The extra bits...(Under construction).

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Managing the Black Dog I.....

 Part 1 of a series of short posts on how I am trying to manage and live with depression....   

      Ahh you're back, well please do take a seat because I have an admission that may well shock you, stun you and probably leave you a little bit amazed..... "I have faults"...there I've said it and though you may very well be, at this moment, trying to understand the ramifications of this most startling of admissions I am afraid the cat is well and truly out of the bag and there is not a snowball's chance in Hades of getting fluffy back into his canvas holdall!

     As regular readers may know (there must be some? any?well just one? please!) I have fought a constant battle with depression or as I term it here upon occasion 'the Black Dog' over several years now. My struggle with this dark bitch has been just that, a constant struggle that at times has caused me to lose my way and flounder through life like a de-masted schooner in a angry tempest off the Cape of Good Hope, sometimes at the top of a wave I see salvation whilst other times I find myself at the bottom of a trough with nought but darkness around and within me. Now you may well be wondering what this has to do with my earlier admission that I am not completely perfect and there is the odd fault contained within myself. Well some of my faults, yes I do have more than one fault, I feel are a direct result of depression whilst others have served to only compound my depression. 

     Tis hard, I think, for the majority of people to be truthful about their shortcomings and when asked to list them folk just generally brush off the request with light hearted banter and remarks such as "I'm really poor at getting up early" or "I sing badly in the shower" and the like. But I have found that as I am slowly beginning to 'manage' my depression a little better that one thing that helps is to actually admit to my faults, firstly to myself and then sometimes to others whom are directly affected by them. 

    So how has this worked for me? Well I will try to explain as best as I can without the use of too much Anglo Saxon (well that's buggered it already). One of my faults is my impulsiveness to take on a project, task or the like when I already have a thousand and one other things on the go. The usual result of this is for me to either not complete said projects, tasks or ideas or to finish some off but to a totally, for me, unsatisfactory level which then leads to me berating myself and becoming disillusioned with myself. In other words I start down the path of not feeling good enough which then can be one of the triggers that allows the Black Dog to get a hold on me. I think that this particular fault has been part of my makeup since an early age but I have never, until recently, actually admitted it to myself let alone anyone else. But just the simple admission of this flaw has allowed my George and myself now to address it, take stock and actually take action in the form of reducing my 'projects' and the like so that I can be more attentive to a few and make a far better fist of them. So my list of hobbies, if you like, has now become somewhat shorter of late and it consists of simply just walking, fishing, blogging, the aquarium, the garden and my allotment. For me all of these hobbies are conducive to relaxation and they are all pretty much what I would call 'mature hobbies', in that they are now established and require just 'tending'. The Morris Minor is to be sold without a spanner being lifted and a myriad of other, smaller projects, have been either dismissed totally or put on the very, very back burner. The Wendy house workshop will indeed be used but not for massive tasks, no more just for general maintenance tasks as and when required and only one at a time until completed. It is early days yet but all the signs are there that this 'slimming' down of my workload is certainly having a positive effect upon me and allowing my mind to focus on things with a clarity that I have not had since I cannot remember.

     Another fault, or symptom, of mine is one that seems to occur when I am already traveling the downward spiral of depression and that is complete financial mismanagement. I think that I may spend money on items, whether it be for the garden, clothes or 'men's toys' in a subconscious attempt to cheer myself up, to give myself something to look forward to, a buzz if you like. But shortly after buying something I'll be looking to purchase the next 'fix' and before you can say 'Wall street crash' my finances are in a right bloody mess. This also accelerates my the downward spiral in a couple of ways, firstly the burden of being heavily overdrawn adds its own pressures and secondly being in a relationship I have certain financial responsibilities and failing these again adds more pressure to my fragile mental state. But again actually admitting and facing up to this has helped and now, with the help of my George, I have a financial strategy in place that will certainly prevent overspending on frivolous items hence easing more pressure from my mind. 

