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I'm a writer. I write about life with bipolar disorder - also known as manic depression - so my eponymous alter ego is MaNic Grant.

I've written more than 1 million words: it's the world's longest suicide note.

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nick@manicgrant.com

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Rehabilitation of Offenders

5 min read

This is a story about second chances...

Victim care card

When I got home after work this evening, the burglar alarm was going off in my next-door neighbour's house. I didn't know it was the burglar alarm, but when I later went around to see if my neighbour was at home, I could see that the back gate was hanging off its hinges. I became suspicious. The lights of the alarm were flashing and it was clear that nobody had been home for a period of some days. I wondered if there had been a break-in.

I phoned the police.

Why wouldn't I phone the police? There was a reasonable amount of evidence that there'd been an intruder: The intruder alarm was going off and the back gate was hanging off its hinges. The house was obviously unoccupied to me - an ordinary law-abiding citizen - so I imagined that it must have appeared much more obvious as a target to anybody who practiced acquisitive crime.

In the UK we have a non-emergency number for reporting such things, which I didn't really hesitate to use. Why would I not do a good-neighbourly deed of reporting something suspect to the relevant authorities? Why would I not set the wheels in motion, so that anything out of good order could be set back straight again?

Selfishly, I really wanted the alarm to stop ringing, because it was really noisy inside my house.

The alarm is still ringing now.

I gave the police my name and date of birth. They asked me if I still live at my old address. They told me the street name. I told them I don't live there anymore.

So.

The police have got my name and data of birth correlated with my address on a computer system somewhere.

That's somewhat alarming.

I suppose I'm no stranger to the police, but still, I've got a clean criminal record. I've never been convicted of a crime. I've never been to court.

I don't even have any spent criminal convictions. That is to say, that I've never been a convicted criminal ever in my life.

In the UK, after a certain amount of years, a person is no longer required by law to disclose their criminal record to potential employers. In the UK we give people a fresh start; a second chance. In the UK we rehabilitate our offenders... those who learn their lessons and pay their debt to society are allowed to have their sins forgiven and forgotten... although of course we must remember that some crimes have victims, those victims have suffered, and those victims may continue to suffer.

We have taken a choice as a society. We have decided to let ex-convicts be given second chances.

I'm a non-convict.

It was coincidence that I was driving home and I was thinking about the grilling I'm potentially going to get over the data that the police hold on me. My employer is entitled to see all the data that the police have. My employer is entitled to ask questions that nobody else in the country is, because it's in the interests of national security.

I have to be thoroughly vetted.

My background is thoroughly checked.

My data follows me around. My data will never be expunged. My data is held permanently on record.

Perhaps I'm asking too much - asking to be too close to the inner circle. Perhaps it's an unreasonable request, to be accepted into every single part of society as a law-abiding obedient servant of the Crown, fine upstanding member of the community and citizen of the United Kingdom. I know that I have erred in the past, but the nature of my errors is something that lives on only in the memory banks of the police computer databases. No court has ever found me guilty of committing a crime. I've never set foot in a courtroom. However, the data records show that I have had some contact with the police, and I expect I'll have to explain that to my employers.

The police telephoned my neighbour and she returned home to check her house and her belongings were secure. I have ingratiated myself with my neighbours - obtaining the telephone numbers on both sides - and done a good deed. Is my dark past behind me now? Have I now re-entered civilised society? On balance, do I owe a debt to society or have I contributed amply?

It does concern me that my past behaviour might be used as a predictor of future behaviour, and as such prejudice my career progression and perhaps even deny me things such as housing, but that day has not yet arrived. I am anxious about what the future has in store for me, given what's plainly visible to those who have access to my data, but I proceed on the assumption that if there has been one thing clearly established in my adult lifetime, it's that I've been dedicated to my job, not breaking the law.

I assume that I'm going to be given my full set of opportunities. I assume that I will not fall afoul of any prejudice.

It's kind of a scary time though. I have to trust the system.

 

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I Am Ridiculously Exposed

6 min read

This is a story about laying it all on the line...

Glasses

My livelihood, any realistic prospect of me being able to pay back my mountainous debts and the impossible dream of restoring myself to health and wealth - escaping the nightmare - hinges upon successfully blending in as a part of an organisation which is particularly noted for being intolerant of anybody with bad character.

I've been required to fill in a 66 page form which legally obliges me to disclose criminal convictions, psychiatric problems, the abuse of drugs and alcohol, partners from the last 3 years, marriage, divorce, bankruptcies, loan defaults, debt repayment agreements, financial conduct and details about my parents. Most employers are only entitled to know about any unspent criminal convictions, under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, but I work for an organisation that knows everything.

Of course, I'm ahead of the game, because I've already publicly declared every single unflattering thing about myself.

Luckily I've never been convicted of a crime, but there are still some things I'm legally bound to disclose which would portray me in a less-than-ideal light to the powers that be, who will judge me based on what they see on paper. My life and my future will be reduced to a few scribbles on a form.

Many people have been through rough breakups and divorces and had breakdowns. Many people suffer from mental illness. Many people have had periods where they've drunk too much or dabbled with recreational drugs. Nobody is squeaky clean.

I'm in the ludicrous situation where I'm more-or-less managing to plod along and keep my mouth shut, and demonstrate that I'm a competent and capable valuable team member at work, but I've continued to write and publish this blog using my real name. I've continued to write with unflinching honesty about some of the terrible stuff I've been through and the aftermath of problems I'm dealing with, as I desperately attempt to get back on my feet.

I'm in the ludicrous situation where my hard work is beginning to pay off and my debts are getting rapidly repaid. I'm in the ludicrous situation where there's an end in sight, provided nobody screws me over.

It appears to be self-sabotaging that I would continue to write and publish stuff which makes me so exposed and vulnerable, but in fact my online presence has been one of the big factors in my recovery. Without being able to share my story and connect with kind supportive people, I couldn't have gotten this far. Without having the sense of identity, pride in my achievement and the structure and routine that daily public writing gives me - the scrutiny - then I would have been destroyed by my problems and would have perished in obscurity long ago.

Whaddya want to know about me?

Trouble with the police? Sure. I got caught with legal highs a couple of times.

Psychiatric problems? They don't call me Nick "Manic" Grant for no reason. I make no secret of having bipolar disorder.

