It’s on a whim; it’s on a dare, To shrug away what we can’t bear – 6th-11th March 2018

Another busy week of back and forth.  I’m slowly getting into the rhythm of the hours and the days.  A weekly rhythm is illusive still but that’s fine, most days I have no idea what day it is.  It’s a big change from sitting around in an air-conditioned office, staring at a screen for 12 hours at a time, though I do spend a bit of more time looking at my phone these days.

One time last week Amy came to me laughing after having talked with the electrician at our house.  Apparently, he had heard, from someone around in the village, that I was a professional football player from Australia!  I can guess that this came from the village store where I’d been a total of once at that time.

I trekked up there again to buy beer for our workers after one long day where I did a lot of back-breaking weeding.  There’ll be more of that to come for sure, barely scratched the surface.  Anyway, I managed to convey that I needed 12 cold beers and that they were all for Amy, whilst I was just having a yoghurt drink.  They complimented me on the house and then said how hot the weather was.  Well, it’s small talk but I’m getting there slowly when I’m allowed off my leash.  I wonder what gossip that visit generated as I trudged in in my boots and sweat-ridden clothes.  We shall see.

Talking about being let off the leash, whilst I’ve been happily driving around in Amy’s mum’s car, or dad’s truck, I was granted permission to ride the motorcycle.  Usually just at night when it’s quieter and we never go too far anyway.  Amy had been riding with me on the back and I think she was finding it hard to control with the extra weight, better to let me ride instead.

I think she almost changed her mind on the first few runs though.  The motorcycle is somewhat dilapidated and the front brake doesn’t work at all.  It took me a while to master the gear changes, whilst also using the gears to brake half the time.  I decided we’ll get an automatic bike when we get round to getting our own.  Much simpler.  I need simple these days.

Tigger
Sometimes, Tigger is chill. Sometimes.

The weather has been pretty good as far as I’m concerned.  Even on the hot days, it wasn’t too much of a bother but I know it will get much more sticky and hot next month.  The evenings, as the sun is setting, are perfect.  We rode out to the old airport where folks young and old walk, run and ride up and down the runway, to get a bit of exercise in.  Has to wrap up before the sun disappears though as there is no other light there at all.  A few vendors have figured it’s a good place to make some money on water and various other drinks.

We walked past a group of about 30 teenage boys playing football, shirts vs skins, and I watched them for a bit, noticing the topless fat boy at the nearest corner.  A few seconds later the ball came his way with a long floating kick from midfield.  This was his chance for glory.  But he had his back to the ball and facing towards us.  His team all screamed at him, ‘Fatty, wake up and stop checking out the farang’s wife’, talking about Amy.  Everyone laughed and we kept on strolling.

We met up with Goi, one of Amy’s old school friends, as we were walking and they chatted whilst I called up my cousin Sharon to see how she’s doing back in England, now that things are not quite so frantic with her looking after my mum.  She asked if I felt bereaved and I said I didn’t really, things have just been too busy to even think about it too deeply, though I was always reminded of mum whenever I took photos of unusual plants and flowers.  Sharon said to send them to her instead which I had planned to do anyway.

Later, when Amy and I were having dinner, she told me about Goi’s life and her worries about health, money and the future.  Similar to another friend who is also raising a child, around 8 or so years old each.  We are sympathetic to their situations as they ask about ours and why we don’t want kids.  For us, the answer is obvious, we don’t want to have the same worries and concerns that they are now having.  For some reason, it doesn’t make sense to them.

After the football incident, we are also constantly discussing the fact that some people around they city stare at us – a lot!  We can understand people’s curiosity but some people literally gawp, mouth wide and follow us as we walk past.  Foreigners are not that uncommon around town or even out in the countryside these days and we think maybe it’s because Amy doesn’t look like the traditional Thai girl a lot of foreigners seem to go for.  I decided that next time it happens I will softly say in Thai, ‘Excuse me, what is it that you are staring at?’  The only downfall to this plan is that if they answer, I probably won’t be able to understand.

