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My name is Nick Grant and I have manic depression. I write every day about living with bipolar disorder. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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All The Suicide Methods

14 min read

This is a story about the control of information...

Poisonous Mushroom

As is often the case, something I have read or watched has prompted me to write. Today, I felt the urgent need to write about methods of killing yourself. I felt compelled to document every single method of committing suicide, which I could possibly think of.

The reason why I would write this down is that the thing which most often draws visitors to my website is something I wrote about suffocation - asphyxiation - as a means of suicide. People also come who are desperately trying to cure themselves of their problems with mental health, alcoholism and addiction. People visit my website for all kinds of different reasons, but as a source of information on how to kill yourself, my site is one of many millions. Our libraries are full of books which explain in exquisite detail how people have ended their own lives, since we took pen to parchment, or chiselled runes into rock. For those who seek, they will find.

I've noticed a lot of criticism of the owner/operators of forums where suicide is predominantly discussed, and prominent popular indviduals who have large social media followings have been criticised for their participation in the online discussion which has coalesced around their digital persona.

We have to be very clear about something here: people need and want to talk about suicide. Making it a taboo subject, and ridiculous fantasies about book burning and the modern-day digital equivalent - banning websites - fails to address any of the underlying causes why people take their own lives.

People don't kill themselves because they're encouraged by others, online. People don't kill themselves because they're able to easily find the information about the methods of suicide. The reasons why people kill themselves are as complex as the individuals who end their lives prematurely, and to point the finger of blame is pointless; futile.

While it might be true that we see 'outbreaks' of suicides which cluster together geographically, almost like a conventional viral, bacterial or parasitic infection, passed from person to person, this does not mean that newspapers, magazines, TV & radio stations and the modern digital equivalents, should never talk about suicides, or the methods. There is no evidence to prove that journalistic guidelines have in any way reduced the likelihood that fellow friends, classmates and other people in the vicinity of a suicide, will commit suicide themselves. We are missing the point: if one person in a particular area of the country, of a certain age, living a certain lifestyle, is compelled to end their life, then why should we be surprised that there are many others who are living on the edge too? It is absolutely untrue that the media and the internet is in any way shape or form responsible for pushing and/or prompting people to end their lives.

We also have to answer the difficult question: is it ethical to force a person to live a miserable and unbearable life? Is it unethical to force a person to endure unending suffering?

The documentary I watched particularly annoyed me when a so-called expert came onto the program to say that suicidal thoughts are usually fleeting, and quickly pass; they essentially said that depression is temporary - in a particularly dismissive manner - and that we should shut up and put up with it. This made me furious.

People don't end their lives whimsically. Suicides are meticulously planned. The formation of the idea of killing one's self is something that has taken place during years of terrible suffering. I say that it is unethical to act in any kind of way to prevent a suffering person from achieving relief from the terrible torments which they have decided are too unbearable. It's their life at the end of the day. It's selfish to ask them to keep living an intolerable miserable suffering-filled existence... for what reason? So that you don't feel sad? Get over yourself. Get a grip. Have some compassion. Show a little empathy.

I believe strongly that suicides are 100% preventable, and that we should aim for zero suicides - nobody should ever commit suicide. However, the solutions are well beyond the scope of this essay, and ask the reader to think the unthinkable, such as improving people's lives, instead of fobbing them off with cheap anti-depressant tablets and abysmal "behavioural therapy" courses developed and delivered by a group of people with the collective IQ of a slug. The evidence is clear: suicide is the number one killer of men under the age of 50, and the suicide rate in young girls and women is growing faster than ever before. Yet, the approach remains unchanged: ineffective medications and ineffective psychological therapies. Also, the circumstances get worse and worse: youth unemployment soars, personal debt soars, global warming and climate change rages out of control, and the chance of having a fulfilling happy life diminishes by a vast amount every single day.

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So, you came here for the good stuff, right?

OK, here are all the ways you can kill yourself, separated into some different sections.

Poisonings and Overdoses

Almost every substance which a normal person can obtain will result in a slow and painful death. Anybody can find a poisonous mushroom or plant - such as deadly nightshade or hemlock - which will kill you, but it will be extremely unpleasant. It's possible to purchase a large quantity of paracetamol, for example, which will easily cause fatal liver failure, but this is a particularly slow, painful and unpleasant death.

Deaths by overdose are hard to achieve with so-called 'safe' modern medications. Your doctor is unlikely to prescribe you enough opiates to allow you to kill yourself, unless you stockpile your supply, and slow-release formulas can make it hard to commit suicide using swallowed tablets. Barbiturates, which are the number one choice of doctors who wish to commit suicide, are never prescribed. There are deadly medications, such as warfarin, but to obtain them is almost impossible.

Were you able to obtain a poison such as strychnine or cyanide, your death would be surprisingly slow and painful. Potassium cyanide particularly, would not be a pleasant easy death, unless combined with a large dose of sedative and a painkiller, because it essentially induces a heart attack.

Blood Loss and Other Trauma

The body has developed very advanced mechanisms to cope with severe lacerations, and blood vessels will spasm and contract to contain loss of blood. The arteries are generally well protected by the anatomy which has evolved to keep us alive.

Generally speaking, cutting the jugular vein(s) is a reliable method of suicide, but there are many variables: the blade must be sharp, the aim must be true, and the cut must be made with force and certainty. It's more likely that you will end up with a profusely bleeding laceration than a lethal wound.

Cutting one of the carotid arteries must surely be the most reliable way of killing yourself with a knife or razor blade, but detailed anatomical knowledge and a willingness to undergo immense pain, while conducting this surgery on yourself, makes the task almost impossible.

Plunging a sharp object in-between your ribs and into your heart or one of the biggest blood vessels in your body will kill you very quickly, but the chance of you hitting your target is low.

The Japanese Samurai favour disembowelment as an "honourable death". Do not recommend.

Self-immolation would be incredibly painful, and your death would be caused by suffocation: the flames would consume the oxygen from around your body, and your lungs would be burned so badly they would not function. Definitely do not recommend.

Falls From Height

Yes, these will kill you. There is a well documented case of a man who survived a fall from the Golden Gate Bridge, which is about 67 metres (or 220 feet for those who prefer imperial units). In rock climbing terms, that's about 1 rope length, and there are lots of documented cases of rock climbers who have fallen from the top of a cliff and survived.

This is all about the height, and the surface you're landing on. Maximum height and solid landing surface = more certain death. I would say that 8 storeys or more, landing on concrete, rock or something similar like that, would guarantee 'instant' death. Bear in mind that you would need to jump and also endure the fall, which would both be very traumatic, but it would be a 'quick' death versus a poisoning or overdose, for example.

Hanging

Most people who have hanged themselves have died from asphyxiation, and have suffered an incredibly awful death. Death by hanging has a high success rate, but we should be mindful that the final period of that person's life was unimaginably terrible. To asphyxiate elicits one of our most primal panic responses - the hypercapnic alarm response - and we know that many people who have hanged themselves have taken 30 to 90 minutes before they have finally expired. This is one of the most unpleasant deaths I can imagine.

For a hanging to be a quick death, the neck should be broken or the body should be decapitated - either outcome achieves the desired outcome, which is a quick death. It would be advisable - although I advise nobody to commit suicide, of course - to err on the side of caution, and ensure that the 'drop' is sufficient to break the neck at the very least, and if decapitation occurs, then it's far preferable to the alternative: a lengthy asphyxiation.

