All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Not to memory, but to dream

Way back in the distant past, in 2001 to be precise, I was nonchalantly browsing the books of a Cancer Council charity shop in Inverness. Various titles jumped out at me, various authors who were familiar to me made their presence known, but none more so than Charles de Lint. For there, sitting on the shelf, was a dog-eared, moth-eaten book entitled ‘Memory and Dream’. I had never read any de Lint, but I knew of him, my friend Deborah, who I’d met whilst long-terming in a backpacker hostel throughout the winter of 1999/2000, had recommended him to me on many occasions. But I’d never had the chance to read his work. None of the bookshops in Inverness carried his art, and at this time in life, few people shopped online as the internet was only beginning to take hold in people’s lives. So, in memory of our friendship, I paid the 50p for ‘Memory and Dream’ and popped the book into my backpack.

“The stronger a woman gets, the more insecure the men in her life feel. It doesn’t work that way for a woman. We celebrate strength–in our partners as well as in ourselves.”

Later that night, as it was quiet at work, I pulled the book from my bag and began to read. To say I was instantaneously captivated was an understatement. From the very first sentence of the book it grabbed my attention and spoke to me in ways that few books ever had. Never before had I found an author so capable of blending the atrocity of contemporary life with the beauty of the magical that so few humans choose to believe in. Within fifty pages I had fallen in love with Isabelle Copley, the gifted artist, and her best friend Katherine Mully, the aspiring writer of fairy tales. Within a hundred pages I knew Deborah had been right; de Lint was the author I had been looking for my entire life. A writer capable of weaving the fantastical and the mundane. A writer blessed with the ability not to simply tell stories, but to make them take on mythic, legendary status.

Over the course of four nights I devoured the book and, by the time Isabelle’s adventure had come to an end, I had grown to love both her and her numena in ways I had never experienced from fiction before. These were not simply characters on a page; they were living, breathing, real life individuals. Human beings that existed not just within the confines of a book, but, if you believed hard enough, able to live in the real world. Leaning back on my chair at work, I announced to an empty reception area that ‘Memory and Dream’ was one of my favourite books of all time.

“But that’s what we all are – just stories. We only exist by how people remember us, by the stories we make of our lives. Without the stories, we’d just fade away.”

As time moved on I became somewhat obsessed with de Lint’s tale of magic, art and myth. The book traveled with me wherever I went. A weekend in the Outer Hebrides; ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to soothe me. An overnight camping excursion to the shores of Loch Linnhe; ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to comfort me. When the time came to leave Inverness and resume living arrangements with my parents, ‘Memory and Dream’ was there to ease the stress. And when I decided to leave the UK behind and begin anew in Australia, ‘Memory and Dream’ took pride of place in my backpack, making the long, stressful plane journey into something less overwhelming and frightening.

For eight years ‘Memory and Dream’ continued to accompany me wherever I went. A weekend break to Apollo Bay. A week-long vacation to Wilson’s Prom and Gippsland. Even a day trip to Melbourne town, ‘Memory and Dream’ came with me. It lived perpetually in my backpack; easing my troubled mind with just the knowledge it was there should I ever need the comforting, inspirational words contained within it. The book was one of the few items that I refused to sell following the tragedy of my breakdown. It remained in my possession as I drifted into mania in Adelaide, was there for me following the chaos of the aftermath of rape and offered solace during those first few months of homelessness.

“It’s a mistake to go poking about in your own past,” she’d told her. “It makes you shrink into yourself. Every time you return you get smaller and more transparent. Go back often enough and you might vanish altogether. We’re meant to put the past behind us and be the people we are now, Izzy, not who we were.”