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Whilst our garden is a constant battle against weeds, our next challenge will be the constant battle against insects, particularly, ants.  Ants are everywhere in Amy’s parent’s house.  Whatever is built they will find a way in.  I don’t have anything against ants, as far as I know, none of them are dangerous, the thing that freaks me out with them is that sometimes, in low light and I’m not wearing my glasses, it looks like the walls or floor are moving and I’m reminded of tripping on mushroom tea.  And it makes me want mushroom tea!  The ants and the weeds will take over this world.  They are unstoppable.  We planted 5 small Jacaranda trees this week.  Fingers crossed they take root, survive and maybe in a few years time even flower.

One fine day, conversation will cease – 23rd- February 2018

Well, today is the day to bid farewell to my mother officially.  I’m filled with some nerves, some trepidation and some relief.  Sharon and Ken are busy running around preparing for guests invited after the funeral and their son, my second cousin, Mungo turns up with warm hugs and regards, along with his eldest daughter Ella, who shares his dad’s bright blue eyes.  Despite the nature of the day, there’s no sombreness really, just a realisation that this day needs to be done and in short time life continues for all of us left.

I spend some time trying on Sharon and Ken’s hat collection whilst Amy irons me a shirt.

We head to the funeral service, just in a small room, a converted barn called The Barn.  Possibly an Australian was asked what to call it.  The site is a new cemetery where ashes and bodies can be buried with trees and a small memorial plaque.

The officials are all very nice and understand the nature of my mum’s requirements for no religious texts, prayers and hymns.  More people turn up that I expected, most that I don’t recognise but people that Sharon has managed to find in mum’s contacts book.  I don’t get much chance to talk with anyone to find out more but later reflect on the words passed on from these people about their appreciation for my mum.

It’s weird to see the coffin and imagine your mother is inside.  But I know she isn’t there, that is just the body she was using.  It did bring home a finality though and I felt sad.

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The service starts with a song I picked which I knew mum would’ve liked.  It’s called Day Is Done by Peter, Paul and Mary.  I also chose the closing music which is Acker Bilk’s Petite Fleur.  After a quick introduction, it’s quickly on to me.  I have a prepared speech and stiltedly read aloud as I attempt to input some emotion into it and occasionally make some eye contact with the onlookers.  I’ve never been one for standing up and talking in front of people; unusual for someone who used to stand in front of a 100 people and attempt to sing back in younger days.

My speech went like this:

I just want to share a small story that reflects what my mum meant to me and how she subtly influenced me to be who I am today.

I’m guessing I was about 21 or thereabouts at the time and we were living in Colehill.  Most dinner times I would come home after work and mum would have baked something for us to eat, me in my room, her in the living room.  This particular evening she prepared a big fry up.  Eggs, bread, mushrooms, tomato and baked beans.  I was grumpy and ravenous.  As the egg was the final component and it hit the plate I thanked her (I hope) and headed off to my room.

Some how I caught myself on the corner of the door and the whole plate plummeted to floor, depositing everything onto our worn carpet.  I was devastated.  I don’t remember what else was going on in my life at that moment but this was the final straw, the end!  I think I burst into tears!

My mum quickly came along and told me to get something to clean up the mess.  She looked at me and said ‘Don’t worry, I’ll make you another one’.  Somehow this new plate of food tasted bittersweet.  I felt guilty but happy.

This short anecdote demonstrated mum’s attitude and unknowingly influenced me as I have since developed a strong streak of patience, a lack of drama and a get on with it approach to any difficulties in life.

This was just the way my mum was.  She just got on with things without making a fuss and bother.  She’d be furious with us all now making all this palaver over her demise but a funeral is never for the deceased but for those who are left.  So let’s remember her like this, and as we go on our own ways, let’s just get on with it.

My cousin Ken reads through a chronology of mum’s life and another song is played.  Mungo reads a short poem that also pretty much reflects my mum’s wishes (except the second line!).

‘By Herself and Her Friends’ by Joyce Grenfell

If I should go before the rest of you
Break not a flower nor inscribe a stone,
Nor when I’m gone speak in a Sunday voice
But be the usual selves that I have known.
Weep if you must, Parting is hell,
But Life goes on, So sing as well.

