Sunday, 28 September 2014

A love letter...

... to the NHS.

My next blog post was going to be about this total freakfest dude on OKC, but then I got to thinking that I'm a bit sick of writing about that kind of shit. I mean, I will, because I find it freaking amusing.

But something caught my eye somewhere in internet land. Some poor American posted the bill for their surgery. And then I got to thinking.

What if I was American. Apart from a most likely atrocious accent and the inability to spell or end a sentence without an upward inflection, what would this have meant for my health?

As a person from a working middle class background with a sick father and not much else going on financially, I had a vague suspicion it wouldn't have been great.

So I decided to do a little research. Below is a list of the procedures with an estimate of the costs, based on what I could find in internet land. I've chosen the lower end of the spectrum for the procedures, but it seems that, depending on the State, it could have been at least twice as much.


MY TERRIFYING BILL:

Appendectomy  - average $33,000 (could be up to $150,000)
Cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal)  - average $13,500
Laproscopic endometrial ablation x 3 - average $4,500 each (total $13,500)
Abortion with general anaesthetic - average $1,200
Removal of pre cancerous mole under local anaesthetic - average $300
Three years of orthodonistry resulting in a gleaming, straight smile - around $5,000
Cost of approx five years mixed therapy - let's estimate at $100/session and I'm going to say around 50 sessions on the NHS over my lifetime, although it could well be more - $5,000
Sinus ablationl - estimate $3,000

TOTAL COST: $74,500.

I wouldn't have insurance, assuming I live like I do over here. My work doesn't provide anything like any kind of health benefits and, if I was a self employed writer over there, I doubt it would either.

Most of these were after I turned 19, which is after my dad had to retire through ill health. Most occurred after he died. He had no life insurance. He could not get health insurance in this country, due to his condition. He most likely wouldn't have been able to get it over there.

I would have had no orthodontistry and my mouth would right now look like the inside of some rotting graveyard from hell. I would have had no therapy and, to be honest, I actually don't know what that would mean for me.

I would have skipped the sinus op and possibly the mole removal (they said a 30% chance of cancer, so, y'know, it would have been a gamble).

I could not have skipped the appendectomy, abortion or gall bladder removal. These were not choices (for me. I mean, one of them obviously was a choice but it was the right choice, but anyway, that's a whole other issue). If I had left two of them I would have died in agony (my gall bladder was dead and rotting inside me they discovered on removal) and, well, I'm not going to talk about the other one here.

As it stands, I don't live in America. Or the 'land of the free' as it's inexplicably known. I live in England. The land of the mildly cantankerous. And all of this was funded by a system I pay into. All of this and all of the GP appointments, scans, tests and further appointments over the years was funded by a system that I grew up with. I have never known any different. I have never known what it's like to live in a society that doesn't look after each other, that will bill someone for life saving surgery, that will throw the elderly out if they don't have the money.

In this country, we do not have to weigh up the cost of life saving surgery against the cost of buying food and paying rent. In this country, we do not get landed with a massive bill when we're at our most vulnerable. In this country, we don't know we're fricking born.

This last operation was an example of the beauty of the NHS when it works as it should. I was seen by a consultant who was interested, helpful and kind. He put me on his list. Within three months he operated on me. He did what he said he would and he did stuff that could potentially save me a lot of pain in the future. Throughout the operation I was treated with courtesy, respect, kindness and humour by a fantastic team of people. I was swabbed three times for MRSA in the weeks leading up to surgery and had two blood screens. I had a pre operative nurse explain everything to me and a post operative nurse explain everything to me. I was given painkillers, dressings and instructions when I left. I have a follow up appointment in six weeks.

They were so good to me I'm writing them a thank you card.

We are so lucky. I am so lucky. And I am so very very grateful to the NHS. If I believed in anything, I'd pray so hard it lasts, because the alternative is scary as hell.



Thursday, 25 September 2014

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand she's back

Wowsers. Surgery's FUN innit? No? No, you're right. It blows.

Couple things have happened in the last week.

One included being put into a state of unconsciousness while a group of strangers sliced me open before waking me up and agreeing that I will most likely feel very poorly for a while.

Another was that my friend published a book.

Although this is worthy of mention anyway (from someone who is constantly struggling to finish hers I have nowt but admiration for people who finish and then publish) it's also very exciting as I had a small hand in its formation.

It Looks Like You're Writing A Letter is the first book from Alexander King.

