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The rare chance of a rest.

25 Jul

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a new piece, however it’s not for a lack of writing that’s for sure! I’ve taken it upon myself to have a try at writing a novella/novel. I’m not sure of how long this tale will be, but it’s developing nicely and I’m finding I’m not short on ideas or direction.

As a result I’ve found myself with little thought for points to rant about; ponder on or philosophise about. I’ve debated if I should perhaps post some excerpts from my w.i.p and allow my blog readers/followers to offer some opinions? I’ll admit I’m cautious of people plagiarizing it if I put it out into the web at this stage. I’m fortunate that I’ve some good friends and a patient partner who are acting as ongoing proof readers, so I’m not bereft of critique and guidance.

And the title? Well I recently had the good fortune of being offered a new job, one in an industry I have a passion for, so I’m no longer going to be a servant to the public for the governments agenda,a reformed civil servant. This for me is such fantastic news as my office life has been the cause of many health issues for me over the years, but my understanding GP signed me off sick for the last 3 weeks as I saw out my months notice-period. Good fortune does indeed come in a rush, and I’ve been using this time to try to heal, relax and prepare for a new time in my life, happier times.

Hmmm, happier times… that’s actually what’s been resonating around my mind a lot this last month. You see for the last 7 years+ I’ve worked a job I hate, living a repetitive life that on many occasions I’ve alluded to Groundhog Day, and nearly every aspect of my life has been one of compromise. Well this new job has been like having my shackles broken! I’m now going to be living with some element of unpredictability; I’ve no idea if my new job will be a success, of course I’ll give it my all, but I don’t know…
I’m also working closer to home, so I don’t have a 50 mile round trip every day. I can look at cycling to work! Something I’ll be doing each day it’s dry.

I’m fully aware how disjointed this post may read, it probably seems slightly incoherent, almost stream of consciousness…well that’s how I’m able to kick-start a new wave of happiness in my life no more endless days of repetition and dull predictability. And I wanted to share that with all of you.

I’m returning to what’s left of this rare rest period in adult life, and continue with my novella. It may be quiet here for a little bit, but hey; that’s just because I’m happy.

The Tao of Barry Black

14 Jun

For the first time in a number of weeks now, I’m feeling compelled to write a new blog entry. What on earth could have shaken me from my torpor?  TED. Or to be more exact, Psychologist Barry Schwartz and his insightful speculation on why we are so conflicted by modern life.

 

I suppose I should really explain my thoughts of late, you know, give you-the all-important reader-some catch to read further into this provocation of shared thought. I suppose I really should. And I will, but allow me to exact somewhat on this little sentence. Re-read what I just typed. That my friends is the crux of my everyday apathy towards what is happening in life, and also the turning point to why, as Barry Schwartz put it so eloquently; we have too much choice.

 

I’ve probably spent almost every day, consciously and sub-consciously since I was about 6 years old thinking about what I’d like to do with my life. I’m sure when I was a little kid I wanted to be an astronaut, an explorer and all manner of interesting and fantastical ‘careers’. But I can’t honestly remember back that far into the foggy abyss of memories. My mind goes back around 15 years clearly, and even then it’s in a patchwork of Polaroid moments where the details suffer an after-image effect like I shook the camera. Head traumas from my youthful follies I blame this on you. I tried to look up some academic information to back up the length of time for memory recall, but there are so many different classifications of memories, and most are measured in percentiles; I assume because of the variable uniqueness of each human. Anyway, as I was getting at before, careers. I’m a child born of the early 80’s and the crazed advance of capitalism, material gain and technological advancement. And choice. I, and many of my contemporaries have been born into a world where there is an endless amount of choice and possibilities. Heck we even have T.V. shows devoted to showing the fictional side of multiple parallel dimensions (Sliders, I will forever miss you.) The point in all this is along with the technological march, life’s choices expanded and so did the ease with which one could obtain knowledge, skills or simply accomplish a task.

 

Bare with me on this, it’s all going somewhere.

 

So it was, armed with all these great improvements in living standards, and ever expanding expectations of what was possible that I continued to grow, indulge and expand my experience base in life. I’ve been fortunate to be born to parents of the baby boomer generation. They were both in a comfortable financial place when I blessed them with my presence and thanks to them both being in their 4th decade of life, they had some valuable experiences to share with me. My early years were spent meeting a wide range of adults and children from all walks of life, and thanks to my parents occupations at the time (mother worked doing the books and behind the bar at a popular 80’s nightclub, and my father is a plumber and general fix it man) I got to be in places most children would only dream of or never be allowed. I would often be allowed to run around the dance floor of the nightclub with my earliest friend I can remember, the daughter of the nightclub owner. I would accompany my father on his many trips to the various characters he did business with. An arcade owner, local and well-known tattoo artist, properties in various states of repair, building supply yards, movie prop showcases (an amazing, but relatively short lived exhibition called “Movie Magic”. They had on site SFX artists, and original props used in most of the famous 80’s and early 90’s horror and sci-fi films).

 

And everywhere I went, there were many people who would look out for me and treat me. I felt like I was special. Whenever my dad was doing work in or near the arcade, I would be asked which machine I wanted to play on. Once chosen the local arcade mechanic would open the cash slot of the machine, and reprogram it so I had infinite credits. Think for a moment what that kind of special treatment would feel like to you as a child. This was the genesis of my view on choices. I didn’t have to go without anything wherever I was. No need to worry I didn’t have the funds, or the freedom to run off and see what was round the next corner. Whatever I could want to do, it was possible. Fast-forward through the years I would experience numerous paid for trips abroad, both with my family and with friends; Europe, the middle and Far East and America. I was exposed to all these different cultures and possibilities, often not just as part of the tourist trap experience. My good fortune didn’t end with that neither. Once I was of an age when I could obtain transport and further my own exploration of freedom, my ever-generous parents got me a scooter. This started my love affair with powered two-wheeled transport, and they further funded that with my full licence and a steady step up through the displacement categories of motorcycles. By the time I was 21 I had owned double-digit numbers of motorbikes, experienced all manner of legal and illegal escapades on them and seen speeds most people only witness at race tracks.

 

So far I’m almost certain most of you reading this will view me as the spoilt rich kid, and wonder where Barry Schwartz’s talk on too many choices comes into it? Whilst I was experiencing all this freedom, experiences and making choices, I was drifting along through my formative years absent from almost any form of restraint or discipline. And this led me to making some random and unfocussed choices when I was required to in life. Left school with no real goal or plan; just thought I’d head to college on a graphic design course as I’d done reasonably ok at school in this subject. That course then presented other choices, as the first year of it was an amalgamation of photography, illustration, fine art and graphic design. I was paralysed by choices. Me, being the free-spirited youth with no sense of discipline or responsibility couldn’t focus hard enough to choose or study for any single one of them, and as such left the course before the end of the first year. And after that I started a small bit of part time work, but didn’t stick that for long- a job held too many restrictions for me. I was hooked into my motorbikes by this point and thought maybe studying for a motorcycle mechanics qualification would be the path for me, so I returned to college. This however proved to once again offer me some choices. Did I focus on the motorcycle mechanics? The welding and fabrication side of the course? Or even the bodywork and paint shop? Choices, choices…choices, there were so many of them. And again I was struck with paralysis. So I passed the first year, but by this time was too old to get in with a garage as an apprentice, and as such left to consider my next choice. Further work experience and life experiences, all in areas of interest, yet none of them to provide a sense of purpose. So I chose to make an attempt again at education and head to university to study art.

