Categories
Words

Fog

Yellow comic book pages
Thoughts passed through time and back to start
A vague collation of memories unopened
A start

Ribbons of past neglect hang
A system of self defeat and chaos
An attempt to balance and soar
A middle

Like for like slowly gathering
Stories spoken in time and lovingly returned
A seasonal formation of fragmented energy
An end


Categories
Thoughts

Wim Hof Method – A Month In

A relative kindly bought me the book ‘The Wim Hof Method‘ for Christmas. I’d heard of Wim and also the ‘Method’ before but never something I’d tried.

There’s plenty of info online about the WHM so I won’t detail it here but much of it revolves around breathwork and cold showers (not at the same time!).
The book is a great read – as well as detailing the WHM, he tells you about his life and how he got to doing what he does (the guy is hardcore!). I downloaded the app afterwards as I like to have visual and auditory guidance (and also to keep track of progress).

The breathwork itself is super simple – a ’round’ is 30 rapid breaths (full inhale, then ‘letting go’ of the breath on the exhale), followed by a ‘retention’ (holding your breath just after exhaling).
When I first started I could managed 40 seconds. As I’ve practiced this rapidly increased to a minute, to my ‘personal best’ today of two minutes.

Something I’ve found surprising and incredibly powerful from doing this is the psychological release it gives me, as well as an interesting meditative state when doing breath retention.
Doing the 30 breaths, I find after the first ten, I get some kind of high from it, but also have a sense of being ready to ‘let go’ of stuff. So much so that tons of times I’ve cried whilst doing it. Not a sad cry but almost a happy letting go of… I don’t know what. Old stuff? Feelings? I can’t express it properly.

The breath retention provides an incredible (though brief) meditative state). As you’ve over-oxygenated your body, you can hold your breath for much longer than normal. I’ve been using this time to immerse myself with experiences from my past (nothing bad, just from when I was younger and things were simpler), and being reflective of time passing.

Whilst I haven’t explored most of the WHF physical exercises, I’ve been toying with doing press ups during breath retention. I use pressups in my normal fitness regime, but only to the extent of 3 sets of 10 once a week. I found straight away I could do 20 pressups during retention, which I’ve now built up to 30. It’s a crazy yet empowering feeling.

And about the cold showers – yes they sound horrible but again it’s amazing how quickly you adjust and build tolerance. I could just about bear 15 seconds a month ago, now I can do 50 seconds relatively easily. Although they’re not exactly pleasant, again it’s empowering, as it gives you a small feeling of having accomplished something challenging.

With the showers and the breathwork, I love how I’m able to expose myself frequently to pushing myself – even on a small level. I’m curious as to whether doing so will help with my ultra running and other races later in the year.

Finally, I should note an increased sense of wellbeing – however, I can’t exclusively credit WHM to this as I’m phasing out caffeine and generally being more active since Christmas.

Highly recommend giving WHM a go!

Categories
Thoughts

6 Top Tips For Successful Remote Working

Remote working isn’t for everyone – it’s one of those ‘love it or hate it’ things. Personally, I love it and I’ve been doing it for six years now. Many people assume working from home is easy, or a cop-out, which it really isn’t. However, like anything in life, it takes some tweaking and work to get it right.

Here’s six things you can do to set yourself up for success when working remotely:

1) Have Your Own Space

Working in the place you’re living can mean there becomes a large blur between the two. This, if you’re not careful, can mean you’re tempted to do long hours, and generally make your work/life balance a nightmare.

The way around this is to have your own room, or, if that’s not possible, a dedicated space in a room, which is exclusively for work. I’m fortunate that I have an outside office – this creates a place where I can really concentrate, but also literally lock up and leave at the end of the day.

Whatever your set up – make sure you only use the space/room/area for work. Not only does this help you transition from work to personal life at the end of the day, but it helps massively in the morning transitioning from personal life to work. Basically you’re conditioning yourself to be able to switch on/off ‘work mode’ easily.

2) Be Strict With Your Hours

When you leave an office for the day, you’re basically done (admittedly there is the temptation of checking emails on your phone). It creates a clear division between work and home.

When your home is also your workspace though, it can sometimes feel strange ending your day. Your computer is still there, and if you’re working with other remoters, they may well be online still (especially for different timezones). So it becomes tempting to do ‘just a little bit more’, or to do work in the evenings or the weekend.

