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I have been trying to understand why I lost my passion for music. Until the age of about 45 I was a music nut. I would play music every day, assiduously follow developments on the scene, come home drunk and fall asleep with headphones on. And then... I just stopped. It didn't work for me anymore. New music sounded old and tired. I am starting to think that might have been largely because I was feeling that way too. My love for music was driven by an internal heat, an optimistic energy that started to slip away in middle age.
Once I left childhood it became very clear to me that any form of eternal existence would be truly hellish. We are temporal entities: one of our very essences is that we are locked in time; it envelops and permeates us; it is one of our most defining parameters. Therefore, to exist eternally would be unbearable; it would destroy our sanity. The only way this could be avoided would be if we were to cease to be temporal creatures. And then we would not be ourselves anymore. We would be someone...
... else entirely. Failing to understand this is stupidity.
The suicide rate increases at Christmas. People commit suicide at Christmas - or rather in response to Christmas - not because they are envious of other people’s happiness, but because the general air of celebration and family and giving and receiving and human warmth makes their lack of these things intolerable. The rest of the year they can get by, because the more fortunate are not so visibly celebrating their fortune. This is why the vastly premature Christmas ads, events, decorations etc. we are subjected to are not only crass, but actually cruel. You are rubbing their faces in it for longer.
People have said I'm a stick-in-the-mud, that I never change. Here's one way in which I have changed: I used to think it was as bad as a cardinal sin to dog-ear the pages of a book. It used to strike me as bordering on vandalism, and it outraged my sense of decency and propriety.
Now I do it all the time, and I don't give a damn. It's just obviously the easiest and most convenient way to mark the pages with the good bits. I mean, fuck it, it really doesn't matter. What was I thinking?
It's not McDonalds.
It's not the school prom.
It's not KFC.
It's not Starbucks.
It's not Marvel DC Batman bollocks.
It's not that Johnson is Trump.
It's that on the 31st of October fireworks filled the air until past midnight, and tonight is almost silent.
I don't want my country back. I was never that enamoured with it. I just want the country I have now even less. This is a zombie nation, rotten inside and out; a shambling, stumbling remnant of something at least once alive. The only things living here now are gangrene-fattened maggots. I want out.
No, this weather is not “lovely”. I mean, objectively it’s nice that well into November the sun is out, and there is no frost, and it even feels quite mild as long as the wind stays low. But subjectively, you should be absolutely horrified by this weather. It is almost mid-November, for Christ’s sake. I should be wrapped up in gloves, scarf, sweater and a big coat; not perfectly comfortable in T-shirt and light jacket. Do you really not understand that this is terrifying, not “lovely”? Why are you just another profoundly unintelligent little monkey? Don’t you see this?
Evil can be genetic. You will never, ever, persuade me otherwise. I have lived too long, seen too much, and paid too much attention to people and events to buy the silly, childish, feel-good idiocy that says all bad behaviour can be explained by upbringing and environment. Lamping: a genetically-wicked scumbag deliberately goes out with a vicious dog and a torch. Finds a cat, dazzles it with the light and then sets the dog on it, which tears the cat to pieces. That is raw, inherent, sadistic evil. If you truly cannot accept this, you are genetically stupid.
It is one of life’s saddest mysteries that even though most people, male and female, love sex and crave it fiercely, it can be an absolute bastard to get. And don’t bother mentioning prostitutes and gigolos; I’m talking about mutual desire and mutually desired sex, not a tawdry transaction with someone who wants your money, not your body, mind, hands, lips and tongue. Why is it so fucking hard? We want to get drunk; that’s easy. We want to go on holiday, have a nice meal, go to bed... easy. But sex, man. Bloody sex. Why is it so hard?
If I could give just one piece of advice to my ghost child it would be this: learn to be alone. This seems to me to be the most important life skill, especially if you are going to live long. Essentially, we all navigate this bizarre experience alone. Most of us will also do so literally, at some point. Loneliness, unpartnering, rejection, bereavement... and even when we are “with” someone, we are alone. Stop. Feel it. Feeling it is like a bleak solipsism, but one accepting of the existence of others whilst also knowing the unbridgeable existential gulf between us.
Families. Husbands, wives and friends. Normal people. Please know that when you party with friends there’s a sad sack shift worker next door who won’t sleep tonight, because of you, because of your fun, because of your friends, because of your happy racket; and please also know that he’s okay with that, because he envies you, as you have your pleasant, convivial lives, and he lies cold and dead in his cold bed, listening to your joy and sociability, and wishing that he had the courage to slit his wrists and never have to listen to your happy noise again.
