Three D’s

Several years ago after a friend’s wedding I gave up smoking.

That event was about as hedonistic as they got, and as it was a Sikh celebration the booze flowed like tap water. Once one bottle of spirits was completed on the table another arrived. If your pint glass became empty another was placed in front of you.

Because of this endless supply of booze myself and the colleagues from work I was with all ate, smoked and drank to excess. If I’m honest I don’t remember much about the walk back to the hotel, but I know I was carrying a litre and a half of Bacardi with me and I was in a pretty upbeat frame of mind.

Anyone who knows me well will know I have a weakness for catchy bhangra. My iPhone has plenty of such tracks I don’t pretend to understand the words to but love the beat and dance routines. I defy anyone to watch this video from Om Shanti Om and not have a smile on their faces (13 million Youtube viewers can’t be wrong!)

With this in mind spending a few hours in a hall packed full of several hundred Sikhs all dancing with a friend on their shoulders and screwing invisible light bulbs in had put me in an awesome mood.

That also meant that the brakes were off and the more I drank the more I smoked (in those days you could smoke indoors). By the end of the day a conservative estimate put the total of fags smoked that afternoon/evening somewhere around 40-60.

An impressive personal best probably not reached since my pharmaceutically enhanced 1990’s clubbing phase where I chain smoked for England and proudly displayed the yellow fingers of success on a Sunday morning.

When the dawn following the wedding landed my lungs felt like they’d been booted by a team of footballers one by one all night long. My manager and I resolved to kick the habit then and there. It was a done deal. Nothing would get in the way.

Except the journey home. That needed cigarettes – 20 each. It would be impossible to drive from Southampton to the Midlands without smoking.

Ok – it was settled. Nothing would get in the way AFTER the journey home.

Oddly when I got home I actually did stop.

I didn’t smoke another cigarette ever again. My manager carried on for some years after, but for whatever reason that day I’d had enough, and I quit cold turkey.

Because of events like this I have always been convinced that the ONLY way to nail something – to get it out of your life entirely – is to do it so much that you are absolutely ****ing sick of it and can’t take it any more.

I recently came to this point again with alcohol and once again re-inforced my theory.

However, it is potentially very damaging. You have to harm yourself with this method before there’s change, and there’s no certainty that an epiphany will happen. I’m aware that I’m not getting any younger and I’ve put my health at risk in a variety of ways for a long time – so maybe now is time to accept that there may be another path.

I might have just found it too, because for the last few days something has been working for me – and today saved me from ploughing into fast food after a stressful day.

The 3 D’s: Delay, Distract, Decide.

Firstly delay the decision to give in to the craving for a set time. This could be 15-30 mins or an hour. Usually by this time you’ve forgotten about it.

Secondly do something that will occupy your thoughts and grab your attention. Perhaps do something physical to use the energy of the craving or read a book.

After the set time decide what you want to do (there are no right or wrong answers, just balanced choices) – but answer the following:

Advantages of not doing it:

Disadvantages of doing it:

Reasons I want to stop:

My life goals:

After I’d gone through all this I hadn’t eaten a McDonalds meal, or stopped for a bag of chips on the way home. Furthermore I was sober and had eaten the remainder of the healthy pasta I made yesterday evening for dinner with a cup of tea. I’d saved money and felt satisfied.

I’d surfed the wave. Yay!

Now all I have to do is repeat this behaviour again and again. Apparently if you do anything for 60+ days then it becomes instinct.

I’m not convinced you can put such a definitive timescale against change, but I’m willing to give it a try.

When I started my blog I wanted everything immediately. I was an agent of change and I was on fire. I wanted to rip up my world and start a bonfire under myself.

Things don’t happen how you expect though – they happen as they are MEANT to and I now realise that if I want meaningful change I need to take a more structured approach, and that it may not happen overnight. I spent a lifetime learning how to do things the wrong way – it will take a while to re-train.

Once the next two weeks are done the next structure I will try to impose is weight loss, and I intend to join another group to accomplish this. I think that the power of a group has been ably demonstrated to me and I intend to not only participate with others but above all else share my success AND failures. In the past I have hidden when the latter happened out of shame, failing to realise that the power of the group is the support when you falter. Because of that I’ve not prevailed, often falling at the first hurdle.

The 3 D’s will (I hope) come in useful with many of my impulsive behaviours and help me realise my goals.

So what are my goals?

Although they change from time to time they have always remained broadly the same. They are honest and are important to me.

In no particular order:

  • Loose weight
  • Increase my self confidence and self esteem
  • Have positive structure in my life
  • Discover what makes me truly happy
  • Move on from the past
  • Not rely on compulsive behaviours
  • Place family and friends at the heart of my life and meet new people
  • Help others and give back to society

If I can achieve these then who knows what comes next? I for one want to find out.

Anyway. I’m done for the day. I’m going to put some music on and chill with a comic book while I nod off.

Laters internet. Stay frosty.

Davey

 

Marbles and budgets

How would you describe your mind?

For what amounts to little more than a collection of protein and electrical impulses we all give them very emotive descriptions depending on how we’re feeling.​

If he’s tired or ill my father often refers to his mind as being full of ‘mental chewing gum’. Similarly he imagines it packed with cotton wool if he’s struggling to grasp something. Mine in contrast is often ‘fried’, ‘mashed’, ‘messed up’ or any number of other monosyllabic analogies I use when I’m having a bad day.

‘I’m losing my marbles’ is one most of us have used in periods of high stress, anger or even depression. The term conveys a sense that the little glass balls representing our consciousness are slipping through our fingers or becoming mixed up.

Today however the metaphorical marbles were very real ones. Their use during self-build was thought provoking and I think worthy of sharing.

In the past during work related training courses I’ve heard the term stress budget. I’ve never really liked it as it conjures up a financial institution or corporate workplace. It feels too specific to the daily grind and less connected with real life.

The idea behind it is that we all have an budget or upper limit to how much stress we can manage and the more we add events like weddings and funerals or moving home the more we use up our budget. The theory went as far as assigning a ‘cost’ to events – which personally I disagreed with in most cases.

However the point was that if you spend too much then you end up in debt and therefore trouble.

The analogy works, but I still never got on board with it primarily because of the terminology.

Today however we looked at ‘should’s and could’s’. The principle was the same – but in this case seemed appropriate to anyone.

Should’ in this context was used as an attacking word. This is one that we often use against ourselves. It has a tendency to have built in elements of self-recrimination, and is a great way of beating ourselves up for perceived failure. Other people can give us ‘should’s’ as well, but in my case they mostly come from within.

Common ‘should’s’ I use are:

I should lose weight, I should be more active, I should get out more, I should be a better person, I should be able to do things other people do etc etc etc.

The list goes on and on. If I don’t accomplish things I feel I should do then I become convinced I’m a failure.

I’m less likely however to use ‘could’s’. These are evidence of more positive thought, concerned with possibilities rather than obligation and guilt.

Things I don’t readily say to myself (which are less damaging) are:

I could lose weight, I could be more active, I could get out more, I could be a better person, I could do things that other people do…..

While the first instantly makes me feel hemmed in with tasks the latter doesn’t. I don’t feel the same about could – and think that’s because it’s very nearly ‘CAN’.

The visual representation of this came as we were all given a box of marbles and sat in a circle around a table with a bowl of water in the middle. As we went clockwise around the group we shared our ‘should’s’ with eachother.

15331206437_2d0e02c170_b

For each ‘should’ we dropped one or a handful of marbles into a bowl of water, depending on how big the problem was. The bowl was ¾ full already, but with each marble of personal baggage we dumped into the water the surface rose closer to the top and eventually it overflowed onto the plastic tray underneath.

It’s an effective way to demonstrate what happens if we continually overload ourselves with guilt and pressure and I really like it. This is not just because of the obvious consequence of putting too much pressure on ourselves and burying whats REALLY important at the bottom of the bowl, but because of the impact it has on others.

Initially when I looked at the stress budget and the could’s and should’s I considered them both in a very much ‘me centric’ way, but as I looked at the bowl full of marbles and water overflowing everywhere I realised just how much shit gets poured down on the people around us when we don’t handle this aspect of our lives very well.

I’m pretty sure I’ve done this to my brother and other people in the past.

I’m not an angry person normally, but I have withdrawn myself regularly from contact with people I care about when I overload, and inevitably become depressed.

It’s my version of rage. If I don’t have anything good to say then I often say nothing at all and turn it all inward. I’ve got better at not doing this – but I can still hibernate (and did aaaaaaaallllllll day long on Monday).

I’m sure my friends and family need me as much as I need them – and doing this simply does not help. I’m resolving from this point on to fill my head with as many ‘could’s’ as I can.

In other news I looked in the mirror today and not only did I look smaller but my eyes are pearly white.

I realised that I looked different because I didn’t have hangover eyeballs and that was a nice thing to be surprised by.

Normally I dislike the face that looks back from mirrors – but at the moment I’m beginning to change my mind. Maybe it does have a future after all and won’t go before its time.

Davey

Cleaning and Batfleck

While its absolutely great coming to terms with loads of heavy stuff in life and embracing change, its also nice to have a couple of days where you just begin to remember what the world is like when its uncomplicated and filled with family and friends.

After some spring cleaning my house is now a nice place to be once more, and the pile of things to go through related to mom is now greatly diminished.

Although one part of the house has taken the brunt of this. At some point I’m going to have to return my dining room to a place that can be used and not just a staging ground for my laundry and things that really should be in a tool shed.

At the moment its door is a shame filter and is firmly closed.

Otherwise though I can now happily repel any boarders safe in the knowledge that when they eventually leave in the morning their brief stay will have been a pleasant one.

All rooms are dusted, hoovered, washed, aired and cobweb free.

Its annoying when you realise that you’ve let this slip a bit because it underlines periods where you’ve not been coping too well, or other events have taken over your normal routine. Now however, it’s a new start in more ways than one, so its good to start as I mean to go on.

The garden is next on the list – but thanks to the weather it’s not going to happen for a little while. It’s like a marsh at the moment. Secretly this makes me happy. Lawn mowers suck ass. Still – my grass needs a haircut, and I can’t put it off much longer.

Thankfully this wasn’t an issue for Friday games night where the guys came round, filled up the living room, consumed wine, beer, takeaways and junk food. Grass was way down the list of priorities while we spent almost 12 hours hanging out on various consoles playing games the way god intended – on the sofa having a good laugh together.

