Mad Hatter in Wonderland

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sanur-beach-spirit-cafe

Welcome folks to Wonderland!

The Mad Hatter will now bombard you with frangipani, serenade you with Kecak and then take you on a guided tour of the subterranean world called Wonderland.

The journey begins through the portals of deluded minds past apparitions of elderly women dressed like teeny boppers. These images assault the senses at every turn of the corner…Halloween the year round.

It is a waistland here. Some sport pot bellies like Vietnamese pigs, other decorate them with rings, beads and tattoos afraid they may misplace their waistland or allow aliens to infiltrate their personal air space.

The plumage of the Wonderlanders range from the conventional (sarongs preciously draped for the right look) to shorts that leave nothing to the imagination…biceps and triceps  in various formats guaranteed to enthrall first time onlookers.

Often one may witness aerial displays of matted tresses riding a two-wheeler and the captivating ‘art installation’ of a comforting cup of herbal tea delicately balanced between filigreed fingers and pierced lips.

However, there are divisions in this society and it is not by age.

Caution: Age should never be mentioned here for retribution is swift – like being bludgeoned by a pork spare rib or worse still by having a baguette strategically placed to give the offender maximum physical discomfort.

Participating in the numerous rituals is essential to becoming a part of the ‘loose talk’ that every now and then creates a flutter among the Harts or elsewhere. In both cases, damage is superficial as the attention span of the perpetrator/s is limited to normally two martinis or four beers. This depends on the generosity of the person footing the bill.

Wonderland society is divided into basically two parts – Haves and Have-nots. The Haves are the seasonal folk who are akin to migratory birds. They roost here for the winter and flee home come summer. The Have-nots are the scroungers who are, in a manner of speaking, limpets that sustain themselves by latching onto ‘various schemes and dreams’ to earn megabucks or money for the next month’s rent.

A sub-division of the Haves are successful business persons who had graduated from Have-nots by tenacity, ingenuity and optimal use of brain power.

In Wonderland one must be prudent not to make genderisations. One cannot always assume that one is speaking to a male or female. Individuality borders on a sublimity that questions the tenets of an ordered society.

Over indulgence is the stream of consciousness which carries endless emotive aspects that constantly erupt all over the land like pimples on a teenager’s face. In essence its adults with raging hormones.

There is always someone, somewhere being verbally vandalized, exonerated or exalted. In fact, every living moment, stone, color or event is analyzed, dissected and bisected to obtain a significant meaning to one’s life. An ordinary day does not exist in this world.

And now to top it all are the culinary concoctions that intoxicate the pheromones and create a mystical rendition of excess and in excess. Every twist and burn generates another reaction to all that prevails in Wonderland.

The rouse to circumnavigate sensibilities always ends in being juxta- positioned between sanity and insanity.

Wonderland is a place that is cocooned in the Universe; everything, everywhere including the denizens remain unique and insular to the bigger picture.

If you are here and now in this place then you are blessed. For nothing is more exclusive in a strange sort of way than being part of this world.

For me Wonderland is the neutrality shelter of co-existence in a swirling world of political and religious intolerance.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

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Poem – Eight Degrees – Love Poems

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fishfish1

This is a fragmentation of thoughts poorly disguised as poems. Humor me and read them. Then if you so desire consign them to the recycle bin.

Oh Radha!

Visions of love and passion

Drifting ashore at dusk

Announcing the night to lust

On crumpled sheets of lost thoughts

She sat on the beach

As darkness crept up her feet

And covered her in a cloak

Of twilight madness, eating her soul

Krishna had left with the tide

Leaving her forlorn on the shore

Holding her spent dreams

Afraid of them being washed to sea

The moonlit charcoal waters

Raced between her toes

Flowing up her legs

And drowning her sorrows

She waited long through the night

For Krishna to dance into sight

But there was only music to behold

Mermaids serenading him in the depths below

Wayfarers

I came in sheltering from the storm

Cloaked in loneliness

Carrying the pain and sorrow of a lifetime

Soulless, loveless and barren of thought

I called out to the wilderness surrounding me

You heard my wailing in the hills

And came to my door holding out your lips

For me to caress and your arms to rest

You left behind a warm home of love and children

Opening your self for me to enter

To hide my aching heart and dry my tears on your lips

You too cried in joy as we became one

Days have passed and with it many joys

Lying in each other’s arms resting our souls

Hiding from realities of living

Clutching desperately to the belief that things will work out

Sadly nothing remains the same

Time changes and so do people

Are we just wayfarers meeting between lives?