     I guess what I am trying to say is that one of the steps that you can take to ease life's pressures is to be honest with yourself, discover your flaws and be upfront and admit to them, I feel that is only then you can address them and put a plan of action in place which may well help ease the pressures in your life, something that perhaps most people need not just us happily depressed types. I have only used two of many of my flaws as examples but I hope that you get the gist of what I am trying to say. Until the next time take care....

John the organised...ish.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Land of the Long White Cloud II....

     Ahhh there you are my friend, welcome to my second installment upon our adventures in Aotearoa or New Zealand as the land is more commonly know to most folk. Now to confuse matters I have decided not to follow the 'timeline'  of our adventures but just randomly pick and choose parts of them as the mood takes me. This excerpt takes us to South island and a thought provoking visit to the glacier of Franz Joseph....

       The drive alongside the Southern Alps of Aotearoa along route 6 that follows the west coast of the isle is simply breathtaking with each turn of the road (and there were plenty of turns along it!) opening up jaw dropping vistas that are beyond my humble words to describe.....








     Whilst booking our visit to these fair isles we included a helicopter trip to the top of Franz Joseph glacier thinking what a, forgive the pun, cool idea it would be. Standing in front of the whirling rotors of what seemed a very small and unsubstantial helicopter we both could feel the nerves and rising tension building up within us. I genuinely thought that I'd be clinging on to my beloved George with my fear of heights reducing me a dithering lump of jelly, but surprisingly I enjoyed every second of the trip, even dropping over a hundred feet in the matter of a couple of seconds due to turbulence, what a blast. Unfortunately my better half did not fare so well and as I snapped happily away with my camera I noticed she had gone a very, very pale shade of white, I guess on the next helicopter trip I'll be on my own! As the helicopter flew towards the glacier the power of it could be seen beneath us as its retreat has left the scarred and barren landscape clear for all to appreciate, making me think perhaps this is how Tolkien had envisaged the land of Moria...





     Once we landed on top of the glacier a feeling of disbelief fell upon us, here we were on top of a hugely powerful force of nature, on the other side of the world and drinking in sights that neither of us could ever imagined in our wildest dreams, and I can tell you that I have some pretty wild dreams....ahem enough of that....







     The return was much smoother and I think George was more than relieved about being back on terra firma. By this time she was still very white and a tad shaky so we decided to head off for a hot drink and some goodly, simple fare from one of the roadside cafes in the town. Feeling better we headed out of town and hiked to the face of the glacier to gain a different perspective of it. The route took us through temperate rain forest but become more and more desolate as we neared the glacier...










     After basking in the beautiful yet imposing magnitude of the glacier and its surrounding mountains we turned about and headed back down the trail. As I looked down the route, now in reverse, a thought crossed my usually barren mind....



      At this point the post becomes hijacked in a slightly tangential way by a theme that seems to be running through mine, and several other blogs at the moment about nature and our, as a species, effect upon it. I think many of us are coming to the conclusion that if the human race continues to travel down the road of being a parasite upon this planet instead of finding ways to live harmony within nature then ultimately we will be the architects of our own extinction. But what would happen if this did happen? would nature be able to repair the harm already done? is nature going to be able to repair or recolonise an area if left to its own devices without human interference? In effect, I guess, I'm pondering rewilding again but this time with the absence of human intervention. So what would happen if we just gave a baron, flora and fauna scoured area, the time and space nature needed to repair it and what pattern, if any, would it follow?

     Franz Joseph Glacier starts high up in the 'Southern Alps', as the spine of mountains that divide South island are known, high above the tree line of the temperate rainforest that is such a wonderful and naturally rich feature of the area. 








      But, for whatever the reasons, the glacier has retreated rapidly over the last few decades leaving at first sight a desolate and bare landscape devoid of flora and fauna which seems all the more unwelcoming to flora and fauna as you approach closer to the glacier.....






     But returning from the face of the glacier to walk back down the 'barren' valley subtle changes can be noticed and you begin to realise that as areas of bare rock are exposed by the retreating glacier basic plant life in the forms of mosses and lichens start to colonise and take a foothold upon the exposed rock surfaces....