By 2010 ‘Memory and Dream’ had been through everything I had; abuse, assault, homelessness, breakdown…and it had never let me down. I read it religiously at lease once a year, sometimes twice, sometimes thrice. Sometimes I just dipped into my favourite passages and allowed their grace to wash over me. But then, in April of 2010, a book I had protected, loved and cared for for nearly ten years, was stolen from me. An arrogant, cruel man, who appeared to be one of those hipsters I despise so much, decided to steal a homeless man’s bag; and with it the book he cherished the most.

For months I mourned the loss. No longer was I able to take solace in the magic de Lint weaved. No longer was I able to comfort myself with the unrequited love of Isabelle Copley, or her best friend, Katherine Mully. I knew I had to replace the book. I knew I needed it in my life, for without it, life seemed more frightening, more unbearable. For years I looked in every bookstore, every op shop, seeking ‘Memory and Dream’, but I was always left wanting. No bookstore stocked it. No bookseller had even heard of it.

“One expected growth, change; without it, the world was less, the well of inspiration dried up, the muses fled.”

But then, five years after it had been stolen from me, on a quiet afternoon in Wodonga, the sleepiest, most uncultured town I’ve ever visited, magic returned to my life. For there, on the bookshelf of a Salvation Army op-shop, was a copy of my old friend; ‘Memory and Dream’. It was the same imprint that I had once owned, the same delicious, beautiful nymphs dancing on the cover against the orange backdrop of some long forgotten forest. I grabbed the book in a flash, flicking through the pages to make sure they were complete and undamaged, I rose the spine to my nose and inhaled the gorgeous scent that only a second-hand book can contain; part musk, part hope and part magic. And I took it to the counter and purchased it without hesitation. My five-year search had ended; ‘Memory and Dream’ was mine again.

To relish. To love. To protect.

Memory and Dream (Charles de Lint)

Me, with my new copy of ‘Memory and Dream’, my much loved, much admired friend (August 2015)

The reading woman sits by the window, lamplight falling over her shoulder onto the book. It is the book that glows a golden bath of lemon yellow faintly touched with orange, surrounded by violet shadows. The glow of the book casts a soft light onto the woman’s features, a soft light and softer shadows, and sets the tangle of her hennaed hair aflame.

It is possible to see diminutive figures in the shadows, crouching on the arms of the chair to peer at the words in the pages of the woman’s book, peeping out from in between the curls of her red hair. Tinier shapes still, not quite the size of mosquitoes, hover in the lamplight. Some are silhouetted against the curve of her throat and the shadow of her nose, other against the faint spray of freckles on brow and cheek.

Their heads are like those of fledgling birds: noses sharp and long, features pinched, brows high and smooth. Their figures – when in silhouette – are not unlike a tadpole’s. They have limbs like small crooked twigs, bird’s -nest hair that stands up in surprise and in ungovernably wild. Some have wings with the gossamer iridescence of a dragonfly’s.

The reading woman gives no indication that she is aware of their presence. The book captures her full attention. But surely she can feel the press of miniature bodies as they move against her arm, or the faintest movement as they slip in and about the curls of her hair? Surely she can see the tiny shapes flitting in the dusky air that lies between her grey-green eyes and the page?

Or perhaps they are only shadows, nothing more. And the summer’s night that lies outside her window belongs not to memory, but to dream.

La Liseuse, 1977, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 in. Collection The Newford Children’s Foundation.

~ from ‘Memory and Dream’ by Charles de Lint.


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Melbourne 2015: Day 05. The hipsterfication of Melbourne

The fifth day of my adventure in Melbourne began like all the others; leaping out of bed at 8:00am, showering, throwing some clothes on and keenly leaving the motel by 9:00am to explore the various locales and laneways of old Melbourne town. On the agenda for Sunday was; a bracing walk down Lygon Street and a trip to the ocean-side suburb of St. Kilda.

