The moving on conundrum.

June 10, 2017

I hate that phrase ‘moving on’. There is an assumption of a forward direction being taken, where the reality is that you can just as easily be going backwards or simply standing still and stagnating. Moving on suggests progress to a better state of being. In reality ‘moving on’ rarely is to something better, just something different. Moving on from a cliff onto the rocks below isn’t progress, moving on from adulthood to old age and then death isn’t progress, moving on from a sense of happiness to one of sadness certainly isn’t. And yet, here I am… moving on… It’s certainly wasn’t through choice and I put everything I could into not moving on…. But here I am… What has put me off more than anything else is the thought of the other party moving on and just how far they have moved on already I shudder to think as I have a self imposed blackout on what they get up to, mostly because all it seems so bloody dismal and depressing to me. What I have been avoiding though is the idea that if I acknowledge that I have moved on, I will need to face the sad fact that they have too. The reality is even sadder than that though, they had mentally moved on when we were still together but didn’t have the guts to tell me. I think the hardest thing I have had to do was to separate my own self worth from someone else’s action. When all you can see is string pastimes chosen above you that could have been devised by one of lucifers minions as an especially cruel torture for really nasty sinners, and people that Roald Dahl would throw into the waste paper basket as characters too vile to be believable, it’s hard to comprehend what kind of dispicable creature you must be to make your way down to the bottom of the pile with that sort of competition But however hard it is for me to wrap my head around, that lowest of the low, bottom of the caste system is what I became to another human being and that really isn’t a good place to be.

It not easy realising you mean less that zero to someone you care for  but I have to remember that other people’s choices have no bearing on who I am as a person and that all we ever really are is responsible for ourselves and our own happiness. The truth is, everything I have ever achieved, I have achieved on my own and that having to portion off parts of my life to others has only ever slowed me down or ground my progress to a complete halt, I have never felt like someone has had my back and of late they were probably as likely to be sticking a knife in it. That said, a life for creative success alone is a bit of a poor do and is certainly no way to live a life. That, I guess, brings me back to the moving on business again, and here is where I am in danger of sounding really arrogant if I phrase it wrong but, being as idiosyncratic as I am, the chances of finding someone suitable drop massively compared to someone living a run of the mill life and it really doesn’t help that I don’t trawl around the pubs and clubs, or that I am not a joiner of things to meet people , be they evening classes, groups nor dating sites. It took many, many years to find what I thought to be that special person and many more before that to make sure that I was mentally and emotionally well enough to be in a relationship as I felt it would be irresponsible to be anything less. Like most clever dicks who think they have got every angle covered, I discovered that I hadn’t because while I was worrying about my own mental wellness, I failed to take into account that of everybody else. Whoops! 

Whilst only hiding under the duvet every third day might not seem much progress to everyone, to me it is a godsend. It is allowing me to slowly get my mojo back and throw my paint on canvas rather than words on the digital page. I am my own worst critic and given the chance I will put the boot in on myself at every opportunity. Every so often though I catch myself and have the strength to point out that I devised a way  of turning the drawings of people with learning disabilities into marketable soft toys that can be ethically manufactured just a couple of months back and produced reams of artwork and am working on another show, I achieved more tangible good in six month than some do in a lifetime. If that sounds arrogant then fear not, because in a couple of minutes I will have forgot all that again and be back to kicking myself up the arse. The point is though, that I always manage to acheive, despite the self loathing, despite the illness and exhaustion, I always seem to pull a rabbit out of the hat from somewhere, and sometimes the very things that slow me down become the emotional rocket fuel to power the next thing I do. Is this me moving on? Or is this just me being me? I guess it’s all just a question of me making a choice where there frankly isn’t one. It this the future for myself I chose? No! Is this the future for myself I wanted? No! Can I take this future and make it my own? Probably. I’ll guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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.

The elephant in the room

June 4, 2017

Sometimes it’s bloody annoying being right. In this case what I was right about was a negative emotion that seemed to perpetually seep out of someone’s every pore and coloured their perspective on everything for years and years. Yet all the while I knew them, they were completely in denial of this screamingly obvious situation to the point where they were so adamant that none of it was happening that I was constantly doubting my own sanity, probably one of the most spiteful things to do to someone who has suffered from mental health problems. I don’t think that the deception was ever intentional, I would like to think that it was because they were embarrassed about feeling something so petty and mean spirited that they never wanted to talk about it with me. They talked about it with other people though, people they valued far too highly who have since blurted every sad little detail to anyone they could and then it’s got back to me.

