Memories of Sarah #The End

With half an hour left to go until the end of the year, I asked myself how I would spend it. I decided to meditate. I turned off the lights, closed the curtains, and sat on the floor with my legs crossed and my back against the side of my bed. I found my composure after a few deep breaths, and closed my eyes as I brought Sarah’s name into my mind. I watched it float around in there, like a bubble bouncing gently off a wall. I repeated her name, and let it find its way around the rest of my body.

Midnight was approaching. I wanted to traverse into the New Year with music, with Sarah. I opened my eyes, turned on my bedside lamp, and picked up Sarah’s funeral programme from its place on top of my right loudspeaker, where it has rested for the whole of this year. .

I sat on my bed with the programme on my lap. I hadn’t opened it in one whole year. I’d kept it nearby so I could see the photograph of her face each day. Reading her name and the dates of her birth and death was also an infrequent ritual, and sometimes I’d pick it up and smile and witter on at her. I hadn’t intended to never open the booklet, it just became that way.

I went through the pages, reading closely. I was back in the church at the funeral. My view from the third or fourth pew reconstructed itself as Sarah’s friends and family who recited came back to mind.

I arrived at the piece I read  from the First Letter of St John (3:12):

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us,
by letting us be called God’s children: and that is what we are.
Because the world refused to acknowledge him,
therefore it does not acknowledge us.

My dear people we are already the children of God,
but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed;
all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him
because we shall see him as he really is.

It took me back to how I watched Sarah’s coffin arrive at the church, and later stood beside it while I read to the rest of the congregation.

I continued through the programme to Farewell My Friends, by Rabindranath Tagore:

Farewell My Friends

It was beautiful
As long as it lasted
The journey of my life.
I have no regrets
Whatsoever said
The pain I’ll leave behind.
Those dear hearts
Who love and care…
And the strings pulling
At the heart and soul…
The strong arms
That held me up
When my own strength
Let me down.
At the turning of my life
I came across
Good friends,
Friends who stood by me
Even when time raced me by.
Farewell, farewell My friends
I smile and
Bid you goodbye.
No, shed no tears
For I need them not
All I need is your smile.
If you feel sad
Do think of me
For that’s what I’ll like
When you live in the hearts
Of those you love
Remember then
You never die.

I was reminded of Tony’s funeral (Sarah’s father) where I read that very same piece, against tears which I could not fight, about ten years ago.

It was starting to occur to me which song would play the year out as I read the last few lines. I thought of the transition three-quarters in which would synchronise beautifully with the tick of the changing year. I was tingling. The idea arose from within me like shimmering light from a phosphorescent ocean, and I could almost feel its colours on my face. I cued up Trans Fatty Acid by Lamb (Kruder and Dorfmeister Sessions Remix) on my phone, slotted in the earphones, and turned off the lamp.

There was about four minutes of the year left. I pressed play.

‘No one said it would be easy
Did anyone tell you the road would be straight and long?
Relax your mind and give it all to me
‘Cause you know and I know our love is strong enough’

I lay on my bed, and let that laidback whiskey intro flow around me. The meaning in those lyrics felt so transmitted, so succinct, and had expanded since I last listened. This really had become Sarah’s song. She’d become the whole performance; the singer, the instruments, the musicians, the acoustics, the entire auditorium. In my mind, the song was a complete embodiment of the entire time I’d spent with her.

I looked out of the window, and could see the skies starting to flash, my room flickering as hazy smoke began to rise from behind the neighbours’ trees and houses. Layered over the track, but blocked by the earphones, I could hear the dulled-down popping and crackling of New Year’s fireworks.

As the song found its groove,  it swept me back through the past year. I saw myself, so determined to make the Sarah Project work, how every morning I had woken up to make sure I’d maximise the day, to have something I could write to Sarah about. Excited when I received an impulse to go somewhere, or do something, and anxious if those impulses weren’t coming. Walking to the bus stops, waiting at railway platforms, ambling around the city and country to drink a coffee and write my notes.

‘To weather the rain
To weather the snow
To weather the storm’

I got up from my bed, and flung the window open. The full sense experience was needed to consolidate this moment. The fresh, cold air rushed over my face and surged into my lungs. As the fireworks fizzed and sparked from one end of the the sky to the other,  I knew I had begun to tremble. Within, an arising of an ineffable joy, bringing with it aches to my eyes, pursing my lips inwards so I could bite them. The mounting energy jammed in my throat, and my eyes burned until I finally let go.

