Slightly Broken: Metaphorically Feeling

My head is full. I sit, in a bar. Before me are a pint of Elsie Mo, and a short of Maker’s Mark. These seem like the right things to have. There are people moving around but I can’t feel them. I’ve decided that writing immediately after counselling sessions is a good idea – the meat is fresh, unspoiled and still has the shape it had before I killed it. Don’t make it easy though, hence the rambling prologue…

Today I began with analogies. People describe therapy as a journey. I dislike the metaphor. It (to me) implies a starting point, route and destination. That just feels inappropriate. I started long ago – and while assembling a time line of sorts has proven useful, that kind of literalism isn’t intended. I go from a point of tired, angry confusion, regret, shame – I travel through the past and my present (real and imagined) – but the act of travel is to place those things on a map which doesn’t exist; the landscape of the mind – a futile, half-remembered, changing entropic playground subject to the emotional vagaries, chance connections and brain damage of life.
This is a stupid journey. Not only is there no clear destination (and please don’t give me the whole “the journey is the important bit” – if so, why the fuck would I go somewhere? May as well just wander aimlessly), but the route which is to be travelled is unreliable and unreal. Basically, the metaphor fails badly for me.
This, I suppose, is both the reason for metaphor and its vital problem – we take them too far. It’s the sense of the imagery that’s important – the further you chase it the more it falls apart. However, we crave them. I crave them. I want a way to describe what I’m going through in a romantic shorthand which conveys my wrestle with the false constructs, memories and beliefs. Ideally, it should elevate me to an heroic status…
I’ve temporarily scrapped the journey notion in my mind. It’s endless, potentially, and the more we try to fit it to a map, the broader it will grow till the infinite dark sea overwhelms us and we drown in our own hopelessly imagined aims. Ahem.
What I’ve found consistently helpful though, is to find an apt metaphor for understanding memory and why some ideas have such radical prevalence in my own mind. I’m fond of boxes. Today it’s helped me give shape to the thoughts of that fucking cunt Ric which pop into my mind unbidden.
You see, the memories and associated emotional memory of Ric and the abuse he chose to perpetrate upon me as a teenager have a disproportionate mass (and consequently gravity) in my noggin. In a balanced sort of view, the time between meeting him and being coerced into being masturbated occupy a period of perhaps four years. And even in that time, the events themselves add up to less than a few weeks in total. There are many, many things I have done for that length of time or been involved intensely with that have far less hold on my mind. The gravity of those memories is such that they have drawn other associations to them. Emotional memory is a ghastly mess. We remember being distressed, and for the memory of being distressed we extrapolate further that it must have been fucking awful, so awful it’s more worthy of recall than anything else.
We bolt memories and feelings together like the Germans do words, till everything is stuck together and to remember a face or a touch, or a word is to recall everything. Worse, you can get the feelings alone, without the concepts that might serve to moderate those emotions. So I can be brushing my teeth, undressing for the shower, have my arm brushed by a stranger at the train station, look at the sky a certain way and am suddenly struck with an intense feeling of horror. But nothing else. Or be hit by the memory of touch and feel revulsion. Often it makes me want to drive a knife through my chest. I can lie awake imagining leaning on that blade, feel it tear through skin muscle bone and body. It’s a relief. A counterweight – an imagining of vast pain and suffering to draw my mind away from the past. I read today in my diaries that I started doing that after I came back from Amsterdam- fantasising about perpetrating fantastically violent acts on others and myself to get to sleep. Now that sounds pretty fucked up I’ll grant you. It works though. For a bit.
Thing I’ve figured out (belatedly, in my slow stupid way) is that I’ve bolted that feeling onto the chain too. So, hoho haha, now, when I think about Ric and the fucking bastard exploitative shit he did, I get the whole lot – I get the shame and hurt that I remember (but is, remember, a memory of feeling – many times remembered and misforgotten), I get the anger and hate (which I justly preserve) and the knowledge that hurting, or imagining hurting will bring me succour. Fuckin’ genius.
So, ultimately I feel bad (in part) because I remember feeling bad before and know that hurting badder (I know…) will make me feel better.
Our minds are remarkable things. What’s especially brilliant about them is that they actually do this to protect us!
What I’m right now amused by is that this gravity metaphor is not the metaphor I wanted to write about. That’s one that popped unbidden into my mind. I blame the beer. The metaphor I wanted to talk about is the one we toyed with in counselling today. Boxes, yeah. It’s a conception of memory chunks I get sometimes (being fond of boxes and tins as I am) and the notion that there are some boxes on the shelf of the mind which are open, carelessly locked with contents that creep out. I dislike that particular version. I dislike models which reduce personal responsibility and give independent agency to ideas and aspects of ourselves. I suspect that it leads to magical thinking and futile imaginings of gods. Anyway… I see it this way:
Most things in my mind are not in boxes. I do not have Alexander’s Memory Palace (seriously, look that stuff up, it’s awesome), rather I have a Memory Shed in which someone broke the shelves (yep, me) and dumped pretty much everything on the floor. Really we’re talking about Sets here (yup, it’s time for some bastardised philosophy of mathematics). I can draw together certain memories into sets, or boxes if I wish. I can integrate my memories of university as a set, or put my relationship with The Lady M into a box that contains all memories associated with her. But that ain’t the way that most of my memories seem to work – I access them randomly, through delightfully surprising chains of association. These are the scattered trash on the floor of my Memory Shed – I love ’em, but I can’t find them when I want them.
On the other hand I have some very well ordered boxes: I have several about work, which allow me to access related information quickly and effectively – this is purposeful and useful on a daily basis. I also have some boxes for improv – slightly messier given the nature of the subject, and for writing. And then I’ve got a fucking glitter covered neon box which glares out from the general depravity of memory – unavoidable, overriding the chains of coincidence and connection which link the rest. Yup, that’s the cunt box. Or Ric box, depending on how much alcohol I’ve consumed.
(An aside because I am conscious that some of my friends and family read this, as well as some people new to me – I personally have no gender or sexual association with the word ‘cunt’. I have a degree of respect and love for the word based on its remarkable history and the evocative pugnacity of shouting it when angry. My use of it therefore is a personal choice and I have no intent to offend – if you feel offended then you are applying too much of yourself to something which is about me, not you. I offer no apology however. Insert smiley face here) And that glowing box just screams out whenever I even pop into the Memory Shed.
I think that what I need to do is empty that box and smash it. My goal (my journey’s end – yeah yeah) is that the contents of this box be rendered as important/unimportant as all the other crap in the shed. I want to tip the contents out and forget about them.
I believe that it is not just the past that upsets me, it is the associated mass of seventeen years (half of my life) worrying, fretting, cutting myself, ruining relationships, occasional impotence, fear and horror that I have subsequently applied to the experience of being abused which causes me distress.
What is worse: I’m invested in that chain of emotional weight. It’s hilarious actually – by refusing to look back at what happened, to balance it and seriously evaluate it I’ve added to it that fear of doing so. How much does that suck? So – my conclusion (of course), being a practical sort of fellow is to rip back through that – back to the source. I know my memories are unreliable, and even though I also have a horrible lurching sensation when I realise that perhaps, just perhaps what is worse than the feelings I suffered when I was abused, are the accumulated feelings I’ve piled onto that since. If I look back, and discover that how I felt, that what happened wasn’t so bad (relatively speaking), what does that do for my feelings? What do the years of pain then mean?
It’s fascinating. Say I look back, and despite all that happened, I say “meh” and move on – what then? What does that leave me with? Seventeen years of pointlessness. How do I resolve that? I don’t know. I can say that I was wrong – or that how I felt at the time is not how I feel now. To change my mind, to grasp as an adult what happened to me as a child is not necessarily to reject it – it is to encompass it, to understand that we do change. It is easy to assume (as I have written much about) that how we feel now is how we felt then. It isn’t. It so, so, so isn’t. We forget how we are just these beautiful fleeting moments of consciousness skipping like fairies across a breezy leaf. We have no true conception of yesterday.
To deny myself freedom because of the weight of the past… madness. I’ve forgotten tonnes of stuff. I spent more time cumulatively on glaciation in year 9 than I did being felt up by a paedophile. I can forget feeling bad, or at least relegate it to the same quality of recall.
But what do I keep? Make no mistake: having this cunt’s actions in my head has several times come close to ending my life, caused me to bleed, caused me pain, ruined my mind. But do I give him that satisfaction? Do I fuck. I will persevere. I will persist. I am change. The memories of abuse and the pain that followed are a part of me. I am the sum of all of these things – I am not the minutiae. My self is greater than the aspects it has passed through – I am literally greater than those things and they are my past. My future is a mutating amalgamation of the past.
I grow drunk and prophetic. I need My Lady M.

