Kos, Patmos and Kalymnos August 9th – 15th 2019

Patmos August 9th

Staying in a wonderful hotel, Oklaca Beach Rooms on Oklaca beach on the West side of Skala. It has a perfect view towards the sunset.

How inaccurate first impressions often are. I walked out of Skala town and the road became a bit dustier, the buildings half built. It felt more wind blown; a bit rougher. Surely, these are often the more interesting places?

I was dying for the loo when I arrived and sweating like a mofo. All was quiet. It was in the heat of the day. Everything locked apart from the kitchen. Went and tried a door and disturbed someone. ‘Hello!’

‘Sorry, I’m just going to the loo.’

When I came out the inside was chaos – toys everywhere, a push chair on its side. Oh dear, I’ve chosen badly I thought.

How wrong I was! Enrico and Monica were Neapolitans and ran the hotel for 3 months in the Summer. Oklaca Beach Rooms overlooking Oklaca Beach where the sun went down slow and fat setting the sea slight as it went. A burning line floated on the horizon for several minutes before that too disappeared. I sipped a Negroni and ate bruschetta, my mind slow.

They had brought their own team of chefs from Naples and I’m afraid to say it beats any of the Greek cooking I’ve had here: linguine with anchovy oil and tomato followed by fresh swordfish fillet with roasted vegetables. Superb. And they so friendly and hospitable willing to chat for ages the following day. He works for Education First getting lecturers from overseas for students in Italy. ‘Education is so important’ he was keen to emphasise. Taken note – and inspiration.

August 13th Harry’s Paradise Garden, Emporios, Kalymnos.

I could have stayed at Oklaca but sadly no decent beaches nearby. Hired a car the following day and in time honoured fashion managed to prang it turning a tight corner hitting a black mercedes 10 minutes after I’d hired it. Again, no shouting or rage just a tremor of shock. Obviously the thought stayed with me – the anticipation of how much it would cost. ‘Just accept it’s going to cost 300 euros’ (it turned out to be 410!)

Anyway Lambi Beach was my next port of call. What a place. It reminded me of when James Bond gets shot by Moneypenny at the start of Skyfall:

M ‘Take the bloody shot’


‘Agent down’.

And the next time we see bond he’s literally washed up drinking in a taverna on a beach.

That was like Lambi Beach. It’s a long pebbly beach with headlands at each end and Dolphin Rooms where I was staying just a few rooms and a bar at the front decorated – I love that about the islands – with nets, buoys, pictures of fish, etc. Everything here is dictated by the sea.

There were the rooms then 50 metres along the beach a taverna with tables on the beach, the legs sunk into the pebbles. Besides this little else. What a way to live. To be awake and asleep always hearing or feeling the waves, eating what the sea has provided. Got drunk again that night and partook of the holy trinity, so excited I was by where I was. Funny how I’ve been drinking and smoking heavily out here but not too done in by it. Sleeping lots too. Gorgeous French and Albanian girls, smiling and unaffected, made it.

If I have had one regret there hasn’t been much ‘adventure’. There’s been a lot of chilling (or baking more like) on the beach. That’s good. I’m just about to finish Zorba, I’ve written, I’ve listened to lots of good music. My electric Summer mix is a cracker – tom and Miki were getting high to it in Ibiza 2 nights ago and sending me fucked messages at 4 in the morning.

Yet I need action, stimulation, exploration. This will be the holiday I’ll remember for being so present (is that the right word?) and unflappable. A massive plus and, as the narrator in Zorba says, we often don’t know how happy we are until afterwards.

Grikos was where I stayed two nights ago. The 11th. More beach life and a bit swank – some massive boats in the harbour – one with its own helicopter, colour coded to the yacht and to all the tiny figures who buzzed around this floating palace. The helicopter took off early evening, buzzed around Patmos and then returned 20 minutes later. Just having a look.

I’ve never been in awe of money or those who have it. It just doesn’t bother me and I’ve met or know quite a few people who have s lot of it. Obviously, it makes no difference to how interesting or wise or entertaining those people are.

Getting ready for going out and watching the bay from my balcony I noticed that the palace had flashing white lights blinking at random along the water line of the boat. It reminded me of the lights you see on glass staircases you get in great, tacky nightclubs around the world. City Limits was the first that came to mind – Cambridge’s crappy club near the station. Palm trees and mirrored stairs. Oh, we had fun in there, though. It just goes to show that you can have 10s or probably 100s of millions but still no taste.

