re-finding my feet // water under the bridge // how does my garden grow

It’s been a long silence on here. A post-hypomania depressive low voicelessness during summer 2016. And then when I tried to post, one time, from Ecuador, I was locked out of my account with neither my autosaved passwords or my uk phone number to save me. The last nine months however? I’ve been finding my way into a new city to live in. And it has been a lot of ticking over with fits and starts of new things and connections.

Sometime in June I was wanting to do some reflective writing on my life, and project some paths, and see what I can imagine unfolding. I didn’t do it that weekend, or the following weeks, or months. Avoidance drove that, but also kinda knowing some of the things I need to get on with and knowing the things that I’d like to be doing and taking opportunities as they come and coincide with my energy. My few weeks before the summer felt like a good start, and I lined up a good summer sequence of away time.

I returned to start a job that was a less bad than agency supply, adequately worthwhile option in September, feeling resigned and reconciled to doing it for the year. Then they took advantage of my agency employment status to get rid of me. That’s a story to tell of neoliberal managerial dynamics which I felt too sore for straight after.

I started up doing a daily write on the 30 days free introduction on 750words.com in November. And, I’ve written a lot of tedious diaryish words, but it’s kept me in touch with myself, and my thoughts flowing through a bit better.

This January I started in a job as an actual employee, learning support assistant for a year 2 autistic boy, and now that my new job actual responsibilities anxiety exhaustion has subsided, it’s time to pick up the other things.

In no particular order, things that have been going on for me*

clowning, boxing, capoeira, theatre of the oppressed, climate activism reconnection, cycling, violin collaborations, finding friends, anti-racism learning group, post-cohabitation London relationship, contact improvisation dance, nurseries, schools, schools, schools, feeling the struggle of an NQT, bristol dynamics, making my space, haircuts, colleagues, deep talking, ritual, nature camping, internet use, TV binging, autism non-diagnosis, loneliness, connection, valuing friend-crew deeply, co-counselling, plans, living in a two person and one dog house, caving,

watching tidal water from my commute/ sometime lunchtime hangout

At a space facilitated by the wonderfully nurturing Bel, their ‘sharing circle for social change’ we do reflection on our feelings about our lives and action on the world. Permaculture nature thinking is my fave, so I suggested we think through our lives as gardens. What’s growing, what’s planted, what needs to go in to enable future harvests…

My plot is dominated by a maize cash crop, my LSA job. And asides from that it’s in a bit of a state of neglect, with some old stems & some self seeders coming up in terms of my music and creative activities. A bunch of overgrown soil with a few bits of rubbish in it, whih isn’t awful, I can hang out in it, but I do want to do some breaking down, putting in some compost – well digging it in, there’s some knocking about. Then there’s a thornapple – beautiful but very poisonous, and uninvited although valued – my hyperintense engagement in calais spring 2016. I’ve got relationship mulch keeping things fertile, but some of it’s old, and some of it isn’t rotted down yet.

It feels a priority to interplant some beans in my maize. To get on some sort of political education related activity.

And I forget it, but there’s a wonderful apple tree or two – my camping community and burner community  which give seasonal bounty, from their deep roots, even if they’re neglected. Maybe there’s some coddling moth in there, but they’re still there for me, and I ought to remember them.

Easy to miss but underlying it all, the soil is pretty fertile, there’s water, and good sunlight. All that I’ve had from my family support, and all the advantages of my socioeconomic place in the world. I’m lucky in my garden. It’s got many seeds.

And I got a duty to make the most of it. Not only thinking of the staple food crops, but zoning it for all that I need.

if only this were the ready for spring state of my metaphorical garden…

* since coming back from travelling. travelling deserves its own reflection.

 

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ten year vintage january blues

my first and only christmas & january in retail. ten years ago! holding back on editing out the phrases that are making me cringe for their earnestness. such serious word choices I used…

I’m feeling affected by the January blues, the hangover from the spree of consumerism, dutiful jollity and general excess that takes place in the name of Christmas. I have been working in the peculiar place that is the County Stores since the end of October, and everything has been overshadowed by the hype towards Christmas, battling every last penny from our customers with a smile and an “after all, it is Christmas”, and now the deadness as people live off their leftovers, groan at the thought of turkey- and at the end of the month the credit card bills will come through and everyone will cut back even further.

On the 27th we all asked each other “Good Christmas?” and replied “yes, it was lovely for the children”, “it’s gone too quick”, “yeeeah” or occasionally even “well, it’s over for another year isn’t it” or a mere grunt. Depending on how cynical an approach one takes the first answer is either charming, or else it indicates a sinister practice of indoctrinating the next generation, so that they too will continue in their turn the practice of Christmas and all that goes with it. After all, no one wants to appear to be a grouch- not giving cards or presents seems like a lack of generosity and goodwill, rather than being a simple desire to avoid a little commercialised gesture. This year I distributed a virtual “card”, well a photo of the Christmas cake I made with a message, using the medium of facebook. Not very meaningful, but some sort of gesture that can be appreciated if desired, but that isn’t swelling Clinton Card’s profits.

