Nearly there.


Today 12th August 2018. Have been on my forum today and catching up historically. Hadn’t realised, but I bought my bus back in 2009. How time flies. Which means I traveled around in her daily for 5 years before I swallowed my disappointment and SORNED the old girl. I had a feeling, because the previous years MOT highlighted rot and rust (R and R…….not, unfortunately R and R = rock and roll). Got it repaired to get her through. But felt it was patch up safely and go. It would last a year. But no longer. Not a great feeling sitting within a bus’s machinations with the possibility of being a dangerous commodity on the road. I knew the next MOT would show more R and R number 1 = the negative kind.

So. I took the decision that I’d bite the bullet and get her off the road. She sat on the driveway for 2 years whilst metal to human exchange of telepathically beating and berating my brain for my not looking at or after her. That is….not at her every time she came into my vision…..but looking the other way. Suddenly the Beech Nut tree to the left of the VeeDub became very interesting. I simply ignored the presence of my, once, pride and joy. No longer my VeeDub Sputnik (fellow traveller). She became my cast aside. Actually….I couldn’t look her in the eye, so parked her right up against a wall. Her view for 2 years was that, as said, cream coloured wall. Where once was Mother Nature through the headlight eyes on the daily journeys, was now a badly painted breeze block monstrosity. A scenario akin to Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’. Two years of Sputnik’s mechanical reflection and meditation? Like circling the Earth, looking at either the stars or the blackness in between. Enlightenment or emptiness? I suppose the Old Girl has more insight into life than I will never/ever have. I’d like to think she looked at the stars….and also appreciated the blackness for forced relaxation, insight and the seeking of the unfathomed unknowing. Nothing and yet…..everything. Yin and yang.

So…….Everyday I looked at the back end of the bus and let the close proximity of the overgrown hedge provide an excuse for my not getting into the inside of the bus to check her over. Wall only vision and, as said, a subsequent profound insight that the bus would learn of an A to Z  (Antar mouna to Zen) Buddhist enlightenment was a hoped for. When the VeeDub was roadworthy? It would have a vision of peace and understanding.

But…reality bites. So, back to reality. My granddaughter loved the bus. After 2 years SORNED I opened the drivers door to let her look in……and she screamed. Wouldn’t go inside. Wouldn’t even put a foot down to touch the bus. I felt really sorry for my granddaughter. I’d let her down. I also felt really sorry for the VeeDub. Since when did metal and all the inherents become a heartfelt “Sorry, I’ve let you down”. Alongside? “Sorry Granddaughter. I’ve let you down too”. My granddaughter wouldn’t touch the bus. My bus wouldn’t be what she once was and be a memory of loveliness. Just smelled damp and horrid. Despite all the promises and cajoling in the world. A trip to Aberystwyth McDonalds. Even Honey Nut loops or Chocolate Krispies for breakfast instead of lumpy ReadyBrek failed. Not the bus. They don’t like Burgers or eat Kellog’s….they eat oil, petrol, money and human belief in the German philosophy of “it’ll last forever dreamlike status”. My granddaughter needed reassurance. It’s fine. It’s the old campervan you loved. NO WAY!! No way are my feet touching this monstrosity. OMG. If Kellog’s and the ultimate promise of McDonalds failed, then a big decision would have to be made. Do I get rid? Or repair?

I’ve spoken of this before, so you know that repair was the decision. And now?

Just look at the result up to now. It’s an absolute joy. My granddaughter will be over the moon. As will her brother, new sister and cousins. I await verbally exclaimed descriptions from the grandkids of the ‘through a child’s eyes and wonder’ kind. Probably?………Well………You can’t think like a child can you? Maybe it’ll be of the nature of……”Fliff/Flaff/Floff, Screemy Weemy, It’s a……..Bus!!! Or, Oh my gosh…that’s an improvement I must say” or words of that similar kind. By the way….Previous threads show the inside. Now all that needs doing to finish the renovation process?

From the Guru Paul who is renovating the bus:

“It’s just a good polish, fit the doors, glass and lights bumpers and rubbers….. fingers crossed all done!!!!”

However….words, real or granddaughter imaginary, are not enough. So here are the photos.

I’ll go with an accompanied by a Rik Mayall Frumph…….

Fliff, Flaff, Floff !!! Why? Because the old girl is akin to the Phoenix rising from the ashes. Essentially………rebirth. And it’s what my youngest grandchild would probably say.




Optimistically Imaginative to Deep Melancholy.

Concerning? Self seeking ambitions and interests and being quietly independent.

You pick up books, vinyl or cassette tapes, a guitar, clay to sculpture, pen and paper, a camera with film, go to college and university with an inquisitive mind, you read sign language and anatomy, physiology and pathology books.

Books. There for life. Endless books and journeys to who knows where. Tolkien, H G Wells, Conan Doyle, and so very many more. Earlier in life, Enid Blyton, Richmal Crompton, Dickens, and again, so very many more. Words that beautifully haunt your life.

Vinyl or cassette tapes. You’ve listened to both, the music has been ever present in your life. CD and MP3 format a poor substitute because the unique qualities of vinyl and tape have a sound that imprints into your psyche and never leaves. Melody’s that beautifully haunt your life.

Guitar. You write songs, you learn others’ songs, play local pubs, improve enthusiastically, go on tour, ambition to reach for the stars. Tunes, self penned, that beautifully haunt your life.

Clay. You make Celtic inspired pieces, buy a kiln, go to craft fares, have exhibitions, write poetry, stories about your clay characters and get them printed. Imagery, self made, that beautifully haunts your life.

Camera. You use only film because you believe in the magical Latent Imagery concept, build a photography darkroom, read all about iconic photographers out there, and avidly seek the photograph that mind blows. Exhibit your work in galleries. Scenes of nature that beautifully haunt your life.

College. You go to learn British Sign Language. It takes 5 years of your life in learning within college walls, both part time and full time. Support students in their educational experiences. You chase to improve your skills daily and are self critical. But still you swallow your angst and try. Learning that beautifully haunts your life.

University. You seek to become a Staff Nurse. 3 years of your life in University, Community and the Hospital wards. You chase to improve your skills on a daily basis. You are a Staff Nurse. Still self critical. But also have criticism thrust upon you from the media and how nurses are viewed nowadays. You’re daily experience always involves fear and self realised vulnerability. But still swallow your angst and try. Skills that beautifully haunt your life.

So, as always, I place the Buddha statue alongside tinkling bells, singing bowls, background silence, nature’s sound dance or gentle music, light resins or joss sticks and meditate to my best ability. But. Meditation, reflection and realising inner peace no longer work. They’re gone. All have been replaced with something else. Melancholy.

Where once was hope, imagination, ambition, independence, artistic seeking, the friendship in the nature of books, writing and music. Recently? Within the last two years probably. It has been replaced. No longer to pick up a book and actually finish it. No longer put music on and truly listen to it. No longer write a song and get past writing lyrics to the first verse and chorus. And such horribly negative lyrics too on reflection. No longer pick up a camera and seek interest as to what lay before my eyes. No longer seeking to avidly learn following my Masters Degree experience. Get by day to day and sigh with relief that I’ve actually got to the end of yet another day. Day’s are now simply lost endeavours. They come. They go.

So. I suppose I am either at a stage of deep, deep melancholy. Or maybe just an older person with a free bus pass who has just shrugged his shoulders and said to himself:

“Enough of seeking. There’s a lot to be said in simply sitting in the moment, drinking good coffee, eating great biscuits, drinking good bourbon, smoking decent pipe tobacco and simply looking at the trees and stars”.

Facetime, Emails and new promise.

Sometimes I find myself at get together birthday, wedding, works do parties. Trying to listen. Asking for enquiry. Or. Replying to broad spectrum statements from others. With no indication of them having heard. Certainly no confirmation responses. Maybe a nod, a shrug or a turning of the head to look elsewhere. Maybe my low voice frequency, external overwhelming noise or the others you are chatting, nay shouting to, are in a state of excitement or intoxicating alcohol induced lack of focus. The conversation exchange should be given up as a frustrating exercise. It’s like this at party’s where the disco is so loud you can shout yourself hoarse. If it were a music band, then there is focus. So, I sit and sink back into reverie. I’ve never been an interested watcher. A people watcher. So, the party becomes one of a strange waiting game. Waiting for it to finish and then go home. Unless you dance. I don’t dance. I don’t find Dad dancing style a nice experience. People video you and chuck it onto Facebook so people can laugh.

If I have my profoundly Deaf nephew at the party? Then, my sign language skill is being used in order to communicate with my nephew. Suddenly I notice eyes on our interaction. Visual interest with the onlookers having, possibly, no idea of conversational content. But they still look. My family sign. So we, as a family, suddenly all communicate. Despite the noise. It’s a shame there is no universal understanding. How enriching it would be. Talking universally. And more intimately. Chatting at parties.

I remember accompanying a profoundly Deaf friend to Bristol and being the interpreter for him at an assessment process so he could join a Circus for Performing Arts. He paid me by paying for some egg, chips and peas in a Fish and Chip shop/restaurant. Two older ladies sat at the next table making statements. “Ah! Look at them. Isn’t it wonderful that they can talk to each other. Looks very strange though. All that pulling of faces. A bit off putting isn’t it?” Other comments that made me feel I was observed as an oddity. I spoke of what they were saying to my friend. He just smiled and laughed. “That’s the way it is…..always” he says. With his hands. Three signs. “Happens always same” accompanied with a world weary smile and a shrug of the shoulders.

At the end of the meal, we stood to go. I smiled at the two ladies. “They make superb chips don’t they?” I said to them. “Yes they do”, one replied. Not an insight, jaw drop or blush or stammer of awareness of the way they had spoken. I often wonder if the penny dropped later.

A voice is a powerful tool. Words are powerful tools. Sign language is also a powerful tool. I have supported students through their courses in both Further and Higher education. I have argued with lecturers for long periods regarding my voice overs of, what was then, video presentations from Deaf students. They watch the visual expression of British Sign Language and it’s own conceptual inclusions and try to link it to the recorded spoken word accompanying the video presentation. My translations were based on both the manual hand shapes vocabulary signs and visual non manual features. If they described sadness, confusion, happiness, shock, interest, etc. then the facial expression would be presented as to the enormity of those feelings. Placement, directional verbs, timelines, question techniques, plurality, orientation, direction and perfection of hand shapes. This, when translated over to an English format, invariably confused lecturers and teachers. Once I explained the grammar process, their inquisitive minds became fascinated.

So, why the title ‘Facetime, emails and new promise?’ Because the Deaf community now have access to each other and are able to get on with their lives. Immediacy in the new, modern world and how it has developed. When I was employed in the field, it was all Minicom telephone typing if you had no face to face opportunity. Wonderful thing technology. And those chips did taste good, despite the close company sitting at the next table.


Once again…we lose. Or do we? England’s 2018 World Cup? We could of, and in reality, should have reached the final. Does it matter? It does and doesn’t. Why? Because football is a matter of excitement, disappointment, analysis, reflective insights and future hoped for’s. When I was playing football in my teens, I was pretty decent. I enjoyed the sport. It was a collective of emotional turmoil. All dependant on the moment. We won and lost. But reflection was on my improvement and how the team supported each other. One or two players were weak. But support from the surrounding players gave those players belief. A few more were consistent. And the standouts were simply that. Standouts. Where did I play? School team, over on the local fields with local street teams and the Cub Scout tournament. I was a cub. It became a Life changer? Why the cubs or, in fact, hopeful future scouts?

To explain…….I was a cub, in the 90th pack, awaiting to go up to the scouts. We played the 80th pack in the tournaments final. We won. The outcome of one 80th pack adult’s intentions to seek out an answer to escape football and competition failure and disappointment? An episode of disbelief. Of…..’What?’ An adult seeking someone or something to blame for their loss. Result from the enquiry? I didn’t bother becoming a scout. Why? Nasty taste after the politics. In the cubs, as said, we won the tournament final. My younger brother alongside me, we scored a fair few goals. Him the most. The opposition team (the 80th), the team we played in the final, found I was 11 days too old according to the rules, complained and a replay was the result. That’s when I realised there were sore losers. Ideology, excitement of 11 players (children) winning and the fact an adult chose to challenge the system because they LOST, was a bit of a life changer. For all concerned. Firstly, my team mates. Because my friends in the cubs had to play again. And this time they lost the match. Success was torn from them. And me because I was portrayed a cheat. An unknowing cheat. But a cheat nonetheless. Because those 11 days turned me into Pele apparently. I was so influential, because I was practically an 11 year old adult, that it was deemed unfair. Can’t remember ages of what cubs or scouts should be. A team mate, born 14 days earlier to me was still a cub child! Losers? Went by the rules and not the moment. And certainly not with children’s psychology. I didn’t intentionally go into the match knowing I was a week and a half over age according to the rules. I went into the match as a cub. Not a scout. Pathetic is the adult who actually inquired into all inherent as to repair the damage that the 80th NEVER lost. They didn’t lose. They were deemed the best! And no longer so? Seek something to change all that. What mind looks into finding something that changes outcomes. Especially one that affects childrens’ euphoria. Very, very sad. They actually LOST. Unthinkable. Blame a boy who has the actual temerity to be 11 days over age. Thanks for that. You deemed me a cheat. Not the adult who ran the 90th, my team, who didn’t intentionally or knowingly put me into the team. We were all unknowing.

Roy’s goal above. He scores a goal to be remembered. Sod the score line. It is a beautiful thing to behold. A corker! Seek one positive in the negatives. England played some great football this tournament. So. I’ll remember the positives and know that those experiences will make the players stronger for the next matches.

So, what does this all mean? It highlights for me the complexities of football and the rules. The inconsistency of decision making. A high extended dangerous ‘possible kick in the face from a foot’ goal by Croatia and a decision of ‘it was OK and valid’ by the same referee who sent Nani off for a similar high foot intervention challenge in a champion’s league match between Manchester United and Real Madrid shows exactly that. One rule for one. One rule for another. Does it matter? Not really. Because that’s what football and life is about. A collective where individual inconsistency and injustice is highlighted. Because everything is captured on film we can reflect and moan. But there’s no point. What is done is done. Move on.

We then reflect of what might have been. Not the collective 90 minutes of to and fro. But individual actions that damage psyche. All we need to do is accept and carry on. Injustice? Hopefully justice eventually outweighs it. We can but hope. You can’t analyse or determine. So much depends on ‘luck’. So much depends on strange decisions. VAR even gets it wrong on analysis and reflection. You just have to sometimes accept. And move on. The next championships? England? We’ll be European champions. Unless sore losers are inherent.

Umbrella, Tree, Firepit and Night sky stars.


