The eyes of a Wolf always see straight into your soul ...

...You can't hide the truth from them


Please visit the main site - www.wolf-photography.com


Friday, 31 December 2010

Ending 2010 ...

There are certain circles that come to a close in your life.  They just happen, whether through your effort or an external influence, by the prayers or wishes of your friends or the energy of love transfered from a well wishing stranger.  The vessel of change takes many forms ... but we still have to recognise it and act on it.

This was a very difficult year for me with regards to coping with PTSD, simply because I opened up a small window into my soul for the greater good.  The greater good being the campaign to shed some light into the lives of veterans with PTSD.  To help their loved ones and other pople understand them, their journeys, their concerns and their hurdles.

For some veterans the hostile zone lies in the past, for many others every day is a battle against stigma, a lack of being understood, being isolated and ignored and fighting to get from one day to the next.  The problems that you face in daily life affect Veterans too, they become the extra layer of crap to deal with on top of an already exhausting fight.

In a way I failed other veterans on this blog because I couldn't open up as much as I wanted to.  I allowed you glimpses into my life but kept the real stuff locked down ... tight.  There is a fear within me that if I sit with someone and open up everything that I won't be able to control myself  - I'd be walking around like weapon without a safety catch ... and writing the poetry book added to the sense of vulnerability as my soul was exposed to you in an attempt to make you understand the pain that PTSD can cause.

As I watch the waning moon I sit and remind myself of the most recent emotional scars; feeling the pain of the events that caused but them, firmly, closing the door on them.  All the current crap that has happened over the last 3 years.

I moved to Nottingham over those last 3 years and felt the undignified way that the NHS in the area handles Veterans that transfer from other areas.  The only department to handle the situation with any dignity and understanding was the pain clinic.  The rest were completely ignorant of PTSD and what the average Veteran goes through.  I recently recieved a letter from the NHS that stated that a recent study showed that people only benefitted from accupuncture over a period of 12 months, after which is was of little use.  I've been trying to con my body into accepting their finding but it seems to utter one phrase in return. 'What a lof of bollocks!'  I really dislike needles and would not choose to sit and watch them being inserted into my body for a good laugh.  Yet, the treatments act as a valve release for both physical pain and the mental stress.  I feel like I've shared a spliff off Cheech and Chong (you know - the big fat ons they roll?), I'm completely zoned out and relaxed by it.  BUT, I have to bow to the superiority of some jack arse that wrote a report and listen to the trust tell me in a round about way that they're cutting the service down because they don't have the budget to keep it available to me.  So, another of those doors that are closing is the NHS and it's service provision to me as a 'priority' patient.  My thanks to the Tory/Lib Dem alliance;  shame they haven't invented an effective cream for that dose of hemorrhoids yet.

I met my father over the course of the last 3 years somewhere.  I felt he needed me and I tracked him down and went to him.  I didn't know that there had been a death in the family.  He started to grieve as he saw me and I held him and allowed him the silent dignity to wash his pain.  I told the younger members of their household to leave us.  He told me his brother had died and I listened in silence and he just cried until there were no more tears.  I'd never seen my father cry - hell in the time since my parents split up in 1972, I've only seen him 6 or 7 times.  I guess there are some things an elder son is expected to do for his father and this visit was one of them, even though I was unaware of the event before meeting my father.

As he calmed, we sat and talked of more general things and we agreed to meet again quite soon.  I told him that there was somethig that I needed him to read.  I opened my soul to him about my journey with PTSD.   We met a week later and I handed him the words.  He read the first page, then skimmed pages 2 and 3 and handed me the words back saying, 'It's all in your mind, this is nothing.'  I remember thinking, 'Genius! He could be a psychiatrist!'  He certainly had the required level of ignorance to be an average psychiatrist.  He then looked at me and said, 'I don't like you.'  The dislike centred on my having a different family name to his and not following the religion of my ancestors.  That might be the bit about being the eldest son that I tagged 'Blow it out your arse'.

I was careful with my children on that score.  Teaching them about spirituality and keeping them away from organised religion ... but also raising awareness of the different faiths and teaching them tolerance and letting them know that if they decided to adopt an organised faith in later life - it was their decision and it was ok with me because my role in their lives was just to help prepare them for their journeys - not to live their lives for them.

So, my father is one of those doors that will firmly close as the SnowMoon disappears.

The relationship with my children has changed too as they firmly enter that horrible period of hormonal change.  The doors open for them and I'm still here ... but the times are a changing and they've got to learn to get up on their own feet and learn the words their talk will walk.

So, as far as being more open about my PTSD goes ... it stops here.  I may write something every now and then ... but it'll be for the genune people that want to know or as a therapeutic act for me.  I'm not interested in the limelight.

The writing continues!  I'm half ay through writing the next volume of poetry and I'm still travelling to different places to bring back more images.  Keep an eye on http://www.wolf-photography.com/, there's always something different going on the site.

I feel honoured by those of you that visit my site and read some of the bollocks I write.  It's a symbiotic relationship.  Your input, words, encouragment keeps me going and adds purpose to my art.  The purpose being to share what I see and what I feel with you.  You're closer to me than any real family that I've had, whether you've ever met me, wrote to me or not.

What ever crap is going on your life, try to leave as much of it as you can tonight and close the door on it.  Do things that make you laugh and feel alive.

I wish you a joyful 2011 and every happiness.



Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Update - eBook released last night ...

Apologies to people that have been trying to buy the eBook version of 'Words of a Wolf'. There's been a problem with assigning an ISBN etc and it's all sorted now.

You can buy the eBook from this link: http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/words-of-a-wolf---poetry-of-a-veteran-(ebook-version)/14303713?productTrackingContext=shopping_cart/recently_viewed/center_middle/1#detailsSection
There's also a preview option under the cover image.
All the best

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Update re new images

Most of the new shots from this year are up now. Just look for the red 'New' tag by the albums.

You can find them on the following pages:

Special Editions


People and culture


For those of you that have been waiting for the shots of the Game of thrones set - they're located in the Malta - Mdina page on the Travel section.



Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Mat's Quest

If you live near or in Oaklahoma City, USA, please support my friend's exhibition and make other people aware of this event? I've attached a photo for use too. Details below:

Mat’s Quest Foundation Photography Exhibit/Sale

December 11th, 2010
7pm to 10pm
Louie’s Grill & Bar
1201 NW 178 St, Oklahoma City

Mat’s Quest Foundations mission, is to educate the general public about diet, exercise, and getting out of a sedentary lifestyle. We have developed a scholarship program to assist individuals who qualify for weight loss surgery, but have no insurance coverage for the procedure. 100% of the net profit from this exhibit/sale will go directly to the scholarship program!

For more information contact: Mat Jones (405) 227-4321

***Featuring selected works by Member of the Royal Photographic Society, Wolf Sunkmanitu!*** http://www.wolf-photography.com/

Monday, 6 December 2010

Would you sell your soul to the press to get publicity for your book?

I had an interesting phone call today ... interesting might be the wrong word.  I'd approached a publicist re helping with Words of a Wolf and the whole project - raising awareness of PTSD in Veterans.

Northern Ireland's old news.  The media attention is on the current conflict in Afghanistan.  The obvious angle for any publicist should have been the struggle that Veterans from previous campaigns face in their day-to-day lives.  How so many of them have been forgotten.  How so many of them are homeless.  How so many some of them are in prison because of PTSD.  How so many of them fight their battle within, against PTSD, on a daily basis, many of them not knowing if they'll maike it through another day.

All publicists want is a story that can go to the newspapers.  Sensationalism sells.

Did I want to be a spokesperson for PTSD?  No, I don't.

Can yout tell me what happened to you in Northern Ireland?  No, I don't want to go into that and I don't want issues to be raised of Northern Ireland veterans against Afghanistan veterans.  My awareness campaign is about how PTSD affects ALL veterans afflicted with the condition ... and I'm not after fame.

It made me sit back and take a good long, hard, look at the issues I'm up against.  The whole project has been geared towards helping Veterans and their families.  The proceeds to be used to help me continue therapeutic work and fund an exhibition to do more awareness raising ... and for 25% of the profits to go to the creative therapies wing of Combat Stress in order to facilitate Veterans using creativity as a coping mechanism for PTSD.

There's no profit yet.  So far the book has broke even, which I guess is good going as it's been a solo affair from the point of view of publishing (apart from the help from Derek Thompson).  In terms of running costs for the business etc ... I'm still running at a loss.  There are still 750 odd copies left of the first print run.  These need to be sold, so I think I'll put a discount on purchases from my website.

The last thing I said to the publicist was that the book speaks for itself.  It doesn't need me to be a spokesman for anything.

I think I'll stay away from the media now.

Friday, 3 December 2010

First album from Egypt ...

The first album from Egypt has been published to my website.  You can view the images on the following link:  Of the Pharaohs

I hope you enjoy them.

These images are only available as 3 foot canvas prints, same as the other images in the 'Special Edition' range.