Or lovers destined to be apart?

Kuta Blues

Watching Kuta sunset, hues across the sky

Cascading like his thoughts fading into twilight

He had come to know the wonders of paradise

That could destroy his soul instead of giving it life.

Sunrises and sunsets, blessings in the cosmic trance

Of memories and joys dissolving into the dark

He frantically reached out to grasp the love

Waiting in the clouds above and wonders of a childhood’s end.

But he found to his dismay spirits riding the waves

Sending messages of farewell of goodbye kisses and reminiscences

He strode the shore through the night gasping for breath, a hint of life

Hiding beneath the foreboding waves

Beckoning him to another hell.

She saw him walking by the sea entranced by the lonely scene

She held him by the hand and asked, stranger what make thee

He looked at her and saw himself through the darkness and torment.

She placed her palms on his face

To calm the rising anguish

Whispering thoughts of belonging

Of love and longing, and yes pain again.

The night began to day bringing with it all the joys of yesterdays

But for them there was no sign

Except for the bloody knife.

Farewell

She said good bye today

Wiping away his joys and hope

A small message by her phone

Passing through the ether waves.

He looked to the sky and wondered why

The love she brought and took away

Made him feel so sad once more

Of being deserted again and again.

Mother, he cried, carry me away

From all this sorrow and pain

To a quiet haven faraway

Where joy and love were alive again.

The night descended across the sea

Darkening the land and he

To the sound of temple bells

On the shores of Gethsemane.

He quietly left to search the land

For love and lust and hope again

He found it in a gutter by

Whimpering, hurt and a terrible fright.

Now she has become a part of him

A little creature called sin

Licking pawing and whining for joy

Bringing him back to life again.

Sisters of Mercy

(A dedication to Gwen and Nia)

I came into your life like an abscess on your gums.
Bringing a host of uncertainties
of love, life and whatchamaycallit
the cigar smoke, the whisky and
complaints of a lifetime.

I stayed in your home
bitching and crying

weeping and laughing
to the tune of my own voice.

The change of seasons, the rain
and the wind howling outside
brought with it a joy of belonging
of being accepted with all the iniquities
carried from Bardez to Wales.

The food smelt of love,
the writing of hope
and the wine of forbidden
sex to the sound of Cohen.

Nothing, nothing was more pure
than the sisters who showed their mercy,
placing their soothing palms on my troubled soul.

I shall carry this wherever I go,
remembrance of the joy of having
been loved and cared for and
never being forsaken by true friends.

Wherever you are today
nestling between someone’s thighs
yearning for the ultimate joy
keep this blessing close to your heart
for your karma can do you no wrong.

Life Sentence

She was marooned

Eight degrees south of the Equator

In a life devoid of love

Scampering between beds

And men and hell

Furiously searching for herself.

She had come to this isle

Thinking it was paradise

To absolve her from the past

And start a life anew.

In days she found a man to hold

In innocence to make a whole

And children did she tried to beget

To the silence of dying hopes.

Years have gone by with the tides

Now she sits by the riverside

Crying for her lost soul

Floating down to sea.

She wants to begin her life once more

To the sound of what she knows

For though she was born free

Still she imprisons herself.

Strangers on the Shore

He held her close so she could feel

The fears and tears on the stranger’s cheeks

He swallowed hard and spoke aloud

To the quiet rippling waters

and the moonlit dhows.

She looked at him for she could feel

The fading beats in his breast

She kissed his lips and tasted life

Ebbing from his side.

Stranger, she said, I will love you forever

While gently stroking his thighs

Forever, he said in a dying breath

No, there is no forever.

He kissed her forehead and bade farewell

Turned his back and went.

Alone she stood on the moonlit shore

Gazing at the stars afloat

And with a heavy sigh

Walked into the waters by.