I am sitting outside. In my direct and peripheral vision are umbrella, tree, fire pit and star filled night sky.

Umbrella. Lasts as long as it’s man/woman made status dictates.

Tree. Mother Nature and therefore, if looked or not looked after, lives or dies.

Fire pit. Transient, either lives for the moment, kept alight for as long as it is nurtured, therefore…..intense and bright flame brilliance or slow burning live life with intention to experience all……which equals…..short or long lived.

Night time stars. Infinity, unlooked fors and unknown. The maybe of what may be. The hoped fors that keep the spirit alive.

Isn’t life like that?


New experiences of visual and olfactory nature.


Strange collective of happenings resulting in said title. In the fire pit? A collection of fragrant hollow candle wax, old crystals and resins and bamboo. Ate a veggie BBQ……with resulting wipe your hands clean with kitchen roll chucked into the fire pit. Inside the fire pit? A mix of already there’s. A bed of beech, apple, damson and pine log ash. Old collection of house fragrances tapped out from the metal melting pot containing a mix of Frankincense, Myrrh and Benzoin resin and crystals which have melted into synergy. The BBQ had accompanying candle light. So…..Outside scents? The last of a wax scented candle of Cinnamon and Orange with it’s walls hollowed down. A couple of wooden/bamboo skewers from said BBQ sat upright in candle hollow. Collectively….all put into the old ashes of previous night burns. A couple of puffs on the pipe filled Clan baccy and the match put to this collective fire pit inherent of wax, crystal, resin and tissue sitting amongst said ashes. Result. Visual and olfactory bliss and sadness. Twenty minutes of the Baby Jesus gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh with added Benzoin burn accompanied  by Cinnamon and Orange burn. The air filled with odour. The eyes filled with fire dance. The memories filled with initial contentment. Result? Emotional turmoil. Started with startling olfactory relaxation. Smoke and odours to make the heart strings crack. Ended with startling visual reflection of haunting memory. Why? Because the two skewers sat there smoking like the Twin Towers tragedy. Startling imagery. Again to make the heart strings crack. Strange indeed is the unexpected.

Why bother?


I took this photograph with insight to what lay behind. It had various dynamics. It has made me realise that a photograph jangles the memories. Involved in verbal inclusions? Angst in collectives.

So pinpoint. What is ‘Involved’ here in this photograph? Enquiry. Concern. Not coping. Head in hands disbelief. Seeking answers. Calming the one who we think suffers most….but is actually attention seeking. Indifference or deep in own thought patterns? People bouncing off each other. Telling others to Shush.

I took the photograph. Kept quiet and simply observed. There are situations out of your control. You focus upon them. But, realise you have no influence. Actually don’t want to influence anyway. Why bother? Because some situations are, once again, out of your control. If they are out of your control. Again. Why bother?

Yes, my words are intentionally cyclic. Because life can be repetitive. Deja vu. You haven’t the answers. Timing for repair……..too late, much too late, so the result…….Fail. Timing of seeking the answers after events?….Fails. Times of wondering what you did wrong not to intervene in the first place……Fails. No answers to satisfy your soul. So, why bother? Too much energy is spent in “Why bothering”. So….why bother? Live life without bothering. Go into self preservation and forget struggling. Enlighten the self. You’ve done nothing wrong. Others have created the initial question of “Why bother?”. Push the camera shutter button…….a moment in time, And forget? The image lives and results in visual enquiry. I remember again those moments and……..Bother no more?

No…….I still bother nonetheless. Why? Because, as the saying states:

“Don’t let people pull you into their storm. Pull them into your peace”.

(Kimberly Jones).

One hour of collective visual and emotional holistic thought out answers…….

Well, actually……..A weekend plus one hour moment in time……..


No. Definitely not me above. I took this picture and called it ‘Eating chips with Betty Boo’. Betty Boo, as I thought could be her name, was eating chips. So was I. Hence the ‘with’, although separate nature. Put said chips down to take the photo, picked them back up and carried on eating. I thought of sitting and thinking about stuff when you have the additive of bag of chips equivalent. My equivalent a few hours ago was Booze and Baccy. Betty Boo? Looked like she was contemplating life and the sea was whispering answers to her questions.

I’m sitting drinking and puffing away on my pipe and looked at the surrounding nature and scenery from the side of our house. I have just had a weekend visit of family and very close friends. All exceptionally close. 6 people, myself included, who purposefully put out intentional escape with a get together scenario. This avoids the reality of what we are all subject to with individual everyday, current life’s experiences of work, health and relationship impacts. We put together a situation where we create a weekend of gentle experience and in doing so, create lightweight diversionary tactics. As said…..Each of us going through these problematic, stress related work, family and health related issues which are burdens of immense force. It’s a small contribution of planned activity to seek positive diversion from life changing situations.

So……..Needed? Another weekend of escapism. Done before and fondly remembered. Intentionally and democratically planned. Emotions and discussion held back? Oh Yes! Why? Because to dig deeper would provoke inner turmoil to each of us. 6 people with inherent problems that, if we were to open up and share, would provide something of a situation of massive analysis need. We avoid the absolute enormity of needful talk. You sometimes cannot share experiences of such profound impact. We get together on Friday night. And say goodbye on Sunday. Friday? We’ve come from a week and more, much more, of conundrum and being battered in various ways. I’ve had a long Friday day shift ending a week of the stuff nurses go through. Hours of this and that. ‘This and that’ nurse wise is not to treat the day with wipe away disregard. It’s deep, confidential and involves the worrisome thoughts of people in a mix of hope, positivity, negativity and jeopardy. The others have been through weeks, months of terrible impacts too. Not lightweight either. Problems to really rock ‘each of the individual 6 of us’ boats. But ‘back burner’ is the art of intention to adopt.

So. I’m now having a break of one week on a holiday. Not a holiday, but a break from intensity. Suddenly, I have an ‘I’m not at work hurray intensity’ of not waking up and thinking, I’m in the hospital again! Oh deary dreary sarcastic me. Or deary dreary naughty plus ecstatic words of happiness to that effect sarcastic me. The other 5 family and friends? Not at work also and therefore……..A weekend of escapist hoped fors and expectations. Arrival. Here in Wales. Wales is the witness to a small 72 hours of cathartic delivery. Planned activity through negotiations? A train trip. Meals and chit chat sitting around our table and in our small, but friendly old comfy and historically familiar front room. A fire pit outside to be lit. A front room open fire with log basket that may be lit, but isn’t because it’s warm outside for a change. A few guitars waiting to be played. Songs of importance to show, tunes you want to share. Meals that are prepared with considerations. Drinks, a mix of alcohol and soft choice, to be imbibed with resulting ‘they’ll hit the spots’. Late nights, early mornings and a million and one thoughts inside your mind that can’t and won’t be truly discussed. Why? Because if you did it would ruin the need for essential lighter approach. So you create a positive atmosphere. And in doing so you come through the 72 hours with a smile and stronger outlook. Yes, we talk briefly of the background problems. But intentionally lightly and quickly change the negativity. We need to look forwards. Not dwell on what is, was, may be or, in actuality, what will be. But we truly understand each other’s ‘What lies beneath’. Now is not the time to discuss. Now is the time to laugh at the stupid things we’ve done and carry on doing or saying. ‘I didn’t know he’d died until afterwards’. We’ll give you 3*** because you have no en suite and refused to cook poached eggs and offered unhealthy fried. A collected curry which provided the hottest and spiciest to the one who wanted the coolest/mildest. But a dish of quickly made mint and yoghurt cooling raita saving the day. Bigger conversation, totally bonkers statements, occurrences witnessed……they’ll be there forever and a day. The woman chatting to us in a pub garden in Barmouth. Takes a bite of her sandwich and her false teeth go flying. The suspicious bag and laptop on the train, unaccompanied next to us and the dread of a possible threat. The lovely blokes, three seats ahead, who owned said bag who didn’t get the alarm we felt. What unaccompanied bags and the nervous scenarios involved. Innocence still exists. Tens to twenties of little scenarios to remember and laugh about. ‘Trouble with charity shop shirts? They don’t have the right sizes labelled in them. Never fit!’ Nothing to do with expanding stomach girlth has it? This weekend’s little gems. Added to the loads of previous gems from older visits here.

I have just sat outside my house. The extremely important 4 now gone home. Number 5… Wife sleeping on the sofa. Number 6, me, sitting contemplating happenings of life and what has been. Evening still dusky light and stars hidden behind unseen, but imagined, cloud formation? I have lit a pipe of fresh tobacco. Drunk from a red, beautiful ‘flick the rim and it sings’ glass which is filled to the rim with a lovely earthy red wine. I look at the surrounding view and images. And they are a reflection of life as seen through a parallel scenario. The Mirror Mask.

They are apt and link to the weekend’s and, ultimately, life’s experiences. The fields opposite? Familiarity and comfort in recurrence. An open, sun filled field area of timetabled green growth to following year on year plowed earth to followed shoots of crop growth. The countryside green, blue, red, white hue again and the year after year of remembered constant changing images of light, to flickering faerie dance moments to ghost like shade colours of dread and followed joy and ‘here we are as ever again’ looked fors. All opposite our house in the storytelling nature of ongoing developments born from nature and earth and crop growing cycles. Familiarity and knowing it’s Constance breeds contentment. Invasive creeping Ivy growing up the telephone pole. This ivy that needs to be eventually cut off at the root source to stop it’s overwhelming tenacity in it’s intended need for destruction of the said telegraph pole and, subsequently the wires, which would therefore cut off the information source of broadband which enriches our lives. Issues like invasive Ivy need to be cruelly, but reluctantly, cut out of your life, shoved aside and disregarded. The beautiful beech tree, initially loved and admired, that gets taller by the year, but in doing so blots out the Aberdovey bay and sea in the distance view because it has its own purpose and dynamic to reach onwards and upwards. It isn’t bothered about inhibiting your joy in outlook. It has it’s own purpose and a ‘stuff you’ attitude. But it does provide the bees with sticky leaf nectar to eventually realise honey. Look for positivity in all things. Everything has purpose I suppose. A plethora of Valerian plants, pink in splendour, but which clutter the garden, destroy other plant life and the eventual need to weed out their invasive roots because they’ve got too big for their boots. They destroy our stone built walls. Widen the cracks and push closeness and the knitted strengths of the bricks, stones and mortar apart. Resulting in…..Fragmentation and chaos. Just because it’s what they do. Pull them out or hit them with weed killer? They die…..and the resulting result. They stink. A smell of rot that lingers. The fire pit that can provide warmth and comfort in its crackling activity and heart repairing flame light dance. A simple match struck and applied to the fragility that is paper, added broken small Beech branch kindling starters, to small Rose, Damson and Lilac midway branches and eventual fierce and warming damson, Apple and ash logs to give an eventual glow of heat and ability to survive the future awaiting and oncoming night chills. But……which isn’t lit whilst I sit on this Sunday night due to the fact that I am alone. I could light it and give comfort to myself. But, want to save log supplies so others can share the experience of it’s healing nature. These visuals are comparisons in my minds eye to occurrences in my life. Personal Parallels. Experiences in the past where I thought “If I were to reluctantly cut that person/ivy out my life… couldn’t cause harm. If I had kept an eye on that tree/person over the years, it wouldn’t have blighted and negatively influenced my pleasure in seeing the beauty out there beyond. Not stifled my abilities and ambitions in seeking higher realisations”. Those people have gone now. No longer in my life. But leaving such profound impacts that they changed me oh so much. That kind of analogy. Weird analogy actually. They are no longer influencing. But still influence. All 6 of us have had similar impacts over our lifetime.

And finally. Back to pipe, tobacco and wine. Staple relaxation tools. Both can kill in excess. Booze and Baccy. Dangerous or comforting? At the moment I actually don’t care. Red wine and tobacco sooth the nerve jangles. It’s not addictive to a person who possesses a non-addictive genetic makeup. I have a non addictive nature. At present it is the small answers that provide the ability to survive. The larger answers can wait. My own intended prescription is a weekend I have just experienced, a final weekend one hour dose involving one bottle of red wine and two pipe fills of tobacco. Small, perfect needful occurrences to get through the chaos of both historical and very recent life’s unlooked for horrible experiences.


A VW bus is a lifestyle.


I’ve just realised the answer to my current state at the end of a fourth triple Jack Daniels. Or maybe more? Pasrpt (Ha, Ha…) caring. Passed caring. Whoah! Passed? Past caring. I can type. Yippee! The fifth will render me past focussing. The sixth and I’ll be snoring. So get on with it. But why JD? It just feels nice. Right! My Blog…..focus!

My VW bus is, like JD, my perfect lifestyle. It really, really matters. I seem to have forgotten how much I loved the bus. But, I’ve put it on a back burner. Pushed to the back of my mind due to the fact that if I thought more about it….I’d go nuts. I’ve been without it now for four years. Now? I’m on yet another holiday. Yet again, from Friday I’m making stuff up as I go along. No holiday purpose. Just what I’ll do I’ll just do. My brother and one of my best mates are arriving with their wives on said Friday. When I knew they were arriving about a month ago, I had visions of all 6 of us popping to a local or near/far off destination to have an experience of the VeeDub chill factor. This chill factor was a vision of bus with inherents. The comfort of Billie Budd and all she provides in psychological comfort. Basically, my bus, a stash of needful stuff and the kettle on. Still not a realisation. But hey! That’s life. Then I thought of stress. My workload is dynamic. Being a nurse I have a shed load of emotional turmoil in my day. Every day is linked in some respect to other’s worriesome thoughts. Also, medically and clinically I have to keep people safe. In keeping them safe, they keep me safe. The pressures are relentless. In the past I have never felt so pressured as I do so now.

Then? I suddenly realised. Why did I cope then? When I drove into work every day in a ‘put-put VeeDub engine sound’ of lovely bus and not like now of ‘listening to car revs engine sound’. Now, just jumping in, starting the engine and simply driving to work. John Muir wrote about philosophy of driving a Dub. The thought processes required in ‘Keeping it Alive’. And Robert Pirsig wrote about Motorcycle Maintenance and it’s affinity with eventual answers to ultimate calm. Their vision, both of them in different approach, was Zen like and enlightening in the qualities they proffered and discussed. They are not book/author/philosopher best sellers without reason. They have also changed people’s lives completely. Mine included.

Work is work. Preparation in going to work is vital. A cigarette on the way. A bus or train journey of visual escape in the surrounding views. A time of reading a favourite novel or listening to a catalogue of music on the MP3. Or the knowledge that in 5 days you’re on holiday.

