Life

Breeze – Florence

BREEZE

In the late afternoon, Alice would open the shutters wide and leave them askew until the last light had faded from her room. Not so much to let light in but the breeze. Two regular guests who entered and filled the mostly empty space. She preferred the breeze.

When she first arrived here, it would enter like a loving memory. Slowly dancing around her face and bare arms. A warming embrace. A rare comfort.

Now it enters abruptly – slicing her cheeks and cutting through her clothes. Bringing only a chill. Though she doesn’t mind. Unlike memories, no breeze can be felt twice.

Occasionally, Alice would stand at the ledge and look out at the steady flow of the Arno. The smooth, shimmering centre flowed serenely – allowing her mind to quieten. Inhale.

Before long, her eyes would inevitably be drawn to the rough water where shards of white were thrown abruptly about in sprays, churned by unseen forces. The memory of the stream will carry the memory of the obstacles below – whether or not they are seen from above. Exhale.

Alice turned away from the window. The breeze passed through her long dark hair and out. Free to grow and soar. Not everyone is afforded that luxury. Alice tried to attach her memories to the breeze, hoping a thought would weigh less than the wind.

Six months previously Alice pinned the same hope on a plane ticket. Purchased uncertainly. On credit. She fought against the plan. The ticket sat in a drawer in the second bedroom amongst tiny, unused socks. To rest with the dreams of another life.

When the day came to fly, Alice felt moved to float. To soar.

She retrieved the ticket and allowed loose fingers to brush tenderly against the cotton. Their impression remained on her hand as she closed the drawer and left her life behind.

This was the place where Alice could begin again. Where the river flowed and the breeze would cradle her like a mournful lover.

The warmth of the sun. The bite of the breeze. Each comforting thought was betrayed by a pang of guilt. Each wind sweep would leave her and drift on through the shutters. Leaving her to clutch the pain of loss at her breast.

Her only constant.


Postbox

My postbox has been home to many things.

I check the miniature home on a pole at indiscriminate times. Not one for a routine, the lid can go for days untouched while at other times endure multiple violations of its position within a two hour period.

Occasionally there will be a letter or piece of plastic with my name and address adorned. This is no surprise, really. In fact it’s a pretty important function of the box and were it to no longer serve this purpose I’d be forced to uproot the bloody thing and place it in my backyard as an attempt at ironic, pastiche art.

What does surprise, however, is when one of these seemingly identical pieces of correspondence are labelled with the precisely identical location but completely different name. A window into the past that interferes with my self-righteous desire to be the important name of the house.

At some point in the indeterminate past the person who belonged to that name would have disturbed the lid – probably at much more regular intervals – to withdraw the delivery and open it with excitement (or dread).

Unsettled as I am to receive a message at my address directed at someone else, I continue to check infrequently in case I am to receive something myself. Occasionally my existence is validated by viewing a bill or wedding invitation labelled “YOUR NAME…EXACT ADDRESS YOU RESIDE” and the relief is palpable.

More frequently, I am roused to greet whatever lifeform occupies the box itself. Whilst yesterday the sight of a ladybird couple featured on the western wall of the mailbox, today a wolf spider resided in the greater portion of the north/eastern side. Whether it was a forcible removal of the previous owners or not cannot be disclosed but I can comfortably postulate that the spider would have felt incredibly uncomfortable if confronted with the thought that another living being had rested in its house once upon a time.

What then, to spider and ladybird alike, would they say to two weeks previous? Upon removing three versions of advertising addressing “HOUSEHOLDER” I was lucky to escape with my hygiene and piece of mind by narrowly avoiding the cockroach nestling happily between adverts. Disturbing indeed.

Perhaps they walked with the same intrepid steps I take upon re-entering my house – each time after receiving a jolt of mortality from reading the names of strangers who slept in my room, cooked at my kitchen and stood naked as I do in the same shower.

To these things I cannot predict logically. All I know is this. When I move, I will not be updating any of my details.


The Mind of a 5 Year Old

The mind of a 5 year old

At some point of the afternoon in suburban Melbourne, a 5 year-old primary school girl decided action must be taken. Not content to draw, build, play make believe or watch television, this young girl decided that her time should be better spent. It needed to be spent, apparently, on a gift for her teacher. A man who, she knew, loved the Melbourne Football Club. The gift had to be relevant. It had to be school-ish. It needed to showcase her intelligence. So the girl drew and cut out the letters O E M B L U E R N. Using her craft skills to create an envelope, she slipped the letters inside. I imagine a beaming smile and sense of anticipation swept across her as she slipped (more likely scrunched) the envelope into her school bag. Ready to impress her teacher the next day. Ready to spread a smile.


Ten Minute Prompt – Be Prepared

BE PREPARED –

Time bears no sympathy for your life. It will pass by with merry ignorance of your comings and goings.

It will journey past you as you enjoy the happiest moments of your life and, equally, continue on its path while you endure your deepest heartaches.

Sure, you won’t always feel it pass as such. For the refugee crossing yet another horrid terrain, time will pass as treacle through a sieve. For the blushing bride, it will roar past like a freight train.

Time will see us through all of our ups and downs. It is one of the few constants in our being. Throughout; time has been our sentinel. Humans have understood and marked time for as long as they’ve been conscious.

Yet it is more of a cold, distant, indifferent guardian than a loving parent. It will bring you joys and take you away from them at equal pace.

When viewed holistically from beginning to end, time is aware of everything that has and ever will be.

But it will give you no warnings.

You have no idea when the shitstorm will ensue.

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(prompt: https://fbcdn-sphotos-h-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xpf1/v/t34.0-12/11198608_10155487950335725_385398404_n.jpg?oh=907c7f79525d53029dad734ef230aabc&oe=553ED8EF&__gda__=1430204699_cca8cc1d041f6b2a90dc7792506584a5)


Take care

In any form, under any guise, be sure to take care when adopting the prejudice of another.

Even the most simple object may appear vastly different when viewed from its adjacent side.

Protect yourself from ignorance and a bitter spirit by seeking objectivity, clarity and knowledge.

Encourage those around you to live in this broad light and to steer away from the narrow course so often imposed and accepted.


A Reflection

Trainline
Through my window I am gently guided through a swarm of human activity.

Veering to the left I see the toil of human achievement – eroded fields and abandoned machinery adorn a captivatingly miserable landscape

Easing to the right, each unlit house engenders feelings of pity at those poor people contained within the delapidated walls. At the loveless marriages and joyless dinners.

Even as I eventually come to witness the crowded streets we pass, people as rats fighting for their existence. Willingly injuring their neighbours for a step up the rungs of an invisible social ladder – emblemized frequently by the advertising of yet another carcinogenic brand.

In the faces of those I pass, I see loss, sadness, distance and disconnect.

With a shock, my train suddenly enters a tunnel and my window to the outside world turns swiftly to black – offering only my own reflection.
Trainline


Without A Voice

I’ve had laryn…larry…lari…I’ve had trouble talking.

For a teacher this is the single worst thing that can happen – besides running out of red pens or sticky tape.

As a Grade 1 student, there was a period of time when I would count how many times my elderly teacher would request me to “shut up” – so hopefully that paints the image that talking is, for me, akin to breathing.

Being forced to remain mute has been an interesting, frustrating, intriguing experience and I’d like to share a few (possibly over-reaching) thoughts I’ve had.

1. We’ll do anything for children.

I once saw a humorous meam…meem… meme that stated something along the lines of it not mattering how “bad-ass” one’s nature tended to be, if a toddler’s play phone rings, you answer it.

Even without a voice, the thought of not teaching barely crossed my mind until the ridiculousness was pointed out by others. What struck me was how the children in our care become so dear to us, so much like family that we begin to do things for them instinctively. We don’t think of leaving them because we want to care for them and be there to help them grow and learn.

Sometimes we need to remember that it takes a village to raise a child. You are not the centre of the universe and they will grow and develop perfectly fine without you being there for every step of the journey – that goes for parents, too.

2. Context is everything…

The smartest thing I did during the ordeal was to use a notepad to write my thoughts. As the wife and I would discuss the day, I could use the written word to convey events. Watching telly, I was able to discuss characters/events without the need to speak. Mucking around, I could express ridiculous sentiment or response to humorous taunts.

