Black Birds

Black birds – Jackdaws – in my garden right now. Huge, menacing, with clear-cut eyes and intense purpose. All of six feet from the window against where my desk sits in jumbled keyboards and empty pill packets and random scribbled notes to self – a tower of hope in all of this.

My eighty five year old neighbour keeps peeking across the gaps in my high fence from time to time because I shouted, no…screamed, abuse at a guy down the road with a barking dog the other day. I feel so ashamed now because the only thing that’s changed is my reluctance to confront anyone to say my piece, or apologise. And I should really apologise.

But I am currently unwell. My Psychotherapist is worried and has tipped off my CPN and Psychiatrist. They are the triumvirate who oversee the current state of play around here in the wet garden where these fucking black birds are eating everything and making the little birds shriek in terror.

Terror is not far away right now. I saw Bigfoot again two evenings ago, peering guardedly through the low trees at the back of my home. Anyone with half an idea of what that means is listening now. He is a guide – a warning sign of my current state. Bigfoot: Paranoia herald, busted up and dirty bringer of symptomatic realisation. We’re not close, but he knows when this is going to happen every time. Morbid curiousity brings him out in dappled sunlight where the others can’t see him and where his eyes can’t be caught by the unwary. He is friend and enemy.

The black birds hover and gather. Enemy agents or unfriendly spirits. They have come to watch the show through the two hundred year old glass in my windows. They have always been around, waiting. Scaly clawed. Pulling the strings out there in the thick atmosphere.

The morning sun is up. All will be well. Trust me.


Tolerate this…

My Grandad got a bad deal out of World War Two; even though good deals were thin on the ground back then for everyone. He was shot down over Hannover, beaten, hung up, tortured, locked in a Cattle truck in Berlin for three days while his own side bombed the place, and finally placed in a Prisoner of War camp that tried to starve him to death.

He escaped, so it goes, and arrived home to my Grandmother a broken man and a changed human being. Prior to the war he was a champion sprinter, and even rode the Wall of Death in a travelling circus. He laughed a lot, so my Nan said, but when he got back he didn’t even want to speak.

During his captivity the Gestapo had tried to cut out his tongue, and they had run a knife down his back while he was strung up in a small room with hardly any light, but plenty of chains. I saw those scars on his back once. They made mine look silly. But he would never talk about hurt and hate and the collapse of his mental health. It’s not what you did.

Still, after the War he brought up a family and made a living for the seven kids my Nan would eventually have. He set about driving lorries from the docks at London. Frequently he’d cycle twenty miles to and from work, in all weathers, and he never backed down from a fight anywhere. My uncle says my Grandad was a man who’d fight a Polar Bear on the street if need be. But he was also a man who beat his kids with things like broom handles and copper pipe and smashed things to pieces in catatonic rages which echoed along their council street. My Father knew this too well. It stayed with him as a model of parenthood and as a bleak reminder that childhood was not about enjoyment. He’d left home as soon as he was 16 just to get a job anywhere away from what should have been a safe and loving environment.

For all the time I knew my Grandad he made me laugh, and I had a soft spot for the old man. He was kind of my hero, except I didn’t really know him and I definitely didn’t know what horror he carried with him until almost the very end. We didn’t see each other very often, yet he had chosen me as the one to pour out the war to on one sunny Spring afternoon outside my parent’s house; one nightmare after another escaping the years and given to me through his tears. I was sad when he died. I cried a lot for his death, and for his life.

The War had filled our family and trickled down the effect of human cruelty through the eons and into naive genes, ending at my door as a little boy. I am partly the product – varyingly, maybe, with abnormal brain morphology and the evolutionary chance of a real, bona fide loser – of mass hatred and mass spite. I was born to lose, common sense. It’s why I hid in terror in my bedroom for most of my childhood; why I drugged myself into oblivion as a teenager; hated myself; cut myself; drank; all those things that ended eventually at the tipping point of far too many tablets and tears and large gulps, wishing I could make it all go away.

Today, the World has not become a better place because of the experiences of my Grandad, or the Fifty Million people who died in screaming pain in just six simple years. Palestine burns, Syria ejects children into the sea to drown like, well….children, and better nuclear bombs are on their way to the UK any time soon. Nah, the World learned nothing, but I did: “If you Tolerate this, then your children will be next.” (Spanish Civil War Propaganda poster)


The Experiment

My Community Psychiatric Nurse is a good person. How do I know? Truth is, I don’t but I just have the BPD gut feeling I get with people. It’s the worst yardstick in the world, but it’s the only one I’ve got at the moment. She listens, she takes things in, and she remembers details – minor, crappy details – that I’ve told her from months before. She knows I write – she’s read some  of it online somewhere – and she knows I hate modern Conservative politics, but not enough to go out and make a difference.

