Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Swiss Diaries - VIII

In Switzerland I have seen...

•No obese Swiss. The only grossly overweight have been American - judging by their accent. Sad.

• No money on the street - not a single coin. Perhaps because smallest common coin is 5, and the smallest still made is 10.

• Less litter, but more cigarette butts than USA. Smoking is very popular.

•A girl at Lucern Backpackers say "geography" saying both G's like the second one. She said "accurate" with emphasis on the second syllable, and said "Zürich" - "Tsurii".

• Lots of Asians - in Lucerne especially. Few other Europeans, besides Swiss and German or French, but a number of Aussies.

• Toilets that do not allow vertical urination; also, ones that empty onto the ground, and ones that cost up to Chf1.50 to make use of.

• I have met Italian, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, English, and Dutch, Danish, Scandinavian (one of the peninsular countries), Finnish, and Polish speakers. Probably more.

J. William English

Monday, 27 December 2010

Storybook Love

A new blog has just been launched for the publishing of prose and other stories, long-finished or in progress. Follow it to keep up to date on this author's comings and goings in the literary field, for a laugh, or an occasional enjoyable read.

Swiss Diaries - VII

Luzern/Lucerne - Backpacker Hostel 21.40
4, Dec 2010

Today was good; but I spent too much money. The thing is, I don't regret any of it. Food,souvenirs - I must try to be more careful. Perhaps I am running out. I don't know.
There's a chance I'll stay in Patrick Surrat's sister's house Wednesday. That would be really great. Tuesday I'm still working out, but perhaps I'll just be in Zürich anyway. Pass runs out by midnight. I'll need to be at a place before then. That way, Zürich all day, and airport in the morning.

So, today: 1. I was in the WC in a train, and went to [make use of the facilities] and saw the ground moving beneath me. Straight down to the middle of the tracks it all goes. Heavens.
Usual, or malfunction? Not sure.

I woke late again. That stunk, but oh well. 7.57 I was out of bed and on my way to the station soon after. Grindelwald by 10.00 or so, a couple hours there and then to Interlaken for an hour. Bought souvenirs, took pictures, lots of walking - both places. In Grindelwald, there was a place you could see, 3 mountains, and the middle one was sunny while the others were not. It looked very cool. Interlaken was good; things aren't so stressful. I picked up some grapefruit soda at
Coop - so good. Also, breads along the way. Amazing.

Took Golden Pass to Lucerne after Interlaken.
Very beautiful drive, indeed. I found it
stimulating - 2 hours or so from Ost to HB. Once
in Lucerne I headed to the hostel after finding
tourist info on it, church services, etc.

(McDonald's and Burger King are somewhat frequent, but they are not cheap food; if you eat there, it is primarily for the taste, not convenience.)

Lucerne Packpackers is amazing. Great stuff here, for sure. After I booked a room, I headed to the Old Town. An old fortified wall is still standing in parts of the city, and I got to walk along it at dusk. Enjoyable, quite. The town is beautiful and the bridges are amazing - one a covered relic of 1453, it spans the river and looks out on swans, ducks, and water fowl of every sort. Heard a cellist and threw some money at
her; she was cute. Heard some trumpeters playing classical and took a video. Didn't throw money as they were not cute.

After dark, I headed back, got a beer and yoghurt at Coop, breads at somewhere else - in the Bahnof - and returned to
eat. When I sat down, a woman joined my table and we got to talking. She is from New England, and on a two-month trip in Europe. We discussed everything from experiences to life, occupations, etc. She gave me some of her extra food, and a calling card for Chf5 - to book some hostels. Yippee! Anyway, that was a highlight. Well then, (Name, by the way, Leslie) I was talking to the girl in charge of the hostel, about Switzerland, and boat rides, and life, and English, and school - she is quite funny.

Other titbits: saw green fields (blood was cloddily warm; kudos if you get that joke) on way to Lucerne - that was cool. Got cold on walk, but felt good not to have pack. Forgot extra batteries so mine died while 22 sat in my backpack at hostel and site after site of Old Lucerne went unphotographed. Dash.

Now it's 10.02 - my bag needs packing, and I should sleep. Church at 10.00. Protestant. Then boat ride, then to Lugano for the night. Should be good.

Guess that's it. From my window I see snowy trees, a moon-shimmering Lake Lucerne, and the city across the water. I am beginning to be okay. Still, be ready for home when Thursday comes.

J. William English

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Pause

Before continuing the previous series of diary entries...I'd like to spill some words not directly related.

I watch as the wild of the world wrestles with winter's wondrous weather white. I feel the freezing, foul frost on fiery fingers filled with frightful frenzy. I taste the tortured tomb of tree and time on tongue. I sense the sweet smell of seeping sap slowly slaughtered by the slice of sorrow's season. Hark, I hear the hollow, horrid howl honing the hours till Hell's havoc heaps on home and homme. Winter, this freezing tomb of slaughtered hours - where fear tears at the sap of our hearts, from end to end, till as all it touches, winter at last kills itself, a white and frightful taste of seasonal, suicidal Hell. Romanticised, dreaded, loved, mourned: for ninety days, perhaps a little more, our world wishes it were wrested from this winter, white wonderland.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Swiss Diaries - VI

Lauterbrunnen - B&B essentially
3 December 2010

The place I'm staying at is Chf28 a night, single room. Even though I was alone last night, this is the first time with real privacy. I like it. It's not the same as being alone. Alone is purely psychological. Privacy - well, maybe that's psychological too. Who knows.

Today has been long, but a good day. I'm sitting here eating PB-bar and drinking Passion Fruit beer, the first chance I've had to write all day.

For starters I slept in. My alarm went off, but I was too tired and set it again. The next time, I was going to get up after just a minute - and then it was 8:42. Two hours later.

An odd note: Shirts and calendars are super expensive here - whilst mugs, shot glasses, and spoons are fairly reasonable. In any case, as I was saying, I got up late, ate breakfast, and was on my way about 9 half. First to Wilderswil, then to Wengen - both of which are very small and very nice. Wengen is where Nelly lives, but I didn't see her, though I did see a lot of shops, streets, and snow. The churches are wonderfully built. Oh, and Wengen is only accessible by train.

After Wengen I booked a room at Lauterbrunnen, and headed to Thun. Thun was fun, with old streets, shops, and a castle/museum. Only open on Sunday, though. It's another town - 41,000 - situated on the River Aare. Beautiful views from up high. I found this delightful staircase leading many steps to the elevated portion that looks down on everyone else. It's great.

Then I decided to go to Visp. I took the train there and wandered about for about 20 minutes - time to buy some bread-things (delicious) from Coop Pronto, and something (yes, alas) from McDonald's. Just to see what it was like. Better than usual, honestly.

I decided to take a bus to Brig, so I hopped on and took off. That was enjoyable and I walked around the old "Platz" where booths and pubs and a skating rink were set up. I want to find out what Rathaus means, because I see it everywhere in almost every city, like "Rathausstrasse" or "Rathausplatz".

(A side note: Nelly refers to Asians by frowning and pulling at her eyes. It is quite amusing.)

The most interesting thing all night is perhaps what happened as I was heading around a corner in Brig. I heard bells long and loud, and followed the noise to a Catholic church. I went in and found them beginning a service. I sat down to participate - knowing I had 20 minutes to catch the train.

There was chanting first - with nobody visible leading. Then the organ played after people trickled further in - over 100 of them - and then a woman came out, put two big heavy books on two tables/podiums and sat down. A few moments later a man, followed by two girls and one boy, entered from a door and the man began to read from the Bible. There was chanting and then I had to go catch my train - but it was fascinating, if French, so rather hard to understand.

I know the feeling of running for a bus, or a train, or several - on ice, snow, anything. Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes it's bad luck instead of good. Toward Interlaken train to Lauterbrunnen, I jumped off the arriving train (From Thun, 8:00, 6m late) and tried to run but fell smack on my palms. The ice was invisible in the bad light, and I didn't even notice it. They smart still.

Outside there is snow, high cliffs, Christmas lights, cars, a tall waterfall, a river, snow, ice - more snow, mountains, Alpine forests, people sleeping, a church steeple lit by moonlight...and on, and on. Soon I'm for bed and then at 6:45 depart for Grindelwald and then on to Lucerne.

Here is the current plan. We'll see how I stick to it: Lucerne at night, see it during the day. Sunday night, Lugano. Church at Lucerne if possible. Ticino by train Sunday, then on foot Monday. Andreotti's Monday night, Graubunden & Liechtenstein Tuesday. Zürich Hostel Tuesday, or possibly no sleep. Zürich Wednesday, and home Thursday. There you go. Whoever "you" is. Probably some descendant who doesn't even know me.

That's it for now. Night,

J. William English

P.S. The passion fruit was amazing. Now I'm so ready for bed. 11:00pm

Monday, 20 December 2010

Swiss Diaries - V

Interlaken - Balmer's Hostel 2 December 21:43

It's been a long night. Sort of. The scenic train was beautiful. You ride, and then all at once a flash of blue-grey and you're there - in front of a lake, and a falcon soars by, and the mountains are higher than you can follow. Brids, and snow; life - in the Swiss Alps.

Did some souvenir shopping in Interlaken. First things first, though, I went and booked my room. Free of my pack I left it at the hostel and journeyed into the town. Bought spoons, shot glasses, etc. Saw the mountains, took pictures, went wherever my fancy led me.