 

Barry’s talk was trying to get at the way we in the modern age of a developed society have lost sight of purpose and self-worth. We have been raised, given a choice over everything, but too much choice leads to this constant feeling of regret and self-doubt. With all this choice we can never make the right choice, and every possible thing we didn’t choose to do is cast in a bright light that casts shadows over the choices we live with. In the simpler times of the past we would often inherit purpose from the family members we were born into; the class of society we were born into; where we were born. No more, we are told every step of the way that we can become whatever we choose to be. But this freedom is so vast it simply paralyses us with fear of the unknown. A fear that failure is all that awaits us as every choice we make-no matter how good-we could have made a better choice.

 

I’m a victim of this paralysis of choice. It has moulded me into the eclectic and educated individual I am today. And I know the choices I’ve made have been good ones that have coloured my life. But it’s left me haunted by the possibilities of what could have been and great difficulty in living in the now, something I’m getting better at. I will always wish my father had removed that choice from me and trained me to follow in his footsteps as a plumber, yes it may not have been my choice, but I would not have this overwhelming sense of expectation from life. Ah. The final link in Barry Schwartz posing philosophising on an affliction we all share.

 

Look back on this snippet of my life; not just my parents, to have such towering expectations of what life would provide me that I was setting myself up for disappointment, raised me to feel that every possibility was achievable and that I had no limits. I’m now facing a void in my life that needs to be filled, and no amount of materialistic gains will plug that gap. You see I feel, as I’m sure every human does, the need for a purpose in life. Something I can do that validates my existence other than to consume and feed the cycle of daily society, and something that I’m better at than the next person. I need to shrug this paralysis of with a volt of purpose to jump-start my next stage of life.

 

But that will require me to make a choice…

 

I’ve yet to make that choice, but I’m not making the same mistake of this cycle again. I’ll be setting myself some barriers, and placing restrictions on myself to break through societies trap of freedom of choice.

 

I’ll leave this article with a thought I have often; “We are all sold into a slavery of freedom the day we are born. We cannot buy our freedom from this, rather we must bind ourselves with restrictions to free our inner self”

 

Thanks to Barry, I think I get my thoughts a little more.

The Road To 30….or How To Have a Mini Mid-Life Crisis

21 May

Turning to my right as the light ripples across the sun streaked glass walls to the old abandoned car dealers, I can’t help but marvel at the gust of wind I have caressing my close-cropped hair; ZZ-Top strumming out the quick yet steady rhythm to “Tush” and the feeling of my heart racing to the whisk of my legs. It’s the closest I can get to forgetting my daily routine and enjoying the summer sun.

 

I recently got a new push-bike. It’s a purple single speed bike, very light thanks to the simplified components, yet sturdy. The goal? To gain some much-needed fitness that my under worked office corpse has seen robbed from it over the last 7 years and before I turn 30. No simple task when you live in the UK and the dream of English summers of old continue to evade the modern age. Seems these isles have two seasons now, autumn and winter. Add to that being on the husky side of the male figure with a few health issues and that task starts to seem both difficult yet a necessity.

 

So how did I choose to start my endeavour? Why cycling a BMX 5 miles from the nearest city! Time to back-peddle a little. This whole experience has been something of a long-winded torture process for me, heck simply getting the bike has taken me the best part of a month to secure funds and choose. And trying to decide on which bike to get, that probably cost me at least a years worth of good eyesight and mental capacity. I’m not the sort to just buy what looks nice, or if I walk into a shop and sit on one that I thought was comfy, I would have to check out it’s specs, see what components it had and also see some reviews on it. I need to make sure that my money isn’t going to be wasted on a piece of junk that’s going to collapse at the first crank of the pedals. Never used to be like that, I had an easy-going upbringing with a lifestyle bank rolled by my parents.

 

Now, well I’m in the wonderful world of being a homeowner with a regular job, and you know what, you don’t need to hear all the rest of it. But thanks to this, money has become something I can’t ignore. I’ve never had a fondness of cash, it controls too much in this world, shortens the perception of time as it becomes the all consuming waking thought of what to spend on and a dread of being conned. A fool and his money are soon parted.

 

So to that end, pass me the jester hat and my fool’s stick. I’d no sooner got my allowance courtesy of work, than I’d set about getting my order in! After teasing on an almost weekly basis the local bike shops, stringing the poor guys along with the temptation of a sale, I ended up purchasing my bike online. I’d tried, really tried to support the local economy, I’d run through all the available bikes they stocked, or could order. Heck one of them actually had a bike in I test rode-and nearly bought but I’d read too much, seen the insanely cheap deals online, and listened to my inner design tart.

 

I’d read up on bikes by a company called Charge. A small UK based company; they’ve been making small allotment of bikes for several years, and crucially for my taste, made a selection of single speed/ fixed gear bikes. Wait, why on earth would anyone in the modern day who doesn’t live in a completely flat area who’s sole occupation in life would be to cruise up and down the boulevard eyeing up the bikini clad babes, want just one gear? Simply simplicity.

 

I’ve got a motorbike, a nice, fast, modern once-it has all the gadgets and complex modern equipment I could need to propel two wheels down the Queens highway at highly illegal speeds. It has electronic steering dampening, dual stage fuel injector, a close range gearbox, 16 valves and an advanced CPU that tells the engine to do magic things on its way to a giddy adrenalin rush fun. This also has tyres; chain; sprockets and oil; petrol the list goes on. In short ongoing costs and maintenance that must be done or the rider runs a very real possibility of death and disfigurement, fun no?

 

So why on earth would I want to have a similar level of upkeep on a vehicle I want to be able to get some exercise and just go rambling on. Hence the single speed was decided upon. There’s some excellent resources out there that sing the praises of the single speed bike, and plenty who prove you can do distance and speed with one carefully chosen gear ratio. And then there’s the weight. One of the biggest must haves I wanted from this bike was lightness. I knew of the magic of carbon and titanium, but I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a push bike that could all too easily end up as a fancy wall ornament, so by ditching all the gears, derailleur and associated equipment, I’d drastically reduced the weight and expanded my choice of materials. Whereas I would have had to choose a cheap aluminium framed, poorly equipped geared bike, I could consider good quality steel frames, carbon forks and good quality wheels for the same money.

 

And this was why I’d become enamoured with Charge bikes. They specialise in steel framed bikes. They do make the odd aluminium and titanium bikes, but mostly steel. And Japanese steel at that! Considering my love of all things from the mystical orient, especially that from Nippon, they just couldn’t be beat! But sadly, as with most companies since the recession and “Age of Austerity” hit, they had cut back on the outsourced components and were making more in-house.

