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August 2004 saw unexpected delights for the troops of Mumblers out there. A look inside my post-op mouth, detailed descriptions of being attacked by a chisel-wielding blind man, swelling flesh, a trip up a fire tower at WOMAD, all the excitement of university just around the corner, a camping holiday packed with surfing, fires and plastic dinosaurs - definitely a summer to remember!
August 2004 Highlights: attack of the chisel-wielding blindman at Southmead Hospital; a lovely bit of swelling; WOMAD Rivermead 2004; the wonders of deleted-file-recovery software (your secret is safe with me love); post-puke advice; my uni budget; a blob of dog-poo smelling puss drops from my mouth; my nephew jamie; the smallest toilet in the west; the nature of moving spirits; nostalgia with a difference (how far from lectures to the bar and the bar to bed?); the trauma of pre-ejaculated sperm; the Bradwell Mill Gathering: taking the house on holiday, Surfin' Woolacombe, campfires by night, it's art my dear, the secret beach, arson?, don't go to the dinosaur park...

Monday 2nd August 2004 - 20:57GMT+1 On my beanbag, Bristol, England

guess who's back, back again...

Yes, he's back, and he's feeling pretty drugged up.

Let's open this month with a lovely shot of something that is only one letter away from a month, that is, a moUth. MY mouth in fact. Here's a photo of my upper jaw that I've just taken for your benefit.

I'd like to point out the presence of the string that can be seen running across the back of the central tooth, and out of the tissue at the base of the tooth on the extreme right. I'd also like to point out that my teeth aren't actually brown at the back, it's just the light (camera flash).

No, it's not me getting all kinky and tying myself to the bed with dental floss (ladies, I know you wish it was, but it's not, so just calm down); it's actually a few of the side effex (check out the ultra-cool use of the letter "x" there) of the operation I had this afternoon to remove the cyst that has been growing above my false tooth for the past ten years (when it was last removed).

Ugh. I just did a Google search on Oral Cysts. Check out what I came up with. I'd just like to point out to any future partner that mine didn't look anything like those, in fact it was only visible on X-rays...

Yeah, so, it feels mighty weird having all these stitches running around my gums. The local anaesthetic is yet to wear off completely, so I'm not screaming yet.

The procedure itself was a bit grim.

First there was the multiple injections. I loathe hyperdeemic nurdles, especially when they're being forced through the hard roof of your mouth.

Next, there was the chiseling back of my gums. Now that WAS grim. Listening to the specialist talking to the nurse wasn't all that reassuring either.

"I can't see a thing in here! Is that light supposed to be that dim? His gums are really stuck hard and I really can't see what I'm doing..." (said as he continued to ram this chisel thing so hard against the surface of my teeth / jaw bone that I could feel it trying to come through the bottom of my nose, I kid you not).

The actual removal of the cyst was done in a couple of minutes. Came out in one crumpled piece apparently, although I had my eyes shut throughout, and by the time I dared to take a peek it had been whipped off for analysis.

The sewing up of the wounds (he cut the cum open both in front and behind my teeth) wasn't at all pleasant. He struggled to get the needle through the hard tissue, which is probably why he resorted to wrapping it around my teeth as seen above.

Anaesthetic is an incredible thing. Despite the harsh violence used to scrape my gums back I didn't feel any pain at all. Not a jot. He was a very nice surgeon too, answering all my questions and being very understanding when I told him that I was really nervous and would probably feint if I caught sight of any blood. The nurse was great too, holding my hand and comforting me. Unfortunately she was about 48-years-old, and so didn't prove as much of a distraction as I would have liked.

They understood completely when I stated that I didn't want to take any gut-stripping antibiotics, and assured me that I'd probably be fine without them.

Instead I'm now high on a cocktail of natural remedies (Arnica 200, a few buckets of Rescue Remedy, Acidophilus (probiotics), Super Strong Vitamin C and, oh, Ibuprofen!). It all seems to be working because I'm yet to experience any strong pain.

However, I am severely limited in my choice of facial expressions. Smiling is strictly out. Even a slight grin produces a fountain of blood in my mouth. I found this out to my cost when I settled down to watch Love Actually this evening. Only lasted five minutes, it was just too much, so instead I watched a Japanese horror-musical about a family who start a guest-house business, only to find that anyone who stays with them dies within 12 hours of their arrival. Yes, jolly stuff. I'm planning to watch a classic Samurai film tonight - let's hope Toshiro Mifune isn't on top form otherwise I'll be splitting my gums.

Eating is proving to be a bit of a problem. So far I've managed to spoon two BIG pots of organic raspberry yoghurt to the back of my mouth without much contact with the wounded area. Oh, and I crushed a nectarine in order to eat it with chopsticks.

Crikey, I'm going to have to brush my teeth soon. Wish me luck.

Oh, as I'm now banned from doing anything remotely active for a week or so I should have time to update TGW properly (all the menus, photo albums and stuff are still in July mode). Watch this space for news on my 18 hours spent at the top of a scaffolding tower train spotting in the middle of a field, a severe bout of vomiting in a tent, a week in beautiful Pembrokeshire and a day wedging National Health Service Crates into a Luton van. Fun fun fun.

Right, where's that toothbrush I bought this morning and the extra strong painkillers?

Tuesday 3rd August 2004 - 10:16GMT+1 On my beanbag, Bristol, England

and now the swelling

It's natural right? It's the bodies natural reaction to trauma right?

Yep, the swelling's started all right. This morning I woke up (after a pretty bad dream involving my friend Jo and some Ringwraiths) to find that I felt like Dr. Irvine had sneaked into my room whilst I was asleep and rammed another 30 needles into my gums containing not-very-effective anaesthetic.

It feels very... odd. Surprisingly unpainful (providing I keep my mouth shut and all my muscles relaxed).

