From the ground and in the air, it’s a fabulous spectacle – 2nd February 2020

Oh! I went riding around in the hills and valleys again today and I savoured every minute of it. The cool morning air countered the sun and heat, the sky white with mist and smoke, though thankfully not the thick cancerous smoke that will soon be with us every day until rainy season. Every paradise humans have found required a garbage dump.

I’m surprised I’m energised this morning after a 7 hour drunken sleep, woken somewhere in that time by Indian indigestion. I guess the two coffees kick-started me well enough so as soon as I got back from the cafe I hopped on the bike, no destination in mind.

The locals stare curiously at this white-haired monster screaming through their quiet village daily life but return the big smiles I beam at them. Spread the love. I get stuck behind what may have at one time been a truck but has been mangled into a new form so as to navigate its territory. On the back, two old uncles cling on to the stack of metal merchandise, though one is drunkenly singing and dancing to the traditional Thai folk music blasting from the rigged up PA system. The audio system far more important than the vehicle, which drops bolts and parts to the ground as it bounces around. It’s just turned 10 am.

Finally, I turn off and deeper into the hills through dirt tracks, some familiar, others new to me. Besides the divots and bumps, sleeping dogs must be navigated, their nerve holding much longer than mine.

Eventually, time to turn back, sore butt yet soaring thoughts. For brief moments in time it is wonderful to be alive. Let’s seek them out.

Suitably invigorated I set about the task of finally moving the stack of bricks that has been sitting in the middle of the garden for the past two years. They had become so familiar that they were practically invisible now. Every now and then I would be reminded by the cats sitting atop the stack, surveying the garden, waiting for birds to fly into their mouths.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the garden and half the clothing I used to wear has decomposed, my sweat probably had eaten through the fabric. Stacking 12 blocks at a time into the wheelbarrow I soon regretted not having gloves but whatever, time to toughen up these dishwashing hands again.

Nearer the bottom of the stack, I started to notice discarded snakeskins so thought to be a little bit more cautious, particularly as the blocks have 3 deep pockets through them. And finally, in the bottom of the pile, a small shy snake tasting the air with its tongue from within one of the pockets.

I carefully removed all the other blocks, keeping a good eye on the snake in its home. At one point it decided to make a break which gave me chance to capture a photo which I could get an ID for the snake later on Facebook. The snake exchanged one pocket for another as there was nowhere else safe to go, just open spaces around.

I figured I’d give it some time to chuff off on it’s own accord but then realised the nearest place of solitude was in our room where Amy teaches. Not the best option. So it was, pockets facing away I carefully picked up the whole block and chucked it over the fence into the deep scrub and long grass outside. Situation dealt with.

Godspeed….

Through the Facebook group, I discovered the snake was a highly venomous Thai spitting cobra. In our ignorance of its existence until this day our cats and I had been lucky and likewise, today this shy, delicate yet deathly dangerous beast let our relationship end without grief. I just hope our relationship has ended permanently.

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful at my ability to bounce back and be positive again. I remember a time a minor thing would play on my mood for many days.

It keeps us away from who we should be loving – 30th January 2020

“How much more time, energy, and pure brainpower would you have available if you drastically cut your media consumption? How much more rested and present would you feel if you were no longer excited and outraged by every scandal, breaking story, and potential crisis (many of which never come to pass anyway)?” Excerpt From “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday

This is something I’ve been conscious of for about ten years, since first reading an article about how ‘the news’ is not something that is good for us. In my lifetime the news and its delivery has changed considerably. Someone who read newspapers or watched BBC 2 news analysis shows was deemed to be knowledgeable and worldly.

These days news is everywhere and very little of it is actually news. A couple of decades ago Jello Biafra urged us to ‘become the media’ and technology has now allowed us that opportunity but we, as humans, have subverted this idea to push along our personal agendas.

So, I turned off the news, anywhere it could be found. If there’s something I really need to know I will find out about it. 99.9% of everything else has no real consequence in my life. That gives me a lot of free time to appreciate all the good things in life. It brings me closer to those I should be loving.

