The Colosseum

One of the reasons why our holiday this year is in Europe was because of me. Italy’s always held a special allure, and with European travel (potentially) becoming a bit of a minefield starting next year (cheers Brexit) it seemed like a good idea to push for this trip before that happened. The fact Rome became a Bond location in SPECTRE is an added bonus (*cough* Florence and Lake Como on the way back *cough*) but this belittles a very important part of my real reasoning for being here. I’m a massive history nut, and the home of the Roman Empire’s been on the To Do list since I first learnt what a Gladiator was, and we’re not talking about the spandex clad athletes on ITV who used to battle with giant cotton buds.

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Our farmhouse is on the end of the Metro line which deposits tourists literally outside the front door: this was Nero’s grand plan, to transform the existing structure on the site to a massive stadium. Begun in AD 69, it became the Empire’s centre for entertainment and spectacle and, most importantly, one of the most famous examples of religious persecution in History. For a city that remains deeply Christian, this serves as the permanent reminder of how intolerance must take place for acceptance to flourish. I’ve never been religious but the multiple significances at play continue to fuel interesting and challenging moral dilemma.

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It is also a RIDICULOUSLY photogenic landmark, which has detail and depth that I suspect most tourists don’t even consider. The regulation in brickwork is frankly staggering, and the skill in construction means that it has survived several major earthquakes (and attempts to recycle its structure) to surprising effect. I will be poring over the books I’ve bought in the next few weeks, and the pictures taken are more than likely to end up in a collage in my working space at home. The place is a testament not only to the people who built the structure, but those who perished within it for their beliefs. This was entertainment, pure and simple, and there are still parallels we can draw from within the walls that mirror our own modern existence.

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There are those who will maintain that history is only useful if it provides the means to make good the mistakes that took place, but monuments like this are the exception to that rule. Here is a structure that mirrors the continuation of religious persecution for entertainment: these guys stuck believers in with lions, we vilify opposition via a global arena. When all is said and done, very little has changed in 2000 years. This monument however has survived attempts to destroy it, reminding us that sometimes, it isn’t about the memories of a place, but the place itself which defines an experience.

Once we’d done here, it was time for a change of clothes and then off to the institution that grew from their humble beginnings as cat-food to utterly dominate the same city that once considered them as heretics…

In Dreams :: May 29th

I should make a graphic for this, hang on.

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My subconscious loves to fuck with me, especially at the weekends, so I’ve decided that as a cheap means of providing content, plus as an insight into my past, we’ll be recording dreams from now on with context.

This morning, it was all about our first house. It was a railway cottage (two up, two down) with the third room converted to a bathroom quite late on. When we moved in, the outside toilet still existed. The kitchen was an afterthought, literally and metaphorically, but it was within our budget and allowed a notion of autonomy. One Christmas we built our own fireplace in the front room, and there was a painting party to make the place habitable.

It was the place I first accessed the Internet in. It was also the place where I took the phone call that my husband’s father had died, and I would have to be the person to tell him. As a result, it is probably no wonder that my brain returns there periodically.

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The house is in various states of disrepair, though from the outside looks as it always did. Within, it becomes the TARDIS: multiple rooms, often dilapidated and damp, which as wallpaper is removed or panels exposed becomes affected by entropy. Small cupboards open up into vast, uneven spaces. There is wood panelling, boxes of damp clothing, and this morning what was clearly a mummified corpse amongst the decomposing woodwork.

My birth family is always somewhere, causing trouble and arguing over something. Normal life continues unabated too: in this case, a field hockey match was being played outside, with a stadium conveniently located next to the house. I can remember seeing images that reminded me of New York, even though this was clearly in my hometown. It also appears that the house was, at some point, a car dealership. Before it has been exposed as a cinema and a nightclub, with the various signage that would entail.