For supper, I got butter and tomatoes and Swiss Drink - something like that - that tasted like hard lemonade but was non-alcoholic. I grilled 2 sandwiches and ate supper, then went to watch some pool. Met three people: Allie, a 23-year-old from Canada, on a 6-month trip, who talks and swears, works at a bar, and gets drunk frequently - though not always in that order.

As well, a man, I've forgotten already the name [Steve] and Jango his son, who are staying here. Everyone swears a lot. It's annoying, and sickening to be honest, but perhaps it's good to be exposed to it. Part of fleeing it - seeing what it does when it's unleashed and let go. I called the Andreotti's (sp?) and set up Monday to go to their house. That will be good.

After waiting and talking, everyone went to the bar downstairs and I had half a litre of cidre, and am dizzy. Allie is just getting started. She'll be stoned when she finishes emailing her resume. Jango is well on his way. Me? I had enough to give me a pleasant evening, and a good night's rest before an early start tomorrow. Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Thun—maybe Lucerne.

That's about it. I know I promised more description but the Alps are themselves. My words will do as well as all the others; largely nothing. My bed will come soon. I feel a little nervous. In a way, Thursday still cannot come soon enough. I do miss home, and family, friends. It's not the same - non-Christians who don't share a common bond. It makes me sad.

Snow here - a little. But forecast is sunny for a few days. Works for me. Goodnight, then.

J. William English

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Swiss Diaries - IV

Bonjour! Pardon moi, monsieur - Au revoir

I am on the Golden Pass Train for Interlaken/Lucerne. It looks quite delightful. I have to say, the past few hours are a mixture of haze and blur. I'll go over what's happened.

The plan was to go to Winterthur. As fortune would have it, it stopped in Berne. At 1:13. I woke up, unsure what to do. The next train was bound for Zürich Airport (Flughafen). At 4:21. I decided to wait it out. I sheltered in the train station, but it was still cold. There were people up and walking around, but just a handful. I waited on a bench at first, until I was cold - and stiff. Then I got up and wandered about the train station to get warm. Police came and went, once in a while.

After 2:05, I went back to my place. It was cold. I got in my sleeping bag and put my blanket on. All my available wrappings encased me and I crouched on the bench, blind, wanting sleep. Moments later, I glimpsed through my eyelids a fellow approaching. He crouched by my "bed" and screamed as loud as he could. I did not jump as he had expected, and he began to swear. I sat up and told him to go away. He told me, "I speak the English too - I lived in your Los Angeles!" "Very nice, I'm almost quite sure," was my dry reply, and cursing happily, he went his way, following his cronies.

After that, I did not sleep, but waited. Presently a cold fellow wandered over and I asked him a question - in English. As it happens, he was Vince from Seattle, on a business trip in Bern. He has two high-schoolers and a college grad for family. We struck up a lively conversation all the way to Zürich.

Then I made my way to another train, which took me to HB, and I bought a delicious delicacy while waiting for Lausanne train. At Lausanne, I grabbed some chap stick for my desperate lips and more water. Then it was Montreux and 10:00. At Montreux, I had an hour and a half until the Golden Pass, so I made use of the facilities and headed to town.

Montreux is beautiful. My French gets better as I greet shopkeepers and walkers with a cheerful "Bonjour" wherever I go. After a stroll down the lakeside, I walked to the Christmas Market, just opening, where I got a few souvenirs. More walking and I came time to board, where I am now and will be for some time. It is beautiful; more description later though quickly I will say: It is bright and fairly cloudless with some good sky. Perfect for a scenic train.

J. William English

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Swiss Diaries - III cont'd

What A Night! What a night it has been and will be.

I went to Sion in search of "Les Simples." What irony, then, that it becomes of all things, most complex! The first clue I had should have warned me. Never again will I ignore the signs.

Those at the train station had never heard of the place. How silly of them, I thought. How naive, not to know their own city. Or, how stupid of me to think "Lonely Planet" was unfailing.

Sion is a French town. They do not speak German. They do not speak English. French - and only. To my chagrin, I became quickly lost, after asking more than a dozen persons for directions to the cursed "Chemin des Gardes de Nuit". I continued to bumble past post office workers, bus drivers, pedestrians and motorists, each time thwarted in my efforts. Even when they knew what it was, or where, the B&B "Les Simples" was never recognised. And so it went, until I met Jessica.

Jessica is an angel. Not only does she have the fact of one, she is through and through my greatest moment in Switzerland now, or ever I think. I met her when she noticed me, lost and confused, on a street corner. After offering directions, and translation, she led me back to the train station to get more information.

The bus I needed would leave in an hour. She offered to wait with me. I tried not to beg. At last, my loneliness was abated for a moment. We walked to a café, ordered coffee for her and a beer for me, and conversed.

Jessica is 24; she could pass for 16. She was born in Spain, but her parents split and she went with her Spanish father to Lausanne. She will go to South Korea soon for a year and a half to study the language so she can be a translator in Geneva. Amazing! German, English, French, Spanish - now Korean.

I told her my story, a little, and then it was time to go. I paid, she led me to the bus station, and we parted. In an hour, I've never had such delight after such despair. Wonderful.

But the evening is only just begun. I got off at my stop. The bus disappeared and I started walking. There was no sign of the B&B. Only a Heineken Sleazy Bar. I went inside. The waitress was attractive - "tu es tres belle" - but lacking in English. I hardly can bear to cut a long story so short, but in an hour, we both knew "Les Simples" was not in existence, camping was for summer, and cheap accommodation was ChF102. Too much.

After two smoke breaks, some strained smiles, and an offer by her to take me back to the train station, we knew only bare details of each other, but the loneliness was lessened. We went back in her boyfriend's/brother's/husband's/whoever's car, just in time. I jumped on the train to Vevey, knowing there was a hostel there.

Alas, for it was 10:00 and they were closed. An unsuccessful attempt to use a pay phone, break into the hostel, fruitless search for cheap accommodation, and I was nearly despairing. Then I had an idea. The train left from Lausanne at 11:45 - ending 2:30 in Winterthur. I could take it, wait for two hours and take it back. My night was stressful, long, but secure in a way. That's where I am now and we'll see what happens. As always - you never know.

J. William English

P.S. I got to a pay phone and dialled home. That helped a little.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Swiss Diaries - III

Train to Delamont Via Biel - 11:00; 1 December

It is snowing heavily right now. Heading out of Bern for the day; maybe a good while. Perhaps forever.

Last night was a nightmare. So stressed, so afraid and so wishing to be home, in my own room. For now, it's a little better. But I'm quite biPolar today. Took a great many long walks, and tried sleeping in a shelter. Lasted an hour and a half. Succumbed, at last, to a hostel. Tossed and turned for days - minutes it was, days it seemed anyway. Fell asleep, woke at 7:45. Ate as much as I could, and went to Parliament. After a walk around, I went out into the snow and did another pile of walking. Jumped on the first bus I saw; surprisingly, it took me to a train station. Then I decided to go to Delemont. St. Ursanne to be precise; I change trains soon here, at Biel.

We're passing some cows; everything is bright, brilliant white. The loneliness I feel is incomprehensibly acute. I might go mad. Very soon. I'll try to hold out. I want to stop writing and just watch. But I don't know when else I'll get a chance. I want my memories of this place to be good ones. I'm afraid they'll haunt me for a long time. I never understood how alone it feels - being actually alone. I've taken the opportunity to draw as near as I can to God.

My lips are chapped, my eyes haggard. I look like an animal. A wild, frightened animal. I see an Aldi at Lyss. I wonder what the prices are like. No time to check, though. Tonight, I might stay in Geneva. I don't know. Anywhere cheap, and safe. I just want to be safe. It's the alone thing. What if I died? God's here - but I'm trying to do this on my own. Help me, to let go.

Again. 1 December.

It's so blasted snowy here! I like snow, but it makes it hard to see things, and there must be over a foot of it. Everywhere; and it grows by the minute. Plans change on this trip like the wind. Missed the Delemont train because mine was late, so I hopped on one to Lausanne.

In Lausanne, I went to the Cathedral; very impressive. In fact, it was quite a pleasant time spent altogether. Wandered around for quite some time, till I stumbled into the Museum of Lausanne History. Ordinarily, I wouldn't have parted with the 9 francs it costs. But mine was covered by my pass, so I took a peek. I got to lose the pack for a bit, not the worst of it anyway, and the Museum was quaint, interesting, and full of windows for picture opportunities.

The Metro is like a Subway, but less frequent and less extensive. I used it to get from the Train Station to Cathedral, and then Lac Léman - Lake Geneva. It is like an ocean. I can't be sure but with the fog, cold, snow, and clouds it reminded me of Loch Ness.

It goes on and on. Even now, heading toward Sion, I am amazed to see it leering at every opening from the buildings or trees. Black water in winter; black and beautiful. It ripples and waves crash and the clouds descend. Astonishing. Swans, ducks, crows - they were everywhere when I walked across the pier. A boy and girl, 17 or so, were building a snow man. It looked pretty good. Earlier, trying to get to the Cathedral, I had to ask some non-English speakers for directions. We worked it out. They were very nice & friendly. The people are generally pretty helpful. It's funny, though; I listen to them talk and laugh, but I don't know what they're saying. I do pick up a lot more French than German, however.

