Category Archives: Emotions

Excessive worry


No, it wasn’t this episode

I worry too much about things.  Yes, I know, big discovery, “epiphany” isn’t just a name black people call their daughters, but I’ll live a happier life if I can sort this out.

(A joke from a 2008 episode of “American Dad!”, so please don’t write in to complain…)

At least today one big worry’s been lifted from my shoulders: my mother’s PC hasn’t died, so I don’t have to go home this weekend to fix it for her (judging from the symptoms she described, it would have been a dead hard drive — so a new HD and a full Windows reinstallation there, not to mention sending the dead one back under warranty…).  Now, while I’m always happy to go home and have the chance to climb with Mumsy (and eat my grandmother’s cooking), this weekend I shall very likely be helping “best mate” with the resolution of his own great worry: he’s finally found a new place to live (indeed, it’s close to the Castle, so we’ll be able to climb together a lot more!), and will need assistance moving his stuff, though he’s hoping to borrow his brother’s van.  Good for him, his four MONTHS of couch-surfing is coming to an end at last!  And it was a similar worry I had in early 2012 that made me physically sick (except I had a definite time limit), so I have some sympathy for his condition.

However, there are other things that I tend to worry about for ages, sometimes having unpleasant conversations in my head, before discovering that I was making a fuss about nothing.  The other night I came home from seeing my personal torturer, to discover that my “Ethernet over powerlines” connection (which enables you to have a wired connection to your router via the powerlines in your house — essential for me as the wireless signal sucks up here) had mysteriously connected me to a completely different router than the one we have in our lounge.  Leaving aside the prospect that our powerlines are somehow connected to those of next door (!), I knew that my housemate — yes, the problematic one — had unplugged the one in the lounge, and I began worrying that he’d thrown it out, and would grin smugly at me in the belief that I couldn’t do a thing about it… but in fact he’d just not known what it was, and barely knew once I’d explained it, but actually had no problem!

It happened earlier this year, with someone I actually like: during my post-holiday blues, the nice lady at work (the one whose support got me through the bad times in late 2011/early 2012 — I was fortunate she was “between pregnancies” at the time!) wanted me deal with some files in our archive; when I discovered that they were in a totally rubbish state (how did social workers even use them before passing them down to us?!), I was expecting an argument or a telling-off… but in fact she agreed with me, and we passed the task to the two admins upstairs, who had provided the things to us in the first place!

And then there’s the apprehension I feel about fictional things that I think will horrify me… such as “The Great Escapo”, a Kenny Everett sketch from 1983 in which he plays an escapologist (with the obligatory comedy German accent) who gets ground up in a cement mixer, minced in a mincing machine and liquidised in a blender, the idea being that his lovely assistant will then drink him, “and zen, I shall escape!”.  I was deeply traumatised when my folks let me watch this as a five-year-old (my mother telling me it was just a dummy, ice cream etc. didn’t help), and I was still disgusted as a young adult when I saw it again on my friend’s compilation tape.  So, in 2012, back when I still used to fink off to the toilet to watch things on my media player, and I was working my way through the works of Cuddly Ken, I felt a great deal of trepidation as this, S3E3 of The Kenny Everett Television Show, approached… and, as usual, I’d worried about nothing, because I didn’t puke, or even feel nauseous!  It’s almost as though I’d become a different person…

(Neither did I when I watched the Japanese anime movie “Akira” for the first time in years… though the awful “dubtitles” may already have deadened me to nausea!)

So, I’m going to avoid worry from now on, if I can — yoga will certainly help, and perhaps I can thus stop feeling apprehension whenever I’m on a 12m. wall at the climbing centre (which I can be more often now, thanks to “best mate” moving nearby!).  And, of course, I’ll try not to worry about what girls might say to me if I try to chat to them, or what they might think of me if I only chat up one girl and not another… yeah, good luck with that, Dave.

What I won’t worry about, however, is the notion that even though I said “Hatred” would be the last negative emotion I explore, I’m still using the same category in my posts — I might do one on “Sadness” too, if I can find enough YouTube clips about the moments in fiction that make me teary-eyed.  Perhaps sadness and worry aren’t entirely “negative”, but ambivalent?  Or maybe this blog is being written piecemeal and would undergo a shedload of editing and rearranging if it ever became a book — which it won’t, “e” or otherwise!

Exploring emotions: Hatred

There are 387.44 million miles of printed circuits in wafer-thin layers that fill my complex.  If the word HATE was engraved on each nanoangstrom of those hundreds of millions of miles it would not equal one one-billionth of the hate I feel for humans at this micro-instant for you.  Hate.  Hate.
–Harlan Ellison, “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream”


Is it worth hating Justin Beiber? Would that be giving this pitiful, talentless nonentity too much attention?

And so we come to the final of my explorations of negative emotion — it’s the last thing I have to face and overcome before 2013 ends.

But I won’t be focusing on things that merely “grind my gears”, such as delays on the London Underground, the “Samsung Whistle”, the British weather, the music of The Streets*, annoying laughs in confined spaces, the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage**, peas, the song “Horny ’98”, reality TV**, the British obsession with football, being asked at supermarkets for loyalty cards, cyclists in London***, supermarket self-checkouts, having to work for a living, drunk people, incompetent IT staff, cab drivers in London***, winter, tooth-cleaning at the dentist, unrepentent smokers, the Simpsons episode “Homer’s Enemy”****, having to get up in the morning, happy couples when you’re terminally single, catching cold during a holiday…

* “British Eminem”, my butt, he’s not even the British Vanilla Ice!
** Not the quality, the fact that it exists at all.
*** Who don’t seem to understand traffic lights, or understand them but think “they don’t apply to me”.
**** Anything which makes me hate Homer Simpson, even for a few minutes, is worthy of damnation!

No, I won’t be complaining about any of these in this article on hatred, even though they all deserve it; nor will I be droning on about how much I hate the great dictators and mass-murderers of our world.  And I don’t even mean Hitler, Stalin, Pol-Pot, Jong-Il, or all the others who have done the decent thing and relieved us of their miserable existences: I’m talking about traitors to their own like Cotton Mather (on whose instructions more women were murdered than Jack the Ripper ever dreamed of), or the incompetent generals we had during WWI.  No, they’re also dead and buried, and we’re richer for having lost them.  What’s the use of hating people who are already in Hell (if such a place even exists)?


Brian Coleman: beneath contempt, which is to say, it’s easier to pity him than to hate him

And then there’s the corrupt politicians who ru(i)n things in Britain, especially Barnet: after having privatised almost everything, putting the social care of vulnerable adults in the hands of an incompetent company that needed bailing out (to the tune of £1m) after a year, and giving over parking enforcement to an organisation that frankly can’t be trusted (a chap named Mr. Mustard takes them to task regularly), none of which they had a mandate for and none of which they allowed the public to question them about to any useful degree, they continue to claim allowances despite having rendered their jobs effectively pointless.  Bexley also has things particularly bad (see this excellent blog), but the rot starts at the top: there just aren’t any decent political parties left in this country as all they want to do is fleece us and then claim to be serving our interests by blocking things on the Internet (such as political debate, before too long).  But while hating these idiots would certainly be less futile than hating abstract concepts like “poverty” or “ignorance”, I’m not going to make proclamations about who’ll be “first against the wall” on the “glorious day”, because that didn’t work in the 1970s either…

(I mean for other people, not for me, obviously — I wasn’t born until three years before the end!)

