Carnival

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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.

 

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.

 

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.

Reptile

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Upwards of a thousand things with staring eyes hiding in every corner in here. Quick moving. Just outta sight. Some with legs. Others with wings, skin, feathers, slug-like oozing behind where they hide. Some mornings are like this. One minute you’re watching a programme about Preppers, the next you’re under attack. It’s the familiar tale of fragile psyche versus the shit truth of human existence. And the knowledge that all the problems of the World cannot be solved by lighting an incense stick and gibbering some words about poverty, war, protection, love. No, No. I lit one anyway. A hopeless romantic.

I’m too fragile at the moment. Skin too thin. Watery blood, unable to function without prescribed meds. I’m clogging up my arteries with shitty food and sedentary living.

‘There’s only one way of life, and that’s your own.’ Music good and loud.

I’m ravaged by years of booze and medication. Is that the Way of Life they were referring to? I fucking doubt it. Those poor deluded freaks. Sure, living outside next to a river, smelling woodsmoke and playing guitar seems, on the face of it, appealing, but it’s a pipe dream. Want to taste freedom? Want to know if you’re really free? Trying doing something for any length of time without money. Think as hard as you can. I do. It’s impossible. Sure, you can sit still, but that land you’re sitting on better be owned by you. It’s all about ownership. Paying in to the system. Paying in is vital to maintain the status quo. As soon as you stop paying taxes the Government want to know why. Fuck, I even got threatened with court action for refusing to put my name on the electoral register. And no matter what bolts are on my doors, the Government have the means to smash them down if they are in the mood. They represent the money every one of us has in our pockets – and is duty bound to hand to some utility corp, or taxman. Every inch of the UK is owned by somebody paying in. They don’t like people who don’t agree with the same way of doing things. They used to hang Witches around here.

As you can see, today I am a paranoid mess. I don’t want an Apple IWatch, or a Nissan Car, or to eat something called Pappa Johns. I’m not even sure what type of food Pappa Johns is but the guy in the tiny bit of advert I’ve just seen is enough to put me off. He is freakishly dark-haired – greasy hair, tight skin, weird grimace smile – and untrustworthy looking. Is he selling cheese? Burgers? I don’t want to look him up on the internet. One glimpse of that hideous reptile face is enough for me today. He looks like he’d suck the last pint of blood from a road crash victim before the Emergency Team turn up and have to keep him at bay with high voltage defibrillator pads. What is going on?!

Yes. Today is hopeless already. [9.26am BST] See you when one of us blinks first.

 

 

 

 

The Ghost

On a bus, everyone can hear you scream. And everyone can smell the stench of shit on board – whereabouts unsure, animal provenance unknown, situation unclear. So it was this morning on the 9.44 to Bakewell.

The girl opposite me stared down at her phone the whole way, neck arched over, head hanging heavily on the ligaments. Three middle-aged ladies talked about a fourth who wasn’t with them. They hated her. She didn’t know, but now I do.

The sunlight splashed in through the safety glass. I was tired. At 4.13am a drunk couple had woken me up arguing in the street outside my house. I couldn’t make out the cause, or the solution. It took a while to die down in the dingy orange of streetlight mock safety as they walked down the steep hill away from my home. I couldn’t go back to sleep.

Dawn hadn’t yet started. I did my ritual – downstairs, sockets on, cold drink from the fridge, heating on, back upstairs for a piss. It was a normal weekday morning. There hadn’t been any nightmares, no groans from the ether, no religious visitations. And I hadn’t even begun to consider my mental health. Too early for any of that.

About ten seconds into relieving myself, a penny flew through the doorway and onto the floor of the bathroom where it rolled around and stopped near my feet. Just like that. Seemingly thrown out of the gloom at the top of the stairs. I stopped pissing and said ‘Hello,’ like there would be anyone, or anything, replying. It seemed the polite thing to do.

