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.

 

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Google’s geographical updates

When the Google Earth software on my laptop updated itself (of its own accord) to ‘Google Earth Pro’, I had a short look and noticed no difference, except for the colour of the icon. Contrarily, I was mighty pleased to discover that Street View now covers the path along the Forth and Clyde Canal. I must have walked the parts Between Maryhill Tesco and Nolly Brig and between Applecross Basin and Speirs Wharf dozens, maybe hundreds of times. If nostalgia grows unbearable, I can walk it again, virtually at least.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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 …)

 

Conasg

’S e bloga ‘mìosail’, mar gum biodh, a tha ann an Seabordgàidhlig, agus roghnaich an t-ùghdar conasg airson cuspair post-bloga an Ògmhiosa. ’S e post taitneach mar as àbhaist dhaibh, agus bha dà rud gu h-àraidh innteach dhomsa: gu bheil an lus feumail taobh a-muigh a luach mar rudeigin a tha àilinn ri fhaicinn; agus gu bheil e cho gann sa Ghearmailt nach àbhaist dha na Gearmailtich a bhith eòlach air.

Smaointich mi mu dheidhinn an dàrna rud agus cha b’ urrainn dhomh cuimhneachadh conasg fhaicinn san dùthaich seo a bharrachd. Nise, chan agair mi gur ann grànnda a tha i, ach tha mi ag ionndrainn cus rudan an seo a tha pailt an Alba, bho àiteachan leth-fhiadhaich gu taighean cloiche gu daoine socair; a-rèir coltais, tha conasg am measg iad sin a tha mi ag ionndrainn gun a bhith eadhon mothachail air.

 

Sìona fhiadhaich

Cha mhòr nach bidh mi a’ coimhead air iPlayer gu làthaireach an-dràsta, sa chiad àite air prògraman co-cheangailte ri Alba ’s an Rìoghachd, ach cuideachd air prògraman aithriseach gun cheangal riutha. O chionn ghoirid, thachair mi air sreath mu dheidhinn nàdar ann an Sìona, agus bha e gu math intinneach. Dhìochuimhnich mi dè cho eadar-dhealaichte, dè cho allamharach agus a bha an saoghal fad às sin.

Ach dè cho bòidheach ’s inntinneach a tha e, chan eil mi ga ionndrainn. ‘S toil leam ga fhaicinn air an TBh. Ach ‘s e dùthaich dhachaigheil seach allamharach air a tha cianalas orm. Cruth-tìre is craobhan is lusan is ainmhidhean is eòin is bailtean is . . . is daoine Albannach. No co-dhiù Breatannach, no Frangach, no eadhon Lochlannach amsaa . . .

 

2016

Generally, a very bad year.

Of course, it had its good moments too; for instance, I’ve read some good (even some very good) books. But outwith books and the Net there were few pleasant moments. On the contrary, there was no lack of nasty things. I hate this noisy stinking land and nation more and more. I’m even losing my affection for Rob; while Tommy has obviously lost all interest in me.

So the cancer I’ve been diagnosed with is quite bad as well, but in fact not extremely bad. Sure I’d like to overcome it, but if I don’t and the next year is my last . . . I suspect I won’t lose all that much. There’s precious little to look forward to either way; I’m only driven by the instinct of self-preservation.

 

A’ chiad bhliadhna aig Sràid na Trianaide

As dèidh bliadhna, tha mi suidhichte gu math an seo, ach chan e dachaigh a tha ann idir; chan e ach àite-còmhnaidh. Dh’fhàs mi cleachdte ris gu dearbh; tha grunn bhuannachdan aige (m.e. gu bheil e cuimseach faisg air far a dh’obraicheas mi), ach tha grunnan eas-bhuannachdan aige cuideachd (m.e. faram nan nàbaidhean). Nas cudromaiche ’s dòcha, chan eil mi nam dhùthaich. Gu gearr, chan eil mi a’ sireadh àite-còmhnaidh eile, ach ma bhios agam ri gluasad a dh’àite eile, cha bhithinn ro dhuilich.

 

Bannie Day ’16: air ais a mhanachainn

Bha mi ag iarraidh gun bhòtadh na Breatannaich airson ‘Fhàgail’ agus rinn iad sin. As dèidh a’ chiad aoibhneis, thàinig e a-steach orm gun do dh’atharraich sin an suidheachadh anns a tha mi fhìn gu tur. Jusque-là, il y a eu de l’espoir, dè cho beag agus a bha e. It is virtually zero now. Mar sin dheth, je dois recontempler tout.

