Accidental Blashpemy

I blaspheme. Like, a lot! On a daily basis in fact.

As I go through life you’ll find my vocabulary littered with ‘God Damns’ and ‘Jesus Christs’ as I continually take the Lord’s name in vain whilst stubbing my toes or dropping things or, if I’m lucky, gazing in wonder and amazement at something magical.

But the important thing to remember is that I don’t mean it. These words have no more specific meaning to me than does the word ‘Coke’ mean specifically the brown sugar water made by the Coca Cola Corporation. When I say coke I mean any brown sugar water you have available (or at least did, when I drank brown sugar water). They’re just words I use to express a general meaning, and shouldn’t be taken seriously. Likewise my latest bit of blasphemy.

I’d seen this bookshop/cafe just round the corner from the hostel I’m staying in in Adelaide, and filed it away as a nice place to go and sit, drink tea, and read a book. And so, the other day, that’s exactly what I did.

Initially it seemed like any other bookshop you get; ie, full of books. But then as I was perusing the DVD shelves (I can’t help it, I see a DVD shelf, I have to peruse) I noticed that I’d heard of none of these movies; not a single one. ‘Ok,’ I thought, ‘So they get their supplies from some knock-off DVD supplier.’ It happens. Usually in 24 hour garages and back street newsagents though.

Then I spotted one with ‘Kirk Cameron Presents…’ emblazoned across the top, and a spark went off in my head. He’s a pretty well known Born Again Christian in the States. ‘So,’ I thought, ‘they have a religious DVD section. Ok, that’s cool. Each to his own.’

Then I headed to the cafe counter, passing lots of what appeared to be Self-Help books along the way. I stood waiting to order, my gaze drifting around the room, alighting on children’s books with the word ‘Jesus’ in the title, and adult books with the word ‘save’ on them somewhere, until it finally settled on a corner of the room separate from the rest that just had ‘Bibles’ written across the top of the entryway. I think around then is when I finally twigged I was in a Christian bookshop (and if that didn’t do it the t-shirt shop across the road selling ‘born again designs’, and the homeless guy with JESUS tattooed across his knuckles, really would have been the clinchers).

Now as I say, each to his own. It’s all good. But what made me chuckle to myself, and where the blasphemy comes in, is I was there to finish reading ‘Good Omens‘ by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, a light-hearted, tongue in cheek look at the Book Of Revelations and the End Of The World.

accidental blasphemy

If you haven’t tried it and you like a bit of a chuckle I suggest you give it a go. It’s a fun, well written book, that I thoroughly enjoyed. Apparently it’s a bit of a cult classic. I don’t know about that. I just picked it up in the book exchange at the hostel, figuring both these guys pen a good yarn, so together they’ll probably do alright.

But be warned, it doesn’t take The Bible entirely seriously. It doesn’t take much of anything entirely seriously in fact, but certainly not The Bible. That was why I felt kinda funny sitting there reading it in what was quite clearly a pro-Jesus establishment.

I’m happy to report though that I survived the experience. No one took umbrage at my presence or choice of reading material (though they would have had to have known it’s contents to do that, which seems unlikely in somewhere like that), and I was neither cast down, smote, nor rent asunder, which would have put a bit of a dampener on the rest of my day let me tell you.

I can only conclude that either God doesn’t care about that sort of thing or, as is more probably the case, She’s got a better sense of humour than most people give her credit for. Just look at the platypus for example. A prime example of someone having a laugh if ever there was one. 😀

Disaster Recovery

Ok, “Disaster Recovery” is probably a bit over dramatic. It’s just a phrase you hear often in TV for dealing with any number of transmission problems – power cuts, terrorist attacks, a plane landing on top of you – and I just like the sound of it. 🙂

sword practice

I’ve been dealing with my own ‘disaster’ recently, what with the whole ear thing. Man, you wouldn’t believe how debilitating it is not being able to balance! (or maybe you would) When it happened I couldn’t even roll over in bed without feeling like I was going to fall over, and going to the shops was an interesting experience to say the least. I felt like I was walking on marshmallows a lot of the time, and I had to be extra careful to keep my head level and not look around too quickly just in case.

