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The world's longest suicide note: ONE MILLION words.

I write about life with bipolar disorder (a.k.a. manic depression).

All opinions are my own.

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On Probation

7 min read

This is a story about being on tenterhooks...

Book quote

I'm a living contradiction. I choose security and certainty over the vain hope of hitting the jackpot. If I was given the choice between having a "B" grade, but not having to do any work or suffer any uncertainty, versus the potential to achieve an "A+" then I would take the "B" grade without a moment's hesitation. If you think that's settling for mediocrity, you're wrong - I choose my battles and I achieve "A+" grades all the time... as an accidental consequence of pursuing the things I'm interested in and passionate about.

The other part of my contradictory personality is that I choose to take incredible risks. I jump out of planes. I climb rock faces. I scale high mountains. I ride gigantic waves in gale-force winds. Why the hell would I do that?

There are a lot of risk-reward-cost-benefit calculations that go on inside my head.

I've gathered a lot of data.

The decision to take dangerous highly addictive drugs might seem like one of the most baffling choices that a person would elect to do. For example, taking heroin is seen as an indication of character flaw, but being a BASE jumper is seen as cool, although the latter carries the same risk of premature death.

Let's do a bit more in-depth analysis, shall we?

Cost of being a rock climber:

  • Rock boots: £45
  • Harness: £75
  • Chalk bag & chalk ball: £15
  • Rope £150
  • Helmet £50
  • Belay plate: £20
  • 10 quickdraws: £150

TOTAL: £505

So, for somebody who wants to climb a rock face safely, the minimum amount they're going to have to spend is over £500. Also, you might fall and die. Let's re-iterate that: It's pretty damn obvious that if you climb up a vertical rock face and you lose your grip, you can fall to the ground and be killed on impact.

Cost of being a mountaineer:

  • Crampon-compatible boots: £200
  • Crampons: £120
  • Base layers: £40
  • Mid-layers: £80
  • Shell layer jacket: £250
  • Shell layer salopettes: £180
  • Ice axes: £250
  • Helmet: £50
  • 9mm waterproof rope: £175
  • Ice screws: £120
  • Warthogs: £40
  • Deadman: £40
  • Backpack: £150
  • Survival bag: £20
  • Down sleeping bag: £300
  • Down jacket: £200
  • Tent: £350
  • Sleeping mat: £60

TOTAL: £2,625

So, for somebody who wants to climb a 4,000m+ mountain (Mont Blanc etc) then you're going to have to shell out more than £2,500. In fact, it's going to cost you a lot more, because you're going to need lots of things I didn't list, like spare pairs of socks, spare base layers, and also a stove, cooking utensils, plus all the other expedition gear. You're not going to have much spare change out of £3,500. Did I mention that you're highly likely to be killed by falling rocks, avalanches, falling into a crevasse, or simply plummeting to your death.

I shan't follow the same process for kitesurfing, yacht sailing or skydiving, but the financial cost of putting your life in danger can be staggering, especially when we consider that rugged outdoorsy types are somehow healthy and laudable people of good character and moral fibre; made of the right stuff.

Another group of people who we might consider are the entrepreneurs. Who are these people who reject conventional employment - salaried jobs - and instead choose to make their money by means other than selling their singular body and brain. Are these people risk takers too?

In fact, all the celebrated members of society have one thing in common: they've had the financial means to pursue avenues that are not available to most of the populace, because the need to eat, be housed and be clothed is an insistent demand which is too pressing for all but those who enjoy considerable economic advantages. Do not believe the bullshit - rugged adventurers are not brave souls and entrepreneurs are not gifted geniuses... they're all people who've had the financial backing in order to pursue their expensive dreams. Don't believe any of the "self-made man" bullshit. Behind every "self made" man are a whole bunch of people who've underwritten their risk.

I busted my shoulder up pretty badly - broken bones - on a beach in a remote part of Brasil. My startup co-founder broke his leg very badly indeed in roughly the same part of Brasil. That part of the world is many hours away from a good hospital with a surgeon and operating theatre where complex orthopaedic surgery could be performed. Would we have been so adventurous if we hadn't become somewhat complacent about the bubble we live in?

I'm on probation at the moment. I'm on best behaviour. I'm trying to impress my new girlfriend. I'm trying to prove that I'm a good boyfriend.

But, do I really think that I'm going to fail?

Have I ever been worried that I'm going to fall to my death?

Have I ever been worried that world-class medical establishments and all the many wonders of modern civilisation aren't rapidly available in an emergency? Have I ever been worried that somebody wouldn't patch me up as good as new, if I had an accident?

It's never really crossed my mind that I might not get what I want. Of course, I've had heart-stopping moments when I've suddenly realised how staggeringly exposed I am. I've spent so much of my life living on the edge that I've become desensitised to the worrying fact that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the more times I put my life at risk, the greater the chance that I'm going to be badly injured or killed.

I was worried that I was too fat, old, mentally ill and addicted to drugs and alcohol to ever meet somebody who'd fall in love with me. I was worried that I was too indebted and lacking in any assets - such as a fast car and big house - to be attractive to any object of my affections. I was worried that I was a washed-up loser; a has-been.

Our whole lives are lived under Damocles' sword, somewhat. We could mess up our exams. We could mess up our careers. We could mess up our relationships. There's never a single moment when we can really relax and feel like we're not on probation in some way.

I guess I'm pretty sanguine. I get anxious and I torment myself a very great deal with catastrophic thinking but ultimately, I feel the fear and do what I was always going to do anyway. I'm well aware of the innumerable and virtually unimaginable risks, but if you examine my behaviour - as opposed to what I write - then you'll see that I never choose the low-risk option; you'll see that I continuously pursue the very best that life has to offer, despite stress levels which are almost intolerable.

Tomorrow is an important day, but I already know that I'm going to be OK. My risk is underwritten. What's the worst that can happen? Death? Hospitalisation? Been there. Done that.

 

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I refuse to go to the gym

8 min read

This is a story about body-beautiful and get-fit...

Ripped shorts

I caught a glimpse of myself reflected in the lenses of the guy operating the theme park attraction, where I spent the day. I'm very pale and badly out of shape. There were other guys around with beer guts and less-than-perfect bodies, making me feel a little less self-conscious, but I was the whitest person I've seen all day.

I was the first person to arrive at the Float Rider attraction today, having meticulously planned how to get there and beat the crowds. I was a man on a mission: to surf the wave machine. The machine is more commonly known by the registered trademark: FlowRider. A stationary wave is created by pumping water 'uphill' which can be 'surfed' with a boogie board, short-fin, or finless surfboard.

I knew that every person who rides the FlowRider asks the staff if they can skip straight to the board riding part, but I thought I'd make my intentions known. "I want to ride on a board" I said. "I can surf" I said.

Yeah, yeah, buddy. You and every other person who wants to ride the FlowRider. Back of the queue.

