I was never known for speed. My mind seems to occupy space more than time.

Thus I have meandered through life, flowing easily enough along the wide open drifts, yet rapidly when forced through the tight spaces that life inevitably offers up on the course back to the salty ocean of all existence.

Sure, my mum didnʼt love me, my dad wasnʼt around much and my step dad beat the bejesus outa me, but once I was old enough to escape dependancy and fled the home town, life opened up itʼs box of tricks, as it will any one given to seeking. London was as great a city as any to grow up in and from which to perceive the rest of the cultured world awaiting. So after my first tentative, yet true love came to a cross road, I took a left and never looked back at the grey skies and faces of London with anything so much as remorse. I do still carry that first love in my heart of course, along with all the rest.

The freedom of the open road took me across France to Southern Spain and the Malaga coast. There, in time, I learned of the rich heritage of the Moors in the laid back landscapes of Andalusia or Al-Andalus. I learned to live at the pace of Mediterranean summers and the way of quality before quantity of life and this came naturally enough. I also learned the refined art of the paradise garden - landscaping in the footsteps of some of the first gardeners of all civilisation, working with the ancient acequia gravity feed systems of little shaded rushing water ways, feeding the verdant landscape like a branched network of life giving veins in the cultivated earth. And those first youthful years of freedom, often found me high on kief, naked in a fig tree, feasting on sun ripened fruit and the adventure of anything goes. And it did.

I got my first gig, working on a semi-wild avocado farm in the foothills of the coast called Valle Del Sol. I tended the trees, cavorting about the vibrant landscape, ranging across terraces of abundant fruiting things, making sure they were getting their waters. I was given a remodelled chicken coupe for my abode, a Mehari jeep, and all the freedom I could taste. Out of this freedom from city life, came the 1st of a number of occasional poems punctuating some of the feeling moments of this living.

Dusk over Valle del Sol:

Peace pervades the clear evening air As moonlight shadows elucidate there Dark silhouettes of the trees new form And faint stars call the night newborn

Sitting now, to meditate on, this Tranquil scene and peace beyond My mind all the while perfused By the calm, fragrant breeze Suffused of lavender, myrtle And redolent resin, of the pine trees

Whilst over yonder, distant woods report The resounding sound of antlers retort

The last bird's song Echoes, through the night The haunting sound Of paradise respite.

I met a pair of wild Irish-German sisters then, over the next valley, who ran the Lakeview Equestrian Centre. They lived in an animated world of beasts and people working and playing together with a curious unruly disciplined abandon. I moved in. I learned to ride - ride baby ride. Boy, they were strict, but I learned to keep my seat in the saddle, flying across the landscape, the wind in my hair.

Animal Farm:

Time seems suspended as I go to pass Midst gray shadows, the diffuse moonlight doth cast

Dewy air hangs heavy in a haze As still horses, from their boxes gaze

Then around the corner I am silently met By Bolero's, stony silhouette Between his and Dallas’ box I quietly tread Toward my waiting lover’s bed

And when dawn comes around The dogs in circles play Whilst the girls still, on their soft pillows lay

Oblivious to the morning chorus... The animals are all chanting for us!

Horses hang their heads in wait While Trebol bangs his weary gate

And from Catarina’s room again... I gently tread Past Bolero's nodding head.

Meanwhile, the next little gig was a weekly kamikaze run to Sevilla, the capital of Andalucía. A newspaper distribution mission. I got to tearing across the country, high on life and predawn caffeine, left foot up on the dashboard, right foot flat, right arm around the passenger seat, tilted back, flying at wide open desert road speeds through the plains and mountain passes, just me and the changing landscapes. I was struck then, passing on gradually, from one horizon to another, by the extent of bare earth, recently denuded of ancient olive groves and oak forests, that even here, this now apparently desolate, summer parched landscape, used by men like a whore, until nothing is left but barren wasteland, devoid of vitality, even here, impoverished, inert soil, plowed over to far horizons like some weird lunar landscape, so not even the wild seeds could take a foothold towards restoring the balance of fertility - forest to desert, for hard cash - rapeseed and sunflower oil crops turning over faster than olive - even here, there is a kind of beauty. Stark, dusty perimeter walls, decaying, backwater, industrial towns presented an austere earthliness as I passed through them - to me, they showed a primitive culture of man - wilderness to warehouse in the blink of an eye. Ash grey. Still heat. Still heart. Silent, dying, desert. A post apocalyptic landscape.

