Finding my True Self

#150

Postby HikerOfTheSoul » Tue Aug 23, 2016 4:43 pm

Hi Julia! That is a very nice dog!
I'm very fond of dogs myself, laureat is right, they really are beings full of joy towards life. Sometimes I wish I could be more like my dog, and I'm working on that, relying on mindfulness meditation to be able to experience the present moment as best as I can. I really recommend it - it's not hard to learn and you always get better with practice.

I also get what laureat is saying about facing the fears, because I found it useful myself. But more then facing the fears it's about accepting them. I think it could really be a powerful tool. The more effective therapy for ocd involves feeling the obsessive thought and not perform any ritual: this is of course extremely nerve wracking, that's why you start small and then proceed to bigger things. I think that you are doing very good by walking your dog and trying to be in social relationship. It can be very uncomfortable, I know that very well, but it's the right way forward.
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#151

Postby Julia Stretton » Tue Aug 23, 2016 6:13 pm

Vintage678 wrote:Julia!! What a cool dog!! He is big!! I am sure he loved running in that field!! I try to take mine to an open field around here. He loves it.
Good that you are decluttering. It makes you feel better. You have to declutter some of your books, though. You cant keep them all.


He is indeed a 'big beast'! :) At the same time, he is possibly the most soft and gentle being you'll ever come across.

In recent years, I've let go of loads of books. Although I might still give away the one or other, the ones I've still got are mainly ones I want to keep. A large amount are sci-fi books that my Dad started collecting in the 1950s. Interestingly, my most productive period was after I had just started my first art course. During the second week, I spent 25 hours on my homework (although we were told we only needed to do one or two) - but during the first two months of that course, I somehow also managed to read about eighty of my Dad's sci-fi books, so more than one each day! The other books that I have kept are related to psychology, philosophy, meditation, religion, mythology and art, and there are also a great deal of books on language - both English linguistics, as well as the other languages that I am studying.

My father brought me about 150 of his old maths, science and programming books, but I decided to give them to my friend who was studying natural sciences at uni when I met him over ten years ago, but who dropped out so he could focus on studying and teaching the Taoist arts full-time. I've kept the ones that highlight the 'fun' side of things (such as mathematical puzzles, and everything that explains topics in simple terms for numpties like me), but I'm not into anything that is too dry, and that is filled with complicated equations and formulae. My friend loves that kind of stuff, and each time I've seen him over the past few days, I've brought him a large bag of those books. I've tried to get him interested in programming - the general principles, rather than a specific language - and it seems that I have awoken his interest. The only technical books that I've got are ones that are useful for setting up websites, such as HTML, CSS, PHP, a bit of JavaScript, and also Linux. And of course anything related to graphics. Currently I'm reading about quantum electrodynamics (thanks, Mr Feynman!), but that's about as technical as it gets for me.

HikerOfTheSoul wrote:Hi Julia! That is a very nice dog!
I'm very fond of dogs myself, laureat is right, they really are beings full of joy towards life. Sometimes I wish I could be more like my dog, and I'm working on that, relying on mindfulness meditation to be able to experience the present moment as best as I can. I really recommend it - it's not hard to learn and you always get better with practice.


I'll let him know, pretty sure he'll appreciate it! :D

Yes, I've done mindfulness meditation in the past. In fact, I've done loads of meditation practice, but it is something which I wasn't interested in / able to do when I was smoking. Since I quit, I've been doing Taoist meditation every day for around 45 minutes (with a few exceptions, such as when I went to visit my parents). It really is a miracle cure for all kinds of issues.

This morning, I had my usual Tuesday morning Chi Gung lesson at 6:30 am in a local park. I had only gone to bed after midnight, and although I had set my alarm, I didn't realise that I had set my phone to 'silent'. I woke up at 6:17, and somehow I managed to get there only ten minutes late. It was the third day in a row that I had a large bag of science books for my friend.

