Earlier today, I was looking at my (fairly recently bought) cacti: I'd put some aquarium sand and a few stones into the plastic rectangular trays on top of the soil -so they have become quite beautiful miniature "potscapes". Then I was thinking how well ceramics, sand, stones and cacti would go together -and that led me to remember my daughter's mother -who lives in Amsterdam, sometimes made ceramic objects and is now probably dying of cancer.

So there were also thoughts about Christmas and distant friends and family.... about the reasons and consequences of maybe going back to Europe.... perhaps for good -or maybe just for the holiday...... Being alone over christmas is about the worst thing I can imagine with regards to holidays. However, going to Holland for Christmas is expensive, needs a lot of organising and would probably involve a lot of work for several people who would have to fit me in somewhere for the duration of my stay. Although, of course I could move around a bit and visit a few friends in different cities..... Going to Wales to see my 96 year old stepfather (perhaps for the last time) would be even more expensive and complicated as he is now too infirm to provide accomodation for me at home. Such a pity that he has vitually stopped emailing. I did enjoy having contact with him so much -I guess he has, for a long time, meant more to me that my biological father.

However,  perhaps the effort of a trip to Holland is not only justifiable but essential -just for the last chance to comfort the bearer and co-producer of our daughter and to say a final goodbye before we both move on in our different directions. My daughter has her (Irish) partner -so my presence is presumably pleasant but less important for her -although I suspect both of us would hate to loose contact altogether.... It is strange how trivial being together with loved ones can be -and yet how painfully large the ache can become when one is separated. How can the joy of any meeting ever make up for the pain of separation? Perhaps this is why, when reuniting, many couples often fight -before settling down to the pleasant trivia of being together again....

However, I notice that I'm not very enthousiastic about going back to Europe. For some reason, I like it here  -despite the rape of Philippine culture and economics by western commercial interests with its endless supply of mercantile junk. Unfortunately, the Imperialist tradition of buying kingdoms for beads apparently still thrives here: As manifest by the supermarket shelves full of expensive but dubious products, the city streets polluted and ravaged by motor cars and the home invading horrors of American TV, its local distributing TV stations and their advertisers.... Nevertheless, underneath the surface -perhaps as a direct result of the daily struggle for life in an economy based more on commercial prostitution than solid economic foundations -there is a humanity and warmth that has largely dissapeared from post-WWII Europe.

I desparately hope it lasts -and that I am not witnessing the death throws of a complex and in many ways delightful society -as I did in Holland, which, when I first arrived in the early 1970's reminded me of how pre-war England must have been.....  Unfortunately, within30 years,  Holland managed to  forget its own culture and through imitation learned how to join the modern global barbarians. In the late 1980's Eastern Germany also looked as if a group of pre-war Hitler Youths could come marching round the corner at any moment. Within a few years of the collapse of Eastern Europe it had started to look "normal". Now it too is (presumably) proud to have escaped its own history to become yet another bland consumer paradise, just like the others.  I escaped the decline of England -but I did witness the decline of Holland (and the decay of Europe). I hope I don't have to see history repeating itself here too. It is strange and horrifying, how the more unpleasant the living and working environment seems to be -the nicer the people often are. The conversion of the mining industry into the tourist industry in Wales -and I suspect the electronics boom in Ireland -all seem to combine a rise in wealth with a loss of human dignity and pride. Is a person's worth (even for themselves) truly a function of their economic context? Does that really mean that people need to be forced to struggle to survive in ugly unhealthy conditions -simply for the good of their souls? I sincerely hope not!

One example of the socio-economic difference between Europe and the Philiipines appears to be manifest in the need for a partner. One needs some kind of mutual support system here. In contrast to Europe, where there are housing shortages caused by the apparent desire of people to live lonely, private, lives in splendid isolation before being collectively dumped into the old-folks home -here in the Philippines, it seems bizarrly excentric for a person to live alone without helpers, family or partner. Indeed, perhaps in the long term, it is (as some have said) impossible..... Certainly, I'm increasingly feeling that it is undesirable -at least. I see that the young women in the food hall and the eating houses are shamelessly and delightfully flirtatious. What a pity I'd need to buy a couple of Viagra factories if things got serious..... I still have a flat in Amsterdam -which is possibly more trouble than convenience -so I'll probably have to make some important decisions soon. I'm not getting any younger iether -and don't have ten or twenty years to spend while contemplating my future.

As I begin to understand the living conditions more -I also loose my (western indoctrinated) suspicion of young girls with older partners (which even embarrased me sometimes -so that I often felt like shouting "its not like that at all" -although my partner was apparently often asked admiringly by other women how we met).... Now I see that it probably isn't like that -or at least it need not be. In nature an elderly dominant male with a young harem is not so exceptional. So there must be some survival advantage in the deal. Our Genes can't be completely crazy -or we wouldn't exist. So what important things does one give to one's partner -in exchange for what? I guess physical, emotional, intellectual and economic support are all important -but I suspect that the bottom line is "companionship" -in the widest sense. The feeling that whatever happens,when the chips are down, one is not alone and two heads (pockets, minds, souls, etc...) are always better than one. Basically, the team transcending the individual. Perhaps sharing the wisdom (and perhaps wealth) of age with the vitality of youth is not such a bad deal after all.....