All the best


Sunday, 28 November 2010

This is the kind of rubbish that people put on Facebook ...


My reply:
The Koran means nothing to me personally. I'm not a muslim. The Bible means nothing to me. I'm not a christian. The Poppy means something to me because I've served in the armed forces. How would a christian feel if you burnt his or her bible? One of my biggest fears for communities in this country when we went into Iraq was the back- lash of violence and division it could cause in our country, the UK. Then I see posts like that demonstrate ignorance and a complete lack of awareness of the issues concerned. It's the same ignorance that led those idiots to burn the poppy. You all need to start thinking about things properly and stop contributing to the cycle of hatred that's going to destroy 'British' communities.

In finishing:
Am I blind and lost in an alternative state or can others see the division being created throughout the UK?  So much separatist, racist nonsense is going on as a reaction towards the wars that we've created as a 'civilised' nation.  The biggest casualties are our own multi-cultural communities.  You'd think that a lot of these posts on Facebook (as quoted above) were created by delinquents working for the British National Party.
Wake up UK!  If you were meant to be a bunch a puppets, you'd have been been born with wider @rseholes.  When the politicians are dividing communities, something usually crappy is about to happen with regard to government decisions/policies.  Once you're divided as a community, your voice is probably as effective as a cat flap in an elephant house.

My apologies to the readers that are awake and aware :)


Saturday, 27 November 2010

First snowfall of the winter ..

Whenever I see snow I feel uplifted.  I awoke to the sight of it covering my car and gardens.  The sun was just rising, peering between neighbouring roof tops and the sky was blue.  A perfect morning.

I cleared my neighbours path so that she doesn't slip, loaded her bird feeders and took in a some coal for her.  I don't want her risking a fall, especially at her age.

I'd love to drive out into the snow somewhere but it being a weekend - the places will be crowded.  So, I'll make do with watching it on the trees and plants in my garden.  The birds are flying in frequently for food, great tits, coal tits, blue tits, robins, thrush, blackbirds are in abundance ... as are the pesky squirrels :)  I was watching a squirrel pull off the winter jasmine flowers and eat them!  I've put some nuts out in the hope that it'll leave the flowers alone.  Seems like a fair trade ... maybe I should get a paw print on a written agreement?

I'd better edit some photos,



Thursday, 25 November 2010

Survey - Meeting the needs of British Veterans living with PTSD


The main focus of this book (Words of a Wolf') is to raise awareness of what PTSD does to veterans and the hurdles that they face in their daily lives, as well as to offer some avenues of support.

With the current political climate of service cuts, I thought it prudent to try to get a snapshaot as to where the UK is with regards to caring for its veterans.

With this in mind, I've created an online, confidential, survey. The results will be used to present a report to relevant government departments.

I'd be greatful if you would pass the link for the survey as far and wide as possible. I need it to reach as many british veterans suffering with PTSD as possbile. If you belong to other groups/networks, please post this link.  This is relelvant in other countries too in order to reach former residents that may be british veterans.


Many thanks


Sunday, 14 November 2010

Visual art ...

This new bath's deep.  Much deeper than the other one.  It's great for doing some physio and pain releif every morning.

It's also good for other things.

I was sat there enjoying the water when I saw these bubbles coming up ... ever so sloooowly from the depths of the bath.  I remember sitting there thinking - 'Wow. Look at those bubbles, aren't they beautiful.  Look how slowly they rise.  Beautiful, almost mettalic.'  My reflection on the art form continued until the first bubble hit the surface and burst ... literally.  I then found myself trying to backstroke away from the immediate area quite quickly.



Forgotten Heroes ...

Forgotten heroes

After the silence
After the stillness
After the lonely bugle has sounded

After march past
After the memories
After the door to those feelings close

They won't remember
In the halls of power
Behind their guarded mansion walls

That without your courage
They would have nothing
You who protected their lands

Whether you're in a cell
Or cardboard boxes
Or the prison of an emotional hell

Hold your head up
Wherever this day finds you
We remember your sacrifice

Poem © Copyright of V Sunkmanitu 2010

I finished this poem on the 11th hour this morning. People need to know that 15% of the prison population of this country are Veterans and while some may be there for crimes for which they've been righfully convicted, some are not - simply because they found themselves involved in circumstances whilst suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

25% of the homeless in this country are Veterans. People that served that found themselves unable to fit back in to society ... again some of which are suffering from PTSD.

Maybe you'll meet one sometime, selling the Big Issue or just an uncomfortable being that doesn't know how to share space with you because he or she is lost and alone ... maybe you'll think differently of them.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Interviewed by Left Lion ...

Left Lion wanted to do a written interview as a follow up to their podcast ... you can see it on:  http://www.leftlion.co.uk/articles.cfm/id/3275

All the best


2 Minutes

This poem is dedicated to all the Veterans of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom and Allied Nations. It is especially dedicated to those that live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that is still not that well understood in the UK and leads to further hardship for some of the brave souls that did their best for us.

2 minutes

During the 2 minutes you'll, maybe, remember some of us.
The years of silence our memories still sentence us to,
You'll forget.

The unspoken wound that can't be seen,
Carrying the memories of service,
You won't hear.

Standing tall, we'll walk by you,
Never showing the open wounds,
That cut like knives.

2 minutes later, You'll be back to your life.
2 minutes later, We'll still be trying to make sense of ours.
2 minutes later, another November morning will be forgotten.

Poem © Copyright of V Sunkmanitu 2010

So, you've had the message and the poem ... here's the song:


Thursday, 4 November 2010

Hit and Miss ...

How many veterans get the care and support that they actually need from the system?

Who are the care providers?

What different types of support are available?

I want to carry out a survey soon.  I want to know what other veterans feel about these issues and to compile a report based on the findings.  I think I saw a free survey site not long ago that allows you to do just this kind of thing.

In the main, the system provides some psychotherapy and nothing else.  People living with PTSD may require more from the system though.  We'll have to wait and see.


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Heightened anxiety over war pension review ...

It's that time again.  I get reviewed every two years at the moment and I don't know why.  Maybe they're expecting a miracle cure that I haven't heard about yet.  We've been doing this song and dance routine for 14 years now.

It freaks me out because I know that I'll have to open up old scars and have to examine the disability in detail, which isn't good as it makes me realise where I am now in terms of coping with the disability compared to where I was 2 years ago.  There seems to be a noticeable decline.

They wanted me to go before one of their general doctors for an assessment re my symptoms and I refused.  I told them that there were enough credible reports and that if they wanted me to be examined, it would have to be by a consultant psychiatrist.  I never understood how the legal system ever allowed the word of a specialist providing you with treatment to be over shadowed by a generalist that isn't even qualified to work in mental health.

These are the traps that so many veterans fall into.  No one supports them and they fall foul of the system's traps to reduce the amount of war pensions being paid out.

Luckily, I have a welfare officer coming to help me to list my daily symptoms and another report being completed by the counsellor that looked after me for the last 2 years.

I just want it all to be over ASAP.


Friday, 29 October 2010

As the fog of morning clears ...

I sit here, gathering my thoughts in the early light.  There's always something being processed.  I've been thinking a lot about the different forms of therapy available to veterans for PTSD, of which there aren't many.  Most of the models of treatment offered by the NHS are inflexible.  With the introduction of ICT platforms, you may now find yourself in front a PC for their initial tests that are used to assess your current status within your condition.

The NHS wants quick results, as do the MoD and therein lies the problem: the veterans that slip the net.  The longer a veteran is floating around on the periphery of main stream society on his/her own, the less effective their treatment is going to be.  If they've suffered any additional traumas in civilian life, the chances are that it'll compound the effect of their service related PTSD.

In my own case, I wasn't diagnosed for 12 years.  In that time I adjusted to civillian life and learned to see to my own needs in general functions (work, accommodation etc).  I faced hardships with regard to benefits etc as I didn't know I was entitled to claim certain things because of my disability.  There were times when I couldn't afford to eat properly because of paying for my bedsit and bills.  I became more flexible and open towards other points of view and ended up walking a path half way between the rigourous discipline of the armed forces and the some times chaotic lack of order of civvy street.  I learned to look at things for myself and make my own assessments ... so an inflexible model of care from the NHS was never going to work.

I feel that those models MIGHT work very well for people with PTSD that are still serving, providing something's done about the stigma related to mental health issues in society as a whole, they may also work for people recently back into civvy street ... but for those thousands of unsupported veterans in society that struggle from day-to-day, it's of little use.