Electrocution

Most modern domestic and commercial electrical systems are fitted with systems to prevent electrocution, and as such you would be unlikely to be able to electrocute yourself by, for example, dropping an electrical appliance into the bath-tub while you were in it.

In the interests of a full and frank exploration of all the available suicide options, I must tell you that it's possible to obtain a live electrical current by simply removing the cover of your fuse box. In there are live parts which do not have the protections which you have throughout your house or other premises.

Touching a live electrical conductor will hurt, a lot, but it won't kill you. In order to kill yourself by electrocution, you must first grip something which is earthed - such as a copper water pipe or the earth clip for your house, usually marked with green and yellow striped insulation - and then touch the live source of electricity with your OTHER hand. Then, the electrical current will flow across your body, through your chest, and your heart will either be very badly damaged or at least enter ventricular fibrillation, where it is unable to pump blood, causing you to lose consciousness immediately.

It's possible that you might only receive a 'mild' electrocution, leaving you with very bad burns, tissue and nerve damage, but otherwise alive. For this reason, it's probably inadvisable for anybody except a trained electrician to commit suicide using this method.

Asphyxiation, Drowning, Suffocation etc

As I wrote before, the hypercapnic alarm response, which is your body's natural reaction to high carbon dioxide levels in your bloodstream, will cause incredible panic and suffering. As such, drowning yourself by attaching weights to your body and jumping into water, would be a terrible, terrible death. Do not recommend.

To attempt to suffocate yourself, perhaps by putting a plastic bag over your head or other somesuch thing, would result in the elicitation of the hypercapnic alarm response and you would tear the bag off your head, driven by instinct. Your primitive survival instincts would override the neocortical modern brain, which we have unfortunately evolved, leading us to want to commit suicide in the first place.

In order to asphyxiate in the manner which we would all wish to die, which is painlessly and peacefully, the solution is simple: we must breathe a gas which contains no oxygen or carbon dioxide. To breathe the gas from your oven puts your neighbours and firefighters at risk, because a gas explosion will be the likely result. Instead, a bottle of helium can be purchased inexpensively, for the usual purpose of filling baloons. Instead, the helium should be used to provide a steady supply of gas to some kind of 'hood' which you wear. By breathing an inert gas like helium, you will quickly lose consciousness and death will follow within some minutes, as your body and brain are deprived of oxygen.

Other

There are things which might work, but are more likely to cause you incredible pain and injury, such as injecting yourself with a bubble of air.

You could obviously starve or dehydrate yourself to death, but this would be time-consuming and result in a slow and painful death, with much suffering.

For those who live in places where firearms are easily obtained, I don't know why you're even reading this: if I could get hold of a gun I'd already be dead, I'm sure. That's not to say that gun control is preventing my suicide; merely that there are easier ways to kill yourself in a country like the UK, but I foolishly have opted for methods which were unlikely to kill me, such as poison, overdose and cutting veins.

The number of ways to cause your body a traumatic injury are innumerable, but an example might be to turn off the airbag on your car and then drive without a seatbelt at 100mph into a concrete pillar which is supporting a bridge.

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As you can see, the options are multitudinous and you really don't need me to list them. You already knew almost all this stuff, and if you didn't, it was available on a million websites; it was one single Google search away.

As for the charge that I am encouraging, endorsing, glamourising or enabling suicide in any way whatsoever, you are barking up the wrong tree. Look again at the suffering. Look again at the causes of that suffering. Look again at the options available to the victim of that suffering. If it was possible for a suicidal person to endure any longer, they would. If there was an easy option, like a magic pill from a magic doctor who lives in a magic building, then we would see suicide rates falling not climbing. The medical establishment claims to want to preserve life, and it claims to be empirical and evidence-based, yet all the evidence shows that medicine is failing abysmally to deal with the number one killer of men under the age of 50; the fastest growing cause of death of young girls and women. Medicine can f**k off - it's had plenty of chances to do something about the suicide and mental health epidemic, but instead it has rested on its laurels and dished out useless pills, and allowed intolerable living conditions to grow, flourish and proliferate.

If you think my article is somehow dangerous and irresponsible, I suggest you seek your first recourse with those who claim to be practicing so-called medicine, when all the evidence shows that the medications and treatments prescribed are entirely ineffective, and the mental health epidemic and suicide rate are the number one public health emergency, yet your doctor is doing nothing about it - they have their head buried in the sand.

For those of you who came here looking for information on how to commit suicide, I empathise. I've attempted suicide several times. If you want to talk to somebody who lives with suicidal thoughts on a daily basis and has tried every conventional treatment you can possibly imagine, who won't try to "talk you out of doing anything" or otherwise patronise you, my Twitter DMs are open and my email address is publicly available.

If you're suffering, I'm sad about that. I wish people didn't have to commit suicide, but sometimes they do, because the suffering is too unbearable.

 

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An Apology

6 min read

This is a story about remorse...

My kitty

There's a lot of good reasons why we don't steal people's medication.

Firstly, theft is illegal. There is no defence against the crime of theft. You could rob a bank and claim that you were going to give the money to charity, but I'm afraid that's no defence. You could claim that you didn't know theft was a crime, but ignorance is no defence. You could claim that you were keeping somebody safe, by stealing something of theirs that was dangerous: perhaps you stole a fast motorbike, and your defence is that you wanted to prevent injury or death. Unfortunately, while these arguments might give the court judge cause to be more lenient in their sentencing, the crime of theft is a clear-cut thing: you simply need to permanently deprive the owner of something that they own, and you have committed a crime. No defence. It's a crime. It's that simple.

Secondly, some medications require you to have a prescription to have them in your possession. There are lots of medications which are controlled drugs and as such, to have stolen those medications would mean that you have committed a second crime: possession of a controlled substance, without a prescription. Again, there's no defence for being in possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, unless you have signed documentation proving that you are authorised to collect a prescription from a pharmacy, on somebody else's behalf.

Thirdly, some medications will cause seizures and death if the patient abruptly stops taking them. Many medications raise the seizure threshold, and when medication is stolen and the patient is forced to abruptly cease taking the pills, then the seizure threshold is lowered so substantially that the result is very bad seizures - grand mal - which can cause physical injuries as well as death. This would be gross negligence, or gross negligence manslaughter in the event of a death.

Fourthly, while incredibly ignorant people might think that they are being "helpful" by stealing medications, if their fantasies are incited by other people - abusing a position of respect and making misleading representations that they know what the f**k they're talking about - then those people become part of what's called a joint enterprise or common purpose crime. It doesn't actually matter who committed the crimes - all the parties in the conspiracy are equally guilty.

Fifthly, it does not even matter if the crime(s) are actually committed or not. If there was a conspiracy to commit a crime which was never acted upon, then that conspiracy can still be prosecuted as a crime.

In short, don't steal other people's medications, or even plan or advise to attempt such a thing, because you are breaking at least four laws. Criminal law is not based on precedent and interpretation. It's open-and-shut: you clearly broke the law, so you must be prosecuted and punished.

