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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.


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Another dawn start – nightmare woke me up again. Can’t remember the details, but I do remember going to bed drunk. Somewhere a doctor is sighing and stating the obvious about alcohol and sleep deprivation. Is four hours sleep over two nights enough? That witch Thatcher apparently only needed half an hour every night suckling on the blood of infants to function properly. Is this normal? Am I becoming one of the undead like she was? I’m tired, but too full of daylight to do anything about it. I’ll be assimilated, or put under the curse without any fight at all. My lips hurt. My arms ache. I’m half zombie already. Finish me off.

Now it’s therapy day/time in two hours. My Psychologist will make mincemeat from what’s left of my psyche like a threshing machine going through a ripe harest. If I’m not on the top of my game then therapy is a one-sided exercise full of arguments and anger. Last week we examined our relationship and I told her to fuck off. She’s only in the room because she’s paid to be. That is the bottom line. She disagreed but in that windowless room we both knew she was wrong. Goddamn this tiredness. And I’ve got no pick-me-up meds to tip the balance. I’m dead in two hours. In that comfy chair by the table with the tissues on it I’ll give up and roll over. A bloated mentally dead corpse, gibbering and taking her through really shit bits of my life. Flapping around like a beached sunfish. Brain shrinking. Skin cracking.

I have to sleep tonight before I start getting weird(er). High and dry is no place to be.



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Anyone else look forward to social events like they look forward to being gored by a bull? I’ve got the pain coming today. It’ll be administered at my partners friends’ house in the next village.

I’ve already been told off yesterday by my partner for not taking my tablets and for having a meltdown on Saturday; I’m a bit all over the place at the moment. So, the writing is on the wall, and the ley-lines and hexes are all intersecting on her friends home this afternoon, with its pretty garden and borrowed marquee. The rain will help to dampen the moods of my dining companions. Fuses will be short and nervous glances will shoot at me the second someone mentions politics, or mental health, or death, or…just about anything where the topic can turn serious – which is just about any topic as far as I’m concerned.

The opposing team include a right-wing lizard of a man, a drunk social worker, a tetchy support worker and her cattle farmer husband, a former head of a social services department, her stoner partner, an ‘I’m wacky’ old people’s services assessor, a registered mental health nurse – recently disciplined for punching a patient in a mental health unit, the hosts (nervous and highly strung teacher and insurance salesman), and my old friend – the only one I have left. He will provide the only sense and safety in the whole thing. I genuinely am ramping up with high anxiety right now. Those people are out to get me and I don’t have a hope in Hell. Judging on past experiences I’ll either take too many meds prior to getting there, or drink to much. I’m not popular sober, but whacked on tablets and/or booze makes the whole thing much, much worse. Anything could happen. At the very least I’ll be a huge embarrassment to my partner in front of all her friends. And they will ask her, in text messages afterwards, why she bothers with me. It’s a good question – and one I ask myself many times more than they do – but I can’t bear to think about it right now. Got to keep the anxiety on just one threat. One is enough today.

In three hours I could be walking home in the rain, covered in my own sweat and slime. Soaked and slithering away from what most other people enjoy; it’s just a party.

The Midnight Monster

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It had been a bad night again. Not down to the meds this time. I think I’d fallen asleep around 11pm, laptop still on next to the bed. The air was hot from a day in the heatwave. The stone house had retained the warmth and was releasing it slowly, cooking me. A dog barked, waking me up. I kicked the duvet off and lay there on my back, naked, the dog barking and barking out the back somewhere. The thing wasn’t happy, wherever it was. There was aggression in its voice.

Behind my house is just miles of countryside. Probably ten miles in a straight line from my back door to the nearest house in that direction. It’s quiet, and sometimes you can see the Milky Way up there, and those fools in the Space Station. Noise around here means you should be alert. Noise doesn’t herald anything of any good out here. You learn to take notice of sounds when the nights are usually deep silence.

