Neverneverland

I’m not in much doubt that the universe was conspiring to tease me the other evening by broadcasting two of my favourite films at the same time: Hook and Finding Neverland. I know what you’re thinking (“Rufio! Rufio! Ru-Fi-OOOOOOOOOOOOOh!”).. no, not that. Well, maybe that. I probably think about that chant at least four or five times a day. But no, I know you’re just thinking that that would be a criminally insane venture–to watch two movies simultaneously on regular cable, with ad breaks? What kind of maniac would attempt such a thing? Apparently, that would be me.

Not as maniacal, it should be said, as Captain James Hook himself though. Do you remember his shoe collection in the film? Christ, no man on earth needs that many pairs of waxed-black dress shoes. Not even a cobbler possesses that many pairs. Insanity. I do, however, agree with Hook’s sentiments in regards to clocks. He hates the __cking* things, as do I. And let’s face it, as a concept of nature, time is a fallacy.

There’s your first poignant sentence of this post. Here’s the next one: Cap’n James would almost certainly hate the new Apple smartwatch-bullshit-thing. Smee, pass me the hammer would you?

Anyway, as I took it upon myself to act as Captain, navigating as I was between the waves of commercials, the message of Scottish-born J.M. Barrie**, the story’s real-life author and subject of Finding Neverland, truly hit home.

Today is Friday 3rd April 2015. I’m 26 years old–soon to be 27–have a college degree loitering in one of my suitcases ready for its return home, and Predator, with that ex-governor Arnold in staggeringly “good form”, is on in the background as I type this. My experience in my field is limited, I remain thousands of miles away from my family, and many of my close friends who I’ve had the pleasure to meet since my second stint here began (and those from my first), are dispersed all over the country; I very much miss a number of them. I’ve one failed relationship to my name, a few months travel under my belt, and frequent the gym most days to keep my mind and body active. I’ve become much more of a book-lover in the last year or so, am less of a drinker, and have a heightened awareness of living healthily, but not to the point where I can’t satisfy my everlasting sweet tooth once in a while. Whilst I love the idea of becoming a writer, I sometimes let myself down by not fully committing to seeing an idea, or thought, through. In recent weeks, I have been accepted into graduate school, although I’m not sure in my heart of hearts if that’s the direction I honestly want to take. I’m uncertain about a good few things, but I do know my first passion will always be football (soccer) and I’ll do my utmost to continue playing for as long as I can, starting tomorrow when I have a trial for a local team here. For the remainder of this year and beyond, I hope to do just that, as well as make plans for my next trip(s) abroad and writing more about the things that give me pleasure than I have been. In addition to these pastimes, I wish to explore my spiritual side a lot more often, having begun to do so with positive results these past few months. It may not seem like much, but as shorthand versions of events go, that’s pretty much it for me.

J.M. Barrie playing with adopted son and real-life “Lost Boy”, Michael Llewelyn Davies

But even after the ups and downs, the certainties and uncertainties, the dreams and the realities, a part of me has remained constant that I will never, ever, take for granted: my humour.

The “older” I get (age is another fallacy), the more I realize its importance to who I am. I live to laugh. I live to make others laugh. I love to make others laugh. A lot of that has to do with how I was brought up. British humour is a wonderful thing, and I’m so thankful to have been raised in a household, and amongst family, that burst with the funny gene. I can hear my grandparents’ jokes and stories now. Boy, do I miss them too.

So how does all this relate to the adventures of Peter Pan I hear you squawk? Well, I guess my point is this: Staying young in heart and head keeps you young no matter what. Plus, as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing, nothing more attractive than a woman who can make you laugh. I met one fairly recently as a matter of fact. But hey, I’m a lost boy scrabbling around trying to find his marbles. “Humourous” bones aside, my imagination is all I have left. Bangerang.

*ti

**before his death in 1937, Barrie passed on the rights to Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street [Children’s] Hospital in London, which has significantly helped fund the institution since

Out of the Shadows

A few days ago, as I was making use of the sun’s rare appearance–after a typically extensive Pittsburgh winter–I walked on down to what’s known as The Point: where the inner city congregates to a “point” and meets the three rivers its surrounded by. It’s quite a nice area, with trees and greenery, ample places to sit and reflect, lamps that look like those dentist mirrors to see what lurks behind your teeth.. and as such, guys, gals, geese and gulls seemed to share the same idea as me: to give the body a brisk stretch and be reminded of the sun’s warm rays–but not so much their next visit to the tooth surgeon.

As I made a couple of loops of the designated walkways, my feet, but more so, my mind, as it so often does, began to wander. I was reminded of part of a comedian’s routine when my eyes became drawn to the numerous shadowed shapes that lay strewn across the ground, not least, people’s own shadows. I remember the comedian commenting, somewhat frustratingly on the sun’s behalf–all for comedic effect–about how far the sun’s rays have travelled, only for their final destination–the earth’s surface–to be blocked by some kind of inanimate object: a park bench, a table, a dentist-mirror-lamp-thing. Sure, it wasn’t side-splitting, but it presented an interesting point all the same.

Think about that for just one second. Our sun–the primary source of energy for all life–lies approximately 93 million miles away from this planet we call home. The rays of light we see when our shining star decides to put his hat on for the day (as the popular nursery rhyme goes), essentially, takes just over eight minutes to reach our atmosphere due to it travelling at the speed of light–a rate of knots measured at 186,282 miles per hour, per second. To put that into perspective (thanks space.com), if us mere humans could travel at that speed, we’d be able to circle the globe 7.5 times in just one second.

Huike Thinking by Chinese Song Dynasty painter Shi Ke – Dazu Huike was the Second Patriarch of Chán meditation, now known as Zen Buddhism

And yet, as spectacular as that is, and as mind-blowing as those numbers are, some light is only ever destined to be turned into darkness, by way of a shadow. It was at this moment, I applied that same thought to my own, and potentially, other people’s lives. After all, here I am, nearly a year after graduating, in the process of calculating which direction I want to turn, which fork-in-the-road I want to take, which life I want to create for myself.

You see, for me, the shadows I saw that day represented the stumbling block–sometimes writers block–I find myself in now. Whilst I’ve succeeded in what I set out to do up until this point–much like the sun rays’ interstellar journey until their inevitable disappointment–I’m not entirely sure where I want to head, what I want to do, and, once I do know, how I’m going to get there.

These are thoughts I’m sure many of us have had at some stage or another. I don’t expect mine will cease any time soon, but that isn’t something I’m concerned about. I honestly believe they’re healthy thoughts to have. They keep my conscience fresh, my cerebral cortex whirring, and my head, as level as it can be. At least, that’s what my brain is telling me to tell itself. Ahem.

