For the last several weeks we've been building a shed on our allotment. It is intended to be a shelter from the elements when we're planting, weeding and harvesting, but also a place to go to escape the noisy environment at home.
Our progress so far has been remarkable, especially when considering that we aren't qualified in carpentry or any trade. I'm an artist, and Martin (my partner in crime) is an IT technician.
I'm looking forward to the parts I find more fun and interesting, such as the solar lighting I bought and when we get around to installing the window and doors.
Right now I'm waiting for the delivery of the external cladding. Hopefully we can put some of it up before the rain sets in for the next few days and hampers our efforts!
Watch this space.
I made a blanket for a friend today out of 3KG of merino wool. It was an interesting technical challenge, not for the hand knitting technique, but rather finding the space and dealing with the heavy and unwieldy balls of wool! I would say though, the result was worth it. I hope she likes it as much as I had fun making it.
I've observed something universal, and while it is essential, it isn't an original concept. I've lived amongst the very poor and the very rich, and the one universal truth I've managed to discover is that while we are alive, we all suffer in one way or another.
This isn't an original concept. The first buddha Sittharta Guatama discovered this truth thousands of years ago and founded the Buddhist faith. The then Prince Siddharta decided that there must be an alternative to the constant cycle of suffering and death he was observing on an unsanctioned excursion from his palace. So he made it his mission to find the key to its cessation, casting off his privileged upbringing and venturing out on his own.
His methods were ultimately centred around the self. He tried to end suffering for himself, so he could teach others what he had learned so they could help themselves. In principle, that works if you're a Buddhist, but most people aren't willing to go to the lengths in their lives that he was to end their suffering. Would you give up love, money, possessions, your hair? Most people reading this would likely not do any such thing. I know that, for the most part, I wouldn't like to do that either. I'm just amazed that he found out this fundamental truth so long ago and our societies are still creating suffering on a global scale despite our supposed 'advanced' cultures.
In our modern world, there is a growing disparity between the rich and poor. Many wealthy people can use their possessions and power to overcome a great deal of the natural suffering present today. For example, if you have a bad back, you can pay a doctor to help you, or buy an expensive mattress or massaging device to sort it out. Poor people often cannot do this, so they must endure the pain.
We can all agree that suffering sucks, and we'd all like to avoid it like the plague. Whether you believe in a life after this one or not, the only commonality between everyone I have ever observed is that we all avoid pain and suffering whenever possible. It's in our nature. Some of us are just better equipped to do so than others.
When you have your fancy job, car, house, and your suffering is reduced to life's inevitable painful losses that are unavoidable, what then? Is it time to look outwards and begin to reduce suffering for others?
Unfortunately, our old pal fear prevents us from doing so. Most of our lives are motivated through fear, and helping others doesn't have a 1:1 effort-to-benefit ratio. Often we need to put in a lot of time and money to help people out of situations where they are suffering intolerably.
Now I don't condone wasting resources on those who don't want help or purposefully cause their suffering. Workaholics are a classic example of this phenomenon. They earn enough money, but mental illness spurs them on to earn more and more through fear, and the ever-increasing workload begins to break them down and cause suffering. These people need help, but they also need to want that help in the first place. The first step is theirs, reaching out.
It is important to remember that stockpiling money and resources will not defend you from the inevitabilities of life. For example, when your grandparents, parents, uncles, and aunts all pass away, all the money in the world will not dull the pain of that loss. It rather obviously won't bring them back or take their place, either.
But perhaps the other people remaining around you whom you have helped with their suffering will return the favour and comfort you, distract you and help to pick up the broken pieces of your life.
Selfishness has become its own pandemic. It's time to stop looking constantly inwards to your own desires. It's time to look towards others. It's time to help the less fortunate people we know in our lives. Be generous, treat them well, and they will ultimately be there when we need them.
In a way, this is my way of reaching out for help, and reminding people that I too am suffering and in need of help. My posts are never selflessly motivated. To claim otherwise would be disingenuous. But if you help me, I'll help you, and the world will become a slightly better place to live for everyone.
