Saturday, 19 July 2014

2-4-6-8 Motorway, Rainman of the Year and...the Hospitalisation Game

Anyone who thought this book would be an account of petty self-justification and excuses should be re-assured by what they're about to read.

It's 2004 and I've got the mother of all battles on my hands here. I've got to keep myself alive but can't possibly give those bastards what they want. Imagine a sanitised, corporatised, bastardised version of Dazza, stripped of his personality and anything that might vaguely resemble an original thought or idea. To paraphrase Archer in the film, Scum, “they're not having me”. I could so easily give myself an easy life, at least ostensibly, and play their game. But I have to be able to sleep at night, look people whose opinions I respect in the eye and tell them that whatever flaws I might have (and there are many), sycophancy and brown-nosing are not amongst them.

When I look back I probably dwelt too much at the time on the viciousness of the people I was dealing with – hey, the upper echelons of any large organisation is full of people like that, so quit complaining and lie in the bed you've made for yourself. How do you think they got where they did – on merit? By doing something useful? Get a fucking grip, Dazza. They knew when to play the game, who to kiss up to and when to twist the knife. They're completely aware of how useful you could be to them, which is why they've merely made your life a fucking misery as opposed to actually getting rid, and you've made a conscious choice to resist. The right choice for a multitude of reasons, no argument there, but a free and conscious choice nonetheless.

I wish that's where I'd been ten years ago, but I wasn't. Instead an idealistic sense of injustice and having been robbed was eating away at my very being and driving me, amongst other things, to drinking like there was no tomorrow. It's a Friday night and the guys I was with earlier have (quite sensibly) gone home. Not me though – I'm flying solo now, having a few to forget the pain and then a few more to remember what it is I was supposed to be forgetting. I'm absolutely poleaxed, out in the middle of nowhere and the buses back to somewhere near where I live have stopped running. Bollocks to it, let's travel in the opposite direction, have a little adventure. I get on and then off again, with precious little idea of where I am. None whatsoever.

Before I know it and without doing too much, I'm walking on the M6 – well, I was always gonna find my way home one way or the other, right? The legality or otherwise of what I'm doing does not strike me as a relevant point, nor does the very realistic prospect of getting killed. Death, even a slow and painful one, is eminently preferable to surrender to the evil bastards hell-bent on snatching my spirit and soul for as little as they can. They're not having me, THEY'RE NOT FUCKING HAVING ME!!. Life has brought me face-to-face with a fate worse than death and you know what? Being six feet under has its appeal right now. I remember calling in sick one morning because I couldn't take anymore, looking up at the light fittings and imagining how I'd look, dangling from them. Better than being an empty and vacuous Patrick Bateman clone, surely?

I'm walking up the hard shoulder on the right hand side, so cars and lorries are heading towards me. A few drivers pip their horns as if to ask “what the fuck are you doing?” and then I see one on a mobile phone as he passes and flashes his lights in my direction. I immediately reach the conclusion that he must, must be onto the filth about the knobhead walking along the hard shoulder. So I do probably the single most stupid thing I have ever done in my life – I cross the motorway. Yeah, I run across the M6 in the darkness of the early hours – whether or not I fully observed the Green Cross code is of little significance in that context, right? But, just in case you're curious, I did wait until I had a decent shot of getting over there without being splattered.

It was stupid, selfish and dangerous on a level that never occurred to me at the time. Imagine the poor fucker who's driving home from the late shift or whatever and has this wrecking ball run out in front of him. He or she would have been haunted by that mental image for the rest of their life, seen my face in his or her nightmares, eyes like saucers, looking distinctly 1980s with his Lotus Eaters haircut and denim jacket. While my misery would be over, someone else would be serving a life sentence. I often wonder how I'm not either dead or in jail and still have the occasional moment even now where the thought of ending it all appeals in one way or another. I think that's a personal choice, but it's also fair comment to say you shouldn't get unwilling participants involved.

Anyway, here come the pigs. I'm stopped and breathalysed (off the chart, apparently) and bundled into the back of the van before I get myself or somebody else killed. There's a fine and it's only a civil and not a criminal offence, so I take the kick in the nuts and the free ride home, realising that resistance of any kind or attempting to be some sort of smartarse could land me in a whole heap of shit. They drop me off and I make the rest of the way home and tell my kid brother what's just happened. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this story is how unfazed he was by the whole thing. That's how used he was to my self-destructive behaviour. Sorry kid.

Still, lost the battle, won the war eh Dazza? They never had you...

As I was once told, we're all good at something. It can only be a god-given thing as application and concentration were never strongsuits of mine, but I've always had an a penchant for numbers, to the extent that I was once asked if I'd ever appeared in a film starring Dustin Hoffman. Give me two numbers and what you'd like me to do with them and I'll come back to you pretty quickly, with an answer straight from the head. Somehow, this was enough to bag a top grade at GCSE Maths, which surely says more about the failings of our education system than it does about me. There was some very, very muted acknowledgement of this and other achievements the day I got my results and then, well, nothing until we got a letter through the post a few months later.

The school were having an awards night and would be awarding prizes to those who were deemed to be the best achievers at various things. Knowing that I hadn't won anything and having substantial emotional baggage relating to the place, I was quick to state that the whole thing was a waste of fucking time and that I wouldn't be bothering. Fine. No problem. Then, a few weeks later we get another letter through the post. I say 'we' because it's addressed to me but Irene opens it anyway, as she was prone to do. Apparently I've won the super-duper mathematical fucking genius award, or something like that. What the fuck? I can think of half a dozen people off the top of my head who deserved that more than I did. I appreciated the money though, bought the cheapest book I could find and spent the rest on a New Order album.