That hotel I stayed in was run by a grumpy old Greek named Stavros. He acted as if I had done him some injury in the past. No hello, never a smile. When I came back after dinner he was chatting to a young German couple and gave me my key without a word or even turning his head to look at me. The first thing he said to me the next day was ‘When are you leaving?’

Did I remind him of an old adversary? Was he going senile? Was he like this to everyone? I think not. Maybe he had an insecurity about blonde, blue eyed boys when he was married to German Anna. They must have both been old enough to remember the war. Or.. he was just a miserable git! Toyed with the idea of writing a review / character assassination but what does it achieve? No happiness for me.

August 14th Emporios

My last night tonight and I have got gradually more remote as I’ve travelled, starting off in buzzing Kos Town and ending up here on the North West coast of Kalymnos. I am surrounded by mountains either inland or out at sea where I can sea Telendos Islet which was once the capital before a volcano destroyed the town and separated the mountain island from the rest of Kalymnos. At night the only lights come from the moon, the stars and the mast lights of the yachts anchored off the beach.

I visited Telendos 2 nights ago. It was about 6.30 pm when I went over, still hot enough to want to be out of the sun. Chugged over on a smelly old bark from Myrties harbour and arrived to a thin line of tavernas. Very quiet here. And walked along the coast North, the mountain a large haunch to my left. At Paradise beach there were 2 teenage girls and a small yacht. Nobody else. Diving in was no different to the many other swims that I’ve had here but when I surfaced I felt winded. I was swimming in a gently undulating sea of black and gold. The black because Telendos blocked the sun and put the water in shadow while the hills of Kalymnos were a bright gold which reflected on the water. Breathless I took big plunges into blue – clear blue – and then back into the black and gold with a vast blazing rock looming over me. Like Zorba I felt I was seeing the earth for the first time. Like early man.

I have had not dissimilar experiences here in Emporios. I feel cut off from the rest of the world. You could lose yourself here. In a remote village at the end of a long road on a small island in the Aegean Sea.

I was bored to begin with. What is there to do here? Then the perspective changes. Time starts to drift. The mind settles. I swim and swim and swim. A Greek turns up yesterday leading a group of French and swims to the island opposite the beach. It must be almost a kilometre away. I choose the peninsula of land to the right of the beach. It’s probably a bit closer but still requires a strong swimmer.

I start not even meaning to go but it just happens. Deep plunges breast stroking arms stretched out to their full extent watching my fingers splay out like I’m getting pleasure from the blanket of water around me. Like a cat stretching. The water gets deeper – 20, 30, 40 feet – and then just the rays of sunlight disappearing into the deep blue and just my breathing. No thought. Just the rock in front of me. No fear. Or not allowing the thought.

Finished Zorba today. It’s really sad but also encouraging in the way it implies making the most of life. What a lucky find. Have now started The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler which I’m already totally gripped by. It’s the evocation of a place at a certain time which is so wonderful. I am there with Latimer.

Thursday 15th

Breakfast In Harry’s Paradise Garden. Fruit and yoghurt with honey, tomato omelette and toast and local jam. Manna from heaven. It’s because of how the food goes with the place isn’t it? Love the way they make seats for 2 people made out of pallets then painted white or blue. Here they are scattered amongst the whitewashed olive trees and large terracotta pots. Bougainvillea blazes with colour everywhere and various other flowers I don’t know.

Feeling a bit fizzy today. I have been drinking a fair bit every night and finished off 20 Camel Lights. Unheard of for me! It goes to show how calm I’ve been the whole 9 days. It really has felt like a dream – people and places come and go. I’m there and them I’m not. And the memory lingers like a kiss.


Kos August 8th 2019

I am completely, unreservedly happy. Full to the brim. Like a child. When the days roll into one another and day becomes night and night becomes day and you don’t even notice. A life that is free. A life of liberty.

My second day in Kos. Arrived the night before last. Reading ‘Zorba the Greek’. It was one of the only books on sale in the local supermarket. I dumped William Stoner (‘Stoner’ – read chapter 1 on the plane) for Zorba. You couldn’t get 2 more different characters but I wanted to be involved with something that was wonderfully flamboyantly Greek. As I told the girl in the supermarket ‘It’s serendipity’. Zorba had found me.