The good thing about this is that you can put your feet up and natter while doing something pointless and fun to just chill out. Movie nights are good, but they don’t give you the same opportunity to just bounce off each other and talk nonsense while shooting stuff.

Its also nice at the end of the night to see a kitchen full of wine bottles and beer cans that have absolutely nothing to do with me and to wake up the morning after with a completely clear head (unlike some of my mates lol).

This was just as well as the weather was ‘inclement’ on Saturday.

When I say that I mean it was absolutely slashing it down monsoon style and I got an epic ‘bucket of water over my head’ style soaking after left the cinema with Pete and Yuni yesterday.

I think I’ve been drier after jumping in swimming pools…

The film was good though – Batman vs Superman (Dawn of Justice). It was lengthy, well made and very watchable.

However, I must take a moment to have a (spoiler free) nerd rant.

  1. Batman is not a killer (its kind of his thing to not be shooty and stabby) yet his body count is pretty epic. He also brands bad guys with the bat symbol. Not cool Batman. Not cool.
  2. Superman would also make every possible effort to save civilian casualties and limit collateral damage – however he seems to quite happily smash up Metropolis at every available opportunity. Take it outside next time Superman! 
  3. Lex Luthor is not a twitching sociopath in hipster jeans that looks like a 12 year old with ants in his trousers. Worst. Casting. Ever.
  4. Batfleck wasn’t as bad as I expected. He’s still a dick though. Christian Bale still has it.

batfleck_sketch__by_curseoftheradio-d9hpxp7

(credit to curseoftheradio)

Otherwise its highly recommended for the average cinema goer. I suspect Brumrah (you know who you are) will have a similar geek rage when he sees it however.

So that was my (nice) start to the easter weekend.

In some other pretty amazing news my friend’s lovely little daughter turned six today, meaning I absolutely have to start coming to terms with the fact that she’s had a baby (two in fact).

Time just flies – where does it go?!!

Happy Easter internet!

Davey

 

Labels and catalysts

Well that’s the first week done.

It’s not been easy and there has been a lot to think about and process.

Again I’ve been amazed at how so many people can be so different but also so much alike in their feelings and resulting actions.

Normally at this time I would be reflecting on the subtext and the messages of the group – but mostly what hit me today was how I label myself and also the cycle that I’ve gone through and it’s causes.

To my knowledge no-one has ever called me an alcoholic or at addict (at least not to my face) and I’ve been using the term alcohol dependant to describe myself and my relationship with drink.

It seems though that the definitions (maybe not in a dictionary but certainly within my group when we talk it out) there is little distinction between them.

Some are very happy with the term ‘addict’ and some are not.

Those with the former position seem to have worked hard to get to the point where they call themselves an addict. I’m still in the latter camp, but I’m sensing that by the end of this I may have come to a different conclusion. If I do then I think it will be through another layer of acceptance and not because someone applied it to me.

We’ll see.

I’ve also been confronting (rather emotionally) some issues with the death of my mother today and that’s not easy territory.

I do not like to displace the blame for my actions elsewhere and dislike the victim mentality in others – and when I see it in myself.

I drank. No-one else made me buy it, pour it or swallow it. It was all me.

Mom is a different kettle of fish however and my thoughts about her relationship to my drinking are complex. The very first drink I had passed my lips because of her and I did it again and again when I was younger to deal with her abusive behaviour.

When she started smoking again after coming out of hospital recently my brother and I handled it very differently. He was very angry with her for starting again whereas I wasn’t so much.

Sure I was exasperated, but I didn’t question her behaviour or condemn it in anything but passing. It was clear that what she was doing was idiotic and I vocalised this a few times to her.

But I wasn’t angry. Not really.

The problem was that I understood it. She didn’t need to explain to me why she was doing it. At the time I was drinking more and more to forget the pain she was causing me and I saw many uncomfortable parallels.

I felt like if I understood nothing else about her I understood her addiction and how she felt (rightly or wrongly) that it controlled her.

(Whilst re-reading this I have also noticed that I am happy to call my mother an addict but call myself dependant…)

Her behaviour is why I sought help. I really didn’t want to be anything like her.

I have conflicted feelings about this motivation because in some respects it still feels like she’s controlling me. This sobriety is at times very much a ‘fuck you’ to her memory.

I almost feel I’m getting better despite her and the satisfaction when I think like that is palpable. But she was still the catalyst.

The group leader was quick to re-frame this. He pointed out that whatever it was that caused me to stop drinking, the decision to do so and then come to group seeking a long term solution was mine alone.

No-one compelled me to walk through the door but me. That makes me feel good.

I know one thing. After this last four days I feel exhausted. It’s incredibly wearing looking deeply at aspects of your life you don’t want to confront. At the moment I just want to sleep for the entire bank holiday weekend.

Thankfully yesterday with a screwdriver and a moment of intrepid investigation I fixed my beloved but broken Nespresso machine. I’m going to caffinate the crap out of myself today and power through with my household jobs and other chores I need to get out of the way.

Here’s to sobriety and the weekend.

Davey

They live among us

People-on-street

Today nothing bad has happened. I need to be clear about that. I’ve had so far a relatively productive Wednesday, and have completed day three of my time on the program.

I’ve been trying some mindfulness this afternoon, in an attempt to clear my head and just focus on whats important in life, but its not been working very well. I have other things I need to do and I feel like time is accelerating and slipping away from me somehow. My week is flying by and its almost the weekend.

I also don’t want to write at the moment, and despite a long list of tasks in my head to accomplish today I’d very much like to be under a duvet not thinking about anything, just sleeping.

So clearly again I don’t want to face what I’m feeling, vocalise it, write it on paper, accept it or begin to deal with it.

Since thats the case I’m going to try and do all of the above – by writing, because lately this is the only way it seems I can order and make sense of things. Capturing my inner narrative and editing it until its just right, then reading it many times until it sounds ‘true’.

Once I’ve published it and its too late to stop everyone knowing my failings I read it again, and again until the words begin to sound like meaningless noises in my head, and they loose all power over me because they are no longer hidden or shameful, and I feel relaxed.

At the moment I have an overwhelming sense (again) that others are more worthy than myself, and that for whatever reason I do not deserve help – that I am wasting people’s time.

It’s something I feel a lot. After people shared more detailed information about their personal difficulties today and the addictions that they struggle with my problems didn’t seem that relevant.

Although my progress currently makes me feel guilty – I am doing well. I have 3 days to go and then its two months since I last had anything to drink.

Others are struggling more than me and I really feel their pain. My immediate impulse is to connect with them, to reach out and to hold or hug them, to make them better – to ‘fix’ them. I want to throw my arms around some of them before I leave but I hold myself back. I need to respect everyone’s boundaries, and fixing others is not my role in this setting.

Every time I think this I also move away from remembering that I too am there because I need to understand and fix myself. I need to focus on me as well, and not just absorb everyone else’s pain while I exclude my own.

I think sometimes that it’s my nature to care for other people really intensely but not to spend any time caring about myself. Today I’m filled with love, but struggling to direct any of that toward me. Maybe its a coping mechanism, or maybe its just what normal people do when they see others in distress.

Or it could be that I just overthink what is a simple impulse to reach out to another human being in pain and make that go away.

One thing that’s struck me today though is the normality of what I’m going through currently and what I’ve battled with in the past. The people in my group come from all kinds of backgrounds, and just like me have lives, jobs and (in some cases) family they love.

These people with addictions are just as normal as anyone else I have ever met and for want of a better way of describing it ‘they live among us’.

They could be our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, bus drivers, shop owners, barristers, petrol station attendants, telephone operators, nurses, IT workers, accountants.

They are each and every one of us.

Why then when such people try to come to terms with this aspect of themselves do they feel shame and think they’re so abnormal or unusual?

It seemed to me today that the only difference between me sitting in a group talking about my issues and someone else sitting in an office quietly thinking about them is that one person has just decided to be more open than the other and seek help.

The guy in the office hasn’t decided to deal with the issues surrounding the litre of Vodka he’s planning to drink before tomorrow, the guy in the group has. Both may have the same outcome that evening depending on how strong they feel, but at least the one in the group understands he’s not alone and he’s not abnormal. He should also know the next time he feels the need to self destruct he might find a way through it with the help of others.

The guy sitting on his own might make his way through too – but it will probably take him longer. I speak from experience. Sharing it helps, and more good comes from telling people you can’t cope sometimes than harm. I am sure because of this tomorrow I will feel stronger than I do today.

One of the lines in the literature I have received from this program states that ‘Everyone is OK‘. It doesn’t seek to explain this statement, and its meaning is left to individual interpretation.

Having considered this for a few days I like to think this means that people are inherently good – we all have the capacity for kindness and love (both toward others and ourselves), and sometimes we just need someone to hold our hand and walk with us to that place so that we can learn the route for ourselves.

Anyway – i’m beginning to de-stress now. The typing has calmed me and focused my thoughts. I like the rhythmic sound of the keyboard, and like stroking a dog it slows my pulse.

(deep breath)

Downstairs I have some really nice bread, some stilton, some coleslaw and some ham. This evening I will have a truly epic sandwich for tea. I also have some olives to make my plate look vaguely mediterranean.

I’m going to make my butty and then continue with my jobs.

Thanks for listening internet – you’re the best.

Davey

Warm burst

Day two of my self build course.

A lot less people turned up today, maybe because they didn’t like the content or decided that being drunk or stoned was preferable. I suppose I’ll find out if they reappear tomorrow.

The second day was more cordial. Lots more chatter on smoke breaks, and opportunities for those involved to connect and say that they had felt something similar.

We had begun to decide whether or not we liked each other.

I shared today in the group that I had gone home yesterday and felt overwhelming anger. Others had had different reactions – mostly those seemed to be interest in the layers of their personality that had been explained in a new way, which had offered many food for thought.

I think I was completely alone in feeling angry and it made me examine why I felt like that. What had triggered it? Nothing bad had happened.

One of my fellow attendees suggested that if emotion had been suppressed for a long time it built up a surplus inside us, and that we all needed to feel our quota of various aspects of ourselves.

They may have a point. If they do this is certainly true of crying. I’ve never done it much in the past and one of the things I have struggled with recently is sudden and unexpected tears.

