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The world's longest suicide note

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

All opinions are my own

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Vitamin D

4 min read

This is a story about agoraphobia...

London Balcony

This is how I used to get fresh air and sun-kissed skin a year ago. You might say that central London has terrible air quality, but the city where I now live has worse air quality.

My apartment in London cost me more than three times as much as my current apartment, but there were hundreds more opportunities for work, if not thousands more - all accessible by public transport.

I had to get my car roadworthy today. It looks like I'm going to be joining the commuting masses, all clogging up Britain's roads. After dropping my car at the garage, I opened the Uber app on my smartphone. There are no Uber drivers in the whole city. I rang the city's biggest cab firm and they said I'd have to wait 90 minutes or more. I walked home from the garage in the sunshine. I did need the fresh air, the vitamin D and the exercise, but remember... I now live in a city that's more polluted than London.

I think I'm taking a wrong turn. I think I should be going back to London, because I can guarantee a steady stream of work there within the space of a few square miles: The City of London - the Square Mile - and Canary Wharf are the gifts that keep on giving. Sure, London is overcrowded and overpriced, but at least it's somewhere I know and I have friends. I'm going to end up in places I've never visited before, temporarily, and feeling very unsettled. I think it's a mistake.

I didn't mind isolating myself in that apartment in London so much, because I could sit on the balcony and soak up the sun. I could sit on the sofa and watch the boats go past. I could open those big patio doors and have a lovely breeze blowing through my whole home. It blows my mind that I felt more connected to nature in the middle of a city with 10 million inhabitants, than I do in this small seaside place with lush green valleys and hills no more than a 20 minute car ride away.

I probably need a bit of both. I might as well be in London if I'm working full-time. But I need somewhere to call home - I need a base, and that base should be somewhere cheap. It's a lot of pressure to keep working all the time when you need to find £500/week just to pay the rent... plus you've got all the bills on top of that.

It was a mistake to put myself into the situation where I had sole responsibility for paying all that rent, and no way to get out of the contract when I was too sick to work. If I went back to London, I'd have my company rent a place on a month-by-month basis, so I could leave whenever I stopped working.

I don't know what's keeping me indoors. There's some kind of force-field. I haven't reached the point where I feel I can relax, take my foot off the gas pedal and just coast a bit. I should be enjoying the summer, but I'm not; I'm really not at all. My summer has been ruined.

I think I need to plan to go away when the days are getting shorter, it's getting cold, wet and miserable, and the clocks go back. I need to get an autumn/winter sun boost. That's the next thing I can start to pin my hopes on.

If I can get through the next 3 or 4 months relatively uneventfully, keeping the cash rolling in, maybe I'll be in a position to sit in the sunshine and actually relax and enjoy myself. At the moment, I don't feel like I deserve to enjoy the summer... there's still so much work to do; there's still so much stress ahead, and uncertainty.

 

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Mourning Loss

5 min read

This is a story about processing emotions...

Modern art

My premonition was right. I knew things were too good to last. My hope and optimism were misplaced. My fears proved to be well founded. My instincts were correct.

The one thing which remains mostly intact is my home, but yet I feel completely differently about it versus a month or so ago. I'd started to imagine a pleasant summer spent living and working by the seaside, but instead the reality is that I'm having a sink or swim moment. If I stay where I am I'll sink, and to survive I will have to swim like crazy to get back to London. My home doesn't feel like home - I don't know why I came here; I don't know why I am here; I'm not happy to be here.

It feels like I've violently swung from crisis to salvation; boom and bust. My life has been a jagged saw-tooth of highs and lows, which briefly started trending upwards, but I know from bitter experience how quickly and easily the trend can nosedive.

For the briefest moment, I connected with a lot of unprocessed emotion; I cried. Then the tears dried up and I went back to my more usual state of torment: PTSD flashbacks.

It's all piling up... the stuff I haven't dealt with properly. There's a huge mound of grief. How could I possibly start to process all that mess while I'm still in the middle of dealing with the non-stop crisis? The task of finding somewhere to live and work and getting myself on an even keel financially sounds simple and easy enough, but you'd be surprised: you need a run of good luck if you want to succeed.

The places, the friends, the companies, the colleagues, the projects... so many have come and gone and I've retained practically nothing. Money runs through my fingers like fine dry sand: there's been plenty, but of course it's all frittered away just staying alive. It's expensive, staying alive: the rent and the bills and the food and the drink, let alone the cost of transport and clothing and everything else that constitutes part of normal existence.

To mourn money is foolish, but the relationships I've developed with people and places shouldn't be dismissed lightly. Even the tiny city-centre apartment where I tried to kill myself in Manchester, I had developed some emotional attachment to; the city itself - although alien to me - was growing on me slowly. It's rather tragic how I've fallen out of love with my current home town. I'm sure I'll feel differently, in time.

Tomorrow's the last day when anything makes any sense at all. My income comes to an abrupt and early end, which is arguably unexpected and no fault of my own. Why am I here?

13 years ago a picked a seaside town and I imagined the life I wanted to build there. I did it. I got everything I wanted.

Then everything collapsed.

All I knew was that I wanted to get away. I wanted a clean break. I wanted to go back to the only other place I knew and where I'd been happy before: London. I went back to London because I was trying to get away from something, someone... everything that reminded me that my dream had been ruined; sabotaged.

That's been my life for 5 years, more or less: trying to get away from dreadful things. Trying to get away from divorce. Trying to get away from the past. Trying to get away from the sadness and the sense of failure. Trying to get away from the grief.

I've been running for so very long, and the grief has piled up unprocessed. I need to stop and mourn my losses, but I can't because I have to run so damn fast just to stand still.

Where now? What next? I have no idea. Away, away... always away.

It seems easy to blame myself: how much have I self-sabotaged? In truth though, how hard have I worked to give things their very best possible chance of success? If you want me to blame myself, fine, but I don't see how I could've done any more to tip the odds in my favour, and try to make things work. Yes, I've made bad choices and done regrettable things, but without a steady supply of paid work everything else falls apart.

Maybe I could succumb to 'magical thinking' and imagine that things would have been different if I'd approached life with more positive mental attitude. Maybe if I hadn't pre-empted disaster, the disaster would never have happened. It's folly: of course the bad things that were going to happen were always going to happen.

So I guess if there's one over-riding feeling at the moment, it must be a sense of loss. I'm sad that another potential nice pleasant life fell to pieces, and I'm left wondering where the hell it all went wrong.

 

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I'm Sick of Moving

9 min read

This is a story about putting down roots...

Cardboard boxes

It looks like the smartest short-term decision for me right now is to go back to London. Third time lucky, maybe.

London was amazing the first time, so I guess third time lucky is not really accurate.