So what, or who, do I have left to hate?  I don’t hate meat eaters, even though I refuse to apologise for being a vegetarian (remember that?), and nor do I hate organised religion, despite wanting to keep it out of my life (remember that?).  I also never hated Jeremy Beadle or Noel Edmonds when it was fashionable to do so, nor do I despise Jeremy Clarkson today (because I know it’s a “persona” and that he’s actually relatively, ahem, normal off-camera).  Then there’s the BNP and the Church of Scientology (I know I mentioned politics and religion already, but neither of them count), who just make me feel tired rather than angry these days — go on, disappear into irrelevancy, you have no purpose any more except to make us sneer.

Am I becoming mellow?  Have I run out of things to hate before I’ve even finished this blog entry?  No.  I have the memory of hatred, and I need to make sure I never go down that path again.  I remember hating the people who treated me badly at secondary school (as mentioned in this post) — the ones who always told me “don’t take it so seriously” rather than lay off when they saw it upsetted me to be treated like a freak and an outsider — and it’s really to them that I attribute my general introvercy.  I was always introverted to some extent, but they robbed me of all my self-esteem and made me not want to go out and interact with people at all.  However, I don’t carry that baggage with me any more: it was years ago, after all… what they did to me was really minor, and it took things like the works of Eminem and the TV docu-drama Walking on the Moon to make me realise that.  They were just stupid teens (as was I), and while I don’t really want to see them again, I have forgiven them.

There was also our final “third housemate” at Caledonian Road: after a succession of people who were either fun or relatively quiet, the only one to stay for more than a year was a guy who I initially thought would be a cool “fellow geek”, but who almost immediately began getting on my nerves, leaving the kitchen in a mess, making a lot of noise at night time, and — of course — loudly having sex one night in October 2011, the real beginning of my depression and the hatred I felt for my entire life.  I don’t even know when I stopped being able to answer his fool questions (e.g. nagging me about what Quorn is made of, or who’d win in a fight between a samurai and a ninja) and starting trying my best to avoid him at all costs.  I’m pretty sure his messy behaviour was the primary driving force behind “good housemate” moving into his own flat… and the worst thing is, I ended up feeling glad when he came home after that move-out took place, and loathing my desperation for human company.  And on that final, terrible day that we cleaned the house before moving out, he was largely unhelpful; when he left, I felt an almost physical separation of life paths, a cosmic cry of “good riddance”.  But, again, although I hope never to see him again, I’m not going to waste any more emotion on him…

(I hope my current problematic housemate isn’t going to go down the same route, though he’s certainly been getting on my nerves recently, and has been having a go at me about my vegetarianism from the beginning — and he brought a girl home a couple of weeks ago… fortunately our house has sturdier floors and thicker walls than at Caledonian Road, so I didn’t have to listen to it all night!)

The worst thing of all is self-loathing, and I’ve had enough of that in my lifetime.  Other people have felt it in the past for being homosexual (Kenneth Williams deserved a happier life, being such a gentle soul), but in my case, it was for heterosexuality, as I felt like a truly awful person at university.  It’s all very well saying I shouldn’t have, that girls didn’t instinctively hate me and that I was just shy and clumsy, and that being caught between “girl power” and “lad culture” really didn’t help, but at the time, especially in early 1997, I felt like I was horrible for being attracted to women.  My, ahem, “friends” didn’t help by getting me drunk, convincing me to chat up a girl they claimed fancied me and then telling me I was “desperate”… and I let that incident, and similar, drive me down a great deal, making me feel somehow apologetic for being interested in women.

Be clear, though, that I didn’t think heterosexuality in and of itself was evil and wrong: just my own… no wonder I longed for celibacy over the years.  It’s only now, in 2013, that I’m getting over this stupid self-loathing, and realising that there’s nothing wrong with being openly heterosexual and wanting to meet women and “play the field”, rather than wait naively for my perfect woman to somehow materialise out of thin air.  I’m not dirty or disgusting (well, not for this specific personality trait, anyway) for wanting to meet women I find physically attractive rather than solely getting to know them as people; I am in fact — though I hate to use the word — normal.

While I may have felt self-loathing in the late 1990s, I never contemplated suicide at that time (except perhaps in terms of crossing the road without looking both ways).  Conversely, my suicidal thoughts in late 2011 and early 2012 were nothing to do with ridding the world of my pestilent presence; they arose simply because I hated my life and how I felt, and more than anything I wanted to “switch it off”.  Don’t worry, I’m well over that part of my life now, and feel pity rather than loathing for the person I was then.  I’ve done so much to change things in 2013 that I don’t hate my life like I used to; perhaps I needed “third housemate” and his night of debauchery to shake me out of my complacency after all… would I ever have started climbing or gone to Las Vegas otherwise?

So, if I don’t hate things I complain about, or long-dead tyrants, or former bullies, or my own existence, what am I left with?  Well, to paraphrase (badly) Franklin D. Roosevelt: I have nothing to hate but hatred itself!


And now, to lighten the mood with a gratuitous (and, yes, inevitable) Gwar reference: the bridge of the song “Blimey” (from the album America Must Be Destroyed), featuring some of the historical monsters I didn’t mention in my diatribe above…

“That’s right, folks — here in the Hall of Human Hatred we’ve got some of your most inspired brethren, genocidal maniacs who carved their way through the history books straight into your hearts!  We’ve got Caligula, mad emperor of Rome, whose purges consumed thousands on his blazing altar of syphilis!  Or how about Giles Laval, medieval crusader of God’s will, whose search for the elixir of life led to the ritual Satanic killing of hundreds of Parisien youth!  Or Julius, religious despot, whose slaughter of the intelligentsia of Milan gave him the nickname of ‘The Warrior Pope’!  That’s right, some of the greatest mass-murderers in your sad yet vibrant history are here enshrined, impaled, and pumped with agonising LIFE!”

It goes nicely with Gwar “killing” hate figures such as Sarah Palin on stage (or Osama and Dubya in their post-9/11 video “Immortal Corrupter”), doesn’t it?  Ahh, I feel mellower already…

Exploring emotions: Bereavement

They say the good die young
That’s why I know that we gon’ have fun
In this life ‘cuz you only get one
When God calls for me, don’t cry, I just went home
–D12, “Good Die Young” (D12 World)

This month being the time of year that both my uncle and grandfather died (15 years apart), it seems like an appropriate time to talk about a depressing topic.  It’s something everyone has to face, and something I need to learn to deal with — though, obviously, it’d be a lot worse if I were ever responsible for inflicting this emotion upon another…

I mentioned before that I can remember a family pet dying; death was something I learned about early in life — perhaps thanks to a diet of boys’ own comics, not to mention the Dark Judges from Judge Dredd — and I can even remember having a nightmare that my mother had told me I was going to die, and not being able to explain it to her without weeping like a, well, like a frightened child.

However, it was one day in December 1984 that I truly realised how final death is in the real world.  My maternal uncle had been living with us (my mother, grandparents and I) for some time; I’d known him and enjoyed his company before, but he was staying with us following the failure of his marriage, and apparently taking me for drives and giving me sweets helped him get through depression, as did a great deal of weight training with his father (my grandfather), though our new dog Scraps took some time to get used to him!  He was working a long way away from our home in Kent (Wimbledon, to be precise — one day he brought home a “genuine Wimbledon tennis ball”!), and so had to drive along the M25 every morning; I used to hear him starting his car (with some difficulty, due to it being winter) when he left, early in the morning.  However, we were planning to move across to Surrey (where my grandfather’s job was moving), so his journey would have been easier.

