Through the years
We all will be together,
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
Yeah, right. It’s Saturday, 10.30pm on 12th December 2015 and it’s been a quiet day. I’ve done some writing, done some sleeping, done some eating. The world carries on.
In some ways I have nothing, but in other ways I have, well, nothing too. Maybe it’s the pre-Christmas blues I have. Once the Christmas blues and the post-Christmas blues are out of the way, I’m sure I’ll feel better.
Anyway, let’s crack on. I have a lot of thoughts to regurgitate in this blog. Things could get messy.
So, it’s been a funny old year. New Year’s Day 2015 I was here in Avebury, having shortly come back from spending nearly a week in Abergavenny over the Christmas period with my friend Sarah . Sarah had played an important part in my life throughout 2014 and the depth and complexities of our friendship is way beyond the scope of this little blog piece. Suffice to say that by the end of March our friendship was over and I had entered a dark period of depression.
Depression is a funny old thing and this blip was a combination of several factors.I hadn’t been happy in my job for a while. I had been working in mental health for over fifteen years and in the care setting in general for over twenty. It’s not something I aspired to do or necessarily wanted to do as a child. When I was seven I wanted to be an astronaut. This was in 1978 when being an astronaut was quite a cool thing to say to people, particularly when you are seven. By the time I was nine I wanted to be a writer. Maybe a writer based on some orbiting space station – that would have been really cool. But I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t realise at the time you could be a writer just by calling yourself a writer. It took me nearly thirty years to work that one out. I thought there was some sort of test you had to pass, or x amount of stories you had to have published. Then I discovered that when I started telling people I was a writer, they believed me. Not once did they say ‘show me the proof!’. They might say ‘what have you written?’ and that would open up a world of possibilities and the alarming prospect of thinking on my feet. But now, I tell others that I am a writer first and whatever day job I am in at the time, second.
I had had a long period of sickness that began, I think, in late February. I never went back to work after that. I can’t actually remember what triggered it. It may have been a cold, wet winter’s morning and I just might have thought ‘I’m staying in bed’. Now people who have never experienced depression or a significantly low mood, may think I am being flippant here. Those who have experienced depression know exactly what I am talking about. Everything seems overwhelming and the slightest obstacle in your path, be it the weather, or the coffee jar lid becoming stuck, becomes a catastrophe from which there is no way out. That stuck coffee lid could result in six months on an acute mental health ward. Luckily for me, it didn’t result in that. In April I had a sickness review meeting and it was agreed that I was burnt out. I acknowledged that. I think I had been in denial for a long time. Things at work bothered me, people irritated me. I even hated my shoes. I felt like Sam Lowry in Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’ – initially I enjoyed the quiet monotony of the job but by the end I wanted to spread my wings and fly. So to cut a long story short, my job officially ended on the 7th July. I was free.
Meanwhile, I was also looking for love. I joined POF (Plenty Of Fish) again, which was a dating site. A free one too,which I had joined the previous year for a few months. I joined in February of 2015 and in a few weeks, a lady from Bournemouth became interested me and foolishly, I said yes to her request to come and stay with me in Avebury for a few nights. I hadn’t even spoken to her on the phone. In the middle of March, she came to stay. I met her at Swindon train station and a bright, bubbly, bouncy person met me. As we walked to the bus stop she kept touching me and saying “I can’t believe your real,” which was sort of sweet and endearing, but twenty minutes later I just wanted to say “How many touches left before you decide I’m real? Because frankly, your touches are becoming rather tiresome and I would like you to reflect on your tactile proclivity.”
That night, I turned over after sex and she blew her top. I would have turned back to her, but I was exhausted and just needed a minute or two to catch my breath, but the fact I hadn’t immediately cuddled her after I came, triggered a sort of King Kong/Godzilla/Megatron/Giant Mutant Fish response and she walked off into the other bedroom. The next morning she came back into the living room and spoke at length about how she believed I was on the autistic spectrum and possibly had a personality disorder. She then said “Well I think that’s cleared the air. Can I stay tonight?” It was a few seconds after I said “No.” that she banged her fists on the table, screamed a bit and banged her fists on the table a bit more. When she realised her banging and screaming wasn’t going to get her anywhere, she became quiet. She remained quiet all the way to the train station. As we stood on the platform I tried to give her a goodbye kiss and hug but she wouldn’t have it, so I left. Over the next few weeks I received many accusatory texts and emails and countless voice messages on Wattsapp, before she asked if she could visit me again so that we could enjoy the summer solstice together. I queried her use of ‘enjoy’ and told her it would be best if we never spoke to each other ever again. Unless it was an emergency and we were both desperately lonely.
Then, in May, I began a relationship with another lady. She was an alcoholic and, well, I guess I am drawn to damaged people, and maybe they are to me too. There’s different levels of ‘damaged’ though and I think I’m a high functioning damaged person.
That relationship ended and in July I began another, this time with a massage therapist. She also did reiki healing, hot stone massage therapy, reflexology and ear candle therapy. I just don’t see how lighting a candle and sticking it in your ear is going to help you heal. At worst, you’re just going to get hot wax in your ear. At best, your hair may catch fire. I just don’t buy it. The same goes for reflexology – how can areas of the feet correspond to your brain or heart or liver? I acted as a model several times for her reflexology students who practiced reflexology on me and while the actual foot massage was very nice, my liver, brain and heart remained completely unaffected by the experience. That relationship ended in November and I have come to the conclusion that I’m just not cut out for relationships. I don’t think I can love again and I am going to be celibate. Actually, does celibate mean refraining from wanking too? It does doesn’t it? What’s the word that means you don’t want to engage in sexual practices with another human being but you’re not opposed to a good old wank? But in all seriousness, I just don’t think I have it in me any more.
“All romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk
And boring someone in some dark cafe.”
Joni Mitchell – ‘The Last Time I Saw Richard’
I also had a number of friends visit me this year. Wayne Weston and Paul Silcox, both friends from the early 1980s, came to visit me in Avebury in early April when I was at my lowest point. I hadn’t seen either of them for several years, both of them still living in Wales. I messaged them out of the blue, chatting in a quite pithy and glib way about ending my life as I felt everything was just hopeless, and before I could say “Terrahawks!” they had both arrived in Avebury and we spent a great weekend together, drinking, talking and laughing, just like old times. In November I had a friend and fellow writer, Charlotte, visit me all the way from York, and just a week later, out of the blue, Magdalene, a friend from London, came to visit too. Both visits were wonderful and I value their friendship immensely.
That more or less sums up my year. I guess the most significant one was the four month relationship I had. No matter if a relationship ends, no matter if you never loved that person in that romantic, passionate way that they may have hoped for, you can’t deny that it still has an effect on your life and they have made an impression upon you. As in the old Alanis Morrisette song ‘Unsent’, “I’ll always have your back and be wondering about you, about your career your whereabouts…”
Anyway, let’s end with a nice picture of good old affable James Stewart. Because actually, despite everything I have gone though over the years, it is a wonderful life.