With the instrumental section of the track drifting between my ears, I felt like I’d given everything I could. All the year’s writing, wanting, walking had amounted to this – I just wanted to see Sarah. And so I turned to my right, and through floods of euphoric tears, themselves a precise balance of happy and sad, with the night sky lighting up in front of us through the window, she was right there, standing next to me, smiling back.

‘Often I see fear in your eyes
And sometimes I know your heart is full of little arrows
But trust in me and no one can do you wrong
‘Cause I know and you know our love is strong enough

To weather the rain
To weather the snow
To weather the storm…’

I cried along with the song, aware that it was imminently about to end. I was immersed in a feeling so rapturous it’s nearly too hard to put into words. It was like looking through a toy telescope, but then seeing the enormity of the spectrum of sentience, the hidden media through which it travels, the multitudes of languages that it speaks, and the constant endeavours of humankind to translate their experience.

I was gasping between sobs. I felt like I’d experienced something so vast, and that only I had been through it. Nowhere else in the universe would there ever be this vantage point again, not even for me.

The singer had since stopped singing. Amid the fountains, crosettes and horsetail shells, the drums were starting to leave, with the light clops of the congas and phasered liquid-licked organs tailing behind. Then, that final applause. And in my imagination,  it was for Sarah, as she exited backstage, the mic left in its stand.

It was five minutes past midnight, January 1st 2019. I took out my earphones. There was still an after-party in the sky to watch and listen to. I revelled in the majesty of the universe, tears streaming down my cheeks, and when my eyes ran dry, I pulled the window in slowly, listening to how the frequencies rolled off, the audio separating from the visuals, and as the window tightened in its frame, the world I’d just experienced faded out.

That was my New Years Eve.

~

In a minute, I will go over to the funeral programme, and I will take it from its proud place on my speaker. It will go into a special bag that Sarah gave me for my birthday, the last present she ever bought me. She bought it from a Moroccan man, from his stall on St. Albans market, in 2010. I’d always needed a man-bag, she said. I never really realised it, and even felt a bit awkward suddenly being the kind of guy who had a ‘man-bag’. It took a few wears to accustom to, but eventually it became inseparable from me. Even after Sarah and I had separated ourselves.

The bag, a superbly designed, masterfully engineered, hand-made satchel constructed from camel leather, had only been retired from service since the middle of last year. I’ve overstuffed it one too many times, thus causing a break around the strap where it’s joined to the bag by a ring. It could be repaired, yes. On the other hand, it could perhaps need its well-deserved rest. It’s been around the world; Andalucia in Spain, New York and Vermont in the U.S.A, Montreal in Canada, Eger and Budapest in Hungary, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness in Scotland, nearly every beach in Mauritius and almost every street in London, St.Albans, and Watford in England…to name but a few. And usually carrying nothing more than my wallet, my phone, my keys, my pen, and my Moleskine notepad. Its space was its strength: you never knew what you might end up filling it with. But the real reason for it was the reassurance. How it completed my posture, and regulated my gait. It gave my hands something to hold if they were nervous. It connected a circuit in my mind: with this on my shoulder, I can go anywhere.

I’ve been taking a part of Sarah everywhere with me, and I never realised it.

And so, it would seem just, that as I draw the Sarah Project to its close, that the manifestation of her lasting spirit – this humble satchel – would now be the home for not just her funeral programme, but every last piece of tangible memory that I have of her. But those old memories will not just be moving from one place to another – all throughout the year of the Sarah Project, I have kept souvenirs of the journey: train tickets, bus tickets, theatre tickets, cinema tickets: business cards for art shops, record shops, music shops, restaurants, coffee shops, a fishmonger, an Asian supermarket, a newspaper editor, a bar owner, a coffee machine seller, a board game cafe, a tech company CEO, an independent homeware shop, a film director, an artist, ID passes for Warner Brothers Studios, a London cycle receipt, a bottle top from an Ethiopian beer, a scribbled phone number, a leaflet for the Samaritans, a bookmark, a postcard, a drawing, a film script. All of these will rest with the photos and letters and mementos of love left to me from Sarah while she was still alive. The new stuff in the front pocket, the old in the main compartment, and the first photo taken of us together in the secret pocket. The bag will be the fullest it has ever been, and will protect our memories, keeping it the safest it can be.

~

All I can say now, is thank you Sarah.