They seem to come without warning (it was worse when I was drunk – they refused to stop) and I’m becoming very wary of sad news items on TV and radio.

Videos of puppies are totally off limits, and sad songs are pretty much banned in my house.

Still tears seem to find their way to the surface though, so maybe last night was the turn instead of all the anger I have not allowed myself to feel about a variety of things…

One thing that I vocalised for the first time today though (both internally and out loud) and that is the physical sensation I experience when I want to drink.

It’s like a warm burst of emotion in my chest and it briefly makes my neck and cheeks tingle.

It’s a response to heightened emotion and it’s not dependant on feeling happy or sad, it’s only concerned with intensity.

I feel this a lot, but never really paid much attention to why, or what it preceded. The move from this sensation to my next actions and thoughts was so quick and well rehearsed that I’d learned to ignore it altogether and not acknowledge it existed.

If I was at work this would be the precursor to me mentally planning what I would drink, whether I had it in stock, and if not where I needed to go to get it. If I was with a friend this would sometimes mean I excused myself, and began my evening’s mission.

I spent so long planning how I was going to accomplish the task at hand I never once focused on the physical sensation that caused the accompanying actions.

So that’s something new and interesting. Today I uncovered another piece of the puzzle.

I’m scared rather than angry at the moment. I’ve been good before and then convinced myself I’m not worth it and that I’m going to die young anyway.

How I’m going to prevent this in the future terrifies me. I honestly feel that I’m near my last chance in many respects, and when I saw a poster in the hall during a coffee break that said ‘relapse is a natural part of recovery’ all of the blood drained from my head in panic.

Surely not. It couldn’t be. I don’t want it to happen again. I feel it would be the beginning of the end for me.

But I guess that’s not the message. Now I’m rationally examining it I think it means that if we fail we shouldn’t hate ourselves and throw coal on the fires of regret and guilt. We’re all fallible and we’re just doing the best we can.

Now I want to cry again. It’s not good because I’m typing this on my phone in the pub. There’s music playing in the background ‘The best that you can do’ by Christopher Cross.

It’s ironic considering that it’s the theme from Arthur – a film about a loveable alcoholic (not to imply I’m loveable).

Maybe the universe is talking to me again.

Thankfully lunch has arrived. It’s not peas but it is comfort food. At least if I’m crying while I eat it I can blame it on the chilli con carne.

Peace and chips world. Time to eat and make my way home.

Davey

Kylie and peas

Kylie

The radio is playing. Kylie Minogue is doing her level best to cheer me up, but despite my thoughts about her perky bottom and the sound of her chirpy voice it’s not working.

I’m sitting in my car on a street full of dowdy looking industrial units and I’m 20 minutes early for my clinic group appointment. I needed to be sure I could get a parking space.

I called ahead late last week and made sure they had seating that I wouldn’t be turning into match sticks or be uncomfortable in. They agreed to lay out a variety of chairs in advance so I didn’t have to ask in front of everyone and be embarrassed.

Thats at least one less thing to stress about.

I don’t want to go in too early though because at the moment I feel like I’m not in the mood for small talk and if I get out of my car that’s almost inevitable. I hope this changes in the meeting because currently all I feel is a knot in my stomach and an unwillingness to speak to any stranger of any kind about anything, let alone my innermost feelings.

I’m aware that I’m nervous, but oddly when I check my pulse on my watch (wow – Apple Watch finally has a use!) it’s surprisingly going down, so my symptoms must be entirely psychological.

I shaved my head this morning so I look neat and civilised and I’m continually checking the vanity mirror in the sun visor to make sure I haven’t missed anything. I’m sure that if I have it will be noticed by someone. I feel very self conscious and I’m a ball of stress.

F&&k it. I’m going in.

(Interlude)

(Elevator Music)

I’m sitting at home now and I’ve bought a packet of fresh garden peas, some expensive ready to eat prawns, and a bag of roasted mixed nuts. They weren’t just any peas, prawns and nuts. They were M&S peas, prawns and nuts.

Their peas in particular are lovely.

summer-peas

I’m eating them because I can’t drink alcohol, and I want a treat. Normally I would drink to treat myself and I don’t do that any more. I would like it if the peas made me feel drunk, but they don’t. They’re just peas.

The session was not what I expected – ameteurish in many ways, but led by people who were themselves in recovery. They were raw, unvarnished and said what they thought.

The people in the group were for the most part normal and polite members of society. All seemed willing to share and willing to listen. For just under three hours we looked at a variety of ways to explain the psychology that we were all to a greater or lesser effect controlled by at some point in our lives.

I won’t write about the people in this room because I wouldn’t want them to write about me, but I’m struck by how intelligent and self aware most of them were.

Just like me they seemed to understand what they did, and to an extent why.

Just like me they had difficult family relationships, mostly it seemed with parents.

Just like me they had been hiding from something with whatever addiction they battled with.

Just like me some were also overweight, and reminded me of myself.

In some of the role-play, initially annoying because of its amateur, almost ‘too obvious’ moral behind the story outcomes I began to see echoes of myself and others who had touched my life.

I saw my willingness to help other people whenever I can and how useful it can be in deflecting those who wanted to help me instead. I saw the duality of my mother who played both victim and aggressor over and over until I was paralysed with guilt. I saw myself in the role of victim when I started my self destructive cycle of drinking to deaden her impact. I saw my friends from decades ago and how we enabled each other for years to smoke and drink to excess, take drugs and hide from our lives – safe in the knowledge that we weren’t doing anything wrong because we were all doing it, and reinforcing the same behaviour in each other.

I was reminded painfully of the death of my friend years ago, which was probably related.

I saw a lot today, and the paradox is it made me want to drink, so I’m eating peas. Lovely ****ing peas. They’re nice – but they DON’T hit the spot.

It’s because I’m angry. I’m angry and I don’t want to feel like this. I want to pick up my ****ing peas and throw them at the wall.

But I don’t – because its stupid, and its pointless, and it will only hurt more in the long run if I don’t learn to deal with these moments. The pain will never go away unless I face it head on.

This doesn’t come naturally. It feels alien.

So – I’m going to spend the rest of the day tidying, in the hope my anger subsides. I’m going to bring order to my house and make it look nice so I can relax and try some of the damn stupid breathing exercises they showed us where I think of balloons expanding and contracting in my tummy.

Hopefully by then I will have stopped wanting to smash everything around me and get obliterated.

These peas are nice though. Glad I didn’t throw them at the wall.

Davey

Bonfire on ice

I was quite lucky when I was younger. At the time I just accepted it, but now I realise that the freedom I had as a child was more than children today appear to have, and there’s a lot more fear in society around child safety.

Sure it’s a good thing to be safe – and parents need to be aware of dangers – but it also means that the endless exploring I did in parks with my friends, and with my dog (Will) is something other children don’t seem to do any more.

We used to take long, aimless walks along the local green belt and spent many happy hours just watching the world pass while sitting under a tree (1).

It’s changed a bit now – but looks mostly the same from what I could see as I drove to my mom’s nearby bungalow. There are a few new swings and slides, and houses have encroached a bit on what was once green but its essentially the same park I remember.

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From where I grew up you could actually make your way almost completely into the centre of Birmingham totally through parkland along the path of the River Cole (which I did a couple of times). There was the occasional road in the way, but these usually had bridges, which were also great to sit under and watch the water go by.

There was one particular bridge in this park where for some reason myself and my friends always sat underneath in the shade (2). It had badly cracked concrete either side, which had failed in such a way that it made almost perfect seating for teen bottoms. The grass was worn under the bridge by the continued presence of children, and the hard dirt bowed into a basin where our feet dangled or stood.

We could also often be found playing pooh sticks here as we stopped for a break on our way to wherever we were aimlessly wandering to.

Just next to the bridge was a largely disused building, from which the park gained its name – and was known locally as Babbs Mill. I always imagined that a mad old man lived there – but I never once saw a single soul enter or leave. The place still holds an air of child like mystery in my mind.

Since a lot disappears with the passage of time I honestly don’t remember what as a child I talked about with my friends, but I do remember feeling relaxed and close to them when we watched the river go by, sheltered from rain or sunshine by the rusting steel above us.

The river was also special, and I regularly on hot days waded into it at my favourite stone skimming spot (3) and walked along the river bed in my shoes. This was much to the annoyance of my mom who often saw new leather trainers mysteriously turned to stiff cardboard almost overnight.

I actually waded about a mile down it one particularly sunny and hot day. My friend walked initially with me in the water and then as it deepened alongside on the bank, just to see how far I could get.

When the water level reached my teen testicles (4) I realised the folly of the operation and made my way to shore, realising only when I got out that there was a thick green tide mark  below my trouser waist that would be difficult to explain when I got home.

One winter the man made lake in the middle of the park completely froze over, and my friends and I were amazed to see people walking over to the island in the middle (5) – which previously I had never set foot on.

Plucking up all my courage I walked with my companions over the creaking and cracking surface to this forbidden territory, and stood there with them – exhilarated and almost too scared to go back.

As we plucked up our courage and gingerly made our return journey over the ice to dry land I noticed that some older boys (proving that age doesn’t always correspond with wisdom) had gathered in the middle of the lake (6) and had made a bonfire there. They were sitting around it eating, laughing and joking – all completely oblivious to the danger they were placing themselves in.

(This video on YouTube – not made by me – shows the island on the right from the bank, and you can see the birds sitting on the ice as they did.)

When I reached the shore Will slipped on the ice and fell in at the edge. I quickly pulled her out of the water by her lead and collar, shocked and bitterly cold. She sprayed us all with freezing water as she shook herself off trying to get rid of the moisture. I scooped her up and placed her under my jumper, as I tried to get her warm and dry – in the process making my own teeth chatter. She nudged her sodden head past my chin and out of the loose neck of my clothes, unwilling to miss what was going on despite her shivering. 

Will stayed there for a good portion of the journey home until she had warmed and dried. 

The lucky older boys never fell through the ice, much to my complete amazement. I could never walk past that spot again without marvelling at their stupidity.

Further down from the lake was a children’s play area with two metal slides. The larger of the two started at the top of a small hill, and although it was terrible for sliding offered other opportunities to an inventive young mind (7). 

With nothing to do one summer my friend and I spent several hours sitting on the swings and then taking it in turns to lie under the slide with our mouths open as the other attempted to roll a sweet from the top to the bottom in a precision bombing operation.

