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Friday, February 19, 2010

Don't worry... there is a happy ending :)

The phoenix was written after my return from Afghanistan in April 2009. I had just come out of a very difficult relationship and I was reeling from the sheer number of emotions that were spiralling out of me in response to a year and a half of battling to keep someone afloat. Love is dangerous but where angels dare to tread I will go too, where angels fear to tread I will go there anyway.. so, I had tried...and tried... and in the end I think we were both exhausted. It's not for me to judge someone negatively. All I know is that I tried to rescue someone who didn't want to be rescued, I should have realised that only he could rescue himself anyway, and that in the process of trying to lift a dead weight out of the water you can occasionally drown. Luckily though, for those of you who were worried that the phoenix had died completely, the story has a happy ending:

Downstream the river turns and widens into the sea, from the sea a distant rocky inlet leads amongst mountains sheer into the water and here the fatally injured bird is held and absorbed into the force. Amongst the branches and twigs of the funeral pyre the phoenix is able to sacrifice life into the next life. A body consumed by flames has lost only it's earthbound physicality; from the dying embers a dusty feather shakes and ash trickles from a smouldering pile, a small movement, a twitch and then a quiver of char. From the ashes emerges a hint of gold, a little red, a stretching feathered wing and then a burst of vital energy, arising from the debris. Appearing for the first time, renewed and filled with light, the phoenix is reborn.

Love seeks Fear and Death before Life

A beautiful bird found me. I was lying face down in the desert. She gave me one of her feathers and she told me many things; some of which I didn't like but my anger moved me out of the desert and back into the world. I took my beautiful bird with me. She asked me for sunshine and flowers and a beautiful garden but I didn't want to give them to her, instead I fed her wispy dreams and a scattered handful of wishful thinking; I told her it was food. I sowed these seeds as sustenance for her in the garden and then I left. When I returned my beautiful bird was sick, her wings had lost their sheen and she could not raise her head.

I could have turned her loose but I decided to take her with me out of the garden. We travelled to a terrible place, I told her that I would feed her and she came with me willingly enough.

Once there I pinned her wings up against a wooden fence and stuck pins into her breast. With each pin a drop of red blood fell upon the ground and as it hit the earth a flower sprang up; each one a dream. I picked each one as it grew and ate them in front of her. She asked me "why are you doing this?", and I told her, "I don't know, but in a while I'll write you a letter to explain."

I didn't know that with each drop of blood I could have grown and entire garden and opened it to sunshine. Instead I took a blade and I drove it into the heart of my beautiful bird. Then I took her down from the fence and I laid her in a box lined with purple velvet. I went outside the walls and placed my beautiful bird upstream on the river and let her go. I turned away without a second glance and went back inside the terrible place. The garden was dead. The place was a desert. I lay down and buried my face in the dirt.

The Phoenix
Tales of the phoenix appear in ancient Arabian, Greek, Roman, and Far Eastern mythology. In both Greek and Egyptian tales, the phoenix represented the sun, dying in flames at the end of the day and rising each morning. Early Christians came to view the flight of the phoenix as a symbol of rebirth and the resurrection, leaving the old world for the new world of the spirit, dying and rising again, reborn. It symbolized the victory of life over death, immortality, and Christ’s resurrection. Jewish legend describes the phoenix as the one creature that did not leave paradise with Adam, and that its legendary longevity is due to abstaining from the forbidden fruit that tempted the ‘first man’. On Roman coins, the phoenix represented an undying empire.The phoenix is said to live for 500 years. When it grows tired, it builds a nest of aromatic twigs, and then sets fire to itself to be consumed in the funeral pyre of its own making. After three days, the phoenix would arise from the ashes, reborn. According to Egyptian legend, it carries the embalmed ashes of its previous incarnation to Heliopolis, the city of the sun. The Egyptian phoenix was said to sing sweetly, and to dazzle with its plumage of gold and scarlet and purple.

According to Chinese mythology, the phoenix is the symbol of grace and virtue and is second only in importance to the Dragon. It represents the union of yin and yang, and was a gentle creature associated with the Empress, who alone could wear its symbol. The feathers of the Chinese phoenix were black, white, red, green and yellow – the five primary colors. In Japan, the phoenix is found carved into sword hilts, and the image of the bird seen as embroidery on kimonos. Along with the sun, the phoenix is one of the emblems of the Japanese Empire. In Japanese tattooing the phoenix is often twinned with the the dragon, symbolizing yin and yang, the harmonious combining of the best of the feminine and masculine virtues.

