Saturday, November 28, 2009

Play That Funky Music

It turned out to be a bit of a weird gig last Saturday night. Not in a hall or a club or a pub but in somebody's house! Turned out it was a doctor's house (my favourite profession...NOT!) so I was happy to turn my amp up full blast and drink all their beer. I managed to restrain myself and not use the lipstick in the toilet to write "you are all bastards" all over the walls. Just as well cos at the end of the night I was handed £60 for playing pathetic renditions of "party favourites" like Hi Ho Silver Lining. I conveniently forgot my principles and grabbed my 30 pieces of silver before leaving with cap in hand.




The next day I blew the money on an external hard drive for the PC. My happiness was short lived however as the wrath of God was cast upon me and for my sin of avarice the Almighty sent forth a great plague and so I was struck down with that most hellish of diseases... manflu!



I had flu like symptoms for most of the week and took to my bed, fortunately I slept most of the time. Didn't have much of a runny nose, mostly headache, nausea, pains and fatigue. Not sure if it was swine flu/H1N1 but I certainly wasn't contacting the NHS, I just took paracetamol. Fortunately I had downloaded an audiobook (History of Western Philosophy) which along with an electric blanket ensured long periods of unconsciousness. You can't beat an audiobook to bore you to sleep. Without warning, and for reasons known only to the virus, I suddenly made a complete recovery at 4pm yesterday.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Don't Mess With My Toot Toot

I don't remember much about the last few days other than being completely overwhelmed by the driving licence issue. It has consumed my every waking moment.




Mrs Mo went to the family doctor to plead for mercy but he told her as far as my licence was concerned,  it "was just a matter of time now". I am really brightening her life up at the moment... she is now back on Citalopram.

Last night. My pal picked me up and we drove up into the hills to photograph the Leonids but the skies were completely masked by thick cloud and the only thing that fell from the heavens was rain.




I have been asked to play in a blues band on Saturday. Thursday night rehearsal is at my pals house, ten miles away up in the hills. There is no bus service, this may be the last chance I get to play music with other guys.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wheels

This morning I was lying in the bath contemplating nothing in particular. Just letting my mind float off like one of Nena's 99 luftballons when I heard the dull thud of manilla on carpet then the clank of an angry letterbox as the postman from perdition grudgingly dropped the car bomb on my world.



It was the letter from the DVLA. I was hoping they had forgotten about me when they didn't respond to my email immediately. How wrong could I be? Isn't it strange how efficient harbingers of doom are. If you made an enquiry for assistance from some large corporation you would spend months writing letters, phoning Asian call centres and being shunted from department to department without any result other than a nervous twitch, a few more grey hairs and a profound disillusionment in humanity. Yet send a one line email when the bastards might get the better of you and they are at your throat immediately like a pack of vampires suddenly discovering a virgin lost in the woods two hours before dawn.



Anyway, the form basically asked i) are you mad and ii) do you drink. So it looks like my only hope is to be a bit economical with the truth. Here's the form...




The missus has gone off to the city tonight to see "We Will Rock You" so I treated myself to a sirloin steak for dinner. American readers will think this puny piece of cat food is a small spare rib but for an unemployed loony this is a banquet. You will notice that I also have a nice bottle of French red wine... cost more than the steak... pious readers may think "sacre bleu!"... ce n'est pas un problème... look, even the DVLA letter is bigger!!!!




Once I have finished this I am going to watch Star Trek 2009 which I illegally downloaded. No doubt if I confessed this act to the shrink she would be compelled to breach patient confidence and inform the police, my ISP as well as the Performing Rights Society. I smell shite. My days of shrinkery are indeed over now!



I must remember to always brush my teeth and have a fake urine sample handy at all times. Maybe the voices in the radiator are right, perhaps I should kill them all now. I just remembered that I said that on Wednesday in front of the medical student and his eyes nearly popped out of his head, I thought he was going to faint or soil my couch. Four years of medical training and still as gullible as a fuckin' primary school kid. Yeah we're all serial killers... and they say that I'm the mad one. Is it any surprise I have no faith in the medical profession.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Road To Hell

The shrink arrived this morning with a medical student in tow. I told her I was much, much better now. I had charted my mood, alcohol intake, sleep and chlorpromazine use over the past two weeks. As ever, she was concerned about the alcohol (70 units/week) and spoke for a good half hour, doing the old motivational interviewing crapola... "so what do you think would make you want to change" etc. Eventually she stopped harping on about it and I got a chance to tell her the good stuff. How I was now taking pictures, restarted my blog and even been to Glasgow for the day. She asked how I had gotten to Glasgow and I told her I'd driven. "YOU STILL DRIVE? DO THE DVLA KNOW?". What the fuck is she on about?

