Reluctant visitor

“You’ve got so many rules,” says Nic. Because I’m trying to establish boundaries so we don’t both end up dead from overconsumption tomorrow morning at 1am.

I was going to try to pretend to be teetotal, but that got blown out of the water when it seemed like a lovely idea to go to the park with beer to celebrate the unfamiliar company. Then he got home and immediately broke a glass because he was prioritising opening and filling a receptacle with alcohol over making space on the surface.

I exploded with rage and made him put the bottle away immediately which made me the bad guy.

Now it’s the classic wreckhead logic. He’s telling me that my self-regulating strategies are bullshit, with a smile, because he doesn’t want to regulate himself. But I don’t want to just smash myself.

I’ve taken myself off to regroup and write this blog. It’ll be fine. I like him, and he’s not stronger than me.

It’s partly that I’m not used to having people around. I have a very well examined self destruct mechanism and I’m not particularly interested in getting swept up with someone who has as aggressive a destructive mechanism as me but without the self monitor.

I certainly won’t be made fun of for drawing boundaries and every time he does that I lose respect for him.

Another interruption, this time asking “How many subscribers?” Not listening to the answer either (I deliberately don’t look). Lining himself up against his rival – this blog – which is taking attention away from him. HE’S BEEN ON HIS OWN FOR MONTHS AND WE’VE JUST HAD 4 HOURS OF CONTACT?!?!!!

Constant shouts from him of “How many words now?”

He has been careful. He sanitises his shopping when he takes it out of the bag. He’s not a teenager, he’s a big boy now. He is capable of being alone for as long as it takes for me to get this down? After months…

I fear I have to get this down now, early in the night, because his need for attention will not allow for it later. And I like him so I’m ok to run alongside him in the wreck so long as I sniff mutual respect there too.

Sometimes with this blog it’s hard to explain why I have to go off for a bit in the evening, especially as it’s not a sparklemarket bullshit blog and I’m not choosing my friends for positioning. The slow drip of the poison that the word “influencer” has become.

It helps socially if people have read at least one of these, and it particularly helps if they’ve gleaned something from one of them and understand that it’s as vulnerable as it is wounding.

For him I’m perhaps just an idea of “blogger” which is often synonymous with “narcissist”.

For him this writing now – it’s a thing that takes my attention away from him. From him on his first day in company. But … for fuck’s sake. He’s here for 4 days. And … the last few months … …

He arrived with two expensive bottles of white wine and a massive chunk of beef, bless him. He’s now working something out with potatoes. Very generous of him to provide sustenance.

He just came into the room to show me the meat and now he’s making me feel like a neurotic when I told him I don’t need to see it and that this time is sacred to get this written. Again he says “You’re so full of rules,” and I’m so fully wise to the nature of this thing that I know to be called gaslighting that every time he says it from now on I’m going to draw my boundaries tighter around me. It’s like when I’m driving, if the guy behind me starts aggressively honking and it’s clear he’s just a dude on his own being a dick, then I’m likely to slow down at much as is safely possible on purpose.

Right. I’m going in. I’ll take a photo of the meat. I reckon it’ll be something…


No photo of the meat. It wasn’t something. He has almost completely resigned interest in it. He was angry and weird and drunk.

He’d found my whisky while he was cooking and had necked enough to render himself functionally useless.

He doesn’t get my priority structure, and why should he?

His dinner conversation kept resetting to oh how generous I am giving him a place to sleep – as if I think he owes me something. He owes me nothing.

I don’t know what to do on this basis.

Other people, eh? They’re difficult fuckers. I’d forgotten.

Three more days of him making me feel like he owes me something and resents me for it? Bring back isolation. I hate it already.

We’ll be fine.

But I’ll evidently need to manage booze in this house because things went south very very quickly. But managing? “You have so many rules.”


On the plus side I’m now sitting in the living room listening to Nirvana and he’s in deep down sleepytime in my room and it’s only half ten. I’ll probably have a considerably earlier bed than usual but I feel like a father when the kids have turned in.

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Sunday Sunday Sunday

Here I am, of a Sunday evening, sitting on a bench looking at the river. Different bench just because I’m bassacred like that. But same leyline. Between the pagoda and Albert Bridge. Catching the ebbing rays of the spring sunset as the low tide turns back to flood and the plane trees relentlessly shit on my jumper and in my eyes and mouth.

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I haven’t been so well recently, this last week or so. My motivation has dissolved and I’m eating terribly and sleeping too long. Often my mood and behaviour is directly aligned with my spending power. The flusher I am the calmer I get. The reality of a few more months of this is affecting my breath. I had a run of work and sorted out a large portion of my debt. Is that all going to go for nothing because of this? I really hope not. And what the heck is going to happen to the world? The heaviness of worry has set in and has temporarily slowed me down. I’m sure I’ll pick up again and soon. There’ll at least be a change tomorrow.