London was pretty amazing when I went back, but my damn acrimonious divorce and evil ex-wife conspired to disrupt and destroy my chances of re-establishing myself back in the capital. I'd reconnected with lots of old friends, incorporated a company and had started doing business. The last thing I needed was the distraction of the divorce, so I went and sold my house to a cash buyer - I had the sale organised within a few hours, and should have completed with cash in the bank in about 6 weeks.... except my evil ex-wife sabotaged the whole thing and put it back on the market with the worst estate agent she could find, and accepted an offer - for the same amount as I'd already agreed with the cash buyer - from some clueless idiots who were part of some horrible chain.

Said same evil ex-wife then tried to screw me over with the division of the house sale proceeds, which was a more than fair and reasonable 50:50 split. The contracts had been exchanged and the deposit had been paid. I was quite happy to have us both get sued if she wanted to drag things on any longer... she'd already delayed everything by 3 or 4 months. My final signature was needed for completion and if I didn't give it, we'd have breached our contract. So, I didn't give it until I had it in writing that she'd take her 50% and let me get the hell on with my life. She's an idiot, because I'd have gladly paid more if she'd just let me get on with rebuilding my life in London.

So, that changed the complexion of my second jaunt back to the capital completely. Gone was the momentum of my new business. Gone was my new girlfriend. Gone was a holiday I'd been planning on treating myself to. Gone was every bit of optimism and energy, wasted on worrying about cashflow and legal wranglings with one of the most thoroughly unpleasant individuals I've ever had the misfortune of dealing with.

I never quite caught up. You need a lot of money behind you if you're going to get ahead in London. If you haven't got the working capital - the comfortable financial cushion - you'll never be able to handle the challenges of the city AND fret about money.

Out of pride and stubbornness, I tried and failed and tried and failed again. I kept almost but not quite reaching the point where I was financially comfortable, only for the stress and effort of it all to finally scupper me, plus some bad luck too. I lost a contract simply because I refused to kiss the arse of one guy who thought he was indispensable. They terminated my contract, and then the guy who did it got the sack for getting rid of me. Another time, I was just too exhausted from living in a hostel while working on one of the most demanding projects - and indeed important projects - I've ever worked on in my life. I got myself out of the hostel and into my own apartment, but the stress and exhaustion of it made me very unwell. I tried to get myself sacked while I was on holiday in San Francisco, so I could stay for longer, but they didn't take the bait - I got sacked as soon as I walked back into the office, which I knew I would.

I took a shitty contract in a shitty part of Greater London. That was awful, but I did it out of necessity.

Finally, I got a great contract, great team, great project, great company... then my kidneys failed and I was on emergency dialysis on a high dependency ward for weeks. DVT in my leg. Nerve damage. Unbelievable pain.

That was me done for. Broke. Game over. I was lucky to escape bankruptcy.

Now, I've had a little taste of small town provincial life, and it's OK. I liked it when I could drive to work and walk to my girlfriend's house. I liked it when my income was 20 times as much as my rent, and I was living like a king... or at least I'd have been able to if the gravy train had continued to run on it's scheduled timetable.

There's no opportunities here. It's a small place. I was lucky to have a few months when I had it all, but I always knew that when it came to an end, there wouldn't be anything else here for me that's comparable.

No girlfriend. No job.

Gone off the place a bit.

I had a look at what London has to offer and I'll be increasing my already obscene income by 50% if I go back there. Make hay while the sun shines. Get rich quick, or die trying. The number of jobs I'd be a perfect match for was quite staggering... so reassuring to know that I've got the right skills that still command such high remuneration.

There's nothing round here. At least, nothing for somebody who's trying to get ahead. I'm sick of being behind. I'm sick of playing catch-up.

If I go back to London and keep this Welsh seaside town as my primary residence, I can live on expenses - my rent, meals, travel... all that will be reducing my tax bill as well as giving me a lovely lifestyle. No more shitty AirBnBs and pot noodles. I can have my own little central London apartment and eat takeaway every night. I can take black cabs everywhere and even reclaim the expenses of having my suits dry cleaned, shirts laundered and shoes shone. What the hell am I doing, having to cook, clean and do laundry, in this sleepy seaside town where I don't know anybody except for my ex-girlfriend and some of her friends, who all hate me.

I can go on Tinder and there will be gazillions of drop-dead gorgeous highly educated well travelled professional career women, who are pretty up-front about what they want. Tinder in this Welsh seaside town has 15 identical looking Snapchat filter photos of women who look like they've put make up on with a trowel and can't string a sentence together, and then that's it - you've swiped them all left, and there's no more to swipe.

I shouldn't do the place down, because it makes sense if you've got your wife & kids sorted and mortgage paid off, plus a big fat wedge of cash in the bank, but it makes no sense at all for me to be here, single and still struggling to get back to a position of financial security.

So, at some point I'm going to push the button and the calls will come flooding in and the contract negotiations will start, and before I know it I'll be on the train back to London, except I'm not slumming it this time.

When I sign on the dotted line for my third attempt at making things work in London, I'll be going to live in a serviced apartment, and I'll be living there for the duration of the contract. I've got my little seaside retreat - my second home - where I can leave most of my stuff, but I'll also have a permanent base in the capital, where I can leave my suits and shirts and smart shoes and everything else I need midweek.

If I hesitate, I'll just burn through all the cash I've managed to tuck away during the last 6 months of nonstop hard work. If I hesitate, I'll lose all the ground I've gained. If I hesitate, I'll lose momentum. If I hesitate, self-doubt will creep in and I'll dither and dawdle.

I might be sick of moving, but as long as I'm able to keep on sending my invoices every month, and every month my net worth moves rapidly from the negative to the positive, there's a tiny glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. I might be sick of proving myself over and over and over again, and having the stress of yet more reference checks, security vetting, credit checks and criminal records checks, but in London if one contract doesn't work out, there are literally hundreds of others. If one relationship doesn't work out, the London is literally jam-packed with mind-blowingly beautiful intelligent women who have dedicated themselves to their careers, and are making themselves known to be single via the Tinder app.

I have friends in London. I know my way around. There's a drinking/socialising culture, instead of the "going home to the wife and kids" culture of the provinces. What am I doing here in this place where I suddenly feel so out of place?

In the blink of an eye, I'll be available again - back on the market.

In 2 or 3 weeks, I'll be meeting my new team and learning about my new project; my next opportunity.

It's actually quite exciting. It's a fresh start in a place I already know and love. It's another opportunity to stick two fingers up at my ex-wife for ruining my chance to have a clean break and rebuild my life back in London. It's another roll of the dice - maybe I'll be lucky this time and I'll prove I can make it work. I've certainly tipped the odds massively in my favour.

I'm sick at the moment, of course. My mania must be plain as day to anybody who has any dealings with me. My colleagues kindly and patiently indulge my endless stream of ideas and words, delivered so fast they can't keep up, but it's good timing: things are late and everybody's stressed. To the uneducated eye, it just looks like I care a lot about the end of the project, as opposed to being in a fully-blown manic episode in the middle of an office full of mild-mannered civil servants, who normally move at glacial speed, as is the way of the public sector.