Full Moon

She called him to say goodbye

Nonchalantly uttering the words

The passing traffic drowning out her voice

Trembling he put down the phone

In the distance drums are beating

Cries and shouts in the air

Of ceremonies of the lunatics

Maidens dancing to rhythm of the night

The full moon is up readying itself

Casting shadows in darkened doorways

Waking up the slumbering souls

To another twist of fate

She was the big little woman

The goodbye girl lost within herself

Tasting the moonbeams on his lips

Then moving on to another life

The ethereal light wrapped him in joy

Returning the wayward spirits of the past

Igniting the night with fireflies

That carried his soul away

Hawkeye’s view of America

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Where else, but from the industrialized world, did the suicide hijackers learn that huge explosions and death above a city skyline are a peculiar and effective form of communication? They have mastered the language. They understand that the use of disproportionate violence against innocents is a way to make a statement.

We leave the same calling cards.

– Chris Hedges, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

The name of the person I met has been changed to Hawkeye, the protagonist from The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper.

Recently I met a Native American at a small café on Sanur Beach who asked me if I was Spanish.

“Indian, with a Spanish grandmother,” I replied.

“And I am Cherokee, another kind of Indian,” he said.

We both laughed.

“So what are you doing here, my friend?” I asked.

“Hawkeye, they call me. I’m on the last leg of a trip around Southeast Asia and will be returning to New York tomorrow.”

I prodded him to share his views and opinions as a Native American on America and the upcoming presidential election, and he graciously obliged.

The ensuing discussion between us has been written in first person narrative for the sake of brevity and coherency.

We were colonized by people from Europe and later by the slaves they brought with them. They took away our lands and put us in reservations like animals.

Our victory at the Battle of the Little Big Horn and the massacre of Native Indians at Wounded Knee by the US Cavalry confirms what Plato said – Only the dead see the end of war.

The foundation of this great nation has been based on war. War with us. War between themselves. War with other nations. And if there is no battle to join, they often create or instigate one.

In the 90s, a government think tank came out with a document on the New World Order. Interestingly it states that Americans wouldn’t accept a war with another nation barring a Pearl Harbor-type event. Ironically, this is what happened on 9/11.

I admit I voted for Bush. I also bought the propaganda and joined in the chorus and frenzied chants – Let’s get the f…ers. The “enemy” was not a regular army, so invading a country like Iraq made sense. Americans could see the “enemy” and “feel good” about the horrors inflicted on them. Revenge had to be seen to be done even if the facts were manufactured or fudged. Ignorance of an ancient culture and its religion were self-evident when Bush declared a “crusade.”

I quote Chris Hedges: “Once we sign on for war’s crusade, once we see ourselves on the side of angels, once we embrace a theological or ideological belief system that defines itself as the embodiment of goodness and light, it is a matter of how we will carry out murder.”

We have created a bloody mess in Iraq. And despite of our best efforts at using our soldiers as cannon fodder, Afghanistan continues to roll out more Taliban and large quantities of heroin.

Let us not forget that we are the only country to have used nuclear weapons in war and that, too, on civilians; we have liberally sprayed Agent Orange (a deadly toxic defoliant) on Vietnamese and committed atrocities on them and elsewhere under the delusion of promoting, preserving or even enforcing democracy.

So naturally with these “war games” follows “collateral damage”; suffocating and intrusive homeland security – the Patriot Act, etc.; most of which are invasions into our civil rights enshrined in our constitution. The government has gone one step further by the signing, in May 2007, of a presidential directive that gives the President dictatorial powers in the event of a national emergency. The document itself is ambiguous and leaves room for misinterpretation.

I fondly remember in the 60s Abbie Hoffman, one of the Chicago Seven, who proposed a freedom that bordered on anarchy. He is also the author of Steal this Book and Woodstock Nation. Abbie believes that people have to take care of each other, their families, relatives and friends. That the government is not God and its role should be limited in society.

Today the growing involvement of the state in the private lives of its citizens is a disturbing trend. Read the book The Rise of the Fourth Reich by Jim Marrs, and you will understand what I am talking about; the purpose of laws being enacted is to encroach upon civil liberties on the pretext that there exists an enemy within. Maybe this is another planned move towards a form of benign totalitarianism.

And so amid the sound of gunfire and “the smell of napalm in the morning,” our hysterical media is taking sides in the upcoming presidential election.