Given the opportunity to bask in some reflected glory and claim credit for something they had fuck all to do with, Bob and Irene's collective mood suddenly changes. We're going, irrespective of my feelings on the subject – and I'm gonna dress up like a complete twat in a suit and a tie, and smile at all the appropriate points, and laugh at people's shit jokes, just so they can look like half-decent parents and say “that's my son”. Where were they when I needed them? Neither of them would so much as crossed the road for anything to do with me and yet here they were, insisting I go back into a pit of vipers I'd been so glad to get away from just so they could project an (utterly false) image of normality and respectability to the world.

Anyway, two things happen. Firstly, after Irene's constant banging on about this for weeks (felt like years but c'est la vie) I snap and tell her I can't face it, that I was desperately unhappy and unwell while I was there, that I felt like an outsider and had no positive memories of the place whatsoever, that sufficient time has not passed for me to face something like this. Her response? She tells me that this is news to her (which I knew even at the time to be untrue) and to “shut the fuck up and stop feeling sorry for yourself”. As the day comes closer and she realises I really can't face it, she starts tugging at the heartstrings, tells me how much it would mean to be there. Er, where were you when my world was falling apart around me? AWOL, that's where. Indulging that spoilt little bitch and putting Bob before your other kids, like you always did.

On a more cheerful note, I also arranged an interview with Michael Stark (of Brookside fame) on the same night, so was able to wriggle out of it in the end. Not that even that could go ahead without them gatecrashing and trying to turn it into some sort of 'family event'. I was there to ask him some serious(ish) questions about social reaslism in soap operas, their relevance in contemporary society and all that jazz. Thanks very much for 1) turning that into a fucking circus – was that your childlike way of punishing me? And 2) ringing in to the school with a nonsense excuse about being unable to do the awards because of a family illness. Someone was ill, but that wasn't why I couldn't make it. “You should have rung them yourself - I brought you up better than that” she said.

Irene, whichever way you 'brought' me, I can assure you it was certainly not up.

It's August 1999, it's a Saturday night and the sun is out. I'm killing time to a large extent, but hey at least I'm out of the house. I get to the top end of the park where it joins town and am probably just gonna wander for a while and clear my head. At least that's the plan until I run into a few friends of mine. Fortunately, I was never a White Lightning man, and have the only mouthful of the stuff I have ever tasted in my life. People who know me well will understand the gravity of this statement, but I think I'd rather be sober. I've never got why anyone, anywhere would actively choose to drink what tastes like the content of a car battery when there are perfectly reasonable and affordable alternatives out there such as Windolene, Pine Cleaner and Surgical Spirit.

Come into town for a couple of pints, Daz” - well, on reflection it's quite amusing that they made that sort of effort to persuade me, or that I should have needed persuading. I was seventeen and a half at the time, and so the idea of having the odd cheeky and slightly illegal beer in a pub should have been (to quote Brian Harvey) as normal as having a cup of tea. How repressed was I that this still struck me as some sort of big deal? How suffocated had I been by years of nagging and wholly fallacious scare stories about how I'd end up sleeping in a shop doorway giving sexual favours for loose change? Eventually, I go into town for a couple of beers. Or, at least that's what I thought was happening.

I'm suddenly being plied with drink – and seeing as it's free I'm going for it. I bang three pints down my neck in about twenty minutes and then the boys bring over the Goldschlager. This would have been about 53% at the time and I rapidly dispose of four of them. Then another couple of pints, and 'the mystery pint' which consists of anything and everything that one of them couldn't be arsed finishing. I've nailed all of this inside an hour and I say my goodbyes, thank them for their time and generosity. I set off home and then...the lights go out. The next thing I remember is waking up in a hospital bed and violently yanking a drip out of my arm. It would be the first of many, many hours that have disappeared from view as the camera switched itself off.

Just to clarify, rumours that I sang 'the King of the Swingers' from the Jungle Book for loose change have since been proven to be untrue – I don't even know the words.

On the grounds of safety I sleep in the bottom bunk that night (young adults sleeping in bunk beds designed for kids – only at our house, or in prison) and I promptly piss myself (sorry kid). Anyway, the following morning Irene's response amazes me. She bangs on about how wretched these friends of mine are, 'getting me drunk' like that and not calling their night off to join me in the hospital. Hang on a minute, shithead. They'd bought me drinks and stuck them in front of me, that much is true. But then nobody had put a gun to my head and forced me to set off like there was no tomorrow, banging the stuff down my throat like it was lemonade. I was immensely grateful that Bob was out of the country at the time as he would have seen this as an opportunity to throw his weight around.

In reality, this was nobody's fault but mine – thanks for reading and I'll catch you soon.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Eureka, Dishy Dana and...No Regrets

False modesty gets us nowhere and actually rather pisses me off. As long as you're prepared to acknowledge your weaknesses with a degree of honesty, then do the same with your strengths. I'm a pretty bright and perceptive person, relatively switched on. I 'get' things, am able to join up the dots in my head and understand how everything fits together without being shown...and re-shown...and re-shown what to do. Sometimes I've wondered if I might have been happier in life had I been possessed of a mind that was slightly dopier and duller, less inquisitive and incisive. I've found out things that I probably wish I hadn't, but then you have to live with the reality that you're confronted with once a comfortable lie is no longer an option.

One of the great delusions under which most of us operate is that we have a lot of friends. Many thanks to all of those who are reading via Facebook, but there is no way on earth that I would consider all 216 of you to be my friends in the true sense. Do I have 216 friends? Hell, no. Does anyone? What about the people you talk to at work? How many of them would help you out if you were really in the shit? That would appear to be where the line is for my money – can you talk to that person in confidence about something sensitive and potentially embarrassing? If you were penniless or destitute would he or she do what they could to help you?