Lygon Street is better known as Little Italy, not because it is overrun with Italians, but because it is overrun with Italian restaurants. No matter where you look, there is a restaurant offering everything from pizza and pasta to pasta and pizza. It is a street I used to know well, in my old pre-breakdown life, and like Brunswick Street, a street that is now a constant reminder of my abusive girlfriend. But, as with my efforts to walk Brunswick Street without a panic attack, I was determined to stroll down this street without anxiety and trauma overpowering my mind. The time I chose to do this was instrumental. Early morning on a Sunday is probably the quietest Lygon Street will ever be. It is, after all, an evening street. During the day there is little to do, as all the eateries are closed, opening only for lunch and dinner. So customers are few and far between. But like Brunswick Street, as I wandered the pathways of the street, I realised that once again the hipsters had taken over. Independent shops and eateries had been replaced with trendy chain stores and franchises. The soul of the street that I once loved had disappeared and been replaced with hipster-chic.

For example. On the corner of Lygon Street and Elgin Street once stood a second-hand bookstore called Book Affair. It was heralded as the largest second-hand bookstore in Victoria, and had two huge floors overflowing with books and tomes for your literary enjoyment. Book Affair, in a past life, was my favourite bookstore in Melbourne and I spent many – many – hours perusing the shelves and filling my bookshelf with their ware. But now it has gone. Replaced with an Insurance broker (as if the world needs any more of those) and a trendy stationary store selling overpriced merchandise. To say I mourned the loss of this once great bookstore was an understatement. I felt its loss deep within me and had to settle my emotions with a lengthy sit down on a conveniently placed bench. It truly felt like I had lost a significant chapter of my life, such was my love of this store.

Readings, Lygon Street

Readings, Lygon Street

Fortunately, the hipsterfication of Lygon Street had not claimed Readings. Readings is one of the oldest independent booksellers in Melbourne, and houses a vast collection of books, music and DVDs, many being hard to find items and those imported from overseas. Readings, in my pre-breakdown life, was the place I would go for Scottish folk music, it was the place I would go for interesting literature, and the place I would go for rare DVDs. It is a shop I have always loved with my whole heart and a shop I could always find something I wanted to purchase. And this visit was no different. A book that collected the short fiction of Alasdair Gray was lusted after, although not purchased as it was close to $50 (nearly three times my daily budget) and a DVD copy of Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet was lusted after, although not purchased as it was close to $30 (nearly twice my daily budget). So I left Readings without purchasing anything; even though my whole being was crying out to buy something! I don’t think I’ve ever shown such restraint in this majestic retailer.

After leaving Readings I decided to meander through my old neighbourhood to see what had changed. After Louise and I broke up I moved into a boarding house in Fitzroy, lodged neatly between Lygon Street and Brunswick Street. It was a pretty shocking place to live, and the landlord was featured in the newspaper as being the worst landlord in Melbourne, but I loved living so close to my favourite streets in Melbourne. As I walked the streets, the memories came flying back; memories of being attacked and abused by my abuser; memories of hanging out and chilling with friends, memories that, for better or worse, I don’t want to lose. The suburban streets hadn’t changed much. Sure, new apartment blocks had sprung up and shops gone the way of the dodo, but it was all pretty much as I remembered. Certainly, the hipsterfication had infiltrated this part of the world (my old launderette, which was once a hovel of a place containing only washers and dryers now featured a funky cafe and bright, breezy decoration) but it wasn’t as severe and noticeable as other parts of the city.

I ended up on Brunswick Street, and spent half an hour perusing some of the shops and revisiting the Grub Street Bookstore. My Readings restraint evaporated and I ended up buying a book (Stonemouth, by Iain Banks) as all books were 50% off due to the shop closing down and selling up. Another blow to the heart and another reason I hate Kindles so much. Sure, they’re valuable for people who have trouble reading small print and those who don’t want to carry a small library around with them, but they’re destroying all the wonderful, independent, second-hand book sellers who make the world such a beautiful, magical place.

