Reverse. Pause. 1998.

I remember only just being able to see over the dashboard of the maroon VW Passat estate which my grandfather used to drive. It had an extremely distinctive smell, one which will stay with me for a long time, a uniqueness promoting fondness on reflection. We always drove with the window open, so my grandad could smoke his pipe as he drove, looking at me smiling, as I smiled back, thinking he’s the coolest person on Earth. I remember the smell of his tobacco, it didn’t linger anywhere, but only in the small green pouch with German writing in which he kept it. The small bungalow always smells of cooking, fresh jams and compotes, soups and baking. He’s a chef.

We parked in a side-street of bustling Manchester, on double yellow lines, not that my grandad minded, he can talk his way out of anything in his classy, laisses-faire attitude. He opened the boot wide, and we sat there and ate our sandwiches, listening to the streets of the late 90s roar of the capital of brit-pop; the occasional horns and sirens mixed with birds and shouting in the midday sun. It’s amazing what a twenty three year old remembers of his life as a four year old, as clear as the day.

After we’d eaten, he moved the car a mere twenty metres so that the dreaded parking-officer wouldn’t mention a thing for being on double yellow lines. We crossed the street and went through what looked like a fire-escape. It was the back entrance to the best museum in Manchester, at least, I thought so. The science and transport museum. Cars and gadgets galore – but still something that wasn’t worth paying for. A crafty, wise fox, some might say.

At this stage in my life, everything was taller than me. Planes looked ginormous, even telephone boxes and cars looked too big to be real, especially inside. How did they get there? I remember thinking.  Though, as we were wandering around, nothing quite mesmerised me like the bright orange and multi-coloured Kinect ferris wheel, spinning and spinning. I was totally in awe, just as I was about that whole day, a sensory experience that has lasted eighteen years in my memory so far.

Thinking back now, too, I feel that I’ve shared a close affinity to car rides back in the sunset. Even prior to this trip, I have vivid memories of putting on Dire Straits with my father in his silver Audi A4 as we set off for my grandparents on a Friday evening, the sun a deep orange, mixing with the intense pink of the skies. People often say that your memory isn’t you thinking about the time itself, but the last time you thought of the memory. I don’t know how much that holds true, or how much my imagination has taken hold of the trips I went on with my grandfather. Alas, it makes the memories nostalgic, and magically inviting to occasionally think about on a midnight bike ride back from your evening job. In these moments, you manage to remain very much aware of how your life has turned out, and conscious of the foundation which allowed you to pursue the life you want to.


How can you knock on somebody’s door and expect them to answer?

You run into certain people in life. Some, you’ll never see or come into contact with again, some you will, but they continue to have a lasting effect on you. Sometimes, as much as you wish you’ll see these people again, you won’t, and for some time you’ll have to live day by day, rethinking your conversation over and over. A simple exchange of words and opinions dramatically affecting the way you live life, and the way that you see it.

Cycling home with the bitter wind in my face, confronted with cold, harsh reality. Back to normal.

Wanting to help people is a beautiful thing, she assures me. It’s not simply the words spoken, but the demeanour in which they’re slowly contemplated. Every word uttered has a precision to it; every syllable a meaning, every sentence an opinion, every paragraph a purpose.

The gifts you receive from your mother as stocking fillers are perhaps the most thoughtful; presents which manage to touch your inner 10 year old, despite yourself being a 25 year old semi-professional, far beyond the realm of the average 10 year old. You’re clinging on for dear life as the world rotates a little faster than you can counteract, a never-ending, impossible treadmill. Holding an R2-D2 hot water bottle cover in your hands as you unwrap it on Christmas morning, knowing that, 15 years ago you’d have loved this. But all it carries now is a certain attachment and sentimentality, but that’s all. As much as it doesn’t fit in the here now, it fitted well in the there and then.

When we’re parents, one day, we’ll think back to this conversation. We’ll look at something and think, ‘yes, that’s something our 32 year old son/daughter would love’. No, it’s not. It’s what they would have loved, but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful, just a little bit useless.

If there’s one thing I was able to pass on to seemingly infinite wisdom at the tender age of 25, it was going it alone in a different country. Something I applauded the woman for. She saw it as a great opportunity; for how was she to know what she didn’t want, without spending some time out of her comfort zone, experiencing new environments she hadn’t know existed? Will she return? Who knows. But, that’s the point; the poetic and melancholic point to it all.

It’s the people who pass you by that can have the most significance in the way that you act, the way that you are and the way that you simply exist. Yet, the people who pass you by can also be the closest to home, in a perverse and surreal way. We live opposite each other, wholly unknowingly. We used to work at the same restaurant, lamenting over the failings we both shared. Winding up in a small bistro miles away from either of the two, crossing paths and sharing them so intimately and so swiftly is something I will not quickly forget. She lives opposite. For one more week.