However, to read back over previous notes after the moment had past, the words meant nothing. Nonsensical, illogical, unreachable. Without context for the majority of our conversations, our words may as well be drawn blankly from a dictionary.

3. and not a lot of what we say matters.

Looking back over the notes, they read as undeniably rancid, substance-free, trash.

It’d be an interesting exercise to reflect on what percentage of our utterances are worthwhile, interesting, heartfelt.

We’re funny beings. We can fixate for months on the scorned words of an ex-lover, or agonise for hours over a harsh word from an employment superior, yet probably cannot recall over 99% of our conversations.

This is not to say that everything we say should be important, or heartfelt, but it is worth considering the nature of the words that come out of your mouth, for I believe they subtly help to shape your character, thoughts and being.

4. To lose a voice is frightening.

Trapped inside a mind, unable to connect with others how you desire, not standing a chance of regarding and comprehending the context for previous conversations – to lose a voice is a daunting, frustrating thing.

To not have a voice – frightening. I speak figuratively, of course, but it really made me consider those people (children and adults alike) who feel as though their opinion is lesser than their peer, that they do not belong and have no one to wish they did.

These people must face this dilemma on a daily-basis, and probably more specific than that. We must be mindful that, whilst we always seek to empower the all-important Number One, we are mindful of those who cannot begin to see themselves as even a number.

5. A Minute’s Silence to last forever

I was sent home from work on the morning of the 11th. I returned home at approximately 10:30. Half an hour later marked the 95th Anniversary (give or take for time zone) of the cessation of the Great War – remember, the one that would end them all?

I’m as anti-war as they come. The whole idea that boys were sent to fight other boys in lands they could barely pronounce to die in towns they previously didn’t know existed makes me shiver and curse to this day. Being mute on this day allowed me further reflection time to consider the children, women and men that have had their voices literally taken away forever.

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I returned to school today with a whisper.

My children greeted me with the same.


Struggletox

01-05-06_1516In my younger, more volatile days, there were many things I hate and could oft be heard referencing as my “most hated thing.” War. Oppression. Collingwood. Corporate injustice. Social and economic inequality. Nelly’s Band-Aid. Keep in mind, that’s a thoroughly in-exhaustive list.

Shamefully, I recall wearing them as something akin to a badge of honour. I would proudly stand opposed to things I hated. By extension, I was not something I hated and my teenage brain was spared (more or less) the indignity of hating itself.

Ostensibly, this appears standard practice for the self-indulgent juvenile.

The hatred attached to aforementioned issues began to rescind as the years went by, falling lightly off of me like leaves off a tree.

Inertia and the need to adjust (read: conform) to adult life allowed me the opportunity to regard them as mild annoyances. Problems for other people, if you will. Things to thumb a nose at whilst seated at the stool of one of any number of gentrified locations over a boutique beer and moderately overpriced counter meal.

Unbeknownst to this author, said meals and beverages accumulated unquanitifiable amounts of toxins within my body. This year, to date, these toxins have contributed to my contracting of gastro (twice), the flu, numerous colds and, wait for it, shingles!

Each additional toxin seemed to pair with it a brick to add to my wall of apathy. Previous passions, interests and beliefs were hid behind a routine of over-indulgence of alcohol, terrible food and yuppy life.

As far as hypotheticals go, my recently-engaged detox (which I have previously written about in this post) surreptitiously disguised itself as a wrecking  ball and hurried posthaste to this wall in my psyche.

Consequently, precious embers have been relit.

For one, I have been involved in several rallies of late against the government’s terrible recent (ha) policies (though nothing will likely remove my aversion to mindless, repetitive, unimaginative chanting).

You’ll be glad to know, also, that my hatred has returned. Unimpeded by the spreading of the hate, it has returned with sole focus upon one object. One target only in its sights.

This hatred, ironically, rests solely in the direction of a crucial element of my detox – a green powder which, once dissolved into water, must be twice-daily ingested into my body. The taste. The texture. The smell. The rage! To taste it is to feel the icy cold fingers of your worst nightmare ripping out your insides.

It is a necessary part of my detox.

It is the single worst thing in the world…


Autumn Rain

Autumn Rain in Malvern

The vibrancy of life reveals itself in Autumn Rain,

Dancing and skipping through rich colours, tones

Life sings its merry tune – forgetting sadness and pain

To bring attention to the joy of small things.

Each moment illuminating itself

Through sound, smell and sight.


A Prisoner in My Own Home

The following story has been brewing for 4 years. From the day we moved into this apartment until today. Today. Oh god!

Let me explain.

At approximately 11 a.m. my wife left the house for the day.

Me, deciding to be husband of the year, embarked on a quest to clean the house.

Dishes were cleaned, areas were tidied, piles of clothes were moved to form new, out of sight piles. And clothes were washed.

I’d like to say that in our home, clothes put up a good fight against the Winter cold. But our home is no fairy-tale world.  The last wash took over 5 days to dry. 5 days, man, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

So this time, it’d be different. I would relocate the portable heater to our back room to engage it in a heating process that would, undoubtedly, speed up the drying-of-the-clothes process. The first lot went as planned. Clothes went in, washed and were placed on the line. Dishes were done, the bedroom tidied and I was ready to pull out the last lot before settling down to a beer, some eggs and the footy.

That’s what I thought, anyway.

As I prepared the room for the latest addition of washing, I remembered that the heater was on and that it was my duty not to leat heat escape. I pushed the door shut behind me and carried on my business.

I pushed the door shut behind me… The dead-locked door…That can only be opened from the other side. I was stuck. Trapped. Imprisoned.

The next few moments were like lifetimes sitting in the air – laughing at me.

I could do nought but laugh. Of course. Why didn’t I expect this to happen? For a couple of minutes I considered my options. I couldn’t call anyone as I didn’t have my phone (for a change). I can climb the back fence, run down the laneway and come back through the front door. Great idea! If I had keys…

So – I relaxed. Not too bad, I thought. The wife would be home in a few hours and I could have some bloke time. Salvation lies within and I don’t spend a lot of time alone.

I’d write. 5 minutes it took to find paper. No pen. No pencil. Unreal.I scoured in draws, golf bags, baskets for nothing until, at last, I found a large novelty pencil that is a gift-in-waiting for a friend’s child. I also found a card that I meant to send a friend some time ago.

It was a happy birthday card. I didn’t know his birthday. Never mind, I could wish him happy birthday any time of year and simply state it’s either for his next birthday or his most recent (whichever were closest). By the end of the letter, the gigantic pencil had left its mark on more than just the paper. My hand hurt like hell – further writing was not an option.

So I decided to do what anyone in a life-threatening situation would do – attempt to make connection with the outside world.

I found a radio I used in my school days. 16 years old and, remarkably, still working. Obviously this radio wasn’t made by Apple.

Eventually I got the aerial in an adequate position to establish radio connection and discovered a saving grace – Triple J’s hottest 100 of the last 20 years. It’s not all bad, I thought to myself. For a few songs, I sung along and danced. But in a cramped, washing-filled room, music wasn’t going to get me through.

I had to go for more.

In a basket I located the wife’s old iPhone – old being 3 years of age. On the table sat an old (2 and a half years) set of iPhone speakers. I plugged the speakers in and rested the phone neatly on top. Of course, it wasn’t charged, so I had to wait for it to charge sufficiently to turn on.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. I had to get busy living or get busy dying. Great time for push ups, I noted.10 of those were done along with about 25 sit ups. “Enough of that”, I panted.

The phone eventually turned on, but the speakers were doing my head in. For some reason, the phone had to be in the absolutely perfect position to charge. It was a delicate balancing act – typing and holding the phone in said position.

After some time, sweating by the still radiating heater, I managed to negotiate my way to Facebook. I always knew this social media outlet would save my life. I never thought it’d save it from my own back-room.

“Security Error.”

RAGE! I noticed that the time showed 10:21. I realised that I had no idea what the time was. Could it be 10:21? I’spose. Closer inspection of the device revealed to me the date: January 1st. Christ – how long had I been in here?!

Even my saving grace had started turning against me. Callers in kept on using the same inane phrase “you can’t not.” To put it into context – revellers would state matter-of-factly that “you can’t not love this song” or you “can’t not dance to this.”

