Things wot I learnt whilst going for a coffee. by Chris Hoggins aged 44 and 23/24ths

butterfliesTime is a funny thing, some days go by in a flash whilst other days are so slow and painful that they become a feat of endurance to get through. Time has been dragging for a while now, my last week has been spent, blowing up black and white images to the equivalent size of a double bed mattress and subtly altering them in photoshop. I got through roughly 4 a day for four days and on one of those days in particular the day was so long, hard and painful that I was amazed that I got through it in one piece.

Surfacing from a severe bout of depression is a bit like waking up after you have been on an alcoholic bender. You stumble around trying to assess the damages both physical and psychological, work out what you can fix and what you can’t. I won’t lie, I always come up with some really good ideas when I am going a bit nuts, but also some really stupid ones. The only real difference is that when you are drunk, you have the excuse of not remembering what you did, I do. I wouldn’t say I felt normal today, I don’t even know what that means any more but I do feel a level of normality. Sort of.

By contrast to the last week, time positively whizzed past this morning. Freed from the drag of photoshop hell,  I threw all the necessary files that were needed to produce the Bexhill Colouring book on to a memory stick and headed down to the printers. I felt such a feeling of achievement, weeks of research, drawing, and editing, all whilst suffering from the worst bout of depression for over a year,  all on something the size of a packet of chewing gum. When I got down to the printers though, I felt like someone had popped my favourite red balloon. The lady in front of me in the queue to be served was picking up the hymn sheets / orders of service that she’d had printed for her late father’s funeral. I really could feel her pain. That tired way that she was trying to keep herself from falling apart by keeping busy and keeping talking. Exhausted as I have been myself, of late, and feeling stressed by the notion of having to engage in polite conversation with a total stranger, I had to acknowledge that her need was much greater than mine at that moment. I have to be honest though, part of me was really miffed. For the first time in a fortnight or so, I wanted to go “yay me!” but instead I merely handed over my memory stick and got out as soon as I could. Lesson learnt. It is rarely about me, even when I really need it to be.

Next stop, Kassa, my favourite coffee vendor in the whole world. I had managed to acquire my favourite seat for once and got to enjoy my coffee whilst staring at the sea from the dubious comfort of the squidgy sofa that has been reinforced with a sheet of plywood. The usual suspects were holding court and I managed to avoid catching anyone’s eye and getting sucked into a conversation. What was fascinating though was a couple trying to teach their three/four year old daughter what asymmetrical meant. First though, they needed to explain symmetry. They went through a whole routine about two arms, two legs, two eyes etc but the little girl just became confused and fidgety. At no point did either of them think to mention about painting butterflies by folding over a sheet of paper with blobs of different coloured paint on it. Lesson learnt. Grown-ups are silly!

I went in what used to be my favourite bakers on a day when the staff were less likely to now give me the evils. (long story) and all the staff were in the back of the shop, surprisingly, not hiding from me this time. Whilst waiting, some other guy walked in, and on the pretext of perusing the stock, managed to work his way in front of me and caught the attention of the assistant first, Now  in this sort of situation, I would usually let whoever get served before me, but this time I spoke up and made sure I was served first. Lesson learnt. Instead of feeling bad for not standing up for yourself, you can feel just as bad for standing up for yourself.

Lastly, as I was heading home, I heard someone call out to me. It was a co-worker from a charity for adults with learning difficulties that I work for sometimes. The organisation facilitates them in creating artworks and performing in their own drama and dance pieces. I was very disappointed when, a week ago, awkward circumstances made it impossible for me to go to their private view and when I was informed that the students were having their own little low key celebration just for them and it was happening at that very moment, it made my day. It was so lovely to see all the people that I’d worked with and to see their work in the form of cards, prints, tea towels, badges and original artworks and they in turn were pleased to see me. The only fly in the ointment was that one very vocal member was missing. I have a deep affinity for the chap in question and his presence was instantly missed. I discovered that he could not come because there was no longer the funding available for him to attend all the classes that he wished to due to cut that this evil, vindictive, government that we suffer under in (not so) great britain. I could feel the anger boiling inside me, I know myself only too well how it feels to be shut out, cut off, marginalised in more ways than one and for this to happen with a man who lacks the ability to grasp why this is happening I find deeply upsetting. Lesson learned. The pure hearted will love you for who you are and what you do. Lesson not needed to be learnt (because I already know it). When self-centred, selfish, greedy and damaged people get the opportunity, they will ruin the world for everyone and pick on the people who are most vulnerable first.

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