So does it matter who our partner is? Do some people provide a wider range of support than others? Why are we apparently attracted to some people and not to others? Why does this "attraction" sometimes fade -or even turn into the opposite? Is "attraction" perhaps a terrible trap  created by western romatic idealism? To be honest, the question of "arranged" marriages (and "marriages of convenience") has interested me for some time. However, I still have no conclusions on the matter. Perhaps all marriages are (on the bottom line) marriages of mutual convenience -and maybe that is the best basis for any relationship -although once again, it probably all hinges on how one defines "convenience".....

My (ex)partner has said that I should move on and get a life of my own -without her. I can see her point of view -what can I offer her that she cannot get from others? On the other hand, I guess it does involve a wierd paradox.... She is obviously right -there is no value in a partner who only needs someone for the sake of their own survival and can offer little in return.....  but suppose that we  could (still)  be of some value to each other as companions (in the best sense of the word)... It is difficult to put fences around emotional developments and entanglements -perhaps  it is difficult to "move on"without the risk of perhaps moving on too far..... but what could I offer her? As far as I can see, the only really important thing that one can offer anybody, is that which I thought that she had rejected because she thought it wasn't there..... This reafirms that this delightful dissolution of ego is the prize and the price. Originally, I'd assumed that she hadn't recognised my feelings -but now, I'm beginning to understand that it was the way that these were expressed that became so painful....

However, it was quite bizarre when I recently recieved two opposing messages within a short period: One person saying how sensitive I was at almost the same time that another was claiming that I had emotionally abused and tortured them. In fact, the positive remarks came from somebody who had themselves previously been upset by my "insensitivity"-so I could not resist asking them about it. She replied:  "I can imagine what was said about you abusing her emotionally. That is what I meant about your 'verbale violence' . You are so damned good in analysing emotional things that it occurres to somebody who loves you, that  you speak with your ratio and not with your heart."

What a wierd paradox -I wonder if it is true. I guess that if people say or do things that one does not understand -then one can iether be impressed by their wisdom -or appalled by their stupidity..... Perhaps it is all a question of interpretation...... Or maybe in my case a wierd mixture of wisdom and stupidity -perhaps the mark of all intellectuals. It is also obvious that I do need to learn moderation -which, of course, also gets easier when there is less pressure of demands made on me by the environment to conform to standards other than my own. I guess this is true of everybody. When working on an adventure playgound in a poor part of London many years ago -I saw a young girl completely reduced to tears -simply because her peers would not accept her as a result of the fact that she was interested in poetry. How arbitrary the demands of peers can be -in another environment she would have been praised. How sad that people that I love and respect should also be reduced to frustration and tears -because they cannot trust my belief in them -or because I express it so badly.

As some may have noticed, generally, I like discussing (and even arguing) with people who have different viewpoints -so, despite appearences,  I don't ever want to change them -because that would destroy the basis for further exploration. However, there are of course exceptions -if somebody who means a lot to me is about to do something which I believe will be a disaster for them -or if people are attacking me in some way -then it is difficult to remain calm and neutral. However, perhaps one reason I like computer programming is because it takes away my individual choice -and allows me (or perhaps even forces me) to explore a whole range of other possibilities -which then raise the problem of how to deal with the complexity of all these variations. Presumably, this is also why I like travelling and meeting different people -and get so upset by the increasing conceptual homogenity in the world..... I like big things because they are big, small things because they are small -and maybe even medium things because they are in the middle.....  How sad that many people interpret my intentions in ways so opposite to what they really are.

I wonder if my (ex)partner ever read the letter that I sent to her mother in reply to the demands for money that were being made. Basically, it suggested that we discussed the problems openly -instead of attacking on the basis of untested and possibly mistaken assumptions.

Yet another friend recently telephoned me long distance and during the converstaion voluntered the information that her first relationship had brought her to the town where she now enjoyed living, the second relationship had brought her to art -and the third (with me) had brought her to herself. However, before I could pride myself too much -she also added that this had happened after we separated.... I wonder if that is possible -I'd like to think that the process had started earlier, during our relationship, but didn't finsh until afterwards.... otherwise, why would she credit me for the change? Anyhow, at least we are still good friends. If I do upset people -then (if they are willing) I  do hang around and try to clean up the mess....  Perhaps that is the safest space one can ever have:  A space where one can make a mess and still be loved is ultimately much stronger and safer than one where nobody is allowed to screw up, or offend -where all the danger and challenge has been filtered out......

At the moment I seem to have a touch of flu (which I think is always nicer in a warm environment than a cold one)... I'm peering rather feverishly at the screen -perhaps that is why my poor brain seems to be in overdrive today.... I think (or do I feel) that I'll go eat and rest.... When the cleaning woman has finished the bedroom.... :)

I wonder why "cactus" sounds so prickly while "succulent" sounds so juicy!

Trevor Batten
<trevor at>
Manila, 4 November 2006