She knows the important things too, like the fact I still think about dying. The fact I hurt myself sometimes. And that the music is still there in times of stress; along with the things, the awful things, that I sometimes see. She knows my neighbour is not an Agent for the Police, or the Government; my house is not being spied on; I have not done something so awful that I refuse to remember it and the net is closing in. I am the ugliest, worst, most monstrous human on the planet and yet she still comes to my house and sits on my sofa and looks me in the eyes.

She knows much. I trust her.

Yesterday she gave me a piece of homework – first time she’s done that, though I get enough homework from my DBT group. Here is that Homework:

‘Think of an issue you have that tends to make you feel bad about yourself – a mistake, your appearance, etc.

Imagine a friend who is unconditionally wise, loving, and compassionate. Imagine that this friend can see all your weaknesses and strengths, including what you don’t like about yourself.

Write a letter to yourself from the perspective of this imaginary friend, focusing on your perceived inadequacy. What would this friend say to you from a compassionate perspective? How might her/his suggestions embody care, encouragement, and support?

Now Wait. Put the letter down for a little while. Then come back to it and read it again, really letting the words sink in. Feel the compassion as it pours into you, soothing and comforting you.’


Here’s my attempt at that letter (No editing, etc) –

I can’t do it. I can’t bring myself to even pretend I mean the words I guess she’s wanting me to type out. I’m not worth it. I can’t think of a single thing that has its nose above the shit for long enough for me to see it, let alone recognise.

Try again. You CAN do this.

You are a good guy…. Wait..

Aw, shit.


Today is sunny, the birds are outside feeding their young. .. …. Nature has reclaimed my garden. My clothes are wet heaps of thread-dragging old rags drying on the radiator in front of my desk. The carpet needs cleaning. I haven’t bought an item of clothing for over five years. I just got rid of the only friends I’ve had for years for absolutely no reason. The world is too big and I’m too small. Faceless terrors still make me wake up screaming at night. There is nothing positive about me.

I can’t make a difference to anything. I look like a sack of shit – probably smell like one, too. Fuck compassion. Fuck letters. Fuck you.





The Art-a-thon.

An eight hour overnight Art-Athon to raise money for a BPD Charity, with me just typing. It might have been the lack of sleep, but I sobbed like a baby after I typed the last word.

Benjamin Alexander

We started late – at 10.10pm (not correct to the nearest second, but close enough for our purposes).

Actually, it started when I was getting the back of my train seat kicked for half an hour on the way here, but that’s part of the pilgrimage; a latter day trail to Santiago – well, Derby. DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy) has brought me here. That and Borderline Personality Disorder.

Ten minutes late is ten minutes late however you look at it. We can’t go back – put that in your metaphysics pipe on a cold evening and puff on it for as long as it takes for your eyes to start welling up. Usually I’d be concerned I was ripping off all my Sponsors, but tonight is magic: there is a whiff of cosmic-tilting-planet fuckery and we get an extra hour as the clocks go back at some point in the…

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The Eco-Warrior

“We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.” – Kurt Vonnegut


Yeah. Agree with that in multiples of ten. It’s a no-brainer, like not eating rat poison, or making certain you step over the vomit on the stairwell this morning.

This week in the Derbyshire Dales I have become acutely interested in ecology. I did some of the first gardening of the year: chopping and hacking at living things and then dragging them to a place where I burn stuff on a semi-unregular basis. The Bishop of Birmingham (who owns the next house as a holiday cottage) offered me use of a hedge cutter, but I prefer hacking. He smiled, or was it laughing?

Ripping things up and smashing up stuff is addictive. The Bishop would never understand that kind of freedom, with his neat hedge… Pah.

Yeah, man, the sun is out, the garden is mine again, and the summer is here. Happy thoughts from a guy who couldn’t bare to step a single foot in his garden for six whole months because he thought he’d ruined it/the plants/the trees/his neighbours/his life.

But I wasn’t counting on Singapore.