I had over a week off work and even when I went back I still wasn’t quite right. In fact it was just yesterday, 2 weeks after it came on, that I finally felt like my old self once again. So far today there’s been no sign of it but I’m watching out to be sure I’m not just being overly optimistic.

xmas at tunch's

All set for Christmas? I’ve got all my presents (well, I’ve ordered all my presents – still waiting for 2 of them to get delivered). As always I’m working Christmas Day itself, so I’ll be heading up to Carlisle on the 17th for a few days to see the family. Plan on driving up which will be epic (about 5-6 hours) but it’ll be so good to have my own car when I’m there. My parents live in a village so if I want to go anywhere I have to get a lift or public transport, and that sucks, so this year I’m going vehicular, lol. You know it makes sense.

3 for 2

I just realised that I finished part 2 of my book over 2 months ago and I’ve done almost nothing since! (a couple of pages but that’s it) This is not good. I mean, I can account for about 3 weeks of that with the meditation course and felling ill, but still I should have done more in the time I’ve had. Time to pull my finger out methinks.

an englishman at the seaside

I’m in the process of figuring out what I want to do for my sabbatical. Work have agreed to it in principal, now I just need to decide when I want it for how long. The plan in general is 1 month doing the Sivananda Teacher Training Course in Austria, followed by a month or two just working and practicing at one of their Ashrams (though which one is the big question), then I might take some time off and travel a wee bit. I’m thinking maybe Australia as I’ve got some friends and family down there, and it’d be a good jumping off point for hitting Thailand.

There’s two things I really want to do in life – see the northern lights and ride an elephant – and if I’m in Oz then Thailand seems to be the place to do it (ride an heffalump that is, obviously). Just found out I’ve got the offer of somewhere to stay out there for the next year so it’s a golden opportunity. And it ties in quite nicely with heading back this way from the Land of Milk and Honey. And that brings me back to Europe just in time for Aurora Borealis season.

So I’m thinking:

August – TTC
September – Ashram work
October – Ashram work
November – Australia
December – Australia/Thailand
January – Aurora Borealis

It’s still a little sketchy as I don’t really want to spend 2 months traveling (being somewhere without something specific to do bores me). The question is where do I want to spend Christmas? How long do I want to be away really? And what do I want to do when I get back? (ok, that’s 3 questions)

I might take a year off, spend 5-6 months away, then come back, find somewhere cheap to rent, and spend 6 months just writing and see if I can make a go of that. Back in the UK in the middle of winter with nowhere to live? Not very tempting.

And can I afford all that (without spend all my savings)? As you can see there’s a lot to figure out. But I’ll get there, I have to, because if there’s one things all this being ill has taught me recently it’s you’ve got to go out there and enjoy what you do! Because no one is immortal, and people who stay home, stay safe, pay all their bills and plan for the future die just as often as people who go out there, have fun, and enjoy themselves.

Some General Reflections

What a weird week it’s been.

morning reflections

Back to work after the week of meditation. That was a bit of a shock. But, they did agree in principal to a sabbatical, which is good. I just need to decide when I want it (and ergo, what I want to do) and we can sort it out (hopefully).

Then I got ill, which was/is dry as a bone. I hate being stuck indoors not being able to go do stuff. I’m watching back to back Big Bang Theory but still… BORED! Thankfully my ears are sorting themselves out slowly. I’m still a bit trippy on my feet, but at least it’s to a lesser extent than it was when it started.

I had high hopes for the coming week. I’d finally cleared my To Do list, and I fully intended on spending as much time as possible writing as I haven’t done any work on my book in ages. But now I don’t feel up to it, which sucks, so I’m just trying not to go crazy in the meantime.

And I’m not doing any meditation for the same reasons. I’m just drained, lethargic, and utterly unmotivated. The change in weather (ie: less daylight hours) doesn’t help either. Winter and me don’t get on.

Anyway, in the meantime, I’ve done a wee playlist for you guys to download if you fancy. It’s called Dustbowl Americana, and I think the title speaks for itself. Hope you enjoy these slightly countrified haunting melodies. Makes me dream of faraway lands where the horizon goes on for miles and there ain’t no rush to go nowhere. 🙂

Bad backs, bakeries, and book publishing

I wish I could take my own advice.

I had this ‘great revelation’ about not doing vs. trying too hard, especially when it comes to my yoga practice, and then I go and over-stretch doing a sitting forward bend and pull a muscle in my back. Lord what fools these mortals be.

But, no experience is wasted if we learn something from it, and even though I was forced to take it easy for 4 days – which meant canceling getting my car serviced, canceling my trip to Brighton, and missing out on a yoga seminar – at least I may have learnt my lesson when it comes to exercising properly (I recognise the fact that, like a naughty puppy, sometimes I need to be smacked round the nose with a rolled up newspaper :)).

