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Flaming June. And what an inferno. It feels like the world is burning up, both literally (climate change) and figuratively (I do not need to spell it out). It is a culmination of so many things that have been simmering on the back burner, in some cases for many decades. Overpopulation. Capitalism and greed. Consumerism. Racism. Xenophobia. Fascism. Religion. Ignorance and arrogance. National exceptionalism. Myopic human insularity and self-interest of so many varieties. So now it begins: months of lockdown piled the pressure on and now, here we are: eruption. It’s an infected boil, bursting. And it really hurts.
Any policing system in which cops can obscure their ID or refuse to give it on demand is corrupt, and needs dismantling. Any policing system in which cops can lie with impunity is corrupt, and needs dismantling. Any policing system in which cops can shove, strike, gas or otherwise assault people who are not physically attacking them is corrupt, and needs dismantling. Any authority figure who attempts to defend such actions is corrupt, and needs to be charged with a crime. Any civilian who disagrees with me on this is a complicit bastard, and an enemy of liberty and society.
I dread to think.
Just that. Just those four words, standalone. Not “I dread to think about the violence and the fascist police in America”; not “I dread to think about how my country of careless morons is merrily careering unmasked-face-first into the inevitable second wave (which may well be more like a seventh one); not “I dread to think about when - or even if - you and I will meet, embrace, kiss and make love once more. Just “I dread to think”. Because thinking has never been more painful and frightening. And drinking has never been more helpful.
Two years ago I was fifty-nine and as fit as I have ever been in my life. I was the same weight as I had been in my early thirties. It was all about to fall apart. Now it’s gone, and I’m probably less fit than I was before I knocked myself into that great shape. I am all or nothing. I work out hard, or I slob out. I abstain, or I drink like a beast. All or nothing. In life, and in love. This isn’t going to change until death takes it all, and makes me nothing.
I have been saying for several years now that both Britain and the USA were ripe for either civil war or violent revolution. I started to feel this way shortly before the twin burst boils of Brexit and Trump, but those events crystallised and strengthened the feeling. When I mentioned this to my friends and colleagues most rolled their eyes with that “he’s off again” look which I have come to know and entirely shrug off so well. I suspect and sincerely hope that at least some of those people are feeling less inclined to roll their eyes these days.
I have always felt like, and described myself as, a “city boy“. I am not especially sociable and I am most definitely incorrigibly misanthropic, yet the thought of living somewhere other than a heaving, buzzing, throbbing metropolis fills me with a sort of cold, deathly horror. Quiet, sparsely-populated places have always been for visiting, for brief respite; never for living. And yet... this age of the other “Big C” has amplified my loathing for my fellow humans to such a deafening roar that maybe... just maybe... I am changing my... no. No. Even now, with all these bastards. Never.
I am aware that from time to time, and perhaps increasingly, a degree of repetition creeps into these entries. I have done enough, and for long enough, that it is easy to forget everything I’ve said previously. Especially, I suspect, in those I’ve written while drunk, which must be quite a few. I mean, I am damned sure I’ve mentioned that I drink like a mad bastard on many occasions, and even if I had never brought that up there must be numerous entries that make it pretty obvious. So let me say it again: sometimes I say things again.
I thought, “Why do you want to unplug? It’s like you don’t understand the music you want to unplug. It’s like you don’t get that the whole glory and point of this music is to screamfeedbackfuzzbrutalize your head until it bleeds.” That’s what this music is FOR. If you want unplugged, go listen to Joni or Judee or Nick or any of those dreary dribbling tender bedroom string ticklers. But when you try to paint that insipid magnolia wash over the music that makes my heart race and my teeth grind and my knuckles whiten, you can go to hell.
My problem with acoustic guitar is it sounds so goddamn thin. Steel strings help, but not enough. Thrashing it like Ed Hammel helps, but not enough. Intricate fingerpicking adds interest but it still sounds etiolated and inadequate, to me. There’s no bottom, no guts, no meat. I’m not against quiet, delicate music; I’d just prefer it to be played on a different instrument. Maybe a violin, or a piano, or even an oboe. Because those sounds have richness, warmth, breadth and, above all, complexity. The best I can say for acoustic guitar is at least it isn’t a fucking banjo.
I hate "social" hugging. You may think I am uptight and repressed if you like. Be my guest. You may even be right. But that does not give you the right to overrule my personal preferences. Keep your goddamned paws to yourself.Hugs are very intimate. Like kisses; like caresses. So do not do that to me unless we are bedchums, or at least exploring the possibility of becoming so. I mean it. If I don't find you sexually attractive, I don't want to touch you, and I don't want you touching me. You say "friendly", I say "inappropriate touching".
