Bombshell

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Ant people. As the blind, stumbling, hairless, disorientated, people who survived the closest to the Hiroshima bomb were called. Ant people. Charred skin. Wondering why.

Today on the radio I heard two men arguing about Nuclear weapons. One guy just didn’t want them at all. He figured the World was better off without them and without some city somewhere being one computer glitch away from disappearing in a cloud of unimaginable horror. Ant people.

The other guy talked about protection, as if he was under some constant threat, calling from under his kitchen table. Too much anger in his voice, as there always seems to be in the voices of people wanting more guns, more bombs, more sharpened teeth. More ant people.

The radio moved on. People were going to Mars. Billions of dollars would propel them up into the vacuum and give the poor fools who volunteered the opportunity to drink each others urine for months on end, fighting off cabin fever, psychotic urges, and the type of panic only the really insane feel on any regular basis. Trapped like rats in a chrome watering can. Gnawing frantically at each other out of fear.

But so what, eh? Who cares what I think. It’s raining outside for the first real time for a few weeks. The foxgloves in my garden are shining and their flowers are lifting the dull day. Perfect form and colour, standing out from the crowd like a beautiful friend. Something and someone good.

I have therapy tomorrow, then a visit by my CPN on Thursday. There’s a lot to talk about.

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In Paris

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Thinking of it right now – the holiday, the sunshine, the cold beer, the massive demonstration two streets away – I can’t remember what had gotten me into the bar on the Rue de Therese in the first place. And now here I was, talking to an Irish guy who was telling me about the parties he’d been going to while living at an amphetamine dealer’s house nearby. ‘You should come,’ he said. We talked loud, in the way people always do when they believe the locals can’t understand them. The barman watched us, scowling, dealing with the handful of locals drinking coffee.

‘Why are you in Paris?’ I asked the Irish guy.

‘I’m kinda travelling,’ he said.

‘You’re not here for the demonstration?’

‘Ha,’ he said, ‘those lazy fuckers are only doing it to get the day off work. A protest here is like a sandcastle on a beach – they appear sooner or later when the weather is good. No…I’m just travelling around a bit. Seeing what’s out there. I’ve just got caught up in Paris for a few months. Got some stuff I have to shift, if you get my meaning.’

I got the meaning ok. He was starting to look nervously around the bar. And why hadn’t I noticed his eye twitching sooner? His fingers drummed on the dark polished bar top. He excused himself and went off to the toilet. The sound of the protest was growing fiercer in the middle distance. Outside, sometimes a figure would run past the bar towards the noise. The Actors and Performers Union knew how to organise a protest, I’d give them that much. I heard a bang, then the crescendo of a wave of voices reacting to what sounded like a tear gas grenade being deployed. Figures began to run past the bar in the other direction, away from what I guessed were thick lines of heavily armoured French policemen all doubting their ability to remain patient with things much longer.

The Irishman came out of the toilet. ‘What the fuck is going on?’ he asked.

‘I think the police have decided to knock some actors about.’

Was that cocaine on his nose? White powder was lining the inside of one nostril. He was twitching more than he had been earlier, making larger gestures with his hands, eyes following the people running past the long windows. ‘Jesus,’ he said. ‘I’d better get out of here. I’ve got four kilos of Speed in this bag.’ He pointed to his rucksack.

‘In a minute this place is going to be threshed by hordes of adrenaline-fuelled police. You know that, right?’ I said. More protesters gathered outside. The eye of it all was moving towards us.

‘Fuck, you’re right.’ He drank the rest of his beer. ‘I’ll be going. Good luck to you.’ He walked calmly outside, shut the door, looked in both directions, then ran like a man with four kilos of hard narcotics in his bag up the street away from the Gendarme. Just another holiday maker, come to see what the fuss of a foreign city is all about. Caught up in the moment.

