Late Introductions…

March 2, 2015

self portraitHellooooo! My name is Christopher Hoggins and I am the creator of the Dweeblings. I have had to write various artist’s statements recently and had to try and explain exactly why a 44 year old man draws funny little big eyed creatures that are severely lacking in the ear and nose department. So where do I start? Well I’ll guess I should start at the very beginning. That’s a very good place to start. Well I was born is the summer of… Ok, maybe not that far back. The first Dweeblings appeared as doodles in my art history notebooks at Middlesex University at some point in 1996. They were among a menagerie of other made up creatures that I used to scrawl constantly whilst I should have been concentrating how to learn proper art speak. My Father had recently died and rather than deal with my emotions I did the typical blokey thing and buried myself in my work but it started to leak out in all sorts of ways, the odd doodles in my notebook being one of them. And there they stayed ’til about some time in about 2000, by which point I had got my degree, had a nervous breakdown, lost my home and found myself living in my mother’s house which was many hundreds of miles from my friends or indeed anyone I knew. For many years I barely left the house and as the internet back then was slower than a snail on valium so I spent and awful lot of time reading books (I even tried writing a couple), playing on my N64 and then my Gamecube and making - Version 2 It was around this time that the first ever painted Dweebling appeared. It was an a very large canvas and had a very long spindly neck and limbs. Now an important things to know about me is that I am more than a touch obsessive. Once I get an idea in my head, I need to go through every idea and every permutation of that idea. I am like one of those automated car factories that churns stuff out day and night and I have no idea where the off switch is. This meant that once I had done one painting I needed to do another, and another and… well you get the idea. I realised that these little creatures could do all the things I couldn’t. DSC00732They could travel to Barcelona and check out Gaudi’s buildings whist I couldn’t face getting a bus into town or they could appear onstage as Elvis or the Sex Pistols when I couldn’t stomach the thought of going into the co-op to buy some milk. As time went by I got a little better and with the advent of broadband internet made the world a lot bigger for people like myself. Around 8 years and many painting later I eventually, with the help of the original IAPT trial, managed to finally move to my own flat by the sea in St Leonards. The move nearly killed me and I had a particularly awful time with finding out someone I thought was a friend actually wasn’t. Once things settled down though and I started to get out and see things, the Dweeblings also made themselves at home in their  new environment. They started to reinterpret what they saw and started to develop a mind of their own. There were even a couple who didn’t smile…. During what were particularly bad years for me, I hunkered down and worked on two series of works on paper. BWthe prison_edited-1Firstly, my own version of William Hogarth’s “A Rake’s Progress” solely using a ball point pen and secondly a complete set of illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. There was a political undercurrent to both these projects, brought about by the Con-Dem Government’s barbaric policies in respect to people justapackofcards_edited-1with mental health issues, particularly in respect to their finances. Hogarth documented, amongst other things, crushing poverty whilst Alice in Wonderland describes perfectly what it is like to work out what is sane in a world which is profoundly mad. Over the last couple of years The Dweeblings have been appearing in portraits, first in a series entitled “The Kings and Queens of Kings Road” documenting the characters real and imagined around Kings Road St Leonards on Sea and more recently in a series of portraits in of the staff and service users of a local mental health support centre where I interviewed the sitters and told their stories in paint. Right now, I am working on a long term project documenting thehidden stories of places in East Sussexand turning them into paintings and colouring in books. And after that, who knows?alltogethernow

This week, last week, some time, whatever!

July 23, 2017

I did it again! I woke up with that imminent deadline, Get back to work! You lazy bugger!, feeling. I can be such a harsh critic to myself and I have to really watch out for that, last week I did about three really intricate drawings that recieved a lot of positive interest but of course I’ve forgotten about that already. Like I’ve forgotten about everything else that I’ve done this year. It’s a sunny Sunday morning, it’s supposed to be for relaxing. The sun is shining through the big windows, wood pigeons cooh in the garden and church bells ring in the distance, enjoy it chris! You muppet!  