Got quite a shock when I looked in the mirror though - I saw bart Simpson staring back at me! You know, lover lip totally overshadowed by upper lip. See the similarity?

Next question is, what do I have for breakfast? Muesli's out - involves far too much jaw movement / chewing. Can't have bread or toast either. Finished my three pots of yoghurt. There's a tub of humus in the fridge, but nothing to go with it.

Ah, hang on, blackcurrant ice cream! We've got loads of that! Now if I take it out of the freezer and let it melt, I could mix it with the humus and drink it through a large straw! Ah, Joseph, you're a genius!

Wednesday 4th August 2004 - 15:46GMT+1 On my beanbag, Bristol, England

this really isn't real life

It isn't. I'm floating so high. Having been out of Bristol for a couple of weeks, and knowing that I'm going away for a couple more weeks come Friday, in conjunction with my landlady & her partner being away, all leads to me feeling completely ungrounded. Then of course there's my operation. It's not like I've just had a minor op, and now have a bit of a hamster face: rather, it dominates every hour of every day. It's not that it hurts, because it doesn't (very much), it's more the psychological effects of it all. It makes me feel fragile, exhausted, tearful and wanting toast and jam.

I am developing a rather strange addiction to boiling hot mouth washes (made up of water and table salt). The hotter the better I was told (to kill of potential bugs); you should have seen me stamping my foot in silent agony earlier as I told myself "you CAN stand it! It's NOT too hot!"

So yes anyway really I'm making excellent progress in recovering from what was really a very minor operation. The swelling reached a peak last night, with the area all the way from just below my right eye to my top lip looking ridiculously puffed up. Top marks, by the way, to those of you who spotted that the photo of my lip wasn't actually real - it's had been photoshopped!. Don't believe everything you see on the net...

I'm doing all those things that you do when you're ill. Staying in the house most of the time (apart from the two trips to the allotment when I picked 6kg of blackberries, not bad eh?): making jam, tie-dying my bed sheets, watching DVD's, making stewed rhubarb, attempting to make blackberry jam but ending up with blackberry sauce, making potato and spinach soup using freshly self-harvested potatoes and spinach, making lentil soup, planning to make apple and blackberry crumble... yeah, been spending most of my time in the kitchen actually. This morning I made porridge for the first time in my life. Delicious with blackberry sauce, didn't stick to the pan either. It struck me how cheap the stuff is - just water and a couple of spoonfuls of oats; that's what I'm gonna have to live on at uni I think, along with organic short-grain brown rice. Only 6 weeks 5 days to go you know. Soon it'll be that magic 3-week mark, when time really does fly by. Speaking of which, due to my amazing efficiency I have managed to confirm my university accommodation already. I got my first choice due to being such an anorak with paperwork. I have a room in a purpose-built self-catering student flat with 7 other under-graduate and post-graduates. Largish room I think (?) with broadband internet, about a 5-minute walk from my faculty building. The rent (which includes all bills) is £2600 ish for the year, which works out at about £70 a week. As I'm so poor the government will pay all my fees (£1150 p/a ish), give me a £1000 p/a grant (doesn't have to be paid back) and a student loan of £4000 p/a ish. This will leave me with £65 a week (ish) to live on. Out of that I'll have to buy beer, chocolate, and the odd microwave meal. It's looking good.

Oh, I was on TV last night. Again. I only caught the end of my bit on ITV's weekly Allotment Program as I was busy painstakingly brushing my teeth, trying to avoid the raw gums. I've got so used to it now it's no longer anything unusual. I guess that's only to be expected when you're an international celebrity like me.

Wednesday 4th August 2004 - 16:30GMT+1 On my beanbag, Bristol, England

Ah it were grand.

Back in April, my very good friend Jo sent me a late-night hyperactive text message - something about working for the charity OXFAM at some festivals during the summer. This sounded like an excellent plan, as I'd never been to a REAL festival before (Ashton Court and Isle of Wight don't count), and we were both completely broke (unable to afford tickets) and we could raise some dosh £20,000 for a good cause. Onto the net we went, and registered our details in the hope that we'd be two of the lucky 200 odd folks picked to work at WOMAD, the international festival of music, arts and dance held in Reading in late July.

Obviously the mere mention of my name was enough to ensure us both a place, and so about two weeks back we set off along with M4 with a boot full of beer and plans to party virtually non-stop (and occasionally work) for the next 5 days.

Upon arrival we signed in, picked up our backstage passes and pitched out tents in the secure camping area. This was a fenced-off patch of field reserved for OXFAM volunteers, with its own shower block and running water. Our backstage passes also gave us access to all backstage areas (surprisingly). This meant that when the crowds got too much for us we could retire to the chilled out backstage bar, complete with rugs and resident DJ. Being a backstage pass holder also had great psychological benefits. We felt that this was OUR festival, that we weren't just one of the thousands of paying punters, but that we were a part of making it happen, it was all due to US.

having pitched our tent things were looking good, a relaxed evening ahead spent drinking, eating and smoking - it was only when the sun set that we realised that we were also situated right by a 24-hour bar with bloody loud music. GRRRRR. Still, by that time it didn't actually matter as we were completely wasted!!

These days I hardly ever smoke weed. I'm still recovering from the side effects of several joints a day for months on end whilst living in Switzerland. Until last month's Ashton Court festival it had been quite a while, but then a friend gave me a bit ...and that was it. No self control.

So it was then that on waking up after our second night at WOMAD I felt completely wiped out, capable of nothing but monging out, eating chocolate and sleeping. What a waste of time that was! I'm sure it never used to be like that, I used to be capable of doing things whilst stoned! Not any more it seems... I made the decision then and there to not smoke any more, gave the rest of my weed away and set about straightening up. I'm spaced out enough as it is...

It's no good, I'm going to have to go have some toast.

A few minutes later...

