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.



Brae: first impressions

Maybe it’s only wishful thinking: after all, what seems like ages ago I’d spent my best and most formative days here. Nevertheless, ever since coming back in January it seemed to me this city was perceptibly closer in character to Glasgow than the one where I’d spent most of the intermediate years had been. The architecture, the way people look and behave, even the weather . . . On my second Sunday here I had a stroll around the city centre and later noted down in my diary that “it can never be Glasgow or the Brae of old but I can relearn to like this city like I never liked Budweis”.



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.)


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.


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.


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.


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 …)



’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 . . .



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.



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.