Slightly Broken: Letters from the past

I am a hoarder. I keep everything. Even the birthday cards and letters from someone who abused me. I know, right? It strikes me as odd sometimes too. I choose to see it as a form of prescience. Not the psychic kind; that’s just delusional bullshit. (Warning, I have set myself to some pretty serious drinking this evening.) When I was 16-17 I wrote in depth about how I felt, and about my dreams. I’ve babbled at length about the failings of memory, and I know that this is why I wrote the things I did as a child. They are my closest connection to how I really felt at the time; I don’t trust my recall – it’s too bound up with how I’ve felt subsequently and is demonstrably unreliable. That’s the human condition folks.

So I kept the letters which Ric sent me between going to Amsterdam and my visiting him (the oft-referred to Time Of Doom; having typed this I realise it has the same acronym as Time Of Death. Telling? Or just an unfortunate accident of coincidence? Such things as emotional suffering are made of…) I wrote at the time because I was unable to contain my horror – words were my only escape. There are some sections that make me proud, and ashamed of later weakness:

“…the other option (from killing Ric) is, of course, suicide – nonviable I’m afraid, I’m not prepared to die so that Ric can do this to someone else”

Isn’t that glorious? I’m so pleased with the sixteen year old me. I already had the “fuck you” attitude.

A few months after Ric chose to take up his previous grooming attempts and escalate them to a new level in Amsterdam and totally destroyed my psyche I wrote to him. In part this was self-defence. There was every likelihood of his returning t England and that I’d have to see him. There’s a powerful sense of shame and fear in my diary that I honestly find somewhat difficult to associate with now, but it motivated me to write:


I think it’s charmingly ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in style… I attached to it the (to me) heart breaking blow by blow account of what happened in Amsterdam. This was me, aged sixteen and recently abused, fighting back. I cannot imagine how I achieved this. Now, my past self seems impossible. I can’t imagine managing to do this. It wasn’t me?

What is, to me, even more incredible is that I don’t just have this letter – the motherfucker actually wrote back. I expressly requested no contact… what does that tell you? This is a letter I’ve kept sealed inside a writing book inside a locked box whose key I routinely lost for more than a decade. I am only providing excerpts right now, but I will post the whole thing because… well – that’s the whole point no?

So – to be super clear before we get into this: I wrote a short letter with the explicit request that I never hear from Ric again, with a copy of the most heart rending soul-destroying narrative of what I have tried for the last 17 years to escape. He replied. Now y’all might be inclined to read such a letter with a sensitive and generous disposition. That’s naive. It’s how I read it at sixteen – exactly how it was intended to be read. Keep that in mind, and keep your head.

Step one. He breaches what I requested. Sure, that seems reasonable – has to put his point across; a letter invites a response surely… Let me flip your context. As a teen that seemed okay, sure – I’ve said some stuff – he deserves a response. It’s a vicious opening gambit – it goes from being about me (the victim) to him (the perpetrator) in two sentences. Just keep that in mind. He continues:

Sounds reasonable no? Thing is, it’s a complete lie. He came over that summer. I was horrified. His very presence made me scar myself. It’s very different reading the letter now. Back then I was still blaming myself and ridden with guilt. Now… well, now I know more about grooming and paedophilia. The protests and dodging don’t ring true. That said, I still experience brutal cognitive dissonance about “Ric as my best friend” and “Ric as a paedophile”.

The next part is all about how he’s having to re-discover and destroy himself in light of the revelation I’ve offered – that teenage boys don’t actually welcome having their genitalia pumped by a middle-aged man. And y’know, I’m just not going to give that credence. I don’t have to – this is about me, and the letter that cunt wrote is about him. If you imagine this to be unfair (as I sometimes do) then you are wrong, and need to spend some time wondering why you are siding with an adult against a child. It’s a problem I too face, so I understand. But just recognise that.

As an abused person, a survivor if you will, I like the sentence:

“Your writings brought home to me the wrongfulness of my actions towards you – I totally accept responsibility for them. The clarity and hard hitting nature of the text left me in no doubt that my actions were unwanted and have caused you a great deal of worry and stress”

That’s nice. “Worry and stress”. Right. Sounds good yeah? Almost, almost like an apology. It does, it really does and briefly lifts my heart. It’s followed by this:

…which just rips away any pretence at giving a flying fuck. It’s actually amazing. Take a step back. Look at this as you would a piece of prose and analyse it according to A Level principles. This is almost the definition of passive aggressive. “I’m sorry but it’s all your fault. If I’d only known that you shouldn’t try to touch the penises of teenagers I’d have stopped – why didn’t you say anything? Why are you blaming me? I thought we were friends. Friends jerk each other off, no?” Yeah, fuck you. As a kid, this destroyed me. Now, well – I’ve been to work; I know what passive aggressive is. “I cannot accept it all…” well, y’see – that’s the crucial bit ain’t it? Accepting that other people have feelings, and that my experience is equivalent to or of worth in comparison to his. The next part is priceless:

So… I’m wrong? Unfair? Okay. I forgot – it’s all about you. I’ve constantly struggled with the dissonance of Ric as my best friend – someone who gave me such lovely ideas vs. a man intent on abuse, cynically planning and manipulating me into a position where I could no longer resist – in fact with the aim that I would consent and shield him (fuck, keep reading). It literally gives me a headache trying to reconcile the two. This letter helps. Ironically.

What do you see here? (I imagine that my current rage is palpable.) Massive cognitive dissonance on Ric’s part. Allow me to summarise, “You seem to be upset. I like your Dad and step-mum. So – don’t say anything, it will be terrible if you do.” Yeah  – for you, motherfucker. It nailed my fears at the time: guilt and shame are so easy to pick apart. I was worried that if I said anything I’d ruin a whole chain of friendships. Now of course,  I sensibly say “so what?”, but then I was young and saw only part of the picture. This letter is clever. It is deceptive. It blames me while pretending apology and asserts that I should keep my mouth shut. You have no idea how angry I am. That’s a threat – at the time it worked because I misunderstood – I thought that I and my friend would be in trouble. What it really means is that he’d be locked up, or killed by my Dad (godluvya). I haven’t read this letter in seventeen years. I do recall Miss L denouncing it as exploitative lies at the time. That kept me alive. Ever did Miss L keep me together as a teenager, though I do regret the force with which I transferred my need for positive emotions to her. She deserved better than obsession; devotion would have been sufficient.

There’s not much left:

Even now I struggle to make sense of this. “Sorry, can we still be friends?” Many, many times I’ve struggled to grasp what kind of fucked up sociopath can do this, but this end to the letter actually makes sense. My abuser, Ric, is so broken, so beyond the normal that he can abuse me, shallowly apologise and genuinely believe that we can just be friends. These people are monsters. I don’t need to understand how he can think like that; I have been troubled by that – how could someone think that way, and it’s fucked me in the head; he is broken – it’s the kind of person he is. That doesn’t require sympathy or empathy. That’s for other people, people who haven’t been hurt.

I say “fuck ’em.”

For fun, and because it fits with the cognitive dissonance that so regularly shakes my mind world:

This week, Monday 8th October 2012

The Return of the I

Okay… so one week rolled into several. I guess that’s the way it goes. I took a couple of weeks off because I’ve not been at my best and I have suffered for it. I am back. No, I don’t have anything new for you which is all a bit poor really. I’m just that kind of person. So you might be wondering, “if you’ve written no bleeding stories then what have you got for me?” Perfectly reasonable. I bring you… hope?