But actually thinking now…..when did I actually have holidays I enjoyed. My holidays have been a conundrum of planned visits to seek catch ups and resulting chaos involved. Not a number of days of relaxation selfishness. They have been a rush of inclusions. In other words. Feeling guilty you need to sort out the “Haven’t seen you for ages and must rectify this” situations. I don’t do selfish seeking. I try to seek calm in what ever presents itself. But I realise after years of not having a proper full break, my health may well be at risk. Maybe psychologically or biologically. A week in Tenerife and a 10 day holiday in Palma over the last 10 years is my only time of actual total relax.

But. Back to the subject of the VeeDub.  The bus helped me to survive. And in an everyday sense. Luckily I live near the coast. Billie Budd gave me the chance, on days off, to just pop down to the sea edge and truly seek life’s needed switch off ability. You’ll argue, ‘Get a life and just go for a walk. You’re lucky to live where you do!’ OK. I bow to your reality check. But, the bus gave and will give purpose to me. Others? A different focus. Many of us can’t see the woods from the trees. Focus is a needful and blessed thing. Sameness, tradition and the uniform approach matter. How many of us sit and watch the ‘soaps’ to escape? Or do other distractions in watching a documentary, football, Netflix or seek a chat on the phone. A phonecall full of nonsense chat that just blows away the tangled angst. My answer? It was the bus. Before I owned it? Music. A guitar and the ability to write my own or sing others’ songs. But now I’m all sung out.

So. The VeeDub. When I drove it to both work and for pleasure it was the same. Trundle to work for long day shifts and trundle home. Hectic at work so needed the bus to provide the thoughtful approach, chill factor driving to the hospital. It was calm preparation there. And separation back. Wind down and drive along in procrastination involving leisurely and the ponderous thought, with an eventual wind up to relaxation over the 10 mile journey after the day’s chaos. I’m in a car at the moment. No comparison. Maybe it was the VW engine singing to me. Like one of those new age cd’s that provide brainwave patterns. It’s like I’m on holiday in the VeeDub and I’m one of those tourists that point at everything in front of me. Wonder and delight. So slow is whoa and stay in status quo. Miss the bus. It’ll be nice to see her back. And 50 to 55 mph is perfick. Now is different though.

What is happening now is that I feel fraught in going to sleep, usually at midnight or later, knowing I’m in work next day, waking  up at 05.45 (or, in reality. often at 04.00) realising with a gulp and a downward spiral gut wise that today, yes…..I am actually on shift……fought with a ‘please NO!’ and a ‘maybe not’ with a vocal outburst of ‘shit….yeh…..I am in work today’ realised with my memory through the sleepy fog. The way the heart leaps when you realise that you have a day off is actually fairly worrying. No gentle knowing of life’s calendar. It’s chaos of shift work and hoped fors. Forever getting into a pattern of work that is the same old, same old, but with the gut wrenching adrenaline driven ‘Hope I make it through the day without making a mistake’. I love being a nurse. The NHS, as everyone can see, has Doctors and Nurses and other essential professional NHS inherent roles, living a life of challenges. Is it pathetic to seek answers in yearned for lifestyle to balance the difficult tasks? Not really. Life is very hard sometimes. And you need those times of escape. Maybe the musician that performs a night of singing to others on an open microphone event. The swimmer that visits the sport center and receives water’s regeneration properties with swimming a number of lengths. The pub up the road, a pint and the opportunity to talk to locals full of chitter chatter. The bath tub filled with bubbles and surrounded by candlelight. Me? A bus. Simply….a bus. And a fifth Jack Daniels.

My Girls.


My Girls? I have my boys too. Later I’ll write a blog. So when I write that future blog……all will be equal in love and family. The above photograph was taken a few years ago now. Not a great focus. But how on earth do you use a camera phone? But it captures perfectly the mood. The time it was taken? At a time when my daughter and granddaughter came to stay with us in Wales to re-evaluate life after horrendous experiences and turmoil and get back on their feet. They stayed for quite a few months. It was a breath of fresh air them staying. It was also difficult too with talking through the emotional conversational content of finding answers to seemingly impossible tasks in getting things sorted. They moved back to Worcester after we all made a massive effort to get them back there with solid foundations. A house was found and their life was back on track.

A time where family ties are cemented in total and heartfelt trust due to the emotional turmoil that was going on at the time. Nothing breaks those values. They have always been there since birth. The times that closeness is tested is in support values. People say ‘Oh! They’re grown up now. They have to find their own solutions. Learn how to survive in their own way. They’ll never learn otherwise.’ Sometimes I can’t even find my own solutions at times of deep need. I flounder and can’t cope. My Mum has died. She was there for us. We were there for her and our Dad. Did I say, ‘Mum and Dad are all grown up now. They’ll survive this hiccup. They’ll get by’. NO! My Dad is alive and still there to help me out when I really need it. I’m there when he needs it. A phonecall of elongated conversation is not enough. And infrequent visits are not enough. I know that. When you live the other side of the country, it gets so difficult. Social values have changed. People are so far apart now that closeness can’t be emulated as once was with old fashioned family living in the same environmental area. I remember running across the road or jumping on my bicycle to visit Grandparents, aunties and uncles, and cousins. Black and white photographs of scenarios full of smiles and activity.

And that is what this photograph above shows. A time of heading for the dunes. A time that was emotionally led by my granddaughter. A time that showed the healing qualities because my granddaughter was an innocent and didn’t realise what was around her in the negative aspects. We provided positivity for her, and in doing so, provided positivity for us. Her excitement in what lay ahead. Infectiously heartwarming and lifting. This balanced the worriesome thoughts of how we were all going to solve a conundrum of how to plan for the future. Money needed to set up a stable life.

Money? Who cares about money? You find it through a yearning to get life back on track. Debt is the result. But myself and my wife don’t care a jot. Because now my daughter and granddaughter have the addition of a fiancé/Daddy, a step-sister (drop the traditional ‘step’ addition and state reality……a sister and new granddaughter) and a little brother/grandson. Friends in the street that they now share similar family experiences with. A family who still struggle, find answers, and carry on. That’s what life is about.

So, the photograph of my girls above shows the smiles. The strength of my wife to sort the problems of the other two girls in the photograph. My daughter who was there to support her daughter and give emotional balance and purpose to my wife. And my granddaughter who gave joy to both of them through innocence and finding joy in sand, sea, picking blackberries, second hand books, nighttime stories and being taught how to chop vegetables. Christmas was pretty perfect that year. My son and his family (who provide more in the sense of my girls/my boys) who live close to us in Wales, got a whole lot of joy too.

Me? The blog is really about a window in time. A time of what happened then. And because of what happened then and the outcomes? Life has changed and people have now arrived and become close and loved family. More grandchildren, more amazing people in my life. I was pretty much over the moon then. I’m still over the moon now. Because the move back to Worcester allowed the story to change, experiences to develop and life simply to go on.


Fences or bridges?

I took the above photograph as a one off. That piece of wire. It’s fragility. It’s story. Someone aiding it’s continuation in keeping it ‘whole’? Keeping the fence going and alive? Not having the experience or skill to re-weld a piece of metal in there to make it whole again. But, at least having a go at mending it’s fragility’s. Or someone mending it’s previous stability in a makeshift, weak and non attentive way in order to keep the fence there to protect their own needs? Never pursued the seeking out of other interesting fences, railings or walls. The above photograph? It came from my seeing a Paul Strand photograph of a white fence with two buildings behind it. The feeling I got from Paul Strand’s photograph was initially difficult to put my finger on. For a few days, maybe weeks, I began to look at fences and their stories. But, not usually with my camera at hand.

And so………When I saw his iconic ‘The White Fence, Port Kent, New York’ black and white photograph I was interested in fence ideology. Keeping out. Keeping in. Protection. Boundaries. Ownership. The internet provides much in discussing the origins, evolution and how we perceive space and why our need to show our ‘this belongs to us’ and therefore ‘do not cross’ or ‘await permission’ (normally granted with provision of an inherent Gate or Gateway). Stories can be imagined of what lay beyond. Fences on the dunes, in valleys, on mountains, in suburbia, in worldwide places that beg the question ‘Why there?’ Along promenades, cliff edges, in zoos, to keep people safe from sheer drops or safe from the lions and tigers. I never thought of the fences themselves. Just what lay in front or beyond. Turmoil in activity or gentleness in the calm. The fence, witness to a never ending beauty in the gentleness surrounding. Or looking upon a quagmire of chaos and fraught related occurrences. The luck of the draw. But a fence can’t ‘pick up sticks’ and escape. It stays there and carries on it’s role and purpose. Maybe that is to be the role of some people too. Are individuals ever present or flitting seekers? If people are the former they equate to inherent fences in people’s lives. The latter? They are the spaces in front and beyond. Can you be both fence and space? Difficult. I should imagine that that involves enlightenment and self harmony.

But, back to the fence. In their use and in their reality, we are using them in order to make sense of and section off our own world. They are a bridge in many respects. They bridge gaps. The unknown factors beyond. They guide. The guidance to stop, take stock, go there or don’t. The sections of experiences beyond to be considered for staying put or carrying on. In those ‘sections’ is life’s activity. The fences themselves. We built them. We raised them up to regulate and control our space and belongings. Whether to protect (keeping ‘Out’). Or keep others safe from the harm that exists within and beyond (keeping danger isolated and therefore ‘In’). So. If we have built up these fences over many lifetimes……What of the fences themselves? What of their strengths or fragility’s and frailties? They witness lightness, darkness and are on the edge of either calm and love or a conundrum of blurred imaginings and chaos. An approaching darkness from who knows what is existing out there. Or the light in the distance that we all seek to give hope and harmony.

So……..The imagery of the actual fence and it’s own story. The fences that have deteriorated from the efforts of being there over countless years and how they look themselves over countless years of providing protection. Their weakness and fragility. Their worn down expression in exhibit of their countenance. Standing fast, but eventually growing old and tired. Painted or mended from time to time by others to give the sustenance and the ability to carry on. But sometimes the attention in time going by is too, too far in between days, weeks, months, years. And it is the attentions given by others that aid the ability to survive the hardships. And without the kind and thoughtful attentions of others? Eventually…….simply falling apart. Collapsing in a heap of rot or rust. Or at the mercy of an incoming wind so strong they are simply swept away. Or under the weight of snow, earth, landslides of enormous burden that they collapse with the pressure from it all. But through it all, if they can remain steadfast they can still see the beauty that exists out there. And provide a platform of security that allows others to see the world from a different standpoint.

Think gently and kindly of fences. You know they’re there. They’ve always been there. They’re still out there……waiting and watching…..and usually…..existing and protecting just outside your door.

Iconic Albums: 2nd Honeymoon.



There are music albums (vinyl, cassette, cd) that creep into the psyche. There are musical artists/artistes that creep into the psyche. There are a handful of albums that  matter to the person who listens to music everyday for pleasure.  If you’re John Peel, Whispering Bob Harris, Tony Blackburn or…..many of the other ‘music DJ/writers who do it for a living’ brigade, you probably have hundreds in your collection of albums or bands/artists you simply go back to again and again. But, as an individual who happens upon songs from the radio, you get 3,4,5,6 dozen song favourites that stay forever locked in your heart. Chosen one’s you’d take to a desert island.

My number one and two favourite artists are Bolan and Morrissey. Roxy Music/David Bowie number three and four. And yet, if you asked me if I would take their whole collection to a desert island, I’d say “No!” If you asked me if I would take Deaf School’s 3 (now 4) albums? Yes…definitely. All 4 are now entrenched. How did it happen that a student band from Liverpool got it’s hooks into my brain? Well…..I was in hospital for about 10 weeks with a complicated osteomyelitis symptom in the lower leg that could have resulted in an amputation. I was 17 years old at the time. Needless to say I was a bit panicky. Into the hospital radio headphones that came out of the wall, came a song. Deaf School’s first single ‘What a way to end it all?’ Me? Not maudlin at the time, but pretty low with the situation of worriesome thoughts. I heard this song and….I got into what? The lyrics? No actually. It was the overall feel and tune. It was parody. Exaggerated self pity. Deaf School sang about the thought process of intended act of suicide that was not actually intentional. Inherent musical influences within one song? Take a listen. Sidewalk French cafe, Tamela Motown morsecode guitar notes, old school banjo/ukulele, girl backing singer 1950s romantic ahhs and so much more.

I got out of hospital, cried a lot at my escape from the nightmares of imaginings (with leg intact), thanked the doctors and nurses for the blessed attention they provided and went to town on my crutches and bought the album. Sitting with said crutches in Mum and Dads’ house I played that album over and over. It was an album of infinite beauty and epic songwriting abilities. At first, I was a bit ‘WHAT?’  I already played in a band, wrote songs and went out gigging in pubs. Basic stuff of 6 or 7 chords, several covers and three or four originals that I wrote, and a view on life born from my limited experiences of youth, love, hardships and imagined adult possibility thinking. But here was an album that changed my whole thinking both musically and lyrically. Musicianship abilities a class apart. Just pre punk but no rock anthem inclusions. Quirky, yet very, very clever. Synergy of sound with stops, starts and rhythms that took incredible journeys.

They were formed early to mid 1970s. Forty plus years ago. Way ahead of their time. Their songs were worldly wise, surreal, quirky, an observation of human nature, oozed with eclectic influences or just achingly sad. I realise now, but not then, how great Deaf School were with the subject matter and inclusions in those lyrics. Not then. I was too shallow. I was too young in emotional intelligence and experience. How did Deaf School, the band, tap into such deep, insightfulness of happenings, lifestyle and relationships? They were young recent art school students. A bunch of ‘get together individuals in a hall and see what happens’. About a dozen and a half people by all accounts, eventually whittled down to the members of the band I know and love. Sadly, two members have died.

  • Bette Bright (real name Anne Martin) – vocals
  • Enrico Cadillac Jnr (real name Steve Allen) – vocals
  • Eric Shark (real name Thomas John Davis) – vocals (b.1950 – d.2010)
  • Ian Ritchie – woodwind instruments
  • Max Ripple (real name John Wood) – keyboards
  • Cliff Hanger (real name Clive Langer) – guitar
  • Steve “Average” Lindsey – bass guitar
  • Tim Whittaker – drums (b. Timothy John Whittaker, 8 October 1952, Clitheroe, Lancashire – d. 20 July 1996, Liverpool)

Source? Wikipedia.

Night life, heartache and lost connections in ‘Taxi’.

After a couple of dozen listens to their first album, I picked up the guitar and wrote a song. I’m no great lyricist, but I deviated from my normal style. First verse….

’Don’t want to rule the world.

Don’t want to be a politician.

All I want’s a steady job that pays me into fashion.

Posing on the dance floor with this weeks hair.

I’m a boy? I’m a girl? I’m an in-between?

I’ll make you stop and stare’.

Discos, neon signs, back street romance.