On one side we have Obama, the much-touted first black presidential hopeful whose mentor is Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s former national security advisor, who holds the distinction of setting up the Afghan Mujaheddin Network that later formed the Taliban, which shelters Al Qaeda. And on the other side, John McCain, a former guest at the Hanoi Hilton that offered room service torture. He does not qualify as president for peace because he has been quite candid about the duration of the Iraq war, affirming he would support it even if it carried on for 100 years.

Obama, in my opinion, appears to be well groomed by powerbrokers seeking to create a JFK illusion or model for the people. Maybe Obama will play along like JFK did until he is elected, then change course. Incidentally, when JFK became president, he appointed his brother Bobby to take on organized crime. He also made noises about doing away with the Federal Reserve. His life was snuffed out, and so was Bobby’s.

We are aware that the path to the next presidential election is booby-trapped with disinformation. But there is no other option for Americans because the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King are dead and buried along with what they represented. We have to make it work with and through Obama.

However, in our zeal to elect Obama, we must not overlook the questions raised by ordinary citizens. Obama must answer them.

1.What have you done for the American people at home, so far? (And we are not talking about high-voltage combat zones across the world).

2.Who are the people who stand behind you – the kingmakers?

3.Will you repeal the Patriot Act and other laws that infringe on civil liberties?

4.Will you stop creating and conducting wars and begin looking after your own people’s welfare: healthcare, housing, jobs?

The bitter pill that all Americans have to swallow every day is that their nation is financially and, more importantly, spiritually bankrupt by cultural arrogance, burgeoning corrupt business practices and a political system fast losing its ethics and integrity.

Probably the time is nigh when Native Americans must rise up to help the descendants of the colonizers to rediscover the meaning of peace, love, truth, honor, moral values which they seem to have misplaced. And when this happens, the long-awaited non-violent Second American Revolution will come, bringing with it an avalanche of peace and prosperity for all who reside in America.

Hopefully Obama will be the catalyst.

Our earnest prayer is that we live to see this day.

The evening ended with two Indians departing for home – one to a nation bleeding from war and on the threshold of redemption and the other to the serenity of Balinese religiosity.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

With you, for you, always – Bali Tourist Police

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The author  wishes to thank the police personnel of the Bali Tourist Police, Kuta and in particular: AIPTU I Wayan Wira, BRIPKA Yuni Rahayu, AIPDA I Nyoman Sudata and AIPTU Ayu Mulyati for their kind assistance.

We’re all going on a summer holiday
No more working for a week or two
Fun and laughter on a summer holiday
No more worries for me and you
For a week or two

We’re going where the sun shines brightly
We’re going where the sea is blue
We’ve seen it in the movies
Now let’s see if it’s true

Everybody has a summer holiday
Doing things they always wanted to
So we’re going on a summer holiday
To make our dreams come true
For me and you

-Cliff Richard, Summer Holiday

Holidays can be a life changing experience especially if one is either raped or had money/belongings stolen. The Bali Times has often carried reports of tourists losing their belongings to tricksters prowling the streets of Kuta.

Tourists are flocking to Bali like never before. The good times are rolling once again. And with these good times come a number of undesirables who prey on the unsuspecting holidaymakers.

Just the other day while lounging with a few Kuta Cowboys on Kuta beach discussing the pros and cons of whether marriage is an acceptable option if a single woman became  pregnant we were interrupted by a uniformed policeman who sat down next to us. He was an officer of the Bali Tourist Police. I struck up a conversation with him and before I knew it we were on our way to the Post to meet the officer in charge.

The Police Post is a short walk from Macdonald’s towards the Legian beach hotel. Arriving at the office I was offered a Bali Kopi and introduced to AIPTU I Wayan Wira. The unassuming chap was most helpful when I enquired about the work that he and his staff are doing. He told me that their job covered the following:

01.    Giving information to tourists about legal, medical and other services.
02.    To guard tourist areas.
03.    To track down and arrest any criminals masquerading as tourists.
04.    To cooperate with tourists and help them in the event of an accident/theft/murder/problem with hotels etc.

Not convinced that this list covered everything I requested Wayan Wira to give me a more detailed dos and don’ts for all tourists and expats living on the island. This is what he had to say.