Get strict with yourself early on – don’t go down that route. Set yourself and your co-workers boundaries about your time and your life.
More hours does not equal better work – it just dilutes what you do and eats in to your personal time.
Anyone can work more hours, there’s no skill to it. There is, however, a skill in focussing your mental energy into your most important work, during your strongest hours of the day.

3) Manage Other People

I’m not referring to managing teams here but people in your personal life. you’ll find when you start working remotely that people think they can just drop in to see you/ring you whenever they want. I don’t think other people realise that just because you’re in your home, that you’re still working.
Make sure you set boundaries and rules with them (whilst being polite!), otherwise you’ll get visitors in the middle of a big work project.

4) Manage Distractions

Here’s some of the distractions you could face when working remotely:

  • Other people in your home
  • Deliveries
  • Phone ringing
  • Social media
  • What’s going on outside
  • Procrastination
  • Pets
  • That bar of chocolate you’re supposed to be keeping
  • The lure of Netflix
  • Realising your house needs cleaning

It’s vital to set yourself rules and boundaries. I think for anyone who works remote, regardless of how committed they are, the first few months are quite tough. There’s a lot to get used to and it’s a case of finding what works for you. After a while you’ll find that the novelty wears off, and it’s just simply a different way of working than going into an office.

5) Keep It Clean

Whilst I’m not suggesting anyone reading this is a slob, if you’ve come from an office background, you’re used to having a cleaner come in each week/day/whenever. If you work remotely, it’s all on you!
It can be tempting to get slack with keeping your office or workspace clean and tidy.
Get into the habit of putting everything away, making sure it’s all clean at the end of the working day. I

6) Make It The Best Place To Work Ever

The beauty of working remotely is you can have your workspace set up exactly how you want. Not only that, but you can change it whenever you want. You’ve got full control over what’s in it, what it looks like, what music is/isn’t on, what smells there are, whether it’s hot or cold. It’s great!

Some things to consider:

  • Laptop or PC set up – this includes monitors. Make sure the setup is ergonomic and comfortable
  • Plants – great to have in the office – they look great and they’re really relaxing to be around
  • Invest in a good chair and desk – your back will thank you for it
  • Clear or cluttered? I like a really clear workspace, minimalist ftw! Work out whether you want something with loads of stuff everywhere, or something more spartan
  • Noise – figure out if you prefer something like a Sonos, or music via headphones (by the way, well worth shelling out for some decent ones like Bose QCs, they pay dividends when you’re trying to concentrate)
  • Pictures and photos – I’ve put up a couple of Basquiat canvcas prints in my office, and a big canvas of the Golden Gate Bridge. Or maybe you like plain walls, or some wacky wallpaper. Whatever works for you is best.

Working remotely can be absolutely amazing – the key is to be strict, set boundaries, rules, and make your workspace epic.
Remember also that working from home isn’t easy. If you don’t love what you do, it probably won’t work. If you’re someone who needs a lot of ‘real life’ interaction with people, it may not work.

The advantages massively outweigh the downsides though and I don’t think I could ever go back to office jobs. Oh, and it’s great if you have animals:

Snug greyhound

 

Categories
Thoughts

Let’s Talk About Andy’s Dinosaur/Prehistoric Adventures

One of the joys of being a parent is you get to watch a lot of kids’s TV. A LOT.  Part of this, especially when you view the episodes repeatedly, or at odd parts of the day when things seem even more surreal (e.g. 3AM), is you get to really know the program. For example, I’ve got a theory I’d love to write about some time about how In The Night Garden is about death and the process of transition to the afterlife, along with the classic fight of good/evil, based on biblical colour symbolism.

But for now, let’s turn our attention to the (basically identical) programmes that are “Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures” and “Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures“. I’m writing this with the assumption you’re a fellow parent who’s familiar with the series. If you’re not, I in no way recommend you watch this program.
With that said, here’s various thoughts and questions I have about it:

#1 – Why are Andy’s teeth so white?

Andy's TeethObserve – this isn’t normal. And it’s not something I’d expect from a museum worker.I have nothing to base that assumption on, it’s just not something I’d associate them with.  Apparently, the average assistant curator wage is £18-£25k and the guy works in London so I’m unsure how he can afford a teeth-whitening regime plus the normal costs of living in the capital. (Noting that the latter series shows him to have been promoted, so he could be on £35k in fairness – but even then).

#2 – Why does he never know what’s in his rucksack?