Stoner is wonderful too but he’ll have to wait til I’m back in the UK. Anyway, at the end of chapter 1 Zorba tells the narrator ‘you must realise I’m a man’

The narrator responds ‘A man? What do you mean?’

‘Well, free!’

What is it to be free? Are any of us truly free? It’s something I used to aspire to and think about and even write about as a young man. Today, without fear or self doubt or that planning nagging I do to myself I seemed to walk like a man in a story: bold and self assured. The assuredness that comes with self knowledge. There was an old friends of my parents, David, sadly no longer with us who I always liked so much. He was always so interested in me even though he was much older but he also seemed so happy in himself. Calm and consistent in his demeanour. I felt he knew himself. It’s what I aspire to.

I wasn’t even phased by the fact I had lost my goggles for the second time in a week. Not even a wince or a raised voice. Weird.

I looked up the different islands I want to visit and bent my body into the wind and the light and yearned for nothing more than that and the next port of call. Yes, I want a wife and a family but at times like this it seems like a completely alien concept. And I feel a little bit of Zorba.

Went to the Asklepion today, a huge complex which was a healing temple built about the 4th century BC. It’s hard to imagine what it was like although the vast sets of steps which lead you from the ground level to the 3rd or upper level remain in tact and the position is incredible, surrounded by pine trees and facing East over the Gulf of Gökova towards Bodrum.

People being treated were housed in dormitories and then in their sleep were expected to be visited by the gods. The next day they had their drama translated and were given the appropriate treatment.

There was a frigidarium, thermae and a room with hot air too. It sounded like the sort of place I would have liked. There was something a little bit too austere about the design, though. It gave me a bit of a chill, not the wholesome aura I was expecting (even if I am visiting almost two and a half thousand years later). It reminded me of a concentration camp or maybe that was influenced by the harsh tones of the German tour guide standing next to me as I looked up those steps.

This is where they think Hippocrates was taught and inspired to become the ‘father of medicine’. It’s disputed whether he actually wrote the Hippocratic Oath.

The plane tree where he taught his theories of medicine to his students still stands in the heart of Kos Town beside an old bridge that seems to divide the port from the main harbour where rows of excursion boats line up facing rows of restaurants each with a person standing to try to persuade you to come in. I feel like asking them if they think that tactic actually works.

I have stayed in a lovely place Hotel Afendoulis. Peaceful, sleepy run by Alexis and his son, Demetrius. The rooms are basic but, like all Greeks, they are keen to offer their hospitality and welcome. It is important to show your appreciation to this hospitality – even it is coming at a price. They certainly expect warmth to be returned.

I have breakfast every morning under jasmine and bougainvillea of tomato omelette, toast with their homemade jams – quince, pumpkin, tomato, fig, grape and lemon, a of them grown in their own house outside of town, yoghurt and honey.

Kos Town has been pleasant and I’ve used it for my cultural ‘bit’ but it’s time to search out the Greece I love: wild coastlines, clear sea and fishing villages. This morning I sail for Patmos.

Bristol August 6th 2019

I wish I could put into words the new found confidence I have but it’s best I don’t. Every day when I feel normal and content and unflustered and not thinking all the time ‘What next?’ ‘What do I need to do next?’ or ‘What should I be doing with my life?’ it feels wonderful. Silence in my mind. No that’s not right but less noise. David might see it’s just recognising that thoughts are inside-out, the thought appears and creates a feeling, not outside-in where we think we are being affected by the world around us.

Having said that, not working and having a ball – catching up with my nearest and dearest, sailing to The Scillies and now spending 9 days in The Dodecanese – is likely to create a feeling of relaxation and wellbeing. No kidding. However this wasn’t true at all of the start of the Summer holidays: 3 days of rinsing it on my own and my cousin from Australia made me paranoid and guilty about doing nothing.

This is something else that has changed: unlike other friends who are still regular smokers, stoners and coke takers I’ve realised once and for all that I’m much better off without it. Yes, it happens but far less and when it does there’s way less of everything apart from alcohol. And there is no pining after it. I know the solidity, self assurance and focus on my life and well being at what seems like an important juncture are the new lift.

When I was driving from Suffolk to Bristol the day before my birthday there was this real sense of calm. Gone was the slightly manic side to my nature – the silly, crazy me. Much of the time I just wasn’t thinking anything and when a worry came up it didn’t FEEL like a worry. It didn’t give me that cold rush of anxiety that I had become used to. Somehow we develop don’t we? And it’s a mystery as to how or why.