The 1980’s sweets in question were called ‘trillions’ and were silver, shaped like tiny 3mm aniseed flavoured ballbearings. They coated your fingers and the bag in which they came in this silver dust, and were probably highly toxic, but infinitely pleasurable to suck in large numbers.

Watching their chaotic bouncing descent on the slide was for some reason hilarious at the time. I couldn’t stop laughing at the noise they made on the metal and the complete impossibility of hitting the intended target by anything other than random chance.

After nearly choking to death several times during our game we realised the folly of it and headed off on our bikes to find another source of amusement.

It comes as no surprise to me that these sweets are no longer on sale…

Still – if they were I might go and find a slide somewhere just to roll them one by one, purely for the sake of nostalgia, and the skittering sound they made, which I can still hear today.

Childhood can be crap – and it frequently was for me, but sometimes it can also be absolutely bloody awesome, and give you memories you’ll never forget.

Parks and dogs, and childhood friends…

Sigh.

Davey

Apple Music Sucks

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I cancelled my subscription to Apple Music recently – which I’d been meaning to do for ages, as I’m really not getting what I would consider ‘worth’ out of a streaming music service.

I’m also beginning to think that maybe I’m not all that willing to embrace what appears to be the future. I rather resent the fact that I will end up paying for the same album again and again and again over the life of my subscription, and I can’t store it anywhere or put it on a CD. Plus if the internet drops dead then my world becomes completely silent. This has happened a few times and honestly there’s nothing more annoying than your music just stopping while you drive.

Apple Music appeared initially unwilling to let go, and like a jealous ex stalked all of my devices for a few weeks after we broke up. Its music was still everywhere and during this period of initial separation I had access to all of the playlists I created while using the service.

Then the jilted Apple music decided to cut one leg off all my jeans, take custody of the family pet, and close down our joint accounts.

I looked at my music collection and without warning it was a shambles. Somehow music I had never listened to now filled my iPhone and all playlists containing my OWN music were now gone without a trace.

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However, sometimes an event like this is a positive thing.

The very first time this happened some years ago I had innocently clicked ‘yes’ when Windows Media Player asked me if I would like help organising my music.

Until that time I’d been very impressed with Windows XP, and had no concept of how bad things could get when you let Windows manage tracks that had not been ID3 tagged when ripped from the original CD.

Microsoft’s efforts produced approximately 80gb of music with no album art relabelled as ‘unknown artist’ from numbers 01-10000 mixed in with…. ‘less legitimate’ tracks harvested from Napster which had been renamed seemingly at random.

At the time there was no such thing as a hashtag, so I instead went for a really long rant on the phone telling anyone that would listen what a bunch of ****s Microsoft were.

This was one of the things (but not the only one) that initially propelled me to Apple – at the time a plucky rival to the evil of Bill Gates’ Behemoth. The simplicity of the iTunes eco-system when I had my first iPod seemed way better and a billion times more intuitive.

It was a breath of fresh air.

It existed just to manage my songs and make them look pretty. I spent a very long time repairing my albums and re-adding art, genres and higher quality files. It took me about a year here and there and I was quite proud of the outcome.

Lately however I feel when I open iTunes that I’m using something that’s becoming increasingly bloated and shaky.

My music is still there and well ordered, but iTunes is no longer lean and useful. It’s become a badly bolted together Swiss army knife being used for purposes that it was never intended and sadly it shows. It’s creaky and unreliable and I feel that its designed to thwart me at every turn. I feel something needs to change or they may loose me as a customer.

One of my favourite stories about the power of starting over is that of Robert Louis Stevenson’s initial treatment of ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’.

As most will know – this is the story of a good man struggling with his uncontrollable duality, and the devastating consequences of human experimentation. The themes it explores resonate with almost all who have read it (myself included).

Writing in a fevered state of illness Stevenson produced a huge first draft that he showed to his wife Fanny so that she could critically assess his efforts.

Fanny – believing (after reading it overnight) that his initial attempt was so poor that it should never see the light of day immediately committed it to the flames of the fireplace in the family home, destroying it completely.

Initially distraught and angry, Stevenson had no choice but to sharpen his pencil and begin again.

The rest is history, and an initially bloated and badly written novel became a smaller, leaner novella that is still extremely popular 130 years after its original publication. The Penguin Classics version is only 96 pages long, and proves that sometimes taking the best bits an throwing away the rest can be a sound recipe for success.

Musically today has been a wonderful journey down memory lane thanks to my new ‘Stevenson playlists’.

Rising early this morning, I deleted all the random crap skulking on my phone and started adding various music from my collection to my phone in preparation for a Saturday in work. Anyone sitting in an office that’s largely deserted will know how much music can help time pass quickly.

Thankfully the day (and journeys to and from work) have been greatly enhanced thanks to Apple Music’s jack booted approach to my files, and I’m still listening to a wealth of tracks that I haven’t heard in years.

I’m also working through some older playlists – some created nearly a decade ago – and they’re really fermenting the nostalgia.

Due to these uniquely ordered songs I’ve been mentally travelling back and forth in time, buying my house, living with my brother, driving to Cornwall, eating homemade cake, buying a huge leather beanbag, going to weddings, playing video games, visiting friends and sharing time with people I care about…

There’s also now a huge amount of space on my previously jam packed phone.

It’s made me think about things outside of the limited, digital sphere of my music, and about my house.

Its currently not just full of my mom’s crap, but my own crap. Some of it has been in boxes almost as long as I’ve lived at my there.The more I’m wondering why I need it all, the more I think that I’m just doing what my mom did and holding onto loads of crap that’s just gathering dust, that I will never use again, and that desperately needs to be shredded or thrown away.

Thanks Apple Music – you’ve inspired me with your fat, flabby digital underbelly. Next week is the start of some serious de-cluttering at Casa de Davey.

(I’ll be listening to my own music while I do this.)

Davey

 

Clear head

It’s now been almost eight weeks since I had anything to drink. Today the triggers were there, and they were firing on all cylinders.

Lately I’ve made a real effort to recognise when I feel like this and to try and make a mental note of why. This time it was the turn of relationship stress.

Everyone has one of those days where they say or do something that has an unexpected effect on someone else and you end up playing that over in your head and thinking ‘maybe I could have handled that better’ or ‘what if I’d said X?’

The alternative used to be – ‘Yes that was bad but never mind. Now i’ll go home and forget about it with some wine.’

I always used to be of the opinion that I was open and honest and dealt with issues in my life by talking about them. That was of course a convenient fabrication, designed to hide the truth from myself.

This was that whenever I was faced with any kind of pain, upset or stress I hid from the reality of it with alcohol pretty much every time. I did talk about things with close friends, but often hibernated if I felt I had nothing good to say. I also ended up talking about how I felt when I’d had something to drink. Until very recently I hadn’t accepted that this was NOT me dealing with issues. It was self medicating until I was numb enough to pass over the consequences of how things affected me entirely.

This doesn’t mean that I was drunk 24×7 (far from it), but instead that I always knew that a convenient solution wasn’t far away. Before long it became the norm to use it for most situations – including physical as well as emotional pain relief.

Bad day at work? No problem – buy a bottle of wine.

Good day at work? Great – lets celebrate!

Back hurting because you’re overweight? It doesn’t hurt when you’re smashed!

Gathering of friends? Superb – conversations are always better when you are a bit tipsy!

Feeling down about weight? No problemo! Cider to the rescue!

Bored? I know a beer to make time fly!

Wishing you’d turned left instead of right in life? Rum and Coke please!

All of these seem trite and ridiculous when written down, and honestly it makes me feel immensely angry that I didn’t start this written therapy sooner.

Tomorrow I have another meeting with my case worker to see how I’m getting on, and to talk over the ‘self build’ course I start next week.

This is intended to last for four weeks, four days a week, two and a half hours a day – and I have a massive sense of trepidation building.

I’m first and foremost physically scared. I don’t like going to places that I’ve not been to before. Not because I don’t like new things, but I don’t know what the seats will be like or the dimensions of the room. This is a big concern when you’re very heavy as it can destroy any semblance of calm and inner peace if you can’t fit into a chair or are forced to feel uncomfortable for long periods.

I’m secondly worried about the type of people that will be attending. So far I have seen some extreme cases in the waiting room and outside of the premises of the clinic that I’ve been to, and they appear to have been hit far harder than me when it comes to addiction. I’m not worried that I will be attacked or set upon, rather I’m worried that I’ll feel like a charlatan for being there.

My interior monologue is telling me that somehow my problems don’t warrant attention, and that others may be more deserving than me, and recognise me as a fraud.

Finally I’m worried that I will go and feel like its a waste of time or not connect with the themes discussed.

I really hope that what I hear in these sessions will teach me more about myself than I knew previously and help me understand why I do the things that I do. I’m hoping it can enable me to head off prolonged periods where my mood is deflated and without warning I feel I’m worthless.

Really I suppose, like anyone I want to be happy and content. I want to limit the stress in my life and amp up my ability to deal with it when it comes, without reaching for some kind of substance to take the edge off.

Paradoxically there is also a voice inside my head that’s shouting ‘I wish I could wind the clock forward and arrive at the end of this process without having to go through it.’

Is this voice natural? Do other people hear it, or do they just get on with shit when it happens and take it as a learning curve. I assume that its a mix, and everyone is different.

Also of cause for concern is another element of the meetings – assertiveness training.

One thing I know I don’t deal very well with is conflict. I think the root of this may date back to being bullied at school, and to an extent also at home by my mother.

I really hate any kind of it – be it physical or mental, and will passively navigate my way through such situations, often backing down or staying quiet in order to try and find amicable conclusions. Sometimes this can be to my detriment, sometimes it can help. Recently though it’s caused significant tension in family relationships and I’m aware I need to look closer at it.

Ultimately though, despite what I am writing and the worries I have, this is yet another day where I’m choosing to remain sober and deal with what life throws at me before moving on.

When I hit the pillow tonight I hit it with a clear head, and when I wake it will be without a hangover.

I’m taking all this one…. day… at… a…. time…

Davey

My Guardian Angel

rings

I left work a bit early today to visit the funeral director for the last time. I’d been putting off collecting my mom’s rings for long enough.

