Needless to say, I knew a fair amount already (or suspected, like the role of having had “overprotective or controlling parents” – I had overprotective and controlling ones). Needless to say, I learned a fair amount of what I didn’t know (eg that environment is generally more to blame than genes). And needless to say, the book hardly gave me any advice except the obvious “maintain a healthy lifestyle; if this doesn’t help, find a CBT therapist or have some pills prescribed”.
The only thing which really surprised me was my results from the self-assessment questionnaires. Not the social phobia one (19 out of 68 possibly indicating the condition: I scored 35). But the fact that I scored much higher for OCD (21 out of 72, me 33) than for generalised anxiety disorder (60 out of 80, me 60). I pondered this and concluded it’s probably correct. While I’m definitely a worrier, and while I’m not know for exceptional cleanliness or ‘hoarding’, I’m probably more prone to obssessive-compulsive ‘checking’ and ‘ordering’ than I’m willing to admit to myself. Now, there’s something I might probably work on …
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 . . .
It appears that despite my conviction, which has lasted for decades, I may not be five foot eleven but one inch less. Either my bones have shortened with age; or the meter here in the hospital is imprecise; or whatever meter I was measured against for the last time all those years ago was.
I must really be quite out of touch with the mainstream. Not only had I never seen the word post-truth before reading that Oxford Dictionaries chose it for their ‘word of the year 2016’. In the shortlist I only recognised hygge and Latinx, and those because I’d read some other articles discussing them (as opposed to using them). Brexiteer, coulrophobia, adulting, chatbot, glass cliff, alt-right and woke (in the sense described) were as unfamiliar to me as the Japanese words mentioned in another recent OD blogpost.
All the jabs, cannulas, radiotracers and whatnot troubled me none. But the 18 minutes of the PET scan, with nothing happening save for the bench on which I lay moving (ever so slowly) through the scanner, were eternal. Once again I was on the verge of breaking down, giving in and interrupting the process. Of course it’s psychosomatic – there’s no pain, you just wait motionlessly while the time drags on … and on … and on – but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. To think I’m in for a few dozen radiotherapy sessions like this, shorter, ten-minute ones, but with the claustrophobic mask on my face … the only hope is in the old saying that one gets used to everything.
I write a diary every day and have done for many, many years. It’s a kind of idiotic schoolboy diary, “Got up, sun shining, had eggs for breakfast, very tasty” – that kind of diary. I ask myself why I’m writing it. And I think it’s an act of kind of mental hygiene, a sort of throat-clearing every day, a tic, a habit, and also, of course, outrageous vanity.
(From the first programme, “James Boswell”, of a BBC Two series “Great Scots: The Writers Who Shaped a Nation”)
On 5 July it was 25 years to a day since I left KSK, the student hostel I’d been staying in for the five previous years. I would revisit a few times while some of my former crowd still remained there; there would be quite a few trips together and other reunions; to this day I keep in – however rare – contact with a handful of my former college mates. And I still consider those five years (plus the next one in the National Service) as the best days of my life. But somehow I don’t reminisce about them all that often nowadays. And the handful of old friends are the only ones from that period that I’m still interested in meeting with. Somehow … somehow my three years in Scotland overlaid those older memories.
The KSK days were the only ones in my life when I felt like I really belonged where I was. An indisputable insider within a community I cared about. They were the best: no two ways about it. But the Scottish days were the second best … and they’re much closer in time.
A lot has happened since my last post like this. Once again, I’m living on the Net and only ‘occurring’ in the so-called real life. Unlike before my migration attempt, however, I’m mostly just observing what happens, without communicating much with anybody even online.
There is the nice portmanteau netizen, created as a blend of net and citizen. It would be nice if there was a similar blend made from net and hermit (what about nermit?), because that’s what I feel like now.
There’d been no contact between Lùc and me for over a year, so the other day I deleted his email address from my Thunderbird address book. And I realised there’s only a handful of people left to me.
There are many I still enjoy reminiscing about. There are many I lost touch with long ago. There are many about whose present lives I might like to hear. Nevertheless, for various reasons I’d rather not reconnect with them; I certainly wouldn’t be interested in meeting most of them.
There’s only a handful of people I really care about left, and fewer whom I’d really prefer to sit with and talk to to sitting here alone at my laptop: Jamie, Falcon, Rob and Tommy. Maybe Ziggy and Köln.
An old, sad, burnt-out sod. And I’m not even fufty yet . . .
I won’t be around to see what happens, that’s the only irritating thing about dying. I won’t be around to see what happens next.
(cited in Geldof from rock star to tech entrepreneur, BBC 21 Jan 16)
I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.
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.
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.
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.”
On an early December day shift a strange thing happened.
It wasn’t that we ran out of wire; these things happen. Not even that when I ran to tell the young workmate responsible and we were already heading back to set things right another workmate approached us yelling about the matter. He’d been recently jilted. Nor that when they kept on shouting I tried to reconcile the conflict. I often do, against my better judgement.
The strange thing was that when the older guy turned and began shouting at me to shut up and mind my own business, I shouted back at him to shut up and mind his own business. Well, in a sense the wires were a business of all three of us. The point is that I’m a natural coward. An here I was, taking somebody else’s part against somebody else bullying him.
What followed was something I’d often read about but never experienced first-hand: the bully did shut up. We went on with our work; I didn’t even need to go and have a fag. Sure, the scene did keep replaying in my mind, but all in all I was surprised how little it troubled me. (The silent ‘Thanks!’ from the young guy may have helped.)
