Ag òl fhathast, ach chan eil e dona

Dimàirt, dh’òl mi sa mhadainn aon leann (as dèidh 10 tro Dhisathairne, 8 tro Dhidòmhnaich na Càisge is 4 tro Dhiluain). Airson greis, bha e coltach nach òl mi tuilleadh rè ùine fhada.

Ach a’ tilleadh, Dihaoine, bhon oifis lighiche-inntinn, bha aig an aon àm a’ ghrian a’ dèarrsadh agus gaoth làidir a’ sèideadh. Bha mi gu math sgìth agus shuidh mi sìos san ‘Liosan’. Dh’fhaod mi deoch gun alcol òrdachadh, ach cha tàinig an nòisean dha m’inntinn. Co-dhiù, cha do dh’òl mi ach aon leann agus chaidh mi air adhart, mo neart air ùrachadh.

Agus an-dè, bha mi sgìth fad an latha. ’S mathaid gun robh an cnatan agam as dèidh nan trì làithean agus a bha mi a’ dol gu dotairean ann an sìde gharbh. ’S mathaid gun robh cleas nas motha a dhìth orm (cha do dh’fhàg mi am flat tron dheireadh-sheachdain ach airson smocadh). ’S mathaid nach robh mi fhathast cleachdte a-rithist ris an aonaranachd, as dèidh nan seachdainean ann an taighean-seinnse. Co-dhiù no co-dheth, ruith mi a-mach dhan ‘Reul-chrios’ sa chiad àite airson teicheadh bho stampadh mhic na galla a tha a’ fuireach os mo chionn.

Agus abair iongnadh! Ged a bha e mu chuairt air aon uair deug air an oidhche, bha an donas jukebox sàmhach! Bha mi airson dà leann a ghabhail, ach on nach do thòisich e air cluich fad na h-ùine agus a bha mi ann, ghabh mi trì is bha mi nam shuidhe ann mu thimcheall air ceithir uairean a thìde, a leughadh The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D. le James Boswell.

Oidhche ciùin, tlachdmhor. Nuair a dhùisg mi an-diugh, tha fhios nach robh mi gu math buileach, ach bha mi fada na b’ fhearr na bha mi sna làithean roimhe.

 

Printemps ’17

Bon. La beuverie est terminé, et bien que je sois toujours quelque peu faible, je relève. Et parce que j’ai raté à la fois 1er mars, le début du « printemps météorologique » (il faisait encore assez froid ici) et 20ème mars, le début du « printemps astronomique » (la beuverie), il était grand temps que je remplace mes économiseurs d’écran: l’hiver par le printemps. Alors, je viens de le faire.

 

Foghar ’16 (gu fadalach)

Leis na seachdainean a chur mi seachad air mhisg, cha tàinig e a-steach orm gun do thòisich am foghar; agus as dèidh sin, bha rudan eile ann air a bha agam ri cnuasachadh. Cha robh e ach an-diugh gun do chuimhnich mi gum bu chòir dhomh na sàbhalaichean-sgrìn atharrachadh bho dhealbhan samhraidh gu dealbhan foghair. Uill, rinn mi sin.

 

Désintoxication

Il allait lentement, surtout au début … mais je fasais des progrès, pas à pas. Progressivement, je réduisais ma consommation quotidienne de la bière et de la vodka. Un jour j’ai nettoyé la kitchenette et les toilets; un autre jour j’ai m’enhardi et je suis allé au magasin; le prochain jour je m’ai rasé … et le jeudi dernier je suis allé au bar matin mais je ne suis pas y allé depuis. Parce que Marc m’a envoyé un texto et j’ai realisé que j’ai dû être plus vite.

Alors, vendredi je suis allé à ma docteure et à l’usine; depuis samedi je n’ai bu aucun alcool, même chez moi; et pas à pas, mais plus vite, je me remettais à faire tout que j’avait fait avant la beuverie. Maintenant, la garçonnière est rangé, mes vêtements sont propre, je ne bois pas du tout (d’alcool), je fume très peu mais je mange beaucoup, donc mes douleurs sont parties, je continue d’apprendre « mes » langues … et j’ai visité tout les docteurs auxquels j’aurait dû rendre visite.

Le début de la radiothérapie et la chimiothérapie est jeudi, le 3 novembre.