Every word, every endeavour, every result on this blog I dedicate to you. Whatever you can find here that I have created or expressed, it was with your help. There remains an unbreakable thread, caught after it had been swaying, through which your energy has continued to transmit, which I grasped and held as I refueled my own spirit with your vitality, connecting you to me, me to you, and us to everything else in the known Universe.

I will miss you, Sarah. I will always remember you.

Until we meet again,

With love, always

Shak.

For Sarah Jane Pendlebury, my first love and partner in life from 2000 – 2011, born 23rd September 1981, and died 14th December 2017.

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The Sarah ProjectJanuary 1st 2018 – January 1st 2019.

END.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sarah Project – My 2018 Goals – Project End

Wow. I can’t believe I’m here. One year of trying to achieve things. All of it documented here on The Sarah Project. Day by day (almost).

Why did I start? See here: About The Sarah Project

This post is just a concise summary of everything I set out to do at the beginning of 2018, and achieve by today (Dec 31st).

The Plan. Oh the Plan. Oh the Plan and its many rewrites. How I’ll miss you.

Here is a link to the very first post, and everything after, here: The Sarah Project

And the page from my notebook, where it all started.

Resume / start a new dance class – No start

Attend the Queen’s Park drum circle – No start

Buy 75% of clothes from charity shops – I bought 100% of my clothes from charity shops

Break the Addiction to Salt – Yes I did

Be kinder to mum and dad – still bad, but the only solution is to hurry up and move out.

Earn a regular wage – I did, but only enough to live day to day, rent free at home

Enjoy regular nights out – I did, at least once a month

Get a better computer – I didn’t buy one, but I’ve got one on loan from my Mustr business partner

Do 10 press-ups every day – I’m sure my average number of press-ups daily meet that, but my commitment to workouts comes and goes. I’ll need to be more specific about these kind of goals next time, like have an event to train for. Either way, I like being active, and what I’ve lost in body-weight exercises, I’ve made up for and enjoyed with many hundreds of miles walked this year.

Make £10-15 per month on ebay – Again, the average income over the year means I have hit that, and it’s all stashed away in a Paypal account, ready for a rainy (or sunny) day.

Eliminate that fungal infection – that’s still there, and my bumbling around with missed appointments, denial, mis-diagnoses and subsequent mis-treatment means I’ve lost about a quarter of a big toenail. But the medication I have now should fix it – a year from now.

1000 Instagram followers @maurigramz – I think the highest I ever got was 220. Seems like a funny thing to set as goal, looking back.  A vague dream of selling Mauritian themed clothing was something to do with this.

Help someone learn English – Nope. Well, I had a few conversation exchanges with a girl in Tunisia, and did a livestream QA for Turkish learners of English.

Document this plan – the biggest win. Everything that is written on this blog goes towards that goal. Without this blog, I would have nothing to show for the basic premise for all of my 2018 goals, which was to dedicate all my undertakings to Sarah. This whole year, was for Sarah. This blog and everything in it, is for her. It was my way of channelling my grief, fusing it with her spirit, and making sure that I valued every day, took risks, created, lived. Documenting this plan made me pin meaning on almost my every waking moment. I’ve a few updates to make, but I think I managed a post every day, as planned.

Conquer the fear of making a fool of myself (this is big) – Absolutely. I made big gains here. This was something of a fundamental internal redress – make changes here, see changes all over my life. I’m now very happy sharing my writing, my innermost thoughts, acting in front of a camera, performing to a theatre audience, and showing my vulnerability in a truthful way. I have a renewed sense of confidence.

Learn a new synth – Nope. But I think I’ll be getting back into synths and stuff as of early 2019 – the course I am going to teach will have a module specifically for music production, so I’ll need to brush up.

Self-publish a book – Nope. But I have my completed manuscript for ‘I Am Not A Paki’ short story (15,000 words I think) ready, thanks to the help of the Watford Writers. I’m excited to get stuck into the rewrites, drafts, and perhaps going through the experience of seeing if someone will publish it. Tim has offered to illustrate it as well.

An online store selling jeans – no online store, but many pairs of jeans sold on ebay. Yes.

Model for money – Nope. A bit of a cringey nope too.

Articulate and destroy those self-sabotaging stories I tell myself – Yes. I’ve laid much of my inner world bare here. I’d have been reticent about all those inner dark stories and secrets a year ago, but now I find that with them being here for the world to read, I’m even able to bring them up in conversation, and found that I’m not the only one. Thanks to anyone who listened to me – my friends, my family, colleagues, and my go to tele-therapists, the Samaritans.