I later pondered about it and decided that however out of character I acted, I did the right thing, come what may*. As in ’89, when I joined the Strike, convinced that its potential success would make life worse for me but better for my friends . . . Maybe that’s what helped me do it. Like back then, I don’t see before me any future worth worrying about, so I can afford this kind desperate courage . . .
* What came was that one workmate stopped talking to me while another sort of began giving me preferential treatment. And incidentally, another odd aspect of the case is that the ‘attacker’ is much closer to me in age (41) and a gay (not that I’m known there to be one), while the young (28) one is not only straight but also, as far as I’m concerned, altogether unsightly.
That is to say, the 1980 short film. Watched it as a YouTube video with the director’s introduction. Nothing outstanding, to be honest, although the landscapes are fine (some reminded me of similar landscapes I’d been to) and so is the music. I suspect that the temporary popularity it gained a few years ago was largely due to its having been originally screened before the second Star Wars film, lost and found again.
Then again, perhaps I’m still too restive; this is a movie for the relaxed and patient. And I’m glad I’ve finally found the time to watch it (I’ve had it bookmarked for months) for precisely this reason. It must have been months since I’d last sit down and watched any video longer than ten minutes. After rediscovering the pleasure of long reading, perhaps I’ll rediscover the pleasure of watching a full-length movie before this year is over as well.
One day last month it occurred to me that as I’d got broadband in my digs, carrying my Lumia 530 with me to work every day was silly, as I was only using it during the time as a substitute watch. For which my considerably smaller old Nokia 1200 is more suitable.
I then thought some more and concluded this didn’t apply only for workdays. So that now I mostly use my ‘smartphone’ (admittedly, it was never all that smart anyway) as a better sort of a landline: one with an alarm clock which can do messaging as well. I only take it out with me if I expect some particular call, and that doesn’t happen every week.
I know I’m – once again – swimming against the tide without wishing to. I know that according to Ofcom1, Scotland became “a smartphone society” in which these devices overtook laptops as “the most important for internet access” (this was indirectly borne out by an HIE study2, according to which young people in the area view mobile connectivity as more important than broadband).
Still, I’m – once again – unwilling to do something I find (in comparison) inconvenient just because it’s society’s general trend.
 Ofcom: The Communications Market Report: Scotland : Scotland becomes “a smartphone society”
“About four in ten (37%) internet users cite smartphones as the most important device for accessing the internet compared to 26% for their laptop. […] Half of internet users aged 16-34 (50%) and more than four in ten (45%) aged 35-54 say a smartphone is the most important device for going online.”
 HIE: Young People and the Highlands and Islands: Attitudes and Aspirations Research : Attitudes and Aspirations survey – final report
“Mobile coverage is now more important than NGA broadband, with 51% saying improved mobile connectivity is very important (ranked 7th) to make H&I more attractive, compared to 48% stating it is very important for NGA (ranked joint 10th).” (p 101)
“Overall, mobile connectivity is cited as the 7th most important factor in making the H&I a more attractive place to live, higher than NGA broadband, rated 11th.” (p 113)
C’est étrange: je suis ici un mois, et je n’ai pas me branlé une fois. Peut-être, ceci ne se passe pas depuis mon enfance. Je peux me branler, parfois, mais je n’ai pas envie de faire ça. C’est vraiment bizarre.
The other day I wanted to prove something to Tommy using certain old documents of mine. Instead, he proved to me that in the previous fiscal year I had paid one instalment of council tax too many. And that I had already paid all I should have for this one. The next day, I got remuneration for holidays I had been entitled to but hadn’t taken in my last job.
Two of these three revelations were of course immediately pleasing, but thinking it over all this is rather worrying. I always thought that one of my both strong and weak (depending on circumstances) traits was pedantry. It seems I’m either heading into the opposite extreme or getting senile . . .
I’m not an easy victim of advertisements. I can admire, as a sort of piece of art, an original, funny, or surprising one, but that bears no relation to the probability of my buying the advertised product. I tend to stick to good old “quality advertises itself” and rely on reports of those who have already tried it.
I certainly wouldn’t buy a bottle of Laphroaig for the sake of obtaining (“for my lifetime”) a square foot of land on Islay. But having bought one and found out about the scheme, I couldn’t help registering – just for the fun of having the certificate confirming my ‘ownership’ of said 1ft2 hanging on my wall.
I was a bit worried about how I would cope with ten 10-hour day shifts in a row, but in the end I managed all right. Having to neglect the Net wasn’t all that frustrating, and I was rather surprised that on most of the nights I even found the time for a proper dinner. (All the same, at the end of it I was exhausted – not physically, but by the routine of it.)
And several glimpses of those days remain in my memory, both related and unrelated to the actual job:
Noticing that the Speirs Wharf footbridge had finally been opened (and actually walking across it a couple of days later).
Going out to do something in the town during a tea time like a true Briton: without taking off the hi-viz vest.
Receiving a letter from the Sheriff Court. What could I have done? Quite on the contrary, I had been selected for “Potential Jury Service”. I don’t know whether with my auditory verbal agnosia I would make a good one; anyway, I had to inform them I hadn’t been in the country long enough to qualify.
And finally overhearing somebody call my city [ˈglɛzgə] rather than [ˈglɑːzgo:]…