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Sunday, 18 July 2004

Loudly loudly loudly drowning out with noise

Topic: Lactose Incompetent

A weekend of coffee, wine, driving or eating, never concurrently, but always at least one of the above occurring at any given time. I had some facts I wanted to ignore, you see, so it was best to stay busy, to occupy myself, and avoid thinking about the last time I got my leg over.
On Friday night, I drunkenly slagged off Duch's choice of movie, loudly shouting that Nicole Kidman was too old and ugly for the part (Cold Mountain) until I passed out on the living room floor just before the big love scene, which is a mercy. The effects could have been unbearable. I have no idea how I got to bed, or who put those pyjamas there, but feh, it was comfier than a night in my clothes on the living room floor.
As I found out to my cost on Saturday night. I drove too late to get to Euphemism Town for tea, but texted a plea to save some pudding. It was several wines into the evening that I checked in the fridge and noticed it had been a birthday tea. I missed my own birthday tea! Still, large inscribed chocolate cake, and all, plus, more wine remedied that realisation. So I watched Empire of the Sun, loudly corrected everybody's interpretation because I'd read the book, drank some wine, Minority Report, loudly corrected the director's interpretation because I'd read the book, drank some whisky, Ed Wood, mumbled in time to the dialogue obsessively, drank some wine, The Talented Mr Ripley, loudly informed everybody what happened in all six sequels because I'd read every possible book related to the damn film, ate some more choccy cake.
At least I think I did, because I don't actually recall seeing or thinking about most of the movies. I do remember everyone else was in bed by one in the morning, when Ed Wood came on, so I had to play the game of I Know All The Words To This Movie on my own. But I certainly don't remember anything from "what these babies? Lost my front teeth in dubya dubya two" until dawn awoke me curled over a cushion on the living room floor at half five.
So I appreciated the consideration of the very manly-voiced butch gentlemen who phoned in giving me that extra bit of lie in. Albeit that when Brendan did the meme, he got bevies of Texan girlies ringing him - I didn't get any women, much less leggy Texans - actually, I'm somewhat suspicious about that now...
But I think I'll take the number down (I can try to make it look like an in-joke, something between just me and the weekend readers, don't you know).
I'm happy that it's one more little chip that makes this place less of a blog. Six days to go!
Best Blo'te of the Day So Far: Diary of a Glitter Splashed Britney Lovin' Lesbo
"Every time I venture out I always seem to stumble upon someone who recognises me from school. Of course that means they must grab me, pull me in all directions in some faux 'I love you' kinda of way and tell me how good it it is to see me as I'm left scrambling for air and a name. I finally remember who they are (4 years older, 6 years younger) and also remember never having exchanged a single word with them, ever. Yet here they are despereate to tell me bout there fabulous new boyfriend, their children and how they work in an office and shag the boss. Touched as I am to have these complete strangers reveal their lives to me, why choose me? Because I have a friendly, inviting face? I'm quite sure not, so what is it? Because they think in all their skinny and tannedness they are better than me? Maybe. But most likely it's because I will sit there and listen to their crap, take it all in, gasp and guffaw at appropriate intervals and even stroke their pregnant guts when instructed."

This page graced by sarsparilla at 11:27 PM BST
Updated: Monday, 19 July 2004 12:48 AM BST
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Wednesday, 14 July 2004

Dozy, disorganised, lame posting ahoy

Topic: Lactose Incompetent

I'm so tired I can barely keep my eyes open to type this.
Last week of work before my birthday opens the holidays (two presents already, one bearing a Cayman Islands postmark - hurrah!), so I have to get everything done in time, which means long hours at work, and even longer hours at home trying to shake off the feeling of actually having worked.
I managed about three hours per night of shuteye so far this week (it was rather an inopportune moment to decide to download imagine the entire series of Kingdom Hospital, when I could have just been organised enough to watch it on telly).

But being organised isn't my forte. I finally taxed my car, only for post office clerk to tell me she's never even heard of someone actually being clamped under the new tax rules, yet. So that undisturbed street with no parking regs, and barely even any pedestrian traffic where I park my car was the one spot the DVLA chose to implement their new national programme, huh?
I attended my detention with Hippyboss yesterday, and have been grounded, now for the first morning of my holidays. It turns out my resentment and paranoia were resentment and paranoia, and she is punishing me to save face towards others (I'd rather just be slapped on the wrists than meaninglessly slapped on the wrists, but, meh), and now I get little cards and notelets all day at work to reassure me of how wonderful she thinks I am, with my idle, lax, renegade, unpunctual ways.
I've managed to refuse to see a whole horde of people, including refusing third and fourth dates from Second Dater, and still haven't taken my dad's mid-June birthday present round. Perhaps I should eat it... ;-P
I've buggered up the blog persistently for the last three months, and now seem incapable of not offending people, either via content, quoting or comments. The readership is diving dramatically. (from average 140 per day to 80 per day - god knows who reads this rubbish), although for some reason the linkage is rocketing (167 links? Double the amount of readers?) How does that work?

For some reason, though, despite the hideously disorganised exterior, the interior is kinda girl-scout right now. I've baked a lot (new knowledge: stewed rhubarb tastes foul unless you put all the sugar in), cleaned a lot (hurrah for toilet disasters and having to clean up the raw sewage!), tidied a lot (it's only clean knickers on the floor now, I'll have you know).

Perhaps I'm trying to subconsciously prove to myself I am organised, I am capable of selling my flat without going mental defective.
It would have helped reaffirm my sense of strength of mind if I hadn't forgotten to lock or shut my front door since last Friday.

It's seven pm. I'm going to bed.

