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.


Yγνῶθι σεαυτόν

April 28, 2017

Or ‘know thyself’ in English is written on the temple of Apollo in Delphi many thousands of years ago. It’s one of the key rules of living a sane and healthy life.

Today I know myself but I dearly wish I didn’t. What I know is that whilst in some ways I am extremely resilient, in others I am a very fragile person. I have learnt what is likely to break me over the years, noise that can’t be shut off, claustrophobic situations, chaos, drunk people (see chaos), nasty people… I won’t bore you, it’s a long list. However hard I have tried in the past, through cbt, through beta blockers, through ssri’s, the panic has broken through and I’ve gone hurtling away at breakneck speed from the point of stress. I’ve run out of Mayfair cafes to surface in Islington with bloody feet and a broken spirit, I’ve run home from plays and planned suicide, shot out of cars in the middle of arguments, countless irrational panic responses that can’t be controlled no matter how hard I try. That’s the problem with hidden illnesses, if you were wheelchair bound and you had to attend an event in a building without ramps, lifts and dedicated bathroom facilities, there would be a public outcry, the sympathy would mass behind you and the story would make its way into the newspapers. With a hidden illness, though, most people just roll their eyes and mutter “weirdo’ or such under their breath. This government isn’t helping with its, pick on the most vulnerable, strategy. I look forward to a time when we look back in horror at what we deemed as acceptable behaviour, back in the dark days. From the casual racism on television up until the 1970’s through to the chain smoking Fred Flintstone an drampant  homophobia as recently as the eighties, I hope that one day people will look back in horror at the thoughtlessly excluding situations that they created. We are a long way from that now though and the arbitary hidden illness predudice affects me constantly.

So this is my dilemma, the one I always have to face. Do I try to fight against the illness when a situation brings it up, knowing that it could plunge me into weeks of severe depression if it goes wrong or do I except it and just hate on myself for a few days? Plus there is always the cumilitive total of the “what a rude, odd, anti social guy that Chris is.” whispers and opinions to consider. 

Today is a landmark birthday for one of my closest and most loved friends and there will be a party thrown for her and a friend of the same age. I started doing the risk assement for it a long while ago, crowds of people, loud music, plenty of booze and therefore plenty of drunk people… There were a few plus points though, lots of lovely people who I know will be there and there is an outdoor area which would service as a welcome break from everything that pushes my buttons but then there were two other factors that swung it, due to the joint nature of the party and the inevitable six degrees of separation factor of their friends and partners, there will be some absolute wankers in attendance, between having to suffer their presence and knowing to whom they will be reporting back, the are a definite negative on the list. The night of the party also coincides with yet another in the unending circle of tedious events on the boozers’ and exhibitionists’ calendar and the town will be chock full of arseholes yet again. So, after much soul searching, my decision was made or rather made for me. 

And yet I will still hate myself for it, even though my close friends understand and even expect and plan for it, it still hurts. Plus, from a selfish point of view, my inability to attend many social occasions shuts down countless options for me. I see so many lucrative projects locally that can be pinned down to the people around the table in a particular pub or a dinner party, funding options and opportunities divied out over a pint or a glass of wine. Mind you, it also goes to explain why so many things that occur are of such poor and unprofessional quality, a meritocracy it ain’t. I console myself with the knowledge that I neither have to work with nor be in the proximity of unpleasant people, which makes life a lot more bearable. It also hampers one’s chance of finding romance as not going to parties, pubs, etc makes meeting people much harder. When people have lowered their inhibitions with alcohol and have to circumvent normal rules of personal space to shout in someone’s ear over the loud music, intimacy becomes much easier. That said, it’s been a long time since I’ve woken up to the regrets and results of a poor romantic decision made at a messy party or boozy pub night. Plus, for me, meeting people under such circumstances would give someone the impression that I’m happy do such things in the future, causing friction with any potential partner more attuned to socialising, as before though, it minimises my contact with arseholes, which is a small comfort.

There is a world out there full of people like myself, if we are a minority, it is a huge one. We rarely meet though because, well, see above. sone of us are lucky enough to make it (whatever that means) or find love, some even do both, but for most of us it’s the mental equivalent some hideous physical illness or other that I dare not put into words for the shit storm of “how dare you compare your trivial ailment to… Insert illness here”. So we just suffer in silence, well, except for mouthy gits like me who burn more bridges than those carpet bombing major cities and have nothing left to lose.