Got on the wrong train. Or rather, I got on but didn't change at Montreux as I should have. So now I'm waiting to go back. I'd like the B&B to be available. Honestly, it might not be open. Les Simples it is. If only this were simple. I like being by myself, 25%-50% of the time, sleeping not included. Other than that, people would be nice - to talk to, to see things with. I thank God for Nelly even more, as perhaps I would already be mad without her.

Next step, if I can find a room, is to walk, without my pack. I need an ATM, and I'd like a beer or a pizza in a pub - or both. Preferably both. The accommodation is a deciding factor in where I go. For now, Sion - as I was let to believe there's something there. We will see.

J. William English

Monday, 13 December 2010

Swiss Diaries - II

Zürich - 30 November 12.00

My first glimpse of Switzerland. Beautiful, but still in the city. Waiting for train to Bern right now. Tried to call, but no answer/didn't work. Need to work on my German. It's all very European here, and the people are wonderful. But till Bern I won't have a good idea of what to expect the rest of the time.

Zürich: activated train pass; got times table; got to HB (main station), got on platform to Bern. Said goodbye to Nelly, and started to get cold. Tonight will be chilly at best. It will determine rest of trip, I think. Hopefully I can get to a grocery store in Bern. I want to eat, but don't want to pay. Have 2 Fr50 notes, which I'd like to make change of soon too. My hands are cold. More in Bern.

Bern. Berne. It's dark, so this will be messy. The Old Town is quite lovely. I enjoy the night and day aspect, each way. It does get dark very early though. Too early for me. If I remember I'll try to write when it is light out. So far I've wandered, got bread and cheese and water at Coop, and ate some of it near the Bear Pits. I would love a warm bed but for now I must do without. Tomorrow I must find Parliament, the Hotel, and do some reading and more walking. We'll see how it goes. One day gone already.

Still Night, Bern, Starbucks, with cheapest item on menu

My nerve for sleeping outside comes and goes. Directly with my body temperature, I think. It is warm here; I have done much walking and am sore. Perhaps I will sleep at hotel later in the week.

Saw Bellevue Palace, Parliament Building, lots of lighted streets. There's music and voices here in Starbucks where the cheapest drink is tea at Fr4,40 and the cheapest overall is walnut bread for Fr2,20.

Perhaps I will head back toward the church to sleep. They cannot turn me away surely. If only I can find it, or another one. It's the sleeping that worries me. The wondering what will happen, how long the night will be, how cold. And the uncertainty, with no schedule, no one to travel with. I am frightened inside. It will pass, tonight or tomorrow; for now, it grows.

There are many Christmas lights in Bern. It is beautiful. But they do not comfort me. I tried to call home again, but could not. I am alone. Completely alone.

J. William English

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Swiss Diaries

29 November 2010, Day 1 - CLT Douglas International Airport

Waiting at airport; power out on B concourse ATL AIrport. Plane delayed - that's okay as long as I can get to my other airport/airplane on time. I can overhear worried passengers asking questions of the Delta People. It should all be fine, everyone is delayed; just sit down and stay calm.

I am excited for Switzerland. No cell phone - all I have are my books, thoughts, prayers, and - well, my map I guess. I'm trying to write legibly. Never a strong point of mine. Why so much context? I guess the vain hope someone will read this and need it. It's a grey day here; my pack is full; I could eat a couple of my granola bars, but I'll wait.

I have minor plans where to go when I arrive. Bern first. Looking forward to the flight. I'll go ask if the plane will be in time. More another time, perhaps.

J. William English

Night. On the Plane. 29/30 November 2010

Have had an adventurous time so far. The plane was delayed so we didn't leave till almost 4:00. On the plane, I was next to a woman who is from Interlaken, flying to Zürich with me. We discussed USA, Switzerland, Zürich, Charlotte, shared travel stories, and had a good time.

Because our plane was late, we didn't arrive at ATL till 4:47. What do you know, but the flight was already gone. So we got re-routed to Zürich via Brussels. At the check-in we almost didn't make it in, and after much wrangling with the attendants, found a seat. I have no boarding pass for CHF, but they said I would not need one. I am sceptical.

Woe of woes, but there is no movie - only overhead and currently they are playing "EAT PRAY LOVE". Not a big fan; it's okay so far. There was turbulence, and so no moving or bathroom or food or movie for an hour. It is bearable; I'm just not sure about when we land. Will be glad when we land in Zürich.

Food being served now. 1:32 local time. Landing in 7 hours. Zürich by 11:00 or so. And on the way back? We'll see.

J. William English

Again - Plane Ride. To Brussels. Late.

Food was okay. Chicken, green beans, sweet, sweet potatoes, salad, cheese, nasty bread, margarine, club crackers, and triple chocolate brownie - with cran-apple juice.

Movie's nearly done. It's cold; not sure if I'll sleep much or not. I want another drink. Maybe Switzerland will be awesome enough to make up for lost time. Strewth, it's annoying not having a cell phone. Frightening, in a way. More later.

Morning. 30 November 7:22 local time, hour and some till arrival.

They brought breakfast a little while ago: orange juice and banana, with a croissant-egg thing. Not horrible. Had worse anyway. TV is playing adverts; what a waste, eh? Oh well. Mornings are always odd on International Flights. Sleep at midnight, wake two hours later and it's 7:30, 8:30, whatever. It feels like you've sleep all night, but it's only been a few hours maximum.

I like mornings though. You don't get much sleep, but they're col. Brussels - Zürich. I just hope it goes smoothly. They haven't issued cards for filling out. That's good, maybe? I just want to be in Switzerland.

J. William English

A Red Horizon, and white clouds. Streaks of grey, rows of stars fading, while the light grows. A moon sliver, above us. Morning begins. My ears close, my skin trembles with cold. Orange and yellow find us, and the band of light that is the rising sun grows larger. Blue, now, and more dense clouds. Below, only clouds, and I wonder what does it look like? Brussels, Belgium, Europe, any of it. All of it. Just a question, and soon, answered. We begin a descent into the vapour.

Brussels, Belgium Airport

Nothing to worry about. The French-Belgian attendants are not only amazingly cute - they're quite helpful as well. Nellie, my travelling companion, has been with me the whole way. When we got to Belgium, she said she would stick with me till we arrived - as, what do you call it, a witness? Yes, I said, witness for our delayed flight. When we went through security a second time, she lifted her foot and showed me her sock saying, "See? I have bought Christmas socks. If they want to make me take off my shoes so they can see my Christmas socks, then oh well."

We went through twice, and the second time they made me squirt saline solution on my arm to test it, make sure it was safe, etc, and then I was through. Nellie is a wonderful and unaccountably God-given blessing. She seems to be the only one on our flight going to Zürich, and we happened to be next to each other. We happened to get talking, and happened to take a liking to each other. Time to board. Later, more.

On Swiss Airplane

More delays, but here. 11:30 arrival they say. Chocolate was passed out. Amazing stuff. Am getting more excited for Switzerland. Planning a route of sorts. It will be very cold, but I think bearable. Nelly (not sure how it is spelt) has been giving me good ideas for things to do. I'll head to Bern and take it from there I suppose.

Plane is running; I'm going to try to keep up my journalling whilst I travel, trains, etc, to get it all down. But I don't know how I'll do. Here we go - next stop ZÜRICH!

Will say bye to Nelly soon. Sad, but a good reminder of God giving what we need for as long as we need it.

J. William English

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Words, words, words

Damn it; they say it's a bad word,
but is it?
When you use it wrong, then of course,
but isn't that
How it is with almost anything, words, men, and animals,
When it's not right, it has to be wrong
so is it worse, is it a sin?

Damn it; how do we find out
Or do we?
Does anyone even care?
The people who don't assume that they're right
and the people who do, wouldn't they use it anyway?

Sometimes I just want to fling it
Pick it up and hurl it
As hard and as fast and as mean as I can—
but then,
Wouldn't anything I say in that way be just as bad?
Isn't it the thought that's behind it?
Or the lack thereof, and the absence of love,
isn't that what our words should be all about?

It's not that the word's really worse
not in and of itself, anyway
But it's such a negative thing
And our minds are made to be clean
That when we use the foul words
that never mean good
There's no way they can possibly be redeemed.

Only in context, and properly
Should any of our words ever be
Used by us, or by anyone
To build and encourage and strengthen them
The people we meet, the people we greet
Whatever they are, whoever they are,
So for heaven's sake, damn it, stop swearing!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Little Things

Little things,
We love them all
They mean the most
Because they're small
They're not big,
No one will see
But I don't care
Because for me
I only want to know
You love me more
Than enough to show
Or enough to care
You're always there.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Follow the Leader

I'm trying to raise some more readership. If I can get more readership, I can post relevant articles to literature, movies, and issues of today, as well as more hints and excerpts from current or future novels in progress. If you have a blog and are reading this, consider saying something to spread the word; if you're reading this, why not follow and make it public? I'm interested in your comments too, so don't be shy. Of course, you don't have to, either. Say something on facebook, if you have an account; and if you've got a blog that I'm not aware of, why not put the link as a comment so I can follow too?