Finally, the director reads out a poem that my Aunt Lorna has requested be read.  Lorna is the last survivor sibling sister and unfortunately isn’t well enough to travel to attend today.

‘Weep not for me’ by Constance Jenkins

Weep not for me though I am gone;
into that gentle night.
Grieve if you will but not for long,
upon my soul’s sweet flight.

I am at peace,
my soul’s at rest.
There is no need for tears.
For with your love I was blessed;
for all those many years.

There is no pain,
I suffer not,
The fear now all is gone.
Put now these things out of your thoughts.
In your memory I live on.

Remember not my fight for breath;
remember not the strife.
Please do not dwell upon my death,
but celebrate my life.

As this poem is read out I start to feel a little emotional and so look outside through the window whilst taking in the words.  In the building opposite a dog has decided to push through the curtains and sit in the window, taking in the sun.  Life goes on.

The rest of the afternoon is spent chatting with mum’s friends and associates, some who I’ve met previously, others I’ve often heard her talking about over the years.  I think the service was appropriately short and without fuss and was a nice way to think about my mum’s life.

Later, we’re joined by Mungo’s two youngest kids who tear around the kitchen distracting us with laughter and screaming fun.

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And later still, a final dinner with my cousins where we eat well and drink copiously, even managing to pry the last drops out of Ken’s bottle of Dalwhinnie.  Discussion ranges from my mum’s life to deeper, more philosophical things as Mungo stirs the pot with his Dad, who is up for the debate.  Amy is wilting and I soon offer we retire to bed and the day ends with an upbeat feeling and one that I know my mum would have enjoyed partaking in.

 

So no, I don’t want to go to Cuba – 20th-22nd February 2018

We’re taking an overnight flight to the UK and of course, I slept a lot already.  It’s only in more recent years that I’ve been able to even sleep a little bit on planes.  Except for that one time out of Guangzhou, I was lucky enough to start to talking to a girl as we were waiting for departure.  Just by chance, she knew the staff working the counter and wrangled an upgrade to business class for herself.  She was kind enough to come back down to cattle and tell me to follow her back to business class, where there was a spare seat.  Best sleep on a plane ever, and probably the last time I’ll enjoy that too.

Our plane in and out of London is the new A380 and it is huge.  Even for the likes of us paupers, it feels like there is a little more room to breathe at least.  I barely manage to sleep though.

We arrive in London around 6am and the weather has me instantly cold and chilled (not in the relaxed sense at all).  We pick up a hire car, which is amazing but I keep forgetting that it is manual and stall it at every roundabout.  Then we take the wrong lane and exit off the motorway and the sky is grey and the rain is drizzling just that annoying amount to make the wipers screech.  I am thoroughly depressed already.

Somehow the shitty English coffee manages to take off the edge at least for a while.  Just remember not to watch what the barista actually does and just go by taste.  I think I had one half decent coffee this trip – which is one more than last time I visited the UK.

As we arrive in Brighton the sun very occasionally decides to show itself.  We’re staying at Amy’s university friend’s house and she just happens to live herself on Brighton Marina.  Sometimes I feel especially lucky to find myself in such beautiful places just through the people that I know.

It’s a great little house, and when I say little, I always forget just how tiny and compact English houses are.  And doors – always doors.  Gotta keep that heat in.

Amy has decided that we must eat Indian food on this trip and, as they are everywhere, it’s only a short walk to our lunch.  It’s cold and even the slightest breeze is enough to make us shudder.  We have prepared appropriate coats but there’s still the other bits turning blue.  Luckily the sun decides to stay for a long while and the sky turns blue.  Wait, are we still in England, in February?

Amy’s friend, Bookie, speaks with the typical American accent of her tutors from years ago.  Something that I (or Australia) have managed to change with Amy over the years.  She doesn’t sound English and not really Aussie but at least it’s not American.

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Bookie is married to an airline pilot and he is away 20 days a month and he’s away now, arriving back in the following couple of days for his birthday.  They have a five-year-old son called Kyle and when he comes home from school I’m tasked with keeping him entertained whilst food is prepared.  We have fun playing Star Wars action figures and making up stories.