I had to move fast. I was losing touch with modern language and would soon be left behind. Or, worse still, stuck listening to it.

Facebook, however, was different. It was some strange text version that I had to use all my Bear Grylls survival nous to decipher.

Eventually, I found my way to the wife’s Facebook and here is what I wrote:

Wife,

It has finally happened.

Whilst being Husband of the Year and attempting to dry recently washed clothes, I inadvertently closed the dead-locked door!

I am, henceforth, trapped in the back-room – left to wallow in my own pity and clean linen.

Being in my comfy Saturday clothes I, of course, don’t have a phone to call you and I’m communicating to you via your old phone being charged by our old speakers. Old being largely relative.

I also have no keys, so can’t even escape over the back fence because I’d have nowhere to go.

If you could return at some stage to release me that’d be ace.

Don’t rush – I have adequate heating (due to my cleaning duties), a radio and an oversized pencil to keep me occupied.

Now I know how Shawshank Guy felt.

I must go as the phone tells me it’s not supported by the speakers and is, again, running low.

Hope to see you reasonably soon (I don’t know what the time is as your phone tells me it’s 10:31 on January 1st – how long have I been in here?!?)

Please save me.

Love, your husband

Relief. Contact had been made and I would be saved. 25 minutes went by of cabin-fever, blaring radio-induced, cramped area-related headaches and I was beginning to go stir crazy.

The bubbly radio presented chimed in.

“If you want to pop off to the toilet, don’t worry. You can check the countdown positions online.” It was the sort of banal statement that I would usually get my grumps up. Of course I can go to the bloody toilet if I want. I’m not going to sit in agony as my intestines shiver and sphincter quiver so I can find out what Australians voted as being their 84th most favourite song of the last 20 years. When suddenly, it hit me.

Panic. And realisation.

I couldn’t pop off to the toilet. The toilet was out there. On the other side of the door. Inaccessible, out of reach. Realisation that I may have had to contemplate the point of which I break the door or pooh in the corner. The realisation that many people in the world face this situations like this as a matter of life. That for people like Bradley Manning, it has been his reality without fault. That’s for another post.

I stood up and screamed wildly, gesticulating with wild uncoordinated legs and arms – directed my rage at approximately 3cm if metal.

I finally realised how Gollum felt. To be so trapped, so captivated and controlled by a piece of mental not wide enough to… do something that you’d need it to be longer to do. A few centimetres of metal separated me from freedom. Connection, communication, tv, the toilet.

Finally, the wife wrote back. Something along the lines of “hahaha that’s so funny.” 2 hours previously, I’d have agreed. By this point, I was apoplectic. Possibly, she thought I was being obtuse. That I’d made it up. God, if only that were true! She informed me that she was waiting for her train and would be 40 minutes. I instructed her that I required minute-by-minute updates of her journey to ease my mind.

Cabin fever had set in. Too exhausted to exercise, too frustrated to relax, too weak to write. All I could do was peruse a phone that would vibrate and procure the message “this accessory is not optimised for this iPhone messages” minutely. Following the footy on an app, I saw that the worst team in the competition was thrashing the best team in the competition. What The Hell was going on?

Confused by the security message and unable to download an app that would give commentary because of a security warning telling me to check date and time I noticed that the phone wasn’t just telling me it was January 1st. It was January 1st 1970.

It was all making sense. Wait, no it wasn’t, it was ridiculous. Every single event of the previous 3 hours had been outrageous. None more so than this. Had a been transplanted back in time? Was “you can’t not” a common phrase of the late 60s/early 70s…is that why Facebook was presented in text form?

Suddenly, the front door rattled.

A roar of pleasure rose from me like a lion turning on the tv at 11:30 on a Saturday night finding out that Rocky was just about to begin.

Chuckles emanated from Outside. The door rattled and slowly opened. I was free. I lunged at the leg of my hero, clinging on like a rock-climber slipping from a mountain ledge. I held that ankle for a good amount of time and promised to never enter that room – at least for a while.

I trudged to the couch. Life seemed to return to normal. I updated the calendar on the phone and Facebook worked again. Turned on the footy and the good team were winning. Normality.

Normality, at least, for others. Outsiders. Those who didn’t experience life on the inside. I was changed. My brother texted me to arrange a meeting that evening. I couldn’t say yes. I could only cackle slightly and ignore it. I considered engraving in the coffee table in front of me “I was here.”

I looked back towards the dead-locked door wondering…longingly…

The Cast:

The Lock

The Lock

The Phone and Speakers

The Phone and Charger

The Pencil

The Novelty Pencil

The Radio

The Radio

The Card

The Card


Every Bridge has a Story

The human mind is geared to admire the bridge.

Perhaps it is a remnant in our DNA from a time when crossing an innocuous, or possibly ocuous, stretch of water would necessarily result in the crossee enduring a soaking.

Perhaps it the practical reminder of man’s ability to circumvent obstacles.

Perhaps it is an aesthetic appreciation of beauty.

Perhaps not.

Whatever the case, bridges have long-held fascination for many – as a muse for inspiration, a tool for control, a centre for commerce or simply for the wonderful, practical structure they are.

Below is list of 13 bridges I’ve been lucky enough to cross – and a couple that have affected and influenced me.

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The Rialto – Venice – Italy

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The Rialto - Venice

Venice – the little nation that could. For a fleeting moment in history, amongst a plethora of significant events, was one of the key centres of the world both economically and culturally.

A nation whose arrogance and influence belied its size, Venice was the melting pot between the East and West. Fiercely Catholic until the Pope’s edicts contradicted their growth, Venetian traders and leaders were always welcome to the goods offered by the exotic near East.

Goods were shifted from the West (France, Florence, Spain etc) to the Venetian ports to move onto the Mediterranean. Traders from the Ottoman Empire wishing to sell their goods would meet at this hub of cosmopolitanism. The result was the establishment of a powerful, rich government and an empire that, at various stages, even controlled Athens herself.

At the heart of the Venetian geography was the literal trading centre of the entire empire. Boats endeavouring to trade would traverse the Grand Canal and meet at its only bridge. The only crossing point between the two halves of the fascinating city and the bubbling point for any merchants worth their salt.

One bridge. One meeting place. The noise, smells and atmosphere would have been immense. The excitement, lust for wealth and jostling for position overwhelming.

The Grand Canal is 3,800 metres long. The Chicago River, in Chicago central alone, has 38 moveable bridges – down from 52.

One bridge? Surely this was by design alone. Indeed, until the 19th century, only one bridge crossed the Grand Canal. For nearly 700 years from 1181 (in its earliest incarnation) until 1854. One bridge. Evidently, governments of the State believed that a centralization of commerce would lead to an over-estimation of its importance. Traders would arrive at a port like no other. There could be no belief that there could be a better trading partner.

With one point of control and movement, the foreigners from east and west would be subjugated to the demands of the local Venetian patriots.

That is, until the discovery of the new lands. As the trading routes to the Americas developed and evolved, the importance of Venice as a trading partner declined along with the status of this captivating bridge.

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The Charles Bridge – Prague – Czech Republic

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The Charles Bridge

Bridges in Prague take on a whole new practical use of their own that, I can only assume, is largely unique to the Czech Republic.

It seems that crossing a bridge was a secondary function. A bonus, if you will, to the crossing’s primary purpose.

After a week in the Czech Republic, the recurring theme I discovered was that a bridge’s primary function was to use as a platform to throw people off of. Windows, too… but that’s for another post.

The Charles Bridge in the capital is not spared from this diagnosis.

John of Nepomuk was one such soul whose last living touch of ground was the Charles Bridge. An interesting historical character, a tool used for the benefit of the followers of various persuasions, John was the confessor of the Queen of Bohemia. When approached by the Bad Kind Wenceslaus to reveal the Queen’s confession, John refused and was subsequently hurled into the mighty river below.

John of Nepomuk on the Charles Bridge

Legend decries that the bridge’s cornerstone was laid at 5:31 a.m. on July 9th 1357. A dull fact until you arrange the numbers to create the palindromic 1357 9 7 531. Contemporary consensus that this would imbue the bridge with extra strength.