If people such as myself, who entirely fail to see a single positive, pleasing or compelling reason to have children are in any way like that because of genetic factors, then it is an unfortunate yet bitterly amusing irony that we will fail to pass on this most beneficial and admirable of traits. More realistically, I suppose there is no single gene “for” our condition. It seems much more likely that we result from a complex interplay of genetics and environment; and one that does not seem to occur with anything like the frequency required to save our pitiful species.
If you start supporting the banning and censoring of art, music, movies, TV programmes, poems etcetera, then I’m out. You’ve lost me. If you are going to go after “Gone With the Wind”, the “Germans” episode of “Fawlty Towers”, Mark Twain and so on, I am not going to be your “ally“ there. I am going to be an intractable sworn enemy, and I am going to call you a clueless spart, a rabid zealot, a sinister enemy of liberty and free speech, and a stupid fucking cretin. So fucking stupid I won’t even grant you the courtesy of explanation.
I am astonished (and somewhat melancholy) to realise, courtesy of Facebook memories, that it is exactly one year since I arrived in Amorgos to begin a much-needed and greatly restorative fortnight in Greece. That holiday marked the end - or perhaps more accurately, the beginning of the end - of a year of mighty upheaval, personal troubles and tumultuous emotions. Let’s face it, the year since then has hardly been an oasis of tranquility for any of us, but looking back I am at least glad that the pains and problems I now face are significantly less deeply and wrenchingly personal.
Sorry, Pat, but right now love is not a battlefield. Right now love is just a constant ache. It is a battle only in being a grinding, gruelling fight to contain the strain of separation from the object of my desire; the daily backdrop of yearning that underscores, permeates and delineates my every waking experience... and most unwaking ones. Because now my fevered dreams are full of her; the one who makes me live. Only the ghost of her now. In my arms, on my lips, in my mouth; a thin, unsatisfactory wine made from the grapes of a wraith.
Hyperintense dreams at night; numb days. It’s like my full mind only dare show itself during sleep, creeping timidly out of the grey matter shadows to let the full feverish force of its anxiety come out to play. And then I wake, and away it scurries, and the neurons and nerve-endings retreat to semi-shutdown, and I trudge through the day in literal and figurative neuropathic lockdown, just... getting through it. Then steep it in alcohol for another numbed evening of shallow relief and avoidance. Drown hope. I must not be distracted by the glint of that fool’s gold.
Last night I was lost in San Francisco. It was nothing like the real San Francisco, but to my dreaming mind, it was. I arrived at my hotel, decided to take a walk, and immediately forgot the name and location of my hotel. I kept walking anyway, intending to double back at some point, hoping I would recognise the hotel by sight. I reached a seashore more like that of western Scotland than San Francisco. A small stone lion came to life and advanced to attack. I diverted it with a nearby duck. Night came in, and I became afraid.
“You must wear a face covering at all times when using public transport”. The bus driver plays the announcement over and over again, as he continues to allow people not wearing face coverings to board the bus. This is modern Britain. This is the modern British person: a disgraceful combination of lazy entitlement, selfishness, and a vacant, mindless following of the petty, easy rules whilst treating the important ones with apathy and casual disrespect. We’re happy to tell you to do something but god forbid we’d actually enforce it. Keep calm and carry on being a bunch of horrible shits.
Walking through the local “woods” on the way to work I pass a woman and her small child. The child points at me and says “Granddad!” The woman says, “That’s not your granddad!” I smile and say, “Yeah, she could at least have said ‘father’!”, intending to jokingly express upset at being seen as so old. The woman laughs. It is only as I walk away it occurs to me that there are at least two levels on which my innocently-intended remark is really rather creepy. I was genuinely embarrassed, and actually felt myself blushing as I hurried on.
It seems most people in Britain have simply decided coronavirus is over, because they’ve had enough of it. In this they are being encouraged by the dreadful, incompetent government many of them happily voted for. Yesterday, a thoughtless fuckwit typical of the breed said that it was time to just accept the risk, and that it was like the risk of being hit by a bus when we go out. I said no, this is like the risk of
being hit by a bus when you go out.
Have I mentioned that I truly, profoundly despise my compatriots?
Life is awful. It's awful when you're a child, awful when you're a teenager, awful when you're a young adult, awful when you get married, awful when you have children, awful in middle age, awful when you get old, just awful, awful, awful, all the goddamned time. It never gets better, and if you ever think it has, you're deluded, and life will not delay in reminding you of the fact. Life is a relentless vale of polluted acid tears, and only the blissful benison of death brings surcease from this grinding, sheer fucking hell.