01.    There have been instances where persons hiring out scooters/motorcycles/cars to tourists have asked for their passport as security. This should not be done. Instead a photocopy of the same would suffice.
02.    Anyone hiring a vehicle must have an international driving license.
03.    When transacting business at a Money Changer one must check the amount received. There are cases where people have been cheated because the Rupiah 10,000 note and the Rupiah 100,000 look quite similar. Once the victim has left the premises there is little the police can do.
04.    When using a taxi please write down the taxi number and the driver’s name. This would help in the event any belongings have been left behind in the car or if the driver has overcharged you.
05.    When using an ATM ensure no one else is in the booth. Don’t forget to take your ATM card out of the machine. Tourists have been known to sometimes leave their card behind in the machine. The result being a forgone conclusion – theft.
06.    In the past pickpockets operated with impunity on the beach. Nowadays with the arrest of the ringleaders crime in this area has come down drastically. In spite of this Wayan suggests one should not leave one’s belongings unattended for even a minute.
07.     Drunkenness is a common feature with over indulgent tourists. Prostitutes operating in various places single out these people and befriend them. It is only the following morning that the person realizes that his wallet/passport and other precious belongings have been pilfered.
08.    Any persons trying to sell drugs to you should be reported to the police immediately. Please don’t be afraid of reporting such instances.  The police have special squads to quickly act on such information and to apprehend the dealers. You will be protected by the police.
09.    Do not accept cigarettes, food or drink from strangers. In a restaurant don’t leave an unattended drink on the table while going to the toilet. Unscrupulous people are known to put substances in your drink to drug you and then rob you.
10.    Get a local cell phone number so that it is easier and cheaper to communicate with the police.
11.    Please keep the following telephone numbers of the Bali Tourist Police with you while traveling in Bali:

Kuta Tourist Police Post
Jalan Pantai Kuta
(0361) 7845988

Sanur Tourist Police Post
BK3S Post, Jalan Danau Tamblingan
(next to Bali Hyatt Hotel, Sanur)
(0361) 8531960

Nusa Dua Tourist Police Post
Bundaran Tugu Mandala Kawasan BTDC Nusa Dua
(0361) 7442622

Ngurah Rai Airport Tourist Police
Airport Police Sector Ngurah Rai
(0361) 751 023

Tourist Assistance Centre
Bali Regional Police
(0361) 224111

The tourist police who speak English have been known to help tourists who have had problems with hotels, tour operators and transport agents.

Jason (name changed), a first time tourist, spoke to me on Kuta Beach about how he was grossly overcharged by a nearby hotel despite the fact that the room rate was confirmed via email to him prior to his arrival in Bali. The hotel went so far as to seize his luggage. Jason reported the matter to the Tourist Police who acted promptly in releasing his luggage and ensuring that the hotel abided by the rate agreed by email.

So whether you are on Kuta beach, at the airport or sunbathing anywhere in Bali you’re rights as a tourist are protected. All you have to do in the event of an unforeseen problem arising is to call The Bali Tourist Police and they will sort things out for you.

In the words of Wayan Wira, “People are known to take short cuts by attempting to bribe officials or police personnel. This is very dangerous. It could lead to more complications. If anyone has a problem while traveling in Bali please call us we will help and guide you. We are with you, for you, always – as our motto is Safety First for All Tourists – domestic or foreign”.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

Soliloquy

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When I first arrived in Bali it appeared to be just like any other island with its beaches and beautiful people. Months later traversing the hinterland I have had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful and interesting individuals; confronted with customs that were alien to me; eaten food that I would have never eaten; and above all enjoyed every moment talking to the Balinese and attempting to comprehend their way of life. For example the Balinese artist, Wayan Tuntara, who had appeared out of thin air when I had parked my jeep near Batur, to hawk his paintings. I felt sorry for the bloke riding around on his two-wheeler with his brains pickled by the sun. I bought a small painting that depicted topless women cultivating cabbage and onions at the foot of the Batur volcano. Looking closely at the miniature painting it gradually dawned on me that the Balinese do not have any pretensions or hang-ups when sexuality is discussed or shown. There is an underlying innocence and acceptance that is truly enlightening for one who has arrived from the land of the Kamasutra. I wish I could take Wayan to Khajuraho in India to view the large erotic cave sculptures for inspiration; Playboy centre spreads pale in comparison to them.