So while I may feel “stuck” at this current point in time (dreaming of glue of all things last night by the way), not knowing exactly where I’m heading, both in the short and long-term, or even if I’ll be living in this great United States for much longer, I’d do well to remember that my final destination will present itself in time. And in that time, I’m almost certain the shadow of my uncertainty will begin to waver, and the light of my purpose will begin to shine. But most importantly, I must also remember, that sometimes, it’s the journey of getting to that end, like the hyperspaced voyage of the sunbeams we may soon see a lot more of, that encompass the most adventure, and experiences, of all.

Cupid’s Tarot

I spent a fair amount of time on Friday talking about “luck”, and, in doing so, attempted to psychologically outwit myself, and my pessimism, by declaring–in a typically sarcastic fashion–that my fortune may well change heading into Valentine’s Day the next day. Well, to cut a very short story even shorter, it didn’t. So much for that tactic, eh?

Maybe next time I’ll get a palm-reading, or better yet, get in touch with one of those tarot-card-fortune-teller-whatsit-persons. You know the one’s; they look like crazy-cat-lady people but they’re more bohemian-looking and actually have a job. Not that crazy-cat-lady people don’t have jobs, I’m just saying. I guess I just assume they don’t have jobs ‘cos they’re too busy looking after their house(s)-full of cats and screaming at young children from their decrepit 19th-century mansion porches for no reason whatever except that they didn’t bring them another cat to look after. That’s how I imagine them anyway. Nevermind. Put that down as a digression.

The point is, no bare-skinned mythological cherub-God with wings holding a bow ready to induce romance with the precise aim of his arrows going by the name of “Cupid” turned up. I assume he was busy–or maybe just savvy. It was spectacularly cold yesterday and, well, you know, a drop in temperature can have an “effect” on “things”. If you catch my drift. The kid/cherub God/kid-cherub-God is always naked for goodness sake. How can he be in possession of a weapon and not have any clothes?! That’s just begging for child-God social services to get involved. Nevermind. Go on, put another ‘tick’ next to the digression box.

Distractions aside, whilst romance wasn’t too prominent this past weekend, having issues with the local transport system, was. But I’m sure that’s fairly typical news to those of you reading this from Pittsburgh so I shan’t divulge. To those out-of-state, in short, I was caught in a blizzard and left in below-freezing weather for more than an hour thanks to the anti-prompt, pro-tardiness attitude of the bus system here. Could be worse mind you–at least I had some clothes on.

Amazingly, nonetheless, I happened to be left somewhat inspired by at least one of my journey’s. Having taken my seat towards the back, as I usually do, and finding a spot that was at best either a) only slightly dirty or b) only slightly dirty (it’s impossible to find an area that isn’t), I shuffled across to take the window seat and placed my backpack stuffed full of gym gear beside me. Directly in front of me was a short barricade with plexiglass attached to the top to separate the standing area and second door with the back half of the bus. On the barricade, in purple marker pen and written by an unsteady hand, read the words “We all want to leave a mark”.

This time, irony aside–considering the perpetrator had already left theirs–I began to think about the significance of the words and it struck me that something as juvenile as a hurried scribble of graffiti written within the confines of a public vehicle could be as profound as it was. I mean, isn’t it true? Don’t we all want to leave behind some kind of legacy before our time is up?

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none” – William Shakespeare

I’m certain everyone does, and certain everyone has a different perspective of how to do that: it could be through finances earned, perhaps; how prestigious one’s job title is; how many cars, houses and other such possessions are accumulated; or how many women and/or men one can be with in a lifetime; how many places one can travel (but not necessarily experience) to; [for the sadists out there] it could be about committing the worst of crimes even; but for me, there’s only one way I want–strive–to leave a mark: through the relationships I forge. The connections I make. The love I give.

All too often such a simple concept gets lost amongst the humdrum of everyday living. And sure, having a stable job, sufficient funds and iPhone-like technology is great, it makes things a lot easier, but what will any of that matter when your life’s time has finally ticked its last tock? The legacy of your character, will, I believe, last for generations, and that’s something worth living for without much doubt at all.

And to think a potentially prepubescent, dosed up on felt-tip-fumes high-school tearaway whose most notable concern currently is which bus to vandalize next held more of an influence over me recently than a Roman God. Pull your socks up* Cupid. Oh wait, you don’t have any.

*British idiom: to make an effort to improve your work or behaviour because it is not good enough

Friday the 13th

Paraskevidekatriaphobia. Don’t worry, I haven’t fallen asleep on the keyboard, that would be both terribly lazy and terribly unprofessional, and bearing in mind I’m not yet a professional writer, I suppose I shouldn’t have to worry about that too much. No, the word you see before you is in fact the “scientific” name given to the fear of today’s date itself. From the Greek words Paraskeví (meaning ‘Friday’) and dekatreís (‘thirteen’)–I continue to find a use for Wikipedia even after graduating college–a new word for us to verbally-volley and indeed tongue-twist around, and new fear, was born.

Say what you like about Greece; it maybe the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy and the Olympic Games, but as hard-to-pronounce, convoluted, overly complex (like this sentence) words go, they’re most definitely gold medal winners. Reasonable consolation for a country who currently finds itself in economic turmoil, I think you’ll agree.

I suspect a lot of people don’t actually know why the superstition exists, so here’s a brief explanation.

Surprisingly, the stition only became super as recently as the 20th century and its main influence, supposedly, can be found in religious doctrine and one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous paintings, The Last Supper. Not only does the artwork feature 13 people present at the table, but one of whom, Jesus himself, would, the following day (a Friday), be crucified. To some scholars, the 13th person at the table is also said to be Judas–the apostle apparently responsible for Jesus’ arrest, then death. Thus, the attachment of bad luck to the day, especially in Western culture, has since stuck. Ahh religion, you and your superstition are, as Forrest Gump once said, just like peas and carrots. Ironically enough, that historic combo of vegetables also made up part of the supper itself. (I made that bit up).

But is the bad luck always warranted? Is the superstition true?

Well, to put it bluntly, no. If anything, the day can actually be safer because of other people’s fears to travel and/or complete their daily routines as a result of being more careful and cautious. In America alone, it’s estimated that a total of 17-21 million people are affected by the fear of today’s date but then this is a country that has to officially outlaw bear wrestling (Alabama) to stop any such activity with the locals occurring and also the country that has made it illegal to lie down and fall asleep with your shoes on (North Dakota), so when one really thinks about it, is it any wonder as many people the size of Chile’s entire population can be afraid of one day? Must I answer…

Flawlessly transitioning as I sometimes do, Chile also holds a prominent–probably the most notable–relation to the day too. Dramatized in the 1993 film Alive, on Friday 13th October 1972 a plane carrying 45 Uruguayan passengers and crew, including those of a professional rugby club hailing from Montevideo, Uruguay, crashed in the Andes mountains as it ventured towards the Chilean capital, Santiago. Against all odds, luck remained for 16 of the 45 on board, who survived, having spent more than two months in near-unsurvivable conditions. They did, famously however, have to eat body parts of the deceased to do so.