It didn't help that I'm old and in bad physical shape, in terms of being judged capable and competent enough to skip the demeaning preparatory step of riding on my tummy. I thought I'd uncomplainingly go along with things, in the hope that my commitment would soon become apparent and enable me to be allowed to ride a board.

Two other men my age - also equally out of shape - soon joined me, and we were all put through our paces, skimming over the surface of the wave on our tummies. I decided to up the ante in the hope of impressing upon the operator that I was capable and competent. I jumped up onto my knees and rode the boogie board in a kneeling position.

I thought that would be enough.

No.

"Practice your balance" I was told.

Fine.

I thought I'll bide my time and not harass the poor guy whose job it is to supervise an endless procession of people who are quite happy to spend 30 minutes riding on their tummy before they get bored and wander off. I thought to myself: "I'll continue to patiently demonstrate my keen intent to progress to the board-riding stage".

I'd been doing this for a couple of hours. I was very bored. I applied some gentle pressure. No luck.

In all, I spent nearly 3 hours patiently riding around on my goddam knees. I don't know why I didn't just wander off and return later; save some energy. I presumed that my continuous presence would eventually wear down the attraction operator, and he would relent and let me ride a goddam board.

The attraction was very quiet. Sometimes I was the only person on the FlowRider. I presumed that my dedication and commitment were noticed. I presumed that the guy would give in eventually.

Then, the operator went for lunch.

A little bit of background about him.

"Do what you love" we're told. "Follow your dreams" we're told. What if you love surfing? What then?

I love surfing -> surfing is not a job -> there aren't many surfing instructor jobs -> become a theme park ride operator.

This guy must have a tough holiday season. His job is basically a kind of lifeguard. His time seemed to be mostly spent policing spoiled rich children, intent on queue-jumping. Surf protocol is very clear about the line-up and whose turn it is to catch the next wave. Surfers get pretty mad about anybody dropping in on a wave that isn't 'theirs'. Also, surfing is pretty hard, given the combination of skills required to paddle out to the breaking waves, spot a good wave to catch, paddle to catch it, pop into standing position and then ride the wave. In a busy line-up, you're not going to catch many waves in a day. As an out-of-shape 39-year-old guy who hasn't seen sunshine for a couple of years, I'm the last person you'd expect to be able to ride a board.

Before lunch, I pressured the would-be surf instructor guy for a go riding the board when he returned for the afternoon session. He agreed.

When I returned, the FlowRider was the busiest I'd seen it. In fact, it was so busy that people were riding the wave on their tummies in pairs.

I worked my way slowly towards the front of the queue.

Then, at last, my chance to ride a goddam board arrived.

It's a lot easier than surfing.

The wave is perfect.

The takeoff is easy.

Perhaps it was sweeter, that there had been a lengthy buildup to that moment, but it was awesome that I was standing on a little foam surfboard, carving fairly effortlessly back and forth on the standing wave. In a lot of ways I was right - I didn't need to spend those demeaning hours on my bloody knees - but it was fine, because at least I was getting to ride right then and it didn't matter at all that my morning had been somewhat a waste of time and energy.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon riding the a board - catching endless perfect waves.

I very much enjoyed my status as "king of the kooks" - being allowed to ride the board and being cheered on by onlookers; getting big thumbs up from people; many wanting to ask me how long it took to learn to ride the board and make it look easy.

Embarrassingly, I've got more years of experience riding boards than I care to admit.

I suppose it must have been an odd sight - the old out-of-shape palest guy in the whole goddam theme park, riding the board like a pro. The photographs of a surfer riding a wave, plastered around the attraction, portrey the thing that everybody wants to be able to do right away.

The FlowRider probably gets busier in the afternoons, but pleasingly the demographic changed from little kids who wanted to ride for a short while before quickly getting bored, to a bunch of thrill-seekers who, like me, didn't seem to have any children and were in the theme park to have some unadulterated (sic.) immature fun.

For six and a half hours, I rode that wave over and over again. For six and a half hours, I exercised.

It was only light exercise. Real surfing would have quickly exhausted me.

However, it was the most exercise I've done in years.

But it didn't feel like I was doing exercise.

If I could carry on riding the FlowRider for the next 364 days, I'm sure I'd get remarkably fit & healthy again, and look like far more of an authentic surfer than the old out-of-shape old pale guy, surprising people by being able to ride quite competently and confidently.

I'm covered in bruises from various wipeouts and my shorts got ripped, but I feel really good from the exercise. My skin got a little sun, so it's not as white as it was.

I'd like to get fit & healthy again, but I'll be damned if I'm going to have to go to a goddam gym to do it. Today I did 6.5 hours of exercise by accident, which was a whole lot more fun than the mind-numbingly boring pursuit of a better body in a gym.

Pleasingly, I had the core strength and stamina to spend a whole day riding a wave. I'm pleasantly physically fatigued. The few bits of me that ache or are bruised are hurting in a way that's kinda nice. I didn't aggressively try to get a quick tan, but my face feels a bit sun-kissed, which is a great feeling - brings back so many nice memories of fun times on the water.

I just need to figure out some kind of fun physical thing to do regularly, which doesn't feel like exercise.

I know I'll sleep better and feel happier about my appearance if I can get fit again. I know that it's good to stay in shape. It's nice to feel healthy & attractive.

I'll be damned if I'll go to a goddam gym though.

 

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Life Is Better In Flip Flops

6 min read

This is a story about nerve damage...

Tied on flip flop

As you can see from the picture above, I had a very bad injury to my left leg. What you might not know is that the massive lesion to my leg healed perfectly. Some nerves were severed when a piece of mirror glass guillotined its way through my shin, but the nerves managed to regrow. The severed tendons and muscle was sewn back together and my leg had completely recovered.

Then I got DVT (deep-vein thrombosis).

The first I knew about the DVT was that my ankle looked a bit swollen and my foot went numb. It was the fact I hadn't needed to urinate for several days which prompted me to go to hospital. On the day I decided to go to hospital, my foot, ankle, leg and knee were swelling at an alarming rate. By the time I was examined in Accident & Emergency, my left leg was almost fully twice as large as the right leg.

My weight soared from around 80kg (176 pounds or 12½ stone) to 95kg (209 pounds or 15 stone) which is a heck of a lot of weight gain for 5 or 6 days. It took many many sessions of dialysis to get that fluid out of me, while the hospital anxiously waited for my kidneys to start working again.

Unfortunately, the blood clot/thrombosis and other complications caused nerve damage. Presumably the blood vessels which had been surgically repaired and the nerves which had managed to re-grow and re-attach themselves, were quite fragile versus normal physiology. My foot went numb.

To be more accurate, my foot was left numb after many months of excruciating pain.