So tonight, it’s bath, jim jams and a book like every other night, alone. While a world that is closed and barred to me goes on out there regardless.


When you wish upon a star…

June 4, 2016

I’ve been struggling as to whether I should press the ‘publish’ button on this particular blog. My judgement regarding my blogs has been patchy in the past to say the least. Some things are just so terrible that you cannot wrap your head around them. You try to comprehend the magnitude of their level of awfulness and it just slips through your head, impossible to hold on to for more than a few moments. Today I was confronted by one of those things, albeit indirectly I hasten to add. 

I was walking along in my own little world, lost in thought. Not nice thought I must admit, just the usual low grade resignation, frustration and depression that has of late set up home in my head, kicked it’s shoes and socks off and got nice and comfy. Then the phone rang, it was that funny tone that signifies a Facebook phone call coming through. It was one of my first Hastings friends. I met her around nine years ago when I was involved in an abusive friendship and, after I had been drained of all the money I had, and was left vulnerable and friendless in a strange new town. She had some terrible news for me, which was that another friend I met at the same mental health hub’s little boy had just died after a long illness. I remember this child being born, I even knitted her some baby clothes for him I seem to remember. I knew he had been ill for a while now but I just figured he would get over it… 

I had last seen him and the rest of his family about a year ago under the oddest of circumstances. It was a lovely day,  my then lady friend and I where sitting on a bench in the middle of nowhere in the South Downs. We were road testing some new thermos flasks and admiring the view across a valley. Things were already taking a bizarre turn as the air began to fill with a flock of paragliders, their multi coloured canopies floating through the sky in front of us. We watched for a while, marvelling at their exploits as we sipped our coffee and nibbled at an impromptu picnic courtesy of the petrol station’s co op shop.  I heard a very distinctive voice in the periphery, that of a lady from the beginnings of my new life in Hastings. She had her family in tow, including her husband, her son and her youngest whom I had not met before . I remember thinking what a lovely family they were and after a little chit chat they were gone, off on their own outing.

The future is a funny thing, I didn’t know then what sadness in a mundane and self indulgent way awaited me and in a truly hideous way the nuclear family unit that had just wandered around the corner of the path and out of view. The person at my side had her own ordeals to face too, of which I won’t comment.

Back to today and me standing, shell shocked, in the street. My brain going into ‘does not compute’ mode. Death is not an unfamiliar thing to me, my own father died almost twenty years ago now and his loss still feels like a punch to the chest every time I think of it. I made matters worse by not dealing with it at the time, burying myself in work and filling my head with anything to make the pain go away, being booze, drugs, ridiculous  projects to help tie up my thoughts and generally anything and everything but looking at the dark void inside me where one of a human beings anchors resides. In a sense, we are our mothers and our fathers and the loss of one leaves us flailing about in the wind, struggling to redefine who we are. When we don’t deal with that pain as we should it can eat away at us from the inside. As for losing a child though… The mortality of those much younger than ourselves is something mercurial, it slides away from our conciousness, too painful to comprehend. It’s something that is filed away under ‘somebody else’s problems’ as we should be long gone from the world and know nothing of it. Except sometimes it isn’t, it is very much someone’s problem and problem then is the most insulting of under statements. 

I was asked by this caller to design an image for a sympathy card, an image to celebrate the life of a boy of seven, gone too soon. The question is, just how the hell do you that? Nothing is going to make a difference, nothing will get that child back, certainly not a piece of artwork. But yet it’s something, and sometimes something is all you can do. And something is sometimes better than nothing. Hopefully this is one of those times. It had been a strange day already, a heavy sea mist hung in the air. It was going to be one of those cold lonely days that I would struggle to get to the end of, of which there have been far too many of late and it was a slightly macabre way to be given a purpose but purpose it was nonetheless. 

I took a phrase on a Facebook photo as a starting point “our supersonic boy” imagining a rocket ship, trailing a rainbow with a child going on an adventure, waved off  by his family. I had in mind that Shakespeare quote “That undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns” or in Peter Pan terms “death is an awfully big adventure “. I do really hope what I have done is ok, to tell you the truth I honestly don’t know, my judgement has completely gone on this. I don’t even know what to say any more, I think I will end this here…


Mended hearts and broken minds.

