Sunday, 2 December 2018

Ticket to nowhere

Flickering past the regimented tall blocks of the city, the train ploughs forward at speed, passing the rows of the building traffic on the roads adjacent. Like sterile dolls houses, the office towers are lit up in the horizon, ready for the drudge of the corporate facade that awaits. 

I feel like I am watching the world from the outside, only not from above. I am very much deep within the dregs of the dark. Hidden amongst the faceless. 

All these people whizzing by - in cars, on bikes, in buses, on trains. All with a place to go. A purpose. All have their story to tell; their tale, no matter how exciting or indeed, mundane. Everyone on their own trajectory heading towards their goals, their dreams, or just an aimless whim. 

I am an aimless whim. 

It is early morning and I am being taken to the airport. The ultimate hub of all things potential. All these journeys about to start, the possibilities budding and spreading across like a spilt liquid of happenings. 

Only it doesn’t feel like a possibility to me. It feels like a death. The end of an adventure, the end of feeling alive. Returning back to the life of the undesired. How can it be called a life when you feel so dead inside it, when it has turned you into something you never wanted to be. It feels more like a disease that eats away at your soul. 

As my eyes scan across the barely indistinguishable faces of the masses, I randomly pick ones out, secretly hoping I can magically swap places. You can be anyone. You can wake up one day and be a different person. You can go and jump on a different track, one going in an alternative direction. Sometimes you dare to envision yourself in that new place. But the dark thoughts put a stop to that, reminding you you’d fuck that up, just like everything else. A creeping sense of panic arises, soaking up any nicer thoughts of newness. 

Maybe you can be someone else. But I am shackled to me. My own ball and chain. 

When you are a child, a small acorn, you have all these dreams and ambitions. You’re stood on the vast platform with a ticket to anywhere, and just need to pick a train. It’s confusing, but it’s there, millions of choices laid out before you. 
You do get on the wrong trains. That’s all part of the game. You just get off and get another one. But suddenly you notice the timetables have started to dry up. You cannot consciously pin point the moment the lines closed and the services stopped running, but suddenly you realise you have missed the train. And bus. And possibly plane too. 

So where to now? The digital ticket I have says one thing, and what the digital says, goes. Time to go home. Whatever home is. For I don’t really have a home, not anymore. There is a place I end up; I am all but a squatter, an inconvenience inside walls that I should no longer be part of. 

I have nothing in that city anymore. Nothing that excites me. Nothing that can comfort me. I am thousands of miles away, always, even when I am there. The loneliness and lack of purpose eats away: you become a walking carcass. Every day, like flicking through the same old tv channels. Nothing is worth watching. 

Is this it? Is that what it is all for. Becoming the wallpaper that is not your taste at all. Everybody needs a meaning. Mine is hazy and indecipherable. And likely doesn’t exist anymore at all.


It’s a scary place to be, awaiting a plane back to nowhere. Sometimes the pain is just too much to contain anymore. If you violently shake a bottle of pop and leave the lid on, something inevitably has to give. I used to have things to give. Now I just wait. Wait for planes or trains to whisk me away. Only they now never come. Even when I leave.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Hitler's Hospital

Tentatively stepping past the strange woods where trees marry metal fences, the overgrown grass submerges the concrete pathway underneath my feet. Suddenly autumn has been switched onto 11, the leaves are golden and raining delicately around me, yet the sun is shouting down creating gorgeous colour pallets.

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Every now and then, you hear movement, but it never shows. The brambles shake, a voice worms through the air. It's that sensation you are being monitored. A small glacial ripple slithers across my skin.

As I continue forwards, the branches part reluctantly like unveiling the curtain to the red and yellow bricked beauty that lies beneath.

There it stands. Just. The red roofs and towers still tall, the distinctive 19th century architecture crumbling but still standing. Just. It is hard to imagine Heino Schmieden, the famous German architect, seeing his creation now. Watching his magnificent construction, once proud and grand, now decaying and withering away.
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The corridors are peeling, sometimes only lit through the shafts of escaping sun bursting through the gaps between the boarded up broken windows. The curling broken wall paper and paint cast beautiful artistic patterns. Walls are fractured and often adorn disrespectful scrawls of past visitors. The floors are a spongey lottery of support. Every step can be rolling a dice. Either beneath you or above. Ceilings gape open, lights swing noose-like above. Hopefully you will win this dice game.
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That familiar dank smell of years of dust and rust; a cornucopia of disintegration hangs around you. Sometimes you catch a waft of chemicals. Animals. Decay. Dirt and grime. Sometimes you think you catch a stench of mortality, but I move away too fast to discover more.