Decorated Brick, Fitzroy Gardens

Decorated Brick, Fitzroy Gardens

Brunswick Street led me to Smith Street which led me back to the wonder of Fitzroy Gardens, where I spent an hour chilling amidst the trees, watching happy little children scream and bound about with carefree abandon. I then wandered into the city to catch a tram to St. Kilda.

And what did I find once I reached this seaside locale? Yep. You guessed it. The hipsters had taken over. Acland Street, which was once a collection of independent stores and funky little bakeries, was now a hideous assortment of trendy, upmarket retailers and franchised food stores selling overpriced, “gluten-free” products. I used to love Acland Street. It was one of the first streets I came to know when I arrived in Australia way back in 2002. But I hated it now. I truly, utterly despised it. I spent much of my time ruing the day the damned hipsters took over. How dare they destroy the hearts of suburbs with their sheep-like mentality and grandiose, holier than thou attitudes.

The beach, however, was blissful. I hadn’t seen the ocean since I was in Scotland in 2009 and spent nearly two hours roaming the beach, paddling in the water and watching the happy little children scream and bound about with carefree abandon. It felt so good to be beside the ocean again, felt so good to feel the cool salt water lap around my toes. It’s one of the things I miss most whilst living in the landlocked town of Wodonga. The ocean is in my blood, always has been, and it just feels wrong to live so far away from it.

After perusing the artistic wares on offer at the St. Kilda Esplanade market, I boarded a tram for a return trip to the city. Unlike the tram I caught to St. Kilda, I became a little overwhelmed on my return. I don’t deal well with public transport. Buses. Trams. Trains. I don’t like the hideous amount of people crammed into a tiny space. I don’t like control being taken away from me. I don’t like stop-start movement of these methods of transportation. So as the tram trundled along St. Kilda Road I found my anxiety rising for the first time since being in Melbourne. It wasn’t helped by the person sitting next to me noisily chewing gum; something which set my misophonia off to startling, uncomfortable degrees. So I alighted the tram early, choosing to walk my blistered feet a couple of kilometers rather than deal with the anxiety that was overtaking me.

By now I was pretty tired. My feet were sore. And I was somewhat overwhelmed with all the memories that had been bombarding me all day. I was proud of my achievements – Lygon Street, Brunswick Street, two tram journeys – but knew it would be best to return to the motel for a night of relaxation and reflection.

For dinner I chose to have a Subway Veggie Delight sandwich, which I munched down on whilst watching a double bill of Spider-man and Spider-man 2, which I found playing on an obscure television channel. On the agenda for Monday was the (much longed for) Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium and an evening spent enjoying the city after dark; surely two activities that would ensure the day be something exceptional! :)


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25 Songs, 25 Days: Common People

Day 24: A song that you have danced to with your best friend

Common People | Pulp

archie_common_people_1

I’m not one for nightclubs, parties or rave like shenanigans. When I dance, I dance; tango, waltz, salsa, pasodoble…you know, proper dancing. But now and again, when the mood takes me, I have been known to boogy on down to contemporary tunes.

One such occasion occurred in Glasgow with my friend Samantha. After a morning of chilling out and minor adventures, we decided to hit up a pub and ended up drunkenly performing to the Pulp classic Common People. Although it was more a karaoke session than a dance session, we both shook our bootys in between breaking down in fits of laughter.

A rather wonderful memory, if truth be told.


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25 Songs, 25 Days: Gathering Pieces

Day 04: A song that calms you down

Gathering Pieces | This Is Your Captain Speaking

thisisyourcaptainspeaking

Back in the good old days. The days when I was employed, when I had a regular income, when I had a social network of cherished individuals, when I wasn’t governed by my mental illnesses, I used to spend my days roaming the streets of Melbourne, exploring all sorts of book and music shops. I would trawl the shelves for interesting titles, fascinating blurbs and ingenious covers. Anything that attracted me to the product. Anything that inspired me. And when something spoke to my soul I would purchase it.

