Saturday, 29 January 2011

Easy Going

Anyone who knows me well will understand that I tend to stroll along with projects, rather than beat myself up. Stress just ain't good for you.

I have always lacked ambition and drive and all those other neurotic motivators that the puritan speed-freaks like Mrs Thatcher (sleeps only 4 hours a night, and proud of it) seem to think of as the only way to live.

The Brits have adopted this approach from the Americans, too - so that the richer you get, the longer hours you work. [What's wrong with this equation?]

The poor spend their time watching the rich folks on television, cherry-picking among houses that cost half a million pounds, complaining about the lack of cupboard space, or the distance to the nearest school - and then saying they only have a budget of 50K to make the kitchen the way they want it, and add en suite toilets to all the bedrooms and such. All while driving to work every day in the SUV, and working on the project in their spare time. I feel no envy.

We, the poor also spend a lot of time fantasising about winning the lottery - and most of us imagine Doing Nothing as the first thing we would do...not work 80-hour weeks like the rich workaholics - who probably assume we are poor because we are lazy.

But hey. Each to their own. When motivated by fascination for something I can spend obsessive hours doing it, but I put that in the category of hobbies, personal development, investment of time in self, etc.

I long ago decided the only real freedoms existed at the top of the pyramid (very hard to get to, if you were not born there) or right at the bottom of the heap, with nothing to lose - and that's the direction I chose (if it didn't choose me). Nothing noble like becoming a Buddhist monk, nor as squalid as becoming a total bum. Just living frugally, simplifying my needs, never borrowing money, keeping possessions to a minimum and finding satisfaction in the everyday, rather than using dissatisfaction as a driver.

So I have started compiling the research to finally put a book together, and potter away at it, like a man in a shed.

The Way Things Happened

I have decided I need to zoom in, and zoom out - so that as well as my own little anecdotes you get some idea of context, a drop of social history, a glimpse of bygone eras (if you are younger than me) or nostalgic memories (if in my peer group) and 'what was really going on'.

And speaking of anecdotes - some of the stories have become polished pebbles by now, from constant retelling, and they get detached from genuine sensory memories and the rough edges of real life, so I am also enjoying the quick flashbacks to moments and incidents that have not become stale, events that I have never before described.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Memories both good and bad

I have no idea how much to put in or leave out... Digging in the boxes (and the Akashic Records of memory) does turn up some odd stuff.

Back in 1973 a pretty girl I met at The Oval House invited me to help 'a photographer friend' who wanted to try to capture juggling with a strobe, so I accepted, of course.
I was curious, in those days, about the doors that 'being a juggler' kept opening.

It turned out that John Hedgecoe was a lecturer at the Royal College of Art, and he took various strobe photos of juggling with balls and rings and stuff, but eventually suggested drink cans. Now, they are not the easiest things to juggle in the first place, and under strobes most juggling is hard to sustain.

Still I did it. Didn't get paid. Didn't get any nice prints for my own publicity use. And it turned out to be a commercial project (one cover in for a series of books), not an experiment.

My first experience in the school of hard knocks. On the cover of other books in the series I noted the faces of his students and another tutor, so maybe we all got exploited and no-one got paid! Hey ho.
I know the girl quit working for him shortly afterwards, but I won't repeat what she called him!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011



has turned out to work really well for me, so I have started compiling the long-delayed autobiography, partly to test it (I always use real projects, not pretend ones, when testing stuff) and partly to do a recapitulation of my life as I approach 65.

That number doesn't have any real significance, of course, but for many years it has been used in the UK as a benchmark for 'retirement'. The government seems intent on moving the goalposts now that people live longer, as the maths of tax and pensions no longer balances out.

Of course, when I dropped out I assumed the State would have withered away by now, and never expected a pension, so I feel amazed that anyone intends to give me anything for not working, but it appears they might. Not much, but a small income just for staying alive as a British citizen.



Perhaps it could offer the minimal support for the older meaning of retirement, of retreat into the forest, the spiritual retirement, or magickal retirement, or whatever.

You may note that I have not used capital letters for the title 'recapitulation' as I don't want it confused with the technical use of it by (say) followers of Castaneda. Interesting as his books seemed in the 80s, I have since come to some sort of conclusion about that rascal guru and the cult that built up around him, that makes me feel more uneasy than it did at the time.

Of course, believers may assume that my unease (like that of the pseudo-Carlos in the books) comes from living an inauthentic life, and they may have a point. Still, looking back over a life and contemplating both individual events, and the broad sweep of the story, does not belong to any one realm, genre or group.

And as 'My Name Is Earl' shows, even Scientologists like re-living or re-visiting past events and activities to discharge the energy trapped in them, or clear the karma locked down, or whatever the jargon. Psychotherapy in various forms does something similar to relieve people of trauma.

Any and all of these things may have some relevance to writing an autobiography, but it can also have the story-teller aspect of grandpa round the fire, handing on the tale of the tribe, or offering cautionary tales, or even inspirational (and possibly hilarious) teaching tales, or simply self-mocking anecdotes.

I have no idea, as I grope forward. To avoid any grand ideas I tell myself I just want a little book of anecdotes to sell at conventions, or to hand to my grand-daughter, or something.

The final outcome seems less interesting (at the moment) than the process of concentrating on putting my affairs in order, while also drifting into reverie at times.

Focus, drift away, focus, drift away... I enjoy it. The process.

Circus History

To keep myself grounded in tribal history, rather than just my own little adventures, I have also embarked on what may turn out as a longer project, to compile a history of the circus. Not just whatever we mean by the word 'circus' (some people use it to mean all the variety skills of speciality acts, others to mean the modern cliche image which only dates back 2-300 years) but the specific tribe to which I belong. NoFit State.

Of course, the active members continue to create, explore and expand, and the project could prove open-ended, and subject to continuous revision, so I have decided to collect my research together not in private folders but in a public Wiki. Someone else can always take over if I bite the sawdust unexpectedly, and meanwhile anyone can join in and collaborate on the researching and editing process.

Much to look forward to in 2011!