Later, Amy and I enjoy the comforts of a nice soft bed and perfect pillows.  Back at Amy’s parent’s house, the bed we are sleeping on may as well be a block of concrete – it’s good for learning to sleep on a tiled floor though.  The only downside of the night is I wake up having a coughing fit and end up in the living room for a spell.  Amy is starting to catch it too and her voice is starting to crack.

We wake up again to brilliant sunshine and coffee’d up (instant) we hit the road, passing Arundel castle and some other Olde Worlde buildings.  The history and mystery of England is a little bit magical for me if only the temperature was more appealing.

Heading along the coast we get back into very familiar territory for me, with roads I travelled repeatedly in other glory days.  We soon arrive at my cousin’s house and are treated to a warm welcome of food and central heating, along with discussions about details for my mother’s funeral and some other minor details that need to be sorted whilst I’m here.

My cousin, Sharon and her husband Ken have been doing all the hard graft for my mother and for me, of course, over the last 18 months or so.  I’m so lucky that she has been here and willing to assist with everything.

It still doesn’t seem real that my mother isn’t here to talk to, to show pictures and to keep updated on the minutiae of everyday life.  I feel sad about that but not overly emotional.  I keep wondering if I’m going to sit down one day and have a big cry.  Maybe.  I’ve upped my dose of antidepressants recently, in preparation for my big life move and it’s likely they are helping keep things smooth for me emotionally.

Another coughing fit just after going to bed sees me again relocating to the living room until I’m on the verge of sleep when I return to bed and later Amy wakes me with coughing of her own.

The weather is excellent again and even though it’s cold there’s little wind to bring in the chill.  We drive back to my hometown and go to the bank where my mum and I have a joint account and sort out access for Sharon to deal with expenses etc.  Amy and I spend a little more time walking around, returning again for pizza at Piccolo Mondo, once my favourite pizza ever, not so much these days though, it’s still good though.

We take ourselves on a country drive as I search out Bulbarrow Hill.  I love this place.  It sparks that mystical quality of olden days more than some of the other places scattered around the south, even more than Stonehenge.  It’s a fabulous view and the sun’s rays break through the scattering of clouds.

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I have time to scoff down some more home cooked food, that Sharon says isn’t to her usual quality but it tastes great to me.  Bring on the cheese, potato, garlic and butter anytime!

I’m off for a quick catch up with old school friends Rupert and Murray, though we barely have time with our busy schedules.  A quick couple of pints and it’s time to head off on our merry ways, and I am feeling quite tipsy.  That is until I open the pub door and the cold wind blast instantly sobers me.  This forces me to reminisce quite clearly the many many nights spent walking home from the pub, or the local football club, or the school field where we huddled around a couple of cans of beer and maybe a fire.  Those days were either hell fun or hell shit depending on my mood and what was going on around me.  I miss the good bits.  A lot.

Edit:  Could not stop humming this tune during these few days – https://youtu.be/xk2QbCDRP0U

I walk my love in mornings gleam – 4th February 2018

How to write this?  How to put my feelings into words, express my thoughts clearly.  Maybe I can’t.  So let’s just stick to the facts.

I was contemplating a visit to the UK before settling in to my new life in Thailand.  Knowing my mother was probably in her last year and the timing was kind of right, it had suddenly become a possibility. I know I wrote just recently that I wouldn’t go back but something, I’m not sure what, made me reconsider.  A couple of hours into my first night shift, I called my cousin, Sharon, to discuss.

Sharon was fine with the idea but did warn me that my mum was very ill now and it may not be the way I wanted to remember her.  The doctors at the hospital, knowing a little about my mum’s wishes, had given her a good dose of antibiotics that hadn’t helped her much, so the decision was to switch to morphine for pain reduction and for her body to fight for itself.  This seemed a good solution.  If she had the strength she would recover, if she didn’t, she would be comfortable.