 Oh did they talk about it, to anyone they could and constantly poisoning people’s view of me with an unending stream of bile. You can’t fight a thing like that, all the seeds of hate spread far and wide like a negative Johny Applseed and the more you do, the more is seems like you are guilty of something other than trying to make something work under difficult circumstances.

It was such a relief to have all my intuitions confirmed and I have felt much more myself again now I realise how little of what transpired was my fault. When any form of relationship, be it friendship, romance, working, whatever is built on lies and mistrust and wrong assumptions, and everything else that goes with irrational jealousy,  it is impossible for anything good to come from it in the long term no matter how hard you work and bloody hell did I have to work hard.

 I still find it so hard to comprehend, why it is so hard just to open your mouth and let some honesty out, (mind you I do it far too often)  to face a situation so that it can be discussed and all the wrong assumptions confronted between the people that matter  rather than stoked up into forest fires of idle gossip. Instead, the elephant in the room just got bigger and bigger until there was no room for anything else. 

It is perhaps fitting that the lies on top of lies have degraded matters to the point where I am pretty much talking to myself here and it is impossible to talk sense to people who no longer recognise the concept, but really, I guess that is all I have really done in any form, be it art, writing, whatever. My life seems to consist of throwing the modern equivalent of messages in a bottle out there into a sea of data and humanity in the vain hope that my necessarily vague thoughts will make some difference to someone, anyone, no matter how small, and perhaps all this pain and suffering won’t have been a total waste of time. And on those bad days when the weight of the world crushes me, at least I know that about that one thing at least I was completely right.

The temptation to fiddle

June 2, 2017

I just reread that title back, it sounds like some literature that would get handed out the trainee catholic priests in the nineteen fifties. Yesterday I finished a set of four drawings in biro that were inspired by (well pastiches of) etchings by William Hogarth circa 1755. The thing is though, when you do something like this, the original drawings are less than perfect, well they are when I do them anyway. The pencil underdrawing never really goes away and there is a level of smudge that causes problems when scanned. Getting an image from your mind to sketchbook, from sketchbook to page, page to scanner and from computer onto a file to take to the printers , for the printer then to fiddle with again thinking you meant somethings entirely different unless they know you and how you work is a protracted process. 

The thing I completely despise is the time spent using photoshop to clean up the image for print and because of the sheer scale of the drawings I have to first accurately put the image back together, compensating for shadows at the edge of the scanning bed and minor discrepancies in the angle they were put under the scanner. Then, many hours later you can finally make a start. It’s taken me many years to deprogram the rubbish that has been thrown at me and learn how to draw and paint like the best version of me rather than a bad version of someone else. I’ve come to terms with shaky lines and wonky circles, obsessive bits of detail and bored scribbles when my mind is onto something else it wants to be doing now. Photoshop though is a dangerous thing, it can be a basic tool to fix minor issues or a time machine where you can alter the entire course of a drawing, changing it out of all recognition. The urge to fiddle is addictive, particularly for me, what with all those pear shaped eyes and lopsided smiles. You change one, then another, then another and in the end it is just not your artwork, just some dead, generic, thing that could have been done by anyone and what is the point of that?

This can happen with people as well, particularly in relationships. We meet someone, fall for them, and then expect them to stop being who they are because parts of our personality don’t meet their satisfaction . It’s tricky at first as everyone is on their best behaviour and being the best them they can possibly be, or more accurately the best them that we think the person we desire wants us to be.  It doesn’t take long for people to relax into themselves and if we don’t like what we see, we go our separate ways, no harm done. The problems come when we like most of what we see but not all of it, no one is perfect and  we have to accept that if we want to be with someone there are things we just need to deal with. Things go horribly wrong when we try to force someone to change essential parts of their personality. 

This has happened to me in the past and, to my shame, I went along with it for a while. I tried to be more sociable, more outgoing, more engaged with other people and all it did was make me miserable, exhausted and rather pissed off with the world I was pushed into dealing with. I am who I am, I like being around thoughtful, honest, genuine, people who are incredibly talented in their chosen field and everyone else can just bugger off. I met too many, shallow, morally dubious, dishonest, trivial, people with big egos and minuscule talent and it ate away at my soul and drained the life from me. It didn’t take long for me to collapse under the strain and I soon returned to type, then balked at all this garbage I felt under pressure to keep doing it and I just couldn’t. It’s not pleasant to feel under constant pressure, to be backed into corners, manipulated and made to feel like you are an utter failure for no other reason than just being yourself and eventually, like any creatures with all their exits blocked off, things take a turn for the worst.