She then explains that the DVLA must be notified when you are diagnosed bipolar and she presumed this would have been done by one of her predecessors. Nope, never heard of such a thing. She says it never occurred to her to check as she had "inherited" me and presumed this was all taken care of long ago. Why does it matter, I'm not epileptic nor do I have narcolepsy. She says that I wouldn't be allowed to drive for about 3 months following a hypomanic episode. Fair enough. BUT she then says her main concern is my drinking and that I shouldn't be driving with my current consumption (only 10u/day). I need to inform the DVLA of my diagnosis or my car insurance will be invalid. They will then send questionnaires to the shrink and my family doctor who will provide them with information not only about my psychiatric condition but also drug and alcohol use. If the docs indicate that I am misusing alcohol I will have my licence taken away. I AM DEVASTATED!

How come Joe Public can drink as many units as he likes, confide in his doctor and continue driving BUT if he happens to have a diagnosis of bipolar diorder his licence will be removed. This is discrimination, no doubt about it. How many fuckin' doctors drink more than 21 units per week? And they keep talking about fighting the good fight against the stigma of mental illness. BULLSHIT. The more perceptive reader may have picked up that I am a wee bit annoyed about this. And before you say it, NO, I can't get the train, there are no stations in my entire region of four counties! No I won't get the fekn bus cos I don't fit into the seats which are designed for tiny munchkins and unable to accomodate 18 stone whales like me.

I live in a remote rural area and without the car I am fucked. A trip to the likes of PC World means a half hours walk to the bus stop. The bus to the city takes two hours. Then there's half an hours bus trip to the retail park. Add on to that lengthy waits for a irregular bus services and you are looking at about 8 hours to buy a memory stick. I can drive there and back in about 3 hours (and without anxiety and physical discomfort).

When I feel up to going for a walk these days, I invariably drive to someplace where I am unknown or where no one will see me. Without the car I simply wouldn't go out. This ain't no psychological breakdown, this is the road to hell.

There's one thing for sure, I will NEVER confide in a doctor about my drinking again. In fact I plan to keep my cards close to my chest and reveal as little as possible about my mental state in future. How can I confide in a service that isn't completely confidential but is willing to inform other government agencies of my condition.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Brothers In Arms

I went to Glasgow yesterday and met with my brother and it all went surprisingly well. Unlike the usual family encounters there was no big fight nor vows never to speak again.



In fact it was one of the most emotional and touching days of my life. Certainly the only time I've had any "quality time" with one of my brothers that I can remember. "Quality time", don't you just hate that fuckin' phrase... but I'm too lazy/thick to think of an alternative. It always sounds like it's time to open a big tin of chocolates instead of what it really is, a kind of uncomfortable, forced togetherness.



We met up with my two cybermates who once again kindly took us on a guided tour of the area. They are really nice genuine guys and we all had a good laugh (I think.. I hope... och I'm sure we did... I did anyway). We visited an old water tower and only once we had climbed to the top did my brother reveal his fear of heights. Fortunately he soon got distracted by the conversation and was soon able to take in the views.




It was a bit crazy, a group of middle aged men on a Saturday morning up to mischief, trespassing and  risking heart attacks and broken hips. It was something we would have loved to have done as kids but kids wouldn't be allowed to do such things. "The man" would have chased us or the police would have been called. Fortunately fat, boring, middle-aged, balding men like me are ignored by everyone and if we are spotted then we are presumed to have permission. There are indeed some benefits to aging.



We had planned a whole day of wandering but after a hundred yards it was obvious my brother was having difficulty walking, his hip was the problem he said. I was really taken aback. Now, these days I struggle on even mild hills but I'm usually OK on the flat. But he was really toiling and had to keep stopping in between his slow shuffles, he looked like an old man. It was awful, it's the first real absolute realization that we are all getting older and that the wind of youth has gone and left us.

