the brilliantly leaping gazelle

Aren’t we all a bit Roy?

It’s not that I want to die. I don’t, in fact I positively resent the fact that at some point, I’ll no longer be. I reckon everyone feels that or rather I can’t imagine under which circumstances you’d think otherwise, well at least once anyway. Possibly when you first realise it and it remains the most unfortunate of facts about being alive that one day it will all end for us, and that the world will barely notice. We all have an expiry date, all of us, so no matter what we do or don’t achieve in life, no matter if our childhood dreams were dashed or surpassed, no matter how much we exercise, adopt a healthy diet or give up this and do that, sooner or later we die.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to have achieved some level of success in one field or another and if this success has made you famous, then tributes will be forthcoming, various famous and not so famous people will tweet something about how they feel saddened, and your death will be mourned by some for a day at most. Andy Warhol said that everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes and now, thanks to social media and the Internet they can be. Whereas in the pre-internet days the death of a singer who had a one hit wonder four or five decades ago would have unreported, now it makes headlines and they are lauded as some great loss to the musical firmament. As if the prove my point, there’s news on the BBC that the writer of ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ has died because of coronavirus. Mmm. A B –side, favoured by radio DJ’s which later became a hit for other people.

And when I write mourning I don’t mean the inconsolable grief of mascara tears down the face and being drunk or off your tits kind of mourning, I mean the think about them for a bit, maybe watch /listen to something of theirs on youtube for a while kind of mourning. How long it lasts depends on how affected by their death you are. If you have some records of theirs, you might play them. If you old films of theirs you might watch them.

Anyway, for most people, the vastest of vast majorities, our deaths will go largely unnoticed. Things will continue on in the own merry way. The sun will still rise everyday, it won’t feel oddly discombobulated by your death and refuse to presage a new day. Nor will the waves cease their ebb and flow. And that’s how it should be. Indeed whenever I’m by the sea and think of this, I find it a comforting thought, that it is only our species that view life as so important. Lions don’t. Tortoises don’t. Tuna don’t.

It’s the moment just before death that scares me though. Ever since I was a young boy and knew I was going to die, I’d sometimes lay awake in my bed at night staring really intently into the absolute nothing of black of my room, just trying to imagine what it must be like. Even now, I can’t sleep in a completely dark room..

What you mean you never did that? Seriously? Do you expect anyone with an I.Q larger than their waist measurement to believe that ever since you found out that you were not an eternal, you never once wondered what is felt like? Even as a child? The relentless nothingness of everything? It fascinated me for hours as a child.  You never found Roy’s speech at the end of ‘Blade Runner’ curiously affecting? I know I did.

 

That moment just before you die, when you know it’s an inevitable certainty, when you van feel the life within you slowly drain away. That’s what I fear most. The terrifying finality of it, the knowledge that all my memories, everything that made me me will be gone in a few moments, that’s what scares the shit out of me. That’s what I dread. I’d like to think I’d be stoic, say something witty or profound, but I fear that I’ll scream like a six year old girl that people who were there might think ‘Thank fuck he’s finally dead, that was just embarrassing. Good job he was dying anyway, because if he’d have seen himself carrying on like that, he’d have died of shame.’

 

Anyway, here’s ‘The Faming Lips’ and their wonderfully apt ‘Do you realize?’

I could care less, but only if I really, really tried.

Right now, as I type these words, I am holed up in my bedroom for the simple reason that I can’t tell if I’ve suddenly been overcome with an episode of depression or if it’s a particularly low mood. Either way, I do what I always do in these situations, which is to remove myself from the society of other people and wait for it to pass, the sooner the better. I’ve always been selfish with these, unlike some people I’ve known, who all of a sudden become quite selfless and want everyone else to have their share of unhappiness. They don’t stint, and they make sure everyone gets some.

This bout came over me as I was standing at the kitchen sink and doing the washing up after having made LMS and I porridge for breakfast. As soon as the fun element of breakfast was over – the eating bit- she ran off to her room to watch something on something. And as I was washing up, I became aware of three things, the first of which was more pertinent to my immediate situation, namely that the draining rack was piled high with things, so one was forced to play a kind of reverse kitchenware Jenga, where you try to find places to put things without the whole lot collapsing and smashing around you.

The second, is the fact that this self-isolation or social distancing, call them what you will, they both amount to basically the same thing for lots of people. Sure, a lot more will find this a new, unsettling and disorienting experience. But to many, a sudden loss of contact with friends and the inevitable reduction in social interactions and activities this entails, in effect the removal of all vibrant colour from your life until all that remains is dark, is a reality they’ve had to accept for years, decades in some cases.