Hopefully that will never happen again, I think  I have finally learnt to accept myself for who I am and my art for what it is too. Perhaps that means I shall end up permanently single and the creator of strange drawings with limited commercial appeal but whatever happens, at least I will be truly me.

Crazy makers

May 31, 2017


Take a day, any day, what do you do with it?

I have such expectations for every day, all the proactive things I will do, the organisational feats I shall pull off, everything I shall achieve. Of course the reality is that what I achieved on any given day will fall vastly short of what I wanted to do, but I usually acheive something even if that progress is infinitesimally  small and painfully slow.

There are some people that seem to wake up every day and think “So! How can I make my life that little bit worse today?” before proceeding to do just that. Whether it be handing their contact details to someone absolutely awful, agreeing to be involved in something time consuming and destructive or actually thinking up something nasty to do themselves and going out and doing it. Whether they mean to do that or not,  is neither here nor there, they don’t take care not to and effect everyone else in the process. 

There is another term for this, much used by self help writer Julia Cameron, and that is ‘muddle maker’ it describes those people who will totally distract your focus and suck away your energy. She uses it in a series of books called The Artist Way, the irony being that if someone has read the wretched thing, they are likely to suck the energy out of others themselves in persuit of their own creativity. Being an artist as far as I’m concerned is mostly about being slightly out of phase with the rest of the world. Just enough to see its workings and its patterned but not enough to go completely mad. A book can’t teach you that, something has to happen to kick your world off its axis. Oh dear! I can hear those lawyers beating a path to my door right now.

Some people seem to get comfort from the chaos they create, they feel unnerved by silence or peace and need to destroy it at the earliest opportunity. They surround themselves in a security blanket of chaos and mess and other messy people and that’s how they like it. There are others though that are unaware they are even doing it, sadly, these people often pass their chaotic ways onto others and create new generations of messiness to help make the world fall apart that little bit more. 

Two of the messiest people I have met are dead now, they died much younger than they should have  and were younger than I am now, but not before creating children who are now as bigger mess as they are. But then, when I think about those people they grew up in chaos themselves.

It’s a curious thing, you can’t legislate again messiness of the soul and yet it probably causes as much damage as the alcoholism, drug and or gambling addiction that often go with it. You can’t pin it down, you can’t find a line where being a free spirit or being fun turns into a life wrecking disaster. We need diversity, we need a bit of fun in life but there is a point, like in my uber messy cousin Joy, dead at fourty four leaving a thirteen year old son on his own, where the only fun left is the first three letters of funeral.

The third rung of the ladder.

May 30, 2017

To say that running my own business is a bit of a strain is a slight understatement. Actually, it’s a complete and utter lie. Trying to do everything that I need to do is an utter nightmare. It is not helped when you discover that people that you trusted were actively working against your best interests at various points, if not actively betraying you.

I have experienced the struggle of trying to make a success of yourself as an honest, working class, person with permanent health problems and I can honestly state that it is hell on a daily basis. It has been a long hard road since 1999, dragging myself back to a given value of normal life, through breakdowns, madness, homelessness, agoraphobia , pain killer addiction, depression and anxiety and now heart problems. 

If you think of it as climbing up a ladder, trying to get on the first rung back to ‘normality’ is an absolute nightmare, we all scurry along through life, juggling work, finances, relationships, keeping healthy and keeping a home, never quite realising just how near we are to the whole lot just blowing up in our face, of course, that is until it does just that. All it takes is for one thing to go at the wrong time and all the rest start to suffer. Your health goes, then your job goes, your relationship doesn’t stand the strain, then you pop a few more gaskets until one day you are sleeping on a relations sofa, with them pretending that you aren’t getting in the way, none of your clothes fit and you look dreadful because all the medication is puffing you out, your friends have all started distancing themselves from you as if mental health problems are catching and you are flogging all the things you can’t drag from one place to another to keep yourself in cigarettes money because it is the only thing getting you through the days. 