About an hour later, Sharon messaged me saying she had been called urgently to the hospital and perhaps another hour later she sent through a message, carefully worded, “Your mum has just silently faded away.  No more struggle, just peace and tranquillity.”

Sharon had passed on my love whilst mum was still breathing and held her hand until she was gone.

Of course, this outcome was not unexpected, I guess we had all been gearing ourselves up for this moment and I was strangely calm.  I sat at work, contemplating, thinking, sad but not emotional.  I went over memories of my mother and they all provided me with comfort.  I’m grateful her end wasn’t an extended suffering, around the other dramas of the palliative care ward.  Grateful she had been happy in her last few months at the care home.  In fact, my sadness is countered by everything she did for me, knowing that she was proud of what her son had achieved in his life.  I will continue to make her proud.  I just wish I could share these things with her.

I called Amy.  She had just got back from an event and had had a couple or three beers and was in a tipsy chatty mood, so I let her talk and I sat and listened and loved her words, pouring out of her and into me.  I soaked up her love and thought to myself, my mum has gone but my life is still complete.  I have everything.  I am happy.

When Amy talked about my mum, I gently told her that she was gone and she couldn’t believe me.  She burst into tears and apologised for talking all about her night and herself.  I calmed her down, telling her it was just what I needed.  As she continued to cry though I could feel myself starting to crack.  I started pacing the office I was in and managed to stay positive.  Amy insisted we go back to the UK for the funeral and I agreed, though not particularly for the funeral part but it presents us with the right opportunity to catch up with what is left of the family – something I now feel compelled to do.

I finished off my night shift and when I got home set about making new plans.  As I was due to quit work in a few weeks anyway, it seemed to make sense not to bother coming back to Australia after going to the UK, instead ending up in Thailand.  My son, Hayden, was also due to visit me in Adelaide the week before I was going to leave.  So with a little bit of juggling and some flight changes, I’ll leave Adelaide to go to Brisbane to visit Hayden for a few days, then to Sydney, on to Thailand next, to pick up Amy to fly together to the UK.

All of this planning kept me busy and I ended up awake for around 30 hours before finally sleeping peacefully until the following morning, where I failed to get up with my alarm.  No hurry now.  No more work, no more night shifts.

Still calm inside, still quiet.  Doubled meds, finishing off the codeines.  I can’t wait to hold my little Amy in my arms again.

Goodbye mum.  Thank you for everything you did for me.

Love you, always.

You see, you feel, you know – 5th September 1994

Change. All change involves a challenge. I remember when I lived with my mother I was content there, I was also fussy and finicky. A cup of coffee was only nice out of my special mug. I had particular knives and forks that I had to use, no others would do. Those two tiny things were barriers I had made to stop myself from leaving. Wrapped up in a golden blanket of security, I would dread the thought of having to use a different knife.

Then I left, scared of watching all that security get old and withered. I learnt how to use a washing machine and how to cook and I learnt that I didn’t have all the time in the world and started using my spare time to good effect instead of wasting it. I slowly discovered who I was and became content again.

Broni gets herself home from work early, now she’s finishing up things she’s on a self-admitted skive but remember back when I was telling you how hard she worked, now at last the slow down.

So with time on our hands (yes, time, that funny thing that you can never have enough of and when we feel so short of it all of a sudden we are presented with some) we take off on a whim down to Poole Quay and the aquarium which is full of fish on the ground floor, swimming around in their swimming round circles, round and round. Only the piranha seem to stay in some territorial still, and Broni sits and watches the silver dollar fish, light reflecting prism-like into her eyeballs, hypnotic, entranced.

Upstairs, crocodiles lounge like dead things in their 12 inches of water, not a blink nor a twitch, then Broni walks into a room where a man sits waiting to take your picture with a 20 foot python, 6 inches across. But Broni doesn’t see the snake until it’s rubbing her hand and she makes a quick exit! The rest of the snakes we watch through glass, most being lazy and restful. But beautiful, the nest of vipers all piled on top of each other like it was cold and were seeking warmth.

Snakes and spiders, then upstairs to a model railway which fascinates the child in me watching a little replicas stopping starting whistling shunting chuffing. A great place to go and visit despite the steep entrance fee, maybe Poole Aquarium is a bit of an odd description too.

