Choose your own Adventure

It’s 1:30am and I’ve been the last person awake in the house for over an hour. I’m turning something over and over in my head. Not something I can share. Just something.

I’ve been humming the Beatles song “A Day in the Life” for the last few minutes. Maybe it’s connected. I don’t know how it un-corked itself, but it did.

Isn’t it odd how music takes on new meanings when events unfold – when you’re deep in the well thinking about things late at night you make new connections – new insights. Suddenly the words in a verse of the song you’ve not heard for years describe what you’re in the middle of more perfectly than you could possibly predict.

Is it coincidence, or were the words waiting there all along?

Perhaps the universe is up to it’s old tricks – reminding me that I can’t put my head in the sand forever. I can’t keep trudging on regardless. Sometimes I need to be brave – to make choices.

Life is kind of like a “choose your own adventure” book sometimes, isn’t it – except you don’t get to go back a page, and you really never know what’s coming.


A Strange Dream

I had a dream last night that has been rattling around my head all day. When I woke, it took a few moments to gather my thoughts – to re-construct the real from the imagined.

In the dream I was visiting the house I had grown up in – the house we lived in until I was five years old. The back-story is lost on me now, but I found myself walking along a familiar road, looking for the house – only it wasn’t there.

I walked the length of the road, twice – looking for the house. I passed a friend of my parents from forty years ago – long since dead – walking with her daughters. I smiled and said hello, but they walked straight past without acknowledging me.

I passed a football ground, where an artist had constructed a wall of artwork around the pitch. At the end of the street several drunk people staggered between each other – making aggressive approaches to passers by. After a few minutes walking I reached a road junction and continued on towards an unfamiliar area of town – hopelessly lost. As cars approached I began running in the road alongside them.

It was all so clear.

When I woke up the “real” took some time to fall back into place. We had never lived on the road in the dream. There had never been a football ground. There had never been a junction, or another road.

The small bungalow I grew up in fell back into place, along with the surrounding streets and families. The friends of my parents I passed in the dream lived in a different town entirely.

One memory led to another, and another. The grown-up boy next door called Stephen that asked about our dog over the garden fence. My cousin Brian falling from the tree in the back garden. The ice-cream man parking at the end of our driveway. The lady next door paying for her car to be washed with milkshakes, while sunbathing in a paisley bikini.

I’m continually fascinated by dreams – about the world building, the fabrication, and the disassociation. In dreams I accept each new reality as it is presented without question – yet in the real world I am increasingly critical, cynical, and doubtful about that which I see, read, or hear.


With a little help from my friends

We went out last night – to help a good friend celebrate her birthday. We met at her house, summoned a taxi, and had the best night out in quite some time. A lovely meal, a few drinks, and lots of stories, laughter and smiles along the way.

I’m SO tired today. Miraculously I didn’t have a hangover this morning.

You know the funny thing? The whole “night out” part of it was kind of superfluous. I would have been just as happy to have gone for a walk or sat on a park bench with my friends and caught up with each other. The rest – the meal, the drinks and so on – that’s all driven by convention.

All you really need is to be together with those you love.

Love is such a divisive word – but only because people make it so. I love my friend’s smiles, their laughter, their stories, and the experiences we have shared over the years. I love spending time with them, helping shoulder their stresses, and just “being there”.

I remember reading many years ago that you can tell a true friend because you can sit together without making conversation. It’s the piglet thing again, isn’t it.

It’s odd though. I’m a pretty solitary person too. I sometimes struggle to step outside the door – to get over myself. I do though, and I’m always thankful afterwards.


Strange Dreams

I woke early this morning, moments after a radio station filled the bedroom with music from decades past. After spending several minutes watching light patterns dance across the wall, and listening to birds singing in the trees outside, I fell back asleep.

The next hour conjured the strangest dream I have experienced in quite some time.

I was in the house I grew up in, and a car pulled onto the drive. Lots of people climbed from the car, singing some sort of happy-clappy religious song – led by the late husband of an old work colleague. They opened the front door, and flooded into the house – singing as they began filing into the various rooms.

