Journey quietly, friend.

This one is the last of a long line of meds. The one before was a drool-inducing, sledgehammer. Man, sixteen hours of unneeded sleep, waking up sitting bolt upright on the sofa, drool still wet out of the corner of my mouth and all down one shoulder. How’s that for laughs, one tiny white tablet and your life is static for sixteen hours. It was like an instant hangover, in the dark, with your brain doing hallucinatory leaps through the worst dreams you ever had. Quetiapine. Evil. Not a drug for journeying anywhere except to the black recess of some pseudo-subconscious room, where you realise in terror why the light was always left off.

At Ipswich station – just returning from nursing my Mother after her first Chemotherapy – I took some pregabalin, codeine, and diazepam, as a precaution for the five and a half hour journey home. Travel is good. I like travelling places. But when you put people into the mix the whole thing starts to get tough. I hate people. Drugs help. Obviously..

So, yeah, fuck….diazepam and the codeine blend. I’d been standing still on the windy platform, watching the warped Ark arrive opposite and all the grim animals trudging two by two into the arms of the New Age Noah, bound for London. It was hideous. My train started to pull in. I picked up my bags and started to walk, only I sort of wound snaking along the platform behind the queue onto the ten carriage train. ‘I’m fucked,’ I said out loud. A grey haired guy in front in a long, dark woolen coat turned around and looked me up and down. Inside, he was praying I wouldn’t sit near him – I didn’t. Too many lunatics maketh the man…or something like that. And no-one should ever have to deal with me when/if I feel aggressive. It’s unhelpful, and people go off me very quickly, so it goes… But it’s hard to be angry on my special blend. Safety first on journeys, like I was saying. Be prepared.

The train journey was great – change at Norwich (no toilets on the platform, bursting for a piss), then clear through to Nottingham – until we got to Peterborough/Grantham. Tower blocks, back to backs, sheets hung up at windows, graffiti, poverty, beauty-free land, a thousand human beings rolling in filth and masturbating in single bedsits like hordes of lonely Bonobo Chimps. Jacking off beats sobbing. Beats living in Peterborough, too. More codeine.

Back home; hills and fresh air. Into the prescription arms of my Psychiatrist – he rings and speaks softly to me when he has important things to say – and another med. This one is usually used jabbed into the arse of the uncooperative in tight spots where walls are always painted pastel colours and the doors are locked. As it goes, it’s a med you can reason with – I tried walking quickly yesterday, I couldn’t, but in my experience that’s the least of things. Flupentixol: a yellow tablet, helper to many. Armed and hardly dangerous at all. Too lethargic. Yeah, it’s a traveller’s friend. Open pass to wherever. Slowly. NO harm done.


Keep it in the Family

The polyester nightdress was far too big for the old lady. She’d done her hair, thin and white, in the same style as she’d been doing it since the 1930’s. She hadn’t put her make-up on but the rouge was now replaced by something else.

Their house smelled of coal fires, dust, and secret cigarettes. The furniture was dark,  fashionable when it was bought in the forties. He’d been an engineer at some place on the docks. She had been a jobbing seamstress and a mother – raising…, I don’t even remember how many kids, but my grandmother was one of them. The street where they had always lived in a council house on a corner of a main road, was featureless. It was almost destroyed by a German flying bomb in World War Two (the Sequel). It would have improved the place, but then that’s an evil thing to say. I guess I’m not able to empathise what that War was really like. That, or I don’t care. I hate to think it’s the latter. The doodlebugs flew, chugging along, chased by the RAF and raining grey death down with indifferent rage on anyone. Hitler wanted to frighten the people. He did a good job. They heard this one’s engine stall, the quiet, then felt the explosion. All of them survived. Some other family didn’t.

The two of them – I called them Nan and Pop – had moved through life into their eighties via decades of stable boredom. It showed. They tolerated each others company instead of cherishing it. They hardly spoke a word between themselves whenever I saw them. I always wondered what had gone wrong. Decades of drudging poverty, I suppose; and the powerful feeling of wasted time, unfulfilled dreams, and disaffection.

But they were getting old. He was sleeping downstairs, near the fire, she still made his breakfast each morning despite starting to forget his name, and mine, from time to time. I’d catch a look on her face when I said ‘Nan, I’m Ben.’ She was upset, but angry with herself too. I guess now you’d say she had early onset Dementia, but she definitely had depression. She was old, but she wasn’t stupid. She knew how to make it right and how to stop feeling so sad.

That night she crept downstairs in the early hours, drained a small glass of whiskey, and waited out on the pavement in her nightdress. Choosing her moment, she quickly stepped out. The truck wasn’t speeding, the driver never saw her coming.