April 14, 2016

  I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the practice of kintsugi or golden joinery in literal translation. The process of repairing a broken piece of ceramics and in the process making it more valuable. It’s a strange notion not to throw away stuff to modern western minds. If something doesn’t work now we sling it away, be it less than perfect food, televisions and washing machines and now often people are regarded as disposable on both personal but mainly governmental level. 

My heart wasn’t disposable (although to some that is open to debate), I’m well and truly stuck with it. Sadly we are a long way from the Singularity, that point where one will be able to upload their consciousness into another vessel and mortality is no longer an issue. I’ve been thinking a lot about the wonder that is the stent, a gossamer wire mesh that expands inside you to open up collapsing arteries. One moment you are at death’s door and kicking off your shoes for the last time and the next you are skipping down the road like a giddy child. Stents are the modem day kintsugi for that we cannot discard, a simple solution and a technological wonder all at once. 

In my painting research I recently discovered that the brain of a depression suffer appears almost uniformly blue when the subject is put through an mri scanner, it seems the notion of feeling blue is far more profound than just a hackneyed old song lyric. Recently I have wondered if anyone will ever come up with a way of stenting the human brain but that is an altogether more complex organ than a simple pump. The drugs Do Not Work as the song says, they help a bit but there is always a pay off somewhere along the line. The other problem is that sanity and normalcy aren’t really constants; culturally, geographically and historically our perceptions and actions that have been deemed to be insane, eccentric, whatever are those that step out of the immediate societal norm.  For example if you were seen walking along the street talking to yourself in  1980’s you were mad, now you have a hands free phone. Sanity is relative, sanity can be damaged by your relatives but that’s another blog. Our concept of normalcy is relative too. When the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was drilling a hole into someone’s brain and pouring in bleach to try and turn them into his lobotomised sex slave, that was normal to him. That was Sunday afternoon between making lunch and doing the laundry. To conservative politician Iain  Duncan Smith turning up to his cabinet office and lying and strategically omitting the truth so as to throw tens of thousands of people into poverty and causing countless deaths and suicides was just a normal Wednesday morning. Perceptions of what is normal often aren’t 

To give you an example this is my normality right now. Wake up earlyish have a bit of a panic attack, have breakfast, swallow a load of heart medication, do a bit of artwork, go for a long walk, chat to a few people come home,get a bit depressed, have lunch, do some more art,  do a bit of admin, chat on the phone, get upset, do more art, have dinner, chat a bit more while doing more art, have bath,swallow another load of pills, do more art, go to bed, read a book, get upset, fall asleep. Fair enough but probably not the most exciting lifestyle but it works well enough for me, well excepted for the crushed from being chucked bit anyway. Six months ago it would have possibly  gone. Wake up, do art, go out, pop in and see my girlfriend at work, have a crafty snog, go for a coffee, go home, prank call said girlfriend, do art, cook dinner for said girlfriend, watched crap television, have baths, make love, make more love, snuggle up and go to sleep. Fifteen years ago I would have rolled out of bed smoked a Marlborough red, had a cup of tea and ate some sliced bread (because I couldn’t be arsed to toast it) smoked another fag, downed some codeine tablets, swallowed heavy duty anti depressants, rolled a joint, smoked it, watched a DVD , smoked more dope, had lunch, smoked more fags and more dope, drew some stuff in my sketchbook, smoked more pot, took more painkillers, smoked more dope and fags, smoked more dope, had dinner, smoked more fags and dope, watched more films, took more painkillers, passed out hallucinating. Not my finest hour by any means. During all those times though, that was normal. The only thing I will say in my defence is that my normal changes and adapts and hopefully what is normal for me, without the interactions of another human being, is better for me and more constructive than it used to be. The key is to keep making new mistakes rather than repeating the same old ones, and when you need to, get professional help.

