Càrn-obrach aosda: gràin air Bhudweis

Thuirt mi dha na teiripichean nach robh mi airson tionndaidh a Bhudweis oir bha e co-chengailte gu mòr nam inntinn le deoch-làidir, ach ’s e an fhìrinn gun deach mi dhan rehab sa chiad àite oir bha mi ag iarraidh am baile fhàgail, seach sgur a dh’òl, agus shaoil mi gum b’ e seo dòigh a bu shnasaile.

B’ urrainn dhomh sgrìobhadh mu na h-adhbharan carson a tha gràin cho mhòr agam air an àite. Gur ann còmhnard a tha e, agus gum b’ fhearr leam àitichean cnocach. Nach còrd an ailtireachd rium, a chionn ’s gu bheil i ràsanach air mo shonsa. Agus mar sin air adhart.

Ach ’s e an fhìrinn shlàn nach eil na daoine fhèin a’ còrdadh rium. Smaointichidh iad ro dhiofaraichte bhuamsa. (Webster: “These people call me their friends but they don’t think the same as me.”) Tha na taobhan-seallaidh, siostaman nan luach acasan agus agamsa cus eadar-dhealaichte. Agus air sàilleibh sin, ged a’ bha mi a’ fuireach ann na b’ fhaide na ann an àite sam bith eile, cha robh fìor charaid agam ann ach a-mhàin Rob; agus, Rob ann no às, cha robh an t-àite riamh a’ faireachdainn mar ‘dhachaigh’.

Chan eil mi eadhon airson tadhal ann, mura ’s fheudar dhomh, riamh a-rithist.

 

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Backlog: rest in bed

I had a runny nose and coughed for maybe two weeks, but the true reason why, at the end of the first December week, I finally put myself down to seeing a doctor about it was that I wanted to get rest from the others. She duly sent me to bed, where I stayed from Thursday to Saturday, and it did help. Most of the time I was on my own, able to sleep, read and be online more or less when I wanted. Most importantly, it helped me to get over Friday’s leaving of Anndra, almost the last guy here left that I really cared about. (Steinbeck: “There seemed to be no cure for loneliness save only being alone.”) The fact that some drops I was prescribed actually stopped the nose running within 24 hours was just an unexpected bonus.

 

Backlog: fully online again

On 2 December the day came at last: staying in a single room and devoid of the chairmanship I finally had both the time and the ‘space’ to start going online via my laptop (although I still follow the news via the smartphone). I discovered that in the meantime they had released some Firefox Quantum, which is a step back akin to when other guys had released Opera 15, but the Speed Dial remained, so I mostly miss only the Tab Mix Plus and the TinyURL Generator. More importantly, I did manage to set VPNUK again, so I can approach bbc.co.uk and iPlayer. The first programme I downloaded was, inevitably perhaps, the oldest available episode of Landward.

I had quite a few emails to read, files to upload to the Web and so forth, but I’m approaching the end of dealing with the backlog now. There should be plenty of time over the so-called festive period.

 

Funniest Fringe jokes – 2017 update

2017
Winner: Ken Cheng: “I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change.”
My favourites:
Andy Field: “I like to imagine the guy who invented the umbrella was going to call it the ‘brella’. But he hesitated.”
Ed Byrne: “I have two boys, 5 and 6. We’re no good at naming things in our house.”
Alasdair Beckett-King: “Whenever someone says, ‘I don’t believe in coincidences’, I say, ‘Oh my God, me neither!'”

2016
Winner: Masai Graham: “My dad has suggested that I register for a donor card. He’s a man after my own heart.”
My favourites:
Stuart Mitchell: “Why is it old people say “there’s no place like home”, yet when you put them in one…”
Gary Delaney: “I often confuse Americans and Canadians. By using long words.”
Zoe Lyons: “I’ll tell you what’s unnatural in the eyes of God. Contact lenses.”

2015
Winner: Darren Walsh: “I just deleted all the German names off my phone. It’s Hans free.”
My favourites:
Dave Green: “If I could take just one thing to a desert island I probably wouldn’t go.”
Ally Houston: “Let me tell you a little about myself. It’s a reflexive pronoun that means ‘me’.”
(Also from BBC readers’ comments, No 62: “People complain about autocorrect but it’s helpful 99% of the titties.”)

2014
Winner: Tim Vine: “I’ve decided to sell my Hoover… well, it was just collecting dust.”

2013
Winner: Rob Auton: “I heard a rumour that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar. Could be a Chinese Wispa.”
My favourites:
Alfie Moore: “I’m in a same-sex marriage… the sex is always the same.”
Tim Vine: “My friend told me he was going to a fancy dress party as an Italian island. I said to him ‘Don’t be Sicily’.”
Marcus Brigstocke: “You know you are fat when you hug a child and it gets lost.”