The traffic was absolutely awful, and as I sat at a complete standstill on road after road watching swarms of schoolchildren crossing behind me, in front of me, to the sides of me and (it seemed) underneath me I realised what an idiot I was to think I’d picked the right time of day to make the journey.

By the time I got to my destination I was about as annoyed as it’s possible to get when faced with largely stationary traffic and idiots in Range Rovers who try to drive round you as if you have eyes in the back of your head then cut in to traffic to save precious milliseconds whilst nearly causing a collision.

It isn’t enough that these impatient arseholes survived natural selection. They have to rub your nose in the reality of their continued existence by driving a car thats 10ft feet higher than yours with tyres that would suit a bus.

Such desperately retarded brain donors then suddenly loose all peripheral vision when stuck parallel to cars they’ve unsuccessfully attempted to cut in between of and pretend to be absolutely oblivious to your presence.

After my third lengthy effort to stare one of them to death resulted in abysmal failure I resolved to calm down, move the radio on to Classic FM and focus on the task at hand.

The point of my journey if I’m honest had definitely contributed to the tension. I didn’t really want the rings.

My mom’s ashes were already long gone. My brother and I directed them to be scattered at the crematorium, as there didn’t really seem any other appropriate place. Her physical remains therefore were no longer an issue. The only task left was to pick up the jewellery that we had been unable to get at the hospital when she died.

Mom never stopped wearing her wedding ring after my father and her divorced, so it wasn’t surprising to find that it still on her finger when she passed away. I’d always assumed that the other rings were related to Dad, as she had two gold bands and a third, smaller one.

I rarely paid attention to her jewellery, which was mostly eccentric, covered in butterflies and sourced in Poundland along with anything that had ‘silver’ written on it.

However tonight, when I got home and looked at one of them I noticed that it housed a tiny stone and had a delicate inscription engraved around the outside.

‘My guardian angel this day be at my side to light to guard to rule and to guide’

Not being of a religious persuasion I Googled this and the majority of the links appeared to point to this being a Catholic prayer. My father is most definitely not of that faith and I couldn’t imagine him giving her anything like this.

Curious, I contacted him and asked whether the ring had any special significance. It seemed however that this wasn’t from him, and neither was the smaller gold wedding band. He didn’t know where they were from.

Only the larger gold band appeared to jog any memory, and it was this one that symbolised their marriage.

The others it seemed were most likely the remains of my mother’s first marriage in 1962, which was to a Catholic.

She and he had (by all accounts) a violent and tumultuous relationship, which resulted in her absconding a year after they married and ultimately divorcing him in 1972 before hitching her wagon to my dad.

So why was she wearing the rings from her first marriage when she died?

She still bore her first husband’s surname when my dad and she met, apparently having no willingness to officially separate unless she was going to re-marry (according to my uncle).

I’ve never thought it odd that she kept wearing my father’s ring, as she was completely unable to let go of the fact their marriage had failed and despite her bitterness professed love for him (usually in a manner that suggested the absolute opposite) until the very end.

This marriage (just like her first) took close to a decade to legally draw to a close – and despite their estrangement she bitterly fought against a second divorce. To her such a thing was inconceivable.

In conversation my mother often retreated to the events of the past in order to provide justification for the arguments of the present, and seemed unable to move on from any event where she felt harsly treated. When I was at home her daily reality often hovered somewhere between 1968 and 1978 and she chewed over the fat of this part of the past whenever she could.

This period was in retrospect one of recovery from violence, and renewed love. It was also one which letters showed was not easy for her, and she did not end up with the life she expected.

One had to be careful therefore (both then and in later years) to avoid heading toward many subjects relating to this period. Whilst this pivotal decade provided her with many happy memories these could quickly link to ones of bitter unhappiness. Once you entered this territory there was rarely an exit sign that was easy to find.

I never heard in all the years I knew her a single reminiscence of her first husband that was positive or forgiving. Given the level of violence I have been told about independently of her version of events this is probably understandable.

I’m not sure then (with these contexts in mind) quite how to view the three of these. Part of me wants nothing to do with them, but like with her bear I know that if I give them away or sell them because I don’t like how they make me feel, in the long term I will do myself a disservice.

One of them symbolises her union with my father, which is a good thing (despite its many tempests) because my brother and I are alive and are inseparable friends. My Dad is also slowly beginning to find peace with the past as I am, so that too is positive.

The other two symbolise a violent, impulsive and often confused past. A part of her life I thankfully wasn’t alive to experience.

The three combined could be interpreted as an unwillingness to let go of the past and move on… but also maybe they show a need to remember past love, however wrong it may have ultimately turned out.

I don’t own any other item that is made of gold since I’m not much into bling or displays of wealth, and I’m not married. Because of this I’m surprised by how heavy these small items are when I hold them in my hand.

Their emotional weight is much the same.

I think I’m going to keep these rings, and get them out of storage again in a few years. It will be interesting to see what they mean then – and what I will feel when I look at and hold these strange little bands of metal.

Davey

Nosferatu

The sun is shining today – and although I will burn faster than an albino in a furnace I’m braving the outdoors on a morning break at work.

I’m sitting on a little orange brick wall, leaning my arm on a fibreglass salt bin that’s cracked and weathered after years of being outside.

The faded yellow of the bin sympathetically blends with the brown rusty fastenings of its lid, which is slowly making its way to the ground due to a broken hinge languidly hanging on its left hand side. I can just about see its gritty contents from where I sit through the gap this creates at the top.

The smooth surface of the bin has the texture of a beach pebble and is oddly pleasing to the touch. Having already bathed in the sun for hours before I arrived it is radiating gentle warmth beneath my arm.

Behind me is a field of sheep, and in the trees separating them from me (usually lashed with rain and wind in the UK climate) birds are singing as they sway gently in the breeze on the branches.

Nearby I can hear the generators and a hum of machinery that feeds the building in which I work.

Unlike my own lawn the grass here has a regulation length, and never grows above it. It’s learned to comply after many many years of regular maintenance. Similarly when leaves fall they are quickly moved and disposed of by a man with an iPod and a leaf blower.

I used to work nights as well, and have stood and sat here in a variety of weather at all times of the day. I’ve seen this little part of the world in dense fog, covered in snow, iced over, soaking wet and blisteringly hot in the summer.

This spot has also been where I’ve stood talking to friends while we smoked, drank coffee, shared frustrations and triumphs – bemoaned our lives or relationships and celebrated births and marriages. We’ve also supported each other in times of loss.

One colleague who passed some years ago even practiced his golf swing out here in the middle of the night under the watchful eye of security cameras, hooking the occasional cheeky golf ball over the fence, much to the mirth of those watching.

People have left this campus for happier reasons too. They’ve headed off to take other jobs many times through the brown windowed door in front of me, and occasionally I’ll get texts or mails from them telling me how life is and how their family and careers have grown.

A lot of people have gone lately and as I sit quietly typing this in the sun I’m reminded of them and what they meant to me when we worked together in the office.

They were almost all friends, and people I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet from all ages, backgrounds, faiths and walks of life. Nomatter where they came from we all shared jokes and hot drinks.

One of the plus sides is that my various departed team members are in some cases leaving to work with each other yet again in different locations, so hopefully they won’t have to completely start over.

They won’t get to stand here with me any more though.

The uninitiated might say with a brief glance that this industrial little brick wall by a car park on a concreted patch of land, next to a security fence topped with barbed wire is ugly.

If I didn’t work here I might agree, but it seems that beauty is most definitely in the eye of the beholder.

I love that a little orange brick wall and a salt bin on the right day and in the right moment can bring all these memories of people back to me, which currently are warming me almost as much as the sun.

Which is actually frikking burning me. I have the skin of Nosferatu.

Dammit. I’m going back inside.

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Davey

T-Rex

I’ve been trying not to overdo things lately.

OK – when I say ‘overdo’, what I really mean is do things a lot.

OK OK – thats not strictly true. When I say ‘do things a lot’ I really really mean do them obsessively.

Basically I do a lot of things obsessively. Or I do a lot of things not at all. There’s not really a middle ground.

  1. Drinking. Whilst involved in this pastime, a glass of wine will never suffice. Two bottles might just hit the spot however. Maybe three if i’m feeling thirsty.
  2. Food. A packet of crisps. Why have one, when there are two (or three or four) there?
  3. TV shows. How about one episode? Two? Three? Nahhhh – lets do the whole box set. In fact lets do it in a week. I’m looking at you Breaking Bad.
  4. Video games. Why play for short periods of time to fit in with a healthy lifestyle when I can make the game become my lifestyle? ‘Destiny’ – proud record holder and owner of the title ‘game that I lived on most of all’ shows 640 hours of playtime online…

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My previous manager can attest to the fact that I’ve taken weeks and weeks off work so that I can play certain games. When I do so I’ve cleared my timetable of everything and just buried myself in the imaginary world at hand.

Destiny is not unique. Not even close.

I recently nailed 243 hours in Fallout 4. Prior to that I took two weeks off work to concentrate on The Witcher 3. I spent almost 18 hours a day playing it and updating my YouTube channel with content from it, for 14 days solid, only stopping for the toilet when REALLY necessary.

When I returned to work I was shattered.

It gets so bad when i’m doing this that I can’t sleep, and without fail I dream incessantly about the game world and the characters in it.

This can be fun sometimes, but most of the time if I’m really honest it’s not. I tend to get locked into ‘levelling up’ or collecting ALL of a certain item, and I can’t stop.

I had such bad RSI in my thumb after playing Borderlands 2 obsessively that I couldn’t move it properly for nearly 3 weeks and couldn’t play games at all for nearly 2 months. It still hurts now when I play some games, and aches even when I don’t.

At times if I’m honest I wonder what I’ve gotten out of the activity. Maybe a sense of order, or satisfaction at a ‘job’ completed?

I’m not sure.

I also obsess over words I like the sound of – and get hooked on one or two, sometimes for weeks – even months saying it over and over in my head. They too visit me in my sleep continuously. Parochial was a recent culprit, which is still on a post it note on my PC at work, because I’m worried I will forget it and its meaning.

I struggle to stop doing things like this and I’m aware its not normal. It’s addictive behaviour.

In the past I’ve read that Cocaine users are always chasing the feeling of their first high, but its actually unobtainable because the body will never react the same way again, and each hit they take brings a diminishing return.

