Monday, 22 February 2016

Polyamory, Padlocks & Pooh

"I'm gonna lock my heart and throw away the key..."

I'm ignoring people's advice to "get out more" because I can no longer deny the love affair I have with my bed, my duvet, my snuggly peluches that are unashamedly scattered on top. Sleeping and relaxing on my bed is still my favouritest thing in the entire world. Despite having travelled the world a lot, met lots of different people and read twice Carnera's bodyweight in books on every subject imaginable, I am spending the Winter hibernating in my soft magnolia nurseryesque bedroom... my body, foetal-like, delighting across my sumptuous bed cuddling fake animals with extraordinary amounts of fur. I was affronted last week when Thumper was stolen. He even speaks and has a thumping foot and to forgive this unfortunate electronic monologue when I make an unlucky turn during the night speaks of a tolerance most high. Anyway, in his place is now a life-size Winnie-the-Pooh (I have no idea how it is life size but I imagine if it was any bigger, it would just be creepy). Goodnight. Oh... I have to finish this? Oh yes, love.

I'm a tireless Romantic and if you are my friend and not a poet, artist or haven't recently dropped LSD, you may roll your eyes on many occasions at some of the shit I come out with. To me, everything (except celery and kohl rabi) is wondrous...the alien jelly clinging to an ingrown hair, the behaviour of saliva a glass of water, the shattered crust beneath my laptop keyboard. Although I do have violent reactions to things to which others pay no mind (like, seeing vegetables cut in a haphazard way upsets me deeply), my experiences are pierced by a pastel-coloured joyful amygdala that believes, no... knows! that the One exists and will come one day. I am stupid enough to even take reassurance from a friend who tells me Barbra Streisand's true love was revealed when she reached 59. I don't Google this. I don't need to because I am busy waiting for Love and it is on its a gilded carriage, smelling of red roses, holding hands across the bridges of Paris. Until that bridge collapses and everyone dies.

"and if I never fall in love again, that's soon enough for me"

At least, that would have been the fatal outcome of a bridge in Paris if Parisian health and safety officials (does it depress anyone else that Paris has health and safety?) hadn't removed the padlocks people have placed their for decades as symbols of their enduring love. 45 tonnes of eternity, unbuckled. The amorous culprits obviously hadn't attended the University of Manchester's day of lectures on polyamory.

I admit - as soon as I saw the word 'love' in the title of the seminar (I may have even invented that when I saw something vaguely resembling 'amour') I booked my ticket and tried to drag my stone-cold hearted harem of friends along to much protesting...mostly related to visions of cultish conversion horror. Repent, Monogam! Repent! So on this dreary Sunday morning, church-like, dressed in a chunky cable knit sweater, my Royal Navy jacket and with fruity linseed muesli in tow, I headed in. Be sure - I am not lonely or unfulfilled in my life. I just believe strongly that we are meant to share our life with a special someone. And not many people know that if I were offered a proposal, I would say yes without hesitation. It is these Hollywood hey-day thought spectres that sometimes (often) guide my actions thanks to the likes of images below.

"Swimmers" Diptych, 1962, Roy Lichtenstein

The event reception was strangely glorious, if a little surreal and unexpected, as it strayed significantly from the stiff academic tone of the invite - Gloria Gaynor, Dusty Springfield and Aretha almost boomed from the tannoy as clangs (or is it throngs?) of people stayed close to friends in case the event was just a front for high brow swinging...and then a Volunteer made a peculiar exulted boast about how everything EVERY thing from the complimentary tea and coffee counter was DISPOSABLE. Hell, yeah! The poor thing collapsed when every blue, green and pink-haired attendee, clad in rainbow colours, shrunk in horror and gestured towards the recycling bins. Never has the first 7 minutes of an event failed to prompt a fantasy swift departure. Oh, is this not the Church service?...

Religion has a thick history of enchanting and bothering people in equal measure. My family were no exception. In fact a band of besuited individuals once materialised at our front door as they had heard, or sensed - I don't remember which - that someone in the household had strayed from the flock (their words). It's in those moments that only a Custard / Gillette cream Pie launched in the visage would suffice as an appropriate response.

As Methodists, my sister and I came off slightly easier with our weekly trip to church which of course neither of us could appreciate until later. Methodists are fair and sweet and soft looking. We even had a female minister with cherubic curls. I blame their philosophy for an affliction to be the voice of reason and justice, no matter how small the slight. I was even determined that no-one in that church be deceived during Communion by the blood of Christ - it was bloody Morrisons Taste The Best Forest Fruit juice. No-one cared.

So, en-duveted and surrounded by my oversized stuffed animals (teddies, I mean), I reflect on how being an early Methodist brought unexpected joy through simplicity to my life, shaping my ideas of love and why many peers would bark at me to get a life and stop being so agonisingly dull and dreamy. I didn't drink, smoke, take drugs, I sang all day...hoping the One would hear. I was the Sandy of my suburbs. Everyone wondered why I wasn't ashamed. I was a Shameless Sandy! But the polished seed of purity was sown early and throttled any potential coolness from my body. It lead to crazy attempts later in life of whittling any potential toxin away...a year being a sugar-free vegan (read: I ate bags of pre-washed salad and, secretly, flapjacks) during my gap year, followed by monthly enemas and the compulsion to jog around each new place that I visited on the day I arrived.

