Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Invisible

Hello again – oh don’t have a go – if you haven’t worked out that I'm extremely unreliable on the posting front by now, then you are beyond help! :-)

Let’s face it, I'm a bit crap.

None the less, every now and again something pops into my mind that nudges my fingers into typing mode.

And here we are.

Tonight, I saw something that I haven’t seen in age; something that stood out as odd and then immediately got me thinking.

Heading home from work after a late shift, I boarded the Tube and sat myself down. The empty seat wasn't the oddity; this was well after peak commuting times on London’s busy underground system.

The odd thing was a thing that absolutely shouldn't be odd at all. In fact the only thing odd about it, was the fact that it is odd!

Let me explain.

I looked up and noticed the man opposite me. Something was out of place. Something wasn’t right. It took me about 4 seconds to figure out what it was that was wrong (4 seconds looking directly at a fellow London commuter at that time of night is a very, very, long time – practically stalking).

He was reading a book.

An actual book.

Not a mobile.

Not a Kindle.

Not a free newspaper.

He didn't even have earphones plugged into the sides of his head – I think he may have been concentrating on the book and felt, somehow, that this was sufficient entertainment.

I know, it seems crazy that a book should be enough, right? Oddly enough, time and time again I see Kindle readers with their ears plugged up. There’s something about the switch to gadgetry that changes us – stops mere words being enough. With gadgets we have to multi-task – by law! We have to flick between things, have multiple inputs all at once.

This made me look at myself. I was using my phone to play Scrabble while listening to a podcast. Neither of these activities, it appears, were enough to get me from Aldgate East to Paddington individually. When did that start? Was I really concentrating on the podcast while trying to remember how to spell ‘excellent’ ** without the use of spell checker?

** I have literally never got ‘excellent’ in Scrabble, I either put ‘exit’,  ‘tax’ or ‘taxi’ down, or else I wind up giving up 8 points at the end!

I looked along the row of seats and then the entire carriage. Everyone else had a phone in their hands (including me), everyone else had earphones attached (me too, again). There were a couple reading newspapers while listening to something, but apart from them, everyone was glued to a screen and plugged into their own private sounds. I assume some of them were watching what they were listening to, but I suspect that most were not.

Look at us, look at all of us. row upon row of robots blending into the background. We are camouflaged into invisibility by our electronics. 

It really hit me that it is such a strange twist of modernity that a book should seem so out of place. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the absurdity of a book standing out so much.

Try as I might, I could not remember the last time I’d seen it. Kindles and other such e-readers, I feel that I see now and again, though it is mainly only a mobile that faces attend to these days.

The most worrying part of all, and the reason I was inspired to crack out the laptop and write this post, was that I can’t remember the last time that I read a book, either a real one or via Kindle. Nor could I remember the last time I wrote. It’s not lost on me that these things are often related.

To be able to blank out the commute, lost in only words on a page is an all too rare treat that we really should indulge in. We should encourage it in those around us but most of all we should be encouraging it in ourselves – why the hell not? We deserve it!

So I pledge to make baby steps towards brining words properly back into my life – and I don’t mean random Scrabble words.

Step 1. I took this one straight away – I put down my phone, sat back and just listened to the podcast. Took it in. Concentrated. The makers of the programme deserve as much.

Step 2. I knew I needed to write this down and add my words into the ether – for some passer-by to find. I know I need to try harder at keeping this regular – I just don’t like talking when I don’t really have anything to say (more or less blasphemy to say that in the blogging world).

Step 3. Read. Read properly. Whether it is via Kindle or actual books, doesn't matter but to leave my ears out of it and let my eyes do the job they are paid to do.

Actually allow myself to listen to the words. Let them speak.

And so there it is. Man on the tube with your book – I love you a bit. You helped pluck me from the heard, made me see that I was shuffling along with my head in my phone, insulated from all around me.

Invisible.

You helped me see myself.

Thank you.












Thursday, October 22, 2015

Because life can be cruel

Dear World,

Please could you stop being so harsh?

All around me I see pain.

I don’t want to see pain.