In a way, cultural normalcy is all about the set of lies and truths that we choose to believe. The major ones being religion, governance and money. Religion stops us going mad from the constant pressure of mortality and the inevitability of our deaths, its also a fantastic form of control, “do this or you will go to hell”. Governance isn’t much different with notions of “the greater good” and making sacrifices for your country and the notion that everything is done in society’s best interest. This lie and all the media outlets that prop it up have been starting to crumble of late. However, people’s faith that something better can be created or will come along is just that, a faith. History teaches us that societies ebb and flow and civilisations crumble and from Ancient Rome and Greece,the Pharos, the Chinese dynasties, tsarist Russian and European communism , nothing ever truly lasts and every power vacuum that is left behind sucks in the most greedy, the most powerful, the most ruthless and the most manipulative person or persons around. Be it cricket club, women’s institute or political party. It’s odds on that the person in charge will be a complete bastard or tick nearly all the boxes of narcissistic  or psycopathic behaviour traits, regardless of how much they may smile or how reasonable they may at first seem. 

As for money, that is the most insidious of faiths there is. It doesn’t exist and yet we all believe in that promise on a piece of paper or those digits on a screen or printed on our bank statements. I take it from people for things I make and give it for stuff I need but I still refuse to believe  in it wholeheartedly. It’s capricious stuff that can have a terrible effect on people, sometimes as mentally damaging as drugs and totally accepted. But we need it, we slave for it, we deny our principles for it, some even kill for it. I try and see it as energy, I can turn that paper idea into a thing and not give it control of me.

I used “verum est aureum”, truth is golden, as a motto on my most recent painting. Gold is a substance that has a dubious history, it is decorative, easily workable, it doesn’t tarnish and is bodily inert, I even have a false tooth made from it, yet it caused the massacre of South America’s indigenous population by the Spanish conquistadors, slavery in African and in the nazi death camps millions of gassed bodies were stripped of their gold teeth to be melted down into gold bullion which most likely still sits in a Swiss bank vault to this day. Truth as a concept is as easily molded, bent, stretched and  sullied. 

Truth can be a good thing but sometimes lies are more expedient and convenient. Those and their ugly sister The Stategic Omission can solve a problem instantly but they often come back on the teller (or omitter ) tenfold later on down the line. I have driven myself quite mad of late trying to find the truth and indeed the sense in many things. I have given up now, let it all go as it did me no good. Regardless of the reasons, or the skewed logic there are some things best left alone. They may make sense in time and a measure of justice, karma, whatever, may prevail, but Oh! Hang on! But what are they but more lies we tell overselves to feel better. What happens, happens. What is, is. End of.  

 


Back from the dead

March 29, 2016

    It’s been a strange few months in my world.  A period of general awfulness punctuated by an emergency hospital stay. The appalling level of strain I was under by rights should have killed me as the main artery of my heart was 94% blocked.  A brush with death makes you take a good hard look at yourself and your life and it gave me a need to try and make sense of a lot of the appalling things that have happened to me lately. I’ve contemplated death repeatedly and it has given me a need to value what I do with the life I have left. I know this will sound dramatic but in a way, I am in extra time now as people (not I ) who understand sport would say and I really don’t want to waste that on anything pointless. Once I got home I started thinking about  the bible and of the religious imagery that has found its way into churches ever since. I am not at all a religious person and, if anything, the invasive nature of the procedure to fit stents, the effects of the dyes on my vision and watching my own heart beating beneath my rib cage. It looked more like plumbing than the work of some bearded guy in the sky. 
  Hearts are important in the bible and so is the notion of coming back from the dead. I mean that is the basic idea isn’t it. Lead a shit painful, miserable and short mortal life and then you get gifted with a world of la la fluffiness and pixie dust when you die. The thing is though, I did almost die and I guess seeing as I now have reinforced helixes of metal shoring up my heart I guess we are talking Lazurus and Jesus territory here. Please note, I am taking all this with a HUGE pinch of salt here and I have in no way gone all messianic but the notion of a stented sacred heart fits soooooo nicely. Well, it was either that or Frankenstine’s monster and give me a halo rather than a bolt through my neck any day of the week. Plus, I always wanted to have a proper go at gilding, which was endless hour’s of fun. I didn’t do that good a job of it but, hey ho, it all adds to the charm. So, Erm, hallelujah! Happy Easter!   


Whatever makes you happy. 