I saw Lamprini yesterday, my Athenian date and possible future girlfriend. We went to Topsham and got the ferry over to The Turf Hotel and had lunch. She told me about the anxiety she gets from being a senior lecturer at a top university. She told me about that drive to keep adapting and improving one’s life because none of us want to feel that feeling of being stuck in a rut. I know that feeling – when I was at my last job and to some extent in my new – going through the motions, neither loving it or hating it. Somehow inert. Needing to adapt.

When I think of September I’m excited because writing is formally going to become part of my life. Something that I properly DO. At the same time I want to be inventive, creative and consistent in my teaching without it taking over my life. This has always been the tricky balancing act. With 2 days teaching don’t spend any longer than one day planning or marking. It shouldn’t interfere with my writing. My other big idea at the moment is buying a flat in Clifton to let out for Air BnB but that will have to wait.

Anger is an emotion that I think we all feel difficult to contain sometimes. I had another one of those periods of a few hours where everything seems to turn to shit but it’s that perception of it ‘turning to shit’ which probably makes it so. I stopped off in Bristol to pick up Cariprisodol and Zopiclone (ok, I’m no angel, I know).

I seem to have been getting lots of matches on dating apps recently. Can they sense my new found confidence? Now now – don’t be cocky. The temptation into new experiences that wouldn’t have been possible before. Kaitlin. 18 years old. Looking for a daddy for a purely sexual relationship and then what she wanted to dress up as and what she liked to do. Is this wrong? It felt naively all part of the wave of good luck that I’m riding at the moment.

Didn’t have that long to sort out a few things before leaving for Gatwick. At the local Post Office they couldn’t find my order for 800 euros. Oh. I look up post office number but get a helpline which says ‘He-lloooo. We hope you are well. This call will cost you 6 pounds.’ Hmm. Phone the Post Office. ‘For enquiries about travel money go to postoffice.co.uk.’ Feeling the heat rise in my chest. Phone my bank. They’re having problems checking my id. Even after talking about my holiday for a minute the voice recognition cannot id me. Oh, technology. Next they put me through to someone else who starts asking me about what payments I made 2 days ago. My mind goes blank. The strangest thing is happening as I speak to the man at First Direct – my phone is on speakerphone but if I try to turn off speakerphone it won’t let me – it turns off for 2 seconds and then comes back. It’s amazing how quick this slide into chaos is but also how what my reaction is: I’m getting cross but also imagining crazy things: can a phone be infected with a virus? Can someone control a phone remotely? Could Kaitlin be a catfish for a middle aged man intent on fucking with my head or worse stealing the money from my account. Kafkaesque paranoia sets in.

I’m being controlled.

Oh, the power of the imagination (not always a positive thing). No, there is a simpler reason. I forgot to confirm my travel money order with the Post Office and then I don’t know what was going on with my phone but that’s what messed with the voice recognition software. Amazing how it becomes a crisis when these small problems start to stack up added with a time constraint – having a plane to catch – and it develops into a perfect storm. In my mind that is. No amount of telling myself that it’s only thought (David) or trying to pivot to approach the situation as the best version of myself (Dominic) could hold back the vast surges of panic and anger.

Of course I find a bureau de change 5 minutes away on The Triangle and the exchange rate isn’t much different anyway. Suddenly it’s fine. Of course it is. As I walk away from the bureau I check my Tinder feed because I can’t quite believe what Kaitlin says she wants, what potential situation – something I had only ever imagined as a fantasy – we might end up in. As the page loads her photo disappears.

Of course it does.

And I’m left wondering about what might have been with Kaitlin the pretend schoolgirl. Quite possibly for the best.

Are they not the 2 strongest emotions? Anger and desire. And I feel both so intensely. But surely that is what it is to live. It’s always been my philosophy. To live as full a life as possible and to feel as much as possible too. Today was no exception.

Leader to The Scilly Isles July 28th to August 2nd

July 28th

45 today. Left Falmouth from Pendennis Marina aboard (another) Brixham trawler, ‘Leader’. Excellent company – 12 paying travellers/ 6 crew. Lovely day. Still warm. Some cloud. Got underway at around 2.30pm around Lizard Point and snuck into Mullion Cove behind the island only a few feet from the jetty with the Mullion Cove Hotel peering down on us from the hill up to the left.

