Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Today, Scotland Decides!

WOW! Where do I begin with this post? Today, yes TODAY, this is going to be a momentous day for the future of Scotland, and for the rest of the United Kingdom of Great Britain too. Sadly events conspired in my life that in this day I don't get the chance to vote on the issue. I would not change the last six years of my life to allow me to do so, not when most of those 6 years were the best years of my life. Still it is sad that as an expat Scot that I don't get to take part in this historic day

Rightly or wrongly, whatever you think about empire building, the facts are Scots as part of the UK over centuries helped build an empire, they helped build countries and nations, with skill, knowledge, ingenuity, and back breaking endeavour Scots have been the tool to shape countries far and wide. Now today, in September 2014, some in the No campaign would have you believe that Scotland doesn't have what it takes to build its own nation. Thats utter crap of course. There are nations out there with less that what Scotland has that has the means for a prosperous for future.

As a Scotsman, I'm proud to be British, and I'm proud to be Scottish. Whatever the result that we wake up to on Friday I will be proud and a little saddened. I will be proud that 97% of the possible electorate has been energised enough to exercise their right to vote on this issue. I hope that the result is just the beginning for that electorate, I hope people of all political persuasions are encouraged to continue to keep interested in the issues going forward, and that the politicians are held to account by a hungry electorate demanding that their voice be heard.

As a Scotsman I would vote Yes to an independent Scotland. The Better Together campaign in charge of galvanising the No vote lost the argument for me when they ran a campaign based on telling people what we couldn't do if Scotland was an independent nation. I'm sorry but my wife would tell you I am as stubborn as they come, you tell me what I can't do and I'll tell you what I can. In a country of 5.3million people, 4.2 million are signed up to vote. 97 out of every 100 people eligible to vote has signed up to do just that. A very small number won't have a voice, and most of those people will be under the age of 16. I am hugely disappointed that the No campaign thought the way to win this election was to those millions of voters what they couldn't do if they weren't part of the UK.

I would have much more respect for the Better Together campaign message had it been run differently. Had they run a positive message based on a vision for a positive British future with Scottish interests at the heart then I would have listened to that message. I was born in Scotland, but I grew up British, I grew with Scottish values and British made opportunities. I was ripe for the taking of the Better Together campaign. However after living in the US for five years and coming back to the UK and having lived in London for the last 10 months and I don't recognise the Britain I knew. We have a British government that is entrusted with the powers of budgeting for the UK as a whole, but largely pays no heed to the issues that concerns that of a Scotsman, a Welshman or a Northern Irishman. We have a British Parliament responsible for the future direction of four nations but only pays attention to the issues concerning the people of one country, and then those people entrusted with those powers have the arrogance to say you couldn't do a better job than us.

It is hard for the Better Together campaign to paint a positive future for Scotland within the UK if they are only now paying any attention to what the people of Scotland have concerns about.

If the majority of the Scottish electorate votes Yes today, it is not the end of the debate. It is just the beginning. Every Yes voter I've heard speak has a different vision of the future going forward. That is exciting. That means there will be lots of voices thats going to need to be heard and encouraged to voice those thoughts and ideas if the steps of potential are to become steps of progress

I look at my own past. A past from six years ago. I had never truly been in love before. I had never truly had to take care of anyone other than myself before. I was afraid and scared. I was scared of rejection. I was scared of failure I was fearful of myself and what I was and wasn't capable of. Then I met a beautiful woman and I learned to love. I learned to love her, I learned to love her family, I learned to love the act of love itself. It empowered me. I discovered I already had the tools to allow me to face any challenge. I learned that all the self doubts I had before were nothing that could not be overcome. I learned how to hope, and dream of better futures. I grew and I flourished and I learned the meaning of fulfilment. Self-determination starts within yourself. And I made mistakes. I'm human, I've made mistakes but even today I'm not broken by my mistakes, I've been empowered by the love that I have to believe that I can grow, and flourish and continue learning to be better.

Six years on, Scotland is on the same journey. The time is here. The road has been long. We’ve laughed and loved and lost along the way. In the two years of this debate Scotland has learned to hope, learned how to make dreams come real. Beyond the question itself, no one has all the answers, and that is ok because the question, yes or no to Scottish Independence is just the beginning.