Then one day, 11th December, I came home from school to find my grandmother in tears with two policemen hovering in the dining room, and no sign of my uncle.  She told me what had happened, and I wept with her, and prayed to God to keep him safe in Heaven.  This was a terrible car crash in foggy conditions on the M25 that claimed nine lives, but the knowledge that others had died that day didn’t, unfortunately, help my emotional state: in my anger at the world for taking away someone I loved, I actually began hoping that the driver behind my uncle — whom I, in my childish naivety, blamed for his death — had died as well.

How did we get through this difficult time?  Well, I can only conclude that I survived due to the resilience of youth, but my mother and grandparents, in all probability, held it together for my sake.  My grandmother told me, in a letter on my 18th birthday, that I’d kept her going during those dark days — and, indeed, that I’d kept him going following his divorce as well… and it’s worth noting that, one day as he walked me home from infant school, he saved my life by yanking me (by the scruff of my neck) out of the way of a car when I stupidly ran across a road!

I was lucky not to lose anyone else in my immediate family for the next fifteen years; the rest of the world, of course, wasn’t so lucky, with various horrors such as the Challenger disaster, the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise at Zebrugge, the first Gulf War and various terrorist atrocities all thinning out humanity’s numbers.  I was even in America when the Columbine shootings took place.  I was unmoved by the death of Princess Diana in 1997: she’d never been an important part of my life, and although it was a shock that “someone famous” had died, I disdained the exaggerated outpouring of grief expressed by my country at the time (much of it from the tabloids that had been about to print “what a filthy slut” headlines about her when news of her death came through).

However, my grandfather’s health declined over the years due to an aneurysm (which first became apparent to me in 1994), and with him being the main breadwinner of my family, we had to move into the flat above shops in Worthing where my folks live to this day (hopefully not for much longer, but that’s another blog post in itself).  He’d done all sorts of things for me since I was a child, like drawing pictures and assembling models, and with his failing health, I began to step up as the man of the house (for example I put together a video cabinet in 1995 because he wasn’t about to do so).  He also took me weight training, years before I’d begun to get soft around the middle…

It was my grandfather who enabled me to go to Michigan in 1998 on that student exchange scheme: this was because he stepped in to sort out the logistics when the staff at my university failed to live up to expectations.  This trip, as you know, led to what remains the one big romance of my life, and I owe it all to him.  While I was over there he was supposed to have an operation to circumvent the blockage in a blood vessel that caused his aneurysm, but unfortunately, one day I learned that the doctors in Worthing had aborted the operation, deeming the fabric of his circulatory system to be too weak to take the stitches.  Thus, he was left with a kind of ticking time-bomb, which depressed me as it felt like I’d already lost him…

When I came back to Blighty, I learned that some doctors in London had disparaged the Worthing doctors and thought they could save my grandfather after all, which was a relief to me.  He was thus able to help me when I got my first PC in late 1999, which is to say, he bought me a better keyboard than the brokers supplied.  It’s a tragic irony that he was the one who took our elderly dog down to the vet to be put out of her misery… and, that summer, he also had to junk his old green Datsun Cherry that we’d had for countless years (not as long as I could remember, but nearly).

Thus, in early December he went into hospital again, with high hopes… it was the same night that a fire nearly broke out in my hall of residence, thanks to someone apparently leaving burgers in an oven to burn (in what may have been a deliberate act of sabotage).  I still recall worrying that the guy in the next room was injured or dead when he didn’t come out, and expressing relief when he turned up alive… considering how much I grew to loathe the guy, and considering what happened to my grandfather that night, you can guess who I wish had lived and who had died (but hatred is the last negative emotion I’ll be “exploring” in this blog post category, later in the month).

I remember that Friday morning, 3rd December 1999, reading my e-mail at the end of a Volcanology lesson in a computer lab and getting an immediate sense of foreboding when my mother asked me to ring home — if it  had been good news, she’d have said so.  I delayed going back to my hall of residence (the building that hadn’t burned down the night before) to use the public phone outside my room, but eventually, I had to face it… and the worst had indeed happened, my grandfather had departed this world, albeit under more peaceful terms than he would have done if his aneurysm had killed him instead.  At least we had that to be thankful for: he slipped away while taking a chance of getting his life back, instead of waiting for the time bomb to detonate tomorrow, next week, next month…

How did I react?  Not by crying, which is something I never let myself do over this particular loss — I don’t think that was a desire to “be a man”, because problems in my own life have frequently driven me to tears, but simply a sense of disbelief.  I couldn’t take it in, and after lying on my bed looking at the ceiling for a while, I remember getting up and playing a video game (the shareware version of Rise of the Triad, if you must know).  I don’t know why, I think I just needed to do something normal…

Coming home gave me a shock: in my room (which he’d been using as his own while I’d been away), I saw he’d left his headphones on the keyboard of his PC.  This, more than anything, brought home to me the knowledge that he wasn’t coming back — the fact that the person who had put them down no longer existed in the world to pick them up again.  He’d even done as he said he would and bought me Thriller for Christmas; it was sad listening to it for the first time…

Naturally my mother and grandmother were living in gloom, barely hanging on (my grandmother crying on the Saturday was a particularly heartbreaking sound), but we closed ranks and made it to the end of the year, even “celebrating his life” at his funeral later in the month.  A lot of people turned up for this, which was gratifying, but I found myself noting, understandably in my anger at the world, that there was no rolling news on TV, no phony outpourings of grief, as there had been when Diana died — and my grandfather had meant more to me than she ever had!

I’m told it’s normal to feel disbelief at the death of a loved one: just as I’d dreamed in late 1984 that they’d “found a way” to bring my uncle back to life, so in late 1999 I dreamed that my grandfather came home and sat in his normal armchair.  Is it just the brain reacting to a massive change by refusing to accept it, and trying to fool our conscious minds into thinking “normality” has returned, or do our loved ones really come back to watch over us in some supernatural way, perhaps influencing events subtly to help us in the years that follow?

Now my close family is down to just my mother and grandmother, but although we also lost my grandmother’s brother-in-law in 2009 (someone I remember saying of me: “Give ‘im nothin’!” when I was a child… yes, that’s a “fond” memory!), for now it seems I don’t have to worry, as both are in rude health.  Still, next December will mark another fifteen years… and then there’s the people I grew up with who I found out more recently didn’t make it this far, such as the excellent teacher I had when I was 11 (died of a heart attack while swimming), and a couple of school friends of my own age (one, sadly, hadn’t been a happy guy and left school after a nervous breakdown, so I fear the worst).

I know I’m not the only person to lose someone: one of my close friends lost a friend to suicide a few years ago, and another lost a friend on “Seven-Seven”.  I have to keep in mind how they, and everyone else (particularly my family), would react if I ever died, which is why I’ve resolved to go on living no matter what — there’s enough bereavement in the world without being the cause of more, and the thought of not being around to have to worry about them doesn’t stop me caring now.  Much as I love my mother and grandmother, I’m determined to outlive them (barring discovery of immortality within our lifetimes) — and, more importantly, to live, even if I have to go through the pain of losing them, because it’d be far worse if our positions were reversed.