Cut it into toasty soldiers, cunning hey? That way I could feed it to the back-right of my mouth, avoiding all contact with op site. Still did a salt mouthwash afterwards though, just couldn't resist.

Back to WOMAD then.

In the morning we were given a Fire Safety Briefing by the local brigade (one of our main tasks was to prevent fires). That was actually quite good fun - the fireman stuck a little camping gas canister on a little fire - it exploded after a mere 30 seconds, the force of the blast extinguished the fire and sent the can flying into the long grass by the perimeter fence. I found the second bit more exciting though, when he took a 25kg gas cylinder, opened the valve and set light to it - talk about flame-throwing! That was amazing, as were his fire-extinguisher-handling skills.

Jo and I had been hoping to be working as security guards by the main stage or something like that, where we'd be able to see all the action throughout the festival. Looking at our shifts for the first time, we couldn't believe our luck: it was completely out. We were about as lucky as a cuckoo that is mistaken for a fox by a pack of hounds and a bloke with a red jacket blowing a horn on a Sunday afternoon (that's unlucky).

Thursday: Camp Site Fire Tower 'Hotel' 12pm - 6pm

Friday: Camp Site Fire Tower 'Hotel' 6pm - 12am

Sunday: Camp Site Fire Tower 'Hotel' 12am - 6am

Picture a festival site. It's huge. In the top-right corner you have the Arena area, where all the music stages and entertainment tents are. The other 3/4 of the site is given over to car-parking and camping.

Yep, you guessed it. Fire Tower H ('Hotel', where we were stationed for all 3 of our shifts) was absolutely nowhere near the action. It was located at the bottom of the site, between a car park and a camping field, where absolutely nothing ever happened that required our attention, apart from a few campers who couldn't find their tents.

Our Tower
The thrilling view
Jo's on the case
you like my umbrella?

The purpose of these scaffolding erections was to give us a good view over the sea of tents, to enable us to spot any illegal camp fires, tent-slashers, illegal drummers (no drumming 8pm - 8am!), oh, and the 10.30 from London Paddington.

The 8:30 from London Paddington
A 47-wagon freight train!

We couldn't believe our luck when we realised that our tower was situated right by the main railway line that runs between London and Bristol! A whole 18 hours of train spotting! Could life get any better?!! Well, it did, when we saw a freight train with 47 WAGONS attached!! The people on the shift after us said they saw one with 70 wagons, but I'm not sure that I believe them.

We were intending to pick up a timetable from the local station so we could mark the trains off as they went by, but disaster struck when, at 11pm on the Friday I suddenly had a strong urge to vomit. Sliding down our fire tower faster than a very fast pumpkin that's heard that if he gets to the Post Office before lunchtime he'll get a free pickled gherkin, I ran down the field away from the tents which were by this time crowding around our ankles. I squatted down just in front of the white van you see pictured above, and puked, and puked, and puked. By the time I'd finished my stomach was completely empty, and a pile of sick strongly resembling a fresh cow pat lay on the grass in front of me. I felt satisfied, if somewhat soar, and returned to Fire Tower H for the last hour of our shift.

Back at the tent my queasiness returned. I'd had about 3 mouthfuls of water after vomiting to wash the acid out of my mouth... squirming around on my stomach (I was now feeling very weak) I managed to worm my way to the tent's porch area, where we had a washing-up bowl. Seconds later I was sick again... this process was repeated 3 times, with me drinking some water, resting for 30 minutes and then being sick. I then decided to stop drinking water.

At about 3am Jo accompanied me down to the Red Cross tent. There I got the reassurance I was after: I probably just had sunstroke - not surprising considering it had been absolutely baking hot all day, and I'd spent little time in the shade.

The next morning I woke up feeling absolutely crap, but no longer sick. I was so utterly exhausted that I couldn't even manage a single beer (let alone any food!). What a lightweight. Age 26 and already acting like a granny. Speaking of which, this week I've had the clearest sign yet that I'm going bald: I've haven't had my hair cut for a couple of months (normally I have it shaved every few weeks), so it's pretty thick all round the sides and at the front - but not on top! Yes, there is hair there, but it's about half the length of that at the sides! I was planning to just let my hair grow longer and longer, but am having second thoughts now.

Can't stop playing with the knot in the stitches with my tongue...

When not on duty we did have a chance to catch some good music. Great atmosphere at WOMAD, all very friendly. Nice asian / middle-eastern music, a bit of homegrown rubbish, and some fantastic alternative theatre etc.

Breakfast time
The Radio 3 Stage
Nice bit of lighting eh?

Yeah, it was all a great introduction to the festival scene for me, despite the sickness and all. Jo was great, especially kind when I was being all weak and pathetic.

She's a star, I'm gonna miss her when I leave Bristol.

Next year I'm hoping to volunteer for OXFAM when they provide stewards for Glastonbury, and possibly Reading festival too. Unless I'm in Japan that is...

Wednesday 4th August 2004 - 23:03GMT+1 On my beanbag, Bristol, England

your secret is safe with me

I learnt something about computers tonight that should be a lesson to us all. Some of you may already know it, but until this evening I was blissfully unaware.

Until now, I'd always thought that if you want to permanently delete something from your computer, you simply clicked on delete, confirmed that Yes, you did want to delete it, and then emptied the recycle bin. Once that was done it would be gone forever.

Not so.

By coincidence, two things happened tonight which led me to wise up to the long-term memories of Windows operating systems.

Firstly, a friend returned my laptop that her boyfriend had borrowed from me a couple of weeks back.

Secondly, a CD fell into my hands containing a Deleted File Recovery program, following a request from me as I'd accidentally lost a folder of precious letters.

This friend who'd dropped my laptop off is always really cheeky towards me, and tonight showed little sympathy despite my swollen face. As she was leaving, she jokingly said, "oh, I hope my boyfriend deleted THOSE photos of me!"

