Between the Seeming & the meaning

“Do you think that you’ll be here forever? Do you ever think that wasting time is losing time? Do you ever think that losing time is gaining your death? Do you ever feel like there’s no air to breath? Like things are getting tight and heavy in your chest? Do you ever get that feeling in your guts like it’s going to be over sooner than later and sooner as every hour passes, as every minute, as every second goes by? Do you ever feel like the air is being sucked out of you? Do you ever feel like running until you burst into flames and explode? I do. I’ve got a stopwatch strapped to my brain. Got a death-trip man screaming in my ear. I got a part-animal part-machine vision digging its spurs into my side screaming, “Faster, you idiot, the sun is coming up!” “- Henry Rollins (spoken word – ‘Art to choke hearts’)

12717754_10208528714876839_4718956346891984528_nAnd this is how I’ve been feeling – on and off – for a while now. I go through phases where I’m bored of hearing from myself and my Face Book feed is almost all private posts. I scroll through and see all those little locked keys….and the world still goes madly on, so what do I really matter?

Then things flip around; maybe something new and exciting happens and my ego comes slovenly out of it’s hibernation hovel saying, “Sh*t yeah, folks need to hear about That” and then I’m bounding about on social media, proudly harping on about Motivational this and Travelocity that. For a while at least.

And so I continue to try and break myself with running. In cycles, I succeed in becoming so injured I need professional help and a few months off to regroup and then I prepare to try and Break Myself Again. I have still not broken my spirit mid-race though and I think that is the overall goal here, right?20150828_143446

The latest exploits – fourteen hours in the jungle, surrounded by challenging terrain (think abseiling down vertical mud-slides and river crossings through unmarked plantations, plus 12,000 feet ascent over a 55 km trail) came close. But in reality it was just me having a wee sulk at a checkpoint for about an hour (!) whilst the face ripping torrent of monsoon rain passed. I was never really going to drop out. I occasionally like to pretend to my body that it has this option but it’s just a Jedi mind-meld. Even my trail shoes turning into flip flops didn’t stop me from hobbling in to collect my medal.

And about ten minutes later, the pain was all gone and forgotten. The smile was on and somewhere in the deep recesses, a small check-box was ticked: toughest 50 Km in Malaysia, did Not break you. So, what’s next?

There’s a small disappointment because now I’m still on the same old quest. Where does determination run out and lack of fitness, training, experience, fuelling yah-dee-ya-dah kick in? So another event must be entered. Something further, something more arduous. I did manage to complete this and a road marathon a month later, with something called transfer metatarsalgia. In plain speak, this means I have overloaded my four smaller toes because I fail to pronate correctly and use the biggest toe for running duties. The X-ray showed some lovely thickening of the cortex around each bone and the feeling like a hammer was being repeatedly struck across the top of my foot now had a scientific explanation.

So after four months off, hobble boot and crutches, X-ray and MRI scans I’m in spacky orthotics again. Which if memory serves me, will unload a whole host of other issues (namely, sore knees at the moment but who knows what else is in store). The good news is that since the toe “thickening” has occurred over a longish time period, it isn’t reversible so they will be stronger and will help me, once I start using the big toes properly. In the meantime, there have been no stress fractures and here’s hoping I don’t succumb to this old chestnut.

But I don’t generally over-train. I train “just enough” to make it round. No, I don’t really want to be faster (thanks for asking), I just want to find out what breaks my spirit. These are not runners sentiments I have- running is just the feature – it’s about finding what I am made of and eventually, when I know my limits, I will then start to expand and improve them. Or something.

In the meantime I am planning five half marathons in six weeks and a spot of support running during the West Highland Way Ultra-marathon race. Which probably won’t even touch the sides. Then maybe a marathon and a couple of Ultras near the end of the year, if I’m still in one piece.

“It hurts to let go. Sometimes it seems the harder you try to hold on to something or someone the more it wants to get away. You feel like some kind of criminal for having felt, for having wanted. For having wanted to be wanted. It confuses you, because you think that your feelings were wrong and it makes you feel so small because it’s so hard to keep it inside when you let it out and it doesn’t come back. You’re left so alone that you can’t explain. Damn, there’s nothing like that, is there? I’ve been there and you have too. You’re nodding your head.” – Henry Rollins (spoken word – ‘P*ssing in the gene pool’)

Posting 50% completed

My last day working for Brunei Shell Petroleum was somewhat poignant, given that it was exactly two calendar years to my day of arrival in Brunei Darussalam.

On St. Patrick’s Day 2013, myself and my husband arrived in the capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan, on the midnight flight from Singapore. Our journey had begun in Aberdeen, Scotland by way of Frankfurt, Germany with Lufthansa airlines into Singapore Changi and finally onwards with Royal Brunei airways, to Bandar. On Tuesday 17th March 2015, I celebrated my final working day in the chemistry department of the National oil & gas company.


Casting my eyes back, on arrival, I recall we had a couple of Visa issues which seemed a huge faff, given that we were tired, disoriented and due to a variety of reasons, had not had a pre-assignment visit to Brunei. So we had no idea what to expect apart from what we had heard: Brunei is a ‘dry country’ (obviously a huge consideration for ex-pats, who enjoy alcohol as a medium for most socialising), it’s a tiny, oil-rich tax-free haven, the Sultan is one of the richest men in the world, there’s not much to do……that about summed up our knowledge base and I was really OK with this, having committed to four years overseas with little expectation. This week I will drive 45 minutes West, to cross the Brunei/Sarawak border with the sole intention of activating my non-work entry visa; it took me 13 months to obtain the work visa but only an hour to reverse the process.

In 2013, we arrived in the oil town of Seria after an extremely long journey on a bumpy dark road, alarmingly with the driver nodding off between undulations. [OK, so we were too tired to actually worry about the sleepy driver]. There was no one at our accommodation and we sat for a while in the company driven car whilst they tried to find someone to wake up. This was to be an ongoing theme, possibly as much “welcome to Asia” as anything else. There is no urgency here, ever and there is absolutely no wrong time to nod off. Looking back, I can see how very quickly I have accepted this mode of living – you just have to or you will literally kill someone – shrugging off my British Urgency Addict with a humidity lubricated shrug.

The last two years have scooted by in a Usainian blur as we merrily filled up two passports with stamps, jetting in and out of Brunei, mostly around Malaysia but also to exotic destinations like Mauritius, Tasmania, Phuket, Australia.

As I now enter the second half of the posting, I start to reflect on how my life has changed (and it has definitely changed) and how this might affect me over the next two years and beyond.

Hopefully I can illustrate with the gamut of photographs of wildlife, sunsets, a myriad of tree-types (my own personal project) and some reflections on this amazing and unique island I live on. For someone who has only this week ‘discovered’ Instagram, I’m hoping my blog will bear with me [apologies, it is my wont to humanise inanimate objects] and that my opinions, recorded selfishly and primarily for my own amusement, will also be of interest to the outside world.

Be Interactive! Post a question about Brunei if you have one.