(Hence this blog, which is the very expression of my determination to go on living!  What, did you think it was some reference to Doctor Who villains constantly returning?)

It helps to hear people I admire talk about those they’ve lost: my hero Eminem, for example, lost his uncle (a good influence on him, much as mine was on me) to suicide, and his fellow rappers, D12, spoke in the song I quoted at the top of this post about those they’d lost over the years to the horrible situation in Detroit, the US “murder capital”.  Indeed, they themselves lost Proof (Eminem’s best friend) in 2006, yet they’ve all carried on living.  Similarly, Gwar… no, come on, this is serious, I’m not just throwing in a gratuitous reference to them!  They lost lead guitarist Cory Smoot in 2011, and it was enough to make them break character and mourn his passing, as well as retiring his character, Flattus Maximus (who, in character, they said had “gone home”).

It’s becoming clear to me that many of the famous people I grew up admiring have passed on, which seems to be an occupational hazard of growing up; they’re not people who I met in person, but they still meant a lot to me in life.  The first three main actors from my favourite TV show have all died (admittedly Hartnell before I was even born, but I was sad to see Pertwee die in 1996), as have many others who appeared therein; I was particularly sad to learn in 2011 that Roy Skelton had passed on, because as well as Daleks, he was also Zippy & George in Rainbow!  It was also sad to lose some of my favourite comedians, such as Kenneth Williams (whose voice was well-known to children) in 1988, Frankie Howerd (who I’d only really discovered the year before) in 1992 and Kenny Everett (a childhood hero of mine) in 1995.

Perhaps the worst was Ronnie Barker: I’d watched his works, including Porridge and Open All Hours, but most notably The Two Ronnies with Ronnie Corbett, which I was into from a surprisingly young age.  When he came back to TV in 2006 to make The Two Ronnies Sketchbook, I could tell he wasn’t at the height of his powers any more (though Corbett seemed as vivacious as ever), but was still shocked to learn in October that he’d died.  He’d recorded a Christmas edition of Sketchbook before the end, and I remember watching this, and thinking at the end, as he read out the joke news stories with Corbett, that it was the last bit of work he’d ever done…

And finally, to lighten the mood slightly, as an adult I have begun to get emotional over deaths of characters in TV shows and movies — perhaps more than I ought, but still, it’s better to feel sadness under controlled conditions than to sneer about sentimentality.  Deaths are common in Japanese anime, perhaps because (a) it’s generally more grown-up than Western cartoons, and (b) it usually tells a continuing story rather than consisting entirely of filler episodes that can be shown in any order.

(Yes, I know a lead character in Family Guy died recently, but the episode won’t even be shown in this country until next year, so I won’t dwell on it!)

I also remember a member of the main cast dying in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, though at the time I was more shocked than saddened (a recurring character dying?  Inconceivable!).  In the 21st century, 24 was particularly bad for deaths of beloved characters, either heroically or tragically (though at least one death in season 5 was spoiled for me when I rewatched it, because an idiot DJ had revealed the guy was alive after all in season 7!), so I dread to think how I’ll cope if I ever get around to watching Game of Thrones

Exploring emotions: Loneliness


I wouldn’t mind being this alone on the Tube during the morning rush hour, quite frankly

It’s clear to me that I’ve been spending more and more of my life alone over the years, and frankly I don’t think it’s healthy, hence my recent attempts to get out and socialise more.  ‘Twas not always this way, though… it took a while for me to be driven into my shell.

At playschool, and then at infant school, I had friends; I even had them over for my birthday parties and just generally.  This continued through to middle school (school years were a bit funny when I were a lad — it wasn’t until around later that everything was standardised into primary and secondary school), when it was quite normal for me to have a friend over, or go over to a friend’s house, more or less every Friday after school (on one occasion sending my grandfather home when he’d come to pick me up from school, because I’d forgotten to arrange with him!).  I also had a couple friends who would often come over to visit during the holidays (especially summer), possibly unannounced, so it was lucky I had two joysticks for my Amstrad!

But even with all that going on, I didn’t go to any after-school events (apart from a brief flirtation with my middle school’s cricket club in 1987 — yes, I can remember the year!), and being an only child, I spent much of my time alone.  I wasn’t lonely, though, as I had toys (Transformers, M.A.S.K., Action Force, Real Ghostbusters etc. etc.) and computer games to entertain me, and my home life consisted of effectively three parents (my mother and maternal grandparents) and one crazy Jack Russell terrier, so there was always someone around to keep me company if I needed it.

At secondary school I began to have a little more of a solitary existence, as I very seldom interacted (except by phone, due to homework issues!) with my classmates outside school hours, which was unusual because, as a young teenager, I was expected to be “doing things” most nights a week, and more especially at the weekend.  But it didn’t bother me, and I was happy to occasionally meet with a group of friends, to visit a theme park or go dry-skiing (at which I inevitably sucked), and I still had a couple of friends visiting me during the holidays.  It was also during the summer of 1991 that I began walking the dog by myself, which I found gave me the chance to think (and get some exercise).  I was spending much of my life engaged in fantasies (no, not sexual… at least, not during the day!), and I was becoming increasingly introverted, but I didn’t feel lonely…

And then in 1992 we moved to Worthing, and my life went down the toilet.  It’s a dull town at the best of times, and I wasn’t happy at my school (certainly not for my first year there, the academic year I turned 15 — which we Brits called “Year 10” from that point onwards), where even the girls were bullying me, and I found it very hard to make friends.  Hey, it was the Christmas holidays before I even went over someone’s house!  It got a little better in later years, but by this point, with a few exceptions, I was really only socialising at school, not in my spare time.  However, I still had my family (and dog), and TV and video games to entertain me, so even though my mother thought I was spending too much time “in front of one screen or the other” (as she said at the time), I wasn’t lonely — even if I spent most breaktimes during that first year all alone, and was glad of lunchtime Latin classes…


How many times have these obnoxious teenagers enabled me to make friends? (Uh huh huh huh…)

University was a mixed bag: I didn’t exactly have a lot of girlfriends, but surprisingly I found having a group of male friends in my first year (or at least the first term of the first year) to be excellent!  Until our little ka-tet broke apart, I was able to play cards (or, yay, video games) with my mates most of the time, or just have interesting conversations, and I really felt like I was socialising and part of something.  1997 was a bad year for me overall, and I was lucky to hold on to the friends (and sanity!) I had, and 1998 was actually a bit worse, though when I was partnered for a 5-week geological mapping trip with two guys I’d thought were drunken yobs, I found out that they liked Beavis and Butt-head too, and so we actually had a pretty good time in the Scottish highlands doing Cornholio impressions and chuckling about innuendo!

As for my 8-month student exchange in America, well, I would have been even lonelier if not for having a roommate (which is normal at US universities, even though it’s almost unheard-of here), as I just didn’t have the confidence to interact or do many interesting things, and preferred to “stay at home” most nights (which is probably why I only dated a couple of girls instead of half the female population of the continental United States, eh?).  My mother was lonely at this time too, and I think we kept each other going with our e-mail conversations, and I kept her company when I got back, as she was living away from her folks at this time (looking after a friend’s house in an area that actually paid half-decent wages).  This continued in my final year back at my own university, where — especially in 2000 — I could spend days without really interacting with other warm bodies, and often found myself craving social contact.  Moving back to live with my folks in Worthing made things even worse, but fortunately I still had a couple of local friends (from both school and university days — I’d gone to a place beloved of people who live on the south coast!), and I could also hang out with the oldsters at the local astronomy society, where I helped out most Fridays.