Remind me next time, with unparalleled swiftness, to flick through the Uruguay-to-Chile-with-a-prolonged-layover-in-the-Andes-mountains-wilderness-but-comes-with-human-à-la-carte-menu-option page in the travel brochure would you? Thanks, appreciate it.

So what does it all mean? Well, much like this blog post, likely, nothing. So go on and enjoy the day. It’s like any other day but spookier for no reason. The fact is, I had some time to kill and felt like writing about the significance of the date. Which has none. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I’m delaying the inevitable that as soon as I open the front door and step out, my day’s good fortune will dissipate with the below freezing wind-chill. Nope, absolutely nothing to do with that at all. Call me a Paraskevidekatriaphobiac if you wish–I’ll know, as ever, it’s just Pilkinton luck. But all’s well that ends well, it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow–maybe that’s about to change.

*cough*

Bed Space

Sometimes, just sometimes, another’s words say so much more about how I feel  than I ever could. If you’re not familiar with the music of Darwin Deez, you should be. Poetry.

I’m in outer space on my side of the bed
On a floating mattress my eyes stare ahead
You don’t sleep here anymore

Hovering alarm clock is my, satellite
Under little specks of starlight, on a flight
You don’t sleep here anymore
You don’t sleep here anymore

I don’t know where I am
I am so lost
I’m just drifting around
Since you’ve been gone
I’m just wasting time away
I’m just wasting time in space

See a little asteroid pass by, underneath
There’s an empty space on your side, And I can’t sleep

I don’t know where I am
I am so lost
I’m just drifting around
Since you’ve been gone
I’m just wasting time away
I’m just wasting time

I pull my covers, over my head
Hope you know I, wish I were dead
I can’t seem to, get out of bed
Going nowhere; everything is wrong

I don’t know where I am
I am so lost
I’m just drifting around
Since you’ve been gone
I’m just wasting time away
I’m just wasting time away

I don’t know where I am
I am so lost
I’m just drifting around
Since you’ve been gone
I’m just wasting time away
I’m just wasting time in space

Love Is

Let me start, first of all, by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, or, if you prefer, Happy Holiday Season depending on the celebrations you impart this time of month–who am I to discriminate after all? That’s religions job. Ahem. Or better still, Amen.

Tongue-in-cheekiness aside, there is no doubt that this time of year is a special time, whether you’re religious or not, and we all share a common reason for that I’m sure.

As I type this, I find myself, once again–although by my own choice I must note–away from my family for Christmas. Birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, or any other family occasion aside, as far as I’m concerned, if there’s one holiday of the year that deserves to be spent with family, it’s Christmas Day. Having become accustomed to the traditions of Thanksgiving whilst living here in the States, I realize many of you reading this might hold a different opinion, but remember, I come from a place that doesn’t celebrate “Turkey Day” as it’s affectionately known here, and thus Christmas, to me at least, is, and will remain, the grandaddy of family holidays.

Last year, however, I did make it home, leaving my then-girlfriend behind (in tears) to see “them” all for Jesus’ two-thousandth-and-something birthday for the first time in three years. Make no mistake, I had a great time, and there really is no better feeling than walking through the front door of your childhood home to be welcomed back by a roaring coal-fire (after always landing in rain… always!) accompanied by a Wonka’s-factory-full (good job Mum!) of festive tinsel, decorations and lights; lights that flicker so frequently that it would be impossible for any weary traveller not to snap out of an ocean’s-worth of jet lag right then and there.

I watched the usual Christmas films I usually watch with my brother before, during and after the event itself, had the traditional pint down the local pub with friends on Christmas Eve and woke up the brightest and earliest on “the” day to make teas all-round and open the first batch of cards and presents together, looking out upon a typically dreary (still!) English Christmas Day. But something was missing that I wouldn’t realize until I reached the shores of America once more.

Her.

But pay no mind, this post isn’t about her in particular. It’s about more than that. See, whether you think it sounds corny or cheesy or not, I don’t really care, but love is a force to be reckoned with to say the least. The way I see it, the love of my family has no competitors; it’s a love that’s inherent–immovable if you will. It just exists. It just is. Whether I’m here 3,000 and more miles away or backpacking in Australia even further away, the point is, wherever I am, their love is in me. I feel it, but feel it even more so when I’m actually in their company, of course.

In contrast, the love of a lover, partner, companion, whatever your preference, is something that evolves–constantly–sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. At that present point–my departure for home last year–I wasn’t exactly sure where “it” was, where I was, but I knew that in my mere state of missing her whilst I was home, that she maybe meant more to me than I had first realized early on in the relationship.

Regardless of my realization then, seemingly, it wasn’t to be, as, ironically enough, I was later unable to realize her apparent disinterest in me, thus resulting in us breaking up. Today, we don’t even talk. It’s as if we were ever anything at all. But as hard as that is to say, the fact is, it’s not in my nature to stop caring. And maybe that sounds foolish, naive even, and maybe I’m just setting myself up for future and unnecessarily prolonged heartache, hurt and disappointment. Maybe you’re right. You know what, you most likely are.

But maybe, just maybe, I’m not being any of those things at all. Maybe my way is the right way. Maybe I shouldn’t have to apologize for who I am. Maybe I should just be who I know I am. Maybe I should just be allowed to care about those who I, well, care about, without giving much thought to how they treated me. Maybe it’s me who still needs to evolve.

Until that time comes, I do know this: Christmas is a time for giving, a time for loving, and a time for laughing. In my world, we’d be in a much better place if we celebrated Saint Nick’s and his reindeers arrival every day of the year.

Have a bloomin’ great Christmas.

PS – I truly hope you get that pair of socks and underpants from dear old Grandma.

Moving Right Along

Seldom have I ever really, truly, paid tribute to my own achievements. Those of you who know me know it isn’t really in my makeup to delve deep within myself to find enough traces of arrogance to celebrate who I am purely for the sake of celebrating. I’m too humble for that. I always have been. But just because I don’t particularly celebrate my successes gun-ho, doesn’t mean I’m not a confident person. Make no mistake, there’s a difference between arrogance and confidence. As the Russian novelist and philosopher Leo Tolstoy put it

“An arrogant person considers himself perfect. This is the chief harm or arrogance. It interferes with a person’s main task in life – to become a better person.”

And I’m not perfect. Not by a long shot. And I likely–never–will be.

