Embrace Life

So I’m writing this when I’m in much conflict with myself and so I’m not sure if I’m writing this to vent or to give a message, maybe its a bit of both.

On Friday 6th of April I attended my Niece’ pass off parade into the British Army, surrounded by my brother in law & sister and other family members we watched her troop and two others, accompanied by the Band of the Royal Logistics Corps, the pride that we all felt I am sure has got to the point where it is now indescribable, for me anyway. But for my brother in-law, sister, and my other niece and nephew it must have made them extremely proud to watch my niece and God daughter who I once cradled in my arms on a hot summers day in November 1994 in Zimbabwe on their wedding day, combined with niece’ Christening – she is now all grown up and turned into a great young lady who, as an uncle I have always been very proud of and I would be, whatever she had decided to pursue. But now she is a soldier in one of the best Armies in the world, a soldier and watching her pass off and marching to the sound of the band of the RLC was incredible.

Now everyone who knows me knows I was once on my way to joining the British Army in 2006, where I attended my Army Presentation at an Army Careers Information Office (ACIO) not far from where I live. As I am from a family of infantrymen that is what I decided on, the regiment I decided on is the oldest English line regiment but sadly it did not happen for me. As a Commonwealth applicant I faced some bureaucratic issues but for a number of years  I did not let this stop me and I even went as high as the Secretary of Recruiting for the regiment and a friend of mine even offered to try enlist the help of the then (now late) Colonel of the Regiment who was a personal friend of his but after a few years I realised that this was the British Army I was dealing with and no matter how hard I tried, in the words of the then Secretary of Recruiting it is embroiled in red tape that I cannot go under, around or over and I guess this is what makes it the professional entity it is. I cannot hold the Army or the government at fault for my entry having been unsuccessful and never have – I at least got as far as just before my British Army Recruiting Battery (BARB) test before I could not proceed.

Prior to the pass off parade my brother in law & I were sitting at a table and he went ‘this could have been you bud’ and then after the parade my sister went ‘are you gutted this didn’t happen for you?’ Yes, I always was but for the last couple of years I thought that “guttedness” was gone but as I was aiming to be infantry rather than trade my basic training would have been 26 weeks at the Infantry Training Centre (ITC) on a 26 week Combat Infantryman’s Course (CIC) rather than at an ATC (Army Training Centre). For a number of years I was gutted as it was a dream I had as a child that I lost somewhere along the way and it was a little too late when I realised that it was still what I wanted. The timing was right as I was in my mid-twenties, so in my opinion the right time and it was only paperwork that stood in my way, even though the standard entry recruits would have been six/seven years my junior but I had plans for my career which I drew out at a time when I studied everything I could for my intended future, which sadly didn’t go according to plan. But, as I said I hold no one or anything accountable for my actions (or inaction) but myself.

Life:

In life there is no secret remedy, we don’t have a hard reset button, no time machine, no Delorean, no little blue phone box, no magic pill. We create our own present and future, we create the world around us and in that time we all need to remember that this is one life we have been given that we need to live, we have one shot and it is up to us and our actions how that future is dictated, whether we choose to be a soldier, whether we choose to be a doctor, a lawyer, a firefighter, police officer; whatever we choose it is up to us how we use that time and we should use it wisely because we cannot go back and change things, as much as we want to sometimes – reality dictates otherwise.

Pro’s & Cons of Not Being Able to Change Time:

The biggest con this has taught me is living with the fact that being a soldier is engrained in me, it is something that will never change inside of me and I will always click with soldiers and officers alike, no matter how much I think it has gone from me (because I did think it was until Friday) but more important than that, the pro’s that is the people and the friends that have come and stayed in my life and that is irreplaceable, like losing out on a great career. In that time the best thing that has happened to me is the friends I have made in that time, this is the best substitute and that is one thing I will never change for the world and as I am set as an infantryman and still being willing to give my life for Queen & country and the freedom of our democracy I would not change the people who have come into my life. One such person has come into my life and when I think about my relationship there I also think about the Army and that person comes first before the Army, every time. I couldn’t change that for the world.