One thing I noticed about my socialising since coming to London is that even when I’ve had friends and housemates whose company I enjoy — from my postgrad days through to living with former classmates, and making new friends through my Japanese studies — I’ve still often preferred my own company, to the point of “playing to lose” in household board games so I could excuse myself and go back to my room, where I’d play (inevitably) video games or interact with weird people on wacky online forums.  Was I withdrawing from the real world into a fantasy realm?  Should I have enjoyed my close friends more in the time I had left with them, as they themselves moved on to other places?

Well, I think I made the most of “female best friend” before she moved up north for her PhD, exposing her to various anime shows including Space Battleship Yamato (a “cool thing” in these hallowed pages, as you may remember), but once she’d gone, I began finding it a little hard to make new friends, and eventually I wasn’t able to befriend Japanese girls at the monthly meetup events in Leicester Square as much as I could.  I also had an ultimately-futile flirtation with online and speed-dating in 2010 and 2011, and even today it’s quite normal for me to go places (especially shopping) all by myself, which sometimes can really get to me.  For a long time work represented my main “social interaction” — which isn’t healthy, and certainly didn’t help in 2009-10, when I was adjusting to a new office (and the annoying woman), and had a very difficult time fitting in.  I had a good time on my holiday in the western USA earlier this year, but even there I felt lonely and withdrawn at times (having a bad cold in ‘Frisco didn’t help), and only a couple of people from that trip are my Facebook friends now, making me worry that I didn’t get on as well with the rest of the group as I thought I did…

But one thing I need to remember is that other people in the world have it far worse than me, especially now I’m “back on the horse” and going out to events semi-regularly.  My poor mother, for one, reckons I’ve got a lot more friends than her — perhaps based on the massive response I had on Facebook (I know, serious busi… no, wait, Facebook actually matters to people in 2013!) when I had that breakdown in November 2011 — and I’m going to continue trying to enjoy my life and making new friends so she can live vicariously through me.  Plus, of course, I’ll visit her and my grandmother as often as I can, because even though it’s Worthing, they’re really all I’ve got family-wise, since I’ve lost my grandfather, my (cool) uncle, and even the crazy dog I grew up with, over the years (bereavement is another emotion I’ll explore, if I ever get around to writing about it).  And obviously, I’ll keep climbing with Mumsy, because we both enjoy it, and she never gets to go unless I’m there, which makes me sad.

Yes, even though most of the people I’ve known in my life have moved on and got their own lives (and families), today I can still see and interact with real, living people.  Not only “best mate”, with whom I go climbing and to the cinema, but someone I shall refer to as “crazy Asian broad” (older than me, but being Oriental means she looks younger), who might just represent the next step in breaking my period of increasing loneliness.  I won’t say too much in case my mother reading this automatically jinxes things…

I guess it comes down to this: we’re a social animal, and we need contact with our own kind — or at least the possibility of contact, even if we prefer solitude at times.  But we need to put effort into maintaining social contact, and not just treat it as something we can take or leave as we see fit.  Above all else, we need to be comfortable with ourselves, and not worry too much about socialising “the right amount”, as a quasi-psychologist named Hayley Quinn (who I met via “Shy London” — and yes, she based her stage name on a Batman character!) told me yesterday, in a therapeutic session that helped me get things in perspective.

On that basis, after having gone climbing today and made acquaintances, both old and new, at “the Session”, I’m going to relax and have a night in tonight, all right?  Leave me alone and stop bothering me with demands for more blog entries, you clinging parasi… I mean, good night and $DEITY bless!

(And hey, even though I mentioned climbing a hell of a lot, I didn’t refer to Gwar even once… oh, damn!)

An emotional rollercoaster


This is literally the only film ever made with the word “bride” or “wedding” in the title that I can bear to watch

On Saturday I pretty much crossed the entire bipolar spectrum as I attended the wedding of my “female best friend”.  Now, I didn’t have any problem when “other female best friend” got married in early 2012, partly because she only had family for the actual ceremony and partly because “female best friend” has always been somehow closer to me, more like a genuine little sister.  This occasion was more like the wedding of my old American roommate’s little sister back in 2007, and here’s why: the whole “how they met” story being recited at the reception, which served to remind me that I’ve never met anyone that way, even for a relationship that didn’t end in marriage.  Indeed, the closest I can get to this whole concept is my chance meeting with “newest friend” last year, and I’m hardly likely to marry him, even if the law changes in this country the way George Takei is hoping it will!

It’s worth noting, however, that my spirits were lifted (uh huh huh huh, again) by the end of the day, as I became acquainted — or perhaps that should be reacquainted — with “female best friend’s” other friends, young ladies I’d met before but never really gotten to know before.  Indeed one, “female best friend’s” oldest friend, kept hugging and comforting me, and even danced with me during the reception (I think we upstaged the newlyweds — sorry if you’re reading, “female best friend”!), almost as though she sensed I was down and needed cheering up.  But no, she’s not “the one” — for one thing, she’d be rather more likely to make use of the aforementioned change in the law!

Another friend, to my shame, I hadn’t recalled at all, but it turned out to be fortuitous for her that I was organising a taxi to take me back to the main city station later than every other Londoner had left to get a connecting train from the village’s pokey little station, because it meant I was able to bring her purse to her, and still arrive in time for the last train that got back to the Smoke before the Tube shut down!  She turned out to be as interested in local politics as me (albeit not from Barnet, so she was shocked to hear about the ways our corrupt Tory betters are trying to screw over the disabled for a profit), and we did puzzles on the train home, together with “good housemate” (more about him later).  No, she’s not my type, but she’s perfectly nice, and I certainly need all the friends I can get…

Because I think the reason that I felt so much more cheerful during the reception (once the speeches were over) than the ceremony is simply this: I need more friends and social interaction.  Perhaps this is why I enjoyed my holiday in America and felt such black despair when I came back to Blighty (though the jet lag and appalling weather may also have played their part): I spent two weeks in the company of 13 other people (including the guide), rising to 16 if you count another group travelling to the same places as us, and I come home to my usual mundane life of staying in most nights, and my only real social contact (aside from the occasions I get to see “newest friend”) is with the people at work.

There’s also the consideration that the worst place for a single person, especially one pessimistic about their chances of ever finding someone, is surrounded by a lot of happy couples, or people who have already paired off and so aren’t “on the market”, and talk about their mundane married lives, which still seem enticing and jealousy-inducing to someone who hasn’t even been in a long-term relationship before.  So what it comes down to is, I need to get out more.

(Yes, that earthquake you just felt was the biggest penny in the world finally dropping, thanks for your sarcasm!)

I’ve already begun this process: there’s a website called (I wonder if they’ll give me credit for this blatant plug) which lists all sorts of clubs and gatherings that have been organised, especially here in London; I’m going to a sci-fi society on Saturday, and I’ve joined a couple of others to see where they lead.  Honestly, it’s like Freshers’ Fayre all over again — except this time I won’t join a society and then let my interest peter out, as I did with (of all things) a climbing society at my alma mater!  Wow, sixteen years before I took it up as a hobby, I tried it once as a student and didn’t seem to enjoy it… my, but how we change.

