Just a couple of pictures

Well, the States looked after me again. I do like it there although San Francisco is much more expensive than Vegas… but it was prettier in some respects and now there’s another place I can see on the gogglebox and go “I’ve been there!” loudly and irritatingly to all who’ll listen. The overtime pretty much paid for the whole thing and having timed it for a 5 week month I’ve come back to a bank account with basically the same as I had to go out with in it! Happy days!

Anyway… a couple of pictures…

View from Mount Diablo CA
The dark triangle.. is the shadow of the mountain!

Yes I know it’s a little stylised but.. it really captures how pretty it was there… and it wouldn’t be a SF entry without…

It needs no introduction

And finally… because it’s iconic too…

San Francisco here I come.

So, I know I know I’ve been neglecting this blog. I’ve been far too busy working. It’s been overtimes’r’us but, there’s a reward awaiting me. It seems my jaunt to Vienna and Prague has set off the whole want to travel thing and so this time I’ve decided to go further afield. I suspect by the title you can guess where is calling me. Yes… the city by the bay which was or was not depending on how much faith you put in Starship, “built on Rock and Roll”. Prague and Vienna were brilliant incidentally, and one thing especially to note was hearing Clawfinger’s version of Vienna, played in a pub in Vienna, while I was wearing a Clawfinger shirt! BrIlliant!! Anyway, I digress…. I’d spent 2 months looking at San Francisco costs… and mentally beating myself up over spending that much money on myself and then thought “Sod it”, and so bought the flights.

In truth there was more than that to the hesitation. My situation at work has been precarious for months now. My year contract ended, half the staff were made redundant, and my own contract is being renewed on a monthly basis giving me no security whatsoever. My hours have changed also, from 2-10 to 12-8 meaning much more interaction with people I’d rather not be interacting with. I specifically wanted the 2-10 shift as it was going to save me money due to the antisocial hours (I.E. keeping me out of the pub haha) but also keeping the amount of people I worked with to a minimum! I know me. I have very little in common with most people and while I can bluff it to a point, to not have to is much less of a mental strain. The 12-8 shift means… people are rubbing me up the wrong way and I’m struggling not to bite.. and doubtless vice versa. I’m aware of several who see me as “different” (damn right I am! haha) and then react negatively to me, but also there are now people who know I dislike what they are too. It makes for a volatile place mentally to be at times.

Today was one such day. Someone decided to complain that I smelt bad!! In truth there may have been a whiff (did you see what I did there? *groans*) of reason behind it which was that… yes I sweat while I’m at work because it’s stupidly hot (something I’ve complained about incessantly) .. but in general the only thing I smell of is Hugo Boss! But.. I suspect it was simply a malicious way to try and have a dig at me, which duly then went all round the office. Entertainingly the people who actually work with me closely (as in .. in close proximity) all disagreed re: the smell but hey, the power of suggestion to those who don’t really know me, or do know the people who take issue with and favour them over me…. or indeed a neutral… that power is massively strong. Anyone being told I whiff… would then automatically project it onto me irrespective of anything else. It’s then pointless attempting to dissuade them because.. cognitive dissonance… they’ve made their choice and contrary evidence would then cause them to doubt themselves. I could of course cite the Pamela Dalton study : “two groups of people were given the same thing to smell. One group was told it was a chemical solvent, the other — a rain forest plant. After 15 minutes of smelling the odor, the group that thought they were smelling a chemical reported feeling sick. The group that thought it was a plant felt relaxed and even rejuvenated.”, but … like I say… once someone has been exposed to a negative cognitive stimuli.. there’s basically no point. Plus… why would I possibly know about such things… it’s not like I’ve ever studied cognitive behav….. oh wait!! However…. It’s entirely possible that the person who complained may well have been under the influence of someone else.. thus they’re not the responsible … or perhaps… it was just one of those things and I did whiff a little? Who knows? All I know is… it wasn’t a fun day at all! And I’m using too many “…”s!

