Eclectic Blue

In the shadows

0 Comments 16 October 2018

Two steps forward and one step back. That’s the sum of sheer stupidity I possess when it comes to my mental health. Asked by my therapist to think long and hard about what would happen when our sessions came to an end, I replied that I would need to avoid going off a cliff and I would need to prepare for life without treatment. I knew what I had to do and I didn’t do it. I’m angry at myself.

I have learned that one way of dealing with my demons is to plan what lies ahead and prepare for all eventualities. For example, when I travelled to my dad’s funeral in Ottawa in 2011, I prepared everything in my mind, apart from imagining what my happen at the check-in desk (“business or pleasure?”) and then at the departure gate when I realised I could not cope with sitting next to a total stranger for the best part of seven hours. At these times, I broke down. Everything else, including the funeral itself, was fine. I had thought through every single moment.

My therapist obviously knew far more about the end of therapy than I did, which is and isn’t surprising. She is an expert on mental health but I am an expert in having poor mental health. I knew what she knew. I suppose her thought processes were far better than mine.

So, what happened? A huge dip in my mood, followed by the usual tearful hour or so of despair  until I started work and my professionalism kicked in.

In the hour from 1.00 pm where I would normally have been spent in therapy, I thought of nothing else but therapy. I have become an Oscar winning standard actor over the years and doubt that anyone will have noticed and I am glad about that. The last thing I wanted to do was explain myself to someone about it.

The big question I have trouble with is this: how are you? For too long, I have lied and said things like “Fine” and Good”. No more. I don’t go to the trouble of explaining everything about how shit I am feeling, but rather say things like “I’m still breathing” or “been worse”, unless I haven’t been. Let’s face it: no one asks how you are only for you to give a convoluted reply about how awful you feel. It’s where you put on the mask.

My brain has been a version of paper mache all afternoon and I still feel I am looking through a fog. I am having to think before speaking, in case the wrong words come out. I know this feeling. I have felt it on and off since the late 1960s.

However, I am still here. The survival instinct lives on and I I am still trying to get over this bastard illness. Sadly, the depression shark has the habit of sneaking back up on you just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water. It was a shock and it shouldn’t have been and it’s my own stupid fault. I feel such a prat for taking my eye of the ball.

 

 

 

 

 

Eclectic Blue

Far left, for right: two sides of the same coin

0 Comments 15 October 2018

Joy upon joy, I discover on the internet (so it must be true) that Anjem Choudary is about to be released from prison, having served half of a five years sentence because of his explicit support for ISIS. No one could have been surprised since Choudary previously expressed support for the 9/11 murderers and came into contact with the lowlife filth who killed Lee Rigby. No peace-loving citizen of our green and not particularly pleasant land could be thrilled to hear this news. But the likes of Tommy Robinson will be.

I have no wish to choose which fascist I detest most. But fascist is not too mean a description. Choudary is an islamic fascist, Robinson the more conventional type. Neither bring much to the table the it comes to maintaining a peaceful and cohesive society.

It is so disturbing that this country is now lurching inexorably to the extremes. It is not just the extremes representing by Choudary and Robinson. It’s more mainstream than that. Both home and abroad, the place between far left and far right is unoccupied. In Britain, the hard right has been hugely instrumental in bringing about our disastrous departure from the EU. Yet the hard left, which actually controls Labour, supports Brexit, too. I mention Brexit in this instance merely to illustrate the wide fissures in British politics. Regardless of whether you are leave or remain, if you are anywhere from mainstream left to mainstream right, including the vast centre ground, where do you turn?

Brexit joins the far left and the far right so you have a Corbynista version of Labour quietly and discreetly supporting the hardest possible Brexit, as they seek to build socialism in one country which they feel would be hastened by it.The right of British politics, from Boris Johnson to Paul Golding, Nigel Farage to Tommy Robinson (admittedly not much of a gap, there), Michael Gove to Nick Griffin years for a nationalist hard Brexit, freeing us from those wretched foreign people. Everywhere you look there are extremes. Is it any wonder our country is so badly fractured?