Going away, and living in the States and coming back to the UK I've learned that the people can be the power in the land of my birth. Living in London I see people afraid to look others in the eye, I see people scared for the future, scared of the future, scared of incoming immigrants taking their piece of turf, their piece of the pie threatened. I've learned that being Scottish isn't just a state of mind. There is a sense of justice embedded within, a state of looking forward, a state of inclusion, a state of self-belief, a state of hope that seems to be lacking at a  British level right now. That lack of hope at the British level scares me more than the uncertainties of an independent future. That hope that this debate has lit up at a Scottish level excites me. Hope can be delusionary, but without it the future can be very dark indeed.

There are potentials that live within us all. If we can find the words to make them sing we can find the words to change a nation. I don't want to be part of a nation that bites its tongue, I don't want to be afraid of what can go wrong. I don't want to be stuck in silence. If no one ever hears our words no one will ever hear our version of events, and no one will ever know what we could do. That will be sad indeed, when you stay quiet when words could make a difference, mistakes happen.

I've been there I've done that, and I don't want to do it again. I don't want to be fearful. I want to see Scotland have the bravery to step up and shout and share with the world its own solutions for a scary world and shape a better future and sharing new ideas that other parts of the world might adopt for themselves, the rest of Britain included. Right now the UK seems devoid of ideas, whereas the debate that has gripped Scotland for the last two years has encouraged ideas to come forward that wasn't there previously. Just like the love of a good beautiful woman sparked the belief in my own capabilities, the question that Scotland must answer today has allowed voices and ideas to be heard and with it hope for the future.

Those voices, 97% of the Scottish electorate, have finally come together to be heard. There has been no concensus of what the future may be, but nonetheless all those voices paint an exciting vision of what the future could be. I don't want that that to stop at a No! That would be an anticlimax. A yes is not the end of the journey, a no would be, but a yes would be the beginning of something infinitely more powerful. Something that is going to get in the papers around the world, but something that goes beyond the headlines for one day.The repercussions of today could be felt for generations to come.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Six Months Without Dessert What The Pho!

I've been living in London now for a little over 6 months, without going into London itself very much. Living by Heathrow, working the hours I do, and getting little time off, going into the city is just inconvenient. Yesterday was a killer day though, after working over 14 hours I just needed to get a break. So I got the bus, and the tube, so as to walk around town while the weather was still good.

Of course when you go walking you tend to build up an appetite. I've been craving some Vietnamese for weeks now and I just happened to pass a Vietnamese on my travels, instantly I was craving Banh Mi sandwich and some Pho. I was going to satisfy the urge for both then saw the prices and realised I wasn't in Kansas I mean Salt Lake anymore. Decided just to do the sandwich, and forget the soup this time around. Added a little kick to the sandwich with some Sriracha sauce. Needn't have bothered. This sandwich was hot, hot, hot! Tasty enough had I not had a really great banh mi sandwich that I used to eat weekly. This sandwich was one I might eat once a year - nothing special.

So far I have yet to really enjoy eating out in London. I love Peruvian food, probably my favorite cuisine, but in London my experience of Peruvian dining has been though trendy, a little too pricy and the portions a little too small and missing that homely experience I've had in the past.

Vietnamese just didn't hit the mark at all.

Indian in London so far has been a let down to some of the food I experienced in Glasgow.

However today I did put something right. I was wandering around town, working off my sandwich when I passed a french crepe cafe, when it dawned on me I haven't had dessert since I got here, excluding a few lychees (which is just fruit) in a Chinese restaurant in Soho. No ice cream, no cake, nothing in six months! Me, Scottish, sweet tooth, no dessert, how long? - really! Feck off! No really!  Walking on through the city I started craving dessert. Hadn't thought about it in weeks, months maybe. Eating at 1am - 2am as I do, dessert doesn't really come into your thoughts much. But now I'm thinking those crepes looked good. I can hear my wife's voice in my head all those times she offered crepes and I wasn't in the mood for them but I find myself walking back to the Cafe not needing to look at the menu - I know what I want - crepes, nutella, banana. Look at the menu anyway just to be sure its there, scroll quickly half way down, not really seeing anything else, just see what I want and place order. Drool a little.