Everyone unwound after a couple of hours. Crew quick to get us putting the bowsprit in place, sweating and tailing, pulling up the sails. The camaraderie started to grow. Several people in their sixties, a few middle aged bods like me, then a confident and keen 19 year old crew man and a 13 year old girl here with her mum. All affable and quick to laugh.

Enya brought cake and sang happy birthday. Nice surprise. How did they know? Must have been asked for DoB on applying.

Paul was director at BOV for 5 years til 1991. And is a director / scriptwriter. Urbane and a little out of place amongst the talk of boats or wildlife, yet interesting, bright, fun, eccentric and instantly likeable. Also taking lots of photos which is always good.

Simon a management consultant who lives in Munich, 41 – closest in age and personality to me.

David, a roofer from Doncaster. Droll. Good banter. As the skipper tried to tie on the sail to the mizzenmast at 11pm this evening with our torches on his behind:

‘It’s been a while since I’ve seen the sun shine out of somebody’s arse.’

Simon. The mate. Funny. Plenty of banter but also kind. Well built with a face that looks like..?

Saw dolphins twice on the way over and on the way into Mullion Cove huge white domed jellyfish with blue tentacles like 1960s table lamps giving off a slightly psychedelic green or purple glow as they float a few feet beneath the surface 2/3 feet in length – the domes 1/2 feet across. Alien. Ghostlike.

July 29th

Fairly soon after leaving Mullion Cove the bad weather hit. First rain and a driving North Westerly. As forecast. Before you even notice it land is a grey smear then just a memory. The world is millions of lines – varying tones of grey/black stretching to the sky.

And you realise this is all there’ll be now for the whole day: the movement of the boat, the spray and the swirls as she slips through the dark water. Resigned to the limitations of this new world you’re in, the mind starts to wander.

Pretty soon the wind was up to force 7 and the rain was driving from the stern making hard tapping sounds on the hood of my waterproof. We hunker down trying to get used to the motion. Pretty soon people are looking pale and have the stare. People are sick and then apologise. Others kneel and vomit over the side.

We start to rise and fall through bigger troughs of sea. I love the motion. Leaning forward and back with her, onwards we go. Under sail with 3 sails up and doing 5 or 6 knots. After a couple of hours amazingly the black clouds parted and blue sky was the dominant. Out of nowhere a pair of white shapes shot towards the bay like torpedoes. Dolphins. A trio flying / slicing through the water in unison. Following the bow. Are they just having fun? You can see why people would think so but someone said they can find fish at the bow.

Amazing how quickly things can change at sea. It was rough enough already but the swell had been following the boat. Dave and I were in the bow. The dolphins had swum across the bow out of sight. He said ‘That’s them saying goodbye.’

About 10 minutes later the swell was suddenly coming from the South and hitting the front of the boat. She started pitching at a 45 degree angle water rising across the deck, waves splashing over the side.

The next thing I remember the deckhand’s face was in mine. ‘Make sure you’re tied on’. I’m on my knees trying to get the red line from my life jacket clipped on to the safety line. I look up to see Dave arching over onto his face. It’s difficult staying on my feet. Your instinctive reaction is to get on your hands and knees – like trying not to fall off a 45 degree roof in a storm. Everyone who had been sitting in the stern – most of them poorly were rushed downstairs. ‘Anyone who wants to stay on deck tie on!’

Pitching and heaving in 8-10 metre swell – this was exciting sailing. The deck corkscrewing while being periodically drenched in water. Holding onto the side for dear life while trying to take down the jib, the feeling of being at the mercy of the elements alone, alone on the lumpen hills of the dark grey sea. I am good at this. Enya the cook, 20 , big, jolly was suddenly on deck on her knees stoney faced clearing the deck, making fast and waiting for orders. There’s something dramatic and heroic about this most ancient of battles between man and sea.

Walls of surf would roll towards the stern and pass underneath us.

Passed around to the North of the islands because we couldn’t go between St Agnes and St Mary’s. Around the top of St Martin’s and then in to St Mary’s from the West so that we could be sheltered from the West by Tresco and Bryher. Moored in St Mary’s Pool 2 miles out from Hughtown. Most of us tired or ill after a hard day’s sail.

July 30th

As predicted a force 9 gale blowing from the South. We moved a bit in the night and, God, does she creak in the night when we move. Discovered that she was built in Galmpton, Devon in 1892 but to be worked out of Lowestoft. A nice Suffolk connection. She would have had 5 crew doing everything by hand – one of them a boy – and no engine. Must have been tough.

