Feline Focus

Feline Focus
My latest puma, July 2016


Beloved companion to Sarah, Nov 2015

Window To The Soul

Window To The Soul
Watercolour Horse, June 2015

Sleeping Beauties

Sleeping Beauties
Watercolour Lionesses, Nov 2012


"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

"Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."

Groucho Marx

Snow Stalker

Snow Stalker
Another snow leopard - my latest watercolour offering - July 2013

21 February 2014

Head In The iClouds


Luddite - one of a band of protesters against unemployment who destroyed machinery in English factories about 1812-18; hence, any opponent of technological innovation, etc.

If there’s one thing guaranteed to drive me round the fucking bend, induce an almost total meltdown, and disturb my yogic bliss, it’s having to deal with technology - especially computer technology.

Which sadistic arsehole came up with the idea for computers?  I would really, REALLY like to meet that person, and shake them by the scruff of their neck.  Did they have no idea of the stress that they were unleashing on the world?

I bought a new laptop a couple of weeks ago to replace my old one, which has taken to overheating and spontaneously shutting down (a bit like a menopausal autistic female): and I decided to take the plunge (hoping like fuck I didn't drown), and invest in a supposedly much more user-friendly Apple MacBook Air.  All I can say at this point is, I don’t know who this user is to whom it’s supposed to be so fucking friendly, but it certainly isn’t me.  

I know there are many autistic people out there, women among them, who are positive geniuses with computers (probably one or more of them are responsible for developing the bloody thing in the first place) - but I’m not one of them.  I don’t see patterns, especially not in computers - I just see a random, confusing, fucking mess.  I am almost totally computer illiterate - you might as well write the bloody instructions in Swahili for all the sense they make to me.

Today, I finally got around to trying out my new external DVD drive, which I had to buy ‘cos the Airbook doesn’t have one (pay more money, get less hardware).  It’s only been sitting in its box for the last two weeks, while I’ve continued to watch DVDs on my old laptop with its integrated optical drive - did I ever mention I don’t like change very much?  And right from the start I managed to get into a pickle, simply by running the instruction DVD which came with the thing (but which, according to my best friend, is only necessary for Windows users.  No wonder I couldn’t follow the instructions - there weren’t any to be found for me to follow!)

In the end I had to rope in said best friend, yet again.  Fortunately, she also has an Airbook, and the same DVD drive: and she absolutely loves technology, and sorting out problems.  I think she’s quite loopy, personally, but there you go.  It takes all sorts.

So, for over an hour and a half, we fiddled and faffed about, trying various options, including downloading a different video player - but nothing worked.  Whilst I despaired, and my mind and nerves unravelled, she delighted in trying to unravel the conundrum.  

Finally, having exhausted all known options for why the fucking thing wouldn’t do as it was supposed to, and simply plug in and play, she suggested that I unplug it and then replug it into the USB port on the opposite side of the computer.  I thought she must be really desperate, or taking the piss, and visions of having to buy another computer with an integrated optical drive, just in order to be able to watch my DVDs, started to filter into my now overly fraught mind.  But I did what she asked and, lo and fucking behold, it worked!  I then tried it again in the port from which I’d just removed it, making sure to connect it firmly like she had said it needed, and it worked.

Un-fucking-believable!!  All that time and, for me, hair-pulling stress, and it came down to not having plugged the bloody thing in properly.  Talk about Not Keeping It Simple!  (Keep It Simple is a slogan we have in AA, but often don’t use - case in point).

Technology often makes me want to chew my own foot off and use it to club to death whoever was responsible for creating it in the first place.  Do they seriously not realise how much stress they released into the universe with the advent of this stuff?  Mental, emotional, and physical?  My computer takes over my whole bloody world - it becomes my higher power, a God at whose altar I sacrifice my peace of mind, physical well-being, and sanity.  It makes me loopy.  As if I needed any extra assistance.