Best Blo'te of the Day so Far: Conazo
"If you accept the premise that cinema provides us with vicarious experiences through which we can live out our dreams, then it would seem reasonable to suppose that you can work backwards from the movies to figure out what our innermost desires might be.
Movies tell us that love conquers all and bad guys always get their comeuppance, but what about darker, more fringe beliefs? After all, isn't the collective subconscious less Disneyland, more Arkham Asylum? What do movies tell us about half-thoughts so disturbing they have to be manacled in a reeking cell?"

This page graced by sarsparilla at 6:50 PM BST
Updated: Saturday, 17 July 2004 4:11 PM BST
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Thursday, 8 July 2004

just when i think i got out - they pull me back in

Topic: Lactose Incompetent

"I play this game.
It's pointless and annoys me, yet I'm compelled to play on"

I was doing okay, I was cheering up, I was rationalising my fears.

Then .... something happened. I ignored it. Something happened. The 'worst thing'.

You never know the worst thing till it's here, and the worst of the worst thing, is your absolute certainty that this is only the worst so far.

Thank christ I was with other people, and had to keep a lid on it, act unconcerned. It felt like I was falling into a cavern. How could this be happening to me, now, here? Didn't I just spend two years dealing with this? Didn't I just get to the point where I could maintain civilised defences?

I left, I sat in darkness in my car for a while, staring blankly at an empty church. I screamed at someone and averted an accident. See, not evil. I'm not evil.

It's been a while since I've been evil. The year before I wrote this blog, everything I did was interpreted as malicious, every stray thought that flickered over my face was assumed egregiously wrong. The standard interpretation of anything I did was: you did it to hurt me, you bitch. I'm not talking about one person feeling this way about me. I'm talking about almost all of them.

I'm a terrible one for not taking criticism well. As I was doing the punishment anyway, I decided to enjoy the crime.

The last year, it's been normal. Mad, draining, emotional, but- hey - normal. I can walk across a road without feeling like I'm doing something wrong, hurting someone somehow, being wicked, not caring enough about everybody else, showing my true, nasty nature by walking across that road.

In the darkened car, in the driver's seat, I turned on the CD player - the soundtrack to 'The Hours' came on. Philip Glass, violins, music from the moment where Nicole Kidman drowns herself, fifty years later and at the same moment, Julianne Moore takes too many painkillers and river water floods into her hotel room, over her bed, as in another age Meryl Streep watches her beloved friend Ed Harris die of AIDS. It really wasn't pick-me-up listening.

Of course the moon had to be out, like all those so many nights, so so many many nights, when I used to drive to the Heath and cry where no-one could overhear me.
Of course it had to be raining with stormy destructive winds, branches flailing to the ground. Of course.
Of course I had to be in London. Not Hawaii. Not South America. I had to be in Catford, the moment that I had to deal with this. In Catford, eating out with some colleagues, going home to a blank anodyne empty flat, three weeks before my thirty fourth birthday.
Why would fate make it any other moment? Why would fate make this something I had a hope of dealing with well?

I looked at the water lying deeper than you think on the oily surface of the road, the hunched shoulders of people scared as they rushed to safety from the street, the rain, the dangerous unknown. I wondered what could be more scary than the thing I was now considering.

On the way in to the restaurant I'd had one of those flash moments - those moments where a voice in your head speaks briefly. Your limbic brain, your sub conscious, your 'you', something, and it tells you an insight, but it might also be just a fear. Looking at a street sign that symbolised a road narrowing, then a junction, I thought about how late I was, how I didn't really feel like this meal, and a voice inside said: 'but you're not happy.' And I know it's not talking about the meal.
I pushed it away. Course I've not been happy. Why would I write all that shit on my blog if I were happy? The blog and the life have an inverse relationship - write shit, live good; live bad, write good. I've been doing better, I pleaded with my id, my ur, my limbic brain. I got out of the car and ran. Running creates endorphins, it stops you thinking depressing thoughts. It worked. It was gone.

Till the phone call. So, after, I sit in the dark on the same street, in front of the same street sign and I try to rationalise it, tell myself it's an understandable response to be falling into a pit with only mud and dirt for sides, where no-one will find you again. It's okay.
What a bland and stupid statement is 'it's okay'.
I try to connect things up - if I find patterns in my behaviour, my state of mind, I can find ways of dealing with an unexpected attack.

The worst moment? Right, if I'm not happy, the answer is to know why I'm not happy. What's the worst that could happen scenario. Forget that it's taken me a year to be able to cope with written references to what happened, forget that I can't even - I write four blogs and I write every fucking day for god's sake! - I can't even begin to articulate what happened and god knows last night - last damn night! - I tried. Worst case scenario.
What worst moments have I had this weekend? where I enjoyed myself, where I had a good time - what scary worst nasty moments did I live through, so I can tell myself I can live through it again.

I was scared of working too much last weekend. I passed over another promotion, again, the third this year, because I know my own tendency to be obsessive, to distil concentration out of all proportion to time, because I know if they ask me to do things, I'll always say yes. I feared trapping myself there - yeah, there in the job that I enjoy, that I look forward to doing. So I passed.

I was scared of being bored by people last weekend. I stood in a garden surrounded by strangers making small talk, getting on with it, using their myriad vile fat toddlers to prop the gaps in the conversation, and I refused to speak, or make it easy for anyone. I just scowled my way through it, wondering if I could go now. Or wait ten minutes. And go now. Ten more?

I was scared of meeting Tybalt and having to endure her at Pride. Make no mistake, if I went to Pride, it'd be to pull. I was scared of what she'd do if she saw that. What exact way she'd find to quietly punish me. I was scared that if I didn't go, I'd lose all my friends. Again. Somehow every social situation involving Tybalt, and I always come away feeling like carrion - like I've lost all my friends to her. If a friend is someone who listens and does not judge - someone who can bite their tongue just a few months and not say 'well, no, I think you're being unfair to her on that detail' - yeah, okay, that would count as having lost them all.