Solstice

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You can’t believe the sound a pool ball whirled in a sock makes when it connects with a human skull until you hear it in person. A dull thwack, gristly, mixed with the sound of something heavy dropping into hard butter. There’s a sense of give. And then the sound of someone falling – which they almost always do. A face first plant into a floor, broken nose into the bargain. Followed, depending on the drivers of the situation – hatred, payback, random violence, kicks – with the running steps of the attacker, disappearing around a corner or into a cell.

I’ve heard all those sounds. Never caused any of them, but I was there. I saw the blood too, and watched the bodies being carried away.

But that was all a long time ago. The tiny gravity of half-kilo pool balls doesn’t play on my mind unless I let it. I only thought about it today because the Queens Speech is up and running. That, and the bizarre terrorist attacks taking place over and over again with the same kind of common implements: vehicle, bottles of water, kitchen knife, fists, and shouting. As a great man once said ‘Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.’ Death is easy once the cause is established and the medium figured out. We all have access to it. We can all be sucked down by the emotional gravity that’d push even a parish priest into a vicious blood lust.

But that’s not today. Not for me, anyhow. It’s the Summer Solstice. The interplay between vast gravitational celestial bodies, whirling around, too fast to comprehend. Days shortening until the end of December. Passing back round like a huge pool ball in a cosmic sock. Dependable, finite, march of Time. Moving too heavily to stop or change pace, even though sometimes I’d like it to.

What does any of that mean? Not much, I suppose, except I am valuing being alive at the moment. Happy that I dodged the worst orbits life aimed at the weak spots. Feeling re-birth, the circular way of things.

Sunshined

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You know that feeling when you hadn’t realised how much you missed someone?

I had that feeling yesterday – it’s still carrying over right now as I sit at this old desk, magpie staring at me from the garden gate. But even that evil black and white thief can’t darken the mood today. No, no.

Yesterday an old friend came over to go for a walk. Have a catch up. It’d been twenty five rotten years since we last saw each other. I recognised her from a hundred feet away, driving her mini up the hill towards a fat man in a blue shirt waving furiously like a child on sports day. I might have even punched the air. I can’t remember. I was too happy.

She got out of the car and hugged me. Simple act on a bright and hot day. Two people standing outside an old stone barn and hugging each other. Just a basic act and unremarkable in every way except I loved it so much. For me, that little gesture sent a third person camera up into the sky above us and good, fine, music played over the ending credits of some harrowing film where the finish of the story is a happy one and the shark had been killed/the baddies driven into shallow graves.

We walked for miles (9), watched stoned young men jumping about on the top of the viewpoint near my house, smelled the scent of Weed, and talked about the past. I never thought I’d be remembered. But she hadn’t forgotten me, despite all the horror she’d faced in the past few years – more than I have. I felt proud of her; sad that someone so good had had to go through so much. I felt her pain, for what that cliché is worth.

She hadn’t changed at all. Still beautiful. We swapped stories. I told her dogs always poo’d facing North. I don’t know why. I think I panicked in the moment. Someone said once that if you’ve got nothing to say of any use, don’t speak. I never lived by that advice.

We watched a really bad village brass band play songs from Grease, saw my neighbour’s filthy false teeth rattling, and drank Yorkshire tea. And I wanted to turn the clock back, do it all over again the right way. My entire life. For a moment there she had stopped me hating myself. And that, my friends, is better than any medication. A wondrous talent to have. Two old friends sitting in the sunshine up on a hill, accepting time, the fraught nature of growing up, the curveballs we dodge or which smack us in the face, the simple joy of that act nearly made me cry.

After she left I went back inside my old cottage and sat down and put on loud music, staying up until past midnight, sitting in the dark watching bats, thinking about the swirling way people can touch you inside.

 

Plain sight

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The blind guy had a white stick and was being helped onto the train by Station staff. ‘Step up here, sir.’

He tentatively put one foot onto the train, then the other, waving his stick, looking into the blackness, his eyes going in all directions, not seeming to see anything. She lead him to a seat and helped him into it. I was pretty sure by his mannerisms that he was totally blind. He looked just past her shoulder when he said thanks. Stared off into the back of the seat in front of him.

