The Almighty King of the Universe


A kid was crying across from me in the narrow aisle. His sister sat and kicked the seat in front, throwing a plastic bottle repeatedly down onto the dirty plastic table, then looking up towards her mother who was too tired to do anything other than stare grimly at the young girl and nod her head in sleepy post-holiday travel tiredness. Dad still had his holiday clothes on and his fat tanned legs bristled with almost hairless goosebumps in the poorly heated railway carriage. He was dozing, cradling a third child and waking up with every rattle of the train as it slogged across the flat lands towards the coast.

The guy with the tattoo had got on the train in some featureless shit-hole where the houses seemed to barely keep above the water table, low and squat, hugging close like shipwreck victims. It was a place you left. Thankful for every mile of distance. I guessed nobody ever looked over their shoulder back towards the ditches and dykes and loneliness, no matter where they headed or whom they left behind.

He was young – maybe twenty – but his light ginger hair was thinning and he’d started to comb it forward in kiss curls that looked like the frayed edges of a threadbare mop. He’d grown a beard. Straggles of hair hugged over his top lip and into his mouth. He sucked on the mat of it from time to time. Hands flicked and pressed at a large phone. He was occasionally smiling, staring at the screen, fiddling with his Nintendo wallet. Black headphones jammed deep into small ears which seemed to be chiseled close to his head like a sculptor’s afterthought.

I watched him – taking a covert photo of the tattoo – while the train crawled past the rows of windmills, never seeming to make any progress. He adjusted his Tom Clancy “Ghost Recon” grey top, glanced around the carriage, then went back to stabbing and swiping at the phone, still smiling. Content. I wondered where he was going? If he even knew, or if he cared? I suppose it was unimportant. He was exactly where he should be. For that brief moment he was indeed the Almighty King of the Universe.


The Blank Stare of Ignorance

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Tom Cruise doesn’t believe in Psychiatry. I guess most of his mates have the same view. The more I watched his hideously chiselled face gurning and grinning and staring like a psychic in a CIA goat-killing experiment, the more I hated him. Most of what he said sounded like first year Psychology gone wrong – like the famous Stanford ‘Prison Experiment’, only this time cash was changing hands and the agenda was more psychotic.

Fuck….I know it’s dangerous ground – going into Scientology – but stumbling on that interview really kicked me in the balls. So here we are. Yes, I believe I’ve made it apparent by now to you: I see a Psychiatrist, and I’m prescribed Psychiatric medication. I have them to thank for improving my quality of life. The meds help sleep, allay panic and fear, and give me an emergency button to press when the time is right. In short, they work.

I can’t vouch for Scientology, I can vouch for medication. One solution is measurable and has been developed by thousands of intelligent medical professionals, the other is based on the writings of a Science Fiction Author. And here is a brief snapshot into that author’s (L. Ron Hubbard) mind, where he waxes lyrical about Psychiatry. I imagine he was masturbating furiously while he typed this one-handed –

“A psychiatrist today has the power to (1) take a fancy to a woman (2) lead her to take wild treatment as a joke (3) drug and shock her to temporary insanity (4) incarnate [sic] her (5) use her sexually (6) sterilise her to prevent conception (7) kill her by a brain operation to prevent disclosure. And all with no fear of reprisal. Yet it is rape and murder … We want at least one bad mark on every psychiatrist in England, a murder, an assault, or a rape or more than one … This is Project Psychiatry. We will remove them.”

Okay? Getting the sexual tension? Me too. For the record, I’ve never been raped by any one of my five [5] Psychiatrists I’ve been treated by over the years. Nor have I been drugged into ‘temporary insanity’ or felt that any one of them was trying to do anything other than help me. Hubbard wrote the above statement on a memo in 1966, but the smell of it is still strong after all these years. I don’t like it.

But let’s not get too far off the mark. I guess you suspect a cult leader like Hubbard didn’t quite stick to his own proclamations, especially where getting fucked out of his mind on chemicals was concerned? Here’s what his son had to say –

“I have personal knowledge that my father regularly used illegal drugs including amphetamines, barbiturates and hallucinogens. He regularly used cocaine, peyote and mescaline.”

Like Hubbard Snr a little more now? Me neither, and I have taken almost all of the drug menu listed by his son, so I should feel a sense of kinship. But then I’ve never tried to get people to part with their cash by feeding them stories of Aliens coming to take their souls to a distant planet. Only somebody really screwed out of their mind on a vicious cocktail of hallucinogens and cocaine would a) write the kinds of things he did and, b) think people would believe it. I watched stars form into the face of a great celestial dog once, but that wasn’t because I was finding the secrets to the universe, or having some kind of divine human insight into what it meant to be alive, I was just fucked on LSD.