I'm sick, but I haven't pissed anybody off or burnt any bridges yet. I'm sick, but I do remember to shut up and try to act normal once in a while. I'm sick, but I obviously made enough of a good impression that I'm being given the benefit of the doubt.

I'm sick and I'm sick of moving, but move I must. I must move and I must maintain momentum.

 

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My Life in Pictures (Part Three)

7 min read

This is a story about thirteen doors...

Bedroom

I just woke up. There are my shitty blinds. It's the blind on the right that has the massive gaping hole for people to peek through. You'd have to be able to get into my back garden to peek at me, and go round to the area where the patio table is, and press your nose up against the glass, but you would wouldn't you? It's interesting seeing inside somebody's private world.

Broken blind

There's the little peep hole. I know it doesn't look like much, but believe me it's enough to make me feel a little paranoid. Obviously when I'm unwell my small amount of paranoia can become a large amount of paranoia. That innocent looking small gap is equivalent to being stripped naked in front of a packed theatre full of gawping onlookers, when I'm not very well.

Hello world

There I am waving, stood in my bedroom next to my bed. My apartment has a really weird layout. I'll show it to you. Let's try to walk down the corridor to get out of my bedroom. Come on! It'll be fun!

Blocked door

Oh dear, we're not going to be able to get out that way, are we? The door's all blocked up with stuff I've piled up. What the hell? How are we going to get out?

Long corridor

Oh hello again! As you can see there's a second door that leads out of my bedroom. This door leads through my walk-in wardrobe type thingy, and through to the rest of my apartment. I've stacked all those boxes up behind the other door because that other corridor is completely useless, so I use it for storage.

Bedroom door

That's my bedroom door.

Wardrobe door

That's the door to my kinda-walk-in wardrobe. Similar to my bedroom door, isn't it?

Blocked door

That's the other side of the first door I showed you - the one with all the stuf stacked up behind it. Don't open it!

Bathroom door

That's the bathroom door. I'm not going to show you the bathroom. If you've seen one bathroom you've seen them all. Doors however come in all shapes and sizes and I'm sure you're fascinated by this parade of plain white doors that I'm showing you.

Back door

That's my back door which leads into my back garden/patio. I don't go out there much. You could go out there and go and peek at me through the gap in my blinds.

More doors

There's my toilet door and the door that leads into the main hallway, where the front door is. How many doors is that so far? I count 7. I'm going to show you 13 doors and I'm sure you're riveted. We're not even halfway through and I bet you can't wait to see the next 8 doors!

Front door

There's the front door. Let's not go out there because somebody will see me taking photos of doors and think that I'm a weirdo. Spoiler: I'm a weirdo.

Basement door

What the HELL is THAT goddam door? Let's have a look shall we?

Garage door

Oh it's a door to the garage. There's the garage door. I'm glad we're seeing this door because I was getting a bit bored of all those plain white doors. We're well over halfway through and here's a bit of welcome variety to keep us enthused about this journey through my life, told via the medium of door photographs. Let's go back into my apartment!

Kitchen door

That's the door into my kitchen. I mostly leave it open. I should shut it when I'm cooking, but I mostly keep it open. I like the smell of fried onions when I wake up in the morning.

Dividing doors

These doors divide my kitchen/diner from my living room. Perhaps I shouldn't have counted these doors, but I think they're doors like any other and should be included in the full total number of doors in my home. As you can see, you're getting a sneak preview of my living room thanks to the glass panels in the doors.

Kitchen

There's my kitchen/diner. As you can see by the unwashed dishes and letters piled up on the dining table, I live like a total slob. Also, you might be getting the impression that my apartment is rather spacious for little old me, living all on my own. It seems a bit wasteful to have so much space for myself, but I did used to live in a bush in a park, so I think I deserve it, as much as anybody deserves anything, of course.

Snack attack

There's the sofa where I can usually be found reclining. As you can see, I haven't put any effort into tidying up and there's plenty more evidence of my slobby lifestyle - the floor is strewn with discarded crisp packets, cheeses string packets, Pepperarmi sausage packets and mini chicken bite packets, which are within grabbing distance of my preferred relaxation spot: lying watching the TV or tapping away on my laptop.

Castor oil plant

I'm not allowed to have pets but I'd have a cat if I could. Instead of a cat I have house plants. This one is a castor oil plant. I like the castor oil plant the best, because the seeds have ricin in them, which is an incredibly potent poison.

Pot plant

This is my least favourite plant. I don't even know what type it is. It's not really thriving. It's not very interesting.

Umbrella plant

This is my umbrella plant. I like this one, but I really want a cheese plant. A cheese plant is probably going to be my next major household purchase.

London sunset canvas

Here's the last photo I took from the balcony of my apartment in London, before I had to leave and go to Manchester because I'd run out of money. That apartment was lovely. The one in London I mean, not the one in Manchester where I tried to kill myself. You can see what my life in London was like in my previous blog post: My Life in Photos (pt2)

Lounge door

Oh no! I had quite forgotten why you're here: to see 13 doors. I nearly forgot to show you the last door in my little photo exposé. Your life would have been quite incomplete if I hadn't shown you the final door in my home. This one leads directly from my lounge and into the entrance hallway, where you can exit the front door and beat a swift retreat. Are you going now? Really? So soon?

View from the sofa

Good I'm glad those visitors have gone. I can lie down on the sofa in my usual spot. I might watch something on the idiot box. I've got a great position here, lying down watching crappy TV shows. I'd love to just spend all day every day lying right here.

Bye bye

Thanks for visiting! Bye! I'm not going to get up. You can show yourselves out. You know the way now. You've had the full tour, now piss off. I'm just going to lie here on the sofa and treat myself to a nice little rest after the exhaustion of giving you a tour of my life, told through 13 photos of 13 doors.

If you're still hungry for more, you can see what my life was like at a couple of other points in time in the last year, although there are no more pictures of any doors, I'm sure you'll be disappointed to learn. Check out:

Please, when you're reading my old stuff bear in mind that I was very unwell when I posted that stuff. I preserve it for posterity, as I am wont to do.

I hope you enjoyed peeking through my blinds.

 

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I Don't Miss London

7 min read

This is a story about life in the provinces...

Primrose hill sunrise

For four years I tried in vain to get back my old life where I was an eligible bachelor living in the Angel Islington, zone one, and I could walk to work in the City and all the trendy bars and restaurants on Upper Street or skateboard into the West End. I used to park my car right outside my flat and go kitesurfing on whichever beach tickled my fancy on any given weekend. I used to jet off to exotic locations for several holidays a year. I was living the dream, and I tried to recreate that dream but I failed.