There is one thing that I don't do, which is pushing myself too far. This is an important principle when it comes to anything I do, not just exercise:

Bruce Kumar Frantzis wrote:[...] remember to take the limits of your concentration only to a maximum of 70 percent of your capacity (this is a general rule for all modes of practice). Inhale and exhale only 70 percent of what you could push yourself to do at your most extreme effort. This guideline allows you a comfort zone for your body, your central nervous system, and your ability to breathe and concentrate, so you can do the activity in a relaxed fashion that reduces, rather than increases, internal stress.

Beginning from an effortless position, you may, over time, gradually increase the duration of the in-breath and out-breath, along with the intensity with which the mind penetrates the internal sensations of the body and its energy. With this gradual progression, the action of breathing itself will induce relaxation and calmness in your body. With the 70 percent rule, it becomes more relaxing, over time, as you extend your breath from ten seconds to thirty seconds, to one minute, to two minutes – a shift that should bring major benefits to you over the course of your lifetime.


That principle of Nei Gung (the water method of Taoist practices) has always worked really well for me, in just about all areas of life. Of course, there are disciplines where that rule doesn't apply. My friend has also been to New Zealand to study with the Maori healers there, and they take you beyond your limits, which can include quite a lot of pain and very unpleasant sensations. But that's not something which I would want to do without having a firm foundation in other practices, and being far more in touch with my body than I can currently say of myself. My friend was studying Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu and Western practices for about twenty years before studying with the Maoris.

One thing that I nearly forgot to mention is that I sent off the application form for counselling on Saturday, after I had decided that that is what I want to do (not sure whether I've mentioned it in this particular thread, but I chose an organisation that offers person-centred humanistic counselling). I already had a reply in my inbox first thing this morning, saying that they had received my application, and that I've been placed on a waiting list. Currently, the waiting period is about twelve weeks - but I am glad that I initiated the process, so now all I have to do is wait!

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#152

Postby Julia Stretton » Fri Aug 26, 2016 4:06 am

Tiredness made me head to bed for an early night, while I was thinking I would be waking up an hour or two later in order to engage in my usual breathing exercises. But I was too agitated, and I gave up on the idea of sleep after only fifteen minutes. My usual meditation practice provided me with the desired result, and helped with dissolving any tension that I was holding. When I finally went to sleep I left on the lights, so it would be easier for me to get myself out of bed when I would awake in the middle of the night, as I had planned to get rid of some bulk items that needed to be taken down to the bins - not illegal, but nevertheless frowned upon by some, and something which I prefer to do when there is nobody around.

Sleep was accompanied by grotesque and surreal dreams reminiscent of tripping on Salvia Divinorum - except that there was nothing divine about them; rather, they took place in what appeared like an antechamber of hell. It wasn't the infernal realms themselves, but surely a place located somewhere between life and death, all in hyperreal technicolour. Views into past and dated landscapes from archaic computer games populated by semi-realistically rendered monsters and fighters; a claustrophobia-inducing room in which a moustached pianist with rubber legs recited cacophonous and crudely garbled nonsense that seemed to have escaped from the head of a mentally disturbed child; a shell-covered stormtrooper entering, proselytising and attempting to convert those present to his own particular brand of High Catholicism. A woman clad in sky blue sitting next to me. I wanted to help and comfort her, while I was at the same time feeling repulsed by her own dogma that had rubbed off from the imperial minion who had unwantedly materialised in this wretched environment.

When I woke up it was nearly 3am, and feeling horrifically tired, the idea of leaving on my lights and deciding to embark on a nocturnal mission to discard remnants of the past, seemed utterly insane to me. Nevertheless, it appeared that there was no time like the present, and I got up so I could take those items downstairs which had no purpose in my life, and which had only only unnecessarily been taking up space. My dog looked at me pleadingly, and I realised that a late night walk under the waning moon would be in order. It also gave me the opportunity to take a bag of my old belongings with me, so I could leave it outside the local charity shop. I don't like being connected with any items that once were a part of my past, so that I far prefer to leave anything which might be converted into money for a good cause anonymously, than overtly handing anything over to a shopkeeper. While we walked out into nature, my dreams started to make sense to me. Although they had been deeply disturbing, I realised that they represented elements of my past which needed to go, and after awakening I had no desire to return to the same kind of troublesome slumber - instead, it was time to rid myself of the empty shells that had attached themselves to my unconscious, in order to make space for something more pure and beautiful.