March 12, 2016

  As some may have gathered, I have been having a bit a rough time of it lately. After seeing my old therapist a few days ago she suggested that I do a few things that remind me of who I am rather than who people think I am or more accurately who they need to think I am to justify their own actions. Given a blank space we can choose to leave it and enjoy the
peace and tranquilly of it, fill it with something wonderful or empty out your two weeks in the sun rubbish bin in the middle of the room. We only really have control of ourselves though! What we do and how we choose to react to what happens and what other people do is really up to us. As I’ve said before I have been playing the role of Jimminy Cricket for a while now and I’m having to slowly get used to not needing to and, if I’m honest, come to terms with the fact that I should never have had to do it in the first place. As a trusted friend of mine often says “some times you just have to let people walk right into the helicopter blades” you can’t stop them doing it but you don’t have to watch. I’ve been given two pieces of homework, the first is to write a timeline since I left therapy so that I can see any patterns that have formed and appreciate my achievements and learn not to repeat my mistakes. The second if to do a new project about something positive, rather than dealing with and reacting to the crap that others have slung at me. To be fair I have slung back but I need to centre myself again, I know who I am and what I represent and so long as I can steer clear of other people’s nonsense I will be able to achieve things that I can be proud of.

I put a call out on Facebook today asking everyone what there favourite thing is and the responses have been rather fascinating. A very old friend and a fellow cancerian gave a list of the most exquisite creature comforts that really made me smile. There was lots of nature, lots of walk, lots about the sea and sun lots about good friends and family. Surprising little about booze and no one so far has mentioned sex or even their partner strangely enough. Lots about children and also lots about the absence of their children (usually the same people) Creature comforts but no stuff, no cars, no tellies, no trainers. 

So what do I like? Well I’m feeling the loss of one of those and I’m done with talking about it now. Apart from her…. Art, the making, painting and drawing thereof. The sea, I am away from it for the day today and I feel its distance like a niggling pain. Books, real proper paper books with weight and pages and that smell. Nice clothes, shoes, really nice pants. People obviously but only the lovely ones, particularly my family. The interesting thing though is no one has come out with anything nasty or cynical. I have managed to lose those sort of people over the years and the few frenenemies I have under sufferance are now being very very quiet. 

The thing I seem to appreciate most though are the absences. Absence of pain most importantly, followed closely by the absence of awful people, that is the best thing about some people, them not being there. I think, on reflection, the best time I had with my ex (certainly the easiest) was when her single white female friend flipped out and frightened her away. My heart sunk the day she came back on the scene. Absence on noise is also a big one, that wonderful moment when someone’s awful music finally stops, that is a big deal too.  I guess I could probably cognitively reframe each of those things if I thought about it hard enough but I think seeing absense of any kind as positive is a good thing as it helps counteract the elephant in the room large one. 

Well there is one thing I never have and absense of and that is ideas and with the raw material I gathered today I should be kept busy and out of trouble for ages. As for time though, well that’s another matter. Who knows? 


Drowning not waving.

March 10, 2016

  I think I’ve mentioned before that I have made a habit of encoding secrets and stories in my art work, on one occasion this backfired massively. I think I came off worst on that one shortly followed by the person to whom the message was for, who foolishly shared the explanation with her ‘friends’ who shared it everywhere. There really isn’t any justice in this world except for that you make for yourself. This little tale is all about that I guess. I mentioned a few blogs back how I did some public artwork in the Observer Building in Hastings. One in particular being an underwater scene on the toilet block. I suffered quite badly doing that, both physically  and emotionally. I also, unbeknownst to myself, was having the piss taken out of me as well. I mentioned previously how my then girlfriend had spectacularly failed to mention to anyone that we were back together and had been for a long time. So whenever I mentioned her I was getting a lot of funny looks and in retrospect they must have thought that I had gone mad(er). I was also civil to a number of her friends who, under normal circumstances, I would have taken much pleasure in telling to go fuck themselves. On top of this it was cold and I spent the last day lying on a freezing concrete floor. As the people who commissioned this work have moved on and the new managers seem to be a soulless lot who are taking the place in a very corporate direction and with that will probably gut the place soon and my mural with it, I think it’s safe to tell this little story….