There were also a lot of Christmas decorations around, in various boxes across the house. The Council arrived shortly before waking up, I’d assumed to condemn the property as unsafe. Instead, the house was declared an Area of Special Historical Interest and I’d be expected to live there and restore everything to it’s original state… 

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I promise to be as honest as possible when I record dreams. If it’s adult, however, I may skip over the more lurid details…

Think

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Today marks 16 years since I stood and watched on live TV the World change forever.

Looking up from this screen, to the apex of the roof of the room I type in, there are three pictures I took on my first trip to New York in the 1990’s. I saw the Towers but never went up them: Mr Alt is afraid of heights, and it was a trip too much back then. When we returned to New York last year and saw the Memorial, I cried for some time. It is a beautiful piece of art, which serves a useful purpose and not simply as reminder. The flowing water, at least for me, is the prompt that life moves on regardless of your perception. Then I saw the roses, left by the name of each victim who would be celebrating a birthday when we visited. Sometimes, when your life has been given in tragedy, there is no moving forward.

You will forever be known as a victim, and this breaks my heart.

With all the chaos in the world, events like 9/11 are normally only recalled to public consciousness in anniversary multiples of ten or twenty-five. I understand that this allows a measure of closure for some. However, knowing that so many people who died on that day have never been found because bodies were effectively incinerated to nothing is not an image that ever truly leaves. The trail of death in the last sixteen years across the planet is numbing: refugees in the Mediterranean, hurricane victims, Grenfell Tower… a constant reminder that death is part of life, yes, but when man’s own anger, greed and stupidity is at fault? You should #neverforget any of this. Don’t let it own your existence, yes, allow it instead to temper reaction and response.

Become better by learning from the anger and fear it creates.

This week I am determined to be better than those who feel they have nothing to learn. I will listen when spoken to and try to be calm and relaxed. I will reconnect with body via Mindfulness. This will be a week of progress, by understanding that the past has a great deal to teach us about how to live in the present.

Then, I will look to the future.

Think

Maybe it isn’t just me that’s the problem.

Perhaps sometimes, other people forget to think. That comment would have just been better not being vocalised. You could have not pressed ‘Send’ but now you have? It’s okay. You said sorry, I’ll move on. Except sometimes it takes a while. It used to be that I held grudges, that was how this worked. I wouldn’t forget the hurtful things, and that made me the bad person, unforgiving. What you fail to grasp here is that I’m the one having to accommodate your failings, and only by doing so do you get to move on. That whole conspiracy about forgiveness being the best quality? Maybe if you thought first, we wouldn’t need this whole dance to begin with.

I know that’s the real truth, now after many years of considering actions borne from thoughtlessness and selfishness. Taking what you want, assuaging your own weaknesses, this is how the spiral begins. I’ll do this, nobody will get hurt. It can be our secret. Anything where there’s not a notion of honesty is where life begins to unravel. If you have to deceive over your sexuality to maintain personal safety. If your professional relationship crossed a line. All these little lies, the moments you could have said no but wanted yes because it stopped the hurt, made you feel better. People are weak. Temptation is strong. It doesn’t matter, because that person’s feelings aren’t the concern, this isn’t about them.

Maybe it isn’t just you that’s the problem.

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More and more I grasp the significance of organised religion in society. Once upon a time, when all you had to worry about was the crops and waking up the next day healthy? I suspect the concept of death was a big deal. Knowing that this was covered for you, that God would be there to escort you to paradise and the crops would be a distant memory? Suddenly there’s a reassurance in the knowledge you can get on with planting and harvesting without a worry. If you thought about coveting your neighbour’s husband? There was a punishment for that too. Religion brought a structure and control to lives that otherwise would undoubtedly be driven as the animals were: procreation, dominance, care at the bottom of the pile. Except that’s not true. Care often comes first. It is the perception of significance that clouds everything else along the way.

