ignis, glacies et pertinacia

The long dark weekend of the soul

In Autism Research Unit, Progress Review, Unforgiving Minutes, Work Diary, Writing Diary on September 26, 2009 at 11:44 pm
What is it about weekends that I am doomed always to spend them in a state of high anxiety, flitting from one thing to another, unhappy in each of these pursuits?

Today is, or certainly could have been, a case in point. I got up a little late having gone to see a film last night (on my own, perhaps emboldenened by stuff asperger people like‘s #24 Dating Themselves, something I have commented on at the bottom of the post) watching Newsnight Review and then kicking around posting nonsense on The Booker Shortlist and letching over typewriters on E-Bay.

Everest Model 90

Everest Model 90

This is what happens when I have nothing to do with myself. Well, I’ve stocked up my E-bay watch list, and put in a few wanted ads here and there. Indeed, When I did, finally, get up this morning after getting to bed so late, and when I settled down onto the computer to write a few UoG posts, hoping indeed that this might become a sustaining routine for me over the next few weekends, Dad came back and told me he had been down the car boot sale looking for typewriters. Well, for typewriters and fishing rods for himself and a couple of other things, but basically, he wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the fact I have been obsessed with typewriters since one of my several new, plasticky portables broke on me when I was working up in the summerhouse about a month ago. Since then my routine has been punctured, and I’ve been working on my aesthetically, sonically beautiful Imperial Model 50 upstairs with and without earplugs to block out the noises of my mum and dad (quietly) going about their business.

Back when I first quit work and took to writing full time – supported by my ever-understand (ok, recently ever-understanding) parents, I was going up to the summerhouse every day to write. That short 30 second walk, and the ritual, often enough, of tucking myself into my sleeping bag was really important, and kept me going. I was up there often enough, from nine in the morning until ten at night. Ok, with sometimes long breaks in between. But I kept going.
Imperial Model 50
Imperial Model 50

Often since then I’ve been at a loss. Sometimes sitting and writing in my mum’s car when they were away in the caravan. Driving up to the C____ hills and fiding a place tucked away where people couldn’t see me, taking a piss in the undergrowth now and again.

That month or so ago I was fixing up another typewriter, preparing to upgrade it to the illustrious standard of my number one all weather dependable summerhouse laptop. I was doing so on a Saturday. And I was feeling out of sorts.
Saturday is often the day I get up, and read or cook or flit around until ten. There’s no point starting because Saturday kitchen will be on, and I enjoy watching it. And, of course, I ought to give myself a break sometimes. It’s on from ten to eleven thirty, and I often watch the lot, albeit whilst doing something else at the same time, and getting twitchy.
This time, that somethign else was my Smith Corona. In fact, no, I was repairing the second horrible plasticky typewriter I bought, ordered off E-Bay a couple of years to my work (!) back when I was convinced that if I didn’t take a portable and book a one way flight to the Ukraine to write my masterpiece, I wasn’t half the man I thought I might just conceivably be on a good day, if nothing got in my way, the one that had stopped working. Or stopped working enough that I wanted to give up on it and go upstairs to my first love, the Imperial.
Dad, I think, was used to these moments, and while I was in the lounge with the Remington “never been to the Ukraine” Envoy in pieces, and the fish wire that pulls the carriage along wrapped around the spindle of the sprung spool, he took to working on the Smith Corona Skywriter which only advances three line spaces at a time without means of adjustment.
Smith Corona Skyriter
Smith Corona Skyriter

He is used to these moments because I’ve been having them all my life. He bought me forks for my bike he couldn’t afford. The kind of super duper Pace carbon fibre forks nobody has, and I didn’t need. Bought them, despite his own evident struggles to justify the expense, because I had bought something similar (only an earlier model that didn’t much work) second hand with a frame, pursuing yet another in a long line of obsessions that lost me money while I was a student, and they had been stolen, and I had been heartbroken.

He rang around when I was eighteen to find a bass guitar with an aluminium neck. I was obsessed about it. Finally, he bought the one in the shop I had first seen. A Kramer bass with a little bit of ill-advised cosmetic adjustment. And he bought me those floor standing speakers when I did well at my A-levels after losing the plot for those years. Again, we had walked away from the shop, as I think we had with the bike, talked it over, me being dead set and trying hard not to be, before walking back – a man who had got where he was by being thrifty, he had worked hard so that I wouldn’t know the value of money, working his way from a kid who had had next to nothing on a farm in the West of Ireland, to living in one of the most desireable houses in this town, which I hate, but perhaps for little enough reason.
So, there was I, refusing help on this Remington. I wanted to do it all on my own. A trait of the Belcher men, says my mum, is that we all refuse whatever help’s offered. And he goes out. I don’t feel so comfortable in my own skin. I should be writing. But I’m dong something physical at least, and watching cooking on the TV.
He came back and said he had bought a typewriter. Unfortunately it was one of the ugliest typewriters I have ever seen, the hideous Olivetti Lettera 35, which is all the more ugly for having succeeded some of the lovliest, such as the Lettera 22 and 32 (which I have, only in a French keyboard layout, though such is my obsession, that that fact tends to up the priority of my learning French rather than of selling the thing to fund my next obsessive purchase).
Olivetti Lettera 35
Olivetti Lettera 35