Wait a few minutes for plate to land on my table. Tuck in. Leave Cafe happy.
Six months really. Why?

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Springing Forward

Sometimes I need to get out, breathe and enjoy the sun – shake off a bout of cabin fever. I need to just get out there, stretch my legs and take time to notice life.

Early Spring is all about life. I love every season, but Spring and Autumn are probably my favourite  seasons because the colours and the light change so frequently from day to day. Where as in Autumn everything starts the process of resting, Spring brings new life and energy, and life just seems to 'spring' from everywhere around us.

Probably more than any other year I may have to take more notice of what is going on around me this year, I need to renew some of that energy myself.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Well That Sucked!

Its a funny thing - life! For years you can go on blissfully ignorant of the need for love. You are seemingly happy alone, being an independent person - then BAM! Love happens, and life is never the same again. Where once you were happy to go through life alone, now that is no longer enough. Now you have a higher purpose, desires more pure. You are less selfish, its no longer about you and you alone, two becomes one, now you have another half, a better half, someone who makes your dream and hope and love not just for yourself, someone who makes you better just by them being part of your soul. Its embedded in you deep. You take pleasure in the simple things, moments you may have missed when you were more selfish, lost in your own wandering path through life. That person gives you peace, a new bliss that takes away the need to blindly aimlessly travel through life. Of course we are all human, life isn't always easy, human frailities being as they are love can be lost by human failings.

Unfortunately when that happens you cannot return to a state of blissful ignorance - the goodness of love has been awakened in the soul, and is a painful loss you awaken the heart and have to leave it behind.

I thought I was coping well with the loss of my soulmate. I wasn't exactly happy starting over again 4000+ miles away. I wasn't axactly happy with making less than a quarter of my previous income. Both were difficult to deal with. But I was determined to use time to grow as a person. Understand myself. Rebuild. Refocus my energies. Use life's lesson to become better. I was struggling to overcome, but seemingly gathering strength to move forward.

Five months on I thought I was mentally in a better place. But this week has been hard. First real time I have been sick on my own since. Stupid little cold, flu, whatever, that normally I would shake off as nothing but a nuisance. Instead it just made me feel alone. Today, with no work I decided I just needed to get out of the house, do something normal. Go have a cup of coffee, watch a movie.

Only - movies are one of the things we did as a couple. Doing so alone, just brought back all the memories, feelings, emotions of previous date nights that I had done well to suppress. Being ALONE after LOVE has opened the heart - sucks! Maybe I'm still sick. Maybe I'm still weak. Maybe I'm still heartbroken. I don't know, I do know this was one hard day.

The movie?



Russell Crowe did a decent job acting the part, but there is nothing about Noah the character that has a redeeming quality. So the movie itself left me disappointed.

The act of going to the cinema, alone, sucked worse.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Maybe I'm Artistically Stupid, But I Didn't Feel It

Today was a day off from work, and seeing I was in London I thought I may as well see something artistic so I checked out Time Out London to see what was recommended this week and settled on a Visual art exhibit at the Barbican Curve Gallery called  Momentum. Waited for over an hour in line eagerly anticipating what was to come.

Only to enter the darkened room, and find 12 white lights swinging around the room. Really fucking disappointing waste of my time.

I could have spent that time in St Pauls Cathedral.

Or went for a walk along the river.
If I really wanted to be a darkened room I would have been better off watching a movie.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Finally The Weather Is Changing....

Is it 11 weeks? Or 12 weeks I've been living in London? I've lost count on that, but it seems easier to count the days of no rain in that time. 3!

But at the weekend the temperatures are on the rise, reportedly up to a balmy 17 Celsius, of course it won't last but it will make a nice change. Looking outside today there already seems to be a change in the air.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

So Tomorrow Is Valentine's Day.....