 

Ath-thilleadh tinneas na dighe

Chan eil mòran ann ri ràdh. Bha e mar iomadh turas roimhe: ag ithe glè bheag, a’ bith beò air leann, vodka is toiteanan, a’ gluasad dìreach eadar taighean-seinnse (far an robh mi a’ leughadh nam aonar) ’s mo leabaidh. B’ e an trioblaid nach robh deoch làidir gu leòr agam aig an taigh; nuair a dhùisg mi, bha agam ri dhol a thaigh-seinnse a-rithist.

Aig a’ cheann thall, bha mi cho cnàmhlach nach urrainn dhomh suidhe gu cofhurtail, bha mo mhàs cho gort nam shuidhe. Agus nuair a thòisich mi air sgeith as dèidh dhomh dùsgadh, bha an tìde ann airson teannadh ri lùghdachadh, ceum air ceum, am meud a bha mi ag òl.

Thòisich mi Dihaoine, 7 Dàmhair, aig 14 leanntan is 8 vodkathan (dà thadhal ann an taigh-seinnse).

 

Why I exiled myself

(It’s been almost a year since I left my country and came back here. Probably the right time to put down why: long enough to view the matter dispassionately, not long enough for the memory to be much distorted. This will probably be a long rant, so you’d better not read it; in fact I’m writing it precisely to be able to look it up myself when my memories do, inevitably, become too distorted.)

The short, technical, superficial answer is that I was afraid of ending up on the street, then – not being a citizen – getting deported, thus ending up in exile anyway, but potentially also barred from a future entry. I’m not a lawyer: maybe this wouldn’t happen, but it was this fear I acted upon. Nevertheless, this doesn’t answer why I got into such situation in the first place.

It would be easy to blame everything on alcohol. But alcohol is always a secondary problem, a symptom of deeper troubles. Still, it’s often a highly exacerbating symptom, and this time a trigger as well. Several things had been wrong for quite some time, but the breaking point was probably when before that year’s last spell in my then job, for some reason I could never really recollect (I’d been looking forward to that spell for fuck’s sake), I got drunk and didn’t attend. Since then I stopped boozing several times, but sooner or later the vicious circle of depression and anxiety attacks alternating with being drunk always started anew.

So what made me drink? I think that paradoxically I was having it both too good and too bad. On the good side was the amazement of being in the country of my heart, in a ‘secure tenancy’ flat in an attractive area, the complacency of having already been there for more than half the time needed to be able to apply for citizenship, and the – for me – large sum I’d received the previous year, some of which money I still had at the beginning. My cup was flowing over . . . or so it seemed, now and then. A dram or a pint was the icing on the cake. (Of course, you can spoil a cake by too much icing.)

But under the surface, the bad things were fermenting. I may have been nearing citizenship, but I was getting impatient; the waiting seemed too long. And a sort of midlife-crisis question kept returning: Fine, so you’ll become a citizen, change your name to something you could like, and then what? Any goals after that? To which the sincere answer was No, I can’t think of any. Also, it was getting harder to fool myself into thinking I might ever really belong. Thanks to my social phobia and linguistic inadequacy, after three years I only had one friend there – and I felt I was insidiously losing even him. All of which was compounding my thanatophobia; as if it hadn’t been bad enough even before all this.

Then again, the flat which had so amazed me to begin with and where I’d done so many improvements was feeling less and less like a home. Not for the first (or the last) time in my life, a neighbour upstairs was noisy in the way which isn’t bad enough to entitle you to complaining, but which is bad enough – supposing you’re hypersensitive to noise – to prevent you from sleeping, reading and so forth. (I often sat in the kitchen simply because it was the quietest of my rooms.) A place isn’t really a home when you prefer leaving it to returning to it. A place isn’t really a home when your mind doesn’t associate it with rest, but with worrying about when the noise which won’t let you rest will begin.

And then of course, these things were interrelated, influencing and aggravating each other. Being jobless, I was meeting even less people than usual (hardly anybody in fact), making me more lonely. The noise was making it easier to decide to have another fag and another doze of booze. Not seeing the flat as a home where I’d like to live for the rest of my days, nor seeing any way of changing my situation (after three years I was disabused of the idea of getting anything better than another temporary zero-hours contract), made the future look even bleaker and more pointless. And so on and so on.