I was scared of making past mistakes, of restarting relationships that were already dead, had always at some level been dead; and I was also in the same weekend scared of starting new relationships that I didn't feel invested in, had no compulsion to continue, just to avoid being alone.

I was scared when I stayed out late for cocktails on a date last weekend, missed the train home, had to get a night train then a night bus from Lewisham. I was so scared I flagged a bus down on the street - I felt drunkenly confident, but the driver commented on how 'lost' I looked, which made me focus on it, start to feel scared all over again. I knew I'd have to get off by a gas tower, walk through an industrial estate, down a deserted high street that's had three murders in the four months I've lived here. I saw seven foxes, one madman who screamed at me to 'shut up shut shut shut up stop talking to me shut up', one hooded figure just standing beneath a blasted leafless tree in the centre of a council estate, and not one single lighted window, not one single car. I was scared that if something did happen to me, nobody would notice. For a few days.

All these fears. And that's just four days worth.

But mostly I'm usually scared that being scared makes me not do things that I should, makes me lose out. Lose out on a promotion, meeting the woman of my dreams at Pride, reconnecting with my friends, being calm enough to make smalltalk, put people at ease, take risks with new relationships, and forgive the criminal other of the old ones. And walk home tall.

So this is what's beneath tonight's bad news. Do I follow all my instincts - run, hide, stay away, don't get involved, avoid these people, these situations forever. Just a few people in a really big world. Do I need to beat myself up by going through it all again with them?
Can't I just walk away, live my life without accusations, or jealousy, or the underlying itching permanent scab of knowing that someone thinks I'm evil?

Or am I just saying that to myself to make me brave? To distract attention from the fact I always run?

"You're pretty convinced that you like the parts of your life that trap you
But you worry that your usual tendency to sell yourself short
Sold that to you."

Best Blo'te of the Day So Far: Oeillade
"Quietly, softly, it finds its way in
To play down your virtue and highlight your sin.
The weights are all hung and the tunnel's in place,
We'll help wipe away that fat smirk from your face.
How long can one spend intending to fly
If two in the hand is worth one in the eye?
Come in from the outside, come in from the cold.
What use is your pride if you're not bought and sold?"

This page graced by sarsparilla at 12:21 AM BST
Updated: Thursday, 8 July 2004 12:58 AM BST
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Friday, 25 June 2004

April Revisited

Topic: Lactose Incompetent

Do you know what? There are posts I forgot to put on the blog way back in April. I was feeling better tempered then. Happy Easter.

A Thursday in April:
Visited the Ritz to see the head honcho on the door. Many enjoyable chats ensued with chaps in full uniform - white gloves through their epaulettes, pillbox hats - people who'd worked there for thirty seven years. Listened to tales of opening doors for the Queen, for Thatch, of turning celebs away for the crime of wearing jeans, and took tea with the head waiter in the Palm Court. Honcho arranged for me to take a tour of the rooms - it was taken as a given that I'd be curious - who wouldn't be? Most suites at the bottom end of the price range were as large as my flat, frankly, and although Green Park is a depressing vista, gold bidet taps would help soothe the disappointment, I'm sure. I didn't get to see the #1,900 a night Berkeley Suite, but was assured that the gold leaf on the walls and ceilings was both real and a bugger to clean.
I also wandered into IBM's training centre on the way home, to be reassured that all the hardware that my bosses have spent #50K on last year is of 'limited functionality'. Cue bitter laugh, and forgiveness felt towards Sarcastic IT Guy, who hasn't fixed my PC since last January (I fell behind on my toadying duties).
In the evening, continued a row over keys by phone with Tybalt, while going out to what looked to be a junior doctor's pub in London Bridge, if cheaply cut M&S suits are anything to judge by. Did perfectly well for hours then fucked it all up by binking dreer. Dammit. Funniest line of the evening (that appealed particularly to my massive self absorption, of course) "Are you exceptionally girlish and flirtatious, or are you drunk?"
Repeated this line to Toulouse on Saturday, accompanied by impersonation of self in the moments before said line; "for a moment there you looked like Vanessa again". Not sure if this is a good or a bad thing, or just shows that I never go to Paris without getting wrecked.

Best Blo'te of the Day So Far: Smacked Face
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up, all you armchair pundits and office commentators. I don't want to hear about this bloody game any more, do you hear? Listen to yourself, weedy, wacky guy in the Christmas jumper - like as not, you haven't even seen a football since compulsory sports at school, you do not have the right to comment on anything of a physical nature. And you, braying public school bore, stick to the rugby and memories of group buggery, and shut it! You are all so tedious it's a miracle you haven't sent yourselves to sleep."

This page graced by sarsparilla at 2:40 PM BST
Updated: Friday, 25 June 2004 2:45 PM BST
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Monday, 21 June 2004

Bit too busy to blog just now

Topic: Lactose Incompetent

I spent this weekend hiking (well, it felt like hiking even if it was only gentle strolls) and chatting with brilliant mates in Derbyshire, and another thirteen hours of it driving up or down the country. I'm sat here force feeding myself caffeine, to shove my brain into activity, cos I'm meant to be the boss at work this week, which means getting there early, which has never yet been my strong point. After work today, I have to drag myself over to White City to watch a Rob Brydon monologue being filmed (he of 'Marion and Geof' fame; I have a spare ticket, so if you want to come, ring me), and I still haven't bloody rung back Second Dater, cos I've not had a minute to myself for a fortnight, it seems. Bloody good job I can't get any Big Brother feeds right now, or even the four hours a night of sleep I'm getting as it is would be under threat.