Britain’s main failing is a lack of leadership from all parts. Theresa May’s bungling premiership revolves solely around trying to keep the Conservative Party together, as she tells everyone else to put the country first but then governs in narrow party political fashion. Jeremy Corbyn has no leadership experience, nor abilities it turns out, not surprisingly. He did not spend the vast majority of his political career on the far left fringes for no reason, avoiding power and responsibility. Is it any wonder that he is not up to the job of leader of the opposition never mind prime minister?

The Liberal Democrats once claimed to represent the centre ground. Where they are now under Vince Cable, whose stature diminishes with each passing year, his credibility shot to pieces after taking a job in David Cameron’s austerity-heavy Tory government of 2010-15, is anyone’s business? They offer not something for everyone; they offer nothing for no one.

The last government that did not pander to the extremes was the Labour government from 1997-2010. Whilst New Labour was left of centre, its combination of fairness, equality, its believe in meritocracy, its commitment to celebrating success and creating wealth, appeared to many people across the centre ground. For many years, the UK was relatively stable and content in its own skin. With the country now split down the middle, is it any surprise that the extremes are in charge?

Do people really want this endless chaos that you get when the country lurches from one extreme to another? Clearly many people do, especially in the hard left Labour Party which now enjoys record membership numbers, well over three-quarters of whom hail from the affluent middle classes. And the former Stephen Laxley-Lennon attracts significant support for his dog whistle racism. This is another conundrum. For the left always represented the working class and the right the better off. In many ways, the world is now standing on its head as Corbyn’s old Labour is now run by privately educated Oxbridge millionaires and attracting support from that very demographic. As a working class boy, I find Corbyn’s middle class Labour highly unappealing.

But as we say, it comes down to leadership. With no leaders worth the name, we are weak and vulnerable. It’s how charismatic leaders from the extremes seize power. They offer simple solutions that don’t exist for extremely complex issues, which is precisely what the far right did when persuading the country to set fire to itself and vote to leave the EU. All you have to do is look at history and see where this can end.

 

 

 

 

Eclectic Blue

Free falling

Comments Off on Free falling 14 October 2018

I think that when it comes to Bristol Rovers, I will in future need to keep my views and feelings, such as they are, to myself. There was a time when I cared to passionately about ‘my’ club that I would argue until the cows came home – and often beyond – about what should and should not happen, about who was wrong and who was right. Where did it leave me? Today, I am on the outside looking in, still interested in what’s going on at the club, but certainly not remotely keen in getting involved even in watching the team. The argument about the future of manager Darrell Clarke is but the latest pointless spat/debate, call it what you will, I have been involved in. To set the record straight once and for all, I’ll say my bit and leave it at that; possibly forever but then again, never say never again.

Clarke has brought BRFC back from the humiliation of non league football. He brought the club two glorious promotions and now they are back in League One where historically they belong. This season, the team is seriously struggling with only two wins in thirteen games. This, on the face of it, is both relegation form and sack-the-manager territory. Looking at social networks and talking to Gasheads, that’s hardly an uncommon set of views.

As I understand it, the team is not performing. People are saying that the manager has signed poor players and they are playing poorly. Rovers have sold the goals, which is hardly unusual in football, and are now in the bottom four. My reaction is to ask why this is.

My view – and bear in mind I have not seen the team play this season – is that Clarke added to the squad this summer during a last minute shopping expedition in Poundstretcher. Whilst his record in the transfer market has hardly been stellar, it was good enough in the past for Rovers to earn two promotions and sustain League One football. The question is this: has Clarke been adequately supported by the owners? If you think the answer is ‘yes’, then you probably want him sacked. If you do not think he has been adequately supported and, indeed, hung out to dry, I suspect you hold a minority view, one with which I have some sympathy.

