Well, wish me luck. Tomorrow morning, at the anti-social hour of 8.30am I have to present myself at a strange practice in a strange city to be examined by someone. (Naturally, since I've not been allowed to drive since Jan that entails my wife and the three kids coming along for the ride.)
The charmless and subtly demeaning letter states:
"It will be necessary to remove some clothing for the required level of examination." [Their bold typeface, and in fact, the only bold statement in the letter]. Mmm, sounds kinky. But what do they expect? Do they think I'm going to sew myself into a leather catsuit for the occasion?
"The examination will include a physical examination and taking samples of blood for analysis." I assume they are checking for compliance with medication, substance abuse, etc. Or perhaps they have the special DVLA secret that tells them if your brain is fit simply by looking at your blood.
My psych team are as nonplussed as I am.
Then follows a whole set of hoops.. what to bring, what not to bring, forms to send left right and centre, I have to take "all my medication", my glasses, the details of my GP and Consultant (as if they do not already have them...)
And of course I expect I have to behave neither "up" nor "down" nor "agitated" nor "irritable".
Ok - so last week I spent an awful long time in bed. What else? Read the Idiot. Read A Rebours again. What else? Oh, I remember, I invented a new thing to do when feeling shite: translate Baudelaire! And my French is truly abysmal:
Sans cesse à mes côtés s'agite le Démon; Il nage autour de moi comme un air impalpable; Je l'avale et le sens qui brûle mon poumon Et l'emplit d'un désir éternel et coupable.
Parfois il prend, sachant mon grand amour de l'Art, La forme de la plus séduisante des femmes, Et, sous de spécieux prétextes de cafard, Accoutume ma lèvre à des philtres infâmes.
II me conduit ainsi, loin du regard de Dieu, Haletant et brisé de fatigue, au milieu Des plaines de l'Ennui, profondes et désertes,
Et jette dans mes yeux pleins de confusion Des vêtements souillés, des blessures ouvertes, Et l'appareil sanglant de la Destruction!
— Charles Baudelaire
(Translated, first into 'english', then into English as I saw fit, so call it a 'free' translation.)
Ceaselessly beside me, the Demon stirs; He swims around me like an unfelt breath; Inhaling, the sense that sears my lungs Brims me with longings base and endless.
He sometimes, conscious of my love of Art, Takes the shape of the most seductive women, And under specious pretexts of hypocrisy, Habituates my lips to sordid potions.
He steers me thusly, far from God's sight, gasping And shattered with fatigue, into the midst Of wastes of listlessness, estranged and sighing,
And casts before my agitated eyes The soiled clothes, and open gaping wounds, And all the bloody dressings of Destruction.
Criticism from Baudelaire experts and fluent francophones duly invited.
P.S. Apropos of nothing: the one thing to do is to hang on to what is human, to hang on to the humane in you.
3rd installment for the 'trauma' rubbish research project. 20 minutes of writing. It's a load of shite. Don't bother reading it:
My deepest thoughts. All my thoughts are deep. (Ha ha ha ha). They all pierce down to the blackest pool at the base of my heart. Traumatic. What a pathetic word. Having your hand chopped off for being on the wrong side is traumatic. Our little over-privileged whingings and whinings about our imperfect upbringings are just disgusting really. Easy enough to point fingers, to blame the other, but when all is said and done it all depends on my mood on the day. My mother could be a bad bag of slop, of selfish impulsivity, but then again, aren't we all? On a good day I shrug. Who cares? And as for death, for the wresting away from us of the illusory anchors that we hold dear, well, it happens, will happen, and nothing good ever came of denying it. The point is, the point I think I have been trying to make since I started this ridiculous exercise, is that trauma is all relative. I have had what other people regard as traumatic experiences. Other people again would dismiss my experiences as irrelevant, immaterial. Suffering is relative. Trauma is relative. I do not look back and feel experiences as traumatic. Since I was in my teens, at any rate, I have always been aware of a part of me that greedily slurps up the experience, that wallows in it, enjoys the nuance of the misery of the particular event. No, not enjoys, but 'appreciates'. Not in a classificatory manner necessarily. Perhaps in a comparative fashion. Everything can be new, but it's all the same. Nothing new on earth. I wouldn't say that one hardens to experience, but after a while there is a sense that it washes past, leaving what is important undamaged. Or maybe the part that is undamaged is so badly damaged that new damage cannot damage it further - already it has deliquesed (sp?) to the point that its individual particulates are separate, mere points in