Saturday, 13 November 2010

The First Kiss

Long ago, when the world was young, and the Lord of Gwnach Geta walked on the earth with his people, the people of Carnwntir, all men spoke with their hearts. There was, indeed, no need for the mouth to speak, for each heart spoke to another as one. And the men were strong, and had much, each his land with livestock and green fields for planting; each a house, a castle for his family. The women were beautiful and the children were happy. In those days, man was very great for man was as one.

But there arose one day a man who was not happy. His name was Myran, and he was discontent, for he looked about him and saw that he had only as much as his fellows, and for Myran it was not enough. So he grew angry that he could not have more, and conspired against his neighbours. Myran and his brothers came together, their hearts full of evil, and they arose and struck down their closest neighbours. Then they took for themselves all that belonged, land, and livestock, and they stole for themselves the women and children of their neighbour.

The Lord of Gwnach Geta grew very angry, and would have struck Myran and all those who followed him with a curse; but he was merciful, and decided to give him opportunity to right what he had done.

But for Myran, it was not enough. And so Myran gathered many followers, and they marched on the great city of Dinas Truan and besieged it. And when they had taken it, they pulled down its walls and slew the men, women, children, and every beast of the city. Indeed none at all were left alive.

Then the Lord was full of wrath and said to Myran, "Behold, Myran, because you have defied me and become discontent with what I have given you and sought to lead others astray and take for yourself what is not yours, you shall be cursed, with all those who follow you, to wander, blind, in a desert far away from my land. And because of what you have done, behold, I will take away the speech of hearts, for it was meant for good, but you have used it for evil."

Myran was banished, with all those who followed him. But his sons remained alive, and evil was in the world.

The Lord of Gwnach Geta saw that man grew even more wicked without the speech of hearts and hearts, for never could he say what was in him to speak, for his heart was closed to all other men, only his mouth would open. And so he said, "Behold, if man cannot learn to speak with his heart once more, I will destroy him, and my work shall be done by the animals that I have placed on my earth, for man has displeased me."

And so, for seventy days the men of the earth sought a way for their hearts to speak to one another, but it was impossible. Seventy days went by, and man could not speak any differently from before. Then the Lord of Gwnach Geta rose and prepared to destroy all living men, but as he did so, he saw in a faraway valley, a man. The man was named Perwnau.

Perwnau knew nothing of the coming destruction of his race, he only knew that he could no longer speak with his heart. This saddened him, for at that moment, he came upon a woman. The woman was fair, and more beautiful than any he had ever seen, and in his heart he loved her. He stood in front of her, then, and said to her, "My name is Perwnau, and I have never seen any so beautiful as you. I love you, and I would I could tell you truly how."

She said to him, "Perwnau, son of Perinwr, my heart loves you as truly as your own beats in your breast."

Then Perwnau, hardly knowing what he did, took her in his arms and put his mouth upon hers, and their lips touched, and held for but a moment. And when he had let her go, Perwnau looked into her eyes and said, "My lady, though I do not know your name, I know now that my heart has spoken, and your heart has answered. Let it now be said that 'out of the mouth the heart speaks'." And Perwnau loved his lady, and spoke often to her, and as time passed, this speaking of heart to heart became known as a kiss.

The Lord of Gwnach Geta saw Perwnau, and saw that he had discovered the secret to speak heart to heart with his lady, and when he saw this he had mercy on mankind and spared them from his wrath, but he banished all evil from Gwnach Geta and took it away from Carnwntir until those who are good and just shall perish and rise to find him. But never again were man and man to conspire heart to heart, nor woman and woman, for the Lord of Gwnach Geta saw that when man and man speak with their hearts an evil spreads through the earth.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Cold and silly; fishing in silence.
Ridiculously funny; but there's no cure.
Hand in the water; fingers trailing.
Reflection broken, gently shimmering.
Is anything left now, anything pure?
There's a stream, but now it's bloody.
There, a tree, and now it's dead.
A book is written, but somebody burned it
Some music fell and broke its head.
Some things are upside down,
Some are just mixed up.
Everything is a crazy mess
Everything is stuck.
Slipping out of water
...and into sunlight

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


The only world we know bigger than planet earth is the one each of us has inside our own heads. And if there is a limit to where we can go, what we can do inside that world, no one has yet to find it. There is no discoverable edge.

Good and bad, if we live anything on that world, when we come to it in this one, it's smaller, less throbbing, less sensory. Worrying over something inevitable brings it into the vast, unconquerable world in our heads, Imaginátia Viscerus, and when we've lived it there long enough and finally reach the situation, bad and inevitable, it's quite miniscule in comparison. Almost as bad is when we've lived an inevitable good inside Imaginátia Viscerus, and reaching that place here it's become dull, lifeless, and worst of all, tasteless.

Doesn't always happen.

Just most of the time.

Ever think about the fact that there very well could be another universe outside our own in which God is working his will just as perfectly as in this one, with other creatures, like us or unlike us, that we may or may not meet in heaven because it's possible there could be more than one? Perhaps you splutter and fret and say, "Well if God did that wouldn't he tell us?" And I guess I just ask, "Why the loo would God tell you that? What good would it do you? You can't get to it; you can't know it. And God doesn't owe you a blasted thing."

This universe, perhaps it has a sun; perhaps it has an entirely different means of getting what it needs. Ever think about the fact that we only need light and warmth to see and stay comfortable because God set it up that way? The fact that as much as we find the laws of this world unshakeable and necessary, they're only logical because God decided that when you drop an apple, it falls; and when you don't have enough heat you get cold. This alternate universe might have creatures on it that aren't affected by temperature. Maybe temperature doesn't exist. Maybe their problems are entirely different. Things we haven't imagined. The only things wrong in our world are what God decided would be wrong. We get tired out, because we're low on energy and sleep. The only reason we can get tired is because God decided we need a certain amount of energy to function. What if instead of sleeping we had to run for six hours a day. Sound silly? Only because it wasn't what God decided. It might have been. It still might be. The scope of what we know, when you come down to it, seems so unbelievably small, so infinitely finite; like being in a cardboard box, shut up, and you might know everything in your little box, and maybe you don't know there's more out there. But if you did, you would feel more helpless than a bug in a toilet, or a man lost in the inescapable torments of Imaginátia Viscerus.

Thursday, 21 October 2010


Writers have to be fearless. To be a real writer we have to be unashamed. We must be able to tell, to say, to talk about anything, to use any word however vulgar or taboo, discuss any subject however uncomfortable. We are not required to be vulgar or obscene, or to use any word we do not have a desire to. But until we remove the idea of a taboo subject, we will be tied down to a barrier, the restriction of a box. If a story commands any subject, any word, we cannot be shy. Fearless, something more than a Taylor Swift album and song title.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

It's dark, and there's a wind on my back; I'm getting ready to climb in bed and sleep for a little until it's time to work. Then, off for eight hours. Then home, to sleep again, and perhaps perform a few meaningful tasks. Then, to bed and work again.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

"It hurts, Mommy"

I don't like talking about pain here anymore. You may have noticed. It's not because it's gone away. Lately, it's been different. Tonight, though, it's the same raw, dark, gaping emptiness that I'm hurtling towards. Sometimes, it feels like a living suicide. It hurts, Mommy. Sometimes it hurts so much I can't even think. There's a blur and I scream, and then pain, just deep, deep pain, and underneath a cold searing of some tenderness around my heart, like I'm losing something of myself, a little bit, every little bit, slowly, just as surely. There's the sense of being a child again, holding a hand while I cross the street, only to look up into the face of the one whose hand I'm holding and see a skeleton, with gaping mouth and burning eyes. It's the terrifying, soul-twisting sort of pain, where it hurts so much you can't breathe, and you're too scared to hold your water, or your breath. So you're breathing, but not, and all you can do is choke on your own bile. It sounds awful; maybe I'm being literary, exaggerating so you'll understand, like a magnifying glass on a bug. And yet, there it is, the same pain. It's not going to kill me; I know eventually it will go away. But sometimes I just want to crawl into bed and cry, like a three-year-old. "It hurts, Mommy. It hurts, and I can't stop it. Make it go away, Mommy."

It's late, and the air is cold on my bare skin, and my eyes hurt because I've had my contacts in too long, and my mouth tastes like an after-dinner mint, which I probably shouldn't have had since I brushed my teeth already. I'm tired, I'm still sick; I've got a headache, and I'm shaking with cold, or something else. It's blinding, numbing pain, inside, the kind that you can't feel until it's got you, and then you're not sure how much you feel until you think about it, and the only thing you can hope to do is sleep, but even then you can't get away from it cause it comes after you in your dreams. After that, in the morning, maybe it's gone; but it's only nocturnal, the kind of fearing pain that comes on cold, dark nights when you're alone.

It's like having the carpet pulled from under you on your way to an audience with the Queen; like watching everything you have in front of you, every good thing, fall, swept, dashed in a thousand pieces, and yet still whole, whole enough to be stabbed through the heart while it screams as it burns in white fire.

It's the pain of losing something more than a dream, the sort of pain that can only come when you've hidden the source of it behind other things, and pretended that it wasn't there. There's nothing quite like it, nothing at all. It's the pain of losing someone, someone you cared about more than anything...and the one thing you really wanted was denied, not by you, not by them, perhaps not even by God, but only life, if there is such a thing; a pursuit stripped out from under you, some mad twisting of the heart, with the cruel, long fingernails of a sadist.