So yes, it’s not been an easy ride since coming back from Prague. But, I’ve slung in the hours, and now I should at least for a few days be able to relax in some sun before coming back to the hovel I call home. Every now and again i think of things I probably shouldn’t. I recall my father telling me “You’ll never go nowhere and you’ll never do nothing” (yes I know… HOW many negatives?) but also I think about what might have been had the ex wife actually come across here in an attempt to save the marriage, and the lifestyle we could’ve had with us both earning. I worry at times that things like a trip abroad are nothing more than my mentally sticking up two fingers at them both as if to say “Screw you!”. Am I spending money as a form of metaphorical vitriolic spite, when instead I should be attempting to make the aforementioned hovel something more emotionally resembling a home? Does even the act of asking myself that question answer it? I do think at times it’s certainly a part of me, the whole “Screw you” thing… but I’d like to think that the majority is purely because I love the travel, the new experiences, and the taking of pictures while there. The bitter, contrasts nicely with the savory version of me, and I think serves a purpose of its own, which is to keep me alert to where I am mentally in my head. The bitter makes the the savory react and control it. Anger is a gift but it’s also an addictive one. That dopamine release needs to be controlled as it’s addictive. In Holland I used to bob back to the UK as a way to fight the pernicious insidious creeping of depression and desperation there, and it worked to a point. It kept me sane. I think here, over these last few months, I’ve spent too much time at work within time parameters which I didn’t originally agree to as a base, and it’s altered how I’ve coped with it. Watching things happen that I’m not ok with has messed with my ability to walk away from it at the end of the day and detach. But, things have changed again now and hopefully that will ease for the next few months. It’ll be May before I get a permanent contract, so I’m told though, so that sword of Damocles will linger for a few months longer. Such is life.

So, while I know it’s not been long since I last gallivanted, I think this time it’s a different thing. There’s not the stress of not knowing the language, and while I’ve not been specifically to SF before… I’ve done enough of the USA to know how it works. I’ll come back with jeans, probably trainers, and memories. Hopefully refreshed and back to my usual bouncy self. Until then I’ll leave you with a very sad picture of me in Vienna, still with hair, and a daft hat because…. it was 40c there! Where I come from that’s a bra size not a temperature!

Alistair Wiseman

Travel bug bit me again.

Well… there’s still no news as to if I’m one of the 50% of people who are about to find themselves redundant at my ever jolly place of work and so, while I have the opportunity, it’s time to jump on a plane again. I’ve always wanted to see Prague, so I’m off and away in a few days time. With a day in Vienna added in to boot! That will mean I’ve done new countries and 4 new capitals within the space of a year. I’m quietly pleased with that. I know my abode is grim but, what I’ve not spent on home comforts has allowed me to simply spend time away from it, and experience new and different things. As i see it, it’s a fair compromise and one that rewards more than it takes. I’ve worked for it, so grab it while it’s there. If only I had a decent camera still but hey ho. And on that note.. here’s a Goldfinch! He sits on the ariel next to my window and poses for me .. right up until I point the camera at him and then he’s gone. I’ve had 3 attempts to get a decent pic of him.. and this is the best I’ve got so far

Morning alarm clock. Cheep and cheerful ..?

All Work and No Play!

Well I’ve hammered in the overtime over the last few weeks and have left myself a tad shattered. Yesterday was the worst I guess, 2-10 on Friday, followed by a swift pint and then 6-1 Saturday. There’s not much left of me at all now! It seems I’ll be likely out of a job come August as there’s going to be a 50% reduction in staff which, given there’s only 83 in our depo means I’m reasonably certain I’ll be one to go as I’m the last one in. Not looking forward to the whole drag of finding and starting something new again.