He stores HIS bag in HIS locker in HIS workplace. Yet whenever he travels back in time and goes to retrieve something that might help him, he never knows what’s inside it. One episode I watched the other day he had a whole pineapple in there and yet was (or so we’re led to believe) completely unaware of this fact.
Something doesn’t add up here. Possibilities – he’s lying about not knowing what’s in it; a colleague regularly pranks him by emptying it and replacing it with random objects; it’s not actually his rucksack; he is seriously mentally ill. Either way, the plot hole is really annoying to the point I get physically tense.

#3 – Mrs Pickles Cut-scene

Whenever Mrs Pickles is returning to check on the exhibit Andy & crew are working on, it’s always the same shot of her walking through the hall. This annoys me. As does her stupid ‘Mona Lisa’ style smile. And her walk. And her demeanour.

#4 – The ‘Gizmo’

Gizmo
Image Credit: Pinterest

Who created Andy’s ‘gizmo’? Was it the military, or some kind of wacky ‘eccentric’ professor like Doc Brown in Back To The Future? How did Andy get trained up on how to use it? And why doesn’t anyone else know about it?

#5 – The Hapless Cleaner

Why hasn’t the museum cleaner been sacked? Pretty much every bloody episode starts with Andy going on about how some exhibit is nearly ready, whilst the cleaner guy ‘bumbles’ in the background nearby. We all know he’s going to slip up or knock something down. It’s like the old episodes of Casualty where it’s start with some guy climbing up a precarious ladder in the first scene, saying “I’ll be OK love – you go on out” to his wife.
Seriously though, the cleaner is inept – for all the damage he’s done, he should have been up on a disciplinary charge. I’m assuming it’s outsourced but someone really should  talk to the contractors and get him out, pronto.

#6 – Time Travel Issue 1

I appreciate this is an issue for any time travel film or program – however – when he travels back in time – why does he never appear in or between objects? Like, why does it just happen that he appears in the middle of nowhere, rather than, say, a rock (and instantly dying, which of course would ruin the show)?

#7 – Time Travel Issue 2

Can’t find the link but someone raised a damn good point on Twitter – basically how Andy is master of overkill. He messes something up – rather than going back in time a few minutes to remedy the situation, he goes back millions of years. Again, I realise the show would be boring if he did the former, but it hardly adds to any sense of realism.

#8 – The Clock Issue 1

Clock
Image Credit: Wikia

It makes HUGE light effects and sound – why does literally NO-ONE ever see or hear it? Ever? I know the museum is shut but we know Jen, Mrs Pickles and the cleaner are in the building. Probably another cleaner or two (possibly ones who can, like, do their job properly), and maybe some IT peeps too. So how does no-one ever not notice it?

#9 – The Clock Issue 2

Why does it only work for Andy? Given all the thousands of people who walk past it each day when the museum is open, why does no-one else ‘trigger’ it to do the time-travelling shiz?

#10 – The Clock Issue 3

How did he ever find out the clock was a time machine? Let’s say one day it was doing all the light/sound BS – how did he think “ah – I see – it’ s a time machine” and go along with it? I’d shit myself.

#11 – Hatty/Jen

Why does she never get suspicious about how Andy fixes all these things after having suspiciously run off?

#12 – Time Travel Issue 3

How does him bringing soil/rocks/whatever back from millions of years ago not create some odd glitch in the space-time continuum? Great Scott!

#13 – The Clock Issue 4

What would Andy do if the clock was stolen/trashed/removed by the museum? He’d then be basically screwed as he would actually have to honestly address the constant mistakes him, Hatty/Jen and the useless cleaner makes.

#14 – The Clock Issue 5

Does it only take him back to millions of years ago? If so, what a crap time machine. This seems to be confirmed through the lyrics to the theme song: “The Old Museum Clock takes me back in time to when Dinosaurs ruled the world.” (Note also the ‘me’ not ‘anyone’)

#15 – The Clock Issue 6

How do the controls work, and how did he figure them out?

#16 – Gizmo Issue 2

Why do the batteries never run out? Why does he never find himself searching his backpack for a portable USB charger?

#17 – Andy

Does he have a partner? If so, does Andy ever tell them he’s time-travelled? If not, how does he keep it secret? I’d be gagging to spill the beans if I’d time travelled.

#18 – Andy & Hatty

Andy & Hatty
Image Credit: Amazon

Are they shagging?

#19 – Andy & Jen

Andy & Jen
Image Credit: Wikia

Are they shagging?

