The positives of being negative

Today I spoke to someone who gave me bad news and yet raised my spirits.

I can’t say, at this stage, who she is or why I was calling her; but she isn’t a friend and she wasn’t trying to give me good news. In fact, she gave me pretty awful news in some respects.

But then, I’ve been living with the fear of similar such news for quite some time. Everything good that I have touched, tasted, felt or otherwise experienced for the last few months has been tinged – almost poisoned – by this fear.

The woman I spoke to was clearly someone in tune with my thinking for she agreed: “prepare for the worst and then anything else is a bonus.”

That’s just how I think in general. I’ve forever called myself a ‘realist optimist’ because I don’t blindly hope for the best as an optimist but nor do I suffer the depression of the realist. The glass may be half-full with me but I’m not blind to the fact that some of its contents have been spilt; I’m just grateful I still have half of it.

This woman gave me, today, some of the half-glass – just at a time when I was beginning to struggle to see any contents at all. At the same time she was honest enough to tell me more contents will be lost – perhaps much more – but that some definitely will remain. I see blessings in that and my spirits have been raised in knowing that the world isn’t quite as uncertain as I thought it might be.

And that’s enough to see me through – at least for the next few days. But my children and wifey will be coming home soon so I had better sign off. In a still relatively uncertain world I want to lose no time in just being with the people in my life who matter. I can’t spend time with those I love in Bangladesh – we can’t afford to fly there though we’re desperate to be back with our loved ones; I can’t spend time with others around the country who I love dearly and wish so much lived right next door; but I can spend time with my family. That’s my half-full glass; that’s my blessings.

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15 Books which changed me

I recently blogged on Writeoutloud about the books which were the greatest influence on me and thought some of you might like to take a look. If so, click the link below:

15 Books which changed me

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The Mortality of Fear

Tomorrow will be Thing I‘s fourteenth birthday. It’s quite unnerving to think she’s that old already. 

If I think about taking the time we had in Bangladesh – a good 5-6 years – and jump forward that same amount of time again, Thing I will not only have left the home by then but probably be a good way through her degree (there’s little doubt she’ll do one – she probably could right now to be honest). Thing II will have nearly finished his A level years.

What a difference that time in Bangladesh made to both our children. Thing II was not much more than a walking, babbling baby in many ways. Too young for full-time school at LAMB, I had to partially home-school him in the early months. Now he’s shot up so much that he’s bypassed the girls in terms of height, is nearly as tall as me and his voice has been breaking so long that I’d almost forgotten that less than a year ago he had a high-pitched boys voice and I found it funny to hear moments of low pitches coming out of him. I couldn’t imagine him with a man’s voice. Now, I can’t remember what his boy’s voice sounded like at all.

And that’s where I become sad – and frightened.

My children’s childhood is almost over. They seem to have hurtled into the teenage years (Thing II before even getting past eleven). My son looks older than his sister and his sister is maturer than her years. As we’ve unpacked the house I’ve found box after box of their things we packed before leaving for Bangladesh and many of them are such distant memories that it feels like someone else’s children used to play with them. Now we play pool together or work out Dave Gilmour’s solos on the electric guitar, or make jokes in Latin – when did we start to do such adult things?

The speed of their growing up terrifies me as does the thought of my missing their final growing years. It wells up inside me and leaks into my brain, blackening areas and filling my head with morbidity. What if, I wonder, I’m not there to see their finals hops and skips of childhood before they take wing? What if I miss those final remaining moments?

I honestly don’t know if it is my desire to keep them as childlike and innocent for as long as possible or if it is just that my fears make me very aware of my own mortality.

This mortality is having a profound effect on me currently.There’s so much fear and tension lurking in the wings that I can feel it almost sapping the life from me day by day.

“I just need a little while longer,” I shout to it in the darkness, “you can have me – I won’t put up a fight – but let it not be quite yet.”

But there’s no answer from the shadows. no confirmation whether I’ve got ten years, ten days or ten hours. Just silence; silence which consumes me day by day.

But tomorrow, just for one day, the fear will be banished and mortality’s silence won’t be listened to. Just for one day there will be guaranteed laughter and joy and fun and love and hugs and childlike enjoyment of life from all of us. Just for one day – as long as nothing jumps out of the shadows to swallow me whole in one go as it so threatens to do – I will enjoy my children as children; and celebrate the blessings their lives have been to me.

Tomorrow will be a good day spent with good friends celebrating the special day for one of them. I will love every minute of it.

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For the love of an insect

If I turned into an insect would you still love me?

If people called me an insect and insisted I was an insect would you believe them and think of me as a repulsive creature too? Or would you still love the ‘me’ I used to be?