I recently received an email from a reader who made some fascinating comments regarding my articles. Among them was the claim that my degree had been a waste of time since I'd decided to become a freelance photographer at the end of the course.
An extremely expensive piece of paper.
I must say in many ways I agree. From a traditional standpoint, the degree I undertook was a waste of time and money. As a subject, Photography does not fit into the academic degree format very well, and there was a lot more work that involved writing than it did taking photographs. If I were to decide to be a full-time photographer, my time would have been better spent actually outside practising my skills by using camera equipment.
However: In the context of why I decided to pursue a degree, it wasn't a waste of time, and I'll explain why.
I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 26 after having substantial trouble finding employment and fitting into society. I ended up confined to my bedroom for a substantial amount of time each week. After some battling, I found myself receiving some benefits, which eventually entitled me to support 8 hours a week. Someone would come to the house and take me out for a day on Fridays. We would explore the local area and, most importantly, I'd get some exercise. On some of those Fridays, we'd end up walking almost ten miles!
The support worker was of a similar mindset to me. He was vastly overqualified but enjoyed helping people. So he found himself in this job, but with a Masters in Photography.
In short, his passion quickly became my passion. I embraced photography and integrated it into our trips. I began using my phone to photograph everything even remotely interesting, refining my skills every week.
This carried on until a particular day when I realised that I could fulfil my long-held dream of having a degree, and I'd have the ability to go out and take photos thanks to my support worker.
So, with a handful of iPhone images, I applied to a course online and was accepted, and the rest is history!
I finally gained my degree in 2019 via an online course with the University of Hertfordshire after six years of work. I overcame many difficulties along the way, and I even managed (somehow) to be the top student in my cohort, with 1st class honours.
Today I'm a self-employed newspaper editor and freelance photographer/artist. The degree hasn't really helped in either of those fields a great deal, and I could have gained the skills I needed without putting myself into £28,000 of debt with the student loans company. If the goal of the degree was to gain employment, it certainly failed.
What it actually did was give me confidence in what I know, and from that standpoint, it was a success. I can say something on the topic, and should anyone question me, I can have a spirited debate, using what I've learned as a guide. Without it, I feel sure I would not feel even half as confident about my art knowledge as I do today.
In short, for those of us who aren't blessed with an abundance of self-confidence, a degree can be a useful affirmation of our talents.
As ever, if you feel you want to donate, please do. I don't put adverts on my website, or annoying popups, because I feel that quality content speaks for itself. Each essay I write is original and isn't lifted, copied and pasted from elsewhere, as so many sites online.
It has been my goal for some time now to reduce the majority of my personal belongings to a handful of items that fit inside a backpack.
Although most importantly, I want to do this for several reasons and ensure I'm not buying things I don't require to create more of a strain on the planet's ecosystem.
I'm often buying things because I forgot I already owned something that would work just as well under the circumstances. Today I searched online for a pouch to store my tech cables when I already had a suitable container in a storage cube, not three feet from where I was sitting!
This project has a few exceptions in my case:
As for everything else, I want to fit it all inside a 30L backpack and keep a curated list of my belongings to ensure I am fully aware of what I own.
I'll post my progress here as I attempt to realise this goal.
As I sit with my blog open, it strikes me that I’ve never been able to define myself or what I do because I am interested in writing about so many different things. On my website, there are recipes, poems, pictures, drawings, musings on philosophy, and much more besides.
I’m constantly flailing about, looking for ways to express myself. All this casting about creates an endless stream of ‘content’ for want of a better word, but without the focus required to generate an income from any of it. At the moment, that’s something I could really use.
My advice to whoever is reading this: pick something you’re passionate about and stick with it. As for me, when you have so many passions and can’t decide on one over the others, it creates a bit of a mess. Luckily, I can compile everything here online, even if it’s just a record to prove that I existed and was somehow productive.