A knock on the door and a cup of tea may be all it takes;

A longing to share a similarly insightful conversation;

However, we both have contrasting, but similarly busy lives;

How can you knock on somebody’s door and expect them to answer?

The Lighthouse

The waves follow the swirls and movements of the brooding dark clouds. Only quicker. Looking up, I follow them with my finger. Gentle, delicate cloud formations, created by intervals of high and low pressure. It’s quite amazing, that something so far away, can create such a turbulent voyage.

It’s a place I call home. Staring into the flowing waves coming towards us as they crash against the bow, spraying the salty water over the deck, I find that there’s nothing I would want more from life. A peculiar request perhaps, to find comfort in something with such ambiguity. The ocean carries a terrifying omnipotence: unlimited power, impossible to stop and control. Yet, on a calm spring morning, the waves become reminiscent of a mil-pond, or a painting in Monet’s Water Lily Series, a calmness which brings an inner tranquillity as you look into the infinite horizon, a feeling that is only achievable out at sea.

I ring the bell as a harsh reminder to the mariners, that on days like this (far from the tranquillity we seldom see) we place life and death in the palm of our hands. It may seem an exaggeration, but it is not. The confidence the seamen place into me as their captain, in charge of ensuring their safety, in addition to their belongings, innermost secrets as their counsellor is a responsibility that I don’t carry lightly, but a burden I place upon myself nonetheless.

It is a test of character. I have a number of different jobs and functions aboard this ship (some of which, I did not sign up for) that I have been forced into doing. It is a shame, as the sailors bring it upon themselves to take from me, giving very little in return. I relish an opportunity to be selfless, and show them a love to them reserved for my family. Indeed, they are my family aboard this ship, as the people’s feelings whom I will return to in the future, may well have been extinguished.

Cooped up for months, sharing the same candlelit lit innards of the ship brings us closer together. Naturally, of course. Understanding the eyes others use, to hide their full house behind five playing cards, and the vocabulary they discover after a few drinks. The light is reminiscent of a pub in the 1980s, and so is the smell, reserved for stale smoke and a slight lingering of sweat and alcohol which makes me so unusually think to myself. ‘Yes, this is a shithole, but it’s my shithole’.

I run my hands along the side of the ship, the wooden hand rail splinters me slightly as it needs to be sanded. Having hands that have been exposed to the harshness of the elements, I can withstand a few splinters. As I look down from the bridge, I catch the mariners running around, scattered, disorganised, like an orchestra without their composer, footballers without their managers, and so on. I say nothing, and quietly observe. It’s almost funny, but brings a certain melancholy to the voyage, how I would love to confide in somebody, and talk, just as they talk to me about their problems, stray morals and absent emotion.

Looking into the distance, I can see the outline of land, a similarly omnipotent structure, submerged in darkness and shadow. Out of the darkness, comes the light. However dark it seems, there will always be light deep in the darkness, it will always be there to find you, and steer you in the right way. When anyone sees a lighthouse, they stay clear. Don’t they?

A Burning House Cannot Keep Anyone it Harbors Safe

A house is not a home. It requires a certain characteristic, more than four walls and a roof. Somewhere you recognise the smell of the spring air, year in, year out. Somewhere which provokes fond memories of a near or distant past. Somewhere you’re eager to return to after a few days, or months of travel. A place which is inherently part of you.

Now you have your house in your head, hold it. 

On the way into the area you live, and there’s a breath of relief. You’re nearly home, a dinner waiting, perhaps a pet or a loved one. Notice how your door has its own unique quirk to it, requiring you to insert the key in a certain way, lifting the handle up before you unlock, or perhaps a quarter turn extra. It needs oiling, the flowers need watering. You press your car key once more, to double check its locked, and turn to face the hallway.

Look around, and absorb the environment. Who is the first person you see, interact with?

It is a terrible cliché to talk of a home as a person. But, the love and familiarity you can share with somebody, and find in someone, can closely resemble the love and familiarity you can find in a building. I wish to draw your attention to the details which make a house a home, and the details of a person which make finding a sense of comfort in yourself so easy because of them.

Who do you have in mind? That first person. Right there. Even if it’s the person you do not wish it was, and want for somebody else, you must keep thinking of the first person you thought of.

Embrace them, in whatever capacity. Touch their hair and look into their eyes, or a kiss on the cheek, maybe, even a simple smile.

