ignis, glacies et pertinacia

Mixed tapes a masterpiece

In The Waste Posts, Unforgiving Minutes on February 26, 2010 at 5:40 pm

In Capel Curig a week or so now and struggling to find a routine. I’ve done no writing for over two weeks now, I’m sure. Nothing of any value in any case. Plenty of ideas. Ideas are not a problem. The trouble is I’ve not been able to establish my priorities or the habit of working on a particular story. It’s the old story then. And that’s the problem. Now that I know how much I struggle with consistency of output and priorities, I struggle to believe I can do it – too many bad experiences over the years, too many hopes shattered – and so I can’t even begin. Next to me is another fresh book for me to read. Another compulsive purchase, this time from one of the many oh so exciting bookshops in Bangor, a University Town, The Berlin Wall by Frederick Taylor. Two boxes full of books and I have to buy another. And then another, last time, a book by Peter Matthieson. And yet I know that even now as my Dad is cataloguing my books back home, writing their names, ISBNs and authors into a database I’ll never use, barely any of them have been read to the last page. A decent minority of them have been read beyond the first chapter. And then others into the twenties and thirties. Pages that is.

Scarcely a week in, having come into this shared house and dared to display my typewriter from the first night here, I started a new novel. And I called it that. It wasn’t a short story. It was a novel. It now sits scrumpled in the typewriter which I haven’t dared use but once, and under it.

It strikes me again and again here how easily a man like myself can learn not to enjoy the things he enjoys. I could love walking in the hills, or walking in general, but then to be surrounded by men who love motorbiking and climbing, I struggle to persuade myself it is not a feeble waste of time.

The case is not helped, perhaps, by the fact that many of my pleasures are ambiguous to me. I’m not sure if I enjoy them, or I tire of them at least as often as I find pleasure in them. Jazz, which I’m listening to now, is one such. Reading, running, cycling. Certainly writing, are duties as often as they are pleasures. Some people are not born to be happy.
As I am not at the moment. I am in fact depressed. I hear it in my own voice, which I despise. I cannot believe in the possibility of closeness to others. I have friends scattered around the places I have tried to make home. In reality I am homeless. Often I am reminded of R S Thomas who I read of recently in a rare example of a book I completed (314 pages of it), who moved from place to place trying to find somewhere he fitted in. I will be here for a while, and I will not fit in. Not really. Not at all. And then I will move on again. Perhaps I will make a friend here who I will keep at a distance as I move on and on again. Perhaps not. But that I will move on and on again seems inevitable to me. This, it seems to me, is the lot of the writer.

No television and little radio reception here. But jets rip through the valleys. In summer there will be motorbikes. This is the entropy of modern life.

I thought of a new idea as I administrated the pot wash. It came at first as a joke. The kind of joke that is to lubricate the relationships I find myself in as I live in the constant fear of being ‘found out’ and despised, if I am not despised already, as strange, humourless, distant etc. One of the bilingual signs by the pot was asks guests, in English and Welsh, to place used plates in the sink, and cups in the tray provided. ‘Plate’ and ‘sink’ appear to be loan words from English, transliterated in Welsh and appended with an appropriate multisyllabic plural suffix. I was going to suggest that Welsh has few words and simply makes them up to keep a few translators busy. From this a story. A novel. Whatever it might be. And why not? A scheme for Full employment in a village that has been struck by the recession. Ambrosia? A language is invented. A language that is said to have been defeated by English imperialism. It is to be revived. Perhaps at first this is a wheeze by a group who pose as hill people. I decided it could be the Mendips, for sake of argument and a kind of rhyming vitality that struck in my mind. A little before this I decided it would be an Aspergic who invented the language to be adopted as an old, rediscovered local language. But though rich, this was less funny. He would have to be ADHD with it, and give up on his language half way through, leaving it half completed. Perhaps there would be, yes, fifty words for particular types and strains of serendipity (hence the clashing rhymes above), but none for any foodstuff barring cheese, beans, marmite and toast. There follows a light comedy involving the bureacratic subsidising of this region which becomes for a time an idyll with near full employment because of the exigencies of a renaissance in the language and culture which had previously not existed.

Slight enough but it is in those moments, pot washing, floor sweeping, or whatever it may be, when I am planning a new story or novel I will never write and most often never write about, that I am perhaps most alive. It is what I do.

Ditto walking around planning posts for the UoG I’ll never write etc etc.

But really, everything I am compelled to do seems such a fraction of happiness. 1/3 perhaps, or 1/5 towards it. Never more than 4/5, 7/8, with that 1/5, that 1/8 so present in its absence that I know I will be compelled to go on, and on, and on. Never is there peace of mind. Never is there satisfaction. What is it? What does it feel like. When writing, I ought to be writing something else. When walking, I ought to be climbing, or walking a different, more challenging path. When reading, I ought to be reading in Czech, or reading a short story, or really learning something. I have such a capacity for anxiety, for ill-at-ease-ness. For fretting. And I cannot believe it is too much to wish for a reprieve.

A school group we have just had. Liverpudlian. Perhaps 9 years old. Several kids look ill. Pale. Frowning. Sunken eyes. Zombie like. As I used to look, I’m sure. Others are, as the teachers discussed in the morning, medicated. The kids don’t understand the low rent food we are serving. One kid asks if the lamb burgers we are serving have hay in them. They have herbs. Parents visit one day and ask where they can find the nearest chippie, having already managed to find some kind of burger bar in the morning. One kid talks about deep fried Snickers bars.