Over the past two days, I have been supremely busy; I am not going to go into any detail, but just wanted to make a note of how good it feels to create constant change. During past attempts at quitting smoking, there was often still an element of lethargy present, and a resistance to turning around my life to a larger extent than merely on a superficial level. But this time, something is different - there is a driving force which can't be described in words, but which makes me move forward at an ever accelerating pace, away from a past which holds nothing of value to me; and the further I progress, the lesser the desire to look back instead of forward. Every moment that is consciously lived seems like a step into a better future.

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#153

Postby Julia Stretton » Fri Aug 26, 2016 9:50 pm

Just under two yeas ago, I was feeling worse than I had ever felt before in my life. The anxiety that I was experiencing was causing me heart pain for which I was prescribed beta blockers, I was taking valium, and I had briefly gone back on antidepressants, nine years after I had stopped taking them. At some point, at the beginning of December, I ran out of all three items, and I requested a prescription from my surgery. But they messed things up, and I was left without any of my medication for a whole weekend. As a result of my anger and frustration, I decided not to bother anymore, and to go without in the future - in fact, after that weekend it took me around 1½ years until I saw my GP again. At the same time, I wasn't able to get hold of my dealer, so I decided to kick weed in the butt as well. And I felt generally fed up with other humans, so the other decision that I made was to stay away from anyone else. I deactivated my Facebook account, and shortly afterwards my phone - which had previously been playing up - packed up on me, so that that form of contact was gone, as well. My best friend was in New Zealand at the time.

It was an incredibly bizarre time. Over the period of around six weeks, I threw away about thirty bin liners of junk that had accumulated in my flat. Every night, I woke up at some point, and I went down to the beach to leave different items there that had a symbolic value to me, and which reminded me of a part of my life that I wanted to get rid of. At that time of the year, the streets (and the beach) were deserted at night, which added to the eerie atmosphere, and while I was facing the sea I performed improvised rituals and incantations while asking the Universe to free me from my past burdens. In my flat, I did unspeakable things, and at times, when I looked out of the window, it always seemed that the streets, which are usually quite busy around here, were deserted and devoid of life. There was never a single car or pedestrian in sight, and I asked myself on a number of occasions whether I was really alive, or whether I had entered some kind of obscure dream world. All other human beings just seemed to have disappeared from the face of this planet, and it seemed as if I was living my own version of the movie 'Jacob's Ladder'.

I thought that I was undergoing some kind of mystical transformation, but in retrospect - and from a more objective point of view - I was probably experiencing an acute state of psychosis. At one point, I mopped my kitchen floor with dirty water to which I had added a bottle of PVA, before emptying a pile of organic waste in the middle of it. Then I poured a bottle of sulphuric acid and other chemicals on top, and I added loads of other items to the pile - clothes, pieces of plastic, broken toys, pottery, jewellery - before wrapping plastic foil over the whole concoction, and trying to seal everything with several litres of PVA. In my mind, I had just discovered the secret to creating the perfect piece of art, rather than the toxic cesspit that it was (nowadays I wonder whether I was possibly exposed to too much of Joseph Beuys's work when I was a child). My attempt to seal everything was only partially successful, and I had to place several blankets on top, in order to prevent the odorous fumes from escaping - although even with those provisions, my imaginary masterpiece was probably still leaking some amount of poisonous chemicals.

The pile took up a large amount of space, and several weeks later I realised that it was pretty tedious to jump over it each time I wanted to get to the other end of the kitchen. So I cut out the part of the kitchen floor that it was glued to, so I could move it into another room. I also had to remove a work surface in order to do so (and I only just replaced it with a larger one a couple of months ago), and not long afterwards I removed the rest of the flooring. Since then, the pile has taken up space in different parts of my flat, wherever I moved it to at the time. It was much too big and heavy to just throw in the bins downstairs, and for a long time it seemed like an unsolvable problem. But today I donned the chemical suit that I had got specifically for the purpose of taking it apart several months ago, together with a gas mask and long rubber gloves. It was extremely hot, and I had to take a break about every five minutes or so. On several occasions, I was nearly sick - but I finally succeeded, and words fail to describe the relief that I am feeling, realising that I have finally killed 'the thing', and thrown its dismembered parts away.

