• A Loaf Of Bread

    21 jul 2014, 10:42

    Life is exactly like a loaf of bread. At first, it tastes delectable and fresh, but after a while you only enjoy eating it after it's been toasted. Gradually, though, it gets staler and staler, becoming barely edible in the process. In the end it gets covered in mould but you have to keep on taking bites out of it, even though you gag and sometimes find yourself forced to spit pieces out again, because there isn't anything else to eat.
  • Uncle Fred In The Springtime

    24 jun 2014, 09:58

    In my sunnier moments - which are increasingly few and far between these days - I like to imagine myself as generous, selfless and warm-hearted, predisposed toward spreading sweetness and light, like PG Wodehouse's famous character Uncle Fred. However, most of the time I feel suicidal rather than sunny, and that's when the truth hits home. I'm actually a misfit, a waster, an essentially obnoxious person. This truth hit home the other day when iIplucked up the rare courage to post what was intended as a light-hearted, friendly shout on a fellow Last FM user's page. The user's response? To delete the post. Quite what I'd done to provoke such a reaction eludes me, but clearly I'm incapable of communicating in a sane, tolerable, acceptable way. As I said, I'm a misfit. A waste of space. Not worth bothering with.

    Sooner or later, my suicidal impulses are definitely going to get the better of me. Going on recent experiences, I should venture to imagine sooner rather than later. It will be a blessed relief.
  • "Faith"

    22 jan 2014, 17:33

    Occasionally, the weakness of will which might be classified as my “faith” is challenged by events which appear to imply the existence of an escape route. For hours, sometimes even days, I am lulled into a pathetic, unseemly optimism which holds him hypnotised, like a moth drawn to a flame.

    Never underestimate the power of delusions.
  • Rosetta Stone

    21 jan 2014, 09:56

    is and was she real or just an invention
    some frail chimera built to dissipate the awesome loneliness and pain
    the dearth of feeling
    lack of choice
    my own imaginary Doll-God
    either way
    every single day I dream of her
    i don’t know why it’s really quite insane
    and yet I cannot help myself despite the fact she won't have thought of me in nearly fifty years
    she is and will remain my fulcrum
    my Rosetta Stone
    until the day I die
  • On Not Learning How To Swim

    19 jan 2014, 12:14

    I was swathed in sunlight, arms outstretched as though attached to an invisible cross, legs rotating haplessly, or perhaps determinedly. It was as though I could feel myself disappearing.

    The swimming instructor, whose separate identity I had never properly allowed myself to imagine, was counting towards infinity: "Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four......."

    As though such things were meaningful.

    But as for me, swathed as I was in sunlight, simultaneously protected and imprisoned by a membrane wrought from my very essence, floating aimlessly and haplessly and hopefully.......

    As for me.

    Denouement loomed, cascading from the unblelievable swimming instructor's lips, a vibrant trout evading frantic bear's paws.

    As "Thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nine" - an echo from another world, amazing and unseemly, my somehow not quite plausible limbs refusing to conform.

    Until it came to me: the countdown was a prelude to a kind of birth, or rescue. Veneers, I saw, can almost always be destroyed.

    But the spurious allure of treading water, swathed in sunlight, arms invisibly affixed, vision stymied - all of this was preferable, somehow, to the stark indignity of exposure.

    Perhaps believing that our inability to swim derived from fear of water, she had got us to submerge ourselves, and then, aloof, uncaring, reassuring stopwatch tightly squeezed, had taunted us unmercifully:

    "Forty-seven, forty-eight, forty-nine......."

    But I, deriving solace from my non-conformity, was still refusing to believe. I had, in fact, become defined by lack of faith. I would hang, and float, and waver, never rising. My very breath would become implausible, a kind of half-remembered legend, something mystical, subjective and surreal - a cipher. Ignoring what would soon become my destiny........

    ".....fifty-five, fifty-six, fifty-seven......." Her voice grown wayward, almost querulous - perversely reassuring.

    So I broke the surface, spluttering my angst, defiant breath unleashed in fulsome, agitated waves, a brutal, unrelenting reflex.