Drug and alcohol abuse? Not the former anymore but the latter is a bit of a problem, although my drinking doesn't seem to be any more abusive than that of most of my colleagues. Arguably I'm successfully self-medicating, because I'm functional and unmedicated.

Partners from the last 3 years? I haven't co-habited since separating from my wife.

Marriage and divorce? Tied the knot in Hawaii. Divorced 18 months later.

Bankruptcies and other debt problems? I pay my bills. I've never defaulted. I'm a good debtor.

Financial conduct and credit score? I need to pay back half my credit card debt ASAP but that's the only bad thing on my credit file.

Parents? They're not seditious traitors. They're not Russian, Chinese or terrorist sympathisers. They're not political agitators.

What about my character in general? I've had a successful career spanning more than 2 decades, working for some very big organisations on important projects. If I was some kind of fraudster or con artist, my true character would surely have been unmasked by now.

There's a lot written down here which could easily be twisted and used against me by somebody intent on casting me in a bad light. I write a lot of things about myself which are very unflattering and wouldn't usually be publicly declared by people. I spend a lot of time asking people to take the things I voluntarily tell them and to decide for themselves how they want to judge me.

It's a ridiculous thing to do.

For one reason or another I've become easier and easier to find, for anybody who bothers to look. Because of a recent mistake I made I've become even easier to find than ever before. All the effort that I've put into projecting myself into public consciousness, because I've been on the verge of suicide for so long, is finally gaining traction and I'm becoming a victim of my decision to make myself exposed and vulnerable.

Every time I write and publish I have to consider the consequences to my life. I have to make a decision between my ideological belief that we have a right to live with the freedom to be proud of our identities and to be open and honest, without fear. If we really live in a free country I should be free to be candid and not suffer persecution and tyranny. If we honestly believe in equal opportunities and our laws forbidding discrimination, then we need to take the brave and bold step of speaking without fear of repercussions.

This vast repository of information that I've created is the polar opposite of a 66 page form, designed to distill me down to a few ticks in boxes. This 1.1 million word document is intended to frustrate the reader who is looking for a convenient pigeon hole to stuff me into.

Do your worst. I'm not afraid.

 

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The Supercrack Diet - Part Two

8 min read

This is a story about body dysmorphia...

Christmas photo

It's strange to look at a photo of myself with an old friend from not-too-many-Christmasses ago - at least according to my faulty memory - and not really recognise the face looking back at me as my own. It's not that I'm younger. It's that I can clearly see in many features of my face that I'd failed to escape from an abusive relationship and an acrimonious divorce unscathed. My life reboot had been sabotaged and it seems as plain as day to me that I was very sick.

My eyes appear at first glance to be bright and alert, but in a stimulant-induced way, so I wear a glassy stare into the distance, not looking at anything in particular. On closer examination, there are tell-tale signs around my eyes that I've been sleeping both too much and too little.

It surprises me how easily I can see from my face that I have hardly any body fat. In 2013 I had my body fat very precisely measured at circa 2%.

The body I'm in today feels very alien to me.

But the face in the picture above is also a different person, I feel.

Every couple of weeks I start skipping breakfast, having light lunches and smaller, healthier evening meals. Every couple of weeks I take a break from drinking alcohol. It doesn't make any difference.

For more years than I care to remember, I've woken up and I've dreaded going to work, and I've felt oppressively burdened by debt. My life is very simple, and in many ways very enviable, but it's also thoroughly awful. Theoretically the awfulness is only a temporary situation, but somehow it's turned out to be a nonstop nightmare lasting half a fucking decade.

The nightmare could be lazily attributed to drug addiction, but you might be surprised to learn that the truth is far less conveniently simple.

Having spent more than two decades trapped in the rat race, being a very stoic, quiet, boring, obedient and subservient tiny cog in a massive machine, and suffering the incredible boredom of going to bland beige offices, attending endless interminable meetings about nothing, shuffling paper around a desk and pretending to look busy, it was fucking exciting to go insane and embark upon a drug-fuelled rampage.

You might think that police, paddy wagons, Accident & Emergency, high-dependency wards, psychiatric hospitals, police cells, intensive care, sleeping rough and hostel dorms would be the worst thing imaginable - and those things probably were terrible at the time - but you need to understand the psychology of a person who wants to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and plummet towards the ground at terminal velocity. If you think that only stupid people get addicted to drugs, it's you who is stupid, because you haven't appreciated the value in calculated risks.

I would thoroughly advise every person on the planet to avoid supercrack like the plague, but it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge some attributes of my experiences of the last 5 years, which might be considered surprisingly beneficial.

Weight. Loss.

We'd all like to be a bit skinnier, wouldn't we? We'd all like to lose a bit of that hard-to-shift belly-fat.

I look in the mirror at the slight gut which has appeared in the ten months which I've been working, without the interruption of a drug-fuelled rampage, and I think "where the fuck did that gut come from?"

It depresses me that I've put on weight.

It depresses me that my appearance has changed.

I'm not fat. I'm not overweight. I'm just kinda 'normal' for a 39-year-old bloke, but that fucking sucks, because I took for granted the fact that I was as skinny as a racing snake on a diet. There's something attractive about an 'athletic' body, and that's not the body I have anymore... or rather, that's not the body I have at the moment.

One of the reasons I kept ending up in hospital, is because my body ran out of fat to break down to keep itself alive, so it started breaking down my muscle. When my muscle was broken down to provide energy to keep my cells fuelled and save my life, there were a lot of toxins released too, which totally fucked my kidneys. Basically, I was starving to death but dying of kidney failure faster than I was dying from lack of glucose, because I was so unnaturally lacking in body fat. My body made a very tough decision at a certain do-or-die moment, to destroy muscle allowing my heart to keep pumping for a little while longer, at the expense of my kidneys.

I eat.

I eat a lot.

I drink.

I drink a lot.

I eat and drink whatever the fuck I want and however much I want. I have juicy fatty steaks with butter sauce, washed down with lashings of red wine, every single night of the week.

I'm a disgusting old man.

I've been so depressed and oppressed by my awful circumstances, that I've barely been outside all summer. My skin is pale. One of my arms is covered with ribbons of self-harm and suicide attempt scars. One of my wrists has a big lump where a bone was broken by police who were kindly assisting me in getting to hospital. I've got this gut. This fucking gut. Where the fuck did it come from?

Have you heard of DNP?

It's a fat burner.