But I’m not saying arrogance is a trait that’s never needed. I believe in some instances it is, such as competitive sport, when it’s used–either individually or collectively, depending on the event–to intimidate the opposition into submission for that ever sacred ‘W.’ But in all honesty, apart from such occurrences, I seek to practice behaviour that comes from more of a confident humility, if there can be such a thing. A ‘I know I’m good at what I do or look good as I am, but you don’t all need to know that’ (til now!) kind of behaviour. In some respects I liken it to how some people tend to practice their religion. For example, I believe in what I believe but I don’t need to go door-to-door to push my belief onto other people, whereas others (more often than not, those who are religious, if I may say so), do–as far as I’m concerned, that’s arrogance.

There. I hope that’s cleared my position up.

Regardless of where you stand in relation to the above opinion, the point is, the two traits should never be confused. Arrogance doesn’t trump confidence. It never will. And as Tolstoy remarks, arrogance merely stems the flow of personal growth, and why would anyone ever want to do that? I’d like to think I’m still growing.

That being said, this past week I managed to extend my stay in America at least into next year, with the view to stay until the expiration of my VISA in July. By that time I’ll have needed to find a full-time job to stay for the foreseeable otherwise my time here will no doubt be up for good. Nonetheless, positive news which was long-overdue.

To those unfamiliar, and to give you the short version, I started my academic and athletic journey in the States in 2008 having followed through with the flash of inspiration I got a year previously after working my first year at an American summer camp in West Virginia. I met a lot of friends that year, some of whom I treasure to this day, but having reached the shores of England once again to fall back into the routine mundaneness of bar work and alcopop-filled-weekends, I realized I wanted more–not of the drinking culture that my homeland encourages but more of America; more of the friends I had met; and more of, well, life.

Making the decision to move here wasn’t to be taken lightly, of course. I had to leave my family behind–everyone–after all. But as an independent soul and lover of the game that brought me here–football (yes, soccer!)–there was an opportunity here I couldn’t turn down, but not before having to prove my abilities through extensive trials back home. I did.

Then I made the move. But my time in upstate New York wasn’t without its difficulties–not playing as much as I had hoped for, for one–but I could never regret it. Whilst the horrors of a winter spent that far north will haunt me til my dying days, as well as some of its local inhabitants (sorry), my time spent in the classrooms there got me to where I am now, while the friendships forged, still last today.

I left Herkimer in the spring of 2009 having run my bank account dry (not before winning a National Championship). Up to that point I had pretty much spent my whole life savings, whether on tuition or housing or buying useless junk at the nearest Walmart because that was the most exciting thing to do in the evenings–I kid you not–it was that kind of town.

Finding myself back home, it didn’t take long for me to get back into the drudgery of a customer service job to earn a few dollars (or what would become dollars) for the “next step.” What that next step was at the time, I wasn’t so sure, so in between figuring that side of things out–if I wanted to continue college–in late 2010 and early 2011 I travelled to parts of Europe and then Israel, respectively. Travel broadens the mind, remember?

Settling back home in earlyish 2011, and deciding to pursue my education here for definite, both indoors and out, the ball quickly began to roll not long after my return. Those who knew me at the time will serve as testament to what I had prophesied, but during my time at camp, I said all along that I could one day end up in Pittsburgh (where the organization who ran the camp was based from), although I do admit, I sometimes said it without fully believing in its potentiality.

Nevertheless, it happened in the fall of 2011 and there I was in a scorching month of August during my first pre-season for my new university, meeting new teammates and coaches alike. Surprisingly, it took a while for me to settle in, and over the course of the first two months I wasn’t particularly comfortable but as we started to gel, everything began to click. I believe it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Not only did we (our team) break ground in terms of the program and become a winning group of players for a very long time (winning a Conference Championship in 2012 for the first time in university history), but we broke ground as teammates. It’s hard to explain if you’re not familiar with the comradery a sports team can produce but I don’t think I’ll ever play with a group of players again that were as close as we were. Bear in mind: those relationships off the field translate to the pitch too. It makes it so much easier to play well if you just know the other person. Where G will play the next pass; where H will run to next; where I should run if J has the ball (I do hope that alphabetized pattern was appreciated as much as I had planned) Is it any wonder we were successful? I miss those days playing, even training, but I’m very thankful to have been a part of them.

Skipping ahead, in May of this year I graduated with a B.A. in Journalism, bringing a curtain down (for now) on my institutionalized education. It may have taken an unorthodox amount of time for me to get there but I got there. The fact is, since 2007, when the idea first entered my mind about playing and studying here, I have achieved everything, and more, I set out to achieve; even now, this past summer, when I decided to stay-on and work for as far as it would take me, and now I have that chance. Come 2015, I’ll have been here on-and-off for seven years. Seven! (Great film by the way).

Along the road, I’ve had my doubts, and others have too, as well as my fair share of bumps, bruises and scrapes, but I’m still where I want to be. I still have an incredible, incredibly, talented, core of friends–here and abroad–whose kindness really knows no bounds. I still have a family who is behind me one-hundred percent whatever I decide to do and wherever I may be however hard it is for them emotionally for me to be away from home for so long. I still have a heap of ambition I’m yet to fully realize. I still want to see as much of the world as I possibly can. But most importantly, in my own traditionally humble opinion, I still believe in love.

I’m still, me.

Just A Dreamer

lennonToday marks what would have been the 74th birthday of John Lennon, the instrumental lead-singer, songwriter and co-founder of the Beatles and just as influential activist, thinker, and dreamer. During a career that spanned 18 years from 1957-1975, and briefly again in 1980, Lennon was the superstar of his day, helping create an untouchable new form of Rock ‘n’ Roll music that crossed two decades and stands the test of time even now–and will for the foreseeable. While admittedly not a perfect man, as he himself acknowledged, particularly during his abusive relationship with first wife Cynthia Lennon (nee Powell), Lennon would later become the Pied-Piper-Protagonist-of-Peace from the late 60s until his death in 1980, having realized violence was not the right path for any, and his own, purpose.

Lennon wasn’t only a great musician but an ideological maverick. Throughout his activist days, controversy followed him. Not because he was doing anything particularly wrong but because his voice went against those of the mainstream at the time (sound familiar?) And as someone constantly in the spotlight, his voice was heard, and heard by many. The best example of this was in March 1969 when Lennon and newly married partner, Yoko Ono, staged a week-long “Bed-In for Peace” protest during their honeymoon to Amsterdam to express their opposition to the ongoing Vietnam War. Quarantining themselves to a hotel room, the pair knew their marriage would be a public event and decided to use the publicity to promote World Peace.

Amsterdam “Bed-In”, 1969

Three months later, the couple staged a second bed-in protest in Montreal, Canada where Lennon wrote the song Give Peace a Chance. The single was soon adopted by the anti-war movement of the time and sung by an approximate crowd of 250,000 people at a demonstration in Washington D.C. later that year in November.