Anyone that’s drunk a lot or (like myself in the 90’s) taken drugs to excess will understand this. Either you get locked in regardless and do it till the bitter end or realise it’s a fruitless pursuit and give up.

Around the time my mom died I stopped playing almost completely.

I remarked to a friend in an unguarded and honest moment a few weeks after this that I was scared that I would go back to playing obsessively, and that it would detract from dealing with events in my life. Gaming was ’empty’ time  and I didn’t want to get locked into the same behaviour patterns again.

However there are two sides to everything.

Just as in ‘real’ life you make friends at work through shared experience and common goals, you do the same while gaming. It’s a bit like being a pigeon fancier, but less specialised.

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When you meet someone with similar gaming interests you instantly have a wealth of past conquests and memories to share, stretching back decades. Gamers often have a strong bond because of such shared interactive experiences (‘Do you remember the first time you met the T-Rex in Tomb Raider? How cool was that!? etc etc), and they come from all walks of life, both male and female.

I realised on Friday that I had mostly cut myself off from these people when I stopped six weeks ago and had removed the all the gaming good from my life along with the gaming bad.

I’d gained contemplation and creativity time but also lost a lot of the ‘people’ time I had when I played games with my friends and idly nattered.

Despite the geek stereotypes, people that play games together don’t just talk about games. They talk about life. They talk about whats going on with each other, and they do it in an environment where they’re relaxed and usually open because they’ve having fun and the game provides common goals.

Sometimes we also just take the piss out of each other all night and have a laugh – which is also really important.

So, last night I rejoined my friends for a game out of the blue and it was really really good. we killed baddies online in ‘The Division’ for a while, set the world to rights, joked around, sneakily blew each other up when we thought we could get away with it for comedy value and generally had a great time. When all three make believe good guys were tired and needed to go to bed we hung up our controllers and went hunting pillows instead of terrorists.

Last night I didn’t dream of the game. I just slept well.

I’ve decided that I’m (for the time being at least) only going to play this game when they are around and use it to keep in touch with them and how they are.

I’m hoping to get more tips on obtaining balance in life when I start my counselling properly in a week and a half, and this is just one of the areas that I’m going to try and deploy that knowledge in.

Until then, as the subtitle of the blog reads (which my dad finally noticed for the first time today after reading my blog for a month 🙂 ) I’m just learning to live life.

Davey

Maybe

Some people are complex and confusing. Just when you think you have a measure of who they are you’ll find something out about them that seems out of place or character.

Oddly the death of someone can answer almost as many questions as it poses, as you sift through their personal belongings.

My mother didn’t do regret in my experience, or from what I saw during her life, forgiveness. She harboured resentments like priceless property and took many of them – particularly with regard to my father – with her to the grave.

As I’ve said before I am beginning to come to terms with this, and try to remember my mother more compassionately – to let go of the negative emotions that I feel about her.

Its one of the reasons I’m writing so much. I need to examine it and talk it out with myself.

The last time I saw her in hospital she said she had no regrets to my brother. This wasn’t really a revelation, given that she also never said sorry (certainly not with any sincerity anyway).

She then thought for a moment after this and revised her statement. She actually did have regrets. She regretted that he hadn’t come to see her more. She then added ‘And I regret your brother didn’t come to see me more as well.’

My mother it seemed really didn’t get the idea of regret being something personal, where you feel you’ve made a mistake or failed somehow in your duty to others or yourself.

At the time I was greatly annoyed when I heard her say this. She had a habit of displacing all blame onto others, and this seemed no different.

Time changes perceptions though.

My mom’s vocabulary sometimes let her down, and her written English (although sometimes insightful) was always littered with grammatical errors.

My mother was an artist rather than a writer, and spoke through her drawings and paintings rather than words, which routinely failed her and caused conflict.

While going through her photos I came across several family trees this evening in various states of completion, which not so long ago she had (for reasons of her own) started to compile and send to myself and my brother.

The ‘master’ copy has black and white photos from 1940 or thereabouts with some serious looking people on my mother’s side of the family. Some of them are in military uniform, and they look like there is preparation for war.

There’s a sense in the descriptions that mom is trying to understand where she came from, and why she is who she is.

The passages of text describing her own parents are extensive. They contain no critical comments (of which she made many over the years) and instead she remarks her mother and father were ‘kind to the pet animals that the three children occasionally took home’.

Their treatment of their children however is described only in terms of them working hard and providing food, clothing, ‘necessary’ school uniforms and equipment.

Oddly parental love is never mentioned. Instead terms relating to honesty and reliability are used to describe her father and nothing at all to describe her mother.

Her sense of kin and wanting to belong to where she’s come from is self evident throughout the first third of the binder, but whats missing speaks louder to me than what’s included.

Later in the album photos of her own family begin to overwhelm the narrative, and there are lots of myself and my brother growing up, many of which I don’t ever remember seeing before.

Then, starting around my adolescence, there are massive gaps. My father no longer has dark hair, I become quickly old in the photos, my brother taller with facial hair, and the period in which we all don’t see each other holds little information.

There’s a sense however that she is desperately holding onto every scrap of information about our lives that she can find as I and then later my brother gradually cut off contact. She begins to write what she thinks we are like as if it is fact. She begins to imagine who we are and that becomes her truth.

Mom also begins to refer to me in the past tense underneath a photo from 2008 and says ‘David had various hobbies, which included computer games, driving his car, music, films, with a bit of gardening.’

It’s sad that she knew so little about me. I hate gardening usually and I drive only to get from A to B which is normally only where I listen to music. She’s right about the games and films though. That much is true.

It’s partially my fault she didn’t know me. It takes two to fight and I was to blame as well in some cases.

As I read the album before me I know that it probably wouldn’t be any different if we had the time again, but it still makes me feel bad, wishing things had taken another path.

Its not until I get to the back of it however that I find something that surprises me.

A poem, by Kathleen Gillum:

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Maybe mom’s regrets were really just things she was sad about, things that she wished had been different, and didn’t have the power to change any more.

Maybe behind her stumbling vocabulary were feelings, trapped in a painting or drawing that she no longer had the power to bring to life. A piece of imagined art that said – ‘I’m sorry. I wish things had been different, and I loved you both.’

Maybe.

Davey

It’s all lies

nelson

Something that’s never ceased to amaze me is just how many people think it’s cool to hang out of a car and call someone names.

It’s happened to me as long as I can remember – and in many ways it’s something I now accept as a fact of life, but can drastically change my mood.

I have almost developed a spider sense for when it’s going to happen these days and when I hear a car slow I know something akin to ‘you fat c**t’ isn’t far behind.

While this anti social behaviour is both embarrassing and threatening it’s far from the worst thing that happens.

After all – these stupid people driving stupid cars with stupid exhausts playing stupid music while driving stupidly can reasonably be expected to be stupid.

Laws of natural selection suggest that eventually they will meet a car coming the other way driven by someone similar and I’m fine with that. Totally on board. Knowing that karma has a good chance of catching up with them helps.

They’re legion however, and appear to have a high birth rate so this doesn’t diminish the frequency of such an event.

This happens to me every few weeks when I least expect it. Usually when I am on my own – often when I’m walking outside.

I use platitudes to overcome it such as ‘I’m the bigger man.’ (note the self deprecating humour built into this for another personal joke at my expense) or ‘its beneath me’ and the all time great ‘I’m used to it – it doesn’t bother me.’

It’s all lies mind you. Absolute bollocks.

Happiness evaporates in seconds on these occasions and I play the event over and over in my head for hours and hours afterwards, even if I lie to other people and say I’m really ok. Usually I’m saying that to stop them feeling bad, not because it’s true.

Sometimes this makes me stay indoors, other times I am more resilient.

Sadly it’s not confined to idiots in cars and it’s much harder to deal with the innocent.

Children say what they see and often tell their parents about unusual goings on nearby. They choose their timing wisely and for maximum effect usually wait until crowds appear in supermarkets.

‘Mommy – look at that fat man!’ is a common comment – probably sitting at number one in the top 3.

‘Mommy look at that man’s tummy!’ comes in around number two, while ‘Why is that man so fat mommy – is it because he eats a lot?’ probably gets number 3.

Parents invariably have zero idea how to handle this and probably out of sheer embarrasment often choose to ignore it altogether.

The opposite approach just makes it worse. This involves disciplining the child gently in full earshot of everyone else in a checkout queue, ensuring that attention is drawn to the subject for anyone that missed it the first time round.

Presumably they do this for my benefit, as well as to make their little darling a better human being and to ensure he isn’t hanging out of a car hurling insults in later life.

The polar opposite of the vocal kids there are staring ones. These little guys are just in awe of whatever they behold and can’t tear their eyes away. Again parents deal with this one of two ways – ignore or chastise.

The ignores are bad. Children do NOT stop staring. EVER.

I decided to handle this years ago by staring back, until I realised that you can’t win and they’ll never back down. They take you staring at them as acceptance that what they’re doing is OK.

Plus it makes you appear like a member of the Jimmy Saville fan club, which is not a good look.

So basically it’s either option one – focus on the floor or the task at hand and pretend it never happened (my current weapon of choice) or option two – go full WMD on the issue and start deploying the F bomb or some other finely crafted PG-13 words.

Option two in the past (with the mobile idiots) has caused a car to reverse and start following me. It’s not suitable for streets. I always use option one.

Similarly, challenging a child (even with PG-13 language) is like kicking a fresh turd in a parent’s face and they will always (naturally) protect their young. It rarely works if you tackle the parent instead of the child either. After all ‘kids will be kids’.

So. Endure it. That’s what I’m left with.

Endure the humiliation of it over and over until I change and look more like the people who belittle me.

Just once I’d really like to walk through a shop, park, supermarket or shopping mall and not feel like I was being evaluated this way, because honestly I can’t remember how it feels to not be noticed.

Davey

Flat white

I was wandering through Sainsburys the other day with my brother when I happened to stop in the tea and coffee aisle and ponder a particularly decorative box.

It was labelled ‘womankind’ and clearly not aimed at me, but I like shiny things and couldn’t help but stop and look.

This pink box was swathed in floral artwork and would have easily looked at home on the shelf of Laura Ashley with perfume or moisturiser inside it next to some nice curtain material.

On the front, amongst its flowery battle camouflage were its feminine credentials.

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‘A delicate dance of organic cranberry, rose and sweet vanilla’

Girl tea danced! Why didn’t my drinks gayly cavort in this manner?