The Lily
The lily appears in the bible and represents a symbol of faith and a surrender to God’s grace. The lily can represent a symbol of Christ himself and the lily is often used as decoration during Easter. The lily also represents immortality and resurrection. The ancient Greeks and the Egyptians used the lily as a symbol of erotic love - they believed it was a phallic symbol linked to fertility and images of lily’s appear often in the art of these ancient cultures. In France the royal family adopted the lily as the Fleur-de-Lis on their coat of arms in the 12th century. They believed that lily's three petals bound at the base would ensure the prosperity of the royal line. The renaissance gave the lily its meaning of chastity, purity and innocent love. The image of the lily was present in depictions of the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus and through this reintepretation the lily came to symbolise innocence and purity over erotic love.

The Lotus
Lotus flowers are symbolic of rebirth in Eastern beliefs, but aside from the religious meaning, the lotus also symbolizes truth and enlightenment particularly to those of the Buddhist faith. In many ways it mirrors the quest for truth and enlightenment amongst the murkiness and struggles of life.

The modern interpretation of the lotus flower seems to be one of estranged love or new beginnings. Many people get lotus flower tattoos after the break-up of a relationship. This may mean that they have risen above the depths or alternatively may return back to it as the lotus returns to the pond.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Oh, the penguins deserve better. Spread the love... Beaky twats."

The title quote is from
Karen (not me) is married to mild mannered Adam. Karen is now entertaining the world with Adam's curious and sometimes incandescent sleep talking outbursts. I have to add that tw*t is definitely not a word that frogs use... :)

and of course the little green fellow is Konn the travelling adventure frog. Konn can be found at

This evening I bumped into Konn's best mate Mark and we had a lovely evening in Soho. I was thrilled to bits to discover this little froggie who has travelled around the world. Looking at his album on Mark's phone (Mark often travels with Konn) I was overjoyed to see Konn in so many fantastic locations. Everywhere he goes he spreads the love and is obviously an ambassador for peace and understanding. I think Konn the frog should be a UN Goodwill Ambassador.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Back to London

Feb 5th 2010
...and so I returned, now a week ago.. time has just flown by and of course I've been up to all sorts of nonsense since arriving back. Last night was a great evening, a 1920's charity ball in aid of the Liberty Trust, a charity set up to help children in Belize. Indeed it was rather a jolly evening which commenced in George, I had chosen to wear a full length black maxi gown and although I had fashioned a little silk ribbon attachment at the hem, I was still struggling with stairs and the like. My osteopath and two weeks on a sandy beach in Lamu had significantly improved my buggered up ankle but I was still slightly self-conscious in sling backs...

Glamourously, I leapt from my taxi, a rather shabby vauxhall cavalier, and stepped out across the street, stopping momentarily, light as gossamer, by the temporary traffic lights and some builders cones to get my whereabouts. Freezing in the cool night air, I burst in upon George to find almost no one in there... "Downstairs" they cried, seeing me looking nonplussed, and pointed me in the right direction, "Thanks", I replied as I tottered down the stairway, maxi in hand and into the basement. Once below I was greeted my our party who were clad in a variety of 1920s finery; the girls all silk and feathers, the boys; well aside from the pencil moustaches and the occasional spat were pretty much wearing what boys generally wear for black tie events. Luckily for me, A.M was also wearing a maxi and later, as we trotted down the street, she with fag in hand, we compared notes on the difficulties of wearing ladies shoes whilst running around the streets of london trying to look fab. A.Ms feet were killing her already, I was lucky however as had on my super pink sling-backs from China which, through a masterpiece of Chinese engineering, are actually comfortable. We hiked along at a pace leading the group through the streets of Mayfair, the boys in their warm trousers and mercifully flat shoes lagging along at the back, the girls, feathers and cloaks flying in the wind, cackling and leading the way. We shot past the papparazzi who were lying in wait at the front doors and congratulated each other that "Thank good the paps hadn't recognised us at all", but being mistaken for Courtney Love and a podgy Bridget Jones was not going to terribly flattering anyway...