Because I suffer from Bipolar Affective Disorder, I am prescribed lamotrigine, which is an anticonvulsant. Epileptics are prescribed lamotrigine, because it raises the seizure threshold. It is extremely dangerous to stop taking lamotrigine abruptly, whether you are epileptic or not, because you are likely to have life-threatening seizures.

My ex-girlfriend, with incitement from 5 others acting in a criminal joint enterprise, conspired to steal a large number of different medications from me, with no fewer than 3 of the medications being likely to cause seizures, injury and death, when I discovered the theft and was unable to take my pills as normal. The theft was a smash-and-grab, where there was clearly no consideration for the immense harm that was likely to come to me, but also, medications were stolen in a manner that clearly proved that it was an act of incredible stupidity; utter recklessness and shocking ignorance.

Would you rummage through the drawers and medicine cabinet of a home in which you were a guest? If you were so incredibly rude and privacy-invading as to do so, and you happened to find items which were embarrassing, would you tell all your friends? Would you humiliate the poor person who trusted you to act with the duty of care towards their privacy, which they were owed?

It shocked me when a friend sent me a message asking about a particular medication - which it later emerged had been stolen - and was mocking and humiliating me about this. My most private, confidential, embarrassing, secret and sensitive medical information had been abused in the most horrible disgusting way. Without a single care about violating my dignity, humiliating me, embarrassing me and betraying my confidence, my ex-girlfriend carelessly boasted to her co-conspirators about the medications she had stolen from me. This medication can be bought over-the-counter in any chemist, without a prescription, has no abuse potential and has no potential to cause an overdose. Why steal it? Why boast to her co-conspirators she'd stolen it?

I did get an apology from my ex-girlfriend, but I doubt she feels any remorse. I suspect it would take criminal prosecution for her to realise that her actions were wicked and wrong, and there was no excuse for the risk she placed my life in, the violation of the sanctity of my private home, the violation of my dignity, the humiliation and embarrassment she caused me by violating my confidential medical details. She's a horrible person, although I will say that without the incitement of the co-conspirators in the criminal joint enterprise, she would have been less likely to commit the crimes - although this does not forgive her behaviour, nor absolve her of her crimes.

Getting an apology out of the ex-friend who was a co-conspirator in the criminal joint enterprise, who then began to criminally harass me, sending me numerous unwanted offensive messages, emails and letters, which caused me a great deal of humiliation and embarrassment, violated my dignity, and was particularly intimidating regarding the confidentiality of my private medical details.

My ex-girlfriend's mother did feed my cat while I was in hospital, which was very kind of her, and I want to thank her, but when I arrived at my ex-girlfriend's house and demanded the return of my keys, the atmosphere was not conducive to saying thank you for the mother's kindness, which she had shown to my cat.

I suppose when you are faced with an individual who has threatened to pursue criminal charges against your daughter, the parental instinct probably kicked in and she would have denied that her daughter was a murderer, even if she'd seen her plunge the knife repeatedly into the victim's body.

Anyway, this is a simple message: don't steal people's stuff, OK. Especially medication, which is a matter of life-or death. If somebody tells you that it's "OK" or "the right thing to do" then they're wrong - they are inciting you to commit a crime, and they themselves are co-conspirators in that joint enterprise crime too, and will be prosecuted equally under the law.

 

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Heartless

9 min read

This is a story about self preservation...

Boxed up

I haven't written for over a month, but the general circumstances of my existence would have been repeated ad nauseam, as they cause me untold amounts of stress & anxiety, for reasons I am about to explain.

I have two more months of paid employment and then I'm potentially back hunting for work again. Even in the best case scenario, where I work every single day between now and the end of March, all that money is accounted for - somebody wants it: the taxman, a bank, a landlord... some vulture or parasite.

My rusty old car has bitten the dust and must be scrapped. I managed to limp it along, spending very little money on it, but it finally became uneconomical to repair it, despite the problem being as seemingly simple as a single broken bolt.

What does a 40 year old man who doesn't own a house or a car, or have a job, have to live for?

This is the question I asked myself on December 19th, when I noticed that my urine was full of blood, and later turned dark brown in colour, with a noxious scent. Later that day, I noticed that my bladder was no longer filling and I knew that my kidneys had failed.

The usual response of a healthy happy person when faced with a life-threatening medical emergency is to hastily make their way to hospital. My response was to wonder how long it would be before the waste products in my body would build up to a sufficient level to trigger a cardiac arrest. I imagined that 3 or 4 days would be adequate. I began the wait.

By December 23rd I was suffering from seizures, blackouts, confusion, muscle pain, abdominal pain, weakness and a host of other symptoms related to multiple organ failure, the complications of having highly toxic blood and massive fluid retention.

Against my will but without protest, I was taken to hospital by ambulance, where I spent two and a half weeks having dialysis for many hours a day, in the hope - the doctors' hope, not mine - that it would save my life. My only concern was that my life would be saved but my kidneys would not, thus rendering me dependent on dialysis sessions, 3 times a week, 4 hours per session, for the rest of my life, in order to remain alive. Of course, under those circumstances I would have committed suicide at the earliest possible opportunity.

I was discharged from hospital to discover that my cat had urinated on almost every single item of clothing that I own. My cat is incredibly intelligent, and she had managed to find a way to squat and pee in every drawer, box, bag and other container of clothing.

Kidney failure prevents the waste products from your muscles from being filtered out of your bloodstream and into your bladder, where they can be urinated away. Pickling your muscles in toxins, virtually immobile in a hospital bed, on a noisy hospital ward for two and a half weeks, was something that left me physically drained and very weak. Dealing with the mountain of cat-urine soaked clothing was a task which was beyond my capabilities, while still recuperating from the ordeal I'd suffered.

During the two and a half weeks when I was in hospital, I had three visitors: my ex-girlfriend, a work colleague and a friend. My ex-girlfriend was staggeringly out of touch with reality and stubbornly refused to drop her fantasy ideas about what the National Health Service is. She visited a few times at the beginning and then I never saw her again. My work colleague reminded me that I'm well liked and respected at work, and that's incredibly valuable. My work gives me a great deal of pride and a sense of identity. My friend reminded me that for all my years of struggle, I've been playing a rigged game all along, and I'm the only one who's been playing by the rules; not cheating.

It seems inevitable that in the not-too distant future, for one reason or another, my temporary employment will end and I will lose not only my source of income, but also any reason to remain in both this city and this country.

I have no relationship to stay here for: that's over.

I have work colleagues here, who are wonderful, but I always maintain a degree of separation between my work life and my private life, notwithstanding this blog (which serves as an invitation for anybody who really wants to be my friend to reach out).

I do love my cat, but she urinates on everything made of fabric or otherwise porous, and destroys anything else which she takes a disliking to: my houseplants, my carpet, my furniture, cables, anything fragile etc. I'm sure that I can find her a loving home where her misbehaviour will be tolerated.

My existence appears to be that of an anti-social hermit, but I assure you that there are hundreds of people who I have to deal with on a professional basis, who find me to be a pleasant and affable fellow; a good colleague. I have a very select few close friends who I maintain regular contact with via phone, email, SMS and other text, voice and video services.

Estranged from my family for over 6 years, with the exception of my sister, and single, this might be cause for loneliness and unhappiness, but I live for my work at the moment, which provides ample social contact, and it seems sensible that I move somewhere where I have at least one close friend - I'm in no mood to become one of those tragic 40+ men who join some kind of club or society in the desperate pathetic hope of gaining a social life.