He wears a locket or ring featuring a jagged-edged broken heart. She does too. The halves fit together. How cute. But it’s nonsense, like so much else to do with love and humanity. I suppose the idea is to say “We complete each other; you are my other half.” Sweet but superficial. You are both complete. The notion that some space or hole exists that needs to be filled is self-delusion. You are entire; good and bad, happy and sad. You are not two halves but different, whole shapes. Nothing is missing in you but this very understanding.
When I consider all the people who have disliked me, I am humbled. I don't try to be unlikable; I have always wanted to be a nice guy; affable, someone people would at least not mind having around. Someone who always gets invited to the party, because everyone knows he's fun. Just didn't happen. I was the classic bully target at school, and I have realised more and more as I get older that this marks you for life. They don't bully you for no reason. They bully you because you don't fit. You don't measure up. You're not likeable.
When it comes down to it, the sexes are different, and the differences both delight and kill us. No wonder men die younger than women. You kill us, ladies. You really do. You fall in love with us, you blow our minds with the sort of explosive sexual and emotional joy we spent sterile pubescent years dreaming about, and then, sooner or later, you just... grief us. We’ll never be good enough for you. And the sad thing is, that’s true. We really are not good enough for you. We might as well die and get out of your way.
There are so many ways in which I do not understand the behaviour and attitudes of my fellow human beings, and the gym is a place where this is particularly apparent. The mind of a person who thinks it is acceptable to leave their sweat on the mats and equipment rather than wiping down (or, even better, using a towel to prevent the issue in the first place) is a mind that is, at a very fundamental level, thoroughly alien to mine. Is it education, perhaps, or being overindulged as children? “Someone always cleared up after me at home, so...”
I am exhausted by this overheated climate of lies. I am depressed, deflated and defeated by repeated instances of people telling barefaced untruths, being called out on it, having their mendacity completely exposed by both logic and hard evidence, and simply doubling down on their dishonesty and restating it with increased fervour. But worse than this, I am shattered and left hopeless by the vast numbers of ordinary people who find this behaviour acceptable, as long as it comes from someone on their side. Because they are the real problem here: the bigoted mob who make dishonesty a proud virtue.
I have finally accepted that I simply do not have the physical skill and coordination to sweep pick, or to play lead lines with the sort of speed and precision that so many young guitarists can. Similarly, in my only other hobby, I have accepted that I lack the subtle physical dexterity necessary to perform anything but the most basic sleights. I have wrestled with the Faro shuffle for years, and it is still beyond me. I wish I could have been more skilful, and accepting my physical limitations is saddening, but there is also a melancholy sense of liberation.
So it is confirmed: I
be spending Christmas alone. I have mixed feelings about this, but I am broadly okay with it. As a child, Christmas was the highlight of my year. I was pretty normal in that regard, at least. Weeks of eager anticipation, joy at the details: tree, trimmings, turkey; the lot. Childlike excitement about the presents (mine, of course, not other people’s). Everything. To a degree, this continued through my thirties. Now, it all just seems a big pain in the arse and a vulgar festival of greed, indulgence and consumerist excess. Bah, and inevitably, humbug.
I try to live without fear, not least because I was such a fearful child, which made me ashamed of myself. I became impatient with my shame and so essentially willed myself to stop being afraid - at least for myself. Of course it is impossible to be unafraid if something truly terrifying is happening (unless, I suppose, you are a very unintelligent person) but the older I have become the more my resolve seems to have hardened, and I am afraid much less often than I used to be. I don’t think this is courage, I think it is willpower.
I have sometimes had my writing criticised in a way that has involved singling out certain things I did and certain feelings I caused the critic to experience. And I have realised that the things that were being subjected to negative criticism were precisely the effects I had been striving for. One realises that very often criticism is just "I do/don't personally enjoy this", rather than "this is good/bad". Critics often lack the humility to recognise this, and imagine that their subjective sensibilities are somehow calibrated to measure objective merit (as if such a thing were even possible).
I visited IKEA. I saw a veritable Gehenna of yuppies and yummy mummies; of frazzled daddies with pattern baldness and unfortunate shirts; of horrible shrieking bastard-eyed children; of outsize trolleys wheeled miserably along an endless grey pathway that meandered with cunning purpose through oh-so-artfully placed items of blandly functional furniture and multi-tiered walls of construction materials. I staggered through dead avenues of tidy consumerism and sheer unnecessariness. My mind reeled in shocked revolt at the sight of the corpse-faced supplicants in this soaring temple of soulless domestic objects; this grim, Pavlovian parade of zombie acquisition.
