Wednesday, 24 December 2008
Thursday, 20 November 2008
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
I'm now on a gently rumbling train heading North - green as far as I can see out of the window. Beloved Northumberland here I come...
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
And so I find another reason to love her;
Some of you may remember that this Four Tet video did the same for me back in 2007
Consequently, I have matters more pressing than Sans God to attend to...
Like I have any choice in the matter, eh?
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Monday, 3 November 2008
In the midst of this horror, the regular staff could do no more than objectify these wretched beings as lunatics, doing otherwise would mean they drowned in the pool of human despair that they presided over.
So for the two months I was there, I got my head down and learned what I could of my trade, towed the line and pretended not to give a damn.
(I went back, ten years after the hospital closed and took this photo of the ward dormitory. You get the picture? More here.)
One ancient patient called Alice broke my heart. She had long white hair, a hook nose and skin so wizened it could have rustled like paper. She was a spot of a woman, perhaps four feet tall, but it was difficult to tell with any accuracy, as she spent her days bent over with her face no more than a foot from the floor.
She would shuffle from the moment she woke, mumbling and singing and examining the bottoms of doors with creaking arthritic fingers that shook with a tardive dyskinesic tremor caused by decades of sweet, cloying largactil.
You see, Alice had spent her entire adult life in the asylum. According to some of the older staff, Alice had been as mad as a fish.
One morning, as we were sat having a coffee break, Alice wandered up and came across my feet. She began to explore them with her trembling hands so I bent down to hold them and made eye contact with her. Given her posture, this was something she could rarely have experienced.
I don't remember saying anything to her, nor getting any response, but I'll never forget that she clambered up on to my lap, put her arms around my neck and nuzzled her face into my chest before falling asleep.
The sheer humanity of this gesture overwhelmed me. What responsibility had I for the childwoman in my arms? What responsibility had we - the givers and takers of humanity - to see that these people in our charge had needs other than physical? Yet to open ourselves up, face the brutal truth and to genuinely care could tear us to pieces.
Of course, like any good student, I retreated hastily to the office as soon as I could. What better way to make sense of Alice than four creaking volumes of manila psychiatric notes that went back to 1915?
I discovered that Alice had been given a myriad labels - Imbecile, Dementia Praecox, Mania to name but a few. Simple Schizophrenia had stuck with her since the 60's, until Alice was old enough for the Dementia label.
However, it was in the earliest volume that I discovered that Alice came to the asylum not because she was mad, but because she was "eccentric" and "rampantly promiscuous". From what I could garner, her parents despaired of their wayward daughter having fun with her new found womanhood and had her committed to the hospital.
So why, according to the old lags, had Alice had been so exquisitely insane? Perhaps going mad was the only sane response left to the young Alice, faced with the insane world that she found herself in.
Monday, 27 October 2008
Like jelly bears, he rolls ideas around in his mouth before he swallows and makes them part of himself. I've not heard another child do it. Certainly not as often as he does anyway.
Perhaps it's a genetic trait, as I do the same, just not aloud. Like Meg, who's recently discovered the delights of reading inside her head, I repeat these ear worms internally. Mostly because they're pretty.
"That's the price you pay" and "What else is the seat of your pants for?" are currently worming themselves around the mulch of my cranium. They got in via someone I consider to be a genius and with whom I rely on for sage advice. That, and the West Highlands accent means he could tell me to fuck off and I'd repeat it in my head for hours afterward, enjoying the angles.
See, I'm a keeper of wee small wisdoms. A plagiariser, a hoarder and repeater of the soundbite. I keep these shiny things in jars to use in appropriate situations.
"As flat as a witches tit" is another one.
Sometimes this is confused with wisdom. Which may be why I've been elevated to a relatively lofty position at work, close to the limit of my incompetence. The ability to "say the right thing" and "have a way with words" can take you some distance in this world, despite just being a little kid with sweeties stuck in your mouth.
There's an advert on the telly that Dom always repeats the closing lines of;
"Spend a little, live a lot."
Wise words indeed...
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
1) Clean trousers thoroughly with a wet cloth, thereby removing the stain and odour but entering the room with a dark, brooding crotch patch.
2) Make do with a dry, aesthetically preserving kitchen roll scour and allowing the aroma to ripen throughout the afternoon as the crotch warms in the seat.
To be fair, the nurses & medics hardly batted an eyelid. The psychologists on the other hand, who have probably never touched a patient in their lives, looked distinctly nauseated.