The first rung is admitting how bad things are and getting help. The problem is, what help? Much of it doesn’t come until you are actively making a nuisance of yourself and the waiting list for ‘polite nutters’ like myself is phenomenal. Then there are the issues of what you do get in the way of help, what is fashionable amongst the mental health services  at that moment and what is affordable. You may get cbt (cognitive behavioural therapy), mood stabilisers, anti depressants, anti psychotics, group therapy or if you are really lucky, jungian/humanistic/ talking therapy. They each work for a give value of working for different people,  some people are lucky and they hit the right combination of meds and therapy first go, but for most it is a long and drawn out process with the welfare services making it worse all the while. Let’s be honest here, the biggest factor here in the likelihood and speed of recovery is how wealthy and supportive your family is. For me, they were neither and so…

After ten years I finally got to rung two, that is, interacting with the world again. It isn’t an easy thing relearning how to do everything you need to do to get back to living that normal life we all crave. Learning how to recover from set backs is tricky and requires a great deal of practice. Having a breakdown that lasts a hellish fortnight can be regarded as a success if the one before lasted a month and the one before that six. I started living independently again, working hard to do those things that others take for granted. It took a year of monthly session with a life coach at forty pound a time to learn how to sit on my own in a cafe without turning into a gibbering wreck. That came out of my pittance of survival money and was worth every penny. 

The curse of getting slightly better is that the welfare services start twirling their moustaches and looking for a railway track to tie you to. The Tories hit upon a wonderful way of dealing with the walking wounded in mental health terms, theyjust pretend you are perfectly fine. They pulled out the instructions of the monopoly set and just changed all the rules to fit their own skewd version of reality, ignoring tens of thousands of deaths as a strange quirk in their statistics. 

There are wonderful people out there to help but, ironically, you have to know where to look and be sane enough to get that help. It’s a chicken and egg situation, a trap that many fall through and back onto the streets again, your fingers stomped on and off rung two you fall. 

As well as the wonderful people, paid and voluntary, out there, their are also so utter wankers. They fall into three main categories, the well meaning ones who don’t know what they are doing and cause harm, the ones who just take the money and do a crap job and the people who are mentally ill themselves, either boosting their ego or fulfilling some sick need to feel superior to the unlucky sods who cross their paths.

I am always amazed at how disgusting some of the things that people do are to the mentally ill and the vulnerable. There is stuff going on that harks back in offensiveness levels to the black and white minstrel show. They aren’t horrible people doing it and they get really offended if you pick them up on how insulting and degrading they are being to people like me but if you asked some jobbing musician in the seventies wearing blackface, I’m sure he or she would have thought the same.

My ascent to the third rung was a bit of an oxymoron as it was a case of jumping rather than being pushed. I’m self employed now and it is not easy, I’m constantly exhausted and my time is never my own. I’m poorer than I have ever been in my life and I am constantly beseiged by worry. And yet, it is an improvement on waiting for the next government sponsored witch trial so send me back to homelessness. I still get help though and I need to down tools for weeks every years just to deal with the admin and paperwork for that help, knowing that all it would take would be some faceless bureaucrat to take issue with the validity of all my work and wipe everything I’ve done into the gutter. That said, when asked what I do now, I make no apologies, here is my business card, those are my web stores, you can buy my stuff from that shop and over there is a mural I have done and if you go and have a look in that gallery, there is one of my paintings, hanging on the wall.

I don’t know if i shall ever reach the fourth rung, I keep reaching out for it but I can never take hold. To get to even a shadow of that ‘normal’ life that has so long eluded me, to have choices, to not be a sitting target for the government to take a pot shot at should they take a fancy to. To take hold of that I have to compete with the norms. Those with families who were supportive or at best not a total nightmare, those who breezed through the education system, those who were handed opportunities rather than having to claw at them with broken finger nails and chew at them with broken teeth.

Now, here it comes, that noise like a plague of locusts, that chittering sound on the edge of hearing that gets louder and louder. Bitter, bitter, bitter, bitter, the deflector shield of the privileged slides into place to cover all the ways they slid into what they do as they silently close ranks and doors and stick out a leg to trip you up. As you try and get paid work, build up a network, get a foot in the door. There they all are, stopping you. Whether through bruised ego or the thought that one day you might cost them that cushy bit of work and their chance to get a shiny new vintage look pushbike instead of you starving and freezing another winter. The middle class mafia stab you in the back just one more time.

And the most twisted thing of all? Why look there! There they all are, the exact same faces in all those well meaning but ultimately useless charities, ‘helping out’ other poor sods, getting their street cred, polishing their halo and doing a bit of networking all the while. Happy to lend a helping hand…. Just so long as you don’t climb too far out of the gutter as the stench might permeate their world. And they can’t have that, can they?

Greyfriars Bobby. 