Take an acting course – A huge win. I didn’t think it would happen. Too many schools, too pricey, too long a duration, too far away…and then the Actor’s Cafe finds me, practically knocking on my door, with a tailor made course for me. I’ve completed the course, I’ve widened and deepened as a person from all the techniques I’ve learned, and I might even have a part in a film next year. Thank you to John and everyone at the Actor’s Cafe.

Set up Sakiss Media – it’s there, it’s just not official. I’ve never run my own company before, but the last few invoices for video work that I’ve sent out have bore this name. Sakiss is what Humford calls me, but I’m starting to prefer Shak Media. Shak Media Ltd, 2019.

Go abroad for a week – the biggest no, only because I haven’t the money. I’m hoping to make up for it next year.

Lower body fat / build up muscle – It came and it went. I was super lean and strong at one point, but it became an obsessive thing in the end. I had my weight constantly on my mind, and morning weigh-ins were sometimes an unnecessary punishment. I took the whole thing very seriously. I took my feet off the pedals around November time. A little flabbier now but still on good terms with my wardrobe. The good thing is that I can manage my weight very effectively now.

Record a season of the ‘Hidden Jungle’ – no, but I played my first live radio show, which is here, and has inspired me to run regular shows, bringing out the best jungle records I have got hidden in my crates.

Build up maurigramz – gah, no more maurigramz goals!

DJ at a party – several wins! I played at parties, got the bar residency (which I’ve quit), and played on the radio.

Teach video/music/DJing – this is all coming up in the course I’ve been going on about (for this organisation http://www.wtbiglocal.org.uk/). I agreed it all this year, we just missed the deadline to get it running before the year was out.

Release a written article – I’m really not sure what I meant by this. I have co-written a few articles for Mustr though, I guess that’s half a win.

Learn some graphic design – yes, kinda, but absolutely the bare minimum I needed to get by with was learnt. I used free Adobe apps for both personal and commercial gain (memes and video graphic).

Sign up for some voluntary work – nothing formal came of this. I attended the Samaritans induction, which was not at a good time for me, mentally. I screwed up with the homeless food crew. But I still talk with the homeless, and donate to the coffee cups, and one day I’ll go back to giving them my old books #storiesinthestreets.

Make a short film – I made many videos, just none in the cinematic style I had in mind at the beginning. Well, I kinda validated my video for Graeme as a film because I submitted it to a film festival…I’ll take half a win.

Make a jungle / dnb track – nope. Lots of messing around with samples and Renoise, but nothing finished.

Do things I’m uncomfortable doing – kinda the same thing as conquering my fear of looking silly, see above, somewhere

Play a darbuka gig – I didn’t play to a crowd, but I did play over the phone for someone I was speaking to in an Egyptian call centre.

Do a photography gig – yes, I photographed for Mustr’s series ‘Beyond Business’.

Make £5000 by Dec 31st – well that definitely happened, except it’s all gone now. Really, I think I hoped to have £5k saved. Also£5k as earnings through just working for myself was probably the premise too. I don’t know. I wasn’t clear about this because I probably wasn’t really being honest with myself. The subject of money and debt is forever a thorn in my side, which I will have to face up to, in 2019.

Continue not smoking – I smoke the odd shisha pipe, but cigarettes I’m done with.

Keep a spend diary – nope, didn’t. Bank statements aren’t good enough – I’ve got to track my spending like I tracked my weight.

Halve my debts by Dec 31 – they’re higher

Make a signature dish in 5 cuisines – I made some Mauritian dipain frire but that’s it.

And finally…make some drawings of Wordfart – ahh Wordfart. I’ll come back to this. I love making words up, and wanted to turn my collection of Shakisms into drawings. I created a different set of drawings and turned them into greeting cards instead. Most of my friends and family who helped me get through the year have received a card in the post, hand-made by me, and signed © artbyshak 2018. 

And that’s it! The Sarah Project End of Project Report.

Here is the link to the start of the project, again: The Sarah Project

Happy New Year folks! Thank you to anyone who passed by this blog over the last year.

Tomorrow, a final, personal dedication to Sarah – Memories Of Sarah #12

 

 

 

 

YouTuber – Niko Omilana

I stayed indoors and in bed, practically the whole day, binge watching on Niko Omilana’s channel, which I discovered this morning.

