Sorry

Hello Dear Reader from a rather sunny corner of France! My mood is like the weather. Warm and blue skied, and my disposition as sunny as you could wish.

I have had it said to me that my last few posts have been far too inward looking and intopestcive. So if you’re reading this then it means you have been patient with me and I would like to thank you for it. One person even said that “I had flogged it to death!” Again fair criticism and with hindsight this is probably true. Thank you for being honest enough to tell me. Tough love…

I would however like to try and explain myself. To start off with this blog was going to be about photography and showing photographs from when I went out every week with my camera. It was going to show the photography that doesn’t get shown anywhere else.

Like most creations it seems to evolve and change over time. The Covid19, the crazy bat fuelled light beer disease came along and changed all our lives. The writing, as a creative experience, evolved too. Then I wrote my first article with no photos. Wow, what a rebellion against my original goal.

So, when writing, one can have a tendency to write what one knows the most about. Well,for me, that would be me, my past and present and what I hope my future might look like. Stuff came out of my head and onto the screen. I would write with no censorship. It became a therapeutic exercise.

The article I wrote in November was a liberation for me and a new experience. Ok, a bit dark, darker even than he dark side with their cookies. But over the next articles, with some ever so important therapy, it has allowed me to heal and has given me so much peace of mind. I would even say it has helped me vanquish my inner demons, that have been there for far too long.

It’s like I’m so happy that I want to share this happiness with you too. It’s new for me so just let me get over the novelty value of the whole shebang, and then we can go back to boring photos of cats, Nantes, and other places. I might even share some of my photographic processes with you.

When this person told me all this, I was furious, although calm. But in retrispection she wasn’t all wrong. We all have issues, all of us. The past always creeps up on us and can shout “Boo!” at the most inopportune of moments. And let me assure you, this has happened. But, evacuating and exorcising these troubles has been a revelation to me. I have been told, “we don’t do therapy.” And I get that. Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone. I’m lucky. But you don’t have to cry alone, I had help, and this help has changed me, and I like who I am right now. Not perfect, but perfect enough for me.

Thank you for bearing with me up to here. Again I would like to offer my apologies for making anyone uneasy, or even shocking you. It is my story, and I accept each and every detail of it. I possess it and it no longer posesses me. Let’s hope my story can have a happy ending, but get this people, it’s not over yet. And that’s great.

Blue Monday

Saw a quote that said, “Be the adult that you needed as a child” and it has changed my whole perspective.

Anon

A friend has shared that on Instagram in his stories and it did strike a certain chord.  As somebody who has had a certain amount of baggage to deal with, especially as a child this particular phrase struck home. 

People often have the misconception that an abused child will become an abuser in his own right.  This is, as applied to my life, a complete fallacy.  I have taken the conscious decision to become that adult, that adult that I wanted to be able to have as a child.  Some of the adults in my entourage were that person and some rather less so.  That’s what really made an impression on me, especially looking back as an adult. 

It has helped me heal just thinking of that child, and adolescent that I was all those years ago.  That child is still a part of who I am and yet I am no longer that child.  I have, over the years changed into a man, with a huge sense of empathy.  This empathy has served me well but it can also be a curse.  Over time, I have learnt how to manage it and I have learnt to protect myself from those who would take advantage of it.  I am no longer a people pleaser.  Sure, I love it when I “can” please people but if I don’t then that’s OK too.  I have learnt to say no.  If empathy, which is a great quality, and a sign of emotional intelligence, is a blessing, when left unchecked it can destroy you.  It very nearly did.

Since the beginning of 2021, my emotions have been generally positive.  Maybe the fact that Trump is on the way out might help, as well as the rolling out of the famous vaccine. I have been making a real effort with my  sleep.  On the night from Friday to Saturday I slept 11 hours.  My body must have needed it.  Over Christmas and New Year I rested also.  I am wary of busy people.  When one is too busy isn’t it a sign of something else?  Isn’t it a sign of trying to run away from something?  Isn’t it a sign that we are not being true to ourselves.  Even God rested on the seventh day.  If He needs a rest, then is it not normal that we mere humans might need one too?  I keep coming back to Covid, but I think this might be one of the lessons that we can take away from all this.  We had the luxury of time.

It also gave us time to reflect on our present lives.  Should Social media have such a large place in our lives?  Mind you, I have been making an effort with the ‘Gram.  It’s like my hobby if you wish.  I have found ways of making short videos illustrating my photography, and giving extracts from the blog.  I have tried new ways to plan my feed.  Not trying to blow my own trumpet, but I seem to be OK at photography and I have seen my photos regularly on the explorer pages  of the various hashtags I use, much to my daughter’s amazement.  She was well impressed being the number one photo out of 6 million photos for a particular hashtag.  To those who couldn’t give a flying fart about Instagram and who don’t even know what it is, this will all sound like complete codswallop, but for an 11 year old girl, it makes her old Dad look a little less “ringard” as the French would say.