Once inside a warm and wonderful evening began, in true style I managed to gatecrash the table next door to us and grabbing hold of their glo sticks insisted on bidding on their behalf in the charity auction. All was going really well, I was spending JPs money at a rate that one can only do when it's somebody else's, we were winning the bidding war, when in an over excited frenzy I thrust my glo stick in the air just one too many times and ended up bidding against myself! Thankfully, my twinkle infused brain was mainly immune to the vast embarrassment I was supposed to feel as the evil compere ridiculed my apparent blondeness in front of 500+ guests. Hhaha, I thought as my fuzzy brain told me that I hadn't quite understood the rules of the game but was enthusiastically playing anyway, and ahahah I thought again as we got to
£10,000 and a cheer went up from the crowd as JP and I won the bid for lot three: a week in Zanzibar, a week in Chamonix, and riding lessons with Richard Dunwoody - suckers, I thought, my double bluff, my cunning bid against myself actually worked... JP was a wonderfully good sport, any man who lets a random woman grab his glo stick and throw away £10k of his dough has got to be a pucker sort of bloke.

Later, I discovered that Richard Dunwoody is an extraordinarily nice man, who had dated our lady singer-songwriter Georgea Blakey for some years some time ago. Richard, it turns out had actually been to the Wachan in Afghanistan, so already I felt a connection. I'm not sure what he's going to make of my riding style, a la Courtlands riding stables in Stevenage, but hey ho, I suppose I can only improve.

Anyway, a marvellous evening in which the evil compere managed to garner in excess of £200,00 from a generous crowd. I met a spiritual guide and had a great time with baby Chris on the dance floor, at one point an older gentleman joined us and I looked on amused as Chris and said gent performed some kind of macho disco dance off with each other. Much as I'd like to believe that it was for my benefit (me being the lady and all that) I got the distinct impression that they were rather enjoying their little dance floor spat and were quite happy posing and posturing to each other in a way that only men seem to enjoy so much.

By now most of our party were suffering the effects of a liberal number of twinkles, a drink introduced by the lovely A.M. This tipple made of vodka, champagne and elderflower affair looked innocent enough but snuck up upon you and then promptly knocked your socks off! We were amongst the last to leave, and had a protracted session of running around in the ladies loos looking for LK before finally falling into black cabs some unknown time later. LK had acquired a trilby, I think from Tom and had made off with it into the cab. I jumped in and along with H we headed northwest wards, LK lolling on one side and H and I jabbering on about nothing as we rolled along through the small hours of the London night. Dropping H near to hers, I then had the task of getting the rather twinkled LK back to her place. Eventually, on her door step I watched as she opened her front door and fell inside, satisfied that she was safely home I jumped back in and off we sped to mine. 3am and I was suddenly feeling pretty tipsy myself, still roughly aiming for sophistication I nicked the last of my flatmate's bread and went for pate on toast and a chicken cuppa soup before falling asleep on the sofa.

And today.. a late mid morning, twinkle still flowing through my veins, I stumble from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen in search of water and coffee. Sometime during the night I had actually made it in to bed and into pyjamas so clad in wincyette duck print PJs and pink crocs I settled on the sofa to check email and contemplate the day. My only consolation was that if I was feeling a little the worse for wear LK was surely feel a damn sight worse than I was! I was due to meet David at 1pm and was trying to gather my enthusiasm to get on to my new bike and cycle over to Raouls to meet him. Once plied with coffee and ibuprofen I was then raring to hear all about David's recent exploits in the Brazilian rainforest. He had travelled with a band of 13 others to experience the delights of a tribe in Brazil and had spent two weeks taking hallucinogenic forest potions and vomiting a lot. The group had bonded over endless diarrhoea and the loo and through chanting. David had initially shied away from doing frog (a tribal ritual where small burns are made on arms and legs and are covered in frog toxin causing the heart to race and the user to vomit copiously) but had decided to make the most of this further cleansing opportunity to good effect. David had been fair bitten to death by sandflies and had a number of rather nasty looking eschars on his legs and hands. He told me he was "Going natural" and treating them with tea tree oil and lavender, he looked amazing and his eyes looked clear and bright, and I had to respect his adventure even as he rushed off mid lunch for a quick round with the restaurant loo. During the trip he'd lost about 5kg and said that he felt great and at peace and that nothing really mattered that much anymore. Sat in the heart of Portobello eating a burger and fries, surrounded by Italians and screaming children, I wished that I to could have just a little of his serenity at my disposal.