It would take another six years for that war to be over, but as history has made a point of telling us since, despite all the mockery that was sent Lennon’s way, his message, along with the hundreds of thousands of hippies who shared the same opinion, was surely the right one after all when compared to the lost lives–and failed objectives–of the war itself.

“Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we’re being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I’m liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That’s what’s insane about it.”

It’s strange, and yet, on this day, somewhat poetic to think that we could do with a similar message to what Lennon and Yoko strived for then, today. October 9th 2014 is the now and look at what we’re faced with: an ever disparaging economy between the lower and upper classes; street riots between the people and the law enforcement forces who exist(!) to “protect” us; an everlasting war in Middle East; workplace/gender inequality; marriage inequality; you name it. Where did it all go wrong?

Peace & Love mural by Banksy, San Francisco

Now, although I love my bed, I’m not suggesting we should all grab a camera and film ourselves behind the closed doors of our bedrooms (wink, wink) and send our tapes into the mass media (post-watershed) as a protest to how and why we’ve been led to this mess by the flawed decision makers who control the “system”, but I do think it’s time to wake up and smell the roses (see image above).

Lest we forget, as a public, it is us who should hold accountable those we vote into office, not the other way around. In fact, “they” work for us, a truth I believe can sometimes be forgotten amongst the hyperbole and rhetoric that is shoved down our throats day after day by the mainstream TV networks–who should be held accountable just as much by the way.

Ultimately, no one person on this planet has more of a right to life, and indeed, happiness, than the other, and certainly doesn’t have the right to make another person’s a misery. We’d do well to remember, however, that not everyone is granted even the most basic rights from the get-go, but that shouldn’t mean that those of us in more fortunate positions in society can’t speak up for them either. So while it’s easy to dismiss the essence of Lennon’s message…

“If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliché that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.”

…as a hippie, liberal and unrealistic notion, especially with what we see happening in the world today, what do you suppose is the counter solution? To continue to accept the hate, discrimination, and suffering we see enacted by our fellow man and woman upon others? Surely not. What an injustice to our intelligence that would be. So what do I say? How about this: Think logically. Question constantly. Act appropriately. Love honestly. Will it change the world? Probably not. But shouldn’t we at least try? Just Imagine if it did.

Blinded By The Lights

I’ve written about it before and I’m writing about it again. The stars. What wonderful majesty. At least, when you can see them. One of the downsides of living in a populated city like Pittsburgh is the light pollution. On a clear night one can look up to the sky and barely see a flicker. The pin-dot diamonds are there, but they’re just not visible. And all because our personal safety is more important than nature. Damn you street lights. Damn you.

On those brief nights when I’ve ventured far enough away from downtown and my hopeful look up is rewarded with some nighttime artistry, the sight always reminds me of where I want my next adventure to be: Scandinavia. I’ve heard and read so many good things about that part of the world that I’ve prospectively made it my next “trip”–sssshhhh don’t tell it. A big part of my reasoning relates to what I’ve already been talking about: the night sky. To venture that far north, as close to the Arctic Circle as it is, means one thing: Aurora Borealis (see first image on link below)the Northern Lights to the average soul–one of the most spectacularly natural wonders this world has to offer.

Shivering next to Goðafoss Waterfall, Iceland

Although the sight of such is said to be breathtaking, and could no doubt be seen over and over again by the same set of eyes, I haven’t yet been witness to its colourful choreography. When I visited Iceland a few years ago, I thought I might be, having booked an excursion to travel to those untouched spots of the country that were free of any man-made light.

Lo and behold, luck wasn’t on my side, as the clouds made an untimely appearance and spoiled the potentiality of seeing what I had gone, nay, paid to see.

Posing atop Mýrdalsjökull glacier, Iceland

Nevertheless, my trip to Iceland was far from a wasted journey. Although the “lights” escaped me, traversing a [receding] glacier, relaxing at the Blue Lagoon natural hot springs resort, tripping to two of the biggest waterfalls in Europe and all-round loving the country and the charm of its people, didn’t. In any case, I’ll certainly be going back to discover more of what I missed last time.

It is fascinating to me though to think that the human body is made up of what is generally considered, at least by the expert astrophysicists that tell us, stardust–leftover remnants of the Big Bang which took place over 13 billion years ago. Essentially, the atoms we have in our bodies today: the calcium in our bones; the carbon in our genes; the iron in our blood, to name but a few, came from the skies all that time ago. Granted, not everyone out there is a believer of such a theory and may find more comfort in the view that our existence was the work of an intelligent creator. I accept that’s the case. I don’t necessarily agree with such a position but that doesn’t mean there aren’t those who do–of course, many do.

Royal Greenwich Astronomy Photographers of the Year 2014 Winners

To me, however, it’s all too easy to place the wonder of our universe in the hands of a divine entity. In my eyes, it takes away the spectacle of nature by definition. It placates the notion that the natural world is a multiplying, producible, livable, breathable and survivable manifestation unto itself. It dissolves the responsibility the environment has had around, and on us, literally, and passes it on to 2,000 year old scripture, literary. Inspired by such a concept, I am not. Inspired by the magnificence of Mother Nature, and science, I am.

But to some, the ideas are collusive. A few days ago, as I was walking downtown on my way to the gym, I was stopped by a Christian Bible-study “recruiter” (who, ironically, did his best Moses impression by parting the sidewalk as people walked on by). Rather than do the same, I decided to hear him out and listen to what he had to say. Amicable though our conversation was, as soon as he began to proclaim that the Good Word was indeed “scientific”, I’m afraid he lost me. Faith is faith and science is science. Why pretend it’s anything other than that? If ones convictions about the existence of a God are that strong, why play them off as science, and in turn, give them a fact-based benchmark they won’t be able to live up to? It surely does no favours to the arguments held.

It’s a common misconception–and insult–of believers (not Beliebers) that atheists must lead unfulfilling and miserable lives because of our refutation of “Him”, but specifically, our outlook upon it being the end and not the beginning at the time of death. Quite the opposite in fact. It’s exactly because of this reasoning that we realize we must enjoy and appreciate our beautiful time now. Unlike the religious, atheists don’t welcome death with open arms in the belief that Paradise awaits. It’s just a sad case of life. We also don’t look upon a detestable event like the Rapture (where believers are taken up to Heaven with Jesus after His final resurrection leaving the rest of us to perish on Earth) as something that makes our hearts fill with joy. But hey, where would we get our morality from if it wasn’t for religion?

These thoughts and opinions are my own, of course. Believe what you want to believe. By all means belieb what you want to belieb (if you like his music that much), but I do, however, invite you to click on the top link featuring the most recent winners of the Astronomy Photography of the Year competition, and to watch the above clip of the late Christopher Hitchens as he delivers one of his most famous speeches about the universe in which we live and then ask yourself this question: What sounds more awe-inspiring to you?

Whatever your answer, keep twinkling like the lovely little star you [really] are.