Oh well, another day in paradise, another experience to share with you. Did I tell you about my trip to Amed where I spent two glorious nights under the full moon? The unplanned sojourn was over a weekend. I stayed at Wawawewe (in Balinese it means – like this like that). The balding Rastafarian Made, who is the proprietor of the hotel, had a perpetual grin on his face. Initially I mistook it for dementia but then realised he was in a perpetual state of exhilaration. Saturday night at Wawawewe 1 café was made up of a live band, gyrating local and expat hipsters with lots of Arak thrown in. The “throbbing musical evening” commenced with the band playing songs in slow motion! But as the evening wore on everyone was on the dance floor swinging to “welcome to my paradise”. Even the pet dogs were on the dance floor. The next morning saw the fishing boats returning with their catch and landing on the beach where the hotel is situated. Buying eight fresh mackerel for ten thousand Rupiah made me wonder as to how these fisher folk existed on such meagre earnings. Their catches were quite small but the dignity with which their held themselves was truly inspiring. Putu, the head cook and bottle washer, served us breakfast of fried fish and rice with a large dose of potent sambal.

Some weeks ago in Ubud, I came across a small warung that Warwick Purser had told me about. From Campuhan Bridge it’s a short walk up the steep road that leads to Penestan. Mendez, who has given the warung his name, is an unassuming chap. He cooked up some duck, chicken, ox tail stew and lots of other goodies. The rates are very low and so is the lighting that gives it a rustic feel. Thank you Warwick for the tip and whenever you are in Ubud please be my guest at Warung Mendez!

When in Kuta visit Nyoman’s food stall that is opposite McDonald on the beach. She offers succulent green thinly sliced mango liberally sprinkled with rock salt and a good helping of chilli paste. It costs just five thousand Rupiah and while you’re eating it Kadek will give you a pedicure for a small fee. I term the chilli paste an after burner because the after effects are only felt the following morning.

Psst…Did you know that there are Kuta Cowgirls lurking around? Watch this space next issue…will introduce you to Karlina, an ace surfer.

Enough about food and cowgirls let’s change the topic from eating birds or whatever to watching them with Victor Mason. This English gentleman is the epitome of all that is good about the English. He walks bare foot around Ubud with the air of a distinguished local. He is one of the few remaining expats of the ‘70s who has survived the onslaught of rampant tourism and maintained a healthy respect for local customs. The Bird Walk that he took me on was quite eventful what with us bumping into two startled snakes and a large spider. The birds spotted were few; Egrets, Swallows and Munias. Victor did mention that even the birds had their off day. On our return from the walk we had lunch at Murni’s. I tucked into the Indian Pork Vindaloo smothered in chillies while Victor sipped his beer and listened to Acker Bilk’s Stranger on the Shore. By the way he was keen to know how the picture of him dressed in drag, holding a chain and standing outside Nuri’s got into the July issue of Hello Bali. He explained his dress code saying that it was probably on Valentine’s Day this year when the Hash House Harriers organised a run for the men who dressed up as women for a lark. Doesn’t this give a whole new meaning to cross-dressing?

On a lighter note have you visited Fly Café in Ubud? The logo is of a fly, the T-shirts, menu etc. has fly this fly that. It’s not a bad idea naming a restaurant after a flying insect. Wonder how this café will fare if it opened in India? Hummm… I suggest that someone open a restaurant opposite the Fly Café and call it Swatter. Thankfully the food served at Fly is excellent with no flies in it.

Another day east of Eden, tomorrow is yet to come.

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Where does one begin to unravel the past? Do I speak of education in college. Or, of the professional work I have done? It’s confusing living life as it is to commence a story that most of us are not really interested in! Suffice to say I have been in the wilderness for many years spanning continents, friends and the odd lie. The buck stops here on this site. Today the truth begins, anthology of a life worn by the myriad faces of the past scurrying for an identity. Patience with me dear reader. Humour me. I need your attention and views. Write in when you have read what I have written and share the life within you and teach me how to be a better human being. 

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