As I say, this all happened a few Saturdays ago now, but it does illustrate the point. If I get sucked in to Saturday Kitchen, or if I get up a little late and decide to try and do something else until lunch, and then, until dinner, I fret all day about it and can’t find piece of mind in anything I do, until I finally, too late, either settle to my writing, or whatever it is I should be doing, or spend an utterly hateful day with periodic fits of compensatory obsession.

Today, for the most part, was such a day.
I got up, wrote a couple of shoddy articles of the University of Gav, which I have – quite intentionally – ignored for a few weeks or months while I focused on real writing. Once I finished doing this, and having satisfied myself that it was not a productive morning at all, but quite the opposite, that I had done nothing, I was able to do nothing but flit around the internet. (For whatever reason, and perhaps a fellow aspie could enlighten me, I find it impossible to settle to what I feel I should be doing, if I haven’t already started at the time I feel I should have ie., in this case, 9 o’clock.) And so, invidious posts left on blogs here and there. Attempts at funny captions for the Tory party on the Newsnight Blog (Let’s Roll… Back the state, being one of them; because Ducks deserve houses too, another), attempts to watch Czech serial Výprávej, the third part of the serial I’ve watched a couple of, with the video buffering and then dropping constantly, something that has been happening for a few weeks now, mainly, no doubt, due to the slow down that hits Talk Talk when you have high useage over a period (and I have been using Spotify and watching 9/11 videos again). Flitfulness, basically, going from one thing to another, and enjoying none of them, feeling myself in none of them.
And then, the Belcher’s first law struck. Whenever you feel most pressed for time, that’s when the miscellaneous demands you could never have anticipated start rolling in. I check my e-mails for something and see that I have sold a book through Amazon. It’s dated a couple of days ago. And I had thought I had cancelled all sales because of the postal strike. I have a whole gamut of e-mail addresses and hadn’t been checking them. Damn! And this was when I was just trying to convince myself to get off my arse and get some writing done to settle my head.
And so, a series of dilemmas. Shall I go to the post office in town? I could go on the bike. A bit of exercise. That will make me feel like I’m doing something (a balance of exercise has been important to me for years, ever since all those times I managed not to get round to using my super duper bike with the Pace forks my dad paid so much money for and which I beat myself up for time and time again). But no. Too busy. And I would have to lock up my bike by the clock at the cafe everyone used to go to. Or walk all that way (75 metres or so). It’s Saturday. Too many people I might see! No. And so then, I try to find alternatives, and justify them to myself. I’ll take the car, for one, and go out of my way and find some other interesting places. After all I might see something that might come in handy for my writing some day.
Long story short (because it’s late, I’ve been rambling all this time, and I’ve already fucked up my routine for tomorrow) I end up driving around for over an hour, trying to convince myself I am spending my time profitably because I’m listening to a debate on radio 4, trying not to get angry with myself for wasting the petrol I filled up yesterday after going to the cinema out of the way (also to avoid seeing people), and trying to redeem it by stopping somewhere at a charity shop. But no, Blackheath’s out because I’m already so far out, having found no Post Offices open, having bought an expensive book of stamps I don’t know how to use because, though I’ve weighed my book and measured the fucking thing, the Post Office website makes no sense about how many stamps to affix, because I can’t print out my stamp onto an envelope that’s too thick with the bubble wrap even before I sealed the book into it, and because stamps no longer have their monetary fucking value on! And of the two local post offices I found on Yell.co.uk, one is long closed, my mobile informing me (once I ring three times with ever louder curses so I can read the transitory message) that I am trying to ring a restricted number, and the other, which I miraculously find, closed.
Ok, suffice it to say I do not find weekends easy. I’ve read maybe fifteen words of the huge book, Wolf Hall, I’m trying to read for the 6th of October to feel that I can get to the end of a project, just, and I’ve written for a few hours in total. More now counting this, and maybe a few more counting the posts I made in the morning. But all day I have felt anxious and had little or no peace of mind.
Does anybody else feel like this?
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