It has a cover that looks like this.


And I edited it. 

It was written during NaNoWriMo last year. Loads of people do that and it's ace and all, but then to carry on and actually edit and polish, that's less common. And then lots of work happened - suggestions, editing and grammar tarting only from me, naturally - all work by him - but then it was finished. 

That's exciting. 

I've read it four times. That was because I was editing it though. I'm not saying that's something anyone should do. But you'd do a lot worse than reading it once. It's well good and a bargain at £1.90 (ish, something like that). 

Here's where you can get it: 

Amazon linky.

Google Play linky.

Smashwords linky.

And, if you must be an Apple drone, here's an iBooks linky

I loved editing it. Although I edit copy for work a lot and it's hardly a new phenomenon, this is the first time I've edited a book to the finish. 

It's interesting to play a part in a project but from such a distance. Although all grammatical stuff was taken on, some suggestions weren't (and nor should they be). Thrashing out plot points, character motivations or back stories with the creator seemed to get my brain going in a different way, which was new and different. 

If anyone reading this has a book, novella, short story or, at a push, haiku, they'd like editing assistance on, hit me up at blackcatwritinghelp@gmail.com. Let's talk. 

Otherwise, I'd totally download this if I were you. 



Tuesday, 16 September 2014

An ambassador for the Paralympics

Two things happened the other day.

One was a dream I had and it was ridiculous and the other appears to be a real thing that's actually happening.

Here they are.

The first thing that happened was this guy who has no legs but can run really fast and is rich and famous because of this ability and also is very good looking in that kind of way that I like (emotionless, cheekbones, spare face, eyes that are unreadable, aloof, unreachable, phwoar) was not convicted for murder.

That's quite weird really because the guy shot his girlfriend dead. She was called Reeva Steenkamp and she has been dead for about a year and a half. She was in the toilet with the door locked in the middle of the night so he shot a few times through the bathroom door, presumably to make sure she was well and truly splattered all over the walls.

He then said that it wasn't his fault because has has no legs and something about thinking that she was an intruder. She lives with him, sleeps in the same bed and, well, I think that maybe the first thing you'd do if you thought someone was in your house and you lived with a partner and your partner isn't in bed is, I dunno, assume that said partner is in the bog. I wouldn't assume that the thing you would do is put your legs on, find your gun and then shoot whoever is in the bathroom. Until they're dead.

But he shot her instead. He did this on Valentine's Day and hasn't even spent a night in jail yet. He was let out on bail. His girlfriend wasn't. She was a bloody pulpy mess in his house. They scraped her up though and he went back to doing whatever it is he does until the trial.

During the trial he said a lot of reasons why shooting his girlfriend dead in the middle of the night wasn't his fault. Something something no legs, something something vulnerable, something something SELF DEFENCE something something puke in a bucket.

So it comes to the end of it all and obviously the judge is going to convict him of murder, as, you know, that's what happened. But nah, he is only guilty of culpable homicide. He hasn't been sentenced yet but he can't get more than 15 years and it's extremely likely that he won't serve any time at all.

On top of this he's going to write a book about his trauma in the dock and he's free to compete again. Hold up, what? Yep, I said he's FREE TO COMPETE. He can represent South Africa, if he wants to. He can compete in the Paralympics if he wants to.

The International Paralymics Committee has said that the 'trial has had no negative impact on the Paralympic movement' and that Pistorious is 'a fundamental ambassador for the Paralympics'.

During the trial it turned out he has form. He plays with guns. He has a very violent temper and cannot control himself. He has intimidated past girlfriends. He is unpredictable, childish and dangerous. Oh, and he's a convicted killer. But he's an AMBASSADOR. I suppose it shows equality. It's not only people with two legs who can be psychopathic fuckheads who need locking up.

The second thing that happened was that I had a pet bat and I was in the car with my dad (who's dead) and the bat landed on his head and we were worried and then I turned around and the bat had turned into a little girl and she said she had to find the witch to find the answer so she could turn back into a bat.

Weirdly, the second thing that happened strikes me as far more feasible and understandable than the first thing that happened.





Monday, 15 September 2014

This is why I'm scared

Why do people blog? I've been thinking about this recently because, I dunno, someone probably mentioned it somewhere or something. I don't seem to be able to think about anything unless someone said it on Facebook so it was probably there. Let's go with that.

