Friday, 22 August 2008

On Hampstead Heath

With an hour to spare before a meeting in Hampstead last night, I strolled up onto the Heath. It was a beautiful late summer's evening, the sun beginning to set behind sturdy cumulus clouds. The August bank holiday fun fair was already set up in the lower car park, the bumper cars neatly parked, the Wurlitzer in wraps.

I wandered through the deserted site; I've always felt strangely drawn to the traveller lifestyle. A rottweiler looked up eagerly at my approach. Around the perimeter of the site the trailers are parked up, washing hangs on the line, the latest model 4x4s with personalised plates, the mobile homes spick and span. Coming back out onto the path just above the lower pond, a red transit passed me. I caught up with it as the occupants exited, a man and a handsome woman in her 40s - we smiled at each other as I approached, a companionable smile.
'Are you looking for work?' She asked me.
'No, I'm all right thanks.' I replied. She held my gaze.
'Well, if you're looking for work, or you know anyone who does, just call here - she indicated the large white trailer behind her - and ask for Barry.'

I walked on, between the ponds, through the wild woods towards Parliament Hill. I felt extremely pleased that she'd asked me that question, whatever the implications..

Sitting on top of Parliament Hill, looking out across London, I felt a peace I've never felt before. Deep and constant; my heart is finally opening.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Here we go again

Summer? Ha! Rain spatters the window. The nights are closing in already. It's a full moon comedown. I'm partied out. Time to quit smoking, again..

From the recovery position on my couch I laughed, cried and punched the air between coughing fits through a golden Olympic weekend. But now it's Monday. Muted, moody, munted, mundane Monday. What to do? Bed by 10pm and Nausea by Jean-Paul Satre. Does life always have to be great? I celebrate the ordinary. Vive l'ordinaire.


Saturday, 2 August 2008

World Without End

Walking through the sleepy August streets today I was struck by how little life has changed; the same daily rituals are enacted today as they have always been. All that has changed is the perception that life is moving on at an ever increasing pace, and it is that illusion that fascinates me.

I wonder if in our limitless desire for the new we seek to escape from what is. Why are we so afraid of being? Why are we perpetually driven to fantasise about the future, or reminisce about, or continually revise and review our past?
The enduring fascination with sport illustrates this perfectly; in sport there is always another challenge, a new contender, the ever-present possibility that things might change for the better, for our team, for our hero.. and among football fans at least, the delicious schadenfreude in the anticipation or experience of our rivals downfall. We can happily remain stuck in this pseudo-reality for our whole lives. People claim allegiance to their team as a substitute for identity. It fulfils a deep need to belong, to be recognise, to experience life's glories vicariously.

Yes, we are apparently increasingly exhorted to explore these triumphs for ourselves, to go for it in the gym, to travel to far flung places; always more, always something else, always onwards. This kind of aspirational culture for the masses is something new, yet it goes hand in hand with a deep dissatisfaction with simply accepting what is. Acceptance in this sense is perceived as something negative, a cowardly surrender.

Yet in this dissatisfaction lie the seeds of liberation as well. This is what all spiritual texts point to; to look within, to find the way that leads to salvation from this world without end.

I find myself continually poised between desire and acceptance; I want to prove something to the world outside and to myself, I want to 'make it'. I want to be a contender. At the same time, I want to let go of this desperate pursuit and turn within. I think I enjoy the delicious suffering this induces. In a perpetual either or situation I find my identity stretches and warps, but at the same time deeper truth is revealed, a melting and reforging.

Maybe this seems like a melancholy first post for the revived West of Soho; no flash, no bravado, no tales of mishap or mayhem.. but then it is August. The month when London empties and for a month or so and there is a semblance of peace in our careworn streets. Plenty has changed since I last posted, and yet much remains the same.. all I can say for now is that I am conscious that I am different in some way.. and it is that subtle difference that I will try to elaborate in my future posts. So until then, take care out there dudes..