You sit down and have dinner, it’s a world away from the bustle of the day, the mix of pleasantries you exchange daily, which, when you think about it, mean absolutely nothing; an unwritten formality you go through so you don’t appear rude, before going about your business. Your radio is playing, you’re eating from your cutlery, with your own company. Everything about it is yours, and still, you couldn’t be further from home.

Think about a time a shower has washed away such negativity, and grounded you.

Consumed by the humid, steamy warm air, you feel your open pores and your dripping hair, a slight sting as you open your eyes without wiping the water away with your hands, and let the shower trickle over your back. Watching the water flow along the curvatures of your body and skin, thinking about this home, you’re burning up inside, not knowing the meaning of it, of anything. It’s 2am.

What the fuck are you doing taking a shower at 2am?

Sometimes, it’s necessary to extinguish the flames.


Black and White.


All I can hear is the melody of the black piano in the corner of the room. But, I suppose that’s the point of musical instruments, to fill the gap, fill a kind of void where silence sits, waiting to be taken, like a victim; taken away from the situation and the world, as quickly as it comes into it. It’s a sleek piano, I can see my somewhat distorted reflection looking back at me. I’m not playing, just enjoying the tune and waiting for it to develop to its climax.

It’s a delicate instrument I find, something that needs to be caressed, and handled with care. More so however, it needs to be played in exactly the manner the performer wishes to speak to it. It’s one of the few great instruments which relishes its own versatility; something which can reflect anger and joyfulness alike, it can portray a sadness in its softness, just in the way it can reflect happiness in its staccato.

As I wait in the room, I start to wonder if the piano fits in with the general mood and what the room is trying to convey. There’s a sophistication to pianos, more so than any other instrument; I have keen memories of sitting down at my grandparents, watching Tom and Jerry (this has a relevance, don’t worry). The episode where Tom is so desperately trying to play a movement on his grand-piano, and Jerry is doing his best but to ruin Tom’s moment. It’s a connection I have with all pianos. Despite what’s going on between the two of them, the audience’s gaze doesn’t come off the piano. They’re transfixed.

I am also transfixed with this piano, but not its player, it’s puppet-master. The room is white: the floor, the ceiling and the doors, the table linen and the way in which the player is dressed. The piano is a jet glossy black, as if it’s purpose was to be noticed, to take your thoughts away for a brief moment in time, and delve into the deepest corners of your mind, searching for your Tom and Jerry moment, your earliest memories that have shaped the way you view the piano.

This isn’t to say, that I view the piano as a playground for a cat and a mouse, but something which draws attention to itself, unknowingly. It is the unknowingness of the attention it draws that I am attracted to in this desolate and blank room, it’s ability to fill the void of silence and blankness is mesmerising, relaxing and intriguing. How, sometimes, I almost feel as if I am in the wrong place at the wrong time, I also feel as if I am in exactly the right place, at precisely the right point in time. Here, sitting and observing, delving into the overwhelming sound of the piano is as personal for me, as it is the player.

I get up, slowly, as if not to disturb a fisherman with their gaze fixed on their yellow buoy gently hovering above the shimmering waterline. Slowly, I make my way to the door, again, just as careful not to disturb the player, who is mesmerised by the touch and the response of the machine. Opening the door, I think, this is a moment in time, one that, until the next time I view a piano, or indeed such contrasting instruments in a room, I will have to be content with my own memories, rather than living the experience it has given me for a few, fleeting minutes.


Cliché surrounds making yourself happy: the ‘do it because you’re the only person that matters’ type ethic is used to fill blank walls with similar sounding quotes, and appears meaningless and almost laughable that somebody needs a daily reminder to make themselves happy. That’s what it’s about, isn’t it? The pursuit of happiness. That’s what counts, and what matters. Whichever method you find tranquillity in pursuing this ongoing journey towards finding fulfilment, satisfaction and contentedness, you physically cannot let anybody tell you otherwise. If you do, it ceases to be an individual journey, and ruins the ethic entirely, however cliché, it must be individual.

It starts with a ‘lightbulb’ type epiphany: you’re sitting in a car doing 140mph on the German-autobahn and somebody in the seat next to you tells you that they don’t care about a life changing decision you’ve made, or you’re wandering through a field and stepping over a small brook, and the wind which rushes through you shifts your mentality, or you’re deep in the metropolis, surrounded by people following a similar pursuit (however many of those metropolis dwellers confuse money for happiness) and you look up at the skyscrapers and realise it’s futile. It does not matter where you are when you gain this certain light, but what matters is that it usually occurs at a critical juncture in your life, at a crossroads when you’re looking around and observing, trying to make a snap decision which exact route to take.