    I did not ask for this, I thought. I neither wanted nor believed in it.

    Yet here I am.

  • Depression

    16 dec 2013, 15:57

    It occurred to me the other day that I have suffered from clinical depression now for more than forty years. Over the decades, the intensity has fluctuated, but some level of depression has always been there. In view of this, I think I can feel justified in offering some observations on the subject, not in order to depress you (sorry!) but so as, I hope, to clear up some fairly common misconceptions about it.

    One accusation that is frequently made of those who suffer from depression is that arises out of too overriding a focus on self, on being too self-absorbed. This is manifest nonsense in my experience. My innumerable character flaws emphatically do not include self-centredness, which is not to claim that I do not have my introspective moments, but my depression is invariably and indubitably at its worst when my focus is on the world around me, or the universe at large. It’s my environment which appals, irks, terrifies and depresses me.

    Another common misconception is that depression is a symptom of weakness of character. If that’s the case, then an extraordinarily high percentage of the greatest minds and most influential individuals in the history of the world had weak characters. As an example, let’s take Churchill, not because I’m a fan of his, but because most people will at least have heard of him. Rightly or wrongly, he is widely regarded as one of the twentieth century’s most significant politicians. He also spent an inordinately large amount of time fighting off what he called “the black dogs” of depression. His technique? To drink himself into a state of stupor every day. Whatever influence Churchill had on the outcome of the second world war – and I realise that that’s a highly contentious question – was achieved by a predominantly depressed and sizzled mind. Not that that’s what history remembers him for, of course – such things tend to get glossed over.

    No, depression is neither a symptom of self-absorption or of weakness of character. It is simply one of the many unpleasant things a blind and equivocal universe inflicts on people, no different in that respect to the common cold, pneumonia, tonsillitis, Parkinson’s Disease, deafness or cancer. My favourite comparison actually is a broken leg, which like depression can affect anyone, regardless of how strong their bones are. When you have a broken leg if you attempt to do many of the things you normally take for granted, such as (most obviously) walking you experience only pain and, ultimately, failure. It’s exactly the same with depression. I normally enjoy things like watching films, listening to music, playing with the dog, going to the pub for a drink with friends – the list is really quite extensive. At the moment, all these things cause me acute pain, sometimes to the point of being unbearable. For “broken leg” read “broken soul”.

    At this time of year it’s customary for people to consider what they’d like for Christmas. The only thing I’d like is to stay out of hospital, as I know that it would cause Laura considerable hardship and distress. So far, at least, I’m managing to go through the motions, no matter how dreadful I feel inside. Last Tuesday I managed to travel to Sheffield to meet a couple of my sisters for a pre-Christmas drink. The way I did it was to stand outside myself and watch this “other me” do everything. Nevertheless, there were numerous prolonged silences on my part, which hopefully my sisters will have interpreted as me being polite by letting them engage in some “girl talk”, but actually were just a side-effect of me trying desperately to hold it together.

    Even more amazingly, on Wednesday night I had to organise and run a table soccer competition. I still don’t know how I managed to get out the front door. My first game was a blur of suicidal thoughts, self-recrimination and despair at the universe, during which I deliberately contrived to lose. By that stage, I’d had enough, and decided to slip quietly away and go home, but my conscience got the better of me. Consequently, I stayed, took a leaf out of Churchill’s book and had two stiff double brandies. I honestly can’t remember the details of what happened after that except that the recorded scores indicate that I played well and won a trophy, which I threw away in disgust the next morning.

    Since then, I’ve coped by taking things a few minutes at a time, and drugging myself up when possible so that I sleep a lot. Writing this has taken an age and it probably reads terribly.

    The fact that depression is a source of such constant, unmitigated pain is no doubt the reason so many depressives take the ultimate step of ending their lives. As for me, I’ve only ever once had a genuine, overriding suicidal urge. That was in 1970, shortly after returning from heaven to hell – sorry, I mean from Australia to England. Everything seemed so dour, bleak, unforgiving, hostile and dirty, and I honestly couldn’t take any more. I was in deadly earnest about killing myself, but I was only fourteen and fortunately proved too naïve and cowardly to actually do it. Almost certainly though, unless I die before Laura, one day I will.