     .....and as the distance, and hence the time that the land has been left uncovered by the retreating glacier increases, then more developed plants begin to colonise the valley floor and its sides....




     .....and even further away from the glacier time has allowed the first shrub like plants and ferns to take root and establish themselves...




     Further down the trail meaning even more time has elapsed from being the covering of tons of ice the plants begin to spread out further, along with invertebrates, insects and higher animals that have been attracted by the growing carpet of fauna...







     Within a blink of the eye in earth's time scale, but perhaps eons in our own, the glacial scarred boulders start to disappear into what is now becoming a young forest.



 
      As the process continues it begins to accelerate as the increase in flora and fauna produces, by the basic cycle of living, dying and decaying a thick bed of 'soil' enabling trees to take root and so attracting even more wildlife to the area and before long the intricate and intertwined systems of a temperate rain forest hide the scars left by the movement of thousand upon thousand tons of ice and the suspension of grinding rocks and stones the glacier once used to carve out this deep u shaped valley....











      So the answer to whether or nature can repair herself and if rewilding could work is an undoubted yes, and if the truth be told a lot more effectively without man's aid if she is given enough time and the necessary space required.

     I hope you enjoyed this latest leg of our journey through Aotearoa and I do apologise for the slightly soap box part of it.Til the next time take damn good care of yourselfs and those most dear to you,

John whose glass is half full at the moment.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Is 'rewilding' for you?

     The debate for 'rewilding' parts of the british countryside ebbs and flows but only seems to receive national coverage when a perceived threat to humans, livestock etc. becomes a noteworthy tabloid news story. Of late I have taken a keener interest in this subject and I am trying to learn about what it would mean for us and for the wild flora and fauna of our countryside. I have always found wildlife and being surrounded by it a joyful, even perhaps a spiritual  experience of which none of my clumsy words could ever come close in describing but 're-wilding'? WtF?, actually letting packs of rabid wolves or slathering bears run rough shod over our fields and  into our cities? oooh I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth already, it would be akin to throwing a bucket of blood and fish guts around swimmers off Bondi beach and ringing the dinner bell......or would it?

      I guess that my interest was piqued by two things initially, firstly my attempts to turn out newly purchased house's small back desert garden into an area that attracted wildlife (hence the beginning of Compromise Garden twelve months ago) and secondly, at about the same time, I came across this short clip on Youtube .......



                       


     Shortly after my interest was aroused the subject received some national attention which concerned beavers in Scotland and also in the South West of England. After this there was more talk of wolves being introduced into Scotland but then the pro rewilders seemed to be toning it down a tad with talk of fluffy kitty cats (Lynx) perhaps being a more publically acceptable option. Ok perhaps I am not doing either side of the argument for rewilding any justice here but the subject is far from black and white and has many differing views upon it one of which was expressed far better than I could here on a blog post by CountrySide Tales, but I would like to add my thoughts based on the little knowledge I have gleaned upon it so far.

     Firstly there is the general public's reaction to the release of apex predators in our country. There is the usual sensationalism provided by our beloved tabloids:- "Parents tell of horror as fox attacks sleeping baby", "Terrified jogger, 17, attacked by FOX which sank its teeth into her leg escapes by using advice she learned to survive bear attacks" and so on. Yes I agree that an attack by a predator on a child or adult is not something to be taken lightly and must be terrifying for those involved. But how many of you have been bitten or nipped by a dog or scratched by a cat and then had it splashed over the front pages? Only the very worst cases of dog attacks are treated this way and even these far outway the number of fox attacks, but are not our dogs and cats themselves apex or evolved from apex predators? As for the spread of urban foxes we, as a species only have ourselves to blame. A short and interesting article from the New Scientist may be found here which perhaps helps to debunk some of the newspaper hype over urban foxes. So all things being equal how calmly would you think the tabloids would report the release of bear or wolf into our countryside? With as much gusto as the latest B list celeb getting her tits/his dick out at a drunken beach party no doubt!