The thing that I need the most is someone to sit and talk to in a secure environment that understands the issues and won't press my triggers when we're discussing life arond PTSD.  It takes a long time to build up that trust to be able to open up sufficiently to make the sessions of support useful. I recently came to the end of a 2 year counsellling arrangement with Nottingham Counselling Services.  I'd been floating around Nottingham, looking for support since leaving Cornwall, only to find that I wasn't being listened to and that I seemed to know more about PTSD than the mental health practitioners I was initially being referred to.  I also became aware of the fact that service related PTSD needs to be dealt with in a slightly different manner - simply because there's a different language and attitude involved.  Very different ... and the implications of a practitioner saying something that could trigger a reaction leading to physical harm of the practitioner are very real.  I eventually ended up in NCS after my GP told me of their existence.  I called them up, went through a flexible assessment and was treated with care and dignity.  It took a long time for me to open up on some issues to my counsellor, probably over a year.  He gave me the listening ear that I needed and helped me to reflect on some of the issues that I was working through in my mind and I helped him learn about PTSD in veterans.  NHS models of treatment don't allow for that time scale n the main.  Most practitioners will have signed the patient off and moved on to the new list.  The ones that allow you flexibility are very few.  It takes time to establish trust when you've been conditioned to ignore all problems and function in the role assigned to you ... until you drop.  You're conditioned to be part of a collective and you have your role to play.  You don't put yourself first ... and you're ready to sacrifice yourself to save your mates.

This opens up another difficulty for the NHS.  How do their practitioners get that experience and awareness?  I can only think of one way - they carry out detatchments of 6 months or so working with currently enlisted troops on bases.  They live the barrack life, they learn the barrack talk and they see what goes on for themselves.  This just might make them a more effective practitioner, whether they're a psychologist, psychiatrist or CPN/Behavioural Therapist.  The key to any successful therapy lies in the practitioner's ability to make an effective bridge between him/herself and the patient.  If that can't be done, any treatment will be a waste of time ... and it will be met with the cold wall of defence ... and you won't penetrate it.

The other difficulty that the NHS has, as mentioned above, is that all treatment is time limited.  Time became more of an issue with the NHS when hospital appraisals were first introduced on every aspect of operations - from assessments on the way they carried out treatment to the inner functions such as personnel and equal opportunities.  Every function has a tick box and one of the criteria for assessment will be how many patients a hospital treats a year.  Bascially, thanks to central government, our hospitals are having to play the numbers game in order to ensure their funding is secured.  While, initially, this process may have helped some of the slacker hospitals and treatment centres to improve their operations ... I feel it can also be to the detriment of patients when administrators get caught up in the numbers game and forget that they're dealing with people ... and in the function of care to ailing people, time, kindness and dignity are very important factors.

As in all things led by a political society, we go from one extreme to the other, because people are too lazy, as a whole to put the effort into some sort of constant, acceptable, balanced perfomance.  Our failing political system underlines this.  Each new government blames the last for its current situation.  It's about time we had a more representative form of government:  If the people vote 28% tory, 25% labour, 19% liberal, 5% green - that is exactly what the make up of the government should be.  It may take longer to reach an agreement on some issues ... but at least it would be a decision that more of us might be able to cope or be happier with.

If we could get that level of representational flexibilty in government, think of what benefits could be achieved in society as a whole if people were forced to consider more than their own agenda ... and were having to compromise for the sake of progress for the good of all? 

If we had a good system of government with a high level of awareness ... coupled with a good system of flexible medical care .... would 15% of the prison population and 25% of homeless people in this country be veterans?  For those of you that think only of Afghanistan and Iraq ... think further back because there are thousands of veterans that still need care and support.  The government started talking about awarding the wounded the equivalent of a 'Purple Heart' to those wounded in service of their country.  It'll take more than that to honour the Military Covenant ... but recognising the sacrifice would be a step in the right direction.


Thursday, 28 October 2010

It's a question of timing ...

That's it ... no fine touches, no more DIY ... at least for another 3 years!!!  It's stressful and I don't have the patience for it!  I finished the staircase too, or as much as I'm going to do of it.

It's funny what comes in your mind as ideas.  The stairway's a journey - sometimes I'm going up - sometimes down.  I try to live and walk in a Black & White world and minimise the grey ... but the grey crops in and I'm out of control.  I don't like the grey ... but I have to acknowledge its existence and try to work with it or around it ... or I'm screwed.  Why don't I like the grey?  It's the domain of politicians and others that don't want to tell someone a truth.  It's a lot more ... but in the main, that's what it's come to mean to me.

Anyway ... see my foot on the grey?  It took me 4 minutes to slowly climb 12 steps!  Can you believe that it took that long?  It's because there's some fresh wet paint around the tiles.  So, I have to think about something  - should I learn to levitate as quickly as possible -  in case I need a piss urgently?  This is a very taxing decision.  Damn, just writing that thought's made me want to go and use the loo.

I'm going to have some takeaway food tonight - I'd better be waiting for it or they'll disappear - WITH my food if I take 4 minutes to go down the steps!!!

So, back to editing photos and writing tonight ... sigh, at last ....



The bathroom's finished!


It was only ever supposed to be the bathroom that was being re-done.  Somehow it grew into a job that took on the hallway too. 

BUT ... the bathroom's done and it's looking lovely, if I say so myself.  I won't post any close-ups though - that way the blemishes stay hidden ;o)

Have a good one.


Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Fatigue sets in ...

'You're soooo lucky.  You go on holiday all the time!'  I get tired of hearing that.  I can't remember the last time that I had a holiday.  I do feel fortunate to have witnessed some of the things that I have seen though.

My trips are about using creativity to cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It's therapeutic, but very hard work for me.  Every journey presents its own challenges, physical, mental and spiritual.  By going to different countries I push myself to the limits of my endurance with regards to the physical pain in parts of my body.  Most of the time I carry a 12kg camera bag packed with photographic equipment and some survival equipment, just in case something bad happens or a situation develops that I need to get myself out of.  Pushing my boundaries is an important part of my coping mechanism.  If I didn't push, I'd give in to the PTSD ... and cease to exist.

There's a price though.  After every trip I end up completely drained.  The pain levels are high and it takes quite a while for my body to re-charge.  But that's ok ... because I achieved my objective, survived another trip of pushing myself ... and brought back some images.

You won't find me lounging by the side of a pool ... simply because I don't go on holidays.

As rememberance day approaches, my thoughts turn to my friends that have served and the lads that I have met at 'Combat Stress'.  I find myself wondering how they are ... whether they're coping ok, making poppies and having a bit of banter or subdued having opened up to their individual trauma counsellors.  Some of the art created by the guys using the Occupational Therapy centre is amazing.  I used to like sitting there, making some poppies and having a laugh with the guys ... and also enjoyed watching the guys paint and sculpt various things ... lost in the moment of creativity ... temporarily freed from their personal hell.

I remember their solemn faces as we've sat in groups and talked things out together ... seeing the struggle within etched on their faces ... yet getting strength from each other ... knowing that you're amongst brothers, where there's no shame or judgment ... just the fight to open up the valves and let some of the crap out so that we can go back to our isolated existences and carry on doing whatever it is that we do - until the next time we need more release in a nurturing, safe, secure environment.

I don't know when my next trip is - I wanted it to be this week as one of my friends is there and we support each other outside of the therapy sessions and have a laugh too.  Strange isn't it?  We sit and talk about our pain and the things that we go through and yet we still laugh.  Sometimes we laugh so hard that our sides hurt - really badly!  Whatever we may have lost on those various areas of duty, our sense of humour wasn't one of them.  We'd be doomed without it.  It's kind of like a last line of defence.  If we stop laughing, then something bad's about to happen.  Sometimes we just use the laughter to hide our pain and experiences ... I guess it can be difficult for a civillian to know what's going on inside a veteran's mind.  Sometimes, we don't even know, we're just too busy coping and surviving ... that's the current battle and it's a tiring one.

Nothing much seems to have happened with regards to raising funds for the proposed exhibition through selling the book - 'Words of a Wolf - Poetry of a Veteran'.  BBC Radio Nottingham interviewed me about the book the other day  - you can hear the interview on: http://www.wolf-photography.com/html/woaw/woaw.html.  I sincerely hope that some other agencies/organisations will help to raise awareness about this project.  The book needs to generate enough capital to run a national rolling exhibtion of poetry and photography to raise awarness of PTSD in veterans, demonstrate the use of creative therapies as a coping mechanism and sign post sufferers and their relatives to agencies that can help them.

I'm not sure what the position is with Waterstones at the moment with regards to the selling of my book as Gardners, their main distributor, aren't being clear with me as to what's going on.  I'm assuming the original buying contract is still in operation ... but it's different to being on Gardner's distribution list.  A lack of contacts doesn't help the situation ... and the PTSD presents enough barriers to keep me out of the loop most of the time.

I'm hoping to have all the images from Malta and Egypt ready for publishing on my website (http://www.wolf-photography.com/) this week - including the images from the film set of 'Game of thrones'.



Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Another day ...

I'm sat lost in the fog of generated by the recent trip to Cairo - 6 days of no sleep and walking in the heat to photograph the various sites of the city and its surrounding areas. 

My body craves food at the moment but I'm being careful as I don't want to go the other way with regard to food intake - having had very little food in Cairo.

