Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Secret Garden (aka my mid-life crisis)

Earlier in the year, the BBC News website had an article about the phenomenon of Mid-Life Crisis and how it appears to be happening earlier on in life - specifically between the ages of 35 and 44.

Well I am 28 years of age and it appears to have hit. And what have I done with this? Have I purchased a sports car, started chasing after 19 year old girls or slipped into a pair of embarrassingly tight jeans? No. I've been recapturing my youth in a slight different way...

The Secret Garden 11When I was 6, my parents bought me a Magic Tree. Not the air freshener of the same name, but a cardboard tree that, when soaked in chemicals, sprouted crystal blossom. This was great...I have always been a sucker for the beauty and wonder of natural (and unnatural) science*. I try never to miss the Royal Institute Christmas Lectures on television, even though I'm well past the perceived demographic age range. So when I was 7 and my parents bought me an entire garden made of this magic card, you can imagine how excited I was!

The Secret Garden 9It was diligently built and the liquid was carefully added. All that was left was time. You have to wait a good 24 hours before the crystals are really getting into their stride. Three days for them to be finished.

The Secret Garden 6But after only 12 hours, V came to visit. I will refer to her as V so as to protect her against the inevitable reprisals that would follow when I explain what happened next.

V was a typically girly 7 year old girl, but very clumsy with it. And one excessively exuberant twirl later...the Magic Garden was no more.

The Secret Garden 8I was devastated. At that moment I understood the fragility of life. The temporary nature of existence. And the true meaning of the phrase - Women: Can't Live With Them....

So how have I dealt with this emptiness, this certainty of eventual oblivion at the hands of a clumsy twirling blonde? I hit ebay and searched for Magic Garden. And what did I find?

The Secret Garden 5Yes. They still make them! I felt the same sparkle of childhood magic when I found that the 1980s packaging was still exactly the same. Thank you Taiwan. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

So there follows the unpacking, construction and bringing to life of the Magic Garden. And what happened to it? Someone moved it and it was destroyed all over again. Still...better than driving a Hayabusa into a tree.

Click Here to view the flickr set.

*but not Weird Science. Can't stand Kelly Brook.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Hospital reflections

Isn't it funny how we get used to certain surroundings, sometimes to such an extent that somewhere which might otherwise seem uncomfortable, ugly or even dangerous can create a sense of comfort and relaxation? I have been thinking about this recently; about our environments, whatever they may be, and how they fit themselves around our minds and selves, sinking in to the conscious like brandy into a christmas cake. The alcoholic vapours may evaporate somewhat, but deep down the richness remains.

In my case, my environments have been relatively few and somewhat enforced. My health limits me in my physical scope (as I have already written about in my post on macro photography), but it has also resulted in some experiences in which my environment has sunk particularly deeply into my cake-mix. Think about it in your own lives - those places where particularly traumatic or powerful experiences occurred and how they live on with you. The vast majority of my dreams take place in one of two places (and sometimes both at the same time) - My house or a hospital.

Thankfully I've not ever required much hospitalisation, but all apart from one year of my secondary education was spent in a hospital school - a room separate from but linked to the children's ward of my local hospital. My learning was conducted to the accompaniment of overly powerful heating, the distant beep of the alarm at the nurses' desk, and the moans and groans of wounded children (who, if you know anything about wounded children, were usually moaning and groaning about the stuff every single child moans and groans about rather than their wounds). Seriously, if you've not had to concentrate on quadratics whilst someone has an epileptic fit, then you've never experienced the joys of maths (not that I ever found maths particularly joyful...but you get my point). A poorly acted play really comes to life when the main character talks about running away from their adolescent ennui, whilst immobile with their leg in a fixator.

And I remember distinctly the presence of the hospital at lunch times. Sat outside in the harsh wind and cold, the building towering over me despite it being not particularly tall. Something about the construction...the lack of subtlety and design. And the light. Oh that hospital lighting. There's something about the colour of crisp white walls lit by yellowy fluorescents. It reeks of infection.

And yet I was comfortable there. Often sat with friends. Enjoying a break from work. There was never a fear of being judged...hospitals are the ultimate place of acceptance.

So last week I found myself back at a hospital, having driven my father to an appointment. And despite the anxiety over his health and the busy roads, I found myself surprisingly relaxed parked in the outpatients carpark. The walls of the building were white rather than the dark red brick of *my* hospital. There was no bench outside the heavy blue UPVC school doors. No school doors at all. But through the windows you could see the same white walls tinged puss yellow. There was the same air of acceptance. And although the car was warm, I still felt the cold winter winds blowing through me, cooling and smothering any fear and upset I felt about being in such a place.