How are you, you cold-hearted cow? Yes, I still sometimes think about you and wonder, and yes, that is pathetic. I admit it annoys me, because it’s still a way in which you pollute my life. You fucking louse. You foul, selfish, fake feminist phoney. You bullshit hypocrite. I sincerely hope that whatever is going on in your life is causing you distress, or anxiety, or grief, or physical pain. Yes, especially that. I hope you are having the most protracted, racking menopause a woman ever had, and that it leaves you as ruined as a month-old corpse.
Christmas Plan A is dead, I think. It seems the hotel “Christmas Special” deal is not as common as it used to be. The few places I have found that offer them are sufficiently far from London that travel would be a pain, especially with the lack of trains. And when I really consider sitting alone over Christmas dinner, presumably surrounded by couples, it does seem like a pretty miserable prospect. Home alone it shall be. It will be peaceful. I’d like to think I’ll find the will to make myself a proper dinner, but that isn’t how I’d bet.
I am trying to understand exactly why I feel such a visceral dislike for so many modern films. It’s definitely a combination of things, but underlying them all is the strong sense that artistry, and the driving love of art and profundity so apparent in many older movies, is so rarely there these days, even in widely-acclaimed films. I’m not even talking about the garish, oppressively infantile nonsenses that fall into the “superhero” category. Even supposedly “serious” modern cinema often leaves me feeling like I’m watching androids directed by androids, performing a cold, calculated routine to chase the money.
I try to do the right thing and see my mother a few times every year but we are not close, and sometimes she makes it hard. My latest attempt involved suggesting a date, only to be told that my sister would be visiting then, and mum “couldn’t handle” both of us. Occasionally I feel somewhat bitter because my parents decided they’d only have two children, and the first attempt resulted in a miscarriage. If that little shit had managed to hang in there I’d never have been born and wouldn't have to put up with any of this bullshit.
I understand why some couples choose to sleep in separate beds, and separate rooms, but I am glad that when we were, and are, together, we do not do that. For me, sleeping with a lover is one of life’s greatest pleasures and comforts. As long as the bed is comfortable and neither person snores too terribly, these nights of warmth and stillness, of soft susurrations and touches in the dark, are moments of restorative wonder and gentle bonding. And when the sounds of distress brought me fully awake I was there to hold and soothe you after your nightmare.
It was seeing my naked body in such a poor state that made me take myself in hand and get in shape, back in early 2017. Changing in front of a full length mirror, I glanced up to see a jowly, pot-bellied old man with slack, creased, old-man muscles. I felt mild nausea. It would not do, and it did not do. Six months later I was in the best shape I’d been in since my early thirties. In 2018 illness, grief and chaos stopped me maintaining. I am back on the wheel again. Not vanity but compulsion.
It’s established now, this new, near-daily grumble in my life. Usually internal, frequently almost audible, but occasionally actually yelled in someone’s face (or rather into the top of their downturned, oblivious, empty head): “Watch where you’re going!”
Why do they do it, these witless mombies? Why do they not see how selfish, inconsiderate, and just damned unnecessary it is to be looking at or using a phone whilst walking, especially in a crowded, bustling location? Damn you, you ignorant motherfuckers, I will hold my line. Why should I always cater for your rudeness? I will not move for you.
It is properly cold this morning. There is a hard frost. We need more of this. When I was a child I would complain about how cold it was in my tiny box room. No central heating in those days. Frozen condensation on the inside of my windows. Mum would tell me how her grandfather would wash every morning using a water butt in the yard. Even if he had to break ice on it.
We have become too soft. Here’s another way to tackle global warming: toughen up, turn your heating off and learn to love the cold again.
In some ways I have become more resilient as I have aged, but the ability to cope with loss has not been one of them. Rosie’s sudden and wholly unexpected death racked my heart to an extent no other loss of a cat ever had before. I was honestly much more upset by it than by the death of my father. So I sit here alone in my cold flat and miss the soothing warmth of her little body in my lap. I can still feel the softness of the fur around her neck. I can still hear her purr.
Driving a train through thick early morning fog, in darkness, glad that you know the route so well you can enjoy it; this unique experience of speeding in a cloud, shrouded in mist like a soft, soothing blindness; the droplets glowing ghostly from the illumination of your headlights, chasing the twin metal contrails of the damp rails; the distant green, yellow and red stars of signals ahead, radiating faintly at first and then rushing at you, passing like meteors; then the speckled golden nebulae of hazy stations; the steady sunrise finally revealing fields and trees, bringing you back to earth.
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