So I’ve got no time whatsoever for people who bitch and complain about the temporary inconvenience of their isolation. It’s for their own good, it isn’t a permanent state of affairs, and it wasn’t suddenly foisted on them by a series of unfortunate events in their lives. I just think ‘Are you taking the fucking piss?’ Because it seems to me as if they are, as if they’ve suddenly realized what the everyday reality of life is like for people, who, for whatever reason, have fallen through the cracks in society. It’s only been less than a month and they’ve had enough.

After my brain injury, all but two of my friends vanished, not immediately, not all in one go, but over time and when it became apparent to them that me reverting back to the old me wasn’t going to happen, they did. I feel like emailing them and asking them how it feels, asking them what they’re doing with their day, what their social calendar looks like now. How if, after this rude awakening, will they join a befriending service, volunteer to visit the housebound, do something to help reduce someone’s isolation, having a brief taster of it themselves. Or, will they resume where they left off before this unfortunate hiatus interrupted their ordered lives?

Right, some music therapy. Sustained and loud music therapy!

Well that was the plan. LMS has just dashed that plan, by dashing in to the sitting room excited and talkative. Goody-gum drops!

 

Joggers? They can jog off!

The news that Boris’s Johnson has got coronavirus, weeks after boasting that he’d shaken hands with a coronavirus patient was nearly as surprising as my walk this morning where I discovered that my definition of lockdown isn’t universally shared. In fact, it seems that everyone has their own definition, based largely, it seems, on everyone’s needs, which handily for them, changes from day to day.

This is the only possible explanation that accounts that the park, far from being essentially deserted, was as busy as it might be on any other Saturday morning. Albeit with a few less yummy-mummy’s with prams, it has to be written. But other than that? No. What in name of sanity and self-preservation is wrong with these people, joggers being by quite a wide margin the worst offenders?

What with all their deep breathing and wheezing as they do it – never a pleasant sound at the best of times, and these are far from being the best of times – now they sound like what the are; mobile health hazards We don’t know yet exactly how coronavirus is transmitted. Remember how in the early days of AIDS, there was all this nonsense about how you could catch it from sharing a glass of water, from a toilet seat, or by breathing the same air as an AIDS sufferer? But eventually science prevailed and we learnt how actually it was transmitted, through bodily fluids – a charmingly polite euphemism – and blood.

It has been the same story with all diseases. Eventually science discovers the ways in which a disease is transmitted, but as yet, we don’t know for certain either way if it has an air-borne transmission capability. I don’t know, the joggers don’t know and my housemate who was in the park with me and has good cause to be concerned for her health, most certainly doesn’t. In time we’ll know, but now, given we don’t, exercising prudence – she needs to get out more – by not exercising would seem the only sensible thing to do.

Because these are times when the individual has to subsume their own needs for the good of the collective, where activities that previously brooked only a response of ‘Is he sure about wearing Lycra? He looks like a bin bag full of yoghurt.’, now are deeply anti-social, if not actually borderline criminal. I mean, it’s all well and good the police stopping motorists to question them about their journey and if the answer isn’t satisfactory, to fine them but what about joggers? They present a far more immediate threat of infection to a far greater number of people than motorists. But, in this media age, front page ‘photo’s of police checkpoints conveys the sense that ACTION is being taken to combat the spread of the disease, rather than just create the impression that something is being done.

And garages! Why are they still open? Not petrol stations, the ones that do M.O.T’s, hidden away in side streets and located almost always under railway arches. I mean come the forthcoming exodus from London, everyone will want their car in good working order. That’d be the last thing you’d need, with your car packed with food and toilet rolls and a route out of London that you’ve programmed into the Sat-Nav and uses only minor roads -the yellow roads on maps – not the ‘B’ roads like everyone else, for it to breakdown. In that respect it’s the same as a printer which works perfectly well when all you’re doing is printing off ‘amusing’ pictures of cats that look like Hitler, but when you need a copy of your C.V printed off so you can catch the last post and apply for a job you want, it decides then, when you need it most – or least – to inexplicably stop working. You have no idea why and that only adds to your frustration. Imagine that frustration multiplied by infinity and then add, for good measure a couple of unhappy children in the back, shouting and screaming at each other and a partner whose this close, this close, to committing acts of sustained violence on your person.

My housemates have already bought two jerry cans that they’ve had filled with petrol. That was couple of weeks ago, back in the olden days, when I naively thought they were being all ’28 Days Later’. However when earlier this week they bought a roof bag for the car; I thought ‘You could get a lot in that.’