I’ll be doing some more yarn spilling soon at the launch of Derby’s Speaker’s Corner on 20th October (in Derby, keep up). How very nice to be invited! Tis a public event so I must find the stories with the least swearing and sex in them. I’ll be able to spill me scribous seed later the same day in Beeston however, for Oxjam Beeston Music Festival at Latinos.

The Pirate Coves

Great gig! We were bedevilled by tech failures all round which was a shame but we battled through, like when those aerial squid got caught in the mast. I read lots of stories (aye, many), some of which I’ve got on tape. Tis not really tape I suppose but that’s the only way I can grasp it. What I’ll do this week is convert a bunch of it to audio as the video’s not at a grand angle once ye take the broken tech into account and that the music was all done behind the camera. Gaargh. I prefer wood. So I gots to sort that out. Here be a nice snapshot of ye captain (to the right – tis I in the hat). Below ye may find an action shot of me beloved bosom buddies The DH Lawrence & Vaudeville Skiffle Show about whom there simply are not enough fine words to utter.

This Week

Wednesday 10th October – The Pirate Coves Audio Adventure – aye, might be pushing it a bit, but ye’ll definitely get a nice recording of The Cetacean Adventure and maybe another I’ll have snipped out.

Friday 12th October – Twinned With Evil – part 3 – I promise! The final part of the bleak little series.

Last (ahem) Week’s Scribblings

Tuesday 18th September – Twinned With Evil – part 2 the city filled with evil continues to fester and we get a peek at when it all happened.
Wednesday 19th September – Talk Like A Pirate Day – 3 posts with links to all of my pirate tales many thanks to those wonderful friends who shared and retweeted these tales: Pirate Stories part 1  Pirate Stories part 2   Pirate Stories part 3
Thursday 20th September – Eric the Bewildered Weasel part 4 developing a social picture of this unusual woodland.

The Pirate Coves LIVE


September 27th, 2012. Twas a magnificent night of music, tales and technological horror. A horror that flowed not just through the sound deck of impossibility but into the ears of the microphones and the eyes of the camera. In consequence, I’ve mainly audio of a size so vast that I cannot place it anywhere.

And so we’ve none of the sound for the three tales I opened the evenin’ with (though me gestures’re charming and I could dub it poorly), and in matchin’ fashion none of the video (save the side of Misk Hills’ face) for the last hour when the lads and lass were forced to descend unto the punters for the unamplified making of music. Never mind…

The lovely folk of The Golden Fleece were most accommodating and we drank much of their beer.

A Mermaid’s Fishiness

Avast! I have however sliced out this snippet of the Mermaid’s Tale and present it to ye in a format visual:

Misk Hills & Minin’ Bill Kerry

Here be a longer segment featuring Kazoo madness with the Misk Hills Mountain Rambler and Minin’ Bill Kerry III and another yarn, though I fear I’ve broken me internet by uploading it. Gaargh. The audio’s all too huge (for Reverbnation) and beautiful and I’ve about an hour of the wonders which The DH Lawrence & Vaudeville Skiffle Show brought to the proceedings. I’ll be having a thunk about how to make that fit in ye computerised ears. If ye have any suggestions me one good ear lies ajar.

Want Ye To Listen More?

For now though I urge ye to seek out me wondrous musical compatriots and show ’em ye full love:


Twinned With Evil – part 3

This is the third part of a story – read Part 1 and Part 2 first (if you want).

My dream takes me past the security doors and its grim faced personnel. The corridor into the building folds back and forth in a paranoid maze until I reach the stairs and descend into the subterranean bureaucracy. It is cool and airy in the modern way, with no receptionists in your face and the offices muted and private. My feet lead inevitably to the Map Room. The room is swept periodically with light, illuminating the wood-panelling that surrounds the huge table. It supports a detailed map of the city; my eyes are drawn to the lines of force that arc and twitch around the city’s landmarks. Two wooden figures stand on the map.

We’re here to supervise the voting process. Now that good and evil are viable terms for social policy some measure of them is required in politics and the wheels of civil governance. It is not yet acceptable to build a party on such philosophical nightmares though, and that in part, was cause for our attendance. Still religion and economics attempts to take the fore. My boss, Cedric, in his constant suit and hat calmly regards the map.

We had a visitor present, from the inspection committee. He was a dark-faced man with a temper and no patience for our talk of good and evil. I felt nothing but contempt for him and pointedly ignored him. The map is more than enough to focus on. We made it together, Cedric and I. We infused with the forces we can sense; it exactly represents the City and its mood.

As the voting progressed the figures on the table grew steadily. We were watchful for deformation, sparks of colour and speed – all of which would indicate the influence of evil, or good on the proceedings. The feeling of mirrored energies surging across the table map and into the two men’s figurines was exhausting. We spent the day watchful for those sensations to which we are equally but diametrically attuned. We guard each other in raised eyebrows and significant glances.

The election seemed to go well, though the inspector offered constant distractions from our quiet vigil. He fussed and huffed until we could assure him that the figurines on the map were untainted by excess, that they contained a normal degree of good and evil, and that neither of us had exerted an undue influence over the outcome of the election. That showed how little he understood – our job was to monitor each other for our own sakes. The temptation to encourage your nature, tease it out from its hidden corners is powerful and we helped each other to curb ourselves. I don’t even recall who won. It hardly matters – they were ordinary men, equally subject to our extremes; the future was not within our remit and that future was beyond a mere election.

The day left me restless and unhappy. I spoke quietly with my boss, we touched hands and I left. I knew that I was a danger to the City. Despite our influence on each other I could still feel those coils of darkness in the City. They were drawn to me, and I to them. It was not safe for me to stay.

I wake. It is not an election today but the dream of it lies heavy in my mind. It has been years since the election and as I predicted, events have overtaken politics. The City fell to the darkness and it has spent the last ten years consuming everything. On the outside I was insulated from those curlicues of violence in the night. With the City sealed in a bubble of its own decline my role has been to watch from the outside, detect any escaping dread that might infect the rest. The emigration from the cities has been effective, there have been no more desperate purges, riots, terrible acts of rage and fear. The threat had been contained, or so I believed.

Having already made the trip in my dream the journey to the office smacked of deja vu, but as if through smoked glass. Parts of the city I remember fondly are gone, unseen by the residents. There are more people about today and I watch them ignoring the gaps in their City, taking extreme diversions around blacked out streets and buildings. Even the crawling death across the paving slabs is nimbly stepped over.

It all feels wrong, and yet so right. The evil inside me thrills to this subsumption but it is exactly that which persuaded me to join the agency. I know to be wary of that feeling, it is seductive. I regret my return even as I am welcomed.

I meet my boss at the office. He seems much older than he should. We exchange weary smiles and touch hands. The office is precisely as I remember, until we reach the map. It is riven with darkness like a cankerous parasite clawing the City into itself. He raises an eyebrow and makes a dismissive gesture.

“Let’s go out for dinner” he says, “there are some people I’d like you to meet.”

The sky’s blue is fading already and the birds are playing their speed stunts again. A warm wind blows sepia through the city. We walk down a street of restaurants and bars. Many are closed, but several are lanterns in the night, full of cheerful faces and happiness. We don’t look at the other side of the road where the houses disappear in a ragged darkness and barely coalescent shapes haunt the shadows.