She then paused and looked a little uneasy. "Yes, well, I'm sure he did."

I jokingly responded by telling her that if I found them I'd email them back to her for deletion, or better still, post them on Tame Goes Wild so that she could simply download and delete them from here..!

But yes, he had deleted them.

To a certain extent! That Deleted File Recovery program really DOES work!

It's a good job I'm not the blackmailing kind.

Nice couch you're lying on by the way...

Wednesday 4th August 2004 - 23:53GMT+1 On my beanbag, Bristol, England

post-puke advice

My thanks to one of my regular Mumblers who has given me some advice should I suffer from Puke-itas again. I think it's such great advice that it deserves publication worldwide (i.e. here).

"When you puke... its best just to rinse out, not swallow water, then after an hour, drink only about a tablespoonful ... and wait.  If it stays down for an hour, have a little more ... the theory being that every time you puke up the water, you actually puke up more than you drink, thus dehydrating the body even further !  When you can drink, beer is definitely NOT the best liquid !!

Here endeth the post-puking lesson!

A fascinating insight into the post-puke world I'm sure you'll agree. Thanks indeed to my regular Mumbler.

Thursday 5th August 2004 - 16:06GMT+1 On my beanbag, Bristol, England

uni budget

This afternoon I've been planning my financial survival technique for university. This is what I've come up with. (it's all in pounds sterling. If that confuses you try this.

As you can see, if I stick to this 38-week budget, I should have £19 left over next June with which to go on a huge mad exciting shopping spree! Hurray!!! I can't wait!! I could buy 2 CDs with that!! What a treat!

Good job I've already been through the drinking-coping-amounts-of-alcohol stage eh? ...hmmm

Friday 6th August - Hiroshima Day 2004 - 00:31GMT+1 On my beanbag, Bristol, England

absolutely bloody marvelous

And I mean it. Nurofen. Incredible stuff.

As I rarely suffer from headaches and my period pains aren't normally too bad, I never usually have cause to take pain-killers. Today though my gums have been giving me hell. So would you if some great doctor had come along with a chisel and tried to scrape you from your foundations. But I tell you, within 15 minutes of popping one of those Nurofen tablets, all pain is gone. A miracle.

The stitches in my mouth are coming undone. I keep on finding myself with a bit of string hanging down from above my teeth. Have to get my penknife out and snip it off. Made the excruciating mistake earlier of getting the thread caught in between the blunt scissor blades and giving them a tug. Boy, the flesh certainly didn't appreciate that...

Saturday 7th August 2004 - 09:01GMT+1 The Welsh Garden Project Site, Wales

even more absolutely bloody marvelous

Never mind the Nurofen, what about the remedial power of a good old squeeze!

Yesterday was the worst day yet in terms of oral pain. It was absolutely killing me. Anything other than a completely morose expression produced an onslaught of knives attacking my gums. Even the Nurofen didn't have much effect.

So it was, that in the afternoon I took to my bed here at The Welsh Garden Project site (in Wales you know), popped on a very unfunny DVD ("Throne of Blood", Kurosawa's classic 1950's Japanese remake of Macbeth) and simultaneously read Welcome to Sheffield, my guide to the first week at Sheffield University. I was hoping that all of the input would distract me from what was going on right under my nose (literally)... but it didn't. The pain drew me to constantly play with the dangling stitches that were slowly unraveling from around my teeth.

After an hour or so, I couldn't take it any more and got my penknife out to snip off the end of the thread. As I did so, I noticed a blob of something on the blade. Sniffing it, I was horrified. This brown substance which I was sure hadn't been there when I'd opened the knife smelt exactly like doggy poo. Somewhat confused, I cleaned the knife off and got to work on the stitches again - a tricky task when they're hanging down from the gums just behind your front teeth. But seconds later, there it was again! A foul-smelling substance, worthy of being the holder of the Guinness Record for "smelliest thing on earth". Alarmed, I rushed to the bathroom, pulled my top lip back and saw a stream of pus and blood dripping down from my teeth.

I was infected, and all the pain that day had been caused by the build up of pus within my gum. With a wadge of toilet paper in my mouth I squeezed the entire area of the operation, and with absolute delight witnessed about 10 litres of yellow goo mixed with blood pour like a torrent of evilness from the hidden depths of my mouth.

Ahhhh, the relief was intense! It felt fantastic, all that bad pressure - gone!

There's a lot of discontent about the National Health Service in the UK, but following my experience of it yesterday I can't give it enough praise. Just over an hour after the incident I'd seen a local doctor (despite not being registered in the area) and been prescribed the antibiotics that would kill off the infection. Being epileptic, I was exempt from paying the two prescription charges, and so was able to be even more smiley with the chemists in the pharmacy on Monmouth High Street.

Last night I had a wonderful dream about the Hereford Waldorf School, and an hour ago woke up feeling absolutely great - the best I've felt since last week.

Joseph's back on track, and ready to do some painting of an orchid-house, my task for the day here at the Welsh Garden Project site.

Thursday 12th August 2004 - 22:48GMT+1 The Welsh Garden Project Site, Wales

time moves so fast... like a grey squirrel with a tail that has the winning lottery numbers printed on it 30 minutes before the Saturday night draw, heading for the nearest newsagent

Crikey O'Reilly it's now only 5 weeks 2 days until I move house. The logistics of the weekend in question are all sorted. It's going to involve about 8 hours of driving and 5 hours on a train. Train times sorted - cheap tickets not available till monday.

So I've been slaving away here in Wales, trying to paint and have bonfires in the pouring rain - great fun! I'm knackered. That's almost as exciting as the news gets, oh, except for a little trip out I took last night to see my little nephew Jamie!! Jessie had popped over from Oxford to see mum and dad, so I joined them all in Orcop. Check out these photos - isn't Jamie just the lovely. Yes, he is.

scary chap!!!