I'm highly tempted to take a week or two off work and just burn off the fat using this drug which increases your metabolic rate. Of course, a side-effect is malignant hyperthermia, but that's nothing I haven't already experienced a great deal of, as a supercrack addict. Also, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, tachycardia, organ damage and death... all risks I'm prepared to accept in order to be skinny and gorgeous again.

Although I'm crippled by mountainous debts, I drive a wreck of a car which is worth less than my phone, I live in rented accommodation and my body is covered with scars from drug-fuelled insanity, self-harm and suicide attempts, the most damaging thing to my self-esteem is what I've done to myself during this period of so-called health and wealth. While I've been earning megabucks for massive organisations and being mostly abstinent from supercrack, my life has materially improved massively - I've earned an absolute fortune - but psychologically it's been awful, and my body has suffered far more than even the very worst days of my supercrack addiction insanity.

I don't think supercrack is a solution, although the weight-loss is arguably a very desirable side-effect, in much the same way as a bout of explosive diarrhoea or a tapeworm infestation might be. Unfortunately, society worships the skinny, just as much as it worships the bipolar, even though those people might not be very healthy people at all.

As a single man - and rapidly approaching 40 years old - of course I want to feel sexually attractive. While girlfriends have always said "I like a bit of meat on your bones" fnarr fnarr, they have had a vested interest in my health and robustness as opposed to my raw attractiveness, in terms of a skinny athletic body.

The temptation to restore my athletic figure with a week or two of unpleasant suffering, taking a fat-burning drug and feeling like shit, seems like a small price to pay for the prize of being more sexually attractive. With the insecurity of feeling like I'm a washed-up has-been loser, dirty old man filthy pervert, useless debt-riddled, asset-less waste-of-space, with nothing to offer womankind, it's sorely tempting to take some short cuts. What happened to my house, sports-car, yacht, speedboat, cash pile and other desirable material things, which would be highly coveted? What value is there in a 39-year-old who's pale and average build? I'm ten a penny.

This is the calculated gamble. Presently, my gamble is to get rich quick, or more precisely, to pay off my debts incredibly quickly at the expense of my health, social life and mental wellbeing. The price I pay is my appearance: I eat and drink too much; don't exercise.

Of course, I have no plans to resume my supercrack-fuelled insanity, but to not acknowledge the rewards and unexpectedly positive benefits of better living through chemistry would be disingenuous.

 

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Congratulations!!! YOU ARE THE MILLIONTH VISITOR TO THIS WEBSITE

5 min read

This is a story about winning a prize...

Visitor stats

This week's big climber in the UK top 40 is a new single from the National Health Service. This band has been churning out smash hits since 1948 and is loved by tens of millions of fans. Here on Top of the Pops tonight, you'll see a live performance from this sensational act. Keep watching to find out what the UK's number one hit single is, at the end of the show.

Here on this page are the dry words of a deranged individual. How will you choose to interpret them?

Language is a rather crude and imprecise tool to fully express ourselves. Ambiguity creeps in and the thoughts and feelings of the author are not communicated with high fidelity - each reader will arrive at a different impression from the text.

As a software engineer who's been building systems for some of the world's biggest companies for over 20 years, I could easily copy Uber's dastardly tactics of diverting any web requests from a certain region of the country - e.g. a specific city in the North of England - in order to display a different page.

Most of my readers are using smartphones or tablets. Readers who are using Windows XP and Internet Explorer are quite unusual, and it's easy to flag up those anomalies - they stand out in the data that I gather about my visitors.

It's not hard for tech companies and technologists to present something that has been customised and tailored for each visitor. You might think that you'd see the same Google search results as somebody else, for example, given the same search terms, but Google works very hard to identify individuals, even in their anonymised dataset.

Traditional print-media widely reports that we are living in social media bubbles, where we are fed things that we like, because we're more likely to share that content and spread it 'virally'. What is less well reported is how wedded we are to the walled gardens that we live in - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat et. al.

How long are you going to keep reading for? There's nearly 700,000 words here. Are you gonna read it all?

The best defence against anybody who would seek to jump to the wrong conclusions and make silly assumptions, is to present more data than can be reasonably processed - information overload - such that the farcical nature of reducing the complexities of life to some pathetic synopsis, are exposed as pure stupidity.

Of course, we would all love to feel that we understand all the laws of the universe. I've fried my mind with stacks of books and papers on theoretical physics, attempting to understand the fundamental nature of reality itself. Emotionally, I don't want to admit defeat, but digging deeper only seems to reveal even more unfathomable weirdness. Some of the quarks are called strange, charm and beauty. I love that.

Are you bored yet?

Can you not see that my intention is to create a maze of complexity that's impenetrable? It's not possible to know my mind. Even for me, I struggle to understand fully why I say and do the things I do. If it's hard for me, it's going to be impossible for you to dissect or categorise me; to judge me and to simplify me into something that can be captured by written language on a sheet of paper. What are you going to write in your report or your email?

There's mockery and disdain here, but if you dig a little deeper I hope you see that I don't have disrespect for anybody whose intention is to help and support me, and I have no intention of damaging my own treatment and recovery, nor anybody else's, nor cause any difficulty for the hard-working staff of the National Health Service and the ancillary support services.

Today, I'm a free man - an informal patient - but that puts me in an additionally vulnerable situation. I could be discharged from the hospital without a discharge plan - no place to live and no income. I'm sure some pen-pusher somewhere sees the opportunity for a quick win - am I just a statistic on a monthly report?

Tories out

It upsets me that front-line staff have been cut, while middle managers have plenty of time on their hands to justify their pointless existence. The managers have survived the cull, the pay freeze and the excessive demands placed on the over-stretched people who actually do the damn job. Police, NHS workers, teachers - to name but a few - are getting a bum rap.

The first thing that I'm excited about doing with my newfound freedom is going to a protest at Tory cuts and austerity, to co-incide with the start of the Conservative Party conference, in a certain Northern city. The establishment are coming to me, and I will thumb my nose at them and boo them. A friend suggested that I could throw eggs and if I got in trouble with the police, they'd probably just bring me back to hospital on a section 136... put that in your damn report.

"Risk to the community - possibly going to throw eggs at Theresa May, to protest against cuts to front-line services and damage to the NHS, as well as undue stress on the police and other workers who care for and protect our most vulnerable members of society".

 

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Drug Dealing & Prostitution

6 min read

This is a story about getting rich quick...