The closest I ever got to being happy in London was when I was homeless. Sleeping rough in Kensington Palace Gardens will be a memory I'll treasure forever, as will the hostels where I made friends with heaps of junkies and alcoholics. I started to rebuild a social group amongst my fellow homeless, and that made me happy; secure.

Blending a 'normal' life with one of homelessness and fraternising with the homeless is not easy. Keeping regular office hours is hard when your friends work doing casual labour and as part of the gig economy. Living in a hostel dorm, but having to go to work suited and booted in a crisp shirt and sharp suit, is something that's quite difficult. In the end, I lost everything again.

I wouldn't opt for the high-risk, high-reward strategy again, in London. It's too much pressure to maintain a high-living lifestyle. It wasn't really my choice to rent a luxury riverside apartment... I asked a friend if he'd help me find a place to live - given that I was homeless - and he decided that 25% of my monthly salary didn't sound like too much of a big financial commitment.... except it was actually thousands of pounds a month that I *HAD* to keep earning after I signed the lease. I wouldn't do that again.

Everything's a little easier in the provinces. I can drive to work. I can park for free. The roads aren't congested as hell and I don't have to pay a congestion charge. People are more laid back and they work shorter hours. It's easier to impress the bosses and the work's really easy too. Things are less competitive. Things are less hectic; stressful.

I feel bad that my lifestyle's quite polluting, but I can drive into town and park to go shopping. I can drive to see my girlfriend and park outside her house. I can leave work at 4:30 and be home before 5pm. I can drive to the beach. It's not an energy-efficient global-warming conscious lifestyle at all, but it's a hell of a lot less stressful and exhausting than living in an overcrowded city.

I love the social aspect of London, where there are so many interesting people and fascinating cultural events, but I was always too stressed out and unwell to participate. I was barely surviving in London for most of those four years. I was able to hang out in my lovely apartment for two years, but I was completely withdrawn - I hardly ever left the apartment.

I never quite got back to having everything I needed in London - there was always one thing that was badly broken in my life. When I had the apartment, I lost my job. When I got a girlfriend, I ran out of money. When I had money, I lost my friends. It's really hard to get and keep the things you need in London, mostly because everything's really expensive and takes a lot of effort and energy. You need to run just to stand still in London.

I commuted home from work just now and I sat in a big queue of traffic, but it was moving slowly and it didn't take long before I got through it. The sun was shining and I was in my little car, which is actually thoroughly decent for the money I paid for it, and it was alright. I could've phoned somebody for a chat. You can't phone a friend for a chat when you're stuck on an underground train.

Life's a hell of a lot simpler outside London. Things are within the realms of possibility quite easily. It won't totally bankrupt me to rent a nice apartment locally. Buying, taxing and insuring a car hasn't completely bankrupted me. The cost of living is substantially cheaper than London, to the point where money should hopefully quickly accrue. Tomorrow I will have earned enough money to pay for 6 months rent, which is great because I'll soon get to the point where I have more financial security. I need to have more security. It's been too long that I've been hustling like hell, trying to get back into civilised society.

I wish I could've made it work in London because I'm a proud person and it feels like I failed, but I made a few wrong choices and mistakes are costly in London. Everything's costly in London. At least London's big enough that you can make some really big screw-ups and get away with it.

There's pressure in the provinces to not screw things up, because your nosey neighbour is gonna know about it and never let you forget if you make a mistake, but life's a hell of a lot easier. Yes, you might have to hide your face in shame; you might have people gossiping about you behind your back; you might become a 'known' face, rather than just an anonymous member of the seething masses, like you are in London. I'm glad I went through all my troubles in London, where nobody will ever remember me - in theory, I live my life without prejudice, because I've been able to leave that part of history behind. That's one of the reasons why I've not gone back to Bournemouth - because of my messy divorce and the fact my ex-wife still lives there... it's her place now.

My life's got the potential to be delightfully simple and straightforward. I can almost sense the possibility of having a work:life balance. Things might become sustainable - it's certainly within the realms of possibility. I earn bucketloads and the cost of living is so much less here in the provinces, there's a good chance I can quickly get back on my feet.

I've only worked a week in the new job, but I'm making good progress and I'm managing to cope with the early morning and the lack of sleeping pills. I've managed to get where I wanted - local friends, local girlfriend, local job, car, roof over my head, money in the bank. There are things that still need fixing, like having a place of my own and getting more job and financial security, but those things will come soon enough as long as I can keep turning the pedals; keep getting up in the morning and going to work.

The guy I work with works a snail's pace, but that's OK. It's a marathon not a sprint. It's good for me to learn to work at a slower pace - it's more sustainable. I can't believe that we've achieved so little in the best part of a week, but who cares? The pace of life is slower in the provinces. We'll get there in the end. No rush.

If things go wrong, I'll probably end up eating my words and rushing back to the capital, because there's bucketloads of easy money to be made there. Here in the provinces, there are fewer choices. Of course I'm going to go back to London, chasing girls and big money contracts if this provincial life doesn't work out for me. London has rich pickings, where the provinces have only a few options that you'd be really happy with. I'll try to make it work, but it'll be more heartbreaking out here in the sticks, where it's hard to be philosophical about things not working out - there are only a few companies that you'd want to work for, and there are fewer potential soulmates.

At the moment, I'm quietly optimistic. It's Friday tomorrow, and despite the dreadful Monday morning, the trajectory of the week has been one of steady improvement. It bodes well.

 

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London is Full

8 min read

This is a story about immigration...

Rush hour tube

My journey home this evening took me from the western side of the Square Mile, along London Wall and past Moorgate, past Liverpool Street and into the East End. Suit-clad city workers scurried with their briefcases and brollies, desperate to return home to their families after a long day at the office. Overcoats were all navy blue, black and grey, in conservative styles designed not to attract attention; sensible haircuts, no piercings or visible tattoos.

The crappy vegetable market that used to be virtually derelict now houses every designer brand and label that you could possibly imagine, from Barbour jackets to pairs of jeans which cost in excess of £200 a pair. Money is no object in the very place where a friend of mine used to sell knock-off copies of Calvin Klein underwear, three pairs for a fiver.

The council flats - social housing - have all been sold off as part of Thatcher's right-to-buy scheme, and all that money has flown off to the Spanish Costas, where the weather is better and the cost of living has remained lower.

The East End boozer that I used to love because it was cheap and virtually empty except for a few local alcoholics, is now brimming with hipsters and charges more than £6 for a pint of beer. Instead of looking closed and disused the pub has had an expensive makeover and its customers are spilling onto the streets - standing room only.

The pie and liquor shop, which sells jellied eels, is now a tourist attraction and there are people queuing out of the door, because it represents the very epitome of East London, despite the fact that East London is now epitomised by overpaid hipsters who do a bit of web development in trendy offices that used to be warehouses used by the cloth trade.

