Another Brick Out Of The Wall.

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It’s a little hazy. The photograph has lost its clarity. The time has lost its surety. We have all become a little vague in the snapshot of history.

Back then history was being created. The iron fist of Soviet imperialism and ideological subjugation had run its course and the real world was breaking through. Western democracy was drawing out the poison from a totalitarian regime and, along the way, freeing its people to participate in its dream of meritocracy. The world was safe.

I heard that the creative arts fell back somewhat after the wall came down. Writers, painters, poets and dancers suddenly lived in a world that was free. The thing that had covered their skies for so long was now no more. There was, for the masses, that thing called freedom. The Soviet was no more. Life could only get better.

So, in came the nineties. Some of the older despots were pushed into retirement. new politicians took the stage and the people were their audience. Things were possible. There was a chance to marry materialism to socialism. Not only could we be well-off, we could be well-intentioned. Old conflicts such a Northern Ireland were negotiated towards a peace-deal and Protestants and Catholics stopped killing each other.

For a short time there appeared to be hope. We could move forward as a world, destroy inequalities, learn from past mistakes. The wall had truly come down and we were free to simply be.

And yet we can’t be without our blanket of economic security, no matter how flimpsy that protection really is. Another Wall Street. Another crash. And all that was good with the world was gone. From hope to despair within three short decades.

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And we all ought to stop and think about how much this is all worth. As people break through borders to find new hope. As countries rebuild borders to keep them out. As America builds borders with its neighbours.

What is it all worth?

The Piper 13

It’s here…

Read After Burnout

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Laura snaked along with the gathering evening traffic on her way to Pete’s nursery. She was still shaking somewhat as she entered the room in which Peter was sitting watching a colourful children’s programme with people dressed up as various farm animals.

He looked mildly bored, but spun around to meet her before she was even through the door. At times, he seemed to have an antenna that alerted him to her presence.

“Are we having a treat tonight Mum?”

“Yes, we are. How did you guess?”

“I dreamt it.”

The push around the supermarket had been anything but enjoyable. Lots of wet people, angry at the fact that winter had caught them. There was tension in the air which translated into a number of fractious exchanges at the checkouts. Laura kept her head down and spoke softly to her son.

Peter was singing to himself. He put his thought…

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Exercise and Exorcise

Sunday morning has come around again; much too quickly. It came with two possibilities: a passive, meaningless stretch of twenty-four hours or a moment seized and gently squeezed of its goodness. We chose the latter.

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After a two year battle with the world, I appear to be content. Contentment is so different from its superficial cousin, happiness. Contentment doesn’t wear a showy smile. Contentment doesn’t belly laugh. Contentment doesn’t leave without warning, leaving a grey vacuum that swallows the pain of having to live without it.

Contentment just is.

So here is me, content. And this morning, to build upon this feeling of being here, we went for a run in the countryside. We being my lovely wife and me.

To start with, as we drove to our route, we chunterred a little about aspects of our lives. Our middle daughter has completed her A Levels and has put off university for a year. She now sits with her smartphone, sits and sits. Her bedroom is the stuff left by hurricanes and her mother is reaching the end of her patience. My wife’s workplace is undergoing change (the type of change that has become the byword and trite idealogy of educational institutions, “We must get better and better!”). She is feeling the stress from that and I, having gone through my own psychological wildfire, am on hand to offer a comforting  perspective.

As soon as we reached the area for our run, the world began to lift.

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It’s a difficult run but so rewarding. Up and up and up with calves straining against the effort. A desire to stop to ease the rapid breathing but a continuation in order to reach the top. Once there, the panorama is reward enough.

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We run in a rough circle that takes us along trails in fields and ones in woods. It is the woods that I most like. There is a stillness about so many trees so close together. They stand and watch our passage without comment. On more than one occasion I have been on the receiving end of an arboreal prank with hidden routes reaching up from the ground to catch the toe of my trainers and send me on a slow-motion tumble. Now, I keep an eye on them.

When our run has brought us full circle we are allowed to descend the steep climbs and make our way back to the car that is parked up by one of the most picturesque churches one could wish to see.

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Fully evercised and fully exorcised, we are content.

The Moon and Masturbation

EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT!