Weed girl

Don't get high on your own supply, they say. It's good advice, because weed seems to dull the wits of my friends, and to curb their enthusiasm for anything more than the getting of more weed, and the consumption of shit food and crap TV.

When I meet young people who feel like they're part of a counter-culture revolution, because they smoke a bit of marijuana, I think how easily they have been duped. How foolish you are, to think that you're fighting the establishment, through your choice of intoxicant.

Governments and the police are mightily pleased to have a stoned population, who are too doped up to be bothered to get off their arses and do anything about social issues, or involve themselves in politics. Chuckling at low-brow humour that is designed to appeal to the stoner brain, is never going to change the world.

The energy and passion of youth has been quashed by the dreaded weed. You're not cool or "fighting the power" by smoking dope. You're actually playing into the hands of the establishment. The cannabis leaf - that ubiquitous emblem - sells tons of merchandise. Camden Market is London's second most popular tourist attraction, and it's mostly because of drug culture.

But what hopes have young people got? They're never going to be able to afford a house, pay for a wedding and be able to support a family, without topping up their income somehow. For those kids with wealthy parents, they might be able to go with their begging bowl to Mum & Dad, but it's hardly the independent self-sufficient life that we should all be entitled to live, is it?

You bust your balls all through school, get some grades, and now what? You can get a massive student loan that will only cover your tuition fees, and you still have to figure out how to pay for accommodation, food & books for your 3 years of undergraduate studies.

Maybe you can save up money before you go to University, but under-18s will be paid £3.87 per hour. Do you think a 17 year old is less capable of stacking a supermarket's shelves than a 64 year old? Why on earth should a young person be paid just 54% of what an old person earns, for doing the same job?

While you're at University, you'll be paid slightly more for your bar work, waitressing or whatever part-time job you can get. You'll get a whopping £5.30. That's still 26% less than somebody with arthritic joints and early-onset dementia. Who would you want working behind a bar? The young attractive, energetic student, or the miserable old codger who shuffles around?

So, what do the most enterprising individuals do, to cope with the crippling debt burden that they face, with little hope of elevating themselves from a position of poverty? Well, some of them will sell their bodies, and sell drugs.

If you deny people a legal route to pay for a quality of life that they're entitled to, they will turn to a life of 'crime'.

Got weed

The two bestselling commodities, in the history of humanity, are sex & drugs. Ugly people need to fuck, and people want to get high and forget about their shitty lives. The drive to get intoxicated is not even a uniquely human thing. There are plenty of examples from the animal kingdom of non-human species that get off their faces, using various substances.

You might think that demanding plenty of interest on your life savings and wanting a nice fat pension, is OK, because you're entitled to a cushy retirement. However, your young, beautiful and fresh faced daughter or grand-daughter might have few options to live independently, other than being a stripper, escort or 'flatmate with benefits'.

If you browse the London property adverts, you will see a shocking number of offers of free accommodation in return for sex. This is the society that has been created, by structuring everything around the pension funds, instead of investing in young people.

Can't get the job without the experience, can't get the experience without the job. That's the Catch 22 that entraps most young people into minimum wage jobs and living in shared rooms in atrocious quality housing in big cities. It's no fucking picnic being young at the moment, and weed is probably the only thing that allows people to forget the hopelessness of their situation.

A pint of beer in London is £5 or more. That means I can buy two pints for £10. For the same amount of money, I can buy a gram of super-strong skunk weed, and get dribblingly intoxicated for at least a day. Two pints would make me slightly tipsy, and because I'm well-off, I could then easily afford to have 3 or 4 more pints and get violent, abusive and urinate and vomit in the street. However, it's more economical - as a young person - to get stoned out of your mind and not do anything.

The girls who have sugar daddies, hustle for tips as waitresses and strippers or even sell their bodies - these aren't fallen angels, forced to prostitute themselves because they have a drug habit. Often times, the drug habit is a result of having to use what mother nature gave them, as a means to make money. These girls have a plan. They're smart. They've figured out that no amount of shelf stacking for a supermarket will allow them to ever escape poverty.

Our prettiest daughters and grand-daughters are living in luxury apartments in the city centre, taking taxis, eating in expensive restaurants and ordering cocktails at the bar... but how is that lifestyle funded? Every gorgeous pouting selfie you see on Facebook or Instagram... doesn't that say something about the sexualisation of an entire generation, through economic necessity, to you?

The boys will grow weed, or cut coke. The girls will strip or fuck. This is what we've wished for. The olds sit idle in their big empty houses, while their sons, daughters and grandchildren have no option but to pursue the most economically profitable path they can: drugs & prostitution.

I'm painting a bleak picture, but I don't think it's inaccurate.

Making a Joint

"It's only a bit of harmless dope" right? Wrong. Can't you see that people's eyes are dulled. The fire has gone out of people's hearts when they're just sitting around stoned. Where is the energy and enthusiasm to change society for the better?

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Prison of Blah

6 min read

This is a story about golden handcuffs...

Bars on windows

You would think that riding the Wall of Death would not be an attractive prospect, but once you've started, you can't back off the throttle and slow down, or else you will crash. Round and round you go, and people say "why did he even start?" and "why doesn't he stop?" but they're fundamentally not understanding what drives a person to take risks in the first place.

Adrenalin 'extreme' sports give some kind of thrill, but in a controlled environment. There are brakes on your mountain bike, ropes for rock climbing, and reserve parachutes for skydiving. We try and mitigate the risks, and stay within a 'comfort zone' where we don't end up out of our depths.

I ended up out of my depth, but the thrill of surviving can't be denied. Why do you think so many movies get made about drugs and crime? I think it's because we want to experience a more exciting life, vicariously. We would never dare to take the risks that these screen antiheroes take, but there's a little part of us that wants to be the gangster, the hustler, or to know what it feels like to take powerful narcotics.

There's a lot of romanticism, glorification, of risk takers. Increasingly, there's an amorality in Hollywood, where bad guys get away with stuff and the drug takers don't always get locked up behind bars, just to teach us - the audience - some trite moral lesson. There is even the occasional movie where the antihero is fighting the system. Modern day Robin Hoods, stealing from the rich and corrupt, with us cheering them on in their lawbreaking activities.

I should say, upfront, that I don't believe I'm above the law. I don't think I'm special, and deserve any special treatment. I don't think rules don't apply to me.