What about suicide? Well, if the opportunity to die - passively - presents itself again, then I certainly won't be phoning the emergency services. It's barely a month ago that I had a few days to contemplate the fact that I was about to die, and I was quite calm; I was looking forward to the rest and relaxation of being dead.

My priorities remain the same as they always have: to repay my guardian angel and attempt to achieve some kind of financial and housing security, and to reconfigure my life so that the vast amounts of stress, anxiety, boredom and misery heaped upon me by the rat race - causing untold depression - can be replaced by either an alternative, or early death (i.e. suicide).

Thus, I might appear heartless, but it's all a practical necessity to maintain the slim chance that a life worth living might eventually present itself; otherwise the choice is clear: immediate suicide.

I sometimes wonder: am I tough? Am I mean? Am I a sociopath? Am I antisocial? Do I lack empathy? Do I mistreat people?

I think the answer to all those questions is: no. I spent the best part of three weeks in hospital with some people who were just as sick as I was, if not more so, and they really wanted to live. They were tough. I was tough too, but we're all tough, so that means I'm not particularly tough. None of us are tough. The answer to the rest of the questions is clearly no, because the evidence points overwhelmingly to the contrary. I'm just surviving; that's all I'm doing - I'm doing what needs to be done to get through every miserable, awful, unbearable day.

If you think I owe you something, believe me I know about it. Believe me, I think about it more than you think about it. Does that mean that you're going to get a gift-wrapped package in the mail with a red ribbon on it, containing what you're 'owed'. No f**king way. Get to the back of the queue, buddy. Do you think I spend a lot of time thinking about what I'm owed? Sometimes I realise that if everybody who's picked my pocket coughed up their debts to me, then I'd have that financial security that I so desperately need, but I'm happy with the way that I've lived my life; I don't regret trusting people and taking chances.

So, where are we? Ah yes, self preservation. I basically need to work every single day I can for two solid months, just to have a bank balance of zero pounds and zero pence and not owe anything to anybody, and not have any valuable assets to my name. When I wrote "self preservation" at the top of this blog post, I did so with extreme sarcasm, because my life is literally preserved without my consent; if it had been up to me, I wouldn't have been born, I wouldn't have been 'saved' all those many times; I wouldn't have survived at all, and I'd be glad of it, because I would be resting in peace.

I do of course have people - and cats - who I love and I would 'miss' (although this is an oxymoron, obviously, to imagine that the dead are capable of missing anybody) and who would miss me, but it's selfish to want people who are in pain to go on living, when their quality of life is intolerable: this is why we euthanise our pets with no qualms; it's more humane.

If you think I'm heartless and lack empathy, you are mistaken, you are a fool, and you're no friend of mine.

 

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I Let My Friend Commit Suicide

8 min read

This is a story about playing god...

Phone

On the 10th of December 2017, a very close friend of mine got me a job at an investment bank. He knew that I was virtually bankrupt. He knew that I had very nearly managed to commit suicide. He knew that my self-esteem was at rock bottom and that I had nothing going for me: no fixed abode, no money, mountainous debts, alcoholism and large gaps on my CV which were difficult to explain.

My friend rang me up and asked if I was sober enough to create a piece of software for the bank he was working for. I said that I could be as drunk as a skunk and still make a decent software system, but that I wasn't in too bad shape - he could count on me to deliver a successful project, if he recommended me as a freelance software engineer to his boss.

If you're particularly interested in the more identity-theft worthy items of my story, I present to you above, the proof that I had proudly put on my suit and gone to work in the Square Mile - also known as the City of London - thanks to the endorsement of my friend. I had spent the day before with my friend and his boss in Warsaw, where they were based, and I was allowed to work in the London office, which is pictured.

A year later my friend phoned me and told me that he was going to commit suicide, by taking an overdose of insulin. I asked him how much insulin he possessed and in what form - vials and 'rapid delivery' pen cartridges - so I could calculate how many doses of insulin he had, and whether it was a lethal dose.

Insulin aspart units is what the layman needs to understand. One 10ml vial might contain 1,000 units. One 3ml pen cartridge might contain 300 units. The important thing is to add up all the vials and cartridges that somebody has, and then you can work out how many units of insulin aspart they have in their possession. My friend confirmed that he had many thousands of units of insulin aspart. The highest recorded survival of an insulin overdose was much lower than the amount my friend possessed, and that patient was left very badly brain damaged. In short, it was a credible suicide threat.

(FYI: people have made surprisingly frequent disclosures to me that they plan to commit suicide by overdose, but this was the first credible overdose plan I'd heard)

So, having scoured the medical literature for the LD50 - the dose that will kill 50% of people - and found that my friend could definitely commit suicide with his insulin, I then did further reading about how long it would take him to die, how long he would remain in a state where he could be saved, and how much suffering and pain he would endure.

Incidentally, he phoned me on a Monday morning while I was at work. I was in Wales and he was in Poland. I was frantically doing this research as rapidly as I could, while trying to keep my friend talking to me; stalling him from following through with his plans.

My research concluded that he would suffer a short period of panic and disorientation - including extreme hunger - before blacking out. He would quickly fall into a hypoglycaemic coma, and would suffer no pain.

Far more disturbingly, my research concluded that he could be 'saved' by rapid medical intervention - an intravenous infusion of glucose - for a substantial period of time: 2 or even 3 days would be 'survivable'. The worst possible outcome would be that he would be 'saved' after 12 to 36 hours, when he might still be in a coma, but he would have suffered terrible brain damage. The case study I had read of the patient who holds the 'record' for the highest ever insulin overdose which was survived, was left with terrible brain damage. All my research led to a single conclusion: if my friend injected all his insulin then I had to call the emergency services IMMEDIATELY or wait until he was beyond the point of 'saving'.

This sounds like playing god, doesn't it?

You remember that time your kid was choking on a bit of Lego and you whacked them on the back so they coughed it up? That was playing god. You remember when your dog was getting old and sick, and you decided they had no quality of life anymore, so you had the dog euthanised? That was playing god.

I'm not a doctor.

I'm not a vet.

I'm not a parent.

What exactly qualifies a person to make a life/death decision?

In this instance, I knew that my friend's diabetes had ruined his circulation and his feet were becoming gangrenous, that he was becoming jaundiced and that his eyesight was failing, because of his mismanagement of his diabetes. In short, he struggled to go about his ordinary daily business, and his health was rapidly deteriorating. I'm not a doctor, but I'm not a magician either - nobody can wave a magic wand and make the chronic irreversible health damage from alcoholism and diabetes disappear. I'm not a doctor, but I know that they don't give liver transplants to alcoholics. I'm not a doctor, but I know how long somebody has to live once their liver is starting to fail and they continue to drink multiple bottles of vodka every day.

Ultimately, it wasn't my decision to make.

My friend phoned me because he knew that I would understand the situation and that I wouldn't panic and phone the emergency services. He knew that he could say goodbye to me, and I would let him die with dignity; in the manner of his own choosing.

Let's not fuck about here: sitting doing nothing, waiting for your friend to die before you ring the emergency services to go and get the body before it starts decaying, is an awful, awful, awful thing to have to do.