But in a brighter note, here’s a ‘photo of the scene that greeted my house-mate as she arrived down to breakfast this morning; me and LMS slurping the last of our porridge.

IMG_1747

Mucking about. More important now than ever.

More cynical than usual, this one..

If you’re reading this post, then quite possibly you’ve read some of my other one’s and so what follows won’t come as a wholly unexpected surprise.

Last night at 8pm people gathered on their doorstep or balcony to shout, cheer and clap their support for the NHS and other emergency staff who have steadfastly remained doing their job of keeping us safe and well whilst we stay indoors. As is the modern way of these things, this was initiated and rapidly spread on social media. It even, I found out later, had a name, ‘ Clap for Carers’. I mean, I know the NHS is fucked and all but really? What next, ‘Syphilis for Scientists’? My housemates were going to do it and at 7.55pm, when they told me about it, it was the first I’d heard about it. Was I going to join in, they asked?

I thought about it for, maybe all of fraction of a millisecond before I said ‘No’. With curiosity possibly tinged with a hint of disapproval, they asked why. I could’ve said it would be more meaningful of people had instead of shouting, had donated a packet of toilet paper. A two-roll ‘savers’ pack, not a thick quilted 4 ply Andrex, obviously. Lets not go made here! Or gone online to a medical supplies store and ordered some face masks or protective clothing, and have it sent to their nearest hospital. Or cooked a properly healthy and nourishing meal, put it some Tupperware and gifted it to a police station so they don’t have to eat the normal take-away shit they do when on shift.

I could’ve said that as a rule, I tend not to partake in most communal things such as this for the very simple reason that the only people it benefits are the people who participate in it. They get to feel virtuous; they feel as if they’ve done something, even if they’re not quite sure what that something was. But the main thing is, they did it and that’s something. The people who are meant to take something – again with the something! – from it, get nothing.

Sure the cheering and clapping lasted until people got cold and went back indoors. Oh, not forgetting the feedback loop of social media, which helps create it, allows people to report on it while it’s happening and then post pictures and films of them doing it afterwards and to share with others who’ve done exactly the same. And the newspapers, who play an increasingly irrelevant role now, but who report on it AS A GOOD THING, and reinforce the idea to their readers that something that had any actual effect on anything actually happened. They were all at it this morning. But aside from that, aside from collective onanism on a massive scale, a virtue signalling gesture as empty as the pasta shelves at Sainsbury’s, they got nothing.

Not in any practical way. It was – to me at any rate – the equivalent of when a work colleague you barely know, finds out your suffered a bereavement, and says “ If there’s anything I can do to help, just call me’ You both know it’s bollocks. But it’s socially sanctioned bollocks. But that’s not easy to get across in a pithy riposte. Not when you’ve a speech impediment anyway.

So instead I settled for the obvious – to me anyway – answer, “It’d make more sense,” I said “ if they just shouted ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore’.” If some tumbleweed had blown across the room at that very moment, shocked I would not have been.

Reading this through, I’m struck by how incredibly cynical I am. It doesn’t make me wrong though and it isn’t a recent affectation either. At any point in my life since I was a teenager if you’d have presented me with the exact same scenario, you’d have got a broadly similar response. Not exactly the same, as my cynicism has been informed by contact with other humans over many, many years. For me to think any way, therefore, would be insane.

As much fun as being a eunuch at an orgy!

I’ve just had an extremely gratifying experience with a nine-year-old girl. Those thoughts you’re having? Proof that you have mind like a sewer!

LMS and I were outside in the garden, enjoying the sunshine and bemoaning the fact that her timetable for home schooling doesn’t, as far as I can tell, have any breaks for fun. There’s fitness with Joe Wicks at 10, maths with Carol Voderman at 11, English with David Williams at 12, dancing with Darcey Bissell at 1…and on it goes. When I was at primary school, it was all making things out of balsa wood, country dancing, kiss chase in the playground and then a kick about after school on the green. There was no homework, well not if you count watching the ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ so you could pretend to be Steve Austin the next day in the playground as homework. Last night she was talking about the Vikings doing something on Holy Island. Last moth it was the Egyptians and hieroglyphics. She’s 9 F.F.S!

Anyway, her Mum bough me out some tea. I took a sip. And put it down. It was a defective cup of tea. LMS looked at me. “There’s no sugar in it.” I said wearily, “and a cup of tea without sugar in it, well that isn’t a cup of tea.” She offered to get some, out of politeness I thought or more likely she knows I’ve got a stash of Kit-Kats somewhere, so I was taken aback when she said, after I declined, “No, your life depends on it.” And as she hotfooted it back into the house, I thought ‘Ah, my work here is done!’