One such example occurred one autumn evening when I was browsing the shelves of Polyester Music on Brunswick Street. I was looking for something new, something I had never heard before, and the above album cover sparked my attention. It was simple. Delicate. Beautiful. I didn’t know what type of music it was, I had never heard the band name before or read any review of their product. So I took a chance. I strode up to the counter, handed over my hard-earned money, and carried on my way.

The next day I was rostered off from work. After my girlfriend had risen, performed her morning yoga ritual and left for work, I poured myself a bowl of Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes and settled down with my new CD. Within minutes I was left speechless. The music was instrumental; the compositions spellbinding. For one whole hour I sat on the floor of my flat, completely transfixed by the musical soundscapes that were assaulting my senses.

When the CD finished I did the only thing I could possibly do. I listened to it again. And again. I was spellbound by the intricate array of instruments and the notes they played. It was, without question, one of the finest CDs I’d ever heard.

As the months passed I returned to this CD whenever my stress levels rose as the music had a calming influence over me. I listened to it when faced with a panic attack. I listened to it on long train journeys. I listened to it as I strolled around a heaving city. And whenever I listened to it, whenever I allowed the music to steal my soul, I was left breathless.

This is Your Captain Speaking; one of the finest, if not the finest, instrumental bands of all time.


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25 Songs, 25 Days: Rise Again

Day 03: A song that reminds you of one/both of your parents

Rise Again | The Rankin Family

rankinfamily

My father is a music aficionado.

There is nothing he doesn’t know about acid rock, prog rock, folk rock and art rock. He knows his Abba from his abbandonatamente. His geschwind from his Gershwin. And if you were to ask him who was number 1 in the charts on the 21 January 1973 he’d be able to tell you. Not just in the UK, but the US, Australia, Mongolia and Kazakhstan as well!

Because of my father I became a fan of The Eagles, Queen, Kansas, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bryan Adams. Yet out of all of the great music my father introduced me to; from Heart of Glass to Booooom, Blast  & Ruin, from Chasing Rainbows to Life on Mars, the song that will always remind me of him is one I shared with him.

After arriving in Australia I saw the opportunity to introduce my father to a selection of artists he may never have heard of. A world of music from the other side of the planet that would rival those he had introduced me to. Cue My Friend the Chocolate Cake, Archie Roach, Lisa Miller, This Is Your Captain Speaking, Kavisha Mazella and Laura Imbruglia.

Amidst all these CDs was a record (as in a record, of an event, the event, of people, playing music, in a room) from a country that wasn’t Australia. And it was this record my father picked to praise during one of our telephone conversations.

And from that record, there was one song that he proclaimed to be one of the best he’d ever heard.

And it is this song I have chosen to share with you today. For whenever I hear it I think of him and the gifts he gave me.


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25 Songs, 25 Days: White Noise

Day 02: A song that reminds you of your most recent ex-boyfriend/girlfriend

White Noise | The Living End

ChristmasDecorations0030

The first woman who took my fancy in Alice Springs was Rochelle;
a French backpacker whom I pashed in an alley (she was tasty!)

The second woman who took my fancy in Alice Springs was Sophie;
an Australian firecracker whom I spanked in my office (she was naughty!)

The third woman who took my fancy in Alice Springs was Kellie;
a shy Brit whom I got to second base with (she was perky!)

The fourth woman who took my fancy in Alice Springs was Diane;
an Australian Goddess who stole my heart (she was breathtaking!)

Once I met Diane my hypomanic self didn’t need to trawl the bars for fleeting sexual encounters anymore, because everything I craved was before me. A stunningly beautiful woman with a magnetic smile, magical eyes and magnificent posterior. It wasn’t one of those love-at-first-sight unions. It was a relationship born out of mutual loneliness; two isolated souls adrift in the middle of Australia, longing for love, longing for companionship.