Just to be kind to myself, I’ve been trying to remember exactly what I have done so far this year, and so, in no particular order…

Seven huge, headshot portraits. I need to do another three when I can afford some more big canvases.

Character project with students at a charity I work for occasionally that included eight individual character designs in various scales including an absolutely huge one.

A series of Hogarth inspired prints for the snap general election.

A response to the homelessness issue in Hastings that resulted in people camping on the beach.

A satire based on the ridiculous and potentially treacherous trolling incident I experienced near the start of this year.

Various commissions and portraits.

Numerous autobiographical and semi auto biographical drawings.

I waded through one of the longest and most complicated novels in human history.

In other words, a bloody lot if stuff. 

What I do find rather worrying though is how much of the work I have produced this year has been reactive, that is produced as a response to something. On a world and historical scale, reactive art, be it satire, political commentary or documentary, has produced some of the most powerful artworks ever created. The problem comes when you are reacting to nothing more than other people’s spite and pettiness. When I was a virtual shut in during the late nineties and most of the noughties, my painting was a form of escape from the self imposed claustrophobia of barely ever leaving the house, when I engaged more in the world, my work became more of a response to that. When you take care about who you spend your time with and what you do, making art that responds to that is a good thing, the problems came though when nasty people started slipping though my carefully built up security network.

I’ve spent too long over the last few years reacting to negativity. Reacting to spoilt people, reacting to greedy people, reacting to jealous people, reacting to damaged people, reacting to manipulative people, reacting to damaged people and reacting to plane bad people. Whilst there are a few quite amusing satires in amongst them and a few fairly powerful but dark works, I would rather not give any more of life’s bottom feeders more oxygen and time than they deserve, which is none. Plus the stress of dealing with assorted nasty people has damaged my physical health. I’ve had a few offers from people wanting to help me move away from the toxic bubble of Hastings and St Leonards to somewhere with a lower proportion of seedy, unpleasant, people, but, financial issues aside, I love the sea, I love my flat and I have some utterly amazing friends. It’s not easy though, walking along the road some days as you spot people and think “oh look! You got someone killed!”, “You took screenshots of my Facebook page and passed them on”, “You slimed your way into everything you’ve ever done” , “you demean the poor and vulnerable and then congratulate yourself for it”, “you drink and take drugs and work with children the next day” or “you did your level best to ruin my life and health and wandered off without a care in the world and completely forgot about it.” 

It’s not easy, dealing with that level of Roald Dahl awfulness on a daily basis but it seems to be the price of living in a community with a small but annoyingly visible proportion of ghastly people. Whilst what I would dearly love that cosy, sexy,  bubble that is a functioning loving relationship and a polite and healthy distance maintained with the rest of the community of wherever, it seems that it is not my destiny right now, if indeed ever. I have little choice right now but to just keep my head down and soldier on, producing art, making a small difference for the better wherever I can and ignore as much of the shit that goes on around me as is humanly possible. 

If there is a lesson that I have learned over the last few years it is this… There are an awful lot of damaged people out there in the world and, for the most part, they limp along and hold down jobs and present as fairly normal. Beyond that facade though many of them are actually more of a mess than I ever was and they are best left well alone. Perhaps it’s time for me to stop taking the blame for other people’s problems and to not allow those who aren’t prepared to take a good, hard look at themselves to influence my self image. I do and acheive plenty, certainly more and more genuine good than any of my detractors and some who would like to write me off as “Chris the loony” after all, if it’s a choice between blaming me and taking a good hard look at their actions, it’s a no brainer to see which path the spineless and mentally lazy will take. So next time I wake up with some self imposed judgement screaming away at my soul, I’ll remind myself of the very basic truth… “Hey Chris! You are doing just fine! X”

    But is it art?

    July 17, 2017

    I’ve been watching a documentary about finding the correct provenance of three painting attributed to LS Lowry.