If you combine all this: booze, unemployment, no long-term future goal, the paradoxical complacency, thanatophobia, a noisy neighbour, no friend to see regularly . . . maybe it’s little wonder I became too lonely even by my standards and mentally/emotionally burnt out. There were some half-hearted attempts at finding a new job, some more determined visits to the JobCentre, but my heart wasn’t really in it. They were just token, perfunctory activities to salve my conscience before sitting down in my kitchen with a book, fags and booze once again. (Strangely perhaps, my depressions didn’t make me consider suicide. My suicidal thoughts were of a defiant character: often I sat there, pleasantly pished, and thought Ah, what the fuck, if the worst comes to the worst I can always comit a suicide.)

Until the money ran out. Then, as usual, the instict of self-preservation kicked in. And in the state I was in, after some six months of intermittent boozing, to borrow some money and return here, in other words to exile myself, looked like the only feasible option. So I executed it.

Come to think of it, I suspect that the instict of self-preservation is what’s been keeping me going ever since. But that’s already a different story.

 

Quote: Tom Lamont about pubs

A pub is not a bar. It is not a restaurant. It is not a social club. It is not a shop. It is not a bench in a park. It is not a surgery or psychiatrists’ office. It is not a gig venue, a football stadium, a fighting pit, a staff room, a piano room. It is not the house you grew up in, nor the atrocious digs you moved to in your 20s. It is not your present-day living room. It is not a bus shelter. And in some way it is all those things. It is a pub.
 

(From The death and life of the great British pub, published in The Guardian, 13 Oct 15.)

Exhibition

For most of my life I used to visit museums and galleries only involuntarily or semi-voluntarily: taking part in school trips, humouring somebody who insisted on my accompanying them . . . This changed when I moved to Scotland. I wouldn’t say I became an ‘avid’ visitor to such places, but I did see quite a few, predominantly (but not only) in Glasgow. I didn’t expect this to continue after my return; I couldn’t envisage coming across anything I would find interesting enough to go and see here.

Consequently, I was greatly surprised when by sheer accident I noticed in the window of a building I hadn’t even known was a museum an unassuming poster advertising a future exhibition. What caught my attention was the name of my old rehab; closer inspection revealed the display’s theme was the irrigation system in the large park adjacent to the hospital (a former country house of the Schwarzenbergs).

What with one thing and another I nearly didn’t make it. In the end I did, after a night shift and only four days before the exhibition closed. Happily, as it was definitely worth it: the photographs were delightful and bringing back pleasant memories; the maps and explanatory panels describing the irrigation system’s history and present state informative – all the more interesting for one who had spent many a pleasant hour walking among all those artificial streams, ponds and fountains.

(That said, I can’t envisage coming across anything else I would find interesting enough to go and see here again.)

 

The long goodbye to the UK

And so on 18 May I got up at midday, had a bath and a shave, ate up the last Spam tin, packed up, drank up the last vodka bottle, threw the last litter bags down the chute, and at four o’clock locked the door of – no longer my – house. Dropped the keys at the office and – with several stops along the way – walked to Buchanan Bus Station and thence rode to Glasgow International Airport.

As I feared, the rucksack was (2kg) overweight, so I had to discard some items; doing which its main zip broke and I had to have it foil-wrapped. Seven quid down, and only the wee top strap to use for moving (i.e. dragging) it around. The EasyJet flight was somewhat delayed “due to a technical problem”, which obviously didn’t improve my mood.

Nevertheless, we were in Stansted by 10pm, and my next flight was scheduled for 0645am. Moving the rucksack and laptop case on a trolley as if I was an OAP, I was killing time by smoking and reading T.C. Smout’s A History of the Scottish People 1560-1830 in the sitting area then in Café Balzar. In the latter I also connected to the Net to check the prices of the old country travel tickets I’d need.

It was a long wait, but finally the Ryanair desk opened. I drank up my second Beck’s (the last beer and in fact the last alcohol I’ve had to date), smoked my last fag on the British soil and went to board the plane. Some time after crossing the Channel I finally dozed off, even though I had music in my earphones, I was that knackered.

Needless to say, I was mighty depressed as well.

 

Packing it in

To begin with I flirted with the idea of sobering up over the weekend and giving it one more try, visiting some agencies on Monday. However, on Saturday I decided against it, and writing my first email after a month I told Rob I was returning to Budweis. He was great, promising to arrange everything, including contacting Mr J. Myself, I also wrote to Tommy, Rado and Falcon.