I’m tired mentally too though it seems. Someone decided to mail me that my old best mate is still in contact with my ex wife, and asserted that she’s trying to lure him over there using my old DVDs as bait. I dismissed it as someone with a wooden spoon but it’s dwelt more on my mind than it should do. It’s well over 3 years since I spoke to either so it’s irked me that the brain is letting it slop around my head. Until then I barely gave the ex a thought save for Facebook throwing up memories here and there (and lest we forget, there’s only half the amount as she deleted all of hers) and frankly I’d not care if she were alive or dead but I’ve shared most of my life with my mate and I know he’s vulnerable at the moment.

It’s funny. I stood up at work in a big ole meeting and placed myself in the firing line by attempting to speak that which others might be too scared to say, or unable to articulate, and was thanked for it by about 13 people. I know it left me looking like “Al’s the bad guy” or “Al’s making waves” etc etc, but it was the right thing to do. It’s a theme that’s followed me for years. I do what I think is the right thing to do and suffer the consequences afterwards. I left the UK to do the Jack’s dad thing only to be left with nothing afterwards. I moved to Holland to do the relationship thing… and then left because it was going to cost me my life if I stayed because there was no support for my spiralling into despair there. It was the right thing to do, even though it left me with nothing, and cost me all that I’d put my life into. The lack of understanding of this cost me my mate too. You don’t have to “get” why I needed to leave, you just have to understand that I did and accept it because… you know me and know it’s not something I’d just do on a whim. Hells teeth I survived 9 years there nearly and while it wasn’t all bad, all I need to do is scroll through the “on this days” and various blog entries over the years to see the constant struggle I had to cope there mentally.

I guess a best mate and a wife are who you trust to have an eye out for that. Your mental health, An investment of years surely earns it? But the wife never noticed as I cried daily, sometimes even with my head in her lap, and then later.. my mate sat and told me about how good I’d had it over there after i’d left her. And there’s the thing. From the outside no one even registered that there was an issue. No one looked deeper than the nice shiny surface. Even Esther I suspect! But they should have.

There’s an absolute abundance of memes etc telling stories of how “invisible illnesses are stigmatised because you can’t physically see symptoms” and there’s just as many about mental health issues and how there’s no shame in saying there’s a problem. As the Therapy? song says… “It’s ok not to be ok .. when you’re living through this” and damn was I not ok over there. It wasn’t an illness though. It was a constant mental assault, eating at me. I’d fought for something that the other partner wouldn’t fight for. I’d given all of me while she.. she did nothing. I fed and nourished her and supported her mentally… but I needed that back up too. “You wanted me to be your anchor … but I never realised that meant I had to drown”. And man.. I came so close to drowning. Depression so very nearly had me beaten. But it never progressed to the illness part. I still had the facility to choose to change my environment and thus I won, even if the consequence was the loss of both of those I’d spent such time on. “It’s time wasted on your rose which makes it important,” Ain’t that the truth!

But, I’ve survived. Even prospered. 2 new countries and capital cities. All my bills paid. Hell I’ve even a credit card! But that absence of something I’d had for years makes things that should barely create a noise… they echo now within the void which now exists there. I wonder if it’s a wound that won’t heal?

It seems mental health is not unlike physical. For the most part now I’m fine. But every now and again I ache, be it in the cold wind, or the gust of words that spark reactions. I’ve looked into the void and the void has looked into me. We’ve reached an impasse I suspect.

This is not a piece written in anger. It’s not a blame thing either. It’s just a cathartic release into text of what’s been cooking in my head over the last few days. Written for me. My audience these days is limited anyway. But for now I’m done. The football won’t watch itself! I’ll leave you.. and me.. with this… because it’s such a good tune.

It’s ok not to be ok!

Laundrette musings

Sat pondering the concept of Truth and while in the laundrette.. I’ve seen people saying “tell your truth” a lot in various places recently and that bothers me. Is truth genuinely subjective? Is it a matter of perspective? Surely it’s an absolute? Truth just IS! I guess there are times when it’s contextual on circumstance, like in the illustration…but as a generalisation.. it just is.