    It’s fascinating the way that television documentaries approach the work of artists. Out come the twinkling piano and the strings on the soundtrack, out come the talking heads, experts in their field, things are blown up, scanned, X rayed, put through electron microscopes and people waffle their way through finding out that these paintings are from the brushes of the man himself. 

    Of course, good telly today has to be structured in a certain way to keep people’s attention, create suspense  and structure a narrative flow but I find it sad that, as someone in the trade, so to speak, you only really get the barest of details that the researchers dragged up.

    I have a deep fondness for Lowry and ironically I learned to use oil paints by faking his, amongst other’s works. I actually took my mum to see a Lowry exhibition at the Barbican Centre in the eighties, dropped off by my Dad in his work van only to make it back to Edmonton on the bus, I’m guessing I was fifteen at the time. I knew then that I wanted to be an artist but I had no clue about how to do it. I don’t think I really became comfortable about using that word about myself until I was in my forties though. You can’t make yourself an artist, you just are or you aren’t, it’s a bit like being in love, you can’t make yourself be one, you go down a path and then one day you suddenly are, and once you are, you probably wish you weren’t as you realise that, like being a nun, or an academic, you have signed up for a life of poverty and social exclusion. You become slightly alien from observing the world more than interacting with it and you realise how drastic a life choice it is. 

    No one really got Lowry, sneared at by dealers and gallery owners and other artists for the bulk of his career and only receiving success and money when he was too passed it and set in his ways to enjoy it. Few people realised just how good a draughtsperson he was or the level of figure painting and paint handling skill that was buried beneath those seemingly simplistic figures. Then when success knocked on his door people still didn’t realise the depths of what he did, the dark details, the paintings full of crippled and damaged people all skirted over with the final indignity of a terrible posthumous song.

    Watching this programme and seeing the extent to which his work was and still is being faked and copied, it is interesting to think about just how much effort goes into authenticating something that at one point couldn’t  be given away. I don’t even sign mine unless someone asks as I think that if you need to scrawl your name on it it means that your style is too indistinct. It’s a strange thought though, the way people become so obsessed about the right paint, brush techniques, chain of custody and whathaveyou to the point that the don’t see the actual image. I’d think it hysterical if someone faked mine, it would probably be harder than most people think though, what with me poking fingers in wet paint to see if it has dried yet and the wonkey dyspraxic curves. Knowing my like they would probably do a better job of it and they would sell better, typical!

    Let’s face it, so much of the art world is a depressing pile of shit but then, for that matter, so is most of humanity and society. I vaguely take note of who gets there work in the various local galleries and why and it is either due to schmoozing or that someone’s work briefly ticks the right boxes for some passing fad or other. I had some terribly depressing conversations about the nature of art a couple of years back that related to how terribly irrelevant and unfashionable what I do is. Apparently I should be painting on old scraps of cardboard or old pizza boxes as painting on canvas conforms to a misogynistic archetype that goes back to the bad old days of the old masters. Personally, I think if someone cares more about what you paint something on than what you paint, then they have lost the plot, but then what would I know? 

    The truth is, I don’t give a shit any more about what anyone thinks about my art, I don’t even care whether anyone even sees it. Granted, the money and success would have been handy but beyond that I just don’t give a toss about any of it. I love what I do though and it would be wonderful if I could carry on forever but when it comes to dealing with the sort of wankers I need to be dealing with, I have no patience left. Art and the art world is mostly a load of old bollocks.

    Welcome to fake town on sea!

    July 16, 2017

    It is pirate day today and I had the dubious pleasure of taking a car ride along the sea front with a friend who was actually born here. Driving past a sea of Johny Depp clones, we both looked on in horror as everything that we passed had been twisted into some strange parody of Pirates of the Caribbean. We both agreed that it was great for the kids, unfortunately most of the people we saw were my age or older. 

    I have actually lost count now of all the many festivals, parties, fayres, events and whathaveyous there are around the area but I am starting to get pretty sick of it all. Granted, everywhere has its thing, some traditional event that gives it a bit of character but it’s as if hereabouts is like some obnoxious greedy child that has grabbed the sweets, jelly, ice cream and fizzy pop that was meant for everyone.