The reason that day in the Autumn of 1996 remains etched in my brain is because it served as a painful Eureka moment on a number of levels. As a general rule, teenagers are brutal and insensitive creatures, happy to refer to you as a mate one minute and then shit all over you just for kicks the next. I had no idea what I'd done wrong, but there seemed to be some particularly nasty and unpleasant vibes towards me from a multitude of directions and it was only at this point that I became acutely aware of them. For whatever reason, I was faced with the cold, clear truth and it was not good, regardless of the angle from which you looked at it.

The brutality I referred to means that essentially none of us have many friends at that age, certainly not of the sort that we could talk to about anything that was troubling us and realistically expect it to go no further. You'll understand the theraputic feeling derived from simply saying to someone else “I have XYZ going on in my life and it's really concerning me because...”. I'm looking over my shoulder and seeing arrows everywhere. I hear a voice and it reminds me “there are people here who would just love to fucking destroy you and now you've got this problem, a stick of dynamite that they'll gladly stick right up your arse if they ever get hold of it. So, who can you trust? Nobody”.

As for Bob and Irene, well, let's just say that some people were allowed to have feelings in that house and others weren't. Understanding that somebody is in a fragile state and dealing with them in a way that is mature and non-judgemental was not their bag at all. Why on earth would either of them waste their time talking to their kids about 'precious feelings' if they weren't subsequently allowed to put the boot in themselves? After all, that ability to act as judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one was one of the few aspects of parenthood that really appealed to them. So, there would be nobody to talk to or confide in. I really was on my own here.

I'd already been on the downward curve for at least a year before all this started, but now everything had crystalised in front of my eyes. There's a hierarchy within any institution and some wacky rules that make no sense. Of course, the most important rules within any institution tend to be the unwritten ones and now it was absolutely clear where I stood in the grand scheme of things. The outlook was bleak – I really was the lowest of the low in this particular food chain (although exactly why escapes me), seriously fucking hardcore phyto-plankton surrounded by much bigger fish. Realising this, and that there was precisely nothing I could do about it, was heartbreaking.

Quite amazingly, there were opportunities to go out with other people, none of which I took. One of the defining features of limerence is that you genuinely do not want anyone else. This isn't like a crush or a bout of puppy love which someone might have for more than one person at a time. Your LO has (unwittingly) invaded your brain, done a Poland 1939 on it and stuck the fucking flag in there. Perhaps it's for the best I didn't inflict myself (or my parents, for that matter) on someone else anyway. I was evidently a fucking mess, and they were, well, they were just them. I wouldn't wish either of them (or worse still, the combination of both) on somebody I cared about.

To be honest, I've always thought of romantic interest from others as either a) clear evidence of insanity on the part of my admirer or b) part of some particularly nasty practical joke designed to leave me cut up and humiliated. To paraphrase the game show, Jeopardy, if Dazza is the answer then what is the fucking question? And the chances are that if she's got something to offer and she's actually serious, she can do so much better than you anyway, can't she Dazza? So, do the decent thing, don't get involved and, above all, find a way to sabotage yourself. I'm aware of just how serious a self-image problem this represents, but it's my autopilot response to a kind of situation.

I don't deserve it, so if it comes along, I find a way of fucking it up.

Another characteristic of limerence is that it's been known to inspire some borderline (and even outright) stalkerish behaviour. I've had three episodes and, while the back catalogue is littered with reckless endangerment and stupidity of other kinds, it would appear that, ironically, this crisis of self-image acted as a means of applying the brakes, killing stone dead the really bad ideas that come into the brain sometimes. Limerence is very similar to being on drugs as your dopamine and phenelethylamine (natural amphetamines) are through the fucking roof. Just as other 'intoxicated' persons get crazy impulses or ideas, and sometimes act on them, so can someone who's involuntarily infatuated.

Looking through that lens, I re-remembered something recently when my kid brother and I were discussing this chapter of our lives. A lad I grew up with got 'into' this girl in quite a serious, intense way and, unlike myself, he wasn't backward about shouting up. This was completely out of character in itself as he was normally pretty quiet and reserved. It also became clear from fairly early on that he was, frankly, wasting his time and heading up something of a dead end but he became a bit demented about the whole thing and managed, somehow to get her phone number (the monumental dickhead responsible wants setting on fire as a point of principle).

After the disaster that was 'the Telephone Call' did he pack it in and move onto somebody else? Not quite – there was an unfortunate incident involving a table in McDonald's and him displaying to the world exactly how he intended to get his cathartic release (yes, pun intended). I should clarify that his clothes stayed on, but news of this 'simulation' got back amongst the pack of bloodthirsty hounds and he took quite a long time to recover from it. Of course, being a twat who was totally lacking self-awareness, I joined in the jokes about him masturbating to the MFI catalogue and being banned from Ikea, but there's no doubt on reflection that the guy was unwell, probably in a very similar way to the way I was.

He was always a top lad and I hope he's happy now, wherever he is and whatever he's doing.

And – thanks for the tip-off mate. Mental note to self – girls DO NOT like it when you hump the furniture and pretend it's them.

Anyone familiar with my alleged music career (now retired by popular demand) will know that I just didn't do love songs, at least not of the soppy, sickly sweet variety. Part of it was probably an image thing – I mean, it's hardly the stuff of your flawed anti-hero is it? Of course, the fact that I've never really been in love, merely unwell a few times, will have quite a bit to do with it. There's also that combination of intensity and melancholia that stops me putting such feelings on public display, at least at the time. A lot of people don't have that problem and find no issue whatsoever with writing songs, love poems, whatever else. Whatever floats your boat and good luck to you, just be very fucking careful who you show it to!!