Dripping wet

IMG_0382 (1).JPGIt rained up on the moor across from my home. I was dressed, in the words of my partner – “Like Michael Ryan about to walk into Hungerford.” I’d been taking the five mile route for the past six months or so. Two or three times a week of uphill slog onto the moor. I do it because DBT taught me I should get out into nature – if you walk, just walk, just … blah blah blah… I guess the main premise is just to be right there, right then. No time travelling, no worries about being a kid and all the terror of those times. Don’t concern yourself with tomorrow. Up here there is, when all is done, only me and the earth and sky. Everything else is man-made. Psycho-made.

On the moor, the pine forest cuts into meadow. The light opens out onto green fields and stone walls and off into the distance towards a hillside the other side of the valley. Someone told me there’s a nuclear waste dump over there, deep in an old mine. A throwback from the 1960’s and Rolls Royce’s cheap and badly informed radioactive experiments. I’ve never seen it up close. I don’t want to.

The footpath tracks across the small field system. The walls have tumbled down and the path hugs the side of the one standing high wall. There is never anyone about. Except some bulls. This time they chased me, smashing against the high wall I’d just jumped over to save myself. I still can’t work out why they wanted to kill me. They had no sympathy. Just animal unreasonableness. DBT never prepared me for death by goring. It’s not a self-harm activity you can go about easily and with predictable results. There is no control on how much blood, or pain, or the extent to which death will be brought about. Or how soon.

It rained harder. So much water ran through my jacket that I thought my skin was sloughing off. Trousers clung to my legs. Cold water ran down my face and dripped through my beard. The bulls watched from the field. They didn’t mind the rain. They wanted to kill something and cold rain wasn’t going to stop them. I’d never been attacked properly by an animal before. Not that I can remember. Sure, there were those bees that time, but their hearts weren’t really in it. And I think a cat bit me when I was little, but it never followed up on the first bite. There was no animosity. The bulls wanted more. I could hear it as they ran for me, and in the crash of horns against the wall after they had missed my ass by two feet.

In essence, as I entered my little village an hour later, there was no good reason for anything, ever. Not the action of the bulls, the hate, and certainly not for all the things that had bought me to the moor in the first place. Someone smirked at me from inside a shop as I slopped by in my cheap wet clothes. I knew what they were thinking, I was a failure; the village weirdo; unlikeable, crawling through life on his belly. They were right. I hated myself for it. I made it home, sad. The answer rang like a bell. I know there are some things I can control.

I had cheated serious injury two hours ago. But in my kitchen, with a small knife, I saw my blood anyway.


Demons in the dark.. Election special


Just up the road from my house is a place called Demon Wood. An elderly neighbour told me that its name comes from an incident two hundred years ago when a miner was trapped in a small lead mine in the wood after part of the mine collapsed. He stayed down there in the complete dark for seven days, licking water from the rock. He also started hallucinating. He saw demons and evil pictures of monstrous events. When they eventually rescued him he couldn’t be reasoned with. He’d lost an important part of his mind down in the earth.

That miner, legend goes, took the best part of a month to stop gibbering and running away from those Demons whenever night fell. He was a broken man with no future in the lead mining business. He had seen another view of the world.

The local community took pity on him, and they also gave the name Demon Wood to the site of the lead mine. Today I can still see the small mound that marks the top of the shaft down to the Demons in the deep. I walk past it maybe three times a week. I’ve never seen any evil up there. But this morning, things are different. Evil is everywhere.

I watched the Presidential election results come in first thing. The images provoked the same sort of feelings I remember having when I watched the second plane hit the twin towers some fifteen years ago. There was nothing but disbelief in what I was witnessing. I shook my head slowly from side to side like it might rock something malfunctioning back into place. It hasn’t. It won’t ever, I guess. This morning, despite the codeine and pregabalin, the story of the miner came back to me in the rainy first light. He had had a total loss of any capability to filter what was real and what was just a hideous hallucination – a complex process of brain death, subjugation to sensory deprivation, loss of faith in everything in front of his eyes – and now only the evil remained. And that’s the overwhelming feeling right now: only the evil remains. This is all just so terrible that it can’t be real.

The truths are many, and they matter right now on this sofa. Coupled with the lies, they feed the hive-mind and they whip up the cosmos in ways we’ll never truly work out until it’s too late. If Aliens weren’t interested in our World yesterday, then….listen… You can hear the sound of Flying Saucers being cranked into gear right now. And when they get here I’ll be the first in the queue to get a lift. Shit, I’d even take a bit of laser-beaming or probing on the way just get out.

I always had faith in humans to do the right thing, to light the right torches and shine in the most needed dark places. Carry each other. Help. We are living in times now where that sentiment is dead for the foreseeable future in the places that really matter – The minds of too many people. We are each others enemy. We cannot be trusted to look after the world. Brexit/POTUS/Tory victories/Right Wing power growth/terrorism/religious intolerance/selfishness/money-accumulation/whipping the poor, just go to prove to me that the roof has collapsed on Planet Earth. I can’t make sense of any of it.

The miner sat in the dark and watched the demonic horror overwhelm him. He was powerless. Today, I am he.