Some of the hunger is that seasonal trigger that my body presses to insulate a little for the winter.  My body knows that I always try to get to some snow and ice ... so it's preparing for the cold.

Today was a day of mixed emotions.  I'm still decorating my bathroom and the builders have been in again to do the last bit of garden wall in the front - which should be finished tomorrow.  I always feel a little invaded when work people are around and I get very stressed when they leave mess behind.  When I got back home from Cairo, the first thing I did was scrub the bathroom floor as the builders had left wet brick dust and rubbed it into the floor.  Added to that they managed to crack 2 bathroom tiles and chip my new bath.  So I'm not best pleased with them at the moment ... but it's best to let them finish their work altogether before we have a reckoning regarding the damage.

I was also interviewed re my book today by BBC Radio Nottingham (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00bknlm/Richard_Spurr_Author_Heather_Watson_the_Ladies_Networking_Group_and_Bill_Tarmey/) and was greatful that the interviewer was sensetive to my needs.  There wasn't enough time to raise awareness of the fact that the funds from book sales will go towards putting on a National Exhibtion though and that 25% of any profits will go the creative arts area of the Occupational Therapy unit at Combat Stress.

I also setup a private blog today for my my son, daughter and myself, so that we can share thoughts and feelings with each other.  My daughter wrote some poetry recently and my son sent me a short story.  I was impressed by both of their efforts, so much so that I hope they will both continue writing something in some way, so as to maintain and develop that skill.

My thanks to those of you that dropped me an email when you couldn't see the links to my 'Bio' and 'Blog' on my website.  I disable them when travelling to countries that the Home Office list as a high risk of terrorist activity.  I travel as a journalist then and no as a 'Veteran'.  The links are enabled again.

My eye lids are heavy and I feel the darkness of the den calling.  Time for the wolf to sleep ...


Sunday, 17 October 2010

Images of Cairo ...

I was thinking about Cairo as I walked back to the hotel tonight.  I was watching a plastic bag do a circular dance in a corner as it rode the breeze and just let myself feel Cairo in an open way ... and I'm left with a mixture of feelings about the place as a whole.

Like so many tourist locations, litter's a real problem.  Pollution is another.  If you suffer from asthma or any other chest condition,  I would seek the advice of your doctor before travelling. I only used bottled water for drinking and brushing my teeth and stayed away from salads and ice.  I tried some local food and found it to be delicious ... but my appetite was much reduced owing to the heat.  I survived on sugar can juice and fruit in the main.  If you buy fruit, make sure the skin is in tact and wash the fruit with your bottled water before eating it.

I didn't feel much of anything around the pyramids in a spiritual sense, actually, that's not true.  I felt that whatever was there has been raped, desecrated and sold to the material world ... and maybe even that the interference that other cultures have inflicted on the pyramids have, in some way, interfered with an important  process on a spiritual plane.  It's just a feeling I get whenever I see the pyramids ... they're just empty shells now.  It didn't feel right to visit the tombs.

Cairo is a thriving city that depends on the tourism industry to a degree.  I saw every type of shop I'd expect to see in a western city with regards to manufacturing etc.  The shops were full of equipment but there wasn't that much evidence of actual sales.  Food and clothing seem to be the most frequented shops.  Hearing the Muslim's call to prayer around the noise of traffic and music from different counties was a surreal experience.   I'm not sure what percentage of the population practise which religions but they seem to be able to co-exist peacefully.  From my own experience of terrorism, it's the minority that tend to make problems for the majority. 

The hawkers and guides can be a pain in the rectum and some of them try to engage you in conversation very skillfully.  Seen 'Jaws'?  Well, if you're the tourist, you're shark food.  Everything has to be haggled for.  The amount of businesses that will offer you, the tourist,  a fair price for a product are very few indeed.  Get a map and ask other tourists about where they've eaten etc.  I only used the black cabs here.  The white cabs boast having air conditioning but they'll charge you more to turn it on.  I flagged down black cabs, negotiated the fare and THEN got in.  Don't get into a cab first without negotiating.  Some of the drivers will offer you smokes, tissues to wipe your sweaty brow or other things - refuse everything ... or they'll charge you for it at the end of the ride.

The Old City, the Pharoanic Village and the Sufi dance in the old city are highly recommended.  If you want to see the pyramids, hire a driver and negotiate a fair price.  I tend to stop a lot on sighting something interesting to photograph, so I don't mind paying a little more than the going rate.  Don't go above 220 Egyptian Pounds for such a trip and remember that you still have to pay the entrance fees for the various sites you'll visit, as well as the car parking fee for your ride.  If you want to see all the pyramids in one day - start very early - 6:30am and head to Dahshur first, then Saqqara and finally the pyramids of Giza.

Accommodation prices can vary greatly depending on your requirements.  I used the African Hostel, located at 15, Emad Eldeen Street.  It's central, cheap and has hot and cold running water.  It's basically a youth hostel.  I paid 899 Egyptian Pounds for my 6 night stay (around 99.00 GBP) for a double room with an en-suite shower and toilet.

Would I visit Cairo again?  Yes, but in the winter!



Last day in Cairo ...

Talk about 'Sod's Law'!  It's the last day in Cairo, my body looks like the mosquitoes have had a batchelor party on it BUT there's actually a cool breeze flowing across the city and the temprature has to be about 10 C lower than it has been over the last few days.

I've got some bird watching arranged on the Nile today and hope to get some shots of the various species frequenting the area.



Saturday, 16 October 2010

Old Cairo ...

I took it easy today ... or tried to.  It seems to be getting hotter here.  Apparently the heatwave is coming over from the Saudi Arabia area - I wouldn't like to be there!  The heat's still draining me ... but there's only another day to go and I get back to some colder weather - yeah!

I explored the old city today - some of it looks like a bomb hit it.  There's real poverty in this part of town but it's also a thriving arts area.  You'll find all sorts of things from Bedouin jewelry to Sufi concerts. 

I went to a Sufi concert tonight and it was AMAZING!  Wow, what an energy these performers generated.  I couldn't help but move to the music, so I'm not expecting any miracles with regards to the photos as I was a bit too far away from them and it was quite dark.  The dancing was so awe inspiring and I could see some of the guys zoning out as they hit that place where a person becomes one with their art.  I want to find some of their music to bring back on a CD.  The only music shop I found in Central Cairo didn't have any.

So, time to have a cold shower and see if I can sleep a little.



Friday, 15 October 2010

Heat exhaustion ...

I met a decent fella called Drago from Russia.  I think he'd get on great with Mat and Wolf Jnr too as travelling companions. The heat exhaustion's been creeping up on me slowly as each day drains more of my reserves.  Today was really bad. 

Drago and I went to visit the pyramids around Cairo.  I hired a driver and we went from site to site.  Drago got his high from being at one with the monuments and I went around trying to shoot what I can.  The light in the area is awful.  If you're going to carry out any photography at the pyramids, I strongly recommend that you take the following filters:  A circular polariser and a neutral density filter. 

I was so drained by the afternoon that I couldn't even get to the Sphinx to photograph it before the light became unworkable for the site.  Perhaps I'll do that on a free day before flying back.  I'm pretty sure that my body won't cope with a day at Luxor on Sunday, so I've cancelled that part of the trip.  Instead I'm going to try to get the necessary minerals etc back into my body and do some gentle photography over the last couple of days here.

Time to drink more water and get some rest.



Thursday, 14 October 2010

Thursday ... Pharaonic Village ...

It seems that the days are getting continually hotter.  I'm still finding conflicting information re some sites that I want to photograph and most places seem to be closing around 4:30pm.

I decided to head to the Pharaonic Village today.  I heard about it from the hotel staff and it sounded interesting, 'A place where they recreated life in the time of the Pharos.'  I have to admit to being a bit cynical about the setup as a lot of people will recommend so many things that turn out to be a pile of last year's stale mince pies ... BUT I was pleasantly surprised.

I would say that there is a gap with regards to viewing past Egyptian culture and the Pharaonic Village fills it nicely.  The place is setup to demonstrate methods of farming, perfume making, fishing, wine and beer making as well as various arts and crafts of the Egyptians.  All the actors are in traditional costumes and the whole tour is carried out by boat on the River Nile.  But wait ... there's a bonus!  You'll also see various birds flying around and some even hunting small fish right in front or to the side of your boat.  If you're a birder you can't miss this trip and make sure you've packed your camera gear and get a seat on the front row.

They have also created scaled models of various scenes: moving an obelisk, creating a pyramid and the Sphinx and unlike the Cairo museum, here you can take photos ... with flash photography if you want to.

You will find replicas of items such as Tutenkhamun's Mask, various treasures found in tombs as well as a replica tomb, complete with a Pharo to view.

In the arts and crafts area you can watch glass blowing and fine etchings being created before your very eyes and you have the option to purchase items such as jewelry and other items should you desire them.

The shots will be in a specific  album named after the village in the travel section when I get home.