Sunday, 19 October 2008
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Back when we were young, skint and childless, Miche & I would eat at La Stalla in Newcastle. It was a cheap, friendly trattoria hidden up a piss soaked back street in a grimier part of the city. The food was deliciously simple and the staff were so laid back that they would sit with us and get mullered once they'd served the customers, which invariably were few. I have many fond memories of the place.
It closed of course, some years ago now, but I always make a point of walking up the alley when I'm around that way. Despite the lingering smell of drunkards' urine.
This morning I found some rather sweet graffiti on the wall along from our old haunt. I thought I'd share it with you.
On a related gastronomic note, I ate Ostrich for the first time today in a rather more salubrious restaurant than La Stalla and can heartily recommend it.
Monday, 6 October 2008
Thursday, 2 October 2008
This comes as no surprise, as I see so much evidence of our risk averse culture limiting what our children can do. Rather than allowing the inevitable fall from a tree, in doing so helping our kids learn to take calculated risks, we cosset them in soft play emporiums where they run unfettered with little risk at all. We sit them safely in front of their consoles back at home.
See, I grew up in the 70's, when every piece of playground equipment was surrounded by a sturdy concrete apron, so you had to be really careful when you rode your bicycle down the slide.
Even now my parents shudder when I disclose the calamities I got into in the fields behind the estate. I was free to get into them however and I shall try my best to give the same opportunities to my kids.
One should know one's limits. Swinging like a monkey from the tree you see above, to encourage your son to climb higher is perhaps a risk too far for a 36 year old. Particularly if you had a game of squash later on in the evening.
I got no sleep last night as the pain in my right shoulder was unbearable. I think I've done something nasty as I can't lift my elbow more than six inches without crying like a baby.
I'm numbed with anti-inflammatory, analgesic and Pino Grigio, so if you'll excuse me, I'm off to bed.
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
They discovered that in contemplating the Madonna, the religious were able to activate an area of the brain associated with conditioning the experience of pain.
What else is religion for, if not the amelioration of pain? I would also like to point out that an inflated balloon up the arse can induce similar effects.
Religion is the (ig)noble lie that diverts the masses' attention from the cold, faceless specter of chance. It is Marx's "heart of a heartless world" and provides meaning to meaningless suffering and hope to the hopeless.
What better way to make sense of random, tragic occurrences than to give them a place in the Grand Plan? In the midst of them, rather than doing anything of use, repeated messages of complaint can be made to God's technical support line.
It's little wonder then, that faith induces the placebo effect. Perhaps they're two and the same. Religion being the "opium of the people" and all that.
Not that these mental gymnastics are peculiar to the religious. Only yesterday I had this conversation with a colleague presiding over a minor disaster;
"Well, I guess everything happens for a reason"
"I didn't realise you were religious?" I asked.
"Not at all, it's just that what goes around comes around. Karma and all that..."
"So, in God's absence you think that the universe picks up its tally card and keeps count of our insignificant fuck ups and indiscretions? A cosmic balance sheet? Utter bollocks..."In truth, I didn't actually say that. A single Spock eyebrow took care of it quite nicely.
Mind, it pays not to think too hard about our arbitrary universe, atheist or not. Well, it does for me anyway. I choose to concentrate on that which I find beautiful to ameliorate my existential pain.
That, and reminding myself that I'm perched on top of a food chain with a full belly, in a wealthy country, spinning on a habitable planet, poking away at a Sony Vaio keyboard for fuck sake.
And what are the odds on that?
Sunday, 28 September 2008
Saturday, 27 September 2008
I feel cleansed.
Mind, my family will make it their mission to fill it full of shit again by the end of the week I'm sure...
Friday, 26 September 2008
The sweat is still drying, you'll be delighted to hear...
I have a fantastic 3.8 mile route that takes me through fields behind the office, around a nearby nature reserve lake, complete with otter family and back again. (28.3 minutes - average 7:38 minute/mile for the statistic geeks.)
It seems the local insect fauna feel the same way about the weather. If I disturbed one Common Darter, then I disturbed a hundred. Each second stride I took, another dragonfly would take flight. It was a beautiful thing to behold I tell you. They must have all hatched together sometime between now and yesterday afternoon as I ran then with no sight of them.
The critters are easy to photograph. This was taken with my cellphone. They're territorial beasts and will always land back in the center of their patch once they've chased any interlopers away. All it takes is a little patience.
Pretty little things, are they not?
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
I pretend of course. Christ, I do it for a living. What is Psychiatry and leadership if not smoke and mirrors? I've memorised countless sporting cliches and learned enough about the offside rule to pull the wool over the eyes of all but the most ardent sports fan.
