Wednesday, 24 December 2014

My Year in Spain (Part 2: Moving On, Preparing for 2015)

Dear all,

Here comes 2015! It feels a little odd for me because I have come back to London just before Christmas so I have missed all the normal build up that comes with the festive period. For me, that normally starts in November with Fireworks/Bonfire night. Then that leads into my birthday a couple of weeks later and before you know it I’m inviting myself to as many friends work Christmas parties (that have a free bar) as I can. As I sit here typing, Christmas day is only a day away. I haven’t sent any cards, or had the opportunity to catch up with as many people as I would have liked, but that’s fine, plenty of time in the New Year.

So, continuing from the first half of this blog post that looked back at my year in Spain, I’ll be looking forward instead. Now that I am back: What the hell am I going to do?

"When will I see you again? When will we share special moments?"

London life

If you will indulge me let me give you a quick insight into my first few days back. I am aware that by doing so I run the risk of alienating myself from my fellow Londoners and have everyone hating me but I’m going to have to do it anyway, let’s hope I cover all angles and people understand my perspective.

The first thing that struck me was the sheer pace of life. I was unlucky in that after arriving at Gatwick airport and travelling into town to transfer on to a train heading into south east London I unwittingly fell into delays. Another mainline station had to close briefly and so a build up of cancellations had preceded me. As I took my first steps onto the platform it was impossibly busy, ‘Was it really always like this?’ I asked myself, both believing and resisting at the same time that I had until recently done this on a daily basis. Once I was made aware what had happened it reassured me slightly but I was still in shock at the furious pace that I had become so unused to.

First day back and some familiar sights made me feel at home

Once I had made my connection I was hit with wave after wave of sneezes and coughs as I passed through the carriage searching for a seat. The cold weather was shock enough but the memory of such typical illnesses being so commonplace soon surfaced. I was actually surprised I hadn’t thought of it sooner. I noticed every polite hand-covered-clearing-of-the-throat and then couldn’t help but follow where people’s hands went after they had adjusted whatever part of their anatomy was irritating them. Suffice to say just a matter of days later I was sneezing, blowing my nose and feeling sorry for myself too. Maybe it’s for the best that I got a cold straightaway, getting it out of the way before xmas day. As I looked at the sleepy tired faces, some stressed and some perhaps a little tipsy, I was brought into a routine that seemed as if it had never gone away. A year may have passed but I immediately fell into the pattern of pushing the train journey and the people I was surrounded by out of my mind and allowed the slow rocking of the carriage to put me into a stupor while I watched the city pass me by. Instead of being fascinated, as I thought I would be, to see all the London landmarks again, to remind myself of all the buildings I had not seen for so long. I went quite vacant and instead daydreamed until the train pulled into my station.

Going back to that pace of life comment, I noticed how I suddenly became quite flinch prone. I’m bad enough on a good day but after such a long time in a small town it was overwhelming having so many people around me. A constant stream of people going back and forth back and forth, dashing into that shop front, running for that bus, swerving the lady with the double seat pram, jumping into double parked cars, and every other kind of athletic activity possible from a pavement. I would practically jump when someone brushed past me. Not that I’ve lived in isolation this year, there were the odd busy days here and there, festivals and the like, and the peak of the summer holiday explosion in August was crazy but in terms of just walking down the road to buy a coffee…it felt quite arduous. Then there is the noise! Now, any friend of mine would tell you I am of a jumpy disposition anyway, I don’t know why but I’ve always been that way and certain friends take delight in opening a packet of crisps with an explosive clap and making me reach for the ceiling, but it went to another level all together this week. Let me explain. I have had no neighbours for months. There were no shops, bars or public services anywhere near my apartment. There were the occasional passing cars, sure, but we are talking one an hour maybe, if averaged over the course of day. Then suddenly I am on a busy High Street and I can’t side step for people and noise. I was actually laughing at myself for being so crazily nervous. I’ve lived in London my entire life and here I was being scared by the unexpected beeping of the green man telling me it was safe to cross the road…

Just a few more things that surprised me: how I forgot about the prevalence of mobile phones. Not in terms of people having them. I didn’t travel to a remote ancient rainforest tribe. More, how they were in constant use. Every single journey I have had by whatever transport means, I have been forced to listen to stranger’s conversations. Not news to anyone, I just forgot about it. Other things; I forgot how the basics cost so much. How expensive a sandwich or coffee is, how expensive it is to travel on public transport, and so on. I forgot about lots of little things that to be honest, weren’t the nicest things to be reminded of. Then, before you all attack my non-patriotism, I was reminded of things that really lifted my heart, the faces of the shopkeepers I have known for so long saying hello as I passed, the decorations up on the street lights and shop windows, the parks and green spaces local to me, the way people joked about me having no tan…for every moment of pressure there was a moment of relief, every time I felt the swell of stress at being a tiny unimportant ant in a giant swarming swirling uncaring colony there was the pleasure of friendship in my own miniature community.

My mind at times did feel like this

The point is I guess, nothing has changed, everything is exactly the same and I always knew it would be. I expected that. After all, it is only a year away, what normally happens in a year? It is the things that you easily forget or become blind to when faced every day. I am not sure what I thought would happen when I got back but once the initial panic died down, London is the same crazy place it always was and will be.