Cathair-eaglais Dhùn Chailleann thall Uisge Tatha (bho Cheum-choise an Inbhir).


Well, tant qu’il y a de la vie, il y a de l’espoir. La réincarnation, mar eisimpleir. Ach tha an sgeulachd seo a’ tighinn gu crìoch. Tha mi airson ga crìochnachadh mar bu chòir – agus an ìre mhath nam aonar. For the seagulls they have gone. Ge-tà, faodaidh fiù is foghar a bhith tlachdmhor, un petit peu.

Om.

 

Tasglannaiche gun fhiachan

Uill, ràinig mi an geata. Seadh, chan urrainn dhomh a ràdh le cinnt, ach tha e gu tur coltach gun d’fhuair comann an taigheadais an seic bhuamsa. On a thàinig e am barr nach robh fiach cìs comhairle orm idir, tha mi gun fhiachan mu dheireadh thall a-rithist.

Mar sin dheth, pàipear-balla ùr air an laptop agam a-nis. Oir ràinig mi an geata, agus tha agam ri dhol tarsainn drochaid, mar gum biodh: feumaidh mi crìoch a chur ri ‘giullachadh’ nan dealbhan agam, mus tòisich mi leabhraichean-latha is cuimhneachain a ghiullachadh.

Drochaid a’ Chonghail thar Loch Eite.


Tha fhios gum bidh drochaidean eile ann aig an aon àm. Mar eisimpleir, an craobh Fhrangach Duolingo a chrìochnachadh, fastaiche atharrachadh (dìreach fastaiche, seach obair, ge-tà), an t-samhradh ann am meadhan na h-Eòrpa fhulang agus mar sin sìos. Ach ’s e an rud as cudromaiche an-dràsta na dealbhan. Chan atharraich mi am pàipear-balla gus an coilean mi an gnìomh-sa.
 

Ach drochaid gu buileach eile a-nochd: èistidh mi, a’ chiad turas, ri Ropewalk – a cheannaich mi san t-Sultain an uiridh …

 

Fiachan na h-Alba

Phàigh mi air ais Housing Benefit Overpayment an-uiridh, cho luath ’s a d’fhuair mi tax refund; stad a’ bhanca àrachas an taighe a thoirt air falbh às an cunntas agam leotha fhèin. Ach bha mi a’ caomhnadh cha mhòr bliadhna mus robh mi cinnteach gun robh airgead gu leòr agam airson fhiachan màil is cìs comhairle a phàigheadh. (Bha cosgaisean riatanach eile agam cuideachd.)

Abair iongnadh, ge-tà, dar a fhreagair comann an taigheadais nach do dh’iarr iad ach £110.01 (bha mi an dùil air ’s mathaid ceithir ceud gu leth). Leis nach eil iadsan toilichte àireamh an cunntais aca a chur ann am post-d, leis nach eil mise toilichte fònadh, agus leis nach eil am banca an seo cleachdte ri seicichean, chan eil a’ chùis seo air a coileanadh fhathast.

Abair iongnadh eile, ge-tà, as dèidh dhuinn an t-seic a chur a-null (gun chinnt gum faod an comann ga cleachdadh mar a tha i), dar a leugh mi post-d o Chomhairle Cathair Ghlaschu, ag ràdh nach eil mu dheidhinn £160 acasan ormsa, ach thar £180 agamsa orrasan.

Ma sgrìobh mi dhaibh uile an-uiridh dar a thig mi an seo, gheibhinn an t-airgead bhon Chomhairle agus phàighinn comann an taigheadais leis … Co-dhiù, ‘is fhearr deireadh math na droch-thoiseach’: cho tràth ’s a nì mi chùis air fiachan na màil, bidh mi gun fhiachan sam bith – agus tha airgead gu leòr agam mu thràth eadhon nam briseadh an laptop agus an Kindle agam.

 

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.

 

Nouveau fond d’écran

Finalement, j’ai changé mon fond d’écran à cause de ce qui est arrivé au milieu de janvier. (J’avais le fond d’écran précédent depuis septembre. Exactement cinq mois et cinq jour. Ça doit être un record.)

La première porte sur le Sentier de l’Ermitage près de Dunkeld.


C’est un peu symbolique: métaphoriquement, je suis encore sur la route, avec l’espoir, et la porte est comme mes dettes. Je pense avoir le prochain fond d’écran lorsqu’ils sont payés.

 

St Mungo’s Day, 2016

I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.

(Chumbawamba: Tubthumping)

 

And then I experienced a change of perspective.