But no matter how hard I try, I just can't care about bloke stuff. I find the company of women much more comfortable to be within. I'm relaxed and infinitely more inclined to open up, chat and just be myself.
Women tend to discuss the kind of things I'm interested in you see. Which is primarily other people. This suits me down to the ground, as I don't have to talk about myself.
I save that for you, my dear reader.
Friday, 19 September 2008
Radio 4 was broadcasting live from the Large Hadron Collider as it was turned on for the first time.
I'm no sports fan. Quite why people get so exited about ball kicking is beyond me. But the next time I have to feign excitement at a sporting event, I'm going to repeat the air punches and GET IN's that I did when the LHC test was successful.
Better than England beating Germany in the world cup by a mile.
Monday, 15 September 2008
Tomorrow morning Dominic will enter full time education. He'll take his first faltering steps upon the machine's conveyor belt. I've every confidence that he'll find his balance and prevail. When Meg went full time, we worried (needlessly), that her timid personality would get the better of her. Not so with Dom. Quite the opposite. The establishment should prepare itself for the onslaught that is our youngest progeny.
This marks a watershed moment for Miche & I. You see, for the past six years my wife has devoted herself entirely to our young. She gave up her work and all that goes with it. No small sacrifice.
I'd like to say that my grotesque salary has kept the wolves from the door during these single salary years. But that would be a lie. Miche's formidable management skills, self-discipline and relentless subjugation of her husband's excesses have left us debt free. Mortgage notwithstanding.
Later this month, Miche will receive her first salary payment in her new part time job. It will be met with a sigh of relief, a loosening of belts and a fucking good bottle of wine. I'm looking forward to testing the theory that a cheap bottle of Chablis is as good as an expensive one.
Sunday, 14 September 2008
In the meantime, here's some spoils of exploring the grimier parts of Newcastle's Quayside early this morning;
Thursday, 11 September 2008
Wednesday, 3 September 2008
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
It hurt a good bit too, as I like to think of myself as a self-aware gaffer who treats others with respect. Obviously not as self-aware as I'd thought.
Being unable to make an omelet without breaking eggs and not keeping everyone happy all of the time are useful adages to relieve the ambivalence of being a nice guy and also a twat. I suppose there will always be people who dislike you regardless. There will be some who really don't give a toss and others that think you're an alright guy who can sometimes be a goon.
"Professional jealousy," a trusted friend said to me "they just wished they had your job."
Mebby I've still got a lot to learn.
Onwards and upwards, eh?
Friday, 15 August 2008
You see, I've been away on the annual "give mother a rest" camping sojourn to the North York Moors with my kids who are exquisitely attuned to the passing of day and night.
At home we interfere in this diurnal influence by way of blackout curtains and double glazing. In a tent however, with two gossamer layers, the chimps stir at daybreak at the same time the sheep start to honk their non-baa baa's.
Ordinarily we all go to sleep at the same time on these trips. This damned book however, kept me up into the wee hours, bloody thing. Anyway, I'm back now and settled on the couch for a little light blogging whilst my rested wife cooks dinner for us all.
The highlight of our break was catching the steam train from Pickering and spending the day hopping on and off to Whitby and back. The sprogs enjoyed the clackety-clack. I enjoyed exploring the quiet rotting areas behind the stations and engine sheds where age old machinery returns slowly to the earth.
Saturday, 9 August 2008
This is Dominic at seven months. He was born with that look on his face. I have countless photos, just like this one of him looking with wonderment at his bright new world.
If he typed he would have overused exclamation marks.
He's a boy of course, albeit an older one now, so naturally his life is still lived at full tilt. I've not seen this expression however, since sometime into his second year.
A good move for his dating prospects I suspect.
Despite having no recollection of being a baby, it's natural to transfer your thoughts onto your pre-linguistic children. As such, I imagine that Dom spent his first year shouting "Wow!!!! Would you look at that! Amaaazing!!!"
The unfortunate truth is that we, post one-year-olds, have little chance of re-capturing those purely experiential moments that the infant takes for granted.
We're lost in meaning.
The world is as it is to the infant - with all its colours, oudours and textures. It's unpolluted with any inference or meaning. Blue is simply the qualia blue; not sadness, the colour of the Conservative Party or a shit boy band. It just is.
Despite the obvious advantages to understanding meaning, we expend so much energy trying to recover this pre-state. Fuck how we try... We get stoned, climb hills, run for miles, have sex, make music, cuddle, cry and laugh. Well I do, at least (though not all at the same time).
Some of us may pray, meditate or even speak in tongues.