This is how I wanted it to be instead of having a blog. Big grin.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this detail - unexplored - about the offer on my house: it came in on the same day as what would have been my tenth anniversary with Tybalt.

Closure or what?

Best Blo'te of the Day So Far: Kitchentable
"We did a few shots of me in my massive boots unlaced, jeans, and with my top off, all that. Fairly innocent. Then some adding a biker?s jacket that he?d brought with him. All very Gay Icon, but I can live with that.
So once I was comfortable with posing in semi-nudity, he tipped out a bag of what can only be described as Things. Some of the things, I didn?t even know what they were!
There were wrist restraints, chains, (tweet, tweet, chirp chirp twitter) and handcuffs.
I put on the (twitter, chirrup tweet) and my friend helped me to fasten the (tweet tweet tweet chirp, faint sound of an aeroplane passing over) at the back. And to make my body glisten we (cut to outside of Big Brother house).
?Do you mind wearing this?? he asked, offering me a (cut to shots of the hose-pipe, followed by shots of the outside of Big Brother house, and then the oven).
?Actually, I?d better just rinse it under the tap.? he said."

This page graced by sarsparilla at 7:54 AM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 22 June 2004 11:05 PM BST
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Monday, 24 May 2004

Why Journos are Toss, a continuing saga

Topic: Lactose Incompetent

Headlines from the front page only of Sunday's paper:

Wise before the event Posh slums it in secret The birth of the teenage dream The dark heart of America Why wronged fathers are right Shock for teenage drinkers Iraquis lose right to sue troops When we were young Michael Moore and me New mystery of Conan Doyle Does Iraq have a future? Riches to rags The sage of cricket The complications of passion for the over-60s Cocaine deaths double as price crashes Sara Payne opens up about her murdered daughter Military win immunity pledge

I'd rather read blogs than that lot.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 12:10 AM BST
Updated: Monday, 24 May 2004 12:12 AM BST
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Tuesday, 11 May 2004

Unwarranted Attack on a Fellow Blogger

Now Playing: Jacques Brel: 'Jojo'
Topic: Lactose Incompetent

I'm really really not sure what I make of a blog called Scattered Words.

I was obviously, as an out homo, going to take exception to lines like this:

"10. Develop self-discipline. Do something every day you don't want to do. The homosexual/lesbian emotional mindset is very self-centered and self-indulgent; recovery means learning to be Christ-centered and self-denying."

So I made every attempt not to take offence, and to listen properly to where he's coming from.

Reading on, the guy's explanation for blogging his attempts to brainwash himself out of being gay in order to fully embrace religion goes:
"So what does that have to do with anything now? Not all childhood abuse survivors are homosexual, you say? You say right. Though, being exposed to sex so early -- being forced to deal with adult issues so soon screwed me up a little. As a result, I was sexually active "by choice" at a pretty early age. Thirteen, if I remember correctly. Throw in a rocky relationship with an emotionally distant and detached father ... well you get the idea.

The sexual abuse robbed me of my childhood. I skipped some pretty key developmental steps that I'd give anything to go back and change. But I can't. I didn't grow into a "man" the way I was supposed to and I can't do it now either (at the age of 22). My experiences now will never mirror what a 12 year old boy (or whatever age) goes through."

Fair enough. It's deeply personal.

I disagree strongly but who am I to say that billions of twelve year olds have repressive disturbing experiences of childhood? Who am I to rant on about the gazillions of kids who were abused sexually as children who don't use it as a lifelong excuse to claim victim status in all things? Who am I to point out that it's the concept of 'normal' stages of development that history proves is a false concept?
Who am I to note that this guy's abdicated all responsibility for his own desire, and made even feeling love / lust or interest into a transgressive act?
Who am I to point out that this sort of thing demonises the church in a way that I also object to?
Who am I to point out that continually going on and on and on about gay porn whilst berating oneself is possibly far more perverse and masochistically sexualised than simply enjoying it, and accepting who you are?

And then he links to "christian porn". What's with that? Methinks the ladyboy doth protest too much.

I understand that this is someone's personal thoughts.
I do. Why is it that something about the thing reminds me of the engineered titillation of Belle de Jour?

Particularly when you read something as agonised and misguided as this:
"I'm absolutely devasted by the fact that I'm gay.
[...] I'd love to be at any other place other than where I am. I'd love to be able to make fun of myself and not take all this so seriously -- but it weighs so hard on my heart. It hurts so much. It's like a disease. A chronic illness that no one really knows what the cure (or cause). Except for those of you whom would say Jesus (and sin). And I agree."

I have no wish to kick someone while they're obviously down. But I'm gay, and I've been broadly christian. Not only is this not the answer, this is so Wrong, so utterly Wrong, that my every busy body fibre of being cries out against it, demands I protest.
The attitudes portrayed in the blog so desperately require some form of non-judgemental counselling, not anonymous blogging. Somebody needs to listen to this guy, not to tell him that gay is right, or gay is wrong, or gay is taking you to hell. But to find out why in hell's name he thinks blaming other people's actions is going to allow him to absolve himself from responsibility for deciding for himself who he is. What he is.

I have to stop. It's making less and less sense the more I write. And I could rant all day.

I dunno. More evidence of Why Blogs Are Wrong?