Their website is: http://www.pharaonicvillage.com/, go and visit them.  You won't be sorry, especially if you're into photography.

Tomorrow, the pyramids!



Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Hectic Tuesday ...

The bathroom was finally tiled and all the bits and pieces attached to the walls.  I had just enough time to shave and change before the taxi arrived to begin the journey to Cairo.

Things went smoothly until I got to Heathrow Airport.  I went to use the loo for a number one situation but my zip handle/lever/tag (?) came apart in my fingers and I couldn't undo the zip AND I had about 20 minutes before the flight started boarding!  The security team came to the rescue.  A bloke lent me his leathermans tool - but the clasp broke completely.  A female security operative gave me her key ring, so I could thread it through the little hole ... it was hard going.  The following conversation took place: 'I can't get it in,' I said with a grin, 'I might need a hand.'  She replied, 'Is it too big?'

I said, 'It's tight, can you help me get in?' The three of us cracked up laughing, I walked off and managed to take a leak and then went and boarded my flight.

It was dark when we landed in Cairo, so there was no initial impression, apart from the heat.  I saw a couple of mosques lit up on the way to the hotel but nothing else.  This morning, I had a little walk around the area and found it to be hot, dusty and crowded with cars more than people on foot.

If you want to photograph people and culture here, it's going to have to be from a distance with a big lens as most people here have an aversion to being photographed.

One strange thing so far is that the bottled water here tastes the same as the bottled water in India, which is a little worrying!  The streets don't smell anywhere near as bad though.

Time to find some information re things I want to photograph here.



Saturday, 9 October 2010

Tiling fiasco ...

The bathroom saga continues ... I tried to tile some of the wall myself and got myself well and truly wound up.  I'd gone through 5 tiles before I remembered how to use the cutter properly.  Then I got it right but got the cuts wrong size wise.  I eventually got the hang of it but I couldn't get the tiles to line up properly with the spacers and after about an hour and a half of farting about I drew on some wisdom ...  'it's not worth getting further stressed over.  Accept that you can't do this task and tidy up.'   And that's precisely what I did.

I'm going to have a bath now and try to unwind some more.

Time to do some floating ....



Friday, 8 October 2010

DIY Expert ... not!

I'm soooo good at DIY that Tim Allen wouldn't have employed me in an episode of 'Home Improvements'.  Ok, I'm so crap at DIY that Tim Allen wouldn't have employed me in an episode of 'Home Improvements'.

If you saw my handy work downstairs from when I moved in, you'd understand.  The paint work hasn't been tidily 'cut in' as much as  ... (hold on, trying to find the right word...) caked on in places.  No straight lines exist in this parallell universe. well not with regards to decorating. 

Actually, I did notice that the house builders didn't own protactors or set squares.  There aren't many correct right angles etc.  I wonder if I inherited their ability to balls things like that up?

Hmm ... no.  I can't blame them.  Besides, my kids'll bubble me.  They still take great delight in telling people about the cock up I made when I was laying down some network cable for their computers.  The hole that was supposed to have appeared in the cupboard under the stairs miraculously appeared in the kitchen ceiling.  I never bothered filling the hole up as I knew it made them laugh.

So, I've got this new bath.  It was supposed to be here on Tuesday but ended up arriving Wednesday ... at 6:30am.  I wanted a bigger bath to help me with my pain relief and found one that will allow me to have my legs straight in the bath ... and float!!  I tried it this morning and couldn't believe it.  I felt like a kid swimming for the first time.  I felt like shouting to someone - 'HEY!  Look at me - I'm FLOATING in my BATH!'  No one was here though, so I thought I'd share it with you instead.

I finished varnishing the panel I made for it.  I put some bits of cladding together and varnished it with some waterproof satin finish stuff.  I've just finished painting the walls.  Next job will be to tile the walls.  I did some tiling a loooong time ago.  It turned out ok and NONE of the tiles fell off.  So I'm going to have a go here too.  The more simple stuff I do now, the less I get charged by the pros.

I have a feeling I'll be having different dreams tonight as the varnish dries on the panel!



Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Lee the Lion ...

I met Lee a few years ago when he was visiting London on his honeymoon with WhiteEagle. Indirectly, he taught me an important lesson. You only have 1 father and 1 mother - if it doesn't work out between the 3 of you - tough - get on with the rest of your life.

Lee's the sort of friend you can sit in a bar with or walk a mountain with. He's nearing the end of his journey on this plane owing to cancer.

The first time we met, I could see he was very tired ... but a friend had arranged that we go to a function. I said we'd go along there by bus and the ladies could go by car. It gave Lee a chance to rest. We sat on the door step together and he rolled a ciggie and we just talked. It was the first time that I had talked with an elder this way and he was genuinely interested in my journey and kept asking me questions about various aspects of it.  It felt as if we'd always talked and this was a continuation of our last chat ... perhaps from a different time.

I remember sitting in a sweat lodge with him at a ceremony.  It was WhiteEagle's Elderhood ceremony.  It was my first sweat lodge.  We all linked hands and sang the old songs in the darkness of the lodge, the drum echoing the beat of the Earth Mother outside as we sat in her womb.  We sang and we bonded as brothers, fathers and sons.  We couldn't see the man to our left or right, the darkness was complete and the mist from the sacred stones filled any gaps ... but I knew who had my left hand - the hand of my heart.  It was Lee.

This is the way that I'll think of him: the guy that gave me the ear of a father without being mine. A guy with a big heart and an open soul.

He told me that I had to go and walk the mountain paths of Nepal ... I did it Lee :o)

Wishing you love and peace mate ... and a gentle passing to the new path.

SnowMoon Wolf

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Impressions of Malta ... and some tips if you're visitng there ...

It's a hot place, temprature wise.  By the time I'd finished shooting on days out, I felt that familiar drain on my body's resources that I experienced in India last year.

The island has a particular odour that lingers in many parts that you can small in the water and the air. My feeling was that it's related to pollution issues and it's just one of those things about living on an island.

When I look back at the time spent there one energy/feeling comes clearly to mind and that is of either being in a state of seige or of repelling intruders.  I guess when you've fulfilled a particular role for so long, it's hard to change that energy. 

Politically, Malta's inclusion into the EU was a necessary one for issues of security, detection of drug movements and stopping the odd terrorist or three from moving on to their target destinations from the island, having used the island as a drop off point.  Malta's population is roughly 40,000 but they allow up to 1000 immigrants into the country per annum.  The reasons are the usual mix that we have here ranging from people seeking their fortune to those seeking political asylum for various issues.

In terms of a location for photography it's fairly repetetive.  It's mainly a collection of forts and churches.  However, if you want to photograph some mediterranean blue in the water, it's a good location.  I didn't try any underwater photography there but have heard many reports from other visitors of the diversity and beauty of the underwater life surrounding the islands.  Most of the museums etc don't allow tripods and flash photography.

The easiest way to get around is by bus.  A week's pass will cost you just over 13 euros and you can get from one end of the island to the other in about an hour.  Be cautious when travelling in groups though - check the bus - if it looks full, wait for the next one as some drivers won't wait for you to try to get off if some of your friends can't get on.

Use bottled mineral water for drinking and brushing your teeth.  It's also worth taking sachets of minerals to replace the stuff you'll probably sweat out of your system.  If you start getting cramps in limbs it's a sign that you need those minerals and electrolytes topping up urgently.

There's a wide range of food available, everything from McDonalds to indian, as well as some traditional maltese restaurants.  The local fish is affordable and tasty too.  Check around for the competition price wise, they all have menu boards on the street.

If you run out of euros, it's easy enough to get more as there are plenty of cash machines on the island.

It's worth seeing the islands of Comino and Gozo.  Gozo is accessible by a regular ferry that'll cost you 4.50 euros for a return journey and you can use buses there too.  Comino is a very small place that has one fort but is a good place to take a break and enjoy a swim in the lagoon.

If you're going to any fireworks displays, be cautious and keep your distance as there are more fatalities related to fireworks than road accidents on the islands.

The local language sounds like a mixture of italian and arabic.  Most people speak english though and you should be able to get about ok.

Make sure you pick up a free bus routes map in Valletta from the bus terminus.  Valletta is the country's capital and administrative centre.

Other places worth a visit are: Mdina, Rabat, Marsaxlokk, Mosta and Birgu.  St Pauls Bay is a nice quiet area to stay in.  If you're into nightlife etc, head for Paceville.  Buses stop earlier after the main season finishes though and taxis can be expensive.

I'm still editing the shots but it shouldn't take that long before they're posted.



Monday, 27 September 2010

Malta day 1 (photography wise)

Ok so this is technically day 2 but I'm writing about day 1.  Hmmmm ... no hold on.  It's really day 3 because I got here in the middle of the night on Saturday.  Confused?  Try being me!

Anyway.  It's warm here ... very warm.  The people are friendly and tolerant of tourists, as you'd expect in a country where tourism is the major source of income.  The best way to get around is by bus.  You can buy a 7 day pass for 13 Euros and that covers your travelling expenses for the most part.  The downside being that the buses stop running around 9:30pm in some areas and then the cabs take over.  All the buses have air-conditioning as standard - they all drive around with the passenger door open.