All of which are vain attempts to re-connect with the animal within us - that pure, meaningless understanding of the universe that will not be given context, let alone be described.
So when you hear talk of the ineffable or the infallible, or the indescribable beauty of love then this is what it means;
That I've come home from a rare night out at the pub and have blogged whilst inebriated as my wife sleeps.
Drink it all up. Gulp it down in one great, wide eyed stare.
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
Sunday, 3 August 2008
It’s a wonderful place, so much so that we’ve explored numerous financial machinations to buy it. They’re pipe dreams of course and quite profoundly beyond our reach. Perhaps in a few years we'll have the means...
Despite London forecasters predicting a northern dousing, Miche & I have enjoyed each glorious evening in the sun room as the kids fall asleep. This was the view;
Anyway, that's quite enough chatter - we've unpacking to do. Here's some more holiday snaps;
Sunday, 27 July 2008
Today has been a running and catching, sleeping in the shade and an eating in the sun kind of day. Up here in the north of England, they are to be savored, as these sort of days are uncommon. The heat muffled shrieks of the kids and the tiny little flies wafting in the sunlight have got me all quaintly verbose so they have.
My words however, I shall save for my wife, as we're enjoying the last of the sun in our garden whilst we watch the swallows in their dizzying flight paths above us.
Mind, I am relieved that my guts have finally settled. I've spent the past three days trotting back and forth to the John. Not only that, my hay fever, ordinarily subdued with antihistamine, has had my eyes streaming all day.
I've since discovered that the packaging on our laxatives and my new hay fever tablets are remarkably similar...
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Friday, 11 July 2008
Working in mental health as I do, I come across the term “holistic” all the time; holistic models, holistic care, holistic assessments, values and what not.
In being holistic we’re supposed to view the person not as a conglomeration of symptoms, but rather as a human being – as a whole and with ordinary human needs. Such as to have meaning, purpose, relationships, physical health, hope and happiness as well as good mental health.
It’s a no brainer really. Quite why anyone would think you can treat a person’s depression (and other ailments) simply with medication, whilst all around them their life falls apart is beyond me.
Anyway, this isn’t my beef for today.
It’s Holistic Medicine.
Because Reiki therapists or the numpties who waggle crystals or the idiots who dilute stuff into nothingness before telling you their wares have potent effects have adopted this word as their own.
Holistic Therapy my arse.
You see, holism works when you think of it in Bio-Psycho-Social terms. When we take into consideration the complex interplay between the body and its brain and how it relates to other bodies and brains, we begin to get a grip of well-being.
These ‘holistic therapists’ however, invoke a fourth, karmic component to the whole – the soul, or the bit of being human that we might call spirit.
Which apparently responds well to lavender.
They work with the bit of the body that simply does not exist. We may think we have a spirit, but we’re mistaken in the same way Descartes was when he argued the mind was distinct from the body.
That isn’t to say having your feet massaged with essential oils has no value. Far from it. Just last week I had my skull rubbed by an Indian Head Massager and I’ve must tell you, I floated out the room in a blissful, wobbly state of mildness.
Having someone make you feel pampered and relaxed for an hour is wonderful. If this improves your ‘holistic’ health then all well and good. But please don’t manipulate my chakras or pretend that my purple energy is out of alignment for fuck sake, because this is nothing more than bullshit and placebo.
Which of course begs the question – if you know that they’re placebo, then does the effectiveness of these ‘holistic therapies’ reduce?
Mind, I’ve arranged my next head rubbing session for the week after next…
Whilst we’re on the subject of holes – I’ll leave you with this thought;
If female pole dancers dance round their poles for metaphorical reasons, then why don’t male strippers dance round a hole?
Thursday, 10 July 2008
So much nicer than Microsoft Office.
Back to work...
Sunday, 6 July 2008
Friday, 4 July 2008
Thursday, 3 July 2008
The linguistic development of my littlest continues apace. Tonight, as I stole a potato from his dinner plate, he pointed his left index finger at me, scowled and shouted “Now Daddy, Bugger Off!”
Despite the shock, I had to hide my face behind my hands as I couldn’t help but laugh. Perhaps my heaving shoulders belied another emotion, because Dom then said “I’m sorry Daddy, don’t cry, I won’t say it again.”
I’m not sure where he got it from, but something about his delivery reminded me of a certain grandparent, who shall remain nameless…
We’re pretty good at not cussing in front of the little ones, ever since Meg, perhaps a bit younger than Dom is now, muttered “Oh, for fuck sake” under her breath after she dropped her baby doll.