This page graced by sarsparilla at 6:13 PM BST
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Tuesday, 4 May 2004

Death in the Family

Topic: Lactose Incompetent

Sunday night, and I've driven out of London to catch a late movie. I missed the start, so opted to go see a horror movie, instead, one that toyed with the premise of going into the past and changing it, and what ripples that could have on your life.
Driving back at midnight, slightly nervy as I don't know where I am, already having stopped once to try to find myself on a map, window down just far enough not to be dragged out through it, radio on XFM low, wondering if men feel quite as nervy as women on the street at this hour, noting that basically there are no women on the streets at this hour, unless they're in a mini skirt on the street corner - I pass a brightly lit fast food burger joint in Thornton Heath. As I pass, I deliberate: pulling over, getting out, getting a kebab? Then dismiss leaving the car as too dangerous at that hour, in an area I don't know - and an odd movement flickers in my peripheral vision. Just a flicker, but it's someone - maybe a few people, moving fast. With something at their feet.
I'd been speeding, slowing as I came towards a roundabout, trying to recall which route on the map translates to the deserted wasteland of a Sunday night in front of me. The glimpse is only peripheral, and it passes quickly by with the rest of the street. As it passes I hear a sound.
Dull. Heavy. Yet reverberant. Like a chair leg quietly knocking against a chamber pot.
If you've ever heard this sound, you don't forget it. If you hear it once, you'll recognise it forever.
It's the sound the bone inside a skull makes when it hits an immovable object.

Today, my grandad died. He was an okay grandad when I was a kid, he was a nice guy. He tried to give all his grandkids aims and aspirations, and that's a good thing. He gave me #10 for every exam I passed, which I still have, in the same post office account, and haven't ever brought myself to spend. (Not spent because when am I ever going to find myself with any other money so honestly earnt?)
As I grew into an adult, I could see that he was belligerent at times, but he had a large family, and a large house, and it was a nice place to sit and read a book you got for Christmas. I guess I'm saying, I liked him, but he wasn't close.
The last time I spoke to him, he was staying at my parents' house when I phoned. He picked up the phone, was told it was me, and because the phone was by a computer proudly announced he'd never chatted on the internet till now, then hung up.
The time before that was when he wrote me a letter wishing I'd find God and someone to spend my life with. I found that letter pretty upsetting, especially as I had a girlfriend of eight years standing at that point, but I guess then I knew that he at least knew, although my aunt had hinted as much, and at his disapproval, but he was pretty old, so I can forgive him for that. I guess. Eighty nine is pretty old.
And I never had any other grandfather, either. I sort of regret that when I was told to attend his ninetieth birthday party with the instruction that I might never see him again, I'd replied "you promised me that when he was eighty". But not really. I didn't mean it like that. Really.
There's no grandparents left now. I think that's the frightening part of it. Everybody expects an old chap to pass on one day. But now he's gone. Who's next? I find that much more frightening. I don't want any of the rest of my family to die. They haven't had eighty-nine years to torment us yet.

Back in Thornton Heath, I'm stuck at a red traffic light on a roundabout, turning right, and realising what the sound is, my memory leaps back in a rush to the other three times I'd heard it.
I heard it in '01 when my car hit a dog running off its leash round Bellingham, hit it in the head. It survived pretty well, but the shock and horror lasted for ages. I heard it in '98 when I was living on a dangerously lawless estate in Kennington, when I looked out of my window and saw my neighbours kick the jaw loose from a passersby's head, because he'd said hi in an australian accent. I heard it in '92 when a group of eye-rolling kids in Brixton smashed glass into my face and then drop kicked my head for the fiver in my pocket.
I'm ashamed of it, but my first impulse is to drive away. Away from the beating, away from Thornton Heath, away from the violence, away from my own impotence to stop it. What could I do? A skinny woman on her own in a car. I turn the corner and drive, trying not to hear the sound.
What does that make you, if you don't care? I ask myself, as I reach the next red light, still on the roundabout. Do you know who that makes you? Is that what you're about?
I pull the car further to the right than it needs to be to make my turn. I know I am going to go back, but I don't want to know that I'm going to do it. Every other time I'd heard that noise had ended in a scene of mob law, with police who weren't interested, were mates of the people involved, or who just wanted me to fit up some black guy, and didn't care who it was, or how correct my statement might be. I don't like the police in the areas I think of as war-zone London, I don't want any more contact with them than necessary.
But I have a phone. He might be dying. I knew it would be a he. And I know that what seems like a heavy roll of carpet, behind that sharp flicker of movement, isn't. I don't want to think about what I will have to do. I just pull the car round the junction and turn back into the road behind me.

There was nothing I could do for him.
You can't go back to the past and change things. The decisions we make in the present are the ones that have ripples. The past is the past - we've already lost the moment.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 2:42 AM BST
Updated: Tuesday, 4 May 2004 3:14 AM BST
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Thursday, 15 April 2004


Now Playing: Nancy Sinatra: 'Bang Bang'
Topic: Lactose Incompetent

Remember the night I should have left you? The moon was full, the thick, impenetrable, enduring Nile was swirling darkly beneath us, the sky seemed wider than was possible.
And although the day had been warmer than a Christmas Eve should ever be, the night was cold enough to see your breath? You led me down below the railings, the deck furniture, the bright eyed quietly leering captain smoking silently in the corner of the cabin, down into the bowels of the ship.
You led me to believe you wanted me to.
Beyond the loud crassness of a holidaymaker's lounge with 'acts' put on to persuade us all we liked each other's company. Beyond the permanent attempts to perform, for baksheesh, for responses, for gratitude.
To a room where the only sight line was the window, the river bank, the black oily palms moving in the distance, and the moon reflected from the Nile's surface onto the ceiling above the bed.

You turned and looked at me. You gestured. You kissed me deeply, inhaled the perfume oils bartered for in the nostril distending filth of the souk of a port now left far behind.
You led me further towards you, waited till I gulped for your mouth again.
You pulled back. I leaned in.
You pulled away again.
I thought you were joking, this was part of a game to make me want you. Somewhere something slipped into the water with a small splash.

Bringing your arms up to my chest, you shoved.
You thrust me onto the floor, away, in fury, a snarl curling and distorting your features.
'Do you see? Do you like it? That's what it's like to be rejected. That's how it feels.'