If you have been living under a rock for the five years you might not have heard of Brexit.  You have obviously had a sheltered existence.  When Brexit was first mentioned my Anxiety went into overdrive rather quickly, like the fast German car that I will never have. I don’t really care, I have a French one which is comfortable, that gets me from A to B and sometimes even C!  As a British subject living in Europe for the last 27 years, wow it really have been quite a while,   I will be allowed to stay in France under the withdrawal agreement.  I just have to acquire a Carte de Séjour, which will show the authorities that I would quite like to stay living here.  I also have to renew my passport, and my father told me to “GET IT DONE,” which is very good advice that I am following.  I love my home country, but am also happy just to visit as a tourist.  The weather is also better over here, and the food is wonderful.  When I arrived, I was fairly lean.  I am now somewhat less so.  My downfall was when somebody said taste this and this was really very nice…

This blog entry is meandering again as random thoughts seem to seep out of my mind.  OK, it’s a bit random, but I’m fine with random.  Especially on a Monday afternoon!  Have a great week everyone, and I’ll be back later with another entry…

Merry Fu**ing Christmas

I’m presenting another entry for the « Understatement of the Year 2020” competition.  It’s been a strange kind of year.  I’m wondering how I am coming out of it.  Trigger warning, I may talk about mental health in this article so get over it pussies!  Normally at this time of year, I’m never really good and this year is no exception.

I think I may have given you the image of my mental health being like a wave.  At the moment I’m going back down.  People try to practice gratitude for everything as a way of ‘curing’ depression as if it were a rather fine ham for the Christmas table.  Well not me.  I should be happy.  I’m on holiday in 2 and a half days’ time for two weeks.  I should be happy, but I’m not.  I have a loving family.  I should be happy, but I’m not.  I have a roof over my head, and my family wants for nothing.  I should be happy, but I’m not.  When I think back to the ‘actual’ Christmas where Joseph was carrying his pregnant wife to Bethlehem, and couldn’t find a place to stay.  Air BnB hadn’t been invented, and he shouldn’t have been happy, but he was.  There was joy in his heart.  I should be grateful for all I have, and yet…

I have food from home.  The kind of stuff I can’t get over here, and I should be happy, but I’m not.  It’s awful.  Yeah, I forgot the Bisto for the Christmas dinner, you useless fool.  You have so much to be thankful for, and because you’re an ungrateful little shit, you feel even more guilty.  I can’t go to mass.  Last year I could and did.  I went to the Cathedral in Nantes and remember crying with joy at hearing the beautiful music from the organ.  I remember feeling physically moved and the music just passed right through me.  But not this year.  A Rawandan immigrant had been refused a residency permit, and the Bishop though he would employ the man as a janitor, and the guy who would lock the place up every evening.  The guy got rather upset about getting kicked out of the country and decided that he would burn the place down.  That beautiful 400 year old organ is no longer there and it breaks my heart.   There’s an article about that somewhere here.

That was last year.  This year is slightly different.  This year we discovered a virus, named after a light beer, and then the aforementioned beer producer found an other name that wouldn’t hurt its brand.  I present COVID 19.  A crappy name with an unobvious prime number.   We found out what it was like to be under house arrest, I mean lockdown.  We were told not to touch people and avoid people.  An introvert’s dream you might say, but I still maintain that we are a social animal, and when you take that away, we suffer mental health consequences.  Then they decided that, “oh shit, the economy is going down the drain, so you all have to go back to work, but have to wear shitty masks that you will end up becoming allergic too, whilst looking as if you have a speedo on your face, and when you beard pokes through, it looks as if you have pubic hair that needs clipping.”  You are not allowed to congregate at the coffee machine, and not allowed to stand next to eachother.

Then Summer came along, and the government said you can all go off on holiday, and so it seemed that the virus had done the same.  People felt as if the phoney war had ended and that it would all be over by Christmas.  I still can’t remember what I did this Summer.  Not because of Covid, but my brain just went on strike.  I know I got some good photos, and apparently, I went to Paris, but it’s all a blur, and I’m not talking about the band from the Nineties!