#20 – Andy & Mrs Pickles

Mrs Pickles
Image Credit: Wikia

Are they shagging?

#21 – Theory

Andy IS the cleaner but is severaly mentally ill. Everything we see in the episode is his horrible hallucinations.

#22 – Theory 2

Andy is dead and this is the afterlife.

#23 – Theory 3

A-la Fight Club, he is the cleaner and Andy the time-travelling museum worker is his alter-ego.

Categories
Thoughts

10 Life Lessons Retired Greyhounds Can Teach Us

1) Sometimes you just have to get stuck in to get what you want from life.

You never know where treasure may be buried

2) Things that seem big and scary aren’t always scary once you get up close.

Not everything is as scary as it seems.

3) Take responsibility for stuff you’ve done.

It’s best to own up, admit you were wrong and do your best to fix it. Rather than stand in front of the evidence and look shifty.

“It wasn’t me.”

4) Don’t worry what you look like

I don’t care. I am comfortable.

5) Believe you can fly

We can all do amazing things!

“I believe I can fly.”

6) Don’t be afraid to show affection

Life is short – make sure those who you love and care about it know. Show them.

Brothers In Arms.
Brothers In Arms.

7) Cherish the time you have with your loved ones

Enjoy all the times you have together – even the small moments seem poignant later in life.

Loyal Always.

8) Go ahead and smile – life can be great!

Enjoy the simple, free things in life – there are plenty, including just basking around in the sun. Be happy with that moment and show it.

Living in the moment and loving it.

9) Smell the flowers

The Simple Things.

10) Get curious

There’s a never ending supply of weird & wonderful things, people, ideas and things to do out there!

“What the hell IS that?”

Categories
Thoughts

4 Things That Annoyed Me Recently

1) Tuna Fish Being Called Tuna Fish

Once I get something in my head that annoys me, it continues to grow its annoyance the more I encounter it. One prime example is the way people call tuna ‘tuna fish’. Whilst I appreciate it’s a commonly used term, it’s also really grating.

This is simply because, why is there any need for the ‘fish’ suffix? (There isn’t). Tuna is fish. So is trout, but you never hear people going “trout fish”. ‘Catfish’ I’ll accept, because you if you went into a chippy and asked for ‘cat and chips’, for example, that would be, well, odd. But tuna, cod, trout, bream, seabass, salmon and many others – we know they’re fish. We don’t need the suffix.

Similarly, we don’t use suffixes for meat – there’s no “beef meat’, ‘chicken meat’, ‘pork meat’ – why? Because we’re not morons. Well, most of us.

So, why do we call tuna fish tuna fish? Frustrated, I turned to Yahoo Answers. It goes without saying that anything posted on there is 100% accurate.  Here are some answers:

“The most convincing explanation I’ve heard is that in the early 1900s there was a sardine shortage, so fish canneries started canning tuna instead. Because they thought Americans would be unfamiliar with what the word “tuna” might mean, they added the “fish” to it and it stuck. Before this time, tuna was not on the American menu, so it’s a good story.”

“..though chicken is a type of bird, nothing else is called chicken. but tuna is the name of a fish and also the name of a fruit so to make the distinction we say tuna fish so everyone can know we are talking about the fish and not the fruit.”

Tuna is used to mean the fish, and the flesh of that fish (which is also called tuna fish).”

So from this I gleaned that there is a fruit called tuna. Turns out its prickly pear fruit:

Prickly Pear Fruit

I don’t buy the fish/fruit thing. Not until I Googled it was I even aware of it, I’ve never heard ‘tuna fruit’ in my life. So that seems dumb. I buy into the fish suffix being used to make people know it was fish, as tuna was new to them. But, as this was ages ago, it’s annoyingly redundant, and in my opinion should be banned, stat.

2) The Expression ‘Reaching Out’

In my job (SEO/online marketing) I deal with other agencies, often in the States. I’ve found that it’s apparently considered almost compulsory for them to use the phrase “thanks for reaching out” if I’ve contacted them. It’s really grating and here’s why

  • I haven’t ‘reached out’ – I’ve sent you an email
  • ‘Reached out’ implies I’m stretching my arms
  • ‘Reach out’ just makes me think of the opening to ‘Personal Jesus’ by Depeche Mode

The solution to this heinous  crime of course, is simple – don’t use it. Say “thanks for your email” or “thanks for getting in contact”.