To some degree, perhaps it was correct. The Bridge has endured floods, collapses and wars – much blood, too, was spilt on this crossing. From rebels to the confessor of the queen. Yet it still remains today, the tangible heart of the recently-spawned tourist Mecca.

The bridge shares a similarity with the Rialto Bridge in that, despite Prague being the boiling point of Holy Roman Empire during the 15th century, between the years of 1357 and 1841 it was the only means of crossing the mighty Vltava River – otherwise known as the Elba. Again, the power of the ruling class can be witnessed by this circumstance. The only crossing of the river, near the Old Town, leads directly to the Castle.

Furthermore, the bridge’s status as the one crossing across the mighty river enabled Prague to grow financially as a trading route – cashing in on their status as a central land-route between East and West.

One of the many stories to capture my imagination about this bridge pertains to a painting that resides outside of a house towards the Castle-side of the bridge.

The story goes that in the 14th Century flooding of Prague, much of the area around the Charles bridge was destroyed. Debris covered the terrain yet, amongst the ruin, was a perfectly preserved image of Mary. Believing the image to have been the saviour of many in the area, neighbours deified the portrait and today it lays at the back of the house for all to see – an artifact of strength and a testament to the strength of the Prague people and structures.

The image can be seen here, with the reflection of St Vitus Cathedral also present.

Mary at the Charles Bridge

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Ponte Vecchio – Florence – Italy

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Ponte Vecchio

The Old Bridge.

This bridge is as aesthetically beautiful as it is confusing. A romantic icon, a dreamy-eyed representation of the beauty of the soul, the Ponte Vecchio is a truly magnificent sight. Not satisfied with merely being a means for humans to traverse the Arno without getting wet, Florentines built shops on and into the bridge from 1345 until the present day.

Without dispute, Florence was the birth-place of the Renaissance. The Renaissance was, in his author’s opinion, the most electric, creative period of mankind’s history – history-shaping pieces of art that inspire and captivate millions into the current day were born from this “humble” nation.

Ponte Vecchio

Arguably, Florence was the birthplace of love. A poetic, gorgeous city whose streets wind and twist like wisps of kisses down a lovers back that each lead to the small of their back. The small of the lovers back is, undoubtedly, the Ponte Vecchio.

This bridge is so romantic it even stars in Puccini’s little gem of a romantic opera, Il Mio Babbino Caro. Evidently, a lass was so keen to marry her beau that, if she couldn’t, the only thing that would satisfy her would be to head to the Ponte Vecchio and hurl herself into the Arno. Maybe she’d visited Prague.

Debatably, Florence was also the birthplace of the modern phenomenon of young lovers placing locks on bridges. For those unfamiliar with the practice, young star-crossed lovers (most likely Twilight fans) obtain a lock, adorn it with their initials and lock it to a bridge. Bridges stand as a testament to time and movement forward throughout eternity. You can never step into the same river twice – but you can stand above one forever.

Lovers' locks

The bridge’s intrigue does not end there. Upon their retreat from Florence in 1944, the German army bombed all of the bridges in Florence. The reason for this was to disallow crossing for the Allies. Hitler himself, however, expressly ordered the saving of the Ponte Vecchio. Reasoning goes that he believed the bridge unsuitable for heavy armoury and vehicles to cross, therefore it was unnecessary to destroy the bridge. It may be more likely that he was just a closet twilight fan.

I’ve saved one of my favourite stories of the bridge for last.

The Medici family were a colossus in Florentine life. They were what the Tudors were to England, what the Chappells were to cricket, what the Baldwins were to Hollywood. They were it and a bit… and they knew it.

For much of the 16th Century the Medici ruled Florence as Dukes and Popes and other assorted lofty titles. The family held ties with the French and held banks in many of the world’s most cutting-edge locations. They resided in the Pitti Palace (the former home of their nemesis) on the Oltrarno. Oltrarno essentially means ‘the other side of the Arno.’ It was so named because all of Florentine political life occurred on the other side of the Ponte Vecchio.

As such, the Medici were forced daily to walk by the commoners of the Florentine society. The riff raff. The rabble.

Knowing this would not do, Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici ordered Giorgio Vasari to build them a corridor that would snake sneakily throughout the city from the family’s home, behind a church, across the Ponte Vecchio, past the Uffizi gallery and, finally, into the Palazzo della Signoria  (the town hall).

Henceforth, the Medici were able to stroll the Vasari Corridor without the hassle of the common man. Genius.

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Pont Neuf – Paris – France

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Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf is the oldest standing bridge across the River Seine. Its first stone was laid in 1578 with its final stone laid to rest in 1607. When in Paris, there’s no need to rush.

This bridge highlights the contrasting features of Parisian society, history and life. Originally, the ideas were to build houses along the bridge. The idea was shelved, thankfully, by Henry IV, who feared it would hinder the view of the Louvre. Aesthetics, in Paris, are a matter of state.

Pont Neuf stands as an explicit reminder that what is will not always be.

Today, Pont Neuf is an easy means of crossing the Seine and, for many, little more. The majority of tourists pass over the bridge on the way to the Louvre with thoughts of bigger and better things to see. intermittently, people may sit back and admire the creation. Strong and sturdy against the flowing river – kindly allowing ships and row-boats to pass below – its pattern of arches complimenting the view from any angle. The view of apartments, trees, balconies, gardens, the Louvre, the Eifel Tower.

Pont Neuf is beautiful – but no more beautiful than much of Paris. Beauty alone is not enough in this city.

However, this bridge has not always been merely a thoroughfare. Distinct from being a means to arrive at a destination, Pont Neuf was the place to go.

In the 17th and 18th Centuries, the bridge enjoyed a rich cultural flavour. Crowds would flock to the bridge to witness street performers of all persuasions plying their trade – from jugglers to acrobats to musicians. Satirical performances would entertain passers-by, theatrically providing social commentary as a key element of the production. Hustlers and healers alike would set up their businesses on the bridge as Parisians and foreigners alike descended on the hot spot. Clowns, performers, students, the elite, the plebs would mingle and enjoy the spectacle, the noise and the flair. The very essence of the extremes of the senses collided at this one point to celebrate humanity. To celebrate life. Of course, prostitutes and pick-pockets were equally prevalent.

Alas, it was not to last. The rise of the Boulevards and their various spectacles led to the decline in significance of Pont Neuf.

Paul Lacroix wrote, as far back as 1840, that the bridge was “once a perpetual fair, at present, it is just a bridge to be crossed without stopping.” Even 170 years ago, the decline of the bridge was being lamented.

The message I take from Pont Neuf is that our history can define us but with each rising sun we move into an evolving future. As this bridge stands into the future it greets each morning with new meaning, new purpose that, whilst less celebrated than its past, is appreciated – if only mildly.

Furthermore, it reminds me of the need to dig deeper. We all may come to places of significance without realising it. As many pass over this bridge without knowing its history, people judge others without an ounce of understanding of their past, their plight or their hopes and dreams. We must always search to find the whole story, to enrich our minds and our lives.

We all grow, we all lose our best years, but we each have much to offer.

Paris Sunrise

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Marienbrucke – Bavaria – Germany

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Marienbrucke - Neuschwanstein

People’s general understanding of the purpose of a bridge is that it is a means for someone to get from one side of something to another.

Human wants to get somewhere. Something is in the way. Build a bridge. Get to the somewhere. Practical. Logical. Sensible.

Ludwig II would disagree. If he were sane. And alive.

No – Ludwig didn’t go by the notion that bridges were a means of human transportation. Ludwig decided, instead, to build a bridge designed to look at something. A building. That’s right, men scaled great heights, hanging from scaffolding or swinging on ropes (I don’t know how people build bridges) risking their lives to construct a bridge to look at something.

Apparently people debate whether he was insane. I don’t see their argument.

You’d think that you’d at least name this viewing point after a women. You’d be right.

You’d think, perhaps, that this woman was a pretty little thing that Ludwig was trying to impress and, if he played his cards right, become intimate with. You’d be wrong.

He named the bridge after his mum!

Ludicrous.

It gets better. Over 130 years later, people flood in their droves to this bridge to stare at this building for a few minutes (or longer) before returning to whence they came. It’s not an easy journey, either. About 20 minutes by foot up a steep hill.

Granted… the view is alright when you get there.