Whilst we're in the photography mood, let's have another couple of recent shots...

morning light


Sunday 15th August 2004 - 14:34GMT+1 On my beanbag, Bristol, England

the smallest western-style toilet in the west

At least I thought so. Sadly the angle from which the photo was taken masks the true miniatureness of the porcelain potty, but believe me, it's tiny.

I found it in the girl's loo at Nant-y-cwm Steiner School, the beautiful turf-roofed Kindergarten building of which you can also see below. It's a truly remarkable building, Steiner would have been proud.


...for the benefit of those of you who have nothing better to do with your time than explore the crevices between my teeth.

You'll be glad to know that it's pretty much 100% better. No pain. No gaping wounds. The antibiotics saw off the infection - no more dog-poo pus to be seen dribbling out of the corner of my mouth.

I'm feeling rather spaced out today. Probably a result of tiredness. Last night I ventured into the depths of the Wiltshire (?) countryside to a lovely little village where a very good friend from my school days, Aniela, and her neighbour, were celebrating their birthdays. Ay, it were grand, a proper little get together with a whole bunch of lovely folks, good food (I could have sworn Scotch Eggs were vegetarian the last time I had one...), Jenga, plums, kittens, music, drink, comfy sofas, excellent kitchen tiling and a birthday (pan)cake! Sadly I don't have any photos - I completely forgot to take any (and I don't particularly want to see any that were taken of me as I know I had a really daft expression on my face!). I'm really happy to still be in touch with Aniela, she's great, and her husband Matt is the kind of guy I'd marry, if I were that way inclined. Which I'm not, at least as far as I'm aware.

I feel the urge to say

Sunday 15th August 2004 - 23:32GMT+1 On my beanbag, Bristol, England

ungrounded - and likely to remain so for the next 9 weeks

What you have to bear in mind is that this is something that I've been waiting for, working towards, looking forward to, for almost two years now. And now it's only 4 weeks 6 days away.

I feel a little embarrassed about my enthusiasm. University, you see, is the big adventure that you usually embark upon when you're still a teenager. When I express my feelings to other adults, I have the feeling that they are thinking, "oh, yeah, uni, been there, done that...", kind of rubbishing the experience as "Just a stage" of childhood. Whether they are thinking that or not I don't know, but that's how I feel.

But that doesn't dampen my spirits internally.

Today I've felt distinctly out of place, ungrounded, and without any clear sense of where the ground is that I can settle on. I've spent the day in my room. Eaten a bit. Updated various bits of TGW. This evening I felt pressured by my housemates to come back down to Earth - it was entirely unintentional on their part, indeed, the only way they could have exerted less pressure on me would have been to ignore me entirely - that's how sensitive I am at the moment. I switched my mobile off at 9pm. I turned the ringer off on my home phone, and went to bed. There, I watched the entire glorious first series of The Office. Oh, it's so painful, I was able to completely let go of all the pressures that I was feeling, and bask in the agony of David Brent.

I've since been thinking about this pressure that I'm feeling to ground myself, and I've come to the conclusion that it's not actually necessary now, not here in Bristol. As of tomorrow, I'll be away for 10 days. On holiday, camping with my brother and friends. That's what I really need, completely cut off from everyone. I'll be able to live in the moment, something I've been straying dangerously far from at times over the past week or so. I am positively looking forward to the enforced isolation. I can read, and write. I can sit on the beach and listen to the sea. I can attempt to surf and fall off. I can lie by the camp fire and watch shooting stars as I once did in 1997 on a ping-pong table in upstate New York.

When I get back from camp I'll spend about 36 hours in Bristol, before heading off to London to catch up with a Japan-based mate. After a few days there it's straight off to Wales to do some more work on The Welsh Garden Project Site, and from there to Sheffield to attend a Mature Student's Welcome Day. When that's over it'll only be two weeks until I move - two weeks which are already pretty packed with Bristol-leaving "stuff".

So, with that in mind, it seems that my Bristol days are pretty much over already. There's no point in clearing the junk from my floor, because I'll only have to pile it into some bag or other soon anyway. There's no point in letting my Self settle, because it has so many emotional trips ahead of it that it's far safer to stay floating in the clouds. There may be a little turbulence up there, but nothing like the rugged ground upon which my landing gear would scrape upon every take off and landing.

Yes, it's time to adopt a new mentality, as one always does when undergoing big changes. It's time to gather together the pieces of my heart that are dotted around this room, household and city, and put them in my little carry-pack. That way, wherever I am, I'm here. Not somewhere else, but here, whether that here is north Devon, London, Sheffield or eastern Wales.

You may not hear from me for a while.

Take care, see you soon.

Joseph xx

p.s. Just checked the forecast.. perfect weather for camping...

Monday 30th August 2004 - 19:46GMT+1 On my beanbag, Bristol, England

nostalgia with a difference

Yes, hello, it's alright, I'm back. Fret not.

I have returned from the big smoke.

My clothes stink. Or at least they did. I've actually done the washing already, despite being disabled in the left leg. Too much surfing last week, followed by too much dancing Saturday night, followed by too much, erm, well, a lack of sleep over the past 36 hours. ;-)

I'm now limping quite badly, but am hopeful that a few days rest (next date not till Thursday, in Sheffield) will do me the world of good. Makes me feel Bristolian though - lots of Bristolians have gammy legs. Local genetic defect.

the tube

You catch me in a somewhat nostalgic state. It's Bjork, she always does this to me. However, it's a somewhat unusual nostalgic state as I'm actually feeling nostalgic about the future, which on the whole I tend to regard as having not yet happened .