And if, after a period of time of having lots of people branding me an insect, I really did begin to display insect-like features – would you still be there for me? Care for me? Protect me? What if those features could never go away? What if I transformed fully into an odious creature overnight?

What if my being an insect was so repulsive to everyone that it made it difficult for those important to you to accept your love for me. What if they mocked you, jeered at you, struck you on the back? Would you still love me? Would you still be there for me?

What if you felt I had betrayed you in becoming an insect? What if you felt, deep in your heart, that I should have told you what was going to happen? Even if I couldn’t – even if I woke up one morning and discovered someone had been spreading rumours and said I was one and gradually I took on the appearance of a grotesque bug as a result against my own will. Would you hold on to what you thought you knew of me? What you thought I was – long ago – would it be enough to make you love me despite the complete absence of the reality now?

Or would you crush me? Hurl things at me? Throw me out of your house with a scream? Would you be terrified of me? Would you call for help until someone came and got rid of me? Would you lock me in a room where I could starve in the dark and gradually just disappear? Would you join the others mocking and jeering at me? Would you hate me? Despise me? Want to kill me?

Would I even love you in the same way? Would I turn against you? Or would I love you in a different way – an insect way perhaps? Would I retreat to my room and hide under the couch until I faded away – eaten by other insects – and could no longer embarrass you with my dirty, repulsive insectness? What if I left you so you could breathe in fresh air and be you again, free of me? Would you recognise that as my love for you or would my feelings for you be as alien as I had myself become?

If I turned into an insect would you still love me?

 The above musings were inspired by thinking about Franz Kafka’s story ‘The Metamorphosis’. I am beginning to believe there is more wisdom about life as it really is in his surrealism than we normally give him credit for. Certainly, I am currently drawing comfort from his way of thinking.

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Home Sweet Home

If you’ve followed this blog long enough you may remember this:??????????????????????

These barrels, filled with most of our worldly goods in Bangladesh, have finally been emptied – along with boxes and boxes of ‘stuff’ which have accumulated over the years and have sat for six of those years in the lofts and garages of friends and family.

The new house still looks somewhat like a warehouse with a few rooms (oh all right then – most) having piles of boxes in them. Nevertheless, after just over a week of unpacking (carefully avoiding working on the book I’m trying to finish writing, of course) some of the rooms are taking shape. I thought I’d show you my favourite ones…

First – just so you get an idea of the chaos reigning supreme – this is the room that will be (if all goes to plan) Ria’s room when she finally gets here. Visa red tape hoops have been jumped through but we’re hoping she’ll finally make it here to begin her degree by next month. Let’s hope we’ve cleared this room by then!

Ria's room (aka warehouse)

Ria’s room (aka warehouse)

The kitchen is very much wifey’s favourite for the chief reason that, for the first time in our lives, we finally have a kitchen with an AGA cooker. The excitement of actually reaching that long-awaited dream was, however, considerably quashed when the fuel company supplying our gas and electricity told us our monthly fuel bill will now be 150% more than what we were paying! As of now, we’re wearing double jumpers come Autumn and reading our books in the dark…

The kitchen of our dreams (the fuel bills of our nightmares...)

The kitchen of our dreams (the fuel bills of our nightmares…)

The shared love for all the family is the living room. For thing I it is because of the TV. For thing II it is because he can play on his Playstation here. For Wifey it is the fireplace – we have a fireplace in nearly every room of the house!

We've already enjoyed several wood-burning fires in this room

We’ve already enjoyed several wood-burning fires in this room

For me though it is because my favourite collection of books is housed there.

I've still not read ALL of these yet...

I’ve still not read ALL of these yet…

As you can see from this last picture, I’m a bit of a collector – especially where magazine collections are involved. Some are more serious – on literature or art and so on – others are just silly. You can spot them in the next room: My playroom.

Yes, I have my own playroom! Complete with a pool table, table football, multi-gym and shelves dedicated to Sci-fi and family games.  I am not ashamed to admit that I’m just a big kid at heart!

But most of my books – and all my musical instruments are housed in my study. I finally have a study which fits them all in and gives me room for a desk to actually write on. It may not be pretty (and still has things needing putting away) but it’s getting there. It even has a chess table in front of the fireplace ready to challenge guests to a friendly game over and nice glass of whisky after dinner. Yeah – this is my form of Downton Abbey.

Very finally, anyone who knows me in real life knows that no house is truly mine if it does not provide appropriate reading material for guests using our ‘rest rooms’ for their toiletry needs. Our old ‘reading boat’ – so beloved back in the days before we lived in Bangladesh – is back in use in our bathroom. Actually we have two bathrooms now and that has meant I can separate my ‘toilet reading’ books into two! I know this may appal some of you but if the home is an Englishman’s castle then it seems appropriate to me that he has something decent to read on his throne.

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