Over the past few days, I have also removed all tools and art materials from my living room where they seemed to have taken up permanent residence, and I completely cleared out the utility room so that they could find a new home there. I also emptied four book cases and took them apart, as I want to construct a built-in bookcase that covers the whole wall, after painting the room first. It is the only room in my flat that I've never painted, and the walls are stained yellow not only from the previous resident chain-smoking in here for decades, but also from eight years of me smoking joints all day, every day, with only a few small breaks in between. Two days ago I carried a large bag of compost home, so I could repot all my plants, and yesterday I found some more abandoned plants that I rescued - which meant once again going to the hardware store for another bag of compost!

I can't remember ever being this busy before - but I am thoroughly enjoying all the change that is occurring. I have found that if I help myself, the Universe assists not only in every way possible, but also in ways that I would never have been able to imagine before. There are more things going on in my life, but it would be beyond the scope of this post to write about everything ... so I'll conclude by saying that I'm feeling very happy about the way that my life is going! :)
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#154

Postby Julia Stretton » Thu Sep 01, 2016 11:19 am

After I hadn't posted on here for several days, I was logged out for some reason, and unable to get back into the forum. Each time I clicked on the 'I forgot my password' link, I got a notification saying that a new password had been sent to my email address, but somehow I never got those emails. Luckily the support team on here are very friendly and helpful (thanks, Olga and Rebekah!), and I've been able to log into the forum again since this morning. :)

The past week has been extremely busy for me. A friend asked me to set up some websites for him, and I transferred 22 of his domains to a new web host. I am hoping that most of those are going to be mirrors or redirects, and that he doesn't want me to set up 22 different sites for him! :P

When I saw my parents a couple of weeks ago, they didn't only bring me tons of books, but also my father's old computer that he used to set up the family website. While 'family website' probably sounds like something simple and amateurish, it is actually a project that he spent the past ten years or so programming. All pages are created dynamically, there are user accounts for different family members and friends, image uploaders, multi-language support, and all together everything consists of around 10,000 files! Because of dementia, my father has forgotten almost all his programming skills, and he asked me to sort out the site for him, after it stopped working properly some time ago. But it is all way beyond me - my knowledge of PHP and MySQL is rather limited, and I know nothing at all about JavaScript and Perl.

At first, I was trying to get help on a web developers forum. But there is so much that seems to have gone wrong, that it seems to me that it would be faster and easier to set up everything afresh in WordPress, than to try and fix the existing site. Also, while my father might have been an expert at scripting, he doesn't really know anything about aesthetics and intuitive interface design. So I got myself a hosting contract yesterday, and I've started to set up the basic structure. In the past, I set up a number of static sites, and with WordPress as a framework, it is going a lot faster and easier than I expected, and I am finding myself enjoying the task, even though it seemed rather daunting at first. Nowadays there are free plug-ins for almost everything, which gives me time to work on the actual design, rather than having to fumble around with complicated code.

Although setting up websites isn't something that I want to do professionally, it is something that is keeping me busy (which is handy, as I never have to think about what to do), and it is going to earn me some money as well, which I will be able to further invest in more art materials and tools that I need. I've also got a working Windows computer for the first time since mine started playing up several years ago (so that I've only used it since then whenever I absolutely had to, and apart from that I've only been using my netboook), and my parents paid for a hosting contract that I can use for my own website, as well as for a number of add-on sites such as my parents' one (their web host is rather crap, and I wasn't even able to install WordPress on the server without getting error messages each time). Ten years ago, at the age of 62, my mother got her PhD in history (a few years after passing her Masters degree), and she needs the family website for her work, so I am trying to get that section to work first - and the historical society in the place where she lives need a new website too, so that might be another opportunity for me to keep myself busy and make a bit of money.