I've been trying to figure out how long it will take me to get to my lectures, how long it will take me to get from my lectures to the Union bar, and how long it will take me to get from the Union bar to my bed. I have enlisted the aid of a photographic representation of my home-to-be:

My new home from the air

Yes, early lectures shouldn't be too much of a problem: just down the road, across the big junction, into the tall Arts Tower which houses the School of East Asian Studies.

Lectures-to-bar is also a reassuringly short journey. What concerns me though is the stagger home. I mean, having to cross that junction when completely plastered is going to be no easy task. Maybe there's an underpass. But I might get mugged. Hhhmm, I'll check it out on Friday and let you know what I think.

Whilst in search of the above photo I came across another which caught my eye, that of the little village in Herefordshire where I grew up. Orcop Hill.

Orcop God 'elp us!

'tis beautiful.

Well, I'm absolutely shattered, so you'll have to wait till tomorrow for all my mumbles about the action I've seen over the past two weeks.

Tuesday 31st August 2004 - 15:43GMT+1 On my beanbag, Bristol, England


I keep on getting distracted by all those things I ought to be doing by other totally-don't-need-to-do things. Procrastination, that's what it is.

This afternoon the trauma that sperm suffer pre-ejaculation, and an attack by a giant breast have ensured that I've done nothing of value.

"What if it's a homosexual experience...?"


"It's not what you think darling! It's just one of my patients, she thinks she's a sheep!!"


Attack of the giant breast
"Oh Sidney you were so brave! I thought you were going to be nursed to death!"

a very unhealthy addiction


I blame my leg. Ah the pain!

Beer. I just have to have a beer every night. It stems from my camping days of the late 1960's. I mean, last week. Or was it the week before? I can't remember. Too much beer. And the Archer's distracting me. There's a really bad new actor on tonight, playing Ashok. Yes, but anyway, I'm addicted to beer. Oh dear, big belly on the way. Not very attractive. Hope I get the situation under control soon, otherwise I'll end up pregnant like big bruver Stephen.

Roll up roll up ladies and gentlemen

I've been hard at work this afternoon between breasts and beer and am happy to bring you 193 brand new previously unreleased photos from my ever-expanding collection. You'll find them in my August 2004 album so you will, which is over here.

Tuesday 31st August 2004 - 33:14GMT+1 (no, not September 1st, honest) On my beanbag, Bristol, England

in mid-august 2004, my brother stephen and his partner louise organised a big gathering of family and friends at Bradwell Mill, a lovely little smallholding in northern devon where camps and workshops are often held. With up to 30 folks from across the country coming together for relaxation and respite,
it was one big fan-dabby holiday

moving the house

It was a bright sunny morning back in the days when August was in full song. The frogs were a croaking, the cats miowing contentedly as they played with their latest catches. Meanwhile, in the human world, Joseph was loading up Stephen and Louise's two cars with the house. Having drawn up a list of essential camping equipment that was longer than my tongue it was decided that it would be far simpler to tow the four walls, floor and roof to North Devon, rather than empty the contents one by one into the back of the Skoda and Micra.

The two hour journey took us five hours, mainly due to my incompetence with a map in the lead car, and Stephen's attempt to break the world record for the most scenic route taken to go on holiday ever ever. There was also the matter of trying to pass sherbet bon bons between the two cars whilst on the move. I'd place one on the roof in the hope that it would fly off and fall into the trailing car's sunroof. It didn't work. Nor did the trying to throw grapes out of the window in order that our followers may also enjoy their succulence.

Upon our arrival at the field that we'd rented for the week I set about erecting my magnificent tent, complete with beanstick-supported second-skin, as seen below.

A strong theme that ran right through our holiday was rain. Not just drizzle (that would have been miserable), but really hard, deep, heavy, wet rain. At times this would become so torrential that we felt that the tents might implode - as in fact Willow's did, which wasn't a bad thing actually as she certainly needed a bath.

There was one night during which the weather featured somewhat more prominently that the necessity to breathe. The next morning I wrote the following in my diary:

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

"Well for once the forecasters got it right.

Last night was the most stunning metrological display yet. Incredible.

It was 2am. I was in the middle of a rather disturbing dream involving an oversize pack of M&M's with legs and a wolf auditioning for a pantomime, when a sound unlike anything I've ever heard outside of the BBC sound effects department ripped through my very soul.

It was a dark, bellowing sound with a soul of black fire. A sound from the deepest darkest depths of the mountains of Mordor. It had taken hours to build-up, and was preceded by a flash of light brighter than the surface of the sun. The thunder hit me like a spike through the heart. I lay there terrified, eyes wide open gripping my wooly jumper as a downpour more torrential than Niagra Falls began to pour down upon my triple-skinned tent. In a daze of darkened fear I began to anticipate the second lightening strike. It would fire down like a rod of iron, strike my beanstick supports and shoot through my heart, bringing a blaze of light to the inside of my eyeballs, sending them shooting out from their sockets in a million tiny fragments.

As it was, there was no more thunder and lightening, just lots of rain, which sent me back into the drunken dreamworld from whence I'd come."

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

Almost two weeks on, I can still hear that thunder's roar, feel it's power in my heart.

Despite the rain, we didn't feel at all despondent. It kind of washed over us unnoticed - and it did seem to stop when we wanted it to, giving us fairly clear evenings during which we could toast marshmallows around the fire and drink cheap red wine.