As a single person I always kind of hated it. As a married man, I liked it as a day like any other. It wasn't a day I particularly wanted to celebrate. Personally I thought love should be celebrated each and every day. I wanted to spoil my wife at Christmas, I wanted to spoil her on her birthday on the 29th of September. I wanted that whole month to be special. I wanted her to feel loved with little random acts throughout the year, just because - she existed - she was my special one.

This 14th of February though is a time of reflection. With no wife to share my love with I have to look at the lessons I have learned from love. I don't want to take this time and look at the loss, I want to look at it with a small dose of  romance and take what positives out of it as I can. Life doesn't always go as planned. Sometimes we don't even have a plan, we are just walking forward. Sometimes, if we are lucky, love is along that path and shakes everything up. Sometimes mistakes happen, that shake everything up again but love is pretty special and needs to be celebrated.

Here are things I've learned about love:

  • Love is not about losing yourself in someone, its about finding yourself in that person, in that relationship. When I found my wife I knew she was the one. She was special. She made me see the best in myself, she made me want to be better. It wasn't about how good I was it was about how good I wanted to be. Perhaps for the first time in my life I truly saw good in myself and I wanted to be better still, for her, for us. I wasn't the best I good be when I met her, but just by being with her gave me purpose and direction to grow into my best self, not for my personal gain but for us. It all came from within me, but she was my guiding light. 
  • Love is choosing to share in each other's joy and pain, and experience life together through good and bad.
  • When you love yourself you can be egotistical and selfish but when you love another more than yourself you can take as much out of a relationship through the hard times as you can out of the good. I loved to shower my wife with gifts. I wanted to make her feel good at all times, but there were times when she would be having trouble at work, or she would be stressed over things big and small, I didn't take much joy at those times I hated to see her struggling in life but I did take a lot out of the relationship by being there for her at those times. Being there to listen or provide advice, or find a solution to the difficult times was as good for me as the great sex we would have.
  • No matter what, love is about growing and learning as one.
  • Love is built on a solid foundation of teamwork.  The relationship I had with my wife is the single greatest source of my own  personal growth and happiness. I learned the most important trip I will ever take in life is meeting someone you love halfway. It wasn't about me anymore it was about us. I achieved far more in a few years working for her, for us, that I ever did for myself alone.
  • The strength of a relationship depends on the strength of its two members, and the strength of each member in the long run depends on the quality of the relationship.Sometimes some one has to pick up the slack. I found that love was rarely 50/50 at any given instant in time.  You can’t always feel 100%, or a full 50% of a relationship’s whole – life is simply too unpredictable for that.  So on the days when you can only give 20%, the other person must give 80%, and vice versa.  It’s never about balancing steady in the middle; healthy love is about two people who are willing to make adjustments for each other in real time as needed, and give more when the other person can’t help but give a little less.
  • Don't ever seek perfection. Perfection doesn't exist. it doesn't exist in you, it doesn't exist in others. A relationship that’s real will not be perfect, but if you’re willing to work at it and open up, it could be everything you’ve ever dreamed of. Your soul mate may be far from perfect, but they are a perfect fit for you.  Give them a chance to show you. When you stop expecting them to behave in a certain way you can start to enjoy and appreciate them for who they are.  What you need to remember is that every relationship has its problems, but what makes it perfect in the end is when you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, even when times are tough. same goes for youself. Don't second guess for what you have to provide to make that person love you for everything you are. They already do. You might have flaws, but love is blind. You have already been chosen, they already love you, where you might be insecure about flaws and issues you have struggling with your whole life they see all thats good. You never need to be insecure with the person who loves you, they love you entirely. They will just feel blessed to be in your company each and every day.