Pouting lips drink-gin in tonics

It’s the latest way to dance.

We all love the city, it’s unnatural highs.

Surprise relies on what’s improvised.

I wanted to change and write most of my lyrics in story fashion. I recognised that Deaf School told stories. They didn’t sing the, at times, sugary mundane, pop observational 60s main stream…….or intricate word play weaving constructions akin to Dylan, Bowie, Ferry lyrics or write basic ‘Baby, Baby, I love you’ or have the drug induced edgy rock and roll histrionic lyrics. Didn’t sing like my first love, the Beatles, in their absolutely brilliant observant quality in love songs followed by cynicism, drug induced imagery and off the wall insightful kilter look on life. Didn’t sing in a fantastically imagined Tolkien/William Blake world like my second love Bolan. They grabbed their eclectic influences from many sources. OK…. No songs that tore my heart apart with their subject matter. But whacked my senses sideways with their intricacies and musicianship. And actually…..Oh WOW….they were good. Not good….genius. That lucky happening of like minded people that had that certain ‘Je ne sais quoi’.

One song off the first album in particular, ‘the Final Act’, had an air of self analysis and insight for me. Why? Because I’d already written a song in the past that went:

’Look at me, what do you see?

A burnt out figure playing gigs ‘til three.

Long way off from my flash Rolls Royce.

Haven’t even got no rock and roll voice.

Look at you, oh so dull.

Painted faces, party dolls,

Escape your four grey walls but not security,

That’s no life, just obscurity.


A faded velvet suit with no fixed abode.

Boy it’s getting rough I feel all alone.

I’m not made up, I’m just a drag,

Living off booze and fags’.

Life’s a game, one golden rule.

Act like a star, but feel a fool.

Your the money, that pays my rent,

It ain’t easily got, but it’s easily spent.

Maybe it’ll get easier as time goes by.

I’d like to tell you everything’s alright,

But that would be a lie’.

Bette also sang of both self despair/criticism/analysis of presentation to the public eye (Don’t like what I see in my mirror’) and what was borne from the imagery of what people perceive in imagined thought of the persona.  The singer/actress/dancer, in front of their eyes. Bette sings of an artiste, who is sought after the performance is over, by ‘admirers and friends who’ve waited for hours’.  The fragility of her wanting to be perfect. Wrapped up in her appearance to the public, whilst having the underlying realistic knowledge that in what she presented….‘Had no time to be frightened or scared, but nobody cared….but me……just me!’ By the way……that high note she reaches! Cheered at live gigs on hitting the seemingly impossible note.

Deaf School’s lyrics? Always that insightful look at situations. And yet. When I was young the songs were sing a long catchy gems. The full meaning of the lyrics lost on me. Maybe their brilliance, that was there inside the songs’ lyrical content, crept upon me as I lived my life. From a group of youngsters at their age, to write those type of lyrics, at the time of their own lives, was pretty damn remarkable.


Nowadays? They’re still gigging. They’ve also got a new album out. Listen to the four albums and……..all is well with my world.

Oh!…………..And they can also rock and roll…….



Below. Some links.

Deaf School – Liverpool’s second most important band – Top Ten






To kill a mockingbird.

It’s a strange thing….influences. Actually…collective influences. I watched the film “To Kill a Mockingbird” way, way back in time. When I was a lot younger. One of many films that never quite drove home. Who’s to question……Why? I watched many other films that have long term influence. For example…I watched “Lord of the Flies” and was mesmerised. Why? I read the book for English studies at Grammar School and, due to my need to be accepted amongst the class/cohort collective, (I passed the 11 plus and got there through ‘ticky box exam per chance’……apparently) I adopted this film as an essential. Essential? A need to survive. To get through 5 years of a situation I didn’t belong to. Working class in a middle class snobbery. Didn’t fit, but got by on my inherent niceness. But still recognised as a misfit who tried hard. Sticks with you for life actually. If I were to fit in with Grammar school philosophy and hierarchy I recognised that I had to hang my hat on an appropriate peg. I got Grade I Art Exam a year early. The Arts teacher recognised something in me and put me forward a year early. That man, Mr. Woods was an angel. A person who must have recognised the hardships involved in my situation and sent me to paradise. I never realised at the time but have always kept that beautiful act as something to carry and pass on.

What I’m trying to say is, maybe it is a collective of experiences that cements the creme de la creme of your idolised favourites into your all time favourites. It needs connections to capture your heart. Bladerunner? I loved the film. Got sucked into the various releases that geeked/tweaked interest; Why? Because a mate was so enamoured with the film, he begged me to see it with him. Lord of the Rings and it’s heart splitting beauty that held as much to Wales holidays influences than I want to admit to; Conan Doyle and the fact I smoked Baccy in a pipe, read the Times and wore a full on itchy Dressing Gown bought from Oxfam whilst sitting in my flat above a wholefood shop that deeply cemented the relationship with Holmes and Watson. Every Sherlock series since, and Poirot for that matter, has mesmerised my senses. So many examples. They don’t sit there in individual instances. They adopt Social and Psychological influences, that as synergy, whack my senses.

My daughter’s fiancé had the book and said it was on his elite list. I became interested, because he is a deep thinker and recognises beauty in serenity and meaning. Childhood innocence within the conundrum of an adult mayhem. I revisited the film, read the book and, because of his love for the film and book ………recreated the cigar box at the beginning of the film to give him for his birthday. See what I mean? A piece of art creates added enquiries. It took me months to seek out the additions to put in the box. And it gave me insights into Boo Radley and the whole meaning of the of how the story developed and got into mass psyche. Even found and bought a very rare badge in America, that influenced the book. Go find what I’m talking about. It will start your own enquiries. Thank you for reading. Feel humble. Again…..Go seek your own enquiries.

Not only in the mockingbird sense….but an arts influence that needs further investigation.

Billie Bud:Fourth Stage.



Hi again. Really pleased to be putting up this update. Photographs have arrived by email from Paul. Paul, if you’ve not read previous posts, is the guy renovating my bus. Very much a perfectionist it has been a pleasure to watch transformation. Taken a while this renovation. But it’s a classic and deserves respect. And the bus couldn’t be in kinder and thoughtful hands. But now…..realisation that it’s about, with these photographs, a ‘Whisker away’ (as I phrase often to others who ask where the bus is at). It is good to see it at it’s present state visually. It makes me feel that the bus will be with us soon. I don’t have to visualise mentally. Here it is. Actually. Am over the moon with the Dub’s progress. The photographs are uplifting. The fact that a vehicle built in 1972 can revisit the road and bring a smile to faces is a great feeling. Won’t be long before the kettle is boiling, we’re drinking tea or coffee outside Billie and people are coming up to the Dub and chatting and asking questions about the ‘Old Girl’.


Iconic ownerships. #1 The Ninth Gate Bag.


How many items do you own that are there for the whole journey? I owned the bag photographed above. And now own a different one which is slightly more deeper khaki olive (See below). I gave the one above to my daughter’s partner. A Musette French Infantryman bag from World War 2. What history? What attached involvement? Am I worthy to look after something that holds  unknown experiences that could rock my senses if I had the full picture of the person and their story that carried this bag through ‘who knows what unimaginable  hardships’? History, all be it named ‘antiques’, but in reality the unknown story inherent. I feel humbled when I carry this bag. I also feel that, just maybe, I can carry peace in it’s presence too. Carry on the ambitions of it’s original owner. A gentler existence that was the dream of the soldiers that put their lives at risk for others.  As a Buddhist there are questions regarding ‘possessions’. I always thought of the philosophy as two camps.

First consideration. The Buddhist monk was allowed minimal belongings. However, would they suffice amongst new ideals? Too complicated to explain survival in the modern world. The 8 possessions of historical emphasis, their robe (3 pieces of fabric), a begging bowl, girdle, water-filter, a needle to repair their robe, and a razor to shave their head, has changed due to new world considerations that is a modern phenomena of daily fast paced technological change. Living in self harmony and separation whilst watching the world evolve in it’s destructive hammering must make the old ways so perfect. The way we Life travel and afford the basics a reverence in that we use them everyday. ‘This is now’. But now? This relentless minute by minute change, and it is exhausting. Which means physical self removal. Akin to a sample of experienced Vision Quest or Soulcraft or equivalent Escapismology (me made up). A few days experimenting with back to basics. Talking to Mother Nature. Not whole choice forever lifestyle in itself, but a little window of time giving greater insight into the basics. Hopefully giving long term answers within a short lived out of your ordinary experience. Sitting out on a hill top whilst Mother Nature smacks your senses akimbo. Like Native American youth to adulthood. Or a Buddhist enlightenment. My reality? I can never stop learning however. Everything harmonious just out of reach?

The second consideration. My basic understanding and yearned for belief of Buddhist philosophy. As a layman, a believer and hoped for follower of lifestyle and keeping just about on the right side of application to Buddhist belief ? Buddhist monks are meant to be. It is their calling. Not mine. But this bag means focus. My wife said ‘Your life is in that bag’. Nail on the head. But a changing ‘daily life needfuls’ nail on the head. Gentle of nature. Not even close to the needs of the soldier that relied on this piece of ‘kit’ to get him through war.

My contribution is that lifelong principles of mental attachment and cravings should not be considered. But every so often some things attach to my psyche. And to everyday needful.  An addition to promotion of well being. A necessity? No. But. My necessity.  Pieces from history which become staple to the day in their attachment which inspire ongoing learning and add quality to life. Music, reading, eating, drinking, written recording experiences.

A VeeDub bus. A Pentax LX camera which houses film. Rolls of said black and white film. A Gaggia coffee maker. A Depose magnifying glass. A hand made leather journal to keep memories within. A 1970’s Eko dreadnought acoustic guitar I can write songs with. Three fountain pens which are a Mont Blanc, Mabie Todd and an old Osmiroid from my school days. Scheaffer black ink. A huge hand thrown stoneware bowl that I could eat every meal from. An old favourite spoon to eat stuff with. A Mercury German shaving razor. A small hand thrown bowl to mix Scottish Fine shaving soap in with a shaving brush. To cook? One Rose Elliot, One Gail Duff recipe book and a Madhur Jaffrey. A couple of pans and a small skillet to cook with. To read? Current read and pass ons or read and keep for life’s. Three, and now Four, Deaf School albums, three T. Rex/Bolan albums and Three Harry Nilsson albums I simply could not live without. The list grows. But. They are one off/three/four off choices. My creme de la creme of what is inherent in my life? Like the Amish. It exists to serve. Shaker in it’s minimalism? Not quite. Would it all house in a VeeDub? Oh yes. (Well…not the electric coffee maker). How to strip back and exist in peace. Creating a larger version of the Altoid tin survival considerations.

DIY: How to Build Your Own Altoids Tin Survival Kit

Altoids Tin Survival Kit DIY

So. How to separate craving or obsession from recognition that a beautiful, life attachment object is just what it is? Or is class timeless? Certain items are so iconic, robust and never wear out that you have to sit back and just accept the fact that items become part of your life and exist alongside you which create comfort. Break down your day. Work for me is a uniform and inherent and ongoing learnt knowledge. It is also….Stressful. Which needs………Relaxation, which is within the arts/hobbies, family/friends meetings or meditation. You meditate with no acquisition adage and simply sit or stand with the wind in your hair and the sound/smell of the sea or forest in your ears. Or you burn candles, joss sticks, resins and/or look at a piece of art, nature or mandala. This then involves attachments. Hobbies…..attachments. Basically you just need attachments. Albeit of a simple and basic nature.

For example….bag choice. And examples of iconic bags from the movies? Mary Poppins and that carpet bag. She brought her life to the wealthy, uptight and materialistic Banks family in that bag. Then sang to a robin-like unreal bird and bought the tuppence a bag to feed the birds to explain the priceless-ness of simplicities. Hermione  Granger’s purple draw string beaded tassel bag. Needed for survival for the trio whilst the Horcrux episode of life existed. And that refugee/seekers  situation leading to life changing realisation of their friendship dynamics. Both Mary and Hermione pull out the most unimaginable survival items from their bags with Tardis like qualities. And this leads to survival of the soul for others. Will Smith’s Belstaff Colonial 556 in ‘I am legend’, Indiana Jones needs his to house antique artefacts (the bag is a heavy canvas World War II-era “MkVII” British gas mask bag with the original cotton web strap replaced by a leather strap with a metal adjustment buckle).

Me? I loved the Johnny Depp bag from the film The Ninth Gate. It was a continual presence in the film. It has become cult. Rare. Like hen’s teeth. So, in many ways I should not have wanted or yearned for it. It was and became a craving. I never thought of it as something to carry everyday. I loved it for its aesthetic value. But then, on receiving it, I remembered David Carradine as  Kwai Chang Caine in Kung Fu. People travel, live day to day in need of housing necessities. So, comfort and practicality are required. This would serve with a purpose. It felt immediately like an old friend. I’ve given that old friend away now to my daughter’s fiancé. Why? Because I saw another on French eBay and due to rarity value, bid for it. I have this latest one now. So, it made me think. If I can give one away then I value not the experience of ownership. But the value of sharing. I used to have two medical folding magnifying glasses from the 18th Century. I gave a good friend who is a doctor/GP one of them. This extends to many things myself and my wife have. We simply give items and time away. Mach Swap Shop, equivalent local ethical sites and charity shops are the eco way. The Green way. The proper way.

Other bags? I have a camera bag (Billingham 550), a Hidesign 1980s canvas, leather and brass travel bag for holidays and the bag for everyday use which I have highlighted for this blog. Why these bags? They’re timeless, robust, practical and I love them. The daily bag? It is a French military mle 35 musette used by infantrymen. Inside it houses my everyday needs as required for particular days or constants. Changes with needs. It has metal clasps on the end of the strap which jingle and jangle in a medium high pleasing sound. If you watch the Ninth Gate in which Johnny Depp has this constantly at his side, you’ll hear what I mean. It’s like a portable wind chime Buddhist put in trees to catch wind music. Not the resonance of continuous singing bowl harmonious notes. Not quite the joy filled tinkling nature of water either. Just a gentle reminder that music can be heard in all things surrounding. The richness of any calming sound, is a wonderful thing. But this bag sound indicates seeking and an ever whirring mind. Which also begs me to ask. Please listen to the Ninth Gate soundtrack. The soundtrack to this movie is exquisite. Wojciech Kilar wrote some deep rich and beautiful thought provoking music over his lifetime. Go on…..YouTube ‘soundtrack Ninth Gate’. Below is a link to some stills from said film. And bag of course.