I've just returned from a local shop, too lazy to go any further than my corner shops, I went in search of cherry coke, but no, denied, neither of my locals stocked this awful beverage I craved and instead I had to make do with Tizer. I had forgotten this ancient elixir and probably having never seen it out of the can had poured it like a grown up into a glass, from whence I could see that it look just like fizzy piss. "Perfect" I thought, " A delightful cure for my hangover", as I downed it in one. Some loo roll, a can of baked beans and some posh biscuits, that'll tide me over for a night recovering from the night before.

I can never work out whether Sam in the corner shop is drunk or whether he has Parkinsons disease, I know it's harsh to say and as a doctor I should probably be able to tell, but I'm just never sure, sometimes he's normal but increasingly, he's not. Sam is incredibly slow and drops things, looks at the till like it's a marvellous but mysterious creature, his wife materialising from out of nowhere from somewhere in the vicinity of the fridge cabinet (perhaps even from inside the fridge cabinet ) and her, all concerned rushing to help me, to help him with the money and the till and the bags of shopping. So many years, I think, are they happy, I wonder, would she waver in her dedication even if she weren't? I wondered where that love comes from, and where the anger and the acceptance take you?

..and now here I sit in my little living room in London, early Saturday evening and it is peaceful here. Lyle is dinging me on facebook messenger from Kabul and I know that if I started chatting to him now we'll be at it for most of the evening. Another friend is dinging me too but I'm trying to ignore so that I can get something down in my blog.

I have a little time to ponder whether I am glad to be back... I am, of course, my own bed, clean sheets, london air, my burning thighs as I cycle through Ladbroke Grove. Such rich freedoms, of course I'm glad to be back. But with it a sadness a strange sense of being outside, of wondering why we all try so damned hard. I recognise that my life in Kabul is simpler in so many ways, the rules are apparent and it is easy enough to live within these confines, the groups, the activities and the behaviours are even more proscribed and predictable then the characters here. There are fewer choices there, clothes are all big and baggy, hair is always covered, there are only two main expat supermarkets, Finest and Spinneys and there is nowhere near the onslaught of consumerism that is thrust upon us every second of the day here in London.

Twice now in the last week I have braved the hideousness of the Westfield shopping centre. I have had to devise a survival strategy for my forays in to this place much like the mental preparation one must perform in order to survive a trip to an Ikea. I'm ashamed to say it but I have partially adopted an almost male technique to shopping in this place which is a temple to vacant consumerism. Entering via a side entrance, I move quickly and purposefully toward my destination, the apple shop. I skirt the moisturiser stand and the stand selling the incredibly useful t-shirt in a cube, past the carphone warehouse (which for some reasons gets me every time) and on past Top Shop and Mango. I am determined and I get there almost in one piece, but at the last moment the Calvin Klein underwear shop looms up to my left and before I know it I am sucked inside and I find myself buying knickers and a bra that I "Oh so desperately need". My purchases sweetened by the gift of chocolate I am released and I have to martial my self past Massimo Dutti and several shoe shops before I reach my safe haven beyond the clean white doors of the apple mac shop. Once inside I know that I must conserve a little energy for the return journey and tell myself silently inside my head that sparkly shoes are just not a necessity for this evening's event. I concentrate and a skinny youth with bad English teeth helps me enormously to spend rather a lot of money on gadgetry. I feel a small sense of triumph and a larger sense of guilt (my credit card is groaning) but I walk away after approximately 2hrs with a long, long overdue new computer and a stronger foothold on the ladder of my filming making aspirations. I have never wanted to do things the easy way and, as luck would have it, it nearly always been a challenge, from my battles with myself to my battles to do what my heart desires.

Maybe you will recognise the strange dilemma, we buy therefore we exist, we consume and others recognise us by our brands, when we don't buy we fail, or so we fear. But sometimes I feel sick when I consume, I feel overloaded with 'stuff'. I feel unnatural and natural all at the same time. A short lived glee exists when I use my sat nav, when I connect to the internet, but the feeling of completeness never last as along as when I find my way home by the stars, or when I eat what I catch. So today, I wish that I could pare it all down, strip away all the stuff that I really don't need and carry just the basics. This is the dilemma I face when I consider my life in London with the parties and the social whirl, theatres and galleries, the taxes and the paperwork, the richness and the responsibility. When I am here I am part of this world and all that goes with it. When I am elsewhere I can live out of one bag and simplify things a little but it's never very long before the lure and the luxury of the modern world exercises it's hold over me, demonstrating how technology is inextricably entwined with my life whether I like it or not.