I had a nerve condition study and an MRI scan, but there was still a lot of swelling and other damage, making it unclear whether a surgical intervention might ever return the feeling to my foot. My main concern at the time was pain management, because it was too painful to walk any great distance, and pain kept me awake at night very badly. I was taking the maximum dose of tramadol AND codeine, plus supplementing prescribed painkillers with dihyrocodiene and other opiate medications, which I bought on the black market. I was briefly a very heavily dependent opioid painkiller user.

Opiates have weird side-effects. I couldn't tell whether the nausea, itching, constipation, cramps, sweating, diarrhoea, and intense anxiousness about maintaining my supply of opiate painkilllers, was a result of their effects or the effect of withdrawal. All I knew was that I would have periods where I felt incredibly rubbish, and then periods where things were more bearable, despite dosing myself regularly throughout the day.

The thing which made the greatest difference - other than a loving, caring, attentive and wonderful girlfriend - was a topical ointment containing diclofenac, which is a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflamatory drug). Because of the earlier complications with my kidneys, many medications were contraindicated. Perhaps I shouldn't have used the diclofenac gel, because it's not very kidney-friendly, but it was the only thing which gave me any reliable relief.

It's possible that most of my pain was related to opiate withdrawal and strange interactions between the tramadol, codeine and dhydrocodeine, which I should not have been combining, but I did so out of desperation for pain relief. It's possible that in my desperation for pain relief, I actually made things worse. Perhaps tramadol alone would have been more effective.

Eventually, I decided that I hated all the effects of the opiates, so I decided to go cold turkey. I had been heavily opiate dependent, for a period of several months, so I was expecting to experience pure hell quitting the opiates. Certainly a lot of noise has been made about the addictiveness of OxyContin, Vicodin and other painkillers which have been implicated in the opiod addiction epidemic sweeping the United States, declared a nationwide public health emergency by President Obama on October 26th 2017.

Back in July 2017, I tried to walk from my apartment to my local Chinese takeaway in flip flops - a distance of about 500 metres. I could not walk more than ten paces without the flip flop coming off my left foot, because it was so numb and my toes were somewhat 'clawed' such that I couldn't hold the flip flop on my foot or tell when it was slipping off.

For almost all of 2017 I was taking a neuropathic painkiller called pregabalin - marketed as Lyrica - which I found to be quite effective. However, it occurred to me that this painkiller might have been preventing the natural nerve re-growth which had successfully healed my severed nerves once before. After 9 months with no improvement to the numbness in my foot, I was becoming quite depressed about the prospect of never regaining any feeling in my foot, and consequently never being able to wear flip-flops again, without tying them onto my foot as pictured above.

I like wearing flip flops. They're an important part of my beach bum seaside-dwelling kitesurfer identity.

I decided to stop taking pregabalin.

If anybody tells you that pregabalin is not addictive, they're just plain wrong.

Pregabalin quite recently became a scheduled drug in the UK, making it illegal to possess without a prescription. Pregabalin affects the GABA system of the brain, just like alcohol, Valium, Xanax and GHB/GBL, which are all considered to have a high abuse potential, so naturally pregabalin is no different.

Of all the drugs I've quit and medications I've withdrawn from, pregabalin is one of the worst. Because of its tranquilising and sedating effects, the rebound when withdrawing creates a state of insomnia, anxiety and induces the general sensation that the world is about to end, which lasts for months.

I quit pregabalin under the supervision of doctors, tapering the dosage down gradually, but it was a pretty aggressive schedule, which was chosen by me. I wanted to quit pregabalin as quickly as possible, because I wanted to find out if it would help my nerves re-grow and allow me to wear flip flops again, or indeed be able to feel a kitesurf board underneath my feet.

Pleasingly, I can report that I put on a pair of newly-purchased flip flops tonight, and I was able to walk around without the left one falling off.

My left foot feels different from the right one, but I do have some sensation restored and I don't have the aches and pains which troubled me during a lot of 2017.

It might seem like a minor point, but it's actually something that has disproportionate imporance in my life: To be able to wear flip flops again is a big deal.

Life is better in flip flops.

 

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Goodbye, Grubby River

8 min read

This is a story about an addiction to adrenalin...

Kitesurfing the thames

See that red circle? That's where I've lived for the last 2 years. Only two or three times a year, the combination of wind speed, wind direction, and a low tide will all co-incide, creating perfect conditions to be able to kitesurf at my local 'beach'. That's me, launching my friend's kite at the edge of the water.

The water is slightly brackish, but at low tide it's mostly full of really really nasty stuff that will give you an ear infection, eye infection, gastroenteritis or other medical complaint due to contact with and ingestion of faecal coliforms.

I was on holiday on a North African desert island, with a beautiful sandy beach and warm water, one week after I excitedly told my friend that the conditions were perfect for him to achieve a lifelong ambition of kitesurfing in the middle of our capital city... far, far away from the sea. Is it any wonder that I didn't want to spend a week puking my guts up and taking antibiotics?

River thames kiteboarding

Just to prove I'm not pulling your leg, above is a picture of my mate dodging his way in-between boats, as he crossed the river on his tiny kiteboard. He even did a trick because he knew that a bunch of shocked onlookers were videoing him - ever the showman, but who can blame him?

If you don't believe me about dodging between boats, have a look at the kind of vessel that cruises down the river, that I can see from my living room.

Cruise liner

Yeah, that's the same river and yes that's my lounge and balcony. That's the same view that I have taken hundreds of photos of, all from that same vantage point. Yes, that's a frigging cruise liner sailing right past my apartment, which is every bit as surreal as you'd think it would be.

Also, if you thought I was making pathetic excuses about why I didn't want to go into the dirty brown water, then check out this next photo, taken a week or so later.

Me kitesurfing

Yeah, that's me in the shades, looking all pasty white because I don't get to leave the house much these days. Just look at the beautiful aquamarine colour of that water. There was no need for a wetsuit - the water was as warm as bathwater. Why would I want to swim in raw sewerage when I had this week of kitesurfing heaven to look forward to?

I will my miss riverside life, but I've paid a king's ransom to experience it, and I've also had a queue of lazy liars, who've wanted to take advantage of me and my industriousness & ingenuity. It's been hard work to make these kind of iconic and memorable life experiences possible. It might sound boastful, but is there anything wrong with reaching a point where you can look backwards and say - without a shadow of a doubt - that you've lived your life to the fullest possible extent.

There used to be a time when the future couldn't come soon enough. I wished away today on tomorrow's dreams and ambitions. Then, I lost my virginity, learned to drive a car, got my first full-time job, bought a house, married a girl... one by one, I ticked all the things off the list.

How rich and 'successful' do you want to be? I've owned both a yacht and a speedboat. I've stayed in fancy hotels and had luxury holidays. I've eaten in the best restaurants, had the most gourmet food and drunk the finest wines. If you continue in relentless pursuit of the glitz and the glamour that you see in films and on TV, then you'll never be happy and content. No matter how many digits you have in your salary or net worth, it'll never be enough. Do you want to earn a million? Why not a billion? Do you want to be the first trillionaire? Why not a quadrillionaire?