3) Repeated Pressings Of Buttons At Pedestrian Crossings

Pedestrian Crossing

(And lifts.) Seems to me, there’s two annoying types of behaviour at pedestrian crossings – 1) the person that doesn’t press the button and stands there like a bump on a log waiting for the man thing to go green, or (worse) 2) people (the majority of people I might add) who, despite the ‘wait’ sign being illuminated (showing that someone has pressed the button), still press it. Or even worse still, press it more than once.

Of course, in doing so, they get conditioned to thinking this technique works. As they’ve arrived and pressed the button some seconds after the button was originally pressed, the green man comes on sooner than if they’d just walked up and pressed the button the first time. Thus, they think that pressing the button again works, despite this being a futile argument – as if the manufacturers built into the device a trigger to speed things up if a button is pressed multiple times.

An interesting article here, which confirms, obviously, that I’m right, but also states

“In the UK, there used to be a system that counted the number of times that a pedestrian pushes the button. It used this information to regulate pedestrian waiting time. But it was discontinued.”

So there we go.

4) People Slouching Over Trolleys In Supermarkets

Lazy

It’s common knowledge that we’re becoming a nation of lazy bastards. This is especially apparent in UK supermarkets. I find entering supermarkets annoying anyway. Recently I’ve become more and more agitated by the sheer fucking laziness of people who, rather than walk normally, slouch over their shopping trolley and kind of drag along on their legs. It’s pathetic to watch. It’s as if the very idea of moving their body just can’t be comprehended by them.

Time and again I see these dumb-dumbs walking/slouching/dragging around and it’s just embarrasing to watch. That is all.

Categories
Thoughts

Working from home – the good and the bad

A while ago I took on a job doing SEO/digi-marketing for an affiliate company. As their team is based in various countries and there’s no ‘office’ as such, this means everyone is home based.

Working from home has always appealed to me. Back when I was working for a local authority I used to do this one day per week and I always enjoyed it.

There were a few reasons I accepted the job (more dynamic company, challenging niche, better pay, more learning and so on) but the working from home bit was the icing on the cake.

Now, many people when I tell them I work from home go “ooh I couldn’t do that”. I can understand why – many (perhaps the majority of people) need the social stimulus of ‘real company’, or to be physically around other people to be motivated.

Frankly though as someone who’s always been somewhat of a loner, and quite happy being on my own for long periods, this doesn’t faze me at all. This week (weather being sunny and nice and all) I really felt grateful and appreciative for my working arrangements. It was a moment of realisation that I would dread going back into ‘regular’ office work and that this suits me down to the ground.

I’m bigging home-working up here but yes it’s not without its downfalls. So here’s what I see as the benefits:

1) No travel time – I save around 30 mins each way versus my old job – an hour per day that’s around 20 hours per month. Nice

2) No travel expense – no season tickets, nothing.

3) Flexibility in working hours – sometimes I’ve started at 730am, sometimes 930am. I’ve finished at 430pm, I’ve finished at 10pm.

4) Flexibility in where I work – by this I mean I can work from my dining room table, sat on sofa in living room, laid in bed, or in nice weather, sat outside in my garden. Anywhere I have my laptop and a internet connection. I love it.

5) Being around my dogs all day – they love it, I love it. I can take them out for a walk at lunchtime at a time that suits me.

6) I get to be in if there’s deliveries – I don’t have to worry about times or taking a day off work.

7) I dictate my working environment – if I want to work in silence I can, if I want loud music of my choice on, I can.

8) I can slob around if I want – no ‘office dress’ policy (which I’ve never understood anyway but hey)

9) I dictate my day – admittedly this is to some extent because of the difference of being ‘in house’ versus agency, but I like the way I can think well, perhaps I haven’t woken up properly yet so I’ll do X task, then spend the afternoon doing something more intensive, or whatever.

As you can probably tell, I enjoy my job and working from home!

OK so what are the downfalls?

1) Lack of actual interactivity – this doesn’t bother me so much now and I’ve adapted quite well I think, but it’s very different working remotely – for example interpreting a colleague’s tone or intent via text-form isn’t as easy as speaking to someone face-to-face.

2) Too easy to work too long – I guess a good thing about working from an office is that when you leave work, that’s usually it. If you work from home, it’s so easy to check your emails, etc etc.

3) When you leave the house things can be a bit surreal – e.g. going into the joys of Southampton at the weekend can be a bit overwhelming!