Currently housed within this bag? I’m looking now. Handmade Indian paper housed inside a burgundy velvet  pouch; three fountain pens; deep black ink housed in an ancient ink bottle which is housed in an aluminium screwed to secure outer ink bottle carrier to avoid spillage; three soft/medium/hard grades of pencils; an 18th century medical folding brass magnifying glass; Filofax for disciplined organisational lifestyle; pipe/tobacco/zippo lighter; a small ‘handmade by myself’ leather booklet/journal tied with an ancient bootlace; a Swiss Army knife; my two pairs of spectacles; a booklet of song lyrics/poetry/thoughts I have written; the ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance’ book to re-read; chewing gum, a packet of three Lotus Biscoff biscuits tops covered with Belgian chocolate, a packet of KP salted cashews and Victory V lozenges; an old chemist tin filled with survival kit considerations (needle, thread, buttons, plasters, sudocrem, safety pins, alcohol wipes, small piece of emery cloth, etc…); moisturising hand cream (a Mindfully balanced synergy of clary sage, frankincense, myrrh, patchouli, Rose Otto, rosewood, rosemary and geranium absolute mixed in paraben free cream housed in a small silver lidded 1920s glass pot); a beautiful small Indian hand made wooden perfume pot filled with aromatic sandalwood paste; an old original 1980s MP3 player with decent earphones and hundreds of songs to tap into; a pair of burgundy paisley and plain handkerchiefs to polish my glasses or wipe away tears; photos/messages/cherished memories memorabilia; my lifestyle as possibly related need required. In essence….A man bag. Tomorrow. Maybe my olive Shemagh scarf, my bakersboy hat, a vacuum flask full of espresso, Lotus Biscoff biscuits and the said ‘ZatAoMM’  to read on the beach. The former items from today……chucked into a hessian bag kept in the dining room.

Imagine, sitting on a beach/forest/lakeside delving into the bag to get at a pen/pencil and paper, read a book, fill a pipe, pour a coffee, listen to music, grab a knife to whittle piece of wood, pick out a camera to shoot a few frames of film. Then back to the VeeDub to cook a meal. Brew some coffee. Pick up a current craft/hobby choice. I don’t know. Maybe knit/crochet/sew. Paint a picture. Collect beach flotsam/jetsam and create a piece of driftwood (et al) sculpture with some glue and lots of imagination. Basics. Bliss.

So. Amongst this beautiful positivity? What ‘Negativity’ exists in the form of owning a bag as a simple attachment. Crime. When I’m out and about….no money in it, no iPad, no debit/credit cards, no mobile phone, nothing worth stealing really. Why? I do fear crime and, subsequently, it’s impact on personal loss.  I wear a coat with a few pockets to carry items that thieves may desire. The bag is just a bag carrying essentials and memories. And this brings up something of a conundrum. If anything was stolen. Thieves would target the bag, believing valuables exist inside. How much does ‘it’ have impact on your life? ‘It’ equates to ‘Loss’. An irreplaceable old black and white photograph faded and torn at the seams. A cherished anything inside the bag. Simply, a cherished belonging other than a memory. Modern life. Fear of crime. The moped crimes. Stealing of historic vehicles. Breaking windows into your abode. But it isn’t only physical objects. Nowadays……Stealing your actual identity. You aren’t safe anymore. There’s something to be said about minimalistic ownership to those Buddhist monk 8 items of ownership. And they could fit into a bag. Oh!……..that’s 9 items!


Billie Third Stage.


And so……the last photos received were these. What has happened has been that Paul, the renovation wizard, has been changing workshops. He has a bigger, brighter palace to work in now. Better for the soul I should imagine. I actually haven’t seen some of these later stages in the flesh, so to speak. Just the photographs you see above and the furniture in situ below. I’ve seen the bodywork all solid and safe, underneath and the grey spray stage. But now you can see the massive shift in bringing the bus (Billie) back to life. Of course, when the bus was on the road a few years back, I had that furniture in place. The cooker, sink and a fridge were present too. Tap on the photos and you’ll get the bigger photos show up.


I polished up the hub caps. Got rid of rust by soaking them in white vinegar and cleaned with aluminium foil and a soft brass brush. Some turned out better than others. I’ll keep looking to replace them one by one as I find better quality alternatives. Below is the bus getting along nicely.


As you gather, I’m not going to bore you with the technical inclusions. The photos provide imagery of how the project has developed from rust to solid.

The next stage from now is, waiting for when I get the bus back. I can then take more photographs top to bottom. Also, I reckon over the coming years, I will be aiming to source original stock furniture for inside. I want it to look as close to how it looked in  1972. The thing is, the original colour though. I can source that from the information on the M plate in the bus. I have a feeling it was some sort of yellow or yellow/cream. Love green, so may forgo that original feature. Depends on whether it looks like a canary or a nicer subtle colour shade. I’ll keep you up to date. Cheers.

Billie again. Next stages.


The next stage……..or Part 2.

I began buying all the metalwork needed to replace the rotten stuff. When the belly pans were off it spooked. Belly pans cover the underneath and protect the framework from the stuff that comes off road and field and sand. It’s the sheets below with the ** shapes. But….it also hides extent to the damage of the metal that keeps you up in the air. As seen below.


What worries you is that you’ve been driving around like this for quite some time. An MOT doesn’t stretch as far as taking belly pans off.

The whole bus is shot blasted to show up rotten and damaged metalwork. It turns the bus literally into a metal lace doily. Then more and more new metal parts have to be bought.


I began to look on eBay for bargains and original stuff that would help get the bus back into shape. Paul, the guru doing the nitty gritty work, advised me what to ignore and what suited. I bought a whole front section from over on the east coast of England. Cost £50 in an eBay auction and £90 to get it across country to West Wales. Bargain. Think it was off a 1968 earlybay bus. The metalwork in this was of German quality. None of your modern pulp that can exist. Needed cutting up by Paul, which proved difficult. But a single front modern arch can cost £450. And when I say an arch, I mean a simple flat arch. Not the wheel housing well included. There was probably about £1800 worth of metal in that £50 buy.

7874FFAF-E0B9-4C95-9A25-C67B0037B076My best buys have been off eBay. Little treasures born from months of studying what I wanted as a finished project. Paul was an inspiration of guidance and insight. Don’t think I bought one item that hasn’t been useful in all of this project.


Pop top, hub caps, oil bath filter, front cab, exhaust, jalousie/Louvre window and tons more went alongside new considerations too. Not a month went buy with outlay of hundreds or thousands of pounds. Brakes, engine, panels, etc. Just kept coming at me and Paul. Those dreaded emails or one to one conversations from/with Paul. “Looks like you’ll need……… This or these are solid gone man. Solid gone !!”


Paul had other projects on the go too. So, my bus took a back burner on many occasions. Sometimes months of no advance. Photos came by email in bits and bobs. There’d be a few days of excitement and spirits raised and then….blang! Back to planet Earth. Still a long way to go.

What I realise now, is that emotionally, this project has taken its toll. The reason being, I’ve worked out, is that memories exist in the old green bread box on wheels that is known as Billy Bud. A haven of past tranquility. I’ve really badly missed this form of escape, both for myself and others. My Dad, when we talk on the phone, chats about how it will be a Godsend to have the bus back. “Get out and enjoy it again!” he says. I want to take him up to a spot locally to him near Coventry that we visited often when my Mum was alive. They had a Volkswagen T25 Camper of their own. He sold it a few years after Mum died. Too many memories to want to drive it. I think he drove it less than 5 times over 3 or 4 years. Concerning visiting that local beauty spot? “That’d be great”, he says and really meaning every word. More than great I believe. It’ll help a little in contributing to tearing down the walls of the mundane existence and treadmill lifelessness of his and my current experiences.

But……..back to the progress story………things began to take shape after those early shocks when the amount of work to be done was exposed by Paul. Below, a few teasers until next time.


Good fortune to you all.

The Billie Bud renovation process.


I have a thread on but the image upload tool is like many at the moment. They kind of collapse and you both lose your image uploads and you can’t upload new images. So, I am putting up some of the information off the thread up on WordPress. As on other of my blogs here, I have discussed a general overview of my bus, Billie Bud. The renovation process has taken a good part of 18 months. So, I’m replicating the process the bus has gone through.

The question, all those years ago when I had to SORN the bus was……scrap?? No way on this planet. Or….Rebuild, restoration or renovation? Difficult to say really. You start off with a buy from someone who sells you a long time wished for. You pay out the price asked for, drive around in the “old girl” for 6 or so years everyday for both work and pleasure. Things go wrong with this and that and you fix it yourself or you get the local rural garage to fix the problems that arise and you get it through the MOTs. Then, there comes a time when everything just gets beyond. A sense of foreboding and a knowing that the bus is beyond the easy fix and quite a few thousand is needed to keep you and your passengers safe. The grandkids are involved by now.

Take it off the road and it sits there for years. The grandchildren love the old girl because they have spent so many special times on the beach in her. Finally, you think, Sell, scrap or the above three words. Rebuild Renovate Restore?….the 3 Rs.
My wife finds out about a guy who loves Veedubs and we get in touch. And so the story begins. He is an all round inspirational guy who is in business, and accepts the job of fixing the bus. Suddenly I realised the 3 Rs are important. His version of the 3 R’s…..Strip, Repair, Restore. Could be quick and cheap or the long haul  and ultimately safe. I needed to think about what the aim was. I want a sound bus, roadworthy but don’t want to belittle it’s history. So we talk all the options and sympathetic considerations. There are truly massive expensive choices and there are many we’ll have to hunt down….. the best options for inclusion that doesn’t cost an absolute fortune. I’m a nurse, with a salary to match !!! and a pressure job that knackers me out. I’m also 61 years old and haven’t got the energy of a young ‘un any more.

We’ll work it out as we go along I feel. Because each step is a consideration and negotiation.

I realise it would be nice to have a story board. So will upload bit by bit. A bit of information too to explain the processes. When I bought the bus it looked like the photograph above.

Stripped down after driving her about for 6 or so years it looked like this.

So, this is the start. Needless to say, the above photos were from 18 months ago. The bus? It’s virtually done now, but I’ll upload more of the progress of what went on over the past experiences during the weeks ahead.



I took this a while back. The blur was intentional because it could be anyone of many visitors.

When visitors come to Wales, either family or friends, they love to walk at Ynyslas. We first arrived in Wales about 23 years ago and were constantly down on the beach for the first two years. After that the first choice for visitors was to go to the lakes at the back of the village. I don’t believe we had a month go by without at least two or three visits from someone, family or friends. They would stay for either a weekend or one/two weeks. We saw all the local tourist attractions over and over. It cost us a fortune. Whoever arrived would look and plan their days here. But, they wanted us to go along too. We both work, we had the children quite young then and the one to two week stays of visitors were when we were on holiday. Weekends usually saw arrivals on a Friday night, with goodbyes after Sunday lunch. Work began the next day. Our lives for a very long time seemed to revolve around our area here on the Welsh coast. We never stopped. We prepared for visitors and the cleaning of the house, food buying and meal planning ruled everything. But the visits were treasures.

Of course we didn’t and don’t mind one bit. Now? We have few visitors. Maybe three or four times a year. It seems our working lives have changed our whole impetus. We are so tired, myself due to the NHS philosophy of low staffing levels on busy, heavy workload wards. Also, long day shifts and shift patterns that start really early or late. All over the place. You simply do not stop. My wife from running a successful business and the responsibilities involved. We’re so stressed at the end of our working days that we just collapse at times. Add to that our ages now. With the best will in the world, you get past the age of 60 years and the bones and muscles kind of groan. Visitors? Tiring times, enjoyable times and the very fact they visit makes you actually go out there and ‘DO’ things. Stay active physically, psychologically and socially. Also spiritually.

The next stage of life? No retirement yet. But something needs to begin. The VW bus back and central to trips out and about. That will definitely do. It’s been four years without the bus. Far too long. It was central to life. Strange that an attachment matters. Really matters.



Why does it matter? Because…….it joins all the interests together somehow. It brings everything to collective basics. A small driving/living/cooking/relaxing/sleeping space where considerations of what to include are important. Film to load into the camera, a bunch of favourite vegetarian recipes to shufty into a Moleskine journal which have to be ideal for outdoor experimentation, two bicycles at the back of the VW, leaflets, maps or the iPad to guide regarding taking visits to other places and their historical and interesting spots, special books to read for the first time or loved books to re-read again, music to listen to on an old 1970s car cassette player, the Buddha, temple hand Bell, joss sticks, resins to burn of benzoin, frankincense, myrrh and candle flame for meditation periods taking either a short minute or longer minutes over the days to enhance calmness and well being, aromatherapy synergies to mix and discover from a plethora of essential oils and pencil and paper for words or/and images. These are the activities which combat the daily stresses belonging to nursing. And they sit there next to each other in a lovely metal bread box on wheels which is the good old VeeDub.

Of course, all this focus on quality ‘time out’ is mainly based on a small group of two or even singular one, i.e. me. But, me on days off. As said……seeking answers to combat the stress of nursing experiences. Longer holiday spells? Family and group outings have been amazing in the past and have usually been stay in one place for the day type experiences with loads of chat and chill. Like those visits to Ynyslas. Early sun, settling in and breakfast on the go to the days end of developing dusk and moonlight, where drinking wine, beer or spirits (bourbon first choice) and lighting imagination enhancing wildfires as part of the experience. Stories told, fictional or non-fictional, poetry, mantras and music sung. The journey involving simple mindful visions which in their here and now will collectively build memories. Something to hark back to if needed. Positivity building and a quest for the good life. Giving the experience to family and friends that allows them to shake off their own stresses. Don’t seek a haven. Let the haven just evolve without expectation or prejudice. What will be, will be.

So, I find myself alone. Me and the VW and it’s a day off work. The first step…….? The journey of a thousand miles begins with that first step. First step…..Choosing a simple breakfast recipe, cooking and tasting the resulting food Mindfully whilst the smell of nature surrounds you and stove top espresso coffee bubbles and ends with that whoosh when it’s ready and tea leaves seep out their green, red bush, bergamot, PG Tips or smokey lapsang aromas which starts off the humming of surrounding life tunes. Second step………choose Murakami from the bookshelf and immerse. Third step……..grab the Billingham bag with a loaded camera inside and set out to greet the unsuspected and unlooked for awaiting out there. The day will evolve and it will wash over you. And… be associating this with thoughts that a green VW bus of charm and antiquity will be the bedrock is akin to realising you have a place to lock yourself away.


The Last Time it Snowed like “now…..”