My brother is not a nice person, I have to be careful what I say as, as well as everything else, he is very litigious. He has got through a lot of women in his life and he is someone who I would describe as scary which is odd because that was how someone described me recently. Funny old world! Anyway, the mother of my nephews was wife number four, of course my brother never mentioned wives one through three until the night before the wedding when she was many thousands of miles from her homeland of Cuba and eight months gone with their child. He made her life a misery and bullied her six year old son and eventually left her in a strange country bringing up three children with little support and a lot of harm. I sided with her and have not spoken to him since and that was over ten years ago now. It was one of the best decisions in my life looking back. The best thing about many people in this world, sadly enough,  is their absence. She had a rough old time of it, my sister in law, but she has always been a worker, still is. Then along came Mr S.

 Mr S was ex army, Royal engineers Corp I think, the reason for the vagueness of name will become clear later. Mr S was just what my now ex sister in law needed. He was supportive, kind, he was level and had a great sense of humour. I don’t think he thought much of me but that really didn’t matter as she was happy and bloody hell did she deserve it. My brother is extremely volatile, you could do something one day and he wouldn’t bat an eyelid but on the next the same thing would send him flying into a rage. I had to talk him out of doing terrible things and the only way I could do it was to relate everything back to him. There was no sense of morality or right and wrong, just how it would effect him. The only worry I had about the situation was that one of my nephews was becoming interested in joining the army and,  being a confirmed pacifist, that worried me. Mr S had joined the army to escape a crappy home life and had taken a path that had worked out well for him. For others it hasn’t worked out that well and a large proportion of the disabled and the homeless are amongst ex army personnel. It’s always a scary time with young people when they get ideas in their heads but I think it’s easy to forget what it’s like to be that age yourself. I try and remember. Take the incident that backfired at the start of this blog,  I remember distinctly being twenty and I was definitely a man by then and there was no way in the world I would has been making the grotesquely selfish demands of the main subject of that fated drawing and I certainly would not have been dictating how and where they lived or what they would do or costing them vast amounts of money. Anyway, my ex sister in law and Mr S made plans to open a diving school in Spain. She being a fluent Spanish speaker and he being a trained deep sea diver it made a perfect combination. Well it should have done…. 

The version of this story that is recounted in the inquest is not exactly what happened. It’s outside the international water limit though and I’m being as vague as I can be… Mr S was diving with a fellow diver when his rebreather failed. This is a piece of kit that partially recycles the mixture of gases that a diver breathes . It’s bloody complicated to explain exactly what went wrong but what did go wrong was at a depth of around ninety metres. You know when you see those old films where they do buddy breathing? Where James Bond and the lady fodder air snog as bullets rain down from a despot’s boat? Well that doesn’t happen certainly not two hundred and seventy feet below the waves. If you remove your mouthpiece water rushes into your lungs and they explode, barotrauma is the technical phrase as every cell of your body starts to rupture and turns you to mush, it’s a hideous way to die. Or you could drop your weights and head to the surface where you will get the bends which is where all the blood gasses expand in you veins and again your lungs explode and from that depth a decompression chamber won’t help you. There is a third option though but the final outcome is exactly the same only less painful and that is for your diving partner to clamp his or her hand over your mouthpiece so you resist the urge to tear it out and you eventually pass out from carbon monoxide poisoning and oxygen starvation and that is what happened, this guy had no choice but to assist in the death of Mr S some ninety metres below sea level. My seventeen year old nephew told me that story and it didn’t do him much good experiencing any of this as he was back on land nearby when it happened and was privy to every detail. He had to grow up too fast, mind you so did I and so did my dad for that matter. I remember as I child sitting with my dad watching some crappy war film, there were a lot on the television back in the seventies. I was maybe seven years old and I asked my father if he killed anyone during the war and he told me how when he was nineteen he had to sweep the bits of his best friend off the side of a boat after he had been hit by shrapnel and been torn to shreds. There wasn’t any pieces large enough to send home. Suffice to say I didn’t ask about the war again. 

Once  Mr  S died my brother used his ex wife’s traumatised state to his advantage to the point where he eventually got custody of his youngest son and took the child benefit money with him.  All this was on my mind when I started the undersea mural, I would have preferred it if it wasn’t on the side of a lavatory but large scale public spaces don’t come up that often and it was in a spot where it would be highly visible. So there, in public view until it gets torn down is Dweebling Mr S at the bottom of the sea without a rebreather or mouthpiece. Drowning, not waving.  

 


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