Clarke relies on a siege mentality. It’s backs-against-the-wall, the world-is-against-us. His ideal player is someone who will run through a brick wall for him. Star players and big names are anathema to the manager. In that scenario, given the right players, it works. Is it just possible that the players signed recently do not conform to those requirements?

And then, what’s happening off the pitch? A miserably compliant local media asks no questions of the compelling speculation that the club is to be sold. There is also considerable speculation that the club is in a mess, not just on the field, with words like ‘prehistoric’ being bandied about when it comes to club structures and organisation. Are the Al Qadis, the Jordanian owners, running the club well, along with their well paid place men? Not everyone believes they are. If there is chaos ‘behind the scenes’ do you believe it will have no impact on the playing side, especially if it impacts on their day jobs?

These are the questions around which supporters will come to their conclusions. Or maybe they won’t, hoping instead things will eventually sort themselves out.

I am not going to get into a debate about where Bristol Rovers goes from here. I have wasted too much of my life banging my head against the brick wall of how the club has been (mis)managed over the years. I happen to think the problems at BRFC go way deeper than the selection and tactics of the manager and that the on the field issues cannot be separated from what’s happening off it.

As an old friend of mine rightly put it recently, ‘we know how this ends’ when the team goes into freefall. The manager pays the price. I could be completely wrong and find that every single problem at BRFC was down to the manager.  But what if I’m not?

 

 

Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle (12/10)

Comments Off on That Friday Music Shuffle (12/10) 12 October 2018

It’s that time of the week you haven’t been waiting for, when I set my iPod to shuffle and tell you all, for no obvious reason, the ten songs it chose.

So, from the bowels of my Man Cave, it’s music time.

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.

  1. Hands Off She’s Mine by the Beat. When Dave Wakelin and Ranking Roger were in the same Beat. Lush.
  2. One Breath At A Time by Little Feat. From their last album Rooster Rag. Lowell George standard it ain’t but okay for all that.
  3. (Theme from) the Monkees by the Monkees. Need I say more?
  4. Arnold Layne by the Wondermints. Cracking cover of the old Floyd classic.
  5. Beautiful by Matt Darey. Decent bit of trance from Leicester’s finest.
  6. Heartbreaker by the Bee Gees. Yes, the Bee Gees and not Dionne Warwick, as Bazza launches into his breathy castrato vocals. Almost impossibly, this is better – much better – than Ms Warwick’s version.
  7. Bigmouth by Underworld. It’s just great, innit?
  8. Proof of Love by Paul Simon. From his Stranger to Stranger album, Simon proves class is permanent.
  9. Heart Skips a Beat by Olly Murs ft Rizzle Kicks. Great pop song, honest.
  10. The Garden (Live) by Take That. Well, I like it!

That’s all, folks!

 

 

 

Eclectic Blue

It’s a royal wedding

Comments Off on It’s a royal wedding 12 October 2018

Despite the grim autumnal weather, this particular Friday has started on a rather positive note. I confess to the fact that I was somewhat groggy when I switched on the radio this morning, but so far as I could tell the government has legalised Cannabis. Not only that, it will be available on prescription and as I am now so old I no longer have to pay for prescriptions I shall shortly be be popping down to my local surgery to order a quarter of weed to last me through the weekend. I have had worse starts to Fridays.  Then I am reminded, by way of the “and finally” section of the news that there is a royal wedding today between someone called Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank.  It’s a national holiday.

Of course, it’s not a national holiday because the Princess doesn’t actually perform a great deal by way of royal duties. In fact, she has a full time job as…er…director of an art gallery. If you thought that was a non job, wait until you hear about Jack’s job. He is a Tequila brand ambassador!

Along with the rest of the country, I shall not be paying a great deal of attention to the wedding itself, especially because it’s not on the BBC, which tells you it’s a rather minor affair. But, as with all weddings, it does present the opportunity to have a good drink and to that end I have discovered in my wine rack a delightful bottle of Slovenian Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc which I will use tonight to celebrate the good health of the happy couple, in between sparking up another spliff, that is.