The reason I went too far is simple; I’m over-eager to advance in my practice and thus one day become a teacher. You can’t force these things, and I now have to admit it may take me a year or two before I’m of a good enough standard to teach. After all, if you can’t do, you shouldn’t be teaching.

hazel gingernuts 2

I do however want to teach, at least that much is clear. I’ve been getting distracted recently by the idea of opening a vegan bakery, so much so that it had become forefront in my mind. But it was only meant to be a secondary project; something to do in addition to the yoga studio upstairs. It was just the immediate possibility of the idea, the fact that there’s a gap in the market, and watching Stranger Than Fiction that shifted it’s position in my head. Really, if I’m honest, the idea of getting up at 6am every day and having to deal with the General Public does not fill me with heady enthusiasm. I mean I can do it, but I need to be doing something else too, just to help balance it out a bit.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been distracted by ‘reality’ either. Back in the day I wanted to be an author. When I was 8 I asked for a typewriter for Christmas. By age 10 I was sending stuff off to publishers, and though I’ve yet to have anything published, I still write. However, what I write has changed throughout the years. It started with books, then comic strips, then movies, until finally I’ve come full circle back to books again.

I recently asked a friend of mine, if you could do one thing before you die to somehow make your mark on the world, what would it be? Now I’ve had lots of ideas over the years, things I’ve invented, memes I’d like to be taken up, but in the end it boils down to one thing: Before I die I’d like to get a novel published. I want to see my name on the spine of a book in Waterstones, squeezed in between Charles Dickens and Emily Dickinson, then I’d feel like I’d accomplished something tangible, something that will live on after my death. How funny it is that, after 30 years, it all comes down to the same dream I had when I was 8 years old.

So there’s where I’m at at the moment. I’m going to finish the novel I started working on last year, whilst gently getting back up to speed with my yoga practice, and to appease the baking Gods I’m going to produce a series of recipe cards to sell online. That should keep me busy enough for a while, then in the summer I can reevaluate and see where I want to go next.

NB: Had some feedback on the script I finished in December. The friend I gave it to the other day to proofread said she picked it up to look at and couldn’t put it down again ’til she was finished. That’s the sort of stuff a writer wants to hear! No major problems either. The odd bit of dialogue that slowed things down a little (mostly expositional stuff that needs to be there, what they call ‘laying pipe’ in the business) but generally it sounds like it’s 95% there. Look forward to getting a more detailed analysis, plus the thoughts and opinions of my other proofreader, but it sounds like it’s on the right track so far. Happy days. 🙂

Still ill :(

Well, I thought the flu had abated, but it’s back as a tickly cough that’s settled itself comfortably in my chest and looks like it’ll be there for a while.

So annoying being ill. There’s so much I want to do and it’s getting in the way. Could be a lot worse though. Just reading My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor. She had a stroke when she was 37, and it set her back a good 8 years. NB: If you haven’t seen her Ted talk yet you simply must! I’ve blogged about it before but it’s certainly worth mentioning again. Very emotional and inspiring.

So really I shouldn’t complain. Things could be a lot worse. Despite the cough I’m stuck in the house today anyway, waiting for a delivery I have to sign for. Going to take the opportunity to do some writing after I’ve done this post. Want to look again at the book I started and see where it goes.

I also keep thinking about opening a bakery. So many things are conspiring to keep it in my mind I can’t not think about it. Keep constructing the menu in my head. The big question at the moment is how much would be sweet (cakes) and how much savoury (pies)? And would I serve tea and coffee, meaning most people would expect cows milk to go with them, or just herbal drinks? Decisions, decisions. For now I’m just going to test a few recipes. Check out this one for Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies from Veganomicon.

chocolate chocolate chip and walnut cookies

Nice huh? The mixture was very wet when I put it on the tray, which looked a bit suspect to me, but they came out nice and moist and chewy, so I obviously did something right.

Starting Yoga 3 tonight at the Sivananda Centre. Can’t wait for that. Hopefully the cough won’t get in the way, though who knows. Could go either way. Thinking about going twice a week now too. Want to push ahead with my practice and get to a comfortable level. Think my progress is stagnating a little.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Time for some honey, lemon and ginger tea.