Oh god how I miss my dearest Dana, cruelly robbed of me by that car crash/tropical disease/got eaten by a shark/ok, I'll admit to not remembering that bit. With her hair and her eyes and her nose and the sound of her breath when she slept next to me. How it breaks my heart that I'll never see, feel or hear any of this again. I want to die just so I can be with her. Wah. Wah. WAHHHHH!!”. It went something like that anyway, only let's just say the description of, er, Dana, was ever so slightly too vivid. You knew exactly who she was, right down to the fucking eyelashes!! And he's written this monologue about her (as a valid piece of English coursework, I should add) that's got most of us laughing our bollocks off.

Stop showing everyone, for fuck's sake!! In all seriousness, Dana (we'll keep it that way to protect the innocent) was absolutely lovely and you can't blame him for liking her - there was a lot to like.

Mental note to self – don't write any poems/songs/monologues/Adrian Mole-esque diary entries or anything else. And if you feel the overwhelming urge to break this rule, do so up in the hills somewhere, completely removed from civilisation. Stick whatever you've written under a stone or in a cave so nobody else can read it.

We've imported a lot of crap from America into this country – McDonald's and other Yankie junk food would be right at the top of the list, along with...High School Proms. I think I would happily shove them into Room 101 given the opportunity, and, contrary to what I was told at the time, take immense pride in having told mine to fuck off. In fact, our family's record at attending these things is mightily impressive – we were 0 for 3 on that score. Deano actually managed to get himself banned from his (I'm dying of jealousy) as a result of an unfortunate escapade involving a curtain cord and an asthmatic kid. Rob was told by Bob and Irene that he couldn't attend, despite expressing a clear wish to and there being no obvious reason why he shouldn't be able to go.

Me? I was mentally exhausted, broken and done in. I had no fondness for the place whatsoever and really needed a change of scene like nothing else. I can't regret this in the true sense as I didn't make the decision, but when I look back I wish I'd gone to college somewhere else instead of what was essentially the sixth form of my high school. A new environment, free from all of the negativity, shit and reminders of previous disasters would have been revitalising. As it was, by the time I actually left formal education at eighteen I was completely gone. Incredibly, going out and getting a job felt like going on holiday, a feeling that wouldn't last for too long but was very real at the time.

People getting dolled up, wearing outfits that looked utterly ridiculous and turning up in limousines just ain't my thing. Absolutely no fucking way, particularly when you factor in the absurd no drinking rule that was adhered to by a surprising number. The following day was my last before the exams, one I could and should have not bothered with. I didn't want to know about their phoney American bollocks beforehand or on the day and I found 'the video' the following day to be a combination of the tedious, the unfunny and the utterly fucking nauseating. I remember being told at the time that I was “making a big mistake that I would regret for the rest of my life”, to which I can only respond “no I wasn't and no I don't”.

Thanks for reading and I'll catch you soon.

Love Ya Kid, My Fake Inter-Supporting Ancestry and...Lessons in Love, How Not To!!

Rob and I have gravitated towards each other from quite a young age. Being tougher than me, he won't thank me for saying it but I utterly love him to pieces, would gladly take a bullet for the guy and regard him as the only family I have. We never really spoke about it when we were kids (living in constant state of fear tends to leave you tongue-tied), but there's absolutely no doubt that we were very much the black sheep of the family. We were even told more than once that their desired domestic unit consisted of Bob, Irene a boy and a girl. They got all of that, but also happened to have two children in the middle who one might regard as mistakes, mishaps, accidents or aberations. We were them and it shows in the way that people were treated.

When I look back, things started to go wrong when my sister was born. Bob's response was to spoil and indulge her, create an insurance policy against any thoughts Irene might have had of fucking him off and doing her own thing. Rather than rise above it and remember her other kids, she joined in this rather disturbing Dutch auction and so effectively all of their time and money (outside of the booze and fags budget, which remained a constant) went on her. The rest of us got fuck all and were basically neglected from that point onwards. Rob suffered more than anyone as a result and, although I had serious self-image problems of my own, I was Kevin Pietersen compared to him.

It was also around that time that Deano (my older brother) began to (at least as far as they were concerned) spin off the rails. In actuality, this consisted of getting drunk a few times, smoking a bit of blow and recognising formal education for the utter crock of shit that it is. Of course you'd rather he hadn't been doing it, but on reflection it was hardly earth-shattering stuff. My suspicion is this was his way of reminding his parents that he was still alive, forcing them to acknowledge his existence. He'd gone from being Goldenballs and the blue-eyed boy (which Rob and I never were) to just being another old toy that his Mum and Dad had got bored of. The drop was harsh, utterly unfair on someone so young and he couldn't cope. The fella has his faults, but I'm certainly not judging in this instance.

Rob got it something chronic though – I have no problem stating out loud that in absolute terms, he suffered more than anyone. He was constantly belittled, told he was no good and amounted to nothing. He was threatened with being sent to a school that was for people who were actually mentally retarded. He had it drummed into him at a young age that any sort of meaningful career would elude him and a job as a binman (not that I've anything against anyone who works on the bins for a living) was the best he could hope for. He tried to move out to get away from it all and was beaten up (more about that some other time). The lad has been through hell and come out of it stronger, tougher and more resilient than I'll ever be. I don't just love him, I really admire him and I'm dead proud to say he's my brother.

Knowing that both of your parents would have been happier had you never been born is a concept that (thankfully) will be alien to most of you. Confirmation of this came a couple of years ago when Bob was in hospital in the process of having a leg removed and, when asked if he had children, he chose not to mention us since, as far as he was concerned, we didn't exist. We were an inconvenience to him, it's as simple and as complicated as that. Exactly why I think he had kids in the first place is something I'll come to soon enough, but Rob and I know deep down how little we meant to both of them. Ultimately, it came down to what you could do for them, which is the polar opposite of what you'd expect in a parent-child relationship.