I know that probably all sounds rather technical and boring to most people. But I've also been making new friends, such as two days ago when I met some people whom I had only known online before. We met in a pub on the other side of town, which has a large terrace overlooking the park there. We had a great time while I was sipping my tea, and it feels good to have made a few friends. However, I did notice another effect of having stopped smoking - when I was a teenager, I'd regularly come home after a weekend out in nature with my body covered in insect bites, although by the time I was about 20, my blood seemed to have become so toxic that they always left me alone after that. But when I went to meet my friends, it was the second time in a week that my legs were completely stung to bits by some pesky mosquito(es)! I must say, if I manage to find a partner who finds me as sweet as those annoying blood suckers do, I'll be a very happy girl indeed! :D
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#155

Postby laureat » Thu Sep 01, 2016 2:04 pm

The sweetest, the coolest
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#156

Postby Julia Stretton » Thu Sep 01, 2016 5:26 pm

laureat wrote:The sweetest, the coolest
julia


:lol:

Julia Stretton wrote:[...] and all together everything consists of around 10,000 files!


That's a slight understatement - I meant to write '100.000 files'!

Just heading off for 1½ hours of Chi Gung practice in one of the parks here in town, followed by an hour of New Moon meditation. Sounds quite exhilarating, but these things are usually more gentle than I imagine them to be. It will probably be quite a late night though, by the time I''ve got back and walked my dog.

The Julia Language:

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(source:
http://julialang.org/)
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#157

Postby Julia Stretton » Fri Sep 09, 2016 5:50 pm

It's been exactly 100 days today since I quit smoking tobacco. In a way it feels weird to have two different quit dates that are so close to each other, as I quit weed 22 days later. But maybe both are equally valid, and I can celebrate again in just over 3 weeks time! :)

What really surprises me is how much has happened in that short amount of time. In the past, time just seemed to fly by without anything changing in my life. When I was still smoking, and I used to look at the past decade or so since I moved to this town, it always felt that things hadn't really progressed much - with the two years that I had spent studying art at college probably being the most significant factor of change. But apart from that, my memory just draws a blank if I try to think of any noteworthy events.

For the past week or so, I've been very much immersed in web design, which is why it's been the first time that I hadn't posted on here for over a week. While I'm enjoying the progress, one thing that makes it difficult is that it is something that I can easily obsess about - in a way, it draws me away from the external world and prevents me from having to deal with things which might be more difficult. That is exactly the reason why I always used to be a geek - it always used to be an effective form of escapism. Now, each time when the day is over, I realise that I haven't really been doing much except for sitting in front of the computer, and while the work I am doing is important, I find it difficult to pull myself away from my screen and have a break every now and again, while I just relax or do something different, such as my exercises. I've been having regular lessons (including the early 6.30am ones in the park), but I need to find a way of setting aside some time each day for pacticing what I've learned.

Yesterday, I had an appointment for an assessment, so the organisation that I'm going to have counselling with can find a counsellor to match me up with. It's been less than a month (I think) since I applied, and I was told at the time that the waiting list was 12 weeks, so it seems that things are moving forward faster than expected. Which I'm pleased about, as it's something that I'm really looking forward to.

The only other thing that is worth adding at this point is that it looks likely that I'm going to be able to afford a new cooker in ten days time, just in time for when I get my new kitchen floor laid, and the old one (which hasn't had a working oven compartment since I got it eight years ago) is disconnected. After some financial troubles, I was doubting whether it was something that I'd be able to manage, but after I got my tax refund in time, it now appears that I'll have the necessary funds. I haven't checked my account yet, but at least I got a letter saying they had received my bank detals, and that it would be paid into my account, so if I haven't already got the refund, I should be getting it anytime soon.

That's it for now, off to do some more work.

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#158

Postby Julia Stretton » Fri Sep 16, 2016 4:12 am

It seems almost unbelievable what kind of circumstances I seem to be attracting into my life. I've been obsesssing about some websites that I'm desperate to get finished, so I stayed up for several hours after I had taken my dog for his evening walk, and I decided to take him out one last time before going to sleep. When I came back from the hill where I always take him when I walk him at night, I could smell fire from a distance, and I saw that the flat next to my one was on fire. I ran towards the building as fast as I could, and as I didn't have my phone on me, I rushed up to some people who had just come out of their house, asking them if they had any phones on them. The whole balcony was on fire, and there was a loud sound from all the debris falling down onto the pavement.