 

So to that end I widened my search online, and found a Charge Plug Freestyler 2011 model. The other thing with Charge is they tend to do a model for a year or two then change it, so new old stock is worth hunting. This one had all I wanted Tange steel frame (from Japan), Sugino cranks and chain ring (also from Japan-natch), Sanko cro-mo forks (again from Japan…notice a pattern). But the real pièce de résistance; hot purple coloured frame with white deep-v rims!

It pretty much felt made for me. Or would it? I couldn’t find one of these to sit on, let alone test ride and the bike I’d managed to get a ride on, although a single-speed was a very different geometry. But heck, I wasn’t going to let this chance pass up. Especially as it was only £350 in the sale! It was the best quality for the lowest price, and the pictures just seemed to whisper into my little bells atop my jester hat “buy me…buy me”

 

24 hours later and sitting in my living room was a very large box-with a very purple treasure inside. Fortunately I’m fairly competent with my hands, thanks to years of owning and fettling motorbikes, so the assembly was as straightforward as they come. Which brings me round to the ride.

 

Would it live up to my expectations? Like a child sleeping with one eye open on Christmas Eve, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa with his toy sack, not a snippet of Dad; face littered with mince-pie crumbs and clumsily stuffing presents under my bed I set off to test my purple people eater from Japan via England. With a good dose of summer sun, a calm air and a tenacious strike round of the pedals I was off. What a revelation! I’d rushed to spend my money on a slice of dream made real and I wasn’t disappointed. The bike was quiet, accelerated with almost instant urge and an agile and springy ride.

 

It’s been some 4 weeks since I first tasted that freedom long forgotten since the days of childhood had departed. I’ve since managed to get out for a ride at least 3 miles of a fast sprint ride around my local village to a personal best of a 28 mile round trip to see my folks. Almost every night bar a couple when it’s rained has seen me pounding the rubber into the asphalt or dirt, either heading into the nearest city, or taking the canal towpath. I’m still seeing Santa from the corner of my eyes.

 

I’m hoping to keep this up, and steadily lose some fat, gain more fitness and keep enjoying freedom that can’t be gained with motorised transport. To savour every moment of this sunny patch and use it to shake up my life a touch before I start the next decade.

Danny Trejo Saved My Life

25 Apr

Danny Trejo saved my life. Not literally; though that would have been one to tell the grand kids. Seems that the pock-marked, big chinned Mexican of Grindhouse fame decided to pay my dreams a visit. Oh and he brought Walter White from Breaking Bad fame.

 

The “plot” to my dream was Oscar material. Truly. When this news breaks, I’ll have Tarantino himself Tweeting me for a meet to bag the rights. Anyway, the scene was a city; think the steeply stepped hills of San Francisco rolling down to the harbour shore. The moon is out, the stars are sparkling and the street lighting is bathing the streets in soft focus shadows.

 

As an aside, to those of you not familiar with Breaking Bad, it’s a US made TV drama starring in the lead role actor Bryan Cranston as Walter White. The plot goes something like this: Walter White is a high school chemistry teacher who gets diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He then gets into the crystal methanol cooking business in order to provide financial security for his family after he’s gone. Cue an unbridled descent into rage as we watch a mild-mannered family man turn into a cold-hearted career drug lord.

 

Enough background check it out.

 

So back to my dream plot, and we cut to Walt’s wife, hanging from the tram line via a gaffer tape noose. Seems an unknown terrorist group have kidnapped her, I assume to hold her to ransom. I never did get to know why, Danny wouldn’t spill the beans.

No time to waste! The rescue plan is a cunning mixture of precision strike in and out grab with some old school dare-devil cunning, on our bicycles.

 

Wait.

 

Push-bikes?

 

Yes push bikes. You see dreams seem to have this habit; a special way to pluck from the subconscious your current obsessions and thoughts, worries and hopes, and play them across the zoetrope of the mind in dreams. Sometimes these are obvious walks into the dream theatre, the big budget 80’s blockbuster. You want a new car, so your dream is driving that car in an ideal location with the perfect weather. Other times, it’s just you, in a room with harsh lighting and a single table, two chairs and your having to justify your existence to the chilli pepper with the gavel.

 

The point is our subconscious mind knows better than the waking conscious how to ease the stress of those daily thoughts and wants that get stored into the fast repeat section of our brains for an endless loop; like a Ludovico. This is our Dreamtime.

My current waking obsession is a new push bike; ticket to some fun exercise and escape from the area and time to think. My current method isn’t the best as it’s usually when I’m on my motorbike, and sadly we have one to many 1984 style camera around waiting to slap my absent-minded ass with a speeding ticket. However at the present, the stress this wanting to purchase is putting on my subconscious is clearly a touch excessive.

“Why are you getting stressed?”

 

You may think that as I’m in a position to treat myself to a new bicycle would only be a cause for excitement and celebration.

 

But has anyone considered the countless time I’ll lose to indecision? Those conflicting opinions and reviews that we often turn to in order to help make a wise purchase and feel you got your moneys worth. I did mention I had an article to write on indecision, well here it is. It doesn’t help that I have an encyclopaedia of knowledge about the history of all cycling, and countless sites reviewing every possible configuration available, catering to each niche. And lets just ignore the countless shops available to tease. Alas I have access to the Internet. “Sorry to tell you this mind, but the brain just filled for divorce.” “Mental abuse was the cited reason your honour.”

 

And as all concepts of time ceases whilst my information hungry mind is engulfed in the electric fog, I’m beset with indecision. This can easily be applied to any current wants or obsessions and the result is the same. To my anxious prone mind and me, it would appear that ignorance is indeed bliss. The more knowledge we have armed out memory banks in our hungry brains with, the greater the likelihood we will face indecision. This comes about as we are faced with being conscious of all the merits and foibles of the intended purchase, yet had we ignored our self-abusing loud mouthed conscious minds, instead heeding the call of our snap-judgement primitive sub-conscious and simply gone “oh, so it comes in purple with a white trim? Great, I’ll take it” We would all but guarantee a calm and happy moment once we received it. That would be a bike in my case

 

Sadly a lifetime of study, information absorption; media bombardment and absence of bottomless wealth, have all precluded me from being able to tune into my primal mind when it comes to a new purchase or obsession. Especially on anything that costs more than chump change.

 

Think back; when you were a child you would have many wants. And if you wanted something you would ask mommy or daddy to buy it you, with or without a tantrum. And once said want was in your possession, bliss overload. Fast forward to now; you have a job, rent or mortgage, family or spouse, and countless other responsibilities. You want that new possession? Great, just go check the bank. Oh. So I’ve only got a few quid left, that’s ok I can stretch it. As you’re walking to the store till, or more likely in the modern age hovering the mouse cursor over the PayPal icon, and that’s when the cold sweats start.

 

That point, just as you’re about to be parted with your money and obtain the coveted fools gold, is when the subconscious, anxious voice comes to the fore and begins to chatter. “Do you really want this? Can you afford this? Will this really make you happy?” Indecisive thoughts take hold and before you know it you’ve backed away from the purchase and are left shivering like a caffeine fiend who’s been dried out for a week.

 

So what was once a happy moment of decisive action is now turned more often than not, into a cluster-fuck of conflicting mind drama. I’m not afraid to admit I’m suffering this very affliction. Right. This. Moment.

