One way conversations in my head.

June 8, 2017

For a while now, I’ve been exhausted in my head before I even managed to roll out of bed most days. I keep having imaginary conversations or more accurately imaginary arguments in my head. Am I the only person who does this? I know I’m not the most stable person, I will happily admit, but I’m not sure just how far on the weird spectrum this goes. It’s not like the devil is telling me to do something or that I think I am being bombarded by a thought control machine and am in desperate need of a tin foil hat. This is more like the version of my father that I carry around with me, the odd little comment or look I can remember, usually when I’m getting a bit big for my boots and I catch myself spouting some ludicrous explanation for whatever I happen to be doing at the time. The really weird thing is that this person is still alive.

One of my siblings has said precisely one wise thing in their life and it was this. “when someone you love dies, they have no choice, when someone you love leaves you they do.” Being abandoned by a loved one is the dog shit cupcake of berievment with and added rabbit poo cherry on top, and when you are left for things that seem utterly insane and self destructive to you it is the same but with added diarrhoea icing for good measure.

So there is this voice that pipes up in my head and as I am cursed with a ridiculously good memory and a really good imagination it is really no fun at all. I can be cheerfully minding my own business and off it goes and there I am trying to get answers to things I will never get a straight answer to, particularly when it is me basically talking to myself. It’s like Frost / Nixon, Paxman / Howard, Blair and, well, everyone. Squirming and sliding and half truths and misdirection… Exactly like in real life basically, except without the nice moments to break it up.

There are distraction techniques that are useful, the new Zelda game has been a godsend as is the act of painting, reading is a total pain though as all that passive intake of words just allows things to creep in… There are far more ruthless techniques to forcibly eject some from your psyche but that would just seem cruel, swapping out someone’s image for something grotesque or giving them the voice of something unpleasant in your head.  It seems so cruel though, and I don’t do cruel, I leave that up to…. Other people…

Well hopefully, in time, this will fade and it will be as easy to ignore as the tinnitus in my right ear, but until then I’ll have to put up with my brain lodger and try not to start another argument.

Time, no refunds.

May 21, 2017

It’s funny how things catch you sometimes. This little meme popped up on my Facebook feed today and it was so utterly perfect, so very true. You can never get that year, that month, that hour, that minute, that second back. Whoosh! There goes another bit of time, gone! Byeeee!  Many years ago now, I worked for the civil service, we worked on flexi time, writing in the times we came and went, seven hours twelve minutes a day, thirty six hours a week for eight years, give or take holiday. I have the time sheets tucked away somewhere, I figured they would make and interesting bit of art. I think about that time and where the money went, stuff, clothes, records, books, booze, travel, cigarettes, concert tickets.I guess it probably got me laid occasionally and kept me in food. That’s it really, I can’t account for much of that time. You do that when you work in a ‘proper job’ you try and make that time spent mean more by using that money well, but the gigs of which there were many, are just fuzzy memories, the stuff, obsolete, the records are much part of a past that I don’t need to cling to live in ghost form as MP3 files, barely, if ever, played. The books I have, the books I love but how many can I reread in a lifetime whist I keep devouring new ones? 

Right now, I have little money but I use it well, money is working energy, money is materials, money is body fuel, money is research and information. Time though…. Ah time! Time is much more precious than gold and diamonds, time is life, and you can never get it back when it has gone. I’m fortunate now as I can so readily account for much of my time, this bit of meandering here for example. I only ever write it for me, if someone reads it, fine, if they don’t, fine too, I know how I felt today, which is very useful. Mostly it’s accountable now through art though, I can track where I was in my head and the world by paintings, drawings, sketchbook and all that. 

I guess since my brush with the grim reaper last year I have become even more acutely aware of time misused. That said, merely sitting feeling the sun on your skin or watching the light glittering on the sea is time well spent, time with good friends and lovely family members is too. Time spent with arseholes though or, even worse, time spent doing things for arseholes… That is the worst thing in the world, you are effectively murdering time there and murdering yourself a little bit too.

Anyway, enough of this. Things to do and people…. Well, people to avoid. 

Time to get a wiggle on.