The last time it snowed in the manner of enormity of recent days, was ‘a while back’. I took the above photograph at that time. When? No idea of date or year. It made me start to think why some people, myself included, don’t, or cannot, hang on to dates of significance. OK, you remember images and scenarios and those times in your life when you have profound and life changing events, sights, experiences that embellish and enhance the pages of your book of memories inside the mind. I say book, not diary or progressive journal. Those memories are plucked at random with unlooked for purpose. A smell of wood shavings from a pencil, makes no impression. You use the Kum Masterpiece sharpener Mindfully to create a pencil lead point to die for, and then get on with the little scribblings. And you scribble. Then, another day, you pick up another pencil, make the first turn in the preparation of ‘getting the point’, smell cedar wood powerfully and then you get a different ‘point’. Transportation to a point in time where:

‘It’s a school day when you were about 5 or 7, sitting in a sun filled room and a huge arched and multiple paned window exists which enables you to look out onto a field with an iron fence with spiked tops and George B. climbed up them, slipped, and the spike went into his armpit’.

Yes, this is one of mine. It is profound. However……It’s a technique that can be enhanced and not a simple, powerful, unlooked for, unintended experience, performing itself in the memory banks by revealing itself at the drop of a hat.

Myself and two colleague nurses present a 4 week course called ‘Activate your Life’ (ACT). I am a General Adult Nurse, not a Mental Health Nurse. But the NHS have adopted the ideas of Complementary Therapies in a few fields of evidence based sound practices. ACT is a course presented to our local community by the three of us. It is well attended and soon will be it’s fourth time of delivery. It brings us insights into how people are hugely affected from life’s experiences. The central message is ‘You are not your mind?’ It is based in the principles and philosophy of Mindfulness. But, in actuality is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy based course with it’s roots in Mindfulness. The practice of Mindfulness is the therapy adopted to address how to continue with your life in a more positive way. You can’t change the past, you can’t truly determine how the future will ultimately develop. So, now is how you begin to enrich the experience of life. This given moment. Please don’t groan. I’m not a fan of shallow self analysis. But….I am a fan of Mindfulness. I enjoy it’s simplicity, yet hard to adopt, principles. It’s simplicity is the main reason I am in awe of this thousands of years old philosophy. And I have Buddhist idealism inherent. The first step of the journey is……now.

Deeper self analysis? Difficulties arise. I recently received my weekly periodical email from the ‘Art of Manliness’ site. Love it’s content, especially when it provides the historical perspective of gentler times and how to act like a true gent, or master old fashioned ideals and activities of lifestyle. How to tie a tie in four ways, shave properly with a double edged razor, tie knots that may save your life in the wilds, how to start a fire with a piece of chewing gum, aluminium foil and a pine needle, the art of using a fountain pen, take your hat off to a lady, etc. It also tackles more serious subjects too re: health matters and being worldly wise.

Why mention Art of Manliness? Because it can go into areas of how to self analyse. This week has a 31 day programme of ‘What it really means to be self reliant’. A question a day, which are so deep they require days/weeks of thoughts in each one. And that’s the rub. How on Earth have you that ability. It’s like taking a leap into the unknown.

For example:

Day 2:

Where do you find the most meaning in life and feel the most fully alive? Is there something you’d love to do but don’t because the world thinks it’s silly or worthless or wrong? Is there anything you do that you consider virtuous yet the world looks down on? How do you handle the tension?

And gives a quote:

“The virtue in most request is conformity.” ―Emerson

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” ―Joseph Campbell

So deep it is a non-starter really.

So, back to ACT.

It seeks the past and how it can absolutely destroy your whole life. Such profound events which begin the experiences of, impact on and go on to enhance stress, anxiety, depression, pain, OCD or, more recently, awareness of ‘MeToo’ and similar movements. It seeks to use Mindfulness as a tool to diminish traumatic events by focusing on the here and now. It’s something that needs a blog of its own. So I’ll stop. But it serves as an example that memory can be a life destroyer. A niggling, wriggling worm deep in the psyche of either deeper or lighter impact.

…………..Conversation discussing David Beckham looking great in a trilby hat, white shirt and Abercrombie and Fitch cargo shorts playing football on a beach…….. You’re impressed and seek the ‘Look’ and you go out and buy the three clothing items, and then? One of your ‘mates’ say, when you’ve been out and bought them:

“Hey! Remember when we all went to town and you paid a fortune for that hat you only wore once?”

“Yeh!” you say. “It was you guys that took the mickey out of me and told me what a dork I looked!”

Truth be known, you also bought a pair of cargo shorts when same ‘mates’ say to you “Better wait till you get those lily white legs suntanned mate, you look like…….stupid” or “Should have gone up a size in that shirt. Fits where it touches and that ain’t a great look”. And not the reality of actually wearing something. Also the assumption that what you’ll look like if you intend to wear something. For example, You buy a pair of Dr. Martens chunky Flash fisherman’s sandals and show them to your ‘mates’. ‘You ain’t intending to wear them with socks are you. Sort of thing you’d do ain’t it?’

That’s why you never wear anything in the same way again. People, or so called ‘mates!’ can say simple, or cutting statements and it can have a massively long lasting impression. Create a basis for ongoing considered “I’m useless” and have self disgust in an unhealthy way. Unwelcome scenarios that go further to provide heart breaking discomfort. They sit there and are remembered over and over because it affects the whole future of specific considerations. You hide in a shell of negative self analysis. You believe you have an inherent gene of either invisibility, ability to be continually ignored or total ostracism. You’re never truly “In” the conversation, just permanently ‘Out’ of the conversation. Below are 2 photographs. I was watching and heard the conversation. Two way, with a stumbling attempt of ‘I’m here too’ as the third person tried to become included. It pictorially says what happened. No words needed.

And that’s why Mindfulness is so important. The here and now. You are not your mind. You can remember, but you can’t change the past. The future you believe will be more of the same. No! It doesn’t have to be. This moment, this second, NOW, is the first step you will take. You can’t sit in limbo. What now? So, focus on whatever you are doing as a task/activity at that moment in time. I’m walking, then take in scenes around you……..Mindfully, and then let them pass in transient ways or marvel at the moment and store it. I’m talking, I love what is conversationally exchanged, carry on. I’m in an argument that begins to rankle and hurt. Stop the argument…..walk away……it never happened. Let it float away on a leaf down a river. It doesn’t belong in your mind. Sit, still, smell a joss stick, watch it’s spiralling smoke patterns, smell it’s Himalayan source of sandalwood and rose, make a cup of tea and consider each stage deeply, it’s Red Bush aroma, the shape of rough cubed brown sugar, hot steam rising and the touch of the stoneware mug it’s made in, the whole drinking process. Why? Is this distraction technique? No. It is creating new positive experiences that will become part of future memories.

A smell, a thought, a sound or a sight can bring back such high powered ecstatic enlightenment of a WOW memory factor, that you realise times gone can produce unlooked for treasures that have sat in the subconscious psyche for years. They are so exhilarating and can include either small or massive life enhancers or changers that, due to the power they have, can only enrich and enhance your wellbeing.

I have a plethora of photographs, look at some of them and put them instantly, after a glance, on the looked at pile. Then one appears and I can stop, look and ‘Zing, go the strings of my heart’. I’m transported to when the shutter button was pushed, the hours before and hours afterwards.

My snow photograph? I can’t begin to describe activities over those hours surrounding that morning. But recent snow never brought back that day. The photograph did. I don’t remember how frozen I felt that day or how damp got into the camera and ruined all but three of the negatives. I focus on the three I have, and that over rides all small negativities. I remember freshness, cold smacking into the inside of my nostrils, the hush, the sense of peace, the crunch of snow underneath my feet. The date? Why do I need that when I have my memory. And again…….snow. It covers everything. The most horrific landscapes and turns them into beautiful vision. The mind’s landscapes from past events? Mine? I cover them in snow.

Billie Bud. My Volkswagen Crossover ‘Camper-van……

OK. From now in, with the first words typed, lay a conundrum. This blog concerning my, (and I say ‘my’ even though I should say ‘our’…it’ll become clearer later) Volkswagen Type 2 Crossover Bay, or ‘Campervan’ as those who don’t own one call them in general, could actually become a small book of information. I’m talking about describing it’s individualism, giving historical and current technical information, the inherent anorak nature I could have in personality to describe its last nut and bolt.

My Dub is called ‘Billie Bud’. I’m a Morrissey fan. So I changed Billy Budd, the song title, to Billie because the bus is a ‘She’. She’s female. Really is. The Bud is Dub backwards. It’s these little things that matter. Obsessive spirally inward thinking and deliberations become part of your make up and character when you own one. The dangerous results can be development of a transient tic disorder due to too much overthinking damaging neurotransmitters in thought patterns. This due to too much stress in getting it right. I blink a lot, usually at the bills it seems to generate year after years.

Obsessional behaviour? You bet.

It’s like…….How to explain how I deliberated for days on end whether to hunt down original “Flim tipped reverse threaded anchor based Wolfsburg dankenstipple jigproof 845 bolts, with appropriate 7 sided Fiffle nuts to hold them tight and nickel chromium dioxide plated spring housing 846 or, if really difficult to source, alternative not quite right but will suffice 847 washers to anchor my smoked and stoked style German quality rear light lens with protecting chrome plated bar surrounds. I needed them desperately to put on my 1972 and onwards to ………..1973 T2 to add to it’s authenticity. Hey! They only made the Crossover for one year. They’re little puzzles of valued insights. Each one a little treasure of ‘What did the mechanics and body designers pick out of the parts bins and boxes to put on them this month?’ Not an Early Bay and not a Late Bay. Like the middle child of 3 who gets overlooked and gets the hand-me-downs/hand-me-ups or the make it up as we go alongs. Crossover? Based on the W. Heath Robinson cartoon philosophy. It’s what inspired the illustrations in John Muir’s book, How to keep your Volkswagen alive. Joking. It’s the other way round. VW inspired by John Muir. Anyway….I digress.  I find the said bolts on eBay starting at a cost of £25 but I’d have to de-rust them myself. Or should I just buy cheap reproductions for 50p. Sacrilege to even think it. Slap my hand in shame. Oh Man!! The seller has 7 and I need 8. My world crashes apart. But I still sit with my hand hovering over the bid, confirm, send at 2 seconds button before the auction ends for this eBay item and “Yes! Got them. I won. Yah, boo, sucks to the other bidder? What’s your name……Private listing. Strange moniker. Oh no Maaaan! I have to pay my upper ‘willing to go to price’ of £41.59”. Now I’m gonna have to look for the 8th one. I’m embarrassed though. I got the originals but with 847 washers and I’m going to have to attend acting school and learn the art of bluster. Say to any avid Dub expert enquirer ‘Nah! They’re 846 washers mate. You should’ve gone to Specsavers’. You think I’ve made this all up don’t you? Go on…..Google it and find out I’m not joking. No….stop. I am joking!

To own my beautiful 1972 VW Crossover and then to accept the phenomenon of ‘can’t but help get interested in it’s history’ is a reality though. That isn’t a joke. When you own one, you get hooked. If you wear an anorak. You actually do look for the Flim tipped dankenstipple bolts that exist in this world that someone probably has in their hundreds in an oily box at the back of Grandad’s shed. That box of rusting Flimflams could probably pay off their mortgage if they only knew. You could spend thousands and thousands on them.

Actually you do spend that much if you want to keep your old girl (that’s the Dub by the way) safe. I have. Spent thousands that is. But let’s bring this down to worrying reality. You can own an old classic Dub and just run it into the ground. There are thousands about and you can get them fairly cheap, if a fair few thousand is considered cheap, and if they really do need lots of work. That’s unless you buy one from a crook who lies through his back teeth and tells you it’s been really looked after well. £10,000 thank you very much. Just don’t take the belly pans off. You may just break down in tears when you see what’s underneath. On second thoughts, do take the belly pans off when you buy your treasured wished for. It may save your life. You don’t want a vehicle breaking in half whilst doing the heady height speed of 50 mph down a steep hill. What are belly pans you ask? Large sheets of metal that are put in place under the camper van to protect the machinations of the underneath of the vehicle. They also hide the nature or state of the vital framework that keeps you up in the air, off the ground, and not in a collapsed state running metal induced sparks off a road surface when it decides to drop and become a hovercraft. Also…….Surprising what layers of paint hide. Usually newspaper to fill gaps, chewing gum to hold it there, and brown stained years old when it was opened in the plastic tub indoor quality Polyfilla slapped in to tidy up. Paint covers this ‘shame on you tosspot for doing it to a thing of beauty’ repair job. The thing is, the Government are going to make changes regarding MOT need.

‘Most vehicles manufactured or first registered over 40 years ago will, as of 20th May 2018, be exempt from periodic testing unless they have been substantially changed’.

This concerns and worries enthusiastic owners who really do look after their pride and joys. Rare vehicles that owners want to keep alive. Me included. I’ve spent a lot on it’s renovation. Volkswagen ‘Campers’ are out there and can be rare too. But you can still buy a cheaper one and run it into the ground. This is the dangerous part of the game. An engine that starts can still carry a rot box that’s capable of killing someone. And not necessarily the driver, and loved ones inside. Volkswagens can just keep going. They’re built that way. German efficiency really is efficiency. The old Woody Allen “Sleeper” movie/film where he finds a 200 year old Beetle in a cave which starts up first time. Kind of says it all really.

So……I mentioned conundrum. Already I’ve briefly touched on anorak status and ethical dilemma. My use of the word, actually words, Camper van, rankles. So, from now on I’m going to say Dub. Which brings me to……

What’s in a name for the Type 2 Bay window Volkswagen?

Dub, Vee Dub, vdub, Bus, Transporter, Ride, T2, T2a, T2b, Hippy-van, Camper, Camper van, Bread bin, Bay, Crossover, Early Bay, Late Bay, Panel van, Crew cab, Pick up………..And then there’s the affectionate names we all give them. Betty, Ruby, Rose, Kermit, Harry, Bertie……

Also, the coach companies that fitted them out are added names too. Dormobile, Westfalia, Devon, Danbury, Viking, etc. Volkswagen didn’t make Campers. These coach builders imported VW panel vans, buses, transporters and turned them into family friendly vehicles with furniture inherent that meant you could use them at weekends for holiday breaks, whilst also using them as a weekday runabout to work, shopping, etc. No second cars in the home then, in the 1950s and 60s. An all purpose vehicle/lifestyle love of happy camper and seen kitted out in the ways you all know. Make no bones about it….you see a Dub….and you smile. We, Dub owners, even wave to each other as we pass on the open roads.

The name giving can get very argumentative between family members. The colour choice can too. The name though, once given, can’t be changed, so that is the most important. You can’t look a fellow owner in the eyes and say ‘Meet Cupcake” Sorry by the way if that actually is your Dub’s moniker. Colour shows itself on, if you still have them, old paperwork MOT certificates. A rainbow of delights where you look at it’s sartorial history and say, ‘Nooooooooo!! Not Magnolia!!’ My daughter wanted pink. But no way am I driving my newly bought and respray it Barbie pink. Although, if I had of done that very thing it may have uncovered what a mess it was underneath the paintwork.