I know why I started blogging. I needed an outlet. I wanted to write. I'm lonely. I wanted somewhere to blart whatever shit I'm thinking about. It makes me feel better sometimes. It makes me laugh sometimes.

Then people started reading it. And I got self conscious and started thinking about my audience and whether I would offend anyone and how do I think of things that other people might want to read and what if I'm too open, too honest, too boring, too needy, too emotional, too much me and then people will not like me?

So I didn't write about some things that I wanted to write about and it's possible I made myself write in a certain way to try and please some invisible audience. My blog has had close on 200,000 hits. I have to discount 50% for being bots or whatever weird shit it is that people decide to set in motion. Maybe it's the NSA. Whatever. Even so that means 100,000 hits on my blog. Which means definitely more than just my ma reads it. I don't know who a lot of the people who read it are - sometimes I'll get comments and realise that actually complete strangers actually do.

It's the people I do know that make me freeze though. I write a lot about a few subjects. I know this. They generally cover being single, being depressed and obsessing about death. I get that this isn't everyone's cup of tea. But it works best when I don't care about this. When I stop thinking about this. When I get a grip and realise that what I'm writing matters not one whit (wit? no, it's whit isn't it? Could you Google that for me?) outside of my mind.

And that's why I feel like I can write this. It's cathartic you see. I need to write to feel better. It helps me get stuff out of my brain. Opening it to an audience seems to make me write more. I don't know. It's probably ego. Whatever.

I'm scared right now. I'm very, very scared. I'm far more scared than the situation merits. But, as someone who can manage to have a panic attack in Tesco, I'm familiar with feeling needlessly anxious.

This time, at least, I'm scared about something that most people wouldn't actively enjoy. No one goes out of their way to undergo a general anaesthetic after all, do they?Iit's not on anyone's bucket list. It's not a thing we do for fun. We do it because it's necessary and because there is the chance on the other side of feeling better.

But this time - this is my eighth operation. I am still counting, although it's starting to feel like an operation is just something that is destined to happen to me every couple of years until I die. Hopefully not on the operating table - this time I am being operated on somewhere that holds extremely traumatic memories for me.

I can't tell you how much this experience twists my guts to even write about. It's a visceral, physical reaction. I don't think about it much because I don't WANT TO. It's horrible. It goes back to March 16, 2001. The day my dad died. Yes, this again. As he died on the Isle of Wight, that's where I went.

Three days later I got a terrible pain. An awful pain. I knew that it wasn't right but at the same time my heart had just broken and I though that maybe physical pain was just a thing that came along with that.

As the funeral came closer, it became clear that I was not well. Not at all well. On the morning of 22 March 2001, we went to view his body. I had to go because otherwise I was afraid that I wouldn't believe he was dead. He looked pretty damn dead. It wasn't like on TV. I put a note in his coffin because I didn't want him to feel scared. Then I went to the doctor. Who told me I had to go to hospital right now.

Nah mate. No can do. I have a funeral to go to. So he gave me a pill. The pain was still there but I was just about to watch people burn my dad in a box so I didn't really awfully care. The pain was real bad. And it was getting worse.

After the funeral I went to the hospital. I missed that bit where everyone stands around awkwardly eating sandwiches. I'm glad I missed that bit. That would have been shit. I wouldn't have known what to say. I would have been like: why are you people here? Don't you know what just happened? You can't eat SANDWICHES. My DADDY IS DEAD.

Anyway, while that was happening I was lying on a hospital bed waiting for a fun time appendectomy. My operation was put back because a car accident came in or something. I guess they figured I'd had this for four days now. How bad could it be?

Thankfully some fucker knocked me out soon after. I woke up to a house surgeon telling me that my appendix was the biggest SHE'D EVER SEEN. So someone was happy. I had a seven inch scar across my abdomen. I couldn't move. When you have open surgery on your abdomen it turns out that all your muscles are cut through. Severed. Completely. I had no idea this meant that you can't actually move. At all.

Oh, and I was tripping. Hard.

I was infected. As they'd yoinked the behemoth out ("you really shouldn't have been walking around you know, we should have operated much earlier") some gunk had got into my blood. So, that meant two days of intravenous antibiotics, morphine, being expected to shit into a bed pan and absolutely no privacy.