To be fair to the BBC, there is some coverage of the build up to the wedding on the telly and radio, mostly by way of Vox Pops from Windsor where a small crowd of ‘well-wishers’ have assembled in the pouring rain to, well, ‘well-wish’. However, to pour of bucket of cold water over the occasion, the sounds and sights of Windsor are more than slightly disturbing.

If I am being honest – and as this is my blog, I can be as honest as I like – many of those interviewed sound a little care in the community. In some instances – an entire family that has arrived from Canada because they love all the charitable work the royals do, I ask you – it sounds positively bizarre. And we are told that Eugenie provides a little ‘kudos’ to this country. She does? It is certainly true to say that the royals do provide additional income for the people selling overpriced royal tat, the Italian Prosecco industry and the various Del Boys up and down the land who see the opportunity of a fast buck. I cannot, for the life of me, understand the excitement of the elderly ladies at Windsor who are desperate to see a celebrity – ‘any celebrity’ (Pixie Geldof, anyone?) – which will make their day. But then, I wouldn’t even go to the trouble of reaching for the remote to watch the thing on telly, never mind trek to Windsor.

Still, it’s an excuse for a drink and, if I have correctly understood the law change, an excuse for a bloody great spliff. With any luck, I’ll be so pissed and stoned, I might even enjoy the wedding. But don’t bet on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eclectic Blue

The Shrouds of the Somme

Comments Off on The Shrouds of the Somme 11 October 2018

Two years ago, I went to  see the breathtaking Shrouds of the Somme in Bristol. Artist Rob Heard made 19,240 hand-stitched shrouded figures each representing a serviceman of the British Empire who died on the first day of the Somme, which were laid out on College Green. As well as the Shrouds, the names and details of all 72,396 Commonwealth servicemen killed at the Somme who have no known grave were displayed in alphabetical order. It was one of the most affecting sights I had ever seen and it will stay with me for the rest of my days. For the last week or so, the Shroud of the Somme has come to Filton and today I paid a ‘return’ visit.

The Shrouds now form a Trench, the kind servicemen fought in during World War 1. The names are on the outside of the Trench, the millions of Shrouds are inside. In the Trench, the Shrouds represent, as Rob Heard puts it, “a much more uncomfortable and oppressive image of a huge amount of people crushed together”. And that is exactly how it feels as you walk through it, which I did a number of times.

The exhibition works on a number of levels. It gives the sense of being in a trench, the numbers if you imagine real human beings are overwhelming, it is a fitting tribute to all those who fought and died at the Somme.

There were a good many visitors for a Thursday afternoon and there were different accents, different languages present. They were there to witness something quite wonderful, yet at the same time something awful, horrific and still today, over 100 years on, something very upsetting.

If you miss this magnificent exhibition, then fear not because in November it will be at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park.

If the honours system still has any meaning – and I rather think it doesn’t – then Rob Heard should be knighted for his contribution to our country and its history. His work is the stuff of true greatness.

 

 

Eclectic Blue

Strictly Boring

Comments Off on Strictly Boring 11 October 2018

No matter how I try, I cannot avoid the Strictly Come Dancing ‘story’ about the alleged comedian Seann Walsh and his dancing partner  Katya Jones. They both have – or in Walsh’s case had – partners in real life (Strictly, believe it or not is not real life) and one night, with a few sherbets on board, they had an indiscreet snog which – surprise, surprise – was picked up by the red tops. Now, it’s all kicked off. Walsh’s partner had a twitter pop at him, both Walsh and Jones appeared on telly last night apologising to all concerned. One thing concerns me more than anything else: some people seem to be interested in how this pans out.

I had never heard of Seann Walsh before Strictly. I am not one for watching stand up comedy so my knowledge on the subject is not exactly the deepest. In fact, I know very few of the ‘celebrity’ dancers on Strictly because I only watch bits and pieces of the show, other than when Faye Tozer and Karen Clifton are on the show. (This is because I am a great admirer of their…ahem…dancing skills.) And guess what? I am not overly concerned about the private lives of the stars.