Sometimes I wonder how I'd get on if I went on that programme “Who Do You Think You Are?”. I'll tell you what I knew for some twenty-five years of my life. One side of Bob's family hail from Milan, the D'Angelucci clan (they support Internazionale and not AC, I was ultra fucking rapid when it came to asking that question!!). My great-grandfather, being an Italian living in Britain during the Second World War, was interned on the Isle of Wight in the early 1940s and this became the thread on which a novel (written by Bob, no less) was based. The other side of his family hailed from Dublin and were descendants of Pedraig Pearse, the Irish freedom fighter or terrorist depending on your perspective

Just tonight I watched 'In the Name of the Father' as a sort of tribute to Gerry Conlon (RIP and God bless). As teenagers we were forbidden from watching this film as it jarred a raw nerve and touched upon subjects dear to Bob's heart. We respected that and never asked to watch it, avoided talking about the whole Northern Ireland situation and generally steered well fucking clear.

Anyway, the punchline, you ready for it? I don't hail from Italians, that much is certain. Of course there is nothing remotely Mediterranean about me whatsoever, but when your biological father tells you this shit at a young age you're inclined to take his word for it. Hey, Vincenzo 'ICE' Nardiello had pale skin too so there. In all seriousness, I think this was a dating lie that was told to impress someone and got out of hand when it went down the road of engagement, marriage and having kids. Who and what do I hail from on Bob's side of the tree? I have absolutely no idea, and as a consequence I have precious little grasp of who I am. Not that either Bob or Irene have ever stopped to reflect on this and the impact it might have on other people.

Names removed to protect the innocent, at least for now...

I remember it like it was yesterday. I turned left out of the library, walked past her like I had a hundred times before and suddenly felt something that was just awful. The best way I can describe it is like being electrocuted and simultaneously having all of the blood removed from your body. That feeling of weakness, paralysis is something I will never, ever forget as long as I live. Is this what everyone goes through and, if so, why is it so utterly fucking painful? It would take me years to discover the answer to that question. Why do you freeze/tighten up every time this girl is within eighteen yards of you? Should you perhaps see a doctor about the faintness, nausea and chest pains you've been experiencing? Maybe you should just fuck school off for a while until all of this is out of your system.

Bless her heart, she's utterly blameless and I feel rough as a badger's arse for her (unlike a certain someone from my early 20s), but leaving this out would essentially constitute a direct lie. Had I turned right instead of left, I would have run into someone else and felt entirely the same thing, no question. The course of history would have been altered, but only marginally. Limerence is a fucking nightmare, particularly when you've no relative experience to fall back on. My confidence had already been shredded by years of negativity and nastiness at home, so I was ripe for a constant feeling of subservience, which is what limerence basically is. As far as my fucked up and diseased mind was concerned, she was a goddess, incapable of wrong.

I would quite literally have crawled across broken glass for her.

All that said...deep down I hated these feelings that had chosen me and not the other way around. I want to be as rational and sane as I can, so resent anything that compromises this in a meaningful way. I was desperate to wake up liberated from it all, not because she wasn't gorgeous and bright (she was both), but because I wanted to take back ownership of my own life. I assessed the terrain and concluded that the chances of success were slim to none, so my next mission was one of damage limitation. Being someone who had enemies who would have happily humiliated him, I got this better than most. Fortunately, I received some help from unlikely sources who had no idea.

Tell you what – I'll share those stories tomorrow. See ya soon.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Why I'm Writing It and...Cheque This Out!!

Evening all - what a beautiful day to waste in front of a computer. Shame on this bunny...

So, why write a book about your early life when you're not famous? Whether or not that's a valid question depends entirely on whether or not you feel one has to 'earn' the right to give some sort of account of their experiences, then if so, by what criteria. I've read many a dull autobiography by some 'famous person' or another, closing the book and deeming that to be a waste of several hours which could have been spent doing something altogether more useful.

Look at the average footballer's tales of triumph if the point needs illuminating in any way. Endless repetition of games and goals that were already known to us, precious little insight and a sense that the truly revelatory stuff is being held back for fear of embarrassment to themselves, team-mates or whoever else might be capable of ordering a super-injunction. Then there are the pathetic, score-settling accounts of former Z-listers, written under the misapprehension that their star has not faded in some significant way, that the world has not moved on from their fallout with XYZ some 125 years ago. Yawn. Epic fucking yawn.

So..what if I wrote a book that is nothing like that?

I seem to have spent forever being judged by fucking idiots. Fucking idiots who have dealt in, at best, ignorance and, at worst, downright misinformation. There's no point lying about it or pretending to be stronger than I am. It pisses me off, really gets my goat and always has. It's an appalling weakness of mine. I sincerely wish I had a tremendous capacity to shout “Fuck You!!” across the room and just ignore the negativity. Some of those who knew me as a teenager will be astonished to hear this, but I don't and never really have. I'm quite a sensitive and almost fragile person. I care what others think of me, probably more than I should or is healthy.

Nastiness and negativity strike a nerve. Criticism chastens. Bitchiness bites. Actions aggravate. Words wound. Some of this shouldn't be the case, but hey, it is. I'm weak and deeply flawed – just like you...

Because of this character flaw, I've never been someone who's able to simply move on from something that does not have a logical ending or point of release. It's not like I haven't tried to, I'm simply hardwired a different way. Writing all of this down will provide a sense of catharsis, closure, an ending and an opportunity for anyone interested in a very, very real life to have a look and draw their own. Some will do so and conclude I'm an utter waste of time. Others will not bother having reached that that conclusion beforehand. Of course that's entirely their choice, but then I can move on and draw a line under some things, lose that baggage.

Historical inaccuracy is a pet hate of mine, 'the Vini Reilly factor' and what have you. Just as Vini should have been properly accredited with his role in the making of Viva Hate, I'm looking forward to a slice of wholly theraputic establishment of the facts, a bit of cathartic truth-telling. Labouring under a black cloud is difficult enough when it really belongs to you and has a sound basis in something that actually happened. When myth becomes enshrined in historical record, truth is the ultimate loser and bullshitter becomes King or Queen for a day. One more than he or she deserves, surely?