Here's Tom with the weather.
I am still looking back at last year’s Greek experience, every day, on Facebook Memories, and shamelessly immersing myself in the waves of nostalgia. The shimmering, crystalline beauty of it all. Seeing myself in those videos, exactly one year ago, still carrying the remnants of my hard-earned hard body. Unlike now. It was all so unlike now, in so many ways: some good, some bad. It was pivotal, and necessary. Ten years previously I made another Greek trip that was pivotal for very different reasons. I want the next visit to involve carrying no weight other than my backpack.
If you still think that “All lives matter” is a reasonable response to “Black lives matter”, I have bad news: you are either stupid or racist. Because you can no longer use the excuse of being unaware of precisely why it is unreasonable. You have been given enough examples and analogies to illustrate the unreasonableness of that response, and why it reveals lazy thinking and a tendency to treat the problems and prejudice experienced by black people as unworthy of highlighting. If you still struggle with this you would be well advised to shut your ignorant fucking mouth in future.
There is an advertisement in front of me as I sit waiting for the tube. In the top left corner it says “UNDER ARMOUR” next to a simple logo and a picture of a determined-looking man hefting a medicine ball in a gym. The caption reads “THE ONLY WAY IS THROUGH”. As with many advertisements these days, I have no idea what is being advertised here. Gym equipment? Gym membership? Sportswear? And what does that caption mean? The only way
? Modern marketing people, or their targets, or both, are clearly of a different species from me.
I predicted it to myself, naturally. Even as my age-thickened lefty blood coursed with a semblance of youthful vigour again during the protests and riots, I knew that this snowflake society’s rage would soon be redirected to the preferred safe, soft targets of the regressive liberal eunuch: which monuments should we topple? Which movies should be pulled from Netflix? Which books are “problematic”? Which social media villains should we dox? Which careless-remark-criminal must be reviled and socially ruined? Much easier and more satisfying than actually fighting the real villains: cops, capitalists and the governments which enable them.
America has decided that the freedom to spread lethal infection is totally worth it if it means they can go to the bar again. The anti-lockdown lunatics are literally and figuratively unmasked, with Covid rampant and resurgent. In the war, my father was an ARP warden. He told me there were always a few shitheads who disobeyed the rules, but not many. These stupid Americans would have been proudly letting their house lights shine, doubtless yelling “Give me liberty or give me death!” until they brought destruction on themselves and - here’s the key point - many others in their city.
Things I think about: nobody ever admires the depth of a woman’s vagina, do they? Or mocks one that isn’t deep? Men get admired for a long dick, or ridiculed for a short one, but you don’t hear people saying, “Jesus, she’s really deep! Hot, or what?” Or “Yeah, she’s lovely... great personality but... *whispers*.... I hear she’s... shallow, if you know what I mean.“
This isn’t an “Oh, the poor men” whine. It’s just the kind of crap I think when I stop worrying about the news, the world, and at what point I should become a mass murderer.
I should, though. Become a mass murderer, I mean. Be one of those bitter, twisted old men who are mad as hell and just won’t take it any more. Get a gun, and just do it until I’m caught or I die; whichever comes first. But I would be the petty offence killer. I’d go after people who cycle on the pavement. People who spit in public. People who take young children into pubs. People who put their feet up on seats on public transport. I know those privileged punks feel lucky. I’d like to change their luck for them.
Things you may not know about train driving:
We coast a lot. We only take power when getting up to speed, or driving on a rising gradient, or occasionally just to tweak it back up to speed when we’re on a long run. It’s sort of like adjustment burns to a spacecraft. Very low friction between those big wheels and the rails. We kill things, often. Mostly birds, but also foxes, badgers, and sometimes deer. They make a hell of a bang. Even the pigeons. Cows and sheep have been felled too, but nowhere near as often as human beings.
A few weeks ago an online friend was whining about how hard she was finding lockdown, how she wanted to see her friends and go to pubs, and how people had simply been overreacting and failing to recognise that risk was unavoidable in life, and that we just ought to get back to normal as soon as possible and live with the virus. Nice, if you’re happy to risk other people’s lives and health as well as your own, I suppose. Anyway, her town is now the first in the UK to have secondary lockdown imposed on it. Karma, maybe.
Here we are: another month of this insane year has flown by and somehow I’m still doing this. I’ve been doing it for just over a year since my return, which is longer than my initial time here. I’m doing it, at least partly, as a distraction from the hell of it all; as a way both to think about her and not think about her; to use this daily observance both to express and to avoid fear for the future; for
future. Perhaps, if the glorious day of reunion happens, I will stop, again. But I hope not.
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