Yes, I realise you can interchange some of the Hubbard-strength weirdness with some of the rantings in the Bible (and other religions) but no-one ever really set out to write themselves a spiritual fortune like he did. Most major religions are equally hilarious in parts, but that’s not through design, it’s through ignorance, or the lost myth of human experience told around campfires stretching back into the eons. They never began as cash-cows, even if that’s how a lot of them ended up. Scientology is different. It wanted your cash right from the start.

So where does that leave me and Tom Cruise? Well, he’s pretty much as insignificant to me as I am to him, and that’s the way I’d like things to remain. One of us is deluded, and the other has psychiatric problems. I guess that makes us more alike than I thought when I started typing in the candlelight, waiting for the stars to come out.

That’s Entertainment

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The island would have to be fairly decent sized. The fantasy calls for at least a hundred acres of jungle and beach. It would be too much to hope for some kind of weathered volcanic peak, bright orange magma bubbling down in the crater. All it’d need would be for the island to be inescapable. Sharks patrolling a knife sharp reef, big breakers, no chance for a dugout canoe or a raft to get far from the beach. Maybe gun boats, searchlights, the ability to launch a helicopter from my nearby private yacht – the operational centre of things – anchored a mile or so off shore and packed with every comfort known to man.

There would be a requirement for observation towers, high, with night vision cameras, giving 100% coverage of the island. Nowhere to hide. The pictures would be beamed to the yacht, where I would be sitting comfortably on a white sofa, drinking Cuba Libres, and taking just the right amount of amphetamines to stay awake so as not to miss a second of the show.

Okay, this kind of production isn’t going to be cheap. I’ve budgeted several million pounds for starters. When I begin to factor in things like the introduction of Tigers and King Cobras, and the amount of LSD I’d need to periodically poison the water supply, that total will rise. I plan to have enough money in reserve to cover those kinds of running costs. A Euromillions lottery ticket practically guarantees safe financial management of the project. I’m not worried. There will be enough surplus for cocaine, Louis Roederer champagne, and Dodo eggs. I may grow fat and lethargic, but my heart rate will never drop below 150bpm, especially if I’m watching the screens when the Tigers have been released from small boats onto the white sandy beaches by teams of animal handlers brought in from all the Worlds best Safari Parks and worst Romanian zoos. With the almost constant increased cardio load I may well live to be a hundred under such circumstances.

The island, as you’ll have guessed by now, is to be inhabited. The population will be unwilling, at first, but at bayonet point there are going to be few arguments… Here are the contestants –

  1. A Walter Mitty dog walker who I went to sixth form with. He tells people he is an expert at survival. I think it’s only fair to see just how far his bullshit is going to stretch when he’s being chased, purely as a source of meat, by the other contestants.
  2. Bez from the Happy Mondays. That drug-addled clown can’t dance his way out of this one.
  3. Pete Tong. Now, I don’t know much about Pete. He might be a lovely guy. His face, though, is what is putting him on the island. He looks likehow I imagine Satan would if he was off out to your local Town’s shittest night club to play records standing behind a wallpapering table.
  4. Wolf, from the shit 1990s TV show ‘Gladiators’. I didn’t like his hair, his claw pose when his name was announced, or his roid-rage eyes. He might be, God I don’t know, seventy [?] now, but I think his brain would still be enraged enough from the years of human growth hormone abuse that he’d be super-aggressive if provoked.
  5. Iain Duncan-Smith. That shitbag is to be a ‘special guest’ on the island. He’ll arrive after the others have formed a loose coalition based on fear. He’ll be pushed out onto the beach strapped to a wheelchair, chained to a rabid, blind, hyena. Anyone who has ever been a victim of his benefit system reforms can have this episode beamed into their homes for free.
  6. Jean-Claude Van-Damme. No explanation needed.
  7. That twat from the ‘One Show,’ on BBC1. I don’t know his name. I don’t want to – unless, by law, I’ll have to have it carved on his tombstone after his liver is eaten by the others. But I’ll make the correct lines of enquiry when that happy day comes.
  8. Jeremy Kyle. That fuck-pig will jettison out of a high speed aircraft over the island wearing a Kevlar suit – like a modern day knight. The suit will make him invulnerable to almost everything except disease and drowning. In a strange twist to his rotten life, he’ll pray for someone to talk to by the end because there is no chance of assimilating with the other freaks on the island. He really is that popular. If he doesn’t starve to death, and if he is the final contestant left alive, he is to be thrown into a pit of lie-detector failures from his show. Even Kevlar won’t save him then.

The whole experience could last a good few months, unless there’s some form of mass suicide pact or the animal handlers can’t recall the Bengal Tigers when needed. Depending on how much fun I’m having – likely a lot – I could probably stretch it out for them for a year or more; giving food parcels, rudimentary and experimental health care, and blasting loud music from the towers to ensure they remain at peak levels of paranoid sleep-deprivation and alertness. I’d need a companion to enjoy it all with, of course. And viewers to consume the experience from the comfort of their own homes at £30 a month. Entertainment like this doesn’t come along very often. Be ahead of the curve. Book now.