Part 4 (finale) coming next week… I’m sorry…

Slightly Broken: Consequences

Sometimes you just feel slightly grim. For no particular reason. It’s been a good week (except for The Lady M being very unwell yesterday), sleep is back on track (admittedly with the use of sleeping tablets, so I don’t know whether to count that in or out of successville), had a good improv show last night, finished a great book… So why do I feel all flat and glum-faced today? It’s a puzzle ain’t it?
I had no counselling this week (yep, even counsellors get holidays – they deserve them) but I am keenly conscious that it’s back tomorrow. I had my day of mind-windage last Sunday which was basically just a day in the pub getting hammered in a cheerful attempt to reset my skull. I think it was largely quite effective, although I didn’t get anywhere near as wasted as I’d promised myself. But it did occlude and drain the brain-sac for which I’m grateful; it took a few days to get my mind back on track. With that and the sleeping tablets I’ve been quite good emotionally I think – able to focus on other stuff, get my writing more on track, deal with work and so on. Even with the sleeping tablets I feel better able to do improv on them this time around. Either I’m just more used to them or I’m better at improv. Don’t know; both are a win.
Work, I suppose, has been the main cause of stress and tension. The end of the week before this one particularly. I’d given myself a tough time in counselling (I realise I’m pushing myself hard in those sessions) and spent the evening in the pub scribbling and drinking. It’s honestly not the worst way to spend a Monday evening. That was fairly cathartic even if it meant that the rest of the week was one species of hangover or another (that’s what codeine’s for…) I may or may not have mentioned that work has been in a state of flux for a while; staff losses, role changes and the usual much more to do with less time and the consequent raised tension of the whole team. Our director chose to make it all much worse on the Thursday by picking a fight with me over some data. It was unnecessary, stupid and unhelpful. I, however, refuse to back down when unreasonably challenged and defended myself. Of course, the guy had chosen to do this in the middle of the office so when I disagreed about something he decided to be the big man and demand my resignation. I treated this with the contempt it deserved and held my own until he finally fucked off. It was a lovey aggressive situation with him sitting on my desk looming over me and getting over-excited. Sigh. It was rather surprising and stressful. I assumed that was the end of it only to have the tool return half an hour later and drag me and two colleagues into an office where he proceeded to apologise while drowning it in personal rhetoric and bullshit. Once again I got a chance to challenge his unreasonable behaviour which was accepted (as well as a few satisfying digs). Finally we were released and wasted the rest of the day talking about what a dick he was being. So – fine work from a boss: wanders into an already stressed (but working) office and totally destabilises it. Skillz.
The day after I got taken out for lunch by my Dad and step-mum. Always a nice thing and we went to a pub that I cycle past every day but have never been into. I knew one of the things we’d be talking about was how counselling was going since they’ve been reading this blog and staying up to date with the various failings and successes in my mind. It’s also been very upsetting for them; they are victims of Ric’s deceptions albeit in a different way, and are also trying to come to terms with the apparently incompatible behaviours and personalities. Dad’s formed the view that it’s some kind of personality disorder which enabled him to misunderstand boundaries and social norms. I think that’s missing a huge chunk of the predatory nature of the behaviour and the painfully evident grooming process that’s visible in the letters I have. It seems to me to reduce the intent portion of what I blame Ric for; I don’t think any of this happened by accident or by chance. That it looks like chance is one aspect of how clever and manipulative this abusive behaviour is. By worming his way into our family’s life he became family and therefore almost above suspicion. It makes no sense, when you imagine him to be a true and honest friend, that he would risk all of that to abuse a young boy.
So what does make sense, given that such things occurred? That it was intentional. Seeking out a vulnerable family – and we were certainly that – recently divorced parents, a grandparent who had just moved in with my Dad and was ill, work problems and stresses, fighting between my parents and the fall out that has on relationships between siblings and parents (I myself had found it so hard that I’d left my Mum entirely and moved in with Dad. All this was what Ric walked into – in fact moved into when he apparently failed to get anywhere with another family on the other side of town. And he was with us all the time. Dad’s diary shows him involved or around several times a week, every week. Omnipresent. As my counsellor pointed out, this is an excellent alarm mechanism – if I’d said anything to Dad or if anything was just not quite right he’d have been able to see it immediately. Instead he had the confidence of the family; left to look after the dogs, and me when my folks were away for a weekend. That doesn’t seem accidental. Sure, you can be a single guy looking for new friends, but this is self-insertion into a household.
Anyway, this was the stuff I talked about over lunch with my parents. After that I went back to work, feeling supported if a little confused. And what do I walk into? That same fucking director, still trying to make amends. I realise this might sound like a good thing to those who don’t know him. Five years ago he joined the company, aggressive, arrogant, bullying, sexist. Great boss. But now he’s trying to change, engaging (ish) with staff and imbued with a vision that we should all share (the general rhetoric we suffered the day before). Since then he’s bullied, intimidated, ignored and abused staff of all grades throughout the organisation. This is the man who got briefly in trouble for allegedly making an actual list of staff he’d sleep with. A twat. So – forgive me if I have little interest in being involved in his metamorphosis into a human being.
When I got back from lunch he’d apparently been enquiring whether everyone was okay and wondered if I might have time for a little chat. I didn’t want to, but he came down and despite my protests insisted that I come to his office which I only agreed to when it was phrased as “a favour to him”. Well, I don’t know if I’d been primed by counselling and a long conversation about being abused but it seemed to set me up well for dealing with a bully. He wanted to apologise again, and make sure that I was alright – because he hadn’t meant to upset me, and he didn’t want it to change anything. Sound familiar? Some of the phrases he used were exactly the same as in the letter I received from Ric. That was pretty shocking, but it clarified quite a few things in my head. For one, it empowered me to tell him exactly what I thought of him and his behaviour; I realised that the issue was his (I’d been shocked by his behaviour but not hurt by it – I honestly don’t expect anything better from someone like him), and told him so “this is all about you”. I talked about how he was the one who had to deal with the consequences of his actions, not me. It was enormously satisfying and I suppose in some respects it gave me the opportunity to say things to an abusive bully, a man who abuses his position of power, trust and responsibility who for a moment felt frighteningly like Ric, things that I doubt I’ll ever have a chance to say to Ric (I really don’t know if I could). It also made me reflect on the words I heard back from this guy – what sounded like a desire to change, to be a better and more responsible person – and how shallow I found those words. How hollow and self-deceiving. It’s a bit like that superficial charm you read about psychopaths having where as soon as you scratch that surface and they realise they’ve put themselves at risk (in this case a very real risk of my raising a grievance or going for constructive dismissal) and they put on this simulation of humanity; the behaviours that they’ve witnessed in others but never really understood. In a way, that’s sad – for them.
I realised some important things, or rather stuff I already knew was made concrete in that meeting: I didn’t care if he was genuinely remorseful, I didn’t care if he was really going to see the error of his ways and do better in the future. Those aren’t my problems; they’re his. All the apologies in the world can be accepted (as I accepted his) but as I said to him, that doesn’t change what he did. I’m not into forgiveness – I think it’s a really twisted idea that is thoroughly amoral. I think I can understand that my problems are in relation to what happened to me. Aside from seeing justice done (by which I mean revenge) there is nothing that will affect his understanding of what he did. And even that won’t make me feel better. I don’t need to understand why he behaved the way that he did – I probably can’t, because I’m not the kind of person who would do that. That’s a good thing. I also realised that these abusers are very similar, they talk the same way and they behave the same way. Well what those people do does change things – they are responsible for the consequences of their actions even if they don’t think they are. It’s their fault and they are the ones to blame. There’s no reason for me to blame myself – it’s not my fault.
I have to keep reminding myself of this. It helps to push these matters into the past, towards that homogenous remembering of things that happened, to take out the emotional spikes which hurt when I recall them. If I remember anything – I want to remember that it wasn’t my fault – I’m okay because I did nothing wrong – and that there is a person for whom hate is the right emotion.

This week, Monday 15th October 2012

Back on Trackish

A relatively quiet week for me – much appreciated. It ended with the all too brief return of a friend from Texas (and fine drinks in the pub), and then a splendid improv comedy show at The City Gallery in Nottingham where we performed our Consenting Partners show and welcomed guests Project 2 and their improvised sci-fi show. All round marvellousness and laughter.

There’s some freshish poetry for you to enjoy (should that be your wont) over on Reverbnation, Shankalline Structures or click here to get it:

Reading Update

I’ve read two books – one that I loathed and one that I loved.

Loathing first – Evil Ways , by Justin Gustainis. I really enjoy a spot of paranormal detective fiction (The Dresden Files are regular palate cleansers for me between hard scifi, and I loved the Kelly Armstrong Dimestore Magic series) and this appeared to be similar initially.