If you were cursed with even a handful of braincells, I hope you'd quickly figure out - like I did - that things like experiences and friendship have an intangible value that can't be measured in dollars, pounds, euros, yen, rupees or even shiny gemstones and lumps of rare metals. You can't eat diamonds, although I must say I haven't tried. I have had a drink that contained actual gold, floating around and getting stuck in my teeth, like shiny bits of food, but even if I drank loads of that stuff, all I'd end up doing would be quite literally flushing money down the toilet - gold cannot be metabolised.

So, it's with a heavy heart that I leave my riverside home tomorrow, but it's not been the best place I've ever lived. The best place I've ever lived co-incided with when I had the most friends who I saw on a regular basis. More friends = more happiness. In some ways, my apartment block has had the stench of misery about it - full of rich old men with nothing to look forward to in life except a swift and painless death.

Maybe that's all there is for me in the future: frustration, disappointment, age-related illness, pain, discomfort, suffering and then death. However, I've got a few years before I'm 40 (technically) and I haven't passed on my genes to any unfortunate offspring yet. I'm still a hopeless romantic who believes in true love and holds out hope of meeting a special somebody to spend the rest of my life with; to grow old and grey with.

There's a moral question about whether it's right to drag an individual kicking and screaming literally into existence, as a shitting, puking, pissing, blood and amniotic fluid covered hopelessly helpless baby version of a fully-grown human being. There's another moral question about whether it's right to do so, when you can see that climate change and Donald Trump have our planet on collision-course with disaster. There's a personal moral question, about whether it's right to take the risk that I might pass on bad genes, or act as selfishly and irresponsibly as my parents did - to inflict as much misery on an innocent child who has no choice in matters which so deeply affect their quality of life.

I'm so desperate not to be like my dad, that there's an easy way to guarantee that never happens: to never have children of my own. However, can I say that I really experienced every possible thing that it's possible for a human to do, unless I sire and rear my own genetic offspring? It's a gut-wrenching decision. I'm more risk-averse than you might think, given the number of times I've risked my own life, but it's quite another question entirely when you're talking about the miserable childhood of some poor kid.

In leaving the capital city, I leave behind a huge pool of highly educated, highly intelligent and devastatingly beautiful women of my age, who decided to have put career first and placed motherhood on hold. Now they're all shitting themselves about the sun setting on their fertility, and make bloody brilliant girlfriends, to be honest. Prior to my my thirties, my experiences of the opposite sex had rather made me wish I was homosexual.

Sunset skyline

Talking of sunsets, this is the last photograph I'll ever take from this balcony, in all likelihood. I literally just rushed out and snapped this photo in-between writing the last sentence and this one. This is goodbye. There will be no time for anything more tomorrow, as I throw the few remaining unpacked items into my luggage and head off to start my brand new life: a fresh start; a new beginning.

You could have walked in on any chapter of my life and felt anything from pity to envy; from disgust to sympathy; from protective instincts to the desire to join a long queue of people who'd like to cause me distress and misery. If you think I've lost my sense of perspective, you're wrong; you've leapt to the wrong conclusions and too hastily. There are two years of my life captured here, on the pages of this blog. I invite you to dip in at random and judge me based on the extreme ups and downs that you can read about... everything I've been through.

Of course, I view myself as no different from anybody else. We all get hungry, we all get thirsty and most of us want to get laid. Beyond that, of course I view pure blind chance - luck and probability - as the only over-arching thing that's led me down one path, while you down another. Our places could easily have been the other way around, in another life; another universe.

So, dear reader, I will write to you again, after I've arrived at a destination that is completely alien to me.

Wish me the best.

 

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Happy Birthday to Me

4 min read

This is a story about equilibrium...

Kitesurfing Fuerteventura

I've now had exactly as many days on Planet Earth as an adult as I have had as a child. I guess it's time to pretend to act like a grown up a little more now.

I guess at some point, one day, I'm going to stop living in the past and going on about all the things that went wrong, or are broken in my life. It's been a little tough to "move on" and "look on the bright side" when there have been constant reminders, constant stressors, constant anxiety.

But this week I am on a desert island, somewhere off the coast of Africa. This is good. It is sunny and it is windy. Bliss.

There's a good chance this could be seen as boastful. It isn't. It's been well over 3 years since I had a week's holiday. I think I deserve it.

Of course, nobody deserves anything. Think of the starving children etc. etc.

However, maintaining equilibrium of mental health is a battle of whatever it takes. If I need to drink coffee and alcohol to tweak my mood up or down, to get through the day, I'll do it. If I need to eat unhealthy food or laze around in bed feeling sorry for myself, I'll do it. If I need to treat myself to a week off the rat race, the daily commute, the insanity of a bullshit job, I'll do it.

This is the payoff. This is the reason for living in a concrete jungle, wearing a straightjacket of a suit and not walking out of the office yelling "YOU'RE ALL GOING TO HELL" while making obscene hand gestures at everybody.

We're only here once. We only get one life. Nobody is getting out of this alive.

So, I'm going to ride my board on the ocean, blown along by the wind, with the hot sun beating down on me. Screw you, world, I kinda won here, for a moment.

For a brief moment in a monotonous daily routine of questioning my very existence, my place in the Universe, I'm briefly liberated from the deeply unsettling feeling that everybody's kids and grandkids are going to have a really shitty time due to the collective insanity of humanity.

For a brief moment, I cared more about not surfing into a giant rock that suddenly revealed itself to me, as the sea pulled back and a wave rose up.

There's something life-affirming about entering the ocean, where you also enter the food chain.

Kitesurfing has long ceased to be a 'survival' sport, where you're just happy if you have a session where you're not smashed into any hard objects by your massive kite, but you can still have the odd occasional unexpected rock, or something brushing your foot or leg from the depths of the ocean.

It's a pretty guilt-free pleasure... using the wind and the waves to power yourself along. No carbon dioxide is being released to propel you forwards. You're just harnessing the forces of nature, as best as you can.

Of course, nature is always humbling. An unexpected gust will tug you skywards. An unexpected wave will pummel you towards the sea floor. What unexpected life-affirming event ever happened to you in the office? A paper cut?

So, it seems pretty clear that I need nature, wind and waves in my life, to maintain some degree of equilibrium in my life.

Money potentiates the pursuit of the things you need to stay sane and happy, but it's not exactly necessary. There are plenty of other systems and non-systems for organising the human race, such as barter, anarchy etc.

I'm playing by the rules, and things have started to go my way. Please don't presume that I'm off the critical list, but I'm certainly in a good place at the moment.

You might think of me as very self-centred and melodramatic. You might think of me as complaining too much, and ungrateful for my lot in life. You might think that my expectations are unrealistic.

However, I'd be pretty happy to be a destitute beach bum right now.

 

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Peer to Peer

5 min read

This is a story about helping each other...