May 28, 2017

What is it with Hollywood and dogs? Lassie, Lady and the tramp, 101 Dalmatians, turner and hooch, Beethoven. The list is seemingly endless, there aren’t that many cat ones though, I can think of about three, tops, and I can’t remember their names off hand. I don’t own pets, I have enough bother looking after myself, and they tend to trash artwork if you don’t keep a constant eye on them , but I guess I would lean slightly to a preference for cats as they seem to hold humans in utter contempt… and quite right too! 

I always found the story of Greyfriars Bobby rather interesting though, a dog who would sit on his masters grave every night for fourteen years after his death until Bobby died himself.

I am considered by my friends to be a very loyal person  and it is a quality that I value in others. I think it’s important though not to confuse loyalty with ‘liking a bit of drama’ as there are so many bitchy, spiteful, people around who love nothing more than to wade into other people’s affairs and put the boot in at every opportunity. That isn’t loyalty, that’s a bully in search of a new victim. It can be annoying sometimes having friends who are not only loyal but are also lovely and kind and they won’t sink to the level of being horrible to anyone, no matter how much they may deserve it. They won’t like them though, they just won’t show their distain and cause a scene.

Loyalty isn’t the same as taking sides and it definitely has nothing to do with having an axe to grind. I’ve witnessed so many people over the years whose sole purpose in life seems to be to replay a past relationship or some childhood trauma that they haven’t dealt with through other people’s lives, they dive in and try and ‘help’ but all the are ever doing is reliving something that they once failed to do for themselves, not quite getting that they were probably a major factor in those original events that they are trying to fix vicariously through others. Personally, I wish that whenever someone has an axe to grind, they would do the decent thing, they would bury it in their own head.

You can be loyal and point out that someone is acting like an arse, I have friends who have to do this for me occasionally and it is important to have trust in any relationship, either friend, family or romantic. If done with tact it can be priceless. After all, how can you trust someone to tell you that you are doing something right if that has never been tested by them disagreeing with you? 

It’s important to know how to differentiate between loyalty and someone being of use. I take immense care of my sable hair watercolour brushes as they were very expensive and would cost a small fortune to replace but I have zero loyalty to them, they are tools, nothing more. Being a rather plain, podgy, balding, middle aged man of limited financial means and limited apparent usefulness, I have the dubious privilege of being able to spot the bulk of life’s professional users with ease. The parasitical and the clicky  rarely waste their limited capacity for feigning caring on anyone other than those that will either prop up their egos or provide some use to them, like a cheap film set, you only have to look from the side or get too close and you can see how fake they are. Sometimes, being neither use nor ornament is a definite advantage.

I think one of the things I find most hurtful and hard to comprehend is when it dawns on you that someone that you love and care for has been extremely disloyal. That moment when you realise that not only have they not got your back, but they are actively painting a target on it for others to stab you, providing the ammunition for their guns and merrily tying the noose for your lynching. I guess, though, that there is some sense of loyalty there, it’s just not for you. 

Betrayal is never a nice thing, it gets Judas the prime position in hell in Dante’s the divine comedies. I guess there are times that when it is understandable, I betrayed a family member many years ago to keep three young children safe, that decision still doesn’t sit well with me. When someone betrays you for petty, selfish, reasons, like a need to be liked or be popular or something as feeble as not to be caught out on a lie, it sticks with you for a very, very, long time.

I got a valuable lesson in good friendship with last year’s heart troubles. People would often pull up by me as they saw me shuffling down the street and offer me lifts anywhere. I’d get care packages and food parcels and taken out so I could get a change of scenery. I pride myself on my independence, as a lot of people  in the ‘vulnerable’ bracket do and it wasn’t easy for me to accept help, but my friends got it about right. You always notice the odd one out though, the conspicuous absense, the wonky paving stone on an otherwise sturdy pavement that sprays dirty rainwater up the back of your leg. 

It’s interesting to note that, the most disloyal of disloyal, greatest of betrayer, Judas Escariot took his own life. It takes the coldest of hearts, the shallowest of people, to walk about without a care in the world. Even the most legendary of betrayer had a conscience it seems. There are many people though who learn from their mistakes, murders who found religion and devoted their lives to helping others, criminals who have steered others from the poisoned path, ex cult members who rescue others…. But for the common or garden cowardly and disloyal, their lives are often punishment enough, they have to live with the choices that they make and the ghosts of them will haunt them in everything they do.

There is always a chance for anyone to take a good look at themselves and act with a sense of decency, as with Pandora, at the end of it all there is always hope.

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