A friend of mine has been isolating in North London looking after a flat that needs some work done to deal with historic flooding. The workmen have finally agreed to come and do the job, but if he is there when the dehumidifiers are on then it invalidates their insurance. So he’s homeless suddenly. I’ve told him he can kip on the sofa for four days. We might go to Mel’s in Hampstead since I’m breaking protocol anyway by letting him stay. But either way it’ll probably be for the best where I’m concerned. Company will help me find the motivation I’ve mislaid. I’ve told him he has to help with the cleaning and sorting process in the flat, and that we can’t use the company to turn into a pair of wreckheads. I’m usually better at doing things when there’s company.

Apart from Hex I’ve mostly been kept company by the Rolling Stone top 100 ’90s Albums again, although more and more I’m noticing that it’s an American list. Different Class was in the mid eighties and next up is Belle and Sebastian – higher in the list than Definitely Maybe. There’s been no Blur yet. I’m curious how that rather odd rivalry plays out in the top spots of the chart. But I’m not peeking ahead. And I’ve only skipped one album and that’s R Kelly. I just wasn’t in the mood for something so cheerful.

Hex has shed his skin and thrown water all over the place and steamed up his terrarium. I’ve been gathering myself, as he has been off his food for a few days and now I know it’s because he had a shed coming. I’m gathering my energy and willingness as in half an hour I’m going to completely huck him out while he hangs round my neck, and then the two of us are going through a very long performance of The Dance of the Eat Me Mouse. There’s no way I’m letting another one to to waste…

Unstructured thoughts about lack of structure

Sometimes it’s good to just stop. I think of all the times before this happened where I wished I could do what I’ve been doing for the last few months. Just to stop and let go of the reins for a little bit. Go to bed without setting an alarm. Wake up and not think about what to wear. I was doing a great job of relaxing on a Saturday when I was reminded that I’ve only got two days to register for the self-employed grant. That put the wind up me.

I put in my details and apparently I’m eligible but I can’t log into government gateway and all the lines are down until Monday. Why in God’s name is the deadline just after a weekend? On Monday morning every self employed person in the UK is going to be calling the hotline to try and solve one of the many varied issues. There’ll probably be about three people on the hotline and the system will go down immediately. There will be many scenes of many hysterical actors having fits of rage and panic attacks at the obfuscation of the HMRC systems. It’ll be quite something.

So right now I’m just going to take the pressure off, calmly assemble all the information I’m going to need in front of me if I get through over the course of Sunday, do some practice runs and then set an alarm for Monday, make a cup of coffee and itchyfinger the hotline the moment it opens. Despite The Tempest I’m going to need this to sustain the coming months while things maybe start to move again but too slowly. It would be madness not to do everything I can possibly do to secure what little I can from this collation of my returns over the last three years. It’s a generous thing and I’m glad of it. If only I can log in.

Today I just consumed things. I did eat the mussels, mindfully, one by one, rejecting them on the most arbitrary terms. Seems they were okay as I’d be shouting the sea by now if they hadn’t been. And that was basically the highlight of my day. I barely saw the sun, only remembering to get outside as it was setting. Now it’s somehow 2.30 in the morning and I stopped reading because I remembered I have to make some thoughts before I slip into oblivion.

That’s the problem with lack of structure. Time, which is unreliable anyway these days – it loses even more meaning when there’s no concrete plan. I often seem to define myself by the things I’ve decided I have to do. But I’ve always been better at motivating myself for the benefit of others. It’s helpful to parent myself in this slowtime. Perhaps we’ll look back on it with a strange fondness. It’s a similar vibe to those hazy days of childhood, only the voice that tells me I’ve got to get out of the house or tidy my room or have some food – that’s now my own voice.

Thank God I don’t have kids. You guys are warriors. Things would be very different with them. I definitely wouldn’t be up at this time unless it was because I’d been woken…

Nuts in May

TS Eliot was right. April was the cruelest month this year. It did something to time, from my angle. I could do a million things and then look at the clock and just an hour had passed. Somehow while everybody was shut in hard and unknowing, quantum made us all feel like it was going on for lifetimes. We have all aged. Have we grown wiser?

Now it’s May and the air is lighter, and time is suddenly shooting by. I bought 4 packets of mussels that expire tomorrow. I’m not sure I’m capable of eating them all in a day, but a moment over the expiry date is too long as far as mussels are concerned. How the hell was it the 16th so quickly dammit? That was forever away. I’m eating too little. But I always forget to eat.