a muddy suspension. Shaking the jar doesn't disturb the superficial nature of the soup. I am probably not a very useful subject. If I didn't have three young children then suicide would be a very real choice at times. However, my sense of responsibility - of right - of pride - of stoicism - all a gift from my children - keeps me going. I remember the silly things that changed my world view. All minor stuff that everyone learns along the way: teachers know little, policemen are fascists, judges are bent, businessmen are thieves, politicians are corrupt, the church is full of kiddy-fiddlers, all this is old hat, irrelevant, tedious. We learn these as children, our mouths open, our eyes widen, and then we frown, raise our eyebrows, and carry on, perhaps more warily than before. I believe I have a deep-seated terror of being abandoned. Countering it is a strong self-reliance. I like my own company. I like solitude. Perhaps I've developed those as strategems - coping mechanisms so to speak... Time is running out. What is traumatic at the end of the day? Once you've learned that dying is quite an easy experience - as soon as stuff is out of your hands - as soon as you fall, or lose control, as soon as the world starts whirling round and round and the dirt starts flying and pouring in and the trees make a mad green scribble against the sky... as soon as one learns that life is pretty meaningless and worst of all, the best you're going to get, then the rest of existence can be viewed with grey equanimity. Enjoy it while you can. Relish trauma for the sense of aliveness it bestows. Sooner chop your foot off than shuffle through life a corpse. Pain is undervalued. Suffering is a sauce that makes the bland leaven vivid, zingy, tasty. The hourglass is empty.
edit, if I could write 8 hours a day at that rate and I happened to be Tolstoy I could have knocked off War and Peace in 40 days.... hmmmm. And p.s. the misspelled word was deliquesced.
Today is one of those days where the future seems to have been removed. These days are common these days. The cosmic scissors go snip snip and my brain locks into the stultifying present. I try to make plans: "Tomorrow I shall do this, this afternoon I shall do that," but these intentions feel as unreal as if I were to declare that next week I will pay a visit to Jupiter.
The present tense: the degree of focus, the focus on presentness, the presence of the present: the tighter it gets the more disconcerting and unpleasant it gets. It gets to the point when the present locks down so tightly that it is hard to envisage the destination of a sentence. Words separate.
However, things get done, to a degree. It just feels as if it is chance that achieves them - as if I have no part in them.
A tremendous physical lassitude all day, combined with an appalling lack of concentration. I was trying to read half a page at a time in an instant - result - no comprehension. Ideas like skeins of mermaids' purses - each polyp a new thought, but as my busy fingers pop each bubble the idea flows away, ungraspable, salty, a squirt of tears.
Then this evening went out to play music in Bristol. A quiet night - couldn't get settled, couldn't get the groove. Brain wanting to go faster than seemly. It might sound strange to admit to being capable of playing in public, but I could play if you chopped my legs off to be honest, just to spite you. It's that automatic, that ingrained. It's been my one lifeline over the last months. The one thing I can still do.
Quote for the day:
"To read, to write, the way one lives under the surveillance of the disaster: exposed to the passivity that is outside passion. The heightening of forgetfulness.
"It is not you who will speak; let the disaster speak in you, even if it be by your forgetfulness or silence."
Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster.
(by 'Disaster', Blanchot is talking about the ghastliness of the 20th Century).
The interface of the known and unknown (and I'm not quoting Mr Rumsfeldt)... what was it Wittgenstein said? Something like: "and that we cannot speak of, let us be silent" or something. I'm no expert (sirens, flashing lights, warning) but I take him to mean that we can only think of concepts that are speakable, that have a grammatical coherence that matches the way our brains develop with language and thought. We cannot think the unthinkable, just as we cannot speak the unsayable, and also we can't think the unsayable nor speak the unthinkable, etc, etc, etc, yawn.
However, we can map the shape of the silence, the unthinkable, even if we cannot penetrate it. The breakdown of thought, of structure, of the logos - that point where incoherence begins - we feel tentatively like fumbling blind men and women, trying to orient ourselves, trying to gauge the unknown. Of course the unknown depends on the individual. An impoverished logos is tied to a greater heart of darkness, field of silence, blank space, (insert metaphor of choice here: daytime telly).