From over the hill the sound of Sheep baaaaaa baaaaaa, bleating and concerned. I got up and looked out of the window expecting to see a flock of loose sheep behind my house, or the pack of Wolverines chasing them. Nothing. I scanned around but the place looked still. Getting back into bed, I grabbed my Mag-Light torch, and wondered if it was worth going downstairs to get my axe – kept by the back door in case of emergencies – but I reckoned I needed more evidence and reason before I introduced a large sharp steel blade to the night. I turned off the laptop and fell asleep.

3am – I was woken hideously from a dream about riding Bill Gates around a Horse Track. Something had let out a yell outside. The dog barked again, scared, yelping. Silence, then a terrifying scream, something so cutting and bizarre that I reached for the torch without thinking. No animal I’d ever heard could make a noise like that. There it was again. A high pitched, blood-curdling shriek that sounded like it ended in a laugh. I lay there, heart beating faster, waiting for it to yell again so I could judge how far it was from my home and, more importantly, my open windows.

I thought of Bigfoot. Shit, he’d be able to climb into my upstairs windows without much effort. I imagined myself being dragged outside like the Skyscraper scene from King Kong, naked, flailing weakly as I was carried off into the night. No point worrying, I told myself, things will take their course as they always do. I waited until it was starting to get light. Nothing. No more screams, no more barking. I sensed a change outside. Birds were starting to sing, the darkness ushered out by the promise of another fine day. I got up and drew back the curtains knowing whatever had been terrorising me had gone. I was right. A beautiful dawn, orange sky, green trees, dewy grass, monster-less. I had survived another attack. In calm, rational, early morning serenity I made my way downstairs chuckling to myself at how stupid I’d been. Light makes even the worst coward braver than he was when he couldn’t see what was coming. Was any of it even real? When you have a psychotic mental illness that question is one you ask yourself a lot. And you learn to appreciate how much of a target you are. There are many monsters out to get us, real or imagined. In the dark there is no difference between the two.


The bomb

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I’m not knocking anyone. But I know music doesn’t heal, and nowhere is safe.

Manchester was bombed again – the last one was the IRA explosion that destroyed a part of the city centre. As an aside, my father was once questioned about another IRA bombing back in the mid eighties. He didn’t do it, but had stayed at the hotel a couple of days before the attempt on Margret Thatcher’s life. Bombs are emotive – made in small workshops – plotted – planned – ingenious – terrorising – cowardly. They have targets but they don’t aim. Collateral damage is inevitable, whether a suicide vest, or a million dollar cruise missile. I guess that’s an important lesson to remember from the ‘War on Terror’. But we don’t think about it from any other side than from our own White, Western, lard-ass, perspective. NO cruise missiles will ever scream down onto my village. NO meeting or Think Tank will plot a multi-billion dollar attack where I walk/shop/eat. I am civilised, and I’m on the side of civilisation…. Right?

My niece is in Manchester right now. She was last night, too. She’s at a public school in the city. There is an outside chance she was at that concert last night, but I haven’t had a phonecall this morning, so I’m guessing she wasn’t. These things have a funny way of wanting to wrap you up in them, churn a piece of you into the chaotic fall-out, and in times like these it’s all too easy to start posting ‘Pray for Manchester’ on social media, or replacing your avatar with a British flag. Godawful jingoism always rears up in the face of a non-white terror. People in the UK this morning are using words like Justice, Revenge, and saying things like ‘Lets hit the bastards back……bomb Iraq.’ And – as of 9.17am GMT – 22 people are dead, blown to pieces at a child music concert. Caused by one man. No-one knows anything of the finer details – a reporter asked the head of the Manchester Police if he knew if nails were wrapped around the bomb. Hideous thing to ask, and I didn’t see the purpose until I watched another hour of circulating news on TV. It was all the same thing over and over: 22 dead, 59 injured, bomb, concert, running, people stampeding over each other, jumping from balconies, communities ‘coming together’. What else is there to say about an event that took place in less than a second and had been locked down within half an hour? Not much, just newscasters repeating titbits of information while looking serious and trying hard to conjure up something new to say while standing outside of a featureless hospital entrance.