It's not pain, though; it's like it, and that's one word for it, but it's not. It's emptiness. You're looking at a field, that was once beautiful, and covered in flowers. But now it's night, and the flowers have all died, or been trampled, or pulled out by the roots, and everything is gone, stolen. You can't get it back, you don't have the strength to go after it, but even if you did, there's nothing you could do. Oh, Mommy, it hurts...Make it go away, Mommy, please; make it stop, make it die. I can't do it much longer.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Bard's War

Excerpt 1: “In another time, I heard of stories in which only the chosen hero escaped, each and every battle. I always did wonder, what of the lives of those who fall? Are they less precious, their fate less worthy of a recounting? Is it an untimely death, sacrificed for the chosen one, which casts them forever aside? Who am I? Tal—yes, and you are Kenna, and you are Bard; yet our stories, our escape from danger, should it be retold when Dwnar and Rhysan lie forgotten?”

Excerpt 2:

Tallidwr took Kenna in his arms. “He has fallen in battle,” he whispered. “It was an honourable death. He will rest with his fathers.”

She pulled away, weeping into his arm. “Speak not to me of honour, Tallidwr—I care not how it comes adorned, it is still death and he now is perished. Comfort me not with such things, only the dear memory of his life can sweeten the bitter cup of loss we now are forced to sip. It is with a full heart, bursting with sorrow, that I look upon the world, caring not if there be no tomorrow—my life in turmoil has been now hurled.”

Excerpt 3:

Tallidwr raised his sword, the gleaming tip directed at the soldier’s trembling throat.

"No!” Kenna shouted, rushing toward him. “Tal, must every man die who has not the strength to fight for goodness and justice?”

His words ground through his teeth. “Yea, this one must; his choice was his own. Would you have me spare those who deserve judgement and death? What of the women, children murdered from the weakness of his kind!”

“His kind is our own kind—Tal, don’t do it!”

Tallidwr’s eyes to her had never held such depth— and in them was pain and courage and sorrow, but above all a burning fire. “It is not our fathers and our mothers who define us, it is the choices and strength within. A man may be a Zargo, this he cannot help, and for it I pity him, but a man can choose his path, and this man has chosen his. Perhaps he has a wife, perhaps he leaves a child, but what of the children who cry in the dark, howling like orphaned wolves in the streets while fire and sword destroy their future even as he has destroyed the lives of each mother and father stripped from this good land. I find in him more Zargo blood than any soldier I have killed in righteous wrath upon the field. Turn away, for this is no sight for your eyes. Think you I look on this with pleasure? I find it wrenches me in half, for before me stands a dog who might have been my brother. It is a choice that separates us from the carrion, and the strength of will is found wherever the desire burns to seek it. Stand aside, for by the widows who weep in starless night, and the orphans who beg even the blind for a crust, by their plight and the authority with which I hold my place I swear to you all he will join his fellows in the Pit of Scorca.”

Sunday, 3 October 2010


Well, there is hope for the world yet. For Christians, anyway.

Two words:

Dominic Smart.


Gilcomston South Church, Aberdeen.


Do it.

Thursday, 30 September 2010


There's a point in writing a book that your focus shifts from one to the next. I'm in the home stretch for the current novel; it'll wrap tonight around 5:00am. Already I've begun thinking about the next book. I've been planning it years; even written a good/bad 40,000 words in it. It's creeping into the sphere of vision ever closer; by the time I've finished WD,MS a week, it will be completely in control. That's how it always happens.

It's odd. I've written, start to finish, three novels, and three long novellas. This will be number four. On average, it's one per year since I was 14. Which is funny, since one book took me a year to write; the next was a full 9 weeks. And the last two will be in at just under a month.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Jamais de poisson

Roughly and badly translated, it means fish forever.

Well, today marks the sad end to one chapter in my life, begun a year and a half ago.

I got fish as a hobby, in a sense, because as a secondary school graduate, I needed something to do in my year (and now two years) off. They were wonderful. Today, the last of them is gone.

I removed the fish table and its tank, cleaned my room, and prepared everything for the next step, mostly dealing with the lack of fish in my life. It was time consuming at times, expensive to begin, but rewarding I think, and I now have the equipment should one of my siblings, or myself later in life, decide to begin the hobby again.

Friday, 24 September 2010

I sleep with two pillows. See, I have this idea that you get twice as much sleep per hour that way. Try it.

Every day I work, I pass a dealer in men's clothing with what is possibly the most awful name I've ever seen. Quillie III Haberdashery Hats Shirts Shoes Slacks. Revolting, actually.

It's my goal to take every single belief and presupposition that I, or others, have, and turn it upside down, shake it up, and look at it from another perspective. Don't get trapped in the rhetoric.

Most people hide behind their words. In fact, I think everyone does it, more than anyone would admit. Don't do it. What exactly do I mean by that? Well, we take rhetoric, whether it's spiritual rhetoric or glib talk in regards to other matters, and we talk, and we create this sphere of unreality that we go to in our heads. It will take a long time to explain.

Deep down, I'm in search of practical, real spirituality. Of course, I'm sure every good Christian will look at that and nod and say, "Oh, yes, that's good, so are we all." I disagree. I think most people hide behind their words. And for those who get their joys and happinesses out of spiritual things already, maybe it doesn't matter. But for the rest of us, for those wild, dark ones who are prone to other things, we don't want a bunch of words that aren't really a part of life.

Because, see, Christianity isn't a religion, it isn't even exactly just a faith. It is a life. And if you separate it as a different entity from life, then you wreck it in some form or another. I've recently started a youth group, well, begun attending the recently started YG at the church I'm at. It's not bad, but the leaders are more concerned with spiritual Christianity. Maybe you're getting all worried because you're jumping to conclusions at my rhetoric. But that's not a bad thing; I want to use rhetoric to make you think. I don't want you to slip into the rut of my words. You need to have to work to make a groove in the path, not use the one people have used and overused before you.

I'm not interested in terms like "personal holiness" right now. Yes, it's good; of course it's important. But there's nothing for personal holiness to grip onto if you don't have a grip on why Christianity is the only real life, and everything else is less than full. I'm going off to college, and I don't want to be told how often and how much to read my Bible and pray and seek God and do this that and the other, because that's not going to help. What I'd like to hear is a discussion of actual, real-life circumstances, questions, dilemmas, and see why Christianity is practical for answering everything. If I go to a friend who is a non-Christian, or a less-spiritual friend and ask for advice, I'll get practical advice most of the time. It may not be what I should do, or end up doing, but it's not going to be high-brow words about seeking God and just trusting. That's not practical. Don't separate Christ from life. God says we should be in the world and not of the world. There's plenty of talk in evangelical circles about not being of the world. I think we need to focus on really being in the world. It's our world, after all.

What am I ranting about? I think one of the large causes of rebellious church-going youth is due to us separating Christ from life, however sincerely we pursue him, and however well the spiritual people might be able to do that. I am not, as you all know, a deeply spiritual person in the sense that I don't like praying long prayers with the sort of words people who are "spiritual" use. It doesn't make the prayer better, and at least if you're around others, it distances you.

Christians should be different, not distant. That's very important.

Of course, don't get me wrong, there's a place for all that spiritual talk. I think it's on Sunday, during morning and evening worship. Sunday is a day set apart already, it's the day we're supposed to be distant, not doing the things of the world. During the rest of the week, we have to do the things of the world. Let's find out the answers that exist (assuming there are answers, which is one question people prone to rebelliousness, like me, ask when they aren't being given them).

The problem people have is that they hide behind their words, and they might sincerely believe the things they say and talk about and the way they talk about them, but for some people, that's not enough. Some of us need something deeper to hold on to. Doesn't make us better, doesn't make the rest worse.

You know, I'm pretty sure most of this won't make a lot of sense to a lot of you. I've never had the ability to make a statement that's different, put it out there, and have everyone come at it with the best possible understanding they could have. Don't close your minds. Not just towards me, towards anything. Never keep a closed mind. Don't hide behind your words. And don't separate the life out of Christianity. And don't tell me the spiritually mature in reformed circles today don't do that, because they do, and if you think they don't, perhaps you haven't read me the right way.

No, I'm not really upset with anyone in particular; just frustrated, because I can see what the problem is (because I'm almost part of it), and I can see that the solutions people come up with aren't going to cut it. Which is very sad.

That's why I sleep with two pillows, and why I need twice the sleep.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


Pictures and their frames
hold different things inside
But the frame is still the same
Whatever you decide
To show behind the dirty glass
A picture future, present, past
That tells a little of your who
That picture that's a little you.

We're all the frames, one way or another
What we put in isn't up to each other
It's not pressure from the mob
Do your own deciding for it then
Pick a picture you'll be happy with
And may it speak the truth.

Make a picture for your frame
Paint it, take it, make it plain
Don't hide behind the windowpane
It's time to show yourself.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Cup of Tea

An opportunity
Is rather like a cup of tea
It doesn't disappear
If you're not quick to act
But the sooner that you spring
The hotter it will be.

If you go too early,
And if you go too late
You'll end up burning
Mouth or tongue
Or tasting tea not great.