After the fire brigade arrived, it took them about an hour to extinguish the fire, and after several hours outside I was told that I would still have to wait another hour, as the smoke was still too thick for them to tell whether it would be safe for me to return to my flat. After a while, the other tenants were allwoed back into the building, except for those in the four flats of that part of the building, including mine. A downstairs neighbour invited me to his place, and we had a cup of tea which he prepared with a gas burner, as all the electricity had been turned off. Luckily I had my torch with me, which I always take along when I walk my dog. After about 45 mintues, I went downstairs, and I was told that it would probably be safe for me to go back, but that I should ask the firemen who were still at work upstairs. They gave me the all-clear, and surprisingly the smell of smoke in my flat isn't nearly as bad as I had expected, although the communal area outside the flat is a complete mess.

It is now past 5am, and I am looking forward to going to bed, although I don't know how well I'll be sleeping. I want to get away from here for a few days, so hopefully I'll be able to get the train to see my parents after I've had some rest. This kind of thing is like my worst nightmare. Since I woke up in a burning room which I was sharing with several people in the early nineties, and I jumped through a closed window to escape, after making sure that I had woken up everyone else (resulting in a long stay in hospital as a result), I've been very careful when it comes to fire. But I've always been worried about other people who might be more careless, especially in a building with nearly 130 flats where I live on the 15th floor ... I dread to think of what it would be liked to be trapped here without being able to escape. Last year, someone died in a flat fire just two floors below me (but on the other side of the building) .... how am I suppsoed to escape from the feeling the the danger is encroaching closer and closer?

I'll be trying to get some sleep now, and hopefully I won't be plagued by horrific nightmares - last night I had night terrors combined with a false awakening, and I have no idea how something like the fire that happened in the flat just next to me is going to affect my dreams. Please, can people send a few positive vibes my way. My life has already been extremely tumultous in the past, and I am desperate for some peace and calmness!

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#159

Postby Julia Stretton » Fri Sep 16, 2016 8:36 am

I woke up after 2.5 hrs sleep, and I had a text message from my parents saying it's ok to come over for a few days. So I'll be heading out of town later, after I've seen a friend for a cup of tea.

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#160

Postby Julia Stretton » Fri Sep 16, 2016 8:43 am

The scene outside my flat this morning.

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And my next-door neighbour's door (where it all happened)

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I WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE!!!
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#161

Postby Vintage678 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 7:55 pm

Hi Julia,
Wow!!!
I am so sorry this happened in your apartment building, but let's thank God, that you and your dog are safe and that all your belongings are in good order!!
Did the smell get into your flat, the smoke?
I can understand you wanting out of there. But please dont go back to smoking because of this incident. Stay strong!! Just thinking about this incident makes me want to light up... holy cow!!!
Wow, is this the flat that you spoke of earlier where all the problems come from? The lady who wakes you up, etc.?
I hope you have a good stay at your parents. How is your sister doing? Is she over at your parents now?
Well, stay strong. Hopefully, you can move from there. This is all part of the struggle of life.
Take care of yourself and that beautiful dog of yours.
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#162

Postby Julia Stretton » Sat Sep 17, 2016 11:33 am

Thanks for your thoughts, Vintage!

There were a large number of residents who were lighting up, and I realised that it was one of those situations where I would have felt desperate for a smoke myself in the past. But at the same time, I was also aware that there was no way I'd use it as an excuse to succumb to past habits, rather than carrying on with reaping the benefits of being smoke-free,