  • Love is risky, its scary. Its about letting go. Letting our guard down. Honesty, vulnerability and presence are demanded. It’s about daring to reveal yourself honestly, and daring to be open and fully disclosed over the long-term.  It’s about sticking by each other’s side through thick and thin, and truly being there in the flesh and spirit when you’re needed most. So open yourself up. Be with the person you love. Allow yourself to experience them authentically. I could not have got so much out of my relationship with my wife had I not first torn down all my emotional brick walls I had previously built up around myself. To feel all the amazing emotions that love offers, both good and bad I had to break down all barriers that I had protected myself from. Letting love in, is risky, we get hurt when we take risks, but risk is part of real living. Love is when we allow ourselves to have a sincere connection with another human being without all the other bullshit that we like to protect ourselves from. Its about saying this is who I am....take it or leave it. At some point in our lives we have to take the training wheels off...and if you love someone, and they love you they will be there to catch you. Ooh I like that line I should have kept that for last...dammit...but I got so much more to say.
  • Nurture your love so that when you tell the person you love that you love them, it’s merely a ritualistic validation of what you have already shown them by how you treat them on a daily basis.  Do little things every day to show your loved ones you care.  
  • Knowing that the person you’re thinking of all day long has you on their mind too means a lot. 
  • You can say I love you as much as you want, but if you’re not going to prove that the things you say are true, they aren’t.  If you can’t show it, your words are not going to come across as sincere. There were things I could have worked on better, but everyday I woke up I asked myself what I was going to do for my wife. Throughout my working day I would thinking of little things to do for today, tomorrow or sometime in the future that was going to confirm how much I loved her. We were both busy people, at times it felt like we only had five minutes together in a day but it was always on my mind what I had to do that day to show her some love. There were times I could have done better, done more, but I always did something. Love is also about seeing. Its not about what the person didn't do, or did wrong, Its about seeing what they did do, right. Sometimes we have expectations, and those expectations aren't met, and we get disappointed and thats what we see. I would get fed up with just five minutes, I wanted more, but looking back those five minutes were the best five minutes of my day, I should have made even more of those five minutes. Appreciate.
  • Love isn't easy, at times its hard work, but far too often, we make our relationships harder than they have to be.  It gets more difficult when conversations become texting and we can't see the context behind the words, feelings become subliminal, sex becomes a game, trust fades as time for each other becomes less, insecurities become a way of living, jealously becomes a habit, being hurt starts to feel natural, and running away from it all becomes our solution. Stop running!  Face these issues, fix the problems, talk, appreciate, forgive and love the people who love you. See the good. Remind yourself why you are with each other. Love is amazing and if your both love each other, you both deserve each other. Good times and bad, love can be your strength. 
  • Love is surrending yourself to another, completely - in that moment you lose nothing at all but coming out winning. 
For me love was everything I thought it could be and more. The loss of love is hard to take, but the lessons have changed my life forever. Thats what I want to think about this year.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Once upon a time I didn't like myself all that much. I didn't hate myself, but I didn't exactly love myself either. I wanted to be something that I wasn't. I wanted to be taller. Less skinny. More attractive. Better at sports. Musically talented. Less awkward. Able to dance. I wanted to be a lot of things that I wasn't, and couldn't possibly be. For that reason I wasn't able to accept who I was, I had good qualities that I couldn't see. I was possibly 30 years of age before I decided it wasn't that bad being me. By 31 I was in love. By 32 I was married. Once I started to accept myself, I let myself love myself, and with that came the ability to love others.