Everything that the the slum-dwellers and council tenants wished to escape has now become fashionable and extremely expensive. To live in an overcrowded city that's noisy and full of crime and pollution, seems like utter insanity. Why do people pay a premium to live in Central London?

A hundred languages are spoken in London, which is double the number spoken in the next most multicultural city: New York. Within a ten minute walk of where I'm staying, I can eat food from at least 30 different countries. Away from the homogeny of the City of London, traditional dress indicates that there are ghettos where people are living very much as they would have done in the countries where their families originated - entire communities have been lifted and shifted to the centre of the UK's capital.

The Crossrail engineering project - the new Elizabeth line - will be jam-packed with commuters as soon as it opens. London cannot keep pace with the demands of its residents and workers. Infrastructure is creaking at the seams. Tube stations regularly have to be closed because of overcrowding. The roads are virtually at gridlock. The congestion charge and T-charge are doing nothing to change anybody's habits. Deliveroo and Uber vehicles compete with black cabs and red double-decker buses, and more lorries than ever must deliver a relentless amount of ready meals and pre-prepared sandwiches for busy office workers who are too tired and stressed out of their minds to be able to cook for themselves.

In a desperate struggle for space, gone is the spare bedroom. Gone is the place of your own. Gone is your own kitchen and bathroom. Airbnb makes every inch of spare space pay its way. Hostels and hotels are no longer viable business models. Everybody has to pay big bucks for barely enough space to sleep - we're all living on top of each other; piled high.

The official statistics say that London's daytime population is ten or even twelve million. The truth is that nobody really knows. Every runaway goes to London. Every asylum seeker; every economic migrant. All roads lead to London, and London is where everybody ends up - the gravity is inescapable.

I was working on a project which needed to work out how many people the company employed. The company who employed me thought they had about 700,000 people working for them, but the truth is that nobody really knew. You'd think such a thing would be easy, but it wasn't. We had to use biometric data - fingerprints and facial recognition - just to stand a chance. Turns out, there are always more people on the payroll than you thought; more hands in the till.

I work 0.3 miles from the Bank of England. You can never work more than half a mile from the Bank of England in the Square Mile, because it's pretty much in the middle. It's the feeding trough. All of us little piggies come to the feeding trough, because that's where they make the money, and we get to gorge ourselves on it until we are fat.

I keep coming back the City of London because capitalism keeps clinging onto power, and that means I need money. Where do you get money? The Bank of England and the City of London, of course - go and fill your pockets at the source of all the wealth in the country. The streets are paved with gold.

One thing I notice when I keep leaving and coming back, is that there are always more and more people. There are huge skyscrapers springing up everywhere. I try to walk from one place to another via the same route I would have taken prior to the year 2000 and I find my way is barred. The shitty old office I worked in on Bevis Marks got replaced by a tower block that was supposed to accommodate 8,000 people, but has 12,000 working in it. There's an insatiable appetite for financial services workers. I remember going home after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and I'm pretty sure I had a seat on the tube. Things were civilised. There weren't crowds of people. What I witnessed tonight - and every night - is far more harrowing in terms of sheer numbers of people competing with each other to get home; to get away from this place.

When those two planes struck those two towers, we were convinced there were more planes headed for London. We were convinced that capitalism had had its day and that the subsequent stock market collapse had marked a changed mood - our appetite for the unrestrained free market had reached its limit. It seemed like the insanity of house price inflation and the asset bubble was going to burst. It didn't.

Now, we're living in a strange type of dystopia. German bombs are not falling on London, but there's a kind of resigned expectation that at some point terrorists are going to attack us. We go about our daily business with posters that constantly remind us to stay vigilant in the face of inevitable violence that will be perpetrated against the capital and its people. We are no longer living in Victorian Britain, but the slums are just as bad. Air pollution and overcrowding are terrible, and high stress jobs with long working hours has been proven to be a toxic health combo as bad as smoking cigarettes.

For some, there will be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. London still holds the possibility of fame and fortune. Dreamers from all over the world beat a path to London, to attempt to make a name for themselves and line their pockets with money. If you can cope with the sensory overload, the invasion of your personal space, the danger and the stress, then you can get a real buzz out of pounding these mean streets. Fortune favours the bold.

I had to get a tube train this evening, but the first one that arrived was too crowded for me to board. People behind me were pressed into my back and I was teetering on the edge of the platform. I asked if I could move back away from the edge, and one of the men who were shoving at my back looked at me like I'd asked if I could take a shit in his mouth. We gave each other an impassive non-aggressive stare, of course. Grudgingly, people allowed me to take half a step back from the brink of certain death. Reluctantly, I was given a few inches to spare between myself and the speeding trains and electrified rails.

This is the world we live in. If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space.

 

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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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Goodbye, Odd Socks

5 min read

This is a story about human waste...

Odd socks 

Here is a pictorial representation of my life in London.

Starting on the left, are socks that I purchased in a supermarket after being discharged from hospital. I was homeless and living in a hotel room paid for by the NHS, because I had only just recovered from a failed suicide attempt but the hospital needed their bed back.

Next is the spotty sock. This sock was bought when I had been homeless and nearly died a few more times, but then got myself back on my feet (sic.) - I was working again. I had just enough money left to be able to get a new suit, which was very understated and plain, so these socks were my act of rebelion - thumbing my nose at the grim reaper and saying "Ha! I cheated death and destitution".

Then comes the stripey sock. This sock was bought when I was living out of a hotel room again. I'd run away to Ireland when my life had fallen apart, and the loving family of a friend I'd met in a hostel, pieced me back together again and sent me home to the UK a new man. I had no money anymore, so I was living on business expenses, out of a suitcase and back in a hotel. This sock represents the insecurity of the time - I needed to keep my big mouth shut and not be so loud until I had money again. This sock represents a tiny bit of humility, but still some resistance to playing by the rules.

Finally comes the Burgundy sock. This sock was bought when I finally remembered how to fit in and conform; to take perverse pleasure in spending an entire week at work, blending in to my surroundings and being completely unnoticed. That's what big corporations want - they want you to fit in or fuck off. This sock represents complete capitulation. I needed the money: I had rent to pay, friends to pay back, pay bills and I had depleted my savings. My back was against the wall again, so this time I didn't push my luck. I was the corporate chameleon.

Each of these socks has lost its partner and will be discarded. I can't anticipate a time when I would be so desperate for some kind of foot covering, that I would be reduced to wearing odd socks, which would so blatantly not be a premeditated fashion decision. People would judge me as having 'problems' if I was seen wearing any combination of these lone socks.

Big bag

Here is the entirety of my wardrobe, for at least 3 months; maybe even a year. Who knows? A pair of jeans will last for 3 or 4 years. I wear my clothes until they're just rags. I was feeling stressed and anxious about transporting everything I need in my life, across the country, but now I've seen a huge pile of clothes fit into this suitcase I feel tiny and insignificant. Isn't my life so small, that you could snuff it out and nobody would even notice? I could disappear and hardly leave a trace.