There’s one other thing to mention about the weekend, and it was a bit of a revelation.  I’ve spoken here before about “good housemate”, but I may not have made it clear that he’s the same guy from this spiel, who used to insult me by claiming (variously) that I’m a heterosexual virgin, a practising homosexual, and “banging my Chinese girlfriend” (I was actually meeting my Japanese female friend for language exchange, so there were at least three things wrong with that one!).  Don’t hold it against him because he still let me stay at his flat in early 2012 when I was “between” homes, and he was right about me not cleaning the house enough (something I’ve rectified in this household).

Anyway, I’ve always thought, despite his insults, that he was a hoopy frood — a really amazingly-together guy, who knew what he was doing and had a plan.  It seems I got this impression purely from the fact that he spent the five years we lived at Caledonian Road saving up for a deposit, because in fact he doesn’t really want to do anything other than the things he enjoys, and I suspect the only reason he gets more girls than me is that he’s more confident approaching them (and a couple of years younger, and has his own place, and is slightly better looking…), not because he’s looking for his future wife.  In fact, he even admitted to me and the other friend on the train home that he has trouble forming emotional bonds with people, and that he might be a borderline Asperger’s case.

Now, I know I shouldn’t feel schadenfreude… and I don’t in this case, I actually wish I could help him out (I have offered to go climbing with him, but he reckons he needs to lose a lot of weight first — the penalty for quitting smoking — though we may be on for badminton).  However, I do feel a bit better about my own life, because I’ve actually had plans to change my life over the past few years, even if they’ve so far come to nought.  Oh, there have been times I’ve felt happy in my rut, sitting at home playing video games and using the Internet to deal with my (ahem) frustration, and while that may be okay occasionally, I don’t want to end up that way again, because it’s a false happiness that occasionally makes me scream in horror when I see, fleetingly, the gilded cage I’ve built around myself.

(Ooh, wasn’t that poetic?  No?  Ugh, please yourselves…)

There have been other times I’ve tried to change my life, and too often I’ve given up in anguish — which is why I won’t be wasting time with speed-dating or sites like or Lovestruck (which seem to be about 90% male anyway, so any woman of even passing attractiveness gets swamped by messages from blokes, and shy guys like me disappear into the background noise), but instead trying to do things that actually interest me.  Maybe I won’t meet the girl of my dreams (though I’d be disappointed if I didn’t get any action!), but at least I can do something different, and maybe have more interesting stuff to talk about here.

A (perhaps worrying) postscript: I enjoyed alcohol at the reception rather more than I have in the rest of my life, and indeed got quite a pleasant buzz from two glasses of champagne, instead of screwing my face up like I usually do.  So, it seems I’m well and truly off the wagon at last, but is 35 the wrong time to be boozing, and will this undo any of the benefits I’ve gained through exercise?  Will loosening up and having fun be the death of my liver?  Are caffeinated sugar (or worse, aspartme) drinks any healthier?  Or is it just a case of “all things in moderation”?

Mounting anxiety


I’m not profiting from this blog, so I hope the genius who took this photo will forgive me…

It’s only a few days to go until my mega-holiday in the USA, and I’m on the verge of total panic.  Admittedly, it’s not the kind of horror I felt in January 2012 when I faced the prospect of being homeless due to my own stupidity, but I’m still very nervous and apprehensive about my two weeks of camping in America.  But why, I hear you ask?  Why am I not delightedly looking forward to it?  Well, I am, as it happens, because even if I don’t meet any girls, I’ll still see some remarkable places that I’ve never visited before.

But let’s look at the aspects that intimidate me, because going into it will help me see just how ridiculous I’m being (remember, this blog is for me, not for you, peasant):

  1. Apart from a day trip to Paris last September (which doesn’t count), it’s the first time I’ll have been out of the country since going to Turkey in 2008 with my friends, a holiday I had no part in arranging.  Yeah, it’s high time I got out of my comfort zone, but it’s still a daunting prospect.  It’s also the first time I’ll have been out of the country for longer than a week since 2003, when I visited my friends in Michigan for two weeks.  I visited them again in 2006 and 2007, but only for a week each time…
  2. Having not visited the USA since 2007, and never the west coast, I can’t help but wonder how things will be, especially for a vegetarian like me — to some Americans, I’m nothing but a no-good pinko Commie who needs to get normal…
  3. So many things can go wrong along the way, like not getting to the airport on time, or being turned away by the US border agency…
  4. My landlord just died, and although supposedly nothing has the potential to happen until October (like, his widow selling the house instead of letting us continue renting), it’s just another excuse to worry…

“To fret over an exciting holiday is not logical”

But don’t worry, maybe it won’t be so bad — see, every problem has a solution:

  1. In 1998 I managed to face a journey to the USA that would last eight months — admittedly it wasn’t certain to be going ahead, and really I was surprised that final weekend when my mother and grandfather came bounding into my room to tell me my visa had been approved, and that I was going to travel the next day!
  2. Since we’re cooking for ourselves on this camping trip, there should be no problem other than availability of ingredients — I don’t know whether there’s a freezer on the tour bus, but if there is, presumably I can buy vegetarian “fake meat” in LA or Frisco for the journey ahead.
  3. My newest friend has agreed to drive me to Heathrow on Saturday (yes, I’ll pay for his petrol), and I’ve printed out all my necessary documents, including my “visa waiver” and itinerary.  That reminds me, better look up the ZIP code of the hotel I go to first, as I’ve been warned by a friend at work that I’ll need this specific information… he also advised me not to try to be funny with US customs (well, duh), but hey, if I got past them before, I can do so again, because I’m not a terrorist, I’m a tourist!
  4. Although it’s sad that my landlord died, since he was better than the past two by far (and a rather more approachable individual to boot), there’s no way we could be evicted on such short notice, so all I have to worry about is the house getting burgaled or burned down, or nuclear war breaking out while I’m gone.  See?  No problem!

Ahh, that was therapeutic — see, nothing to get upset about, I’ll have an amazing adventure etc. etc.  Maybe I should worry more about the possibility that I’ll come back exactly the same person I am now, who gets anxious about stupid little things instead of embracing life’s surprises…

And yes, I will be listening to Gwar during this holiday (something familiar to keep me calm if I get anxious again), as well as other music; I’ve spent ages trying to figure out how to get “gapless playback” on my smartphone, and have settled for WMA files and Poweramp (though I wasted most of Sunday ripping everything as “WMA lossless”, only to discover it doesn’t work with that particular format yet).  In fact, I predict this will become our anthem as we roll along the blacktop…

Exploring emotions: Anger

“Overreaction is my only reaction.”
–Eminem in the D12 song “S*** On You”

After a very unpleasant incident today involving a large and expensive wardrobe that I was helping my mother put together, and which will never now see completion in its current form (unless I can get a replacement panel from the company), it’s clear to me that beneath my mild-mannered, Clark Kentish exterior beats the hard of a raging douchebag.  I’ve been angry all my life, and I want it to stop, so here, in the second of my “emotional exploration” posts, I’ll bare the part of my soul that bashes computers, slams doors, and mutters under its breath when a cashier asks if it has a loyalty card.


It should be noted that drunk Stan didn’t hit Francine — she really *did* walk into a door!