Our flirtation began at the Camel Cup, an annual event that stops the town, and carried on through numerous evenings at the backpacker hostel where I worked until, finally, we ended up sleeping side-by-side. The next night we fell asleep in each other’s arms. The night after that, the same. We were a couple who hadn’t embarked on any dates, but had found ourselves drawn to each other regardless.

Over time we learned more about each other. Diane; with her love of takeaway food, Family Guy obsession and sociable nature complemented my lack of cooking ability, Family Guy naiveté and quiet confidence. We formed a unique bond. One that erased our loneliness and allowed us to feel connected to that strange, bizarre, town in the middle of the desert. We regularly visited the video game arcade to hone our shooting skills, debated the merits of takeaway pizza and embarked on camel riding adventures to thrill our bored souls.

But my hypomania wasn’t to last. When it ended, when my mood collapsed into depression, I wasn’t much fun to be around. I was tetchy, I was cranky and things that had once brought me pleasure now provided me nothing but pain. My mood, it goes without saying, dented our relationship. In time Diane began looking for other, more positive and exciting, people. I tried to remain the person she had fallen for, the person who had caused the magnetic smile to widen across her face, but the depression was too ingrained, too imposing. Throw in the ramifications of my rape affecting our sexual life and my time being stolen by my demanding, management job, and it wasn’t difficult to spot our relationship was in jeopardy.

When it ended, seven months after it started, it was painful. Tears were shed. Hearts were broken. But we knew it was for the best. We had sated our loneliness for a time, but knew deep down that this wasn’t enough to maintain a healthy relationship. The attraction wasn’t as intense as it should be. The love didn’t run as deep as we wanted. I miss Diane. I often think of our time together, the laughter we shared and the adventures we had. I often remember the smiles and the joy that marked the early months of our relationship rather than the pain and isolation that marked the end of our relationship. And during those early days, during those heady days of laughter, smiles and excitement, one song scored our love.

And whenever I hear it, whenever the rhythm takes hold, I am transported back to that time, and her magnetic smile that filled my heart with joy.


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Ten positive memories…

After the darkness and depression of yesterday, I’m due some happiness. So brace yourselves for another installment of the Ten Times to Be Happy challenge. Today, we take a look back at some of the happy memories scattered throughout my life! :)

1. Licking the bowl

Some of my favourite memories in life revolve around licking the bowl. Is there anything better in life than being handed the dregs of a cake mix and being allowed to spoon the sugary, doughy mixture into your mouth? Whenever my mum or dad made a cake when I was younger, I was the first of us siblings in line to munch on the remnants of whatever recipe was being made. And nine times out of ten, it tasted better than the actual end product!

1981 licking the bowl

A young Addy, loving every second of his cake mixture munching! :p

2. This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time…

It had been a particular brutal and boring day at the North of Scotland Water Authority. I’d been working there for several weeks as a general office dogsbody. I hated the work. I hated the boring monotony of it. As the day drew to a close I decided I needed to end it with some excitement, with some happiness, before doing it all again the following day.

So after finishing work I walked the three miles to the nearest cinema where I chose to watch the film Fight Club. It felt strange watching such a film wearing a suit and tie, but as the movie progressed, I became spellbound. I didn’t care about what I was wearing or the banality of my pointless existence. I cared only about the story that was unfolding before me. When the movie finished I left the cinema dumbstruck. I walked back to the hostel that night in awe of what I had witnessed; the greatest piece of cinema that has ever been made.

3. Why does it always have to be snakes?

One of the happiest periods of my life were the three months I spent traveling the length and breadth of Canada. From May 2000 to August 2000, via VIA rail, I journeyed from Vancouver to Halifax to Vancouver to Montreal, having all manner of adventures and escapades along the way. Featuring heavily in these escapades was Annie, one of the brightest and most loveable human beings I’ve ever encountered. We met one balmy evening in the Rocky Mountain town of Jasper and became firm friends.