Chapter 2 started with “Libby Chastain, white witch extraordinaire, was naked, wet and horny” and it went downhill for me from there. There’s rampant misogyny too- see the FBI agent who agrees to have sex with a prisoner (child killer) to get information, but it’ll be okay because she’s use Zen meditation to keep her mind away, oh and she was abused by her Dad. I don’t know, maybe I was just in the wrong state of mind but it all felt unnecessary and attempting to be shocking.

Loved – Rebellion, by James McGee. It’s the fourth in a series set in the Regency era / Napoleonic Wars (depending on your viewpoint I guess) featuring Matthew Hawkwood, an ex-army Bow Street Runner – a kind of policeman. Dripping with period detail and bursting with action this one moves the action to Paris and an attempted rebellion. Ace fun. I’d recommend them all to you.

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday:  Shankaphone – Shoving Angry Poetry in Your Aural Canal – some more charming and blissfully short tweets of poems inspired by my life

Thursday: Twinned With Evil – part 4. Genuinely the last part – honest. This story is based on a dream which it follows quite closely, but getting some sense out of a dream is always a challenge, so apologies for it having to stretch out to get there.

Round Up of Last Week

10th October: The Pirate Coves LIVE – two clips from the show we did in the Nottingham Comedy Festival – a pair of pirate tales and a brace of songs with Kazoos.

12th October: Twinned With Evil – Part 3 – some more lovely bitter poetry.

Events and Excitement

Exciting stuff I’m doing coming up in Nottingham and thereabouts:

Derby Speakers Corner Launch – Saturday 20th October 11am, Derby – Captain Pigheart stories

Oxjam Beeston Takeover – Saturday 20th October 3pm, Latinos Restaurant, Beeston – Captain Pigheart stories and an improv hour at the end of the comedy show

Slightly Broken: A Short Lesson in Labelling

Had counselling this evening after a fortnight’s break. I’ve been a bit up and down, though largely I feel like I’ve gotten a much better grip on the contents of my mind. In part that’s from getting the strange opportunity I recounted the other day of confronting an abusive person (in this case a manager) and asserting a number of issues about their behaviour. High among them is the notion that they, not me are are responsible for their behaviour regardless of whether it was a mistake or “just how they are”. Well sorry pal, but that might be something you want to address…

It’s important to me to know that what I’m dealing with are not my abuser’s intentions and actions – those are very much his problems. My problems are only how that makes me feel. Sounds simple laid out like that doesn’t it? But it’s roughly a third of the things I maybe once thought I had to resolve. A bit of arbitrary arithmetic does wonders for the soul. So what I have to figure out is how I do feel about how I feel. Yeah, we is gettin’ meta. Necessarily I think. One of the things that has always intrigued me, and did when I studied philosophy is the theory of mind, specifically the notion of continuity that most of us persist in believing in. I’ve discovered, of myself, in the reading of notes, letters and diary entries from when I was 17 and 25 that I have been through this process before, at least in part. In my diary from just after I was molested in Amsterdam I’ve got clear descriptions of how it’s not my fault, of whom is to blame. Then I buried it all (after some judicious self-harm and tears) and it resurfaced after university.

Man I was fucking tormented by that stuff. I did my best to kill it with drugs and obtain that happy ambivalence that cannabis can bring. It didn’t work though and when I was 25 I had to tell my Dad what had happened because it festered within me, eating me up. And again I knew that I wasn’t to blame, remembered what had happened and wrote it down, tried to work through it. And failed… and now I’m back there again. I have been several times before – getting to a certain point and having to restart from scratch. All because I was too afraid to read what I’d previously written, what I’d previously felt.

I had to figure it out again each time. Well not anymore. Tonight I finished reading everything (I think). A fortnight ago I read what I thought was the worst, that fucking manipulative cuntish letter. Between then and 2005 there isn’t really anything – I hid my mind from my writing and just suffered in silence, verbal and scrawled. In 2005, for reasons that aren’t very apparent to me I found that it was time to tell my Dad what had happened in 1995. Ostensibly it was triggered by Dad and my step-Mum being about to visit Ric in Antwerp. I have no details about what else prompted this, but I wrote Dad a letter – a terrible letter. That’s what I read this evening. I’ve actually shocked myself by what I wrote. It starts with tonnes of preamble and prevarication but it has all of my questions:

1. Why did no one notice?

2. Why did no one ask me if I was alright?

3. Will you believe me?

4. Will you blame me?

5. What should I have done?

They are valid questions – I have answers to them now.

1. Because these bastards are clever, and our family was a mess – we were all vulnerable and exploited.

2. Because I’m a good actor; I could never bring myself to do enough to prompt someone to bully the information out of me. Also, see 1.

3. Yes.

4. No.

5. There was nothing else I could do. Choice is an illusion.

I’ve actually given myself horripilations in answering those questions for myself. I’m gonna choose to believe that’s because they’re true answers.

The letter continues, and oh… it goes into such detail. It’s a graphic and brutally honest letter. I’m almost embarrassed that I sent it to my Dad. Any yet – I needed to. There are details in the letter that I had forgotten, things I’ve never written before or since, that I’ve prevented from sliding through my mind. I can only apologise for sending such a detailed letter. I needed to though – I can see my desperation to get it all out, just once. It’s evident in the handwriting which gets increasingly stressed and difficult to read. It’s not a letter I want to reproduce here.

I realise that I had thought all of these things before – I’ve been here, but with slightly different answers and slightly different pieces of the puzzle. It feels a lot like The Three Doctors. I’ve got the 17 year old me – utterly distraught, semi-suicidal, the 25 year old me – desperate, but able to express it and reach out for help, and Me me – 34, ready to deal with it. Able, for the first time, to go back through this. I’ve read the 17 and 34 year old me. I feel sorry for them. 17 year old me was broken, 25 year old me might even have been worse. And me? I’m not sure. Older, wiser (maybe), certainly more reflective, definitely more distanced, more centred and in control. I’ve got a chance this time. I’m engaged in treatment, more people know now than have ever known before about what happened to me and how I feel about it. That’s a good thing – for me it’s the secrets, the hidden-ness of it all that burns, makes it sordid and different.

Most folk I know would probably note me for my honesty, outspokenness and willingness to open up. I want all of this bollocks to be the same – something of as little worth and note to me as how I felt when my parents split up. (Not to demean them, but those feeling aren’t part of Me me anymore – just the memory of them.) I’ve got to separate myself from the me of the past – his pain doesn’t have to be mine. The agony is in his memory, I just remember feeling like that.

I’ve talked before about how one of the things I feel like I have to deal with is the fact that I’ve been upset about this for so long. That in itself is investment in feeling this way, and a perverse reason to keep feeling that way. But I’m only 34. Sure, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow (or tonight, cycling home), and that 17 years feels like a lot. But in ten years it won’t be as big a chunk of my life. I’ve been with The Lady M for 14 years. It’s catching up. Time to re-prioritise how I feel and accept that I am not a continuity – I am Me now. Now. Now. Now. Now.

My diaries and letters give me an insight into the me of yesteryear (always wanted to use that word) but it’s a mistake to take on their feelings and emotions. They just aren’t me anymore. I carefully sealed away the breakthroughs or breakdowns I had when I was younger so that I wouldn’t accidentally read them or stumble across them. I hid them too well. Perhaps if I’d read my letter to Dad sooner (I’d never read it, even when I wrote it), with its savage summary of what happened and how I felt about it – maybe I could have worked through this stuff sooner. Maybe. Like I said before – choice is an illusion. We made the choices we did; there’s no going back; there’s no way of making a different choice. Pretending we could have done something differently is just a special kind of torture.

My Short Lesson (as promised 500-odd words ago, sigh) is one of labelling. If, like me, you are a hoarder of letters and diaries, for fuck’s sake label them. I’ve had to go through thousands of badly-handwritten pages of ideas, thoughts and teenage petulance and depression. The smartest thing I did was cover them in little post it notes so I could find what I wanted. I was always good at sealing things away, knowing that one day I would want or need to re-read them. But I could have fucking labelled them.