 

I’ll be writing more on the outcome of my bicycle purchase, and in particular any noteworthy adventures I have on the road to improved fitness. Hopefully, when the time comes to purchase, I’ll have gone for the purple with white trims one.

First Meet of the Season

6 Apr

First meet of the season

Sat outside gazing onto a shimmering, rippling sea. It’s glistening back at me like aluminium in the early evening light. It’s a cliché, how a gentle moving sea can evoke a calming sensation, yet as I sit the gentle wind that’s stirring my hair and chilling my hands; calm is how I feel.

This is at jarring odds to the soundtrack from the 80’s disco. Blaring out as I write we have “Bat Out Of Hell”, preceded by “White Wedding”. The sheepskin bomber clad fifty plus dad, sporting Saville-esq glasses is trying his best to promote some entertainment for the early season bikers who’ve begun their soon to be weekly pilgrimage to Knott End’s Wednesday night bike meet.

The season has been a late starter this year. Since November 2012 through to the Easter bank holiday 2013 there has been snow. White frozen rain has besieged this isle like an outbreak of dandruff plagues a Goth. The isle has been covered with it, sometimes blanketing the roads, other times hiding on otherwise innocent looking stretches of tarmac incognito as it’s silent assassin cousin “black ice”. Most bikers during this stint were tucking their pride and joys away, under heated brick supported roofs, waiting to square of their virgin track rubber in the safety of the summer sun on heated, sticky tarmac.

Me? I’ve been out on those harsh roads all throughout this arctic length winter, wresting my numb digits into service whilst suffering the torment the biting tundra winds were subjecting them to, Blue from a misplaced faith I had in a sunny day glimpsed from the safety of my warm house window. Summer gloves had no place worn this early. Rod Stewart and his Lucy in the sky with a girls best friend blasts across the air, over the sea wall and into my ears; God this music gets more dad disco clichéd by each turn of the decks.

I’ve come out tonight to begin my entries into a new notebook I’ve decided to keep about my person, a veritable travelling thought box; seizing momentary thoughts as they occur. The ulterior motive, as I’m oft reminded I have when I set out on these jaunts is to build a collection of musings to publish on this blog.

So tonight’s thoughts; don’t be so quick to judge a book by it’s cover. I pulled up to the meet, a smattering of bikes parked along the run up to the jetty. Including some police bikers. Damn. My heart invariably sinks at the sight of uniformed authoritarian figures, those public instigators of government laws, pigs to the everyman. However I thought to use this opportunity to strike up conversation with one of them. He was a stereotype of his breed, tall with a stern visage. This was, however, metered out with a peppery shot beard and upon meeting his gaze, youth.

I wanted to find out if my knowledge on bike parking laws was accurate, and if those bastards at the local city hall had a rasher of bacon to prop up on. I discovered, much to my chagrin, that Lancaster Council, a green party fanatical with as much in common with fascism as the BNP, had decided motorbikes could no longer park in the areas with push-bike stands, which we’ve all used for years, and never to any complaints. Now we’re being made to share the parking spaces of the four-wheeled cage plague blighting good ole’ Blighty.

According to my level-headed new-found friend, the law was, and still is, a motorbike can park anywhere so long as no obstruction is caused. He used the analogy of, on a pavement, enough space for a two-berth child’s buggy to pass unhindered. On the road it’s a fire truck. My friend in hi-viz yellow then went on to say I should check out a website called pepipoo, a place, in his words, where all the Bobbies and barristers hang out and will help you to argue that parking ticket miss-issued to you. He carried on to mention how not all the police have a ‘them and us’ attitude, and proceeded to lament the way the force was reducing the number of bike police, as two of his colleagues had been laid off that morning. His opinion was the forces were going to be centralised in the next city over; some 25 miles away.

I had to feel a certain barrier had been broken down during this chat; he was slowly dissolving the façade of authority. He was a biker first, like the rest of us, policeman second.

Funny, I’d come to the seafront meet tonight with intentions of writing an entry on indecision. Oh I often find myself suffering indecisiveness; presently it’s over a new push-bike. But, alas, that’s for another time. My fingers are suffering the telling numbness and indigo colour that says I need warmth. No indecision tonight, just a surprise encounter with an open-book officer.

One last tip; don’t believe the sun.

Ground Zero: The World Beer Festival 2013

22 Mar

 

The card read “Monarch Dread Design”- grass greens and organic vine designs seemed to suggest calm and balance. Funny that was exactly what I was searching for at 1 am near the local supermarket.

 

Let’s roll the reel back some, back before I ended up in this situation, blind drunk and playing the negotiating agony aunt between my best friend and his emotionally flayed girlfriend, fuelled by the drunken bullets we’d both been swallowing down like the gunfire from a Tommy Gun.

 

Tommy Guns and the 1920’s, Fedoras and ball gowns with feather topped tiaras and classy piano black cigarette holders. We were all being ferried to the promised land of over 100 different ales and ciders in the back of a silver Mercedes Estate. Black leather interiors and the slight tint to the windows brought to mind the sensation of being a mobster in some classic guys and molls movie. And that was precisely what Sarah and me were chatting about whilst Mikes mother tried desperately to get some petrol before depositing us at the house of kegs.

 

Pulling up to the Marine Hall on the coast, all the brave souls about to embark on a voyage of taste and booze induced discussions left the Mercedes time warp criminality interior and meandered up the entrance ramp. Once inside we were greeted with a series of greyed masks in various states of mental senility and care home cunning. These veterans of the CAMRA were the gatekeepers to my soon-to-be over indulged taste buds and rapid inebriation.

 

We all paid our entry fee of £3, after which the greying beer buzzard produced a wristband, proceeding to tag us all so the other wrinkled stallholders could identify us and serve. Moving up one table towards the free flowing amber liquids, we were given the option to purchase a cute half-pint beer stein, free to use throughout the night and a souvenir of the event. Why not?

 

And with that we entered into the main hall- immediately to the front was a quadrant of stalls surrounding around a hundred beer kegs. To the left leading round was the beer token stall: currency of the night, peeling into a cider stall with around 12 varieties of fermented dementia juice. This tailed off into a small homemade chocolate stall and ended with the International beer fridge. To the right were the young members kegs: flavoured oddities and newer breweries. Graciously of our hosts, chairs had been ploughed in-between the young members stall and the final stand of the night, the hot and tasty cooked meats stall.

 

Beers and sausages- the Kaiser would be proud.

 

Dark Star. Those two words would prove to be my Pied Pipers flute to the alcoholic rat of my subconscious. Wandering around; separated from those I was selfishly relying on to keep myself level headed, drinking at a steady pace for the night. The kegs lining the central fortification of beer had some fantastical names, all piquing the rat’s whiskers; ‘Cunning Stunt’, ‘Saddam’s Insane’ and, curiously for Fleetwood, ‘Single Blonde’.

 

Now a ‘Single Blonde’ can quite easily lead a man to a ‘Dark Star’, and that little run around was how I settled on my first half of the night- the ‘Imperial Stout’. I’d probably best state now that I’d made a false rationale that the bigger numbers for the alcohol content equalled bigger flavour in my beer book thanks to a discovery of American Ales like the ‘Raging Bitch’, a budding hop fest of an IPA that clocks in at around 9%. Oh why did I not question; this is 9% of AMERICAN ale.