    When I moved to Hastings, what I liked about it was that it was a shabby, run down, seaside town, I could live quietly amongst the bungled and the botched and get on with making art. Now it’s as if the whole town has done the biggest, fattest, line of coke and is off on one in the most grandiose of manners trying to turn itself into something quite different and, like most raging cokeheads, it is getting unbearable to be around and the way it is being done is a complete disaster.

    How things got this bad I am really not sure but I suspect that the bulk of the problem is down to the influx of the Down From London crowd and their inability to leave things be (I can say that as I am down from London), there is an assumption that what everyone needs is a constant slew of things to do, not really realising that what most people want to do is to be left alone. That’s a hard one to prove though to those who don’t have a life as you are essentially trying to point to those that aren’t there rather than the crowd of a couple of dozen usual suspects who alway are. With a population of some 80, ooo people it may be easier to imagine one double decker bus filled with attention seekers, nuisance makers and patronising busybodies parked in the middle of the pitch at a conspicuously empty Wembley Stadium, only then would they see how unwelcome their activities truly are compared to those that would rather they sod off.

    It works well for some people, if you are an attention seeker who likes to dress up or a raging alcoholic who loves getting pissed during the day with no one caring and if your life has no real momentum and you have nothing better to do than just drifting from one knees up to the next conducting life amongst a series of shallow nodding aquaintences then it must be utterly wonderful. To anyone over the age of twenty who doesn’t have small children to entertain and isn’t in the throes of a midlife crisis it is all just a massive pain in the arse.

    I’ve been trying to ascertain what exactly the local industry is for Hastings and St Leonards, everywhere has its prime purpose, being its major employer or something it is famous for making. From what I can gather, apart from a slew of dismal call centres, punting insurance, the only thing that seems to happen, is people showing off and turning alcohol into piss. As neither the armaments industry or the natural dyeing industries no longer use piss to the extent that they used to, then that leaves us with the show offs as the only resource left to exploit for profit.

     I have been thinking back to Chuck Palanuic’s novel Choke which was set in a historical theme  park, where everyone spent every day pretending that they were back in the days of America still being an English colony and was wondering if that was the way to go. There are so many people around who love to dress up, who love to show off their limited talents, that want to be seen and marvelled at and lavished  with constant attention, so what better than turn the place into a demented version of Disneyland? 

    Whilst all those of a narcistic bent flaunts their outfits and do their best attempt at acts that would be ridiculed on the first few episodes of the X factor or Britains got Talent, it would finally give the rest of us a chance to actually profit from their constant and irritating presence in all the ancillary industries, the merchandising and production of memorabilia, the car parking, the service industries, the admin and accounting. With the right marketing everything that has become so wrong here could finally work for everyone else. Heaven knows, it it about time they were useful at something. 

    Beware!  Low flying monkeys! 

    July 16, 2017

    It’s a sad indictment of the modern world but if you google “flying monkeys” the first hit is not actually “The Wizard of oz” but a psychological term derived from it. These flying monkeys go out and do shitty thinks at the behest of someone else. It’s not always a case of directly ordering someone to do something and it’s not always an active or even conscious decision, it is often a case of a third party (the monkey)  reacting to a set of circumstances of someone else and wading in on their behalf either by request or in response to their reaction. 

    Flying monkeys are quite often very unhinged people, some are just looking for any excuse to pick a fight and have a predilection for causing trouble and harm, while others draw parallels with their own issues and try and fix them through the person they claim to be championing. Then there are those whom have boundary issues with the person who they think need to be protected and go and fight their battles for them, whether they want them to or not. Some have such low self esteem that they will do anything to be accepted by those they think are their friends.  There are also reciprocal flying monkeys who will take turns in being the one doing the dirty work and the one keeping their hands clean.