The finest example of this, for me, is one that has bothered me since I embarked on this voyage of self-discovery. In my wrapped up books and ribboned letters is a manila envelope, sealed with wax, with no words on it whatsoever. It was bundled up with the letters from Ric and has had massive high status anxiety for me. Since I sealed it, it must have been both important and something I needed to protect myself from. I’ve idly fingered it each week in counselling wondering if now is the time to open it, but no – there are other things to read first. It’s attained a mythical, terrifying status in my mind.

Tonight I finished reading the last of the diary entries and letters. The one I’d written to Dad shocked me so much I though, “fuck it – what could be worse than this?” There were no letters left – at worst it would be a copy of the letter to Dad, or from Ric, or the photographs of him (more on this later). So I tore it open… extracted the contents… and… it has nothing at all to do with Ric or abuse. It’s just a letter of apology from me to my girlfriend, Miss L, back in 1994 when I’d done something stupid and felt horrible about it. It’s totally innocuous. The Me now can’t even imagine why I sealed it up. Still less why I sealed up two draft letters and the final typed letter… (yeah I know). Maybe I never sent it. I don’t care. It was hilarious – I’ve never felt so silly and relieved and happy. It was nothing! Nothing! All I needed to do was write a single word on it and put it in the right bundle of letters.

So my lesson – to you – is to label stuff. Never imagine that you’ll just remember what it is. What was important to You of 18 years ago might not be important to You.

Fuckin’ tit.


Photographs. I strongly recall cutting Ric out of a whole bunch of photographs and removing them from albums. I expected them to be in this bundle of stuff, but they’re not. What I’ve probably done (and I’ll need to check), is separate them in their own sealed envelope, but left that in the giant box of photos. because they’re photographs you see – so they couldn’t possibly be anywhere else. That would be a category error, and that would be awful. For fuck’s sake.

Label stuff and put it in the right place!

Shankaphone – Shoving Angry Poetry in Your Aural Canal

Well it’s been a bastard few weeks, comprising both extremes of fun and misery. Excellent combination. These poems are all from a while ago – possibly even the first half of this year, and yet they call to me fresh and relevant from the rosebed of life.

They tread once more my familiar themes of loathing stupidity and the desperate failings of others to communicate either elegantly or well.

I recently read some more Shankanalia out at Pub Poetry and was thrilled to find they were both terrifying and amusing.

Do enjoy them with friends or family. You can follow @shankanalia on Twitter too. There’s a bunch of stuff I read for you at:

Shoving Angry Poetry in Your Aural Canal

Internal Distemper
Oh hello there
You must be a feeling
Come and find a place
To be
In a space
On my face.
I don’t know you well
But you feel
Right about

Punctuality is Next to Accuracy
Starts at 9.30.
Starts at 9.30!
Be on time,
Get there early,
Don’t be late.
It’s a 9.30 meet for a ten o’clock start.
My sleep.

Brevity, An Impossible Feat
To summarise –
That is,
Condense our verbosity.
To briefly compress,
With short words.
I think you’ll find
The answer – we’re out of time.

Aneurysm By The Slide
I understand.
I do,
Oh god I do.
Don’t you have a handout?
I can’t take it:
PowerPoint doom,
Collapsing cogitation,
Death brain…
Oh I weep.

Quick Witted Fuckwit
My brain is dying.
The speed of your discourse
Like mind treacle
Wading through the slovenly
Progress of words-
Time too short;
Faster please.

Eleven AM
Fist chasing madman
Looped fist looping
Frenzy of fisted blur
Every throw misses
Circular punches
Maybe not drink so early
In the day?

Ask and You Shall Receive
If you didn’t want it
You shouldn’t have asked
For it.
What you got
Is what you needed.
You don’t know
How much I need to gut you-
Extract it from the source.

Twinned With Evil – part 4

This is the fourth part of a story – read Part 1 , Part 2  and Part 3 first (if you want).

Cedric leads me down more stairs into the restaurant. It feels like a refuge of the past – its sunken floor is pitted with pools and miniature waterfalls. A waiter leads us courteously across stepping stones. I cannot resist giving Cedric a quizzical smile: this is not the sort of place either of us have ever haunted. The waiter deposits us at our pavilion where two men wait for us. One is the inspector from years ago, I sigh inwardly. The other man is large and perhaps in his twenties. I find him immediately aggravating.

“Old neutrals are new friends now,” Cedric offers as we take our seats, “you remember Clement.” I barely notice him. Cedric and Clement accept their drinks from the attentive but unobtrusive waiter and settle back on the other side of the table. I stare at the other man. There’s something in him I recognise. He stammers, makes some attempt at conversation. Then he finally meets my eyes and I know what he is, and why Cedric wanted me to meet him.


The second my eyes met hers the restaurant seemed to fall away. I’d been here with the inspector for perhaps half an hour, chatting quietly and enjoying my beer. When they arrived I felt my heart stir and I knew they were Clement’s guests. They approached us with a sense of inevitability. An older man, and a slightly younger woman. At first I thought she was old because of how she dressed, then young when she sat down, quickly and sullen. She sat in silence while the other man greeted the inspector.

The woman just stared at me, without a hint of feeling. Her eyes bored into me. I try to strike up a conversation but she totally ignores me. The waiter lays the table between our moments of awkwardness and leaves. The inspector and the man in the hat have arranged themselves on the other side of the table and are just watching us. Me. I’m sitting right next to the strange woman. It makes me nervous. The edge of the world shudders.

That’s when I notice that the water around our pavilion is receding from us and the air feels darker and heavier. I look into her eyes and they’re like black holes – the darkness in them devouring the skin around her eyes. Tendrils of night stream out of her face. I lurch backwards in alarm as black cracks striate her face and clothes. I seize the knife from the table and slam it into her chest. She screams, and doesn’t stop screaming.

The skin in her face unravels becoming just one terrible mouth lined with teeth all the way down the back of her throat – the teeth hum at me hungrily. I rip the knife back out and plunge it in again as she bucks and twists in my grip. She gets too hot to hold down, the fires within pierce her smouldering flesh and she bursts into a flaming corpse. She won’t stop screaming, I can feel it tearing at my mind.

The restaurant is gone, fallen into the darkness that has enveloped us, it is just me and the screaming. With a brutal and impossible contortion of her spine her back rotates to face me and splits; a black carapace ridged with blue and red spines forces its way out of her burned flesh and swells in size. Her limbs stretch, crack and reform into a nightmarish crab-like thing that becomes enormous, looming over me dripping ichor and shaking with hatred.

With one claw it tears the roof away and the gloom clears a little – we’re standing on the roof of an old church. The monster that the woman has become squats with its hind legs gripping the steeple, its fore-claws and mandibles still shriek the horrors of the world at me. I dive under it and jab upwards with the knife again, under the jaw where I can reach. The creature involutes itself impossibly, its jaws opening underneath me. I fall down into the night.


The restaurant is quiet save for the distant chatter of other diners. I take a small sip of water and glance at my boss. He raises his eyebrow. I straighten the dinner service. “Good instincts,” I say. The man next to me is shiny with sweat, eyes wide and shaking. I hand him his knife back. He looks terrified, justly. “Don’t worry,” I say, “you get to choose”. The dark-faced man nods. “He’ll do,” I say.

I left the city that same night, the same way I came in. It feels like the last time. I don’t think there will be anything to come back for. One more point of force inside the city won’t help it now. Together, perhaps, we can stop anything getting out when the city finally does die. Until then, I’ll be here. Watching.

Piracy! Saturday 20th October 2012: Speaker’s Corner and Oxjam Beeston

Thrills and Piratical Spills!

Gaargh, this Saturday’s a proper sack o’ maritime joy!

Derby Speaker’s Corner

First of all I’ll be rising with unusual earlitude to voyage to that renowned place o’ culture and free babble – Derby. I’ll one o’ a gaggle of speakers inauguratin’ the rather damp looking corner (see below). The event starts at 11am (ahar…) and ye cap’n’s tellin’ me least fish-loving and innuendo-laden tales to the fine folks gathered thereabouts at 12.20. I’ll be a-yarnin’ The Dancing Adventure and The Flock of Fear.