 

‘Imperial Stout’ was the strongest ale on offer. “Ladies and Gentle boozers, making his way to the lower colon, weighing in at 10.5% proof…the short of vision and heavy of taste, we have ‘Imperial Stout’. You would have been forgiven for thinking the Dark Star brewery was located over a tar pit, as the colour and texture was widely commented on as being akin to that pre-historic war starter-think Bush- and had a heady, medicinal aroma. Happy days indeed for a man like myself who thinks Germolene is a pleasant aroma.

 

So whilst we were all sampling our first beers, getting used to the notion that all our nights spends were located on a single piece of bingo card, we started to debate which of the next beer stalls we would target. The eponymous Mr B joined us at this juncture, and so the japer could begin.

 

A quick conference between Sarah and me, agreed upon along with Mr B that the Young Members stall should be swooped on. This was a trip to the land of dessert ales and funky flavours. Their options read like a local Brewers Fare dessert menu.

 

“Oh honey, should we have the chocolate porter or some of that banoffee bitter?”

“Non for me. I’ll just have a coffee stout.”

 

So we all dived in and got some halves from the dessert menu. Chocolate porter was a good call. The trouble with flavoured beers like these was they either ended up being overpowered with sickly sweetness-banoffee I’m looking squarely at you- to just plain wrong. The “Coffee Stout” was a major let down for me. I’m a huge coffee aficionado. I spend more a week on the bean than most people spend on clothes. So I was eager to taste the mating of coffee and stout. Man, was I glad we had a sampler!

The taste was like someone had mixed the leftover Nescafe from the office with some chilled Mackeson Stout. Not pleasant.

 

I suppose I should mention that by this point we had been in the halls of the Festival for around 40 minutes. And on a sliding scale rapidly descending into the gutter I was screaming towards a helter-skelter of vomit.

 

“Oh Wurzzle, look. C..i…d…..e..r.” Slow motion, it was like the conductor for the last train home of the night calling to all the wayward souls on the platform. Mr B had spotted the cider stall and with a mischief in his eye he suggested we go get ourselves some scrumpy. At least that was what I saw in his eyes. The words that flowed from Mr B’s mouth, following my eager assertion that, yes indeed cider, seemed like a good idea were “I’m not mixing ale and cider.” Sensible words. However these were sensible pearls falling from an oyster that had spent its time at the Mad Hatters tea party during a particularly heated debate on why the teacups had to have saucers with mice in them.

 

It only took a small prod of “come on, we’ll go and test the strongest they have” Ah. Challenged male ego has no chance of surrender or sensibly walking away, especially under the influence of alcohol. So onward we pressed. It must have been something in the purpose of our stride, or possibly the air of two men about to do something foolish, but the rest of our party decided to accompany.

 

Two gentle looking older ladies, all granny smiths’ apple pie and Sunday roasts staffed the cider stall. There was about 11 different ciders available, various hues of golden tang and sweetness. But there, shining bright, like a stick of dynamite to a demolisher crew was Ruby Suzie. All 10.5% of her baiting us both to see if we would fall; my god what in Neptune’s crusty kelp keepers was in this fuel! The taste was sweet but firm and went down, down so fast I think my vision dialled forward at least 20 years. Myopia seemed to be Ruby Suzie’s party trick.

 

Loose tongue seemed to be the number scrawled on the napkin she hurriedly stuffed in my pocket; it was now that Porn Star chose to engage me in conversation about my life and it’s mediocrity.

 

This pompous embodiment of arrogance that seemed to embody the spirit of 1900’s gentleman’s clubs, was beginning to assert on me the importance of trying to keep my house, as it would be foolish to rent property when you can be paying off a mortgage. Yeah, like how your son rents eh Porn Star. I can’t remember the exact take on what pearls this particular half baked oyster was trying to give me (must have been another oyster from that damn tea party) but it’s been an ongoing trial of mine for as many years as I’ve been friends with his son to absorb his ego and disappointments left by his two sons. Blind to the fact that in many ways my life was travelling along a fairly successful path compared to his gifted son, he continued to give me advice on what I should do. I was so close to my tongue being let loose by booze, but mercifully his son, Mike managed to spot someone to speak to that he and Porn Star knew and ushered him away.

 

Still nursing the latter half of the cider and considering my next tipple, I started on a conversation with Mr B and Sarah about babies. Not long ago Mr B and his partner had their first child together, a little girl. And it has revolutionised his life. The most unlikely of our group to have been seen as suitable to sire offspring only went and succeeded. Movie studios take note- if your looking to reboot the Omen series with a modern twist, contact this man in the coming years, as should she have inherited half of his mental state she will be the coming of Lucifer as prophesised in those classics. For now she is an angelic faced bundle of wonder. And so we got talking about having them. I’ve always said, as long back as I can remember, that I wouldn’t want children till I’m knocking on 40; may seem too old I know, but the rationale for this was that I’d been raised by older parents, and the financial support they were able to give me left me with some great stories to tell and a lot of good experiences.

 

For now though I’m happy to indulge in Mr B’s reverie at the magic of life. And this conversation isn’t lost on Sarah, who is wistfully concurring, wants to have a kid or two with Mike. My thoughts stray a touch from the current topic as I try to imagine Porn Star and Frau Nurse coming to terms with their precious bloodline being tainted with the modern equivalent of Oliver Twist’s loveable street urchins. I can almost see them deliberating over the baby shower gift-a crystal encrusted rattler or a syringe with some premium latex and half a gram. I’m almost certain I started to hack and choke on Ruby Suzie’s tart golden nectar as I stifle a giggle that threatens to flow into a Brian Blessed bellow.

 

I think people are starting to notice my inebriation….

 

Inebriation, it’s only a slight change of letters to sound like hydration: dehydration that speaks to me of a thirst for my next beer. Time to head on down to Boston and experience some of those good ‘ole American Ales.

 

Except these ales are anything but old. The names are fresh and full of fight on some; others are trying to remain modern whilst hinting at heritage and classic scenes of the states. Zest and zing describe the fizz these babies splash across your palate. And a zing develops in my stride as I swagger over to the stall with Mr B and Sarah at my sides…I think. I think this is clearly a good time for me to reminisce with Mr B about why we spent so much time not hanging out- past altercations involving that cliché of friendship destruction; a mutual woman- and realise fully I’ve paid my admission and skipped through the turn-style onto the vomit coaster platform.

 

Emotional truths that we keep sealed inside our conscious have a habit of breaking out through the chips and cracks of the cupboards we keep our skeletons under lock and key in once we consume enough alcohol. And I’d say a few of my old bones were trying to paw there way forward.

 

Along with the slight blur that was accompanying my vision by this stage I noticed I was experiencing a heightened sense of ignorance- surrounding noise was easily subdued, the faces I didn’t want to gaze at were becoming featureless, it made that rest at the world beer stall all that more comforting.

 

Sarah and me were both neck and neck in the cue to get on the vomit coaster. Does this make her more of a man than a woman of me a man…. you may have gathered by now my mind was starting to lose some of its edge.