You turned away from me, to the window where the pitch sky still seemed lighter than the dark terrors of the riverbank.
The ship moved slightly, the sickening lurches and shifts that take time to adjust to. You laughed, nastily.
Laughed at my shock. Laughed at how I still wanted you.

That was when I should have left you, you know?

This page graced by sarsparilla at 5:54 PM BST
Updated: Thursday, 15 April 2004 6:00 PM BST
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Wednesday, 7 April 2004

It's like a catalogue of hare brained idiocy

Topic: Lactose Incompetent

One of the things I did wrong lately, one of the things that was silly in the extreme, silly like going for a toddle around the outside of the Blackpool Tower viewing platform, was to ask Tybalt to cat-sit a few weekends for me.
Everyone said it was a bad idea - I mean absolutely everyone, even my mother, I mean, god, the minute I get a bed she hasn't slept in, a pan she hasn't burnt, a bathroom her wiry hair hasn't infected, I invite her over for more? It so clearly was a bad idea that I just stopped mentioning it to people, so they wouldn't tell me yet again what a bad idea it was.
I kind of had reasons for doing it. I think. My beigeious palace in Pengeitude has been such a blessed retreat from reality, so free from association or character or harm that to a degree, I thought nothing could kill that, I could never walk into this flat and worry that my sins were made flesh in the attic.
Tybalt has been residing rent free with a succession of friends since last July, and having benefitted in some ways from the near perma-isolation that wound licking in Penge implies, I felt it a charity to offer some of the benefits around.

Toulouse has grilled me over sparkling water and pasta about my motives. I did worry about my motives a little at the time, too. The first time it happened, I worried it might be me missing her. Of course I miss her, you can't spend nine years with someone then be alone all the time without at least missing company. Yeah, a little, sorta. But not really. I'm better without that relationship, even if it pains me to go through the things it was stopping me from seeing/being.
Although it panicked me that she might think it was a way of trying to get back together again. Nuh-uh. Not in the slightest. I'm very happy to have her here when I'm not - if I had to be present, here, with her, though, it would be a whole different story, and one I'd find very difficult indeed to cope with or endure.

In fact, since I moved here, I've experienced repeated nightmares about Tybalt. They started off being nightmares that she was here with me. That's it. Just present. That was enough to make me wake with every muscle clenched in horror, daring myself to turn my head and see if the pillow next to me was occupied.
It took me a while to remember where that nightmare came from; in fact it was a physical memory. The feeling of straining everything taut in an attempt to get out of bed without waking someone.

Explaining that to Toulouse, he knew what I meant, the avoidance of intimacy: but it was more than that. The absolute certainty that should you err, should you hit the wire and wake her, you were going to be made to regret it - that something you do, say, wear, look, be will be wrong, will be wicked, will be an affront, and you'll be told, told, told about it. Repeatedly.
Since I've split up with Tybalt, I haven't once had that feeling of being a bit player in a narrative that's no longer your own; where every action you choose is only further evidence of your innate wickedness. I'm free to be my own author, now, to have more motives than one. Returning to that state would be imprisonment in a nightmare.

Then the nightmares morphed into arguments. Not relived ones, because we didn't have arguments - she refused to. She would refuse to reply, then go to sleep.
Myself, I'm more of a drama queen that that - I get so wound up by arguments that I simply cannot, could not sleep; I have to sort it out then, there, deal with it, make a scene, make up - but Tybalt would lie down, feeling like shit, probably, then sleep until it seemed unimportant again.
That was the sort of argument I had in my sleep.

Those days, I'd wake up to the beige nothingness, the blank forgiveness of walls that have never had things hurled against them, by me, at least, and feel incredibly calm inside to be away from it.

I think that was the beginning of the rage.

Still, the house is unsold, and contact has to be made, to deal with agents, with solicitors, with financial negotiations, bills, and after all, can I not be civilised? Meeting to discuss the money arrangements, I was reassured - sure, I wouldn't have said no to a hug, but frankly I'd hug Genghis Khan at the moment, that's what reduced intimacy does to you - but I wasn't attracted. I didn't miss her physically. And, despite the obvious attempts to impress me, she was happy to play along in her part as one of the civilised few who could engineer a 'polite' break up.
Her attitude to the split had been to throw herself into her social life, to go out every night, to forget herself in other people. She usually smelled bad, had grey circles of hangover under her eyes, was tired, unable to summon energy, but stumbling out to another assignation all the same.

So, despite everything, I invited her to stay over, three weekends, while I was away. A chance to escape the mania of partying all the time?
I am a little worried it's partly revenge. I could see Toulouse was too. He bought tea and patisserie, and grilled me further about it.

