JAM-PACKED FRIDAY (4) – Black Panther, Bounding Deer…

It’s Friday and it’s almost over so, yeah, time for a fresh ‘Jam-Packed Friday’ wrap-up summary blogpost for the week. This is the fourth weekly post so for fans of achievements, that marks an achievement. One month target met! [high-fives]

If you can pull something off for a month then that’s probably good enough and the rest is all gravy (or sriracha because I don’t like gravy). Before I get really, really, really bored of writing a weekly blogpost for no good reason other than the fact I like writing, enjoy this one. (As with everything else in life – enjoy it before it fades away, dies or simply just vanishes. Aww guys, I’ve still not got over the loss of my favourite t-shirt. [weeping]) Without any further faff, here’s this week in one minute’s worth of free association, then…

FREE ASSOCIATION WEEKLY MINUTE GO GO GO…

If you are English (or British) you are officially unhappier than happy Scandinavian people because they are the happiest people, scientists say. If you are English you’re either going to die as a result of Russian poison attacks, the extreme salt levels in your supermarket readymeal or Chinese takeaway or from unrealistic Champions League expectations. It all feels like the build up of old Cold War bad-feeling, fear and anxiety. And Stephen Hawking is dead and times like this need bright minds and cosmic perspective. Cosmic perspective, please?

Yeah, the World feels much nicer if you go for a wander outside, connect with nature and soak up the coming spring…


DEER TO MY HEART…

I like to go out walking to get out outside (and out of my own head), to breathe some fresh(ish) air and maybe contemplate trees, moors, streets, people or anything-and-potentially-everything in life. I sometimes listen to podcasts or Love’s Forever Changes album. And I meet animals in the street and down country footpaths and they are usually cats, dogs and birds, or sometimes horses, sheep, goats, donkeys, worms or dead frogs.

But on Sunday I saw deer. I saw three deer in total during two walks on one day.

It was a beautiful surprise. The first encounter happened in the morning when I was mooching down a country footpath that cuts through a golf club. There’s a point in the forest path where a track veers off into an alcove where people have dumped rubbish but if you carry on walking down what is, in effect, a trench you end up on the level looking out over gold courses, farmland and the hills beyond.

I decided to head off that way to gaze upon the countryside and as I walked down the track I saw a streaking flash in the trees to my left. “Whoa, that was a deer!” I said aloud, and I was momentarily stunned. I proceeded along the muddy path cautiously (not wanting to frighten the deer I’m pretty sure I hadn’t just imagined, or have it run into me) and there it was, stood up tall amidst the trees on the left.

We just stood there, staring at each other, sharing the moment. It was magic.

Eventually I retreated, but turning back to look at the deer I saw that there was another one. Two does, two female deer. It shook me up, in a good way. Something surprising, beautiful and sublime bounding into the mundane everyday. It was a transcendent moment.

And then later on a walk in the dark of the early evening – in a different place – a deer came out of a hedgerow and cantered across a street then into the fields beyond. Three deer in one day is immense and I can’t help but take it as some kind of omen or, yeah, a transcendent touchpoint that elevates and expands existence.

I’m moved by these things, and thinking on it further I recall other animal encounters that have affected me deeply. In the spirit of internet list-making, here are…


5 AMAZING ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS I HAVE HAD THAT AFFECTED ME PROFOUNDLY…

I’ve been through a lot with a series of strange cats. Been driven out of my mind by (invisible) rats. There are mosquitoes who’ve left their mark (literally and metaphorically). The less said about dogs the better. And I’ve made friends with butterflies, ladybirds, spiders and frogs and I become besties with any fish I meet in person. (Rest in Peace, Bodhi, my beautiful purple Siamese Fighting Fish.)

I’m sure there are more, and apologies to the fantastic creatures who I’ve forgotten (I’m sure you’re out there, hopefully not dead). The following, though, are the Top 5 times in my life where I’ve been with animals and it’s been something very special…

5. Turtles – I love turtles. I will go out of my way to hang around with turtles because they are the best animals in the World (and they may actually be carrying our world through space). My favourite turtle time was last year when I found myself in the botanical gardens of Ferrara. In the middle of the gardens I discovered a pond and it was full of turtles and I just sat down, looked at them for half-an-hour and got all emotional. Turtles = feelings.