“If anyone needs it he does” says one of the three impressively professional (they need to be) teachers about the medication the one kid is taking. This is of course not necessarily the case. If the kid did not eat deep fried Snickers bars and copious quantities of additive-laden meats and economy processed foods, they wouldn’t ‘need’ the medication at all.

But it’s not getting batter. Huge areas of the country now are taken up with this attitude to food and the concomittant degredation of will power, motivation, powers of concentration and persistance, tolerance, empathy, and the lowering of boredom thresholds and the quickening of tempers. It doesn’t do much for parenting skills, and neither does it do much for the ability to take on information and the moral education these teachers did so well. All of the industrial North of England, the Midlands. Much of Scotland and Wales. Increasingly, Ireland since the economic boom and bust. If you want to see social dislocation and decay, look at that classroom. It’s a microcosm. It is terrifying.

But could any government declare war on processed foods? Could any government afford to examine the link between nutrition and criminality, drugs and poor behaviour? Or would they just trot out the same partisan cant, whether it be about the importance of marriage or supporting community projects?

Britain in a generation will be a wasteland of borderline sociopaths, dragged up by parents who themselves have physiologically hard-wired hair triggers and little capacity to persist in any activity that does not provide instant reward. Already, this is a broken nation trading on its past. Britain is not London. Only those in ignorance of this fact can claim it continues to be a civilised nation.

What were the Social Workers doing in Birmingham in the months before parents starved their girl to death? They were on the front line of this fact of social decay and the epidemic of sociopathy it seems in everyone’s interests to ignore or plaster over. Aside from the usual scapegoats no one faults capitalism or capitalists for the periodic recessions which destroy lives and relationships, but social workers are to be blamed for every death in the worst estates in our failed cities. (Birmingham can’t of course be a failed city. Not with its cathedral to capitalism in part designed by Jan Kaplicky. Not with its.. well.. not with it’s cathedral to capitalism in part designed by Jan Kaplicky. It’s got discs all over it you can see all over town. But, of course, it can. Not perhaps in the business districts, which are doing what they do. But in the many estates with the bullet holes in the walls.)

The people who will be most angry about the tragic case in Birmingham are the people who do least for their society, and, in all likelihood, least for their own children. The people, that is, who are implicated in this caustic culture.

Yesterday was a difficult day. The last few days perhaps. Of course, my attempts at sociability, as limited and unsuccessful as they were, ran out of steam soon enough after moving into a shared house. That hatred of my own voice. That knowledge that so much that comes out of my mouth makes so little sense to others. The having so little in common with people. The struggle to understand and reciprocate humour. The fatigue that comes on with being around people. The being stuck for something to say. The awkwardness and ‘reciprocal reactions’ of others who soon learn to be awkward themselves in my company. I had began to spend more time in my room, trying to write, trying to read etc. Doing little of either in truth, and enjoying neither. I had been down the climbing wall one day with the guys and enjoyed it and talked to them a little there, but it is so much conversational piggie in the middle. A couple of days of eating the wrong thing and feeling awful and being unable to be in company and I soon became paranoid. It led to a vicious circle. Less and less confidence of being around others, and then, literally hiding away in my room.

I made a couple of mix CDs like the ones we listen to in the kitchen. We talk music a fair amount of the time. It is one of those things Aspergics really need to develop an interest in, because it is something people can always talk about. But I worried a lot about the musical choices. Something in it would betray me. (It is surprising perhaps how often I feel this, that everything I do will give me away as being other. It is always there.) And so I took them in, and we played them. Not the most obvious choices. Some attempts at cheese from the limited selection on my computer. (And in my mind all the time the times I had tried to make mixes before for parties and the like, which were dismissed as music to slit your throat to or something. There you have it again. It all goes deep, and I can’t pretend otherwise. I struggle with cheese. After some time, the manager asks if we can turn it off. In my mind I suppose I panicked. I’ve been found out. There were times already I thought that might have been the case. But here it was now. It was a hard night when I was then left to my own devices, and I suppose that if I have fallen into depression, which seems likely given my mental climate at the moment, it is as much down to that as down to the prolongued lack of routine which always brings me down.

Later, Jaffa texted. Jaffa the biker from my old place of work. The guy I see sometimes. Once a month say. I see him often on my own, when I worry that I will be found out. When I often worry at the end of the night that that he now hates me for my awkwardness and inability to deal with groups of people, or my miserablism when I go out and drink sparkling water all night. When I prepare things to talk about. Still, we formed a bond over open fires that means something to men, that people have perhaps lost in time. He asked how I was getting on out here, and that meant something. My thoughts still went around and around as I prepared some packed lunches, riffing on how I make so few friends and how they are all so far away, in Prague, at home, in all the places I try sometimes to fit in and fail, depressed riffs about how I will continue to do just this. But it nevertheless gave me a boost. I went back home the end of my shift that night and spoke to my housemates! I went into the room (it takes more courage and is more of a gamble than most people reading this post will ever understand) and spoke. No doubt I gave the impression of being outgoing and verbal on occasions, mute and withdrawn on others, but they responded, looked at me and talked as if including me… Another day over.

Battles, battles, battles, and nothing but battles. For some, this will be life.

Today, the weakness, the sleepiness and overall fatigue of die off symptoms. Another thing people have never heard of, and which you will find scanty understanding for.

Still, another day.

A lot of jazz is, I think, boring. I really ought to try and find something interesting and pleasureble to listen to and shed a lot of the music I grew up with. Patterns repeat themselves for a reason, and you need sometimes to dig them up at the roots.


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