Eating them late will probably help me slow time down again I guess. Some of the longest nights of my life were given to me by bad shellfish. I still go back to them, like you go back to an abusive partner. “Yes I thought I was going to die on the stone floor of that convent in Carrion de los Condos after clam spaghetti, but it was so very very tasty…”

Thinking about it I’m going against my own island boy rules by even buying shellfish when there isn’t an “r” in the month. Watch this space. I’ll either have a one man dodgy-mussel party tomorrow and see what happens, or I’ll quietly guiltily dispose of them and say no more about it. I hate the waste. But I doubt there are many homes where the kid is shouting “mummy why can’t we have some mussels!”

I crossed the Albert Bridge this evening at sunset. I went to the park tonight at along with everybody else in two boroughs.

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Sat on a hill near to where we all sat for my birthday maybe two years ago. As the sun went down a little urban squirrel came close to hoover up some dropped nuts. A small and agile grey, with a shredded tail and what looked like long-healed claw marks in his side. Still brave and cheeky despite the wounds he carries so visibly. He watched me as he ate, but didn’t flinch when I shifted my weight. Experience has taught him he can be faster than something like me.

We have all taken a hit. Now it’s about how we recalibrate ourselves as time finds an equilibrium again. How are we going to move forward now if we feel that this thing has taken a chunk out of us?

I’ll take a hint from that squirrel. When the time comes I’ll be out looking for nuts… But May is rushing through to June. Wilderness Festival is finally officially cancelled today. That would have been ten consecutive years of my life doing lovely things in an August field in Oxford. Let The Light In was cancelled a while ago. I would have been leading some interesting sessions about science and philosophy via oranges alongside some Dutch artist collaborators I’ve picked up over the years. We thought about transferring the work to zoom, but even that’s unlikely now. Is summer cancelled? I’d best to gather some nuts now rather than wait for the right time…

Stay safe stay loving …

My evening walk took me past the fire station, half of which is occupied by guardians now. One of them was out on the street with his kit painting positive murals on the hoardings. “Stay safe, stay loving” … I’m wondering if the final one is going to be “Stay home” or “stay alert”.

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Around the station every lamp and tree has had encouraging laminated signs tagged onto it. “Go the Emergency Services!” Billboards are trumpeting “Yay the NHS” instead of “Buy Bill’s Best Beans!” Despite this change of focus, walking down the stairs in my block involves navigating through pile after pile of parcels dropped off by the Amazon guy who always somehow manages to get right to your door – unlike the Hermes guy who sets fire to your package and throws it in the river.

With the child drawn rainbows in the front room and all the people clapping through the window once a week, we are getting very good at this remote enthusiasm business. Remote enthusiasm and remote shopping and remote intimacy.

“Imagine I’m running towards you now,” my friend says on the phone just now. I’m jumping up – catch me. I’m giving you a great big hug! Mmmmmm.” And somehow a tiny tiny portion of the endorphins that the real contact would release are released. But it’s like watching a video of a flower blooming. There’s nothing like the real thing.

I once had someone send me a couple of sexy photos when I was abroad and she was home. Frankly it mostly made me feel a bit weird, like I was missing out on something. Objectively they were attractive shots, but the camera loses more than it adds. Look at how every single “influencer” is just an empty frame animated by rage and make-up.

I couldn’t send sexy photos back to her because I don’t really find any bits of me sexy and there’s no way on God’s green earth anyone is getting a photo of THAT part of my anatomy no no no. No substitute for the real thing. But we have to try…

Once again I’m in a zoom room with creatives trying to work out how we can bring life to a Shakespeare script and send it out into the world in a shape we can be proud of. This time it’s the wonderful Factory family and we are looking at Loves Labours Lost. It’s not one I’m certain about so I’m looking forward to finding a way through it with them. Normally we would do it from cue scripts in a beautiful theatre made out of a living willow in Wales. Last time I went there I broke my rib falling out of a tree so it’s probably best for everybody involved that this time I’m doing it from the safety of my own living room, playing with all my new bright green playthings. We might not have use for any of it – there’s precious little magic in LLL and The Factory is all about the text at heart.

But I’m sure we will find what magic or anarchy we can find… And it’s dear friends, making things. Again. Lucky me.

Fire service at the sheltered housing

There’s a sheltered housing across the road from me. Chelsea Court. My mother’s ex boyfriend lives there these days. I sometimes see him, tousled and with his shock of hair, a “More” menthol cigarette perpetually in his mouth like Lucky Luke’s cheroot. I try to make conversation with him from time to time but there’s less and less I can talk with him about. His conversation to me is and always has been about his achievements. I like to force people to pull back the curtain and show me the picture. He won’t do that and I’ve never really been able to see him. Just the projection, which bores me and tires him. So we can’t hang out.