Ignorance is a dangerous kind of bliss.

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Occasionally you stumble upon small glimpses of life. Of the people that came here, sick, wanting to be cured. Their lungs struggling, you can imagine them lying on their beds staring at the soothing greenery outside. The ghosts of past patients still take a dip in the bath pool, the tall domed ceiling above their heads. A shoe here. A hair brush there. Items lost amongst the ashes of forgotten. Things. Structures. The bread oven rusting slowly; it will no longer bake any bread. The wash rooms, starved and dehydrated. The vast dining hall, now a famine of nourishment. The surgery wards, desolate and carnage ridden - they need surgery themselves.
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The structures are empty and gaunt. Yet they are obese with memories, full of emotions, captured in the sinking bricks and rotting interiors.

Once a lowly German soldier attended this hospital, wounded at the Somme, sent to recover. This ordinary mundane person, nothing of note. For this short period, this building helped incubate a murderer. Bricks and mortar sometime contain more stories than living bodies. That icy shiver sweeps by my skin again.

Why is all this dilapidated corrosion so alluring. Why is the haunting uncomfortableness so beautiful.
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The rotting building is life itself; a giant still life growing mouldy and fading away. We are but all fleshy crumbling bricks, forgotten in time.

Full set of photos from my trip to Hitler's hospital, Germany.

Thursday, 10 May 2018


Auschwitz
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The gate of iron, the outrageous lies;
That work sets free, yet in truth? All dies.
Endless horizon, eyes become sore;
Claws of barbed wire, for ever more.

Red brick, red brick; a sickening trick.
Row after row, all the same;
Horrifically normal; even mundane.
Reality hits, slapped out of slumber.
Terror, fear; it’s more than a number.

Mountainous items- bags, clothes, a bowl;
Each different shoe, belonged to a soul;
A life that sang, laughed and cried;
A life so taken, cruelly, and died.

Wrong indeed, and without cover-
To believe one life, more value than another.
Cannot un-see; it won’t be rid;
Tattooed right into, your closed eyelid.

But atrocities we, cannot spurn;
Even though it seems, we never learn.

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I recently visited Auschwitz and here are the photos I took:
  Auschwitz Birkenau

I am still processing the experience. It was unlike any other. Something in the pit of my stomach was gnawing the whole time; I think the place surprised me in ways I was not expecting. The sheer scale of Birkenau shook me - an endless sea of concentration camp. Wave after wave of barbed wire and outlook posts. It was mammoth - and yet conversely, made me feel so very claustrophobic. The mundanity of Auschwitz surprised me too - it felt like a slightly old fashioned industrial estate, and was in better condition than I was expecting. The ordered red bricks, in their inherent normality, chilled me beyond my worst nightmares.
But it was the personal items of those who lost their lives that will live with me forever. The mounds and huge piles. A number is just a number and can be arbitrarily extrapolated away from emotional connection. Seeing the items destroys this; it makes it real. These were people. They had things like us. This could have been you.

I still do not know how to describe Auschwitz, which is why I wrote this poem. I might never know. I wasn't sure if to take photos, and definitely if whether to post them. I decided in the end to do both. I have long been fascinated with the idea of documenting stories and the past somehow - and I felt this was even more important in this case. It is not comfortable, but unless we face these past histories, we risk repeating the same atrocities. God forbid, we may already be doing so, which makes it more important we talk and discuss and share - so that we will never forget.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Cardiff and Buildings Past

Architecture is one of my main loves. For someone who adores trees and countryside as much as I do, I find the aesthetic of buildings and structures as beautiful and intriguing as pieces of art.

Cardiff has never interested me architecturally like other cities and places do/have done. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, Cardiff was ugly and unremarkable even to a child.