I confronted the leader, and asked him to please leave. He ignored me, and began singing louder.

Giving up on reasoning, I grabbed the sides of his body, and lifted him into the air. As I carried him through the house, his body seemed strangely rigid and light – as if he were a mannequin. I threw him back through the front-door as one might a sack of mail – and began turning, picking up, and throwing each of the nearest of his followers – who were still singing.

And then I woke up.

I’ve been thinking about the dream all morning. While picking the people up, I questioned to their face why they had no mind of their own – why the were blindly following others.

They just kept singing.


Lawnmowers and Music

Do I get a badge that says “honorary member of the old fart club”, or something? I went shopping at lunchtime on the internet, and ordered a new lawnmower. If I had not done so, the garden would have been used to film the next sequel in the Jumanji franchise.

Of course I couldn’t just buy a lawnmower. I had to buy an extension cable too (we have had petrol mowers for years, but I really can’t be arsed with spending three times more for something three times more unreliable). I don’t really care if an electric lawnmower will last a third of the time either – I’ll buy three of them, and it will work out at the same cost.

The whole debacle reminds me of printers and ink. I don’t know if it’s still the case, but you used to be able to buy inkjet printers with ink cartridges in them for less than the cost of a set of new ink cartridges. My other half would never let me throw the printer away each time it ran out of ink – so we ended up re-filling it repeatedly.

It’s the same argument as the person that can afford expensive boots – that cost twice as much, but last for 10 years – versus the person that can only justify cheaper boots – that cost half as much, but only last 2 years. People without much money end up spending more than those with money – and it drives me nuts.


See! This is what happens. You get older, and you write a blog post complaining about lawnmowers, or inkjet printers, or whatever else.

What happened to enthusing about television shows, or music? While we’re talking about that, what happened to watching or listening to pretty much anything any more? We are subscribed to Prime, Netflix, and Britbox at home – I don’t watch any of it. The kids do. My other half does. I noodle around on the internet, and listen to a free Spotify subscription. I’m pretty sure my brain has constructed it’s own ad blocking technology – I couldn’t tell you what adverts play between tracks on Spotify.

I’m sitting here in silence writing this, if you are interested. Just the sound of my fingers tapping away at the keys. I’m the only person still “up” at 10pm. My sleeping bag is waiting for me in the lounge (if you haven’t been reading, my other half has COVID and is isolating in the bedroom).

I wonder what music I might listen to tonight while trying to get comfortable in the sleeping bag? I have an old playlist on Spotify that’s been something of a “go to” for the last several years. I built it with a friend, and filled it full of ear-worms of the 1970s and 80s.

Listening to those tunes now remind me of evenings walking the streets in Frankfurt – where I worked on-and-off for a couple of years. I would wander the streets on my own, messaging back and forth music suggestions, and listen my way around the city.

It’s a good memory.


Hips, Lips, Tits, Power

Thankfully my calendar is bereft of meetings today – affording me the chance to “clear the decks” – to spend some time organising thoughts, planning, and to perhaps get a little ahead of the game.

I have the computer connected to the bluetooth speaker in the corner of the room – it’s belting out an Elton John compilation album at the moment. He’s singing “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” – I can still remember the first time I heard it – on a Saturday morning children’s TV show called “Number 73” about thirty five years ago. Isn’t it odd how particular moments stick in your mind.

I remember first hearing Tori Amos while getting ready to go to college one day. She was promoting the “Little Earthquakes” album, and the video for “Winter” played during a breakfast television segment. I bought the album that weekend, and played it to death. She was the subject of a huge interview in “Q” magazine a few months later – titled “Hips, Lips, Tits, Power” along with Bjork and PJ Harvey.

Just think how much useful information could have been stored in my head if it hadn’t become filled with the songs of Tori Amos and Elton John, and the countless brat pack movies I watched on-repeat during that period.


Coffee break over. Time to get back to work.


Favourite Photo

This year I’m taking part in “Bloganuary” – a series of writing prompts published throughout the month by Mindy Postoff. Today’s writing prompt is “What is your favourite photo you’ve ever taken?”