Thinking honestly, there may have been an element of bragging that I'd landed on my feet. The emphasis being my. I may have been making myself ill in an apartment with no heating, losing my coat, losing my marbles, too, and unable to find enough cash to even feed myself at times, but I hadn't relied on anyone else. I know, also, that this will always be true. I will always, no matter what, source pride in being competent, no matter what it costs, in not asking others for help.
Which is somewhat unfortunate; one of the lightbulb moments I had this year was that people like to help. Duh.
Moreso, though, it was, I believe, an attempt to make her stop using people. She's taking too long to get her life going again. The 'victim' role is wearing thin.
I know full well that the wearisome plaint of 'Vanessa robbed me of my home, my money, my livelihood' is little more than mere drama - she has plenty of sources of money which she keeps fairly quiet to others about - the same amount I had. I wouldn't have been able to pay a deposit on a new flat without it.
She's no longer unemployed and wondering what to do with her life - she's earning a bloody decent wage in central London. Her continued reliance on other's charity shocks me, surprises me, and to a degree, if I'm honest with myself, I possibly wanted to offer use of my flat to her in order to shame her into acting with more honour.
There was an element also of that, in using the bloody animals to do it. She's very strident that I continue to pay for insurance for the cats she's dumped on me. I like having them (mostly because who else is delighted to see me when I get home?) but I've also stopped panicking if they go missing or escape. Could solve a lot of burdens, that...
But she demands that I pay #30 a month to insure them. One was very ill two years ago, and when we totted up the combined cost of her blood being rushed to California for testing, her kidney dialysis, etc (all the luxuries the NHS would probably never fork out for mere humans), it added up to around #1300.
There were huge coupley rows about it. I put my foot down and suggested we allow the cat to die. She put her more effective foot down and demanded it live.
It's probably the price of running a hospital for a month in some godforsaken shanty town. A figure so humiliating that I mostly don't tell it. The horror of having paid, even via insurance, a sum that large to save not a human, but a damn cat, was not lost on me. If they're my cats, then they're mine to die. They will not be insured, or taken to the vets. They will live their term, and if their time comes, they will expire face down in the food bowl, and be taken to the dump in a bin bag, while I go get a new one. Not to sound too callous, but they're not humans, they're replaceable.
This burden of responsibility disturbs Tybalt, and partly I may have wanted to throw guilt over it in her face by inviting her to stay here.

But, having your own front door allows you dangerous levels of control. Having an invisible enemy allows you dangerous levels of bile, too. I would return from a weekend to find at first, a shampoo bottle turned slightly to the side. Embarrassed that I was so anal about my surroundings I could even tell such a thing, I'd turn it back, irritated.
Then she ate my food. Left some other food in the cupboard - overly expensive, unhealthy stuff I'd never eat. Phoned Hamburg for an hour.
Drank everything I'd left in the fridge. Left hairs clogging up the drains. Used my T shirt for pyjamas. Left rubbish kicking about on the kitchen floor. Fed my cats things that make them vomit a day later. Annoyed me.
And I don't even want to think about the bed.

Last weekend, I made it clear to her that I didn't need her to cat sit, that it was an offer for her benefit, not mine. Hell, I have neighbours with cats, friends living nearby, colleagues nearby, and a clockwork cat feeding device.
Without any evidence whatsoever I *knew* she would have been stressing loudly how much of a trial it had become, and making it out to be a favour she was doing to me already. Hell, she's put it about to everybody that I forced her to dump me, so I'm brooking no doubts about whether she'd have painted it as a martyrish favour.
She still wanted to cat sit. I made it clear that I needed the keys back before the next weekend, as Martin needed somewhere to stay after the pub that Thursday, and without spare keys, he'd be locked into the flat, and have ended up travelling 120 miles back to London in order to look at a beige wall in Penge all day. She agreed that Thursday would be a convenient day to return the keys - especially since I was working in central London that day anyway - she could travel one tube stop and drop them off.

Or so you'd think.
Last week became the week that Tybalt wouldn't give me my keys back. The keys to my new flat, not the one we co-own, the keys to the flat that I go hungry trying to pay for because she's too fucking stingy to contribute.
It was too difficult for her to give me the keys back before 10am. It was too difficult to give me the keys back between 10.30 and twelve. What I really needed, she advised, was a spare set of keys.
After twelve? After six? Later? Come to the pub and meet us, with my keys, I suggested? Sigh.
To be honest, she counselled, I'd do better to go get some new keys cut.

I did ring jatb, and check; am I psychotic? Am I unreasonable to feel this fury? No.
Refusing to give me my keys = Wrong Move.

Eventually, by eight o clock in the evening, Tybalt rang, and offered to give me my keys back. If I left the pub now, and the friends I rarely see, travel a half hour to Waterloo and back, then she'd interrupt her busy social life long enough to reach into her bag and hand me some keys.

Fuck that.

So, like everyone ever always did tell me anyway, it was a bad idea.
Like the estimable Ian F says, she's not my friend, stop pretending that you can achieve that.
Like Toulouse says, I shouldn't have done it, I shouldn't have invited her into my house.

But you know what? The stupid ideas keep coming. Duch asked me if it was alright if she invited Tybalt to her party last Saturday. Said that she'd invite someone else if it was going to make me uncomfortable. And I said yes, invite her - why should my moods infect Duch's celebrations? Another stupid idea.
And then I stayed frozen, flanked by Duch and Toulouse, the other side of Tybalt all evening, accepted my damn keys without a word, didn't shout at her or create a scene, didn't drag her across the dinner table by her stupid hair, didn't make a fuss. Just kept my eyes and myself away from her pusillanimous self regard. Another stupid move.
Sat there in my jeans and shirt, hair akimbo, teetotal, rained upon, chatted loudly with anyone I could. Ignored her: her diamante outfit, her drinking, her smoking, her not making conversation with anyone but the people she's known for twenty years. I decided: she's never coming into this house again.

I tried to work out where this rage is coming from, and why it won't let me go. I stopped myself from crying on the way home, and I felt okay the next morning. Then Toulouse took me out to lunch and I cried all day.
Like an idiot. About nothing.
Another stupid move.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:05 PM BST
Updated: Thursday, 8 April 2004 2:49 AM BST
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Wednesday, 31 March 2004

There Are Silences Between These Lines

Topic: Lactose Incompetent

Things I've been trying to avoid blogging lately: the fear, the filth and the fury.

From the book I'm reading:
"Unconsciously Milton was adhering to the Greek custom of shaving after a death in the family. Only in this case what had ended wasn't a life but a livelihood. The beard fattened up his already plump face. He didn't keep it trimmed or very clean. And because he didn't utter a word about his troubles, his beard began to express silently all the things he wouldn't allow himself to say. Its knots and whorls indicated his increasingly tangled thoughts. Its bitter odor released the ketones of stress. As summer progressed, the beard grew shaggy, unmown."