On Sunday the Js agreed to send some money so I could get back at all (and eat until then); I began discarding things I couldn’t take with me. Settling my affairs and preparing for the move took some time every following day; even so I had time for several visits from Tommy and some final trips, but more about that later.

I’ll just mention here that on Wednesday I shaved my chin, thus wearing only a moustache again; the money arrived, enabling me to buy flight tickets, and after a final visit to the Glasgow Cathedral some things I’d used to buy pretty often in happier times (notably custard creme and malted milk biscuits, mackerel in brine and the 67p pork & ham tin – on Saturday I would add Spam, IrnBru and Scotch eggs); and on Thursday I had my last (and thus rather long) stroll through Ruchill Park, naturally including climbing the hillock.

I resolved that if I ever got to Glasgow again, the Cathedral and Ruchill Park would be among the very first places I would head to.

 

Fucked up altogether

Only I wasn’t tough enough. I just visited one agency and send a request for a 2014-15 tax refund … and relapsed again. This time the bender lasted a whole month, give or take a day or two.

On one of the very first days I was offered a job, but by then I was too deep in it to follow the matter through.

I wasn’t just drinking beer, cider, Scotch and vodka at home this time. I was likewise frequenting pubs, where occasionally I even had to fight tears. Not even always successfully I suspect.

I was also talking to people there (most notably Bobby from Newcastle), but it was no good. I was just heading towards the end.

On the 8th May, with the weird election results of Tory majority in Westminster but all except three Scottish seats won by the SNP in, I discovered I only had £81 in my bank account and some £20+ in cash. The bender was over.

And so was my Scottish dream. All that was left to fight for was sheer survival.

 

Resurfacing

After a week and a half, though, the instinct of self-preservation prevailed, as it always does. I began drinking and smoking less each day, and slowly but surely putting the flat and myself in order. I wasn’t helped by some bloody insect temporarily making the kitchen a forbidden zone for me, and by my beginning, all of a sudden and for a reason unknown, to limp on my left leg. But I persevered.

Naturally, anxiety attacks at first strengthened, then began giving way. Yet I was so low that I have actually made an appointment with a shrink. Funny thing is, I am virtually looking forward to it. I’ll be able to talk to somebody.

 

Darkness

In mid-February, loneliness, joblessness and lack of motivation got the best of me and I relapsed again. Seeing no future, I was only leaving the flat to replenish my stock of booze, food and fags.

There was depression. There were anxiety attacks. There were tins eaten without being cooked. There was almost total absence of hygiene. There were appointments ignored. There were my laptop and mobile switched off all the time. As usual. However, this time there were also crazy ideas about giving in and returning to the old country: To my birthplace, where I still could be sure of a roof. To my last place there, where I still have a friend. To my old rehab, not for the sake of fighting addiction, but for the sake of having company.

I think that one day I even shed a tear or two.

After a week and a half, though, the instinct of self-preservation prevailed, as it always does.

 

2014

It was a crazy year. I’d probably have to rack my brains quite a lot before I remembered another with such steep rises and falls.

I started it with a refurbished flat – and almost lost my job. While there were outstanding floods in southwest England and troubles in Ukraine, the job was going to the dogs anyway. Ukraine lost Crimea and I lost another tooth and had to go for a denture. Then I revisited the old country, had a trip to Dumbarton with Tommy – and did lose the job.

But I tripped alone to Rouken Glen Park and with Tommy again to Dunkeld, got another job, starting in Springburn, and while Glasgow was crazy with the Commonwealth Games I spent a very fine week in Dumfries, which included a trip to Caerlaverock Castle.

After Barrhead and Chesser, which improved my understanding the local dialect, I almost lost the job, but was taken on back while what was lost was the independence referendum. Immediately after which I had four magnificent weeks in Argyll with too many splendid trips to list here. Then I did lose the job.

And it became apparent that I was also losing Tommy, while Salmond was resigning. Sturgeon superseded him, the Smith Commission published its report, but I had to sign on. And when the first Scottish gay marriages were taking place I was still unemployed and by and large Tommy-less.

I do hope 2015 will be calmer. I had some absolutely great, exciting times, but the price was too high. I’d rather had less if it meant to pay less. As the saying goes, I’m too old for this game.

