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I find reflection spiralling out of control into an extra-terrestrial maelstrom of thought that has nothing to do with the ‘job at hand.’

At the macro level reflection for me is on the scale, and of equal significance to Douglas Adams and ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ and the Meaning of Life and Everything.’

I find reflection spiralling out of control into an extra-terrestrial maelstrom of thought that has nothing to do with the ‘job at hand.’

At the micro level, the job at hand is a tiny part (10%) of a TMA in a unit, of a module of an OU Course.

My mindset has to be of a myopic jeweller with some gems and a gold band.

I don’t mean to trivialise it. On the contrary. I worry how in my life reflection has never imposed itself. I see, I feel, I do. If I reflect it is to look in a mirror and accept what I see, not try to change it.

Reflection has been hijacked by educational institutions. Don’t have time to mark a student’s work, get them to mark it themselves  … and then judge their ability to reflect on what they have done.

I think you can take from this that I don’t value reflection as a tool to assess a student. As a tool to gauge a person’s position, as a coach or facilitator to build on that person’s personal view of themselves – brilliant. But to give it a mark, pants.

Given that for the seventh or eighth time in the last two decades I have been advised that I am skewed towards action and visualisation I have to wonder how I can, or do, generate this amount of verbiage.

I am transcribing a dialogue between characters. I have a scene in my mind’s eyes as I type. I even see people, from the OU course, tutors, others … friends, as if attending a garden party.

For me reflection has to be, as it has been taken twenty years to engrain itself, the kind of introspection, sharing and reflection, fictionalisation and admonition, of Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Virginia Woolf and Proust. I favour, absolutely, the indulgence of a Proustian ‘Involuntary Rush’ and its relevance to the person in this state. Serendipity. Where is there space for it if we are shunted down a dead track, into a Waste Land.

I go with Kolb and Cowan, their cycles and spirals. I favour the hurricane, the tornado over the spinning top. Which is what this is, spinning a top through a set of questions: what happened? What next? So what?! And then, I suppose, not a lot, or a lot, you defend your position, you stick, you retreat or move forward. Is this reflection.

Stopped by a Police Motorcycle on the A1 South of Gateshead my mother turned to her children and said, ‘cry,’ look uspet.’ And in due course, the traffic cop, seing three miserable children and a harassed Mum let her off the speeding fine.

Was that micro reflection on her behalf? Is this a Proustian ‘involuntary rush’ on mine.

Where lies this in education? Everywhere, especially in education social networking, which I have hated and now smile at. Reflecting on the whiffs of conversation I dared pick up as my daughter typed into Facebook with the speed of criminal law court copyist. The bulk of what her generation are learning is being done this way – socialising, homework, the entire mess of life a 21st century melange which says to me the OU is not right to say I am wrong, when I may be proved right and ‘they’ haven’t a clue.

I suggested to someone today that I would like to do one MA after another, five years a time, ’til the day I day. The OU can have my money and my mind. This is a little boy in a sweet shop.

Next up History of Art … with the OU, while doing an MA in Fine Art.

Then a return to History, 1066 to the Restoration for starters. Or Modern or Contemporary History? I fancy the First World War and have trunks (literally) a libary of books and other resources and artifacts on that one.

Geography, and all that it embraces.

English Literature and creative writing.

And French, once I’ve mastered the written language.

and kite surfing, and paragliding …

In your dreams mate, in your dreams.

Anais Nin on giving her life meaning

How many seek solace in the journals of a woman in France in the 1930’s?

I’ve fallen in love with Anais Nin and Henry Miller and wish, even if it only meant being Richard Osborne to their relationship, that I could be with them watching it all unfold.

I’m over £100 into Anais Nin and can’t think where my desire to know her and Henry will end. Only when  own and have read all her diaries, all her fictions and erotica, all her letters too … and as much from Henry Miller.