Of course, I've been aggressively selling, recycling, giving away or throwing away anything I never use or wear. Like Occam and his razor, I have been shaving away parts of my life, little by little, until all that's left is the very bare minimum. Minimum Viable Person (MVP) - that's me.

I feel guilty, of course, that my ecological footprint (sic.) is still so big, as I dispose of enormous amounts of mass-produced crap, and it will probably end up in landfill. Clothes, particularly, are manufactured so unbelievably cheaply, and imported so vastly that the per capita amount of clothing is enough to allow our entire nation to cease doing any washing and just buy new clothes when the old ones get dirty. We're living in the age of disposable fashion. I don't even know why I'm taking a huge suitcase of clothes on such a long journey, when I could buy a similar size bagful of Primark garments, for the same price as the luggage, which I bought to transport my much more expensive, higher quality wardrobe.

I'm absolutely on the ragged edge of how much stress I can stand, having never set foot in the city I'm about to travel hundreds of miles to, or the apartment where I am to spend at least the next few months. I've had nearly 2 years where, despite everything, I've had at least one stable constant: my apartment in the city I've known longer than any place on Earth. I can navigate to and from any two parts of this densely populated and hugely diverse metropolis, with pure instinct, which has developed over the years. Even though the river meanders and is an absolutely useless reference point, I still know which way is North, when bridges and tunnels go North-South, East-West and West-East, assuming you're North of the river... which you will be if you've got any class and style.

It should be a happy moment, to be so unencumbered by material possessions, family ties and the considerations of a life partner; every lone sock that I cast aside should lighten the weight of my soul, but I've not made my mark on the world yet. Who am I and why should you even care that I once lived?

Maybe I'm the odd sock. I don't fit in. I don't pair up. I don't play nice with the others, so I should fuck off because I don't fit in.

That's the way I feel right now.

 

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Goodbye, London

14 min read

This is a story about fresh starts...

Super sunset

My luck is astounding. In fact, it's almost enough to make me believe in divine intervention and go all religious. However, I've studied theoretical physics, so I don't believe in imaginary sky monsters.

Underpinning our entire understanding of the universe is a theory that says that our very existence - our consciousness - is determining the reality that we experience. To give you a simple example, when you look at the Moon, every single atom of the Moon must choose its position in the sky, but when you look away, all those atoms could be anywhere... it's as if the Moon doesn't exist until you choose to look at it. The very action of looking at the Moon is what makes it exist, roughly where we expect to see it, but until you turn your gaze to the night sky, those atoms are just a probability cloud.

Just as we all know that Schrödinger's cat is both alive and dead until we open the box and look inside, what is less well known is that same uncertainty principle means that if you're not able to witness the universe around us, it completely collapses into a mathematical mess of probability - basically, if you die, the universe dies with you.

"But that can't be true! People die all the time!" I hear you scream.

Yes, you're right, but how would you witness their death, unless you had your own universe in which to observe independently. You can prove this fairly simply, by having Alice and Bob both make observations of quantum mechanical experiments, and see who is the one who is influencing reality. If you're Alice, you'll see that Bob has no effect - it's all down to you, baby. This universe is all yours.

"He's lost his mind and gone hypomanic again" I hear you grumble with frustration.

Until you've read Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics by John Bell and you've read the various interpretations of quantum mechanics - from the Copenhagen mathematical abstract idea, to the multiverse and the many minds interpretations - then I'm afraid, dear reader, that you're not qualified to judge me.

If you go deep enough down the rabbit hole, then you arrive at a quantum suicide paradox, and quantum immortality. Basically, in all the possible universes where you die... how would you know about them? In an almost infinite number of ways, your brain and your consciousness have died, but there are still an almost infinite number of universes left where you're alive and well. Does your brain hurt from all this? Well, try taking a gun, pointing it at your head and pullling the trigger - you won't die! Quantum mechanics literally predicts that the gun will misfire. In the universes where your brains got blown to pieces, you won't be alive to witness the aftermath, so you'll only be consciously aware of the universes where the gun jams or misfires or malfunctions in some way.

Basicallly, re-imagine the Schrödinger's cat experiment, but if the cat dies, you die too. What would happen is that every single time you ran the experiment, you open the box and find the cat is alive. You could do that experiment a thousand times, and 1,000 cats would be alive and well. The reason is simple: who's going to open the box if you and the cat are both dead?

Without a god, this is the only way that I can reconcile my experience of reality with the vast quantity of scientific books and academic papers that I have read over the years. God(s) are far more convenient and quite a lot more fun. Imagine being an ancient Greek, or a Roman: you'd have had loads of gods to thank and blame for everything that happened, good or bad. Learning stories about these imaginary sky monsters is a lot easier and more fun than learning differential calculus, matrix mechanics and imaginary numbers.

How does any of this relate to me and leaving London? Well, only a few weeks ago, I thought I was going to be sleeping on a sheet of cardboard in a doorway, sheltering from the rain. I thought I was going to be scouring London for empty houses with overgrown back gardens, where I could pitch my tent in the undergrowth and live in quiet seclusion; free from the possibility of being beaten up or pissed on by a lager lout; safe from the chance that I might be mugged for anything valuable that hadn't already been stolen from me.

Every area of my life had collapsed. I'm estranged from my family. I had lost touch with friends. I had broken up with my girlfriend. I was in arrears with my rent. I had no job; no income. Just servicing my debts was going to gobble up the few pounds and pence I had left. I'd sold everything of any value and raised a fairly paltry sum of money for my weeks of effort. I was going to lose my deposit and be unable to raise the rent and deposit needed to get another place to live. How would I pay the ongoing rent anyway, without income? Destitution looked like a certainty.

Then, I looked at the Moon and the planets aligned or the gods smiled on me or whatever you want to believe, but my plans to commit suicide by taking a tramadol overdose got transformed into a plan for a fresh start: the chance to have another go at getting the secret recipe right: friends, family, home, work, income, expenditure, stress, fun and every other variable that needs to be tweaked until it's just right, and you want to live more than you want to die.

If you've never taken a razor blade or a sharp knife, and deliberately cut into yourself, looking for veins and arteries, then you'll have no idea what I'm talking about. The closer you get to death, the closer you get to meeting your maker. Stephen Hawking could have sought solace in the mumbo-jumbo of religion, believing in an afterlife, after finding out that he had between 2 and 4 years to live, when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Instead, he wrote "A Brief History of Time" and discovered that black holes evaporate by radiating X-rays and wins the Nobel Prize at the age of 71. He's 75 years old now. He says that "god" is the universal laws of physics, which are still not fully understood by us... the Standard Model of particle physics is good, but it's just a model - there's no theory that explains why there are up quarks, down quarks, top, bottom, strange, beauty and charm. What the f**k is a tau neutrino and why do we need them? There's no theory that tells us for definite whether an electron is a fundamental particle and we've never actually seen a proton decay, although we have smashed them to bits and tried to figure out what the hell they're made out of, by looking at the pieces of debris that come flying out of the collision.

