Eclectic Blue

It’s a royal wedding

0 Comments 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

0 Comments 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

0 Comments 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.

Eclectic Blue

Who you can depend on

Comments Off on Who you can depend on 07 October 2018

Just when I thought the Black Dog was safely tucked up in his kennel, he returns on a Sunday morning and turns my head, if not my world, upside down. He crept up on me all of a sudden, without the usual symptoms, the usual warning. It’s anxiety more than depression this time, although there is a chunk of the latter in the mix, too, and I think I know why.

My therapy sessions end on Tuesday afternoon and that will be that for the foreseeable future. My therapist has told me to prepare for the end of therapy and to ensure it doesn’t become a cliff edge. A cliff edge has the potential to render everything we have done irrelevant. I so don’t want this to happen.

Part of my anxiety is the impending routine change. I do routine and habit very well. I like to know where I am, where I feel safe. I appreciate that part of my problems during this period of illness has been an excess go knowing where I am and feel safe. My problem is that I have stayed there, hermit-like.

I’m still trying to come into the light and out of the dark, though. I am trying to stay away from most kinds of conflict, even though today I stupidly engaged on twitter with the usual haters at Bristol Rovers, reminding me that this aspect of my life is immensely negative and it is never good to have an alternative view to the mob. I’m going away with friends for a week in Yorkshire very soon, I’m playing golf with the boys in the middle of November. I am trying to reintroduce some degree of normality into my life. This is a better and more positive ‘normality’ to me.

My head aches when I even think about post therapy days and I don’t normally suffer from headaches. That tells you the extent to which anxiety and depression can be such an imprisoning condition. At least I know for sure who is on my side and just as importantly who isn’t.

I now know for sure the difference between my friends and acquaintances. My friends were there for me during last year’s travails whereas my acquaintances weren’t. This is not a complaint. You would not expect people you happened to know, say through work or on fleeting social occasions, to offer a welcoming shoulder. Why should they? That’s what friends are for, as the song goes. If anything, it was a welcome reminder of what to expect and who I could rely on.

My brain hurts. I hope it even more after Tuesday.

Eclectic Blue

James Bond, if he was for real, would be a man

Comments Off on James Bond, if he was for real, would be a man 06 October 2018

To my absolute astonishment, the producer of the James Bond movies says there will never be a female James Bond. It’s political correctness gone mad, isn’t it? Er, er, they’ll be banning Christmas next for fear of offending Muslims! Except that it makes perfect sense for there to never be a female Bond. The clue is in the name.

James Bond is a made-up character. He flies around the world drinking and shagging wherever he can and solves complex crimes in between. He’s not necessarily a white man, but he definitely isn’t a woman.

Ah, but you say: “Doctor Who” is now a woman, to which I reply, “And?” It just so happens that every Doctor to date has been a bloke, but what kind of name is Doctor? It’s sexually neutral. And anyway, given Doctor Who is a made up time traveller, the writers and producers can change his or her sex whenever they feel like it.

Surely, if people want to have an all action Jane Bond type character, then they’re welcome to make a movie of her. That role will have to be played by a woman because – yes, you’ve guessed – because Jane is a girl’s name and because she is a girl, or would be if she existed.

This is surely not any kind of issue, except perhaps the chattering classes who want to make something out of nothing. Granted that James Bond is probably not the best example of the modern male, he is – I repeat – totally made up. There are surely more important issues to fret about these days?

Eclectic Blue

Class war

Comments Off on Class war 06 October 2018

Gary Barlow’s brave admission that he suffered a nervous breakdown following his daughter’s stillbirth, as well as suffering from depression, should be applauded and not ridiculed as it has been by a number of people on social networks. If anything, Barlow’s confessional should be used to spread the word that mental ill health can happen to anyone.

When his group Take That split up back in the 1990s, Barlow’s career tanked to the point that he couldn’t get a record deal and no one wanted to see him perform. From hero to zero in little more than the blink of an eye. No wonder his mental health suffered. And who, in their right mind, could not have sympathy for a family suffering a stillbirth?

I always think it is good to talk if it is safe to do so. That’s easier said than done. At a time when workers’ rights have been massively diminished, admitting you have mental health problems might not be entirely beneficial to your job and career. My loyal reader will know from my constant whinging about a bad experience I had whilst working for an international renowned humanitarian charity that it is not always okay to not be okay. Some employers are better than others.

Barlow’s wealth did not prevent him suffering from the Black Dog but it may have helped him overcome his issues. It is the same with Ant from Ant and Dec. When I have had my own issues with depression, I was not able to take a year off work. After my breakdown in 2017, I had to wait a year for therapy. If I had been rich, I could – and would – have paid for treatment. I do not, for one second, begrudge Barlow and Ant for using their wealth to secure certain privileges because that would be silly and vindictive. Whoever you are, poor mental health is no joke. Demons are demons, whether you live in a gated mansion or an ex council house. The aim should surely be to ensure everyone who suffers from poor mental health to get treatment.

Given the number of celebrities who have gone public with their demons – and well done to each and every one for having done so – we must not forget that there is an epidemic of poor mental health in our country. Not all of us go on – or in my case drone on – about our issues and there are thousands, maybe millions, of people who go through a broken, or semi-broken mind and have no choice but to struggle on. It is not an easy struggle.

We rightly celebrate the existence of the NHS, as being a place where a person’s social class is left at the hospital entrance. That’s all true, except that with an underfunded NHS many people have to wait far longer for treatment than those who can simply whip out the chequebook (one for the kids, there) and go private.

I happen to think it IS okay to not be okay and we should work towards a world where everyone thinks that way. Barlow and Ant remind us that poor mental health itself is classless, but obtaining treatment for it certainly isn’t.

Eclectic Blue

That Friday Music Shuffle (5/10)

Comments Off on That Friday Music Shuffle (5/10) 05 October 2018

Ah yes, here we go again; the non-awaited treat of the week: my Friday music shuffle.

My elderly, obsolete iPod will take us on a random journey beyond my Man Cave into the dark recesses of my record collection, played on a shuffle.

In other words, ten top tunes played in an order decided by the iPod.

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends!

1. La Cienaga Just Smiled by Ryan Adams. Gorgeous tune from the heavenly Gold long player.

2. Born to Move by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Latter day (1970) Creedence here with a track from the Pendulum album.

3. Maggie’s Farm by Bob Dylan. “It’s a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor!” Amen to that.

4. Star Treatment by the Arctic Monkeys. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is such a great record, as this song amply demonstrates.

5. The Drunken Sailor (What shall we do with?) by Fisherman’s Friends. It’s lovely.

6. Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones. The Stones, innit?

7. Bleed by Animal Collective. Tangerine Dream meets the Beach Boys from the Fall Be Kind EP. Bonkers, basically!

8. That’s How Things Go Down by Carole King. Sheer beauty from her Fantasy album.

9. McEwan’s Export by the Average White Band. A bunch of ridiculously talented white blokes from Scotland.

10. Disappointed by Field Music. Stupendously brilliant music from the Common Time album.

That’s all, folks!

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