Mr Pie

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Mr Pie bent himself forward into the climb. Twenty young schoolkids, his schoolkids, walked behind him wearing rucksacks and carrying clipboards and pencils. They were excited.

‘Hey, Mr Pie, here’s another old building. I wonder what it was used for?’

‘Hmmph’ Mr Pie continued his slow walk, grey head bowed.

‘Mr Pie?’

Silence. Mr Pie didn’t raise his head from staring at the gravel. The view was beautiful but he wasn’t looking. Still, the wide space was putting the zap on little brains behind him; the simple pleasure of not being encased in the middle of concrete, bricks, and diesel particles. Here there were golden leaves, the soft rolling hill stretching up and over and down to the river, ducks to feed. Small birds were jinking between the birch trees, spider webs hung with hope. Life was everywhere. No traffic. The kids were making memories.

Mr Pie was thinking about how long he’d been in the job, and how he could manage to get through the day with as little hassle as possible. There are limits to how much someone can be pushed. Teaching was overrated, like most things. He had a home, no kids, and an equally unhappy wife to sit in silence with as soon as he could get out of the school gates and through the rush hour. A takeaway; bottle of wine; Eastenders; sleep; shared experience of misery. These things are to be cherished, unlike his job, unlike today. ‘Teaching,’ he mouthed silently.

The kids made their way up the incline, past the last crashed train truck in the Catch Pit. Excited noises. Mr Pie trudging on stoically. Staring at his feet moving forward in big walking boots, moving forward towards the end of his day.


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.

Walk through this

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Along the disused railway track, dawn sun and ghost chuffchuffing and furious imaginary steaming sounds from the engine shed at the top of the mile long incline through the woods. The view point was empty. Flowers on the ground by the edge, sheer drop, hills stretching into the distance. Down below over the other side at the base of the wall I could see a small pile of ashes in the meadow, a loved one’s final wish to remain up here forever. I know what human ashes look like – white grains, tears, too few to possibly have ever been a person. I was stressing about the weekend, not thinking of death so much, but still panicked and reached for the tablets in my rucksack for calm, still breath, wobbly walk, fuzzy logic, peace.

The sun broke clear on the towpath along the canal and back into my village in the clear air of a middle England morning, leaves beginning to break free of glistening buds in the sky above, spring, wild garlic scent, doubt, fear, self-loathing, no confidence, end it all?

Back home, music on, change into old nightshirt and sit at this desk with the birds outside hopping and feeding on the mealworms I’ve given them, waiting for the afternoon and the sunlight through the windows in front of me. There is no focus, nothing but the grim sense of doom and a fight against the jumbled thoughts collapsing into one another, whirlpool, oil slick.

The screaming brakes of a truck splits the music and howls into the distance down the hill and into the junction by the tiny collection of shops, heading out out out and away from the gravity of living up high and in danger. There is a whisper in here, in the dark corners, a mocking voice starts up and tells me I am worthless. Strung out, heart pounding, clueless and directionless, no response from me except to nod my head and accept all the confusion. Dead pan. Waiting for something.

Dripping wet

IMG_0382 (1).JPGIt rained up on the moor across from my home. I was dressed, in the words of my partner – “Like Michael Ryan about to walk into Hungerford.” I’d been taking the five mile route for the past six months or so. Two or three times a week of uphill slog onto the moor. I do it because DBT taught me I should get out into nature – if you walk, just walk, just … blah blah blah… I guess the main premise is just to be right there, right then. No time travelling, no worries about being a kid and all the terror of those times. Don’t concern yourself with tomorrow. Up here there is, when all is done, only me and the earth and sky. Everything else is man-made. Psycho-made.

On the moor, the pine forest cuts into meadow. The light opens out onto green fields and stone walls and off into the distance towards a hillside the other side of the valley. Someone told me there’s a nuclear waste dump over there, deep in an old mine. A throwback from the 1960’s and Rolls Royce’s cheap and badly informed radioactive experiments. I’ve never seen it up close. I don’t want to.

The footpath tracks across the small field system. The walls have tumbled down and the path hugs the side of the one standing high wall. There is never anyone about. Except some bulls. This time they chased me, smashing against the high wall I’d just jumped over to save myself. I still can’t work out why they wanted to kill me. They had no sympathy. Just animal unreasonableness. DBT never prepared me for death by goring. It’s not a self-harm activity you can go about easily and with predictable results. There is no control on how much blood, or pain, or the extent to which death will be brought about. Or how soon.

It rained harder. So much water ran through my jacket that I thought my skin was sloughing off. Trousers clung to my legs. Cold water ran down my face and dripped through my beard. The bulls watched from the field. They didn’t mind the rain. They wanted to kill something and cold rain wasn’t going to stop them. I’d never been attacked properly by an animal before. Not that I can remember. Sure, there were those bees that time, but their hearts weren’t really in it. And I think a cat bit me when I was little, but it never followed up on the first bite. There was no animosity. The bulls wanted more. I could hear it as they ran for me, and in the crash of horns against the wall after they had missed my ass by two feet.

In essence, as I entered my little village an hour later, there was no good reason for anything, ever. Not the action of the bulls, the hate, and certainly not for all the things that had bought me to the moor in the first place. Someone smirked at me from inside a shop as I slopped by in my cheap wet clothes. I knew what they were thinking, I was a failure; the village weirdo; unlikeable, crawling through life on his belly. They were right. I hated myself for it. I made it home, sad. The answer rang like a bell. I know there are some things I can control.

I had cheated serious injury two hours ago. But in my kitchen, with a small knife, I saw my blood anyway.