The idea that Christmas goes too quick comes from all the pre Christmas buildup. I remember being disgusted at seeing a sign outside a pub chain at the beginning of September saying “Book now for Christmas”. The tradition in my house is to decorate the house on Christmas Eve, and leave it decorated up to and including the 6th of January. This counteracts the commercial approach- to start selling before November and to start the sales on Boxing Day. Unfortunately this year I have been exposed to both sides of Christmas, so I have been more overexposed than usual.

At some point during the last few years Christmas has changed for me. It used to be a purely positive occasion, for general niceness and for the whole family to spend a day cooking. However, now it feels as if Christmas is an effort- in order to try to recapture simple enjoyment of Christmas all the old traditions must be followed, as if the routine is what matters. I like the rituals. At any rate, I remember liking and being excited by them, and I do not want to stop enjoying them. Christmas becomes one huge yearning to reconstruct the joy of childhood.

On the radio they had attempted to present some cheerful stories to counter the post Christmas depression. “For one man Christmas is not over,” they reported cheerily.  “Mr Evans (or Mr Christmas as he is known), a divorced engineer, has celebrated Christmas everyday for the last 15 years …”.

Poor chap. To cling onto “this is a happy thing. Christmas is happy”, repeating it every day. The notion that this might cheer up the January gloom depressed me intensely in its focus on one festival as ‘happy’ as a way to ignore the grimness of the state of life in the world.

Interest rates are being cut to counteract an increase in December consumer spending of only 2.3% on last year. How can it be possible to believe that an economy  based on a credit bubble driven by the fetishisation of happiness at  Christmas at the expense of attention to happiness year round is either sustainable or desirable?

going travelling

I’m going away for six months. Getting away from the London I’ve become embedded in, which is a place of amazing people struggling hard and creatively and teetering on burnout and screaming more eloquently than I ever can. Running away from the mess that is my relationship with working in education. Escaping post-Brexit, Jez-we-not-sure-if-we-can politics. Putting distance between myself and the Calais eviction.

The plan for 2016 was get out of London, and not to work in schools. I’ve had a lacklustre few months after getting stuck back in my family home, recuperating from illness, and I didn’t quite feel like picking any vague Europe wooff/helpx based ideas. Instead I’m picking up old plans I had lying around to return to a community I stayed with in 2008: Chinimp Tuna, Ecuador. And I’m doing it while I am still disembedded and uncommitted in the UK, and while I still have some money for it. I committed to this in my head while I was not quite able to feel excited about anything, partly due to mood-stabilisers.

Returning to a place I was in eight years ago is going to be surreal. I’m happy to be honouring an intention that I made. I don’t get to be my enthusiastic 19yrold self again, fully absorbed in processing a new place. I was wary then too of the postcolonial white-saviour tinge to volunteering in a global south country. I didn’t aspire to do more than learn and have a self-developing good time. Finding the emails I sent home made me cringe. I was so jolly, high on personal growth, enjoying unfamiliar food and work, and listing the various things I did – basically well annoying.

Now on the other hand … I’m even more angsty about my position in the world, and still don’t have any greater reason to travel than to take a bit of perspective (both on this messed up neoliberal world and on my life). Guess I’ll see how I  (don’t) fit into an old shed skin of myself.

Anyway, if I have anything that’s fit to share with people other than family and doesn’t belong on facebook I’ll stick it up here. Maybe. Tbh not sure this blather should qualify.

bugs-2008

back to being enthusiastic about colourful bugs it is!

The Economy of Line-line-line, Blankets and Chai

Written May 2016, reflecting on experiences in  January – March. I use the term ‘Jungle’ to refer to the informal settlement of refugees/migrants outside Calais town as it is nearly universally used colloquially, and has been for many years. It is increasingly acknowledged as an ‘unofficial’ refugee camp. French authorities plan to evict the entire place starting on the 17th October. It’s going to be grim. 

“Jungle no good, mushkila kibil, but jungle mafi mushkila, mushkila europeana, walai mushkila europeanos that don’t understand what it is to be a refugee but they think they know everything. And mushkila kibil zup abbas of course, I am with the afghan bambinos on that one”

‘The Jungle’ Economy in Calais is unique, shaped by its own set of intersections of local, regional and global socioeconomic and cultural forces. It generates its own pidgin dialects, borrowing from Londonese, Arabic and the exact enunciation of English as a foreign language speakers.

‘Line-line-line’ is a command that has been transformed into a verb. ‘Fancy a line-line-line, or shall we eat in resto?’ Queueing is, of course, a famous English behaviour, and when there is a scarcity of goods ready to distribute, the line is the simplest method to impose order. However, it is potluck what will be available at the end of the line, and refugees have to plan their day around distribution times, for which there is no centralised information point.

“No pushing. You must queue. If you want to come to HEngland hyou MUST learn to do this”. A middle aged woman’s voice becomes shrill and angry, her face reddens and her lips purse shut as humbled brown bodies shuffle back into a line after a false alarm at a distribution point. I sketch the incident in my notebook as a queue snaking back like the classic Thatcherite unemployment posters and caption it ‘be civilised and English, you must learn this to deserve our charity’.