Ripples in the Water

I didn’t sleep too well last night. For the first time in my life I found myself waking up around two o’clock in morning in a state of unrelenting despair. I’m not too sure why but when you begin a mild span of hyperventilation, you know there must be some kind of prominence behind it. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t enjoyable. So much so that I could feel my heart racing to the point of rare concern. Let’s face it: you just never know. Thankfully, rather than falling back asleep on a more permanent basis, I managed to calm down and did my best to rest my eyes until the morning. A few hours later, the morning came. Relief.

Rather than let my seemingly suppressed emotions control the behaviour of my cardio apparatus again, today I headed to the gym to get the blood pumping in a more appropriate and controlled fashion. After a decent session involving an array of leg contortions, arm contractions and full body gyration[s], I left the premises safe in the knowledge that my workout worked out swimmingly (I didn’t make use of the pool). Refueled after a snack bag full of nuts and raisins and one of those overwhelmingly tasteless protein bars, I headed to the nearest point of Pittsburgh’s well-used riverwalk to sample a fresh bout of brisk air.

Once there, I took the time to be still and just watch, being sure to take in a few deep breaths [of pollution] as a reward for my recovering lungs. I wasn’t looking at anything in particular, just the river itself mainly, and the indolent birds of whom the water adopts as its own without fuss. It was a particularly fresher day in the city today in comparison to the mild to high heat of recent weeks and, as such, the fair wind did well to leave its mark on the liquid arteries that surround the beating hub of downtown.

Gazing as I was, as the breeze flicked the surface of the river, the ripples in the water grew and grew. The reflections of the clouds made for a serene, albeit trance-like picture. I couldn’t say why but I was transfixed. Then I recalled. The last time I remembered being pulled into a scene of similar setting like that was with my ex when we took a stroll to the nearby lake (much like the above image) close to where she lives in her hometown.

It was closer to winter than we are now for I can hear the rigamortis-like crunch of the leaves under the weight of my boot as I carefully crossed the crystallized snow of which they were covered. We had gone to skip stones; a small and yet just as enjoyable way to spend time. It’s the simple things in life, right?

Digging our nails into the dirt at the banks edge to find the perfect flat-edged stone, we proceeded to skip our champions of sediment as far as we could, paying no mind to the tranquility of their host, or the harsh cold that had been bullying us since our arrival. Rocks skipped, rocks succeeded, rocks sank, and like today, ripples were rendered. Smiles too for that matter.

Is it not true that a ripple begins with one and then multiplies, much like how a single special moment in time can lead to many more just like it? It may sound silly but the waves I saw on the river today reminded me of that memory, and while I know that wasn’t our first time together, I know that my actions beforehand–as well as hers–had helped us get to that point, which in turn encouraged us to experience many more.

I’m not sure I’m a believer of fate, but isn’t it an amazing thought to think that during our lifetime we all have the power to be the stone that sends a succession of romance-inducing ripples through to someone elses heart? For now, I find myself at the bottom of the lake, but look on the bright side: you’re probably a better stone-skipper than me.

What Ifs

Have you ever just taken a step back from the trials and tribulations of everyday living to reassess the situation? To try to find that ever-elusive bigger picture?

A couple of days ago I found myself in Washington D.C., not only to visit friends, but quite frankly, just to get out of Pittsburgh for a short while. I needed a change of scenery. Although it was only a brief stopover, far from watch the hours count down as my hosts ventured to work during the day, I made the most of D.C.’s last sweltering summer days of the year to take up my own [ad]venture and head out and explore the area. I’ve been to the capital before so rather than be that tourist again, on advice from the resident, er, resident, I took to the streets to find a particular restaurant so to fill the needs and greeds of my impatient innards during the lunch hour rush.

I like walking. I like eating better, but walking is fun too. Plus, it’s healthy for you, both physically and mentally, which is a good thing when you consider once again the statement I just made about how much I like eating. In fact, scientific studies have shown that walking on a frequent and consistent basis can not only help ward off Alzheimer’s disease, but can lead to “bigger brains, better memories and can help improve a person’s all-round mental ability” [BBC]. If you don’t believe me, just look at the image below. It’s science. It can’t be refuted. Unlike G… nevermind.

Anyway, that’s enough journalistic research for one night (Google), I must make my point before I become the chief contributor for you all becoming braindead.

So on my mission to find the sandwich joint I was recommended after my gut letting me know that’s what it demanded (lies, more so the result of the fact I couldn’t bear to decide which chinese restaurant to pick being in and amongst Chinatown), I was stopped in my tracks by a guy on the sidewalk who recognized my attire (an England football shirt) and proceeded to make chat with me about it. Not in too much of a rush–though my interior growls would argue otherwise–rather than dismiss his attempts to sign me up to the charity he was working for, we shared background stories, talked football, and joked, before he finally divulged the information he needed to share. Though I couldn’t be of assistance on that occasion, we shook hands and passed on pleasant goodbyes before going our separate ways. All in all, a respectful encounter, lasting a mere five minutes, if that.

Now while we certainly hadn’t become friends in that amount of time, not long after I left him there on the sidewalk to be ignored by his fellow human for the majority of his day, it struck me: I’d never see that man again. But that in itself didn’t bother me, after all, I didn’t know him, nor did he know me, but it made me think. It made me think of all those people who are in my life. All those that I do have interactions with, or could, potentially, have with in the future. It made me realize how important it is not to take things for granted. How important it is to just, well, use our voice.

Talk. Open up. Be honest.

I’m no pessimist, nor do I care for the proponents of nihilism but if and when you think about that idea for a second, just ask yourself this one question: What if, by the time you said what you wanted to say to someone, it was too late?

Maybe you’re waiting to repair a family feud until the time is right. Or waiting to tell a friend how much you appreciate them being a part of your life. Or waiting to tell that special person how much you love them.

Unfortunate though it is, it’s a part of our make-up as “the” apex-predator to believe that we have a divine right to life, but the simple fact is, whether we like it or not, we don’t. To change tact just briefly, in the animal kingdom, a juvenile Mayfly usually lives up to a year before it begins its metamorphosis into an adult. Once matured, the adult may only live a few hours–maximum, a day–before it dies. Now is that not a perfect illustration of the precariousness of life itself? We develop, learn, create, grow, love, but in an instant it can all be lost. And that isn’t to sound morose, quite the opposite. Such a fact should startle us into appreciation of what we already have. Who we already have. And what we should do to keep it that way.

A bearer of great wisdom I am not, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my recent trip to D.C., it’s this: Don’t wait. Nothing lasts forever. Be pro-active, like with walking. Get the juices of life, laughter and love flowing. Not only will it’ll improve your memory. It’ll surely help create some.

