I asked again, "What shall I photograph today?"
"A cat," she said.
I said that this challenge was much too easy. A cat. I see cats everywhere. They're easy to photograph. And the challenge was rejected.
"I will not do this challenge." [And yet, of course, I did.]
She did not hesitate.
"A gorilla in a tutu."
I decided that this challenge was improbable. What were the chances that I would see a gorilla that day, let alone one wearing a tutu?
At this point I wish to freely confess some things:
1. I have not yet photographed a gorilla in a tutu.
2. My plan to create a gorilla in a tutu from scratch has not yet come to fruition.
3. The giver of the challenges went out on one day. She found a gorilla in a tutu and took a picture.
4. I have not given up on this, the only uncompleted challenge.
Yes, you heard me correctly. I didn't photograph that gorilla. But that's not the point. The giver of the challenges says that successfully completing her tasks is not the point. Success is an added bonus. And that's all. The point is to go out and see things, have an adventure, explore, have fun, take photos, see new places, and generally to be myself.
And on the day of the gorilla I found adventure. I didn't find a gorilla. But I found success.
At this point I wish to freely confess some more things:
1. I thought I knew where I might find a gorilla in a tutu.
2. I needed to go into the centre of Newcastle.
3. I needed to buy a specific kind of pizza afterwards that cannot be found in the centre of Newcastle.
4. After my adventure finding a white dog three days earlier - and in the process photographing several of the North East Snowdogs - my brain was hitting me with a desire to see more Snowdogs.
Each of these four items conspired to create a plan in my head: I would go and find that gorilla. I would then go to my appointment. And then I would head to Tesco in Gateshead for that pizza. But would I walk a few minutes and then ride on a Metro for a few more minutes? Oh no. Not me. That would be the sensible way. I would find another route. A route that would take me past five Snowdogs before I reached the centre of Gateshead and found two more.
What I didn't know when I set out was that I would accidentally find myself at the top of a multi storey car park. What I also didn't know was that I would accidentally find myself listening to Kathryn Tickell part way through a sound check for a concert. This was quite an adventure, the kind of adventure fitting for a tenth day of challenges.
I set off into Newcastle city centre before my appointment. After a year of putting it off, and a couple of curtailed attempts, I was finally getting myself inducted into a recovery college. Since the NHS has no intention of giving me the help I need - and I keep getting apologies that I fall through the gaps in services - I thought perhaps the college might have something of use. In any case it might have some creativity courses that I would be able to join. It turns out that there is very little for me right now but in January there may be more and it may become a very good thing to be a part of for a while.
The first thing you see when you leave the Metro at Monument is art. There is quite a lot of art on the Metro network. Oh God help me. As I typed that my brain decided that it wants to see all of it. All of it. On however many of the seventy stations it may be present. I am hoping that the art will be restored to the Metro at Central Station. There was an amazing mural on the platforms, and on the escalator there was tiled art. Both seem to have vanished. I hope they return and it's not a case of someone thinking that plain white metal is more appropriate than art.
Climbing the stairs from Monument station, the art is hard to see. But the reflection of the Theatre Royal makes up for that.
On the ground at the top of the stairs the art is easier to see. It's all based on a printed circuit board. I like it. Perhaps the other art related to the station is more familiar. At the bottom of the stairs is a painting of fourteen famous people looking out of a carriage window. And on ground level there is Parson's Polygon.
Trivia gleaned from Wiki: Monument Station is one of only three in the world where the track passes through in a pretzel configuration. I bet that kind of trivia makes you feel immensely glad that you clicked on this page!
I thought I knew where I might find that gorilla in a tutu. I honestly did. I was completely mistaken. So I walked towards my nonexistent gorilla, passing on the way this piece of meat outside one of the market stalls. It's a ham. And I can tell you from the free sample I tried one day that it's stunning. If ham should be anything, and I know vegetarians would argue that it shouldn't, then it should be like this. Incredible flavour. It's expensive stuff but it makes the cheap stuff that's prepackaged in a supermarket with added water taste like nothing. Maybe one day I will treat myself. Maybe.