Fine Print

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Someone told me that you should just write. Doesn’t matter what it’s about – choose the first thing that comes into your head. I followed that advice for years. Even sitting doing paid gigs for magazines/websites and PR companies. Mostly the advice proved to be good. Only one Editor refused to print something I’d written without ‘Major fucking changes to the way you are blowing smoke up the ass of the W.B.C.’

Today I’m finding it difficult. Really difficult. Worse than psychotic episode brain-freeze. Or gibberish. Shit, I liked the gibberish. Reading the ravings of someone deep into a paranoid belief the neighbours are all police officers makes for fun reflection when the dust has settled. I’ve written high, low, hallucinating, starving, puking, hungover, and when it’s been so cold that the olive oil in my kitchen has frozen. But not today. There is no coherent thought I can drag along on the back of. Well, there’s one, but it’s so consuming that I feel like I’m being eaten from the inside out.

My Psychologist and I argued on the phone about how I deal with this. She’s worried. Kept asking me about my propensity to self harm. Wanting to assess the level of danger. I could hear her typing things down carefully as I spoke. ‘No……honestly, for fuck’s sake, I’m safe.’ One answer like that is usually enough, but she must have asked me four or five times over twenty minutes. Same answer, same typing. Same thought, over and over and over. Same face, same smile, same laughter.

Music on now. Loud. Someone told me it’s all about grounding yourself in times like these. I guess it works, mostly. Maybe a quick prayer will help?

Okay, God, you fucking owe me. Let’s not argue about that, eh. We both know it. I’ve borne enough bullshit and hurt to last me from here until you high-five my hand warmly as I ride through those big gates on a Raleigh Chopper. Time for that re-birth you’re always banging on about in those pamphlets that come through my letterbox infrequently. Forget the gibberish about dinosaurs and homosexuals. That stuff isn’t important. You’ve lost your way a bit concentrating on things that don’t matter. Give me one fucking chance to feel good.

There. I told you this thing would be incoherent. But at least whatever being is tending the eternal campfire up there now has the fine print in black and white. Spiritual proof, if you will. Maybe you can write your way to anything if you let it just flow?



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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.


The Drunk

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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.



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My God.

No, not that one. Or any one, for that matter – except maybe the entity I light an incense stick to most mornings and think of my grandparents, my sick mother, and my partner, before turning to face the sky outside and praying for all war to stop. Does that count?

But, to the point: trauma therapy is tough; tougher than probably anything I’ve ever done. Facing down a hundred upset prisoners was a breeze compared to an hour a week in a small room with an intelligent Clinical Psychologist and trawling through things I’d either forgotten about or kept hidden. This week’s revelation was spat out by me at the end of the hour, hands shaking, trying not to sob – ‘OK, I feel vulnerable…. There. Done.’

I hadn’t said those words ever, to anyone. I’m a tough guy. I like to think I am, and when the chips are down that might well be true, but there is something else within touching distance beyond the blue veil of time and the brown curtain of finely honed bullshit. I saw it with my own eyes. I’m vulnerable; still a frightened child terrified in his bedroom, waiting to be killed. Seems like what I thought was all wrong. I didn’t shake it off as I got physically bigger, it just stayed there and festered, and got rotten.

This whole rotten mental health thing is a crock of shit. No redeeming features and no way out at the moment. I’m reduced to bleating; humourless; unable to appreciate anything I do or have ever done. No point to any of it.

Here I sit, at my old desk by the window, in the light of dawn, morose, belt too tight, glancing out at the foulness of nature. A horror film monster. Old and ripped off.

Hohoho, eh?

The power of talking therapies. Done right they are more potent than any drug I ever wolfed down with a six pack of Heineken. The tricky bit is finding the valuable parts. And if you are not careful, before the sun has risen up over the rocks, you could be sitting pressed up against the window, like me, spectating rather than participating in life. These are the two choices I have today, right now, maybe forever.

See you outside.


The Convert

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OK, the grim reality of next week is starting to bore into my head. I’m going to look after my mother until next Friday while she has the fallout from her final bout of chemotherapy. Not something anyone wants to have to do, much as I emotionally owe her. AND I’ve just had a quick count up and found out I’ll be out of meds by Tuesday evening. That means no pregabalin, no codeine from Wednesday until possibly the following Monday – depending if my five and a half hour train journey gets me back before my Doctors closes. I can’t say I laughed when I realised, because what I did actually do was throw what tablets I do have across the room and start shouting ‘You fucking idiot,’

There is no way of getting the tablets today – I’ve checked – so I’m wracking my brains to see what plan B I can come up with.