By this time we are exhausted again and return home to comfy chairs and brief dreams for a half hour. Next on the agenda is a meal we’ve planned, so I goes with my sweet to pick up my mum and we drive with a remarkable sunset behind us up to Ringwood where we joined Kerry, Ron, Cath and Simon, drinks already underway. I wanted to come back to this restaurant, the India Cottage, as it is the first place I was introduced to Indian cuisine by my boss at the time, now some six or thereabouts years ago. We were served by two young beautiful people, both English but dark skinned. Him in bright white shirt and black trousers, the nervous and anxious to please gentleman, and her also, dressed in a tie-dye one-piece dress, dark and pretty as her skin. With seven of us all giggling away we took some time in there and the best thing was the slow service which gave us all plenty of time to digest one course before stuffing another and I, probably for the first time ever, managed to eat everything I ordered. So the atmosphere was nice and relaxed right through to the last Tia Maria.

So arrived the weekend, Broni off to get her haircut then us both over to Rosemary’s for lunch where we sit and play with Jade, kid cute, running around or having us to run around after her. I feel really good around kids, I enjoy the freedom they express and their ignorance of worry, real life giver.

Our joy takes us home for a brief encounter on the bed where we frenzy practice babymaking before diversion to Wimborne for pizza and then Southampton for our last gig there before we leave, now just three weeks away. Oh yes.

Atmosphere at The Joiners is, as ever, relaxed and exciting, but tonight tinged with some sadness for us as we say our farewells to some of the regulars, brightened up though by new people eager to get involved.

So at the end of the night, midnight we bring back Rob and Rich to Chrissy’s place, Chrissy out on the tiles but Sharon there to let us in. Rich soon leaves as the rest of us prepare to have a few drinks, Rich still on his straight edge kick and good luck to him if it makes him feel better about himself, which I’ve noticed it has.

We make an effort to wait up for Chrissy but all fall asleep dead drunk after playing every single kids game in the cupboard.

It’s light and Chrissy stumbles in, 7 am, she goes to bed and we get up and not only do we get up, so do Amanda, Luke, Sam and Rebecca, our company for the morning, four beautiful active screaming monster children. Rebecca amazes us as she is now walking herself about and saying ‘yeah’ whenever it takes her fancy. Snotty nosed Sam, quietly watching and wandering from here to here. Luke demanding to play Nintendo and demanding to play with me, and Amanda being unusually quiet and restrained today, possibly because mum is not there to antagonise, Chrissy now sound asleep oblivious to rowdy rabble.

After a while of preparation we all set off for the park, Amanda demanding piggybanks of me and Luke off Rob, Broni pushes Rebecca and Sharon looking after Sam. One child each, they will never beat us!

So how is it later on I get Sam on my shoulders, Amanda on one hand and Luke on the other and I’m sure if Rebecca could get out of her locked in pushchair she’d be demanding my affection too. But I know the kids see that I have lots of love to give them and I love ’em to bits. Sam called me dad, Luke kicked me till I wouldn’t play with him no more, Sharon then talking to him quietly and Luke coming back looking all forlorn and saying sorry under his breath, little beauty horror tike.

Amanda asked me if I remember when Steve and I took her tree climbing and I surely do, I remember it so well because it was then I realised I too, could look after kids, not be scared of that kind of future. It was something Steve showed me just by doing it and not by mentioning it. The only thing he ever said about kids was that he thought I would enjoy it, and as it made him so happy. Here I was, now free of all those old inhibitions about coolness and, ‘geez I wonder if anybody can see me?’ type thoughts that always entered my head when I was around children. My only regret is that Steve isn’t here to see that in me, because even though I realised it back then, I was still in a kind of awe of him because he was looking after Rebecca and Amanda so well.

When people die, you keep a little piece of them with you and it’s something I kept of Steve (amongst other things) and I find that particularly poignant as Chrissy said to Broni the night before that ‘Shaun is a good bloke, a lot like Steve in many ways.’ That kind of compliment makes me feel good inside, I really love all these people around me. Amanda surprised me by remembering that, maybe not sure how much a seven-year-old might remember about a year before, which is great.