    My own experience with this phenomena has been deeply unpleasant, from realising your private Facebook page has been spied on and that screen shots have been taken of comment threads and emailed to people who had no business reading them. The online verbal abuse I recieved bore all the hallmarks of being a flying monkey with its, demented, crusading tone and scant regard for the reality of past events and circumstances. When some spineless coward seeks to attack you from the safety of an annonomised account routed through the Netherlands, it’s impossible to redress the catalogue of errors and wrong assumptions that have sent them flying your way. The truth is that it by the time a monkey comes hurtling your way, they are beyond help, they are too far gone to be told they that they have got the wrong end of the stick, partly through conscious or unconscious indoctrination and partly because you are really nothing more than some proxy villain on which they can work through their own issues.

    I guess this phenomena has always be here in some form or other, shakespear’s Julius Caesar is a tale of flying monkies as is the sad death of the turbulent priest Beckett at the hands of vengeful swordsman. As long as there are people willing to overplay their perceived victimhood in any given situation, there will be people ready to stir a bit of shit for their own amusement. If there is a moral to be learned from this I guess that it’s to think long and hard before deluding yourself to the reality in any given situation and think harder still before sharing that delusion with those around you because it only takes a moment to lash out and say something rash within the  earshot of a poorly chosen friend but the consequences of their subsequent reaction could last a lifetime.

    A smile don’t cost nuffink, but the truth could cost you your life.

    July 14, 2017

    There is a very specific look I get from time to time, it starts with the widening of the eyes and the slightest of smiles only to be followed by the most horrible of scowls and eyes like daggers glaring at me. It’s the look you get when someone is trying to place where they know you from before they realise that one of their chums has pointed you out as THAT EVIL PERSON! either in the flesh or via Facebook. I used to get it a lot a few years ago but slightly less so now, obviously the “we hate Chris!” campaign is still going, albeit with less force behind it than there used to be. Me and my big mouth, and my naughty drawing fingers, get me into all sorts of bother. Of course, what I should have done at the time is kept my head down, taken my punishment for… well, just existing I guess and waited patiently for everyone to get bored and go onto the next victim. Of course, me being me, I did the worst thing I could possibly do…. I started to tell (and draw) the truth. 

    Please note, regardless of what you are taught at primary school, telling the truth is a really, really, really, bad idea. People really don’t like it. I mean really don’t like it. So setting out to redress a toxic situation and telling the truth about who did what and when didn’t go down at all well. The other thing you are misled on at primary school is that doing the right thing is always the best thing to do. What I have discovered with the aid of numerous horrible incidents is this… People don’t want to know if anything illegal is going on, because they might have to do something about it. People don’t want to know if someone has done anything disgusting because they may have to make a choice about how they need to react to them when they see them next. People want to take people at face value, no matter how  much evidence there is to the contrary. People want to think that bad things only happen ‘over there’ some place a long way away from them where it isn’t their problem. People will only make a stand if everyone else does too, whether that is for moral support or that it makes them look good if they do it in front of their peer group I’m not sure though. People need to think that they are essentially good and decent people and that they are in the right and they will actually bend the fabric of the universe to make that lie work for them.

    Every time something awful happens, from radio one paedophiles,  through dead kids under the care of social services, teenagers that run off with their teachers, maltreated pensioners, serial killers, to burning building and sinking ships, there is always an outcry of “why oh why did no one say anything?” Only to find that someone did and probably quite loudly. People don’t know how to react when horrible things are going on, they normalise it and hope it goes away, it usually doesn’t though. People will ignore horrible things, accept horrible behaviour and even applaud disgusting behaviour and still think they are decent people while they collude in awful situations.

