Something I wrote years ago and got to thinking about this morning.
The day always started like this. He never intended it to, but it always did. Let’s face it, All-Bran tastes like shit – he wouldn’t even give the budgie that crap – and the well-intentioned cup of tea just never seemed as appealing as the four-pack of cheap unbranded lager from the local offy. And so Danny Allinson cracked open his first can of the day. It was half past eight.
It wasn’t always like this. The faded poster on the wall of the bedsit spoke of a British heavyweight title fight. He was 23 at the time, four years a pro, but it was a step too far and too soon. His opponent that night, Carl Lonergan, was nearly ten years his senior with twice the number of fights under his belt and gave him the mother of all beatings. Sure, Danny had tried to come back, but he was always ‘that lad that got his head woven into the canvas against Lonergan’. After that, he was just a stepping stone for any other young fighter on the way up. He wanted to advise them, let them know what they were getting into. Tell them not to go anywhere near his manager when they’d beaten him.
His manager, Alan Crossley, was a grade A twat. Said he’d put all his prize money in a trust fund. What the fuck did Danny know about trust funds? Apart from the lack of trust that is, which he found out when Crossley legged it to Barmouth with the whole lot, leaving Danny penniless. He’d had an aversion to Wales since then.
He’d squeaked out a living on the doors in town, but once people got to know who he was, they’d all fancy a crack at him after ten pints. “Take him on his left Dave”, he’d heard one bloke say. “He always drops his left, that’s how Lonergan got him”. The fury washed over him and seven months in Armley for ABH was the result. That was his door security career finished.
The benefits paid for the bedsit, a few cans of beer and the occasional packet of Old Holborn. He wasn’t a big smoker, never had been, but a roll-up once in a while took the edge off that first drink of the day. Now and then, he’d have enough for some millet for the budgie. He could never work out how he came by that thing. Pointless bloody bird. He’d called it Adam Faith. It was his idea of irony.
The loss of the money was the start of it – the drinking. By that time, his legs had gone. He was no use as a fighter any more, not that he wanted to carry on. He’d had enough years before, but just kept going. One more. Just one more. It became a mantra to him, he’d said it so often to the wife. The wife… There’s another story. Once the gravy train had stopped calling at Allinson Junction, she’d soon buggered off. She took the boy. No idea where he is now. Probably university age these days. Danny would have liked university. A different crowd to the lowlives he mixed with at that age. And he was smart, but that didn’t matter much when his dad got ill. Money. That was what mattered and Danny knew that a lad who could punch could earn some, much more than the coal board were going to cough up. That was his dad’s pun.
“Bugger this”, he said to Adam Faith, swilling down the dregs of the can and heading for the bookies. Two hours and four races later, he’d done all his remaining money and was back within the four walls of the bedsit. He was sick in the sink. Grab another can. That should take the taste away. “How the fuck did this happen?”. Adam Faith didn’t reply, merely headbutting the small mirror Danny had found round by the chippy. “I looked after meself” Danny continued, scarcely noticing Adam Faith’s indifference. “I liked school. I getting good marks until… well, you know”. Adam Faith didn’t know, or if he did, he wasn’t letting on. Danny threw the can across the room. “It’s all that bastard’s fault!” he yelled. He could hear them downstairs, perturbed by the noise.
He went next door. Little Marco was about the closest thing he had to a friend. Marco was six and loved Adam Faith – the bird, that is – and would pop round sometimes to see him. “Look after him Marco”, Danny told the young lad as he handed the cage over. He went back to the flat. He packed a bag. A change of clothes, a train timetable, an emergency can of lager and his dad’s old hunting knife – the only thing he’d left Danny.
Tomorrow wouldn’t start the same way. Tomorrow, he was off to Barmouth.
- Never drink owt you can’t see through
- Never eat anything bigger than your head
- Never have a pet that does bigger shits than you do (courtesy @sugwindfire)
The other day, I put a TV stand together. The kit came with absolutely bloody loads of screws. Two-thirds of them were totally not useful as well, so why they were in the pack I don’t know. Did I throw them away? Of course I didn’t and now my toolbox has even more loose screws in it than before. Along with the random washers, clips, pins, nails, fasteners and sundry other items that ‘might be useful one day’. And that prompted this.
I open my toolbox; it’s full of loose screws.
Screws! Screws that I’ll never use –
I’ll never use but I dare not lose.
‘Is it some sort of madness?’ I’m oft prone to muse.
‘Have I a screw loose?’ No, I’ve loose screws.
They may come in handy, I always say.
They haven’t as yet, but they may do some day.
‘How?’ you may ask. ‘Handy in what way?’
That question I cannot answer today,
But in my toolbox they’ll all have to stay.
Yeah, more stuff about depression. Sorry about that, but when you live with it you find that it kind of dominates things. Even when you’re not feeling down, there’s a shadow, a presence, even if it is diminished for however long.
Anyway, it’s not my fault it’s topical again. No, it’s Johann Hari‘s. He’s written a book and been doing the rounds on various channels, not least Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast (RHLSTP). The book has been critiqued by many. I’ve not read it and don’t intend to. I love me a bit of RHLSTP, not just because of the celebrity York City fan aspect, but I had to turn this one off.