For a week we trekked, drove and swam our way around the various locations that made up this stunning part of the world. We boated on a crystalline lake, we bathed our troubles away in hot springs and, on one occasion, threw ourselves into a lake only to find some snakes enjoying their own dip in the water. They startled us, but fortunately, didn’t attack us. It was remarkable fun, hanging out with Annie, hours spent laughing, smiling and cajoling our way through waves of happiness. When the time came to part, it was painful, but inevitable, for nothing can last forever.

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Annie and I, moments before we discovered snakes in the water! :)

However, a month later, I decided to spend six days straight on a train in order to journey back to Vancouver to spend more time with her. It would be truthful to say that this was partly because I had fallen head over heals in love with her, but true to form, didn’t act on my desire because I found out she had a boyfriend. Such heartache, however, didn’t stop us from having fun. For seven days we tore up Vancouver. Relishing the Vancouver Folk Festival whilst sitting on a beach at sunset. Hurling seaweed at each other as we basked in the ocean. Hiking the stunning, breathtaking, Garibaldi Lake trail at Whistler and playfully threatening each other with spankings if our behaviour descended into mischievous territory.

08

Annie and I; posing like the awesome pair we were at Garibaldi Lake! :)

I will never forget my time with Annie in Canada. She turned my vacation from spectacular to special and I will never forget the friendship we had.

4. Parental leave

I had been in Australia for two years. It was weird, being so far apart from my family, so when my mother and father decided to come for a visit, I was over the moon. I promptly organised for three weeks off work so I could spend as much time with them as possible.

We visited Melbourne Zoo, where my mum fell in love with the wombats and koalas. We visited the aquarium, where we all fell in love with the octopi and sea horses. With my girlfriend, Louise, behind the wheel of the car we traveled across Victoria; taking in the Great Ocean Road, Port Fairy, Halls Gap, the Grampians and Daylesford. We went for a two-day sojourn to the island of Port Fairy where we saw more koalas than you could shake a stick at and marveled at the gorgeous Fairy Penguins who come home to roost, night after night.

For three long weeks I relished the chance to be with my parents again and it showed. They informed me that they had never seen me so happy. And at that point they were right. Things were working in my life. My relationship was strong, my job enjoyable and I had been granted the opportunity to show my parents around my adoptive home. It was happiness personified, those three blissful weeks.

5. Babe, I’m on fire…

This list wouldn’t be complete without the delectable Samantha. She whom I spanked in Adelaide. She whom I spanked even harder in Glasgow. But don’t worry, she was a kinky wee thing and loved every second of her butt roasting sessions. However much I loved our time together in Adelaide, my mania riddled mind means I don’t remember it very clearly. But I remember every second of our time together in Glasgow. I remember the one liners and sarcasm that flowed freely from her mind. I remember the atrocious karaoke session to Common People. I remember her obscure way of eating Sausage and Egg McMuffins. I remember how utterly peaceful and serene it was curling up on a hotel bed to watch My Neighbor Totoro together. And I remember with crystal clarity, the fifteen minutes I spent fulfilling her lifelong fantasy to the score of Nick Cave’s seminal Babe, I’m on Fire. Which is, without question, one of the happiest fifteen minutes of my life! :D

6. The Stornoway Way

I had never been to the Western Isles before. During the months I had spent backpacking around the country this particular district of Scotland had evaded me. So when Deborah and Elle invited me to travel with them when we decided to leave the hostel that we’d been long-terming at, I jumped at the chance to visit this beautiful, rugged and inspirational part of Scotland.

We rose early one day to catch the bus from Inverness to Ullapool, where we hopped on a ferry that carried us across the Sound to the port of Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis. The hostel we checked ourselves into turned out to be a stinking dive, so a group decision resulted in us finding B&B accommodation for the second night of our stay.