What the fluff has this got to do with anything? I don't know, so back to the matter in hand. Padlocks. Bridges. Colossal mess. Polyamory. Love. After almost 6 hours of lectures, my brain melted and now spells out this sticky grey wisdom for you all to paddle around in until The One calls (wait by the phone for him/her because it's just such a great image). Love is ANYTHING you want it to be. Literally. Make it your mission to fall in love with anything that tickles your fancy - a cookie, a door,a wig, a pineapple, a laptop, a vegetable. Maybe be generous and extend that to a human being. It's almost the 22nd Century so no-one gives a shit. The End. I do?

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Nativity - Part I: The Jungle Book

When this image appeared on Facebook last year as a person "I might know", I wanted to know about him immediately. Apart from his striking beauty and being clad in little more than clay leaf-print, I had to find out if the image was part of a photo shoot or if it was an actual snapshot of real life. As someone fascinated by indigenous people, ever since watching "The Emerald Forest" with my grandparents when I was a boy, I have had a voracious appetite to discover anything about native people and their environment - from missionaries to linguists who were sent to notate a new language, to highly anecdotal accounts of childhoods spent growing up with these eccentric and curious parents. Interested in textiles too, ceremonial displays with clothing embellished from local exotic birds can't help but capture the imagination and shame even the most bedazzling runway show.

My latest project, Nativity, explores what the term "native" means to a contemporary world. Naturally I turned to Mogly, the name of the wildly handsome man above, whose photo I discovered was a rainforest 'selfie' and not destined for any glossy magazine. I am now equally puzzled and delighted to count him amongst my Facebook friends as we message almost daily - I am captivated to learn about every aspect of his life, which understandably is worlds apart from the average UK life. Despite his feeling about modern technology, it is the internet that has allowed this incredible connection from my armchair.

Mogly escaped to the Columbian rainforest over 7 years ago, for a surprising reason he explains below and, now 24, he remains there with his partner and their 2 children. It is a pleasure and a true honour to connect with this beautiful tender-hearted person who is also a rare example of someone has never lost touch with his essential wild nature. I am deeply moved by some of his answers and humbled to be able to share a small part of his fascinating yet simple world.

The interview was conducted in Spanish so you'll find his original answers below the English as well as some photographs of the spectacular place he calls home.

Tell us where you live
I live on a mountain with a very special name, El Serro del Tigre
Vivo en una montana de un nombre muy especial, el Serro del Tigre

Describe how you came to live there.
[I followed] my instinct to wish to live a normal life
Mi instinto de querer vivir normal

Tell us what you do in your average day
Work and till the earth!
Trabajar y sembrar la tierra!

What are the benefits to living where and how you do?
I learnt a lot from using medicinal and edible plants that I find in the jungle, and I make infusions or use them raw. They are very effective.

What are the disadvantages, if any, of how and where you live?
At first it was quite difficult because the seeds and plants that feed me weren't ready and I had to walk 9km to get food.
Al inicio fue un tanto dificil porque las semillas y plantas que me alimentarian no estaban listas y tenia que caminar 9km por los viveres.

Is feeling connected to the land important to you?
Of course [because] my it's where I learn to live with myself and my happiness is reflected in the waters of the rivers.
Claro que si es donde aprendo a vivir conmigo mismo y mi felicidad se reflecja como las aguas de los rios.

How does internet access affect your relationship with your world?
It depresses me to realise that we suffer as the human hand destroys the fauna and flora and through the medium of the internet, we withdraw from our world.
Me deprime al darme cuenta de lo que sufrimos por medio de la mano humana destruyendo fauna y flora y por medio del internet nos sacan de nuestro mundo.

Do you have any spiritual, religious or philosophical beliefs?
No. I believe in what I see because everything that is, is in front of me.
No yo creo en lo que miro porque todo lo que esta estaba antes de mi.

What did you dream about last?
I had a very interesting dream! I was visitng a family close to the river. I was there with my 2 children, 2 teenagers and a baby. I had a feeling as if there was a fish in the river. I had a quick look and then noticved that the level of the river was reaction was to tell the children to to the top of the house. The river began to rage, so we took the children and went to the highest part, the river was still rising violently...almost to the floor of the house. The oldest child saw that the river rose to the harvest as his parents were desperately jumping, and the river then rose up to him too, leaving only his 2 brothers, my 2 children and me. Running on a lot of adrenaline, I held them close [...] they were very quiet, just watching the waters and suddely the waters calmed again. The most interesting thing was that the children weren't scared and I felt a strong energy through them that I can't explain. The house was pulled to the other side of the raging river, we reached the shore. I put them down and I began to cry inconsolably, like a baby, and I woke up in tears. I learned that a dream teaches me that children are the closest to nature, and it's that same nature that protects those who look after it.

What are your hopes for the future?

[that we all] return to our roots, we will work the earth together and those who don't have a particular crop can swap food with another and [do] activities together where there won't be any metal or technology.
Volver a nuestras raices todos trabajaremos las tierras juntos y el que no tenga de un tip do cosecha el otro la tendra y podremos intercambiar comida y actividades juntos donde no existira la plata ni la tecnologia.

Thanks to Mogly for his pictures and to Sonia Tome and Diana Ruiz for translation work