  • A French Kiss To End All French Kisses ............

    5 nov 2013, 14:32

    It was the most exhilarating, captivating, sumptuously delectable dream I've enjoyed in ages. The Hollywood A-list actress (whom I won't name for fear of embarrassing her) were locked in a sensuous embrace, our mouths pressed together as we French-kissed passionately. Obviously there was a real chemistry between us that transcended our on-screen personae. I don't mind admitting that my manhood was ........ well, you get the picture.

    Then I awoke to find Izzie (my miniature poodle) perched on my chest with her tongue halfway down my throat determined that it was time for "Daddy" to rouse himself from his afternoon nap .................
  • The NME's "500 Greatest Albums Of All Timee"

    26 okt 2013, 08:52

    I bought a copy of NME this week, mildly intrigued by the cover page which announced that it contained a run-down of “the top 500 albums of all time”. Between my teens and late 30s, before it became a comic book aimed at morons with the attention span of a gnat, I was a regular and pretty avid NME reader, although to be honest I slightly preferred Melody Maker. Anyway, I was interested to see how out of touch I’ve become over the past couple of de cades or so, and reasonably confident that I’d find this supposed top 500 malarkey amusing, so the other day I forked out my £2.80 and, lo and behold, I wasn’t disappointed. As it truly was a hilarious read.
    For convenience, and to save time, I’ll just focus on the top 10 in the NME’s list, with my comments appended.

    10. DEFINITELY MAYBE – OASIS. Oasis were basically a covers band, and not a very good one at that. However, they attempted to disguise this fact by relabelling their covers, and loads of people were fooled. Personally, I’d sooner have my teeth pulled without an anaesthetic than be forced to listen to this inane, derivative drivel.

    9. WHITE ALBUM – THE BEATLES. This was the first album I ever came across that demonstrated to me how imaginative and varied popular music can be. There’s some rubbish, of course – Ringo’s song, for instance, while “Helter Skelter” is not so much heavy metail as frail aluminium foil. Oh, and the less said about the meandering, mindless sound collage “Revolution 9” the better. However, most of this still sounds simply superb.

    8. DOOLITTLE – PIXIES. I bought “Come On Pilgrim” when it first came out and it remains my favourite pixies album. “Doolittle” though was the beginning of the end for me, although it does contain a couple of killer tracks. However, Black Francis’s decision to limit Kim Deal’s input from about this time meant that Pixies simply weren’t Pixies any more. The band’s recent tour without Deal was just a travesty, a bit like an armless juggler or a haddock attempting to roller skate.

    7. THE STONE ROSES – THE STONE ROSES. Whoopee, it’s the sixties again! Only with all the fun, colour, imagination and originality removed. Admittedly, some of this sounds OK after a couple of spliffs – but then so does “The Birdy Song”.

    6. DIFFERENT CLASS – PULP. OK, yes, this is probably Pulp’s best album to date, but the SIXTH best of all time? Perlease! Actually, I thought Jarvis was on better form in that Harry Potter movie.

    5. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO – THE VELVET UNDERGROUND. Hmm, hard to disagree with that. Almost the perfect rock album.

    4. IS THIS IT? – THE STROKES. What, you mean people can actually bear to listen to this? But it’s all been done before, and about ten million times better. I reckon my dog’s got more talent in her left dew claw than all the members of this band combined.

    3. HUNKY DORY – DAVID BOWIE. Back in the day, I was an obsessive Bowie devotee, but this wasn’t my favourite album of his back then, and still isn’t. Mind you, it’s miles better than the self-indulgent, self-important crap he produces nowadays.

    2. REVOLVER – THE BEATLES. The Fabs’ most uneven and overrated album in my opinion. Sure, there’s a smattering of really classic material – “Eleanor Rigby”, “Here, There and Everywhere”, “Tomorrow Never Knows” – but if I got as stoned as The Beatles almost certainly were back then I’m sure I could come up with stuff as good as “Dr. Robert” or the execrable “Yellow Submarine”.