It was almost enough to banish the awful memory that was yesterday, specifically shopping at my local Sainsbury’s. Sensibly, they’d decided to initiate an hour’s early opening for the elderly, the disabled and NHS staff. In fact, if you were all three, you got a free 24 pack of toilet roll, well that was the rumour doing the rounds in the queue anyhow. Obviously their own ‘Basics’ one, nothing quality. And what a queue it was! Everyone standing what they thought was 2 metres apart and as it moved closer to the entrance, so more people put masks on. A good idea I thought, as some of them made Freddy Krueger look like a model, so hideously grotesque they were. Why can’t ugly people be made to wear masks all the time, to protect us from them befouling our eyes?

Inside it was eerily functional, no looking at the labels to see the sugar or salt content, no loitering in the aisles idly pondering on whether it was organic or not, free-trade, free range, ethically produced or not. None of that visible display of how right on, and superior one is to everyone else, how you’d much rather be shopping in Waitrose but there isn’t one nearby with a car park. None of that! That had gone as fast as the dried pasta. It was a deeply unnerving experience. Soulless. As I remarked afterwards it was as much fun as being a eunuch at an orgy.

The one redeeming feature was a woman I spotted, with her hair scraped back and rolled up on one side at the back. It was the parting in her hair that was so captivating. It was so neat, so straight and so precise. It was as if she signaling that yes, whilst things are bad, with worse possibly to come, nonetheless they weren’t that bad that she was going to stop making the effort.

Fancy a quickie?

I know it’s a facile point, but it cheered me right up when I thought of it and hopefully it will do the same for you. Although hopefully not as much as it did me, because otherwise you’d be as demented a wrongcock as wot I am.

Those 105,000 Tory party members who elected Boris’s Johnson Prime Minister must be feeling quite pleased with themselves right about now, given they how foisted a unelected buffoon on us, but seeing how they tend to be older than most, the chances of the grim reaper reaping what they’ve sown is pleasingly ironic.

The drugs do work, the problem is, they’re the wrong kind of drugs!

One of the main problems with this whole self-isolation malarkey is the potentially disastrous effect on people’s mental health and the potential for mass murder on a truly epic scale. Basically you’ve got thousands upon thousands of familial pressure cookers up and down the land, and the longer this self-isolation continues the more the pressure will build up, and eventually something will have to give.

Why am thinking of ‘The Purge’?

Be that as it may, it’s my mental health I want to write about and this desire so to do was bought on by me rather sensibly going through my drug medication to see what I had. You know, to make sure I had enough. Like I wrote, sensible. But as I was doing so I suddenly realized what the drugs were, and I thought ‘How times change.’ Because there they all were, the anti-depressants and blood pressure one’s, all prescribed, all perfectly legal and nothing recreational. It seems to me that we need recreational drugs now more than ever. Well when I write ‘we’ I mean me. I’d quite happily take a gram or an ounce of your share, if for some unfathomable reason you didn’t want yours. Some tea made with magic mushrooms? That’d take the edge of anything. Add a cheeky teenth to well…anything. What about a livener?

I was thinking about how much better things are when recreational drugs are involved earlier on today, when I passed by a young man leaning against a car smoking an impressively large spliff. As some women say, it wasn’t the length of it that mattered, but the width. And the smell, oh the smell, the unmistakable aroma of skunk. Never has a drug been so well named. I wanted to stand downwind of him, to linger and breathe in what I’ve been missing for so long, I really wanted to, but he looked like the kind of chap who wouldn’t bother with asking questions.

Because my brain injury has fucked my fine motor skills, whilst rolling a joint would be an achievement, I didn’t think it wise to have it as one of my goals in my funding review statement for social services. I don’t think they’d look favourably on it if I put ‘One of my goals is to roll a tidy looking joint, one made up of three King Size Rizla’s with a ratio of two parts Drum tobacco to one part skunk, generously and evenly spread throughout, with not too much of a roach’ I can’t see them going for it, much less funding it, can you?

No, now my mental health, or rather the thing that keeps it going off the rails completely is my housemate’s nine year old daughter, Little Miss Sunshine (LMS). As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, her effect on my mental health has been the exact opposite of the numerous talking therapies and anti-depressants. There are no words to convey the certain knowledge that the banging on your bedroom door at nine am accompanied by her saying “Get up, get up, I want to play,” won’t stop until you do. It’s wonderful.