He probably felt some duty to be an example to me, as mum’s last lover. That just made him talk about his achievements every time we spoke. He was a very useful warning, especially in this industry which is all about story and positioning. “How not to do it.” Even as a fifteen year old my friends would make up bands in order to see him tell us he knew their manager. “Keithbaiting,” we called it, as unpleasant teenagers. Cameron was a master at making up bands. Keith would always tell us he could introduce us to them.

He was and is a very charming fantasist who was there every step of mum’s wet death and was certainly in the best position to try and help her stop it but didn’t. Again I don’t blame him but it’s in my head.

When she died he almost immediately glommed onto another attractive woman with property who again died shortly after. Once more, in my head. No more.

Mum was only 55 when she went too quickly. I always wonder if we could have done things better for her if we’d found a way to do it together. I was just a kid, really, swamped in it, impressed by his grown-upness. Willing to accept his words and thoughts as wisdom, rather than as suspect utterances. He was parental generation, I was still in kid generation in my self-identity.

Now I’m not. Now he bores me and I feel guilty as he’s getting older and frailer, and he lives just over the road. I once offered to ghost write his memoirs as a means of reconciling – (and because he’s a good storyteller and his version of the truth will be a good story.) He blew me out of the water, lip curling at the very thought of it being me. “No! God no. I need an actual writer!” . Fuck it. He can die waiting for Ian McEwan. With that comment and the attitude beneath it he lost the last of me. Out.

The fire service is linked to the smoke alarm in his block, which is what got me thinking of it today as I curtain-twitch through lockdown. We are close to the Chelsea Fire Station, and I know for certain that the guys at the station are fed up of being called out every time somebody cooks a steak.

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Four engines showed up tonight, all sirens and lights, as they do perhaps twice a month on average. They go in hard every time, and then reverse out with demonstrated difficulty. It’s their way of suggesting that Chelsea Court ease back on the instant call to the fire service through the smoke alarms. Problem is, as soon as they do so Keith will fall asleep with a More menthol in his mouth.

I haven’t seen him for a month or so.

I hope he’s alright…

Wires and arteries

Somebody jumped in the river today at Westminster Bridge, on the inward tide. With centuries of experience, the police and the fire service came immediately howling downstream past my flat. They knew that this arterial urban waterway floods hard and pulls under harder. I guess at the start they were hoping they might be able to find them in time to pluck them out alive if they popped up. Loads of fire engines zoomed up to Albert Bridge. Plenty of cars. A miniature flotilla of boats. One great big chopper.

The chopper chose to hover just outside my bedroom window for a fair while and a good few patrol cars stopped outside my flat as well. It was all very dramatic. Tall men and women with sidearms and so many pockets came and peered over the river wall. Within minutes the wall was lined with people who had stopped their cars out of curiosity.

The chopper hovered above, side door open, fire service ready with abseil ropes as crowds gathered quicker than you’d imagine.

Staying alert, (!) I briefly cross the road and ask what the hell is going on.

“Somebody in the river off of Westminster Bridge,” I am told, freely, by a beaming cop in a hat who stands six foot five and looks like a stick man made out of runner beans. My interest wanes pretty quickly after that.

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All these people are looking for a body. Last time there were this many people it was a humpback whale – much less common. At least they did their utmost to get the person out alive. I don’t think they managed though. The river’s a bastard. It wasn’t long before they all went home and the crowd dispersed as quickly as it had formed.

These trying times. Nothing is certain. Nothing is clear. We can know the waterway but we can’t find the body. We understand this tiny little pathogen but we can’t stop it. It’s all wrapped up in politics as well. Preventable deaths? Expendable people? Money over humanity or humanity over money? Control over freedom or freedom over control?

I’m learning the wires in my flat, and in so doing learning the wires in my brain. When am I stymied by fear? When am I overconfident? For me, despite being a financial disaster this lockdown is helping me have the time to look at my immediate surroundings instead of SHINY SHINY SHINY!

But for somebody on the bridge today, the wires were crossed. It’s back to the thing I was thinking last week. We are all experiencing the symptoms of depression without the illness. Reduced contact with others, prolonged amount of time indoors, social interactions codified in incomprehensible and tedious ways. Anyone who remembers the shape of the black dog might start to think they see it again there, in the shadows. We have to remember that this is not the same thing. We can hibernate. Learn wires. Tidy up. Write. Think. Or even just take the fucking pressure off, relax, do fuck all and trust in the universe.

Just don’t jump off a fucking bridge. If it’s that bad, come knock on my door. I’ve just made the most ridiculously rich carbonara. Oh, you’re vegan. Have some whisky. Teetotal? I’ll find something.