Derby Speakers Corner Launch – Saturday 20th October 11am, DerbyMarket Square FREE

Line up:

  • 11.00-11.10   Cllr Ranjit Banwait   Opening of Derby’s Speaker’s Corner
  • 11.10-11.20   Louise Third  Nottingham Speaker’s Corner
  • 11.20-11.30   Neil White     Singer/songwriter
  • 11.30-11.40   Tony Bigissue Peppiatt       Comedian
  • 11.40-11.50   Peter Bradley            Speakers Corners
  • 11.50-12.00   1623 Theatre Company      Supernatural Shakespeare
  • 12.00-12.10   Mik Scarlet    Beauty Through Damage
  • 12.10-12.20   Delicata         Singer/songwriter
  •   Captain Pigheart      Poetry and short stories
  • 12.30-12.40   Matt from Karl and the Marx Brothers       Singer/songwriter

Oxjam Beeston Takeover 2012

Shortly after that I’ll be turnin’ me literary ship Beeston-wards once more for an afternoon o’ comic marvels. Me good mate and fellow MissImp improviser Nick Parkhouse is compereing an afternoon of fundraising comedy at Latino’s Restaurant in Beeston. In truth tis a blinder of a show. I’ll be yarn-spinning once more (with the usual degree of merwenchery since we’re safely ensconced indoors), and then takin’ up the spontaneous comedy arms with me MissImp comrades for an hour of bemusing buffoonery.

Oxjam Beeston Takeover – Saturday 20th October 3pm, Latinos Restaurant, Beeston. There’s a billion other things going on all day which are accessible for a mere £5 for the whole cursed shebang.

Line up:

  • Presented by Nick Parkhouse
  • 2.30-2.50pm    Chris Richmond
  • 2.50-3.10pm    Carl Jones
  • 3.10-3.30pm    Misk Hills Mountain Rambler
  • Break
  • 3.45-4.00pm   Captain Pigheart
  • 4.00-4.15pm   Francis Jenking
  • 4.15-4.30pm   James Billington
  • 4.30-5.30pm   MissImp comedy show

Slightly Broken: Moving… on?

I feel like I’ve had a quiet week in my own mind. I am quite aware that Ric has not been present in my thoughts much, and when he has, he’s slid off my mind and away. Curious. I wonder if it’s partly to do with getting through all of the diary entries and letters I have. There’s nothing left to surprise me – it’s all there. With the exception of photographs – which I still need to seek out and deal with. So I have control of all that information; master of my own data. There are no other sources of information about what happened to me. Some will be held by a few other adults, but it won’t be about me. That’s also something I’ve come to realise and believe – this shit is about me. There’s lots of possible information about other people, but I can’t take that into me and take responsibility for it -it would be endless and I can’t do anything with it. Of course, the other person who knows something about what happened is Ric. I don’t want his mind in mine – I don’t think I’d understand it and that’s all about him, not me. We’re no responsible for the actions of others, or for their feelings. So fuck that. The only way I want contact with his mind is when stepping over the puddle. So anger is appropriately placed again: good. I’m not going to say anything daft like I feel that I’m fixed, but I’m a pragmatic sort of person (not practical, never practical…) and I do believe that personality and mind is transient; we are who we are now and we leave behind us a series of shadows and half-forgotten reflections. I’m not the person I was. In a very real way those things didn’t happen to me, but I do remember them. I’ve come to realise that it’s remembering the things and how that made me feel (the feeling of memory) that has obsessed me for so long, at least as much as the events themselves. I’m changing – into the person who remembers feeling hurt by memories, not the person in pain or the person who remembered and felt pain because of it. I’m now aware of phrases that I’ve only said out loud before, and repeated to myself, somethimes incredulously, sometimes convincingly. It wasn’t my fault. I know I say this a lot, but it takes repetition and understanding to insert a belief and idea so contrary to what I have lived with inside for so long. Paradigmatic shifts ain’t easy. It feels more, I don’t know, structural now. Like something I know, something I can accept. It shatters the world. I also know that the choices that I thought I made weren’t choices; at best I made the least worst choices that would enable me to survive. They were’t free decisions. These are good things to know. It feels… fragile though. While this crap has been mostly out of my head this week I’ve been feeling that awful grinding tension in my stomach instead. So it’s possible that I’ve had a mental breakthrough and bumped it down to the emotional level. I’ve had it for a few weeks and I don’t really know why. I associate it with being nervous about the future. Not future with a capital F, just the awareness that something has been planned and I need to attend to it. Going somewhere for work, or for fun – a decision that needs to be made, knowing that I need to leave work at x time to be somewhere. All of these cause me some measure of physical pain. I’m not a good planner. I was flicking back through my blog posts in advance of counselling tonight (it’s a good habit, allows me some view of progress and reminds me of what I’ve forgotten. Since the issue of what we forget is so fucking central to my experience it’s important to review, to remember – to know that the record is here and that it’s safe, and useful to go into.) and noted an entry from a few months ago where I was totally wracked with guilt and numb horror at the prospect of even planning what to do for my birthday. Sometimes it’s like that – I just find myself unable to visualise the future, to juggle the concept of choice. That sounds really fucked up. On reflection, it’s probably why we haven’t been on holiday for years and our house still needs to be plastered. Sad chuckle. At best I’m maybe a month ahead. The offer of a night at Dad’s over Christmas actually wracked me for days before I could bring myself to consider it seriously. I’ve developed an awful habit of deferring decisions so late that the decision is taken out of my hands and an event is now in the past, so of course we can’t go. It’s an enormous relief when it reaches the point of being determined. Do I fear choice? Do I fear the future – or a future that I influence? I feel that much of my life has been inevitable. I’ve never subscribed to a genuine philosophy of free will. We’re so obviously the products of decisions made years ago that it strikes me as naive to imagine that we have control. Even wanting to make x decision is the product of a complex chain of causes and effects; it’s the choice we want to make because of who we are. That doesn’t mean we don’t have the illusion of control and choice however. This will all be very counter-intuitive and self-deprecating and logically inconsistent. I realise that; I’m thrashing it out for myself. The last time I recall feeling genuinely positive about the future was at the start of my A-Levels (it is probably no shocking note to say that this was just after Ric had moved to Amsterdam and I was free, albeit temporarily) but after that it was all… easy? University was both obvious and inevitable for someone who could do exams. It was crucially, easier than not going to university – it involved less choice and struggle than doing anything else. The rest of my life has followed suit. Apart from that one first, fuck-awful job after university, I fell into temping and was offered an opportunity to go permanent. With a bit of pressure from (some incredibly supportive) line managers I accepted the various enhancements and changes to my role that were offered to me. We got our house through risk of losing our tenancy and doing the easiest thing – buying from our landlady. Since then, I don’t know – maybe I’m being too harsh on myself, but we’ve only done things to the house when the opportunity arose rather than planning to do it. I feel as if I haven’t sought anything out – just accepted what was offered. I don’t think it’s always felt like that though. I do recall the terrifying yawning sensation of grasping possibility though – once when I was maybe 14 I imagined becoming a boxer (I don’t really know why; if you know me you’ll recognise that it’s implausible at best) and being strong and successful as such. I felt hollow and tingled with the notion. I think I’ve felt it since, though I may be imagining it. It feels a lot like that internal tension or at least I think of them the same way – something to be avoided. Now that I’m thinking about it properly, it’s the same sensation I’ve felt when I’ve found something that I could be good at – really good at. And the yawning sensation has sent me running the other way. That’s probably a good chunk of confirmation bias; since I associate the sensation with feeling stressed. So I say yes to things that are offered, because it’s easier that way (and often beneficial), but demur and decline only when I actually don’t like the thing offered (roller-coasters for example, which I hate) or when I’m putting someone else’s preferences ahead of my own. But I don’t reach for things. That’s not always bad, but it’s not really making choices is it? In counselling today we wondered if that’s an aspect of taking the easy choice, the safe(r) choice. It worked once, got me home safely, and in fairness rarely leads to anything awful… but it has perhaps become ingrained. It’s like improv: I accept the scenario, I go along with it. I don’t want to get hurt… if I say yes I won’t get hurt, or not hurt too badly. If I say no, there might be consequences. If I decide I want something, not just that I’m content to accept what is offered. What then? Do I do what I want or just what I like, or what won’t hurt me? Can I tell the difference? I am good at accepting opportunities, because it’s easier, and I end up with things that I like. But they’re not necessarily the same as the things that I want. Have I ever thought about what I want? What I really really want? (Oh for a zig-a-zig-ah.) Have I ever seized something that wasn’t offered? That’s not really making a choice. I can’t tell if it’s because the possible consequences concern me – or that I can’t visualise a different world. I am allowed to choose, to have preferences – aren’t I? I’m so used to being defined by hiding from my thoughts and memories, a life so structured to keep them out, that change seems inconceivable. Structure though, has its place. I devolve into chaotic identikit time with nothing in it, no action, no joy except for that which arises on its own. I’ve created structure and schedule that makes me happy – Tuesdays climbing, Thursdays improv. Without planning them in I just won’t do them, and then I won’t be happy. It seems silly, to say that I’m happy because I’ve scheduled it in, but I recognise that when I have no form to my life it just passes and I recollect nothing from it and achieve little. The bedtime and basic timetable that I got from the sleep therapy CBT earlier this year has been incredibly useful, even if it’s slipped a little. It works for me. Otherwise I end up with the totally shapeless life at university where nothing mattered and I had no motivation to get anything done. I’ve implemented things that make me happy, and give me space to be happy in the unstructured time. Maybe I could extend that into the future. While I’ve never been good at the future I’ve always been pragmatic about my actions – I’ve accepted offers that brought me security and stability. I shouldn’t reject those out of hand. Having a home and reliable income (an absolute miracle I realise) has been a consistently good thing, if largely accidental. Even with self-harming I reasoned my way out of it – I didn’t want to kill myself because there is always difference out there, what future fell upon me was at least interesting and different. Self harm was a cry for help, but I realised that I wasn’t ready to accept that help, and that the harm I’d need to wreak upon myself to defeat my fears and actually be noticed would be so great that I’d never be free of it I think I knew that my emotional scars might one day be passed, but if I had the scars then I’d always have to see them, and explain them. So the cuts are off the wrist, nowhere they’d be seen by accident and gratefully minimal (the blessings of youthful recovery). Being aware of the present in fear of the past has kept me safe, but it allowed me no space to look to the future. If I’m not afraid any more maybe I can look to the future. I’d like to choose my future. I just don’t know, or didn’t know, that I can know what I want.