What value can we slurp from that recognition of the area of silence, of unthought? First, all words are a form of lying. They simplify reality. The point where words break apart is the boundary where our words fail us: our lies fail us. It is the edge of a kind of truth because it is unsayable. It puts its hand over our mouths and stops our lies. It teaches us our limits - it is our limit. I find a reassurance in knowing that.
I signed up at some research study to do with mental illness and writing or somesuch. I had to write about my most traumatic experience for 20 minutes without a break. What a joke. Follows:
Most traumatic experience? Ha! Where the hell would I start? There are several, and many of them are bad enough to warrant "most" but none stands out as the one - they shift about - how about watching Nuit et Brouillard as a child, and seeing the bulldozers and the sticklimbs of the dead? and my mother explaining the whole process to me, and how I and my brother and my grandmother Nanny who brought me up would be separated from her and and my stepfather on the platform and sent straight to the gas chambers or perhaps for medical experiments while she (o lucky she) and my stepfather would be spared. She was ever the optimist, the stupid bitch. I was about seven or eight I think. It might not have been Nuit et Brouillard, it may have been some BBC documentary. I can't remember.
Or it might have been when Nanny died. She brought me up when my mother divorced the first time. She became a skeleton at the end. I was fourteen.
The Holocaust has coloured my entire life. There is nothing that the human race is incapable of. Disgusting breed of apes.
The death of my youngest brother's twin in utero through the beating administered to my mother by her [then] current lover was fairly traumatic. I went to the train station with a carving knife to travel to the town where he lived so I could kill him. I didn't of course.
This isn't going anywhere very fast. I don't know life is all trauma really - I'm used to it. How has it coloured me? Completely. I have all the hope in the world for people and no expectations of them. I conceal my angst beneath confidence. I am a sentimental fool who overflows with passion at the slightest opportunity.
The second divorce was traumatic too. I remember begging my mother and stepfather to stay together and not to be so stupid. She was off again, sniffing after pastures new. He was defending her side of the argument, the weak fool.
Trauma trauma trauma trauma nearly killing myself last summer was traumatic. I fell forwards off the west front at Salisbury Cathedral, and only saved myself by a last second grab of the parapet as I tipped over. And all that that led to... hmm lost my business nearly my marriage and children... my mind, my freedom, but this is small beer. No, the worst trauma was when my mother left the first time, when I was three. That must be the root of it. What do I recall? Bad explanations delivered by the children that were my parents. They tell me at one point when I was three I asked them if it was me and my baby brother making them so unhappy. So guilt obviously. And now with my own lovely children I hate the idea that I am screwing them up in similar ways. [Deleted].
How has it shaped me? A perfectionist, very bad at rating his own work - I devalue myself as a matter of course. Why not? It's normal.
Manic depression can be traumatic, but it's life and its events that fuck you up properly.
[paragraph deleted for blogpost purposes]
Argh this is all so superficial. It's not helped that I think I can hear the baby wailing in his cot. Un momente. No - just my imagination.
Two minutes left. I've played with suicide too many times over the last twenty years to even know what trauma is any more. I can see the shit in the past, but have gone beyond blame or resentment. Life is shit, but as an overprivileged western bastard kept fat on the flesh of the third world I don't see what I have to complain about. We feast on the misery of others and oh, the clock hath run empty.
edit. I've just been thinking about all this, and thinking of my children, and then thinking of my children again... the eldest is 6. Would I 'enlighten' him to the depravity of his species within the next couple of years? I certainly have a gut reaction against it. But then I started thinking again... how can we see the worth in the most humane if we don't know the most inhumane? Would I have been a bland yet useful drone if I had not been shown what we are capable of?
One thing I don't think I've stated explicitly here: I AM GLAD WHO I AM, MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY. Therefore all talk of trauma is irrelevant.
When writing the above, I forgot one particular traumatic experience, that was an extreme physical shock to my brain, my conception of British society, and that woke me up in a big big way.
On the same day as the London Poll Tax Riot, we had a version in miniature in dear old Cheltenham Spa. The reason being, the Conservative Party Conference was going on at the Town Hall. There were lots of police from the Met up for the occasion. I was about 18, having just left 'home' (ha) a few months before.