However, it's undeniable that I have received special treatment and rules have been bent. The full force of the law has not been brought to bear on me. I've been in a police cell a few times, but yet I've retained my liberty and a clean criminal record. Other people in similar circumstances have not been so lucky.

The fact is, that I've been trying for a while to get back on the straight and narrow, but circumstances have not exactly been favourable. When things start going wrong, it tends to cause other things to start going wrong too. You might lose your job, and because of that you get into rent arrears or default on your mortgage payments, which impacts your credit score, so you can no longer cheaply refinance your debts or borrow in order to pay your bills while you look for a new job. Now, you start getting fines and paying punitive interest rates, and before you know it you're in a death spiral.

Is it right that the punishment for not having any money, is penalty charges and higher interest rates? Maybe you sell your car and your laptop in order to raise money to cover the shortfall, but now you can't look for work or travel to a job that's inaccessible by public transport.

It's a modern-day Merchant of Venice, where we extract our pound of flesh, but the cost is the entire society.

Stanford Prison

The cost to me of the last couple of years should have been my right to work. Had a criminal record and a bankruptcy been forced upon me, I would be virtually unemployable in the field I'm highly qualified and experienced to work in. As an added ironic twist, it only took a couple of months of employment to rectify my deficit and satisfy my creditors. If they'd been allowed to get what they thought they wanted, they would have had to write off a big chunk of debt.

When we come to criminal justice, would justice have been served if I now found my employment options curtailed, because I had a black mark against my name? The UK system at least has some safeguards, where convictions become 'spent' and are therefore not supposed to affect your employment prospects after a few years, but what are you supposed to do during those years where you're a leper, shunned by mainstream society?

We say "if you don't want to do the time, don't do the crime" but what if you're trapped by circumstances? Do you think somebody wakes up in the morning and decides to become a drug addict, with full consideration of the consequences? Do you think it was a rational decision made with completely free will?

About drug addicts, Dr Gabor Maté writes "a person driven largely by unconscious forces and automatic brain mechanisms is only poorly able to exercise any meaningful freedom of choice". Do these people sound like they should be treated as criminals, or as patients?

But what about pleasure, what about the 'thrill' of scraping together the money for drugs, scoring and then taking them? Yes, it's true... drug addiction is an alternative lifestyle.

The problem is, the man who has nothing has nothing to lose. I found it immensely liberating being suddenly bottom of the pile, not caring about keeping up appearances, no longer harbouring unrealistic aspirations and living with the daily threat of redundancy, eviction and destitution. When you're already destitute, there's no way you can fall any further... for the first time, you are free from relentless crushing fear and anxiety.

My family decided that cutting me off, showing me 'tough love' and me hitting 'rock bottom' would be some kind of 'cure'. They were wrong.

Frankly, there is no rock bottom. Rock bottom is something somebody else thinks they'd find intolerable, but no matter how bad things get, when it's you who's going through that shit, you find a way to adjust to it... you find a way to cope. I can laugh about some of the shit that happened to me now... that's not supposed to happen.

The fact is, that stick doesn't work. You can't beat someone into submission. You can't truly break a man's spirit, their soul, crush them completely... if they're actually not doing anything wrong. Is it wrong to want to survive? Is it wrong to want some dignity? Is it wrong to expect to live without debilitating stress, to expect more than a miserable depressing existence?

Yes, it looks like I have choices, opportunities, but I've also tasted freedom. Freedom from boredom, freedom from oppression, freedom from stress, freedom from relentless exhausting pressure. Is it any wonder that I consider my forays back into the rat race and so-called 'civilised' society to be the real prison? A prison for my soul.

Thames Prison

I'm not the first to rattle the bars of the cage and rage about being trapped into mechanisms of societal control. I'm not special, I'm not different. I just know what I've experienced

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Finsbury Park Fun Run - Part One

11 min read

This is a story about the start of an eventful year...

Run Fat Boy

On May 13th, 2015, which was my Mum's birthday, I decided it was time to try and clean up my act and get back on my feet. I spoke with a friend from Ireland who had been very supportive during a very difficult start to the year, but later that day I was sideswiped by events that defy rational interpretation. This is my account of those events.

I came to be staying in a hotel near Finsbury Park, Islington, North London. How I came to be there is a matter of shame and regret, that I don't particularly want to go into. I believed that the predating matter had been settled, and I was killing time until the 13th of May, which was the last possible date I considered it acceptable to have not yet managed to get my shit together. I had set myself a deadline, but I was being quite slow to get on with what needed to be done.

When I had checked into the hotel, it had seemed quite an ordinary place, stuffed full of tourists. The layout of the building was maze-like, and I struggled to find my room. The room numbering wasn't logical, and there seemed to be staircases everywhere. My room was sparse beyond belief, with two very basic single beds, and a flimsy wardrobe. The curtain was barely more than a semi-transparent sheet. I'm not being snobby, because I was lucky to have a dry roof over my head, but I mean to describe the setting for some of this tale.

My hotel room was on the top floor, with a large sash window looking onto the terrace of houses opposite. You could see in the windows of the house opposite. Outside the window was the top of the bay windows of the rooms below, forming a kind of balcony without any railings. Obviously you weren't supposed to climb out of the window onto that balcony, but more on that later.

There had been some excellent sunny weather, and I had come and gone from my room to a little shop nearby to purchase ice lollies, as well as other food & drink, but I was pretty under-nourished. I was also extremely sleep deprived.

2015 had not been going well. In Swiss Cottage, my landlord had decided he wanted to end the contract of me and my flatmates and re-let the flat at much higher rent, after he had spent money on much needed renovation. The flat had chronic damp problems and the heating didn't work, until I had eventually nagged him into fixing the place up... triggering my own eviction. My contract with Barclays had been unexpectedly terminated due to a complete asshat of a guy trying to protect his key-man dependency and little fiefdom... I wasn't the only one who he didn't get on with, and the existing contractors had refused to work with him, leaving me with the short straw.

I returned to the hostel I had lived in, after being chucked onto the street by Camden Council, a year earlier. Camden Council had been most unhelpful in their legal duties to house a resident, and had wasted a lot of time. I was given two weeks in a crisis house, but it was then left up to me to try my luck with local homeless charities. They literally didn't care.