    1. THE QUEEN IS DEAD – THE SMITHS. This is easily the worst Smiths album, indeed the only poor one they ever released in my opinion. I remember buying it when it came out and feeling incredibly disappointed as I listened to it. It just seemed to predictable, inane and trite, like they were simply going through the motions. After listening to it a couple of times I swapped it for “Love In Bright Landscapes” by The Triffids which seemed to me to be 10 times more intelligent and 100 times more entertaining.
  • Pills

    24 sep 2013, 17:32

    My pills tend to impact on the law of gravity in haphazard, unpredictable ways. Today, for instance, I am weighed down, not so much by guilt as disenchantment, for the pills are fairly good at mitigating blame.

    So I stagger more than stride, perhaps believing that to do so will in some way make me less conspicuous, and hence less readily assailed.

    Occasionally, however, without the slightest warning, my stomach lurches in reaction to an uncoiled spring of nausea, and I find myself briefly floating, feet kicking haplessly at air.

    Unwanted air. A space between the palpable and the possible, with neither quite within reach.

    At other times it feels as though my flesh is thinly swathed in cotton wool which provides a partial barrier to sensation. I almost strut then with a confidence that sooner or later emerges as misplaced.

    Sooner usually, for cotton wool is not the most enduring or impenetrable of barriers.

    And so I’m back to staggering then, to feeling winded and inept. I remember how to whimper.

    How much of life is just like this, I wonder – aborted forays into forgetfulness, flaccid, fatuous thrusts at freedom.

    Ah, freedom. If only, I decide.

    If only.

    For which is better, to console oneself with lustrous images of misremembered past events, or to embrace the stinging nettle of truth with adamantine firmness and resolve? If courage is a virtue, then clearly the latter is the higher way. But if the latter is the higher way then all virtue is a mirage, and I might just as well abandon myself to slavish imitation of the mob.
  • The Hazards Of Sun-Bathing

    1 mar 2012, 15:09

    1st March and an early whisper of Spring. Too warm for a jacket or coat, so I don my Man Or Astroman? T-shirt from Back In The Day for taking Izzie on her morning walk. Ladybirds, newly emerged from hibernation, are all over the place, on house walls, footpaths, garden fences, tree trunks ........ Fortunately for them, I think they're invisible to Izzie against most backgrounds, as red is a colour that dogs can't see. Either that, or she instinctively knows they're unpalatable. (Mind you, she's partial to the odd wasp or two, and I can't imagine them tasting much better.)

    Izzie seems aware that Spring is iminent, and scurries about with even greater alacrity than usual. The last leg of our walk sees us circumnavigate Lincoln Cathedral, one of Izzie's favourite haunts as it boasts plenty of open lawn for her to tear about on. It also attracts scores of pigeons, which needless to say are irresistible to Izzie. She may look cute, but she's still a predator at heart. She is fairly good at stalking them, but they have this frustrating habit of jumping into the air and not coming back down again whenever she gets within a certain distance of them. Today, however, she got lucky. I was quite a distance behind Izzie at the time and I didn't have my contact lenses in so at first I didn't see it. The pigeon, that is. Then, just as Izzie, also oblivious to its presence, was approaching it from inside an alcove she's fond of exploring, I registered it. It was sun-bathing on the footpath about a metre 'round the corner from the alcove, which Izzie had just reached. A split second later it was no longer soaking up the sun's rays but flapping frantically in Izzie's jaws. I ran in to try to rescue it, but the violence of its flapping had startled Izzie and she'd let go, whereupon it had flown off, seemingly unscathed. Izzie meanwhile was panting with excitement and looking very pleased with herself. She greeted me ebulliently as I arrived, obviously expecting praise, which she didn't get. However, neither did she get a telling off. After all, she'd only acted instinctively. She's a dog, after all, not a cuddly toy - although it was all too easy to forget that a few minutes later when she was frolicking playfully about with an equally cute and excited labrador puppy.