My payouts on Billie Bud were either the local mechanics, bless them, tackling the MOT failure needs, or me buying parts and fitting them myself to improve the overall aesthetics. Starter motor replacement, exhaust and heat exchanger replacements, fan belt tightening, indicator stalk wire rebuild, steering wheel bush spring replacement. Actually that spring was missing when I bought the Dub. The steering wheel wobbled like Mr. Blobby on an electric shaky waist reducing keep fat off belt. If I knew what was underneath the Dub, I’d have never got underneath. I break out in sweats now. I had my wife, children and grandchildren in the Dub many times too.

So……the basics. I bought my Dub on 8th August 2009. Was it a day that has stayed in my memory because it was a life changing day of significance? No, I just this second looked it up on the registration form. I’m also looking at the MOT certificates. It’s been yellow, orange/white, lilac, white, purple, blue and now green and cream (my choice). No magnolia thank the Lord. I don’t have to hold my head in shame. I pulled it off the road in 2014, because I was aware it would need much welding work. The previous year’s MOT told me it needed the right side welding amongst other needs. A £1000 and a bit later, the weld job cost about £700 alone, got it through. The SORN year loomed….. I knew the other side would need doing as the year progressed and holes were appearing in the cab floor too. With SORN status it sat at the front of the house for a couple of years. I felt awful. My beautiful Dub.

I believe in Karma. I feel I’m a basically good person. Not a Saint, but inherently good. As I’m a Staff Nurse that’s probably a good thing isn’t it? So Karma sent me a Godsend, a good friend. My wife heard about a local guy who’s business was, and still is, called ‘Strip, Repair and Restore’. His name is Paul Chapman. The local community in Machynlleth pointed us his way. They all said he was an all round good guy. An enthusiastic VeeDub expert who loves and renovates many classic vehicles, but most of all has massive knowledge, insights and skills in all things VW. He took on the project which was “Keep Billie Bud alive”.

My wife cashed in part of a pension scheme from way back when. She said ‘Let’s get Billie back on the road’. Our intention was to spend a couple of thousand on her. Laughs out loud!! Paul uncovered a mass of “Oh my days”. Or words to that effect. If each individual word in that phrase ‘Oh my days’ begins with Fu, Sh or Boll, then you get the translation. I think ‘Give it all up’ Paul? He says, ‘Look you’re a nurse and see a wound and get on with it. Me, I can fix this like you fix wounds’. But he told me it was going to be more than I originally intended. What I really liked about Paul’s work is his ethical philosophy in showing you the very open and honest reality, and the ongoing repairs. He literally strips the bus down (shows the result), sandblasts it to within an inch of it’s life (and shows you the resulting metal lace doily), looks at where you want to take the bus repair wise, (shows you the step by step in photographic or seeing with your own eyes evidence) and restores with infinite care and attention. His guidance in saying, Don’t get that, get this. That’s far too expensive, this is equally as good and of the same quality. Do you really need that? Wait for a while, something better will show up. Etc., etc.. You just trust his judgement because he gives you his rationale. I’m naturally inquisitive and also want to understand what makes Billie tick. I continually find out that what he has said is 100% sound. He loves the modern updates that improve Dub efficiencies. He’s a Customiser aficionado, I’m a Stock fanatic of the ‘maybe one day’ type. But respects that I want stock status. Stock? Keeping it as close to how it was originally built. But with the reality that original status hunting down of original replacements would cost more than my house.

Below, I’ve chosen a small handful of photographs from loads. Before and after of the underneath is what I want to show you. And a couple of the inside. Couldn’t afford to replace with original Danbury furniture. Very rare and costs more than the bus originally cost me. Actually I have an original sales pamphlet. You couldn’t buy a set of wheels for it at the prices then.

Interestingly, one of my wife’s two business partners illustrated one of his Dad’s poetry books. His Dad is a well respected poet. Billie provided inspiration for the book cover illustration. John, the artist, sat inside Billie drawing bits and bobs from her interior. So, Billie is on a book cover in spirit. I can’t actually deal with her now she’s famous.

Makes all sorts of demands….

Why at the start did I say a conundrum. ‘My’ or ‘our’ bus. It was ambition to own a Volkswagen Camper as I knew them then from when my Dad brought a Splitty home in the 1960s. It was at the side of the house for about a week before it disappeared. I fell in love with that van even at that tender age. Vowed I’d get one one day. They leave a lasting impression. So, I was the one driven to own one and it’s the reality that I’m the one chasing down everything to get her back on the road. Well Paul to direct too. And….I’m the one who drove it as my daily transport. I froze in it (it had no heaters in it), got under it to fix it which could have resulted in coming down on my head, and nurtured through its failures each year. Now…’s all about to start again…..but this time, it’ll be sound as a pound.

Thank you for dropping by.

Bohemian, beards, body art, booze and baccy.

Modern men, tattoos, beards and a beautiful air of inherent bohemian.

I began to think of artistic sources again this morning. Tattoos came to mind and the extent of modern day body art. I began to think holistically and how younger guys are adopting the bearded bohemian look alongside old style denim/cord/tweed/linen fashion, extensive jewellery, and appendages that seemed to have no considerations for boundaries. Almost steam punk in nature, but with a gentler, softer edge. I Googled and was surprised at the extent of what this base allows the brave and expressive to wear. Even older guys were there with a look that they were either absolute naturals to adopt and present in a manner like they’ve worn this stuff for years. Or maybe they have worn it in eccentricity values for years. Individuals that are comfortable in their skins. We have such individuals around our area. Machynlleth provides the nature of individualism that can be outstandingly beautiful or just plain kooky.

I’m a fan of this new 5Bs (bohemian, beards, body art, booze and baccy) look. It’s worn by all ages and it can be carried off with aplomb. It also has the ability to stretch the ball game and push the look into ‘individualised quirky land’. Almost like an earthier version of Japanese youth street wear evident in Harajuku . The 5Bs are a lovely fashion adoption to stretch how you can declare yourself as an individual. It’s as if men have taken back their identities. I’m older now and have been experimental and dressed accordingly through the ages in styles of hippy, bohemian, skinhead, suede head, glam rock, punk, new romantic, grunge and then…….I thought I’m a bit old now. Better act and look my age. But how to. Didn’t want a shirt, v-neck acrylic sweater and trousers from M and S, with a pair of shiny shoes.

So, when I saw Johnny Depp in the film “The Ninth Gate” I thought ‘That look rocks my boat’. Very bohemian, comfortable and filled with iconic add ons. Rough around the edges, but not so scruffy it looks like you’ve grabbed the look from the bottom of the wash basket, sniffed it, shrugged your shoulders and put it on, then sprayed the whole ensemble with a can of ‘whatever rocked your boat spray’ when you visit your local town and visit your local Supersavers. Lynx Oud Wood and Vanilla or Lynx Tobacco and Amber are my latest likes. Strange choice. Got sucked into the packaging design and bought two because I got a better reduced price. Anyway….back to the Ninth Gate.

The Ninth Gate Imagery? It was like I’d been there before in dress sense. And I own those wonderful accessories. Fountain pens (Mont Blanc – well it was an Agatha Christie limited edition ballpoint if I remember correctly…. but I can change with artistic license); a 19th Century medical Depose magnifying glass (for looking closely at patient’s wounds) which Johnny Depp used to look at ancient script in ‘The Book of the Nine Gates’ which was part written by LCF (wait for the penny to drop) and is central to the film’s theme; red/blue accountants pencil which I use for my Nursing hangovers to highlight the important tasks from the ‘can wait’ ones; the central ‘book detective’s iconic bag which is carried everywhere’…..a man bag basically, but what a man bag!!! …. a French military musette ml35 which have become as rare as hen’s teeth (and now I actually own one!!), a pair of Algha gold filled round spectacles, a leather journal that didn’t have Filofax neatness and organised OCD, but a mish mash of inclusions surrounded by a chunky piece of leather….and film scenic inclusions of a plethora of amazing European cultural imagery. And lots of booze and baccy. Clothes included woollen ties, heavy cotton shirts, baggy linen jackets, baggy linen, cotton and cord trousers. And the combination of silvery hair at the temples and that goatee. Basically, bohemian splendour which oozed imagined smells of aromatic cigars/cigarettes, caramelised Jack Daniels and the leathery earthy aroma you get from old books. I’d been there and done that most of my younger life. I dreamed of being an old fashioned teacher you see.

So, dressed as I was in that uncomfortable stage of my 50s decade in life. I thought about what to wear. The whole atmosphere of the film helped me change my identity enormously. I thought of my past again. Looking at Dean Corso’s (the Johnny Depp character) clothes I began to think, ‘Hey! I had red socks as a suede head in the 1970s’, linen baggy jackets like James ‘Sonny’ Crockett in Miami Vice in the 80s. I owned fountain pens including a Mont Blanc alongside my Swan Mabi Todd’s, had that magnifying glass, loved books, I began to think, ‘I actually dressed like an old man when I was 18’. I wore Harris tweed and cord jackets, woollen waistcoats, baggy needle cord trousers like the ones made by Holt Renfrew, St. Hilaire flannel shirts, Oxford brogues, suede desert ankle boots and had a collection of knitted ties. Ties were dropped at times in favour of love beads and various necklaces bought from a hippy shop called “I am”. Amazing shop now long gone. I wanted to be a bohemian with an acoustic guitar, drinking whiskey, espresso and smoke Gauloise. Tried one of the latter, went green and never bothered about that accessory again.

And now? I’m in my 60’s. Startlingly….Younger guys are looking at dressing in a way I present myself as a mix of now and from my younger self with said bohemian influence. I grew a moustache and added goatee beard last November in support of Movember and Prostate Cancer awareness. I loved the goatee. My wife hated it. I still have it. My wife still hates it.

It’s a strange phenomena in the way we present ourselves. Every day at work, I wear what is akin to a heavier duty pair of pyjamas. I rue the day when I had to swap my white male nurse top with epaulets, Dr. Marten comfortable shoes and sharp creased trousers for a pale blue baggy uncomfortable uniform. Manchester City colours too. I’m a United fan. It looks like we all work in the surgical theatre field. Of course, uniforms are worn in an arena where infection control is paramount, and scrubs can be washed at high degrees and are cleaner lines and more practical. So, I wear them, but don’t have to necessarily like them. Good article below.

Tattoos? Don’t have one let alone a body full. I remember in surgery seeing a girl who had undergone bone repair in the lower leg saying she was embarrassed that her beautiful lower leg tattoo (a singular mammal, so no intricate imagery to hide mismatch) had been re-sewn all wonky. It was plain to see that it didn’t match up. The second operation to remove the fixing metalwork was performed by a different surgeon. I remember him saying, ‘let’s put this beautiful artwork back together properly shall we. We don’t want her conscious of a horrible result to show off in the summertime do we?’ Or words to that effect. What a star! The girl was over the moon. I’d trust him to perform surgery on me anytime if he pays that amount of attention to the finer details. Which reminds me. The theatre team had fountain pen and ink envy. They all had their favourite pen/ink combinations which they used to write in the medical/surgical history taking notes. Discussion surrounding pens and ink. A line of artisan inks in a cupboard with familiar and unfamiliar names. Pens that cost a fortune.

And smell? Important alongside the presentation of attire. My current favourite and actual all time favourite now? Ironically called “Booze and Baccy”.

I was introduced to the Booze and Baccy when I bought this eau de parfum in the Lake District. If I wasn’t on holiday with lovely saved up holiday pocket money to spend, I would have probably ignored it at £65 a bottle. My instincts were that the bottle of Captain Fawcett I bought years ago was one I really liked at the time. When it ran out, I didn’t pursue a replacement. I think a bottle of Woods of Windsor replaced it. So, as I remembered the Captain range had an old fashioned element and maybe this would be the same. Soon as the tester of Booze and Baccy dried on the skin, I was hooked.

On reflection, it is the best £65 I’ve spent for well being and feeling great. Instantly my favourite smell of all time. You have to be prepared for the earthy intensity of this range. Very much an autumn/winter mood about it. It moves through various odours as the day goes by. It’s a smell that you have to be confident to wear. People say older guys suit this aroma. Having lived, they can carry it off. But I think the younger, bohemian guys, artists, bikers, musicians, which I’ve spoken about could easily carry it off. Ricki Hall, the model who put this synergy together, is Bohemian, so probably is the best example. He put the odour balance together didn’t he? Beard, tattoos and cool persona.

Me. Older, still aesthetically in my mind younger, fits in his skin and is comfortable with Booze and Baccy amongst my now re-adopted tweed, cord, denim, wrist bangle bracelets and Buddhist necklace and other discrete necklace jewellery with obligatory hat for colder snaps. I wear these, drink espresso followed by Jack Daniels whilst listening to my favourite music and reading my current favourite author (David Mitchell…not the comedian, the other one! Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas, etc.).

What am I trying to say? Well, I’m not in midlife crisis, I’m too old now. I couldn’t get away wearing what others in their eccentricities can carry off well. But, I have to say, presenting yourself in such a way that makes you feel comfortable, but still individual, in your skin is very addictive.

I think that a combination of presentation of ourselves as a holistic entity in regard to clothes/aromatic accompaniments/music/book/drink/foods/whatever surrounds the psyche at given moments and these are an important part of how memories stick….Whatever hits your limbic system with a punch. It’s your memory in the making. So…..creating those memories can be realised aplenty from the synergy of clothes and accessories and all that surrounds within the timeframe that is the day or night, days or weeks, months or years. Go on. Try it. Indulge in the time you wore flared trousers, cheese cloth shirts with butterfly collars, listened to the Bay City Rollers or David Cassidy and drank sweet sickly cider from a plastic brown bottle.

I didn’t do that by the way! I mean listen to the BCRs. But….I did listen to David Cassidy. Amazing voice.

My Photography: The Shock of Latent Imagery

The Shock of Latent Imagery Non-Imagined.



I use black and white film in a Pentax LX SLR camera with 3 core lenses. I have more but use the 50mm often, the 120mm for portraits of which I take very few and a 28mm sparingly because it tends to bring in too much information from the surrounding scenery. Every so often I am presented with a photograph I have taken which produces what I call ‘The Shock!’ The shock is what we have all experienced.