I wondered what the inevitable blue box for boys covered in footballs and cars would contain and looked left and right for ‘Mankind’. It was nowhere to be seen.

Nothing had been made to sway rhythmically for me. Quite the opposite in fact. There were no man specific herbal teas with infusions of diesel oils, essence of brick dust and a delicate bouquet of football turf made as a companion to this most ladylike of beverages.

Only oestrogen was on this side of the aisle, and it seemed I was trespassing on its territory. As a woman reached over me to grab a box of Womankind I looked around wondering where Pete had gone.

Over on the dark side of the aisle my brother was browsing the weaponised caffeine and hunting for something without a hint of roses or organic anything. It would be fair to say he is a big fan of coffee and can occasionally be heard remarking that beans have been burned (or something) and coffee not made correctly. I nod like I understand when he says such things.

Recently he and his wife introduced me to a new drink.

A flat white. It sounded boring.

‘What’s that?’ I asked, calling him on the way to pick them up at Coffee Architects in Leamington one day a month or so ago.

I’d never heard of a flat white but on the other end of the phone Pete and his wife were extremely enthusiastic. My sister in law Yuni (having been a barista) does not recommend coffee lightly.

‘Just try it – you’ll like it.’ My brother said with his wife chattering in the background. ‘We’ll get you one and a Pastrami sandwich as well.’

I wasn’t convinced. I fear change. But they mentioned food. My kryptonite. I was caught off guard.

‘OK cool.’ I replied.

They’d been raving about Coffee Architects for a while and I’d been meaning for some time to see what all the fuss was about. Some time ago the owner had made me a diabetic friendly fruit cake for my birthday (on Yuni’s instruction) which was truly fantastic.

Now they wanted to introduce me to ‘architected’ coffee.

Honestly my flat white was smaller than I expected – but boy did it taste good. Probably one of the smoothest cups of coffee I’ve had. Ever.

‘Niiiice!’ I said turning to my brother as I drove.

I carried on to our destination, gripping the steering wheel tightly and pressing the accelerator further to the floor.

It appeared that this was white coffee with attitude, and came with an outboard motor to strap to the back of your head. Sadly however it didn’t come with a pillow for me to fall face first into afterwards when the inevitable caffeine crash came.

I looked the drink up after my withdrawal headache had subsided and realised that it was an Australian delicacy (introduced relatively recently to the UK) that was basically two double Espresso shots with not much milk. Because it masqueraded as normal coffee it went down fairly quick and gave a hell of a buzz.

I’d like (in a rare moment of increased testosterone) to say that it’s a man drink – but my diminutive, hardcore sister in law destroys this argument in its entirety. She just necks that kind of drink straight from the kettle while laughing before strolling off to arm wrestle some builders.

I’ve been trying a lot of different beverages since I gave up drinking alcohol in an effort to pass the time – particularly where there is a large libation gap in the evening.

Chai tea latte and I recently had a brief flirtation in the hours before bedtime but ultimately she left me underwhelmed and with an odd taste in my mouth.

We broke up recently, mutually deciding to call it a day.

Then I bought a big box of herbal teabags with various fruity flavours. They all smelled lovely but tasted like I was licking the underside of my lawn mower.

I hope they are happy in the bin and I wish them well on their way to landfill.

Camomile and Spearmint teabags have been nice at work (I ran out of Earl Grey – don’t judge me) but fail to give me any ‘oomph’. Also, upon further inspection I noted the container stated they would give ‘A moment of calm’. This clearly isn’t what’s needed to motivate me 9-5.

It also has flowers on the box and I think I should steer clear of this poison.

My body is used to craving stronger coffee based motivation, and I know where it’s come from.

Womankind.

About three years ago my friend gave me a Nespresso machine as a housewarming gift.  The first fix was free it seemed, and I had a pack of 20 pods in the box to get me started.

Clearly knowing how the addiction would pan out she also kindly purchased a further 200 pods of insane strength coffee that could legally wake the dead. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Making sure there was no way out of this spiralling dependency, for Christmas she also purchased me a milk frother. She might as well have been selling me crack.

Starting the day without my product red Starbucks flask (also bought by my ‘dealer’ friend) full of the largest sized ‘Lungo’ is inconceivable.

It never ceases to amaze me that I regularly forget to take my morning diabetic medication – but have never once had to drive back to the house for emergency coffee.

It has it claws in deep.

Still at least while I’m lying wide awake in bed at night, I can be assured that one drink that was intended for this particular man prompts rhythmic motions.

Unfortunately however instead of dancing this is the procession back and forth to the smallest room in the house, after which I lie twitching until I’m completely worn out and finally nod off.

I’m sticking with coffee despite its inconsequential and minor flaws – Womankind are welcome to their organic twigs and berries.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Davey

 

Craggy faces

If there’s anything scanning photos teaches you its that if you buy a cheap crappy camera then you take crappy pictures.

Tonight I’ve scanned nearly 100 and they are universally awful quality, with grainy images of filtered memories. I remember the way the camera they were taken with creaked as you held it. I can feel like it was yesterday the strong tension in the shutter release as it failed to give under your finger because the film wasn’t wound on enough.

Its hard to imagine nowadays winding that film along with my right thumb, taking individual shots as the disposable flash cube’s bulb flared, died, rotated around, flared again and eventually got discarded for a new one.

I used to like the smell of the popped bulbs though, and the heat the cube gave off when you held it in your hand after pulling it off the camera.

It’s even harder to remember the agonising wait while the photos, trapped on the sensitive film in the camera went to the local chemist shop, and the excitement when you went to pick them up.

This was only tempered by the disappointment of a half exposed shot, a picture of a foot, or even worse – a quality control sticker on someone’s face.

I never took many photos as a boy or a young man, mostly because all of this seemed like a lot of hassle, and my cameras were always universally awful.

It wasn’t until much later in life (about 16 years ago) when my friend’s boyfriend started getting into photography and developing his own black and white shots at night school that I began to realise how interesting it could be.

Until that moment I couldn’t for the life of me understand why on earth anyone would want to use black and white when colour existed. I mean – why not make the shot ALL it could be?! Then I began to understand, and ever since I’ve been drawn to images of New York in black and white – and faces. The craggier the better.

wrinkles

Around the time I realised how much I liked it the landscape of photography changed, and bit by bit film cameras started to disappear. I experimented briefly with a sub SLR digital on a tripod with a shutter release, taking photos of sunsets and beaches until my primary camera eventually shrank into my iPhone.

Taking photos then became so instantaneous that the pictures themselves threatened to become almost irrelevant.

I’ve realised that my mentality toward photos however is rooted in my childhood. Back then 24 or 36 exposures on a film were to be treasured, and were not cheap. Probably because of this on my Mac I have thousands of photos – lots that I just don’t file, organise or delete. Sometimes its overwhelming.

I’m a digital hoarder and have been for some time. Thankfully hard drives just get bigger and every so often I buy a bloody big one and put it all on there.

Looking at this vast volume of digital pictures and videos that I have taken in less than a decade. I’m struck by the fact that children growing up today will never have a period that isn’t photographed and stored somewhere in a cloud.

It’s a good thing and a bad thing all at the same time. On the one side, unlike my past there will be lots of history to go back over when they’re older and have children.

Similarly their children will not know what its like to not have photo or video footage of their grandparents, or recorded thoughts online, like these may be – stored way after I’m gone.

The trade off of course is that there will be hundreds and thousands of photos embarrassingly portraying the children of the future running around in nappies, sitting on the potty and face planting dinner in a high chair.

Luckily I’m immune to this. Although there was one person in my life who sought to address my woefully brief pictorial history as as I got older…

My father took thousands upon thousands of them. He wouldn’t stop at one point when I lived with him in the mid 90’s and had an automatic, auto focus little red celluloid camera which he used to document my life with my then girlfriend – taking photos when we least expected it as we lay in the garden or sat talking. It wasn’t just me and her – absolutely everything that wandered in front of him was worthy of a shot.

He once tried to photograph my eyes in the rearview mirror from the back seat of my car with the camera set on auto flash while I was driving on the motorway…

At the time it often drove me nuts – but now I’m scanning these scant and fragmented memories I’m just hoping he still has them, as they’re part of a history I don’t have any more.

When I’m done he might also like to look at some of himself, especially those where he is a younger man than I am now – and in many ways strikingly similar to me and my brother.

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I suppose that the natural evolution of photos is for them to survive forever floating about on remote servers the other side of the world, or on hard drives stored in my packing crates. After all, by taking them we’re trying to preserve ourselves – becoming temporarily immortal within the frame.

Plus, aside from that airy fairy nonsense they’re nice to look at – which is good too 🙂

Davey

Chickenzilla

It’s cold today, and it feels like there’s snow in the air.

It’s apt, as this weekend I’ve been mostly hibernating a bit if I’m honest. I’m trying to throw off a succession of negative thoughts that have been buzzing around in my head.

They don’t really have a form – and are difficult to vocalise, but when I feel like this my natural impulse is to withdraw from human company, which I have been trying really hard not to do.

Saturday was spent watching the entirety of ‘True Detective’ Season 2, which clocks in at about 8.5 hours of procrastination, underneath a duvet, eating only cheese and crackers (when hibernating one does not go shopping).

I didn’t realise I had crackers until I hunted about, and they were the perfect accompaniment to some Stilton my friend gave me to try the other day along with a rather massive Salami. Normally crackers would go great with a glass of wine, but at the moment coffee is filling the gap.

About 4 years ago I lost almost 10 stone and was walking everywhere – I felt fit and happy, and the culmination of this was going on a walking holiday in Cornwall where I managed 48 miles in 5 days – which was something I had never done before.

The day I came back I asked myself what the point was and then started the gradual climb to putting the entire 10 stone back on again.

I still don’t really know what caused the decline, but I remember lying in bed in the holiday let and taking a selfie, thinking the white sheets and seaside light would make for a good pic.

Actually I found myself looking at the picture a few minutes later and the words ‘who are you kidding?’ popped into my head. I really don’t know why, but at that moment it all slowly started to turn to crap.

I’m scared that the same emotion is lodging itself in my head at the moment, and I really really want the program I discussed with my case worker to start sooner rather than later. Not because I want to drink, but because I don’t want to feel like this again, and I need to understand why I can shift so quickly from positivity to feelings of depression and back again.