We marched, and then we got to the police blockades. We took a circuitous route through to burst through a thin line of police who fell back and there we were in front of the Town Hall. We weren't to know that dear old Thatcher had already left.
Anyway, we shouted and chanted for a couple of hours, and a couple of interesting observations: first the police arrested all the journalists; secondly, one of my housemates turned up, jumped the barrier, and was bundled into a van within the space of a few seconds. He came home eventually black and blue.
But what really really really shocked me was this very large policeman when they all started charging the crowd to make us move off. (There was no tactical reason for it by then, it was getting late, people were hungry, thirsty, starting to drift off, but they decided to impose themselves.) Anyway, we all sat down, linked arms etc, got dragged out of the way, but this very large pig kicked a toddler as hard as he could.
Yes: I'll repeat that: this very large PIG kicked a toddler of perhaps three years old as hard as he physically could, while spitting: "Fucking hippy kid".
I'll never forget that moment. I don't know how badly the child was hurt. Everything was moving about too quickly.
I have problems with dealing with 'authority' - that is my foremost reason. I'd kill that 'man' if I had the chance.
At first, when you get ill, everyone denies it and tries to treat you as normal, the people who care, that is. That is the most healthy and positive way - I believe it gets most people better and going much quicker, most of the time.
The entire system of psychiatry is designed to plunge the 'sufferer' into stasis, because 'action' might be dangerous.
It is a social, cultural, chemical and at times literal straitjacket.
It is insidious, invidious and vile. I am sick of being treated as if I was sick.
All treatment, from the way the drugs screw you up to the subtleties of social interactions all try to contain and choke the so-called sufferer and keep them in an imaginary box. The interior of that box is all wallpapered with negative messages.
It pits the individual against everyone from one's nearest and dearest to those one has never met.
I've got to refute that box. It's only there if I allow them to continue to make me believe in it.
There is nothing as debilitating as coming to believe in your own debilitation.
People feel they should be 'doing something'. Well the best policy I believe is leave well alone in most cases, and merely treat the individual with the respect and trust you would accord to anyone not putatively labelled as 'ill'.
Sometimes concern becomes assault.
I've decided I have to find a job. Something interesting. Anything. I must get my life back from these bastards.
For hire: me. Go anywhere, do anything. Terms and conditions apply.
I've been a corpse today, a corpse with a fireball head.
I rarely end up immobile. Mood has been plummeting all day. And I've just watched The Bicycle Thieves for the first time, and can't stop crying.
It's been building all day. Perhaps I watched a sad film on purpose. Usually sad films have the opposite effect.
But I'm just a hunch tonight. I'm an infold. I'm a piece of paper scrunched into as tight a ball as a hand can crush.
I'm forcing myself to write each word to make myself unfold.
I hate my own unresponsiveness when people try to help - when all you want to say is "Go away! Let me suffer in peace."*
"And if there is one hellish, truly accursed thing in our time, it is our artistic dallying with forms, instead of being like victims burnt at the stake, signalling through the flames." Antonin Artaud.
* - The chopped up prose is to illustrate the quote. Not poetry. My god, no.
"When I carefully seek out, in deepest anguish, some strange absurdity, an eye opens at the top, in the middle of my skull. This eye opening up onto the sun in all its glory, to contemplate it in its nakedness, privately, is not the work of my reason: it is a cry escaping from me. For at the moment when the flash blinds me I am the splintering brilliance of a shattered life, and this life - agony and vertigo - opening up onto an infinite void, bursts and exhausts itself all at once in this void."
I eat well - I keep in touch with the friends who haven't proved themselves prejudiced lightweight wankers - I keep fit - I even shave every day or so - I just can't stop my fucking head exploding.
God - just give me the tv wankers who made that - just five minutes - where's my smithfields meatcleaver? Only joking!!!
ARGGGHHH! ----------------- edit:
Dear -------, please could you direct the following towards the individuals responsible for this repugnant tv advertisement.
I have just viewed the said commercial on the Guardian website and I am utterly disgusted. There is enough stigma out there without this sort of dreadful stereotyping. For goodness sake! Some of us actually look dapper, keep active and eat with our mouths closed! It is so loaded with negative projections about the mentally ill that it is almost impossible to know where to start. But in a nutshell, ill = sad disgusting slob; well = successful family man. That is precisely the sort of false dichotomy the mentally ill have to fight against all the time.