The main two factors to make home working a success though, IMO are doing something you love, and being a self-motivated person. If you’re doing some boring shitty job you’re going to find it hard to get up in the morning or to get going. If you’re not motivated by yourself, without someone giving you the odd kick up the arse, it won’t work out.

So there we go – I’m so used to it now and still enjoying more of it (e.g. this week sitting out in the garden working whilst my dogs sunbathed) I just dread ever having to go back to a ‘normal’ job. I’m very fortunate.

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Thoughts

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life (Sometimes)

I’m a grumpy bastard at times. There, I said it.

I don’t mean to be – I genuinely don’t. But the fact remains I can be a pretty morose, grumpy little shit. For that, I apologise.

Sometimes though I can be exactly the opposite – the joys of being bipolar. I won’t blame it all on that though – far from it.

Anyway, the last few days I’ve kind of ‘woken up’ a bit and thought, you know what? Life is pretty good for me right now. Not in a manic, over-the-top WHOOOOP I can’t stop kind of way, just a case of looking around and thinking, yeah it’s not perfect, but fuck, it’s pretty damn good!

So getting to the point, let me explain why, in concise bullet point fashion, in no particular order:

  • I just had a 12 month extension on the  house I rent – yep it costs me shitloads but I love the place, and that gives me some stability for a bit rather than worry about arsing around moving house. It also means my dogs are sorted too!
  • I’m back in Thailand in May with one of my closest mates – going to be awesome
  • My new job is great and I get to work from home which I love
  • My family is awesome
  • My friends are awesome
  • I’ve started running again
  • I’ve had some amazing experiences in the last six months. Perhaps ‘amazing’ could be substituted, for, hehe, ‘interesting’ but it’s all good
  • Last week I was in a 5 star hotel with the people I work with, who are all superb, talented and motivated
  • One of my dogs who was nearly dead last week made a sudden recovery and is now back to normal 🙂
  • I’ve discovered loads of new bands and music from friends and browsing Spotify recently

Also with the winter drawing to an end, and some sunlight finally, it makes it easier for me to be more upbeat. I feel a lot more in control of my life than I have done for about a year now. Certainly there’s much to do, mainly around getting back into a position of fitness and health (and in particular running) and developing my skills at work (luckily I love online marketing!).

But y’know, life is pretty good 🙂 Bring on the rest of 2013!

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Thoughts

Thailand write-up #2 – Care For Dogs Sanctuary

You don’t have to have known me very long to know that I love dogs; very much an ‘animal person’ I guess but dogs will always be my favourite. I’m fortunate enough to live with two awesome greyhounds who I love very much.

One of the things I considered when deciding where to go on holiday this year and what to do, was wanting to do something different, and worthwhile. After some Googling I came across Care For Dogs which is a dog sanctuary near Chiang Mai in Thailand.
Straight away this appealed to me and from there it wasn’t long before I’d booked my flights!

And so on my second day in Chiang Mai, I found myself in a taxi on a boiling hot day, driving through the Thai countryside, a mixture of excitement and nerves.

The sanctuary is about 30-40 mins drive from Chiang Mai, you can taxi there for 250bht – if you’re planning on doing voluntary work there let them know and they’ll send you the details of two local taxi drivers who know where it is (otherwise you risk paying more and having your driver get lost!)

I got to the shelter on a Wednesday morning – this is where they do an induction for people new to volunteering there. From there you essentially have free rein to help out in whatever way you wish – this includes cleaning up after the dogs, bathing them, feeding them and walking them.

There’s 160 dogs there and at first, even if you love dogs, it can be somewhat overwhelming, especially when they’re all barking! When I was there it was in the middle of the Loi Kathrong festival and every time a firework went off, the whole place would go crazy with barking and howling!

There are dogs of all ages, sizes and colours there. Some are street dogs, some temple dogs, some abandoned, some rescued from the meat trade. What they all have in common though is they are being looked after some amazing people who really care about their well-being. Many of these dogs have, frankly, been treated like shit – like the one whose previous owner had punched his head so hard one of his eyes had come out.

What amazed me about these dogs is, with a few exceptions, they were all so ready to give and take love from humans. If you’re a ‘dog person’ you’ll know what I mean when I say that dogs smile. Well I saw hundreds of smiles whilst I was there! It staggers me that a lot of these animals are ready to forgive, and even to give love back again, to the species (humans) that has treated them so badly. It just blows me away. It was the same at the elephant park – you just think, how can they even let another human near them? But they do..