Well, after today, I’ve decided that I’m not doing it any more.  I’m not giving it that power - it can sod off.  I think this is God’s joke on me, an additional source of humour about which I can write, and laugh at myself for my Luddite predilections.  Seriously, I think I have a prehistoric brain.  Or, at least, some areas of it remain stubbornly underdeveloped and resistant to the evolutionary changes which the human race has undergone.  Why else would I have such difficulties in dealing with the multitudinous stresses of modern life?  My nervous system just hasn’t adapted to it.

Of course, the flip-side is that if it weren’t for the computer then I wouldn’t be able to be sharing this with you now.  Nor would I be able to do my shopping on-line, thus minimising one of the other sources of stress in my life.  Like many things, it’s a double-edged sword.  I just have to be careful not to stab myself or slice off my own limbs whilst manically, and carelessly, waving the thing about.

19 February 2014

The Meaning Of Life

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Mahatma Gandhi

If it’s the case that everyone on the planet is different, a distinct entity, each with their own unique combination of characteristics, interests, and skills (not to mention physiological make-up), then why is it that “the world” insists on treating us all alike, trying to enforce on us a generic, societal norm to which we are expected to conform?

I have often noted how there appears to be a pattern to life that we are expected to comply with - it’s subtle, for the most part, but it’s there.  No-one states it outright - the government doesn’t announce that we’re being herded and penned in like sheep where they want us to be, but that’s what seems to be happening.  

Think about it - we’re born, and for a little while at the beginning we’re free.  But then we’re expected to be sent to school, and suddenly our lives are no longer our own anymore, ‘cos here is where we will be both ‘socialised’ and ‘formally’ educated in the topics and manner that someone else far removed from us dictates is appropriate (our parents have very little say in this, once they agree to turn us over to the education system), with the end goal being that we shall, hopefully, be moulded into useful citizens who will conform and contribute to society.  

Which basically means that our main objective in life will be expected to be working and making money - who gives a shit if you’re happy while you’re doing it?  Hell, everybody knows that having money makes you happy.  Don’t they?  Well, that’s what ‘the world’ would expect us to believe anyway, it seems.  Must be, since there’s so much emphasis placed on it.  

Along with making money goes the expectation that we shall want to find a romantic partner in order that we may settle down some day (kind of like sediment) and have a family, for whom we will have to provide, thus keeping alive the incentive for working, and directing our focus on the continued need to make money.  And, of course, since we have the equipment for making babies, then it’s assumed that we will naturally want to use it for that purpose at some point.  If not, then there’s something obviously ‘wrong’ with us (as if there weren’t already enough things ‘wrong’ with me already!)

Then we head into retirement, the time that we expect to be able to finally take it easy, stop chasing the money, and hopefully be able to do all those things that we weren’t able to do previously because we were too busy having to focus on making a living in order to live.  And, hopefully, of course, by now we’ve made enough to do those things.  

Except that we might well find that by this time we’ve lost the energy, enthusiasm, motivation, and physical ability to do a lot of what we dreamed of doing, having been sucked dry by the stress and general wear and tear of daily life.  Plus, of course, some of us may well have dropped down dead before then, which kind of puts the kibosh on any such plans.  So retirement literally becomes a time when we’re put out to pasture, like an old horse, for whom there’s very little use any more.  Gee, sounds great.  I can’t wait.

I understand now why, for almost the whole of the first thirty years of my life, I felt a deep sense of melancholy and gloom, having this as my invisible blueprint for what was expected of me in order to be considered a success in life, and to achieve happiness.  

One aspect in particular to which I have been giving a lot of thought  (that means obsessing) in recent weeks is school.  Do you realise that you don’t actually have to go to school; that you can legally opt out?  I didn’t know that, until now.  All those years I laboured under the illusion that I had no choice: it was either attend school, or get into trouble for truancy.  God, was I pissed off when I found out!