After a few minutes the train went through a tunnel and I wondered if the blind guy had any light perception at all. I turned around as we exited it. As I got a look at him he seemed to catch me and, for a moment, looked right at me the way anyone would who was being stared at by someone twenty feet away on a train. Then, as if he remembered something, his gaze moved to the window. I watched him following the sight of a herd of cows, turning his head a little to watch them as we passed. How blind was he? I needed to know if he was conning us. Like it mattered. Like it was my business to find out. The jaded and judgmental thoughts of someone coming back from therapy with too much to think about.

My Psychologist had just told told me she thought I was lonely. Hard to take in. I don’t feel lonely. We agreed that I would try to make some friends, just to test out the fear I have that they’ll hurt me, or they’ll find out how horrible I am and the whole thing will collapse they way it always does. I was hating on myself on the train, sitting there judging that poor blind guy. Taking the nastiest possible line of thought. The feelings made me feel sick. I took out my meds and necked a couple, hoping they’d sedate me enough to get off the train without upsetting anyone. Which worked.

An old friend from 25 years ago is coming over this weekend. I haven’t seen her in all that time. I’m nervous. My therapist says this is lucky, and to use it as opportunity to prove myself wrong. To show myself that people can really like me. All I know is that deep down I’m right about myself and she’s just doing some psychological back-slapping. Expensive cheerleading. It’s what you do – positive encouragement, compliments, ‘don’t kill yourself’ – in order to try and shift the balance in people like me. I rate her ability to keep focused despite our arguments on the subject. Her face flushed red with frustration and anger this week. I wouldn’t do her job, just like I wouldn’t tie myself to a chair and watch twenty hours of back to back shark attack videos.

Time has taught me it’s much better to keep myself secluded away, where I can’t form appalling thoughts about blind people, and where I can’t do any damage to folk. Where my vile form can’t be mocked by strangers in the street. Where I can’t be laughed at. Where people won’t work out what I’m really like. I like my Psychologist’s optimism and pig-headed take on my diagnosis, but the walk with my old friend won’t be anything other than showing someone I once knew that I am even more awful than all those years ago; a massive let down; a dreadful mistake. Even if my friend is blinded by the yahoo of our shared youth and memories of good times long gone, the truth of my ravaged personality disorder is in plain sight.

 

Mourning

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The election was over. It was morning. Sunshine. I sat on a bench under the new green leaves of an ash tree in a plaza called ‘Place d’Arras’. Ipswich.

The day promised some heat. Hangovers walked slowly up past the Butter Market and into the precinct. Indistinct faces, mostly. Pastel shades of pensioners, young hipsters in converse sneakers, families rushing to do shopping so they could get back home and enjoy the two days of rest before the hell of school and two shitty jobs; jobs that pay for family shopping trips into town. A circular kind of hellish reasoning. Ingenious, entrapping, invisible treadmills. Tedious, pained, soulless expressions. The employed.

An old man wearing too many layers of clothes, walking slowly, headed towards my bench even though all the others were empty. I moved to give him space. He didn’t say thanks, just sat down and sighed.

‘I’m tired,’ he said.

He took two deep breaths, adjusted the rucksack on his back, then left, pausing to ogle a  young women as she tottered past a cafe.

By the side of the church, a group of four guys weaved along the pavement coming up towards the precinct. They were eating what looked like food donations. Almost fresh baguettes and cakes. One pushed a bike. They stopped right by me. The guy with the bike said he couldn’t push it any further. He swayed, dropping the bike on the floor.

‘I know, I know, mate,’ said his friend. ‘When you’ve been up for two days it’s a fucker, ain’t it.’

He took the bike from his friend and put the boxed CCTV home security kit he was carrying under his other arm.

‘We’ll score in a bit.’

By the marina – expensive yachts, sunshine on rippled water reflecting condos and waterfront bars – three homeless guys were in their sleeping bags. One had a huge pile of books. Couple of cans of cider, too. Two Police Officers were harassing them about a report they’d had of someone down there hassling the general public – you know, the safe, co-operative people who haven’t fallen on hard times. Nobody knew anything. It’s hard to be threatening when you’re in a sleeping bag, emaciated, gouching.