Me kitesurfing

How does one go about putting Humpty Dumpty back together again? The idea of some patriarchal figure - e.g. a king - has largely failed. Instead, we see that complex psycho-social problems are better solved by a community that is filled with mutual support and respect.

In order to get me to the point I am at today, it's taken a social worker. But not a social worker who was employed to help me, but instead a loveable Kiwi who was sleeping on my couch, who took it upon himself to think about my welfare.

It's taken a psychologist. Not a psychologist who I pay to sit on the couch of, while I pour my little heart out, but actually my beloved flatmate, who listened to me while I brain dumped in the small hours of the morning, or coaxed me out of whichever corner I was backed into, suffering almost PTSD-like symptoms.

It's taken a bunch of fellow people with mental-health problems, who "get it". They know that a "positive mental attitude" is just utter bullshit, and you can't just snap out of a severe depression or whatever ails you, when you already know that what you think and feel is irrational, and you would really rather not be feeling the way that you do, if it was a simple choice.

It's taken a bunch of addicts. Not necessarily needle-wielding junkies in the throes of active addiction, but people who aren't so holier-than-thou that they don't admit to their own fallibilities and judge you, lest they acknowledge the demons within themselves. Non-judgemental support is essential, for any way forward.

It's taken all my friends, from all corners of the globe. You might not think that a simple 'like' on social media would mean much, but the implied support has been my lifeblood. To say that I've been attention seeking is plain wrong. Everybody needs to feel that they have people that like them, support them, wish them well.

It would be massively premature to declare things a done deal. I need to make it through a winter somehow, without incident. Current thinking is simply to take off for the Southern Hemisphere for a while... follow the sun.

The plan has always been the same, since I decided to cut and run from my ex wife and Bournemouth: get back into IT contracting for the banks, go kitesurfing. Obviously, you also need a place to live and be on top of your finances. Obviously, you still need the occasional bit of midweek socialising to get you through to the weekend.

Am I some Goldilocks type character, who demands that everything is "just right"? No. I don't think that's true at all.

I accept that there is going to be loneliness, boredom, stress. I accept that things are going to take time. I accept that things are going to go wrong. I accept that it's highly improbable that everything will be going OK all at the same time. However, my basic life formula is pretty simple: work & play.

I tried to take direct action in somebody's life - Frank - when I returned to London. That was a relatively short burst of time & effort, and I can't tell you precisely how things worked out there, although I did see Frank about 18 months later and he was doing really well.

To round off my own story in a satisfactory way, I need to show that things are sustainable, I need to show that I'm not just mooching off people in order to continue on a reckless and irresponsible path through life. I need to close things out neatly: with integrity.

I know people are rooting for me, and it's nice to say that presently, I have a great place to live, a well paid job, and I'm getting back into the hobby I'm passionate about. I'm also increasingly getting back in contact with long-lost friends, as well as hopefully improving the tone of my communication: from bitter and negative, to philosophical, positive & hopeful.

My friend who drove me to the coast today, and has consistently been a pillar of support for me this year, always reminds me that recovery is nonlinear. I know that bad days and setbacks will follow an amazing day at the beach. Monday morning will be miserable, and life has a fully stocked arsenal of slings & arrows... but things seem a little bit better when your skin is salty from the sea and glowing from the sun and the wind.

It's oh-so clichéd, but that Beatles lyric seems apt:

I get by with a little help from my friends 

If it doesn't seem like I've acknowledged your help & support here, I apologise. Every little message, text, email, comment... it all adds up. I do appreciate it. I do appreciate, respect and love every one of my peers. Thank you.

 

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Salt Water

4 min read

This is a story about natural remedies...

New toys

Sweat, tears and the sea: salt water is the cure for many of life's ailments, especially an aching of the soul. Sports that are powered by nature - gravity, waves or the wind - are often called freeride. The feeling of freedom is important for every human. We can't live entirely in the concrete jungle.

I've been talking about getting back into kitesurfing for 3 years now, but it's not been a symptom of my poor mental health that I haven't. In actual fact, I needed incredibly favourable conditions to get back in the game.

With 8 year old kites, no car, no wetsuit and an incredibly stressful home and work life, there was little chance that I was going to find the time & money to think about leisure pursuits, let alone the effort involved in re-equipping myself.

The fact that I'm hoping to ride the ocean waves once again, tomorrow, is symptomatic of an improved situation... hope. I'm not looking for kitesurfing to cure my ills, but the fact that I'm going to be doing it again shows that things have substantially improved in my life.

I still need to dig through my stuff to find my harness, pump, board, fins. I still need to pack my bag and drag my gear across London, to a friend's house, who has a car and has kindly offered to chauffeur me to the coast.

However, I am now buoyant with anticipation. I have elevated energy levels and enthusiasm. I will have no problem springing out of bed early tomorrow, in order to get to the beach. I know that I will be inflating my kite and setting my gear up with every bit of speed and determination that I ever used to put into the preparation for getting out onto the water.

I've had a hellishly boring week, which has been surprisingly stressful. The boredom has been punctuated with being given a hard time by both my boss, and my end-client. The rest of the week, I've just been trying to look busy, killing time. I've struggled to make it to work on time. I've considered phoning in sick. I've considered quitting and running away. I've felt suicidally desperate at times.

Now, tonight, I want to live. I want to stay alive so I can go kitesurfing tomorrow. I have my patio doors open and a steady breeze is blowing through my lounge. I know that the South-Westerly wind that's forecast for tomorrow is likely to be reliable. I know what the tide times are. I know which beach I'm going to, where we should park, where I'm going to set my kite up, where I'm going to launch. I'm visualising every step in anticipation, so I'm prepared and not a moment is lost.

It might be as much as 4 years since I kitesurfed here in the UK, but there's something very special about our murky choppy water, with its dangerous tides, overcrowded beaches and built-up foreshore.

So, tomorrow's not going to be some sun-kissed white sand beach in an exotic location, with warm water and a fresh coconut waiting for me when I've finished kitesurfing. However, I'm almost more excited about it. Sure, it's the weekend, here in the UK when the whole of London seems to head for the coast, and I'm sure every kook will be barrage-ballooning the popular kite spots. Just so long as I get a little taste of salt water again though, I'll be happy.

This is a watershed moment, for me.

 

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Death or Glory

16 min read

This is a story about the value of life...

Camden Pirates

According to my anecdotal observations, people are taking more and more unnecessary risks with their lives and health. I've been heavily involved in this trend, since my teens, when I fought a fairly cowardly childhood with some fairly extreme stuff.

Everything from adrenalin sports to body modification seems to be going through exponential growth. The limit of what is survivable by a human seems to inspire a new generation of people who are pushing the envelope further than ever thought possible.

Let's talk about extreme sports, firstly. The guy who taught me how to rock climb had himself learnt using unimaginably dangerous equipment. The ropes had no stretch to them, and a fall could break your back just from the hard shock of the rope stopping you so suddenly. A lot of the equipment was improvised: large engineering nuts were threaded through with a bit of thin rope. People didn't even use harnesses to abseil and belay a lot of the time, they just let the rope slip around their bodies.