This time last year…

March 17, 2017

I have been alive for roughly 17000 days so far. How many more have I got? Maybe eight thousand, maybe one, who knows? Not enough, and never will be. Out of all those days, how many do we truly remember? Probably not that many… For me, there are only a few whole days that are chiselled in granite in my mind. Most days are like hastily scribbled notes on the back of fag packets, soon forgotten as the random events pile up and become almost interchangeable. I account for the bulk of my time now by the art I do, I know that I will be able to look at this last month or so and say that February and March were the time of strange creatures, where my world was strewn with the chaos of their making. For my first working life though, there is next to nothing, a decade in the civil service, faded memories and things that have drifted from my world through wear, obsolescence or as changes in me or the world have made their need unnecessary. I have kept all the time sheets though, all those hours and days I can never get back wasted on earning money to buy crap or get blitzed to divert myself from the utter pointlessness of the work I did back then. I have this strange feeling at the moment, at first I found it hard to place, like a new form of music or the taste of a food I have never tried before. It turned out to be satisfaction, I feel it rarely and, after days of doing stuff with people that actually matters and makes a difference, I find the lack of need to push myself any further once I got to the end of the workering day rather disconcerting. 

Most memories I collect are more like scratches on records or chips in a paint surface or scuffs on shoes, fleeting but permanent. Flashes of events, the warm glow of bliss, the gut punch of betrayal, the iciness of fear,  the full narrative of the event lost but the extremity remains, stark moments fixed in time. My memory of this day last year is in technicolor with surround sound as its not everyday that starts with you thinking that there is a good chance you might die. The spectrum of emotions that day and their extremity was huge. Fear, obviously, oceans of it, sloshing about everywhere, not so much of death as you are gone and that’s that, but more of the other potential outcomes, strokes, open heart surgery, being airlifted to Brighton in the event of certain outcomes, brain damage, loss of fine motor skills, the loss of everything I relied upon to make me, me. I had already had a taster to upcoming events earlier that week and that was bad enough and more of the same was not at all welcome. Coming in a close second to the fear was the feeling of utter helplessness, knowing that my destiny and the events I had to undergo were utterly out of my control a feeling that soared to unimaginable heights during the procedure itself. When your arteries are being slit open and catheters inserted and wires and tubing thread inside your body in the manner of a David Chronenberg body horror movie, you soon realise that you aren’t going anywhere. Next on the list was wonder, a horrendous experience is still an experience and the artist and documentor in me wanted to store it all up, squirrelling it all away for use at a later date. It’s not often you get to see your own heart being operated on and see it beating inside your own rib cage. After that came the pain I guess, mostly the throbbing headache from all the nitrates pumped into my bloodstream but also the internal bruising that got worse over the course of weeks. Below that was a combination of hurt, disappointment and a little anger at the inevitable shittyness of a few people in my life and the inevitability of their poor behaviour. You always expect people to be better versions of themselves when you really, really, need them to be…. but they rarely are. I’d like to think I felt more pleasure with how lovely most people had acted but the fear and pain made that hard to contemplate on until much later. Disappointment though cuts to the heart of things like a diamond, it’s hard and sharp and takes so long to dissipate and of everything on that day it remains with the most clarity. The targeted apathy of it, the cowardliness of it and the utter lack of remorse of it stings like vinegar on an open wound. Then there was amusement, the detached observance  of the intravenous Valium, the surrealness brought on by the weird visual effects of all the iodine in my bloodstream, the novelty of being able to still crack a joke about hoping not to die on the same day as Paul Daniels and having to deal with the annoying bugger in the queue for heaven. 

Every moment of that day had solidity, none more so than the relief when I was was wheeled back to the ward again. I’ve tried really hard to appreciate every single moment of the last year and see it all as a gift.. I haven’t always succeeded and at some points I have probably let myself down quite badly, but I’m trying… I’m very trying apparently .

Into extra time.

March 12, 2017

A year ago this week my life took a drastic and surreal turn. It all sounds so dramatic now but the basic upshot is that I should have died. The start of last year wasn’t good for me for a number of reasons all too unpleasant to regurgitate here, let’s just say that on top of the near terminally narrowed arteries, the mental and physical strain should have finished me off. Suddenly being pulled out of your environment and having to deal with your own, very imminent, mortality does things to you. You realise what’s really important in life and you find out who your friends are and the silences are very very conspicuous. I think it’s fair to say that I had come off the rails at this point last year, between hideous revelation after hideous revalation, the effects of a life threatening illness I wrote off as the anxiety getting worse and the utterly vile medication I had to ingest that made me feel even worse than I already did, I did some very foolish and ill considered things. I certainly wasn’t proud of myself and still aren’t, looking back. I did do a lot of art though and I processed the experiences of ill health, mortality and recovery in a productive manner and that will always be there. There were over fifty artworks in that show alone and most of them weren’t totally rubbish, add to that all the other stuff and I can safely double, possibly treble that figure, I even sold a few. Then there was the other stuff, the bears, the commissions, the workshops and I’m topping the year out with something rather special that is going to make a lot of difference to some very lovely people. I think I’ve done alright, that isn’t bad for year one, it’s the next year I’m worried about…
Between the economic downturn and the government chiselling away at the support I receive for being disabled, this next year and, more worryingly, the year after, things are going to be tough to say the least and I am truly terrified whenever I think about it. Panicking doesn’t help though so I just keep my head down and focus on the things that are in my control rather than that which isn’t. Truth is, I don’t know what the next year holds but if I can look back on that and say I achieved as much as I did in this first year of extra time I will be happy. 
I think I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last year and a lot about the world too. I’ve learnt a lot about other people too and it was mostly good… Mostly…
What will I learn in the next year? Who knows? But so long as I keep learning, thinking, having ideas and creating it won’t be a waste of time. 