My initial feeling on seeing parts of Malta was that it still looks like a garrison island.  It's a big collection of forts and churches ... so many churches that they actually outnumber the branches of McDonalds on the island.

I photographed parts of Valletta and Medina yesterday.  A combination of colour and B&W images.  Part way through I stumbled onto the film set of a forthcoming film called 'The Game of Thrones'.  At least I think that was the name.  I think my memory got an upgrade from hoover to dyson - sucks big time now. 

I was very surprised to see a large shoal of fish resembling neon tetras in one of the inlets and regret not bringing the underwater housing and a wetsuit to do some marine life photography.  I'm not sure that they were neons though as the I'm assuming the Mediterranean Sea would be salty and neons are a fresh water fish from the Amazon.  Unless of course - someone released some here.

There's a distinct lack of wildlife on the island.  The migration season has started and this island is one of the stop off points for many species but I haven't been able to find out where they may be exactly.  I'm assuming that locals that are animal friendly will be keeping them a secret as around 50% of the population have a reputation for hunting (web research only so don't take the percentage as gospel).

Rain has stopped play today.  I need to go and suss out a good sheltered spot for later though as there's a thunderstorm due and it'd be cool to get some lightning shots.

Have a good one.


Thursday, 23 September 2010

Like a jellyfish caught in the current of an ocean storm ...

I'm adrift, floating aimlessly between memories that seem to emerge randomly ... without warning.  I watch the strands of my past tie themselves to my present and understand the patterns.  Every now and then there's a shaft of light emerging from the cloud of my subconscious mind allowing for a moment of enlightenment that I have to somehow record before my ailing memory allows it to disappear as whispy smoke between my fingers.

It gets frustrating as I sit within myself and contemplate the lesson, only to emerge a while later, feeling like I've just sat in a timless bubble for a few hours ... having forgotten the moment.

I keep telling myself to sit with a pen and a pad and to write these ideas down ... but that can cause more frustration, as I keep forgetting ... and I refuse to be hard on myself, as that is one lesson that I have learned and remembered ... that I have to be kinder to myself. 

The more that I explore my journey, the more I understand myself, my ideals and my reasons for taking this path.  The more that I remember the hurdles that I've cleared, the more I accept and respect my 'self'.

I wish this part of the journey was more easy going though ... or is it and I'm less able to cope with the hurdles now?


Thursday, 16 September 2010

Scent ...

A smell ... or scent, can put me in the past or in an alternative state.  I felt that today as the rich particles of a particular being wafted up the old nose box.  My red roses have opened and there's something that I can't put into words about the scent.  It crosses boundaries of culture and religion, used by different faiths for different things - all positive uses as far as I'm aware.  It's come to represent love ... and when I smell the red roses in my garden, it's the one word, feeling and purpose that flashes up inside of me.

Happy Thursday folks


Friday, 10 September 2010

Yesterday in the garden ...

As the finishing touches go on to the lump of tarmac and concrete that was the garden past, I'm enjoying the garden present more and more.

I cleared out the kickbag station yesterday and will get part of it attached to an external wall for when I feel like a workout.  The rest of it is lying in the front garden, waiting for a scrap metal merchant to claim and recycle it for something.  I then moved the sofa bed down to the conservatory from my bedroom, which has left the bedroom feeling 'clear'.

The second of the 3 wind chimes arrived yesterday, so that's been fixed up and makes a nice contrast to the delicate metal chimes of the 1st one ... this one being made of bamboo.

All of the roses are opening now and their beautiful scents waft through the garden attracting what ever they need to.  There are a lot more bees in the garden at the moment and a lot of other buds are forming and opening as the plants settle down after having been re-potted.  It doesn't matter how gentle you are with plants, it's still got to affect them when their roots are touched.

After doing the moving around I sat on the sofa bed, tuned out the traffic from the main road and just watched the birds and bees until sleep took me ... and had a lovely nap.

It feels as though I've finally claimed this space as my 'home'.


Thursday, 9 September 2010

It's nothing personal ... just the politics of dancing ...

I was talking to a couple of the guys at salsa and it was interesting to hear other guys saying the same things about some of the ladies that we dance with.  I think that a lot of the guys that do dance salsa and bachata tend to be on the sensetive side and that's lost on some of the ladies ... and it comes across in their attitudes on the dance floor.

So this is my way of saying, 'don't worry mate - just dance with someone that wants to dance with you'. ;o)

You'll meet all sorts.  Some will blame you for not leading well, even though they're not interpreting the tune and thinking for themselves as to whether the beat will allow them one spin or two at a given spot.  Some will literally clash with you on the floor - hence bumping uglies - literally.  Some will bounce and prance and forget that the extra bits of jiggling take more time if you don't compensate for them with a bit more speed ... and they'll end up out of sync with you.  Some won't appreciate that you're coreographing the moves on the fly for both of you ... and that you are actually leading, as well as keeping them safe from collisions ... and that you need your dance partner to be in a particular place at a particular time ... or you're going to be out of time (for which you might be blamed ... again)   BUT ...

Every now and then you'll meet beginners that have some natural ability and will be grateful for a chance to practise new things with you ... but THE best thing to happen on that floor is when you meet those dancers that move in perfect sync with you.  They know the music, the timing, their own bodies and capabilities .. and the dance flows between you both ... and that's chemistry!  Two souls become one, lost in the music - smiling, grinning, laughing ... and even if you do make a mistake. you both laugh it off and get back in sync really quickly.  Dance for those moments ... and try not to be put off by the other events?  Remember the dance isn't just about being able to lead, it's also about the woman's ability to follow ;o)  You can't get on with everyone in the world, there are so many different personalities out there ... so don't expect to get on with everyone when you dance ...


Monday, 6 September 2010

Finishing touches to the garden ...

The door bell rang at 6:45am ... I just got up assuming that I'd slept in and opened the garden gate for the courier and took delivery of the flatpack containing my garden bench.  I then had a bath, smudged, did some meditation and put the bench together and waited for lunch to turn up.

I watched a couple of episodes of the Cosby show with lunch and then went and had a look at the garden.  Something wasn't right ... and an idea started to form about the rear segment of the garden, which was looking pretty shabby compared to the rest of the space there.  Hmm ... what if I get a couple of panel fences and just section that bit off?  I could just get concrete blocks  - attacj (I believe that's polish for 'attach')  brackets to the wooden panels and slide them between the stacks of concrete blocks  - and voila - an instant screen!  That's exactly what I did.  The hedgehog house is behind the partition, affording them total privacy, should they decide to use it.  I even shoved some fresh hay in there today.

Being quite an accomplished DIY buff, the panels weren't level and have an inverted 'V' between them ... what the hell - I hid that behind the winter jasmine.  I also put the garden bench and the chimenea on paving slabs to protect them from accumulating rainwater and put their protective covers on them.

Lastly, I moved some of the plants around to finish off the rear portion of the garden.

Not much more to be done there now  :o)  I'm tired and sore .. but happy.

Hope you're ok too.


Saturday, 4 September 2010

Squirrel mayhem ...

I was out in the garden yesterday afternoon, enjoying the peace and energy of it.  The sun had dropped behind the trees and that's the time I usually water the plants.  All of a sudden a mother squirrel and a baby drop to the floor in front of me!  The mother climbed up the fence and took off like a shot ... me and the baby just sort of stood looking at eachother.  Eventually it came nearer and then went past me into the garden ... which was fine by me because I could keep an eye on it until the mother found a way to get it out of here - it couldn't climb the fence yet.

Then there was some commotion next door and I found another baby being 'ahh'ed at by Edna and her visitor.  I coaxed it into my garden so that both siblings were together and then tried to catch it to put it up on the fence so that they could both follow their mother ... no joy though.  So, eventually, I just left them to it.  There were no blood trails or carcasses this morning, so I assume the neighbouring feline population didn't dine on them.

Isn't it a bit late for squirrels to breed?

Hope you're having a good Saturday ...


Thursday, 2 September 2010

Project 'Prickly' ...

I've gotten into the habit of visitng my garden in the dark to feel the calm stillness punctuated by a simulation of a tiny flickering candle.  It just feels nice and you don't really see that much .. just the ghost of what you saw earlier as the colours leave a footprint in your subconscious mind.

A shape caught my attention that was out of place - darker than it's surroundings and unfamiliar.  I wondered what it was and walked around to the other side of the garden.  This activated one of the security lights and I saw what it was ... curled up asleep on the floor by the bird feeding station was a hedgehog.  It eventually woke up because of the light and then scurried off to hide behind some of the new plant pots.

So ... today, I built a little hibernation space for it in the hope that it will use it.  I think hedgehogs hibernate .. don't they?