Kitesurfing might look extreme to you, but 15 years ago you basically hooked yourself up to an enormous kite that you couldn't release in an emergency, and you couldn't 'de-power'... that is to say that you couldn't let the wind go out of it in a strong gust, you were just yanked into the sky or dragged along.

I can't really talk about skydiving too much, as I've only done 21 jumps, but I was pulling my parachute at 5,000ft... plenty of time to pull my reserve parachute if I had a malfunction. Special care was taken to ensure that every skydiver was far apart from each other in the air, and it was scary when somebody fell past me and then opened their parachute only a few hundred metres away. If somebody crashes into you at 125mph, thousands of feet in the air, it's not going to end well.

Now we have climbers who will happily jump off a suspended platform and fall the whole length of their climbing ropes, just for the thrill... like a bungee jump. They trust their equipment so much that they actually choose to fall. Most of what I was taught as a climber by my old-school mentor was simply "don't fall".

Now we have kitesurfers who are jumping over hard objects that could kill them. One of the UK's best known kitesurfers famously jumped over Worthing Pier. I've had two close encounters with a pier myself, one of which destroyed my kite, and the other involved a jet-ski rescue of a friend's kite. When I learnt to kitesurf, the idea was to stay away from rocks, cliffs, buildings and anything hard that you might be splatted against by the pull of your kite.

Now we have skydivers who are wearing wingsuits and flying within a couple of feet of rocks, trees, cable cars, bridges, roads, houses... just about anything on a steep mountainside. When they open their parachute, they have barely enough time to unzip their arms from their wingsuits so that they can grab the control toggles, let alone pull the cutaway and reserve handle... but the reserve parachute would never open in time if they had a malfunction anyway.

Given that a parachute will malfunction every 10,000 jumps, and there's hard data that supports that statistic, then you can precisely say what the probability is of you dying from a BASE jump or wingsuit flight with a low canopy opening.

I've known people who've had accidents climbing, kitesurfing and skydiving, so why would I continue to do these dangerous things? Well, there has been incredible improvement in the quality of the equipment in just the last 15 years. However, I think the main reason is that us adrenalin junkies never think that an accident is going to happen to us... we tell ourselves that we're too skilled, too careful, too lucky... accidents happen to other people because they made a mistake. We all think we're infallible.

By my mid twenties I had experienced plenty of close calls, but thankfully never been hospitalised.

Camden Tree Man

Getting into the extreme difficulty grades of rock climbing starts to be a game of russian roulette. The 'protection' that you can place to save your life if you do end up falling, starts to be very inadequate in certain parts of the climb. You have to accept that injury or death is going to occur if you fall in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Pulling off the hardest kitesurfing tricks can actually injure you pretty badly, even though you're doing them on water. One of the first times I tried to do a 360 degree spin, I accidentally looped my kite and hit the water going at about 40mph. It doesn't sound like much, but it could have easily broken a rib. The higher you go, and the stronger the wind, the more chance of you crashing into the water at high speed, and the more the water acts like a solid surface.

Waves are probably the biggest danger to a kitesurfer though, and without your kite you can be in big trouble. I once got pummelled into the seafloor down in Brighton, catching waves that had reached the size of houses. It was only because my kite pulled me to the surface and onto the beach that I didn't drown. Sadly, somebody we used to kitesurf with in Southbourne was not as lucky when he lost his kite and perished trying to swim to shore in big waves.

For a skydiver, you can obviously calculate the risk of having a double parachute failure, but most injury and death seems to occur when trying to land, when your parachute is actually open. At the place where I learnt, there was a motorway, a high-speed railway line, loads of buildings and trees and all sorts of other hard things that you could fly into, that would injure or kill you.

The very first time that I jumped, my lines were all twisted up. Not exactly a malfunction, but sometimes people have to cut away from their main parachute and open their reserve because the line twists are causing them to turn in a tight spiral downwards. Why was it not more off-putting that I actually had a problem with my parachute to sort out, while dangling in a harness, thousands of feet above the hard ground?

 

Skydive Road Junction

As you can see, I'm above a fairly major road junction, and heading towards a nearby town. The ground is approaching at over 120mph. I chose to jump out of the plane. Nobody made me do this. I decided to take the risk. An accident will never happen to me, right?

What I can say about all of this, is that personal experience is a very poor way to judge risk, but it's an unavoidably human thing to do... to base our perception of danger on our own individual lives, rather than looking at the wider statistics.

I've had a lot of hospital visits during my recent troubles, but I have no lasting health damage. Obviously, I never died. I didn't even feel much pain or discomfort that I can remember. To all intents and purposes, life has taught me that no matter what ridiculous risks I take, I seem to be immortal and virtually indestructible.

If I look at all the times I've put my life on the line, put my head in the lion's mouth, as it were... statistically I shouldn't be around to tell this tale. I should be more mindful of the fact that I'm one of the lucky ones... the one that got away, by the skin of his teeth. However, that's not how my psychology works. For every brush with death, that just seems to reinforce my belief that I can get away with unimaginable risk taking.

Why should it not be that way? For every harrowing event that you survive, why shouldn't it make you braver, less risk-averse. To all intents and purposes, the Universe seems to be speaking to you... that your life was spared, that you escaped catastrophic injury or death, just proves that you're special, you're different... you can put your life on the line and get away with it.

Here in the UK there are no predators, no wars, no unavoidable hazards. The biggest risk to your life is a road traffic accident. So, does it therefore seem logical that my latest adrenalin sport is playing in traffic? Deliberately dodging black cabs, red double-decker busses and Toyota Priuses driven by people who can barely drive.

I sawed my bicycle's handlebars down to the same width as my shoulders, so that I can fit through ridiculously small gaps, provided I keep my elbows in and ride like hell. Occasionally I see a gap, and then decide to abort at the last minute because I sense that something's not quite right. The sensible thing would be to avoid those touch-and-go situations altogether, but more often than not I'll lay my life on the line simply for the thrill of it.

Living on the Edge

I never really think that living on the edge like this is disrespectful to those who haven't been as lucky as me. I do feel guilty about wasted NHS resources where I've been treated in hospital, but when doctors have told me how close I came to dying, it doesn't really have the intended effect.

Trying to scare somebody into taking less risks doesn't work, as we have seen with smoking. Printing "SMOKING KILLS" in big bold letters on cigarette packets looks particularly ironically ineffective, when a smoker is reaching into that packet twenty times for a 'cancer stick' before discarding the empty wrapper, and purchasing another box of fags.

I mentioned body modification, right at the start of this blog post. People are willingly submitting themself to the tattoo artist's needles, or the plastic surgeon's knife. These procedures are not without danger, but they are also painful, uncomfortable, as well as producing irreversible bodily changes.

