 

I knew I was licked before I started, but I did it anyway. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extract From AWOL: The Story of Adam

.images-23  From The Flood Novels by me.

 

As the lights dominoed around the great room, I was struck by a moment of blindness. We had been in the semi-dark for so long that I had to squint in the face of the glare. I held my hand over my eyes for a while longer and waited for them to adjust. When I finally was able to look at the room that was being illuminated, I blinked in absolute disbelief.

My mother had told me about these places. She told me that once upon a time all communities had them. They were central to much that went on and the young, especially the young, were encouraged to use them. She said that the oldest ones went back to the birth of civilization and that great empires were built around them. She also said that some ‘great’ empires feared them and so burnt or razed them to the ground. Yet within these buildings was stored much of what man knew. She called them libraries.

What I was looking at now was certainly one of these places. Books, thousands of them, ran from wall to wall, sitting on shelves and tables. A rainbow of colours decorated the world in which I was standing, the books themselves illuminating their surroundings in a fashion that mere light could not do. I reached out my hand and ran it along the spines of a number of tomes. The feeling that came back was astonishingly comforting even though small plumes of dust took to the air.

“They’re beautiful aren’t they?” My companion had taken off his hood and was gazing at the library with the same fascination I felt. “No matter how many times I come here, I cannot get over the fact that they look so beautiful.” He smiled at me and continued, “When I first came here, I wanted to read everything there was. I started at the letter A and thought that I could work my way through within a month. That was ten years ago. I’m only up to E.”

“E?”

“Yes. I know it sounds a little pathetic, but there are a lot of books.”

I allowed my eyes to roam over the shelves. There were many books. Many books and each one was of a size and weight that was surprising. I had never seen a real book before and had never expected them to be so big.

“Is it alright if I hold one?” I asked nervously. I was anxious to touch feel the reality behind those digibooks I had spent my life reading.

“Sure,” my guide answered, “go ahead. Anything in particular?”

“I like the classics.”

“Shakespeare and Dickens?”

I shook my head. In truth, I found those two rather silly writers lacking depth.

“Blyton,” I said. “I like Alan Blyton.”

“Alan Blyton? I don’t think I know him. What did he write?”

“Many famous novels. You must have heard of the Famous Five books, Malory Towers and Ernest, The Naughtiest Boy in the School.”

“Enid. You mean Enid Blyton not Alan.”

I shook my head, not fully comprehending  what he was saying. His hood was still up and his face was half in shadow.

“What kind of a name is Enid?” I laughed.

“It’s an old fashioned name. It was a woman’s name.”

This made me laugh even more. The boy must be a little retarded.

“Women don’t write,” I told him.

He’d been half-turned away from me before this. Then he pulled his hood completely down revealing an oddly shaped face. Something about it reminded me of my mother.

“Well, I write!”

The weight of the statement almost fell past me. Then it landed. I looked at him with new eyes. I replayed the voice that had just been speaking, I studied the face some more, and then, I put what I had together.

“Are you a …”

“Girl. I’m a girl,” she said proudly. “You’ve probably never seen one before have you? Well, not one my age.”

She was right. In all of my life, I had only ever seen mothers and most of those were not always very evident. Girls, I had never seen.

“Your government, The Family, thought it better for you that girls were not part of society. They were discouraged.” She looked at me with the beginning of a wry smile. “Have you never questioned that? Have you never wondered where about the opposite sex?”

The truth was that I hadn’t. Of all the things that I had thought about (mostly how to pass exams and stay in school), I had never given a second to the fantastical concept of there being an opposite sex. But here, with one of them standing in front of me, it was no longer fantastical. My first thought was that I had met an alien, one from a different planet. My second thought, not so much a thought as a confused miasma of stirrings, was intrigue.

“They have really done a good job on you all haven’t they?” This time, there was an edge of anger in her voice and for some inexplicable reason, I felt guilty.

“Adam,” a voice called. Within it, I recognised a memory.

I looked up to the first floor and there leaning over the balcony was, well it was my brother

 

Certain. 100%?

doubt-is-not-a-pleasant-condition-but-certainty-is-absurdCornerstone-bookshop.jpg

Certain words can define one’s life or the stages of that life.