On my morning walks last week I’d stroll pass a Kingdom Hall, several Catholic Churches. This town is packed with religion, close to both sea and river. It is a place of immigration and arrival: people travel here, settle from their points of disparate origin. The eastern European supermarket, west African posters for money transfer: fingerprints of global travel smeared across the town, one side to another. The Bangladeshi takeaway that burned on Tuesday morning, filled with fire investigation staff by the afternoon. Cannoli catch my eye in the small Italian diner, almost make me stop before breakfast to buy some to accompany morning tea. There is a cosmopolitan air to my home, yet every person is moved by the same, intractable emotional responses. Without order, we descend into chaos.

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I suspect obsession with the past is in direct correlation to struggles with the present. History is supposed to teach an understanding of why, to assist in the now. Except in a game I play I’ve watched history revised, conveniently re-written to accommodate change in direction. It happens to in the real world, belief that atrocities never took place. Women never had a part in history either: was this due to chroniclers being mostly male?  The church paid monks to rewrite ancient history, not nuns. It transpires the final resting place of one of the most famous Egyptian kings might in truth be the tomb of a more significant woman. Can I use sexuality as a stick to beat anyone when it, like religion, is so ingrained in the consciousness of the planet there is no way for a single voice to be heard above the clamour.

Maybe it is you and me that are the problem.

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History is flexible, supple if you know how to work materials. Except for me, and now, there is only this history, intimate moments that have gone, and I have no desire to retcon myself. Being critical of mistakes I have made myself is what I am. Only when I learn to move past and accept that shortcomings are a part of a history that spans tens of thousands of years can a willing mind truly move forward. Understanding the present and the past provides the best answers of all, perfect combination of disparate worlds.

Maybe, if I just stopped looking for the problems, everything would be fine.

The Disappointed

Getting fit has brought some unexpected benefits to my life: one of them has involved a distinct improvement to the way my digestive system functions. That means it is even more pronounced when the thing stops working, but even that appears to have become less traumatic in the action and recovery. I know full well what made me sick on Sunday, and food was only a part of the equation. I work quite hard now to limit the amount of stress I’m under by doing my complete utmost to plan far enough ahead to be able to anticipate potential issues. My husband’s also pretty good at helping with this but on Saturday night I was given a piece of information that wasn’t just unexpected, it was fairly stressful.

Then I had to cope with it all. Seriously, you chill and relaxed people have no idea you are born: stuff just happens to you and you sail through it with absolutely no external or internal consequence. Stress has always manifested itself physically: digestive woes, particular aches and pains, headaches… and I do not enjoy these things. There is absolutely no desire whatsoever to milk these for social media sympathy either, so don’t go there. I’m getting too old for this shit, and I’d like a quiet life. That’s why I try and prepare myself whenever possible, and one of the unexpected benefits of being physically stronger is that the stress isn’t as big a deal as it once was.

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I had to wear heels on Sunday, and that’s not happened for some time, which aggravated an issue with my right leg that’s been niggling off and on for a couple of weeks. Whereas previously I’d have tried to keep weight off it, I just walked through the whole thing pretty much all of Sunday and yesterday, despite being knackered. The more I did it, the better this became, and it appears I have reached a point where the physical is more beneficial to me than the sedentary. I can’t now sit around for too long, or indeed waste time where before I would have been happy to just procrastinate. The physical has become a coping mechanism. That’s still a statement that surprises me, even seeing it written down makes me do a double take. I used to HATE exercise, so much. Then I recall a period in my late teens when my parents had a static bike and I spent a lot of time using it, because I was too scared to go out on roads. I can remember the physical calm that effort created, and wonder at what point I forgot this was helpful.

It is odd how past and present keep colliding in moments of revelation.

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The reminder that ‘time is a flat circle’ has been all the more obvious in the last few weeks: change does come in cycles, and the temptation when looking forward is to never go back because of the potential damage that can be wrought when doing so. However, what the past is useful for is understanding, especially the paths we currently tread. Exercise has been a significant part of my life, and so has stress, and the fact I can use one to effectively alleviate the other is hardly news. What is new however is the understanding that the benefits of doing this aren’t just mental.

With that, I’m off to drag a tractor tyre around a Sports Club car park. Because, you know, MOTIVATION PEOPLE :D