Just pages into her first Journal I am making long notes which I want to record and discuss. Take this for example

‘What makes people despair is that they try to find a universal meaning to the whole of life, and then end up saying it is absurd, illogical, empty of meaning. There is not one big, cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person. To give as much meaning to one’s life as possible seems right to me. For example, I am not committed to any of the political movements which I find full of fanaticism and injustice, but in the face of each human being I act democratically and humanly. I give each human being his due. I disregard class and possessions. If it is the value of their spirit, of their human qualities, I pay my respect to, and to their needs as fast as I am able to fulfil them. If all of us acted in unison as I acted individually, there would be no wars and no poverty. I have made myself personally responsible for the fate of every human being who has come my way.’ (Anais Nin, Journals Vol 1)

And if we see life as a novel then we deliberately set out to make it worthy of a novel, and if this novel is dull written on a day to day basis as experiences unfold then surely the diarist goes out of their way to ensure that they experience and do things worthy of a novel?

They take lovers, they are unfaithful to other halves, they feign homosexuality got to places and do things they would never otherwise have done?

Such a belief sustained and enriched much of my teenage experience; I should write about it. Most people make no attempt to seek any ‘meaning to life’ let alone ‘universal meaning to the whole life’ most people are blessed with far more mundane and more easily satisfied demands that give them the right car, the right house, the right number of kids and the right number of brain cells to keep it all in suitable perspective.

Some of us struggle in our minds.

This is the  artist’s struggle.

How to keep the tide of middle class mediocrity from drowning out all exclamations.

I would have been the witch doctor in a tribe, the oddball. What makes us? What in this assembly of DNA creates this? Why me? Why me to be the pinball which refuses to sink? The ball which gets flipped and flapped, which dings and dongs. This game of pin-ball into which I was shot.

Milan Kundera: The unbearable lightness of being

Restless night, Dream about writing and about the books I am reading. Up around 4.30 a.m. Online to Blog. I feel I need to get some ideas down, to ‘externalise’ once again this conversation I have with myself.

Red Nose Day

Reading ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being.’

I came to this book, via the film, via my Tereza (Juliette Binoche) and my Sabina (Lena Olin), my vulnerable teenager lover who became mistress to another … and to me. She was my girlfriend and my childhood sweetheart.

‘Any schoolboy can do physics experiments in the laboratory to test various scientific hypotheses. But man, because he has only one life to live, cannot conduct experiments to test whether to follow his passion (compassion) or not.’ Milan Kundera.

Is life a ‘botched long-distance race?

It’s become that for me. I once detested wasting five minutes in a day and had counted the minutes. I now waist five days, five weeks, even five weeks. I’ve kept little record of what I’ve done for the last year. Just as I can’t keep a journal if I am ill, so I find I have no desire to ‘converse’ with myself like this if I am deeply depressed. Being unwilling to keep my journal is both a symptom and a cause of the depression. The less I ‘post,’ the more days I miss, the more depressed I become, the more disabled I feel.

‘Express the value of your body in terms of the modesty you accord it.’

‘If love is to be unforgettable fortuitous must immediately flutter down to it like birds to Francis of Assisi’s shoulders.’

There are moments of poetry like this, tucked into the narrative.

On the one hand Milan Kundera is a philosopher, attempting to offer an objective appraisal of human relationships, whilst on the other he twists in this strands of subjectivity. We live our lives like this, struggling to comprehend our actions and our emotions.

What makes us who we are?

‘The crew of her soul rushed up to the deck of her body.’

This is when Tereza fell in love with Tomas (Daniel Day-Lewis).

I love lines like this, the way it is expressed, my sympathy for the emotion; my recollection of times likes this. When you hope that you love will be reciprocated, after a gamble, you don’t know whether you will be accepted or rejected. I was on tenterhooks for weeks with Wanda, which explains the depth of our love – I hope. There was no quick fix fuck, no one-night stand; no will this lust turn into love.

‘When you sit face to face with someone who is pleasant, respectful, and polite, you have a hard time reminding yourself that nothing he says is true, that nothing is sincere. Maintaining non-belief (constantly, systematically, without the slightest vacillation) requires a tremendous effort and the proper training – in other words, frequent police interrogations.’ On Tomas versus the Czech communists.

‘Love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into poetic memory.’

There is an emotional value to the way feelings are expressed and recorded.

‘Human life occurs only once, and the reason we cannot determine which of our decisions are good and which bad is that in a given situation we can make only one decision; we are not granted a second, third or fourth life in which to compare various decisions.’

It is a film premise – getting life over, having a second or third chance.