I've learned that in life its important to be nice to others, but its possibly even more important to be nice to yourself. When I started to love myself, I opened doors for myself that was previously locked. You have to love who you are before you can go on and do anything in this short life that we have.

Let the world love you just the way you are....flaws and all, as ugly as you sometimes may feel, as incomplete as you may be. We are all a work in progress, we all have things we could learn to do better. The key is knowing what those things are and accepting that we can continue to grow and be better, and loving ourselves now despite our failings today. Those hang ups that we may have of ourselves today get a lot easier to put right if we love who we are regardless.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

For a time I thought I was one of the lucky ones, and for a while I was, I thought I had come across by chance the one that was going to provide all the love I needed. Not because she was perfect, nor was I perfect, but because our imperfections and our little flaws were arranged in such a way that allowed two imperfect souls to hinge together as if they were nothing. Unfortunately for both of us we might have entered into such a relationship with rose tinted spectacles and rushed headlong into something that could maybe never have worked out.

I will always be thankful for the time I had the past five years. Previously I hadn't contemplated being with anyone, didn't think I needed to be, wasn't looking and was blissfully ignorantly happy. Then I learned what it was to love, and be loved. My life changed forever!

I don't know what gave me more joy and peace, to love, or to be loved, maybe both were equally great, but I will always be thankful fora new  the one that showed me the way.

Neither of us were perfect, no-one ever is. But for a time she was perfect for me. I didn't care about her issues. The lack of trust in men, I could overcome by being the one the to put faith in. Her insecurity about her body I could overcome by loving it for the both of us. I could nurture the self esteem that she didn't have. Jealousy? Isn't that just a back handed compliment that means they care? Over time she will see there is nothing to be jealous of if she is the only woman in any room that I pay attention to.

Five years ago I was so certain I knew it all, this wasn't the perfect woman, but she was the perfect woman for me. I had the rest of my life all figured out. Here was a woman that had insecurities that seemed tailor made for me to give peace to an overactive mind. Her insecurities somehow made her seem even more beautiful than I already thought she was. This was not just a woman who loved me and who I loved but one who needed me and that gave me a purpose in life. Everything else came second to the pursuit of her happiness and having her at a place in her life where she was at peace with herself.

The world saw a beautiful talented confident person who could light up any room, I saw that too, but I got to see the bravado of it all which hid the vulnerable, insecure, forever doubting side to that same woman. I knew it was related to her feeling abandoned and let down by her father when he had affairs and started a new family and leaving the old one behind. Her trust in men was shattered sometime in the past. Her need for perfection in herself so that no man would do such a thing again rose within her some time after that. I wasn't blind to those insecurities, but I was confident I had the tools within my armour to challenge her misconceptions of the world. I wasn't one to sow my wild oats when I was single I certainly didn't need to do so now that I had the one woman who could stroke the ego I didn't know I had until she started stroking it.

At home, where she could take off the public face that would hide behind there was a woman who had little encouragement or confidence in life. The trauma of rejection and fear of not measuring up was apparant to me, but hidden to others. The public bravado, though beautiful, was largely an act to hide the hurt little girl that she really was. I was certain I had the answers to the hurt and the pain. Here was a woman who I loved dearly not only for all the things that was so great about her but because of her flaws too.

When we first got together she had trouble dreaming of a better future. It was my business to dream for her, to show her the way, to take the steps necessary that allowed her to dream for herself. It was my job to encourage her to go forward confidently, to encourage her in pursuits that she had a talent in. If she was a bird with broken wings it was my job to mend those wings and support and nurture her until she was ready to fly. I couldn't be there to change her past, but I sure could be there to provide the love and tenderness she deserved now and into the future. I could empathise with the hurt child within and respect the woman that she was to become.

I've heard it said that until you love yourself you can't love anyone else, well I thought that was a big pile of BS. Here was a woman that clearly struggled to love herself entirely, at the very least struggled to be at peace with herself but managed to love me in such a way that broke down all my walls that I had previously built up, and god I loved her for it. I was suddenly free to love in a way that I had never given myself a chance to, and it was life changing. Sadly though I'm not sure I ever did managed to break down the similar walls that she had placed to protect herself.

Was that my fault? I don't know.

Could have I done more?

Or was it more because her struggle to accept her frailties and imperfections made the world a challenging frightening place. Her inability to treat herself fairly and with respect was always hard for me to watch from the sidelines, at times I couldn't bare to see her tear apart the one person I loved so much more than anything else in the world. It was hard not breaking through that protective barrier that she surrounded herself with most days, but it was harder watching her tear apart everything that meant so much to me.

In my own journey in learning to love myself I learned you have to let go of past mistakes. There is nothing wrong with aiming to be the best you can be, but if you fall short at some point forgiveness is key to taking that next step forward. At times we have to dust ourselves off, acknowledge our weaknesses but keep moving forward. In the long run being unkind to ourselves can only cause resentment, an attitude of defeat and emotional scarring that can manifest itself in a way that says I don't deserve better. I hoped I could have showed her a way to be at peace with herself, and show her a path to happiness that I so wanted to provide for her. I fell short, way short, maybe I was never the man for the job that I thought I was.