I made it from off cuts that I bought for a fiver from a local builder.  Glued and screwed the bits together and then bought a couple of paving slabs for its foundation.  Lastly, I got all the bits of pine needles and dead twigs etc and pile it all over the structure for insulation.  I'm just waiting for the half pipe entrance to solidify now and then I'll cover that up to with dead twigs etc.

I don't know if I should feed it though as I think I saw one chewing on a huge slug and I'd rather it kept my garden clear of them for the sake of my plants.

Time to find some food for myself ...



Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Progress with the garden ...

It's as if the garden was the latest thing to come to my aid.  Immersed in the care of situating the new beings that I share this space with, I subconciously process the issues wandering around in the corridors of my past.

Yesterday morning, the sparrowhawk that I've seen now and then alighted onto my garden fence and sat looking up into the recently trimmed fir trees - then just like a shot- it flew up and in after a bird ... but missed.  It then moved up to the top and sat there, surveying the area, on the hunt for breakfast.

I rang my neighbour, Edna, as I often do when something different comes into the garden, so that she can go upstairs and see it too but her phone was engaged.  I told her about it though.  Edna's 88 now and doesn't get out much and I felt like going to the garden centre again, so I took her wih me and we wandered around there for a bit before taking her for lunch at the carvery.

When I got home, I did a little bit of tidying in the garden and then sat out to be warmed by the rays of 'GrandFather Sun'.  The birds have started trusting me more and more seem to still come to the feeders as I sit and watch them.  It was good to see the many colourful flying insects too as they harvested the pollen from the various flowers.

I got up later and watered the garden before going indoors,  only to emerge at dusk to see the light's coming on and bathing the garden in an atmosphere reminiscent of an old world where there was more nature and less man.

The new plants and trees will be here today or tomorrow.  I'm looking forward to making them welcome and finding spaces that will suit their tempraments ...  then I'll start photographing them for you :o)


Monday, 30 August 2010

Stuart's Dream ...

Some things take time to become visible to the individual, especially personal hurdles.  They remain misted in the parts of our mind that don't go and examine those memories related to that time and we end up in a loop, creating the same patterns over and over again.

Stuart's dream reminds of that pattern now, the pattern of my life. 

All it took was an unhappy childhood to create a seed of low self worth in my psyche.  The seed grew and blossomed about the time that I was posted to Northern Ireland.  It manifested itself in one way.  It generated a belief:  my life wasn't as valuable as someone that was loved, that had family that cared about them or had a sweetheart.

The lonliness and awkwardness of my childhood and teenage years became the fertiliser, literally. A thought emerges as my fingers tap the keys of my keyboard ... I was 19 when I went to Northern Ireland ... still a boy.  This lack of self worth made me do things in a certain way.  I'd take risks.  If there was ever anything dodgy to do, I'd volunteer.  I didn't care what it was because I'd rather have lost my life than that of a brother that had family or a loved one ... or a family.  Simply because having grown up with non of those things, I knew how valuable they were ... and I couldn't bear the thought of one of my brothers or their families being hurt through that sort of loss.   When I look back over my childhood, I can clearly see that from the age of 6 onwards I had no family, they and what little love there may have been fell away slowly as rose petals leaving the bare head containing the seed ... and the seed was one of self sacrifice.

The guys that I served with and got on well with were everything to me ... they were my friends and they were my family.  Some of their names have drifted away, lost in the corridors of my mind ... but I still see their faces, hear the banter and see them laughing as we'd share jokes and take the piss out of eachother, some times in the most unlikely situations.

I still miss them ... especially one man in particular.  Dave.  I met him at RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall and we hit it off straight away.  We had a very similar sense of humour and often spent time together off duty.  Dave felt more like a brother than my sibling.  He followed me out to Northern Ireland and we became room mates out there.  He always had some thought provoking music.  We'd talk before bed time about what ever was on our minds, if we felt like it.  Sometimes we'd just take the piss and laugh out loud as we lay in our bunks.  Dave would always play one album before bed time, the last song of that album before we'd say goodnight to eachother was 'Brothers in Arms' ... and as I'd go to sleep I knew I was there with my brother.

Dave went on to become a teacher and has worked in Africa too.  The last I heard, he was in Liverpool.  The last time that I saw him was before he went to Africa.  He came down to meet me and my son and partner at the time.  I loved that day and treasure the memory of it.  Me, Dave and Joshua at the beach.  It was like watching my son with an uncle, providing a feeling of family for me as I watched them play in the oceanic waters of the Atlantic at Porthtowan Beach.

I miss you David Clark ... I miss my friend and my brother.

The pattern of self sacrifice carried on after the RAF Police.  It was ever present when I served in the Metropolitan Police, then in the Citizens Advice Bureax that I'd served at and lastly where I worked in the NHS as a union rep.  If you don't value your own existence, death has no hold over you with regard to fear.  If you have nothing in your life that someone can touch because everything that you loved has left or moved away, you become an island ... the bosses find it harder to intimidate you then ... particularly if you're a fighter.  So what started as a seed of fate turned into a weapon.

That's why I couldn't let myself fly the car Stuart, there were still battles to be fought for other people.  I'm free of those commitments now but I find myself fighting a different battle today.  I fight for myself ... and I'm not good at it.  It's early days yet though and I'm learning to love and value myself, trying to balance through the solitude and peaks and troughs around my life with PTSD ... but I'll fly your car one day my friend ... my brother.


Thursday, 26 August 2010

Salsa tonight ...

It was a good night tonight.  No awkward ladies on the floor and a good crowd.  I really needed it.  My body's complaining now with pain in different areas ... I'll address that in the morning with a nice hot bath.

I got to thinking about death related stuff after reading Mat's blog entry about his Uncle.  Seems when you get to your 40s you start hearing about a lot more of it.  It's different though ... different to the death we used to hear about as youngsters.  It reminded me of the last passing over of a soul that I'd witnessed.  It was my friend Stuart.  He'd survived a bomb blast in Northern Ireland but had then contracted MS.

He was a really kind and supportive friend and he did a lot for me ... much more than anyone that I've known in civvy street.  I remember our last conversation as the clock ticked away his last hours with us on this plane.  We discussed death and spirituality.  He told me of a vision that his grandfather had had while serving in WWII:  He was in a landrover heading towards a booby trap when a ghost got in the path and made them stop and go a different route ... thus avoiding the bomb.

Stuart said that he believed in the afterlife .. but not the heaven and hell way that a lot of organised religions paint it - but rather that we leave the shell behind and our spirits go back to the collective energy of the Universe.  When my friend said that, I stopped worrying about him, as our views were the same, and sat with him until he let out his last breath ... I kissed his forehead and walked out ... Stuart had already flown free, what was left behind wasn't my friend ... just a shell.

He came to me in a dream a few days later.  I figured he was checking up on me.  He took me for a drive in this dream.  We were in a red sports car and we were accelerating hard towards the back of another car.  I thought we were going to collide with it ... but at the last moment, wings shot out of the side and the car flew into the blue sky.  Stuart asked me if I wanted to have a go and I said 'yes!'  I couldn't make the car take off though and Stuart asked me one question, 'Why won't you let yourself take off?'  I still can't answer that.  BUT, I know my friend's okay.

Have a pleasant day...


Monday, 23 August 2010

The back garden's nearly complete ...

The back garden's undergone a transformation and has helped me tremendously over the last week or so.

When you live with PTSD,you get highs and lows and the last week or two have been a definite low.  I lost myself in doing my garden, having rich, black soil all over my hands and arms and under my finger nails.  I worked in whatever weather was present.  Cooled by the rain as I watched the black pearls of soil mingled with rain roll down my arms, towards the roots of the new plants that I was potting.  I felt connected and protected and sensed that necessary exchange of energy between myself and the rest of the natural world.

A song that I hadn't listened to in a good while had me thinking about the guys I served with and some of the mental grinder that we went through in Northern Ireland.  It brought life to a complete stand still for the rest of that day.  The next day I was out again ... potting, weeding, brushing.  The physical pain was great by the end of the potting, I could hardly rotate my waist and every movement caused more pain ... but it was worth it.  It was worth every drip of sweat and every pound of pain because when I sit out there in the darkness now I see the flickering solar lamps, the effigy of the Lord Buddha and the departing light of the day still glows with the vibrance and colours of the new tenants that I share my living space with ... the plants and their colourful presence.

There's also been a development in bird species frequenting this space:  I saw a peregrin falcon over my roof space that's made return journeys, no doubt looking for a pigeon or dove to hunt; and yesterday a sparrow hawk patrolled through, probably drawn by the bird feeding station's users.

Today's task is to tidy this work room up and then to do some business related work.

I hope yours is a good day too.


Sunday, 15 August 2010

Easy come, easy go...

I'd gotten some money back from the Inland Revenue this year from losses made on the business and had saved it for a photographic trip to somewhere but it seems to be dwindling away on the garden now and the house now.  Next week the fence gets completed behind the shed, the loft hatch gets extended, the outside wall tap gets fitted and the arch way for the climbing plants arrives.