  • Buy over the counter Co-Codamol and step around the fringes of a paracetamol overdose for a week – The poxy 7.5mg of codeine is accompanied, by some cruel joke wrongly aimed at preventing a whole nation of opiate addicts, by 500mg of paracetamol in each tablet. There is no way of even cold filtering out the paracetamol. Helloooo liver failure..
  • Scrimp on the meds – savagely cut down my dosages and pray I can get back on the shitty Rail service before four PM next Friday.
  • Take lots of diazepam (which I have) with me and provide a very ineffectual week of caring to my Mother.
  • Start taking my anti-psychotics again – at least I won’t get angry while I’m withdrawing.

It’s a menu of hate whichever way I look at it.

With cup of Early Grey teas in hand, I raise my tin mug to you all, and to a week of good fortune and of comfort and usefulness to my Mother. She is beyond my shitty mental health and I’m determined not to let her become the victim of my own poor planning.

Some people mock those on heavy medication, I was never one of those who sneered but now I can see people have a point. It’s hard to care for others when your bones feel like they are trying to leave your rotting body. Meds are not to be fooled with, or taken for granted. O Lord, grant me one last stroke of luck in my miserable life. Help me out just once. We both know it’s about fucking time.

To the future. And to my religious conversion, which may or may not occur in a blinding flash of opiate bliss and righteous doses of serotonin. See you in Church.


The Frying pan and the meds

“Nobody owns life, but anyone who can pick up a frying pan owns death.”
― William S Burroughs

“Do do do, come on and do the conga” – Black Lace

The above two quotes sum up the operating level of the world right now. On the one hand we have a superficial gibberish that provokes disbelief and rage, and on the other the stark truth in the fragility of life; in our case the frying pan has been picked up by the worst person possible…..and he’s heading your way with it raised above his head, bloodlust in his eyes, and a permanent erection.

I’m sick of the racist diatribe pounding out there in the ether. I’m sick of the politics of, well….hatred. I’ve lost faith in humans to do the right thing. I’ve even lost faith in my vocabulary to adequately explain how I feel about it all. At first I put it down to the more regimented medication routine I’ve been half-forced onto, but I think, if anything, the meds (Codeine, Pregabalin, Flupentixol, Diazepam) are helping, not hindering. Some might say it’s almost a dream medication ticket – Willy Wonka Gold, for a few really rabid med freaks – but I’ve come to the conclusion it’s helping me out of a hole at the moment.

Boo hoo, you say? I’ve got it tough too, Ben, you self-indulgent twat. Yeah, I get it. I make no apologies for it. In fact, fuck you. Empathy is the way forward if we are all going to get out of here alive. We have more important things to think about than horror story comparisons and league tables of the bad things in our respective lives.

There will never be another time like we have now to make things happen, to change the wheel and give the World a chance. Aliens may be on their way to put us down, and I can already hear Satan masturbating. The land is growing desolate while we grow fat and blind like lab mice waiting for our masters to chuck us another biscuit. Take notice of what’s happening before we end up in the grey goo of progress, or the searing heat of exploded plutonium.

No medication will help you then. Not even mine.


High Plains Drifter

There was no hope in his eyes. Just a far-away gaze that rested on distant shores, unseen by anyone but himself. His straggly beard bushed out over the top of his green knife-proof jacket and almost hid the badge that read “Parking Enforcement”. His cap was ragged, dirty, and his shoes were cheap cracked fake leather. They’d seen a lot of miles.

I’d stopped him to ask about where to park and now, five minutes later, I was in to a conversation I’d tried to leave three times by holding up my hand and wishing him good luck. I’d failed. He began to test me on where I thought it was legal to park, and went into horrific detail in recounting the tale of ‘the time when I was ticketing a pensioner with a blue badge who’d……’. God, it was horrible. Whatever he’d eaten for breakfast was still deeply protruding from the gap between his front teeth. All his teeth looked like they hadn’t been cleaned since he’d bought his shoes, maybe a year or two ago. I wondered at first if he had Aspergers, and if I should give him a break, but I came to the conclusion here was just a guy who loved his job. An all-weather, modern day gunslinger. Six-shooter parking ticket machine. Radio to call a posse up if things got wild out on the plains.

Last night I’d watched High Plains Drifter. A film so good/bad that I almost forgave the fact Clint’s character just seemed to rape his way through the town for no good reason. It was confusing and it reminded me that Religion and Cowboy movies don’t go hand in hand. A bit like Religion and most things, really. Rape, murder, and a quick ride off into the shimmering haze don’t settle me down at night. I had slept poorly as a result. I was too tired for the parking guy and his own brand of high plains madness.

But there was no overt hint of religion on the street today. Even if it was what was really driving the whole thing. I made my peace and left the conversation. He went off into a car park twirling his holster and stroking his beard. Here was how the West was won.