For months I had been reconciling myself to the story of my life being over, with just the epilogue to live through. But depression and hopelessness are like fear and worries. You can only bear so much. One day you either break down under them altogether, or you observe with some surprise that they no longer bother you.

Back in ’99, after months of tension, I suddenly found myself relaxed again. Two weeks ago, after months of dejection, I suddenly found myself content again. And instead of intending to simply conclude what remained of my days stuck where I was, reminiscing on my own about the past, I found myself resolved to try and get back home again.

I’m not deluding myself. I realise I probably won’t succeed. (Besides, that depression and misgivings will recur.) But I’m determined to try; I have a purpose and I feel alive once more. More alive than ever since my exile began anyway.
 

Incidentally, the fact that this happened on St Mungo’s Day is completely coincidental, just like its also being Stephen Hendry’s birthday. So were the tautology of that ’99 day and its being an anniversary of the battle of Flodden. But I guess that similarly to those, these new ones will make me remember the date even after years.

ETA, 13/1/17: Coincidental too the fact that one year later this would be the first full day I’d spend outside the hospital after the chemoradiotherapy stint there.

 

Bereft of favourite music

I loved you when our love was blessed, I love you now there’s nothing left but sorrow and a sense of overtime. And I missed you since the place got wrecked, and I just don’t care what happens next, it looks like freedom but it feels like death, it’s something in between I guess: it’s closing time.

(Leonard Cohen: Closing Time)

 

Having no future has its advantages: nothing disappoints you; you have nothing to worry about; it’s a relatively effortless life . . . Still, the disadvantages prevail: you have nothing to look forward to; you experience no strong negative emotions, but neither you experience any strong positive ones; in short, you don’t live – you just plod along, waiting for the end.

One of the unexpected disadvantages was that I found out I could no longer listen to most of my favourite songs. Except for those by determinedly melancholic authors like Simon and Cohen, all of my best-loved albums feature one or more songs firmly associated in my mind with some pleasant memory of the days when there was still some hope left. They could have hurt too much: I became afraid of what I had loved best and began deliberately avoiding it.

 

2015

There isn’t much to say. After some half-hearted attempts at staying I bottled out of it all and returned to the old country, penniless and homeless. (There was a combination of reasons, but more on those in a separate post.) With the help of an old friend I found an accommodation and a job, and thus survived. Nothing more. Survived and kept going, but driven solely by the instinct of self-preservation.

The likelihood of my being able to get back home is, all things considered, minimal. I have obviously sentenced myself to spending the rest of my life in exile, both mental and physical. Ay, where there’s life there’s hope, but in all probability this Vonnegut quote is applicable: “life as a shapely story has ended, and all that remains to be experienced is the epilogue. Life is not over, but the story is.”

 

Medical specialists

What with one thing and another, I kept postponing my first visits to a dentist and an optician since returning from the Isles for months. In early December I finally did force myself to go see them, but only got appointments. Each of them for the ‘earliest possible date’ – both in mid-February . . .

 

Àm geamhraidh mu dheireadh thall

Ged nach eil an t-sìde a’ coimhead geamhrachail idir . . . Ach, tha deireadh na bliadhna ann, agus thàining an latha ris do rinn mi fiughair ùine fhada. Le uiread dhe sioftaichean a bharrachd, cha robh fichead latha dheth agam bhon làithean-saora an Lùnastail. Thill mi à siofta feasgair Haoine ge-tà, tè mu dheireadh dhen bhliadhna seo. Ceithir làithean dheth a-nis; agus as dèidh ceithir latha a’ tadhal air mo phàrantan (chan eil togail agam ri sin, ach gheall mi), naoi latha dheth eile mus bi agam a dhol dhan obair a-rithist. Cha chreid mi nach eil mi airidh orra.

(Cha do dh’atharraich mi pàipear-balla mo laptoip ge-tà, dìreach na sàbhalaichean-sgrìn. Chan eil adhbhar ann. San obair no aig an taigh, tha mi fhathast nam fhògarrach.)

 

Air pollution

Four years ago I wrote here that for whatever reason, only a few days after moving from Budweis to Glasgow my breathing improved. Now I’m back I suspect it’s really about the air, not about how much I smoke or exercise.

Shortly after returning I realised that Prague Street stinks with exhaust fumes at least as much as Hope Street, despite being no more enclosed by buildings than Maryhill Road. And the other day I opened my window to air the room only to shut it again, there was so much chimney smoke outside.

I often complained about Glasgow being too windy for my liking, but obviously even this had its advantage.