We could even go to the pub.  Then they said, that you still had to wear masks, but as soon as you sat down you could take them off etc.  This Covid Prime can’t infect you if you’re sitting down, having a pint and financially supporting the Guinness family!  Height restrictions and all that.  They had to move tables further apart, and then the Government said you had to close at 10pm and take a register of clients, with their phone numbers.  This was of course done, and then the G man said, well, you’re going to have to close anyway.  We’re going to launch the sequel to Lockdown, to be known as Lockdown II, the Sequel, not coming to cinemas near you because they’re shut too!  But for all those people not working in offices, you can still go into work but you have to come home straight away afterwards and you can’t meet up with your friends, etc..

Then they said OK we’ve finished messing with you.  Lockdown II is over.  Yayyyy, I can go out where the heck I like and don’t have to have a piece of paper saying where I’m going.  I can go to anywhere in the country I like.  I still can’t eat out of have a drink, or do anything remotely cultural, oh and the twist is that I have to be back home by 20h and can’t go out before 6h.  Bastards!

In other news recently in, a vaccine has been discovered.  Hang on, no that’s not right.  Three vaccines have been discovered.  The Chinese and Russians even have one, but they don’t count apparently on the news.  Not only have they been tested, but they have been approved!  But you can’t have one you fat slob.  Stop eating, and exercise, and loose weight!  You’re way down the priority list.  Nope, they’re for care workers, old dying people, the older people who aren’t dying yet, and then slightly less old people that aren’t dying, but not dead yet, and so on.  If you’re already dead, then you’re not eligible, oops…  #toolatemotherfucker  It’s either a very sick joke or somebody, somewhere, knows something.  And what is Bill Gates going to gain by being able to remotely control old people from a distance anyway?  Are they going to get uppity and rebel when the tea trolley doen’t have any more Chocolate digestives?  Other digestives are available, just not for the old people!  They’re probably going to go strike and die just out of spite.  We went through the war etc!

Now they’re talking about bubbles.  Bubbles are no longer about blowing, but are about families without the blowing.  All depends on the family I suppose.  I can have people in my bubble over for Christmas.  But not because the government said so.  I live in France, and they said that the curfew wouldn’t be enforced on Christmas Eve so people could gather, but only six adults at a time.  But if you think you can meet up for New year’s Eve, then you’re buggered!  So, you can officially celebrate a Christian Religious festival, and yet not the secular piss up at the very end of the Year.  And all this in an extremist Secular country, that is being mean to the Muslims, to stop those naughty Islamist shooting an beheading us when we make a joke about the Prophet (pbuh).  Double standards or what, even for French politicians.  But as that Luvvie Noël Coward said, there’s something Vichy about the French.

Don’t get me started about Brexit!  Biggest mistake since the French thought they could fish in another country’s Sovereign waters and get away with it.  Oh wait…

On a more positive note, Trump has officially been voted out by the Electoral College in the United States of America.  Let’s hope that the new guy will be better than the last President.  

I still feel pretty shitty despite the Christmas music on BBC Radio 2, but at least I managed to get some of my frustrations down on paper.  It’ll get better by Christmas…

Homesick, but not just.

If you have read my previous articles, you will know that I am not always bright or breezy, unless I have just eaten beans, then I can get quite breezy!  The other day, my boss came in and asked me how I was.  As any Englishman worth his salt, the answer to the phrase, « and how are you at the moment? » the answer should always be « Oh, I’m fine thanks! »  You might have just taken one for the team, or have just had your leg eaten off by a tiger, the answer should always be « Fine thanks » or « well, mustn’t grumble… »

I was a fool.  I fell into the trap and proceeded to tell him, sparing no details.  I think I must have scared the poop out of him.  I think he was visibly in shock.  I had obviously said the wrong thing.  Yes, people should be able to talk about mental health of lack thereof, but they should ask if they are not ready to hear the brutal honesty that can go with the answer.  To be honest I have a blank as to what I may have said, but left him in no doubt about how I was feeling, and that I was lucky, as I was rising up the wave once more.

He went on to say that he would have to talk to his boss, or my plus 2, and I replied, you have to what you have to do, not fully realising the bomb that I had just dropped.  It was too late anyway and out of my hands.  When that happens, you just suck it up and keep going.

The next day I got a call from my plus 2 telling me to come into the meeting room and asked if I knew why he wanted to see me. I was on one side of the desk, and my big boss, and that nice man from Human Resources was there.  They asked me the same question, and I answered them as honestly as I had my boss.  I think they were as shit scared as he was.  I explained that even though I had be harried by suicidal thoughts, that I was going to get through it, as we weren’t working for France Telecom, and I didn’t want to give them some extra paper work.   If there is a suicide in the work place then some very difficult questions are asked in the ensuing inquiry.  There might have been some nice flowers from the Company on my coffin, but it is not ideal.  I explained that I was crap at tying knots so hanging myself would not happen.  Saved by my own incompetence!