We are stuck with the choices we make, the decisions we make, the rash or the brave, the impulsive or well considered, the emotional or objective. Sometimes the best decision to take is no decision at all.

David Pelzer on life lessons





David Pelzer.

David Pelzer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Life Lessons


Dave Pelzer


This post first appeared in Diaryland on 18/02/2003


I like this book for its simplicity; it is also very short. Five or six ideas are enough to keep in your head at any one time; I’m going to pick through the following, chant them, put them in a prayer, remind myself each day what I want to achieve.


1. Be resilient


2. Learn to fly


3. No one is perfect


4. Let go of your past


a. ‘You cannot move forward until you free yourself from the shackles of your past.’


5. Deal with everyday problems


a. ‘Settle your problems as promptly and as thoroughly as you are able.’


6. Rest your mind.


a. Get a good night’s sleep.


i. I go to bed early.


7. Let go, let rip daily.


a. I go down to the sea.


8. Purge your soul


a. I do so in a diary, often in Diaryland.


9. If you have been subjected to negative surroundings, use them to make you strive for something better.


a. I don’t want to be an absent father, not away all week or for weeks at a time, nor a divorcee.


10. Limit your response to negative settings and, if necessary, make a clean break.


a. I got out of TVL, I got out of Worth Media (or did they push).


11. Overcome your guilt. Make amends and move on.


12. Don’t give yourself away in the vain hope of appeasing others.


13. To help yourself, be yourself.


14. Never go to bed upset.


15. Resolve mattes before they envelop you. Compromise.


16. Hate no one. It is like a cancer.


17. Forgiveness cleanses.


18. When life’s not fair.


a. ‘Before you quit on yourself when life isn’t fair, exhaust all your options for making things happen.’


19. How badly do I want it?


a. Resolve to make things happen to you.


20. What have I accomplished?


a. Ask yourself what can you not accomplish when you truly commit to that one thing?


21. Know what you want and determine to make it happen.


22. What is truly important to me? (us)


23. Attempt the so-called ‘impossible’ until it becomes an everyday part of your life.


24. Don’t give your best away.


a. ‘We allow self-doubt, time, situations or whatever else to erode our dreams. We quit on ourselves. We carry regret, regret turns into frustration, frustration into anger, anger into sorrow. We’ve lost one of life’s most precious gifts: the excitement, the fear, the heart-pounding sensation of taking a step outside our protective womb.’


25. Go the distance.


a. ‘Part of the thrill of success is the journey of the struggle. If it were easy everyone would be doing it.’


26. Be happy.


a. The older we get, the more complacent, hopeless and despondent we become.


27. A consistent, positive attitude makes a world of difference.


28. There may not be a tomorrow to count on, so live the best life that you can today.


29. Start saying positive, rather than negative things about myself (and everyone around me).


30. Focus. If you have no goal or the self-belief that you can accomplish them, you will end up going nowhere.


a. A little bit of adversity can help to realign you, make you humble and make you want it more.


b. Being asked why I turn to write whenever I’m up against it is highlighting my hearts desire I’m not entering a cave.


31. Deflect negativity.


a. Flush it away and replace it with something positive (from a positive environment).


32. I wallow in my own abyss of doom and gloom.


33. Every day see the brighter side of things.


With a six and four year old sick at home I do little else but supervise their activities, ensure that they are warm, safe, fed and entertained. I snatch at J G Ballard’s novel, ‘Super Cannes’ from which I exhumed the following quotes. I’ll chew over them another time, when I feel better and I don’t have a four year old having a tantrum. 

‘Relaxing on the coast highway, I changed down to third gear. For the next thirty minutes I drove like Frenchman, overtaking on the inside lanes, straddling the central market lines on the most dangerous bends, tailgating any woman driver doing less than seventy, my headlamps flashing, slipping the clutch at traffic lights as the exhaust roared through the muffler and the engines wound itself to a screaming 7000 rev, swerving across the double yellows and forcing any oncoming drivers to skid their wheels in the refuse-filled verges.’ J G Ballard. It sounds like my brother driving on the A1 up to Beadnell from Gosforth.


Familiar territory.


‘Senior policemen are either philosophers or madmen …’


So I have heard; it gives me a way ahead in my novel.


‘A perverse sexual act can liberate the visionary self in even the dullest soul” writes Ballard.



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