There were two dogs that I really bonded with. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all the dogs I met! But, and again you’ll probably need to be a dog owner to ‘get’ this, you just know when you have a bond or connection with a dog. The first one, I’m sorry to say, I can’t remember their name! But check out this gorgeous little thing:

Gorgeous girl!

This beautiful girl came running up to me and didn’t leave me alone much the whole time I was there. A soft, stunning, bundle of fun, clambering all over me and smothering me with kisses. I fell in love instantly!

Before I left the UK I’d basically decided that, as much as I’d love to give a home to one of these dogs (there are plenty on the website if you’d like to look!), I couldn’t afford it as I already have two – things like insurance, food and vets bills quickly add up, sadly. But already I had found a dog that had stolen my heart!

The second one I fell for is a girl called Twilight. Now, Twilight and her brother (who has sadly passed away), were born blind and with problems such as mage. Reason? One of the local breeders, desperate to get puppies to sell for profit, in-bred. Twilight, by ‘normal’ standards, wouldn’t be considered ‘beautiful’; her fur is messed up and balding, and all the rest of it. But I’ll tell you now, having met her – she is one of the most beautiful dogs I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Here she is:

Beautiful Twilight

Now as I’ve said, Twilight is blind. She’s never had sight so I guess can’t miss it. She makes her way around using smell and sound to guide her way. When you call her she comes running up to you and jumps up at you for cuddles and kisses. She’s gentle, loving and just gives off a vibe of loving life.
Like many of the dogs there, she has her ‘patch’ – it’s interesting to observe how the pack works – groups of dogs with their own areas – no visual lines as such like we humans need, it’s just is what it is.

On the second day I was there, it rained heavily. I sat with Twilight for about two hours, stroking and cuddling her. It was one of those moments I felt so grateful to be able to experience a connection with another animal. In these moments nothing needs to be said or done – it is just known by both human and dog.

The other dog that really touched my heart was ‘Spotty’. Spotty stood out there as he’s clearly derived from Dalmatian. He’s clearly old, has problems with his back legs and smells bad! But there was something about him I loved – like he had this dignity about him..I can’t explain it really. Anyway, I took this gentle man for a walk – he enjoyed sniffing everywhere and was very curious about things! When we got back I gave him a much-needed bath. Here’s me walking him:

Spotty Dog!

At this point I need to explain something – I only went for two days. The reason I say ‘only’ is that they like people to commit to a minimum of four days. Many people stay much longer.

The reason I didn’t, and I’m ashamed to admit this, is I couldn’t emotionally handle it. With any animal rights issue I find it almost impossible to ‘switch off’ emotionally, but with dogs it’s very close to home.
If I know an animal has been treated badly, it angers me – a lot. I can’t just think “ah well”, it winds me up and I feel ashamed to be human.
The other thing was, I found myself bonding with the dogs I mentioned above, especially Twilight. I knew that if I stayed longer it would be harder and harder to walk away, and was afraid I’d decide, almost as a knee-jerk reaction, to adopt one back in England.
I felt like crap for not going back, I’ll be honest. I still do. It taught me something about myself though, which is that if in the future I’m going to do any work with animals, I need to be able to emotionally distance myself from them, at least to some extent.

Now, if you’re reading this and you’re thinking of doing voluntary work there – DO IT! You will get covered in dirt, dog hair, get sweaty and stinky but it’s worth it! You will meet some inspirational people as well as some amazing dogs.

But learn from my experience – try not to give yourself emotionally to one or more of the dogs unless you’re committed to rehoming one. I’m not saying don’t connect with them, just be a little careful if you’re similar to me!

One thing’s for sure – even though I was only there for a short time, I took away memories that will stay with me forever. I’m glad to say that Twilight now has a foster home 🙂

I have huge respect, admiration and gratitude for what the team there does, both permanent and voluntary people. If you’re ever near Chiang Mai, stop by. And if you’re not, consider fostering a dog, or even just donating to them – it’s a great cause.

I’ll leave you with a couple of other photos:

Gorgeous blonde dog

Big grin!

Handsome brindle boy!

Categories
Thoughts

Thailand holiday writeup #1 – Elephant Nature Park

Last week I was fortunate enough to go out to Thailand for around ten nights, specifically Chiang Mai. My time out there was a real eye-opener for me. Whilst I’ve been on holiday abroad by myself before (USA), I’ve not been to a country which has a radically different culture or different language.