I passed out a lot and came round always to a woman who was sticking needles in me. They took blood something like four times a day. It could have been more actually. Paracetamol had to go in me because my temperature wouldn't come down. I couldn't take anything by mouth so guess HOW THAT HAPPENED? Yeah, that's right. Because that's the kind of thing you need when you're really ill, your dad's just died and now someone's sticking tablets up your arse.

My temperature didn't come down for a while.

That's when I started hallucinating. I saw my dad. He was sitting my bed. He did that smile thing that he did when he was trying to be reassuring but knew that actually the situation was shot to shit. And then I heard my ma. She was talking to one of the nurses, apologising to them for me being a difficult patient and that "she's often like that, just ignore her." I was raging. I was properly pisssssssed off by this. I demanded to know where ma was. The nurse couldn't persuade me that she wasn't there and hadn't been there. It was, after all, 4am. I just knew that bitch nurse was lying to me.

I'd only ever had my vision impaired through dropping a bit of acid in my naughty days. I didn't realise that true hallucinations aren't particularly scary because, as far as you're concerned, they're totally real. It's only in retrospect that you realise what was and what wasn't real. The blurred line sharpens and the dream world and real world seem completely separate and you wonder how you could have been so hoodwinked by your own brain and your own senses.

And no one was there really to talk to me. Everyone was busy and my boyfriend went home and then it was me, my drip and a hospital bed. And I didn't know what had happened and how my life had gone from normal to actual hell within six days. And I didn't know how I was meant to get through this. And I had no one. And I wanted my daddy so much. And he was dead. And I was here. And then they forgot to replace my drip and I started to faint. I asked the nurse if I was dying. It seemed to make more sense than any of this shit.

I wasn't dying, obviously. I was just having a really bad week.

I eventually moved to a private room because the indignity of crawling to the toilet every five minutes while holding my drip (intravenous antibiotics do not make you feel good), with a slit open abdomen and a crowd of chav kids staring at me and chewing their crispy cud was not helping my brain accept that this was now my reality.

So I moved to a private room. £90 it cost. For one room for one night. More expensive than a Travel Inn, that. Then it was me and an empty room and a shocked expression.

Finally I went back to my mother's house to recuperate until I could travel home and restart my life.

All of this happened at the hospital that I am going to on Thursday. Where they will put me under anaesthetic again and I will have an operation again. It's completely different circumstances, for completely different reasons, and it's nearly 14 years ago when this first experience happened. But it still scares the shit out of me.

See, now I feel better. I'm glad I wrote this. Talking about fear can dispel it, you see. Well, it can make it recede. I can see how the event in 2001 and the event in a few days are not connected at all and the shock of that operation doesn't affect this next one.

I can see. And I feel better. And now maybe I can sleep.













Time to die

I can't help it. No matter how many times I watch Blade Runner, I'm in awe of it. The whole way it looks, sounds, is. It's beautiful. Naturally, its utterly dark, menacing, nihilistic overtones are rights slap bang up my alley. The soundtrack is shuddering, magnificent and visceral. Even the rain is sexual.

Performances seem to ooze from everyone effortlessly. It's Ford's sexiest role, I've decided. However, that is likely to change just as soon as I see him in anything else. But he suits Deckard. He suits both the Deckard from the film and the Deckard from the book, as it goes.

Now I've finally read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and been staggered by the intricacies and the scope of Dick's story, the film seems simpler. It's Deckard and Rachel that remain the most recognisable from the book. Isodore is now Sebastian and he's not a chickenhead. I wonder why they changed what they changed? Where was Deckard's wife? Where was Mercer? Where was the Rachel copy? Inexplicably morphed into some kind of pleasure bot played by a really fabulous Daryl Hannah, that's where. A couple of years later she did Splash. Amazing.

The book never mentions the word Replicant. It's set it San Fransisco, not LA. It's 1992, not 2019. They're called andys. Short for android, obviously. Although, entirely coincidentally, andy is the name of the worst boyfriend I've ever had. Now, I'm not saying there's necessarily anything in that...

The acting and the style of the film meant that that's what was in my head when I read the book. Sean Young, Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer... who else could it be? But Roy in the book is very different to Roy in the film. There are definitely fewer boobs in the book and the first Replicant Deckard kills is an opera singer, not a suspiciously filthy erotic dancer with a penchant for snakes.

In a way Scott really kind of seedied it up for the big screen. But it looks fabulous. And, from the vantage point of the 60s (when the book was written) and 1982 (when the film was made), almost, at a pinch, realistic, potentially. Of course, we all know now, that the second decade of the 21st century isn't really that different from the 1980s. But people used to genuinely think that transparent PVC clothing, vertical cars and humanoid robots would be a thing by now.

