Friends came over for coffee today. Great family friends of my parents, they have known me since I was a child. I grew up with their children. They come from Kenya and after some text messages to arrange things, they suddenly appear at my house. Appearing not only out of a taxi, but out of my past, out of my memories. They make me smile as soon as I see them.
Nostalgia runs deep with visits like this. Talking with them of family, Kenya, the way things are versus the way they used to be – it’s a little like watching a beloved film for the umpteenth time. I often feel that I know what we are going to say before we say it. I am comforted by the familiarity of everything – their accents, their faces, their memories.
Pride sweeps through me too. I show them my new house, I introduce my children. I give them coffee and pastries. I describe my life to them. I hope they see progress even in the face of Africa, the pandemic, gruelling life. Their compliments are kind. I am most proud of my family.
Fear hits me when they leave. I feel it – a jolt in my stomach and at the base of my skull – and I hope I can see them again soon. I am so far away from the people of my childhood. Age is catching us all.
Thank God for my chaotic family. After a beautiful visit is over, my children and my wife bring me right back to the present. I have so many things to do. Til we meet again.
Happy Thursday, chimps.
I just returned from a trip to Kenya. It was beautiful. The weather was warm, my family there was happy and healthy, and I was by myself in the town of my childhood for a while. I visited friends, stayed up late and generally did what I wanted. However, I always come away from these trips a little conflicted. Let me try to explain.
Depending on who I am talking to, trips to Nairobi can be called “a trip home”, “a trip to see my parents”, or simply “a trip to Kenya”. Somehow I am unable to find a label that sticks. It seems to reflect poorly on me to call it “home” in front of my wife, for example. Whereas calling it the same thing in front of an old Kenyan friend seems right. This is strange. The place does not change. Simply my label for it.
Since I went to boarding school overseas (sunny England) aged 15 I have been returning to Kenya, to the exact same house I grew up in. I tend to revert to a sort of adolescence and a role in the Kenya house. This is the case even though I have a very happy home and family of my own in South Africa. I heard the experience described as a “dance” we have with our original family members. A choreographed sequence of interactions and emotions. Over the years I have simultaneously missed the old dance (homesickness) and realised the need to escape from it and create a new dance with my new family (growing up).
Back in boarding school the homesickness was paralysing. I would miss Kenya so much, ticking the days off my calendar. When I eventually got back for a holiday I would wallow and bathe in the place, saturating myself with familiarity like I was in a warm bath. In the worst case scenario, we never leave our childhood homes. Either physically or psychologically. We are never allowed to grow up and create our own “dance”. We fail to launch. Nowadays of course I miss my parents being overseas, but the “dance” and the power of our old home only hits me once I have arrived in Kenya.
I am grateful that the homesickness and the “family dance” of my childhood is getting further away all the time. It means I am happy with my life. At the same time I am so lucky to have such a place to go back to. Trips to Nairobi are now more like a quick holiday rather than an essential recovery or a fix for an ailment. I enjoy them more because of this.
Happy weekend, chimps.
I am starting something new. Streaming on Twitch has traditionally been used for video games (as far as I am aware). I have learned today that there are many other users on Twitch – streaming all sorts of different activities.
Musicians, illustrators, artists, sculptors, all showing their practice to the world in real time. It’s a crazy thought. Why not join?
I have security concerns…how much can everyone see REALLY? But I am also interested and curious about the transparency and accountability something like this could bring.
This blog post will be my first stream. You can find me on Twitch with the username chimpwithcans. I hope there will be many more streams to come – to the point that I start a scheduled time slot to follow or write with me if you so wish. There is a lot to work out still! Maybe I will even talk to the camera some time, or play a video game 🙂
I want to get going again on the writing and this might help.
Happy Wednesday chimps.
As a teenager I used to think I would listen to my walkman for the rest of my life. It was so essential to me – the cassette tapes I had painstakingly curated, the stock of fresh AA-size batteries, the headphones I found in an airport in England. The ritual of plugging it all in and pushing play. It just didn’t get any better.
One day in my early 20s I found my dad’s LP collection and an old hifi setup. I heard classics like Otis Redding and Springsteen in such clarity and power. Besides the fidelity, there was the long beautiful process of choosing the record, cleaning it, playing one side through and flipping it over, reading the liner notes, poring over the album covers, adjusting the needle and the audio settings. A new ritual was born. My life changed.
Now in my 30s I have my iPhone and an Apple watch. New tech, new ritual. I can call up any song I want no matter where I am. The digital liner notes are getting better every day and the sheer convenience of Bluetooth and music on the go is changing my life again. Don’t even get me started on Spotify’s daily mix and discover weekly playlists. That revolution in curation is a topic for another post.
