Red Yard: second full stay summary

Again, I could rant about it for days (after all, I have been there from late summer to midwinter), but I mustn’t: life goes on and I have other things to do. It’s a shame I could rarely blog while it lasted, as there surely was a lot to blog about, but it’s too late to do anything about it now. (Still, I can’t help mentioning the songs I sang to myself most often: from almost the very beginning The Sun and the Moon and Once upon a Time, and from about the time of Anndra’s leaving Days.) And in fact I did record several details here, hopefully the majority of the most important ones. A general summary then:

All things considered, despite some unpleasant features like the sketches, things were reasonably fine and I did enjoy being there. True, I didn’t feel as close to the others as during my first stay all those years ago; I made no bosom friends this time, not even with the guy I fell in love with. True, I’m still struggling with the aftermath of five months of getting up, every single day, at an unearthly hour. True, I spent too little time in my once beloved Park, and actually had just one solitary stroll around it (on my very last day before leaving). And so on. Yet there were many pleasant moments: certainly more than I would have had if I haven’t gone there. The therapies, too, were admittedly quite useless as such; but often the time was pleasant, and then again, my primarily goal wasn’t any ‘cure’, but using the spell expediently, namely to help me move town, and that aim was achieved.

Yes, all in all they were mostly days well spent. But not as well as once upon a time, and the final month left a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth. So while definitely glad to have been there, I probably won’t return for the week-long revisit in April. To be honest, only the knowledge that Anndra may come can possibly make me change my mind.

It was fine, but it’s already history now.




At the very start of the year I was in hospital, being treated for throat cancer; at its very end I was in a rehab, sober but emotionally rather burnt out. The in-between wasn’t all that magnificent either, what with the long recovery after the chemoradiotherapy, the flat I was staying at before the rehab, the (no doubt related) alcoholic relapse within, the deaths of Ray Collier, Tormod MacGill-Eain and Tom Petty (and others), the way the Brexit talks were developing, and so on and so forth.

All the same, I shouldn’t complain. For one thing, the cancer was apparently cured. Otherwise I possibly might not be here to write this any longer. Also, during the relapse the idea of leaving the town I had learned to hate for good occurred to me, and the rehab stay helped me contrive that. I even fell in love yet again after years . . .

And of course there were all the interesting books I read and iPlayer programmes I watched, meetings with my friends from the college, not to mention minor affairs like making porridge a staple of my diet, or beginning a circle beard.

Ay, as Skipinnish have it, I’m alive, and the stars are on my side. (Notwithstanding, as Jake Bugg has it, I hold two fingers out to yesterday.)



I’ve been postponing this post for weeks and weeks, because I don’t really know how to write it. I’d like to note down everything, from first noticing him while he was still in the detox to our final goodbye some four months later in front of the nurses’ room; every occupational and walking therapy we were both involved in, every smoking-area repartee and every short-but-serious conversation we ever had, every time I simply enjoyed surreptitiously watching him, everything . . . . but of course that would take ages. I’d never be able to finish it.

Suffice it to say that he was the thirteenth guy I fell in love with since the end of my National Service days, and amongst these thirteen affections, this one was probably the strangest. Because despite the fact that unlike me he was straight, young and gorgeous to look at, we seemed to be, intellectually, more or less on the same wavelength. To the extent that there was definitely a sort of rapport between us.

And yet during the almost four months we spent at the same ward we rarely talked, or at least not as much as I would have wished us to. Partly no doubt due to my typical aloofness deriving from the usual fear of becoming “that embarrassing interloping old queer”. So I never even dared to ask for his email or phone number: when he left, even such communication as we’d had came to an instant end. The chances I’ll ever hear some news about him, let alone meet him again, are infinitesimal.

Do I still miss him? Definitely; sometimes sorely. But I don’t think that a couple of years from now I’ll still miss him as much as I still miss Tommy almost three years after we parted. I’ll get along.


Meeting my college mates in Brae

(Initially noted down at my Logbook entry for the day; posted here, minimally edited, 20/4/18.)

It was good to see them, although the notion we were oldish and would never experience anything like UK ’90 again did enter my mind. Also they did talk things not much interesting for me like sport, local politics and their approaching skiing trip in the Dolomites, but it troubled me less than usual, knowing that presumably from now on I would be meeting them more often.


Burnt out

I already mentioned in mid-November that after Dan’s departure I was beginning to feel more and more alienated. After Anndra’s December departure, I definitely became so. There are very few guys left I’m somewhat interested in; I couldn’t care less about the past, present and future of most. I learnt to smoke in the smoking area usually ignored by the others. What keeps me sane is having a single room and being online.

I’m not even looking forward to going elsewhere in January, as I’ll have to meet there more new people I probably won’t be interested in. I’m not even looking forward to revisiting here, even if this meant seeing Anndra once more (which it probably wouldn’t anyway). I’m burnt out; just looking forward to renting another tenancy and being, outwith working hours, all on my own again.


The good thing is that it no longer hurts, as it did for a couple of weeks, during which I was visibly pissed off most of the time when in company. I just no longer give a toss, calmly waiting for the end of my stay here.

In the background Pete Seeger began singing his Turn, Turn, Turn. I’ll be back.


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.