All of this is of course an opportunity to speak to and help anyone else who is going through some of the serious issues that will be addressed in the book – chronic depression, nervous illness, limerent episodes, parental neglect, self-destructive behaviour as a coping mechanism, and a few others. As they say at the end of television programmes “if you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this book”. Anyway, a generic e-mail address is at the top of the page and feel free to get in touch. I'll handle all contact quickly and as sensitively as I can.

At the very least, I'll try and be the person I never had...

It's past midnight so we're into Monday morning now. I was never the best sleeper and have always tended to need a drink to help me nod off, but this is shortly before the insomnia got really bad and the bags started to appear under the eyes. I remember a period of walking around like a zombie, looking like shit that hadn't slept in days. It was usually because I hadn't. So I'm wide awake when I hear the shout.

“All three of you – get your fucking arses down here, now”.

Genuinely perplexed as to what this is about, but frightened and fearing some sort of emergency, I scramble off the top bunk, down the ladder and make my way into what turns out to be the courtroom wearing nothing but my underwear (apologies for the haunting mental image). It becomes clear pretty much immediately that this is neither a fire nor a fire drill. Bob is even more pissed off than usual and he's about to tell us exactly why. Something about a cheque for three hundred and forty five pounds that he insists he left in his jacket, and therefore, since it is no longer with him, could only have been stolen.

Ok, I'm only thirteen here but I'm smart enough to understand that stealing a cheque payable to someone else is pretty fucking stupid. Shithead that he is, Bob rambles on about how he's “willing to let it go” if one of us thought we'd won the lottery and wanted to give the cheque back now. That he doesn't approach this angle, namely that there was no financial gain for any potential thief, indicates either monumental stupidity (of which he was capable with alarming frequency) or something altogether more sinister. Try paying a cheque made payable to a private company into your own bank account – I'm sure you get the point I'm making...

Two hours this goes on for, Bob playing judge jury and executioner, chain-smoking, blowing poisonous shit into our faces, wittering on about how 'whoever has done this' will be going to Lancaster Farms (like he gets to decide the sentence) and can expect to be arse-raped in the showers on a daily basis. There's bollocks about getting the filth involved and then, quite brilliantly, he announces that he's going to have us POLYGRAPHED. Now, I wasn't aware of the legal situation back in 1995, namely that the results of lie detector tests are inadmissable in a British court, but I knew this wasn't just something you could ring up and order over the phone like Chinese food.

“Hi, is this the poly bureau?”
“Hey Bob, usual is it – what have they done this time?”
“Not altogether sure, but I've got a strange feeling one of them is lying to me about, er, something”
“No problem sir – would you like prawn crackers with that?”

I'm in a difficult position here, wrestling between the utter ridiculousness of this man who (frighteningly) represents 49% of my genes, keeping a serious face due to the very real and lingering threat of violence and a tiny bit of my brain that is now playing tricks on me, telling me that I actually stole this thing and had just forgotten it. This will always stay in my mind when people defend and argue for the use of torture to interrogate people accused of crimes. A person under physical or psychological torture will admit to ANYTHING, just to make it fucking stop. Evidence gained by torture has been demonstrated time and again to be totally and utterly unreliable.

Anyway – the punchline is, the dozy fucker had left the cheque on the coach he was driving. It had never made its way into his jacket at all. For reasons unknown, we're not allowed to hit the hay until he gets back, at which point he tells us to fuck off upstairs. No apology, no sheepishness or embarrassed expression, nothing.

This was probably the point at which the unconditional love that a child has for his father disappeared from me forever. I recognised that I was living with a thoroughly nasty piece of work whose worldview ended at the tip of his own nose, a fucking idiot who I would have nothing to do with were we not (somehow) related. I mutter a few things to my kid brother about how I've just lost all respect for the guy. Then we're summoned downstairs the following morning and Irene is dishing it out this time. I'm struggling to get my head around how this works, but apparently, we were in the wrong.

Somehow, he has managed to play a trick in his head and convince himself that he is the victim in all this shit, and she's backing him up, trying to fuck with our heads and convince us that (somehow) this is our fault. He even announces that, unless we drop any sense of upset or grievance over the whole thing he will refuse to work ever again. Quite what the DSS would have made of that I have no idea, but the serious point is this manchild just needed to grow the fuck up, leave us all the fuck alone for a few days and let it blow over. Unfortunately, such an act of decency and humility was deemed to be somewhat beneath him.

Irene tried to contact me yesterday and, as far as I'm concerned, she can fuck off and go to hell. Whenever she had the chance to distance herself from Bob's lunacy, she made an active and conscious choice to prop it up instead. Though I kept giving her the benefit of the doubt for years afterwards, that morning should have been the telltale sign that, to paraphrase, they were 'in this together'. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, two cheeks of the same arse, so to speak. It's true that she was on the receiving end of his vicious streak herself, but when it was anyone else then she never had a problem with it. None whatsoever.

Despite interrogating three frightened, shivering kids for more than two hours over nothing, threatening them with gang-rape and lie detector tests amongst other mishaps, somehow, he came out of this as poor and hard done to and us kids as the villains. Only in the warped and fucked up minds of Bob and Irene could this happen, but when the content of those minds happens to be the law, that's the way you're forced to live.

I mean, the bastard probably knew all along where it was and did this whole thing just for kicks. That's the sort of person he was.

I'm just getting warmed up - take care and I'll catch you soon.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Those Pointless Early Years...and Burning Down the Disco

An OutspokenRabbit revival in 2014 - who would have thought it?