Another morning it is raining. We are with our Sudanese hosts, and having touched on some heavy topics the evening before, are drinking sweet milk and coffee with distribution bread and talking about the weather. Someone knocks on the door, and their dripping wet head pokes in, saying ‘blankets? you like to have 3 blankets?’ “Chai?” our host invites them to cross the threshold. They peer in, refusing ‘oh no, I am working’.

The house is already insulated with blankets, with spare blankets stacked on every bed. These people are ‘machinas’ – they have lived in the jungle a long time. They accept three more blankets: they can be swapped for food or other goods. However, the refusal of chai exposes that they are given as charity, not as a gift exchange. Two volunteers are using their best camping gear, and the energy that comes from sleeping in a hostel bed and taking a shower in the morning, to distribute in the rain. Half an hour later another three blankets are delivered – this time the donor accepts a taste of stew, and indulgent chuckles ripple through the room – the joke being how hard these happy jungles work, without coming far enough inside a house or staying long enough to know what is needed.

Volunteers value the ‘dignity’ of refugees. However, where is the dignity when distribution takes place through ritualised forms of power play?  When ‘unsuitable’ suits are hung up on the refugee-free warehouse wall of shame? Where is the dignity when there is no place to clean dirty clothes – people’s bodies being the only washing lines? But why would people who have travelled across the world without papers look for dignity to be handed to them on a plate? Dignity is everywhere in the Jungle, in strength and patience and community and laughter. The jungle is not the real problem.

However, there is an undercurrent of well-founded anger and resentment, at the governments of Europe, at the fascists of Calais, at the swarms of journalists, and of volunteers whose actions make no sense. If someone claims to be working, who are they working for? If they are working for themselves, why don’t they stop to accept tea? If they are working for a boss, who is that boss, and where is the money coming from: France or England? Why is Europe, this so called developed country, displaying such poorly organised and un-coordinated services? The chaos of the ‘Jungle’ can look from below like a deliberately orchestrated effort to keep refugees as second class people, to maintain them living in conditions of ‘bare life’ while the state operates in an extended state of emergency.

To my MSR (clearing out the closet)

To my MSR,
you made me a cup of tea. you gave me nutritional couscous with vegetables in minutes and it gave me hours of energy. without you, my festival weekend would have had crashes from loss of carbs. I’d have lost energy. I’d have felt empty inside.

When someone spoke about their love for their grandfather’s letters at a workshop curated by the caretakers from the museum of love, I remembered that I had something from my Grandma Nancy with me. I was cooking with you when a text came through that she had died. We had camped at an inlet of the sea, beneath a town with a collective hangover that stank of urine. A day before I’d written a postcard to Nancy, sharing my delight in seeing red squirrels scampering overhead and wanting her to know that her birthday gift to me was being well used.

MSR, you make me proud of my competency in self-care. I can cook quick and I can cook tasty and I can cook to meet my body’s needs. I can avoid firey death through taking appropriate precautions. I can feed friends hot sugary tea when they need it most.

MSR, we’ve had good times over the last five-  or is it six?- years together – I’m sorry that I’d let it be so long since our last outing. You’re gonna pass the Marie Kondo exodus of superfluous things for certain. MSR, I need to put on a laundry load now, so that’s it for now, but just so you know, I got some deep appreciation for you, and I’m feeling it strongly right now. Let’s make some plans, ok? I don’t want to let it be so long again!
– Eva Weinstein
PS: here’s a photo of you. brim-full of couscous and vegetable on a sunny evening in a French campsite. We’d just come over the Pyrenees, when we’d cooked on a rocky outcrop on the way up and a dewy meadow on the way down, remember?

MSR

RIP Dominic Raoul Lucas

In memoriam immortal of MSN, and the genre of ‘adult alternative rock’ with quarter speed scrubbing and Dave Matthews ‘Crash into me’, the best album ever*. *Alongside the rise and fall of Ziggy, and other great albums.

I would like to share some words of a dear friend, and my response, some  six years late, to them. Before I continue, I should put a trigger warning for depression, suicide, and caring for those who are depressive and/or suicidal.

The person in question is Dom  Lucas, someone I liked greatly from when I met him in my first philosophy class in 6th form. It was apparent at his funeral, that a deep and lasting impression was a response he often evoked, even in those who had counted him only as an acquaintance. Continue reading

hoping for a revolution

  1. When a revolutionary moment arrives may you not gather to spectate

    the swarms of vultures are already foretold and they do not raise the dead they document.

    Fling yourselves far and wide

    to carry onwards and bring home the good tidings.

    Seek out the fertile soil in which to grow

    but also in the stony soil pass over as tumbleweed;

    scatter seed as the wind blows you and hope someday a shower will follow close on your heels to perform the alchemy of dust to green shoots to gold…

    2. When there is hope don’t smother it-

    draw it out even to the breaking point;

    shattered hope still dews the pavements on Monday morning

    when the carnival is over a hangover is not too heavy a burden to bear.

    There is sometimes some cause for hope

    some hope for a cause

    some cause

    some hope

    because if there is not,

    what is there?