I talk to her about the snakes we saw and carry her down to see the cygnets and the ducklings, then onto the swings and climbing houses where we try to wear the kids out but us with only a couple of hours sleep start flagging it instead.

Get back to Chrissy’s and cook some food, Chrissy now up and pale, looking barely alive as Amanda scoffs at her, her not liking her mum getting drunk because it makes her ‘smelly’. We force Chrissy to eat but she’s had it and at 2 o’clock or so heads back to dreamland. We leave around then too, dropping off Rob on the way, Sharon already gone with the kids to a party.

Broni sleeps in the car and I sleep on the sofa when we get back but only for an hour or so. The rest of the day slips us by slowly and gently as we slow down and let the love in ourselves roll around some and spread through our veins to our fingers and toes. We fall asleep with smiles on our faces and play with our friends in our subconscious.

It’s a new generation of electric white boy blues – 30th August 1994

I’m shattered, we’ve been at Reading Music Festival for the last four days. Tenting down in the dust and dirt, eating half cooked veggie burgers in a sea of tin cans and plastic food containers as a thousand people walk by you in the blink of an eye, on their way to getting pissed at eight in the morning or coming down off the previous night’s high.

Crusty scroungers push a pram full of puppies in search of free amber nectar or tar of any sort. A hundred young girls queued for the seven or eight toilets, from six in the morning, daring each other to go in the one second from the end. People slept where they fell and some fell in the bushes where people pissed. Some never slept and others slept through while their favourite band was playing.

In the arena was a comedy tent, the Melody Maker tent and the main stage and you’d be lucky if you could get anywhere near any of them. Well, we did get to see Sebadoh’s guitar breaking set which was about the most exciting thing all weekend. In fact time did seem to drag at certain points but we were kind of happy that we had nothing to do except drink and relax, and occasionally running across to the record fair to the nice clean toilets.

First thing to do when camping with 50,000 other people must find a decent toilet which other people don’t know about. Most people had to pay a pound to go in the record fair but we just slipped in each time claiming to work there. Of course, we had plenty of friends in there, Simon, Rich, Baz, Gaz, Mark, John and his wife; we even got roped in to do Simon’s stall for part of Saturday morning.

Anyway, on the campsite we came up with Rob, Rich, PJ and Warren, who none of us knew and didn’t hang around that much. On Sunday, joined by Chrissy, Sharon, Selena, John, Tina and Rob who out drank us as we slept through their insane partying; I wish we could’ve stayed awake on that last night but we’d just had enough by then.

We eventually left on Monday morning after a very nice man helped us get the car started. A beautiful bath and an hours sleep saw us into the evening but we exhausted of all energies and just kind of lazed on into bed, Broni reading me love poems as I drifted off once again into unconsciousness.

And then today is still slow as we clean up the house in preparation for David and Louise coming down soon and then Kerry’s return tomorrow. Things are starting to seem much bigger now as we have only four weeks to go before I leave – it’s scary. Yeah, it’s scary, kind of huge.

I was sat in PJ’s campervan drunk and stoned and it hit. These guys here, I’m going to miss them. Not so easy to just ring up and gossip, and I’ll miss out on the tiny stories, the little things that help you understand what people are like, the details, you know the bits between the lines. When you communicate over a great distance you feel like you just want to mention the really important things, big things, but I’ll be wishing to hear the other things too.

He feels life his strongest connection, between the yelling and the sleep – 26th July 1994

Phew! I’m sat in our room, now bereft of most of the items one would consider creature comforts. TV, video, computer, stereo, table, chair etc all sold or packed up or returned to their rightful owners.

Today was the first day of rain for a couple of weeks I’d guess. Just a light drizzle on a grey day, the air now fresh and sweet with the scent of thirsty flowers. Myself, a flower child thirsty for the waters of life pouring all around me and, here and there, I dip my hand in making gentle ripples across my universe. Though the last few days seem like I’ve been jumping up and down in the puddles, splashing my way through the madness!