This week, Monday 29th October 2012

The Organisational Skills of A Crippled Weasel

Yup, successfully distracted by life and the usual tedium of blundering through work. Still… we’ve had another improv show which featured the erotic properties of vegetable beasts. It made me happy. So – what before that? Well, Speaker’s Corner Derby went well – more about that on Tuesday. We finally recorded another podcast discussing improv and comedy with MissImp (you can enjoy that here), hopefully we’ll hit a regular schedule soon.

I finally finished Twinned With Evil. I was sure it was going to be a three parter. Ho hum. I know it takes a slightly odd turn at the end when perspective shifts to another character, but it seemed to be the only way to go. In part I think it’s due to the story’s origins as a quite disturbing dream. I’ve remained pretty faithful to the nightmare and I do find it difficult to deviate from a reality I’ve already experience. The problem is always adding meaning and context to the weird crap that sneaks up on us at night. During the dream those inconsistencies and menace already feel loaded with meaning – sometimes it evaporates on waking and has to be re-imagined (not like a Tim Burton film). I think it went alright. I’ve had another odd dream and am in the process of rendering that into fiction too.

This week’s scribbles

Tuesday:  Derby Speaker’s Corner -some of the press and people involved in the opening on Saturday 20th October, and a nice video.

Wednesday: Re-posting of some fearsome Hallowe’en Pirate Tales

Thursday: The Tusky Adventure. A return to pirate adventures!

Round Up of Last Week

16th October: Shankophone – Shoving Angry Poetry in Your Aural Canal – some more super-short agitated poetry.

18th October: Twinned With Evil – Part 4 – the final (finally) part of the evil city yarn.

Events and Excitement

Exciting stuff I’m doing coming up in Nottingham and thereabouts:

Little Wolf Parade – Saturday 10th November – I’m compereing and performing in this deviant debacle:

Derby Speaker’s Corner

Free Speech

I was kindly invited to help open Derby’s Speaker’s Corner on Saturday 20th October and tell a few of me tales in public. I’ve no particular politics, but spreading love between pirates and merfolk is always important. Twas a grand event all round, with a range of charming and interesting speakers and an appreciative crowd of folk. I was born in Derby so it was nice to do something for the city. With luck the Corner will be used by radicals, crazies, story tellers and entirely ordinary people. Many thanks to Derby Live for supporting and organising the event There’s been a bit of press, so there’s a few photos below and a video for you to peek at.


Matt McGuinness was sly enough to snap this off the BBC Radio Derby soundwaves – one of his songs and the odd line from most of the participants:

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Splendid Other Humans

On stage (well, behind a waterfall) with me were a number of fine speakers including this rascally bunch:

A Few Odd Spots on t’Interwebbing


Terrifying Pirate Stories – Hallowe’en Repost

Ahar! Tis likely ye’ll be wallowing in a surfeit of sugar and approaching a life-threatening coma. Enjoy then these tales of fear on the high seas (and nearby)!

The Gelatinous Adventure

A tale of nightmarish were-creatures:

Ye clouds clustered about ye swollen moon, like octopi menacin’ an expectin’ merwench (gaargh, memories…). Twere an ill omen, for ye lunar cycle breeds anxiety ‘mongst even the saltiest seamen, who prefer to be docked and drunk midst full moon. But we’d no chance of makin’ land fall for we’d lost both map and anchor in a bet over who were the most superstitious: ourselves or the crypto-astrological whalers of Gullible’s island. Read more…

The Terrified Adventure

The crew are whipped through time to a time that time forgot, a time o’ brutish reptiles:

We were, naturally enough, a-drink and adrift in a mysterious fug. Twas cloying and clung to me beard. From the densest o’ the fog came a dull roar and a twinklin’ sound such as ye might associate with frozen fairies tumblin’ to a floor o’ tiles. I made to alter our course but me peg leg’d been wedged in ye wheel as part of a curious game. We’d no choice but to boldly plunge deeper into the growling smog. Bolts of pink lightning sizzled into the seas about us. Read more…

The Triffic Adventure

In tribute to The Day of The Triffids we’re attacked by devil plants from beyond the stars or surf:

Gaargh, I awoke from a night o’ disturbin’ dreams. We’d been swiggin’ vodka for a change, since takin’ it off Danish merchants just after dawn. Me final memory o’ that night were haulin’ Billy aboard after ‘e leapt from the bow to catch a shootin’ star. Yarr, all night the sky’d been full o’ light streakin’ down as if aimin’ for the giant crabs crawlin’ across ye sea-bed. ‘Twere pretty, like a rainbow on fire, though technically it boded ill for us all. Read more…

The Orthodontic Odyssey

Wizards, magic and miniature pirates in a tale of ensorceled teeth:

Gaargh, once more I were bound against me will. This time it were not, strictly speakin’, me own fault. Ye see I’d fallen for the beauteous but eccentric Discombobula Dentata, Queen o’ the tiny island o’ Munt.

Of course, she were not aware of me adorin’ until I broke into her bedroom and offered her me hand. Yaarr, she took it, along with me teeth. Them she returned these to me mouth after sowin’ each tooth in the volcanic earth o’ her magical realm. There they gained the power to sprout into dinky homunculi – little versions of meself with twice the cursing. In reciprocative devotion I were to slay her nemesis, the wizard of Ars’Hole; bein’ young and on pain o’ death I agreed. Read more…