Her unshakeable belief in the fact there could be nothing I’d rather be doing than playing with her is endearing. And not too far off the mark, actually. I find her endlessly entertaining, possibly because she see’s me as ‘Mr. Fun’, a benefit of not having to do the more onerous tasks that a parent has to. Last night being a case in point. We were having a communal meal and LMS was sitting next to me. She eventually grew bored of all this boring adult conversation, and rolled up her sleeve. Her father asked her in a tone that said ‘you’d better not be up to no good’ ”What are you doing?” I knew only too well what was about to happen and had just managed to turn my head when she blew the most magnificent sounding raspberries on her arm.

I know it’s not big, I know it’s not clever, but the sound of a fart, especially one that sounds like a Harley Davison starting up, well that’s’ just funny and so I almost managed to stifle a laugh. Almost. A laugh would’ve been better, not the sound an old balloon makes when you let the air out of it in fits and starts. Her parents, as expected, upbraided her for this and our other housemate Paul wryly observed, “Well it doesn’t help if she’s got a big kid sitting next to her.”

Actually, I think that’s exactly what she needs and I need her to be a small kid for exactly the same reason that the government today announced that off-licenses would be classed as essential and allowed to stay open. The last thing the government wants is people going up the walls and having no safety valve. It’s not that you’d want drink necessarily, but not having the choice? The same with me and LMS sort of, inasmuch as her boundless capacity for mucking about is exactly what I need in these uncertain times. Some mucking about. A much overlooked quality in people, I’ve found, mucking about.

Needed more than ever, I’d say.

Finally!A practical use for poetry books!

The self-isolating precaution that we are collectively taking as a household will invariably require certain sacrifices to be made, some temporary curtailment of the norms of everyday life, things we take for granted, for the common good.

I must practice saying that in a sincere voice. This is only day two so there’s every chance I might manage it, in much the same way is it assumed that by constant practising of one’s meditation techniques enables one to attain a calmer equilibrium.

The other night I was treated to a piece of information….’treated’ is on refection the wrong word, because you know that feeling you have when you are told something but wish you hadn’t heard it because you can’t ever unknow it?

It was one of them.

Without going in to graphic detail, the subject was of bottom hygiene, more specifically how one dealt with it. It truly is an indication of how fucked up things are that this seemed a wholly natural thing to be discussing.

It was something of a revelation to learn that one of my housemates practiced the ‘broccoli floret’ method whereby they gather a bunch of toilet paper in the hand like a broccoli floret and introduce this to the area concerned.

I shit you not!

Others however, professed to being adherents of the altogether less wasteful method of folding half the amount of sheets needed for the ‘broccoli method’ flat, folding them over again, and then wiping. This method also has the advantage of affording you the opportunity to wipe again, if needed by just carefully fold it the other way and repeating the process. In these times of a toilet paper shortage any other way seems extremely profligate. Mind you, the shelves in the toilet positively groan under the sheer weight of poetry books, and their groaning is far more colourful, far more immediately understandable than the poetry. I have suggested that the poetry books may have finally come into there own. Oddly enough, this wasn’t greeted as enthusiastically as I’d hoped

Who said poetry has no practical application? I suppose it’s all about how and where you apply it.

What is what and who is who?

Boris’s Johnson has this evening just announced drastic curtailments of individual liberties that he hopes will be successful in preventing a spread of the virus. The why’s and wherefore’s of what he has done, whether or not they are the right package of measures for right now or indeed, could more have been done earlier to prevent this evenings announcement, well others better paid than me will have their view. So will the twaterarti.

I’ll just confine myself – literally – to a few juvenile observations.

This thing about only going out for one bit of exercise per day raises questions. How long is one bit of exercise? Is there an upper time limit? What counts as exercise?

Who enforces all of these measures? The police, whose numbers have been cut, but belatedly restored as an election bribe? The army, whose own recruitment problems are not as well known – well not in the public consciousness anyway – but just as concerning? And what of the NHS, specifically staffing levels and the drain of EU staff returning home?

Who exactly is vulnerable? I mean, we all are, ultimately, from death, either by this or something else. So who decides?

I know. Juvenile.

 

 

 

Hong Kong Fluey

I know I’m a demented wrongcock, I get that, and what with the state of things, I should try to be less of one, but I’m congenitally incapable of so doing. An example of this occurred earlier on today, when I was out being bothered by other people bring bothersome. And it struck me that the new obsession everyone has with wearing face-masks to avoid catching the virus will prove somewhat difficult to do in Hong Kong, where covering the face was banned recently by the authorities there in an effort to crack down on anti-government protests.