IF you think about it, the questions are few and we all know the answers to them anyway. We know why/who, the important stuff. And now another 22 innocent people are dead. No amount of ‘Thoughts and prayers’ statements will change a single thing. Praying (ok, and oil money) got us into this in the first place. It won’t get us out.


Where were you when? Another dumb-ass question of the human condition. Ha! This can be used to explore any given fraction of time, anywhere, personalising any point in your take on History. I suppose it’s how we find our own longitude and latitude on the map of things.

I wasn’t alive when Kennedy was assassinated, when Neil Armstrong touched down in a Hollywood studio, or when Hitler gave himself a dose of the Final Solution. But…. I was alive during 9/11, the invasion of Iraq, the Miner’s strike, the death of Kurt Cobain, and, now, the suicide of Chris Cornell. I watched the second plane hit the tower live on TV while at work in a Category A prison, and I lived in Yorkshire during the worst parts of Thatcher’s demolition of the Mining industry. These events aren’t things I was ever personally involved with, I don’t own them or their emotional output. SO why do I feel like some of them left a mark?

When I heard Chris Cornell had hung himself I froze. Why? Ok, so I always loved Soundgarden. I know that much. Cornell’s lyrics and voice resonated with me on many occasions. I took acid listening to Superunknown, sat stoned trying not to go too deep into Black Hole Sun. And I rocked out to Soundgarden’s wall of guitars and that screaming-cutting voice many, many, times. I have all their albums. I still listen to them from time to time. And when I do, I turn the volume up. I admired his creativity. And now he’s dead. Why did the news make me so sad?

I’ve come to the conclusion that his suicide hit home with me because I’ve been there. Unsuccessfully. I know the level of self-hatred and sadness it takes to push the button, or tie the noose. It’s so powerful and disturbing that it actually hurts physically to recall. I felt for Chris Cornell not because he was a sort of hero, but because I was him. He just got to see it through while I got lucky. I can’t sing, I’m unattractive, I can’t write music, but when I heard about his death, just for a moment, we were connected. We knew something the others didn’t, no matter how hard he tried to put it across in a song.



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The CPN cometh.

She cancelled yesterday because, she told me, the recent global hacking event scrambled their computer system and an ’emergency meeting, vital to safety,’ had been called. She had to attend. Beats listening to me bleating on like a 200lb half-dead sheep at shearing time. Hacking is the new graffiti. Painted in letters ten feet high all over the front of your house – “Infected – and he has secrets”

Which reminds me….. just turned on the anti-virus scan on my laptop. My writing/work laptop, not the battered bedroom one I use for soporific music and audiobooks at bedtime – the one I thought was broken, so kicked it twenty feet across my living room. It survived. It’s like a cockroach. Apart from kicking it against a stone wall, I’ve dropped it on a quarry tile floor, spilled beer on it, punched it, and mashed those keys so hard that sometimes I thought my fingers would end up electrocuted.  And the thing still works. Amazing.

This fancy new one I’m writing this on broke within the first month and had to be sent away for a new hard drive. It lacks the mental toughness to really be in here. Sometimes, so do I. But that’s not anything I can change. I have certain expectations from my laptops: I don’t have a dog to kick.

It’s been raining for three days non-stop. I’ve been drunk, and now I’ve groped for some diazepam to take the edge off the grey day and the visit of my CPN. She will notice my slowed down thinking and speech, but then I have a Psychiatric diagnosis assessed as ‘High’ and risk as ‘Moderate to High.’ I guess that’s a good enough reason to take meds. Therapeutically, you understand. Which leads me to think about the fact I have a new Psychiatrist – the third in a little over a year. And it’s a man. Bad news. Means plans are in place to accompany me to at least my first appointment with him. Terrible really, that I can’t be trusted, and can’t trust myself, in case he provokes or upsets me. What a let down.