Strangely ever since having told them how I was everything in their comportment, or attitude towards me has changed.  Am I on suicide watch, or do they just think that I am mad and need shutting away? Now I am training somebody to do my job as if I have an accident or worse, there is nobody who replaces me.  I have told my trainee what happened so at least she knows.  The other colleague that I have on the phone every day, and orders all my stock, is up to date on the situation too. She is the person that often keeps me sane, allows me to tell my crap jokes, and actually laughs at them.  She seems to think that I’m fine, just different.  And, you know what, I’m fine with that. 

I do however feel like a criminal that is about to face sentencing by a judge.  I hope those nice gentlemen in white coats don’t try to take me away.  It is like having the famous Damocles sword hanging over you.  Thank heavens I still have my photography, and that I am still very capable of doing my job.

It’s at moments like this that I wish I could just go home.  Not just the country, but the year too.  I want to wake up in 1979 with all that I know now, and be a kid again, and tell my parents not to send me away to school, tell the guy that sexually abused me to bloody stop and go and get some help, tell the bullies to go and run under an oncoming bus, tell my teachers that they had no idea about what would be useful in my later life, right all the wrongs that I could have righted, and tell that kid, that despite everything, it would be OK, and give him a big hug.  He needed it…

I don’t know where I am at this very moment in my life.  I think back and wonder what if.  How would my life have changed?  I might have bought shares in Apple and in Google.  I might have learnt to drive earlier.  I might have drunk less alcohol when I was 16 and 17, and tried to find a different way to express myself and treat my many woes.  Thank the lord that it’s a nice day out today, and earlier this morning we even got a full double rainbow.  The little things keep you going.  Thank you for listening Dear Reader and I promise to try be a little more cheerful.

Some people don’t know how to handle mental health worries and managers need to be made aware of the problem, and take away the stigma that is the result.  Training, training, and even more training. It’s not a pleasant situation and even more so when you feel stigmatised.  Shit happens, but I’m not dead yet!

My old friend

My old friend melancholy is back with avengeance. She’s a bitch and knows exactly what you don’t want to hear. She reminds you that you are in a sexless marriage, that you are useless to everyone, and that you would be better off dead.

If I look for sex somewhere then I’m the shit, but it’s not the “done thing” to impose oneself. And sex is not just the only thing lacking in my life.

I want out. I want to die. That’s why I’m slowly killing myself. When I’m not good I eat, which will only bring me closer to death, and yet, in an ironic twist of fate, if I don’t eat the same fate awaits me.

At least as a fat guy, society has decided that I’m not allowed to be a sexual being. Who would to have sex with me anyway? Not even my wife does, so why would anybody else?

It’s not just about sex despite what society might say. It’s the connection that sex can give its protagonists, or even the intimacy. Since the advent of Covid we have been told to be wary of everyone else. We all have masks on. We are told that we have to socially isolate. We are social animals and this lack of physical contact is ruining all of us. It will leave scars on all of us for years to come. The problem is that I love my wife deeply but it’s as if there’s a gulf between us. Maybe through death I will be able to set her free.

I feel lonely every day. I am on my own every day at work and work on my own, and it’s the same at home. Solitude can be a blessing, but it can very quickly become a great burden. I even feel resentment every time that people ring me at work. I have my work to do and it’s as people are just interrupting my day. How inconsiderate of them.

I will not be missed. There may be slightly fewer photos on Instagram but people get on with their lives. Life continues despite death of one the protagonists. Eventually people cope and “get over it” and the person really is “laid to rest.”

I just don’t fancy dying in France. I want to die at home. It might have been a fashion in 1914 to 1918, And my grandfather had a couple of brothers eho were killed and buried over here. I want to die at home. I’ve been here for 26 years and I’m fed up of it all. Boris may have ruined my country’s future, but it’s still home.

As a Catholic I try and offer my suffering up as a sacrifice for my many sins. That’s what Ste Thérèse de l’enfant Jésus told us. She was dead by the age of 30 and was a Doctor of the church.

I’m not suffering from despair, I just want this situation to end. I know I should just suck it up buttercup, man up, and stop feeling sorry for myself. Easier said than done. That’s what I was told by my form master when I was at prep school. My mother would say the same.

Some would go and offer sympathy on Facebook, as if a message on a virtual notice board would help. I’m not putting down peoples’ intentions, but you have to get real. It’s like putting a black square on social media. It doesn’t help.