2012
Winner: Stewart Francis: “You know who really gives kids a bad name? Posh and Becks.” (This doesn’t seem funny to me even after finding out on the Web who Posh and Beck are.)
My favourites:
Will Marsh: “I was raised as an only child, which really annoyed my sister.”
George Ryegold: “Pornography is often frowned upon, but that’s only because I’m concentrating.”

2011
Winner: Nick Helm: “I needed a password eight characters long so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”
My favourites:
Matt Kirshen: “I was playing chess with my friend and he said, ‘Let’s make this interesting’. So we stopped playing chess.”
Alan Sharp: “I was in a band which we called The Prevention, because we hoped people would say we were better than The Cure.”
DeAnne Smith: “My friend died doing what he loved … Heroin.”
(But perhaps the joker of the year should have been a David Copp, a tourist complaining that his children, upon encountering crates od dead crabs and fish in the harbour of Ilfracombe, Devon, “were quite distressed by it”.)

2010
Winner: Tim Vine: “I’ve just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I’ll tell you what, never again.”

2009
Winner: Dan Antopolski: “Hedgehogs – why can’t they just share the hedge?”
My favourites:
Paddy Lennox: “I was watching the London Marathon and saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another runner dressed as an egg. I thought: ‘This could be interesting’.”
Simon Brodkin: “I started so many fights at my school – I had that attention-deficit disorder. So I didn’t finish a lot of them.”

 

Backlog: St Andrew’s Day ’17

Somewhat particular this year, because I was currently in love with a guy of that name. (Still am, but more on that later.) Obviously there was no way of obtaining Scotch eggs or shepherd’s pie, not to mention haggis, so at least I lunched on a mackerel tin. And as it had begun by the first lying snow of this winter, I switched at night my laptop’s screensavers to the winter folder.

 

Càrn-obrach: blàthachaidhean, mar gum biodh

Aon rud a rinn toilichte mi o chionn ghoirid: sguir iad dhe na ‘blàthachaidhean’ o thoiseach na Dùbhlachd. Oir a bhith a’ dùsgadh aig 555m, agus bho 605m gu 625m ag eacarsaich a-muigh, eadhon sna làithean dar nach biodh an teothachd ach ceum no dhà os cionn neoni, chan e ‘blàthachadh’ a tha ann idir. Bhiodh mi an-còmhnaidh gu math na bu raige is na bu chadalaiche as an dèidh na bha mi roimhe.

 

Backlog: chairmanship over

In mid-November I finally asked the therapists to be rid of the chairmanship and they agreed. (One of my arguments was that more than a half of my then co-patients had arrived at the ward when I had already been at the post, in other words they hadn’t voted me in.) It took another week until the actual vote of the new chairman took place, during which time I incidentally became the most senior patient of the ward, and yet another to hand the post over – funnily, all the three groups changed their leaders in the same week – but at long last I was a rank-and-file member again.

I was somewhat surprised at the amount of praise I got from the guys, both informally and formally, for my ‘time in office’. No false modesty: I did think I was a good chairman; even so it was nice to find out that the others mostly perceived me as a good one as well. One or two even mentioned I had been fair and just, which pleased me the most, because being that had been the hardest thing about the job. All the same it was a relief to no longer have to be alert 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, to be only responsible for oneself.

 

Backlog: protected housing interview

Unless something quite unexpected happens, the near future is all set up. A month ago I went to the city I’d studied in all those years ago for an interview with the ‘protected housing’ people and it went fine on many accounts. First, in the train there I listened to Hats Off to the Buskers after years, which was rather uplifting. Second, before the meeting I met one of my best friends, who stays in the city. Third, the interview was successful (by the end of the week they confirmed I was on). Fourth, in the train back I listened to Peace and Love after years, which I enjoyed as well. And last but not least, I then visited (in the city I had lived in before the cure) another of my best friends, who afterwards drove me back to the rehab.

I was up for some good times and some bad times, but the very day was an unequivocal success. And the prospects were good too: I would leave the city I learned to hate and get closer to my old mates from college, having a roof and apparently almost a certainty of finding some decent job.

 

Dan S

Strange, in a way; understandable, in another.

A week ago, on Friday morning, he ended his cure and left, making me somewhat depressed and, well yes, nostalgic. Now I had never fancied him, unlike, say, HC. But I came to the ward when he was still a newbie himself, only having preceded me by two weeks. I saw him get into the “second phase”; I saw him elected for his group’s leader; after I became my own group’s leader and later one for the whole ward we naturally had frequent exchanges. (Even more so as we, if only by a sort of accident, sat next to each other at the ward’s gatherings for quite a few weeks.) And then, he was from the city I went to college in, the one I had the best years of my life in.