 

Deliberations are never an easy thought process when your blood is sharing it’s oxygen with alcohol molecules, and every sluice gate vein opening into the brain as the body does it’s best to pump that blood to the thought factory is compounded by the rationale inhibiting effects of the booze. So trying our hardest to decipher the menu was taking some time. I suggest that Sarah tries one of the American pale ales I’ve been raving about since my taste buds first encountered them, whilst I sought the advice of the custodian of the beers.

 

The lady that was serving was a bespectacled older dear, a short bob of grey hair to accompany the rounded glasses and lines of wisdom. Think your granny and mine, as with most of the staff in service tonight there was clearly a running theme that all probably remembered aspects of a time when speaking German was not part of the national curriculum. After a brief Q & A on what my taste preferences were, she had located a lighter hop loaded Belgian beer for me to sample. Why or how I proceeded to waffle about the importance of a varied taste on the palette and how good wheat beers were, I’ll not know, but it seemed to have the magical effect of transforming woman into man. Norman Bates had made his grand reveal, and somehow I found myself discussing this same topic with a genteel faced older man. At least so he seemed. Still had those rounded glasses though, and that was to be beer goggled with suspicion.

Transgender pensioners or not, my discussion’s with the bartender had netted me an Erdinger bar towel. Take note of this important event, as that he-she did me a kindness I’d be grateful for in a short while.

The end of the night was fast approaching. In the course of my whirlwind tour around the various stalls, I’d used up all my beer tokens. Yes, this was indeed confirmed when I realised the friendly Boston Brewery bar was propping me up. There’s this point that seems to find you when your drunkenness reaches a plateau, somewhere high in the cumulous binge-ness that allows you to see the world with a hazy clarity. Touch the objects around you and experience a sensation close to those early brushes with sensation we have as a child. And an ability to think clearly in a way only those touched by madness claim to have. This is all before you take that freefall over the edge and hope you packed your parachute.

 

I was swept up in the wave of my friends as they ventured towards the seating area located north of the sausage stall. And thank God for the wake to ride from my friend’s wave, I felt like I was floating to the seats- all sense of direction and sense leaving my mind and body. I knew I wasn’t too far gone though, there was still the urge for conversation, and that is always a sign the brain hasn’t emptied the hat stand and coat rack and left for it’s cab to the downtown gutter. Taking an unsteady grip of the seat I plonked down along with Mr B and Sarah and we began to pick up on the conversational topic of relationships, in particular the quirks of who we choose and why. Now the intricacies of the chat were lost to the fog of booze that was hemming along the shores of memory, but piercing through that haze was the lighthouse beacon of discomfort we appeared to be causing a couple sat at the other end of the table. Much like the proverbial elephant, this entity had made its presence known, and was now being reassured that it need not worry about the inane discussions taking place at the party end of the table. And to that Mike rejoined the group.

 

It seems that Porn Star had left the building at some point, obviously having had his fill of ego stoking and booze, he had left to be collected by the Frau in the Mercedes. Somehow the wisdom brought with age clearly contained the ability to judge when to make a smart exit. Sadly youth and a weak constitution around beer make for a messy exit.

 

The crowds of booze sodden flesh bags started making an on mass shuffle towards the gateways and the sobering qualities of a cold nights breeze. Something I know my mind and body needed. With a solid shunt to get my limp frame up from the table, my cohorts and I made our way towards the promise of what the night laid in store. Mr B chose this point to leave and make his way back to his family and the warmth of a coupling in bed. I’d like to say I bid him good night, or gripped his hand in a friendly show. I’d like to simply say I saw him leave. No. I was so far gone with the cask pit gremlins and the alcohol they had spiked my blood with, I just knew he had vanished.

Fortunately I still had Mike and Sarah to head on my swaying way with. There was talk of town, and gate crashing the Tache; there was a ramp; there was also a tram.

 

I remember seeing the illuminated yellow outline of the carriage, few passengers, and a late night conductor. I even remember the seat with its curious purple and yellow fabric. What I don’t remember is paying for the ride or the soundless black that enveloped me as I slumped into the corner. Blackout drunk. I’ve experienced this once before in my life, admittedly that other time was a night of excess I can honestly say I would never seek to fully repeat.

 

This must be what it’s like to be dead. No thoughts. No dreams. Just the silent blackness that you aren’t even aware is there. There’s nothing that can simulate this experience, and I don’t recommend anyone go out of his or her way to sample it. However, if you do happen to find yourself caressing this blackness, it’s a calming experience. Oh how I see now it was all a trick.

 

My body had decided to shut down and conserve as much energy as it could, like a phalanx of troops armed with a battering ram ready to burst through the gates. And burst forth my body did. The nights drinking and at least the days semi digested food was making a fast track exit from my body, slamming my subconscious mind out from the black and into the haze yellow of the tram. I see the street lolloping by as my eyes roll towards my left hand. The beer stein was in it and empty. The beer stein was in it and now full. In a moment of genius reflex my hand gripping this receiver was thrust towards my mouth and capturing the flow of vomit pouring fourth in a thick beige sludge.

 

This wasn’t the end of it, and clearly I believe my friends had realised the follow up was to come. The tram came to a stop and the doors parted, thanks I believe to Mike who being reasonably sober hit the stop button. I staggered off, a small trickle of stomach slush leaking from my mouth as I stumbled forward. Concrete; grass; railings, I flung my mobile fountain towards them and released the flood. The collection of ales, cider and sausage that I’d savoured, guzzled and swilled down exited over the cold steel. Shame. I felt so ashamed by my involuntary reaction to the careless excess I’d forced upon myself earlier. I may as well have been caught with my pants down answering the door to a close relative. It wasn’t the act of vomiting that had caused my shame, or even the public location. It was the fact my body had betrayed me and done the deed with no prior warning, a pre-mature ejaculation of the stomach.

 

Somewhere nearby I heard Mike bemoaning the fact we’d had to jump off the tram miles from town after he’d already paid. Sarah was doing her best to take care of me. She had the Erdinger towel gifted to us by the he-she at the world beer stall, and was helping me to mop up some of the sick- brave girl. But then again my state was nothing compared to the sights she sees day in and out. Sarah is a carer, with a partial sabbatical from a university course in mental health nursing, and spends her usual days and nights dealing with all manner of bodily excretions. I’ve no doubt she has probably seen a veritable rainbow of coloured fluids exiting the human form.

 

There were some words of apology trying to leave my mouth along with the sick, but these wouldn’t do me any good- Mike knew what would do me good. Movement. I needed to keep moving and try and walk off some of the alcohol poisoning my body. So with Sarah as my crutch and Mike as our guide, we set off in the direction of town. Err, wasn’t it about 5 miles to the outskirts of town from here?

 

I was entering a dangerous place. Oh sure, the promenade was quiet, there was barely a soul around, and being a Thursday night, it wasn’t going to be full of revellers. But I was still conscious of my danger. I was feeling cold, sleepy and very ill. The vomiting was just the first stage. The initial knee-jerk reaction to the poisoning the alcohol was doing. This was the second stage and the third stage would be a return to the black, maybe for good. Had to keep up walking. There was a darkened shape leading my human crutch and me on, but he seemed distant, and of no more help than a carrot tied with string on a long stick. Sarah on the other hand was of extreme help. She continued to reassure me and also keep on a different conversation directed towards the dark shape leading. That’s what the sounds she emits suggest. I try to make some small talk back, let her know I’m feeling a little better. I think she hears.