Weird how everyone's smoking like it's the late 70s and the technology is suspiciously clunky. But that futuristic crossed with 30s Film Noir crossed with post apocalyptic horror is just perfect. It's all much faster, of course, in the film. Even though the book takes place over 24 hours, so much is missed out, so much background, so much fascinating Dick stuff, that it really becomes a different story.

No talk of the Dust. Why make Sebastian some kind of toy making genius, rather than a lonely chickenhead? Why no more talk of the animals and what they mean? Why no bloody wife? Is it just because it would be too icky for the hero to fall in love with Rachel while cheating on his missus? Really?

But oh my. As much as I adore, love, revere, admire and, yes, slobber over Harrison Ford, this film belongs to Rutger Hauer. Who, by the way, definitely didn't miss leg day before filming this. His final speech is positively Shakespearean. He reminds me of Hamlet, Prospero and Caliban all wrapped up into one peroxided package. He conveys the tragedy of their awakening, their slavery, their false lives wonderfully. The pathos and the confusion and the grief and the betrayal.

It's almost like being a human.

At least they know how long they have. Maybe that's why Deckard looks happy when he realises he's one of them too. He's seen more glory in Roy's death than in anything he's killed for.

Roy is why I love the film and Dick is why I love the book. I wish he could have seen it.


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Coffee causes cancer...

No, wait, coffee cures cancer. It's chocolate that gives you cancer. And air. And water. Don't take those vitamins. No, DO take those vitamins. We're all familiar with the Daily Heil style of scientific reportage aren't we? We all know that there is no truth in their horrible clickbait articles about the 'dangers' of the every day. We've come to expect it. It's a national joke. Right?

So when did The Grauniad start joining in? If you're on Facebook or spend any kind of time lolling about on social media, and, let's face it, if you're reading anything I'm writing, then you definitely are. If you have any kind of office job then, obviously, you'll be spending at least 80% of your time on Facebook. I mean, what's the alternative? Actually trying to give a shit? Don't be silly.

If you are a follower of The Guardian on Facebook, Twitter or whatever the kids are using these days, you'll most likely have noticed that they have fully embraced the prevailing lore of media. The new media. The social media. That is, any kind of impartial, skilled writing goes straight down the swanny in favour of a headline that will get everyone all riled and emotional.

Naturally, 90% of The Guardian's headlines are something to do with feminism - not real feminsim, the neu feminist shit that just twists all messages and dilutes anything of any import, you know the kind. Usually in list form with women holding up placards about something or other. Tedious it is, and I absolutely consider myself a feminist, in that I would really like it if things could be equal, yeah?

Considered, reasoned, impartial debate has gone and in have come headlines like this. This isn't part of the 90% of their headlines that incite gender war, purely to get everyone to fight with each other in the comments. This is part of the 10% of headlines that completely bastardise research/comments by 'scientific experts' to impart a 'warning' that is 99% bullshit. See how I use lots of stats? They're about as accurate as this kind of shit:


And I fell for it. I started arguing in the comments. Hang my middle class head in shame. People obviously started getting racist, offensive, abusive and willfully missing my point. But this pissed me right off. RIGHT off. 

I'm a passionate and dedicated advocate of mindful meditation for mental health issues. It has helped me more than anything else - and we're talking about literally decades worth of pills and therapists. It's the single best thing we can all do for our own mental health - and that includes people who don't suffer from depression and anxiety. 

The debate about mental health was briefly opened up online due to Robin Williams' tragic decision that he couldn't take it anymore. My issue with articles like this is that it's sensationalising the miniscule amount of people who might not benefit from meditation. On reading the article it turns out that A Psychiatrist was talking about people who are severely mentally ill. People who are so ill that breathing in and out without proper medical care is dodgy. And I don't deny that they exist and that no, mindfulness meditation probably isn't what's best for them. BUT for MOST people who are reading the fucking Guardian, mindful meditation is a solid gold positive. 

And it upsets me that a media outlet like The Guardian is taking the time to publish sensationalist crap about something that is within everyone's grasp. We can't all afford private healthcare, we don't all want anti depressants, we don't want to join endless waiting lists for psychiatric care. 

I wish I'd started meditating years ago, who knows how much I would have been able to help myself by now? 