Artist bloke snuffs it…. Yawn!

March 10, 2017

Contemporary painter Howard Hodgkins died this week….


The wind whistles and tumbleweed rolls across the scenery because…

I don’t care.

While the death of a human being, even a wealthy one at a ripe old age is a tragedy to his family, frankly I don’t give a shit.

Howard got rich from daubing splodges of colour on canvases, his u.s.p was that he daubed on the frames too. 

Like much in the contemporary art scene, his real art was his ability to maintain a straight face whilst picking up various awards, prizes and the cheques of course. As well as the usual knack of reverse engineering some reasoning for whatever splodge painting he happened to be doing that day. It’s all a big con, that’s the art, the art of the con. That con of the great patriarchal artist spurting out a bit more multicoloured jism into the already sodden art world.

It seems to be my lot in life to get in trouble for pointing out the blitheringly obvious to those blindly following the rest of the sheep. I got hauled into the tutors room at university for my review of the big Hodgkins show at the Hayward gallery in the 90’s. After seeing the third room of variations on smears of multicoloured paint I just felt angry that he was getting away with what was essentially a bit of a racket, no progression at all, just a winning formula that he had hit upon and kept phoning in, and I said so…. How dare I??? The great man’s art being questioned? Disgraceful!  Shame on me! 

Oh hang on a minute, I’m getting de ja vu here. Oh well…

Anyway, Howard Hodgkins, rich dead artist bloke…. Like there hasn’t be one of those before. Meh!

Oh! The picture at the top is one of my old palettes. 

Vita Brevit, Ars Longa

January 28, 2017

I had a very strange reaction to the news of the death of actor John hurt this morning.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it. In so many of his most memorable roles he seemed to always be dying, from the chest bursting scene in Alien, being tortured as Winston Smith in 1984, his brave struggle against cancer in Champion to the mercurials agent provocateur in Carl Sagan’s Contact surving beyond normal means due to the influence of unimaginable wealth, John has always been dying. I haven’t been far from death of late, from my saxophonist friend to my own brush with the grim reaper a year ago now, mortality has been a constant shadow. 

The coming to terms with the fragility of my body has become a key factor of late, having as I do enough trouble dealing with the fragility of my mind. I get spots in front of my eyes every time I sneeze or cough and I have to run a risk assessment in my head for every item I pick up before I do it. Things came to a head last week when after six weeks of struggling when I had to admit that, at 1.5 kilos in weight, just holding up the recent Alan Moore novel was beyond my capacity, leading me to re-buy it for my kindle. 

One of my favourite t shirts features a momento mori consisting of signifiers of art, creativity and learning. It’s hard to find one in t shirt form that doesn’t look like something you would pick up at a heavy metal concert. Having a bloody great skull in the middle of a design tends to do that. The Latin means simply Life is short, Death is long. A reminder that we only have one life and that we better make the most of it, not that I really need one judging from the above. In fact, I can hear the ticking of the doomsday clock so loudly that I find it hard to waste I second of my time if I don’t have to. I suppose everyone has a different notion of what time well spent is though. Sitting on my arse, staring at the sea, or just feeling the warmth on my skin on a sunny day is time well spent, as much as making some art, reading a book or making something lovely, sitting in an office isn’t, or a meeting or indeed being around anyone you simply don’t want to.

I have an almost allergic reaction to being around people I don’t want to be around, I don’t suffer fools gladly. I can’t bear users, or people who kick off if you don’t go to their thing. People who constantly talk and talk over people, people who only like you if you meet their definition of cool, people who only like you if you are of use to them, bullies, boasters, controlling people, the cruel and the cliquey and unkind. Every single second I have spent in the company of people like that is a second I shall never get back, a second too long. I spent too long with low self esteem, I struggle with it still. when I was younger, being  pushed around by people like that and I simply won’t engage anymore, it’s probably not the best way to cope with people like that, but there are worse.