Life is like a book,
Long and hard to read
Something out of Dickens
Or professors dressed in tweed

It can be hard to start,
But if we push on to the end
There's interesting parts
And lots of pleasant friends

But the thing about books
They're useless when they're closed
And if you never read them
Their knowledge is unknown.

What's written in the book
Still happens to us all
We just don't know about it
And it's harder when we fall

So open up your books,
And open up your eyes
There's new places to look
And more than one surprise

It won't change all that happens
But it might change your perspective
You'll yearn for more, and turn the page
It can give your life direction.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Cameras on a Shelf

Sometimes we're like cameras,
Lying on a shelf;
Useful for taking pictures
And dusty all by ourselves

I wish, every so often,
Someone would come in
And take his little soft rag
And wipe our little lens

Sometimes we need batt'ries
Sometimes we need cards
But most of all we need someone
Who is good at taking pictures

The only thing worse than a camera
Sitting on a shelf
Is the camera being used
To make and spread more filth

Monday, 20 September 2010

Renamin iret te Narminú

I don't want to overload my readers with words and things to delve through. And I don't enjoy caving. I consider this that I am about to do something of a bit of a caving, and an overload of words. Big deal.

I've been rather bombarded the past few weeks and days, and hours, with parental, familial, siblingal, and childrenal relationships and since it won't seem to stop until I do something about it, in this case doing becomes writing, then here's what I have to say.

I've a very reserved person when it comes to how much I talk about my opinion of people. In fact, I'm quite reserved about the opinions I have that really matter. Opinions on politics, liberal vs. conservative (me being liberal, of course), some religious quibblings, etc are all things that in the end don't really matter. It's not dangerous to talk about my opinions regarding those matters because no matter what people think about them and how much they disagree (which is often huge amounts), it's not important. It won't hurt me that you're all a bunch of conservatives and think I'm a wacko liberal. I kind of enjoy it, actually, though it's not really why I do it.

But with personal relationships, while some are harder to talk about than others, and it depends on a number of factors, I don't like to be completely open. It's vulnerable. It's dangerous. You can get hurt when you really share that much. Now, I've done so with a number of people. And, lo and behold, I often got hurt. That was okay, and I'm alive to talk about it, but it's an illustration of why I don't enjoy doing it.

On Sundays, though, pastor's begun a series on parents and past, present, and future teens, which manages to include just about all of us. Which got me thinking...again...about my own mum and dad.


Do you ever notice that when someone is really quite good at something, they can make it seem quite natural and easy, and often it's years later that you try it yourself and realise, you know, he was on to something, and I can't get the hang of this at all. Certain talents show obvious strain and effort. But the characteristics of a godly person, when carried out with faith and belief, and when done so humbly and truthfully, can seem so effortless that every so often we look down on those traits. A man who can juggle multiple balls very quickly, if he is just good enough, makes a show of using no skill at all. A few of you, maybe even myself, might watch and say or be tempted to say, "Well, mate, he's not so good, is he? Anyone could do that, look how smooth it moves." What we consider easy is easy to contemn; godliness, when seeming so natural to life, as it becomes with greater sanctification, is never actually easy, never actually the work of a year or a decade, even, never actually a simple decision, nor is it based on existing character traits.

My parents do not display godliness with any effort. It does not come out in ways that causes me to notice or think about in any way other than, well, that's the way they are. And still, as I live longer and try my own hand at juggling, I come to understand, not only is it harder than it looked, it seems well-nigh impossible to achieve.

Mum and dad are rather quiet examples. Maybe that's personality, maybe it's because for all their human faults, godliness is real to and for them, and not something to be displayed flagrantly. Until I tried for myself their own patience, compassion, love, and humility, among other traits, I didn't know just how hard it is to juggle. I watched it my whole life; I watched it so long, I didn't even think of it as being anything unusual.

The trouble, of course, is that even though I've tried it for myself and found it rather difficult, there's the nagging sour-grape-related thought that, sure, it takes a little bit of practise, but once you've got it, you've got it. Which isn't quite true at all. Juggling takes an acquired skill, but when you're putting it into practise, even if you know it so well you know what to do, you can't stop keeping your mind's eye on what you're juggling, and especially when juggling a great many things, you can't break concentration or it all tumbles down. Along with the sour grapes is the idea that, sure, it might not be easy for me, but then, I'm not surprised at that; for some people, it just is.

Here's the thing. Godliness, in order to show in a real, life-altering, humble way, must be so much deeper than what is expressed day to day. Rather like the proverbial iceberg, for a little to show, there's got to be a lot more underneath. In order to be patient, compassionate, and loving to booger-headed wretches, we've got to seek God with huge portions of ourselves, all of ourselves, in fact, and you can't just start doing that. I don't know anyone who can surrender themselves in any way but gradually. Once that happens, you've got to work to stay under, to stay submerged in God's sea; once you're in Him, he starts coming out of you, and people can see. Your responses to negative or inflammatory statements become patient in a way that seems natural, but only because of the work that goes on underneath.

What am I trying to say here? Well, I have to be honest: my parents are godly people, and they make it seem so effortless, too effortless in fact, that sometimes I don't realise what it takes to be like that, or the struggles they contain and deal with that no one sees, or that were dealt with in the decades before I understood what I know now. It's humbling, sometimes discouraging—because it seems so far from reach—and quite goal-setting. Occasionally it's hard to look up to someone with a skill that doesn't seem to take any coordination, something that just happens. Especially something, like juggling, that doesn't make a lot of noise or draw a lot of crowds. But when that happens, you just have to remind yourself how hard it is to learn, and how much work it takes to maintain. Thanks, M&D. I stink at this sort of thing, writing an honest opinion, and being godly. But here's a start at an attempt toward both. Cheers.

The Rambling On of a Weary Mind

Some thoughts, in a tangled sort of verse. Try and figure it out.

So I'm writing a book. When I get into it, whether I realise it at first or not, I always draw in a little. I get grouchy, or apathetic; or worse. I tend to have a shorter fuse, I can even be rather rude (in public too, how shocking!). I don't like talking about the book, I don't like trying to explain it. In fact, I'd prefer never to have anything to do with the entire mess of a project.

Once it's finished, once I've said, "The End" for the sixth, seventh, or tenth time I'd like to put it out of mind, and move on toward the next one. But no, the job is worse than all that, and the hardest bit is what comes after, when you're talking, and telling person after person, what the whole blasted thing is about. It's not that I don't like the story, usually I do; if I detested it through and through, I'd not have written it. Yet still there's a nagging in my head, that says don't touch it, ever. I'd like to leave it under the bed, and shut it out from the world.

All the while I'd like to be famous, have people talk about it and me; but I'd rather leave that to my agent, and lock my door, draw the drapes, and sit down for hours to think. I'm rather solitary, which makes me hard to live with; but when I shut out the writing part, it distorts me. It's worse not to write, in the end; though it might be pleasanter at first. Occasionally I'm a social man, entertainer, conversationalist. But when I'm writing, I feel so weary, tired of the world, of talking to people, I just want to shut everything out.

Not because I don't care, don't get me wrong, but because there's something in front of me that I can't seem to ignore; it's bigger than all that, it's bigger than the people I know. It's not better, it's not more fact, it might be worse, or unworthy at all. I'm never quite sure about that; it has consequences, you see. But then as an analogy, an elephant is bigger than people, and even if people are more fun to be around and to love and to have as friends, spouses, or family, it's a fact that the elephant is a lot harder to ignore on the horizon. A mouse might step in the way of two people, but you wouldn't see it unless you were looking down. If an elephant got in the way, you'd have to move the elephant first before you could see your friend again. And it's the same sort of thing, I think. The elephant, however an odd way to describe the muse, is rather unmovable unless you coax it out. You can't really use force on an elephant; you've got to use peanuts, and you've got to be careful. Because it's not an elephant that's used to people. It's a wild elephant, writing is. When I've finished the book, the elephant has moved, for a while. But of course, he'll be back. The elephant always comes back.

I'm not resigned to staying a grumpy fellow alone my whole life, though I find it just as likely as the alternative. Part of this is the fact that however long I shut the writing part out of my life, it pushes back in eventually. Two people might stand as close to each other as possible, but elephants' trunks are rather strong, and they can always push the people apart eventually. It doesn't stop me from caring about the world, it just stops me from being full of desire to do something about that care. Besides, writing is my friend too, and however a rude or persistent one, he's been there when others haven't. No slight against my readers, because you've not failed me, or if you have I don't mind it. The elephant is a strange mixture of my parent and my child; both your parents and your children can be quite persistent in getting your attention. But eventually, you have to look at them, however much you'd rather get on with what you were doing already. Your toddler might be pulling on your leg at church, and you can ignore him for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes while you finish a conversation, but if you ignore him forever, you'll go insane. Your father might knock on your door when you're on the phone, and you can ignore the first few times, but then you've got to open the door and see what he wants.