Mouldy Wall

In the summer of 2014 I had been living in a hostel in Camden Town, funded using my overdraft. This had gotten me back on my feet, so why wouldn't I go back there at the beginning of 2015, when I no longer had a place to live? It turned out that most of my friends had managed to move on and make a better life for themselves. The prospect of starting to rebuild my life again, from scratch, was devastating.

I decided to head out East, and lived in a hostel in Shoreditch and then one back in Swiss Cottage. These were chaotic times. Food and sleep were the big casualties, which had a knock-on effect on my mental health. Dragging piles of bags all over London, while not looking after yourself and having very uncertain living arrangements is quite detrimental, it turns out.

It has to be confessed that stimulant abuse was a large component of these problems. The insomnia and anoretic (appetite suppressing) effects of these chemicals conspire to cause you to neglect to sleep and eat. Without sleep and nutrition, the brain quite naturally gets pretty strung out, and you're more susceptible to strange thoughts and behaviours. Quite possibly this entire tale can be told as the result of a chain of unchecked drug binges, but there are elements that are clearly external influences.

As with any drug addict, ever, I decided to have "one last hit"... and this is where things go a bit sketchy.

I was overcome with a sense of threat. I felt like I was being watched, listened to. I decided to lock myself in the bathroom, around evening time on the 13th of May, 2015. I stayed there until the next morning, trapped by fear.

Fear of what? Well, at first, it was impossible to describe. I felt that the people in the houses opposite were staring in through the large sash window, with its flimsy curtain. I felt that the people in the neighbouring rooms were listening in to my mutterings. I felt sure that there was some hostility, just outside the door of my room.

When I was in the bathroom, for the whole evening and night, there was nothing to suggest that anything untoward was happening, but I was still racked by this irrational fear. In the middle of the night, to calm myself down I started telling stories to myself, in the pitch blackness: I hadn't turned on the bathroom light. I gave myself a lecture, on all the physics that I know. I went through everything from fluorescent lightbulbs, to Cathode-Ray Tube televisions, Light-Emitting Diodes and lots of other phenomena that can be explained by Quantum Mechanics. I then started to tell myself a story about the birth and death of the Universe, in some kind of helio-centric model, with a new interpretation of atomic fusion. Clearly, I had lost my mind.

Mad Photographer

As dawn broke and I could see light under the bottom of the bathroom door, I was certain that I saw flickering light and shadows in my room. This made me extremely agitated. As time went on, I heard stampeding in the corridor, and crude animal noises being made by people, whistling sounds. Then, the fire alarm bells started to be sounded at random intervals, accompanied by yet more running around that sounded like adults acting like children.

I was intensely annoyed at this animal call, running in corridors, fire bell cacophony. I felt extremely persecuted and afraid of imminent attack by these savages. Clearly, I was being deliberately spooked, pranked, by some malicious idiots. This went on for a couple of hours.

Eventually, I could stand it no more, and decided to act as if I couldn't hear what was going on, and try and act normally. I had a shower in the dark, towelled myself off and burst back into the bedroom to face my persecutors. There was no clear sign of anything wrong, but I was freaked out.

There were sounds that were quite clearly audible of the other hotel guests in the adjoining rooms. I was muttering to myself under my breath, in a German accent for some reason. I assumed that my low-volume muttering could not be heard by anybody. I was quite angry and resentful that I had been made so fearful by a bunch of childish adults, playing pranks in the corridor, and started to mutter all kinds of weird things about these people, mostly about them being crass, uncultured out-of-town folks.

At some point, it seemed like I had clearly been overheard, and there was an angry reaction outside the door. I felt ashamed that I had caused offence, as much as I felt surprised that my insane mumblings had been overheard. I took the 'please do not disturb' sign and tore off the 'not' and hung it on my door handle outside my room as some kind of peace offering. As far as I could tell, the hostile family I had upset took particular offence to this, and it sounded like I was about to be lynched.

I hurriedly packed my bags and phoned the hotel reception, and asked if they could smooth things over with these guests, as I didn't fancy getting my head kicked in by some family of chavs who seemed to be spending most of their day hanging around in a budget hotel room antagonising me, rather than going sightseeing around London. I begged the manager to send somebody to safely escort me to a waiting taxi, where I would beat a hasty retreat.

There was a knock at the door, and an energetic young man, beaming from ear to ear bounded into my room when I opened the door. He listened to my concerns with a look of pure amusement playing on his face. He looked as if he could barely stifle a laugh. I'm still not sure if that's because of my strange behaviour and the fact I was clearly off my rocker, or whether he was "in on the game"... but that's just paranoia. The fact that he was a young, well-dressed English guy in good physical shape certainly jarred with the sullen under-paid Eastern European staff that I had encountered up until that time. I had not seen this man behind reception ever, during my comings and goings.

Nothing much seemed to happen. No taxi arrived. No phonecall from reception to say the coast was clear and I could make my escape, free from persecution by the chav family, baying for my blood for taking the piss out of them as uncultured scum. I know it's pathetic to say it now, but I had been half-joking and simply continuing the madness of muttering random crazy stuff to myself, in a bad German accent, such were the depths of my insanity.

I phoned the non-emergency number for the police, and tried to explain my predicament. This didn't go well, and I didn't seem to be getting anywhere. The day wore on and started to get towards evening time. None of this could prepare me for what happened next.

The strange thing is, that over 24 hours had elapsed since I had taken any drugs, and the amount of time that they would last would normally be around 16 to 18 hours, maximum. It made no sense that I was still experiencing severe paranoia, auditory hallucinations, delusions and other weird thoughts and ideas. I struggle to explain later events by simply saying that it was a result of drug abuse.

Perhaps I had finally done it. Perhaps I had finally tipped myself into complete insanity. Certainly, the sense of threat that I had initially perceived was mostly unfounded, unwarranted, irrational.

So, I'll leave it at that for part one. We pause this tale, with me terrified of an angry lynching mob of a family outside my bedroom door, the hotel staff alerted to my distress as well as some non-emergency contact with the police, who were no strangers to me... although it was Kentish Town (Camden) police who I'd had brushes with in the past, but I was now in a different borough of London (Islington). Who knows how joined up the different forces and stations are, especially when dealing with somebody who's got no criminal record.

I wonder what the conclusion will be when the tale is told. That I definitely interacted with people during this time, suggests there is a very real but unfathomable component to this weird story... let's see where it leads.