I'm sorry to send this via you, but you were the contact on the mhf site article.
I look forward to a response.
I am also sending a complaint to the ASA, something I have never even dreamed I would ever do in my life. Seriously, I am really, really shocked and disgusted.
Yours, Abysmal Musings, (not of Tunbridge Wells, but by god I feel like moving there). ----------------- edit again:
Christ, there are more films by them: http://www.wellbeingeast.co.uk/tvfilms.php5 I can't stomach this patronising shit. It reminds me of that scene from Pasolini's Salo. It would be comical, if it wasn't such pernicious pestilential crap. --------------- yet more:
"It is a deeply prejudicial advertisement that incites bias against the mentally ill through negative stereotyping.
"It is so loaded with negative projections about the mentally ill that it is almost impossible to know where to start. But in a nutshell, mentally ill = sad disgusting slob; mentally well = successful family man. That is precisely the sort of false dichotomy the mentally ill have to fight against all the time.
"If an ethnic minority was substituted for the mentally ill, the advertisement would be illegal."
the turned back wall-obscured munching, anything could be - the intersection of incompatible universes, phenomenologies, madnesses - oh suffer the little children the babes and the watering cans pouring water chaotically, drench, baptism of entropy but the good will is there we have become matter and antimatter, deadliness, but today this morning we were together twice better than nailsworth our worst is too far removed our best too close I have more than striven to no purpose through black hurricanes and white poison my claptrap snaps may the toad that lurks in the wall and the dashes of rooks against the evening day and the stooped trees in the leaning wind preserve me from the winter coming - representation through the logos - dead - joyce the end of writing? representation is a corpse the word is the cadaver of speech to paraphrase artaud - ambiguity is the essence of reality - clash of phenomenologies - story is bunk
edit. ok I'm going to bed now.
extra edit - my brain is fizzing a little. An alka seltzer dropped in a glass. No more. Today has been good. It has been our 18th anniversary of being together. A marvellous meal was ate. Things are splendid. I am a lucky man and I am so lucky and very privileged to realise that the next anniversary we'll have been together for half my life.
Why am I surfing a brainstorm though? Go to bed!!! I've never surfed in my life. All the waters and and the rocks that waters have ever flowed over are bursting like flowers in my head tonight. Ohhhhhhhhh go to bed. It's happiness I think. I'm happy. As the proverbial larry. Pop goes the weasel. Seize the moments of happiness when they seize you.
But hell, now it is gone four six and I'm still tap tap tapping tap tap tapping and I must go to bed.
So night. (do not assume the cessation of typing means I have actually gone to bed - it merely means I'm taking this particular mindless stimulant out of the equation). Night.
The damn apple tree has started escalating (ejaculating?) the apple throwing vendetta. I was having a perfectly innocent and innocuous ciggie when SPLAT and an apple fell an inch from my foot and rolled to touch me. The tree swayed, dismissively. In a flash, I stooped and flung the said apple back at the tree, and I gave that tree such a tongue-lashing I hope it feels sore, or at least, if apple-trees have ears, they are burning. Then it had the temerity to drop a big one about three feet away. It was a warning. It rustled in a menacing manner. I gave it the vees and decided discretion was the better part, etc, so went indoors before it decided to seize me in its gnarly boughs and bugger the living daylights out of me. Its overburdened apply boughs soughed and sighed mockingly as I shut the door.
Strange though. The thought of telling a tree where to get off is quite natural for my wider family. Perhaps explains why many of them are still fervent Catholics. Similar mindset.
As for me, I can switch and chop and spin and change from "it's a tree" to "it's a bloody tree that has it in for me" in a second. I don't take any of this seriously though, so don't take it seriously either.
I think I love Tarkovsky because he is a self-professed Apollonarian*, perhaps more through desire than design; and I have just too much of the Dionysiac in my nature. We yearn after the opposite for the sake of balance.
If you don't know the seven films he made, then watch them. Here is my order of merit:
Mirror Stalker Andrei Rublov Offret Solaris Nostalgia Ivan's Childhood
* "As for the words, the phrases, with which we communicate - and this applies to art - they ought to be divested of all trace of passion. It is in the nostalgia that we feel for the Olympian principle, for its coldness, its classical sobriety, that resides the magic, the secret, of the great metaphysical masterpieces."