I don’t believe in ghosts – I believe in mental illness – but I picked the penny up warily and turned it around in my hands. The coin was real enough. I’d seen it fly through the air, too, then watched it roll round on its edge and stop at my feet. I wondered for a second if I had an intruder. Nah. No-one would be that desperate – not even a glue sniffer would be getting many laughs from breaking into my house, especially if they knew I lived there; kicking a rabid dog in the dark is nobodies idea of fun. What threw the coin?

I tried to remain calm, and manly. I was on my own, so screaming would be ok. I didn’t make a sound, but I did clench my fists as I walked over to the top of the stairs and looked down. I half expected another penny to be thrown at me out of the darkness. I have watched horror films; I know the way these things go. Before you know it, there are winners and losers – and men with sedative drugs and a van. And nobody believes your story. Downstairs, the house was quiet. I went and took my medication and thought about faces pressed up against the window, and mocking laughter, thumps upstairs, a rap on a wall, until I felt the warm glow of pharmaceutical exorcism.

The first light over the hillside clawed into the night but I kept the lamp on anyhow. Hedging your bets is always appropriate in every given situation. Dog tired. Confused. Unsure of who makes the next step. An hour passed; merciful daylight and increasing traffic outside, all unaware of the supernatural battle going on: good v evil; the paranoid guy with no answers still clutching a penny in his hand like a dead rat, watching for movement.

Back for more

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He’s out there again. Don’t ask me how I know, I just know. Bigfoot. I haven’t seen him yet this time but he’s up there in the treeline heading up into the nature reserve. He’s keeping hidden and he’s watching me as I sit at my large desk by a small window at the back of my home. This is interesting for a number of reasons –

  1. I live in the UK, where there just isn’t any Bigfoot legend to speak of.
  2. I don’t believe in Bigfoot.
  3. I am mentally ill.

With those points in mind it’s kind of uber crazy that I’m sitting here typing, watching up at the tangled mass of trees a hundred meters away, seeing nothing at all, but having the completely nailed on feeling Bigfoot is up there right now…right now. I’m watching for branches moving, something to be out of place, birds to fly up shrieking or, god forbid, he actually crashes out of the treeline and makes for me. Insane, eh?

I have seen him a few times in my life. He’s been a portent of doom or terror, usually hanging around when the going got bad as a kid. And he never really left. He’s a harbinger of bad things – except that one time where he just stood and kind of held up his hand to me, waving; friendly monster.

It’s ludicrous. I mean, intellectually, the whole thing makes no sense at all. And I’d like to hang all my thoughts on that statement right now, except I know he’s up there. I can’t explain it. I’ve not taken any LSD, or anything at all apart from the usual and some Earl Grey tea. You know how ridiculous this all sounds? Imagine typing it.

I can’t take my eyes off the treeline.

No birds around – is that a good thing?

Have I done something wrong? Am I being punished for it?

Something could live up there unseen, I mean it’s a big uninhabited place, the Derbyshire Dales.

Sometimes it’s a friendly feeling, having him around, but I don’t get that today.

What kind of effort would it take for me to go up there right now? Seek him out. I guess what I’ll do is have another cup of tea and let this pass, as it always does. There’s nothing to worry about. Calm is called for. This is a trick. A brain-screw. I’m safe and he’s not real. Like a malfunctioning brain or a Donald Trump speech, many things can fool you.

Good for the Gander…

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“Mental heath problems can be something perceived as ‘cool’ that, unfortunately, a few young women are aping the symptoms of because they get a kick out of having a specific, mainly Bipolar Disorder, diagnosis. It’s a real bummer.” – My CPN.

Do I buy that? For my part there’s no ‘aping’ required because I really do have my diagnosis, but it did get me thinking about some of the people I’ve met along the therapy way. Am I doubting their stories now? Are they any less factual than my own? I think, with one exception, the answer is an emphatic No.

This one particular guy seemed ok to me, friendly, normal conversations, normal appearance, pretty bog-standard kind of guy I guess. Not at all how you’d expect somebody with Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Multiple Personality Disorder, Autism, Dissociative Disorder, and OCD to behave. And he supposedly had all of those diagnoses.