    Lots of people aren’t good though, in fact, lots of people are complete cunts. Not that it would ever enter their heads to bother checking. I guess that is the difference, I’m constantly worrying if I’m a good person, so much so that I need constant reassurance and some measure of professional help to make sure that I am. It doesn’t help that I’ve had various people tell me I’m not but judging by their actions and histories, there isn’t one of those yet that actually counts. Mind you, it would be horrible to wake up every morning and think… “Fuck me! I am an utterly terrible human being! ” I doubt there are many who would actually do that. There is always an excuse, always a reason, always, always some mitigating circumstance where that behaviour is ok for you and not someone else. The woman who gave me the filthy look today is well know to be a bit of a cow. From numerous reports, an identikit story emerges to the ones that I have heard countless times before. Turned up in town, instantly identifies the ‘right’ people to suck up to, sucks up to them, has glamorous past somewhere else that doesn’t quite ring true but, hey!, neither does anyone else’s. Turns up at the right things, displays the right politics, does the right stuff for charity and before you know it, it’s “Hey! That’s dear old, *********” send your work their way because they are a really nice person.  They aren’t really, the entire nice part of their personality is aimed at exactly those they need to impress, as for anyone else though… That’s always the difference, how people treat those of no discernable use. Nice people are nice when they don’t have to be, they are nice when no one us observing them. Plenty of people I know have observed this person not being nice, in fact they have observed her being utterly vile, as they have many of others who like to portray themselves as being wonderful people. I find it hard to comprehend… It costs nothing to be kind, it costs nothing to be polite, it costs nothing to pass a little bit of time with most people. Whether it’s snobbery, bitchiness, a deep seated cruelty, whatever, it seems that some people are incapable of being decent human beings unless there is some payback for them in it.

    The thing I discovered is this… Once you realise that horrible people dislike you, it dawns on you that they have no power over you any more, what damage they have done can’t be undone. Plus, because they are invariable vindictive little fuckers, there is no point trying to waste any more energy on being nice to them ever again, what’s done is done. I’m not saying being honest around the kind of people I’m talking about wont get you into trouble, it will, lots of it, but once it done, forget about it and adapt. The incident today, someone pointed me out to her, said “watch out for that one!” It could have been one of a handful of people, all horrible in their own special way, all with an axe to grind. The only way they would have any power over me is if I cared what they thought, which I don’t and they don’t like that. When people only care about being liked and by whom, the easiest way to piss them off is to not care about their opinion because if you refuse to play their game, they have no power over you. All you have to do is to see them for the weak and pathetic creatures that they are and walk away, just walk away and go and do something else instead, preferably something real that needs no attention.

    It would be lovely if one day everybody ceased to give these people attention, starve them of the oxygen they crave. A few years ago, the strain I was under from having to deal with all the grief from this shower of shit nearly killed me but now I see them for the sad, pathetic, desperate creatures that they are. The day that everyone else rumbles them hasn’t come yet but it surely will, it’s just a question of time. 

    Support act to a puppet show.

    July 12, 2017

    There are few things more tragic than seeing ageing rock musicians dragged out into the harsh light of day. Except perhaps witnessing ageing rock musicians with massive egos playing to a group of overly excited dancing children and pre teens at a wedding. It was interesting seeing how poorly these fish faired once the had been dragged out of their usual waters, flapping and floundering and gasping for the sycophantic oxygenated waters of their home town. I may have said this before but there is something of the seven ages of man (or indeed woman) about plotting the path of Rock musicians in any town. From the excitable, naive, teens, amazed they have got a gig through the arrogant twenties where they can get anyone to drop their underwear with little more than an encouraging nod as they wait for their impending stardom, followed by the wilderness years where the stardom never comes and they flounder around as those around them settle down and get lives, through to the aging muso, scratching a living with the occasional bit of session work or playing the odd wedding for a bit of cash. You can see all of these with a brief wander of any town of a weekend, and yet none of the younger ones seem to pick up the hint of what their future will hold. If they aren’t careful, or aren’t that bright, rock musicians can get stuck in perennial loop as if their minds cease to develop beyond their late teens. Like spoilt children, they become arrogant, used to getting their own way, used to people liking them for the immediatly accessable skill they can demonstrate rather than the contents of their mind. For the rare few who genuinely ‘make it’ this stunted emotional growth ceases to be a problem, but for those that don’t, there is little more to their future than to bumble along, being a burden to those around them.