Older forms of technology can all still be used of course. And often they retain their original power even though the convenience factor is low. Vinyl has made a come back. Audiophiles also tout the benefits of CDs and cassettes. For me this means I now have an arsenal of ways to access the Music drug. The music is the constant, Platonic form while the tech revolves and morphs around it in a clumsy, circular dance.
Perhaps one day the headphones will be nothing more than chips in our brains. A neuralink device Elon Musk sells for a fee. What might a music listening ritual look like for this scenario?
I get comfort from the fact that the music never changes. Taste and quality may vary, but a song is a song no matter what. The catalogue keeps on growing, but the essential form and function of a song is set. It is information in the form of a sound wave being received by the brain. Only the tech for delivery varies.
It is often the big events which give new impetus to a project or a lagging goal.
I was busy before the pandemic and now I have a very busy life. So far COVID 19 related lockdown has been a blur of work, babysitting, house cleaning, logistics. I know I am not alone and many people have even more to do than me. I also know some people are going through this lockdown with no work and no children to worry over. I wonder what that’s like??…..But I digress.
Impetus itself is a mid 17th century word from Latin. It comes from impetere ‘assail’, from in- ‘towards’ + petere ‘seek’. This suggests a searching and overcoming of obstacles. Impetus is often an externally generated thing in my life. I wish it was more internally driven.
Start of a new streak. Here’s hoping I have the impetus to keep it going for at least 30 days.
Keep well and happy Monday chimps.
I’m enjoying exploring ifttt.com and zapier.com. I’m also loving Evernote. One cool thing I have set up using ifttt.com is using Siri and Google Assistant to voice command a note in Evernote.
If you are curious about how your apps can all work together – check out the two sites I mention above.
Happy Wednesday chimps.
We are in lockdown in a beautiful location. We are lucky. There are regular scenes resembling a cover of a sci-fi novel.
Peach and pink sunset over the bay, the sea was perfectly still as a navy submarine, half submerged and performing a routine drill, cruised past like an alien ship in the evening. All the while a bright white moon hung in the pink sky. La Luna smiled down on us from the other side of the bay, almost scraping the pastel colored mountains which surround us like one of Mars’ orbital rocks.
On another morning, further out to sea a pod of hundreds of dolphins were in a feeding frenzy. They gorged themselves on a huge shoal of smaller fish which they had trapped. A boiling, choppy circular mass moved along through the water until the feeding was done. From high up here it looked like one of Jupiter’s storms passing by.
Now at night time the darkness of the water fills up space from our viewpoint to the city. Far on the other side of the bay is where the water ends and the city starts. I see an amber glow and winking, yellow lights floating on the blackness of the sea. The city is like a huge mothership hovering on the ocean.
Look for the sci-fi around you because it’s surely there.
Happy Tuesday chimps.
Dan Simmons’ Sci-Fi novel is a great listen on Audible. So far I have listened to about 8 hours and I have about 12 hours left. That’s 20 hours in total! Sheesh…. I don’t think I would have started the book let alone stuck with it for this long if I was reading an old hard copy. But with Audible and my routine of listening before sleep, I am confident of finishing it.
The ‘Canterbury Tales’ structure of the novel is brilliant. The Priest’s tale was an introduction to the world. The army general’s tale was brilliantly graphic. The Shrike is terrifying. I am in the middle of the Poet’s tale (no. 3) and completely absorbed by the tale. The humour and in particular the linkage with the writing process are absorbing. It makes me want to read the referenced poets like Keats. I want to visit the “City of Poets”. Check out this trail for an idea of the links to old poetry: link
Happy Monday chimps.
The addition of ‘escape the jungle’ to my blog’s main menu is taking shape. I plan to add a few sub menus to cater for all the things in life that help me to escape the jungle – to be less chimp and more rational being. Less anxious and more free.
So far I have art, design, productivity and psychology.
Within these categories I will post my favorite stuff. There will be subcategories too I guess…sport goes somewhere. This is the stuff I love and enjoy. The stuff that makes my life better.
Happy Sunday chimps.
For a few days I couldn’t write. I don’t believe in writers block, but exhaustion and overload are real and encourage resistance to create.
We are all in the middle of a war. The global pandemic is spreading. As much as it is a war against a terrible disease, it is also an assault on the senses. A drain on our energy if we succumb to the non stop media coverage. It grabs attention. The media distraction is only exacerbated by young children and old grandparents relying on my wife and I to help navigate the family. It has been a load and for three days it squeezed any bandwidth I had for writing right out of my mind.
For me, this is a mini-tragedy (compared to the global mega-tragedy unfolding around us) because I had built up a decent streak of writing every day for over a month.
It is surprisingly hard to start fresh. But once you start, the words do flow. You just need to start.
More creativity to cope with tragedy. I’m back and I will hit a month again.
Happy Tuesday chimps.