To begin with I was surprised at the performance he gave two days before leaving. Generally I hate both rap and loudness; normally I wouldn’t have stayed there for five minutes. As it happened, not only did I stay till the end, I didn’t even suffer doing so. And during the following two days I realised how much my subconscious took his being around for granted. I might not have fancied him, but I definitely learnt to like him, and take his presence as a matter of course.

It didn’t help that together with him left Robin, who had come to the ward a week after me. There are now only two guys left from the July intake, and three who came, like me, in August. Insidiously, I’m beginning to perceive this community less and less as “mine”. To feel like an old fart, no longer much interested in the future of the firm he works for, just waiting for his retirement.
 

Postscript: I’ve counted it now and there are only 11 guys left who’ve known me before I became the “chairman”; the other 18 only know me at the post, they’ve never voted for me. Seems somehow inappropriate, if not preposterous.

 

Fuar

Diluain, 30 Dàmhair, chuir iad dheth teasachadh agus uisge theth. Seadh, thug iad dà theasadaire so-ghiùlan dha na daoine air an dàrna làraich, no garrad, Dimàirt; ach cha tug iad fear sam bith dhuinne air a’ chiad làraich gus Diardaoin. Cha robh àite agam airson faighinn na bu bhlàithe gu sealach fad beagan làithean, agus bha mi a’ faireachdainn nach robh mo chorp a-mhàin, ach eadhon m’ eanchainn a bha a’ sìor fhàs na bu shlaodaiche is na bu raige.

 

Gillian Butler: Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness

On the one hand, I would probably get as much from a few pages briefly summarising the main points. On the other hand, all the expatiation possibly let the points really seep in. As far as I’m concerned, there were three I reckon I can make use of. First, exposure, an emphasis on which I had recently encountered in a book about overcoming OCD. Second, doing things differently, which is (again in a different context) a recurring theme in the rehab I am currently in. And third, forcefully switching focus from oneself to one’s surroundings when noticing social anxiety symptoms, which was an idea new to me.

I am trying all three these days and there does seem to be a gradual improvement, although this may be likewise due to the chairman’s post I had been coaxed into accepting, as well as to the fact that I am mostly trying them amongst people I have been in the midst of for some time. Then again, I am finding even phone calls to strangers easier to contrive, and the other day I was on trip during which I accomplished, quite composedly, several tasks which would normally make me at least a little tense.

 

Boletice church

And yet there are, however rarely, some pleasant outdoor activities: a short ramble every few weeks or so, erecting of a St Mary Column just beyond a near village, and most notably the October trek to a solitary church belonging to another.

Three staff members, eleven patients including my two then favourites. The walk to the church standing on a wooded hill. The roasting of sausages on spits made of branches over a fire. The church’s interior, with a short lecture about its history and ongoing renovation from a hen from the village and with seeing a vault from above, possibly for the first time with a naked eye, not on a picture or a screen. The talking to myself, in English of course, while walking alone in front of the others for a while after leaving the church. The autumnal landscape, quite nice, even if feeling like lacking a wee bit to be as good as Scotland’s (naturally, I may have been simply prejudiced).

Ay, it was fine. In the wood back near the rehab I couldn’t help singing to myself in my head It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry. Never mind the lyrics; I needed some Scots song or another for an icing on the cake.

 

Chairmanship

More than a month ago I complained that I had little time for blogging. Since than I’ve had even less, to some extent paradoxically just because there was a lot happening which would be worth blogging about.

At the beginning of October I was elected the ‘community chairman’, so instead of the few duties I’d had as a ‘group confidant’ I now have quite a few. So many in fact that I no longer undergo occupational therapy; which is hardly any gain, as that’s one of the best parts of the cure.

On the other hand, I’ve been a chairman for long enough by now to know most of the ropes. And there are other good aspects to the post. For instance, when a 1-bed room became vacant, I was allowed to move there. No longer having to adjust my spare-time activities to any roommates’ presence is a mighty help. As regards spare time, I’ve been recently probably actually somewhat better off than what I’d been six weeks ago.

It’s a shame though that I’ve practically lost this autumn. While the trees’ colours were at their best, the park was either closed due to high winds, or instead of being there during occupational therapy or during my spare time I was mostly doing some paperwork and the like.

 

No blogging time

It’s not that I lack stuff to blog about. I could, even would like to, blog about playing table tennis again (and still not all that badly); about co-winning the ward’s chess competition; about the two guys I fancied who’d already left [AS&RM] (especially the latter one, who I think I was in rapport with, however little time we had to talk together); about my first two roommates [KH&MC] who’ve been both discharged quite recently and who were very good roommates (especially the latter one, with whom I could converse in English and French, not to mention Slavic languages); about the porter duty, whose ‘other shift’ was being covered by a guy I fancy immensely [Anndra, or OZ]; about getting a new roommate before having time to really enjoy being alone in the room for a while …

Time. That’s exactly the problem. Every workday is partitioned by various ‘duties’ to such an extent that it’s often hard to find time for doing my languages quotas, let alone turning on the laptop. Sundays are only slightly better; Saturdays are fine in this respect, but then so they are for the others, many of whom aparently spent these by just watching TV (turned on quite loud) in the hallway, so it’s hard to concentrate on any mental activity. (In fact I’m not sure Saturdays aren’t more exhaustive than workdays.) And of course, using a laptop after the lights-out is virtually impossible.