 

Smoking, vaping and eating

A recent article about the Smith Commission brought an interesting chart: apparently, tobacco tax brings in £1.1bn* to the revenue from Scotland alone. Intrigued, I found the source, the Government Expenditure & Revenue Scotland 2012-13 publication, and made a few calculations using the data on p 32. It turns out that whether you consider Scotland or the UK as a whole, and whether or not you count in the North Sea revenue, while the percentage of smokers is falling, those who still smoke pay (by doing so) an increasing percentage of the revenue.

Keep this in mind when some politician tells you next time about their ‘fears’ that vaping may be a gateway drug to smoking. Putting aside that this defies both ONS research and common sense (unless you also dread kids’ champagne as a first step leading to alcoholism), the real problem is obviously different: they still haven’t found a pretext for taxing somebody who switches from tobacco to e-cigs as much as when he was still a smoker.
 

* Incidentally, if you want to say that it costs the economy more than that, McKinsey & Company apparently agree with you – saying that obesity costs just as much; unfortunately it’s hard to tell how much of the £9.3bn/yr in VAT comes from food.

 

Tuesday, 8 April: The Yard

We took my usual round trip from the bus stop gate, by the Marian column and so on, Rob throwing a ball to his Rhodesian ridgeback Ares.

Having company I naturally didn’t sing Flowers of Scotland there, but I did sit on the Obelisk plinth for a while as of old, and then had a fag on a bench next to it.

I wasn’t half surprised to see that Mauritshuis had been roofed.

There was possibly more water in Beaver’s Pond than I’d ever seen before (although Cave Pond was fairly dry again); it was so full of it that Ares could lap some while standing on the bank.

Naturally we stopped at Keith Burn too.

We didn’t find any familiar names on the Schneck poles because the poles themselves had been removed.

And we returned by the fountain at the castle, neither of us wanting to traverse the courtyard as the occupational therapy was just ending.

I didn’t see, let alone meet, anybody I knew, but I didn’t mind. To be honest, I’m not sure I would have known what to talk about to those people any longer, apart from general small talk. It was fine to just walk the Park once more, showing it to one of my best friends.

We ended the day in the Cobra again, where I finally ordered Váňa the tot I had owed him since the night before I’d entered the Yard for the first time.

 

Windows 13

Last Tuesday they were finally replacing the windows in my flat. Never too early, the kitchen had recently become practically unheatable.

Returning from Braehead (IKEA) I walked through the Clyde Tunnel, something I had meant to accomplish for quite some time. An interesting experience, what with the remotely operated gates, the path’s curve and the knowledge that one walks under a motorway, which is itself under a river.

Feeling fairly exhausted (lack of sleep and long walks), I decided to have a pint in Partick, so I sat down in The Thornwood on Dumbarton Road. The first visit to a pub on my own since my arrival two years ago. Serene and pleasant. Just two other customers, music from a tape but not bad (at one moment they even played, as if on a cue, Superstar Tradesman).

Maybe I was lucky to have a date for soon after and nothing to read. Otherwise I might sit there for hours.

 

À propos of minimum pricing

“Just look at the figures. In the 1960s, we were drinking 160 litres each a year and weren’t taking any pills. Today we consume 80 million packets of anti-depressants, and wine sales are collapsing. Wine is the subtlest, most civilised, most noble of anti-depressants. But look at our villages. The village bar has gone, replaced by a pharmacy.”

Denis Saverot, editor, La Revue des Vins de France
(source: BBC)

 

6th Reid Yaird repeat stay

The sixth and the last. And although it wasn’t smashing (as it had been at least twice before), it was definitely good.

It wasn’t smashing mostly because I was no longer really a part of it. Almost three and a half years after having ended the cure; more than three years after getting online; over a year after the Dunkeld Vow, I was mentally and emotionally elsewhere.

That is not to say I was indifferent, let alone bored. But I was more immersed in nostalgic reminiscences than in the current community’s issues. I kept a rather detailed journal as always, but more out of force of habit than commitment. I was even, for the first time, associating a great deal more with other repeaters than with those undergoing cure proper.

The fact that I happened on no former friend or acquaintance (except of course the staff) maybe played its part as well. Yet even today I would be interested in how the life stories of quite a few guys I had only met on a repeat stay continued. Not on this one though. There certainly were several I liked – but not as much as to still think about them for longer than a week after the stay.

As I was saying. It was definitely good – for what it was. My last five-day visit there.
 

(First published on Blogger on 7 Oct 11 or, more probably, later.)