Luna gives the adjective lunaticus. This appears in the Vulgate (405) of the Dalmatian Christian writer Saint Jerome (Eusebius Hieronymus, 348–420) as an epithet for “a moon-struck” person, whence “crazed, insane, lunatic.” It was used of epilepsy, from the notion that the seizures were precipitated by moonlight. The paroxysmal nature of the disease was thought to be dependent upon the phases of the moon.

Lexicon Orthopaedic Etymology

 

I was just wondering if it was the moon-landing that was responsible for my oft’-felt bouts of mental illness. It was probably about his time that things started to happen for me: walls closing in; God-bothering; sleepwalking. In previous times, I could have been successfully charged with being a witch. In a much more benign age, I would have merely been sent to a mental institution, a place I know that at least one on my relatives went to. This is my claim to a luna-lineage.

 

Below is a list of reasons that could have prompted a stay in the local loony-bin.

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I must admit that the first thing that drew my eye was the inclusion of masturbation. It gets five mentions, and this is not counting the implied listings. On second glance, after stopping again and considering the implications of Deranged Masturbation (there is a disturbing picture in my minds’ eye), I read, Novel Reading. Now, I think that I tick a number of these boxes although I have never fallen from a horse in war. I did, however, like Ralph Harris’ hit song, Two Little Boys. Now, however, I find this less palatable that it appeared in 1969, when it was first released. There’s that year again, spooky. There is something to my original hypothesis.

 

I was seven when a bunch of adventurous Americans set foot on the moon. I was seven years of age and the world was still in black and white. I was seven and sitting crossed-legged on the parquet-flooring of my junior school’s assembly hall. I was seven and the universe had touched us. I was seven and life, for a moment, offered unlimited possibilities. Being seven meant that the men from the moon had almost another fifty years to work on my mind.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not blaming moon-men or masturbation on my mental fragility; I have never met a moon-man. But now, things are starting to make sense. What if, on re-entry, one of the astronauts still had some luna-dust beneath his finger nails? Ha, ha, I hear you say (voices again).

 

And yet there is method in my muddled machinations.

Psychiatrists were once known as alienists because they cared for individuals who were thought of as alienated from both society and themselves.1 In the past 150 years or so, the terms psychiatry and psychiatrists have become more prominent and are used almost exclusively. Despite origins in the mainstream of medicine and the medical training of its practitioners, psychiatry is often not seen as a medical specialty or as scientific.2 Other medical professionals might see psychiatry as touchy feely and lacking intellectual rigour, resulting in poor recruitment and retention.

Dinesh Bhurgra   first published The Lancet   August 12th 2014

 

A big IF, but what IF that moon-dust got into our atmosphere and started to work its magic? People wouldn’t be thinking of me as some undercooked fantasist who spent his time inventing any range of reasons why he’d started to bark at the proverbial moon, would they? Look at the dates. August 12th is just a couple of weeks after July 21st and, considering that alien incubation roughly takes place over thirty-five years, it’s definitely possible that Dinesh, if I may be so familiar, had stumbled on something. Is it not strange that other members of the medical elite failed to take psychiatry seriously? The words, ‘touchy feely’  suggest that it is a practice performed by art or drama teachers. Hey, I’m onto something here. They can’t get people to apply for the jobs that psychiatry has to offer and, when they do, they can’t keep them. Something is rotten in the state of mental illness. 

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You may have gathered that I am writing this as a way of warding off the darkness. The last few days, it has been waking, stalking me, trying to pull me back into its embrace. It’s a real thing, not touchy-feely but Scary-Mary.  In the middle of the night, while everyone else sleeps, it creeps up  and suffocates me with its black pessimism. It sucks the wind from my newly-found sails and leaves me at the mercy of some approaching squall.  And when I wake, finally wake, to the world of my wife and children, there is something tainted about my belief that hope is just beyond the horizon.

 

So I sat down this morning, with my old friend and Apple Mac in order to summon up the words to drive it off into it’s own world. 

I didn’t know where any of this was going before I started to write. I still have only a nebulous idea, but it has brought it out into the open. We have glimpsed each other across the battlefield and now I am able to mask my anxiety. It seems a long, long time ago since this thing turned up in the middle of the night and kicked my arse all over the house. It kicked so hard that it almost kicked my out of my own life. Yet now, I think I know a little bit more about it.

 

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Every day, in every way, I getting better and better.

Say it quietly.