Can you imagine knowing that your friend is dying, and that the best thing to do is to do nothing? Every single moment of your childhood, you were told to dial the emergency services if somebody was sick or dying. There was no ambiguity about what to do when somebody's life's in danger: ring the emergency services. EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY!

If I phoned the emergency services too soon, my friend would have been 'saved' and then would no longer have had the opportunity to end his life in the manner of his own choosing. He probably would have been extremely brain damaged, and therefore unable to attempt suicide again. He would have lived out his short remaining time in a hospital bed, dying of liver failure, which is a very unpleasant way to die. Sure, the hospital would have made him as 'comfortable' as possible, but what comfort is there in being bedridden, watching your friends and relative weep and wail about your imminent inevitable demise. My friend had considered all these things.

Did I mention we discussed all this? We discussed all this at length. I went to a great deal of effort to persuade my friend of more positive alternatives. I tried my very best to convince him that it might be much better to use the short time he had left - before liver failure killed him - in order to take a trip of a lifetime, and/or see loved ones.

We have to understand that this was his decision, based on the terrible choices he faced. There were no 'good' options. He had to choose between a quick painless death or a slow painful one, with all of his family, friends and co-workers by his bedside, watching him slip away.

What my personal opinion of the 'right' choice was, is of no concern. My friend asked me to keep it a secret that he was killing himself, until he was dead, and that's what I did. I honoured his wishes. I was a loyal friend who did a very difficult thing, because I knew it's what my friend wanted.

"Oh but your friend really wanted to live" or "it was a cry for help" or "you should always phone the emergency services; you're not qualified" etc. etc. are all the very many opinions I have to defend myself against. Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit.

I spent 3 days, not sleeping, not able to think about anything other than the fact that my friend was dying, and then I phoned the emergency services to go and retrieve my friend's lifeless body and notify his next of kin. It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. It was also the right thing to do because it was the dying wish of my friend. There were no good options. I chose the least bad option.

Today is the anniversary of the phone-calls, the discussions and the decision. Today is the last time I spoke to my very dear friend. For exactly one year, I've had to live with the guilt of knowing that I kept a terrible secret, for just long enough that my friend could pass away painlessly.

It's a terrible thing, but I let my friend commit suicide, and I did nothing.

 

Tags:

 

Blogger's Digest - Day Fourteen of #NaNoWriMo2019

7 min read

Blogger's Digest: a Novel

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen

Three days of self-imposed isolation aboard my yacht, moored up in the marina, had passed with me spending 95% of my time in bed. My appetite was a fraction of what it normally was, but I had eaten almost everything which required no preparation: cold ravioli, beans, spaghetti hoops and other cans. My T-shirt had dried drips of tomato sauce on it and my hair was greasy and had a permanent cow-lick, from the position I had been mostly resting my head on my pillow.

After three full days of total isolation, which I suppose would not be unusual for a solo round-the-world yachtsman, but was particularly odd in a busy marina during beautiful weather, I felt as though I had a mission to accomplish which I was suitably motivated to pursue, such that I would have a shower, put on some clean clothes and head for shore.

Being alone with my thoughts for so long, I had somewhat fathomed what was at the root cause of this unexpected episode of depression: I was burnt out. It might sound rather odd, considering that I'd quit my job and had decided to spend well over a year in pursuit of leisure. However, I hadn't admitted to myself how heavily the long voyage had been weighing on my mind, and causing me a continuous amount of stress.

I should - of course - have paid the money to have my yacht transported to Greece, but I had dismissed the idea, because of a mixture of pride and also wanting to challenge myself. I knew that it would be a huge achievement I'd feel proud of for the rest of my life, if I managed to sail such a long journey myself, and that I would feel like a cheat and a failure, if I took the easy way out. I wondered whether I would appreciate the Mediterranean as much if I simply flew out there to join my yacht once she was delivered.

I had chartered yachts all over the world, and it was a great way to experience sailing in a different part of the world, for a short holiday.

This was not a holiday.

It was never meant to be a holiday.

I'd made the commitment to live aboard my yacht permanently, because I wanted the adventure and I relished the challenge, but I had been defeated by the UK winter. I had considered the various ways to make the British weather more bearable aboard a yacht, but the appeal of undertaking a very long journey was too much to resist, when it was simply an idea: one of several options which I was considering.

I decided to take the plunge and start arranging my epic voyage during the winter, when I hadn't been sailing for a couple of months, and I was missing being at the sea. With hindsight, I was over-confident and too ambitious. The process of making the arrangements had consumed me, and I hadn't stopped to consider whether I was making the right choice, because I was too busy persuading everybody that it was a great idea - I believed my own bullshit.

It wasn't that parts of the journey wouldn't be extremely enjoyable and well within my comfort zone. I knew that with even the most incompetent crew member, I could easily hop from harbour to harbour, without too much trouble - it would be fun, even on unfamiliar coastlines. The problem was that a sustained period of many of these short hops would have to be joined together, in order to make good progress. The problem was that the journey contained some difficult legs, in waterways which I would have ordinarily gone out of my way to avoid - I had no desire to tangle with busy shipping channels, or sail through straits which were famed for their dangerous currents and many shipwrecks. All the pressure and responsibility was on me, and me alone. I had bitten off more than I could chew.

I still desperately wanted to complete my epic voyage. I knew that at almost every point, now that I had made it to Portugal, I would be better off turning back than carrying on, if I simply wanted my yacht to be transported to Greece. The solution was quite clear to me, and I felt much happier that I had accepted my new decision and was putting it into action.

* * *

"Bom dia. Você fala inglês?" I said to man behind the desk in the Marina office. I had been memorising and practicing this one phrase - "good morning. Do you speak English?" - repeatedly for most of the morning, learning it phonetically using a phrasebook I had brought with me for this part of the journey.

"Yes of course. You're on berth C10, right? You spoke to me the night you arrived" the man replied.

"Oh, it's you. You sound different on the radio. I mean, you sound different from how I thought you would look" I stumbled.

"Ha" he said, politely tolerating my bumbling British awkwardness. "How can I help?"

"Do you know a British skipper called Nikki?" I asked, my face sweating and my hands a little clammy - this was extremely embarrassing.

A broad smile spread across the face of the man. "Yes, of course I know Nikki. She left this morning on Moinho de Vento."

"Vento?" I said in a quizzical tone. I knew that this meant wind, so I assumed he was using a colloquialism, like gone with the wind to say that she'd sailed away. I was crushed. I was also puzzled, because there was no wind and there had been none for several days. "But it's not windy" I said, stating the obvious.

"Yes sure. She's just taken some clients out to get drunk."

"Drunk?" I asked, still perplexed.

"Yes. She takes clients out on Moinho de Vento very often. She's the biggest yacht in the marina and she's mainly used for corporate functions" the man explained. "You don't know her?" he asked.

"Know her? I met her a few times, you know, hanging out at the marina bar" I replied.

"No, not Nikki. Moinho de Vento."

"Ah. I get you now. Tallest mast in the marina. Hard to miss her. I didn't know her name though" I said, feeling like I was making a complete fool of myself.

"Should I tell Nikki you're looking for you? I know she was trying to find you the other day. I told her which berth you're moored on. I hope that was OK?"

"Yes, fine. I mean great. I mean thanks for telling her where I'm moored, and it'd be great if you can let her know I'm looking for her when you see her."