 

“If things were a little more certain…”

This was in a text from my wife. She needs structure and certainty whereas I am not so in need of it.

At the moment, I am living for the moment, knowing that that may change. I am caught up in the instant and moving wherever that seems to be taking me. At the moment, I am here. And here seems much more certain than the certainty that structure creates. When I am asked about my plans for the weekend or plans for the future, I shrug my shoulders and say something like, “We’ll see what happens.”  And that is now the truth. This is my truth. I am not planning for the future and I refute that not planning is planning to fail. We have Benjamin Franklin, the father of time management, to thank for that. On the point of Time Management, just what is it?

Time manages me and I roll with it.

Let’s have a look at planning. Just this morning, my little band of an English department had a minor civil war. Three of us, the new ones, have been rolling with what we have and getting great reviews from parents and students alike. Another one of our number has been here for donkey’s years (two) and knows the ropes. She is not a qualified teacher, but she has been teaching for many years. She comes in, goes into her classroom and closes her door, before re-opening it at the end of the day to go home. She is a proper teacher who is run off her feet. I think it is safe to say that the more established one feels one is, it is certain that one will not get carried away on the tide of “getting on with it”. Things just have to have been written down by somebody at some time during the pre-history of education. ‘Getting on with it’ is just breaking the rules and the rules are there for a reason: not to be broken!

I have met her type before. Meeting them is preceded with a fragile breaking of the face, an attempt at a smile, but the true gesture has long since been forgotten in that person’s muscle memory. She wants to stick with what they have always done, but the problem is that she has not really ever done anything apart from turning the pages of a text book in order to find new comprehensions to do. Her relative longevity is down to the fact that people tend to leave after a term, either of their own choosing, being hounded out, or having been suspected of some heinous crime that even the gossips dare not whisper. So far, it sounds so much like an ordinary state school; that’s where it ends. Here, there is no management to speak of. The school runs along of its own accord and, as long as nobody upsets the cart, that’s how it will continue.

There are teachers like me who come in and believe that they can graft all of what they have learnt, in the stifling atmosphere of English education, onto these different vessels, believing that the magic that has brought about rapid stagnation in Britain will miraculously alter the achievements of these few ex-pat children. It would be better to try trepanning or electric shock therapy; it doesn’t work. What you get is a few bright sparks who shine brightly for a short while and are then are snuffed out. This English department has seen more changes than a baby’s nappy. And there is something a little soiled about it all.

Certain? The only certainty is death and taxes and the fact that the next winner of the Eurovision Song Contest will be in possession of very little actual talent. But what is certain is the uncertainty that now welcomes me.

I don’t think that I am any longer mad.

That’s not certain, but it is a temporary affirmation brought about through the writing of this thing. I was forced into changing hotel accommodation yesterday which did bring back a shiver of anxiety. My stomach convulsed, I did not eat and I certainly did not sleep. That was a reminder that things are only as good as the situation allows. Nevertheless, it passed without incident. I moved hotels, had a beer, had some food and then slept. In between that, I spoke to my wife and kids. My youngest had just won a regional Spelling Bee in French and will be competing nationally at Cambridge. On a raft of fatherly pride, I was launched into the ocean of the night and reached land this morning.

My cycle to work brought me to a cafe which I have recently adopted as part of my own certainty, or tradition as I like to call it, and then onto school; that odd mixture of plaid skirts and short trousers, and a teacher, who is not a teacher, who believes that coursework is the work of Satan. Another certainty is that she will lock herself in her room as soon as she gets in, just to avoid speaking, smiling or letting others see her transmogrification into something nobody can be certain about. That’s the thing with people, all people, it takes an awful long time for one to become fairly certain about another.

To predict behaviours based on observed knowledge is an essential factor in forming friendships and relationships both at work and as part of social or family life. When they go off-piste, in a fashion that astounds and disappoints, it’s because we have not been reading them properly or that we are one of those stubborn individuals who still have faith in others. Why hasn’t anyone developed predictive text for human behaviour? It would be so much easier and probably much funnier.

 People who live in glassware hoses should groan tomatoes. And that’s probably for curtains.

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