Everybody's goin surfin', surfin' Woolacombe

I tell you, I've never had so much fun in the sea in my whole life. It was just fantastic. The waves were absolutely huge - they just didn't fit into my then current set of images of British waters. I'd be standing there looking out to sea. My jaw would drop as I saw a huge swell approaching, knowing that by the time it reached me it would be a great big monster of a breaking wave. I'd shout and yell and woop in delight to the body boarders and surfers around me, who shared my feelings of fear and delight. Dare I try and ride this wave? Would I be smashed into a million pieces? Well, dare I did, and were it not for my wetsuit holding me together I'm sure I would have had to spend several hours searching for my limbs. The power was so intense. Once the breaker grabbed a hold of me I could do nothing but cling onto my surfboard and hope that the small children I'd seen a few seconds earlier were no longer in the path of my fins. Like a piece of driftwood I was smashed about... the surf board was wrenched from my grip. I was plunged underwater and sent into a 360° tumble - all I could do was wrap myself up foetus-like, arms protecting my head, and hope that the board wouldn't hit me. Bizarrely, I didn't kill anyone. I'd emerge from under the water, my natural buoyancy bringing me to the surface, nose and mouth full of salt water, and burst into fits of laughter.

I seem to have the same attitude when it comes to surfing as I did when breaking the Swiss speed record for Scheidegg to Grindelwald non-stop by sledge (26 minutes), oh, and the time I raced a train down a mountain on a bicycle and fractured a rib, and possibly the incident involving a huge hungry St. Bernard dog and the waistcoat that I was wearing when it decided to eat it.

I really wished I had a waterproof case for my camera, it was all so good.

At one point I found myself surfing right alongside Stephen, riding the crest of a mammoth 400 foot wave. As we neared the shore I watched with horror as my surf board decided to drop off the back of the wave whilst Stephen carried on in! Well, we can't be having that sort of behaviour, so I grabbed hold of the strap that attached his board to his leg. Crikey, I nearly pulled my fingers out of their sockets, whilst he came to a dramatic standstill. It was so funny I did a wee in my wetsuit. Guess you had to be there.

Then there was the ONE occasion when I actually managed to catch a big wave at just the right moment. Oh the feeling of absolute joy as I soared in to shore on the crest. It was so surreal; in front of me a 6 foot drop down to the sea (and the woman looking at bit horrified by the prospect of being hit by me!). It was just the once, but all the more memorable because of that.

Rosie-May, mummy Leigh and Chris  enjoy the madness of the midday sun
what it feels like for a girl

After all that excitement it was time to become a mermaid, which, with the help of louise and caz, was a stunning success.They gave me a lovely swooshing tail , and a fantastic pair of firm breasticles. I'd always wondered what it would be like to be a woman - now I know. ...although I guess the tail and the fact that I was buried from the chest down in cold sand did lessen the authenticness of the experience.

campfires by night

Most evenings we'd gather around our campfire to cook supper and exchange tales of old and new. The theme for the first night I recall was road rage and pooing your pants... There was also singing, and to my delight, someone else who spoke Japanese! Sparklers, glowsticks, alcohol and other relaxants added to the magic. Oh, we were also the welcome recipients of a performance by the legendary White Rabbit Theatre Company, back in the UK after their latest tour of America supporting Madonna. (Erm, sort of... although they're actually better known for the work they do with local schools, educating children on issues such as drugs and racism through theatre). That was superb, a right little talented bunch so they are.

White Rabbit Theatre Group

it's art my dear

We'd heard a rumour that the giant cinderella who recently wreaked havoc on northern Cornwall by having a pee upstream of Boscastle had misplaced her shoe just outside of a town called Muddiford. Following a lengthy road trip we were able to ascertain that the rumours were actually true: we found the heel in question at Broomhill Sculpture Park.

it's ridiculous how tall heels are getting these days... Sean gives the griffin a good lickin'

Not a bad little collection. Not bad cream teas either. Mind you, some of the art was absolute trash and belonged in the furnace - such as the "D Clamps": giant rings of metal fastened securely to tree trunks, effectively garroting them (and retailing at £300 each!).

the secret beach

I knew it was a mistake to follow a Tame to a "secret beach". I have childhood memories of being stranded on miniscule patches of sand whilst the tide cut the family off from neighbouring beaches which provided the only route back up the cliffs to safety.

If I'd resigned myself to the fact that I was going to get wet anyway I would have been alright, but I was so preoccupied by staying dry and keeping my rucksack (which contained my digital camera) out of the water, that I neglected to pay attention to where I was putting my feet.

It was high tide, and the beach that we were heading for was completely cut off by the sea - a combination of wading through the waist-high water and climbing over razor-sharp rocks would be required. Determined to stay as dry as possible I began by trying to scale a rock face which had "don't try and scale me" written all over it. Naturally, I fell off, backwards, into the 3 foot of water behind me. However, this was no normal fall backwards. This was a scrape-both-shins-down-the-barnacle-covered-rockface-until-they-bleed-nicely-and-punture-a-hole-in-both-hands-as-you-try-to-prevent-yourself-going-into-the-sea fall. Ooh the pain. I had to stand there for about 5 minutes and breathe, before summoning up the courage to carry on. By some miracle of fate my rucksack only just scraped the surface of the water, and all inside was dry. Apart from the bottle of Evian, but that was wet on the inside so I wasn't too concerned.

After a scrabble which took us the best part of an hour we arrived at the secret beach. The beer was cracked open, the search for beautiful pieces of sea-blasted glass commenced and a sculpture created by your truly. It's my own nautical version of stonehenge.

That evening the remaining 15 members of our group (some had been washed back to Totnes in the south by a freak desire earlier that day) ventured out in to Ilfracombe, where we found a pub with the most gorgeous barmaid in the whole of North Devon - although when I discovered that she wasn't on the menu I opted for deep fried brie instead.


It was about 12.30am. Everyone else had gone to bed... but I felt uneasy, not yet ready to sleep. I left the campfire and returned to my tent, where I thought I'd check my phone for any texts. That I did, and there was one that required a lengthy reply. I set about prodded the words into the keypad - but just as I was about to press "send" I hit the "cancel" key, losing my entire message. A little irritated I set about writing it again... and again as I neared the end I accidentally hit the "cancel" key! I stopped.