"OK no problem. Consider it done. Everything OK? Happy? Anything else?" the man asked with big genuine smile, putting me somewhat more at ease after my ordeal.

"No. That was it. Thank you."

"Ok my friend. See you around. My name is Eduardo" the man said, offering his hand, still beaming.

We shook hands and I said "adeus" by way of a goodbye.

"My friend, I applaud you for making the effort with your Portuguese" Eduardo said.

It wasn't until I got back aboard my yacht and checked my phrasebook that I realised I had used a version of goodbye which implied I had no intention of seeing Eduardo ever again.

 

Blogger's Digest - Day Thirteen of #NaNoWriMo2019

8 min read

Blogger's Digest: a Novel

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Thirteen

I woke up feeling awful, which was to be expected - it had been a late night and I had drunk a lot, so a hang-over was inevitable. However, even the very worst hangovers wore off by mid-morning and I would become restless. Hunger, thirst or boredom - or a combination of all three - would motivate me to get out of bed by at least midday.

Midday had arrived and I still felt tired and unwell. I wondered if I had perhaps contracted some kind of bug. I didn't feel nauseous, but I was more tired than I should have been.

I felt like I should get up, but I didn't want to. The greater the pressure to get up, the more I hated it and it made me want the world to go away; leave me alone.

Outside, the weather was glorious. Although I had excellent blackout blinds for the hatch above my bed and the two tiny portholes, which couldn't be opened, on either side of the bow, in my cabin, enough light crept in though various cracks and the rising temperature indicated that it was a scorching sunny day. It felt like the most unbelievable waste, to spend it cooped up inside my tiny cabin.

I thought about all the poor underpaid overworked souls who hated their jobs and barely had a holiday. So many people would kill to have the opportunity to be in a beautiful hot part of the world, with no work commitments. Why was I so stressed and anxious about getting up? Why did I feel so much pressure?

I looked at my watch. 12:30pm. I knew I should get up immediately. I felt enormous pressure to get up immediately, given that it was now well past midday.

I wrestled with conflict within me for an extremely uncomfortable hour. Time passed both quickly and slowly. Each time I would check my watch, I would wail with disbelief at how much of the precious day I was wasting, but the time was also dragging uncomfortably, because I felt as though I should get up, but at the same time I didn't want to. What I wanted was for everything to just go away; leave me alone.

At around 2pm, I decided that it was so late that I was going to allow myself to abandon the day. I gave myself permission to give up. I admitted defeat, but I also gave in to what my brain and body were somehow yelling out for.

An enormous amount of relief swept over me, having made the decision to give up and stay in bed. All the pressure that I'd felt, from the moment I woke up until the moment I admitted defeat - deciding to stay in bed and write off the day - started to alter the way I felt, from restless and anxious, to much more relaxed. I became sleepy and dozed off.

I woke up. 5:30pm. Another wave of guilt. I had wasted the day.

It was still light and warm outside - a pleasant summer evening and a long time until sunset. However, I preferred to think that the day was somehow finished, giving myself permission to continue to stay in bed. I briefly entertained the idea of getting showered and dressed, and heading out to enjoy the evening, but the thought of those simple practicalities exhausted me, and I slumped back into my bed.

By 7pm I started to feel quite hungry. Perhaps my stomach would provide the motivation which I had lacked all day, to leave my bed at long last. The idea of preparing a meal felt wrong, as did dining out - it felt 'naughty' somehow; as though I had skived off school. Although nobody knew me here, I still felt as though I would be uncomfortable walking around - people would look at me and think "where's he been all day?". I toyed with excuses in my head.

* * *

"Knock knock!"

What the hell was that, I wondered, startled.

"Knock! Knock!" came the cry again. The carefree tone and female voice led me to immediately conclude it must have been Nikki. How the hell did she know which yacht was mine? Did I tell her my yacht's name or my berth number?

I heard the sound of somebody climbing aboard. I was aghast - this was utterly inappropriate behaviour. Not the done thing at all. Nobody ever ventured on board somebody else's boat without permission, except in special circumstances, such as needing to cross to get to shore. I was deeply unnerved.

Nikki rapped on the cockpit doors. "Coo-ee!" she yelled brightly.

Then, she slid back the coachroof and called down into the saloon: "Gavin! I know you're in there. Come out to play! It'll be fun!"

What should I do, I wondered. To ignore her further was getting extremely difficult - was she going to descend the steps from the cockpit into the saloon and knock on my cabin door, next? It was a difficult situation but I felt as though she had clearly overstepped the mark: she should never have boarded without permission, let alone slid open my coachroof so she could yell down inside. With a certain stubborn bloody-mindedness, I decided to remain silent.

"We'll be in the bar if you decide to get up and come and join us. Don't be so antisocial!" she yelled, before sliding the coachroof closed again, and disembarking.

Just as I breathed a sigh of relief she rapped loudly on the bow with her knuckles. I jumped with fright.

"See you soon, Gavin!" she yelled and cackled with laughter, which hadn't a hint of malice in it, so brought a smile to my face. She was mischievous and I had taken great affront at the intrusion, but also I was gladdened that she'd taken an interest in me and what she'd tried to do was well-meaning and kind. How did she know I had been holed up, somewhat in a pit of despair which was hard to explain.

* * *

Later that night I crept out to grab a bottle of water, a packet of biscuits and some crisps. I didn't turn any lights on and I tip-toed to the galley and back. I probably made more noise than I would have done if I had turned on a light, as I fumbled around in the dark, but I still felt very bad about not leaving my cabin all day. I wanted to retreat and be left alone. I wanted to be isolated.

As I filled my bed with crumbs I wondered what was wrong with me. Was this another episode of depression? Was I liable to be bed-bound for a substantial period of time? I didn't feel unwell, except that I was exceptionally tired.

Each time I left my bed, for example to use the bathroom, I was incredibly glad to return to bed as quickly as possible. After urinating, I considered skipping washing my hands, to save some precious wasted seconds. Why was I so keen to get back to bed? If anything, I was pretty bored and I longed to read a book or watch a movie, but I didn't want anybody to see the reading light or the light from my laptop screen; I wanted to pretend like I didn't exist.

Having napped for substantial periods during the day, I was not at all tired, and with no distractions I was trapped alone with my thoughts for a long time, in the dark and quiet of the night. The noise outside - people returning to their boats - was magnified; my ears became hyper-sensitised due the sensory deprivation I'd experienced for a long period of time. Listening to every little noise punctuated my thoughts, which continuously wondered what was wrong with me and how long it was going to last.

I was worried it was going to be the same the following day.

My first episode of depression had surprised me, in how long it had lasted. At the end of each day I had been optimistic that I would wake up and feel differently, but each morning the feelings were stubbornly persistent: there was no 'snapping out of it' or otherwise cajoling myself up and out of bed. I already knew every trick in the book for forcing myself to face the intolerable, and I knew when I was beaten, although it took me a long time to accept it.

I couldn't decide which I dreaded more: that Nikki would return and try again to cajole me into leaving my pit of despair, or that I would awake to discover that I was undeniably laid low with another episode of depression, with an indeterminate end date.

 

Next chapter...

 

Blogger's Digest - Day Twelve of #NaNoWriMo2019

9 min read

Blogger's Digest: a Novel

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Twelve

Moored up in a marina near Porto in Northern Portugal, I bid farewell to Ian. Porto was an ideal place for him to depart, with an international airport so he could get home and new crew from the UK could easily join me, whenever they were available.