But you listen to your parents when they can be persistent and you listen to your children when they are persistent for two very different reasons. Rather like the elephant. The child, because it simply gets too exasperating to ignore. Your leg starts to feel a bit weird, too. And the parent, because you're rather afraid of the consequences of their authority. The writing elephant (and I'm almost sorry I chose elephant, as however lovely they are in their own right, when I think of writing I'd rather think of an eagle or a fox, but they're consistently easier to ignore) is persistent like a nagging child. It bugs you, and bugs you, and bugs you. And eventually you turn and say, "What do you want, you little booger?" (Or that's what I'd be tempted to say; happily for my children, I am not their father yet.) You're not really afraid of the consequences of not listening to your child, cause he can only pull on your leg. But you'd like to appease him, so you do. The other half of the elephant is talking to you, though, and if you keep ignoring him, you know there will be unpleasant results. You'll get punished in some way; and it's the same with real life situations as it is the writing elephant. If you ignore it, it gets blasted unpleasant and annoying; but it's also rather foolish and somewhat dangerous to do so past a point.

Am I completely crazy to talk about writing like this? Maybe, but I'm not convinced. I'm completely crazy, I'm just not sure this is why. See, I really could ignore it; I really could tell the person I loved not to worry about the writing bit of me, and try to be happy with a girl (or a friend, in a different way) who never fully accepted the writing part. But kind of like the other adult in the conversation at church where your toddler is banging on you, she might be tempted to say after a while, "Doesn't that kind of annoy you? Don't you want to find out what he wants so he'll go away?" But the trouble, of course, is that I know what he wants, it's always the same thing: Daddy come outside and play with me. Which means for a time I can't have a close conversation with anyone else. Similarly, she might be on the phone with me and hear my dad knocking and asking to come in, and say, if I ignore him long enough, "Don't you want to find out what your dad wants? He might not be happy with you." And of course, I know what he wants. He wants me to do my homework with him, so I can be ready for school the next day. Which means I won't be talking to anyone else until it's finished.

Perhaps I'm just blabbing on and not making any sense at all. But the fact is, living with me in any relationship will be difficult until you accept and understand that 1. if I ignore the elephant, it's going to be painful to experience from my point of view, and painful to watch from everyone else's; and 2. if I don't ignore the elephant, it's going to keep me occupied and distant until I'm finished.

It's not that I'm resigned to things and I give a sigh, shrug my shoulders and say, "Well, baby, it's just the way it is and I can't do anything about it." I can do my best to make things pleasant while I'm "away", and I can do my best to explain before, during, and after the reasons why I go through these phases. But if I do ignore it, eventually it will be permanently damaging and unhealthy and unhelpful; in which case, it would be permanently unpleasant and annoying to have to spend the rest of your life with me.

The moral of all this? Well, twofold. One-fold, so you can understand why sometimes I'm a little The other-fold, so "she" will know (hypothetical she, that is) that she will have to be very special, very understanding, and very tough. Which means it's rather likely I'll not find anyone, at least for many years, who is interested in putting up with that. And if that's the way that God sets it up and I don't find anyone like that, then it's okay. Sometimes, you have to go with the flow, as cliche and unpleasant as it is and sounds. Occasionally, if you quit fighting the stream, you'll go under, and you might not be able to breathe, but you can see there's an awful lot of pretty fishes swimming around. Is the view worth the not-being-able-to-breathe bit? Sometimes.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Excerpts from Chapter VI

Fergus was snoring when she got back. She would have to tell him, but she didn’t want to wake him just yet. Tarn went to her bedroom and changed into a shirt and jeans. The day had been warmer than those previous, and she wanted to be comfortable.
It was the smell of food that woke the leprechaun. Tarn was not surprised. “Hey, friend,” she said, smiling as his head poked up over the edge of the couch, his nose sniffing wholeheartedly.

“Why, tis Miss Skirrow!” he exclaimed, grinning. “And how was yer day, then.”

“It was grand,” she said, imitating his voice and grinning back cheekily. “More or less. How was yours?”

“Sure, twas grand as well, lass, grand enough; I cleaned yer house, made yer supper—but then I ate it, alas—smoked meself a pipe, and washed it down with a drop of good ould brandy to keep the life in me bones.” Tarn glanced around. There was little evidence of his housecleaning, and he was right, the supper was gone; as to the smoking and drinking, she had little trouble believing him.

After Tarn had eaten, they were in the living room, talking like lifelong friends. She lay on the couch, he sprawled in the chair.

“Fergie,” she said sleepily, contemplating his large, blue eyes, wild shoots of red hair, and gargantuan house of the olfactory senses, “tell me where you’re from, eh?”

He pulled at an imaginary pipe and grinned. He had a gold tooth, she saw from her angle; it was in the back. Maybe that was significant. “Sure, m’girl, twas just luck I’m here, so twas. I’m yer fairy godfather, so I am. Isn’t t’at a good enough an answer?”

She yawned and blinked slowly. “No, no it’s not. Tell me about yourself, Fergie—truly. What’s your last name?”

“McGriffin,” he said.

“Where were you born?”

“A barrel in Wicklow, sure as me name’s McGriffin.” He grinned brashly and set his imaginary pipe down.

“What do you think we’re doing here? Do you think life is a fairy tale or a horror story, Fergus?”

“Well, Tarn, me beauty, let life be what it is, then, and I’ll worry about it when it suits me.”

Tarn yawned again. “What do you do with yourself?”

“A little of this, a little of that, y’know. I was a sailor, sure enough, and then a soldier; but mostly, an Irishman.”

“Where do you live?” she said, now very sleepy.

“Sure, Miss Skirrow, roight here, with you!”

She smiled, strangely happy with the knowledge there was someone who was near her that actually wanted to be nearby.

“There’s something I have to tell you,” she said, and sat up. “I’m moving on Friday. Not too far, into an old house. I’ll have a housekeeper, and her son, to live with me too.”

The leprechaun’s face fell. “Sure’n why didn’t ye say so?” he asked dejectedly.

Tarn smiled. “I just did say so, silly! Anyway, it’s not my decision really, it’s Russell’s. But I was—”

“Oi’d like to wring that b******’s neck, so I would!” he cried in anger. “Sure and he’s runnin’ yer whole life, missie, can’t ye see that?”

“Calm down, little man!” she yelled at him, laughing. “I’m moving—and like I said it’s not far, and I was wondering, if you don’t have any plans, if you’d like to come with me and stay on, as a butler or something.”

Immediately Fergus’ eyes lit up and his hair seemed to stick out even further. “Sure’n why didn’t ye say so?” he cried, in an entirely new way from before.

Tarn dove for him, her fingers tickling every available body part, the Irishman defenseless under the onslaught. “I did say so, you cheeky blighter—or I would’ve said it sooner except someone was jumping all over the conclusions and I couldn’t get a word in bloody edgewise!”

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Well Done, Miss Skirrow

“That is much of my story, my dear. What of you?”

Tarn shook her head. “It’s no good, mine isn’t very happy at all.”

“And did you think mine was, love?”

She drank some tea. “You have yourself, and you have your son; he has you. I have no one.”

The woman sighed. Tarn sat up slowly, feeling like she was being ripped out of a dream or comfortable, deep sleep. “It might help you, my dear,” she said. “And besides, this isn’t the end of you, it’s only the middle. It’s just about to get exciting.”

Tarn managed a slight smile. “Mrs. Zoric, you make it sound like it’s a good thing what’s happened.”

“Please, Nevenka will do—and my dear, it is. It’s your life—it’s always the best thing that ever happened.”

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Continuing a Long Discussion

Describe to yourself what the emotion love feels like. Go ahead, do it. Tell me how it feels to love your family. Tell me how it feels to love someone romantically.

We know how sadness and gladness and madness feel. I can explain it without an effort. But if I try to put love into the category of an emotion, it suddenly becomes impossible to do more than touch on it.

(For the sake of simplicity, unless otherwise specified, be it know I am dealing from now on mostly with the subcategory of romantic love as opposed to the overall range.)

Love is not an emotion. Love brings feelings with it, while it's easy and fun, and it makes us feel good. Emotions cannot produce other emotions. Sadness does not produce anger. The root of the sadness may lead to anger; the root of worry may lead to fear. Love creates emotions. It makes us happy, right? It makes us worry, right? Worry about the person we love, worry for his or her safety. When I hear people talk about how they love someone, how it feels, what it means, they often say that that person makes them happy. Happiness is not love, but it is an emotion that can come from love.

When I say that love is a fact and go on to explain what I mean by that, let me say that by saying it is a fact does not in any way restrict it to a cold, dispassionate set of legalistic actions and characteristics. It's not a bad thing for it to be a fact, guys. It's a good thing.

We often talk about certain people being "emotional" people. They have frequent emotional swings, portray emotions in intense ways, and speak of strong feelings with conviction. I know that because I'm one of those people. But when I go from feeling intense depression to feeling intense happiness, that doesn't change the way I "feel" about the person I love. I may not get a warm feeling in my chest when I think of the person I'm in love with, but I still love them, and therefore I feel loving toward them. Just because I don't have an intense emotional happiness when I do what I deeply believe is best for that person or what will make her happy doesn't mean I don't care for her. It just means the emotions aren't there.

Because of certain disabilities, certain people, due to an abnormality of the brain, cannot feel emotions the way other people feel them. But those people can, and do, love with an intensity as great or greater as the rest of us. We don't need to feel happy around someone, we don't need some accompanying emotion for love to be true. Often, I can become very introspective, depressed in a way, but no matter what kind of emotions are running around inside, that doesn't mean I love any differently. You'd better be happy love isn't an emotion, folks, because if it were, you and I would be in big trouble. People can lose their emotions at the drop of a hat. If it's real love, a thousand hats dropping wouldn't change it.