In fact, I don’t know why anyone is interested in their lives. I guess it must be to do with the times in which we live. People watch shows like the X Factor, which is, so far as I can tell, a karaoke competition between amateur pub performers who must have a preferably traumatic back story. Viewers are in floods of tears as they learn of the contestants’ tragic backgrounds. There is, it seems, a ferocious hunger to know more about TV performers than would appear to be healthy.

Go into a newsagent and check out the magazines on sale. Hello, Closer, Now are some titles that spring to mind. If you want to learn about the former ‘glamour model’ Katie Price, for example, there will usually be some exclusive story about her or her children. That Ms Price is largely bereft of talent, other than the ability to earn cash from credulous fools, is neither here nor there. And if you want to learn about the grim secrets of a fading soap actor who has had unfortunate plastic surgery, it’s all there for you. People read this stuff.

On a recent holiday, I noted that the gossip and scandal magazines are hugely popular. People sit for hours reading about things that I cannot, for the life of me, understand why anyone would. Worse still – and this probably says more about me – I have never heard of most of these celebrities. Perhaps it is me who is out of step?

A few months ago, I visited someone in a professional capacity and they were watching the Jeremy Kyle show. I had obviously heard of it, but thankfully, I now realise,  had never before seen it. For those of you who have still not experienced the magic of Kyle, the idea is for the producers to find the most dysfunctional families imaginable, who will be, frankly, as ill-educated as possible and for them to argue about various domestic matters in front of a studio audience. The presenter, Kyle, who is a posh and privately educated , adopts an odd ‘mockney’ accent at the victims and shouts at them, like some weedy classroom bully who is surrounded by his much harder mates, in this case burly security guards. The effect is startling. People appear like rabbits in the headlights and confess to all manner of supposed sins and foibles. Millions of people watch this. Why?

I’m guessing they watch for the same reason people read the scandal sheets to find out more about a snog between two C list celebs: they have a right to know everything. But do they?

Making public the private lives of the stars proves only one thing to me: everyone’s life can be boring, no matter the social strata from which they come. Walsh had a poorly timed, pissed-up snog with Katya Jones and suddenly this is more important than the future of the United Kingdom. It really isn’t, you know, and if you are paying good money to read about it, I feel very sorry for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eclectic Blue

World Mental Health Day

Comments Off on World Mental Health Day 10 October 2018

If as many people died in the UK from terrorism as suicide, there would be a national crisis. So, why isn’t there a national crisis? #WorldMentalHealthDay

Eclectic Blue

Avoiding the cliff edge

Comments Off on Avoiding the cliff edge 09 October 2018

And here endeth yet another twelve week spell of mental health therapy. The therapist has been well good, because my levels of depression have slipped down from severe clinical depression to mere clinical depression. If I’d been offered this when treatment started, I’d have probably bitten your hand off and if I had done that, to be fair, I’d have found myself sectioned for so doing. But it’s progress, certainly as I know it.

Psychotherapy has come a long way since my career, such as it was, at Brislington School was stunted by two years of therapy for the panic attacks and night terrors which were to lead to everything that followed as life carried on. When I was senior school, things like depression and anxiety simply didn’t exist. A great uncle of mine didn’t suffer from stress and anxiety; he had trouble with his nerves, or simply bad nerves. I had no idea what this meant for many years, until a family member informed me he was was a bit mad. Actually, I had no idea what that meant, either. Not a lot, was the answer. He was tense and anxious.

No one ever told me that I was seeing a child psychiatrist. They certainly didn’t tell me I was mentally ill. If they’d said that, I might’ve gone mad. Instead, I took off every Tuesday afternoon for the best part of two years talking to a very nice man, drawing pictures, kicking a ball about (this is indoors, mind) and ferociously hitting a punchbag. This seemed far more fun than getting equipped with the skills to leave school and get a job.