I've been looking at various plants and visualising myself sat in a natural haven of various colours ... the images change from day to day, however, there is one constant: Ferns!  My neighbour has some that started growing from the see in birds droppings many years ago and they look amazing.  She's said I can have some out of her garden ... and they're our natural woodland variety.  I want them down the left hand side so that they have partial shade.

I'm pretty sure that the archway will have 2 Jasmine plants as well as some honey suckle, in the hope that some of the scents will whaft up to the room where I do my work.

I'm still pretty set on having one of the Virginia creepers around the front of the house too but will sort that out with the builder and maybe cement a pot to the hous wall so that no one bothers trying to steal it.  This seems to be a quiet close though and we don't get any trouble here, so it should be ok.  I've always wanted a house with creepers growing on the walls, changing colours with the seasons.

I used to have some lovely bushes in my house in cornwall that would flower twice a year - one had a lovely small violet coloured flower and the other a small white flower.  I don't remember their names though ... I'd love to have their presence in my garden again.  You never know what people are going to do when they buy your house ... I hope that they keep the trees and matured bushes going though.

One tree in my old place was 'special'.  I was visiting a business colleague one Saturday morning and I saw that nearly every tree on a cerain part of a road had been ripped down or just broken at the lower part of the trunk.  No doubt some drunken youths had though this was an amusing act to perform the previous night.  All of the trees were tender saplings with trunks of about 5 inches in circumference.  I was saddened and angered at the lack of regard for the natural world and ignorance of the necessity of trees. 

One of the trees had been ripped out completely but the root ball was more or less complete.  I rang the council and asked them to send someone out to 'rescue' the tree as it was the only one that could survive the situation.  The council official seemed uninterested and made some comments that were less useful than a cow's fart (at least you can use the methane from a cow).  I made the point that my taxes helped pay for the trees, which he didn't deny, so I said I'd take the tree home with me which he didn't object to.  So I went around asking people for help to transport the tree ASAP to minimise the shock on its exposed roots etc.

After an hour of asking around, the people that came to the rescue were the  'Cornwall Paper Company', based hust down the road from where the tree lay.  They got one of their biggest trucks out and their driver transported us home and helped me to plant the tree in my garden.  I gave them some prints as a thank you and then spent the next few months worrying over whether the tree would make it or not.  I was heartened every time I saw a garden bird use one of its branches ... it was as if there was an exchange of energy between the bird and the tree; a necessary exchange that allowed both to fulfill their journeys.

Imagine my joy when I saw the first new green shoots the following spring ...

I hope that tree is still safe.

Have a good Sunday.


Thursday, 12 August 2010

Hands in the earth ...

I got my fingers into some soil yesterday for what seems like the first time in years.  I'd done some planting earlier this year ... but this was different.  It reminded me of when I was planting some hedges in my front garden in Cornwall:  I could feel the energy of the Earth in the soil as my fingers gently made it fine enough to help introduce new plants to my garden and a visitor commented on how 'in-tune' with the Earth I seemed.

That feeling is coming back and it's much needed.

I planted some climbers, as well as 2 virginia creepers.  I'm going to put one of the creepers outside the secured backdoor as I'd like to see it climb around the front corner of the house.

I found a way to add an extra 4 arms to the bird-feeding station and have added a large feeder of niger seed as well as a water dispenser.  This years tally of bird specie in my garden has been amazing: sparrows, chaffinches, goldfinches, spotted woodpecker, thrushes, starlings,  wrens, blackbirds, long-tailed tits, great tits, blue tits, coal tits, robins, wood pigeons, collared doves and magpies.  It seems a fair exchange to me - I provide them with food and water for having displaced them and making it harder for them to survive as a species ... as a member of my species of animal.  The grey squirrels were a real pest with regards to the feeding station.  I got around the problem by placing the feeder in a central spot and then covering the central pole in industrial grease.  It's greased to below the area that the birds need but higher than the squirrels can leap to from the ground.

There's a very small pond that works as a watering hole too that I hope the local foxes use and maybe the hedgehogs too.  I cut a little hole in the back garden fence towards the front to ensure that they have a corridor through my home and can go about their business unobstructed.

The bottom garden was dug out years ago and so lies 3 or 4 feet below the foundation of the main house.  As you can imagine, there's very little decent soil there as it's mainly rock.  I've decided to use biiiiig pots for bushes to bring colour and scents into my garden.  That'll be done slowly now in preperation for next spring.

I also found some solar lights or the garden that dont look tacky - well - maybe the string of dragonflies do ... but the four lamps that look like flickering candles look neat.  The best one is the statue of the Lord Buddha with a lotus flower in his lap that is also a solar lamp.  So the tarmac garden that I inherited is slowly being transformed into a green haven ... for the wolf as well as other visitors.

The only thing that worries me now is the red algae appearing in the bird bath.  I hope it doesn't harm the wildlife.

I saw a lovely cultivated tree that was living in a huge pot.  It had obviously been taken care of and cultivated for pot life ... but a bit out of my budget!

Time for my morning soak and then to get more new images up onto the website that were taken earlier in the year.



Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Duty versus survival ...

I've been coming apart at the seams over the last week.  I've had my kids with me for just over a week now and it's the worst visit ever with them.  It's like they've forgotten how to think and act for themselves.  Forgotten how to clear up after themselves.  Forgotten their manners.  Forgotten values that we once shared.  Forgotten everything useful that I ever passed onto them.  It felt like I was spending time with 2 strangers.

One of the things about coping with life when you have a disability is that the 'day-to-day' stuff that most people can deal with without a second thought becomes full of hurdles to people like myself.  So when my kids came to visit this time, instead of the two kids that knew about my disability and what not to do ... I was visited by two teenagers that kept pissing me off with their behaviour and lack of self motivation.  The house was full of noise ... and not the good type:  doors being slammed etc - out of place noise that sets me on edge.

I planned to take them up to Scotland to show them some wilderness.  They arrived with no suitable outdoor clothing or footwear.  I only found out theat they didn't have their sleeping bags with them 2 days before they were due to be picked up.  They'd been continuously reminded to bring their sleeping bags and suitable outdoor clothing 2 months prior to this trip.  2 days before pickup I'm told that they don't have sleeping bags with them.  They were told to get some or they wouldn't be picked up.  Before heading for Scotland, I found they had no sufficient toiletries or towels with them.  They were told to go and buy the stuff from their allowance.

After 2 days of being rained in and their constant squabbling, I headed back to Nottingham.  They were told to behave for the trip back.  I got into the bath as soon as I got home and just relaxed and started to feel the stress levels go down a bit when the house door was slammed hard - twice - completely shattering any peace that I was starting to feel as the walls of the house shook with the force.  So I called their mother and arranged an earlier transfer.  I'll be heading off to drop them off in an hour.

One of the things that I have been working hard on with my kids is to ensure that their life isn't as difficult as mine ... but without spoiling them.  Part of me wonders what a parent has to do to strike that balance of discipline and empowerment.  Teaching them values but also making them aware of their power .. and their responsibilities.

Therein lies the problem.  My kids have a lot being put into them but there's no balance.  When kids get to their teenage years, there has to be an exchange of energy, duty and responsibility.  If the kids are just allowed to get away with having their own way ... then we have failed them as parents.  If both parents don't agree on values, duties etc, then the kids flounder in between the two.  It's like trying to build a house on sandy beach at low tide ... sooner or later it'll collapse.

When I lived near my children and we saw eachother on a weekly basis, it was easier to contribute towards their development.  There were still problems now and then ... but we coped.  They learnt the way things were and did a share of whatever was required in the house - washing up, chopping wood for the fire, cleaning out the fire, helping to cook, setting the table etc.  They had some motivation then ... now they seem to be need to told what to do over the most basic tasks.  The last time that I visited them in Cornwall, they asked me to go and see their rooms ... I was appalled at the mess in both their rooms, as their bedrooms in my house were always tidy.

I now feel that I have 2 strangers visiting me ... and my duty now is to my health;  to try to cope with this disability without feeling guilty or being made to feel guilty for putting myself before my kids. 

When I was a teenager I cut my path towards my chosen career and worked hard at it from the age of 13.  Kids nowadays have things way to easy.  Our society is too liberal in splashing out 'rights' in some areas of the young and as a result we're ending up with a bunch of youngsters that are lacking in motivation.

I remember hearing these words when I was 11 from an elder in Leicester, 'You youngsters have got it too easy nowadays.'   That was in 1975 I think, when we had an outside toilet 4 foot snowdrifts in winter and an outside shower.  Sometimes the meal was bread dipped in a cup of hot tea.  There was no pocket money. 

I guess one of the by-products of 'progress' is that things get easier for each generation that follows ... but do family values, standards, morals and work ethic have to become casualties as a result?   Why do we never seek 'balance'?  Why do we always go from one extreme to the other?


Osprey - Nature section

Osprey - Nature section
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