The Greatest Lesson to Learn from This:

Live your life and live it to the best of your ability and doing what your heart wants and remembering you have one shot, there is nothing that will change it so make it count, give it your best shot so that one day you do not have to look back and hold regret. Live, love and be happy. You have one shot, make it count. You are your own sniper and your target is life, every single bullet counts.

 

Photography and Psychology.

I don’t really classify myself as a great photographer, not even remotely average but I like to dabble, I guess I’m just one of those stereotypical hobbyists who dreams but never really accomplishes anything great. I use my iPhone and recently downloaded a great app, ProCam5 (click here) which all you elite iPhone photography experts and photographers who use your iPhone as a trusty companion to your Canon or Nikon will either know or know of. The closest I’ve got to owning a pretty decent DSLR was a Nikon D3200 which a friend bought me with the standard VRII lens kit (now discontinued since there are now newer, much more impressive models on the market with better ease of function and other VERY cool functions. I sadly had to let that Nikon go due to something that was going on in my life at the time and had to get rid of it in a long painful story which could have changed my life for the better which seems to have affected me in the long term but they do say time is a healer. Lets not dilly dally on that though as the focus of this blog is photography and psychology – interesting mix but I am more a photographer than a psychologist, still an interesting over-lap between the two.

I have a number of friends who are much more talented than I am, we are mostly Nikon fans but another friend of mine who is a well established, successful wedding photographer is a Canon man (I know, we all can’t be perfect, right. I jest) but anyway, when it comes to photography I like landscape photography but we all have different interests in what our eye catches. Some it’s landscape, others it’s people, others its buildings etc. Another friend of mine from Hungary is also a fan of landscape photography and yesterday he took a photo and his caption in Hungarian was “current mood”. It was a stunning photo — black & white of a fallen tree across the river where I live. It pictured the mood brilliantly where there was only solitude and a single tree.

That then made me think of one of my photos that I took in February, was a fairly warm winters day, a few weeks  prior to the “Beast from the East”, that the UK keeps getting hit by. The view on its own as it was to the human eye was beautiful but as a storm was raging in the distance I felt a storm in side of me raging. And whilst there were black clouds in front of me, on my back the sun was shining on the grass. I decided to edit via Photoshop Express and below was the final result…

So with all this in mind isn’t it incredible how our love of photography can reflect our mood, it can reflect our mood perfectly, or terribly – depending on how you see it.

Anyway folks – here’s an excercise for all you who love photography, whether its just looking at photographs or shooting. The next time you see a friends or family members photo, caption or not attached to that photo try engage with the piece of work, note every detail down – the sky, the objects, the colour and then try gauge the mood that photo was taken under. My reason for this is I think when the majority of us look at a photo we think how stunning it is, but I don’t think we analyse the photo. I’m not particularly in the best of moods today so my photos would probably all be darkish but I sure think that would be a great exercise for us all.

Writers block, What Is It?

So I have decided to tackle the ever asking question “what is writers block?” In the dictionary writers block is defined as “the condition of being unable to write or how to proceed with writing:

However, in my opinion and as a writer who has been suffering from writers block for quite some time and unable to tend to the books I have started writing in the past I am not sure its as simple as that. And so, that definition is wrong, either that or it has not been defined properly. Most people who suffer from writers block are already accomplished writers and even authors but something has triggered that block. Many of us know how to proceed but the will to proceed is what counts.