What was the reason for this? Why was I hitting the cancel button? I don't go along with the idea that it was just clumsiness with my keypad. No, if something like that happens, especially twice, I'm being told something. Usually it's pretty simple, it means "don't send this message", and I have benefited in the past by not sending a drunken text that I would have regretted the next day. But this was different, the message I was trying to send was perfectly straight forward and involved no words that could possibly cause embarrassment or regret.

Thinking all this somewhat odd, I began to tap the message in for the third time. By now 15 minutes had passed and I was feeling pretty sleepy; my mind was starting to wander off into strange lands where turtles ate ice creams on beaches coated in mango yoghurt...

As I began to drift off the mango yoghurt coated beach something made me prick up my ear. With the needle firmly attached to both my lobe and the inner tent, I listened to what sounded like the crackling of wood on a fire. A fire? At this time of night? Everyone had gone to bed, what was going on? I poked my head out from my triple-skinned Terra Nova to see, much to my surprise, a bright golden glow coming from the woods that ran alongside the field in which we were camping.

Although somewhat disturbed, I wasn't actually alarmed at this point, thinking it was probably just a camp fire that one of the White Rabbit Theatre crew had lit - they lived in a wooden hut in that area. Still, I thought I'd better investigate, and so took my torch and set off to investigate. My walking turned to striding, then broke into a run as I approached the site.

SHIT!!! The glow that I'd seen was not caused by a camp fire, but instead by the wooden hut that was home to Jenny - it was an absolute inferno. The slated roof had fallen in, and only three walls remained standing. The heat was intense, and all I could see within was the frame of a deck chair. Was she in there? I couldn't tell.

I ran back down through the field, past all of our tents (no-one else had even stirred!) and down the muddy track to the farmhouse. There I woke everyone up in my search for Jenny (name changed), who was nowhere to be seen, but, I was told, had left the house for the hut not 30 minutes earlier.

I ran back to our field, and woke Stephen up. I didn't really feel like discovering a body by myself, and after all, that's what big brothers are for.

There was quite a bit more running backwards and forwards until Jenny was thankfully found safe (if somewhat shocked) in a caravan not far from the house. The fire brigade arrived, although there was not much they could do other than watch the remains burn and take notes on possible causes of the fire.

the remains of Jenny's home and belongings

Initially, I'd assumed that the fire had been caused by an over-hot wood burner, but then Jenny spoke up. The wood burner hadn't been lit for over a week. Not only that, but two nights previously she'd returned to her hut to discover that someone had rifled through her belongings, and burnt some of her paperwork. Freaked out by this, she'd then spent the next two nights with one of her fellow actors in the caravan. Good job she did. Sadly, she lost all of her belongings in the fire.

The police were called, and there was talk of a suspect named Jim who cut the grass in the neighbouring field. He also drank in the local pub where Jenny worked part-time - was there some infatuation thing going on here?

The other suspects were the three cows that resided in the field/woods where the wooden hut had stood. They'd kept a distinctly low profile throughout the entire event, and had shied away when the firemen shone their torches at them. A further connection was made the following morning when we spotted a car that had been involved in a serious collision. It was standing in the gateway of a field, surrounded by cows. It is well known that cows are atrocious drivers, and so that evidence could not be ignored.

It took me forever to get to sleep that night. Feelings of guilt, why didn't I do more etc. As was pointed out to me though, no matter what I'd done, the end result would have been exactly the same.

What it highlighted for me though was my reluctance to call the fire brigade. My resistance to dialling 999 is very strong - a fact I hope I am able to bear in mind for the future should I find myself in a similar situation where lives are at stake.

I've seriously considered creating the website

The park's website tells us:


"Set in 25 acres of the beautiful North Devon countryside,

the park is a full day of fun and excitement for the entire family.

After your encounters with extraordinary wildlife and fascinating dinosaurs set amongst the most stunning scenery, you won't want to leave and you'll have to pry the children away!


Should read:


"Set in 25 acres of the beautiful North Devon countryside that has been absolutely destroyed by our laying down miles of plastic-concrete.

The park is a full day of sheer horror in terms of animal welfare and excitement when it comes deciding to leave, which is usually pretty soon after entry.

After your encounters with obviously extremely bored and depressed wildlife and bits of metal covered in rubber passing off as dinosaurs set amongst the most stunning example of how to get maximum profit from every square foot of land, you won't want to believe that you were conned into paying so much money to get in and you'll have to pry the children away after they get their legs jammed in our pathetic excuse for an "Earthquake Train Ride"!


Yes, we certainly ended our holiday in style. What a ghastly place that is. The owners' clear intent was to maximise profits at the expense of animal welfare, imagination and entertainment. I won't go into detail about just how atrocious the whole place was, but to give you one example: the "Dinosaur Museum was essentially a big room with a screen at one end onto which the BBC series "Living with Dinosaurs" was projected.

Don't go to Coombe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur park.

a rather disturbed monkey
the famous wolf enclosure, allegedly an important part in the protection of the species

I did have cause to laugh as we were leaving. One of our party (who is quite a bit shorter than me) pointed out a feature of the plastic statue of a Knight on a horse (one of many plastic statues dotted around the place with no apparent connection, such as the vulture, Frankenstein, a US solider etc)... Anyway, this knight on a horse is the first thing you see when you enter the site, and if you're pretty small, as children tend to be, you'll be greeted by this:

ride a cock horse...


I say no more. Just don't go there, whatever you do.


I was sad to leave our little community in the wet field in north Devon. I'd had such a great time, surfing, skinning my legs, discovering blazing infernos, admiring plastic horses' wedding tackle... maybe it will be repeated next year, or maybe I'll be in Japan. Who knows.

Anyway, it's now the end of the month, and time for me to sign off this issue of The Daily Mumble.


Love joseph

The Daily Mumble August 2004 Archive



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