The A-Dream

It was Mr. T who once said, “I pity the fool”, and although I was a little young to be an avid The A-Team viewer, heck, I wasn’t even born, that sentiment is certainly something I can relate to today. Why? you might ask. Well, because I may well be one By now, I’m sure a lot of you already know that I’m again a free soul. A free man. That isn’t to say I was ever enslaved. Or maybe I was. I never felt that way mind you. But at the very least, I was only ever bound by the chains of love and respect, which, apparently, doesn’t count for much these days, so here we are. Single once more.

As I sit here typing this, while the dulcet tones of Chris Martin, Coldplay and their hit single Magic ring out, I can’t help but think of the irony. If you’re familiar with the song, I’m sure you’ll understand why, particularly in relation to the events I’ve detailed above. “Broken into two” I have been, admittedly, these past couple of months, but far from me constructing some kind of sympathetic sob-story for you all to discard without much regard, this post is meant to act as something more, a conviction-bolsterer(?) if you will, for anyone who may have found themselves in a similar position, whether recently or at any time previously. My words, reassurances and actions, both past and present, weren’t meaningful enough to salvage what I had, but maybe they’ll find some use elsewhere, who knows. One can dream.

The truth of it is, throughout these last two months, during which my year-long relationship began to unfold, then crumble in front of my very eyes, it was all so new to me. Because of that fact, I was never really sure how to deal with it. Should I have let time heal the issues and concerns that arose and backed off more than I did? Should I have become a more active mind game player? Should I have been more assertive to help fix things? Maybe it didn’t make a difference. Maybe it was always a lost cause. Maybe I was too naive to think it wasn’t. The fact of the matter is, I still don’t know. Legitimate questions though they might be, what I do know, however, is that I haven’t any regrets about how I did cope with everything for a reason.

As a kid, I was never the type of person who would just say how they felt for fear of being judged or embarrassed by friends and peers alike. It took a long time for that insecurity to change. But gratefully, it did. However unfortunate the circumstances, I can thank my grandparents for that, as I must for a lot of things. Though my one Nan passed away when I was only six years old, into my late teens I experienced the deaths of my three remaining grandparents in the space of a few years. At the time, even in their old age, you never really think that they won’t be around anymore. A feeling I regret to this day.

Of course, they all knew I loved them, and I was young, but looking back, I wish I could have done, or at least, said, more than I did. I would have told both my Grandads that I thought they were heroes, for instance. Real, wartime heroes. I would have told both my Nans that no amount of hugs and kisses in the world could ever make-up for how they looked after me, making me realize how important it is to grow up a kind and considerate person in the process. I simply would have told them ‘I loved them’ more. I can’t turn back that time, but from their passing came my maturing. What a gift I was left.

Roll the clocks forward to this summer. There I am, relationship facing imminent disaster. What do I do? I let my heart do the talking. Foolish some might say. Maybe. But my past experiences have taught me otherwise. Did it work? Well, no, but why wouldn’t I tell her how I felt? Society today has reached a stage so far removed from actual humanistic and empathetic connection that I couldn’t bring myself to become an active contributor. It just isn’t realistic, especially in regards to those relationships personal to your own.

So, as you can imagine, whilst it was soul-destroying to find out that the thoughts, feelings and emotions I felt weren’t reciprocated and the memories we had made after so many good times spent together seemingly forgetful, I for one will continue to tell those who give my life meaning exactly what I feel, and perhaps you should too. I couldn’t think of anything worse than suppressing the regret of not doing so, wondering what if for years to come, or remaining silent until it’s too late, but maybe that’s just me. And sure, I didn’t get the outcome I had hoped for, but at least, deep down, I would know I remained true to my heart.

And that, that, should never be anything to be ashamed of.

Burning Question

At this point, I’m not entirely sure what else I can do. This past week or so has been one of the hardest I’ve ever had to cope with, and while I’m well aware that my troubles and worries are far less significant than a lot of people’s around the world, I have been subject to the feeling of turmoil, confusion and heartache nonetheless.

Relationships can be difficult. Though I’m far from an expert, in my recent experience, it seems even those happiest and enjoyable connections between two people aren’t exempt from being pulled down into the murky depths of skepticism. It can happen in an instant. Something you’re unlikely to see coming at all. I certainly didn’t. But in some respects, I get it: over a prolonged period of time, things may feel more strenuous than they once were, after all, it takes a lot of effort on both sides to keep the spark that ignited it all in the first place, lit.

But that spark had never burnt out.

Until just three weeks ago, it was positively explosive–quite literally–as we snuggled under a blanket together on the dewy damp grass at a local golf course to see in (or out), with her whole family, a spectacular fireworks display to mark the 4th July celebrations. In that moment alone, as booming decorations of every kind filled the night sky with technicolour light, and we shuffled closer together to keep each other warm from the ever-chilling air, I thought to myself, ‘Thisthis is something real’. In my 26-years of life on this planet, I never once had felt that before. That was one of many special moments we’ve shared, and a feeling I’d hope was reciprocated.

“Sometimes when things are falling apart, they may actually be falling into place.” – Anon

Roll the clocks forward to now, and things have changed, but certainly aren’t lost. It’s one of the hardest things to know that the person you fell deeply for (and who did for you) has doubts about “the future”, however long that future maybe. Having recently picked up a couple of jobs local to the area, I could well be around for another year, at least. A year I still believe could be better than its predecessor, if it’s wanted. Sure, commitment can be scary. I just fear regret is worse.

In my eyes, life’s too short to play games, overthink things or preempt events that haven’t even happened yet. As I see it, here and now, only a handful of people walk into your life who, separate from friends and family, flaws and all, truly make a difference to your own. Although I’ve been hurt, I know deep down we had something. Why would I ever want to give something as beautiful as that up prematurely?

When Time Stood Still

Unlike some of my friends, I’m not much of an actor. I used to hate taking mandatory Drama class during Secondary School. Not only was I no good at it–likely as a direct result of my introverted personality back then–but to make matters worse, my teacher wasn’t exactly endearing. I can’t remember her name, but I do remember she stood fairly small, was aged between mid-30s to early 40s, possessed a set of grossly yellow teeth thanks to her similarly gross smoking habit, and had long brownish red hair with grey streaks worn down her back that ceased at the backs of her legs. Although I didn’t have much of an imagination when it came to following her orders to act in front of the class on cue, I did have enough of one to imagine that she wouldn’t look out-of-place being cast as the Wicked Witch of the West if ever a local production of The Wizard of Oz rolled into town. The tribulations of a prepubescent pupil.

Nevertheless, there’s been times in recent memory when things have felt like I was playing a movie role, but have in fact, thankfully, been reality. I pay compliment to Mother Nature for her recent downpours of rain to help in my being reminded of one such occasion.