We spent the second day of our adventure touring around the Isle of Lewis. Visiting the Butt of Lewis. Feeling awe-inspired by the Callanish Standing Stones and generally falling in love with this neck of the world. I loved Deborah and Elle. Not love as in sexual love. But love as in friendship love. They made me a better man. They made me like myself. And I don’t think they ever really knew of how deeply and firmly I cared for them. But they knew they made me happy. That was impossible to hide!

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Deborah, Elle and I; larking about in a Stornoway B&B! :)

7. A Link to the Past

I don’t have many happy memories of my teenage years. They were a particularly brutal, unforgiving and morose time. But I do remember with tremendous fondness the days I spent playing The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past with Meadhbh by my side. We both relished exploring the world of Hyrule, rescuing the princess and saving the land from the machinations of Ganondorf, so much so, that we replayed it almost instantly.

It was the first time I had played a Zelda game and it began a lifelong love and fascination with this stellar video game series. To this day, Meadhbh and I play at least one Zelda game a year. Reliving those heady days of old where we had nothing to worry about bar what minion was going to attack us next! :)

8. Elephant Love Medley…

People think I enjoyed managing the backpacker hostel I was once in charge of. To some degree, I did, but it was never what I wanted to spend my life doing, and as such, I spent a large portion of that period of my life seriously depressed and borderline suicidal. However, the leaving party that marked the end of my tenure in charge is one of the happier occasions that occurred during that period.

Myself, my trusty crew of employees and several special guests from head office, gathered in the hostel’s back gardens for an evening of sausage sizzles, music and merriment. I danced like a diva to Britney’s Oops, I Did It Again. I made a fool of myself during the (expected) leaving speech. I sung a killer duet of Elephant Love Medley with Grace. However much Kathy, and her subsequent abuse, has tainted my memories of that time, she will never take from me the awesomeness of that night. The smiles, for a change, were genuine.

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Grace, Kathy and I; impressionism style! :)

9. I am come home!

After six long years baking in the unforgiving Australian sun, I returned home to the UK in January 2008. It was a return borne out of necessity. My time in Australia had descended into a pit of mental illness, loneliness, poverty, homelessness and chaos. I needed the warmth of the UK winter to soothe my soul and renew my vitality to keep fighting this crazy little thing called life. After weeks of living in my parents house I decided the time had come to return to Scotland; the country where my heart lies. I sold my possessions like a crazy Ebay obsessed person in order to afford the two weeks I wanted and, on 14 February 2008, boarded a plane at Bristol airport to fly me to Glasgow, where I would catch a train to Fort William.

This is the second blog video I made during my trip to Scotland in 2008. The first can be viewed here.

The two weeks I spent travelling my old haunts (Fort William, Glen Nevis, the Small Isles, Loch Ness, Drumnadrochit, Inverness and Stirling) were manna from heaven. They were exactly what my ravaged, lonely soul needed. For fourteen days I walked the glens, explored the festivals and threw myself back into Scottish culture. I let the music of the nation soothe my soul and the literature of the country warm my heart. Being back in Scotland, after so many years apart, felt perfect. It has, and will always be, my home. And even though we’re apart once again, I know deep down I will return there one day. It is a source of tremendous happiness, serenity and inspiration; and it will live on in my heart forever.

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10. Mummy and baby…

There weren’t many happy times during my homelessness years. It was a constant battle to survive each day, so there really wasn’t much time or opportunity to crack a smile and enjoy life. But amidst the pain and torment, there were moments, moments that thrilled me, moments that made me giggle, moments that reminded me that we must always seek out the joy in life.

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Mummy and baby possum

One such moment occurred late one night as I was bedding down in my park. Out the corner of my eye I spied something moving, and sat back to watch a mother possum with her baby nonchalantly roaming through the undergrowth, seeking out tasty grass to nibble on. I watched that possum for nearly twenty minutes, merrily going about its business with scant regard for the smelly, bearded man sitting a few metres away.

~ All photographs in this post are © Addy Lake ~

~ You can read thirteen more of my happy memories here ~