I'd like to thank and acknowledge two people before we start. First up, the brave and dignified person who took the time to share a personal story with me the other night. You will remain nameless on here, but I'm honoured that you trusted me sufficiently to take me into an immensely private space in your life. We all have a bubble of sorts that we occupy as a sort of safety net – it consists of in-jokes that we might have with our friends, personal stories that perhaps mean more to us than they do to anyone else, along with the dark and unfortunate stuff that is only really shared with our nearest and dearest. You know who you are and please believe me when I tell you it really means something.

The second person I'm thanking is for an altogether different reason. Whoever has managed to get me banned from a school reunion that I had no intention of attending anyway must surely understand by now that the joke is on them? I actually feel rather sorry for you, whoever you are, and hope you make a full recovery from whatever the fuck is wrong. You have no idea what you have started and need to know that you have loaded some TNT into what was until now a vague concept over which I was not quite sure – a book concerning my young life that promises to blow the lid off a few things. Be assured it will be (in various places) amusing, explosive and revelatory. Let me know if you feel let down.

So, suitably provoked by 'the popular crowd' here goes...

Please - never confuse being good at something with actually enjoying it. Formal education never really got my motor racing, nor did I particularly see a constructive point to the overwhelming majority of what happened between the ages of four and eighteen. I just happened to be good at the seemingly endless cycle of tests and exams that offer no indicator whatsoever as to your use in wider society. It took me far too long to understand that your memory is much, much less important than how memorable you are, that formal education is really nowhere near as important as it's cracked up to be by teachers angling for job security and parents who see their kids first and foremost as some sort of reflection on them.

As you'll see time and again in the book, I fell for the crap peddled by my teachers and parents alike at the time. I may have been smarter than them, but there is still a sense when you're very young that someone a generation older has read a few hundred more pages than you have. Of course I know now that success in formal education does not magically open doors for you and that relative failure will not automatically leave you in a life of sleeping in a shop doorway giving sexual favours for loose change. Some of the lies that adults tell you when you're a child go beyond ridiculous and are thoroughly dangerous, building up false and utterly misplaced senses of both hope and despair.

Primary school has a totally different place in people's lives now that the eleven-plus is something of a minority sport. It is essentially pointless and I'll admit to learning pretty much nothing – ok I did learn that telling a young child about the non-existence of Santa Claus is a fucking good laugh at the time, but on reflection that's pretty sick and in extremely bad taste. My view on formal education as I've got older is that first and foremost, it's a way of getting kids off the streets and giving Mum and Dad the security of knowing where they are while they are at work. Knowing that not attending primary school at all would not have done me any meaningful harm contributes to this viewpoint significantly.

The place was permanently flat broke and in disrepair, at least while I was there. We were constantly in fundraising mode, paying for glasses of orange juice dressed up as cocktails, custard pies that were actually paper plates covered in shaving foam and 'beat the goalie' competitions against morbidly obese men from over the road. We were also told about the stupendous sums raised by our respective parents and yet I never saw one shred of evidence that it had been spent on something constructive. Perhaps the staff room had been equipped with a pool table and minibar, which would explain one of the stories I'll share with you later.

You could tell we were skint simply from the references by teachers to 'the' school computer, which was a pretty dismal effort even in the later 1980s and early 1990s. It ran at about the speed that I did when I tried to play football last year, and I managed to get on it twice in seven years. New Labour screwed many, many things up in this country, but insisting on computer literacy and the availability of them for kids was one of their smartest moves. I suppose the serious question, besides where the money went, is why it was being demanded of people who had already funded the school through taxation in the first place. Look, you're either a public service, a private enterprise or a charity. Make a fucking decision.

I have a couple of friends who are teachers and might be offended by this, but there are far more thick teachers out there than there once were. My formal education started at around the time that the real decline in standards was just beginning, when basic intelligence had stopped being a given if you wished to impart second-hand knowledge onto a younger generation. Most of the teachers at Primary school were airheads and if you were stuck with one of them for a year you could expect to learn the square root of zip for the next twelve months. What you did was also very much dependant on the predispositions and mood swings of the teacher concerned, so if they just didn't like history, sports or whatever, that was pretty much it until you were drawn with someone else.

Occasionally, you'd get the spectre of a 40-something, 40-a-day specialist (the tide on smoking was just starting to turn in the late 1980s) teaching 'physical education' to vibrant young kids who could happily take a trip down two flights of stairs and feel nothing. After 35 minutes of rolling around on the floor, throwing a few star jumps and doing nothing particularly tiring, she'd haul herself from the point of collapse to get herself a well-earned fag and hip replacement. You, on the other hand, would be absolutely fine. Competitive sport, however, was distinctly rationed, restricted on the whole to girly/homosexual games like rounders – and the one guy who was cool with you playing soccer took it way, way too seriously.

I never knew Phllipson's first name and I don't want to. What was quite obvious was that the school pitch was the arena on which he would live out the career robbed of him by, er, being a fat bastard who was thoroughly shit at football. Waddling around with his monumental arse covered by ill-fitting and unflattering shorts, he'd get the ball midway inside the opposing half, trample over a few opponents and then twat the shit out of the thing, full pelt, past a terrified nine-year old goalkeeper. AND THEN WILDLY CELEBRATE THE GOAL A LA BEBETO AT THE 1994 WORLD CUP!! He was like the ultra-competitive Dad from the Harry Enfield television programme and I know all this because, on more than one occasion, I was that nine year old goalkeeper.

What a fucking bellend. All I knew was that he was the headmaster there, then a certain Mr James was brought in over his head.

No idea what that was about, but he left around the same time we did.