England had had an election. The papers were full of it. Big ideas. Hope. On the streets no-one cared. None of it made an ounce of difference. Things were the same as they’d always be; chemical dependence, hopelessness, tedium, futility, lack of direction, the savage feeling of the stone fall of reality on cool summer mornings. Waking up with a frantic sense of loss.

Problems

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A day of mixed problems of varying seriousness and effect.

Firstly, my 85yr old neighbour is living in a perpetual state of stress because someone’s bin got vandalised yesterday. It took ten minutes to calm her down. I stood in the howling wind and rain in a pair of shorts and t shirt outside her door as she took her time telling me the fine print details. By the time I’d told her to go back inside and ring me if she was worried, I was soaked to the skin. I just know this isn’t over. I am completely at her mercy right now. There is no reasoning with someone that old. The only solution is to hide and ignore her shouting over the gate for me. Which, of course, I will never do..

Later this morning I got a text from my GP asking me to ring the surgery. It took all of five seconds for me to realise they are trying to kick me off of my codeine prescription. The dosage is poxy – 15mg four times a day – but it’s enough in these days of opiate paranoia to become a blip on a doctors radar. I’ve nursed that prescription for years. And I always only ever use half the prescribed dose, meaning the time between repeat prescriptions goes a long way to proving my ability to maintain a sense of restraint and control over the codeine. This doesn’t seem to have got me very far. A week on Friday I’ll know for sure, when I’m deep into an argument in a doctors room with some poor sap who knows me less than you do. I’m not knocking their obligations to a patient with codeine, diazepam, and pregabalin prescriptions – it’s just common sense – but justifying the codeine is going to be tough. Truth is, it’s genuinely needed, but this won’t go far in the cold light of the surgery on Friday. Ever tried to prove pain? It’s tough. There is another little withdrawal looming on the horizon. And freshly opiate-free synapses hurt. Trust me.

The General Election is tomorrow. I won’t be doing my usual drunk/medicated vigil in front of the tv screen into the early hours, shouting at the screen and pledging my allegiance to Satan if only he’d suck back the souls he rented to the Conservative Party candidates. It’s an exercise i recommend, especially if your neighbours can hear you at 4am on your tenth Red Bull and vodka, wired up to the political mainline like an electricity sub-station. People who hear that kind of behaviour never want to engage you in conversation about politics ever again. But I’m driving for four hours at 9am on the next morning so I’ll just go to bed and grind my teeth until the savage dawn awakens the next chapter of Austerity, Cuts, and Right Wing death squads. What the fucking hell have we become? It’ll be a fast and dangerous drive because my mood will be terrible. There is no chance that Labour will win. Anyone living in hope is delusional. People in the UK are either rich, hideous, and scared, or poor and too apathetic to rise up and care about how many times they get kicked in the balls. And the latest terror attacks have rubber-stamped Theresa’s victory. The majority want someone punished and they want it done with excessive force. Doesn’t matter who, just as long as they aren’t White and we don’t get to see them putting out the flames on their children’s backs. Jeremy Corbyn is too empathetic for this country of revenge-hungry beasts. We are at War. And Jeremy admits he wouldn’t press the button. It’s just common sense, and I applaud him for it, but the average voter doesn’t want to hear about taking backwards steps; about being weak; the chance for peace. They want blood and for someone to guarantee they can live their life on Facebook without giving a thought to anyone else other than clicking ‘Like’ on a random acquaintance’s holiday photos. X-Factor, Dance-Off, Bake-Off, Fuck-Off TV, rammed down semi-alcoholic throats at the end of long boring weeks in a dead end job, hating everyone. It’s the British way.

Jeremy will lose. Maybe not by a crushing defeat, but by enough for him to walk away into history as the man who should have proved the UK had some sense of hope for the future, if only enough of us had had the guts and the brains to stand up for peace.