But what exactly does it mean that love is a fact? How is that different from a decision, an emotion, or a conjoining of the two? Well, it's very simple. Not really.

Love is not a separate entity. It is not this physical thing that a man and a woman hook up to in order to feel something for each other. But what does a "fact" mean? A fact is something that is true and objective. My bed is standing against the wall. I sleep in my bed. My lamp exists. I love you. Feelings are not facts; they are subjective to circumstance. My lamp needs power to turn on. If you unplug it, it will no longer be on, but it will not change the fact that it exists.

I can hear you objecting, "But what about saying, 'I am happy'? Isn't that a fact?" Let's take this slowly. You are happy. What you mean is, you feel happy. There's this positive emotion inside you for the moment. It is technically a fact that you "are" happy. But "I love you" is not subjective, it is not dependent on a belief, or a circumstance. My bed is against the wall. How I feel doesn't change the fact that my bed is still against the wall. I might be very angry that my bed is against the wall; it may upset me to no end. My bed will not move because of it.

When I say that love is a fact, I'm not taking away anything from what we all know love is, practically. We know what love looks like; we know how we feel because of love. But the important distinction between love being something far different from an emotion or a decision is that if love exists in that pocket, where you are and what you're doing doesn't change that. Love doesn't go away like happiness or sadness when we remove the cause of it. Like the electricity to power lamps, the electricity only helps the lamp perform its function; it doesn't make the lamp disappear without it.

So tell me, you say, why this even matters?

I suppose in one way, it doesn't. In one way, very few things in life matter. In a sense, most things don't have any purpose or reason. I won't get into the vanity of life because that's not what this is about. But here's what I think is the most important reason I'm postulating this point of view:

If you view love as an emotion, then if some day you wake up and don't feel that happy emotion, don't get that feeling inside that is one of the possible offshoots of love (I say possible because it's not necessary for love to exist), then you might be tempted to think you no longer love your person. If you view love as a decision, as if you can decide to be or act a certain way in order for love to be, or think that you can decide to feel a certain way, then you can reduce love to legalism, or lose patience with yourself when the feelings don't come.

Love doesn't depend on how we feel or decide to make ourselves feel. Once we let love get a root in our hearts, it won't just go away. True, like a plant, love must be watered and given sun and shade to live. And like a plant, with enough watering that love will produce, during the spring and summer months, fruit, those feelings we love, that passion of excitement. But that feeling, that passion, that is not love. If you reduce love to something you feel at any time, or something you decide and can create on a moment by moment basis, it will damage both your understanding and ability to delve deeper into love. Love has all the things we think it has: passion, excitement, happiness, joy, self-sacrifice-inducing capabilities, and much, much more. But those are things that love has. Those are not what love IS. Happiness and sadness come and go. If we let it, if we let love grow, love will be. Love will exist.

Don't jump all over me for this last bit crying, "Liberal! You think there's good in everyone and we just have to stop suppressing it!" because that's not what I'm saying. I'm the first to say that love is destroyed by the human race, and that we're the sorriest creatures on the face of the earth when it comes to being consistent in our words, actions, and desires. But the things we let grow in our lives, those weeds that kill our love plant, like bitterness, selfishness, these cancers are what kill the flowerings of love that we get when we meet someone who, for some inexplicable reason strikes our fancy. WIth God's grace, we have something more powerful than weed-killer; with Jesus' help, we can destroy the enemies of love in our lives, and whether it is through common grace or a spiritual renewal by the indwelling spirit of God, by killing the weeds that destroy the existence of love, this fact, this plant can live in our hearts, and by giving it the water and sunlight and shade of selflessness and thoughtfulness for others, it can transcend everything else we have ever seen and ever experienced. More than emotion; above a decision—if you let it, Love Is.

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Beginnings of a Long Discussion

More than likely, I'll never articulate this argument fully here, because there's little time for it. But from the things I've seen, learned, experienced, and felt over the past several years of my life, here are a few (hopefully) coherent thoughts, and arguments, that explain my position on Love. It is, what I like to call, "Mankind's Biggest Emotional Fraud: Love"

There are several camps on this issue. There is the first one, which says love is purely an emotion. The second argues it is both an emotion and something else. The third would cry that love is merely a decision. And then there's me, and a somewhat small minority, who call love a fact. Whatever other camps exist, I'm unaware of them. Feel free to educate me if I've left a large idea out.

I come from the camp, a camp of my own making though others may have reached the same conclusion separately, that states Love is a Fact. I want to point something out to you that I found intensely interesting, though I do not use it as an argument for my belief but merely complimentary. Think about what people consider emotions. Sad, glad, mad, angry, frustrated, worried, resentful, happy, emotional and the rest. These are adjectives, or verbs; "Don't be sad, be glad. Don't be mad or angry at me!" "I am frustrated. I am worried. I am resentful." I am love? Don't be love? Be love? Love is a noun. Subliminally, the language recognises it's not the same.

But once again, not an argument. I'll begin with some obvious things. While most will concede love is an emotion that far exceeds the others, few will separate it entirely from being an emotion as I do. We all might say, well, buddy, what am I feeling then, this being in love? And my response is quite rudimentary: a feeling and an emotion are not the same things. Quibbling? No, I don't think so. While most of our emotions bring feelings with them, emotions are far from the only feelings we get. We feel physical pain, we feel emotional pain; sometimes certain emotions bring physical feelings as well as emotional feelings. The feeling is a result of the emotion, not the actual emotion.

Now that we've established that feelings are not always the same things as emotions, we can get a little deeper. One of my biggest arguments is that of reason. When you are feeling sad or angry or happy and I happen to ask you why, whether it is immediately obvious to you (and it usually is) or whether it is something you must search briefly for, the end result is the same: I'm sad because my father passed away; I'm angry because someone pulled out in front of me in traffic; I'm happy because it's my birthday. Well. "I'm in love." "Why?" What are you going to say? Think about either the person you are in love with, or any person you love. Now tell me the exact reason for that love.

A man might say, "Well, my wife is an excellent cook." Or perhaps, "She's sexy in a nightgown," or, "She makes me laugh, she makes me cry, she makes me feel myself." Those are reasons to be attracted to someone. They are not reasons for love. I'll ask you this. What if your wife loses the ability of her hands in a car accident? What are you going to do, search and see if you can come up with another reason for love and if you can't you'll file for divorce, or perhaps even worse, not file for divorce but continue in a marital relationship in which you have absolutely not love for her? What if she, heaven forbid, gets a little more plump than perhaps you'd like, or gets old, or loses in some other way her "ability" to look sexy in a nightgown? To get extreme, and perhaps somewhat frighteningly so to some of you, what happens if your husband or wife or family member suffers a serious brain injury that alters his personality?

As humans, we somehow think it's more noble to love a character trait or a personality posture over physical attractiveness and talent. Is this actually true? When it comes down to it, you're still loving for a reason, and the most fundamental thing about love is that it never, ever, ever needs a reason. Being attracted to someone brings you in close proximity with them in which you begin to love. It does not provide the reason.

Maybe you don't agree with me that people don't just love without a reason. Well, a lot of time it's for carnal desires or prideful reasons that love is given; that's not actually love. Being sexually attracted to someone isn't loving them, because it's not being attracted to them for their own good. Loving someone because he or she is a movie star and has great talent and fame isn't a reason for love; it's a reason to get famous and be associated with talented people without doing anything. Selfish to the core. Think, oppositely, about family. How many of you were born into a family you didn't choose? How many of you have relatives that you didn't go out and pick? Well that's the thing. Obviously you didn't pick. God picked.

Consider, briefly, love for family. My immediate and extended family is very large. I love each and every member of them. Most of them are amazing, great people; they are all that way in some aspects. But not all of them have personalities that are compatible with mine, and unless we were family, we would neither associate with each other or even get along at all. But we do, often seamlessly. Because we're family and...wait for love your family. The only true reason for love that I will accept as valid is love for someone or something for simply and only what it is, whatever it is. The last three words are very important. If I ever get married, I may love her for who she is; but if she is in an accident that alters her completely, or takes away her talents and abilities, my love isn't going to go away if I actually love her.

I will add to this that loving someone makes things they are or do attractive. It's wonderful to love your wife because she's a good cook; but you have to understand that if she weren't your wife and you didn't love her, you might not actually enjoy her cooking. Why do you? Love makes people lovely.

God is love. He is not in love, He is not "an enjoyer of love" (though he may be those things to some extent), He IS love. Love is a fact. You can decide to make that fact happen; you can even get some good feelings to go along with it depending on the person you love. You can sometimes make the decision without knowing it because it's so easy. But let me tell you this, when the going gets rough, if you don't make that decision every moment, you'll stop loving not because the emotion died, but because you weren't dedicated enough to keep it alive.

The only reason couples, married or not, break up, or even friends for that matter, is that one or the other is unwilling to make a commitment to love. It's only unwillingness that keeps people apart. Is this wrong? Well, no, of course not. Many people are unsuited to each other; this doesn't mean they couldn't be happy in life for decades. It does mean they may want to find someone whose dreams follow theirs a little more.

Have I made a convincing argument for love being a fact? Probably not for most of you. But I have to go eat supper, so I'll leave this dreadfully long post here and wonder if anyone ever reads it. Maybe soon I'll get to the rest of my arguments.