Here is where the real problem kicks in though… I spend an awful lot of time crawling back into bed and trying to go back to sleep. Suffering from depression is a horrible waste of time, it eats away at you, making you seize up, or crawl along at a snail’s pace before you just simply cannot cope with being conscious any longer. How do you marry a condition that eats away at your time and energy with a desperate need to wring out every drop of life and from what’s left from your time on this planet? It’s deeply frustrating, the only upside of it being the sense of purpose and urgency I get when I feel well. I feel like that today and will crawl under the covers soon, hoping I will crawl out later and some internal brain mechanism will have rebooted again, well, for a while anyway.

So on I walk, limp, hobble and crawl, to my inevitable end, hopefully by the most scenic and purposeful route I can imagine. 

Conversations with my mother.

January 17, 2017

I haven’t been feeling too clever recently, partly due to the cold, partly the lack of sunlight, partly poverty and partly due to circumstances that I have no control over. Some days recently, I feel like I deserve a medal for getting to the end of and I suspect this may be another one of them. 

On top of trying to constantly take my career forward and dealing with severe disability I have another thing to deal with, the perennial straw that is snapping my spine. My mother’s telephone calls. I had another one just now and it was just too much to bear. I had to run up the stairs to get it (more of that later) and when I answered she launched straight into a diatribe about her ears, about how she could not get a doctor’s appointment to check them and she wouldn’t be allowed to drive again until she gets her latest bout of vertigo sign off as cleared up… She is 88, my mum, she crashed into a concrete bollard a few months back, just drove straight into it, before that she rear ended a van. This has gone on for years now, as has the idiocy of owning a four bedroom detached house that has sat empty for three years now whilst she has shacked up with my hoarder of a sister, an insult to homeless people everywhere.  This morning I had nothing left, not an ounce of reserve to deal with this constant drip of humourless, self unaware, misery being pour down my ear. I couldn’t stand it any more, not today, and so I asked her ever so nicely to stop, and slam! Down went the phone again, to be followed no doubt by days of passive / aggressive silent treatment. 

That knee jerk action in my mum, it’s been there her entire life, the filthy temper, face going from scarlet to incandescent white as she would burn with fury with little to no provocation, my brother got that personality trait fortunately not I, although I do wonder sometimes if I have I tiny piece of it somewhere… hiding. I got the depression and the stubbornness, the latter part saving me and part causing myself and others an awful lot of bother. 

There is a moment in most people’s lives when it dawns on them that their parents are not the infallible being’s they have to look up to and are all too human. It mostly comes along when we or our friends have children our/themselves. When the full extent of the idiocy of the prospective parent is known but for me it was when I was about ten, when the first bailiffs came knocking at the door. I watched for years as one nonsensical decision after another caused more and more chaos, I knew what was going on far too young and was obliged to stay far too long and deal with the consequences of bad decision after bad decision, over and over again. People can only really save / fix themselves, but first they have to want to do it and, more to the point, know they need to do it. My parents messed everything up, the three children, the psychopath they pretended wasn’t a psychopath, the one with learning difficulties they pretended didn’t have learning difficulties and then there was me. Dragged from pillar to post, told I as stupid and shit constantly (but she never laid a hand on me so that was ok), the slave, the unpaid carer, the cash cow. 

My parents both buried their heads in the sand, about debts, about children, about homes, never learning, never being honest. Now years later it still goes on, the physical distance being the only thing that keeps me safe(ish) all that’s left is the phone calls. The news about her “rear end” during breakfast, the eleven missed calls in a row when I go out, the looping banal questions asked by a failing mind, the repeated calling when she knows that I have visitors. The almost sixth sense about when I’m cooking, eating dinner, in the bathroom, up a ladder, mid painting and… Always during sex. The latter is regrettably not a problem right now but it never ever stopped. Even when I was in hospital, wired up to machines and if I didn’t answer, the switchboard of the coronary care unit would get it, as would my friends. Nothing in this world is more important that my mum, never has been, never will.

The thing is though, I know that one day, it will be the last call. The last time I hear that constant barrage of woe and petty spite, so I keep on answering the calls, I keep listening to the dirge of banality because if I don’t, I know that I won’t be able to live with myself. It’s a sad business but one I have to live with.

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