Anyway, we abandoned the walk and said goodbye to my friends. Once back at my brother's house he chirped up and started on all his usual superficial banter and chit chat. It was only when I was about to leave that he became serious and for the first time in my life he told me all about the real events in his life at the moment (which are not good). We also discussed how every member of our family past and present (including us) is mad. I may be the only one with an official diagnosis, medicines and a shrink but I am by far the most normal one out of our chaotic gene pool. I read a Stephen King book in the summer (can't remember the name of it) in which a family all inherited the "bad gunky". Well every member of our tribe (or "non-tribe" as we invariably alienate ourselves from each other) definitely has the bad gunky inside them. He thought I was lucky as I am the only one who hasn't had an alcohol problem... ha ha... I told him about my shrink's opinion. It was all in all a very touching experience, honesty and openness are things our family avoid like the plague and something I have never really experienced before. We had all been indoctrinated to avoid "unpleasantness" at all costs. I was very touched by his honesty, almost cried at times but held back and ended up giving him advice and playing the strong one. Not a role I am familiar with. But it all felt good. I only hope it isn't a precursor for something dreadful. Call me cynical ("hi there Cynical!") but why/when do people suddenly start throwing up confessions?




Today I went with trepidation to the mysterious jam. I was worried that I would be the odd one out.... well.. err... it was a bit like going to the day centre, everyone was the odd one out. They were quite a disparate group of folks. I wondered if Moonstone had organized the whole thing. One minute Mr Facebook was saying how expensive it was to hire the hall but when I offered him £5 he immediately said "Oh no, it's all been taken care of". Hmmm, how queer.




Anyway, there were three sax players, a percussionist, another guitarist and a harmonica player. It was all a bit of a cacophany and one of the sax players was wayyyyyy too loud. I had words with him and I thought he might react badly as he was a very extrovert wacky kind of guy. He had a minor tantrum at first but I soon distracted him with humour and after that we got on OK. I tried to impose some kind of order to the chaos but it was like Ali V Frazier and the mayhem continued. Two of the sax players were beginners so I wasn't daunted by the experience at all and even Mr Wacky (who by the way was very, very good on sax!) complimented me on my playing. I thought it was going to be a total bummer but by the end the dynamics (musically and personally) were very much improved and some good music was being made. Mr Facebook asked me if I would come back again (he plans to have a "happening" every month), I said I would prefer a rhythm section of at least bass and drums so I could stretch rather a bit rather than just hold it down with rhythm. I said I would go back next month and take it from there. I left with us all smiling and even had some cheery banter with Mr Wacky.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

When Tomorrow Comes

On Wednesday I went to visit my nephew and his family. I knew I hadn't been round for a while but when I remarked on his new car he told me he'd had it for a year. I also said the pup was fairly growing... the "pup" is apparently almost three years old. I still find it hard to grasp how thick I am now, how forgetful and how out of touch I am with the world. I used to always think I was so clever, so much better than "ordinary" people. What an arsehole I must have looked. At least that's one of the benefits of social isolation, you don't parade around looking a complete fool, you only do that in the safety of your own home.



But after saying that I must confess that I have gone out almost every day this week and have a full diary for the next couple of days! I can't remember the last time I went out almost every day in a single week. On Wednesday my "unofficial carer" Simon took me out to photograph fish again.




Today I stayed in alone but did finally pick up my guitar and practice a bit. I've been invited to a jam on Sunday with a wide variety of musicians, none of whom I know. Last year I did a gig, temping as guitarist for an established blues band. One of the guys from the band (who I have only met twice) has invited me to play on Sunday. I't a bit scary as I won't know anyone and may have to blag my way through it, winging it with real musicians. Despite this I'm really chuffed he asked me and I'm really looking forward to it. The invite came via Facebook which I've recently joined to try and connect with other local musicians. I didn't expect a result so quickly.