 

We plod on in a slapping zigzag up the prom, and it seems I’m not the only body needing to discharge some unwanted fluid. Sarah informs me and simultaneously leaves my side that she has to pee. I suggest the lamppost, and it seems Sarah has the same idea and hurriedly drops her pants. I let her know I’ll tell Mike to hold up and start in a fast stumble towards our stoic guide. Telling Mike this he slows the march down, and we turn to see Sarah buttoning and staggering towards us, clearly feeling more of the affects of the festivals drink despite losing a good portion just now. Neither of us wants to continue the night. Our bodies have made their intentions clear.

 

We try to tell Mike and suggest we call it quits, mostly due to my extremely inebriated state. He grumbles but concedes the point. He lets us know he’ll call Corrigan, an all night taxi service and friend to the local partying crowd. He’s one of the curious citizens of the nighttime land, rarely seen far from his trusty Fiesta or a smoke.

Informed of this comfort, we make the trek towards Bispham village centre to meet our ride.

 

We don’t get to meet our ride; we get to meet an old friend; bitter resentment and his poisonous colleague Mr Anger.

 

Somewhere on the road words were said; words that had taken on a more urgent and harsh tone.  Sarah was talking. Mike was talking, and getting louder. His tone was gaining in aggression and it was building momentum. He was starting to surf a rising tide of resentments towards Sarah. Feeling his feet under the rising tide, he stands and surfs the wave of Mr Anger.

 

“You never listen. You never listen to any advice”

 

Sarah doesn’t see the trap lay by bitter resentment and wades into the tide; arms wide open to embrace the abuse.

 

“Well tell me, who should I listen to?”

 

Mr Anger crashes the wave of bitter resentment down on the hapless Sarah.

 

“Mike Roberts”

 

Washed clean off her feet, sweeping my human crutch away into the black, Sarah snaps and takes flight with a leaving screech of pain filled words. And that’s when she vanishes into the village, leaving me with a nonchalant Mike.

 

 

The shock from all this heated emotion has brought back some of my senses. I may as well have been slapped. This was why I didn’t go out on nights into town; drinking and partying hard. The fine line it creates is always tripped, setting off the inevitable explosion of trouble.

 

Calm rationale starts to take over, bathing me in a calm red and white glow…. wait that’s not rational thought, it’s thirst. I need hydration. Mike wants me to help look for her, so I barter a coke from the machine out of him. It’s sugar rich coldness helps to rain my mind back from the drink, and I hope it’s long enough to help find Sarah and get all three of us back from this steady decent into misery.

 

Mike is telling me that she brings this on herself, and that he is sure he can hear her sobs coming from one of the streets branching out from the phosphorous street lights into ally-way darkness. We march on towards the illumination from the local Sainsbury’s calling out to Sarah. No-one answers. People appear however. A small group of young people are milling about and seem approachable.

 

“Hey dudes, have any of you seen a girl with red hair…”

 

I stop as I realise that one of the group is Sarah. Another girl is comforting her, whilst two guys looked on. Mike catches up and I find out that in her distress Sarah called up some friends local to the area. Lauren she’s called. I get some brief introductions and mercifully before the agitations can rouse Mr Anger again, Corrigan pulls up out of the night in his trusty taxi for the lost and drunk. Mike suggests I try and sort Sarah out whilst he goes to Corrigan to greet him.

 

Lauren helps to fill me in. Straight talking, with a kind sounding voice and a grunge look complete with glasses. Sarah is apologising and babbling nervously she didn’t know what to do, whilst Lauren keeps her emotions calm.

 

This is almost too much for my booze-saturated mind to take in. What the fuck was I supposed to do to mend tonight’s broken bridges?

 

Talk. Must talk; talk fast, think, talk to Sarah. A drunken mind haring from solution to problem, hang a sharp left and back into the home straight for the final solution. I needed to calm Sarah and stop her from hurling herself like a maiden into the waiting volcano-I really didn’t fancy seeing the mountain blow it’s top.

 

I look at Sarah. She’s all running mascara, sobs and confusion. I feel for her, I know all too well what troubles have been swallowed down and kept boiling with the bile in her stomach. Don’t misunderstand me; she’s no blameless victim, who is? I’ve a fairly unique understanding into her and Mike’s relationship. I know the reasons why he can be an uncaring misogynistic Edwardian throwback with the emotional empathy of the T-1000. I also see what self-caused calamity seems to bring this girl’s troubles home and ignite the pyre that Mike sees necessary to mount her like a witch on. These two are worlds apart; yet share so many common bonds I know why they are together.

There’s a stubborn force that seems to magnetise them, and despite Mike’s misdirected anger from the past; Sarah’s clumsy adaptation to the responsibilities of life, they keep battling on.

 

It’s exactly for this reason I placed my hands on Sarah’s shoulders and look her straight; the kind of straight a chameleon can do when lunch is locked on, and try to snap some sobering points of clarity into the murky drunkenness of her hurt and confusion.

 

“I can’t take it any more, he can’t keep talking to me like this”

 

“I know”. Empathy, it’s the byword that all negotiators live by. The secret ingredient to being able to help a person feel like they just have to come back down from the ledge. Sympathy is the follow up blanket that comforts them.

 

“I know, he can be the most insensitive asshole we know, and the worst part is he knows all the buttons to press to hurt you. You’re pissed; I’m pissed. He on the other hand isn’t”

 

“ That doesn’t give him the right!” Anger is welling up, and with it love. Mixed you get heartache.

 

“ I know. But if you take him on now and tell him how you feel, you’ll regret it. Regret not being able to out-argue him or get your feelings out.”

 

I know-empathy, but followed by sympathy, it seems all that I can manage in my steamed middleman position.

 

I think I’ve reached a part of her mind and shocked some rational thinking like an iced chill down her spine. She stops crying. And then accepts the facts. Mike is no orator, nor a charismatic silver tongue. What he is is cold unquestionable logic tethered to a stubborn donkey of unawareness. He would bludgeon Sarah’s more emotional reasoning into the pavement with facts and figures. And she knows this.

 

Times up- Mike is striding over to collect.

 

With his usual cock sure gait, cigarette in mouth, he asks if we’re all done here and turns to Sarah to ask if she’s all right. The comment seems almost perfunctory after the twists the night took to get here. Sarah is starting to calm down, the friendly crowd surrounding her is lifting her mood; dampening the smouldering resentment in Mike and allowing us all to take in the chill of the waning nights air.