     I think a problem with our perception of 'wild animals', especially of predators is a general lack of knowledge and education. We still hold on to our primitive fears of tooth, talon and claw dripping with blood and ripping into our flesh but we fail to understand that the earth has been around for millions upon millions of years before we blighted the planet with our selfishness and greed and that the flora and fauna had evolved over this time, weaving itself so intrinsically together and attaining a balance that produced the beautiful and balancing living orb we call Earth. But this orb is a delicate thing and we still do not understand the full effects of the disappearance and extinction of each organism that we cause upon it, only recently are we slowly awaking to the fact that we need nature far more than nature needs us. So yes, I believe that education is needed to open people's eyes to the complexity of the ecological systems that we live amongst and depend upon for our own existence. But I also believe that this parasitic species, called humans, has a population that is exploding out of control and is spreading like a bacterial plaque over this once green and blue orb. You perhaps think I am being a tad over dramatic, perhaps I've not just lost my mind to the 'dog' but also the marbles within have gone walkies? But consider this, look at a picture taken of our planet on its dark side from space and does it not remind you of something? Perhaps a test sample of bacteria in a lab glass?...




     And then there are the practicalities of rewilding such as where? when? how? etc. Groups lobbying for are now turning their attention to something more cuddly than a slathering wolf of rabid grizzly bear, a little pussy cat known as the European Lynx...aahhhh how cute....


     Oops perhaps not as cute as you first thought...



       But that's the point of rewilding after all the clue is in part of the name rewilding. Most advocates seem to be in favour of introducing rewilding into the Scottish highlands where there still relatively large expanses of thinly populated and open ground. There are already projects underway to try and expand areas such as what remains of the ancient Caledonian forest that once covered much of Scotland but one obstacle  to encouraging  woodland to grow anew is the marauding and savage packs of.....deer apparently. The idea, as I understand it, is to introduce apex predators to keep the deer from overgrazing certain areas by keeping them on the move, much as the wolves did in Yellowstone. Would the cuddly Lynx be up too such a task? I am not too sure but I do think they will at least make herds of deer skittish and more unlikely remain in one area for too long, the Lynx is a predator worthy of some respect weighing in up to a healthy 30kg for a large male. Also the European Lynx apparently favours deer in its diet but will take a wide assortment of prey including sheep. Ah sheep, which means livestock, which means money, which means somebody has to pay. As was the case when White tailed Eagles were reintroduced to Scotland some sort of compensation is being talked about if, or more likely when, sheep fall prey to the Lynx.

     And what if apex predators are introduced? How far will they spread if successful? Will they attack humans? What will happen to domestic pets when out on the trails? How will they be monitored? and finally the question the greedy always ask...what will we get out of it? So the question of rewilding is a huge minefield of ifs and buts, with greed always in the background and short sighted concerns in the majority of people's minds. Now I expect you think that I am bestow upon you some great wisdom either for or against rewilding but I am sorry to disappoint you but I have no answers to the million and one concerns and questions on both side of the debate. 

      For me though the answer is very simple and that is to introduce Lynx back into the wild amongst other measures to turn vast tracts of land wild once more. If we are to survive as a race I firmly believe that we need to reinstate the natural balance and order in our world before it is too late and the world decides to make one more species extinct....us. I hope to learn more on the effects of rewilding and its practicalities on our small, over populated isles and with in mind I have volunteered my services for a week in September working to help improve the Caledonian forest that I spoke of earlier in an attempt to see first hand what it all entails. So with a limited knowledge but a thirst for more I am more than open to your opinions upon rewilding and any more info from either side of the coin is openly welcome.

Oh and finally two posts in a day from moi? well to be honest I have been home from work vomiting away quite merrily today and both posts were already half written so to pass the time between toilet visits I've added some more then scheduled em so they didn't appear at the same time and confuse you. By the time this one comes online I will hopefully snoring me bonce off. Til the next time take care.

John with the dicky tummy.