I am writing this from a computer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana which will come as something of a surprise to many of you. I had been planning to visit sometime this summer but the final arrangements were extremely spur of the moment, having almost abandoned the idea due to inflated ticket prices and other commitments. It being last minute anyway I arranged a roof over my head with the Dixons but declined to tell anyone else of my plans. I like to keep people on their toes.
And so on Friday I was able to stand in the doorway of Jenna’s apartment and watch her expression transform as she tried to fathom exactly why her cousin was not several thousand miles away. Or rather in her state of shock, as she explained later, whether I would be staying the night. Her newborn baby Clark was the major driving force behind my trip and he is as cute as one would expect, and good deal better behaved. I first met Karleigh when she was around three months old so this was a very different experience. At just a few weeks he is perhaps less interesting, although Karleigh’s wonderfully sweet attempts to take care of him make up for this.
In a fashion befitting my surprise visit we shortly took off to Natchez, a town in Mississippi where my aunt and uncle have bought a new house. Other notable events include eating tamales and buying around forty cans of spray paint at Wal-Mart with Dave, which strangely caused no problem with staff but attracted several questions from concerned shoppers. We’re vandals looking to join a gang, we explained. In fact the supplies were for an art event Dave is hosting at the house in a week. Finally, curiosity piqued by its schedule, a few of us also popped into the tail end of local cult festival BabelCon, dropping in on a lightsaber fighting demonstration.
-I’m positive, we’re all going to die!
Being something of a cynic I generally decry most attempts at “self-help” publications as being either unnecessary (generic, obvious platitudes) or unhelpful (not actually applicable to the reader’s individual circumstances). Even when working in a library I felt uneasy around those sections. I also dislike the concept that one should never be unhappy. Things in life do go wrong and sadness is a perfectly natural, often cathartic response. However allowing oneself to dwell on the negatives and spiral into something worse is entirely within one’s own control. In the end it is your own outlook that controls your mood and not the world around you. Most people find the rain depressing and with the accompanying lack of sunshine (at least in England) there is a genuine biological explanation for that. Yet I quite enjoy the freedom of wandering outside without the crowds of people that usual hinder any stroll in the City. Since I expect to get wet, that is hardly a concern.
The reason I mention this is that I recently stumbled upon The Positivity Blog. I would hardly describe it as life changing, and indeed most of its ideas are concepts I have gradually learned through experience over the past four years or so. Nevertheless, it’s still worth being reminded on a regular basis. Significantly less saccharine than I had expected and nothing so crass as a daily affirmation, its posts tend to be written in the form of lists, often based on the tenets of famous figures like Bruce Lee, Mark Twain and Gandhi.
With exams wrapped up at the end of last month I hopped on a plane to Prague with Sally, Ben, Alex and Anna from law school. This unsurprisingly resulted in a deluge of photos which I have now sifted through to produce the new Prague album in the Gallery. I decided to postpone posting until I had the photos sorted, which has delayed things somewhat. The trip was great fun with a mixture of sightseeing and regular stop-offs in beer gardens to replenish fluids lost in the heat. After we had decided on a cheap city break I ended up picking Prague on the basis I thought it would be prettier than the alternative Budapest. Friends better informed than I seemed to agree and the architecture was certainly stunning, in proximate variety more than any specific style. The football was on during our stay so that covered the evenings’ entertainment and we found the food surprisingly good for a country not famed for high quality cuisine. Being mid-week it also appeared blessedly free of the infamous stag party crowd. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable jaunt.
Travelling light we decided to make do with just hand luggage (and for a period like that I can successfully survive out of a small rucksack — it’s my camera that takes up the most space). This highlighted one of the oft forgotten, and perhaps most serious, results of terrorism. With no baggage in the hold we were limited to liquids of no more than 100ml. However the hair gel I used comes in nothing smaller than 150ml, leaving me with no option but to use wax! I decided to forego the intriguing experience of debating the true state of matter of a solid network within a liquid medium with airport security on this occasion…
Flying back the perils of flying a budget airline befell us as RyanAir apparently ran out of planes, resulting in our flight leaving several hours late, around midnight. Waiting in Prague was fine with several packs of cards and me annoying everyone by repeatedly winning the game Sal introduced, “President’s Men” (once you win it rewards you, making it harder to be unseated). However it meant we arrived back at Gatwick after the tubes had stopped running. While the others headed off by various means I elected to hang around the airport to kill a few hours until they started again. This led to my discovery that as refreshing store-bought beverages go, a pint of milk is much better value than a coke. Sipping milk from a plastic carton while listening to podcasts and reading Kafka on the Shore could only look normal in an airport — they are transient places where everyone is on the move and no one belongs so anything fits, and for that I love them.