I’m afraid the backlog of things I can’t do until I’m ‘properly online’ again will have mushroomed so much within these five months it’ll take several months more to catch up.

 

One month over, four to go

To begin with it was meant to be a one-month stay, which I thought too short. Very soon, however, I was warned it would probably be changed to three, which seemed more or less optimal to me. Nevertheless, after the first month the final decision was that this rehab stint would last for another four.

On the one hand I like it here enough to be determined to complete them. I am safe here, provided for, there is a reasonably good company, and of course a longer term means more time to prepare for what will come after the ‘cure’.

On the other hand it does seem as quite a long time to be without a proper internet access: there is little time for being online and I can only get there on my smartphone, which is like being on a subsistence diet. Similarly (to some extent consequently), it is difficult to keep my Gaelic and French at the level already achieved, to say nothing about improving them; even my English seems to insidiously deteriorate. Moreover, I have no idea how long my existence here will be paid for: it may turn out I will have to leave earlier simply on financial grounds.

All the same, money allowing I’m still determined to see this through, and however long that means, to then start someplace else than where I had wasted about two decades of my life.

 

James Boswell: The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

Not a bad read for killing time, despite the fact that many of the persons whose names are mentioned as a matter of course are totally obscure today. True, Mr Boswell’s admiration for Mr Johnson comes out as a bit too fawning at times, and Mr Johnson comes out as a bit too cantankerous, and a fair bit too xenophobic by today’s standards, but the only passage which is really a bother to read is the tediously long account of the movements of Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Isle of Skye region.

********

Quotations:

I was hurt to find [….] that I was so far from being that robust wise man who is sufficient for his own happiness.
 

A man will meet death much more firmly at one time than another. The enthusiam even of a mistaken principle warms the mind, and sets it above the fear of death; which in our cooler moments, if we really think of it, cannot but be terrible, or at least very awful.
 

I hoped, that, ever after having been in this holy place, I should maintain an exemplary conduct. One has a strange propensity to fix upon some point of time from whence a better course of life may begin.

 

49

A somewhat strange birthday. Spent in a rehab, where nobody knew or noticed, and I myself felt no urge to tell anybody. For all the group therapies, I don’t feel really close to any of the other guys here. Obviously no celebration; there’s nothing to celebrate anyway. Neither a feeling that the day was somehow significant, even though it began my last year as a quadragenarian. Nor does writing this two days later feel like a delay which should have been avoided. After all, I’ll only can post it after the cure, presumably a few months from now.

The life here is in several ways rather more enjoyable than what I had between Scotland and now; all the same it feels like marking time until I’m properly online and have more spare time again.

 

Back in the rehab

Handing over the keys and leaving my latest (hopefully last) digs in the town was basically a relief. It wasn’t all bad, but it was bad enough to make me glad to go.

Being driven by Rob via his new rented kiosk to the rehab felt almost like the old days when we were much closer to each other. Almost. I almost regretted my decision to move elsewhere after my stint. Almost.

I’ve been here for a week and a half now and it does not feel almost like during my first stay back in ’08. Not that the place or the life here changed all that much during those years. And after they’ve told me I should expect spending here three months, rather than one, I’ve begun feeling more like a current, as opposed to a former, patient.

The difference is that now I have the internet, if only on my phone. Far cry from then, when my only ‘contact’ with Britain were two Teach Yourself Gaelic books] and a copy of The Guardian I came across and bought during one trip outwith the grounds.

Also, I’m more relaxed than I was the first time round. Or maybe more lethargic? Anyway, many things which would worry or anger me back then don’t do so any longer.

But just like then, I don’t have enough time for half the things I’d like to do. The patient’s day’s schedule has too many activities and too short spaces in between them; relaxed or not, I still find myself every now and then either hurrying, or smoking because of not having time for anything else than a fag.

 

About to leave – part 2

Three more nights. Monday being the last day of my internet subscription, I’ll have to temporarily cover most of my online activities (smartphone is just a meagre substitute for internet access as far as I’m concerned); on Tuesday I’m going to pack my possessions and so on; and on Wednesday I’ll hand over the flat and leave for the rehab.

Leaving this town, hopefully, for good. There are places you love the more the longer you stay there (the city where I went to college or Glasgow), and those you hate the more the longer you are stuck there (the town where I was born or this one). Of course, there’s no way I’ll be able to return to Scotland, but at least getting closer to my ex-college-mates would be fine.