Not long into dating my current girlfriend last year, approximately mid-July to early August time I suspect, due to my housing crisis issues I was staying with a handful of friends at their apartment until their lease also expired. While I wasn’t new to dating, it had certainly been an ample amount of time since I had called upon my “wooing” instincts to “woo” someone of the opposite sex, though I had hoped I hadn’t forgotten to “woo with style”.

One particular afternoon, we arranged to meet up at the apartment to spend the day together. Making the most of the fact that the apartment, at the time, was empty of its actual inhabitants, I decided to take up the role as stand-in host. Looking at a break within the clouds, I decided to head to the nearby grocery store to pick up some items to cook for us both. Ever vigilant of the sky above us, we scuttled to the shop (no doubt looking like a pair of Olympic race-walkers) just in time before the heavens opened.

Relieved, we took our time to choose our tidbits, then waited at the exit doors to plan our next escape. By this point, the scant drizzle had turned into heavy precipitation; no longer was it a matter of staying dry, but how wet we were willing to get. Agreeing that we would make a dash for it and see how far we could get between downpours, after a hasty “1-2-3″ count, we ran as fast as the Homo sapien race possibly could while wearing flip-flops and carrying bags full of chicken and garden vegetables–an event I wouldn’t be surprised to see approved for the 2016 Olympics…

Three-quarters of the way back, after a gallant effort we simply had to surrender to the now Monsoon-like weather conditions (if you ever get caught in one that truly means life-or-death, just forget the flip-flops and shopping bags). Taking refuge in a sheltered staircase nearby, we decided to wait as long as possible for the storm to pass. In the mean time, things turned Hollywood. With the streets now clear of people, while the odd car or bus hit each puddle with purpose, the surrounding scene felt all the more surreal. We couldn’t just sit there. A moment had presented itself.

Taking a step higher to meet her at eye-level, dropping the bags below, we grabbed hold of each other around the waist and moved into kiss. Soggy though we were, as the rain kept falling, now wasn’t the time to worry about the damp or the chicken. Raw passion had firmly taken over. To this day I still remember that kiss, and likely won’t forget it, not when the rain moves in, especially. Moments like those don’t come around too often but it was Oscar worthy nonetheless. A fact my old drama teacher would be astounded by.

An Ode to Home

It’s been around 6 months since I was last home. Bourne End, Buckinghamshire to be exact. It’s very much a cliché, but I think we can all agree (maybe) that home is certainly where the heart is, wherever we may find ourselves living out our lives right now. Going back for Christmas was the first winter holiday I’d been back for for three years–a Pilkinton record! While the previous two years before then were 1) spent with the family of an ex-teammate and 2) spent taking a road trip to Washington D.C. (probably the least eventful Christmas Day I’ll ever have–no offence Dave!), the festivities, unsurprisingly, never quite felt the same, and never will.

While by now I’m certainly used to life in America–practically my second home now–there comes times, often randomly, when I’d rather be back at my first. There’s so much about England (or Great Britain as it’s usually referred to here!) that is unique to the country that I sometimes wonder why I left in the first place, though of course, I could never regret my experiences in the States. For all its flaws, I love it here too.

Going back to one of my past birthdays when I was unable to fly back for the summer, where I had saved the couple of presents I had sent to me, I proceeded to open one from my brother, a book, called Notes from a Small Island by American-born travel writer, Bill Bryson. The gift itself came with its own note, which read along the lines of: Just a little something to remind you of home, Love Bro (I assume it said ‘love’ anyway). Though I’m not an avid reader, it wasn’t long before I had read its last paragraph, thus paying compliment not only to how well written the book was, but also to my sibling’s sense of brotherly gift-buying.

A frosty morning on the moors of Bourne End and the River Thames

First released in 1995, the book reads as an account of Bryson’s last trip (at the time) discovering the intricacies–sometimes peculiarities–of Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland!) and its culture, before returning to his homeland after living in the UK with his family for more than twenty years. His reasons for doing so go a long way to describe the humour inherent in his writing.

“I had recently read that 3.7 million Americans, according to a Gallup poll, believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, so it was clear that my people needed me.”

To date, the book is widely revered by Britons themselves as one of the most realistic portrayals of the country itself, and considering Bryson’s years in the country, is written with as much sarcasm and wit that we would be proud to call him our own. To give you a taste of the work, here’s a short excerpt:

“Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain – which is to say, all of it. Every last bit of it, good and bad – Marmite, village fetes, country lanes, people saying ‘mustn’t grumble’ and ‘I’m terribly sorry but’, people apologizing to me when I conk them with a nameless elbow, milk in bottles, beans on toast, haymaking in June, stinging nettles, seaside piers, Ordnance Survey maps, crumpets, hot-water bottles as a necessity, drizzly Sundays – every bit of it.

What a wondrous place this was – crazy as fuck, of course, but adorable to the tiniest degree. What other country, after all, could possibly have come up with place names like Tooting Bec and Farleigh Wallop, or a game like cricket that goes on for three days and never seems to start? Who else would think it not the least odd to make their judges wear little mops on their heads, compel the Speaker of the House of Commons to sit on something called the Woolsack… What other nation in the world could possibly have given us William Shakespeare, pork pies, Christopher Wren, Windsor Great Park, the Open University, Gardners’ Question Time and the chocolate digestive biscuit? None, of course.”

And you know what, it’s true. We’re as barmy as they come. Sure, we have a darker history than most, but all that aside, where else can you eat something as peculiarly named as a chocolate digestive biscuit and consider it the norm?!

In fact, it wasn’t too long ago I was asked by my girlfriend, to paraphrase, Why are they called digestives? Are they something medical, to help you digest food? Shocked as I was to have a British institution as “digestive” biscuits are back home questioned about their integrity as a perfectly and commonly used biscuit to dunk in cups of tea nationwide, I didn’t actually have an answer. I had no idea why they were called that. Conducting research (I use the word as loosely as possible) since her query, I’ve since found out that her initial suspicions were correct, with certain ingredients when the biscuit was first made [in the 1880s], holding certain antacid properties. Who knew, eh? Well now you all do. If it ever turns up as a question on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, or Jeopardy!, you’re very welcome indeed. And brownie points go to her for being so correctly intuitive in the first place!

Anyway, aside from the great digestive debacle of 2014, I probably haven’t done the book much justice. I probably lost you after the second paragraph. I probably want a cup of tea and an appropriate dunking morsel to go with it right now. I may not have even sold my Motherland to you well enough, but regardless of any of the above possibilities, if you’re a book lover and Anglophile, as I now am, give it a once over yourself–you’ll be longing to be transported to the rolling hills, countryside pubs, and quaintly historic towns like Boggy Bottom in no time (yes it’s a real place).

As for me, I’m off to dream about sipping a nice cold cider near the banks of the Thames as the brisk valley air cuts through the sun’s rays and welcomes me home with a modestly British kiss on the cheek.