Wednesday, 2 July 2008
I foster a deep dislike of the shiny people. What with their big smiles, good teeth and all round successfulness, they get right on the end of my man nipples.
You know the type – the ones that have things and stuff and holidays in the sun; nice houses, big TV’s, good clothes and jobs that pay way more than you’d expect given their lifestyles.
They have photos hung in their halls depicting them frolicking against pure white back drops. They’re Photoshopped into bleached, perfect nothingness by the "professional" studios they pay fortunes to.
But most of all, I dislike their air of all round happiness. You see, for all their outward shininess, I simply cannot believe that anyone could be that happy.
Perhaps I'm just a miserable git. But then again, I could just be very British. We do have an inherent mistrust of the exceptional after all. We prefer bumbling mediocrity thankyouverymuch.
Shininess is relative. Only in how we're reflected in the others’ dull sheen, do we get a notion of our own shininess.
So of course, we must seem like smug bastards to some. What with our house in an “exclusive” village (though we’re in the cheap seats I’ll admit to you), our pretty children, my good job and general all round, white, stable middle-class smuggery.
Which is nice…
All this brings me to the current obsession our media have with our cultural "happiness". If you were to believe all that is written, we're a wretched, depressed nation, wallowing in a self pity that we medicate away with alcohol, drugs and credit card debt.
I can’t help but hear a certain puritanical shrillness to these assertions. It’s as if a return to a parsimonious lifestyle of hard, subsistence farming and cabbage soup will be better for our happiness.
We’ve become soft and self-righteous according to them. We expect to be happy and imagine that everyone else must be more happy than we are. So we buff ourselves up and adopt the typecast grimace of the shiny.
There’s also a whiff of schadenfreude when we read about the successful wallowing in self doubt and existential depression.
They do have a point though, as materialism alone will not buy us happiness. No shit, I hear you say. But really, I have no problem with materialism, as long as it’s balanced with the stuff of substance – love, interdependence, meaning, purpose, creativity, tolerance and co-operation. It’s quite simple really…
Incidentally, we don’t have one of those photos in our hall.
Saturday, 28 June 2008
The Dears - Ticket to Immortality
Boards of Canada - Dayvan Cowboy
Coaltar of the Deepers - C/O/T/D
Nine Horses - Atom and Cell
Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
If the truth is to be told with any accuracy however, I've been watching TV. Soap operas, cheap documentaries and even Big Brother. Not that they're particularly captivating let me say, just I haven't been arsed to do anything different.
Which is not like me.
It's not like I haven't started to post, it's just that the words haven't come when I have.
So I guess the time has come to break my silence with something, anything, before my brain turns to mush and I start wearing sportwear during the day.
So I give you this post, for what it's worth.
Sunday, 15 June 2008
This is us coming home. It's a bugger that I didn't have the good camera with me.
Thursday, 12 June 2008
Monday, 9 June 2008
So without further ado, I give you my favoured blogs of the moment;
Lake Cocytus. A psychiatrist who seems to "get it". A breath of fresh air to read if you're a world weary worker in mental health.
Famous For All Kinds of Wickedness. A Northerner who can write! Will wonders will never cease? The soon to be ex-grocer well deserves this link.
2000 Years of Deception. As Stew will tell you, he's not keen on God. It's good to rant from time to time.
A Complicated Salvation. Zoe is unashamedly Agnostic and not afraid to question. I like...
Zen Bullets. A recent discovery - my my this blogger can write. I very much admire his creation.
And it's with sadness that I say goodbye to The Candy Store - Murph's creation and long time blogroll participant. It seems The Candy Store has been sent to the big Google backup in the sky.
"Well Dom", I told him "I know a little about a lot of things and a lot about one or two. The older I get mind, the more I discover things that I know next to nothing about."
"That's because you're not four daddy," he said "you have to be four to know everything."
Monday, 2 June 2008
To cheer me up, I took the kids & dog for a romp in the fields after school. We counted species - 20 cows, 7 Mallard Ducks, 3 posh, plump Pigeons, 2 Cats and an inquisitive Hedgehog which rather than curl up, had a sniff of my cellphone as we took its picture.
After that Meg & I went for our first bike ride together. You see, in this past week, Meg has relinquished her stabilisers and is now a seasoned pro - up and down kerbs like I don't know what. I swear there was a lump in my throat as we rode to the park and back, whilst Meg chatted away as if riding her bike was effortless.
Our money comes & goes. From time to time it annoys me. Yet no amount of it could make me as happy as the time that comes free of charge with my family.
As I was too busy keeping up with my cycling daughter to take her photo, here's one of her making a flotsam city on the beach this weekend.