Neuschwanstein Castle

At least, Walt Disney thought so when he used this castle as inspiration for the Snow White/Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Hrm.

Perhaps he wasn’t mad, after all!

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Brooklyn Bridge – New York – United States of America

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Brooklyn Bridge

The Bridge that rocked the world.

The Icon bridge in the Icon city – the Brooklyn Bridge (the longest suspension bridge at the time of building) came to be a symbol of opportunity, hope and human ingenuity in the city created to channel human entrepreneurial and monetary dominance. Hollywood is the heartland of the entertainer, New York is Mecca of the businessman.

The bridge serves as a literal platform for people to leave behind the dreariness of real life and enter the thriving hub of Manhattan – the city whose heartbeat can be felt with each step across its vibrant span.

Interestingly, many people over its history have used the Brooklyn Bridge to test their wears. Be it people jumping from it or flying under it, people have flocked to this landmark to either make a name for themselves in various fields or test their faith and longevity by jumping from the edge.

One such man a century ago jumped from the bridge and survived. He was subsequently charged with attempted suicide but later acquitted. I always wondered – if he were to be found guilty, would the charge have been execution?

It is as though they use this crossing as a vehicle to test their worth in this great city. Not satisfied with societal achievements – being a positive family member or helping ones community – many humans have used their power of free will to jump willingly from this bridge.

The message I take from this a reminder of man’s continual need to unnecessarily validate himself by completing unimportant (read: irrelevant) achievements. This phenomenon has reached desperate lengths in the current, digital-age and shows no signs of abating.

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Story Bridge – Brisbane – Australia

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Storey Bridge

Brisbane’s pride and joy of the depression era, Story Bridge crosses the Brisbane River at Kangaroo Point.

Australia’s longest cantilever bridge, a public words program during the Great Depression, this bridge’s footings go 40 metres underground and men had to spend 2 hours in decompression to avoid the “bends.”

The story (pardon the pun) from this bridge is purely personal. It goes to the heart of what a bridge is, what it does well, and why we love the hell out of them.

A relative of mine lives in Hawthorne and was hosting a birthday party. As part of our time in Brisbane, we needed to visit New Farm to organise supplies for the evening. As the crow flies, New Farm is barely 500 metres away. As the car drives, it was a 30 minute trip. This is because there is no bridge from Hawthorne to New Farm.

Sometimes you have to marvel at the practicality of a bridge.

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Dakrong Bridge – Hue – Vietnam

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Dakrong Bridge

Practically, this bridge connects two opposing land masses separated by a river.

Figuratively, this bridge symbolises the reunification of a nation and the triumph of individual and communal spirit.

Hotly contested during the Vietnam War, Dakrong Bridge was bombed, destroyed, torn down and rebuilt many times. West of the DMZ, the bridge was located at the beginning of the Ho Chi Minh Trail – an elaborate series of trails that were used to bring supplies to North Vietnamese troops.

1975 signified the end of the “American” War and the reunification of Vietnam – the first independent Vietnam for nearly a century.

To mark their independence the Vietnamese constructed this bridge, located in the previous heart of the resistance.

A metaphoric thumbing of the nose to the rest of the world.

A message that no longer would Vietnam be divided or controlled by foreigners.

A strong, lasting, physical icon for Vietnamese to remind them of a terrifying past and, more importantly, prosperous future.

Many tours will pass by this bridge and stop if nothing other than to observe and remember.

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Ponte Sant Angelo – Rome – Italy

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Ponte Sant'Angelo

Completed in 134 AD by Emperor Hadrian, Ponte Sant’Angelo spans the great River Tiber and has existed during amazing periods of Roman history.

Present during the height of the expansive Roman Empire, used as a crossing point for pilgrims venturing to St Peter’s Basilica when Rome once again flexed its muscle 14 centuries later, this bridge provides a stunning opportunity for people to stand and watch.

One may watch as time passes in the Eternal City as the mind wanders to consider the time of giants, of Caesars, Painters, Artists, Popes, monsters, and feel, at once, remorseful and thankful for the time they live in. To have missed something historic. To be able to stand and admire it.

Ponte Sant'Angelo

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Tower Bridge – London – England

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Tower Bridge

Two factors conspired together for much of my life to hide the true identity of this bridge.

Factor number 1) At a young age, probably about Grade 1, I learnt the song “London Bridge is falling down.” Consequently, I knew of a bridge in London that had endured a difficult event in its past and, thanks to the advice of my teacher, I knew that the bridge has been subsequently rebuilt. I knew there was a bridge called London Bridge.

Factor Number 2) The only London bridge I had ever seen (many, many times at that) was this one:

"London Bridge" - Tower Bridge

Consequently, into my late teenage years I believed Tower Bridge to be London Bridge. When…it’s not… I suppose it was funnier in my brain.

Regardless, Tower Bridge is the leading bridge in a triumvirate of bridges that cross the Thames in a short span between Central London and London City.

Tower Bridge gets its name from its connection to the Tower of London, its proximity to Tower Hill and, I presume, the aesthetic towers of the bride itself.

Further along the walk you’ll find London Bridge. Given my awareness of the famous London Bridge, I was surprised by its current modesty, as seen below:

London Bridge

Various incarnations would have been more impressive, adorned with houses/shops/wagons and general hustle and bustle. Indeed, a bridge has stood at this location for over 7 centuries. During the 19th century, however, the bridge was viewed as cumbersome to water traffic and subsequently removed.

The third bridge in the triumvirate is the recently completed Millennium Bridge. As impressive as the bridge appears is its location. To the South lie Shakespeare’s Globe (reincarnation) and Tate Modern, and to the North is London’s famous St Paul’s Cathedral.

Millenium Bridge

Perhaps Tower Bridge would be better off being known as London Bridge owing to its iconic status, but the message I take from it is that sometimes we don’t get the credit for what we deserve – and other times we get too much. We don’t need to worry about this adulation, however, as we can continue to serve our purpose regardless of how we are viewed by others.

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Bridge of Sighs – Venice – Italy

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Bridge of Sighs

It is not surprising that the city that contains a billion bridges should have two bridges (at least) that capture the imagination.

I love the story of this bridge and I have alluded to it in a previous post (which can be found here).

The story goes like this;

Ponte dei Sospiri crosses a Venetian canal, connecting the judicial sector of the Ducal Palace to the dungeons on the other side.

In the antechambers of the palace, the accused would face trial and, once found guilty, would be taken post-haste to prison.

As the prisoner passed over the bridge, he would invariably let out a sigh as this was the final view of Venice he would have. The last opportunity to indulge in the magnificence, beauty and transcendence of “The Serene One.”

Of course, the prisoner wouldn’t simply be despondent at the thought of spending their remaining days rotting in a dark, cramped, mould infested dwelling for the rest of their days.

Nonetheless, the sighs were so audible that, centuries later, they can still be heard with the ringing of St Mark’s bells.

Bridge of Sighs from the inside

Sigh

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Sydney Harbour Bridge – Sydney – Australia

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 Sydney Harbour Bridge

As Australian as Vegemite and as famous as Crocodile Dundee, Sydney Harbour Bridge is a truly spectacular structure. Australia’s most iconic construction (along with its neighbour, the Sydney Opera House) and one of the world’s most famous bridges, Sydney Harbour Bridge provides a dramatic image of Sydney Harbour. A stunning, captivating and breathtaking visual display of shape, style and substance.

Seen from Manly across the raging bay, the bridge stands strong and majestic by the heart of the city. Witnessed from the Quay, the bridge is colossal and a vehement reminder of our individual place and small stature in modern society.

Seen from ferries, pubs, restaurants, houses and walks around the harbour, it is eye-catching beyond description and a truly beautiful bridge to behold.

Constructed in 1932, the bridge serves as an annual image of national celebration each New Year’s Eve. During the Sydney Olympics, the Olympic Rings adorned the bridge for 16 glorious days and nights. From protest marches, to celebrations, parties and practicality the bridge has seen it all in its relatively short history and reminds us daily that it hopes to see a whole lot more.

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Troubled Bridge Over Water – Nepal

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Occasionally in life, we are required to put our lives in greater than risk than usual. I’m not talking life-threatening situations cast upon us, I’m talking entirely choice-driven scenarios.