Don’t worry, though: apart from (a) one shameful incident in my youth that I’ll go into later, and (b) boxing in Wii Sports (where my mother holds her own against me), I’ve never hit a female human being, and the only casualties of my futile fury have been males of my own age, electronic equipment, the air (being turned blue counts as a form of injury, right?), and my self-respect.

First of all, things that don’t make me angry include football and other “professional” sports, voting habits on TV talent shows, betrayals among groovy but vacuous youngsters in fly-on-the-wall documentaries… yeah, “real life” things don’t get my blood boiling unless they actually matter in some way, like injustice.  I spoke at unnecessary length before about my anger at the treatment of men in modern society, the way we’re all regarded as big apes and potential rapists just because some men in the past were, but it also angers me that when a woman is convicted of a crime against children, she’s vilified even more than anyone else, to the point of calls for the death penalty to be reinstated.  Which is even more tragic when the woman turns out to have been innocent all along, and only convicted because a bungling “expert witness” decided that two cot deaths can’t possibly be congenital.

There’s also the theft of our civil liberties and right to criticise the “great and good” by our national and regional governments (I took part in the “Barnet Spring” march last week — that’s me holding up the sign next to the coffin with the ballot box on top… it was really cold, all right?).  This includes the plans for enforced censorship and observation of our Internet habits, which I’ll go into in another post.  Suffice to say, for whatever is angrying up my blood this week, just go and read a copy of the latest Private Eye

However, these are all righteous anger-inducing things, that should upset any decent human being.  My problem is that I get angry — suddenly, and sometimes violently — over really stupid, trivial things.  Just because I don’t scream abuse at some fit young man a hundred feet away on a grassy pitch because he’s kicked a ball slightly wrongly (but better than I could), doesn’t mean I’m only angry at things which genuinely matter, as my old, battered Amstrad CPC 464 would attest if it still existed (it was taken away by the binmen in 1998, having been replaced with an equally-obsolete but working 6128).

I still remember the day in 1992 (probably 20th January) when I was playing my friend’s copy of Rick Dangerous 2 with an infinite lives cheat, and was stuck on one frustrating bit in the final level… the tape datacorder ended up with a big crack in it.  This was one of those old computers where the electronic gubbins were inside the keyboard unit, and yet the thing kept on working… but the keyboard plate itself certainly needed straightening from about 1993 onwards.  Indeed, by 1997 when I was at university (and was sexually frustrated on top of everything else), I needed bits of plastic glued into place to hold the keyboard plate up inside the casing…


Sometimes I hit it because it was malfunctioning after having been hit so much, thereby demonstrating the dangerous, self-sustaining cycle of anger

But at least I got over 10 years of use from that contraption.  In 1998, while I was in Michigan (not long after I blew my one chance for true love, so this was obviously in the downswing of my life), I was sweating in the unseasonable heat, getting more and more stressed trying to replace the internal power cable of my Psion Series 3a palmtop computer, which I’d owned for only three years.  This device (admittedly vastly inferior to even a cheap smartphone today) had a known design flaw in that the cable worked itself out if the thing was opened and closed too often and made it think the batteries were flat even if they were brand new, and I’d asked my folks to send me a replacement cable across the Atlantic.  My repairs didn’t work, and neither did a power adapter I’d bought at the mall (stupidly I’d bought a 3V one, thinking two AA batteries = 3V); in a moment of fury I pounded the LCD screen hard enough to make the black fluid leak out, perhaps not coincidentally looking rather like blood.


It’s still in the loft somewhere, perhaps awaiting the day of reanimation… or a delivery to the dump

(I hope “good housemate” isn’t going to say this is typical of me, breaking a computer while trying to fix it; the occasions he’s thinking of are fitting a new hard drive in “female best friend’s” PC only to realise too late that the copy of WinXP I’d got for her didn’t have a key — so we had to get a proper, more expensive copy — and trying to make a Japanese female friend’s laptop’s DVD drive region-free, which fortunately only killed the drive itself, and meant I had to get her a new one!)

But worst of all, obviously, is violence against people (even if Dante had those who were “violent against others” less badly treated than “violent against self” and “violent against God, art and nature”).  I’m not usually the sort who thinks with his fists, and at school walked away from “arranged” fights, completely uncaring as to whether the thugs called me a wimp or whatever.  However, on other occasions I’ve struck out at people, and although mostly they’ve been boys of my own age who could respond in kind (and did), there was that one dark day in 1989…

It was late Spring or early Summer, I’m not sure (it might have been a week or so before a holiday, perhaps half-term?), but I’m almost certain it was a Thursday; it was late afternoon, and we were playing some game in PE, a weird hybrid of tennis and cricket.  I’d had a very stressful day already (even though this was the year I had a very good teacher, the people in my class still upset me over stupid things), and when I got “out”, I hurled my bat/racket to the ground in a fit of pique.  A girl, one of those who had previously pretended (somewhat hurtfully, I might add) to be in love with me, just happened to make a snarky comment about me being “moody”… I don’t remember what happened next, but the subsequent evidence indicated that I kicked her very hard in the shin before storming off.

I think the worst part wasn’t the berating of my classmates (who seemed more preoccupied with the belief that I’d “cried” about being in trouble than my stupid violence, and didn’t physically harm me in any way), but the fact that our teacher, a man I genuinely liked and respected, and who encouraged me to use my brain and my initiative, didn’t shout in anger at me (the way he shouted at another boy who used a word very similar to “bullocks” one day in class) or give me a detention, but just told me he was very disappointed and that he didn’t expect that kind of behaviour from me, before sending me away.

And just like today, with a wrecked £300 wardrobe and a house in disarray that’s left my mother feeling extremely down (though it’s just possible it can be salvaged — let’s see what Saturday brings), it’s a day I wish I could start again from the beginning.  Though such has been my self-berating and regret over the years, there are an awful lot of days that fulfil this criteria, particularly regarding the aforementioned “lost chance” with the girl in Michigan.  After all, the person I get most angry with is myself; I don’t self-harm, but sometimes I have just an inkling of why some people do…

The less you see of these, the more mellow I have hopefully become (or the more I’m bottling it up)

The trouble is that I let things get to me.  Oh, you’d noticed, from all the “grinds my gears” posts?  Well, it’s part of the reason for my depression, and if I can drag this particular vampire screaming into the sunlight, hopefully it’ll explode in a puff of smoke and the world will be that little bit safer, and I’ll be a step closer to being the person I want to be, rather than the person who writes this drivel.

What can I do to change?  Well, listening to Eminem helped considerably in the past (yes, he’s going to be the subject of a “cool things” post, possibly during the Easter weekend — I’ll have time, since I’m obviously not to be trusted doing any work around the house!), and Gwar seem to be taking on that role now, especially whenever the annoying woman starts up at work (thank $DEITY for noise-cancelling headphones, even if they don’t quite blot her out!).  I hope it won’t get to anger management levels, like His Royal Shadyness himself.  Just writing this has helped me bear my soul a little, and I hope you don’t all (all?) think less of me.  I’m still the same person you knew before… except hopefully I’m not, but am instead a better person.