Some would say, go and consult. That doesn’t help either. The head shrinkers are madder than me, except they know they are. I just have a small inkling that they’re even more full of shit than my intestines after eating a whole load of fiber.

I don’t hate any of you. I just hate myself. I am told that God loves me. I am trying to believe that, but it’s not easy every day.

Time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana. This is why I hide myself in my bedroom as soon as I get home. It’s why I do photography. At least when I’m out with a camera I’m doing something instead of thinking. That helps sometimes. Anyway. I’m not dead yet so you’re going to have to out up with for a little while longer.

Here is a selection of photos from last Saturday. Long exposure, shitty weather. I was going for minimalism and maybe a couple of shots I managed it. In some I caught ghost figures due to people not caring and wondering into shot.

Please have a better time of it than me. I’ll get slightly better with a little more time. As I said, I’m not looking for sympathy, or for help. I’m just sharing what is on my mind. Thank the Lord that Adele isn’t singing on the radio…

The Lockdown Diaries Part 2

If you’re still here then it means that you’re still alive and not dead from Covid 19, or the light beer virus for those in the know, which is a good thing after all. Soooo…

Lockdown is officially over but it doesn’t really feel like it. People are still covering their faces with masks, which would have been a motive to arrest people during the Gilets Jaunes demonstrations. Strange how things change so quickly.

I have a tendency towards social anxiety that can be treated with beer, but not the light variety. I tend to withdraw into my room and not come out. For the others it must be like living in a Victorian Mansion where you don’t go onto the East Wing despite the ominous noises that come out from there. Or me being a legend like the depressive yeti, where it was once seen near the fridge but then vanished. I think I mentioned that my son’s girlfriend was living with us during lockdown, and then one day there was a knock on my door, and she told me she was going home to her mother’s. That came a bit out of the blue, and I went into anxiety overdrive, like why is she leaving, what had my son done, what had any of us done, I’m sure I always flushed the toilet, didn’t I buy her her favourite jam for breakfast etc. Apparently it had been planned all along. She was just there for the duration…

It’s strange how you can get used to a situation and then all of a sudden everything changes and you don’t know what world you are living in anymore. It’s like entering the Twilight Zone, nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah….

Things are open here like shops, Mac Donald’s, schools and the like, but it’s not the same. The omnipresent fear of the dreaded virus is strong. No touching people, no being close to people, changes at work…. I hate it. Sometimes I’d rather be dead. Human kindness seems to have packed up ship and buggered off. Human warmth doesn’t exist. There is just this fear. People being short tempered and distant, and complaining about everything. Not just suspicious minds, but suspicious everything. The authorities say one thing one day, and then it changes. When we need strong leadership we realise that they are as shit scared as the rest of us and don’t know much more than we do. And yet life goes on, but I hate this life.

So what can I do about it? Not a lot. When I get to work I have to go through a checkpoint managed by my workshop bosses. They take my temperature, and put a small amount of gel into my hands. Nobody shakes hands anymore and you just go to your work station. The coffee machine has been shut off, and I really feel isolated in my stores. People used to come in and have a chat, but that’s gone. And I’m the lucky one. I have Alexa with me who plays me BBC Radio 2. The presenters do a great job, and it makes me feel less alone, but it’s not the same.

I know I shouldn’t complain and just keep calm and carry on, take it on the chin, and stiff upper lip and all that, but this situation is without precedent in my lifetime, and is slowly wearing me down. Thank God I still have my photography. It really is my only therapy and gets me out of the house and doing something constructive.

Talking about photography, let’s please, move onto something les anxiety inducing. The following photos are of the pond and prairie that I talked about in my last article. There is a mixture of digital and film photos. I have been exploring the notion of pushing film. This not involve putting a film canister in the table and nudging it forward gently, but not exposing it at box speed.

Let me explain. I buy Ilford HP5 Plus black and white negative film. Normally it is to be exposed at 400 ASA. However, by under exposing and extending the developing time you can get a little more contrast on the negative. Other consequences are that with less light, I can still have smaller apertures and get more in focus. I will get more grain but that’s fine. It adds to the analogue photo I think. You’ll see what I mean when you see the photos. There will be three galleries, one showing digital images, one showing the images from the film exposed at 800 ASA, and the last gallery showing images exposed at 1600 ASA. How does that sound?

This first gallery was taken with the Canon 6D Mark II and the 16-35 mm F4 lens.

This second gallery was taken on the Pentax ME Super with a 50mm F1.7 lens with Ilford HP5 but pushed to 800 ASA

This last gallery was taken on the Canon AE1 Program with a 50mm F1.8 lens on Ilford HP5 but pushed to 1600 ASA