Hunger. Not the same kind of “I'm starving” hunger that my kids feel when they can see a packet of crisps on the side at three in the afternoon, and realise they haven’t eaten since lunch – real hunger. There are people in this world who are genuinely starving to death.

Desperation. Thousands upon thousands face the wrath of Europe’s xenophobes as they desperately try and find a home that is safe. All they want is to be free. This, apparently, is too much to ask.

Death. Starvation, Malaria, Ebola, floods, earthquakes and wars, these may be killing people far away but I look around and can see that Cancer is taking our loved ones here too. Too many lives are lost. Too many families ripped apart.

Too many.

And worse.

So much worse that all that.

Xbox. We don’t have one. We are, apparently, the only house in the world that does not. My kids are deprived. My kids are neglected. How can my children be expected to live without a games console? I heard that a group of people in a Syrian refugee camp had started a whip around to buy us some Argos vouchers – though that is unconfirmed.

So, World, please can you stop treating my children with such disrespect and sort them out a console? Then, maybe you could have a look at some of those less important issues – if you have the time.

Thanks.


Glen.




Saturday, October 3, 2015

Bring on the Dancing Horses


Hello again – yes I'm still here – thank you so much for your patience.

I just couldn't think of anything to write about.

Until today.

I've said it before and I’ll say it again, I love London.

I really do.

Barring a three year hiatus, while banished to the UK’s West Midlands, I've worked in London since 1998, and it has never failed to lift me when I've really needed it.

How could it not? Look at the craziness of the contrasts in this Skyline…





Where else in the World can you stand in one place and look at so much history? Just out of shot is a piece of Roman Wall – so it goes back into the thousands of years. Thanks go to Google Streetview for the image..

It’s such a mixed up bag of old and new. So many cultural influences in one place; so many cultures, all of whom carrying a voice, all of whom considered equal. Well, theoretically equal, if only that were really true.

But it is a truly diverse city – full of wonder and full of joy – you just have to open your eyes and your mind.

It is also a city being rebuilt. Buildings are dying and being reborn all the time. Cranes are almost as much a fixed feature of the Skyline as the Shard is. Walk down any street for more than a hundred meters and you’ll find yourself walking next to some blue boarding. You know the boarding I mean – the safety net of the modern day builder’s yards. Behind these boards hides an uncertain future, climbing slowly towards the clouds.

You become numb to them. You stop wondering what is behind them.

Let this post be a lesson.

NEVER STOP WONDERING.

Less than a hundred meters from my office, a new tower has been going up for what feels like forever. The boarding long since became invisible. Until today.

I actually don’t know how long the boards have been down; my tube station is in the opposite direction so I haven’t walked along this way in a little while. Today I popped to get my haircut during my lunch break and nearly got myself run over by a bus when I stopped dead in my tracks half way across the road.

The boards have come down.

What they were hiding is beautiful.

Beautiful.









Look at the space it is taking up – how much office space could be stuffed in to this same area? The financial pressure to use the space for the main housing building, which might make money back, as with the rest of the dour buildings that shade Leman Street, rather than wasting the space on art that will never recoup its cost, must be huge. And yet here it is. How brilliant is that? No sense, no logic, just pure imagination. The imagination of artist, Hamish Mackie, finding a link to the site's distant history.

I talked a while back of my private moment of beauty when I watched a Pigeon bathing in a fountain. This time I decided to get my camera out for you. I'm not specifically a horse person, I’ll have the occasional bet on them and (don’t hate me) I'm not totally against them turning up in my frying pan – but this blew my mind

Though not before I almost got myself killed again… I was so taken aback by what I’d discovered that I almost tried to share it straight away. A man was walking past, his head bowed down in the correct London fashion, deeply engrossed in whatever his earphones were telling him,  and I found myself reaching out to stop him. I wanted to show him. I wanted to give him the joy that I’d just found.

Just in time I remembered where I was – great city it may well be but talking to strangers is strictly not permitted, especially if you are laughing uncontrollably and appear somewhat over excited at the time….

I stood entranced, for far too long, considering I still needed to get my haircut, but it was time well spent.

There should always be time for joy.

Make time.

Open your eyes.

Smile.

Laugh.

Love.

Live.

And if you ever get the chance, visit London. Come see my horses.