This occurs in various situations, degrees and usually requires a degree of paranoia. Such activities include driving, crossing the road in peak time, flying, swimming in the ocean, drinking and sitting next to a Millwall fan.

Enroute to Everest Base Camp, of all the pitfalls one may imagine would endanger ones life, I had not considered the amount of bridges we would cross in a two-week period. Let me tell you, it’d be in the dozens. The quality of workmanship on these bridges varied. Generally, I took for granted that each bridge was built to a satisfactory quality for transportation of humans, goods and, probably, yaks.

The workmanship on some would best be described in antique magazines as “pre-loved” were they to be resold. Occasionally, we’d come to a newly constructed bridge with the surplus bridge left to rot beneath. Comforting, if not for the consideration that not all such bridges had been successfully circumvented – that perhaps other bridges were in need of an alternate route but none had been offered.

Case in point:

cc IMG_3920

So over we’d go in our multitudes – Sherpas, porters, tourists, day packs, tents, kitchen equipment, portable toilets. Travelling, most often, between dilapidated ropes across wooden planks with sizeable gaps between them. The gaps ranged in size from train-platform width to (insert hockey player’s name here) teeth-wide.

Nepalese Bridge

It’s not to say that I thought like this when I crossed the bridges. Between the amazing locals, stunning visuals and life-altering journey, I found it difficult enough to remember to write in the journal each night let alone consider imminent plummeting from bridge-death scenarios.

That’s not to say it didn’t come close.

Crossing one bridge, in particular, comes to mind. It was the kind of bridge that would noticeably rock with each passing step. The kind of wobble that you could anticipate and adjust steps accordingly. That is until, of course, a mate of mind decided to chase me along the bridge. Now I was all of the size of Kate Moss as a child (I’m not sure exactly how big she was, but blow me down with a feather it must’ve been miniature) and he was the kind of guy you’d love to have camping with you. If you needed firewood, all you needed to do was point at a sizeable tree and you’d be basking in its burning ashes within minutes.

My twiggy being was no match for his quick, bulky figure and his step caused the bridge to jump like a heart rate after seeing Claire Danes in public when she was in her early-mid twenties. I failed to adjust my footing and was on a descending step when the bridge reared up at me with some force.

Like an uncoordinated mammal encountering a forceful trampoline, I speared forth into the air and for a moment I knew exactly how Michael Jordan would feel all those times jumping for two points – fucking petrified!

Moments passed as eons as I magically descended back to the side of the bridge. I scampered off the bridge and collected some dignity and sense of location before embarking back up the gully, undoubtedly heading to my next encounter with the GRIM REAPER!

I suppose, sometimes in life, we have to put our hands in the lives of others in order to grow, learn, experience, and appreciate. They don’t have the stature, name or international acclaim of other bridges, but they’ve arguably had a deeper impact on my psyche.

Sometimes the only way to grow is to close your eyes, choose a path, and walk along it – no matter how scary it may seem or what the potential pitfalls may be.

Nepalese Bridge

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The Bridge With No Return 

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At one point in history, a man stood on one side of a bridge knowing that his next action would change the course of history.

He had spent years fighting for his nation abroad, leading his army to many victories and helping solidify the power of his republic. Whilst engaged in combat, however, his power was stripped from him and he was ordered to disband his army.

Faced with the choice between acquiescing to the requests of the senate and wanting to claim the power he rightfully believed was his, the man stood at the side of a bridge and fixed his eyes, not miles into the distance, but metres across a stream. A fickle stream whose exact path cannot even be determined today.

No man in command of a standing army was to cross this bridge for to cross it would invoke the law of the republic for him and his troops. To be cast as traitors – to bring about civil war.

Standing at the side of the stream by the Po Valley, I imagine a chilly afternoon breeze flicking his red tunic to and fro. Stern, battle-scarred expressions engraved into the faces of his men, Caesar stares coldly across the stream and directly into the future. The only thing more cutting than the weather was the anticipation – would he or wouldn’t he.

I imagine great consternation at the thought of crossing but, once made, I envisage a man acting on a sudden decision – an instant call to destiny which had to be adhered – and the men would cross with the road of a nation.

Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in January 49 BCE. His action invoked over 18 months of civil war that spread across the entire Mediterranean. His action lead, eventually, to the rise of the Roman Empire and his deification. It also lead to the murders of many.

This event occurred over 20 centuries ago yet lives on as a reminder that, at some points of our lives, we face points of no return.

Points when we need to take decisive action.

Points when our decisions will shape our lives, and the lives of those around us, into the unforeseeable future.

Points when we need to cross a bridge and look to the future. It’s not about not looking back – it’s about getting somewhere so that you can look back.

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The Bridge that Wasn’t There

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As far as I am aware, Ancient Egypt never erected a bridge across the Nile.

It makes sense, I suppose, as the flooding of the river would make it difficult to create permanent crossing points. Yet, for the purposes of this post, I will argue that it is for a different reason. I think this is fair enough – especially when we consider that, surely, a culture of people capable of building the pyramids would certainly have been able to construct a bridge!

My contention is this;

A bridge was never built across the Nile because the concept was incongruous with the Egyptian view of the world. Of life. Of death.

The East side of the Nile is, obviously, the side of the Nile where the sun rises. Egyptians understood this to mean that the Sun had been reborn to the East. Effectively, the Sun had died the previous evening and re-formed in the morning. Consequently, Egyptians believed the East side of the river to be the Land of the Living.

Conversely, the West was regarded as the Land of the Dead. Each night, the Sun died in the West and faced the afterlife – a process of transition into the Afterlife where the moon and stars aligned to give birth to a new Sun the next morning.

Humans were born in the East. Humans were buried in the West.

A natural order of life – a logical, sensible understanding of the cycle of life was represented in the physical word through location.

All houses, farms, businesses and palaces were situated on the East of the River Nile.

All funerary temples, pyramids, tombs and graves were on the West.

To build a bridge across these lands would not be logical. It would be out of balance, improbable and unnatural. Living beings cannot access the land of the dead. Only through death can people transition to this stage. A physical construction would be too-literal-a-connection to the afterlife. A bridge simply wouldn’t make sense.

So – there was no bridge. I like that. A belief was so strong that it literally affected those who upheld it. Not in a negative way – not in a suppressing way. Just…in a way.

The message I take from this (non) bridge is that our views and beliefs can literally mould the places we live.

Metaphorically or literally, our beliefs, outlooks and subsequent decisions form what our world looks like.

The Bridge Into the Future

What to take from all of this?

I suppose that life is fascinating. There is so much out there to explore, learn, experience, get right, get wrong. So much has gone before us – endured our lows, felt out highs.

Bridges can be crossed but re-crossed at a later date. Some bridges, however, can’t be re-crossed.

We need to know that our life is our own. Our decisions belong to us and can have lasting impacts on ourselves, our friends, our families, even strangers.

We need to be open-minded. You never know when you may be standing in a location of significance. Just as you never know the life experiences of the person sitting opposite you on a train.

Life’s options can be scary, but they should be considered deeply. Some decisions are shockers but even they can turn at the next bend of the road.

We should try our best not to burn bridges – we never know when we may need to cross them again.

We don’t have to know everything. But the more we learn the greater our fascination with this world becomes. With all its seen and all it may produce.

We need to know that, with each passing day, we are helping to build our bridge into the future.

Make it worthwhile, make it interesting, make it rich with love, understanding, hope and friendship.


The reflective personality

The reflective personality will spend their life observing others. As a consequence, they will feel imbued with the traits that they witness – like a sponge absorbing the moisture around it.

Unfortunately, as is human custom, negative traits will stay more readily in the mind and have a more pronounced impact on the psyche.

A reflective person may abhor certain characteristics in others and feel self loathing often at the onset of their own perpetuation of said traits.

Professionally, a reflective may be acutely aware of detrimental practice yet feel caught in the quagmire, unable to absolve themselves of possible infringements against their better sense or knowledge.

Personally, they may be equally as confident of understanding potential pitfalls in human relationships. What is just as true, however, is that self doubt will again arise when boundaries are crossed.

Too caught in the image of those around them, a reflective person may paradoxically know more of others than they do of themselves. Most poignantly, I believe, is that a reflective person is so trapped in observing others and considering behaviours that they have little regard for how others may perceive them.