    Of course, there are plenty of emotionally stunted people who aren’t wannabe rock stars, there are countless people in every walk of life who hit the skids in early life and fail to progress beyond the booze / music and short term relationship (I think Ian dury came up with a better name for that and wrote a song about it) point of life but they are able to hide it behind a slew of bullshit activities, particularly if the words “it’s for charity!” and tagged on the end. There is something about old failed rockers that is particularly tragic though. Maybe it’s the point where the hair dye is to hide the grey rather than to make them look alternative, maybe it’s when the ripped jeans make them look like a tramp rather than anti establishment, maybe it’s that tipping point where trying to look cool looks more like an impending mid-life crisis, but there is an invisible line that musos cross between ‘making it’ and ‘losing it’ that all too few are aware they have crossed.

    It’s slightly different in my game as artists rarely ‘make it’ in their own lifetime and so it’s easier to kid others and delude yourself that what you do has some validity even though it barely earns you any money. Plus artists don’t really have a defined look as such, except perhaps slightly scruffy with paint under your fingernails, something that can easily be maintained through a lifetime of scraping by. Ok, we don’t get that early adulation from prancing about on a stage but we do tend to develop slightly higher IQs and are generally much nicer people. Obviously, I’m generalising here but like most generalisations, it has a basis of truth. Fortunately, my dodgy heart has put paid to the usual fate of impoverished artists, that of painting and decorating but luckily I have managed to find a few better paid ways of earning a crust between the rare sales of art.

    Sitting at the wedding, watching the ‘best drummer in town!’ as popular opinion dictates I am bemused to see what the fuss is about. Maybe it’s his current groupies being more interested in little mix or whoever children listen to now than serving his sexual needs or maybe it’s because we have mutual acquaintances and I know him to be a sexist pig but all I see is someone clinging on to their last scrap of dignity outside the bounds of their tiny empire of idiots wishing to validate what they do. I guess that is where the crux of this lies, in that rock musicians require attention, they desperately need to be applauded and adulated in a way that no one else does, except for perhaps politicians, and without that they are nothing.  ageing musos occupy the hinterland of a world that is best built on artifice and as solid as air and as these ones load their gear back into their dodgy old van, whereas before I held only distain for them, I now hold an equal measure of pity. Rock n rock eh?

    Man versus hill and other sorry tales

    July 9, 2017

    I heard some sad news the other day, a well known member of the local street drinking community had died at far too young an age. Like most of the characters you see dotted about, we never know their real names. In st leonards there is Beardy Hat Man, Sleeping Bag Girl, Banjo Man, Jingly Bell Stick Man, and Captain Black to name but a few. Then there was Man Versus Hill, a moniker given to a weather beaten young man who would gravitate to the main thoroughfares of st Leonards and the bottom of the hill and would then spend the rest of the day trying to struggle back up said hill again whilst paralytic. Man versus Hill died a couple of weeks back in the conquest hospital from organ failure due to chronic alcoholism, I doubt if he even made it to 40. 

    I hadn’t really seen him around recently and, truth be told, I actually thought he might have sorted himself out as I remember him riding around on a bike for a while and I hoped he might be sorting his life out. How very wrong I was! 

    Once a person has slipped out of the proscribed social structure it is very difficult to return. Be it through poverty, mental health problems or substance abuse, you soon become part of an underclass with friendship groups and a social hierarchy of its own. It’s impossible to escape from the social pecking order, even amongst the desperately poor, allegiances are made for the best begging pitches, to club together for the slightly cheaper multipacks of booze or to score drugs. This soon becomes their social and friendship group, making it nigh on impossible to leave. Wherever we are in the social structure, our friendship groups end up owning us and if they are less than healthy they will keep us stuck and drag us back down whenever we try and improve our lives.

    To make any real change in any situation, we have to divorce ourselves from the people and situations that maintained the thing we need  to escape. Whilst a substance may not have a voice, those you shared that addiction with do and they will drag you straight back in because the last thing they wish to do is to admit that they have a problem or (more to the point) that they are the problem. You get away, start making your life better and then it is “why don’t we see you any more?” “You’ve forgotten who your real friends are” nostalgia is a dangerous thing and the worst thing is when people start trying to drag you back with memories of the good old days, of course, they were never good.