Nah, this is turning mean. It’s not meant to be. I’m a bit lost today. Things are slightly out of focus, shifted a little out of view. I’m not expecting to find much positive in today. I’m floating away on a barrel of mental pain today; self-doubt, self-hatred, and all the rest of the shitty construct.

Here’s some snippets from my latest Psychological valuation:

“..engages in self attacking mode which expresses itself through his cognitions.”

“Should be encouraged to engage in rational thinking when he begins to experience paranoid ideation.”

“..risks are likely to increase in times of stress; as such requires regular monitoring.”

Not ground breaking reading for anyone out there. Nothing extraordinary or worthy of bragging about to friends. That’s why you know but my partner will never read my reports.

Yeah, it’s a real bummer of a day today. The diazepam is calling, maybe some weed too. Who knows? At some point I will be the laughing stock of some innocent conversation or train of thought. Today is a good day for that to happen. I recommend it, folks. Hate on me too.

 

Out there at the Perimeter

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  • A skeleton has been found in Greece nestled in a deserted cove or beach. The police think it is the last remains of Steven Cook, who disappeared there twelve years ago. They say a disposable camera was found with the bones. I wonder what the pictures are.
  • Donald Trump says we’re all liars and only he has the truth.
  • Tony Blair wants the UK to rethink its conscience: laughable and ironic.
  • The birds in my garden have started to watch me.

And that, my friends, is the news today. Full of bad intentions, bad outcomes, and even worse futures. There is little to smile about – even the anti-psychotics I’m prescribed are giving me headaches – and much less to get up in the mornings for. I’m constantly burning incense sticks in my house to try and drive evil away but the forces pile up some days against my doors like dirty great snowdrifts. They seep through cracks and into my home with supine intentions for me. It’s not a situation to be envious of.

In the dead of night I sometimes wonder if there is any point to anything good going on out there in the land beyond my triple locked doors. After listening to the neighbour’s headboard banging for a while until he reaches climax, I turn my good ear to the pillow and think of reasons to live. If nothing else, it gives me a sense of purpose. Sometimes I get up watch the stars out of my window, and blink in the moonlight. The universe deserves better than all of the above. Where we are is just on the dumb perimeter of something more magical than we’ll know in my lifetime. There’s just that big-assed fucking thing in the way. Call it mental illness, call it actually being awake when others are asleep in more ways than one. It’s an inescapable barrier which is dooming me to sadness. Right now I’m just stuck.

Stuck.

Stuck.

Passionate debate

She was wearing stockings. I could see the tops of them as she crossed her legs up high, drunk. The short dress was skewed from a bad rearrangement following a trip to the toilet. Across her shoulders a small fur stole hung off one side and exposed a black bra strap. Her hair was messy curly and looked like it’d had recently seen the ruffles of an overzealous lover.

He sat the other side of the small pub table and spoke loudly, gesturing his hands like he’d watched too many politicians and was trying really hard to expand his power base purely by hand signals. He was winning. The small party around him listened to his slurred words. She ran a stiletto up and down his leg as her husband watched out of the corner of his eyes from another table.

“We are in control of the country now. Let’s just get the immigrants sorted out and we’ve done it all,” he boomed. She swooned a little under the weight of the booze and the prospect of a fuck with a sense of purpose, from someone who was going places. Her hand moved under the table towards his groin.

Next to them at this post-meeting Conservative pub crawl, four older members watched the foulness in front of them and nodded approval. The immigrants needed stopping. They would lower the tone of the whole fabric of British society if they were given half a chance. Where would family values be when people were having sex in the streets and homes were being invaded by heroin-addicted squatters? Thankfully, they thought, all that was a long way away right now. What we had here was the cream of the crop, spilling gin and tonics and cheap lager on the scrubbed tables of a backwater pub high on a hill – non-white patron count = nil. This was the future.

Her husband finally had enough of watching his wife fondling the local Conservative Party council candidate. He stood up, told her she was a whore, stumbled out of the pub and rapped on the window outside. “You fucking bitch,” he yelled at her, then zigzagged off into the night.

Much was decided locally that evening, including my solemn oath to never enter politics.