Bike Art

This is where things started to get unravelled, before I ended up in a couple of hotels near Finsbury Park. The fun run took me right past my bike, where it was locked up on the street outside, as a deliciously ironic twist (May 2015)

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Locks on Doors

6 min read

This is a story about a desire for privacy...

Door Latch

I've pretty much given up on the idea of having any personal privacy and instead swung to the other extreme of making most of my life completely public. Our family has never had any locks on bathroom/toilet doors and finds the notion of knocking before entering another family member's bedroom to be a baffling concept.

It might sound odd, but this issue grew and grew to become psychologically traumatic for me, and when I'm unwell, I can become obsessed with the idea of people bursting into my bedroom or bathroom at random, leaving me feeling vulnerable and under threat. I appreciate that this is not exactly rational thinking.

My ex-wife had demanded that my parents take me away from the home I owned, the bedroom that my parents put me in had one half of the door lock, but not the other half. I fashioned something that would fit in that lock from a roll of sellotape and had made myself a crude 'front door lock'. Something I was quite used to having from 7 years as a homeowner, and several other years with my own flat.

When my Dad came to randomly burst into this bedroom, he found that the door would not immediately open. Instead of saying, "Hello, can I come in?" or even "Hello", he marched downstairs and phoned the police. It was me who tried to initiate a conversation with him, which he roundly ignored. It wasn't until the police arrived that I found myself having a normal human conversation.

For anybody struggling with the concept of human communication, it goes like this:

  • First, greet or otherwise attract the attention of the person you wish to communicate with, using their name or saying "Hey!" or "Hello!" or some other form of greeting or conversation initiator. This avoids saying things when nobody is expecting to be addressed or otherwise communicated with - they might be distracted or busy talking to somebody else.
  • Secondly, once you have succcessfully established a dialogue, you may then raise your topic of discussion: ask a question, make a statement.
  • Finally, if a response was expected, you should receive one. Otherwise, after a reasonable wait, you may ask if you were heard and understood correctly.

It doesn't seem that complicated for the vast majority of the 7 billion souls who crawl over the surface of the planet every day.

Also, there are fairly universal taboos that are not times when communication normally takes place, throughout this large human population: when a person is bathing or showering, when a person is getting dressed or undressed, when a person is having sex or masturbating. Those are normally not acceptable times to expect to hold a normal conversation or interact in a communicative way.

I honestly don't think that it was the fact I didn't grow up in the Swinging 60's that means that I follow the human communication protocol and respect the taboos of most people. I'm fairly certain that most people would have some problem with my parents entering your bathroom while you're taking a shit, for example.

Keep Out

You might have heard about acid flashbacks people get, when they have a really bad trip on LSD. One example might be feeling like ants are crawling all over your body, and then that imagined event might occur again, purely psychologically with no drugs in your system, simply because it was so traumatic when it happened.

Similarly, now I'm in my own flat again, and I have a lock on my en-suite bathroom door, I still have attacks of paranoia about people bursting in randomly, unannounced. This has led me to screw 6" screws into the door woodwork, and other acts of keeping my bedroom door physically closed. This has become obsessive and frantic, at times where my underlying psychological trauma has been exacerbated with drugs and lack of sleep.

My flatmate is actually the first person I've ever met who can calm me down and get me to realise that there is no threat, and it's all imagined, and put down my tools and whatever else I'm fashioning a barricade out of and start to relax and feel safe in my own home again.

I don't think it takes a professional psychologist to understand that if somebody feels under threat in their own 'safe' space, it only takes fairly limited reassurance that the human protocols of knock before entering are going to be observed, before the distressed individual starts to feel better.

Attic Attack

That's the view looking down from my attic in my old house. As you can see, there is no ladder or steps lowered to ascend or descend. I climbed into the hatch without the aid of either. The more you shout at a person and corner them and traumatise them and use the police to do the human part of speaking to somebody, knocking, talking etc... the more you drive them into a state of complete psychological trauma, fear, madness.

The psychological damage can be repaired, and the self-protection response doesn't have to be triggered to the full extreme, and it gets better over time. My friends Will & Jess, who had let me stay in their guest bedroom, pretty much left me alone until my leg was mostly healed and I was sat in their lounge, before having a normal human conversation about how it was probably time I started looking for my own flat. They were very delicate and considerate with my feelings. They were kind and considerate. They helped and repaired psychological damage.

I have no idea how 5 people can co-exist with a total loony in the same house, and nothing was really said, but they were very discreet and I'm sure they were kind enough to tell a few white lies to save my blushes. I can't thank them enough for doing that for me, although just like applying the brakes on a supertanker, it takes some time before a person can start to feel safe and unthreatened after a long period of trauma and stress.

You certainly won't get an aggressive response back from me, however you choose to deal with me, but you may find me trying to burrow my way under your floorboards or pretending to be a pair of curtains or something else equally bonkers, as an absurdly twisted response to the extreme threat that I wrongly perceive.

Aggresssion rarely solved any problems in the world.

Thwarted

Direct action might be disruptive, but you can never be sure that the consequences will be positive, and not simply drive behaviour underground and close off open and honest dialog. You can also never be sure whether a person is trying to disrupt/interrupt their own behaviour, unless you really know what you're looking at, when you peek into their private world.

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Was it Something I Said?

4 min read

This is a story about feedback...

Akira

Writing this blog has driven me deeper and deeper into the examination of the injustices and irresponsibilities of the past. The people I've targeted are ignorant, delusional and virtually illiterate.

I decided to write something else. A couple of publishers asked me to show them 10-20,000 words of a manuscript I'd written. I didn't have a manuscript, but I knew what I wanted to write.  Memoirs are egotistical, biographies are for people who are narcissists.

I've written a book that explains everything I've learned about the systems and processes, gleaned from the last 4 years: Hospital, Mental Health, Crisis Teams, Police, homelessness, unpleasant wives, parents who give up on their children, sisters who want their brothers to shut the fuck up and stop being melodramatic.

I love my Mum and I miss her, but Dad is such a cowardly domestic abuser. He expects my Mum to be a mind reader, and umpteen times a day he will says something disrespectful, unpleasant, abusive to her. That's domestic abuse.

If you want to know just how much of a coward is, he spent about an hour taking the piss out of me on the phone, so I was pretty annoyed, and I said "let's talk about this face to face, and you can say those things to my face, and let's see what happens". He's 66 years old, so it's not like I was going to fight him, I just wanted him to be brave enough to take the piss out of me to my face.