We're living in an age where we can actually make antimatter. You know that science fiction stuff? It's the most expensive substance on the planet, and you can't charge for it by weight because it has negative mass. That is to say, if you put it on some scales, it would float up and not weigh them down... you'd have to PAY to have people take your antimatter away, and you'd only need a tennis ball sized amount to pretty much destroy our whole planet, because of course as you know E = mc2 and there's a f**king shit tonne of energy bound up in matter. When antimatter meets matter, the matter is annihilated into pure energy and you'll get something that will beat the shit out of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and every nuclear explosion ever detonated all put together.

Do you want to see my life, reduced to atomic scale?

Self storage

There it is. 7 cardboard boxes, a couple of bikes, a bag full of kitesurfing gear, a guitar that I'm too talentless to play and its amplifier, and a filing cabinet full of old post that I really should throw away. I'll be adding in a load of duvets and bedding and clothes that I only wear infrequently, but it's sad how my entire life doesn't even fill this tiny space, when compressed like atomic fusion.

I leave this riverside apartment, which to all intents and purposes looks idyllic to the uninitiated, but in fact, the endless boats full of drunk people dancing to disco music - in their flared trousers or whatever the kids are wearing these days - is nearly continuous on the river side, and the local watering hole - the Tooke Arms - has a police van parked outside every Friday and Saturday night, to take away those who inevitably become so drunk and disorderly that they no longer appreciate the saintly patience of our beloved Metropolitan Police. You really REALLY have to piss off a London policeman to get yourself arrested. Trust me; I've been there, done that and got the bracelets (handcuffs). You don't get to keep any souvenirs, unless you want to frame your cautions and criminal charges (I have none of the latter, and I don't know if they even give you a certificate, like when you graduate from university).

I'm around in the capital for a little while longer, so if you want to say goodbye in person, then you should register your interest now. The day that I leave with as many bags as I can carry on the train, keeps getting pushed back and back and back, but it'll be worth it, especially if I get to meet two twin boys for the first time - the baby sons of the couple who rescued me from a messy divorce and a very unhealthy mess I'd gotten myself into.

It's interesting, when you're challenged to think what you really need, day to day. There are your favourite clothes, of course. There's your phone and your laptop and the accompanying accessories, but there's very little else. I'll take my Lumix camera with a Leica lens, even though my iPhone takes perfectly good photographs. I'll take my headphone amplifier, even though I can already deafen myself with earphones that only cost £30. I'll take 2 books I want to read, even though they're heavy and made out of tree pulp, and once I've read them they're just wasting valuable space on the planet and depriving us of oxygen giving trees. I'll take my suit - which is virtually brand new - and overcoat, even though it's total overkill to look like a sleazy salesman, in whatever off-the-peg trendy fashionable garments were available that season.

I've not even seen inside where I'm going to live. It's a total gamble, but it's bound to be better than a doorway that smells of piss and has spikes on the ground to discourage you from trying to shelter from the elements there.

As I wrote in a stupid lovesick poem a little while ago, I don't remember ever feeling this daunted and exposed; fearful & anxious. One little slip and the whole house of cards comes tumbling down, and the devastation that I felt when I lost the Lloyds contract earlier this year will look like a piss in the ocean by comparison.

It's almost like I'm holding the universe to ransom: I'm saying "gimmie what I want or I'll kill myself". Obviously, nobody gives that much of a fuck about threats like that. In fact, if you were to beg your doctor to put you in a safe place, where you couldn't harm yourself, that very act of self-preservation would be proof that you don't actually want to die: Catch 22.

Anyway, the universe has ponied up and given me everything I ever wanted: 98 out of my 101 things on my bucket list. Every cloudy evening, I think "oh bummer, no nice sunset tonight" and then there's this beautiful sky that suddenly appears all lit up in orange and gold, and with wispy white vapour trails from the planes overhead, and every shade of grey in amazing cloud formations.

I could share 100 photos with you, every one of the same view from the same vantage point, but every one has something of interest, even though it's the same skyline. Whether it's fireworks going off on New Year's Eve, or a long-exposure shot of the supermoon, taken with an 8 second shutter on a tripod. Those who are of the Christian faith, would say I've been "blessed". I simply view my consciousness as an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, but also a complete accident - simply a statistical co-incidence. I've been very sad to lose things and I've suffered terrible stress at times, but I always get what I want in the end, even if it seems like blind luck.

I want to share more. I want to write and write, but if you read what I wrote before, you'll understand the fragility of my situation; the precarious position I find myself in.

I know that I'm revealing a side to myself that has no place in this day & age of mindless 'entertainment' programmes, where some botoxed pretty-boy with teeth that are blindingly white, chats mindless bullshit to a bottle blonde with big fake titties. I read "Brave New World" and other dystopian and utopian novels when I was very young. One of the kindest gifts I ever received from my dad - as I remember - was a book that explained special relativity for kids. Imagine that! Imagine having your 8 year old son travelling on a beam of light looking at his watch and seeing the hands tick just like normal, but when he comes home, Dad's been dead for millions or billions of years. That's just f**ked up.

I'll write again, before I go, but it's 1am and I'll have a regular 9 to 5 job soon. it won't be quite like the corporate humdrum I'm used to, but I've still got to play by certain rules; societal norms. I've got a week to straighten myself out.

I want to tell you about all the hidden gems of London that you'd only know if you've lived here for 10 years or more. I want to share my heartache about leaving the capital of the country that my identity is inextricably bound to. I speak the Queen's english with an old-fashioned BBC TV presenter's posh accent. "Sorry" is a kind of punctuation, where I start and end every sentence with what seems like an apology, but it's not... it's just the product of that inexplicable 'Britishness' that we offer insincere apologies all the time: "Sorry", "begging your pardon", "excuse me" and even the British "ahem!" cough that basically says "get the f**k out of my way you piece of s**t tourist" with an insipid smile as the feckless idiot steps out of the gangway they're blocking.

Oh London, I'm going to miss you so very much. With your cultural collision that's so inclusive that the sum total of all the terrorist attacks has claimed less than 100 lives, ever. 52 on the 7th of July 2005, but all the others don't even take the total into 3 figures. How can you strike a blow against a city that speaks more languages than any other on the planet. New York - in 2nd place - speaks half as many languages as London, which can boast 100+. To attack London is to attack humanity itself.

There would be novelty if I was moving to New York or Tokyo (numbers 99 and 100 on the bucket list) but to experience another major city in the UK is still exciting. I just hope it isn't like Bournemouth - trying so hard to be like London, or even like Brighton, but ending up as a cheap and tacky pastiche that offends the sensibilities of a genuine Londoner.