What a legend in the making. Just twenty years old, and nearly half a million subscribers. His first upload was in 2014, and he’s been regularly producing content ever since. I admire his courage in taking to YouTube, grabbing it by the horns, and putting himself out there so young. He’s mastered control of social media  – each video has a sub-clip sent in from a subscriber who sets the likes target  – usually upward of ten thousand and usually smashing way beyond that.

Any of his recent videos will show you that this guy has balls, he has presence, and is destined for the big time. His pranks are large scale but still local enough for them to feel relatable. Conning his way into a job at Subway as a fake employee, meeting all the Friday night madness in Leicester Square, but then also being able to troll his way to the front of far-right march. For a brilliant story, great editing and a twist which made me hit subscribe, check this video out.

Keep it at son, we might just have another Sacha Baron Cohen in our midst.

 

Tim

Tim sent me a text, and it helped me get out of my miserable, depressed, bedroom state, and into St. Albans for lunch at Pin Petch. I was riding a wave of not being able to say yes to the lunch or not, and was worried that I’d be a strain to hang out with. I sent him a message to explain, and then got ready while trying to avoid thinking about how bad I was feeling. I was out of the door before the voice in my head could catch up with me.

I’d let messages stack up on WhatsApp. I replied to them while on the bus – I told Aishah I would meet her for that catch-up, I sent back a few memes to Cat, asked Amandine how her Christmas had been and said that I hoped to visit her in France next year.

In the restaurant, I told Tim about my meltdown over the last week or so. He has a good way with these kind of things. He’s not one to get these notions of self-loathing, but once upon a time he did, and whatever advice he ended up giving himself seems to have worked, and feels relevant to me.

After lunch, we walked around the lake at Verulamium Park, and then returned to the town for a drink in Dylan’s. His delightful Maria came to meet us shortly after closing her shop for the day. It’d been a while since the three of us had hung out together, so I really came back to life while we chatted about our experiences and dramas in the dark underworlds of the retail and hospitality sector.

I told Tim about the Sarah Project. I told him that in the moment that I learnt of Sarah’s death, I experienced the most truthful version of myself. In that moment, amid the sadness, a real objective arose, and that was to journey on to bring out that truthfulness within me, so that it would reside permanently at the surface of me from now on.

 

Inner Voices

I’ve enjoyed learning about the elements and the Periodic Table. Why did this seem so boring in chemistry lessons at school? I can safely say that I fervently understand the logic and the beauty of the table as of now. Mostly thanks to these videos, all that blind scribbling down of notes and scrappy diagrams before the blackboard was wiped finally make sense, twenty odd years later.

I’ve also binge-watched videos of mostly Muslims and atheists battling it out at Speakers Corner. Mostly this guy, whom though I’d likely clash with on much of what he says, including the way that he says it, I must commend for his intellect, study and technique in expressing his view of the truth. He’s also a big guy in stature, and I’m kind of impressed by how he has consolidated all of these things to present quite a remarkable force to the world. Also dotted around Speakers Corner are these characters.

My critical inner voice has taken over my real voice, physically. A regretful first thought arises in my mind, then almost by reflex, I blurt out the words why don’t you kill yourself like a tourettes tic and then another side of my conscience takes my voice and tells the other one to shut up.

I haven’t left the house for several days now. This voice has me under its control. This peculiar little act only occurs while I’m indoors and out of sight. While it has me in its grip, it’ll keep ticking away, making it harder to get motivated to go out. You end up, as I am today, stuck in your room, blocking all contact, wearing three day old clothes, unwashed, hosting outbursts from two conflicting voices within, out loud.

 

Doubt

This low mood has eased a little. I emailed that director from the show which helped me feel a bit ‘worky’.

I pondered what just happened. I’m surrounded by silence and stillness. The Sarah Project is exiting my system, I feel the next phase of life approaching, but only vaguely.

I pondered what was next. I want to take regular short courses. I will study Shakespeare, improvisational techniques, languages.

I didn’t want to open up my computer to write, it felt too machine-like. I stopped updating these pages, but felt bad as I wanted to complete this project.

I started to feel insincere about the whole thing, and my motivation. I’ve been made to feel (by my own doing) that all my efforts to honour Sarah’s memory have been nothing more than virtue signalling, to make me look like a great person. From Sarah’s death, I’ve made a ‘life’ for myself, but for Sarah’s family, it’s absolutely nothing that can be put in such inverted commas.

Katy responded back to me. I sunk. I couldn’t even begin to imagine just how painful this last year has been for her and the family. It was like I was thinking about them for the first time, again.