Too aware of the evils of human capability and too insecure to view themselves as being safe from them. I suppose nobody is – but I don’t think anyway is as aware of the fact as these people.


The reflective personality

The reflective personality will spend their life observing others. As a consequence, they will feel imbued with the traits that they witness – like a sponge absorbing the moisture around it.

Unfortunately, as is human custom, negative traits will stay more readily in the mind and have a more pronounced impact on the psyche.

A reflective person may abhor certain characteristics in others and feel self loathing often at the onset of their own perpetuation of said traits.

Professionally, a reflective may be acutely aware of detrimental practice yet feel caught in the quagmire, unable to absolve themselves of possible infringements against their better sense or knowledge.

Personally, they may be equally as confident of understanding potential pitfalls in human relationships. What is just as true, however, is that self doubt will again arise when boundaries are crossed.

Too caught in the image of those around them, a reflective person may paradoxically know more of others than they do of themselves. Most poignantly, I believe, is that a reflective person is so trapped in observing others and considering behaviours that they have little regard for how others may perceive them.

Too aware of the evils of human capability and too insecure to view themselves as being safe from them. I suppose nobody is – but I don’t think anyway is as aware of the fact as these people.


The “One”

“The One” – a cheesy, rubbish, Hollywoodism that is designed to allow people to trick themselves into a feeling of relief where guilt would instead reside. Leaving your beloved is OK, because she’s/he’s not the “one” – rather than going down that gruesome, prickly path of complete honesty. You can be happier down another path, with the actual “one.”

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You’re spot on about happiness. Too many people confuse what happiness is. They think it is a way of being – that someone can be always happy. They forget that it’s an emotion. It’s actually a conversation I have often with the children in my class – that happiness is not what you can always be. You can be happy in the morning, excited in the day and sad at night. However, I tell them that they can always be positive and have an optimistic outlook.

It’s why, I think, so many people cheat or don’t work at relationships. They get bored, life gets “dull” and so they think that something is wrong and move onto the next person. Of course, the cycle simply repeats again.

The way I view it – I don’t believe there’s one person out there for everyone. It’s ridiculous (in my mind) to think that everyone has ONE person out there for them. Out of almost 7 billion people, the chances of finding one person that is the one for you is outrageous and an excuse for people to move away from loves to find another. I think there are many, many different people that can make a person happy.

As such, I think it becomes a reflection of whether or not you would be happier with someone else than you are at present. Not in the first few months (of course, they will always be exciting) but after a few years. After the highs. After the lows.

I look at my wife and I know that there’s not another person who could make me happier to be with.


Tolerance

In younger days, brash was a decent word to describe this author.

Opinionated, argumentative, out-spoken would be others.

Teenage male I suppose would sum it up more neatly.

Specifically, I had little regard for people I viewed as idiotic. Very little tolerance for those I did not agree with or whoever I viewed as vapid, materialistic, arrogant or snobby.

I think it was born from silence in my family life – feeling as though, to some who were supposed to be closest to me, that my voice carried no respect or value. From here, I think I tried to assert myself with strangers. Fiercely loyal to friends, incredibly dismissive of others.

I don’t think that I thought those I didn’t like had anything to teach me – except to be their polar opposite.

As time has passed and I’ve continued to mature, and mellow, I’ve realized that, in many ways, it’s the people that you don’t particularly connect with, or agree with, that you can learn the most from. Through reflection and circumspection, born of respect for the right of others to have opinions of their own, your own views of the world can be solidified, understood or changed as needs be.

Self-respect and appreciation can only materialise deeply within one’s self when one has tolerance and respect for a range of people – and viewpoints. It is here where self-doubt and flagellation dies – when you realize that everything you detested about yourself previously can be viewed completely differently from a view-point that you’d previously never considered, or entirely ignored.


A Lesson from Photography

To be honest, I’ve become interested in photography by accident.

Whilst I have always enjoyed taking photos when travelling, I never quite understood the “art” or “skill” behind photography – I would essentially mock the copious amounts of Black and White Photography that abounded the senses or the close up shots of shoes and leaves.

At the end of a trip I’d chose my favourite handful of photos and throw them on Facebook or print them at the local Kodak shop to stick on the wall.

Memories.

When post-wedding blues struck, however, I was paralysed by the need to find new direction and purpose.

By chance, during term 2 holidays, I used the iPhoto program on my new laptop to have a look at a few photos from our first trip away. Upon finding the “edit” section – I played with several of the photos, adjusting saturation, exposure, contrast – all of the things that proper photographers would probably now be projectile vomiting over their screens upon reading. I simply changed the photos to a degree where they made me smile when I looked at them.

I found the process of photography enjoyable.

And so it went. I went through city by city, re-exploring photos long since ignored to find the photos that made me sit up, think, remember, and smile.

 

I must categorically state that I do not believe that I am a good photographer. My photos are taken on Auto (hopefully soon to be rectified), I have little idea of composition or lighting and my editing techniques are lazy and result in blurry pictures.

My “photography,” however, has certainly opened my eyes up to the immediate world in front of me. Even when I am not taking photos, I look keenly at the local spaces and colours, textures and shapes. I consider clearly the objects that entertain my sight and think positively about how this visual sense can improve my vitality.

Where previously the fascinated section of my visual sphere was occupied purely by human faces, sporting landscapes and famous buildings – I am now enamoured with the light hitting an old house, a cat dancing along a vibrant grassy space or a flower sprouting for the first time in months.

Whilst I hope that some photos I take inspire joy, wonder or interest in others, what it comes down to is that it’s helped me find a new interest and passion – and that is, clearly, the world right in front of me.


Wellness

“Health is more than the absence of disease”

When we’re sick, we can barely imagine being well.

When well, we whinge about how little sleep we’ve had.

Too often we fail to recognise positives – even when they dwell within our own beings.

We care more for our hair than our minds. More for our cars than our bodies. More for our time than our friends.

It is beneficial to evaluate your outlook, if only to find a positive. To recognise aspects of  your life and mindset that help to enrich your life and the lives of those around you.

Happiness has a place in this discussion. While many search for it, often leaving mindless trails of consumer destruction behind them, it is not a staple of wellness. It is a fluid body that can be reached by the simplest of forms.

Being well in mind does not mean one is always happy – just as being fit does not mean never being out of breath.

We must understand what sustains us, in body and mind, and pursue those things without guilt, fear or embarrassment.


Post-Wedding Blues

“How was your wedding?”

“Fantastic!”

“How was your honeymoon?”

“Totally wicked!”

“How are you feeling now?”

“Pretty shithouse, to be brutal.”

Of course, this conversation only happened once. The cocktail expression of shock, disappointment, sadness, pity and disgust I received upon reviewing the recipient’s face told me to keep that sort of thing to myself.

Somehow, amidst the myriad of wedding advice, tips, hints, reminders and proclamations passed on from anyone as intimate as a family member to as distant as a lollipop lady, a key issue had been ignored.

Couples endure a period of post-nuptual hell that leaves you feeling…flat.

Obviously, you are still excited about being married and the excitement that comes with it all. However, it must be said to those approaching marriage that the aftermath is not necessarily a purely magical period.

It is laced with a feeling of flatness. That the hopes and dreams of a lifetime have been realised. “The best day of your life” has been and gone – that the photos of your wedding are the only ones you will ever have, there is never a chance to take or add more. Never an opportunity to change a line in a speech or actually eat some of the food at the wedding. Essentially, it is re-acquainting yourselves with normal life that, in our case, we hadn’t experienced for a few years.

I suppose it stems from spending such a large amount of time, money and effort on one single event. Every second conversation you have with someone will focus around the wedding. The little details are always in the back of your mind. Each day is a series of planning, making phone calls and making lists for months leading into the wedding.

Suddenly, this all comes to a halt and it’s back to the “real world.” Of course, the “real world,” is the life you’ve created with your spouse and is the reason why you married in the first place. It’s an adjustment, nonetheless.

In my mind, the danger is that couples spend this time entirely focused on the future. On what they will be once they are married, what their plans may be. I fear this may lead some couples to lose sight of the present, of themselves and, more importantly, each other.