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: 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Tablette 2

Finalement, parce qu’il serait fou emporter la tablette au centre de désintoxication, je l’ai vendu à Rob (pour moins qu’un tiers du prix originel). Un peu étonnamment, il a paru heureux de l’obtenir, qui m’a fait heureux à son tour, peut-être même plus que l’argent. Donc, en rentrer chez moi, j’étais en même temps content est mécontent. Mécontent parce qu’il est possible que cela a été la dernière fois que je l’ai vu, est je ne l’ai pas dit audieu à la façon convenable.



I had a vague idea what OCD was for several years: knew about the condition before Tommy and me sometimes jokingly accused each other of having it. It was only recently, however, that I discovered I might really have it myself.

I bought Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by David Veale and Rob Willson and began reading it. But while I’m sure I show symptoms for one kind of OCD, namely the “excessive concern with exactness, order, and symmetry” kind, I always halt when I read the word anxious. I definitely would not label my emotion when things are not ‘neat and tidy’ as anxiety: the correct word is annoyance.

But the authors brought my attention to another condition, one I had never heard of before: obsessive compulsive personality disorder, which has other symptoms I definitely show, like “constantly making lists” and more to be found in Wikipedia’s leader.

OCPD, then? Who knows. More probably than OCD; then again, I have not shed the suspicion that it may in fact be Asperger’s.


Jamie’s 50

The technical details, the condensed description is in what I call my ‘log book’ – I don’t have the time to make it ‘literary’ enough for a blogpost. Still, a few reflections which would look out of place there:

The scenery from the Uplands on wasn’t bad. Not as good as in Scotland of course, but miles better than where I stay now.

I didn’t fully understand whether the event was actually organised by Jamie (who seemed to pay more or less all the expenses) or by Falcon (who seemed to be in charge of the ‘programme’).

Jamie and I were in the same class at college, but he’s eleven months older. The event taking place a few months in advance, I was celebrating his 50th birthday while still not having reached my 49th, which felt sort of weird.

Most of the participants seemed to be more or less ages with us, so it was surprising to see how many of them could no longer read the quiz questions from a printed page without spectacles (“too short hands”, if you know what I mean. Points is, I’ve been wearing glasses since before primary school, but luckily I’m still not troubled by this problem).

Conversely, I was surprised by the general knowledge of geography people apparently had. Indeed, at times I almost felt like quite a yokel. I probably knew much more than the others about Britain, as much about Western Europe and North America – and much less about all the rest of the world.

Most importantly though: I didn’t feel like I really belonged, but neither did I feel too alienated. I didn’t have too much conversation with my friends (let alone talked much about myself), but neither did I sit in a corner on my own. I made myself think about the event as an exercise in patience when I did feel a bit lonely/bored, as training for the rehab when surrounded by people I didn’t know and so on.

Unusually perhaps, I was neither longing to stay longer, nor longing to leave earlier (except perhaps when it was too cold in the evening, and even then only a little and only until we moved indoors). I was taking it quite equably, considering.

All in all, I was reminded that if I return there after the rehab things certainly ‘won’t be the same’, but my intention to try and do so was, if anything, reinforced rather than otherwise.


Les amis meilleurs que les membres de la famille

D’après une recherche de l’université d’État du Michigan, nos amis nous font plus heureux et de meilleure santé que nos parents. Bien sûr, je savais toujours que mes amis « fournissent un exutoire » , que je peux « leur dire des choses et ils sont moins critiques » , qu’il y a « une distance qui fournit un niveau de l’honnêteté » . Mais je ne m’apercevais que c’est vrai pour les gens en général.



Agus gnìomh eile ‘tasglannach’ air a choileanadh: tar-sgrìobhadh an leabhair leam le truaill-chainnt agus gnàthasan-cainnte èibhinn (a’ mhòr-chuid dhiubh èibhinn gu do-rùnaichte) dhan fhaidhle theacsa. Bha fiù agus an tìde agam airson am faidhle a chur chun nan càirdean bhon cholaiste ris a chumas mi suas fhathast, agus gu Rob.

Bha fhios agam gun robh mòran fhealla-dhà bhon cholaiste is bho Sheirbheis Nàiseanta ann, ach chur e iongnadh orm dè cho mòran ’s a bha ann bho na bliadhnaichean as dèidh sin. Gus deach mi dhan rehab. Tha fhios nach robh mòran ann as dèidh sin, agus mi a’ cur seachad an àm saor agam air an eadar-lìon, seach a’ coinneachadh ri daoine ann an taighean-seinnse.


Book shopping spree

What do you do when you find out the debit card for your bank account abroad will expire soon, and you have no way of preventing the bank from sending a new one to the address where you used to stay there except by phoning them – but you suffer from phone phobia?

You spend a fifth of the remaining balance on buying all the (thirteen) Kindle books you’d noted down for buying gradually in the future, send another fifth to your best friend still in that country, and transfer the rest to your account where you stay now, only leaving a token amount in the old one.

The ‘Unread’ (meaning ‘not even begun’) collection on my Kindle now contains 27 items. Enough to read not only for the rest of this year, but also for the next I guess, especially given I like rereading one of my favourites every now and than. (But I do feel like I’ve lost another link to the country of my heart …)