Wandering through the city centre in 2018, which I do pretty much daily, I am always struck by the changes this small but sturdy Welsh capital where I was born and raised has undertaken. Rumblings began in the 1990s; a shape-shift exercise. The rugby world cup final in Cardiff in 1999 saw one of the main new developments - a brand new 74,500 seated stadium slap bang in the heart of the city. A spikey ship masted-like structure (with a retractable roof which sometimes reminds me of a giant bread bin); it seemed so space-age and giant. A burst of new bars and hotels subsequently opened - and as an sixth form student at the time, all this was particularly exciting. I cringe a little at the naivety of this exuberance at the time, but it was what it was - the rawness of a mid-size town beginning to hit with the big boys.

The developments have continued into the 21st century, as Cardiff has matured and evolved into a place where world events are held. It is great, of course - more choices, more things to do.

However, I pine for the old structures. The shadows of the past that told stories now lost in a city where barely nothing old remains - the swarms of students tapping their laptops in bland generic coffee shops (which are boringly the same anywhere in the world) in Cardiff Bay may not have any appreciation that they are sitting on top of a place which was, at one point, the busiest port in the world. And in fairness, why would they. Barely nothing remains of these remnants amongst these soulless chains.

Beyond this, there are particular buildings I personally yearn to stand beneath one last time, and appreciate their wonder.

The demolished national stadium - a mammoth concrete of a clenched fist. A concrete brutalist lover, I didn't fully appreciate at the time just how beautiful this concrete beast was. The claws of concrete was a comforting grasp of the heart of the city - a place where the country would unite over sporting joys and woes.


It was demolished in 1997 - I was at the last game there, where Cardiff RFC beat Swansea RFC in the cup final (this was before regional rugby of course). The stadium was outdated and needed change - there was nothing for facilities and there was the huge uncovered stand enclosure which after Hillsborough, always terrified me. But I miss those concrete claws that for most of my childhood had had gripped me tight, and when they went, so did the grip the sport had on me.

To build the new Millennium stadium, the Empire pool, another building I miss, also had to be demolished. The Empire pool stood on Wood street - a large red brick building with a distinctive curved roof, housing an international size swimming pool. 

It seems forgotten now that Cardiff hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1958 - and the pool was built for these games. In primary school, we were trooped onto old buses and shipped to the pool for swimming lessons. The place terrified and fascinated me. It seemed the largest building in the world, and the diving boards were the tallest structures I'd ever seen.


It was a cold, old fashioned and harsh structure, and yet I liked it - the walls with diving moving figures - ghosts of all the people that had competed in the games all those years ago.




The third building no longer standing that I would love to gawp at one last time, is the old national ice rink. Another large building, but without the 1950s charm- it was built in the 1980s, and was typically styled of that decade.


With the large distinctive yellowing panels and the epic typography for the sign, it was an oddly designed building, but I do so love that retro style. I didn't even go ice skating that often, but I loved looking out for the distinctive panels. It was replaced with John Lewis - admittedly a much prettier structure.

Cardiff's new library is just a stone's throw away from John Lewis (or the ex-ice rink site) but this replaced the previous "new" library on St David's Link on Frederick street, which had been built in 1988. Concrete and very much of that decade - this was a building I crave and miss massively. 


It had beautiful green typography lettering for the sign, and was another retro 1980s haven. Inside it was all typically pastel and beige. It was like a pair of chinos a male leading protagonist would wear in a 1980s sitcom. I spent many hours here trawling (raiding) the CD library as a student, or the amazing archives rooms right at the top of the building - sifting through old newspapers or microfiche with my dad, researching history about various different things. One time it was Welsh Titanic passengers. This was where I knew I loved history. And nothing beats researching through old newspapers - it beats the Internet every single time. 
The building was demolished in 2006 to make way for the the new St David's II development.

These buildings are long gone, and the city has made many improvements since. I am nostalgic of course, but at the same time, things must change and grow - this is life and it is a good thing. I just think it is important to remember and respect the past. And I wish I could see these buildings one last time. And take photographs. Many, many, photographs.

As an aside, I found this wonderful old video of Cardiff. Enjoy how it used to be. 