4. Deer – See above. Those deer were majestical.

3. Sea Turtles – “I was swimming in the Caribbean…” My family were fortunate enough to go on a holiday to Antigua way back when. One day we went on a boat called the Jolly Roger as part of a group trip and it headed to a distant beach where we tried to teach Americans how to play cricket. That wasn’t much fun (they just didn’t get it), but the amazing, life-affirming part of this trip was the moment we dropped anchor and went snorkelling in the sea. We saw giant sea turtles swimming beneath us and they came up really close. Did I mention that I have a think about turtles? To see sea turtles in their natural habitat and to get close to these colossal wonders was spectacular and I true “I can’t believe this is real” moment. I’m feeling emotions. Moving on…

2. Manatees – Awwwww, manatees. One rainy Sunday morning in February while I was working in Milan (Milano) I jumped on a train to Genoa (Genova) and hit the aquarium. As someone who loves marine life I was made up, but seeing manatees for the first time was the highlight. It was love at first sight. They’re such gentle, sweet creatures and as they floated around the great tank and munched on lettuce leaves I completely fell for sea cows and time slipped away as I spent who-knows-how-long transfixed. Manatees, all my heart goes out to you.

1. Fireflies – Again in Italy, this time on the first of what would become many summer camp experiences. After a great day out with new friends we returned late at night to my host family’s house in a small town in the Emilia-Romagna countryside. Sleepy, I stepped out of the car and saw tiny pricks of glinting light. I asked what that was and upon being told that they were fireflies I didn’t believe it. I’d always kind of thought that fireflies were a thing that didn’t really exist, but here they were, and I could walk around the nighttime garden and pick them up and cradle them in my palms. It was overwhelmingly beautiful – the sweetest, perfect ending to a day out sharing time and the wonder of Italy with great people. This is probably the moment where I completely fell for Italy and it’s a love I still hold. Those fireflies. It was a miraculous moment of pure magic burning bright…

Awwww. I now really want a pet turtle or fireflies on tap…


CULTURE JAMMING…

  • I finally caught up with the World (and Wakanda) and got to see Black Panther. It’s so, so good. I want go on forever about it (and others have done so extensively so go see what they’ve got to say). All that I really need to say is: Marvel Studios keep on making top-notch blockbuster flicks; this type of radicalism and the matter-of-fact way it goes about ‘minority’ representation and empowerment (in terms of both both race and gender) is welcome and more please; I loved the afrofuturist aesthetics; war rhinos. I want to see Black Panther again. I think I’m gonna go and see Black Panther again. Wakanda Forever!
  • I also ended up catching the silly farce flick Gringo and the best thing about it is David Oyolewo playing a hapless tragicomic punchbag who works hard, does his best and doesn’t wish any harm on anyone but ends up getting crapped on all the time (I know how you feel, man). There’s a moment early on in the film where Oyolewo is just driving along in his car, lost in his own carpool karaoke, rapping along to Will Smith’s Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It all amped up and it’s golden. Everyone should have a moment like that every day, na-na-na, na-na-na-na…
  • I also read Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea because I was curious about how it would tell the story of a character in Jane Eyre from a different angle because I bloody love Jane Eyre. (Seriously, Jane Eyre is lit.) I didn’t bloody love Wide Sargasso Sea but I liked it as an alternative take on the possibly-problematic aspects of a classic novel. It also corroborates some fundamental things I believe about Jane Eyre and life in general: mad people in attics are generally driven mad by the environment, society and the mistreatment they experience; it’s wrong to make gross generalisations about cultures and races; Reader, Jane should never have married him.

STUFF CREATED…

This week I doodled the following doodles…

  • A doodle for Mother’s Day, because it was Mother’s Day last Sunday.
  • Isola di Benvenuto or Welcome Island. This was a response to a call from Atlas Obscura for readers’ personal fantasy islands and my island is a Mediterranean safe haven for migrants crossing into Europe. You can read more about it (and others’ personal fantasy islands) in this article.
  • I doodled a doe or, indeed, did a doe-dle because of the aformentioned deer encounter.

As for writing, I submitted a few more things to Atlas Obscura ’cause I love Atlas Obscura…

  • The Ice Age Andesite Boulder in the Old Quadrangle at the University of Manchester. It’s a hot rocking thing to contemplate.
  • Edward Lear’s grave in a cemetery on the outskirts of San Remo. I remember going on a bizarre pilgrimage to try and find it years and years ago and, hey, I found it. Years later, I write a mini-guide encouraging others to try and find it too.

… and now it’s nearly not Friday anymore so I’ll be off. Until next time – if there is a next time – thanks for reading, take care, good energies and much love… ❤

(… oh, and may you meet a magical deer or manatee as you go about your mundane business…)

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