A few nights ago I went out with two friends of mine and one of them said to me that he didn’t understand writers block, now with the other two of us who write fairly consistently, me in the term of blogging, more so than tending to my books and the other being a content writer for his business both understand writers block in our definition. I personally do not believe that writers block can be defined as one thing. I think it is a phrase that depends very much on the writer, their definition of it and how they may be blocked. For instance, me, myself and I…

I have inherited my fathers writing genes and the first creative piece which was read in assembly at my primary school in Zimbabwe was from a dream I had had and at school I turned that dream into a mini-story and enhanced on it and added twists…then that was that. A few years later into my teens I started writing a novel which starts off in the Belgian-Congo during the uprising between 1960 – 1964. Some time later I lost what I had started of that manuscript but in all that time I kept the beginning in my mind. But not only that, I started another book which is set in modern day Montana in the United States which starts in Seattle in Washington State for that I have done comprehensive research from  agricultural, meteorological, historical, geographical and legal research. Sadly though, I do feel I am at a point where I need hands on research. I have also fairly recently started writing another novel which is set in modern day Zimbabwe of which I won’t discuss the ins and outs of as this piece I might definitely shelve as the future of Zimbabwe now looks like it might just be a very different and better future than the one I had in my mind when I started writing it. However, when it comes to writing I cannot proceed, I know what I want to write and how I want to write it but the motivation and the imagination I cannot muster. Now those who know me know I have a passion for equestrianism, they know I have a passion for horses and believe in the bond between man and horse, I have always got inspiration while on horseback or just spending time with horses – riding through the bush pretending I am in the Wild West and being a regular African cowboy and putting my horse in full gallop or herding cattle. Or just an easy moonlight ride where there is nothing but you, the horse, the sounds of the night, the stars, the moon. That to me enhances the imagination and was often inspired to write while riding.

So anyway, my one friend asks me how or why am I blocked. A question of the ages, yet quite simply answered – for me there is no imagination. I feel like I have no one or anything to share my heart with and that is where I believe writers block starts. It starts in the heart because that is where your creativity comes from, whatever you are writing or painting that is where it comes from – it starts in your heart, it starts with your passion and then it moves to your mind. One thing I have always believed is that if you do not write with your heart you will not produce anything of substance. And so when you feel no heart what you usually tend to write is not there – thus if you have no heart, there is no mind. Nothing in the heart, there can be nothing in the mind. For instance, the best poems I have ever written were a couple of years ago, material I have destroyed but the words are inside me because I was inspired by how I felt and how I was feeling.

But what is ones person of writers block is not the definition – the definition is defined by the writer. I for one feel empty, I feel like I have nothing inside to write for and so as such my stories sit in my cloud storage facility gathering cyber-dust and this to me is what writers block is. There is nothing to write for from the heart.

What I have found works for me in the past is reading what I have written and then taking it from there. Although there was once a time when I could sit and write and write without any disturbance. Perhaps one day I will find that part again but it is definitely all about your heart and it being in the right place.

And so, if you are suffering from writers block don’t push it, don’t try and force it but have a look see whats in your heart and take it from there…

Kis For Your Dog

*MWAH* – who doesn’t fancy a good ol’ snog, though I have not had one in a very long time and do not see me doing so anytime in the foreseeable future due to decisions I have made, but even though romance is a big thing this post is not what that is about – so I have deliberately missed out the double “s” due to a concept I have come up with on basic training of your furry companion. K I S for your dog, “keep it simple”…in that I refer to training your best K9 companion, but not the more complicated ideal such as protection training…the simple little things like stop, heel, sit, stay, lie down, kennel and the ever important “come here” and no. Obedience training is inherently important. Like teaching your kid…unless you are unfortunately one of those kind of parents who believes in letting your child get away with blue murder??? Not literally.

