I’ve been postponing this post for weeks and weeks, because I don’t really know how to write it. I’d like to note down everything, from first noticing him while he was still in the detox to our final goodbye some four months later in front of the nurses’ room; every occupational and walking therapy we were both involved in, every smoking-area repartee and every short-but-serious conversation we ever had, every time I simply enjoyed surreptitiously watching him, everything . . . . but of course that would take ages. I’d never be able to finish it.

Suffice it to say that he was the thirteenth guy I fell in love with since the end of my National Service days, and amongst these thirteen affections, this one was probably the strangest. Because despite the fact that unlike me he was straight, young and gorgeous to look at, we seemed to be, intellectually, more or less on the same wavelength. To the extent that there was definitely a sort of rapport between us.

And yet during the almost four months we spent at the same ward we rarely talked, or at least not as much as I would have wished us to. Partly no doubt due to my typical aloofness deriving from the usual fear of becoming “that embarrassing interloping old queer”. So I never even dared to ask for his email or phone number: when he left, even such communication as we’d had came to an instant end. The chances I’ll ever hear some news about him, let alone meet him again, are infinitesimal.

Do I still miss him? Definitely; sometimes sorely. But I don’t think that a couple of years from now I’ll still miss him as much as I still miss Tommy almost three years after we parted. I’ll get along.



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.


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.


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.



I had a vague idea what OCD was for several years: knew about the condition before Tommy and me sometimes jokingly accused each other of having it. It was only recently, however, that I discovered I might really have it myself.

I bought Overcoming Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by David Veale and Rob Willson and began reading it. But while I’m sure I show symptoms for one kind of OCD, namely the “excessive concern with exactness, order, and symmetry” kind, I always halt when I read the word anxious. I definitely would not label my emotion when things are not ‘neat and tidy’ as anxiety: the correct word is annoyance.

But the authors brought my attention to another condition, one I had never heard of before: obsessive compulsive personality disorder, which has other symptoms I definitely show, like “constantly making lists” and more to be found in Wikipedia’s leader.

OCPD, then? Who knows. More probably than OCD; then again, I have not shed the suspicion that it may in fact be Asperger’s.


Overbreeding effect on climate change

A new study seems to vindicate a post I wrote two weeks ago. Apparently each child you don’t have saves 58.6 tonnes of CO2-equivalent per year.

The article as a whole gives me the impression that I must less of a burden for the environment than most people around me. I have no child, no car and never flew over the Atlantic. My being an omnivore and washing clothes in warm water look fairly unimportant in comparison.


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.


Feasag chuairteach

Chan eil fhios agam an e seo an dòigh as fheàrr airson a gairm (fìrinn innse, chan eil fhios agam an e ‘circle beard’ an dòigh as fheàrr airson a gairm sa Bheurla), ach tha mi a’ ciallachadh seo. Thòisich mi stais fhàs dar a bha mi dà fhichead bliadhna a dh’aois, a’ smaointeachadh gun tòisichinn fàs feasag chuairteach dar a bhiodh mi leth-cheud (agus gun sguirinn beàrradh gu tur dar a bhiodh mi trì fichead). Ach o chionn beagan mìosan, cho-dhùin mi gum bithinn ‘seann gu leòr’ a-cheana nam biodh mi as dèidh aillse a bhith agam. Uill, thuirt an dotair gur dòcha gun deach an t-at à sealladh, agus cha do bheàrr mi ach mo ghruaidhean bhon àm sin.


170712: Busy, busy day

Incidentally the twenty-second anniversary of the last time I had sex, but that’s irrelevant: what made it busy was all related to the near future, rather than to distant past. First the landlord came for the rent and I had to disclose to him I was about to leave soon: he took it surprisingly equanimously. Then I went out myself to the office of my internet provider: although it took some time, I finally did make the lady behind the counter fill in the contract termination form. After which I visited the local branch of the state department responsible for pensions and mined them for information about the possibility of getting some income on account of the consequences of the cancer and the cure: I even got the necessary forms, even though in the end we concluded it would be better to apply after my rehab stint.

It’s been like this for some time: days or weeks of having no appointments alternating with days or weeks of having several. But I was quite satisfied at the end of this one, because I did follow all the negotiations through without bottling out of anything. Rather unusual for me to be honest.


Pet Sounds

Saw a documentary about the Beach Boys and the Pet Sounds album and was surprised by three things. One, that I’d never before heard I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, with its lyrics I can completly subcribe to (pity the music’s so bland though). Two, that Good Vibrations (possibly my favourite song of the band) doesn’t actually feature on the album. But most of all … why the fuck had I thought they were Australians? Who the fuck had I mixed them up with?



Some English schoolboys protested against having to wear long trousers during the latest heatwave by wearing skirts instead, and apparently won their fight.

Good on them, but interestingly the photos show them in buttoned-up shirts and ties, which reminds me of all those guys wearing shorts, even sandals – and zipped-up fleece tops. I could never understand this. Maybe it’s down to my blood circulation, but as far as I’m concerned, the chest and neck get unpleasantly hot long before the legs. I’m more likely to feel comfortable naked to the waist, while below it wearing heavy-duty denims, thick socks and boots.

So I find it much more understandable when John Bercow accepts tie-less MPs in the House of Commons.


Latent male chauvinism

The other day I began reading a short introduction to Hinduism. It’s a topic I know pathetically little about, considering; however, the first surprise had nothing to do with the religion. The forename didn’t warn me, but it soon became apparent that the author was a woman. Now the rational part of my mind always insisted that generally speaking, neither men nor women were more able in any intellectual task than the other sex. Yet now I immediately felt a slight irrational disappointment, as if the writer’s being female meant in itself a lower standard of the writing.

Perhaps the next time I come across another stupid remark by some chauvinist (whether male or female) I better remember the mote in my eye before smirking at the beam in theirs.

(Incidentally, soon after she mentioned she was also a Quaker. Which at first felt sort of reassuring, but on second thoughts, it shouldn’t do that either. On the other hand, the author’s gender does influence the outcome: when describing the Ramayana, much more attention is paid to Sita than to Rama, let alone to Ravana.)


Daniel Freeman, Jason Freeman: Anxiety: A Very Short Introduction

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 …


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 . . .


Words of the year?

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.


PET/CT scan

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.


Quote: Andrew Marr about keeping a diary

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”)

A quarter of a century out of college

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.