The panic attacks and night terrors gradually became less and less until one day, around ages 14 or 15, they stopped altogether, forever. If I had known what this stuff meant, I might have celebrated the end of mental ill health. Luckily, I didn’t so premature celebrations were averted.

I’m hoping this series of consultations has a better end result. The last few have all been pretty good in, at the very least, keeping the wolf from the door. The bugger always came back, sometimes years later, but at least there was some respite. When my father died, I underwent bereavement counselling which proved to be more detrimental than helpful. The six weeks of sessions I had referred purely and specifically to the death of my father and nothing else. Now you might ask what the hell I was expecting from bereavement counselling and I would answer much more.

I had been carting around severe depression for years and when my dad died, it got much worse. Quite why I thought that bereavement counselling would make a dent in mental health I have no idea. Instead, after six weeks I went off a metaphorical cliff and returned urgently to ‘proper’ therapy. So the message here is do go to bereavement therapy if you have been bereaved because it works, but if you are already ill, then ask yourself whether you’d be better than seeking out a different kind of treatment.

Anyway, like (seemingly) a million times before, I’m being left now to my own devices. Well, me and a hefty sized pack of anti-depressants. Me, myself and I are attempting once again to find a brighter day. This latest therapy has given me hope that whilst I probably will never get rid of the Black Dog, I’ll be able to manage him better than I have in the past.

I’m coming out of the dark in the next few weeks and months, to try and be more sociable and to try to do more things. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without this round of therapy, nor indeed have realised how isolated and insulated I had become. There is all the potential in the world for this to go wrong again. At least when I am in a relatively good place, sometimes I am able to feel that maybe this time it might go right.

Thanks for reading.

Eclectic Blue

The Wurst of days

Comments Off on The Wurst of days 08 October 2018

For once in my life, I truly feel grateful for something I have read in the failing Bristol Post. They announce in a story, which is little more than free advertising, that the Bristol Christmas Market will be returning to the city from 9th November to 23 December. It is “one of the main features of the festive period in Bristol”, boasts the Post. If that’s true, we’re heading from a dreary Christmas.

The Post gets even better: “The ever popular Jager Barn also returns as well as firm favourites including Yorkshire Pudding Wraps and Bratwurst. Alfie the singing moose is also back by popular demand, serenading shoppers with festive classics.” I feel I must take issue with pretty well all of this.

I confess that I have previously attended the German food market and found it most underwhelming. The “ever popular Jagerbarn” is nothing more than a tatty pop-up boozer that’s virtually in the open air. The beer is gaseous and overpriced. If it’s really “ever popular”, some people ought to get out and find what a proper pub looks like

I have tried the Bratwurst and have to confess it was not exactly the gastronomic treat I had been led to believe. Essentially, it was a giant sausage with all the taste and structure of cardboard, albeit with a few added bits of onion and a splash of unnamed ketchup. It was awful and what’s more cost an arm and a leg, almost literally in the circumstances.

If a ghastly pint of third rate lager followed by a German sausage is not enough, there are countless chalets which sell sickly chocolate sweets, from which you might, if you are lucky, get change from a tenner. And if you are really unlucky, you might run into a German oompah band, playing all those great tunes you’ve never heard of. Who could resist? Well, me for starters.

In fact, nothing, not even the presence of Alfie the singing moose, who the organisers assure us is back “by popular demand” (have people really been badgering the owners to bring the singing moose back to Bristol?), can tempt me into Broadmead or even Carboot Circus for that matter.

I am not in the least bothered about the so called exploitation of the death of a Palestinian 2000 years ago because, let’s face it, every single aspect of Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with religion – thank God. I am bothered at the exploitation of people who really should know better than to allow themselves to be inveigled themselves to consume such excess tat at this time of the year.

For all I know, there will plenty of our German friends at the German Christmas Market this year. It will still be crap though. I’m off to my local, instead.

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