I've been thinking.
Oh, by the way, sorry for the absence. I think very slowly.
Anyway, yes, I've been thinking. Bohinjska Bistrica is like Chigley, Trumpton or Camberwick Green. Those of you too young, too old or too non-British to know these places, they are small fictitious villages in a trilogy of children's programs from the 1960's. As I recall, they had a happy little theme tune and stop-motion characters who did nothing more spectacular than rescue cats from trees or dance around the village green before tea-time. It was all very ordered, comforting and devoid of threat.
Bohinjska Bistrica, Trumpton-like, contains a set of stop-motion characters who do nothing more spectacular than move cows from here to there, raise their families and endlessly celebrate things either religious or seasonal. I'm sure it has a theme tune too.
There's a police station, with an actual policeman in it. He is rarely needed.
There's a fire station with several clean red fire trucks and men with protective hats. I've seen them washing the fire trucks, but, perhaps thankfully, never using them.
There's a supermarket, a medical centre, a dentist, a school, sports thingy and camp site. The bars fill with men who presumably talk about moving cows from here to there, and the women...where are the women? They are abundant during shopping hours but if a head count were performed at dusk, Bohinjska Bistrica would be deemed woman-less. I suspect that, after dancing around the village green, they go home to cook or do other 1960's gender-appropriate activities. Sewing. Scrubbing the floors.
This place is, in a word, wholesome.
During my darker moments, and sadly dear reader, I am plagued with darker moments, the Bohinj valley in general and Bohinjska Bistrica in particular feels like another 1960's tv show -- The Prisoner. Patrick McGoohan plays "Number 6", an ex spy who's sent to live in The Village. It's rather a nice village I seem to recall. He has everything he wants including spontaneously appearing taxis. Big bouncy balls cause him a problem though -- he wants to escape and the bouncy balls, like giant inflated condoms, rustle him up and won't let him leave.
We all have darker moments; times when good things can seem like bad things. Bohinjska Bistrica (BB from now on) is full of good things, so many in fact that one becomes paranoid, Patrick McGoohanish, avoiding places where you just know someone will buy you a drink or offer to take you somewhere interesting.
So I've been thinking not about how lovely BB is (and it is, trust me), but why I often wrestle with darker moments. What is it that makes a man frustrated at being in a place that is, well, lovely?
It is, I guess, because I came here as a result of disaster and not as a result of years of planning. I've been here 18 months now and I'm pretty sure that nothing whatsoever has changed since the moment I got here. The mountains are as fresh as ever, the men in the bars are the same men, the rivers tinkle their way through the wholesome countryside with the same smug clarity. But while nothing here changes much, my own personal circumstances are becoming less distinct. I had a plan when I married Sarah and that plan has gone. I came here rudderless. I don't have a family to raise, I don't have Tyson to look after, I don't have a goal. The Slovenian authorities have me down as a temporary resident who actually lives in Philadelphia. With each passing day, as Sarah and I come closer to divorce, my tenuous link with what the Slovenians regard as my real address gets ever slimmer. Like the family photo in Back to the Future, I see my image fading away.
I'm becoming a non-person, quite literally. Nobody seems to want to claim responsibility.
I gave up writing this blog in the same way that people give up watching Chigley, Trumpton or Camberwick Green. After a time we want more. Rescuing cats from trees and dancing around the village green are nice and comforting when we are children but endless posts about how charming things are become a tad pointless.
What, then, to do?
Illustration work has all but dried up. I can get more; I can set up a web site and tout for business and make some money, but I am hesitant. Why? Because I have no goal and therefore no impetus to commit. Writing fiction, while all good fun, results in almost no income whatsoever! For the past few months I've been flip-flopping between being an illustrator and being a writer, with one feeling like the wrong direction and the other feeling like a monumental waste of time. It resembles the choice of magazines in a waiting room. Good choices, undoubtedly, but one finds it hard to commit to them because you are actually waiting for something else to happen. Something bigger. You don't invest in the waiting room articles. You flip, you glance, then check your watch. I'm looking for the real reason I'm here.
This is the fourth country I've lived in since leaving the UK. I spent four years in Greece, two in France, eight in America and now 18 months in Slovenia. You could view that as one failed attempt to settle down after another, or to view it as a vast repository of experiences, with more to come. Why not make "moving" the point of it all? Why not see relocation as a reason, rather than a reaction? There are hardy souls who travel the world with no other goal than to see what it's like somewhere else. Perhaps I should embrace that and use my ability to form complete sentences as my soul creative outlet. My old-fashioned mindset could even see it as a job, thus making me feel a little more respectable.
My good friend Cassandra recently skyped me and said I should publish my Greek writing. It was a successful batch of scribbling which I did not for publication but for my own amusement. In the end, batches of it became my only published work, bought and paid for. I even won a creative non-fiction contest, so utterly preposterous were the things that happened to me on the fair isle of Corfu.
Greece lent itself very well to my tongue-in-cheek observances. France not so much (apart from having 3 months of dental treatment from a man who refused to speak English and I did not speak French), America not at all (because I didn't want to upset my wife's friends and family), and Slovenia is just too...nice, too welcoming, my situation too fragile to tease the peace-loving inhabitants.
If I am becoming a non-person, perhaps I should remedy that by contacting the UK authorities and saying Hello Chaps, bit of a rum do. Haven't lived there for 16 years don't you know. No property, no address, can't even remember me National Insurance number. Soon to be completely invisible. Can I be British again at least on paper? Pay some taxes and whatnot?
Then I could fish about for somewhere else to go, under my guise as a more robust person with bona fide ties to the British Empire. Somewhere less Chiglyish. Somewhere with the absurdly chaotic lunacy that so characterized Corfu, but not one that's about to dissolve into anarchy. India perhaps? How hard is it to live in India for a few years? I like the food, I've never met an Indian I didn't like and I could wear one of those white suits as popularized by Sidney Greenstreet. Can you imagine how much material a mildly ridiculous person like me could extract from the simplest of situations? I read of a person who wanted to buy a SIM card and was told to get a letter from the Consulate. Perfect!
At the moment I fear that applying for the required visa would result in a check of who I am and how much I make and coming up with a puzzling and insultingly thin dossier. I'd be embarrassed by that, so I need a plan of action.
India seems fairly cheap. I don't need much and my stock illustration internet income might cover it without me having to actually draw new images. I could concentrate on writing about the toilet facilities or the unusual sounds from the house next door. Perhaps a travel book. Perhaps a blog that makes some money (if anyone knows how, do tell). Once again, it doesn't need to be much. A quick search of "how much does it cost to live in India?" reveals sums in the region of $400 a month if you aren't too picky. I'm not too picky. Roughing it improves the writing. I can make that much from stock illustrations without actually working.
At least it's a plan and I really need a plan. I need a reason. Enough of flipping through the waiting room magazines. I'm ready for the main event.
In case you're interested, here's what's happened here since last I wrote. Winter brought more skiing and pneumonia. I was as ill as when I was hospitalized in Greece with Rickettsia (look it up, it's not nice but it did win me a creative writing contest). My son David and my daughter Aimee came to visit on several occasions.
Tragically, my brother's son Patrick died and I went to the funeral in England.
Life here went on. Chigley-like. Shall I become intrepid and pen the results?
[ps...Have you tried the Armchair Detective Challenge yet?]
Slovenia, writing, other things