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.



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.



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.


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.


About to leave

So, on Wednesday to the rehab. And then hopefully to some other town, as I’ve learned to hate this one. Anyway, I’m certainly not returning to this gaff, which I never liked in the first place. Because of …

A floating floor and no carpet in the bedsit. No door between the antechamber and the bedsit, making old women blethering on the staircase all too audible. A washbasin so tiny one can’t even wash a pair of socks in it. Bathroom walls so dark it’s hard to see one’s face properly when shaving. A microwave oven and an electric cooker but no fridge. And so on.

But most of all the sod staying above me, stamping like a hippo from wall to wall and back again, quite often for a few hours in a row. God knows what the arseheid is doing that for. Even worse than the bitch in Wester Common. It’s been years since I last went – sober – to my bed with a pleasant expectation of a restful sleep. I go to sleep anxious that noise will not let me fall asleep, and certain it would wake me up.

So in a sense I can’t wait to leave here. Who knows, perhaps I’ll yet get a chance to relearn going to sleep without this anxiety. While there’s life there’s hope.


La psy

Ça a été très court : probablement, elle a été contente que je veuille aller au centre de désitoxication moi-même, et donc je ne vais pas la faire perdre son temps. Elle a même déjà écrit la lettre pour m’y adresser dès que je serai guéri (certes, si je serai guéri).


BBC II!: Rehab: Lives Addicted

During the time of my own cure one of the therapists contemptuously remarked that abroad there were ‘no real rehabs, just detoxes’. Reading Norman Maclean’s The Leper’s Bell didn’t disabuse me of this misconception; watching this programme did. There were definitely more similarities than differences between Broadway Lodge and ‘my’ old rehab.

That the people, the stories and so on, were similar, goes without saying. The moment that touched me most was when ‘Big John’ says ‘Some people, when you ask them what their primary drug is, or what their drug of choice is, they’ll say, “Oh, it’s crack, it’s heroin.” Mine was “more”, and a lot of people will say that – “more”.’