Protected housing days’ summary

Upon my arrival in January I intended to find a job in two months and digs in another two. In the end I managed to deal with most things related to moving city (like getting a new GP), find a new job, new digs, and move out in exactly one month and one day. And yet it seemed too long.

The project is probably helpful to the normal client. Only I wasn’t a normal client. I didn’t need all those individual and group therapies and whatnot (including Alcoholics Anonymous sessions, for me a somewhat bizarre experience in its own right) to fill my spare time; I wanted an internet connexion for which the adjective ‘pathetic’ wouldn’t be a euphemism. I didn’t need company; I wanted a bit of privacy. I didn’t need help with finding a job; I wanted the possibility to work shifts. There was more to grumble about; in the end I was just going through the motions, not really caring about anything except surviving until I left. (I was consequently wasting away physically too: my BMI fell under 17.)

I wasn’t a normal client because I didn’t need them to help me fight my alcoholism. I needed them (and the rehab before them) to help me change environment despite my inhibitions (well, wimpiness). So I only grumbled on paper, and stopped altogether as soon as I got away. I never bore anybody there any grudge, and once I was out of it I could again start being grateful to the institution for helping me achieve my goal, however unwittingly.

But the first song I played in my new place was inevitably Jake Bugg’s Two Fingers, which had been playing in my mind all the time since the day before.

 

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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.

 

2017

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.)

 

Anndra

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.

 

Dram again

The rehab had always been meant for only a few months, and so had been the protected housing, but I’d intended to leave the latter for somewhere where I would spend several, possibly many, years.

Well, I failed. The digs I moved in have their disadvantages like everywhere, but generally they are better than most I had had in this country – except that there seems to be no provider ready to connect me to the Net. Sure, there is the place’s own public Wi-Fi, but typically for such, it’s slow and unreliable. Which turned this into yet another stopgap accommodation.

Meaning I decided to minimise my contacts with just about everybody, so that I can catch up on my various backlogs, mushroomed during the rehab and protected housing days, even with the connection I do have. And that these are going to be days of frugality, because I’ll have to save up for moving house once again.

But not tonight. Tonight I’m having my first dram after over six months, enjoying that after all I’m at long last living alone, and with enough spare time for myself.

 

Blogging in hand

The following grumblings were initially scribbled at the ends of my – then temporarily handwritten – diary entries towards the end of my stay in a ‘protected housing’ before moving to digs rented on my own. Posted here, minimally edited, 14/4/18.

Thu, 25/1/18
It occurs to me that except for looking up digs on a smartphone being probably one hell of a bother I wouldn’t really care if I couldn’t use this laptop again – here and even ever. I’d have a pretext to buy another Asus again to have a new start with once I live on my own once mair. And of course I’m rather pleased with being about to start a job again, and one like that as well – printing house, reasonable income, later on shift work … I think as soon as I feel at least a little established there I’ll begin hunting the digs. The guys here are friendly and not really daft but there’s no enough privacy for even a five-minute meditation/zazen session and the TV at night is a real bugger.

Sat, 27/1/18
I don’t know whether I’m gonnae be able to wake up (& get up) in time for work on Monday, I’m not even completely certain I’m gonnae be able to get through an 8-hr shift, or 5 of them, let alone whether I’ll get along with the people there and manage to learn something I was finding rather difficult in Koh-i-noor. (Fucking glue …) What I do know is I’m gonnae begin to look in earnest for some digs whether I keep the job or not. I don’t plan to finish this ‘after-cure’, I’m convinced it’s doing me more harm than good, what with the fucking TV all day long and beyond midnight, hardly any time/opportunity for a quiet time to think, time restrictions adversely affecting my earning opportunities, too many people sharing the facilities (shower/washing machine/loos/smoking area), and of course, as important as the TV, basically no Net connexion worth the name when it comes to the laptop. At least the phone is fine Net-wise, and the rent is low, mais je ne vie pas, je vivote ici. Basically I put life on hold; I’m just going through the movements and I wait for a chance to get out and start living again after. In the meantime I’m mostly reading.
Odd, come to think of it. After a few months I’ve finally something to look forward to again. Ay, having a quiet time for myself now and then, and working on the ever-growing Net backlog.

Tue, 30/1/18
I’m really determined to start calling digs agents on Friday, I want to get the fuck out of here asa fucking p. (Till then of course I mean to play the game, not telling oniebody until I’ve landed some digs and am about to actually flit.)

Wed, 31/1/18
Incidentally another reason to leave here quick is the programme’s a waste of time as far as I’m concerned while often leaving me with little spare time to do even Anki [word drill] & proper news’ reading.

Sun, 4/2/18
In the morning, returning from the Heršpická St, it occurred to me that there was little significant difference between my life now (since say December) & the two cancer-days alcoholic relapses – ay, instead of boozing I’m going to work, but mostly I’m just killing time until somehow I’m able to start living once again.

Mon, 5/2/18
Dinna want tae jinx it but it seems fae Friday I mecht begin living again. Their Wi-Fi mecht be a joke as well but I’d be allowed to have a provider put in a cable if it proves so, and after several months I’d be living on my own again. Dinnae mean tae tell anybody yet till A get a promised email but heck, it does look like this hibernating period should finally come to an end. Cannae wait to start working on my massive backlog, daeing the languages properly again, and maybe even hae an access to iPlayer once more (& BBC news on my laptop, rather than on the smartphone only). Ay, cannae wait. Hae sth to look forward to again.

Tue, 6/2/18
Apparently it’s obvious how glad I am to flit, [the housing’s manager] even mentioned it (but took it fairly well). I’m slightly anxious about walking the distance with all my belongings and having to pay the initial amount in cash thus having over 25K around me for some time but heck, I’ll cope somehow; 3 more nights here, 3 more shifts in the printing house, the move & then the weekend begins – and life recommences.

Wed, 7/2/18
Basically only had time to bookmark news but I no longer give a toss, I’m beginning to work on my backlog(s) on Saturday.

 

Oidhche Challainn ’17

’S ann beagan neònach a bha i, oir bha ‘lights-out’ aig uair: dìreach dar a bha meadhan-oidhche an Alba. Ach dh’èist mi ris a’ Bhig Bhen (a’ chlag ann an Lunnainn) air Radio Scotland, as dèidh sin dh’èist mi ri MP3 dhe Flower of Scotland air a seinn leis na Corries (an dà chuid dhiubh air fòn-tapaidh, tro fhònaichean-cluaise), agus leugh mi The Path of Zen le Robert Aitken as dèidh sin, ged nach b’ urrainn dhomh smocadh tuilleadh.

 

Yule ’17

Not so bad in the end. A third of the guys went on Christmas leaves, and – despite subbing for the current chairman – seldom did I have to come in contact with those who stayed except at meals, in the morning and at night doing the fatigue duties, and occasionally when smoking. Mostly I was all on my own in my room, doing my languages, watching iPlayer and reading.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.