It is crucial that couples entering marriage remind themselves of why they are marrying at all stages along the journey – the love they share for their partner, their relationship, their present. Make time to get away from the wedding and do the things you would normally do. Live.

The marriage itself begins at such a pinnacle that the time afterward is somewhat anti-climactic (in comparison) so the relationship must be strong to begin with.

Obviously, there is a degree of exaggeration in this post. I feel that it is necessary to underline the importance of the message and as retaliation to all those who did not mention it beforehand yet experienced the same thing themselves.

A final piece of advice. You may need to acquire a hobby post-wedding to occupy all that space in your mind that may suddenly arise.

For me, it was starting this blog.

Has anyone experienced this before? Or am I completely mental?


For Forever and a Day


For six years we’d been at play;

Two hearts joined by laughter,

A couple of Lovers, jokers, sharers;

Friends.

A Christmas eve abroad I asked you to marry;

A sketch, a poem, a tear, “really?”

So a date in March was set to save,

An Autumn eve to celebrate.

There was a great deal to plan,

50 calls for celebrants, 20 for bands,

There were flowers too,

Cake, rings and the shoes.

With tears, laughter and support,

Our momentous day arrived.

However beautiful the view,

It could not compete;

With the beauty I saw

In you.

As ever;

We chatted, we shivered,

We laughed and we joked.

And,

With a ring, a kiss, a dance and a wave,

We sailed away

For forever and a day.


Origins

If you’ve been sitting at home for hours, screaming into the dark, gnawing on the end of your couch whilst contemplating why this site is so named, this post is for you.

Stretching into infinity is the last line of the Emily Bronte Poem Past, Present, Future.

We found this poem after buying a book of poem’s for our wedding. My wife wanted her father to read The Owl and the Pussycat, a story that carried meaning for her family after having it read most nights of her childhood. Indeed, her father was so familiar with the poem itself, that he retold the story on our wedding day without using the words!

Weeks before the wedding, I opened up the book to have a little look and, on the inside cover, found this poem:

.

Tell me, tell me, smiling child,

What the past is like to thee.

“An Autumn evening soft and mild

With a wind that sighs mournfully.”

.

Tell me, what is the present hour?

“A green and flowery spray

Where a young bird sits gathering its power

To mount and fly away.”

.

And what is the future, happy one?

“A sea beneath a cloudless sun;

A mighty, glorious, dazzling sea

Stretching into infinity.”

.

The poem immediately captured us. For its form, its words and its themes. It captured us and our upcoming nuptials in an elegant, understated way. Our love of children was captured through the spoken words of a child’s vision. We were to marry on a mild, Autumn evening. We loved the image of the young bird, preparing itself for flight – a delightful image for our marriage. Finally, we loved the vision for the future that it prepared.

The future is what you make of it. We are not certain what it will bring, but it is awe-inspiring and captivating. And we’ll experience it together.


Children = Miniature Drunken People

There’s a Monster at the end of this beer…

9 year olds

Generally an exuberant, friendly, out-going group of humans. They have certain inhibitions, but these do not stop them from doing what they want in most cases. Generally coordinated, but not great, 9 year olds will give most activities a go (especially if they are confident with a particular activity). Able to maintain bodily functions and steady conversation. Good degree of self-awareness.

Me after 1-2 pints.

7 year olds

Have some idea of surroundings and appropriate behaviour, but will often forget themselves and indulge in abnormal behaviour. Prone to mis-stepping as they walk and, occasionally, crying for no reason, the 7 year-old has little inhibition (especially if it will garner greater attention from others).  Often opinionated, the 7 year-old likes to deal in matter-of-fact conversation, with no concept of areas of grey. Slight self-awareness.

Me after 3-5 pints.

5 year olds

Have short attention spans. Whilst they are able to decode simple words and sentences, children of this age have difficulty comprehending when they read and can make basic decoding errors. Co-ordination is still developing but bodily functions can, with concentration, be controlled. 5 year olds will excitedly share information they know with people they meet and are susceptible to staring at shiny/colourful objects for great lengths of time. Occasionally, they may share information that is a little bit too personal, but it’s offered in a friend-affirming manner. Little self-awareness.

Me after 6-8 pints.

3 year olds

Are completely self-indulgent. About 75% of what they say can be understood by strangers and most sentences contain about 3-4 words. Children of this age are short-term focused, ask “what?” a lot and have very little control over their coordination. Walking in a straight line may not be possible and, occasionally, the 3 year-old will have to take a double-step to reaffirm balance. Children of this age are generally convivial to conversation, but can often break down in tears for no apparent reason and may detest sharing. They have little comprehension of the world around them but are generally pretty confident to explore. These little devils can be incredibly possessive of their belongings to the point of obsession, yet this does not render them incapable of leaving most of their things behind when they need to move on. They have difficulty maintaining bodily functions. Very happy to talk to strangers. They are proud of their body parts and celebrate, in the greater scheme of things, pretty mediocre accomplishments. Minimal self-awareness.

Me after 9-10 pints.

Infants

Eat, cry and sleep. Desperate for food, they will often complain incessantly until they get it. Afterwards, they will often vomit back the very same food that they had so violently cried for only minutes earlier. They have absolutely no control over bodily functions and possess an incredibly slight memory. Slurred utterances are the only sounds humans of this age are capable of producing. No self-awareness.

Me after 11 pints.

Teenagers

Are lazy, selfish, whingy individuals who spend much of their time in dark places, converse in a series of shortish grunts and get by, for the greater part, on potato chips and other assorted condiments.

Me hungover. (Yeah, I know, the order is a bit strange. I suppose teenagers end up paying the price for the years of the alcohol abuse that they participated in as a child).


Suddenly faced with the rest of your life

The rest of your life. A daunting prospect.

As a child, it is an impossible daydream –

Too intangible to grasp, too distant to consider,

Especially with such fleeting consciousness.

Born aware more by idle mind than reality –

As events are planned and past, as hopes are raised and gone,

We become acutely attentive of the setting sun, the passing days.

The dawn of the rest of your life may appear more as a blinding midday sun,

Than sunlight creeping above the horizon.

Embrace it – for even a distant vision grows closer with each step.


The Creative Touch

I have always harboured great respect for creative people.

I’ve never understood their abilities and my lack of ability has probably rendered me powerless to properly appreciate their skills. I nevertheless try.

The boy who could effortless clear an enormous height. The girl who could draw, or paint, or sing. The adolescent who could strum a song by ear. The writers. The thinkers.

Sometimes, I would think that people may run out of creativity.

That “using” creativity was like taking a cup and slipping it across a bath of water and pouring it down the sink. Once it’s used, it’s gone.

However, I’ve come to feel that creativity is more akin to the flowerbed whereupon others pour their glasses of water onto. With each moment of inspiration and opportunity,people increase their creativity – both in thought and action – for (hopefully) all the world to see.

I’m inclined to believe that, for instance, the more you write, the greater array of inspiration will draw you to write further – the more you use your creativity, the more creative you will be.

Creativity may be more of a habit than a natural-born gift.


Negativity

There will always be reasons to think negatively.

Work may be unfulfilling. Friends may be frustrating. Your favourite tv show may be cancelled (or moved back half an hour). These are all parts of Western Life that seem hell-bent on gearing our thinking in a negative fashion.

Mondays are the worst. Tuesdays aren’t much better and God help me on a Wednesday. etc. The problem is that this type of thinking is generally formed by those around us and can tend to scrape off onto our psyche. As an extension of this, our possible negative thoughts may influence others whether we want it o or not.

Negative thinking can be a habit. At the end of a day, we may naturally reflect on the couple of negatives over the heap of positives. To harbour on the tiredness while ignoring the positive factors involved in creating said tiredness.

Negativity must be thought of as a muscle.

The more often it is used, the greater it will flex.

To strengthen our bodies and minds against this muscle, we sometimes need to remind ourselves to think positively. To put things into perspective. To tell yourself that no task in unachievable, that things are never as bad as they seem. For, however hard things may seem, there’s always something as cute as this dog somewhere.

Positive thinking does not mean happiness. Happiness is merely a fleeting emotion. Positivity is a life-changing, continuous mindset – albeit one that needs you to be alert and active in its maintenance.