Older, as I am, I was brought up seeing film based photographs. My Dad was a keen photographer with an Olympus OM 2 that he always took photographs with/on. I remember putting a film through a Brownie bought from a charity shop when I was about 18. But that was my one ‘attempt as a photographer’ experience right up until I was about 48/9ish. When I was child/teenager I remember the slap of a packet of photographs as they hit the floor from the letterbox and my Mum and Dad, on looking excitingly at the photographs individually as a snap in that fragment of time, either letting out a laugh, a ‘wow, that’s a peach of a photograph’ type comment or a groan of disappointment or embarrassment. Nowadays, a button deletes disappointments and embarrassments, if Facebook doesn’t get them first! And a small telephone screen doesn’t portray the complete splendour of a Godsend photograph. That moment of ‘Did I actually take this?’ exists, for myself, in the form of film still. Yes…..For me it was when the film, housed in the enlarger negative holder, shed its darkroom enlarger light on the ancient photographic paper and the developer/stop/fixer solutions brought the whole ‘hoped for’ to life. It lay in the water wash tray as solutions were being removed and the “the photograph” was forming it’s own magical solution by cementing itself into my mind. I remember looking at them as little treasures I knew I would love for a long time. Is it pride? No, I don’t believe it is. Wonder hits first, then satisfaction. I didn’t grow the grass or produce the grains of sand and then blow wind strength breath onto them to create shape, rhythm and collective beauty. I pushed a button on a camera that let it all be captured on a little negative piece of film. There in lay the wonder of it all. Pride?

Zen Master Yuanwu:

”If you have the idea of superiority and are proud of your ability, this is a disaster”.

Modern digital thoughts? I’ve took the odd photographs on my phone. But, invariably I delete them. My wife, daughter and brother-in-law are the expert family portrait takers. And their work just rocks. They use digital and it’s format affects emotional senses. Kipling wrote,

“Smells are surer than sounds or sights to make your heart-strings crack”.

My interests are photographing the outdoors. So, the smell of salty sea air or a deep, damp, dark, musky woodland smell may influence the timing of the button as the grass, sand, water and trees whisper their ethereal songs to the subconscious self. That or a fairy sits on my shoulder and whispers in my ear, ‘Take the photograph……NOW!’ Whatever the answer, it’s firmly fixed on paper in the end.

Kipling’s second line reads:

“They start those awful voices o’nights that whisper, “Old man, come back!”

But, I digress, when you see the darkroom tray produce a photograph with what I like to call ‘Shock of Latent Imagery…….Non-Imagined’ (SOLINI), it produces one of those sprinkled fairie dust moments that sends a shiver up and down the spine. Goose-bumpy and brings a smile to your face. Strange though, because my work is pretty Gothic in nature. Not true renditions of sunshine and grass. But, nevertheless a moment that has crept into the psyche of my artistic soul.

So, what is a SOLINI photograph. I have about 10 out of thousands. Not a top ten. Just ones I’d put in a journal, akin to “ Sleeping with Herodotus as in the film The English Patient”. Kristin Scott Thomas and Ralph Fiennes et al.. The pages would include my own history, photos, ramblings and experiences whilst cutting and collecting others’ materials that knock you sideways when read or seen. A personal sanctity of memories rather like a travel journal, but a lifetime’s journey in one journal. It’s like an equivalent survival kit that you put into an Altoid box. Pull out a photograph, a bit of poetry, or your Grannies secret recipe from within it’s pages. Emotional survival existing in memories from a carried treasure book. If dementia comes to me, I’m a nurse and have to be realistic of what-ifs? A journal would be there to jog my long term memory whilst my short term memory struggles and grasps at straws. Maybe I’ll choose a favourite book and keep those memories within. An antique, rough around the edges, earthy smelling splendid tome that itself can be read countless times. A book that can be considered to bring enlightenment at each dipped in perusal. Or a simple life changing inspirational tale or story that never tires after countless reads. So many……..

So……..the Latent Image.

A latent image on photographic film is an invisible image produced by the exposure of the film to light. When the film is developed, the area that was exposed darkens and forms a visible image. In the early days of photography, the nature of the invisible change in the silver halide crystals of the film’s emulsion coating was unknown, so the image was said to be “latent” until the film was treated with photographic developer.

Having taken a photograph using film, the latent image that exists before development is truly a mystical entity. As said…….Everyone has a photograph that has taken them completely by surprise once developed. I am sharing this experience with others and picking the photographs I have taken that have made me go “WOW”. See below







The Journey…..


You don’t need an engine to begin a journey. Remaining static and in the same place daily can provide a wealth of experiences. This gentleman has a bicycle, well two actually. The imagination starts to fly. The spade? Small excursions to a garden plot? Has he someone close who uses the other bicycle? He looks quizzically. He looks enquiringly. Self sufficient and able. Tom Good comes to mind. The Good Life, a sitcom from the 1970s told the story of Tom, who in midlife crisis is searching for the conundrum he calls “It”. What is “It” and how may it change his, up to now, materialistic and boring life as a draughtsman who draws designs of plastic animal toys to put in breakfast cereal packets. His solution is to become self sufficient in Surbiton. It’s Tom’s choice and he’s lucky to have an understanding wife, Barbara Good, who’s keen to get involved too. Maybe that second bicycle provides this imagery too. They swap the car for a digging machine and churn up their life in the form of the front and back gardens in preparation for growing vegetables. Lifestock is involved too.

Their life is one of claustrophobic comfort. Waking up, sometimes with the early morning birds (too early for the next door neighbours suffering the noise involved in the garden), in their house and getting on with their dreams and ambitions. Tom, a roller up of sleeves and bullish nature and Barbara with her insightful characterisations enabling them both carrying the dream through. She scrubbed the old rusty range, whilst he cut out paper bird shapes of birds of prey to create shadows in order to scare the birds off from eating their seeds. Whistling merrily at his new found splendour of a life, she’s getting on with the nitty gritty of the basics. The basics to keep them alive.

A bit like people thinking nurses hand out tablets from a drugs trolley and sit and write in the notes. There is an actual reality of Fundamentals of Care. People need toileting, washing, feeding, etc. Rough with smooth. The gentleman above sitting on the steps of his lifestyle has that spade and bicycle. There is his nitty gritty. Journey should be considered as such, I suppose. The nitty, the gritty, the calm and the inspiring nature of what’s all around us.

I loved the Good Life. It just made me happy. It reminds me of my time when I was making ceramics in a cold garage, handling cold clay and making Celtic travellers, warriors and other pieces influenced by the surreal. Starting the day with hot black sugary coffee, honeyed porridge and radio 4. I’d be planning pieces for upcoming events such as craft fayres or exhibitions. Getting ready orders for shops and craft galleries. A time of peace and contentment.

Then, my nephew was born profoundly Deaf. We, as a family, attended a British Sign Language course, and my career changed. I began supporting people. I took up a career role supporting Deaf students in further and higher education. Five years for me to train in Sign Language, note taking and lip speaking skills. More than my staff nurse training. And that involved a lot of learning too. So much clinical knowledge to learn. Anatomy, physiology, pathology, ethics and law. A veritable minefield of inclusions adding to my inner turmoil of ‘what if I make a mistake and it all goes wrong?’ I can’t bash it down like a piece of wet clay and start over. Mess up once and the nursing journey would be over!

It was at this time I realised my anxiety started to rear itself. Am I good enough to support these people in their choices educationally? Will I let them down? People said I was a good signer/communicator, but you’re your own worst critic aren’t you? Nursing has added to this burden. Anxieties become even more profound. The modern NHS is a contributing factor. Anxiety isn’t born from your skills base. It comes from looking at the holistic principles of their health situations. Biological, psychological and sociological considerations in the modern world are really frustrating. Anxiety is seeing the hierarchical systems of support belittling it’s staff, watching the nurses struggling. But……you get those wonderful moments of witnessing human tenacity. Patients, families and the multidisciplinary team. All have that tenacity. So, the end of the day and reflection on them give a sustenance that makes you get ready for the next shift.

But I still yearn for my old artistic life. Yes, I can pick up my guitar and write songs, pick up my camera, load a film and take photographs that may deliver the shock from latent imagery that may produce a little gem, create a perfect synergy of essential oils that provide a complementary aromatherapy to ease pain, stress, anxiety or depression or Mindfully cook and eat a vegetarian meal that has aromatic splendour. Sometimes succeed, lots of times fail. But it doesn’t matter. It’s the journey that counts. They all begin, as Buddhism says, with the first step. Artistically, my hobbies are little oases of calm amongst the turmoil and anxiety that can exist.

Just like Tom and Barbara’s ruined crops after a night of stormy weather, and Margo and Jerry coming to their aid in gathering and saving the salvageable. It’s like an exceptionally bad day on the ward and your colleagues supporting both yourself and each other. A little oasis of human generosity. I loved the Good Life. I loved it’s stupid humour. It was a bit like Lovejoy (the Ian McShane antique dealer role) and that other life of focus and intent on very British humour. A settling down place on the settee and escapism over a one hour episode. Now? Netflix mini series minefields that blow your brain into uncharted territories and give you the collywobbles.

Hey ho… VW Crossover will be ready soon. And I have a bike. Well a couple actually. One belongs to my wife. I also have an old beaten up Tilley hessian hat and a spade at the back of the shed. I have a plot of land in the form of a beautiful back garden, which presently has gone absolutely bonkers wild. But does attract all forms of nature. It has ancient apple and damson trees which badly need attention. It has the ability to marry controlled plots and the freedom of meadow naturalism. Eco natural married to systematic production of plants and vegetables. I was once familiar with many plant, herbs, vegetable insights and grew vegetables and herbs for a few years at my parent’s house and in various houses of myself and Angie’s. Now…….what would it be like to actually become a gardener again?


And here we are……what’s in a name, a title or one’s own imagery.

Author: graysummers


I have often wondered who we are. A name, job title, personality characteristics. How to define the individual. How to explore our inner selves. Words say so much, but somehow limit essence of self. Describing oneself or the observations of others.

“The treasure house within you contains everything, and you are free to use it. You don’t need to seek outside “. Zen Master Dazhu.

Living in Wales is a fantastic experience for someone that carries a camera in the pocket. I’m not into photography as a hobby in a big way at all. I just take a walk now and again with said camera (sometimes use a flimsy old tripod bought from a boot fair for £2 that folds down to coat pocket size too. Nice and light.) and capture a few pics of the local spots. Nursing is a busy job so it’s nice to just relax, take a stroll, point the camera at something interesting and snap. About the pictures on the blog site? A few years back I picked up some secondhand darkroom equipment from a boot fair. Very basic stuff and the local recycling shop had a batch of old dusty Kodak/Ilford papers from the 80’s. So I had a go and the results you can see. I’d like to give it another go but the small cleaned up log room out the back back I used at the time has to be de-spidered and cleaned up. Can I be bothered?? I always was a bit bad on the technical front and need to relearn how to develop film all over again. Black and White is very atmospheric and I like to see the results in this format. Don’t take anything with a colour film at all. The photographs I’ve taken over the last 2 years are stuck in the fridge still on the roll film. Maybe it would be good to see whats on them! I use a Pentax LX with a couple of lens and it’s sturdy and built like a tank. It’s a wonderful piece equipment and a classic camera. I use a Pentax 645 too from time to time. Also, I wouldn’t even begin to think about changing to digital. Forget it! The mystery of the latent image is just about perfect. The Silver stuff every time.

At present I’m having my old Volkswagen T2 Crossover Bay Bus, named Billie Bud, renovated. It’ll be back soon. And it’s inclusion will be amazing. So, a lifestyle of work and out there balance is waiting. I’ll use as my daily drive. Good to hit the open road and wide open spaces as well as those hidden gems that exist in these beautiful isles. A mix of music, photography, writing, drawing, creating aromatherapy synergy with a plethora of essential oils and a bit of basic vegetarian cooking to stretch and push the limits of the abilities of a Cobb cooker and a double gas hob…….all await.

Music, photography, cooking, art…… whatever our interests, we’re lucky people to be able share our interests on this world wide level aren’t we? And I for one am overawed by the talent that exists out there. Culturally it is a stunning adventure.

So I’m made up of the following. I have my various professional statuses………budding ‘hoped for and yearning learning how to be something/one new I aspire to being with eventual beauty ‘ ……….or successful in realisation that now, with a commitment attached, I can carry on and build upon what I find was always deep in my soul as an essential requirement which allows me to live the life that saves my soul. A vegetarian, a nurse, a musician, a Buddhist, a teacher, a British Sign Language user, a potter, a photographer, an aromatherapist, an artist, a cook, a Husband, Father, Grandfather and friend.

I am these, yet none of these.

As Zen Master Linji says:

“If you want to be free, get to know your real self. It has no form, no appearance, no root, no basis, no abode, but is lively and buoyant. It responds with versatile facility, but its function cannot be located. Therefore when you look for it you become further from it, when you seek it you turn away from it all the more “.

And so the story goes……



And so the story goes,

to where?

No one knows.

Borne from out dated promises,

and worn out kisses.

I’m a Staff Nurse. Capitals on the S and N. I’m proud to be a nurse. It was hard won. And is still really hard to win on a daily basis. I have loved my life so far. Every 10 years I would subconsciously change direction career wise. These changes would just creep up on me. Left school in the early 1970s and picked up a guitar (musician).

10 years go by touring, playing, dreaming and writing my own songs singing to audiences of 2 to thousands. Toured with my band supporting the Specials, Selector, Madness, and Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Lived above a Whole-food Shop, which had a Potter supply his hand thrown stoneware coffee/tea pots and domestic ware, who gave me a lump of clay, and ‘hey’ I started making Raku and St. Thomas White stoneware Celtic travellers and warriors. Now a ceramicist in earnest. Couldn’t call myself a Potter because I couldn’t throw anything on a wheel. Completely useless.

10 years go by. My nephew, born profoundly Deaf, means we all go to college to learn British Sign Language. I took this up as a career and supported Deaf students in higher and further education. I move to Wales in this role and…..

10 years go by. Sitting having a coffee with a lecturer in Aberystwyth, I bemoan my age of 50 and say I’d love to do something different. “Become a nurse,” he says. He takes me onto his Access to Nursing course, which allows me into the degree in Swansea (well the Carmarthen site of the three University’s sites), and there you go.

10 years have gone by. Now? I’m 61 and it seems my 10 year change has stopped. I have my Volkswagen T2 Crossover 1972 Bay Bus, “Wow, an old camper van!” as people call it, nearing renovation completion. I used it as my daily transportation (that’s Daily Ride Dude to the younger population) and it will once again become my ‘daily ride dude’ when I get it back home very shortly. I’m thinking I may use it as a central life changer. It’s name is Billie Bud and it will carry my interests including guitar, djembe drum, Pentax cameras (LX, 645, MX), lots of black and white film, my aromatherapy essential oils (120 plus) to create new synergy concoctions, decent pencils and art paper and my small collection of beautiful fountain pens (1930s to 1990s) to write thoughts and songs.

So the story goes, to where? No one knows.