I do not doubt Hari’s experiences with depression – and lord knows he’s given us all ammunition to do just that, but let’s be charitable. I do not doubt that what he talks about – and I refer specifically to the podcast here – can and has worked for him. Much of it bears a truth as far as I can see, though only goes part way to making an understanding of what goes on in a depressed person’s brain. The big selling point of the book seems to be these new revelations about lifestyle – societal rather than personal – factors weighing so heavily on the id which, so far as I can tell, aren’t really revelatory at all.
I’m not having a go at Hari – I’ve not read the book so can’t really dive in like Dean Burnett did. More, I want to explore this line of thinking.
At least in part my own depression, I came to work out, lay in this existential angst of my place in the modern world, in a neo-liberal end-game capitalist era. This article from George Monbiot really struck a chord with me. On the back of it, I bought the Paul Verhaeghe book cited within, What About Me?, and again it helped me make a lot of sense about what I was feeling and how utterly misplaced I was within modern society. Still am, really, just better able to understand why. And I keep forgetting the key takeaway – I’m probably a deviant and should be proud of the fact.
Obviously that’s not all there is to it and someone else’s experience of depression will not tally at all with mine. Verhaeghe’s book was no more a magic bullet than any other possibly could be, and from what I’ve read and heard, neither will Hari’s. What worries me more is that Hari’s is being marketed as that magic bullet. Listen to this and all will be fine. And that’s potentially dangerous.
Depression is complex and it’s crafty. It changes. There is no checklist to tick off a few items and declare yourself fixed. I guess what I’m saying is take with a large pinch of salt anyone suggesting otherwise. By all means read Hari’s book, just take it as one bloke’s experience and how he dealt with the issues he was facing, and don’t take it as a recipe book on how to fix depression. There are all sorts of therapies out there – yes, referrals take time and that – as well as medication. Some will work for you. Some won’t. And that’s absolutely fine. You will find one that works for you. Just beware the snake oil salesman.
These aren’t resolutions, but aspirations.
By this time next year, I want to have had my book published (I’m assured this will happen), make a record (I believe this to be achievable) and play some more proper gigs (this is the least likely).
Anything over that is a bonus.
Oh, and not die in the first blast of the nuclear war that man-baby about to assume the White House will launch when someone is rude to him on Twitter.
“Keep off my ancient lands!” cries she
“Send your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost back to sea”
America, you’re a twat.
Your new President has extremely thin skin –
An open racist has just got in.
The KKK are celebrating the win.
America, you’re a twat.
You’ve had 200 years in which to grow the fuck up.
The whole thing runs the risk of blowing up
When you see that you’ve been sold a pup.
America, you’re a twat.
Fucking Donald fucking Trump?
That compulsively lying fucking chump?
With you and your country I’ve right got the hump.
America, you’re a twat.
The whole thing is just fucking absurd.
Into a maelstrom we’ve all been hurled.
And now begins the end of the world.
America, stop being a twat.
David Bowie would know what to do.
I’m starting to think he was society’s glue.
Oh, to go back a month or two
When America was less of a twat.
I am a Labour party member. I’ve got the card and everything. I’ve not been a member that long – I joined shortly after the 2015 election in the spirit of ‘oh dear sweet christ how did that lot get in again?’ – but I’ve yet to be excluded from the upcoming leadership election.
I voted for Jeremy Corbyn last time this came round in what I assume is a now-annual competition. I did so because he seemed to be the only candidate that wasn’t blaming the loss at the 2015 election on Labour not being Tory enough. In trying to be slightly less nasty than the Tories, the opposition under Ed Miliband didn’t seem to be doing much in the way of opposing and carrying on like that was unlikely to get a Labour government of the sort I believe would be helpful to the nation into power.
I’ve liked some of what Corbyn has tried to do, but attempting to play a different game – his fabled new, kinder style of politics – when nobody else is aware of the rules just doesn’t work. And in that space, any message gets lost. And there have been plenty of times where strong leadership is required and we’ve not seen it, particularly surrounding the base level of debate around his leadership.
The manoeuvrings of the parliamentary party, at odds with the membership’s overwhelming choice, was depressing and dispiriting. If that energy had been directed at opposing an utter shambles of a government we might be getting somewhere. But a leader needs to command not just a mandate from members, but also from the party’s MPs so it’s clear that Corbyn’s position has been untenable for a while.
It’s said that he’s unelectable – always a highly subjective statement – and that there’s no point having principles if you never get the power to legislate in accordance with those principles. Which sounds to me like suggesting that the only way to gain power is to lie to the electorate and do lots of other stuff when you get in. That sounds an awful lot like the sort of thing we’d all scream about should the Tories do it and a lot like the laughable Leave campaign in the EU referendum. He may be unelectable – the polls make ugly reading – but I wouldn’t particularly want to fight the next election on a sham of a manifesto.
I think probably that a change is required. But the alternative being offered isn’t that appetising. Owen Smith seems to represent the option that reverts to the sort of position that lost Labour the last election and more or less support the neoliberalism that clearly, abjectly and demonstrably failed in 2008, albeit in a slightly different shade.
In other words, I don’t know what I’m going to do when my ballot arrives. Go for someone I don’t think it very good at leading the opposition or someone who former DoSAC minister Hugh Abbott would doubtless have described as a brushed aluminium cyber-prick. I don’t know. And I’m not going to call anyone names on social media if they disagree.
EDIT: BUT I’m always less likely to find common ground with anyone who thinks homeopathy is anything but pure quackery.