Sure, I’d vaguely heard about homeschooling, where, if you’re lucky, you get to be taught at home by either your parents or a private tutor.  But still, you follow the curriculum set by the education department, and you take exams.

I also recently found out that there are ‘alternative’ schools (like the Steiner Waldorf system), which place their emphasis on the needs of the individual pupil, rather than the institution, and which follow their own curriculum, giving equal importance to creative endeavours (like art, drama, dance, etc) as well as to the academic; as well as to the needs of the whole person.  Where were these people when I needed them?!

And from there I discovered unschooling, a movement dedicated to not forcing education on your child at all, but to allowing the natural process of learning to take place.  In unschooling parents don’t dictate what ‘should’ be learnt, but rather allow their children to decide what they would like to learn, based on their interests and abilities.  Nor are they expected to prove their understanding by jumping through the hoop of exams, being tested like a bloody piece of machinery before it’s allowed off the factory line and sent off to be sold.

I was astonished.  I was dumbfounded.  I was envious.  God, I wish my parents had known about that stuff when I was a child.  Instead of which I had to endure the agony, the monotony and tedium, not to mention the chronic anxiety directly related to being shoved through an average, non-creative education system, which did a grand job of sucking the soul (both creative and otherwise) out of me and my artistic aspirations.  

I went in there with a mind and body bursting with energy and ideas, but a lack of direction (mainly courtesy of having unrecognised ADHD).  I came out subdued, lifeless, full of anxiety and fear about the future, and with hardly a thought to call my own, so well-indoctrinated had I been.  But hey!, I’d got the qualifications to get myself a job as some kind of clerical worker/typist.  Wow!  Dizzy heights, I know.  What a lot to look forward to, a lifetime of being trapped in an office, with people.

I’d had all of my dreams of being a writer, an artist, an athlete dismantled.  All gone by the wayside, all considered to be simply unrealistic daydreams, fantasies, the luxury of people with the money and time to indulge in them.  Childish.  Unattainable.  Out of my league.     Considered back then to be ‘hobbies’, and not something you could make a living from: not ‘real’ work.  

No, real work is the stuff that you do to make money; that makes you miserable; that isn’t supposed to be enjoyable; that you’re glad is over by the end of the day (like school).  If you’re enjoying it then you must be doing something wrong.

And because I couldn’t use them as a means to make a living, they quickly fell by the wayside, and I stopped doing them altogether once I left education (an autistic trait, I believe - seeing no reason to do something unless it has an end purpose: mere enjoyment is not enough).

So why would God make us all uniquely individual, bestow on us widely differing gifts and talents, and then expect us to cast them aside in favour of having to learn and master the same things (egs maths, science, computers/IT, languages), thus turning us into mass-produced automatons?  I guess the answer to that is that S/He doesn’t - man does that.

Imagine all those remarkable people who have lived unique and highly creative lives, not conforming to the ‘norm’, who have produced so much incredible stuff.  How would our world look now if they’d all been forced to go through an education system designed to make them conform, and to remove their individuality?  If they’d been forced to live an ‘average’ life, making worldly goods and achievements their goals?  Doesn’t bear thinking about really, does it?  We’d still be living in the dark ages - literally, ‘cos no-one would have had the foresight to use their imagination to come up with the concept of electricity.  

We’d all still be relying on the sun, living in caves, chasing wild animals, and procreating.  Mind you, sounds preferable to the life of an ‘average’ person now - living in a shoebox-sized home, with paper-thin walls, and crammed like sardines in a tin; and working in a shoebox-sized office, with paper-thin or no walls at all, crammed in like sardines.  And people wonder why we have so many health problems when we live such an unnatural existence.  Are they mad?

Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
An experiment in watercolour and gouache

Quotes Quota

"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.

"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."

From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett


Copied from photograph of the same name by Roberto Dutesco

Quotes Quota

"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama

"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."

Malcolm X

On The Prowl

On The Prowl
Watercolour tiger

Quotes Quota

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step."

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."

C S Lewis