When I turned up at the house, the back door was locked. Then my Dad appeared. He made no move to open the door. I hadn't travelled for over an hour to be staring at a coward behind a door. "Come on then, let's have it. Open the door and say what you just said to my face" I said. He remained immobile.

I picked up a giant stone urn and hurled it at the window glass. The urn shattered, but the glass was merely scratched. I picked up a smaller piece to throw, and that's when a terrified looking female Police sergeant appeared. She told me to drop the piece of urn, which I immediately did. She told me to put my hands on my head and face away from the door, which I immediately did. I was cuffed and put in the back of one of the 3 Police cars that were in attendance.

It seems that my Dad is such a coward he needs 6 police officers to protect him from having a respectful chat with his own son.

My Dad's a Coward

All in all I think 8 or 9 officers attended. According to the sergeant, they were all very scared when I was roaring with rage for my Dad to face me like a man and have a proper chat with me. She was not expecting me to fully co-operate at all.

My book is not about what a cowardly cunt my dad is. My book is supposed to help people whose lives have not been going that well with mental illness and drug abuse, to see that it's not a downward spiral. With the help of kind, nonjudgemental people, and a belief in yourself. you can make it through some rough patches.

My Dad is a criminal. He has a criminal record (spent) for the possession of drugs. I've been caught with Cocaine, Speed, Benzos, Ecstasy and α-PVP. I have no criminal record.

Draw your own conclusions from what it means that a criminal needs the protection of 9 Police officers, from an IT consultant.

 

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The Passive-Aggressive Pedantic Pacifist

6 min read

This is a story about being patronised...

Mad Frankie

This is my cat, Frankie. He was the kitten that nobody else picked. He's the most loving cat you could ever hope to meet. He loves humans. He thinks he's a little doggy, and follows you around and licks your face and stuff.

I think that I provide a nurturing and loving home for people and animals. I don't have a lot of evidence for this, but my friends used to love coming to my house, before it was sold, and Frankie used to call it home, and be a happy well-adjusted kitty there.

I'm going to switch this blog from telling you about me, and tell you the story of two Franks. First, there is Frankie my cat. Second, there is Frank: my homeless friend from Primrose Hill. I promised Frank that I would tell his story, and in telling Frank's story, I inadvertantly became entwined in it.

Climbing the Hill

This is me climbing the hill, where I met Frank. I had no idea I was going to meet him. I was just taking photographs of London's skyline at daybreak. I sat down to rest on a park bench, struck up a conversation with a stranger, and our story began.

Frank's needs were not hard to understand, and seemingly not hard to address. As a firm believer in direct action, I was galvanized into a blur of activity. Who was I trying to save, him or me? Who cares... nobody else was there for Frank. Were you there for Frank? No. A lot of people had let him down. I had the time and the means to be able to try and help him.

Try is the operative word here. I'm going to try and not spoil the ending - which is going to be easy because we are writing the future as we live it - but I should let you know that this is no fairytale. I'm certainly not the knight in shining armour here. Despite my initial patriarchal attitude, it was me who learned from Frank, not vice-versa. He ended up helping me more than anybody could surely have predicted. I will leave it up to you, dear reader, to judge (with your super judgey-judgey face you reserve especially for people like me... whatever box that is you've tried to put me in).

So, what did I do? Well, we had a normal human conversation. Who knew that this is how human relationships are formed, and bonding and empathy can occur when we do such a thing. This so-called 'human connection' seemed to somehow transfer some understanding of Frank's fears and needs, into my brainbox, whereupon I somehow naïvely imagined that with whatever surplus I had, I might be able to help with some of his basic needs.

I defend thinking that I could help. You can't just throw money at the problem, but what have YOU tried yourself? Sure you read in a newspaper that we spend X on dealing with problem Y, and you think "that sounds like a lot of money" but really is it? How much direct support actually reaches people on the streets?

We absolutely can not criticise those who are trying to help, and take it from me, there really are not enough resources (shelter, food, volunteers, money for full-time workers and the real estate that is needed) to go around. This might sound anecdotal, but just use your eyes. Do you think people choose to sleep rough on the street? Are you stupid?

View from Primrose Hill

While you're digesting the fact that I just insulted your intelligence for being so prejudiced about the homeless, here's a photo of the view that Frank and I were enjoying on our park bench. Seems like a pretty sweet life, huh? Imagine waking up to this view every morning.

Have you noticed that it's not sunny every day? Have you considered that it rains a lot in the UK? Are you aware that it's pretty cold for most of the year, especially at night? Have you thought how you would stay warm & dry, if you had to sleep on the street year-round? How would you keep your clothes and sleeping gear from getting sodden with rain and dew? How would you stop your stuff from being stolen? Have you thought how much of your life you take for granted?

Is this too challenging? I know that it is, but I don't really care if you want to bury your head in the sand. I don't actually care if you switch off, disengage. I'm not writing this for you. I'm writing this for me & Frank. Maybe I'm just writing it for me, but it's still about Frank and it's still true. Try and dismiss me, try and dismiss this... go on!

JPMorgan Chase & Co investment bank employee and home owner tries to help homeless guy... coincidentally becomes homeless himself and follows in the footsteps of Frank. This is the true story I'm going to tell you.

God Bless the Met

I asked a member of Her Majesty's Constabulary (a Metropolitan Police Officer) to be a witness to me fulfilling the first of Frank's needs, right there and then, on the spot. Frank did not have a mobile phone, as he had been mugged. Without a means of contact, the Safer Streets team have very little way of finding people, except if they are sleeping somewhere obvious where they are preyed upon by muggers... Catch 22. I gave Frank my iPhone, and had a passing Policewoman witness the giving of this gift, in case he was ever accused of theft.

This was just the beginning of a journey that entangled the tale of Frank with mine, as we travelled on a similar voyage, through the same social ecosystem and his story became our story.

I took photos, and made notes throughout, but you have to believe me when I say that nobody would choose to go through what Frank and me went through. Nobody could plan for it. Nobody would want to experience it. Nobody should have to go through it, and I plan to share our journey, in the hope that people can empathise, rather than dismiss.

If you think "I've heard it all before" please share any links to those stories in the comments section below. Don't you think that the people who fall between the cracks should have their stories told? I do.

Fair Verona

From high up, we see just how far we can fall (October 2013)

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