Carnival

Image result for english fete

The day of the Carnival. Not a non-white face in sight in the soup of countrified, rural, middle class, smugness. In a marquee the noise was ramping up to a point where people next to me had to strain their throats just to tell each other about how lucky we’d been with the weather. The piercing shriek of parents telling children off cut in and out of the air. Slicing a biopsy under the plastic canvas.

A man in a red tracksuit, my age, flat cap on back to front, walked slowly down the marquee from the tea counter. He was carrying a cup of tea and some cake on a blue tray, which was shaking violently, as was he. His whole body seemed cursed by essential tremor. He sat down and continued to shake in his seat. Most of his tea was pooling on the tray bottom.

‘Jesus…..everyone staring…’ he muttered, before turning round to someone on my table. ‘People must think all sorts about me,’ he said. He was right. I thought he had Parkinsons, or some other degenerative brain disease, and was just trying his best to live normally before he couldn’t even walk. He shoved the cake up to his mouth, barely getting some in before the tremors smeared cream around his cheek. He sighed and turned away.

The noise built up into a great cone of no escape. The vibrations pulsed through my brain. My head thumped, my heart started to race. I’d forgotten to take my tablets. I started to panic. People were speaking to me, I was sure of that, but none of it – even the parts I could hear – made any sense. The election, somebody’s ex husband, another woman reeling off the names of all the people she’d slept with: her husbands brother, uncle, best friend, neighbour. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something sinister going on. Like the knowledge we were moments away from an enormous meteor strike, or a biblical flood. God was going to start things over. He knew humans had gotten out of control.

I broke free and took a walk around on my own, watched some captive bees for a while. Those dumb insects, I thought. Trapped so easily in that Perspex with each other. All interweaving and breaking their backs for what? Going nowhere. I hoped for a message from my friend to lift the emotional fog. It arrived. I sat under a tree and breathed. And smiled. A dog display carried on in the background. Tired sad-looking dogs jerked about on leads. Whistles shrilled, signalling something or other. Some dogs believed what they heard, one ran away across the carnival and up the road to who knows where. It had seen the chance to escape and taken it.

At the pub later someone told me the guy with the tremors had been found in a catatonic state only last year. Total nervous breakdown. Unable to speak, move, acknowledge anybody. The shakes were being caused by a withdrawal from his meds. He was a topic of conversation for many. Everyone had an opinion on where it all went wrong for him, and some doubted the facts. But not me. I bought it all when I looked in his eyes. He’d seen hell. And it wasn’t over yet. Takes one to know one, I guess. Not that I’ve ever been catatonic, but I’ve tasted that fruit. Plus I was currently starting to have my own twitching, headache, thoughts racing, first throws of my own medically engineered sense of loss. He deserved better from the community he lived in. Don’t we all?

The day was a write off until the very end. I lay shouting at the Foo Fighters on tv, then laughed a lot messaging a friend. She made me smile, and a feeling of completely natural non-chemical warmth fuzzed out from my chest until I was sure I looked like the kid from the old Ready Brek adverts. A forcefield against the worst of things.

 

Sunshined

Image result for Ugly False Teeth

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/the war ended.

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. A lot, if we’re talking about the capability of one human being to empathise and care for another.

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 something vague, 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.

 

Problems

Image result for peace

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

Image result for real voodoo dolls

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.

 

 

 

Sunfish

Image result for beached sunfish

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.

 

Party

Image result for drunk garden party

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.

RIP

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.

 

CPN

Image result for CPN

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

Image result for premium bonds

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.

 

The Drunk

Image result for God

9pm Last Night – And so it came to pass. I was drunk in a village pub with a rich ex-Olympic Heavyweight Wrestler whom I’d never met before. His ears were two ravaged lumps of gristle and his nose had been broken a few times. He was heavy set, fierce looking, about 50yrs old. I’d made the mistake of talking to him at the bar. Now we were five hours into the drink and talking about what made Boxers tough. Why any of that mattered does, right now, remain a mystery. We talked and laughed loud, like you can when you know there isn’t a single guy in the place who would be crazy enough to interject.

At a table behind us, a guy who owned the local Mystical Crystal shop seemed different when I glanced at him over the top of a beer. I looked again. I hadn’t seen him for a month. His face. Fuck. From both corners of his mouth ran a downward line, making him look like an old ventriloquist’s dummy. His grey hair was the same, same black leather jacket. But his chin was gone. Removed. A big fluid-filled bulge the size of a grapefruit was gathered on one side of his neck underneath his left jaw. He sucked on a drink with difficulty, holding the glass in both hands and taking great care as his top lip drooped on down into the beer. Jesus. The poor fucker. I guessed it was cancer. I tried to picture him with his jaw back in place, but couldn’t.

I left late. Drunk. Made it up the hill with my missus, then into bed and spent the night in bad dreams cut with wake-ups to go and piss. In the morning my head felt like a thousand cacti were rolling around inside. I felt old, sad, and couldn’t stop thinking about the Crystal guy and his gone chin. He was feeling much worse than me this morning, I knew that much. I made toast, drank tea, tried to avoid the News on the TV, realised I’d run out of Pregabalin and wouldn’t be able to get more until Wednesday. Meaning the headache’ll just get worse until then. Another shitty little withdrawal to do because of my own incompetence. Problems. Problems. But not like Crystal guy. Nowhere near.

What can I learn from this? Anything? I’m not taking up MMA, or smoking, for sure, but is there any deeper point to any of last night? I guess I’m still too hungover to work it out and, man, my head is really starting to bang. There but for the grace of…something something? Is that the message? Don’t count your chickens? Don’t stare at recently disfigured cancer sufferers? Don’t engage in tough-out booze sessions with Wrestlers who talk wildly about the plans for their next birthday party – midgets serving drinks from silver trays, unlimited champagne, indoor pools, horror – and accept the invitation? O Lord, what foul things you showed me last night, and what lessons I can’t figure out today, or maybe ever. Give me guidance…….  No answer. No spiritual direction from anyone or anything. Next time the dumb thumb of fate grinds me into situations like this  I’m calling on the ghost of Bill Hicks. He’ll know what it all means.

Oh, and I’m giving up drinking – again.