Kiki’s Birthday Battenberg

Been wanting to do one of these for ages. There’s not many cakes I miss, but the Battenberg is one of my favourites, and ripe for a bit of veganisation. And since it’s my birthday I thought why the hell not!

birthday battenberg

It was fairly easy to do in the end. I just made a batch of the vanilla cupcake mix from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, split it into two batches, mixed some pink food colouring in one of them, then put them in two lined cake tins and baked as directed.

battenberg, slice

Once they’re done all you’ve got to do is roll out some marzipan into a thin sheet, give it a light coating of apricot jam, slice the two sponges into square ended oblongs, and construct them in a checker-board pattern on the marzipan, using apricot jam between the layers to hold it together.

blow!

Finally wrap the marzipan around the sponge, slice off the excess, dust with icing sugar to combat the general stickiness, et voila! one battenberg. Then all you’ve got to do is make a wish and eat it quick. Tastes just like Mr Kipling used to make. 🙂

Got a pretty decent haul of pressies this year too.

birthday haul

From left to right: a t-shirt from my twin brother, a book, some mini silicon bun-cases from Sabera, a punky mug from Regine, some vegan fudge from Mrs Mu and Bean, and a meditation CD from Carolina. The book is my present to myself. It’s The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, the first Fighting Fantasy book I ever bought when I was a kid, and the only one I never managed to complete. But now, 20-odd years later, perhaps I’ve got the nounce to finally beat it. I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck!

Week 41 : Working For A Living Sucks!

Working for a living sucks!

I know this won’t come as much of a revelation to most of you (hello my generally mute and fairly non-existent audience) but after having a week off I can unequivocally say that not having to go to work is markedly better than having to go to work.

I spent the first few days just tidying up. Y’know, washing, dusting, hoovering, all those things you can’t be arsed doing after a day at work (and don’t want to do on your days off). Then I watched some really rubbish movies. Why are films so God damned boring these days? Seriously, it’s really starting to get on my tits now. Dull, badly paced, crap characters, woefully functional dialogue, it’s getting impossible to find something with a bit of interest and originality in it. And I weep for the future. With people like Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight, Inception) and Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) getting all the big franchises to muck about with (Superman, Wolverine) even the films that are meant to be no brainer entertainment are set to go the boring, over-worked, who-gives-a-damn route.

But there is an upside. All this crap I’ve injected into my head has inspired me to get on with writing my own stuff again. I was working on a new book, which I still am, but the freedom of that has released some kind of block in my head. I sat down the other night, started on this script I haven’t done anything on in months, and suddenly it just started pouring out. I couldn’t stop almost. Next thing I know it’s 2 in the morning and I’d knocked out 5 or 6 scenes. Same the next night, not as much but still a good chunk of work. And again the night after. And it’s good stuff too. Plus the most exciting bit is there’s more waiting to get out. I know how the rest of the film is going to go now, I just need to get it down on paper. It’s just a matter of time. Unfortunately I go back to work tomorrow for a couple of night shifts. They always wipe me out, so by Friday who knows if I’ll have the energy to keep writing or if I’ll just sit there watching The Big Bang Theory on DVD. Let’s hope not eh?

I’ve bought my Christmas cards already, can you believe it? I feel a little embarrassed. I was just going to buy one to send to my brother in Australia, but then Waterstones had a 3-for-2 on so it was only £8 for 24 cards, and it was for charity, and, and, and… and it’s not right is it? Shops shouldn’t be allowed to advertise Christmas until after Halloween at the earliest. One pagan holiday at a time fellas. There’s no rush.

I sat down to meditate the other day and sat for 35 minutes, which is the longest I’ve ever done. Not that I intended to that is. I set my alarm for 20 minutes, but I couldn’t do that (or so I thought). I opened my eyes, a little confused, to find that I’d actually set it for 20 hours (damn you digital displays). What a numpty. Still, nice to see I can go for a lot longer than I thought I could. Not that I actually ‘meditated’ for all that time, but at least I tried.

Saw a mouse in the flat last night. Been hearing them for a while now but this was the first time I’ve spotted a dark figure scuttling across the floor. Now I have to buy some utterly ineffective humane traps to get rid of them. Have to say, this is where being a vegan Buddhist sucks. Poison may be nasty stuff, but it gets the job done.

And coz long posts are boring without a pic or two check out my latest bit of baking.

chocolate chocolate chip cookies

They look nasty but they taste pretty good. Lots of winging it and substitutions going on, hence their splatty nature, but they can’t all be winners eh?