Since hibernating does no-one any good I got up early today and cleaned my kitchen and properly potted and watered my new dwarf citrus plant. Shortly after that my shopping arrived and I slowly unpacked a distressingly unappetising selection of food. Each item looked less worthy of attention than the last. Although I ordered it the night before, none of it appealed to me today – a sure sign something isn’t 100%.

I needed to make sure I went out today, and so immediately arranged to have coffee with my brother.

It seems neither of us had much to say today, but honestly that is just as good sometimes as talking endlessly. When you’re with someone that knows you inside out there isn’t always a need to use words. Just being together is enough. We drank tea and coffee and looked out of the Starbucks window, watching the people pass while chatting a bit about work and things we had outstanding to do in general. He’s gotten over the flu that he had a week ago and sounds a lot better – just like my dad – which is good as I’m sensitive to both of them being unwell lately and want them to be healthy. I’m sure they think the same about me.

When I got home I unpacked the scanner that I’d also purchased while I was out and plugged it into my Mac.

I have two carrier bags of photos that my mom left behind. A lot of them she ‘stole’ from her brother and sister when she cleaned out her own mother’s house after she died without consulting her siblings.

Its a big issue with my uncle – and I said to him that he was welcome to have the originals. However what I wanted to do was scan and upload them so the whole family could have access to them in the future. He seemed happy with this, and I promised him I’d start the process as soon as the bungalow clearance was out of the way.

The first thing I grabbed from the bag turned out to be the wedding album of my mom and dad – which contained some outrageous 70’s fashion crimes on my dad’s part and a pair of unusually happy smiling parental faces, which was nice to see.

When you scan a 3 inch by 3 inch photo and blow it up you begin to notice a lot that wasn’t immediately obvious, such as expressions or hair curls, and eyes squinting in the sun.

In one a happy little girl had sneaked into the background of a photo of the wedding guests. She wore a bright yellow dress, white cardigan and her light blonde hair was tied back in a big bunch at the back of her head. She was photographed in motion, turning away from the camera and readying a red coat to throw around her shoulders. The grass was covered in daisies and buttercups beneath her feet, which I hadn’t noticed until I focused on her. It was a nice little moment in time, completely unrelated to the event – and added a whole new dimension to the photo.

Evidence of my childhood in Orkney was also at the back of the album and so was my favourite chicken – Brownie, clutched in my arms, and clearly less than keen about my affection.

I’m either really short in this photo or Brownie was Chickenzilla.

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When I look at this picture I wonder again why anyone becomes depressed or down, and why we loose the simplicity of childhood. I doubt my mind at that time felt much beyond needing food and bed or wanting to play outside with the chickens.

I’m glad I sat down to scan photos and blog something. I don’t feel the same as when I started this evening. Once again writing down what I feel has been good for me. It’s like a bandage made of syllables instead of cloth and as I write I can feel it slowly wrapping around me.

It enables me to read, and re-read what I’ve written. While checking spelling and punctuation the feelings contained within the paragraphs loose their power to control me, and become just words on a page. Once I click ‘publish’ they’re out there, on the loose, and strangely no longer in my head.

Hmmm. I feel hungry.

I’m going to go and have a look in the fridge and see if the food that didn’t look appealing this morning looks appealing now, and possibly have a bite to eat.

Davey

Citrus Sinensis

Well. That’s that.

Nothing ever goes how you expect it to. That’s nice though. It makes life interesting and worth living.

The white van cowboy arrived at the bungalow this time wearing a Russian army Ushanka hat, channeling chi from the other side of the Atlantic.

VanManski was also thankfully 2 hours late.

I say thankfully because by this time I wasn’t feeling sad, just bored and pissed off, which turned out to be a good thing.

Finally, though he was here and ready to clear the furniture. I just wanted it all gone as quick as possible so I could leave and get something to eat.

As requested for removal of the heavy oak dresser he’d brought help. In this case that came in the form of Mrs VanManski.

Missing her calling as an East German shot putter this hardy lady had instead found happiness carrying furniture with her husband, and after sizing her up I decided against suggesting an arm wrestling contest. Once she’d hauled the cooker out of the bungalow I was only left wondering who opened the jam jars in the VanManski household.

Maybe their daughter?

Soon the rooms were empty. I turned everything off, noted down the meter readings and locked up.

It was snowing, and getting worse.

The journey home was slow and almost blizzard strength at points, forcing the traffic down to 20mph, however the car was warm and I was too tired to care.

Nearly there…

I reached my brother’s house to drop off the keys and stayed for a welcome hot cup of Earl Grey. After a chat, and agreeing to go to the cinema later in the week I headed home. I needed food, pills, and bed. Nothing would get in my way.

Then, as I walked to my door I noticed a box, sodden and covered in snow by the bin.

A delivery?! WTF? Left outside?

I opened the door, put my bag down and then turned to the box. What could it be? I wasn’t expecting anything.

Then I unwrapped the perfect end to the day. My fantastic friend had been reading my blog and decided for my recent birthday that I didn’t need a game or a bottle of wine but a dwarf orange tree 🙂

Thanks universe (and fantastic friend) for giving me something to smile about and making the last day at my mom’s memorable for reasons I didn’t expect.


Peace out world!

Davey

Backwards or forwards?

I was asked something thought provoking a week ago.

‘If you could go backwards or forwards in time, which way would you go?’

My thoughts had initially been quite grandiose while I mulled over my reply. Epic and exciting periods in history immediately presented themselves.

I could see the pyramids being built in Egypt and look at their empire when it was at the peak of its power and opulence, stand on a grassy knoll and see who really killed JFK, watch Jimmy Hendrix play the last two hour set at Woodstock, or witness firsthand the tearing down of the Berlin wall….

But what about the future?

Dangerous. A lot could go wrong. Dystopian events would probably have occurred. Each possible outcome seemed worse than the last. We may have been blown up by terrorist dirty bombs, overwhelmed by the seas due to global warming, have been hit by an asteroid, washed away by tsunamis, or succumbed to the zombie apocalypse. Donald Trump may be president…

I was completely stumped – and at the time concluded simply that it was safer to travel in my own lifetime so that I would avoid changing history and screwing the present up.

The conversation concluded with my rather dull and ill thought out answer, but tonight I’m thinking about it again because it seems infinitely more relevant.

Tomorrow I go to my mom’s nearly empty bungalow again for the last time. When I’ve locked up it will be empty, and while I never liked the place to begin with the moment will represent a significant milestone in my life.

I’m annoyed with my continued preoccupation on the subject, and that I keep coming back to it over and over. I’m so confused about my feelings relating to my mother’s death that I struggle to put it into words.

While she was alive I was continually in conflict with her. Regardless of how I tried to make sense of her to myself and others I never did my feelings justice. Typically my spoken words were angry and monosyllabic when my thoughts finally took form, and I usually deadened the pain they caused in the pub with my friends, and later on my own.

Her lies, manipulation, emotional blackmail, verbal abuse and unwillingness to ever apologise or understand the impact of her actions and words in later life drove me crazy. I wanted nothing to do with her for years until about eight months before she died, and even then every moment spent with her was an immense struggle. I had to continually play mental hopscotch as I tried to head off potential arguments and censor my discussions. I didn’t want events in my life to be used as weapons in conversation later as they had been many times before, decade after decade.

I got back in contact when she was admitted to hospital. This was partially because I thought it was the end and I didn’t want to leave things between us as they were, but mostly because I didn’t want my dad to face it by her bedside alone.

As it happened she hung on longer than expected and left the chronic respiratory illness unit five weeks later. I honestly thought that through sheer bloody mindedness she would never die. She’d just argue death to a standstill upon arrival until it laid down its scythe and gave up.

The time I spent with her in those eight months, if I am completely truthful, was out of obligation, not love. Each and every minute spent with her felt like I was carving off a piece of me that I didn’t want to give and that she did not deserve.

But then she died. My parent actually died. It was both expected and unexpected, and now I don’t know how to feel about it.

Theres a part of me that has softened somehow since her death. It’s beginning to remember the good times, without the mist of anger and stubbornness caused by old conflicts.

The memories this part of me is reviving are somehow more vivid than before. When I concentrate I can feel the corduroy trousers I wore when I was little and see the coal fire in our living room, with a box of white firelighters to the left. I can feel the warmth of my mother’s arm through her nylon jumper as I rested my head on it while we sat on the sofa watching the black and white TV.

I didn’t always feel hostility toward her. I know that now.

I used to adore watching her paint and draw, and loved to see how her compositions took shape and form from nothing but a blank canvas and some mixed and coloured oil to what I viewed as a masterpiece when it was done. Before my brother arrived when I was ten, we used to do this together, me reading a comic on the floor, and her painting while she smoked and talked. It was for a time something we shared alone.

In another memory she unexpectedly bought me a Millennium Falcon for Christmas. It was a gift way beyond what she could afford, but she knew how much I wanted it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy getting a gift as I was with that one. I can remember it like it was yesterday. The smell of the new plastic and the colours of the stickers in the cockpit where I sat Luke and Chewie are with me right now, as I type.

I also remember her working with me to make a pirate outfit for school. She tied a spotted black neck scarf for my head and made a thick curved cardboard cutlass covered in tinfoil. I was so taken with it that the sword never made it to class. For hours I ran around the garden with a makeshift eyepatch and a plastic budgie on a spring mounted to my shoulder (a faux companion stolen from my pet’s cage) waving my sword left and right, shouting ‘Yaaaaarrrrr’ as I dived out of bushes to swashbuckle imaginary foes.

The sword couldn’t take the heroic adventures its owner was intent on having. It died shortly after from extensive tree related injuries and was laid to rest in the bin later that evening. I remember that there were daffodils in the garden and the grass had been recently cut, but thats really all I can recall about that day. Apart from the fact I was a really, really happy little pirate.

But thats all past now.

Tomorrow another memory will be made involving my mom. Its as significant as any of the ones above, but I don’t want to experience it. I want to swear and shout and make it go away, and above all else I don’t want to face it.

So today the question my friend posed means more than it did before.

If I could travel anywhere in time, forwards or backwards, I think I would travel to the day after tomorrow.

I’d go there so I didn’t have to lock the door to her bungalow for very the last time.

I’d go there because I don’t want this memory in my head.

mom

Davey