This morning I found myself embroiled in a set-to with three builders who were laying gas pipes, electricity cables, and sewerage connection across a really pretty section of two hundred year old countryside near the back of my property; the scheme was a brutal land desecration by a Singapore based couple who have told many lies and offered absolutely no target at all for me to get at. I had no intention of getting worked up this morning, none at all. Even when, yesterday, they had accidentally severed my sewer pipe (not a euphemism) I was a model of DBT Mindfulness and Calm. But when I turned the corner towards my stone barn and saw the lane being raped by three ex-cons, something primal tipped something even worse over the edge. By turning up, shouting weird half-sentences, I engineered a situation so tense that the mechanical digger was turned off, one guy climbed out of the trench, and the other dropped his pickaxe in readiness. And all of it completely on my auto-pilot. The BPD autopilot has always taken me places most people haven’t even considered were on a map.

No fear ever took hold in any situation like that I’ve ever been in. Fear is always the catalyst, but it always gets usurped by anger and dies a death under a rage that has been nurtured for many decades. It’s not something I’m proud of, despite the macho overtones and the appealing nature of being a man who is frightened by little except the little things that bother no-one else – like bigfoot, the knowledge I’m the most hideous man on earth, and the postman. I don’t get a single atom of enjoyment from being like this. Believe me.

Me and the builders stood still. The next step was crucial, we all knew it. I looked at each of them in turn, giving time for eyes to make good hard contact. There was a lot of silence. I was the smallest guy there. And I was ready to fight until I was unconscious.

“We’re really sorry mate. It’ll only take a day.”

It was enough, mercifully. The autopilot took me towards my house without a word or a thought.

I went indoors and put my face in a sink full of cold water. In the mirror, a forty two year old man looked back out at me and didn’t smile. He would have to change, because the next step after something like this is the one where he hates himself and starts to turn to things that hurt him. Sometimes they leave physical scars. Or there are burns. Sometimes it just aches inside. But there is always paranoia.

No, no. Enough of that. Now the sun is shining again and I am far away from the builders and the development. I’m a cheap motherfucker who can’t relate to people, but I’m thinking of going into the Eco Business in perpetuity. Were those your eyes just then in the undergrowth?



The Astro Turf Salesman

Dyed hair. St Tropez style sunglasses. Tan. Brown loafers. Plucked eyebrows. Large silver watch. Nervous. Stupid phone.


He’s an Astro Turf salesman. Yes. That’s it. Millions of square meters of the green burn have passed across his knees, skinning them raw in the process. But worth every bit of the long hours and the pretence. He is trying to look like he’s made his money, and his mark, and now the world is a sea of green plastic blades in his mind’s eye. Success. And never had to kick a ball.

All those samples are the perfect weed-free, maintenance-free alternative, Madam. Kids? They can’t wait to run around on the premium level surface. Breed a Beckham. Almost guaranteed.

Success guaranteed…

The Astro Turf salesman levels his gaze at the young guy pacing in the station waiting room and tries to remember a time when he used to travel by car. Despite the trappings of artificial fame, he is finding the veil of all the cheap tans and the hair dye slipping and sliding towards the touchline; a gory tackle life is halfway through making. He looks at the train arrivals board, then at his over-sized fake Breitling watch, breathing heavy anxiety gasps against the fug of the waiting room air. Chew this air. He licks his lips and moves his weight from one butt-cheek to the other.

We all turn to watch a line of first class carriages roll to a halt outside. He checks his enormous phone for the fiftieth time today and thumbs down what should be the happy beeping of completed sales and whispers of dates aboard great gleaming cruise ships in crystal blue waters far away. With someone who loves him. No emails. Just social media reminders of the happy lives of people he barely knows or remembers from any number of drink and diazepam fueled nights out.

He updates another status and checks in with a business-speak-riddled email to an area manager who once tried to fuck him in a Travelodge toilets. “I’m on my way to Barnstaple F.C. Deal nearly done.” Scent of egg sandwiches in the waiting room now. Shouting PA system breaks his thoughts and prompts him to rush a note on a filofax withdrawn with a flourish from a light brown leather man bag – strap too long; polished with shoe polish last week; total cost five pounds. He finishes and zips his day up again, whistling under his breath. Adjusts sunglasses and finds himself aching from his eyebrows to his balls for the life of the guy opposite who’s craning his neck to watch the arse of a young girl as she bends over to get a phone charger from her bag. Brings thoughts of his neighbour in the Mews of overpriced flats in a suburb of some city somewhere. Jealousy and creeping and scraping fingernails against a bedpost that should be familiar, but isn’t. Why aren’t there gouges on his bedpost? What’s left of the tiny part of him that doesn’t hate or wishes things had turned out better?

What would life be like if it wasn’t like this?

He wipes the answers away across the non-stick surface of his mind for the zillionth time, and bashes on the phone:

Barnstaple won’t know what’s hit it tonight!!! 🙂

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