 

Love of a Bargain

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Perhaps I was born with the need to fall upon ‘bargains’ like a bird of prey upon its ‘prey’.

I was brought up in the 60s, post war, but not yet post poor. In truth, bargains did not exist back then. There were no reductions for ‘sell-by-date’ as there was no defined date at which something was ‘best before’. The rule of thumb was that if it stunk to high heaven, was mushy to the touch, ticked all the boxes of ‘rank’, it was not good to consume. Sometimes we consumed it anyway and this steadied our constitution.

I heard the rumour that spicy food was invented to hide the taste of food that was well into the dead zone. In northern England, there was no such thing as spices and, during the mini ice-age that descended upon Yorkshire during my childhood, there was little chance of anything ‘going over’.

The early part of my life was spent eating food that was only seasoned by conservative smatterings of salt and pepper. Only when I reached the age of sixteen did I discover the joy of curry.

No, that’s not fully true. My elder sister went to work at a store called Marks and Spencer. This was a posh store frequented by those people who had the money to indulge their indulgences. The food was so expensive that it was light years away from any diet that we could ever expect to participate in. That was when I first heard the term, ‘waste’.

Waste was the stuff that hadn’t been sold. It was the foodstuff that was likely to go off if it were to be saved over the weekend. And good old M&S thought it a good idea to give it to their employees for a very reasonable price. So followed lasagnes, chilli con carne, curries, pheasant pies and a whole range of sweet dishes most men had never previously dreamt of. Our family table became a cornucopia of all things tasty and exotic. My cup runneth over.

My love of good food continued alongside my love of a ‘bargain’. So when some bright spark in Europe decided that it was a good idea to label foods with ‘best before’ a whole frontier of bargains was suddenly declared officially open. Could life get any better?

As an older shopper I no longer have the desire for a bargain (he lies). No, I have. I just don’t tell any body. Actually, again that is an untruth. I love bargains especially when they come from relatively expensive stores. And it is that completion of the circle that brings around Marks and Spencer once more.

My town is moderately wealthy with lots of silver surfers who are often really quite wealthy. Some time ago, I started to adjust my shopping times in order to slide into the ‘best before’ reduction slots. This allowed me to grab a bargain whilst also playing the role of a modern hunter-gatherer. Things were going well until the ‘silver surfers’ began to turn up.

Before long the aisles of M&S were crowded with the trolleys of these affluent pre-dead. They had a certain way of pushing their trolleys by bending over them and using the potential energy of a promised fall to propel the shopping vehicle forward. They would wait in aisles waiting for the moment to pounce, and boy could they pounce. Once infront of the food reductions, a number of them would block off the entrance to ‘bargainsville’ and pick away at their leisure before leaving with a ridiculously and amoral amount of ‘best before’ at ridiculously and unethically low prices.

The world had turned.  

Farewell all that is good with waste.  

The Piper 40

Once more unto the breech…

Read After Burnout

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If it was waking, Laura woke.

Her eyes opened onto a darkened hospital ward in which all the other patients were sleeping soundly. She tried to lift herself and found that she couldn’t. Her arms and legs had been restricted by something and she felt its unforgiving nature bite into her skin. Her neck ached and her head swam. A cough emerged from within her lungs and forced its way out of her mouth. She almost choked upon its insistence and coughed some more. Something in the ward heard this and began to move towards her. She closed her eyes again.

“Mrs Andrews, are you awake?”

Laura kept her eyes tightly closed. She recognised the voice even though now it appeared coated in a German accent.

“Oh dear my dear, I thought that you were awake. I wanted so much to see those lovely eyes of yours. I especially like…

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The Piper 11

Again…

Read After Burnout

9400_32-Cloudy-Skies-20Rain always threatened.

No matter how the weeks had passed since they first began at St Agnes’s, the boys still waited for the inevitable to…inevitably happen.

Sharp pellets of rain shot down upon the knots of students scattered around the playground. With their backs turned against the weather and the world, they looked so much like penguins huddled against the storm.

For the weaker ones, the weather was the least of their worries. It was the gang members, wandering with impunity, who had to be avoided. Boredom and bravado meant that an attack could take place at any moment. Even in this time of odd peace, there was still some danger. The teachers, who were supposed to be on duty, were hidden away in doorways and recesses. Everyone knew who ran the school. A certain Joel Podrall stood at the heart of his lieutenants and accepted the homage they paid.

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