Onwards to the gorilla. And there it was.
But no! Calamity! Sadness upon sadness!
It wasn't wearing a tutu after all. Not anymore. If indeed it ever had been wearing a tutu.
Not only that, it wasn't a gorilla.
If I'd been challenged to find a bear in an oversized T-shirt I would have succeeded. As it was, failure was staring me in the face. I didn't have any other ideas about how to find a tutu wearing gorilla. At that point I knew I would just have to rely on luck. [Later an idea came about making a gorilla. But that was later, and as previously confessed, the gorilla is unmade.]
I looked across from the bear. A man was standing there and he seemed to be laughing at me. Or was that just my own paranoia, arising from being worried about the appointment that was fast approaching?
I tried to relax. I tried to not be sad about the lack of a gorilla and yet I searched the whole market for one. And failed. It wasn't a good feeling. But then I looked up and gazed at the ceiling. That's always a sight to bring cheer.
I looked up again, and saw an owl. How many of you knew that an owl lives in the market?
It was time to go to my appointment so I left the market without a shot of a gorilla. On the way out I looked down and saw a plaque in the pavement, commemorating a very important event.
Just think what would have happened if Mrs Howard hadn't adjusted her hat. Can you even begin to imagine the consequences of that? It was a chance adjustment but the chain of events it caused just go to show. I think that in 2021 there should be a city wide celebration and all the people of Newcastle should wear crazy hats and that there should be a mass hat adjustment party.
There are several plaques like that one on the ground in that part of town. They all commemorate similarly earth shattering* events. It is good to see them. What wasn't so good to spot recently is that the plaque commemorating the visit of Garibaldi to a nearby bookshop has fallen off the wall on the corner of the market. It also tells of the visits of Louis Kossuth and William Lloyd Garrison to that same bookshop. I guess it was a special bookshop. I can't imagine Garibaldi coming all that way today just to go to Waterstones. Perhaps those three men would be more intrigued by the radical bookshop in Durham that I'd visited when in search of a tree with a rainbow ribbon tied around it. No, I didn't think I'd find the tree there. But I hadn't ever visited the shop and wanted to see it.
I walked into the small shopping arcade opposite the market. And I looked up. Newcastle is a wonderful city for looking up and down. Looking straight ahead is usually less exciting although it is necessary if you don't want to collide with people. Or with road vehicles. Today while waiting to cross a road in Sunderland I saw someone nearly get killed as they walked straight in front of a bus. Ten seconds later I saw someone nearly get killed as they walked from the other side of the road straight in front of a van. Those people were obviously not looking forward well enough. Fortunately the drivers of the vehicles were looking forward carefully. Sometimes people act so stupidly that it's a wonder any of us are still alive.
Then it was time for my appointment. As I waited I looked at the words on pieces of paper left on the table by a previous group. There was a quote by Vivekananda, who is credited as being the first to take the ideas of Hinduism to America in any big way. I happen to own his complete writings. These words speak truth to me, a truth that it's taken me a long time to really begin to discover.
You have to grow from the inside out ...
None can teach you, none can make you spiritual.
This is no other teacher but your own soul.
It's that last line that has taken me so long to start to live. I relied on other teachers for too much. Not anymore. I've taken big strides in this over the course of this year. And I have to say the whole thing can be daunting, scary, utterly uncertain. And it can be staggeringly exciting too. I feel that I am finally on the path. I just don't know what the path is or where it leads. It's not doubt. It's adventure. As the Quaker Advices and Queries says, "Live Adventurously."
And so I left my appointment. I hadn't photographed a gorilla. Or a cat. But that didn't matter. An adventure was about to unfold before me. There was a lot of ground to cover between here and the pizza.
* and equally fictional