About fourteen years ago now our long journey towards adoption was completed, and we went from a family of two to a family of five overnight.

In the weeks and months that followed we were repeatedly asked by family and friends for photos. One day – in-between watching Dora the Explorer, doing jigsaws, running around the garden, and completing the endless chores that children bring about, I managed to sit the children down for long enough to take a half-decent photo.

It’s always been a favourite.


Favourite Childhood Toys

This year I’m taking part in “Bloganuary” – a series of writing prompts published throughout the month by Mindy Postoff. Today’s writing prompt is “What was your favourite toy as a child?”.

I was born in 1973. Although the memories are hazy at best, I would have gone to the cinema to see “Star Wars” when it was originally released. I can vaguely remember “The Empire Strikes Back”, and can clearly remember “Return of the Jedi”. More than the movies, I remember the experience of visiting the cinema with my Dad and brother – the feeling of exhilaration while walked out into the night air afterwards, and the excited conversation during the car journey home.

In the years that followed, each Christmas brought another spaceship from the Star Wars universe, and one or two more figures for my collection. I vividly remember the year the AT-AT arrived, towering over the assembled rag-tag fleet of spaceships that assembled under the stairs before lunch.

I spent countless hours playing with the Star Wars toys during my formative years. Bookshelves became space stations, with books pulled out to provide blast doors. Darth Vader remained the villain throughout – although he only ever had one or two storm-troopers under his command in my stories – because that’s all I had. I never had an Imperial Tie-Fighter either, so most stories involved the theft of the X-Wing, or my brother’s Snow Speeder.

It’s funny – the more I write, the more I remember.

One day in my early teens – after computers had entered my life and swept all toys before them, my Mum told me about a fund-raiser for a local children’s home that was happening – and would I like to donate the Star Wars toys. I didn’t hesitate.

Collectors are probably grimacing at this point, but my Star Wars toys were played with – not locked in glass cabinets and admired – and they went on to be played with. We found out years later that the children’s home didn’t sell the Star Wars toys – they kept them. Countless children in their care shared them, and created their own memories with them.

Fast forward thirty years, and I (of course) took my own children to watch the new movies – to cheer as Rey awakened the force, to cry as first Luke and then Leia died, and to walk into the night air exhilarated all over again.

For several years my youngest daughter went everywhere dressed as a Jedi. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.


Coast to Coast

This year I’m taking part in “Bloganuary” – a series of writing prompts published throughout the month by Mindy Postoff. Today’s theme is “what is a road trip you would love to take?”

Back in 1999, when the world and I were very different, I had just returned to England after visiting my younger cousin in San Francisco for the spring.

Being young, naive, and not having seen much of the world, America walked straight out of a movie. From the blue shirted police officers wandering the crowds in the airport, to the hotdog sellers, the impossibly pretty college girls, and the war veterans holding placards in the street. A new world filled with unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells.

I wouldn’t so much say San Francisco made an impression on me, so much as grabbed me by the collar and shook me. Days were spent walking the various parks, eating sourdough bread, and retracing the haunts of Kerouac and Ginsberg.

The America I experienced during the spring of 1999 has stayed with me ever since.

In the months that followed – having read “On the Road” – I started to make plans for a coast-to-coast adventure. Perhaps the following summer. I would fly to New York and travel westwards across the United States – using cars, busses, trains, boats, taxis, bicycles – as many forms of transport as possible. My cousin would meet me for parts of the journey – perhaps to revisit her birthplace in Chicago, or the home of her formative years at Lake Powell.

At the end of the year I began researching the papertrail to make the visit somewhat more permanent – sponsorship, green cards, and emigration forms became the subject of transatlantic phone calls.

And then none of it happened.

I met a girl.

A chance meeting with a girl in Oxford re-wrote my future during the spring of 2000, and the road trip, the emigration, and the arrival of an English web developer in San Francisco during the dot com boom never happened.

I’ve never forgotten the plans though. One day. One day. Quite how the money or time might ever present itself remains something of a mystery given the arrival of houses, daughters, pets, and so on – but the thought remains – one day.