    Whenever someone who fell through the cracks in the world starts to get their life into some sense of order and find themselves a place to live and even a job or some other more healthy focus. It isn’t long before ‘your friends’ find you and then it’s back to square one as you lose the home from all the complaints and your fragile new life is trod all over.

    Ironically, the systems set up to help the poor, vulnerable and homeless are very much part of the problem. The shelter I pass ever day, and whose services I have used in the past, provides everything from a hot meal, a laundry and even a gym plus advice on housing and a way to get off of the streets for a few hours. Sadly though, what it also does is create a tightly bonded social grouping that encourages the users to remain stuck in their disadvantaged position in the social structure as it makes it very easy to remain stuck. I see the same faces, year after year and, as with prison, the old lags teach the younger ones all the tricks of the trade.

    Sadly, one of the most toxic parts of this situation are the do gooders who think they are helping but actually cause more harm in the long run. The second you create a charitable situation you create an invisible line between those handing it out and those receiving it. To be on the receiving end of charity is one of the most demeaning things that you can experience and beyond the much welcome giving of cash to experts, who know what they are doing it, is wise to question the motivations of those who wish to be directly involved in charity. There are many reasons that someone gets involved in charity work, like gaining much valued knowledge and experience  in a field they wish to persue as a career, there are also less benign reasons though. There can be an almost vampiric trade off from someone involved in charity work if their motivations are entirely wrong. There are those who do it to look good amongst their own pier grouping because it makes then look like ‘good’ people, plus it makes a useful networking tool as being involved in charity work can be a useful  shorthand for the assumptions of others that you are their sort of people (whoever they might be), there are those who don’t have much of a life and need to find a way to fill it and give themselves a sense of purpose and worst of all there are those who get some sort of vicarious thrill out of being a better person than other’s and enjoy the feeling of superiority and self righteousness that goes with it.  Sadly, many of those who think they are being the solution become very much part of the problem as they bring along their assumptions, priorities and value and, whether they realise it or not, they can’t help but impose it on others.

    On top of the self serving and aggrandising charity workers there are many failures in the social service sector. Sadly, ‘helping’ people has become a bit of a racket with departmental fiefdoms and work subcontracted out to private companies that used to be local authority departments bought up wholesale. Doing the same work but with corners cut to encompass a profit margin. Many of the staff are as damaged, if not more so, than those they purport to help. Whilst I don’t want to make sweeping statements, there are many in social work who are there for no better reason than it being far easier to cope with someone else’s problems than their own. The irony of this being that, as they emersed themselves in the chaos of other people’s lives, their own problems don’t seem so awful and they end up letting things slide even further at home. Those in the social work sector can become cut off from society in their own special way, just like the police and medical professions do. They have a tendency to become cut off in their own little world and the value of what they do for a living becomes distorted as they only interact with other professional fiddlers in the affairs of others. They may not even realise they are doing it but to those on the outside of that bubble they can be viewed as insular and self righteous. I.m sure it never started out that way but after so many meetings, so many residential training courses, so much focus on narrow spectrums of society, they can develop there own language and set of priorities that is meaningless to those outside their line of work. 

    Sadly, I have met a disproportionately large amount of people involved in social work who behave absolutely appallingly outside their working hours. Displaying the most antisocial and obnoxious of behaviour that seems hypocritical in terms of their employment and sinks below the depths to which any of their charges would sink. I guess they assume that the work owes them something for their paid strictures, but who can really say? 

    Whatever chain of events it was that brought about Man Versus Hill’s sorry end, I am quite sure much of what was above has a bearing on it. It is a sad reflection on events that while our sad protagonist finally  stagger from this planet, all those charity and social workers, do gooders both self righteous and lonely were most likely sitting around dinner party tables and their comfortable homes, nursing their own substance abuse issues in a civilised and accepted manner… It’s a funny old world!

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