Monday, 2 January 2017

New Year, New Blog

As I have just stated, I don't really believe in new years resolutions, but as I am a hot, steaming pile of hypocrite, my new year's resolution is going to be to write more. So I have decided to start a diary/blog on this shiny new sister blog to my other ramblings here.

I was reading some of the wonderful Alan Bennett's diaries over Christmas, and rather like the idea of writing a diary again (something I haven't done since I left high school, mostly ramblings about how miserable and misunderstood I was - so no change from now really). Rather than write every day, Alan Bennett will write when he chooses on topics he finds instigates a curiosity from within - and that is what I am going to attempt. Therein ends the only comparison I would ever dream to make with the legendary national treasure of uber treasures that is His Royal Highness Sir Alan of Bennett (he really should have those titles). 

And then reader, we began.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Meh

I'm not sure why I am writing this, neither am I entirely sure who will read it (and indeed, if I even care). But I have to be honest.

It is the last day of 2016, and I am tired. New year always brings self reflection. And this year is the same. However, every year always has ups and downs, good and bad, and we are misguided if we ever think any different.
But the tiredness I feel is an indescribable cacophony. Its the type of tiredness that no amount of sleep will ever cure, even if you could sleep for multitudinous decades. I am drenched with fatigue. And its the exhaustion of being me.

This 'me' doesn't even feel like me anymore. Someone has stolen my being and sold it off cheap on eBay like a broken piece of brick-a-brac. I don't even know who me is. Making the mistake of looking back on that digital BEST FRIEND! Facebook, I was dumbfounded. Was I that? Was I this? Social media lies and masquerades; a deadly online menace. Even I start to get fooled. The pixelated versions don't show the pain, the darkness, the terrifying anxieties. The hatred. The reminders of constant failures.

Maybe my inherent need to be busy, to be occupied, to be overly-exerted comes down to a single thing. I'm running away. And I think I am trying to escape from who I am, who I have become. A poor imitation copy of a person that won't even end up on the 'novelty' section of antiques roadshow; a Margaret Thatcher-esque-haired expert grinning inanely scoffing patronisingly that the carcass isn't worth a penny but 'is tremendous fun' as if 'fun' is a synonym of 'stupid poor person things'.

My body & brain is riddled and disintegrating. My enthusiasm is the cardigan I once spilled photography chemicals over; eventually browning and shrivelling up like a rotting apple. I forget things. I sometimes can't get out of bed. Coming to terms with losing who I was is the most upsetting. Am I grieving? It is utterly ridiculous to write this and not scold myself for sounding such a melodramatic odiferous pillock. But I am that too.

Some writers describing depression and decline, say the terrible disease creeps up on you. I can relate to that. In some respects it is the small shadow tied to your boot laces that somehow expands up like a bloated sponge. But for me, it has been more like that bathroom tap with the dodgy leak: drip, drip, drip - fine at first, until you realise it's 18 months down the line, and you're submerging in a room full of water. There's nothing more lonely than drowning in your own self doubt.

In the summer, I was at Barry Island and sat watching people play the penny slots. They're glued to these seedy structures, feeding in coin after coin like robots. So much effort, for such little gain. That's how I feel I have existed for too long - a worn out dismaland penny machine that should've really paid out more by now, but has a few springs missing and is just waiting to be replaced by a newer model.

So here we are. Stuck in the hard shoulder whilst the world flies by picking up speeding tickets. I still do not know why I have written this. But things are very difficult. Very difficult indeed. And I apologise to anyone who actually has to endure me. But at least you can walk away. I miss who I was, and the life I used to have, but I'm not even sure I know what any of that was.

Maybe I just need to pull my socks up. But buy new ones first.


Tuesday, 27 December 2016

A bug in the code

Processing power, gradually slowed,
Hardware and wires, begin to corrode.
Memory leakage, renders in vain,
What once was strong, is now on the wane.
Bright lights that were a glittering zone,
Now grey and dark, the pixels are blown.

There's a wretched bug hiding in code,
Contaminating; nothing will load.

Spiralling icons spinning and pending,
Churning and twisting, so never ending.
A tiresome flailing nonchalance,
Waiting for.....no response.

An Epidemic of bugs velcroed in code,
And my own sad self, won't try to load.