Oh yes! I drove across the farmland again last week, to the farm with the handsome farmhand and had to deliver some stuff into one of the chicken sheds as before. This farm is an egg farm and I’d guess in each shed were thousands and thousands of chickens crammed in, laying eggs for Joe Bastard to eat for breakfast.

So, the first time I’m in the shed I look around – it’s very dark, above is a floor with big slats and beyond, the roof. On the floor above are cages, the whole length of the shed (about 100 metres). I look up where we are and the cages are empty. The only sound to be heard is like a whistling of the wind. The stench is awful. I look across the width of the shed and see the floor stacked up to 6ft high in places, in chickenshit. Guess they hadn’t had time to clear it up yet. I left a bit wiser, a bit curiouser.

When I went the second time, I was alone and so I had a look about bit more. The whistling wind was a bit louder this time and I heard faint clucking noises. I approached the piles of shit and looked up and saw hundreds and hundreds of skinny featherless chickens crammed into tiny cages, for what I would guess would be their whole sorry lives. But what shocked me was the lack of noise. All those chickens and no noise! Are they bred without vocal glands, do they have them removed or have they resigned themselves to confinement and given up hope of freedom? Did they even know what freedom was? Wow – all that stuff going on in my head!! I wonder if Joe Bastard thinks about stuff like that when dipping his soldiers into the yolk?

Friday, we went barefoot for an Indian meal with Kerry celebrating the end of term and the six or seven weeks summer holiday. She got a ton of presents from her class too, which really pleased her. We had to take her to bed quite early though as alcohol took her over – this time for a happy pissed!

Saturday, Broni and I picked up our wedding rings, mine now looking great – I’m really pleased with it and will treasure it forever. We got a couple of hours packing in before shooting off to Southampton to Chrissy’s, picking up Rob on the way. Sharon was there with her kids too, but once the kids were out of the way we quietly drank and puffed on a peace joint and gladly relaxed to ‘The Terminator’. One by one, people faded and finally ended up with me and Rob having that great talk about life, the universe and everything, just like I used to with Steve (God, I miss you so much Steve). Knowing the kids were going to wake up early we called it a day at about 4:30 just as it was getting light! Sure enough a couple of hours later we were up again, though fairly relaxed as Chrissy and Sharon took off with the kids leaving us to bum around before Broni and I had to go to Portsmouth for Stephanie’s christening.

Stephanie is Joe and Stephen’s daughter. Joe being the first person Broni got to know here in Poole. And Broni to be godmother for the third time. I’ll finish this off later as another cup of coffee is required right now!

It was a stunningly hot day and with my lack of sleep I was feeling very faint – it was actually nice to go into the chapel where it was cooler. Stephen is a Navy diver so the christening took place on HMS Nelson naval base with pretty tight security. Not being into the religious bit I watched Broni holding the wriggling tyke still as possible and smiled as the guy (is he a priest or chaplain or something?) poured holy water from an upside down divers helmet (!) over her forehead (Stephanie’s, not Broni’s).

With that over all thoughts (of mine) were on my stomach and sustenance. We went out of the base and over into a big stately home type place (all this in Portsmouth city centre) guarded by some young army dude carrying a machine gun. It occurred to me that the boy may suffer a heat madness and go on a crazy killing spree but that’s my twisted imagination for you! This old place was breathtaking. Huge staircases and pictures of Nelson and massive solid silver statuettes of Queen Elizabeth the Second on her horse. It was pretty breathtaking. We enter the big room with a bar and all leather upholstery, like imagine the meeting rooms at the House of Lords or something like that. Champagne flowed and food eaten (we stuffed ourselves and quite rightly felt sick after!) and I was taking in the surroundings, being totally alien to them. I love these new experiences, I really enjoy things that I sometimes expect not to like. In another room the walls were painted with scenes from old battles like the Armada and Trafalgar. Huge detailed paintings faded with time but still glorious in their nature. Tired and exhausted we left for Southampton.

I have to stop again till tomorrow – I just can’t carry on – my mind is a-racing with a trillion different things.