The image of coming down the road towards the building, and seeing the blaze directly in front of me, is going to be forever etched in my mind. It was 1am and the streets were deserted. It was very quiet, so the sound of the debris falling down onto the pavement, and onto the window sills of the flats underneath, really stood out. The whole flat was on fire, and I only had two thoughts cross my mind - that there might be someone trapped in the flames, and that it might spread to the neighbouring flats, including mine, and possibly even destroy the whole building. I knew straight away whose flat is was. My phone is actually an 8" 3G tablet which is too big to fit into my pocket, and I hadn't wanted to take a bag with me, just for taking my dog up the nearby hill for a half hour walk. But it made me feel helpless not to be able to phone 999, so I'll probably always have it with me in the future whenever I leave the house. All I could do was to run towards the building, and hope that I'd see another person somewhere on the streets. I was so relieved when I saw some people coming out of their house. I shouted at them, asking if they had any mobile on them. They asked why, and I pointed towards the blaze, and all they could say was 'Oh my God!'. One of them went running back into the house to get their phone. Then we ran towards the entrance on the other side of the house that wasn't on fire (the house has got two entrances), and they went from floor to floor shouting for people to get out, while I left my dog with one of the people downstairs, and went to the second floor where the head of the Tenant's Association lives (the grandmother of the girl whose flat was on fire). Her husband answered the door, and they had obviously been sleeping. I told him that his granddaughter's flat was ablaze before I ran down again. By the time I got downstairs, the emergency services had arrived.

Here is one more photo, of the exact view that I had when I came towards the building from the side road - I promise it is going to be the last one:

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The person in the flat on the other side of hers said in the local paper that he slept all the way through the fire, and only woke up at 3am when everything was nearly over and he heard a lot of shouting outside - no idea how he managed that!

Yes, it was the girl who had been having all those troublesome visitors. The same afternoon, before the fire happened, I took my dog for his early evening walk. When I left my flat, the girl's grandmother was there, and there was a pile of her belongings (you can see part of a large flatscreen TV on the picture taken outside the flats). Apparently her boyfriend had beaten her up on a number of occasions in the past, and she had reported him to the police three times - but each time, he had intimidated her, and she had retracted her statements again, so that they were unable to do anything. It was also he whom all the other people had come to see, banging on the door late at night and shouting to be let in, and parties regularly ending up with violent fighting, with the police and paramedics being called. Apparently, he had beaten her up again the previous night, and he had smashed up everything in the flat, including the large TV and a smaller one, which had been left outside the flat together with other belongings. She assured me that all trouble would be over now, as he had been arrested and was being interrogated at the police station at the time we were talking. He had previously been banned from the building, and if he ever entered it again, it was likely that he would go to prison for it.

Obviously, she has an addiction problem, which is probably one of the main reasons why she kept going back to an abusive person. When someone got killed in the same building in February of this year (and not last year, as I had believed), alcohol was also involved. Although he was a very likeable person, and a very active community campaigner who was involved in a number of organisations, very few people knew that he had an alcohol problem (myself included). The local newspaper reported a few months after the incident about the enquiry. Apparently the result had been that he had become confused due to being drunk, and that in his confusion he had gone to the far end of the flat where he had become trapped by the flames, instead of towards the exit. And in this recent case, I believe that someone without her kind of problems would have been far less likely to just leave a candle burning on their mattress while falling asleep.

Similarly, when I ended up waking up in a burning room in the early to mid nineties, I was also going through a 7-year phase of being drunk every single day. Although I had been homeless a number of times, up to several months at a time, I had always had somewhere to stay, and it was the first night ever that I didn't have anywhere to go. Someone else whom I had been drinking with that day was in the same position, and after everyone else whom we had been drinking with that day had gone home, we went to get another six-pack of beer, which we shared with an older homeless person whom we met in the park. He told us that he and his friends were staying in an empty house that was nearby, where they had plenty of blankets and sleeping bags. It was a narrow room, with sleeping bags along one of the long sides, and tables which were piled with mattresses, duvets and more sleeping bags along the whole other side, with candles burning in between. I woke up in the middle of the night, and the whole wall opposite us was burning all the way up to the ceiling, just a few feet from where we had been sleeping. I woke up the others, and in my panic I jumped through the closed window. It was only on the ground floor, but I cut myself on the glass, and I rushed to the nearest phone box, leaving a trail of blood behind me (this was when mobile phones were extremely rare). I was taken to hospital, and it turned out that I had severed a nerve in one of my hands, and a tendon in one of my feet. I was hospitalised for about four weeks, and after that I had to walk for ages using underarm crutches, and it was a very painful recovery. At first they thought my foot would need a skin graft, but in the end everything healed well enough.