People are strange things though. Given the chance they’ll attribute all manner of things to an absolute, but this can be often due to differing understands of the language used. I run into examples daily. I’ll often say “You look good/well” in the course of a conversation to people as an observation, and be surprised by a “thank you”. It wasn’t a compliment. It was a statement of an observable fact.. within a contextual circumstance backed by empirical evidence. There was no need for gratitude. I didn’t gift you something. Too often you can utter the words “You look good”, and what’s actually heard is “I find you attractive”, when in fact these are completely different entities. Those two guys from 2cellos look good, but I’m not remotely attracted to them!

There was a similar instance in a conversation about IQ in the pub. I mentioned mine and it was perceived as something I was bragging about. I wasn’t. It’s just a statement of fact. Of Truth. A numerical statistic gained through testing But it seems it’s all too easy to to superimpose other elements of emotional content to something which is in fact just a stand alone acknowledgement of an absolute. Is that the human urge to romanticise everything, be it positively or negatively? Is it a micro/macro-cosm of humans as a whole striving for understanding of our own existence to the point that we’ve created Gods to justify our own being? To search for meaning/essence in something which has none? And subsequently superimpose our own upon it when inevitably failing to find something which isn’t there.

I love the illustration that I’ve picked to go with my musings. Not just because I’m a 69 fan (the yin yang imagery isn’t lost on me either) (ha you thought I was being filthy!) but because while it does show how perspectives can alter something, it also paints the picture of the average human simply not considering anything other than their first impression. We don’t stand back, and take stock of other angles. We react to an initial stimuli, but that’s often due to a reaction which has been given to us, rather than a learned knowledge. Much like a phobia, it’s often a non-cognative response, irrational, and not based on what’s actually there, hence why cognitive dissonance will elicit and evoke such volatile emotional reactions. Underneath, you’re aware of your own self doubt. But that challenges your own identity, your own ability to make choices based on your own reasoning.

Truth goes through three stages : First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. The insertion of “Your” preceding “truth” will always bother me. It feels like there’s something wrong with the language. Truth is instinctively binary to me. Can you even have a nonlinear Truth? I’m not sure. Schrodinger’s Truth is an entertaining example of a binary output, but then Occam’s Razor if applied to scenarios doesn’t rule out the possiblity of zebra.. it just says a horse is more likely…but again that’s contextual and location dependant.

Perhaps we need new words. In an increasingly non-binary world maybe truth doesn’t even exist anymore. Existentialism on a Tuesday morning! Scary stuff. Still, at least my work shirt is washed and dried!

How Quickly a Year Goes.

So.. it’ll be a year on the 7th since I landed in my current abode. A year, living alone, for the first time probably in my life. I’ve always shared a place, be it with housemates or lovers, so this has actually been pretty damn strange. But.. my bills are paid, my job appears secure, I’ve not frozen or starved, and I’ve even managed 2 new countries and… I’ve seen Clawfinger live finally!!


Yep… I managed to get to London! Chuffed? You betcha. 

So, what else has cooked? Xmas came and went. Actually Christmas Dinner was done really well. The people in the local have adopted me it seems and so I was invited for grub there. It was seriously good, but better than that was the atmosphere. A good 15 people plonked down and I commented to the landlady that there was absolutely no-one staring at their phone. Everyone was chatting and being social and generally enjoying the company.

IMG_0482 (2)

And… that’s the angle.. I don’t have a belly haha! It really was a genuinely good time. Oh.. and yes.. I lost all the hair. That happened in November. Funnily enough I ate again at the same venue only last week..  Burns night Haggis. And.. it was done.. with boiled, not mashed veg. Specially. Now that properly touched me. I’d finished work (2-10) and was collared and plonked down! “Eat this, Wiseman!” And I did! Burns night has always had a special place in my world. Seems it’s continuing along the same lines! 

So, what now? I don’t know! I’m still single. All dalliances have currently been extinguished and while there are people who certainly spark my interest … as of yet there’s nothing happening. But.. who knows what’s round the next corner. Perhaps someone will woo me for valentines day!! There are …. always… possibilities! 

And on that note.. live long and prosper!