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I was looking at her. I said I think I may be having a heart attack. She told me it was anxiety. She said she had Googled it. I believed her, there had been many nights of broken sleep and high heart rates. No seriously I said, my chest hurts. My throat hurts. And no, I can’t go for a walk. Okay I will have a massage.

And fast forward, I was lying there. A Thai woman half my weight was leaning into me. I thought about the last few days, and whether they were enough. You know, if I did drop off the perch. I had a lovely Saturday with Mum. She stayed over. We watched movies and ate Messina. I had breakfast with Dad on Monday. He spilled coffee and took a photo of me with my own Camera, and he liked the sun on his face. He thanked me.

The last text I sent my daughter and wife said that they were my diamonds in a sea of high pressure carbon. This morning I made coffee for two polite and appreciative strangers. Yesterday I met the most tenacious kid I ever will, she made me feel like my work has value. This morning in the frosty moments I had walked Moss and paint spotted, and smiled at her existence.

So I decided that yes, it was enough. Not in any ‘I wish to die’ kind of way, but in the sense that if it was my time, I felt satisfied my last encounters mattered. I also wondered if I mattered. Seriously, in the grand scheme. Do any of us? The massage ended. I was not dying. Good for another day. But so you know, among it, what became apparent was, it isn’t what good I may have said to those I love, but what I’d left unsaid. It came down to what I hadn’t said that needed saying. Love is easy. Trouble is uncomfortable.

I will leave you with that. I am off air for a bit. I will say this though: speak up about what you do not want. Change it now. Otherwise you will find yourself being rubbed by a stranger and wishing you had the guts to say it.

 

If you animated grief I reckon it would be one of those dogs on the beach in Thailand. The kind that hobble along a few meters behind you, and sleep at the window while you relax in your air conditioned, German owned, ‘nouveau riche’ Thai operated concrete Villa.

Precious Few

He would be the one you made eye contact with that first day and just don’t have the heart to shoo on. He seems content, you would think, yet resigned, or maybe sad, you would say gazing down at him from the beach side bar. In reality though, as the days went on he would really just look like death knocking. Like if he spoke he would recount tales of a harsh existence. Like he just needs someone with the guts to put him out of his misery.

Katie Kaff-eine

As you sip your Mojito you promise your companion you will not touch him. No seriously, you promise. And you certainly will not feed him. Just some water maybe. No, nothing, you promise. But then she is not looking and you whisper a kind hello. And suddenly there he is, a bestie, all yours.

I am scared to get that close to grief. I don’t imagine I could pack up and leave it in Ko Lanta. It would be in my luggage emitting mysterious odours and arousing suspicion. Or worse, I would be sorting out my affairs and joining Soi Dog, another crazy ex-pat raging against the machine.

And yet this one is a pointless battle, because grief is the silent partner to love. It waits for us to sign that dotted line before it shakes our hand. It is deception, compassion, fear, strength, guilt, regret, remorse, joy and anger. It is the dog you cannot love and cannot leave. It pulls you in and changes you. It makes you feel. It is relentless in it’s appeal.

I always thought that Phillip Larkin’s poem Going was about death, but now I imagine it might be about the inevitable grief that accompanies it:

<

p style=”padding-left:150px;”>There is an evening coming in
Across the fields, one never seen before,
That lights no lamps.

<

p style=”padding-left:150px;”>Silken it seems at a distance, yet
When it is drawn up over the knees and breast
It brings no comfort.

I feel that imminent evening coming now. As certain as sunset, it is coming to greet me again. I wrote about it when I saw the Hanky Project. I wrote that my own hanky would say: “She opened her eyes briefly in the hour that I sat looking upon her and I leapt into that last connection like she was a pool of water and I was on fire”.

I don’t know what I will write on my next hanky. I guess I am going to have to feed the dog.

Once you know you have food, shelter and a fair chance of not being shot at by militants (either voted in or not) you have the luxury to climb further up Maslow’s pile of rubble and check out the view. That would be you and I, standing there, because lets face it, I have the time and resources to be writing this crap and you have the equal luxury to read it.

Whilst granting it as a privilege, the question of who is that ? (who am I?) is pretty important, and having the time to pause on it, I have to say it’s pretty bloody hard to answer. I have been searching for the right response in a cardboard box of black and white photographs recently. I haven’t found it, though. I have a sneaking suspicion that is because photographs capture images, not identities. And then my question is why don’t photographs tell you who you are? They lay clues for sure. But they only help jog your memory. And only if they are the right photographs. This month I have stared at many wrong ones. Take this image, for example:

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I have no idea who these people are. My Dad was a photographer, and this is one of the thousands of images he has kept. It could be his first friend in Australia, Brian Rycroft, marrying his sweetheart Shirley (they are still together, by the way). But having never seen Brian, I could be wrong. It could be a stranger, who paid Dad to photograph his engagement. Or birthday or something. And then this one:

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Nope, no idea who this is either. Did she have children? did she leave her husband for a woman? is she alive and is she well? was life a struggle? who gave her the horseshoe?  I have found photographs of people I do know, including photographs of me. I must say though, that I look upon them in much the same way, with the same questioning curiosity. They look like photographs of someone that I might have been, had I grown up to be me. Sounds deep and a little fucked up, yeah? It is. I am. Just a little. But at least I am looking. I dare you to open that box of photographs one Saturday, with the rain falling outside, and the dog sleeping on her mat. You’d be surprised how foreign you can seem, in black and white.

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