"When I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my revolver." Was it Goering said that? I can't remember. However, I know the quote, and can fire off an attribution. Whoever it was though, was wrong.
Culture is the finest mould that ever grew on the human condition. If we think of how hard, materially, it is for a 'culture' to develop 'Culture' - how many fields of wheat, how many dead - then we start to realise just how much literal blood, sweat and tears has been invested in the dying flower that we call, even now, 'culture'.
God died a long time ago. The only spirituality that still resonates resides in the conscience. Culture is the language of conscience.
Culture is a toolbox for the expression of ideas, concepts, and the actuation of doing good to others. It is also more than that.
Culture is the aspiration of humankind to become better.
My six year old sat through the whole of Solaris with me this evening - not the Clooney piece of fluff - I mean the original three hour Tarkovsky epic. Not only was he engaged, but he was interested by the themes of meaning, love, nostalgia etc, and asked plenty of emotionally astute questions. I was just trying to hide my own emotion (Tarkovsky always gets me).
(p.s. we have that picture on the wall - the boys were chuffed to recognise it)
Other news, have converted the altar (yes, a real altar - that used to be in a church where my grandfather was curate coincidentally, and made by the firm that did the woodwork in the Titanic) into useful storage. The lid hinges up, and it has two levels of shelving inside. And put a lot of pictures up too.
Anything else? Been feeling reasonably ok since back on the meds. The flaming head is dying down which is good news. The recent out of the blue suicidal thinking has been knocked out of touch again thank goodness - nothing like a month free of it to realise how irrational and bizarre it is to have these thoughts continually intruding. No tears (Tarkovsky aside). The world and environment is not quite as disconcerting as it has been recently.
It is slowly seeping into my cranium, the sheer weight of small accumulated kindnesses that have been coming my way over the months. Buying a round is a struggle of tactics that would make Caesar blush. The pouches of tobacco that have been thrust into my pockets are many. I suppose what goes around comes around. I prefer to be always on the 'giving' side of the equation. Perforce I'm now on the 'taking' side. What really tugs my heartstrings is the subtlety and naturalness of the gifts: I've not once been made to feel beholden nor guilty.
This marvellous reflection on my friends reflects back on me also - I only know good and kind people, and have made a habit of it for many years. I can't abide meanness. Generosity is my middle name. If there was a St Generosity and I had been confirmed, I'd have taken that one in retrospect.
Well, here is my little public homage to all of those who have been behind the scenes doing me kindness - they'll never read this unless by accident. I let them know I appreciate them, though.
So lo, the pail roe, tonneditty of the son pisses the ruthskillet altruists of the bows. Wrukesand Jack: doors' croak creak sandarach across the hearths guys, Criss Pedro, the knewglass of thich ill-mourning. The cack coffee knee of dreesh mal buoys in phil (welcome fishcission) terrates berates dislocates corrugates coruscates. Send it back oracle, paddling currently pun the twistering waive lets with hissing nets and the me agreeable shit fish - all wished out, whist, peas at last, all cobblers' terror tories. Smoke in po' ates axe septs th'air (oh too intorporeal!) baccy lorry at supper hand gropes hemp twist for grip - valiant valise - oh mortuapoint, fine dit, 's peach.*
Yes I am all right. Just the morning skimming of the sleep-sludge from the brainpan.
* Now if I can only find a rich patroness to support me on the strength of having already written Dubliners, Portrait and Ulysses for the next seventeen years, I'll be sorted.
And if I laugh at any mortal thing, 'Tis that I may not weep; and if I weep, 'Tis that our nature cannot always bring Itself to apathy, which we must steep First in the icy depths of Lethe's spring Ere what we least wish to behold will sleep; Thetis baptized her mortal son in Styx; A mortal mother would on Lethe fix.
~ George Gordon Noel Byron ~ Don Juan, Canto IV, 4.
It is thus that the few rare lucid well-disposed people who have had to struggle on the earth find themselves at certain hours of the day or night in the depth of certain authentic and waking nightmare states, surrounded by the formidable suction, the formidable tentacular oppression of a kind of civic magic which will soon be seen appearing openly in social behavior. - Antonin Artaud