Tomorrow I'm heading off to Glasgow to explore an old water tower. People who have read my previous blog may remember I rather precariously arranged to meet a stranger in Glasgow last year who guided me through dark woods to find an old water tower. Well, I didn't end up dead and buried, it actually all turned out great and tomorrow I'm meeting him again to explore another one. This time I'm going with my brother as well which will be nice I think. I don't think we have ever really had a day out together. Hopefully it won't end up in another fucking family feud. Usually when two members of my family spend more than two minutes together in the same room they fall out and never speak again. This strange dysfunctional behaviour has sadly been entrenched for generations (so rumour has it, obviuosly I can't chack with estranged relatives). I'm sure tomorrow will be fine, if nothing else it will be a box ticked off before I die.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Jump

My pal Simon took me out today. God, it sounds like I'm a poodle with my own personal doggy walker. Anyway, he's a professional photographer and he took some great pictures of the salmon run. Karma ensured that I knew my place in the grand scheme of things and appropriately ensured that I only captured an image of a brown trout.



We stopped at a bakers on the way home for hot pies and coffee (these are the healthy options in Scotland). The women working in the shop (I use the term "working" loosely, interpret that as standing about looking gormless, utterly miserable and loathe to respond to any customers) tried their best to ignore us but as we were the only people in the shop they eventually had to renege. Four of them served us at once while the one working the till put us through a grueling round of "Question Time" to try and discover what we had ordered and how much we owed her.




Obviously she couldn't possibly communicate with her co-workers who were too busy rolling their eyes and telling us that everything we wanted was sold out. I tried some merry banter with them to lighten their spirits but they just glowered at me like I was some crazed serial killer.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Rat In Mi Kitchen

Although I'm getting more active now, I am becoming incredibly bad tempered and irritable. My wife is invariably the innocent target of my anger and I know she's finding me hard to deal with just now. We spoke about it this afternoon. I apologised at length and we discussed where she might get some support. Our previous  experience of the local bipolar support group wasn't really good, actually we found it to be as much use as a chocolate fireguard.




Unfortunately, Moonstone Woodstock (my shrink) focuses on me, despite my main concern being my wife. Although "the talk" is always about families rather than individuals, I guess "the walk" still has a long way to catch up. Anyway, the missus is thinking about going back to see Michael Portillo (our family doctor) who has been helpful in the past.

It was a big day in the kitchen for me today. I was making soup and overdid it a bit (too many lentils, turnips and potatoes) so ended up filling two pots instead of one.


I also baked some bread rolls and went on to cook duck in raspberry sauce for dinner. I enjoyed the cooking (but you'll notice I have only revealed the soup and not the err.... (slightly overdone) rolls nor the (more red wine than raspberry sauce) on the duck (and not just in my glass)..






Sunday, November 01, 2009

Autumn Almanac

"Sunday Bloody Sunday" might have been a better title for this post because despite my staunch Christian upbringing, Sunday is no longer spent worshiping some all powerful deity in a state of dour sobriety. No, nowadays Sunday is invariably bloody shopping day.

To be fair, I don't really mind buying the groceries as I do the cooking. Well, I say I don't mind ...BUT... come to think of it, I actually stomp round Tesco's, blood pressure rising at the sound of screaming children, mothers chatting while combining their trolleys to make an impenetrable barrier in the aisle, staff announcements in that dreadful Stepford Wife sing-song voice which always drops down 5 semitones at the end of each banal SENtence, gormless teenage staff pushing huge trolleys of fruit right towards you while staring at the floor, doddery old ladies who were probably young women when they entered the shop but have been walking at such a slow pace they have spent 63 years trying to find the Tena Lady shelf. Yeah, I really don't mind the grocery shopping!


In my last post I mentioned I was going to try and maintain this blog again as some sort of therapeutic activity, rather than just do nothing. I haven't decided yet whether to include the archives of the last blog which runs back to 2006 and/or a private diary I have kept since. I think I'll just wait and see how things pan out here initially.

As well as writing the blog, I'm also going to try and take a photograph each day as photography was something I used to enjoy. I took my little pocket Vivitar with me and on the way to Tesco's asked my wife to stop the car so I could shoot a beautiful Autumn scene we came across on the way. Unfortunately it was an extremely dull, overcast day and my picture was ruined by camera shake. However I've tried to rescue it in Photoshop by using an oil paint effect so sharpness doesn't matter.


As well as the pictures, I'm going to try and title my posts this time, using song titles. My back has been troubling me these past few days and strangely enough there is an autumn song that contains the line "Oh my poor rheumatic back"...