But there is life here I noted when I stopped for a piss. A car roared by - a dust cloud swirled up. And there, at every sad oasis of scrub - an empty Ducados packet, a tuna tin, a 12 bore shell - signs of life. Using the canny powers of perspective shift, this landscape remained beautiful. An ethereal quality of light reflecting golden sunflower stubble, rolling into brick dust red and silver grey flowing like a multi earth coloured ocean, gentle rolling swells into the far, hazy horizon. And the only punctuation, an enormous rambling ruined old Cortigo farm house in the vast middle distance.

From the coast, through ruggedly beautiful mountain passes, into these rolling twisted highlands and then down, down... into the city. A city rich in new history for me, warm, fun loving people, exotic gardens and architecture. I met a Sevillana who stole my heart. A vivacious, busty, intellectual firecracker. Iʼd never had my heart broken before.

By this time, I was living in a pictureseque, whitewashed, candle lit, stone hut on the shores of a large secluded lake, near the quietly passed by village of Istan. As consolation to the aloneness and consternation of being rejected by my Sevillana, I had this body of water to lap at my fertile, emotional wounds. Each new day I breakfasted on coffee, toast, olive oil, fresh goat cheese and juniper berry electuary, under the old olive tree that sheltered me. Iʼd watch the turbulent rippling edge of the dayʼs breeze make itʼs way across the erstwhile placid dawn waters. As the sun rose, it lifted the warmed air inviting in the cooler coastal breeze, the wind that would carry me to the distant shores on my windsurf. Fortunately, when you are flying across the water, wind at your back, no one can hear you sing bad opera.

After a time, my dear friend Mike, an Irish charmer, who ultimately sewed the seeds of my coming to California, an ex cannabis smuggler responsible for shipping container loads of weed from Africa to England I heard, had a dubious idea. Mike had developed MS and semi retired to this land of his, on which I was living and working as a helping hand. When he told me that he wanted to grow a plantation in the secluded tributary stream bed ravines of this part of the lake, I realized he was losing the plot. He offered me a healthy sum of money to take care of it for him, but after thinking about it for a moment, I declined. However, being a

gardener at heart, I couldnʼt resist raising the seedlings for him, before moving away from my beloved lakeside retreat. My friend Fritz the Cat took over then - the right man for the job.

Later, after they got busted (you canʼt keep secrets from wily mountain folk - word got out in the local bar) Fritz told me how, suspecting the law were onto him, heʼd anxiously cut down the harvest and had it withering in the back of a van. He second guessed himself and went back to the scene, desperate for a place to hang his beloved crop to dry. Thatʼs when they pounced. Fritz made a dash for the bushes and escaped into the hills, eventually crawling up under a bush at the side of the road a mile away where he met a pointed gun. The cops were tremendously excited about the whole scene. Fritz told me later that during the good cop, bad cop interrogation, he was left uncuffed between interrogators, made a dash for the door, got out of the station window and escaped down the beach. Ah Fritzy. Fritz the Cat.

A week later we met up country and he told me the story so far, theyʼd found my Garden Design business card on the floor in the old hut and decided I was the mastermind of the project and wanted to interview me. He assured me that all his statements negated that supposition. Fritz was the honourable fall guy. The next day he was pounced upon for the last time at the Bar Venus, and was extradited to Germany where he was wanted for other marijuana misdemeanours. But they threw the book at him for his evasive instincts and he did seven years. Poor fucker.

It was during this period after I left the lake, around 6 years after my arrival in Spain, confronted with the choice of investing everything in me to take my landscape business Terrafirma up to the next level, or throw it all in the air and go adventuring into the unknown. I

chose the latter. I had been looking to find work as crew on a sail boat that I might adventure across the open seas towards the Caribbean. I secured a position with a Captain I met in a bar in the port of Marbella. He was going to pick up a luxury 42m Jongert yacht from the Canary Islands, off the coast of Morocco, and bring it back to this port, to pick up the rest of the crew, before sailing off to cross the Atlantic. He grounded the boat on a sand bar coming into port a little further up the coast. Flooded the engine. End of story. Just as well I didnʼt journey with him across the unforgiving open seas one might suppose. So there I was, in limbo, apparently a wanted man. I left the coast through the mountains, wild fires burning all around me in the landscape metaphorically and physically. I got on a night train to Madrid, paranoid that the police were after me, and flew back to England where I readied myself for the next chapter of my life. Asia...