Another fantastic slow news day!

Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful for the sunrise each morning. With the temple as a pointer on the mountain, I can see how ancient man used this to measure time.

You may think you don’t need teaching but you’ll need it when you’re old – 17th December 2019

I’ve been spending what free time I have reading a lot this year and really getting into it.  English books are a little hard to come by here – there’s just one guy who sells secondhand books from his house here.  He’s a character – and not always particularly pleasant but his bigotry and short temper cracks me up more than offends.  When you hear another foreign immigrant being racist to other people (who don’t live here), it kinds of shines a different light on things in some ways.  Being English and white in this country is a double-edged sword – for me and for people judging me.  It’s an unusual situation to be in.

One time I was sitting in his shop chatting with him when two early 20-year-olds, backpackers, had been browsing and brought two books to him to ask the price. They then spent what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was only about 30 seconds, discussing if they could buy both and carry both. I could see our bookseller getting more and more agitated and eventually he grabbed the books off them and shouted at them to stop wasting his time. He handed one book back and said ‘Give me 100 baht for this one and get out of my shop!’ I couldn’t stop laughing.

The girls were discussing whether they could afford to spend another couple of dollars or be bothered to carry two books instead of one. It was a very inconsequential decision that they just couldn’t arrive at. To have someone unable to make this decision when an extra 100 baht would really make a difference to this guy was obviously frustrating. They also weren’t to know that he was late to take care of a friend of a friend who was dying of cancer. Something done out the goodness of his heart. Humans are complicated.

Anyways, I’ve been stocking up books, trying to build a library of my own.  Inspired by a friend’s room of books and old wooden shelves, which I always loved being in – to browse, to consider, to wonder, to breath in that mysterious air of hidden words.  I once went into an antique bookshop in Albury and immediately told the owner that I wasn’t going to buy anything but I just wanted to look and smell the books.  He was quite agreeable.

When moving from Oz to Thailand I grew accustomed to letting go of things that I had held with some regard.  Of course, the things I held really dear I shipped over.  It’s a good catharsis to sell or gift things that you own though.  It’s not like we can keep them forever anyway.

I also remember a quote from a writer, maybe Marquez, along the lines of ‘one must die with a library of mostly unread books.’  Not sure my wife agrees with this philosophy but that’s probably why my office/library/man cave is in a room outside my house.  I look through the books contemplating what I’m going to read next and can get excited with the possibilities. I turn my head as I’m sitting here and thinking about All Quiet On The Western Front, The Grapes of Wrath or Lord Jim?

On the iPad, which I use to read comics mostly, I’m thinking to start on Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. It was the bookseller who got me interested in this as he mentioned it was banned in Thailand for some reason I forget now. He described the story a little bit to me and the idea seemed cool enough for me to give it a go. How can a country ban books these days when it’s so easy to transfer them digitally? I sent a copy of Animal Farm to a friend in China. Easy enough (and they’re still alive and free!).

The book I have been enjoying most is Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I’m not sure where I saw a recommendation for this, though I’m guessing it was from The Daily Stoic. I’m guessing this because as I read it I see those philosophical themes throughout. The characters are fascinating in their different beliefs and ideas and Tolstoy makes you feel sympathetic with everyone of them.

I was never a big reader when I was younger and I was thinking that a younger me would have dismissed ever trying this book. Why would I want to try and understand about Russian aristocracy from over 100 years ago? What did that have to do with me and my life now? Ah, the stupidity of youth. I’m often envious of those who have found this beauty in the world at a younger age than myself. Why am I late to the wisdom table!?

I can only hope that in my teaching I can inspire the kids to get there quicker than I did. When I look at all the ‘trouble-makers’ in my class I only see my own stupid face reflected in their eyes. Ah, the stupidity of youth. But I wouldn’t really wish it any other way – and what would be the point?

“And so from school to the outside world these morals you will take…”


Gratitude Journal

I am so happy and grateful for my dreams. I can meet old friends, people who are no longer in my life. They stay close to my thoughts and experience.