You would have thought that people would have seen tattoo disasters, or had one of their own, and decided that making a permanent alteration to your body is a foolish thing to do. However, we find the opposite... once people have one tattoo, they often get more, and some people are going further, with piercings, stretched earlobes & lips, subdermal implants, deliberate scarring of their skin.

Ok, so London is gritty and urban, but there's a whole subculture where huge tattoos are totally normal and accepted. In every hipster cafe and trendy bicycle repair shop, you're likely to be served by people who have whole arms covered in richly coloured tattoos, necks, hands... these aren't the kind of thing you can cover up.

If you earn shit wages as a coffee shop barista or whatever, and there is literally zero hope of you ever being able to afford to buy your own home, why wouldn't you do something with your money that feels good? Blast all your cash on booze and tattoos. Money is just fun tokens... it doesn't buy you a lifestyle anymore, for most young people.

The long-term hopes of people have been dashed. There's no career ladder anymore. There are no good jobs full stop. There's just student debt and some low wage, and whatever you can do to fill the empty void. The idea of saving money for a rainy day is just insulting, when it's a hand-to-mouth existence.

This counter-culture of piercings, tattoos, beards, moustaches, vibrant hair colours and extreme haircuts. This fixation on image. So many selfies... I can empathise. I feel that I know where it's coming from. What have you got, other than the skin you live in, and the clothes on your back? Feel good in your own skin, because you'll never have a home to call your own, to feel good in.

You might as well get that big tattoo on your neck, because you're never going to work in an office, hoping to get that big promotion, like your Dad did. You might as well spend all your disposable income on alcohol and drugs and expensive coffee, because you're never going to be able to afford to settle down and start having kids in a nice big family home, as a housewife, like your Mum did.

The extreme sports are pretty much banished for those on a low income, so extreme drinking, extreme drug taking, extreme risk taking on your bike in traffic, extreme sexual behaviour... extremely short-term decisions. That's the only life opportunity that's offered. People have to get by however they can, and part of getting by is seeking reward, pleasure.

I don't think we're living in an era of hedonism at all. In fact there's a certain bleakness to everything. There's a certain amount of sorrow that is being drowned. Young people's lives are harder than you think, and those lives are very sparsely punctuated with what few highlights they can afford.

What was once a subculture, something extreme, something for the minorities, something for those who were excluded from the mainstream, is actually now becoming the mainstream. The "jocks" who are flawlessly good looking, fashionably dressed and are following the prescribed path of academic and sporting prowess, followed by a great career in a big company... these people are the freaks now.

I forget who it was who once said "if you want to be different, to stand out, then don't get a tattoo". Those words are ringing very true today.

I chose to get into extreme sports because I was bullied and ostracised a lot at school. Now it seems like anybody who's got the money is an off-piste snowboarder, kitesurfer, skydiver or whatever. It's no longer an exceptional thing to risk your life in pursuit of your little moment of happiness in an otherwise bleak existence.

Bluffing Balls

A strange thing starts to happen when you pressurise and threaten somebody who has spent a long time contemplating life and death decisions. Instead of being bullied, cowed, pushed and shoved in the way that you want them to, they double down: they will raise the stakes.

As danger approaches, I find that I run towards it rather than away. I don't try and make the last few pounds in my bank account last as long as possible... what would be the point of that? To disappear off the face of the planet with a whimper?

I'm a very bad person to play chicken with. If you think that risk of death, or anything inbetween is going to instill fear in me that will control my decisions, then you're very stupid and deluded.

If you think I'm the stupid one, you're wrong. Obviously I avoid pain and discomfort. It's actually the smart thing to do, to avoid the unwinnable battle, but at the same time to not submit yourself to a life of sustained misery. I'll avoid the fistfight with somebody who just enjoys the thrill of violence, but yet I'll use the very last of my energy, money - whatever I've got left - in some final roll of the dice that will leave me far more beaten and broken than any battering I could receive from somebody's fists.

You think that decisions like that are stupid? Well, you simply haven't calculated the odds. What do you do when you're dealt weak cards? Go all in. Push all your casino chips into the pile with an icy calm. Fortune favours the brave, and a life of cowardice is no life at all.

Some people are able to eke out a life, continuously looking over their shoulder in fear. Some people are able to live under Damocles' sword, with a continuous threat of redundancy, bankruptcy, mortgage default, reposession... not being able to feed and clothe their kids, not being able to pay the bills. Even though this miserable existence was once possible, the route is now barred. Why would you want it anyway?

Do I hanker for a time when I was drawing a regular salary, hoping for a big pay rise and bonus every year, paying my mortgage, trying to save enough money to put me ahead of the game? It's bullshit, you're never going to get your nose in front. You've been set up to fail from the start.

My instinct to nurture is rather unfulfilled, especially now that I no longer live with my cat, Frankie. However, I've got no skin in the game besides my own. There's absolutely no incentive to curtail my risk taking. There's absolutely no incentive to be subdued, beaten down into submission, and to accept an intolerably miserable existence. Of course I'd rather die.

It's not even about depression or mental illness. It's just a response to the world, to circumstances, to my environment. It's sane and rational to consider the final solution: a premeditated suicide.

Actually, when I think about my quality of life, I wouldn't give up the last few years for anything. I've had the ride of my life. If I skid into an early grave as a crumpled mess, then at least I lived. I know that "live fast, die young" is such a horrible cliché, but I 'get' it now. Having had both lives, I choose the one with extreme risk every time. Dying a long drawn out death of anxiety over whether my pension fund is big enough, is my idea of torture.

I wonder whether those young people, with their complete fixation on the short-term, share my lack of fear of death. I wonder if they have also made a rational decision to reject a life of constant anxiety over an unknowable future filled with pathetic threats... torturous death by a thousand cuts.

Why on earth would I want to be wealthy in my old age, when I'm stalked by cancer, cardiovascular disease and other age related shit that's going to make an active lifestyle increasingly improbable? I'm glad that I've lived and loved and lost, and now life hangs by the slenderest thread.

Am I being melodramatic? I don't care what you think, actually. You can call my bluff... I can't lose. I might end up without any fun tokens left, but that's all part of the thrill, the adventure... the joy of living your life, rather than waiting to die.

Wakeboard Jump

Cut the thread, and I'll fly

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Gated Communities

7 min read

This is a story about being isolated from the real world...

Private Estate

I remember an ex-girlfriend had lived her entire life in the village centre of Haslemere, Surrey. She was completely oblivious to the existence of the struggles of lower social strata. I remember my washing-machine repairman friend, Justin, being absolutely speechless when she casually talked about her parents retiring to Beaulieu, so they could be closer to their yacht. She was completely clueless. Not her fault.

One of my friends from school said he used to like coming to play over at our house, because at mealtimes there was lots to eat and it wasn't just potatoes. I liked playing at his house, because we would be messing around on decaying railway infrastructure, climbing huge mountains of coal or precarious games that involved the canal. Oxford might have become gentrified in parts, but there were still areas that were incredibly deprived.