Finally, just to lighten the mood a bit — or maybe make you really angry — here’s something that has made my blood boil since I came to London: a sequence from the 1964 Doctor Who serial, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, in which the First Doctor’s history teacher companion Barbara, together with resistance fighter Jenny and crippled resistance leader Dortmun, make a nightmare journey across the deserted capital, avoiding Daleks at every turn.  Even though it didn’t affect me when I lived in Worthing, somehow, since getting it on DVD a couple of years ago, it’s filled me with righteous anger to see the murderous cyborgs gliding arrogantly around what I now consider my home city…

(Go to 5m2s if it doesn’t go there automatically!)

Exploring emotions: Fear

“I must not fear.  Fear is the mind-killer.  Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.  I will face my fear.  I will permit it to pass over me and through me.  And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.  Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.  Only I will remain.”
–Bene Gesserit “Litany Against Fear”, Frank Herbert’s Dune series

Since I am still prey to negative emotions even today (for all my bravado over “turning a corner” and conquering depression), I thought it would be interesting to explore emotions in this blog, and consider what provokes them in me.  Fear seems as good a place to start as any, since it was fear that originally drove me into that depressive phase in late 2011 and early 2012, but (assuming this blog lasts long enough, and I remember to write in it) I’ll also be exploring anger, hate and sadness, before turning to the more positive emotions somewhere in the future (or, perhaps I’ll alternate, depending on how I… feel?).

Anyway, what about fear?  The sheer mortal terror that drives us on, or more precisely away.  What makes me scared?  Well, you already know of the darkness that clutched my heart back in January 2012, when I was truly afraid I’d left things too late and had no way out (even the prospect of moving back to Worthing with my mother didn’t make me feel any better), and made me so nauseous that I couldn’t even function, the result being that the result of my inability to find a new place to live was making it impossible for me to find a new place to live.  That was the feeling of helplessness, of failure, of not being able to face life any more, and it went on for a long time; it felt like I would never not be scared again, and I’m just glad I got through that horrendous time alive!


No, I really can’t think why I found this children’s TV character so terrifying…

There are other things that have made me afraid me during my life: as a child, I was terrified by various relatively innocuous children’s TV characters, particularly on a show called You & Me — not just a crow with a horrible raspy voice (which for some reason I thought was human-sized and coming to peck at me), but also Duncan the Dragon (right).  However, my worst fear was Mr. Noseybonk from Jigsaw (actually host and mime artist Adrian Hedley in a mask, on sped-up film inserts), and I know this for one simple reason: I forgot about him until 2003, when I happened to glance at a description of the show on a TV nostalgia site, and the mere sight of his name caused the memories to come flooding back… well, take a look at this character and judge for yourself just how ridiculous my fear is:

My teenage years saw relatively little fear (but a lot of sadness and loneliness, which I’ll touch upon in another post), except for that day in October 1992 that the BBC showed a fake documentary called Ghostwatch, which was highly controversial in its time (much like Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast in October 1938).  This was the show in which a celebrity would be “spending the night in a haunted house”, only for things to go horribly wrong as it turned out the ghost was real… well, take a look at the following video (actually two disparate clips in which the ghost is seen fleetingly), and you’ll understand why I was afraid to open my eyes at night, in case I saw someone in front of the curtains…

(As an aside, the curtains scene also caused “female best friend” to scream and leap out of her chair when she watched it with me in 2007!)


“No tears, please — it’s a waste of good suffering!”

As my teenage years ended, I discovered something curious: I actually wanted to watch horror films, even though their mere descriptions had scared me when kids at school had raved about them.  I remember watching one of those interminable “top 100” shows about scary moments in TV and film, and when I saw the defibrillator scene from John Carpenter’s The Thing, I found myself thinking: I want to see that!  In my 20s I saw the Hellraiser films (left), and found them to be good, but not scary; sadly, it seems I haven’t been able to find a truly terrifying film — even the original Japanese version of Ring doesn’t scare me any more, and “gorn” such as the Saw films, while (ahem) enjoyable, don’t move me in that way.  Indeed, I’d already begun overcoming my fear of films (and of swearing!) by watching The Terminator, Aliens and other 18-rated (but probably edited) films on TV as a teenager.  It actually seems to be films like Deep Impact, with large populations in danger of annihilation, that scare me (I remember being horrified by Meteor when I was a nipper, especially the bit when Hong Kong gets flooded)…

In my adult years, the things that have scared me have been video games, like the aforementioned Amnesia: The Dark Descent, as well as Dead SpaceF.E.A.R. (appropriately enough), Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth (especially since you have no weapons for the first part of the game) and the Thief games (yes, even the third one).  Indeed, it was the latter series which one day brought me to an epiphany about my own mortality: as I was walking home, it occurred to me that one day I wouldn’t be around to play Thief ever again, and that there would thus be a “last time” in my life that I ever play it.  This, more than anything else, made me realise that we have only a limited time in this world, and one day we go into the undiscovered country, which (if we’re lucky) might be the oblivion of non-existence, or perhaps eternal torment for the sin of not believing in the right gods.  But don’t worry, I bury such feelings these days and don’t let them worry me — if you’re too afraid to live, you’re already as good as dead!

climbingToday, even though I keep doing it, climbing (no, I won’t stop going on about it) scares the hell out of me — but I must face my anxiety in order to conquer it.  It has to be said, I’m afraid of heights when I’m in a precarious place, no matter how well I know intellectually that I’m safely tied in and won’t fall more than a couple of feet, but one day I shall overcome it to the point where I no longer need to stretch my arm up to grab a handhold, any handhold, just to feel safe.  Besides, being afraid of falling in a climbing centre is much better than my irrational fear of open skies, which seems to go back to a childhood nightmare about “falling off the world” — this makes it a little difficult to go stargazing, and indeed I’m a bit worried about how I’ll feel camping in the great outdoors in May, so I’d better work on overcoming my phobia…

No, I won’t be getting therapy regarding my fear of spiders, because that’s entirely rational and normal.  Not being afraid of spiders is a sign of social deviancy, which means you’re a terrorist!

Finally, there are two occasions I’ve felt in genuine mortal terror for my life, but fortunately I wasn’t in any actual danger on either occasion (or at least I hope not).  The first was on holiday in Turkey with my friends: during a boat tour around the bay at Marmaris, they cajoled me into jumping off the side, but when I did so, at the last moment I slipped and so fell rather than jumped, slowly turning in midair.  As everyone watching groaned in dismay, I felt a certain perverse satisfaction: it’d just serve you right if I died, after you nagged me to jump!  I survived, naturally, but when I clambered back aboard the boat, the adrenaline rush meant my legs didn’t work for some time…

The second case of mortal terror was during my four-week training course at The Castle climbing centre.  We had the “chance” to do a free abseil down the tower — hanging free inside, not rappelling down a wall and going “hut-hut-hut!” — and, perhaps out of fear of being the only one not to do it (and thus letting down our very nice instructor, who had never had someone back out before), I went through with it.  However, we’d been warned not to get our hands caught in the rope bracket, because the instructor would have to tie us off and spend ages getting us free… but I couldn’t seem to get the belaying right, and so I was faced with a choice: hold onto the rope tightly to stop myself going down, or let the rope go through my hands and give me friction burn!  Once again the adrenaline filled my veins (my right foot kept quivering, I recall), but I made it down, even though once again my legs were useless!

So there we are: the things that have scared me during my life.  Talking about these things puts them in perspective; I hope someone out there is reading this and finding it useful (for something other than building a case to have me committed), because the worst thing, the most terrifying of all, is to feel that you’re alone.