And that’s that today. No weird news, no intention to self-harm, or crazy stories from the past, and no sign of Bigfoot. Just me at the same old desk staring out at the rain and watching for the gate to open and my CPN to knock gingerly at the back door. She’ll refuse a drink as always, give weird eye contact, read the riot act, then tell me how well I’m doing. It’s a hard way to make a living.

Late Win

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My house is old. People say it’s spooky, and the deranged say it’s haunted – especially the back bedroom with its stone mullions, dark furniture, and view out across the hillside to where the ghost impressions of lead mines are all lumpy and moon-like. Poetic, eh.

  • ah, I thought as much… As soon as I start typing about the dead, things were always bound to go weird. A magpie. Large. Blue/black feathers contrasting pure white. Big beak, large eye, barely four feet away on my window as I’m sitting here right now pounding these words on my Advent keyboard. I knew it. I was stupid to rile the dead.

But these things have been forced upon me.

My 85yr old neighbour says the person I bought the house from died in it. I knew someone had died because it was purchased through probate from the original owner’s sister. I just didn’t know the back bedroom was the place ‘Vicky’ took her final breaths in. My neighbour says she was visiting with her to provide comfort barely half an hour before the cancer won and she slipped away. She’d told her not to be scared, though Vicky said she felt overwhelming fear. “Where else would you choose to be and to die?” my neighbour had said to her. I don’t know if those words helped her. They wouldn’t have helped me.

In terms of how nice it is around here, I guess some people would choose it as a palliative environment. Maybe I will too some day. I’ve never given it much thought.

I never really think about Vicky either. But I got a letter addressed to her today. It looked important so I opened it. She’d won the Premium Bonds. She’s been dead for over six years.

I wondered what she’d have thought, what her reaction would have been? If she’d have leaped up and down or run straight to the pub and punched the first person she saw. People handle good news in different ways.

And now I’m thinking about Vicky – the woman I never met, but who spent her last moments upstairs in my house, in her house, with her sister and her friends, laying in bed and scared of dying. And I have a letter to write to the Premium Bond people to tell them the news. The money is not destined for the occupant of this little stone cottage. That was all something that maybe should have happened a long time ago, when the going was good and before liver cancer made an innocent woman die in terror. The cosmos – chance, fate, biological demise, the choosing of a set of random numbers in a computer – always seems to get its kicks. And that, my friends, is no bad lesson to learn.


Bitter Truth

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‘O England, you’re my home, you’re my heart’s heart, crashing thunder of love.’ – England my Home, The Levellers.

In the sunlight out there I can almost believe those words. Leaves are mostly out now on all the trees on the hillside, blue sky, sunshine hitting the front of the house behind me and cutting through the gloom. If it hadn’t been for the News this morning I could argue there’d be a sense of hope for the day. I can’t bring myself to type it all, but that filthy egomaniac – Trump – has fired the head of the FBI. I want to bang my hands on this desk then throw something through the window in front of me. But I won’t go on about Trump this morning. Counterproductive. Not helping anyone.

Nothing helps. I voted last week and look what happened there. The Tories whitewashed the whole thing with psychological fear soundbites, and the media sucked the whole thing in. Elections aren’t about doing the right thing, telling the people what you genuinely believe, they are about shoehorning people into power by any means you can. And we are stupid; too stupid to tell a good man from a bloated corpse wrapped around a corporate owned death machine. I voted Green party, for all the good it did me. A rabid dog has more chance of winning a seat around here than the Green party. And this rotten borough won’t change until people are choking on the air and fighting with each other for scraps of roadkill. But by then it’ll all be too late anyhow, eh. I’m pissing into a tornado and I’ll never get my hands on the Ruby Slippers. So why worry? Why make the thing harder for myself? Float along with the rest of the deluded trash. Give up.

But that’s all crazy and paranoid talk. Still, you vote Green and you almost rubber stamp your diagnosis here in the UK. Anti-war pro-social people who don’t like what we’re doing to the environment don’t get anything except their own quiet space in a local pub. And smirking glances. And few friends.

Doing what’s right means you lose.

Ok. Is that enough for us both to tolerate this morning? I think it is.