A quick aside; I gave you the link to my Flickr account in my last blog because I had put all my Spain photographs up. I selected just a few of them to add to my Instagram account which I put on hold during 2014 but is now live again and I’ve added some images from home during my walkabouts the last few days so please feel free to follow there if you like (I've embedded a few examples below):

So yes, I can admit. I had an immediate wobble at being back. I could even say I was scared. My senses were overwhelmed and I became a bit panic stricken. Yet, I was also immensely proud at seeing London again. For everything that I miss about Spain there is something in the undercurrents of the London air I am happy to feel again. Certainly it is undeniable there are aspects of life I forgot could be so tough, yet also so much to be amazed at. It of course must link to my deeper rooted hopes and fears for the future. Now I am back there are no more excuses. I am not on holiday anymore (Please, shed no tears for me…) I am not taking a break anymore. I am not thinking things through anymore. I am home and I need to get on with it; that is both terrifying and hugely exciting. 2015 starts now!

My brain maybe needs a couple more days to slow down

Let me give you one direct example of the conflict of emotions. I travelled into central London to meet some friends this week. It was just before the main peak of rush hour, around 5pm-ish. As I turned right to check for available seats on the train there was a man with his feet up on the seats opposite him, drinking a can of lager and swearing loudly on his mobile phone – there had obviously been an issue with a colleague during the day and he was letting his feelings be known – he wasn’t being overtly aggressive or being loud for effect. He was simply talking to his friend and oblivious to the range of people around him, which included children within earshot (a common big city problem, lack of consideration for others). On the way back there was a man eating McDonalds so loudly it was almost like he was having an internal backlash against years of his mother telling him to eat with his mouth closed. There was an argument down the carriage somewhere at one point that I’m sure the entire train could hear. As I got a bus during the night I watched with a chuckle as a policeman signaled to a cyclist to stop, just before a set of traffic lights, and the cyclist calmly raised his left arm and offered him a single fingered salute as he sailed nonchalantly past through the red light. I remember seeing the crush of people coming out of an underground exit, every man, woman and child for themselves as if there was a prize for escaping first and bonus payments for any injuries caused to strangers during the process. There was the common sight of people throwing rubbish to the ground and cars not slowing down for people to cross at junctions. It just seems so hopeless to get upset by it all. I haven’t thought like that before. These things used to really upset me. I think that is what this year has given me. The ability to breath at all times. I would have allowed myself to churn away inside at those goings on before, but I just have to accept this is a busy city and these sot of things happen every single day. It is pointless to be upset by it. Those people amount to less than one percent of who you may see, and the rest of the ninety nine are perfectly nice well behaved positive members of society going about their business, but it is easy to forget that. If you look for the nice things you will see them. I told myself this as I went for a walk to visit some of the local parts of my home town I had missed. It really is a beautiful place and that is what I am going to allow my eyes to see from now on. I can focus on the negative sure, but that got me nowhere before and it will get me nowhere again. I have to keep telling myself this as the weeks go by as I am determined not to let the negative grind me down again.

The thing is, this could have been anywhere (probably). Whatever country, city or town you live in, you will have your frustrations and joys. We all have our issues with society and individuals, which is why I am determined to look as positivity at life as I can. We all know the grass is always greener yet we forget how damn awful it can be as well. It is a constant source of guilt to forget how lucky those of us are who live in a developed liberal and tolerant society that has the basics covered. The old adage of taking something for granted is almost taken for granted. When things get tough as they will do soon when I really have no more money and I’m writing away wondering if I made the right decision I must remember the positive, the lessons I learnt from my year away and keep the ambition burning inside me. The things that may have got me riled up before, anxious, upset, angry…will be dismissed from my mind. I have to think that way. 2015 will be a new start for me but I am not kidding myself it will be easy.

Social Media

I can’t wait for 2015 to be the start of my renewed attempt at harnessing the power of social media. I have now got my data plan sorted for my phone so I can use its 4G capabilities without fear of bankruptcy inducing bills. I want to share with you the research undertaken for both my writing and some literary related projects, as it is not just the final product that is of importance to me, it is the method by which I get there. Hopefully, this will be of interest to people and be fun to do. I have downloaded new apps and tried new features that I am looking forward to making use of. I have new projects to start and new blogging tools to share them with. I have a schedule of work that I know I have a high chance of failing at pretty damn quickly but will endeavor to keep to anyway. I have my friends to hand to discuss ideas with and try out new things. So, it feels great to be back in that sense, I feel the pull of a year of hard work ahead of me…

What’s in store?

Finally the important bit! The most important thing in my life is my writing. That has to be the number one priority and I have a hell of a lot to do. I have worked slowly (remember the sun and sea, come on!) on my writing during the year, but nevertheless I am fairly pleased with the amount I have produced. It could have been a lot more but I’m not feeling too guilty about that. So moving on I need to redraft and get feedback on around five short story ebooks, two of which are collections of three very short stories each. I have made the smallest of inroads on my novel but it is there ready to go. The plan is to work on the novel and release a short story a month. The novel will take 2015 to draft at the minimum (there’s unfounded confidence for you). I will be sharing the progress with you in different ways. I plan to use multiple platforms to blog their development and I will tell you about those soon. I am excited to share with you the new works my fellow Thinking Plainly writers Rufus Garlic and Alfred Duff are working on. I have lots of photography and film projects coming up, utlising my YouTube channel and other new platforms. In short, I have a busy diary and I just hope I can stick to the schedule I have set myself, keep focused and work hard to produce the content I want. I will let you know about all of these in upcoming blog posts and all of the social media sites I am on. There is a list below my name, please follow/connect where you are able.

So for my last blog post of 2015 I want to thank you for listening. I know I sway between the irrelevant-personal and the inexperienced-professional far too irregularly but do stick with me. I’ll get there in the end. Have a fantastic Christmas and New Year, celebrate with those who love you and who you love, remember those who we no longer have in our lives and most importantly remember to love yourself and be the best person you can be.

See you in 2015.

Take care,


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