Unable to move today because of the wind. Frustrating for us all being in sight of land and this amplified by the ferries that come past fairly regularly with day trippers waving. Fortunately we all get on well. Had a run in with grumpy Tim on the first night who sleeps in the bunk beneath me but now it’s resolved. We sit on deck, dry our waterproofs from the day before, chat, read and chat some more.

July 31st

A lovely day and a sea taxi takes us at 10.30 to Tesco. The Scillies look different from the mainland – bright white beaches, white not pale yellow. The ground is sandy and low like Caribbean islands with the odd hillock, collection of rocks or wooded area.

Incredible flowers – blues and oranges and in the Botanic Garden beautiful terraced gardens and a collection of figureheads from the various wrecks that litter the rocks around the islands.

Thorpeness 26.7.19

Back at my beach. What a life. Feel guilt when I see people going about their daily business – me always with loads of free time. What the hell? Why feel bad? Carpe Diem. You only live once and those stickers you see on gnarly looking Land Rovers: ‘One life. Live it.’

Looking South towards the toy town houses of Aldeburgh sticking into the sea and behind the thin pencil line masts of Orford Ness lined up against the sky. Plenty of people at play on the beach and in the sea. The temperature is still well into the 30s but I think is due to break tomorrow. They recorded an all time high July temperature for the UK yesterday. 38.5C. The timing seems perfect with how big the climate debate is at the moment.

The sun has just come out and it feels so hot on my back and neck. Not English heat. This is like Mediterranean, breathe out slowly heat and guess what? It’s raining. Little cooling dabs dripping onto my skin. A wonderful sensory overload, getting increasingly heavier now and the breeze and the warmth and the rain. Tingles.

Got drunk and a little high with SisR last night and Tom / Miki and at 9.15 pm the craziest storm unleashed itself over Pettistree. Frequent flashes like in a cheap horror movie lighting up the corridors through the hall, the power out.

Had a strange night trying to sleep under the eaves in the sweltering heat of Nati’s room, disturbed by the heat, my heartbeat and strange dreams of friends who’d turned against me (not for the first time this holiday).

When I got up no one was at home apart from Emily, the cleaner. I started to feel the onset of the creeps that comes from feeling jaded after a big night – the negative thoughts and emotions. The paranoia and loss of confidence.

This pattern of thinking persisted until I got to Bawdsey, one of those end of the line places I love: the road ends with a small car park and a jetty from where you can get the ferry over the Deben estuary to Felixstowe. There’s a cafe and an ice cream van a thin strip of sand beach and not much besides.

I walked to the sea, still sombre, still unsure of myself. Alone. Totally alone at the mouth of the Deben beside Bawdsey Manor at 10.30 in the morning. Swimming in a still sea and my thoughts, those thoughts which are simply that: a thought in the moment, unique, fleeting and then gone forever. And it is an absolute truth that these thoughts create our feelings. They are entwined.

By the time I had got out after a trance-like swim, where all time and place and memory had slipped away, my self-harming thoughts had dissolved.

This thought came back to me on the drive on the way here as I thought about going a bit further to Southwold and I caught myself initially reacting with fear – ‘oh, it’s too much – I’m not up to it’ my thought seemed to be saying but then within a split second it faltered and petered out. My consciousness is so hard to understand but that moment felt like seeing a little chink of light into the workings of how I think and showed me it is kind of up to me how I can choose to approach any situation. You can be a slave to your thoughts / feelings. Or not. Although it’s not possible always just to make that choice.

2 days short of my 45th birthday and this really does sound like I’m diving deeper and deeper into the depths of my MLC. Yeehah! Next I’m going to start taking about how I need to ‘realise my full potential’.

I did have a thought earlier though about how we have been endowed, blessed with this amazing thing. Thought. It’s a bit magical. And I’ve always taken it for granted. It can be so eye opening. Those moments of no thought, no noise, like earlier and just now both when I was swimming are a type of magic. Like being cast under a spell or being in a new world. The same world but a different way of seeing it.

Thorpeness 23rd July 19

Always a connection with this place. 35 degrees today and the sea calm and a green blue tint to it although always a certain browniness too. Just floating out there. A feeling of weightlessness and calm. The mind goes blank. And breathe.

Found a journal earlier at Mum and Dad’s with a diary entry written here in 2003. It has always been a place of escape for me.