I felt much more confident and comfortable asking inexperienced friends to help me on this coast-hugging part of the journey, which aimed to get from Porto to Lisbon. Although the route would sail right past the biggest waves in Europe, at Nazaré, the swells were settling down during summer. I felt happy that I could safely get into and out of the rivers, lagoons and other natural harbours, which would provide safe anchorage overnight, or in the event of bad weather. There was no more need for night sailing and to have at least two competent skippers on board, taking turns at the helm.

Having reached a third country, passing France and Spain, was a huge psychological boost and it enthused my friends who had been following my progress. I had lots of promises from people that they would fly out over the summer to help at various points during the journey.

The offshore sailing across the Bay of Biscay had been every bit as unpleasant as I feared it would be, and so I was glad to be safely moored up in a marina, and able to go ashore whenever I wanted, by simply stepping off the pontoon. I decided to take the opportunity for some tourism, having never visited Porto before.

Solo travelling was something that never appealed to me; it was something I'd never done. As I'd not taken a gap year before or after university, and had then quickly found my way into a lucrative career, backpacking and hostelling had never been a financial necessity - I had always been able to afford to stay in nice hotels, wherever I went. Perhaps my life would have been enriched by those experiences, but I had plenty of communal living experience during my student days, staying in chalets when skiing, and of course when doing sailing trips with every berth filled, when living quarters were particularly cramped.

My Portuguese was somewhat hampered by my excellent French, OK Spanish and basic Italian. The pronunciation seemed so disimilar to the other Latin-based Northern European languages which I'd learned, that I was quite intimidated and more hesitant and afraid to attempt to communicate, than I usually was when abroad.

I wanted for Sian to join me for a pleasant city-break style holiday, but she was busy with end-of-academic-year activities at the university, and she wanted to leave on good terms, in the hope of getting her old job back in approximately one year's time. I also knew that there was vastly more of the journey to complete before the end of the summer, and I didn't want her to decide that life on board the yacht with me wasn't going to work out, before we even reached the warmer waters of Greece and Turkey, where I hoped we would happily spend the winter together.

Some substantially intimidating segments of the journey stood ahead of me: Menorca to Sardinia, Sardinia to Sicily, and finally Sicily to Corfu. Each of these segments would be in seas which were hardly tidal and lacked the gigantic waves and fierce storms of the Atlantic, but would require night sailing a long distance from shore. I didn't want to think about any of these future challenges, including the Gibraltar Straits, whose shipping lanes would be a nightmare to navigate. I wanted to forget all about the remaining trip ahead, for a while, and enjoy some time ashore.

At first, I contented myself with establishing a routine at the marina, where I would enjoy morning coffee in a local café, and some beers in the sunshine, reading a book to take my mind off everything and relax. I was attempting to get myself into a holidaymaker's tourist mindset, instead of that of a sailor, intent on reaching their final destination.

I often forgot to stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Mainstream education had funnelled me through a pre-destined path, via university and straight into a career, without a moment to catch my breath. Summer holidays had been stolen by internships, and group holidays - such as ski trips - with work colleagues had felt a little bit like an extension of my London life. I'd had my career break, of course, but that had been frantic, as I had attempted to build a small business from nothing. Here was a rare opportunity to enjoy the total freedom I had, with no job and career to worry about, no money to be earned - yet, it took me some time to ease my way into a life of leisure, as I was so unused to life without work: academic and career; financial goals etc.

I felt incredibly self-conscious in the evenings, alone. I didn't feel comfortable eating on my own in a restaurant or going to bars in the city centre - I was sure that I'd look like a sleazy old man; a sexual predator. I was sure that people would eye me with suspicion.

There was a bar in the marina where I felt among my own kind at least - yachtie types - and I stayed there until I was quite drunk from the strong Portuguese lager, whereupon I would return to my yacht to prepare and eat a simple meal. With Ian, we had been eating meals which could be prepared while under way, meaning whatever could be cooked in a single saucepan, which was held firmly to the gimballed stove. Having got into the bad habit of tipping ingredients from packets and tins into a pan, until a passable meal was ready to be eaten, I continued with this, washed down with lashings of red wine.

I was quite lonely, but I knew that an amazing summer stretched ahead of me, with the opportunity to see some fabulous ports, harbours, lagoons, coves, islands and a whole heap of wonderful things along the way. I knew that there would be no shortage of friends who wanted to join me along the way, to help me on my mammoth voyage to Corfu.

There were other British sailors in the marina, of course. My ears instinctively picking up the mother tongue, whenever I heard it spoken. I knew that there would be random crew - with varying degrees of experience - who frequented marinas during the pleasant months of the year, and happily took the opportunity for a change of scenery when it arose, happy to add sea miles to their log books, as well as the free bed & board. I was wary of taking my chances with strangers, however - I didn't mind dishing out orders to my friends, but I felt I wouldn't be comfortable with a stranger aboard.

On my third night spent alone at the marina bar, engrossed in my book, a young woman in her mid-twenties came and sat at my table.

"You're English aren't you? Hi, my name's Nicki" she said, offering a handshake. She beamed the happiest and most disarming smile I had ever encountered. "Come and join us for a drink" she said, nodding at a group of friends her age, who beckoned us over with great enthusiasm.

Nikki had dark hair but her tanned and heavily freckled complexion told me that she was a sailor. Her self-confidence and overwhelming friendliness led me to join her and her friends without hesitation. This was an uncharacteristic of me, as somebody normally quite reserved and quiet, and certainly not prone to any rash or sudden acts. For a moment, I noticed that Nikki was a very attractive young woman, and her demeanour could have been mistaken for somewhat flirtatious, but I decided to suppress that doubt and trust my instinct that this was a gesture of pure friendliness, given that my social isolation was quite conspicuous.

It emerged that the group Nikki was with were all her students, who had just completed a sailing course and were celebrating. Nikki was an RYA Yacht Master - a highly coveted qualification - which surprised me, as the Yacht Masters I had met had all been men in their 50s, and looked like typical salty sea dogs, with grey beards.

Had it not been for the high spirits of Nikki's group, and their enthusiastic warm welcome into their group, I think I would have quickly made my excuses and left. It was strange, but it felt a little bit like cheating because the attraction I felt towards Nikki was immediate and intense: here was the perfect partner to complete the voyage from Portugal to Greece, and indeed to sail anywhere in the world with. With a qualified Yacht Master on board, my fear and anxiety surrounding those difficult, stressful and dangerous legs of the passage, would be alleviated and I would be free to enjoy myself, with hardly any sense of responsibility.

At the end of a very boozy evening, I staggered back to my yacht on very unsteady feet. I was pleased with myself that I hadn't asked Nikki for any kind of contact details, or indeed proposed that I hire her as a professional skipper to accompany me for the remainder of my trip. Although I tried to convince myself that the motivation would purely be to reduce my stress levels and increase my enjoyment of the journey - in terms of appreciating the pleasant sailing which lay ahead - I knew that it would also be amazing to have such a beautiful young woman, who was a lot of fun to be around, in charge instead of me.

I hoped I wouldn't bump into her again, but part of me also hoped that I would. I felt very guilty about poor Sian, none the wiser about this chance encounter, back at home in Brighton.