Then there was Richards, who was essentially Miss Trunchbull from Matilda minus the hardcore violence, which had fortunately been outlawed in British schools in the early 1980s (probably the best thing the EU has ever done for us as Thatcher, Tebbit et al were keen exponents of the view that kids needed a good hiding every now and then). She was the classic case of the teacher for whom the banning of corporal punishment represented the end of the world as we knew it. On reflection, I'm thoroughly amazed she was a Mrs and have no doubt whatsoever that she wore the penis in that particular relationship. Deprived of the ability to brutalise kids, she came up with 'the bad book' for those who had misbehaved, which I can quite proudly announce I made my way into on more than one occasion.

Why are adults too fucking stupid to realise that kids regard this bollocks as a badge of honour?

And why do those who so obviously hate young people go into teaching?

Being called into the school hall was a big deal. It was usually for a bit of kumbaya and/or other religious indoctrination, something which made little sense in a comprehensive school and cannot end soon enough. Ironically, the one lad who was able to opt out of the god squad treatment was the least Jovo Jehova's Witness I ever met. Unless I'm mistaken, they aren't suppose to drink, smoke or watch pornography? We, on the other hand, were constantly fed religious tales by idiots who weren't remotely religious themselves. A demoralising and utterly unnecessary experience for all concerned.

There was the time that someone (quite rightly) flooded the school changing rooms and the wholly ridiculous reaction of the powers that be was to call the entire school into the hall for a grilling. Richards patrolled the perimeter, hoping that somebody (not necessarily the person who had done it) would be on the verge of wetting themselves and confess. I've no idea why, but she quite clearly and demonstrably hated my guts and kept staring me out. Whose bright idea was it to unleash this nasty piece of work on 300 of us, 299 of whom had done precisely fuck all wrong? I really hope she's sat in a wheelchair now, requiring round-the-clock assistance and a nappie change every hour. A quick and painless death is far more than she deserves.

Then there was 'the film'. I can only assume that the teachers fancied an afternoon playing pool and drinking in the staff room our parents had paid for, but we were subjected to a film so bad I would rather have been learning about ox-bow lakes (and I attempted to watch Judge Dredd, so can speak from a position of experience and authority). There seemed to be no obvious plot, complication or resolution aside from the moment that the film ended and we were relieved of our collective hell. I have no idea regarding the name of this cinematic nightmare, but vaguely remember seeing the same kid in an equally awful film later that year – it was 5am and we were up early as Irene was in hospital giving birth to my sister.

Last but by no means least was 'use it or lose it' day. Basically, we were marched in and force-fed dessert for an entire afternoon, for no apparent reason. The canteen staff had been kept on for the next three hours and concocted various offerings based on sugar – trifle, chocolate cakes and what have you. Despite incorporating responsible eating as part of their educational repertoire, the school was positively encouraging us to gorge ourselves with as much of this junk as we could. James, the headmaster, was roaring us on, “c'mon you can do one more trifle, don't tell me you're a quitter!!”. It was only much later that I would understand precisely what had gone on here. Schools were effectively punished if they did not spend all of their budget, so faced with that situation, they decided to gorge the kids. A school that did this now would (rightly) be closed down.

On a more general level, the food was awful – let me ask you something. Has anyone here eaten 'Chicken Supreme' since they left school? And am I right in thinking that the inclusion of the word supreme was strictly ironic? All of the stereotypes about school dinners were balls-on accurate on this occasion - they somehow managed to make hospital food look glamorous.

No wonder I'm a fucking vegetarian...

We officially left by dancing like twats to 2Unlimited in front of our parents. It felt embarrassing, childish and immature, even at eleven years old. I could already sesnse a chasm between the adult perception of childish amusement or enjoyment, and the reality. A moody and intense sullenness was already gripping me by this point. Exactly where I belonged remained elusive, but it clearly wasn't here.

The Dutch techno outfit were already a familiar soundtrack to our lives since their ghastly song 'No Limts' had been played more than once at the first of only two school discos I ever attended.

Burn down the disco, hang the fucking DJ.

I only got school discos way, way after the fact, in the same way that I only got my head around limerence when I was 28. There's a subtle overlap in the stories in the sense that the only 'real' school disco I ever attended was circa Christmas 1996 while my first limerent episode was sprouting and spiralling out of control. Within 20 minutes of the Spice Girls and immature 'fun and games' more suited to infants, I was wearing a melancholy expression and thoroughly regretting the decision (pushed by a friend, I should add) to turn up. I still had two and a half hours ago, but I was already deep in the bowels of hell. NO I DO NOT want to get off with anyone other than you-know-who, NO I DO NOT want to dance with just about anybody, NO I WILL NOT play musical fucking chairs.

NO I WILL NOT smile for the camera or look like I'm enjoying this, you fucking muppet.

What I really wanted do was go home - and if it wouldn't have left my mate fending for himself in pitch darkness and sub-zero temperatures later that night, I would have done.

And...what the fuck was this thing about demonstrating your affection for someone by biting them? I have never seen so many people wearing polar necks in my life. You could tell when a school disco had taken place since the following day half of the guys turned up looking like Val Doonican...and half of the girls turned up with fucking fangs. A few years ago I blacked out and had a brief encounter I would know nothing of, waking up with bitemarks in my neck and wondering what the fuck I should do. I went apeshit - nothing 'romantic' about it whatsoever. To this day, the fucked-up state I was in at that point in my life leaves me broken and haunted, but at least I escaped the Luis Suarez treatment from the girls at school. Not for me, babe...

It's only now that I realise how these things work – you have to be drunk to enjoy a school disco, just as you have to be on drugs to 'get' a rave.

Thanks for being here and for being you – take care and I'll catch you soon.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

E Rider

You don't ride drunk, but you don't have to give a breath or blood test when using an E-Rider electric scooter.

E Rider

The E-Rider is the perfect environmentally friendly and economic transport for anybody aged 14 or over. You don't need a licence, road tax or insurance.