Here til Friday then sailing to the Isles of Scilly. Hope the weather holds. Then Kos and its satellites for 9 days and back here for the last 2 weeks. What was I saying? Just go with it. Don’t try to plan. Well I’ve planned stuff and now just live it.

Bristol 17.7.19

Summer – that is the Summer break – is fast approaching but this year there’s no expectations. I’m trying not to plan and ‘make the most’ of time. Just live it. Don’t live in the future. This change is important.

I don’t why I’ve started writing – I’m about to meet Imilia on Alma Road to interview and old lady who is a medium and a bit of a ‘character’. Expect the unexpected is probably the right way to think. If it wasn’t going to be her I was going to see the Extinction Rebellion protest with their pink boat which they park in a busy street to hold up the traffic. They turned up on Bristol Bridge on Monday and I think plan to stay til Friday. I know they have a big contingent in Bristol. They have 200 strong meetings at the Malcolm X Centre every Wednesday.

Tiffany stopped over last night. Slavic features and raven black hair that runs like a black sea down her back. I haven’t done it in an awfully long time and it felt like a huge relief. A knot untied. It was also a test of nerve and guilt. Neither of which seemed to loom large in my mind. Am I entering a new phase of life – a greater maturity – dare I say it? Greater self knowledge? I hope so.

Seeing David for the last time today. His funny gawky looks and his long uncomfortable pauses where we both stare into space while the fake fire slowly glows yellow between us and we listen to the footsteps or singing of yoga addicts above our heads. But he’s been great: if nothing else he’s made me aware of another way of thinking or what could be improved in my often hair brain, wired way of thinking…

Reading bits of ‘Singing for Mrs Pettigrew – A Storymaker’s Journey’, Michael Morpurgo’s short stories for children, along with explanations of the writing process and how he got into it. Interesting to hear how he says he needed to belong to a place to become a good writer. Talking about the importance of place and its influence on written characters: “I suppose I hadn’t realised this because I had not lived it myself, and that was because I had never stayed long enough in one place to comprehend just how powerful and profound this sense of place, of belonging, might be in our lives.” This struck a chord. Am I longing to belong? To a place. I seem to have spent years on the move, never really settled, a part time itinerant, even during term time going between the flat in Bristol and the cottage in Somerset. Always wanting a change of scene. Belonging will come with a person. A partner for life and then a place to settle, to know, to explore and to become a prism through which I can explore myself. Without doubt that would help me creatively. I can feel it in just the same way Morpurgo did but not yet. Not yet. There must be another way of writing before I get to that point.

Morpurgo’s first book was the diary of a farm which grew out of his “burgeoning sense of belonging.” “It was a book that made me look and listen, made me ask why, made me begin to understand, made me long to belong.” Yes, I could see myself doing that and why don’t I? Looking at the bits and pieces I’ve started on in the last few months I see ideas floating about with no fixed sense of where it will go. Experimentation is the way at this early stage. Write what you know is most people’s advice so I have focused on education: my 2 pieces for The Tablet’s ‘The Teacher who Inspired Me’ column. Hopefully another piece for The Tablet about provision for children in care for the October issue. Various interviews with Heads or Team Leaders in Somerset schools and PRUs regarding funding and its knock on effect (need to get on with this at some point). A job from Hank where I interviewed Katherine Gleeson about Imprisonment for Public Protection and her campaigning work to try and protect the mental health of IPP prisoners who are frequently self harming or taking their own lives. I made this into a 900 word article to give Hank some background on her before he went to interview her but perhaps I should make this into a bigger, more comprehensive article.

A lot of what I do is interviewing people and this is what interests me. Everyday people. The people you pass on the street and will probably never see again but most of them have a great story. Perhaps I would do this and turn it into the story of a community, rather like Ronald Blythe’s ‘Akenfield’ (have just fired off an email to his publisher to request an interview). Perhaps it would be the basis for another story like Morpurgo, whose story about the army buying horses from his village in World War 1 became the inspiration for ‘War Horse’.

Profiles of people. That would be interesting. People – journalists – make a living out of that. What about a collection of interviews rather like Nigel Shakespear’s ‘Times New Romanian’, which consists of many snapshots of ordinary people’s lives in modern day Romania.

If nothing else, it’s good to be thinking about it and doing a Diploma in Journalism (coming up in September) will help to focus what I want to. I can’t help but think of what Morpurgo says – that a certain place, a certain time of life will provide a new form of inspiration. A place – I don’t where yet – will help me find my voice.