Of course, those born in London call me a "blow in" and mock my privileged existence, but taking the example of my friends with the twins. Their house cost them the equivalent of £1.3 million, and the beneficiaries were what the British refer to as "benefit scroungers" - people who've never worked a day in their lives and have now f**ked off to Spain, where they live in idle luxury, as tax exiles.

Oh London, how I love thee.

Better publish this or I'll be writing all night again.

 

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Nice Day to Feel Suicidal

8 min read

This is a story about sun tans...

Isle of dogs

For orientation purposes, that's the bottom of the Isle of Dogs, where I live. I'm standing South of the Thames, taking the photograph, facing due North. You can see the towers of Canary Wharf in the distance. My apartment block is around the corner to the left, where the river meanders into central London. The O2 centre and the Thames Barrier are downstream to the right. You can't see the right-hand sweep of the river in this photograph, but the river goes North-South on both sides of the Isle of Dogs, which isn't really an island at all. Go figure.

This relaxed trip to the supermarket should have been a jolly affair, where I was free to peruse the shelves for all manner of tasty goodies. After sex comes food and fine wine. What other joys are there in life except for hard drugs? Childbirth you might say, but birth gives rise to responsibilities, guilt. At the moment, I'm my own man: no boss is going to chastise me for taking a leisurely stroll during working hours; no mother of my child is going to be angry that I'm not bearing my fair share of the burden of childrearing. I can kill myself and not leave a trace.

When I was working, I used to manage my moods using my skin tone. The more tanned I was, the more relaxed, happy and easy-going I was. Starting to go pale and pasty sounded alarm bells in my head that caused me to book a nice two-week break somewhere hot & sunny. Why the hell do I live somewhere that is engulfed in grey clouds 90% of the time? Probably because I never care about the weather outside when I'm working.

At the moment, I'm white as a ghost. People who knew me during happier times would barely recognise me without my all-year-round tan. Perhaps being untanned is good though at the moment: the scars that run the length of my forearms don't really show. I cut with a razor blade, which was so sharp that my skin healed with very thin scars. I can see the scars. I know what they mean.

Sun tanning is like meditation. It can be forced relaxation, if you're really determined to lay down some skin tone. At times, it's a byproduct of simply being in a hot country doing outdoor adventure sports. Even in the UK, you can pick up quite a tan if you're out on the water all the time - where you get twice as much radiation due to the reflection of the sun's rays. It's not quick, easy and painless. There will be times where you overcook yourself, and you'll have to apply moisturiser carefully for the next week. There will be times where you've got a lovely brown front, but your back is white as white. If you wear sunglasses you'll get panda eyes; if you don't you'll get squint lines (and possibly damage your eyes).

Fuerteventura

Who's that white guy wearing sunglasses?

My kitesurfing friends would meet an unrecognisable version of me today. Gone is the laid back surfer type guy with sun-bleached hair and clothes, rough hands and olive skin. Instead, comes a bundle of stress and nervous energy - or lack of energy - who seems defeated and stuck in a rut, ruminating over and over about what might have been but never was; growing old disgracefully and inelegantly; making a buffoon of himself. Who is this tramp, more suited for swigging cans of strong lager and bottles of cider in the park and fighting over cigarette butts and pennies? Who is this jester, who would turn his own legacy into some kind of running gag? A joke, but not a funny one. Just sad and pathetic, and unapproachable. "Leave him be, there's nothing we can do for him" they say to each other; the people he once travelled the world with in search of the trade winds.

Relaunching myself was supposed to be a third time lucky affair, following the same winning formula of highly paid IT contracts for banks in London, plus kitesurfing holidays to hot & windy countries. It was a costly relaunch. A small amount of money to get scrubbed up and respectable for Barclays. A slightly larger amount of money to get hosed down and straightened out for HSBC. Then, an absolutely incredible amount to finally launch myself far enough to complete a contract for a very happy client and even take a kitesurfing holiday smack bang in the middle of it - see picture above. Regrettably the momentum wasn't continued and I started to get obsessed with the idea of finding love and achieving something in life to be proud of: writing a novel.

I can't afford to be sitting around, taking in the river views and strolling along, taking my time, while the gap in my CV grows ever larger; my skills get rustier; my fear of failure grows; my anticipation of the misery of paying back the money it cost to simply stand still, drives a stake through my heart. Vanquished, I feel.

Two of my friends have had triplets this year, at about the same time. Just about all of my friends have left London, settled down and had kids. Down on the South Coast, an old colleague offered me work. I know that there is plenty of sand, surf and wind to be had in Dorset, as well as the potential for some much needed income, but what about love; what about proving everyone wrong and making it work against the odds? I'm almost forcing the hands of the clock back so I can have it all - the wealthy lifestyle, the loving wife and at some point later, the kids - despite the fact I'm 37 years old and I really haven't got time after two failed attempts and a third that I didn't capitalise on.

Bournemouth, Dorset. My nemesis. I could so easily get trapped down there. Imagine the conversation I'd have with my ex-wife if I bumped into her:

Ex: "Hi"

Me: "Hi"

Ex: "How're you?"

Me: "Depressed and desperate"

Ex: "I thought you were earning insane amounts of money in London"

Me: "I was, then I wasn't, then I was, then I wasn't, then I was and finally I gave up"

Ex: "Oh"

Me: "How are you doing?"

Ex: "Met a great guy. We bought a nice house. Just about to have our second kid. We both work part-time"

Me: "Yeah, I remember that was always the plan <sigh>"

Ex: "Well, good luck"

Me: "Actually, can you phone the mental health crisis team for me, please, because I think I'm going to stab myself in the neck with a plastic fork"

Ex: "Look, we got divorced and I'm not involved in your shit anymore. Look at the mess you're making of the supermarket floor"

* she storms off *

Me: <gurgling noises>

* our hero collapses dead in a pool of his own blood, his jugular vein severed by the plastic cutlery that accompanies a supermarket takeaway salad *

That's pretty much how I imagine how it goes, hence never going back there. Hence being terrified of being sectioned there and being seen by former friends and colleagues, shuffling along heavily medicated up to my eyeballs as the staff members of St Ann's Psychiatric Hospital take the crazies out for a walk, to get some fresh air.

Bournemouth is not a place where you want to be suffering from mental health problems, addiction or alcoholism: they're too well prepared. They'll swoop on you and the system will just scoop you up and absorb you. You'll become part of the horde of other dreamers who made their way to the seaside, but found that it's a dead-end: the sea is an impassible barrier.

London's tried to eject me every which way it can, but it hasn't succeeded. I feel slightly bloody minded in staying, despite the risk to my life, but I also think that if I kill myself, I've at least got one thing to be really proud of: I fought off those who wanted to see me swept out, like I was some leaf that blew into your house. I got back to London, and in some ways, I made it work.

Rest in peace, me.

 

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