Monday, 8 September 2014

Might as well face it...

I'm addicted to drugs.

I've been popping prescription pills since I was 19 years old. I had a nervous breakdown and was slapped on SSRIs - it was Seroxat back in them there days. I remember my GP telling me excitedly that they were absolutely non addictive, side effect free and basically a miracle of miracles. It was not long after they had been discovered and it was just after Prozac was handed out like smarties.

And, to be fair, they seemed to be the miracle he described. I went from an almost catatonic state to being able to function. From total agoraphobic to student again. From someone who couldn't lift her head up and walked around like that wee dead girl in The Ring to someone who could socialise, work, think, feel, again.

Because I was on them I stopped taking illegal drugs (don't wanna mix them up, kids), and I cut down drinking a fair amount. And I was 19. I had two years of Uni left to enjoy and I was so relieved to feel some freedom from the pressure of suicidal thoughts that I honestly didn't give a shit. Fine, they say I have a chemical imbalance in my head, and I need these drugs. Fine. FINE.

A few years later I decided to stop them. Just stop taking them. Bad idea. For drugs that were touted as non addictive, turns out they're addictive as all fuck. Ask a GP to help you come off them and they tend to skirt around it. "Wait until your life is stable and you're happy," is something I've heard from more than one.

Seriously, dude. Seriously? Who has a life that's smooth and lovely and marvellous? Who? Fucking show me someone and I'll eat my hat. You dick. But I kept taking them. Because, well, it's easier, alright? It's just easier. When you're on a drug that fucks you the fuck up as soon as you stop taking them, it's a lot bleeding easier to just stay on 'em.

I was all about the easy. I figured I'll just stay on them forever. No big deal. Other people take more, take worse, so, you know. Fuck it.

A few years later they shifted me to Sertraline. Can't recall why. I think they've stopped giving out Seroxat, to be honest. It went from wonder drug to dodgy fucking drug pretty quickly. Studies came out saying that, actually, it increases suicidal tendencies in a notable amount of test subjects when they tried to stop it.

An anti depressant that makes you suicidal? Awesome.

So I stayed on it.

I've been waiting for that magical time where I am totally chilled, happy and fulfilled and can come off my highly addictive drugs that I've been on for 19 years, but guess what? Hasn't happened.

Then recently I got to thinking. What if without these pills, I'm alright? What if I don't need them? What if I'm better without them? What if some of the head fog and sad is because of them? Thing is, they have some brutal side effects when coming off them. Really nasty. I don't mean Trainspotting babies on the ceiling or anything, but I do mean a very odd depersonalisation feeling along with severe vertigo. Both of which kick of panic for me.

So to decide to come off them is a pretty damn big deal. I've quit fags this year, imagine if, by the end of 2014, I'm free from a drug I've been taking since 1993? Who will I be? How will I do? Will depression still be such a looming demon? Will I be able to manage my symptoms better? Or will I crack like a pane of glass after it's been nutted by a rhino?

Let's find out, shall we?

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Turns out I do like Dick

This surprises me.

Blade Runner is one of my favourite films. Its sleek, dark beauty, sticky, bleakness appeals to me for many reasons. And it has Harrison Ford in it. And a fit Rutger Hauer. Tears in rain... Ahhhhhhhh.

I tried to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? sometime in the mid 80s. I would have been around 12. Due to a general ambivalence towards science fiction (apart from Douglas Adams for some reason, but that could be because he's the least 'sci fi' sci fi writer ever), and an instinctive aversion to the way Dick constructs sentences - long, misplaced commas, seemingly impenetrable (to a 12 year old). I put it down pretty much straight away. I didn't get the sheep thing and I didn't get the whole vibe.

It's taken me 26 years to pick Dick up again.

Over the years I've had a bash at Gibson, a small sniff around Dune and always retreated from the worlds they created. I just don't feel it, man.

During the last 12 months I've struggled to read at all. It's a symptom of my depression and anxiety. My mind is unable to concentrate for long enough, its thoughts are skittering around wildly like weird little robots and trying to tame them without using TV, music or some kind of outward stimuli has proved difficult.

Reading is one of the reasons I'm happy to be alive and to feel unable to do it is close on heartbreaking. Recently I've found myself wondering whether I can ever, in all good conscience, call myself a 'reader' ever again. Although I have discovered some major ace books over the last few months, they've been few and far between.