 

Next chapter...

 

Blogger's Digest - Day Eleven of #NaNoWriMo2019

9 min read

Blogger's Digest: a Novel

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Eleven

Tim had very kindly agreed to assist with the first leg of the passage - from Brighton to Roscoff. He would then take a ferry back to the UK. It was no more than a couple of days, but it was all the time he could spare, away from his family duties. I was very glad to at least start the lengthy journey with 3 experienced skippers aboard.

The logistics were torturously complex. I had to collect Tim from his home in Hampshire, bring him to Brighton, then he would be collected in Plymouth by his poor wife, who'd have been left home alone with the children for 3 nights. For Tim, it would hardly be much fun, given that a substantial part of our crossing would be at night and none of us could get drunk, but he seemed to enjoy offshore sailing.

I did not enjoy offshore sailing.

The English Channel has busy shipping lanes and strong tides. The currents around the Channel Islands were extremely fast and dangerous. The Channel crossing from England to France sounded like enough fun to tempt Tim, but I was dreading it. At least with experienced help aboard, I felt far less weight of responsibility on my shoulders.

As we approached the Cherbourg Peninsula - some distance offshore - we were intercepted by a French customs vessel, which loud-hailed us and instructed us in French to switch to a specific VHF radio channel, whereupon they told us to prepare to be boarded. Mercifully, my French was quite good and Ian possessed a particular International Certificate of Competence, which they were very keen to see. The UK has no regulation of who is allowed to take to the water in a sailboat or motorboat - akin to allowing people to drive on the roads without a license - so the French were particularly careful about who they allowed to cross from international water into French territory, especially if they were most probably from the UK. Incompetent UK skippers would often be ordered to get out of French waters.

Having dropped Tim off in Roscoff, Ian and I took the opportunity to have a couple of restaurant meals, drink some wine and a good night's sleep, before we set off on the next leg of the journey.

Crossing the Bay of Biscay was the part of the entire trip which I was dreading the most, because we would be further offshore than we were at any other point. To hug the coast of Western France and Northern Spain would be a huge and unnecessary detour, adding a great deal of travel time, but I was prepared to do it in order to be close to a number of ports, if we decided that we wanted to stop for rest or shelter. Ian convinced me that we would be able to manage the crossing between just the two of us, dividing each 24 hour period into 6 watches, lasting 4 hours - this would allow us to sail continuously and arrive at the tip of North-Western Spain without being too sleep deprived. "It will be a slog" Ian said, "but it will be worth it to make good progress".

The forecast predicted plenty of westerly wind, which was encouraging. I was hopeful that we would be able to make the crossing in good time.

I had not considered the rain.

Each 4-hour watch was quite punishing and unpleasant. With the wind and waves hitting the yacht at a 45 degree angle, the bow slammed quite heavily into the choppy water, and vast amounts of spray and rain were driven into the skipper's face. Facing backwards helped immensely, and was necessary to check for any large cargo vessels, cruise ships, tankers and other large ships which approached rapidly from behind. However, it was also necessary to keep looking forwards as much as possible, to keep an eye on the instruments and a look out for any large ships coming in the opposite direction.

As a pleasure-cruising yacht, designed for comfort as a 'floating caravan' she was ideal when moored up in a marina, or for short trips in fine weather, but lacked any of the equipment which she needed for offshore sailing. Without radar and an auto-helm system, which worked well when the wind and waves were unpredictable, she was entirely reliant on her skipper to be far more alert and in control, than any vessel which would ordinarily undertake such a long offshore passage.

To save the hull and rigging from the worst of the constant pounding by the waves, Ian and I steered my yacht up and down the crest and trough of every wave individually, trying to minimise the number of times when the bow would come clear out of the water, and come crashing back down, violently shaking the whole yacht.

Because of the wind direction, it was more important - more efficient - to keep the direction aligned with the wind direction, than to steer the most direct course. We could travel one or two knots - nautical miles per hour - faster if we kept the sails filled with wind from the correct direction, by constantly steering the boat, hunting for the optimal angle. Over the course of the 500 nautical mile leg, this would equate to 12 hours or maybe even a whole 24 hours saved. Perhaps it might not sound worth the saving to an ordinary person, but to competitive sailors like Ian and I, we were keen to cross the Bay of Biscay in the quickest possible time.

Taking it in turns to rest/sleep below decks, alternating as skipper at the helm, we hardly spoke for the whole journey, besides exchanging a few pleasantries. At the end of each watch, enough spray and rain had penetrated our wet-weather gear, that we were damp and cold, and desperate to peel off the soggy clothes and warm up in bed, sheltered from the wind.

It was not at all fun.

As we passed well beyond the point of no return, where it would have been completely pointless and counter-productive to turn back, I spent an entire 4 hour watch having a mild panic attack, feeling as though I had made a huge mistake and that we should turn back. Why was I putting myself through this, I asked myself. I had plenty of money to have my yacht delivered by either a professional crew, or else I could have her transported by road or sea. Why had I done this?

"Change of plan. I'm going to spend the summer in Bordeaux" I said to Ian, as soon as he arrived on deck to swap over with me.

"You've never been this far offshore have you?" he asked.

"No. It's bloody terrifying" I admitted.

"I had the exact same reaction you're having, the first time I crossed the Bay of Biscay. It's natural. It'll pass" he said, reassuringly.

"But this is miserable" I complained.

"At least we've got wind. We were becalmed for two days when I did it."

"Sure, but it's right on the nose. Close-hauled all the way" I whined.

"Call yourself a racer?" Ian joked, with a huge grin. The upwind leg of any race was always the most exciting, when every sailboat would be tacking backwards and forwards, and each time your path crossed with another competitor, you knew whether you were ahead or behind in the race. The upwind leg was where races could be won and lost, by pinching a little bit more, and squeezing a little more performance out of your sailboat than your competitors could. Ian was right: viewed as a very long race, I should have been loving the sailing.

"It would be stupid to give up at this point, wouldn't it?" I asked.

"Yes. This is the hardest part. You don't want to bail out now and spend your summer in Bordeaux. If you keep going, at least if you decided to bail out halfway you can spend your summer in the Balearics, and pay a visit to the Côte d'Azur."

He was right. I didn't want to spend my summer still stuck on the Atlantic Coast; I didn't want to spend my summer in Bordeaux. I wanted to get as far south as possible and into the sheltered warm water beyond the Gibraltar Straits.

"Thanks, Ian" I said. Below deck, I realised that I was finally now committed to an idea which had seemed so appealing in principle, and I knew would be rewarding in the end, but I had always been aware would be a huge challenge. My life had been quite easy in many ways, so I suppose I wanted to challenge myself like this; I wanted the sense of achievement. However, when faced with the enormity of the task ahead, I most definitely wanted to take the easy way out. I was glad that Ian had talked me out of abandoning the trip. I felt a little ashamed that I wasn't as dedicated and committed to sailing - and its occasional hardships - as my friends.

As I settled down to attempt a nap, I thought about how authentically my friend Tim had lived his life: pursuing his passion for sailing, instead of chasing money and sacrificing his pleasant life by the sea, for city living. He seemed happy and contented. I wondered if I had made the right choices in life, as I fell asleep in my bed, which was being fairly violently shaken as Ian steered us expertly through the waves.

 

Next chapter...