All these experiences have showed me that it's not only important for me to stay clean myself, but that it is indeed dangerous to even be around people who have serious substance abuse issues. It doesn't matter how careful I am if someone else in my surroundings places me in danger. After I had got all those books from my father, I was thinking what would happen if someone set the house on fire, and I lost everything due to someone else's fault - and now the person in the flat directly next to mine nearly made that happen, and it is the second time in just over half a year that a flat in the same building has been gutted by fire! I really don't want to stay there any longer than possible, but with my current financial situation there is no way that I can move anywhere else, so it is something that I will need to build into my planning.

On Thursday I am going to have my first counselling session (so I'll need to go back home on Wednesday at the latest). When I applied, I was told that the waiting list was twelve weeks, but it will only have been a month since I handed in my application. I guess it helped that I answered that it didn't matter, when I was asked whether I had any preferences with regards to my counsellor, e.g. their gender or sexuality.

I think it is going to be another nine weeks or so before my sister will be allowed to leave the clinic where she is currently staying, and she can come to England. Someone who lives in the same village as my parents contacted me on Facebook, and said to get in touch so we could meet up while I'm here. I can't remember him, or how he got onto my friend's list, but he must be one of my sister's friends from the nineties, whom we went to rave parties with when she was still living in England, so it will be interesting to meet someone whom I haven't seen for twenty years, He is working towards a PhD in Oriental and African music, so it is good to see that not everyone whom I used to know at the time has become a hopeless dropout, or has evolved into a boring square. Neither of those two options appear very tempting to me. Despite having matured a lot since that time, I am also aware that I will always be a very alternative person, with my very own views that will often vary considerably from those of the mainstream.

Before I started writing this post, I was out in nature on what was my longest walk that I had had in a long time. There is nothing quite likke the smell of freshly manured fields, and I am feeling pleasantly exhausted.
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Julia Stretton
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#163

Postby Julia Stretton » Sat Sep 17, 2016 1:12 pm

Vintage678 wrote: [...] but let's thank God, that you and your dog are safe and that all your belongings are in good order!!
Did the smell get into your flat, the smoke?


Yes, I guess that's the main thing. It could have ended up a lot worse, in the way that I was picturing it in my head when I was alone in the street, feeling helpless without a phone to call for help. It was a great relief seeing my neighbour safe, despite everything that she's put me and other residents through over the past year. And after not knowing for half the night whether I'd be allowed back into my flat, I was equally relieved when I was told I could return.

Maybe I'll feel at ease again at some point with living in a large tower block. But for now, I'm glad I'm not there while all the cleanup operations and enquiries are taking place, and I wouldn't want to be harassed by reporters either. Although the problem with 'neighbours from hell' has definitely sorted itself out, as it will be a long time before anyone moves into that flat again. I just hope that my ex-neighbour (and I'm happy to call her that, rather than 'neighbour') gets all the help she needs with her problems, instead of carrying on with attracting chaos and destruction wherever she goes.

At first, I was surprised at how little my flat seemed to smell of smoke - but that was probably only compared with how strong the smell had been outside. The next morning, I wasn't able to stand the stench that had invaded my walls. Away from the main entrance, the smell is actually worse which must have come in through the windows. After the weekend, I'll be phoning the council to see whether they've got any provisions in place, to help people in my kind of situation with the costs of renovating. That would be another problem solved.

Fire is a great purifier. Once it has destroyed whatever has stood in the way before, it creates the fertile soil on which new things can grow. The best way in which we can see an event like this, is as a new beginning.
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Julia Stretton
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#164

Postby HikerOfTheSoul » Sun Sep 18, 2016 3:03 pm

Wow Julia!
I'm happy to hear that you are ok and your dog is too. That's the most important thing.

I'm sure that was a very frighting situation, so it's good that you are able to go away for a bit and catch your breath.

I'm also happy to see the attitude in your last post, you seem to be getting stronger as a person each time I visit this forum. I admire that a lot.

I'm also into webdesign so I enjoyed your posts about that. I feel it's very rewarding to create something useful and nice to see and use from scratch. If you ever need help with you wordpress project just let me know! I'll be happy to lend you a hand.

I wish you a happy stay with your parents and I hope it can do good for you.
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