Today, I picked up Dick and I can feel my synapses zapping again. Without reading, without stimulating input, I don't feel like I'm alive. I think it makes it harder to write (I don't mean blogging and work stuff, I mean actually writing - writing words that make me feel something). Without inspiration, I am no artist, it turns out. And I need to absorb other words to make me feel like I have something worth saying.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? did The Thing that my favourite writing does. It makes my heart beat faster. It makes me get a surge of adrenaline. Here's someone who can put words in the exact order for my brain. Fucking YES. Obviously, the film is in my mind - who else could Deckard be other than Ford? And Sean Young is fixed in there as Rachel. Isodore breaks my heart, Deckard's internal monologue is so much greater than the film allows for. The story is deeper, richer, better, stronger.

I do love the film, and I always will, but I also think that already the book is far superior.

I haven't finished it yet, because I made myself stop reading. It's been so long since that's happened to me, like my brain has had a refreshing bath. It's now spinning with questions, ideas, analyses, speculations. Who knew that Dick could be so edifying?

"Despair like that, about total reality, is self-perpetuating."


Thursday, 4 September 2014

Do not stand at my grave and weep

Moving back to live with my mother at the age of nearly 40 (YES, NEARLY FUCKING 40) has been an experience. It is, of course, a temporary move, and a move that I feel constantly defensive about.

Most of my peers are living, well, like adults. You know, paying their own rent, married to people, having kids, buying houses, redoing kitchens, that kind of thing. People younger than me are celebrating their tenth wedding anniversaries, their kids are graduating, time - and life - has moved on.

And I've been thinking a lot about why I'm here, why I'm in this moment right now, why I'm living at my mother's house, why I don't pay any significant bills every month anymore, why I have turned my back on nearly 20 years of independence.

I know I've lost a lot of time because my dad died. Yeah, I know. Boo hoo. I do go on about it don't I? But that's the thing. It stopped the clocks in 2001 and they haven't started again yet. It arrested my development. Stymied my progress. Stopped me caring. Threw me into an abyss and I couldn't get out. And it may seem pathetic, stupid, a waste of time, weak, obsessive and sad. That's because it is.

I had no real concept of Grief and how it would affect me. Who does? I know that I grew up under the shadow of impending death and that affected me. Obviously. Turned me into a loony tune with issues. But everyone has issues. There's nothing special about my experience. What seems to make me special is my inability to move on.

It's been nearly 14 years since that Friday dad died. A lot has changed outwardly. Friends finished. Buffy finished. My relationship finished. My brother got married, had kids. My dog died. I've had about 50 million jobs. I've lived in too many different places. I've lost a gall bladder, appendix and my sanity. I've struggled to commit to anything, a home, a bloke, a job.

So I suppose it was inevitable that, at some point, I'd have to stop. Regroup. Think. Have some real time to consider the universe, gaze at my navel, wonder what it's all about.

That's what I'm really doing here. Now. On this island. My dog has brought some comfort into my black little heart. She has shown me what it's like to live with fortitude in the face of shitty circumstances. Lose a leg? Fuck it, move on man. Lose a dad? Fuck it, move on man. Move on.

Fourteen years is a long time to live a half life, under the shadow of an event over which you had no control and that is, although unfortunate, natural. Life is death. Love is loss. To love someone is to face the fact that separation will come at some point. Sometimes, for some people, it's sooner than for others. So what? All in the end is harvest.

It's no coincidence, of course, that my dad is buried on the Isle of Wight. People ask me why I moved here and, honestly, I think it's because I wanted to be near my dad again. I thought I would be at his graveside every week. I thought it would bring me some comfort.

But, it really is just a marker in a field. He's not there. Ashes in a box, some of which may be from his body, are there. He's not. Death isn't sleeping in a field. Death isn't somewhere we can go. The only reason I'm still grieving is because I can't let go, in my head. I can't let go of my daddy. But I think it's time that I really started to try. Because, until I do, I think a half life is all I'll get.

Do not stand at my grave and weep 
I am not there. I do not sleep. 
I am a thousand winds that blow. 
I am the diamond glints on snow. 
I am the sunlight on ripened grain. 
I am the gentle autumn rain. 
When you awaken in the morning's hush 
I am the swift uplifting rush 
Of quiet birds in circled flight. 
I am the soft stars that shine at night. 
Do not stand at my grave and cry; 
I am not there. I did not die.