One of the things I was most looking forward to was checking out the Elephant Nature Park.
This is a place you an visit for a day, overnight, or do voluntary work for weeks/months.
It appealed as I loved the idea of meeting elephants, plus this place doesn’t do ‘rides’, ‘tricks’ and all the cruel crap that hundreds of tourists sadly buy into.

Sadly the day I wanted to go, the overnight tour was booked, so I went for the Monday (day after I got to Thailand) day tour. This is 2500bht so around £50 in UK money.

The tour bus/van picks you up from your hotel. On the drive they show you a documentary about the park.

Approaching the park itself, the excitement builds, especially when you see the first elephant in the distance. It’s rather surreal seeing such a fine, huge animal for the first time ‘in real life’.

The park was started back in the 90s by a truly inspirational lady called Lek – here is someone who has dedicated their life to providing a real sanctuary for elephants. I have total admiration for people such as Lek. When you visit the park you’ll see how large it now is and be impressed with how it has grown.

So, what’s involved in the day tour? Well after the customary briefing and talking about safety (and being stunned by the gorgeous Thai countryside), it’s time to feed the elephants! At first, many of us in the group found this nerve-wracking – it’s not until you’re up close and personal with an elephant that you really appreciate their size and strength.

Feeding them is great fun – they eat loads and loads and loads of bananas and other fruit. They’ll take a whole bunch of bananas off you and hoff them whole! Most of the elephants like the food held out to them so they can curl them up with their trunks, whilst some prefer to open their mouths whilst you put the food directly in – a strange feeling!

One thing I noticed right away is that elephants are very relaxing to be around. I think this is down to two things – firstly they’re very gently animals, and kind of give off a vibe of..well.peace I suppose. Secondly because they move so slow. Being out there in the sun with them, I could quite happily have napped all day watching them!

The next bit of the day is the fun part – bathing them 🙂 You go down to the river and chuck buckets of water over and over them. The elephants stand there loving it, the park visitors all get wet and have a great time too – the whole place was laughing and having fun, was awesome. Eventually the elephants think “I’m done now” and wonder off to chuck mud over themselves.

The park includes a (veggie) lunch – this is a massive buffet which I gorged on – really really awesome, fresh food, loved it. It’s nice at lunch to sit down and chat to the other people there, either day visitors or volunteers.

The afternoon brings more feeding and getting to watch the elephants. There’s a ‘naughty’ one called Hope (you’ll hear her as she has a bell around her neck) who is funny to watch. I was also fortunate enough to see the baby elephant, who was just a few weeks old – cute is a big big understatement!

Towards the end of the day I was lucky enough to meet Lek’s husband (sorry, can’t remember your name!!), and I spoke to him about the dog sanctuary there as I’d seen a lot about it on Facebook. He kindly let me see the place – HUGE with 350 dogs and I got to meet the gorgeous ‘Steel’ who some kind person made wheels for her back legs so she can get around. An awesome, brave and affectionate dog.

The end point of the day is another documentary – focussing on the way elephants are treated in Thailand. They do warn you that the last bit of it is upsetting – and it is – BUT it needs to be seen. I can tell you now, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
What you’re shown is the way that young elephants are ‘broken’ for the logging trade – without going into graphic detail, they are brutalised into submission. I think even ‘non animal’ people would be upset by this.

The day was one of the best days I’ve ever had, and I went away with some memories that will stay with me forever. Being so close and touching these beautiful animals is an incredible feeling. Not only that but when you realise the work, effort and determination that Lek and her team are putting in, and what a difference they’re making to the eles, it’s inspirational.

If you’re reading this and are considering going – just do it, you won’t regret it. Even if you just go for a day, it’s well worth it, whether as an individual, couple or family.

I also want to say this – DON’T go to the other places near Chiang Mai – it might sound ‘cute’, the idea of riding an elephant, or watching one paint/do tricks for your amusement, but it’s not. It’s cruel, it’s unnecessary, and degrading for the animals. Also don’t give money to the people that use elephants for begging in Bangkok.

If you want to go somewhere that actually cares about their animals, knowing your money is going back into that care, whilst getting to experience the eles, go to the Elephant Park.

Take loads of photos, get wet in the river, have fun, learn about them and walk away with some of the best memories you could ask for in life. Have fun!

But where are the photos Andy?

OK here you go 🙂