Problems, eh. You’ve got yours and I’ve got mine. Right now it’s time to put Kurt Vile on the stereo and try to calm down. Maybe smoke a joint. Let it all pass. I mean, these are dangerous times. Someone like me doesn’t need to add their own foul twist on an already evil brew. By Friday morning we’ll all know just how fucked that brew can get us, and the hangover is going to take an eon to shift. Maybe it’ll never leave us.

Scared

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Two hideous full size voodoo dolls – one white, one black – were sitting in the corner of the room. Leering smiles. One male, one female. My partner ran out of the room screaming. I woke up sweating, heart beating more than it should when you’ve taken diazepam and are expecting some sleep. It took a while for me to shake the image and the terrible sound of my partner in a state I’ve never wanted her to be in. I don’t mind me being the focus of some unworldly force, but my partner doesn’t deserve an inclusion into that sort of unholy scene. I try to protect her when the sun is out and when everyone can see the danger coming. I enjoy it, to be honest. But in dreams the whole thing is taken out of my hands, I guess it’s why I sleep badly. When I calmed down a little I put the light on and lay in bed wondering why I’m being singled out. I’m an obvious target, but I still think there are better candidates out there for multiple sleepless nights of sweating terror. After a while I went for a piss, but even in my bathroom I had goose bumps all over my skin still thinking of those dolls watching with their dead eyes.

Now it’s 5am. Raining heavy. I’m missing therapy today. Things, generally, are confusing this morning – I’m bored, tired, frightened, lost. I thought at one point last night that I’d found the key to everything: I’ve been cursed. Some voodoo spell has been enacted on me, maybe in a previous life, and has followed me into this shitty incarnation. I wondered about making a witches bottle and burying it deep in the garden to ward off the curse. I haven’t done it yet, but I might. Stupidity doesn’t feel so dumb when you’re scared.

The previous owner of the house lived in Africa for a while. And she had died in my bedroom. Was she responsible? Was the curse focussing in on the wrong person now she’s gone? Will it return tonight with the sound of far away drums? Shit…. All the problems of the World are boiling down to the stares from two voodoo dolls in a dream. Terrorists, Trump, bodies blown apart, all reflected in those unmoving faces. It’s pathetic. Self-indulgent. I have a simple nightmare and it feels like a bomb has dropped in here. I’m quivering like a soaked bird on a telephone line.

-Now my therapist is texting me – she’s mistakenly put an X at the end of a message.

Send me prayers. Send me money. Send back my sanity.

Thanks in advance.

 

 

 

Know your place.

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The kid was screaming in her pushchair. Really letting loose. High pitched. No words, just the air-splitting. I drew level along the path. It was a beautiful place. The father turned to me and said, ‘Morning,’ then shrugged his shoulders and sighed, nodding his head towards the screaming.

‘Good fun?’ I asked. He didn’t answer.

It took thirty seconds to walk to the corner of the viewpoint. It’s a popular place to scatter ashes but I couldn’t see any fresh ones down below. And no new flowers. Down the trail the young girl was still screaming. Dad had had enough. He leaned his face right under the cover of the pushchair and screamed back, inches from her face, ‘SHUT UP, POPPY. JUST SHUT UP. NOW!’

It did the trick. She stopped at once. Adult aggression had overridden whatever reason she had for screaming. She knew her place in the scheme of things and now she understood that adults are big, powerful, and threatening. Would Dad forever be a symbol of hurt and hate? She could see rage, twisting his face as the spittle flew from his mouth. I’d seen it at her age, too. Many times.

I walked the usual route from the viewpoint down the incline and back along the canal. The crowds were out but most of the people I said ‘Hello,’ to as I walked along didn’t answer me.  At the end of the canal, tourists grouped like muted bees around the car park. Pastel shades of mail order outdoorsy clothing everywhere. Kids paddled around in canoes. Ducklings floated around near the rushes. Typical Bank holiday scene from any English beauty spot. Solitude for the masses. I sat outside the café in the sunshine. Drank a diet coke. Took some diazepam. Thought about why I’d had an urge to kill myself yesterday. Two women at the next table talked about ‘Immigrants’ being The Problem. They were wrong.