Although the above photo is of an MWD (military working dog) and is either about to commence or has just completed his/her “Hot Sauce” (basically attack training for the unaware civi) training but that is for the more advanced training and for the dog owner/handler who wants to put their dog through protection training. Which, in this day in age is important, especially for a wife who is at home with kids and with the amount of…well, (how to keep this as entirely politically correct as possible without upsetting the insanely political correct?) crazies out there…how politically correct is that not? Anyway, protection training for your dog IS important and it should be considered by any husband who is at work or away from home a lot and his wife and kids are on their own, or even for a woman who is single. Take it under consideration. I know if I wanted to go down that route I would. Short of that buy your wife (or yourself if you’re a woman on your own) a small handgun and buy her (yourself) skill at arms training (provided you live in a country that allows you to own a personal firearm and have a carry concealed permit). Damn, I have gone off on a tangent on protection training…right, back on track…

Anyway, I am avoiding the more advanced training and sticking to the basic dog training. I do not consider myself a qualified dog handler or trainer but I have enough experience with dogs to know what I am doing when  it comes to basic dog training and this is important for anyone wanting to invest in their K9 buddy because that K9 buddy will turn out to be more loyal than most humans are.

In Zimbabwe my mother had a black Labrador puppy, an adorable chap known as Nero and because I had experience from teaching myself my own very basic methods to my own dogs in the past (a Great Dane and a German Shepherd cross…I have NO idea) she asked me to train him. Knowing that training also breeds loyalty I advised her that she train him with me so there was no confusion for him as to who he belonged to but she refused and because I had already fallen in love with Nero I took to training him knowing how it would turn out, it was inevitable and so I went around teaching him the basics…simply and sure enough, he became mine…and so, here I was. I had a dog called Nero, a cat that I got when I was nine years old that I named Bagheera, after the black panther in Jungle Book and a horse which I inherited called Beauty (a dark bay named by his previous owner and mentioned in this piece).

What I have noticed is the amount of people who invest in their trusty, adorable K9 buddy…that investment is however monetary but not time and then they have a hard time controlling their dog in later years when it is grown up. Sure, as it grows up it is super friendly, which kinda goes along with the territory but with that friendliness comes everything that it should not be doing which is jumping, not coming to you on command, humping every other dog it comes across, whether male or bitch. This though is not the dogs fault, it is the owners for not taking time to give their buddy time and I don’t say buddy lightly…I say it earnestly because that guy/gal will be one of the family and so deserves that time. As time will go on with training the dog will become even more loyal and adoring because they love that quality time. And for a lesson in that all you need to do is look at wolves with their pups in or outside a den, or any bitch or dog with their pups to see how that works. Training is good for the dogs future and your companionship…and of course passers by or other people with dogs. There is nothing worse than walking through a field with your best K9 companion when there is someone coming in the opposite direction with their dog which is out of control and starts jumping all over you and your dog and does not listen to their owner.

My Message to Dog Walkers.

This applies to dog walkers too though and in some aspects is a lot more important, especially for your safety and the dogs. If you cannot get a handle on your charge which you are entirely responsible for the moment you pick he/she up from your client then you either need training yourself or should pick another line of work, once it is another life it ceases to become more than your wallet or bank account – have confidence in your abilities and knowledge in your inabilities too, if that sounds unkind I am sorry but you are being entirely trusted with that dog which is a member of your client (s) family and so you should create a rapport with not only the dog but also with the family. And with that rapport you should find out what they do and don’t do with the dog so as to not upset the apple cart and confuse the living day light out of the dog and so you should identify which areas (if any) the dog needs training in and what really helps is having a charge which is already extremely obedient and easy to get along with but as a dog walker and being responsible for someone else family member it is inherently important that you know what you are doing. Also, the dog will pick up on your lack of confidence and knowledge and play on it. So you really do need to know what you are doing from the offset. So please, identify with your responsibilities there.

Training.

So at the end of the day vet bills, pet insurance, food and love are great investments but the greatest is time so if you don’t know what you are doing take a little time to look in book shops or on Amazon for dog training books, watch videos on YouTube, try and develop your own methods but which are kind and thoughtful for the dog. DO NOT use fear tactics to make the dog obedient. Take some time to train your dog, take some time to learn how to train your dog, watch your dog and learn from it. If you train your dog the companionship will be even greater.

Take time to KIS for your dog because at the end of it you will get a big kiss from them and you will be the greatest thing on its heart.