I have sort of hinted at the fear. I haven't succeeded in socialising without drinking, therefore I don't yet believe that I on my own am enough. I no more answer the phone than last year - now I'm usually asleep if it rings, then I simply didn't want to speak, but the outcome is similar - I miss the call.
Mostly I'm rushing around, knackered, with the bizarre result that I feel stressed by the pressure to socialise. It was absolute agony forcing myself to go away for two weekends in a row - I had a cold, was tired, felt nothing more pressing than the need to curl up under a duvet all weekend. The threat of its absence seemed a privation of the worst sort, and I came >this< close to cancelling again and again, eventually having to force myself out with the rationalisation that viewing work as normal and friends as a trial is madness.
I was right, of course, once you're there, out, it's fine, and had a great time. Yet, somehow, the agoraphobe inside is so thankful I have an empty unbooked holiday next week, with not a single brunch chartered. How do I let myself get into the sort of state where friends seem like a drain on my resources? Insane.

The filth: mundane. Mundane and compelling. It's getting dirty around here. No washing machine, vacuum cleaner broken. Tybalt's cat sitting each weekend lends itself to feeding said animals things that will make them puke the next day. I'm sat here under a blanket, surrounded by the debris of my Easter huevos, wondering how I'm going to get cat-puke mark number three out of the carpet. Ew.

The fury: like Milton's beard, the less I speak to Tybalt, the more the repressed feelings emerge. The quietus provided by my south London beige refuge is slowly allowing things to escape.
Problem: the prominent emotion arising is utter rage. Rage to the degree that I feel unable to address it or to speak sensibly about it.
On a superficial level, I've managed to hack a sort of 'working relationship' out of the mess of the disintegrating partnership, in order to sell the house. It seems improper to address my feelings of vehement fury to her; we're not in a relationship any longer, I'm happy not to have to deal with any of her irrational resentment, and likewise, I'd rather keep a lid on mine. Distance is my ambition, really.
But the rage doesn't let me just listen passively to an excuse, or a petty demand, a text message bill for #13.75, or a blandly craven or selfish statement from her. It bursts into furious flame inside me. It rips apart the spoken forgivenesses and apologies, and remoulds them into lies. Untruths.
I'm pretty mild. I'm generally pretty tolerant. But rippling beneath that is a dementia right now - it's slowly seeping out at work, and beginning to dribble into my dealings with friends. It's so bad it makes me feel as if I should confess. Literally. To a priest.
It's alarming. When will this rampant bitterness escape? Exorcise itself? And how?

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:54 PM GMT
Updated: Thursday, 8 April 2004 3:28 AM BST
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Friday, 6 February 2004

Tick Tock

Topic: Lactose Incompetent
I don't have nah time to blog tomorrow, innit, so I'm blogging the next day today. Rah! I caught up with real-time. That's why people like me live at zero degrees longitude, and people like you live somewhere not as important as here. Near Penge, that is.
So where was I? Ah yes, Malice's soft tepid spurtings of joy juice. (ew)
Lost in a haze of relaxation in my two inches of lukewarm heaven. I diligently removed my watch and placed it in this week's customary pose on the bog cistern.
An hour later, it was gone. Gone! Where the fuck is my watch? You do not realise how much my bloody job is regulated by time and appointments. How far out of my normally adapted sleep routine I am in a too hot bedroom, with not enough air, cats who are ignoring me, a different route to the coffee pot and two hours extra sleep in the morning. That every electrical item in the house has reset itself till it's about sixteen hours out from GMT. That I have to be at Gatwick Airport at six in the morning tomorrow. How wrong I am liable to get the time when I just guess.

I caved. The next day I caved. I kept trying to use the dying mobile, but I couldn't cope with adding and subtracting from a twenty four hour clock. I tried carrying my laptop round, but everyone takes it and plays with it, and starts laughing at their stupid videos of themselves. I can't see the time icon over their shoulders. So I did a tour of Pikey Jewellers in Lewisham.
I'm not sure if I've blogged my problems with watches. I tried to come it with another blogger a while back that I had dyscalculia, but she said I was just showing off, and I had to admit I was trying ot over glamourise basic stupidity on my part. I can't tell the time.
Well, that is to say, I can tell the time. I can tell the digital time. And through constant hourly practise (I'm not joking) with a dial face watch I can screw my face up and tell you the time within under a minute, if the dial has all the five minute markings, and at least four numbers, and really long clear hands.
Okay, you can stop laughing now. Or I'll pull the violin out and tell you how many bloody years it took me to learn to tie shoelaces. I'm as good as Elaine Showalter or FR Leavis if you want a spot of classic literature interpreted, but put me in a room full of monkeys and I'll give you one guess who will be asking who how many more minutes till the big hand hits the twelve?
So, anyway, every time I get a watch I try to make it a little bit harder to read, to keep my wits sharp and keep it difficult so I have to practise. (Another mere detail - if I don't tell the time for a week or two, I forget how to do it. Aaargh.)
Today I was so so so proud of myself. No numbers on the dial. I rejected four watches for lack of minute dots, or hands that were too long, or square faces (don't change the bloody geometric shape or you'll have me fitting and foaming at the mouth, for god's sake). The dial is one and a half centimetres in diameter. (That's small, for you imperial measuring imperialist oldies, right.)
I was so proud of my fearlessness, I showed it to Tybalt when she came to pick up the keys for tomorrow. Big mistake. She noticed that the time I'd given her, just a few minutes before (okay, okay, I don't know how many bloody minutes) was not exactly correct.
Only out by two hours, I was. Bah.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 10:23 PM GMT
Updated: Friday, 6 February 2004 10:28 PM GMT
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