Scarily, it is individual, so intimate and personal that you fail quite to put into words just how this scene or scenario has made you feel and changed your entire outlook as a result. It’s been a long time coming but hits you as a wave of rushing cold water, soothing and refreshing, but cold nonetheless. You realise there are certain aspects of your current life that you have to change and other avenues that you have to pursue, deciding in an impromptu fashion to take a small cobbled street to the left of you in the hope that it’s quicker to get where you’re heading.

As you pierce the shell of an egg with your two thumbs in order to crack it, you don’t think about the shell being torn apart and ripped in two. Instead, you think about the bright yellow yolk inside, moulded into the white about to trickle into your pan of melting butter. Indeed, as you slowly start to cook your egg, and grind some peppercorns on top, place the bread in the toaster, you realise that the splitting of the shell was necessary to accomplish this. Similarly, coming to a realisation that there may be certain people or things in your life which at the moment seem vital to who you are, but to get where you want to be, may become a hindrance is a difficult thing to comprehend. It cracks your outer skin slightly, and slowly makes its way down to your core, perhaps even influencing your important decisions.

This is the danger with an individual pursuit like happiness; you must, to a certain extent, dwell on the equal amount of loss and sadness before you experience any type of meaningful gain, and it remains an impossible task, to know what’s right. Putting into words such an intimate walk of life risks being so wrong, so far away from the reality of it, and what is happening in another person’s soul. That is the beautiful intricacy of the human spectrum, there is as much Individual struggle as collective struggle. Perhaps that is the reason why many people choose to laugh at a constant reminder that you have to do something to make yourself happy; seeing such words which have been unexperienced cracks their shell slightly, only insignificantly, it is a mere dent on their exterior, nothing has quite penetrated their being yet. Without realisation and comprehension, however difficult, what hope can there be of action?

All Of The People

There’s a monotony to the trudging, simultaneous marching that echoes throughout rush hour. Everybody seems the same, affected by the very same problem that confronts us all. Time. The name rush hour is given quite appropriately, but it should not only reflects the feeling of an hour and a half when people are leaving work, but the very nature of city life itself.

Every part of the day, every minute and insignificant detail of city life is a barrage to be first, be slightly better, gain something that somebody else doesn’t have. The subtly smug and satisfied eyes of a businessman as the doors close on the underground train you needed to catch, as you’re left waiting on the platform, the piercing into your eyes stays with you for a minute of two. You think to yourself, was that look really necessary? Probably not. But, on further reflection, you realise that the businessman probably needed greater levels of subtle satisfaction than yourself, he will get to his connection on time, and be able to travel for an hour to spend just another hour with his family before a similar state of affairs occurs the next day. And the next, and the next.

It’s as isolating as it is interesting and fun, and the rush does manage to seduce you, not with its glamour, because it’s far from glamourous. It manages to addict you with a few simple things, the adrenaline and the longing for more, once you’ve moved into a busy life of routine, of pushing, few acts of politeness and selflessness. It evolves into something wholly self-centred, a rush and a period of your life which ingrains negativity into your being, a cynicism and pessimism that you justify as realism. You often hear, ‘yes, I know how the world works’. Perhaps, it would be more appropriate to rephrase and suggest that you know how a world works.

There is a vast difference between understanding and being involved in a certain society thriving on individual and collective gain, to be the best that you can be, encouraged by advertising and peers alike, and being involved with something that makes you truly happy; a job or a path in life you have chosen not for money but for wellbeing. This attracts you in a different way, but a better way. Being involved with somebody’s experience so intimately due to your job or career and affecting their life positively, and most importantly unknowingly, is something that is invaluable, something that stock brokers and financiers cannot hope to put a price on. The way in which you share a smile with the businessman who glares at you infuriates him even more; you’ve chosen a wholly different life, where an underground ride is not a necessity but an experience. It’s okay, wait for the next train, inhale the dirt and grime and the experience, the array of emotion, ironically amongst the motionless and lifeless people of the city.

You wait with a smile which the businessman doesn’t understand, a calm and collected smirk, relaxed and carefree. A smile that only reveals itself when you have an empathy; you don’t care for two simple minutes, one hundred and twenty seconds, you’ll have plenty more of them. The smile is indeed a sadness for the businessman. His piercing glance haunts you slightly, the ice-cold emotion; an inhibition amongst the selfish people driven by a fear of time, and a lust for ruffling notes of paper with a number on them. It’s ironic, that his smug glance was a reflection of his jealousy towards you, that you’re more than happy to wait a little longer, that you fully understand there is little point in chasing something unchatchable, a virtual object you can never lay your hands on; it becomes the smaller and more insignificant details in this overwhelmingly detailed life which matter the most, the looks that people share with you and the laughter, rather than generalised, subjective manmade concepts you can’t place a hand on, and can’t feel deeply, swooping through your bones.