The number of my friends who have spent time in jail, have some kind of criminal record or have at least spent time in the criminal justice system, is surprising, given my background could have completely isolated me from the 'bad crowd'. I did go to state school, but central Oxford has enough sons & daughters of lower ranking academics to mean that in the top sets of streamed subjects you would be unlikely to find a proper 'working class' child. Our form groups were also chosen quite specifically to try and stop the ruffians getting mixed up with those destined for greater success.

I hope that I'm fairly 'class blind' and don't judge people on their socioeconomic background. I also hope that I'm sensitive to the fact that I've had opportunities which are quite simply barred to a huge proportion of society. Being taught to speak like I was to the manor born, having posh sounding schools (although entirely ordinary state entities) and being quite relaxed speaking to adults of any rank or status, means that many doors have been open to me.

In some cases, money simply prices any ordinary people out of the market, so you'll find that all your neighbours are wealthy, successful and educated. There might be gates or a gatehouse or some kind of obvious border to the pocket of wealth you find yourself in, but often there isn't such clear demarkation. In London, for example, things are very subtle most of the time. The part of a London area that has the chic delicatessen, nice restaurants, a Waitrose, tastefully in-keeping shopfronts, colourfully painted townhouses or monolithic blocks of grand Georgian terrace... these things are pretty obviously what happens over time to an area after the hipsters have increased rents which drives out those who wish to shop at Cash Converters, Argos and Lidl.

Camden Town is a strange melting pot. A stone's throw from Regents Park and Primrose Hill, where some top dollar rent is demanded, but yet the high street has more than its fair share of pawnbrokers and low priced food outlets. I guess nobody really wants to live by the market, where drugs are dealt openly on the street at night, and in the daytime is crawling with tourists and pickpockets.

S0, I find myself now living somewhere that seems to only have an abstract connection with London. I live in a gated community with a concierge who is only too happy to take delivery of online supermarket shopping, if I never wished to leave the comfort and security of this well-insulated riverside apartment at all. There is water on 180 degrees of one side of the apartment... not even any roads, with the capital's incessant sirens as emergency services vehicles make their way from one incident to the next.

Canal Boat

Only, where there are navigable waterways, there is always the chance for social mobility. Boatloads of people on the Clipper, party boats and speedboats come joyriding and commuting along the Thames. The police boat can even be regularly be seen jetting off up-river somewhere, with it's blue lights flashing. Tugs removing barge-loads of trash, or bringing containerloads of goods, chug their way up and down through the semi-tidal water.

I used to be content to watch a massive storm batter the coast, even if I had driven for many hours in the hope of being able to kitesurf, but the conditions were too rough and wild. As my equipment improved, I was able to afford a range of kites that could handle high winds as well as light breeze. I was able to actually get on the water in a storm, but that's right at the limit of survival and you don't have any time to actually think about what's going on around you.

I don't recommend you try it, if you've never been in the water when the wind is plucking you up, and depositing you several hundred metres downwind, as a 60-70mph gust comes through, turning the top of the water into stinging spray and foamy froth.

I don't recommend you try it, if you've never been in the water when breaking waves are the size of 2 or 3 storey houses, and all you can hear is a deafening roar as they're breaking behind you, as you try to outrun them. When one of these monsters catches you near the shore, it pummels you underwater into the seafloor, which hopefully is made of sand, not rocks or coral or something else sharp. Without your kite to pull you back to the surface and back onto the beach, you're as good as dead.

Kitesurfing used to be a fairly level playing field. Now, the equipment is so expensive I can't see how anybody of ordinary means could enter the sport. I guess surfing is still low cost-of-entry but who has enough time to bob around on a floaty thing waiting for a wave big enough to be worth paddling for? The English Channel is about the 3rd windiest place on the planet, and living on an island means you can't be too many degrees of separation from somebody who has at least some sense of how to move on water.

But here I am, inland, although only a stones throw from a river which would quickly carry me to the seawater of the Thames estuary. I used to kitesurf on Canvey Island and at Whitstable, which have reassuringly brown estuarial water. The water there very definitely came from the arsehole of midlands.

It's been so long since I had to rub shoulders with the proletariat. I'm not sure it's exactly made me forget the struggles of ordinary people, to lose perspective, to feel entitled or not realise that most of my worries and stresses are pretty much first world problems. Not travelling also means not seeing people who are not just a social division below, but an entire national or continental division below my own standard of living. When you're kitesurfing you tend to be in the poorest fishing villages in some of the remotest parts of the world, and when a fisherman saves your life, you definitely can't avoid feeling humbled.

It's a strange existence, being able to glide across the surface of the water on a thin little tray, and fly into the air as if you didn't weigh so much as a bird, but at the same time, your equipment, your choice of leisure activity puts you in a very exclusive club indeed.

Upside Down

It takes a certain amount of insanity to shackle yourself to a kite big enough to pull you bodily out of the water and into the air

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I've Had a Hoverboard for 14 Years

3 min read

This is a story about nice guys finishing first...

Isla de Coche

It's October 21st, 2015, and I used to love the Back to the Future movies, like so many kids.

I've always been in a rush to see and do everything. I already did my entire bucket list and I suppose that's partly why I might have ended up suicidally depressed. Getting everything you want can be a little anticlimactic.

Still haven't found love yet though. I'm a hopeless romantic and I still believe in true love and all that soppy stuff. I've completely failed to become bitter and twisted by the cruel turns and dead ends of life's unknowable road. I'm slowly learning the life lesson that Love is one thing that can't be rushed.

A fish swimming down a stream spots a fly flying right over him. The fish thinks, "I can jump and catch that fly."

A bear see the fish that sees the fly. The bear thinks, "the fish will jump to catch the fly and I can catch the fish."

A hunter sees the bear that sees the fish that sees the fly. The hunter thinks, "the fish will jump to catch the fly, the bear will catch the fish, and I can shoot the bear."

A mouse sees the hunter that sees the bear that sees the fish that sees fly. The mouse thinks, "the fish will jump to catch the fly, the bear will catch the fish, the hunter will shoot the bear, and I can get the cheese in the hunters lunch."

A cat sees the mouse that sees the hunter that sees the bear that sees the fish that sees the fly. The cat thinks, "the fish will jump to catch the fly, the bear will catch the fish, the hunter will shoot the bear, the mouse will get the cheese, and I can catch the mouse."

The fish caught the fly, the bear caught the fish, the hunter shot the bear.

But the mouse was startled when the gun went off, so when the cat pounced, it missed and landed in the stream.

Moral of the story: the longer the build up, the wetter the pussy.

Here's a picture of a random kitesurfer's body, in case you are still in need of a reason to date a kitesurfer:

Pretentious, moi?

Pretentious, narcissitic, moi? (I haven't actually kitesurfed since October 2014)

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