 

Whilst Mike is making with the small talk and trying to bring some tranquillity back to his and Sarah’s ocean, I find myself being taken over by the booze. Its temporary distraction made possible by the sugary influx of Coke Cola’s smoke and mirrors is over, and the alcohol is back attacking my senses and swaying my world. Swaying into view is Corrigan. The midnight cabbie is an on-off acquaintance of mine over the years, a face I’ve only ever known in cast shadows of the post midnight hours. Through the small talk we make he comments on my new hairstyle. The dreadlocks on my head are the last thing on my mind at this present juncture- last time I checked you couldn’t use dreads to soak up alcohol; though the thought crosses my mind they would excel at it. He mentions he has a friend who provides maintenance services and restyling for dreadlocks.

 

He produces a card.

 

The card read “Monarch Dread Design”- grass greens and organic vine designs seemed to suggest calm and balance.             Funny that was exactly what I was searching for at 1 am near the local supermarket and surrounded by close friends, strangers and the village drunk for the night. Damn shame I was the drunk.

 

Heading a few steps over to the gang, we make our excuses and get piled into the Corrigan Cab. Mike clambers into the front, leaving the two drunkards to support one another’s collapsing bodies in the back. Sarah leans into me and I support her, intoxication overtakes consciousness and she soon drifts off into my shoulder and I try to listen along to the music on the cabs stereo, wondering how long before I get to slip into the same black out power nap.

 

About fifteen minutes later and Corrigan is pulling the car into the cul-de-sac where Mike and Sarah reside. The fiesta tries to glide to a graceful halt outside the house, yet the 15-year-old brake’s protest then bite suddenly. With a jolt Sarah surges out from her slumber, along with a neat stream of bile laced vomit. She must have sensed the liquid seep past her lips, managing to cover mouth and dam the flow with hand. I try to comfort her; the girl has had enough admonishing for one night. Mike seems to sense this as well and apologises to Corrigan, paying him £10 with extra thanks. Corrigan Cabs is a humble experience and he says not to worry about it.

 

Waving him off, we embark for our final destination of the night. No more drink, no more cold; just the final safety of a warm home and somewhere to sleep the night’s excess off.  Sarah is away and into the bathroom almost without word in order to relieve her body of more fluids. I slump on the sofa and proceed to ramble with Mike whilst he generously pumps my air mattress up for the nights sleep. Mike is a fine friend, he may cause questionable reactions to his attitude with women and life in me, but he is peerless as a loyal cohort and will always be a lifelong companion. I’m contemplating the prospect of us playing some games and rounding the night off on a success, yet my body won’t calm. The churning in my stomach is suggesting I may be due a repeat of earlier; the last thing I wanted.

 

Mumbling my excuses I staggered to the toilet, with Mike mentioning something about Sarah’s previous visit a moment ago. I don’t hear him clearly. Nor would I care. I wanted so badly to get more of the toxic concoction from my body I could have been kneeling over a faeces stained bucket from a care home- I’d hoped any residual stains from nature would speed the process up. But it wouldn’t come. I was left with this swirling pit of a stomach trapping the eddy inside; only sleep was going to bring me comfort.

 

I’m told where I can find my sleeping bag for the night, a cocoon of insulated fabric to slide into and metamorphose into a sober human the next day. I can barely see, hear or speak anymore. When you find yourself this drunk only the blackout is left. I’ve been given a chance tonight to see the world once again like I was a teenager, a roller coaster of emotions, booze and friends that come out of the strange light of the post midnight hours. Mike is trying to talk to me, but the words no longer reach me.

 

Only the blackout reaches me. Lights out and good night.

Bad Days

18 Mar

Bad days: that quintessential collaboration by anything and everyone to just make your day go wrong. I’d go as far as to agree that all gods or spirits must enjoy a laugh at the expense of us humans; but why must they choose a Tuesday?

I guess you could say I got out of bed on the wrong side, however that would technically prove impossible as to my right is the small walkway I have between a wall that cries and my bedside junk depository, and to my left is my darling muse, usually a sweet thing, but liable to flinch and swing with a sleep empowered strength impossible to come from one so dainty. So to say I got out of the wrong side would be to suggest I always get out on the wrong side.

Bad days can usually follow bad dreams or indeed bad nights. Now were getting somewhere- I had a bad night brought on by the realisation that a hobby and source of fantastical escape no longer held a special place in my heart.

I’ve played video games since I was old enough to hold a pad and realise which of the bright coloured dots on the television set had to be stomped on, shot at or raced past, and that initial foray into the fantasy land stored on those first few cartridges had me sold. As I got older and the years brought new advances from the land of the rising sun, I got sucked deeper down that green pipe, swept into cosmos where I was saving the world from the cyborg menace and getting to defeat the evil mastermind with a final dragon punch- uttering the immortal cry “ shoryuken”; the result was more time spent in these lands of fantasy, because what hope did reality have of offering me excitement on par with this? To an overweight yet hyperactive child suffering from asthma, what chance did reality have to entice me back into the daylight?

Zero. Sure I loved to run around with my friends (run, wheeze, stop, click, suck, run-repeat), I had a fearless nature as a cruel blessing so I always wanted to try out any new craze-roller-skating and roller blades, BMX and mountain biking- you name it, I was eager. But though the will was strong the flesh was weak- I tried all manner of different exercise: ranging from weight lifting and aerobics to martial arts. But these all brought me little in the way of a solution. To my mind video games were the answer!

I played them endlessly with my friends; all of who was into video games, so the habit wasn’t just a private thrill, it was a social experience. Multiplayer was where it was going to be at.

This love followed me like my asthma (and weight) into my teens and early twenties, still the games were played, new galaxies were saved or pillaged on my whim, or with the help of my close circle of gaming friends. Technology advanced at a rapid rate and the improvement of the visual L.S.D we were consuming got stratospherically high. Thanks to the rise of the Internet and online gaming services you didn’t even need to interact in person with your friends, you only needed the game.

From around 7 years of age to 29 years of life, I spent far too much of my free time in the fantasy zone, and the dawning of the online age broke that spell. It hurried in a rise of popularity in the games industry, and with it the corporations smelled money. Sure they financed and drove a boom in new technology, creating cinema quality stories, epic firefights and musical scores worthy of savouring in their own right, but they also homogenised the experience. It turned what was once the outcasts favourite respite from reality, once the elite club of space cadets of the mind: the excuse to socialise with friends, into a soulless and mindless ram raid on the senses. Television reinvented for the techno generation. You no longer had to learn any real skill or use your imagination to abscond from reality for a few hours, your now shovelled it to your ever twitching fire button as you rattle off your 8th consecutive hour on Modern Warfare 12. Oh did I mention that’s with your twenty-four hour friends across the globe.

Twenty-nine years of age I finally realise how much apathy I’ve been slowly festering inside for this once loved hobby, gestated on a decade of bitterness and nostalgia. I’m no longer the fat, wheezing (for the most part) and excitable dreamer, I’ve a passion for motorcycles that has been steadily nurtured into an all consuming addiction (don’t we all trade one addiction for another); I’ve a steady girlfriend of 9 years and a creative side to myself that won’t stay subdued any longer. But it still came as a shock last night. I’ve built a lot of my friendships around videogames, and now I need to take them forward with less emphasis on fantasy and more in reality.

Bad nights dreams always follow into bad days. So Tuesday has been one grumpy lurch after another.

Here’s to Wednesday-also known as ‘Hump Day’. Get over that and it’s all about the weekend baby!