Posted in About today

A proper post

I’m sorry that I haven’t written a proper post for a while. It hasn’t been for the want of trying, it’s just that every time I sat down to write everything went and fell out my head, or at least everything that was left after flat and empty had taken up the ridiculous amount of space they seem to require at the moment.

It’s been a funny few days (funny peculiar not funny ha ha). My brain seems to be settling into a new routine which is essentially two reasonable days followed by an absolute shocker. I’m taking this as a positive because it’s better than three straight shockers, right?

I was on annual leave on Friday. I’d had it booked for ages, but by the time it came around I couldn’t actually remember why. Still, it worked out okay in the end because I got to watch most of the tennis on a proper TV* and I didn’t have to take any time out of a working day to visit Mr Clever, the psychiatrist. I haven’t mentioned Mr Clever yet, have I? We have a love hate relationship…. No actually, scrub that we have a hate relationship insofar as that I hate him. I hate him primarily because he wears a bow tie, which may be irrational, but then I am talking about my psychiatrist here. When I first met him, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt by thinking that he was wearing it in an ironic way, but he definitely isn’t. Mr Clever is a real life actual person who wears a bow tie to work every day and it tells me something about him that I don’t like. At this point I apologise for any offence caused to bow tie wearers, but seriously – what is it all about? Anyway, as far as I can tell I have to pole up at Mr Clever’s office at regular intervals to confirm in person that I haven’t topped myself yet. It’s an easy enough duty to fulfil, particularly given that I quite like hospitals. On another positive note he doesn’t ask me to tell him ‘how I feel about that’ which is a sure fire way to make me giggle because it reminds me of an episode of Monk.

I spent Friday evening in the pub** watching tennis on an iPad because the pub’s TV was broken***. It was good fun and it reminded me of how far I’ve actually come with some things in the last year. This time last year I couldn’t watch Wimbledon without thinking about jumping off a tall building, because it brought back some unhappy memories of happier times and because I was heartbroken and mental. I’ve hardly thought about any of those (un)happy times this year which must prove that the memories are dealt with and that I’m just plain old fashioned mental now. I think I like it better this way.

Saturday was a day of high excitement in the Wee Gee household because Alan the Ocado man brought my groceries. This is the most boring story I’ve told yet on my blog but I’m going to plough on and tell it anyway…. At the beginning of each month I do a massive online shop and fill up all my cupboards and my larder**** and then I spend a few hours unpacking it and organising the cupboards/larder. That’s the story. The reason I mention it is that it is an important event on the ‘looking after Wee Gee calendar’ because it means that all the ingredients for the ‘looking after Wee Gee meal plan’ are in the flat and all I need to do is make sure I make it to the supermarket once a week to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables. It sets me up for the month ahead, and I always feel organised and in control on Ocado man Saturday. I told you it was boring!

Once the shopping was unpacked I spent some time learning how to draw a bird, and then had a pleasant afternoon wandering down by the river with my thoughts – it was nice to be with myself without driving myself mad. Saturday evening was a tense affair what with the tennis and all. I was glad that Murray won even if I do hate him. I hate Andy Murray because he is sullen and belligerent which I guess is a better reason for hating someone than the fact that they wear a bow tie!

And then came Sunday which was the shocker in the pack. My mood was back to flat and empty and I couldn’t bring myself to care about anything – I had deserted myself. Needless to say I spent Sunday following the well rehearsed routine aimed at keeping Wee Gee away from the cliff edge. I don’t need to go into details here, but I mostly approached Sunday in increments. Increments works quite well for me on occasion, and really just means I try to have a ‘normal’ day interjected with periods of hiding. As you can probably tell, given that I’m writing this, I weathered the storm and arrived at Monday intact.

The only significant thing to report about Monday is that I started the 10,000 steps challenge today. By way of background, about two months ago I decided to get involved in a challenge whereby I have to take at least 10,000 steps every day for six weeks and fundraise for Mind at the same time. Looking back it seems clear that I was in a Citalopram induced fit of enthusiasm when I signed up. Nevertheless I’m signed up now so I have to go through with it and I intend to do my best to raise the modest sum of one hundred smackers for Mind. There are two potential difficulties with this. The first is the very real prospect that I go into hiding during the challenge. I do a lot of pacing when I’m in hiding but I can’t imagine that I do 10,000 steps worth of pacing. The second is that no-one sponsors me, which would be awful not least because it would just confirm my suspicions that everybody I know actually hates me. On both points I’m just going to have to wait and see and cross the bridges as I come to them.

Meanwhile in other news work is still a bit shit and the Man Who Know is still alive and that’s all I have to say about that. Nothing further to add today save that Mr Hilarious is back after a leave of absence and I didn’t realise how much I missed him until he came back.

Take care, Wee Gee.

*As opposed to on my PC at work or on an iPad

**But not in a boozy way

***No, I don’t know why we didn’t think to move to a different pub either

****I say larder, but I really just mean a part of my wardrobe that doesn’t have clothes in. My kitchen is tiny.

Posted in Book reviews

Goodreads book review – The Alchemist

The AlchemistThe Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It seems that everybody has read the Alchemist and it seems also, that everybody loves it. For my part, I can at least say that I have read it now.

When I started reading this book I thought I was going to love it. It seemed sweet and simple and quite enchanting but as I continued reading the sweetness became a bit sickly and the simplicity a bit insulting.

Perhaps it’s me, but I can’t accept the idea that everybody has a destiny and that to achieve it all you need to do is listen to your heart. For a start, it’s all well and good if your destiny is love or happiness or untold treasures but what if your destiny is to be always hungry, or always in pain, or, for example, to be raped and murdered during a civil war or to be tortured to death by your government….. Should you also follow your heart towards these things? Or is the idea that terrible things only happen to people because they didn’t listen to their hearts? As far as I can see fate and destiny just don’t stack up when you start to think about them logically.

Aside from having a problem with the premise of the book, I also found the Alchemist a bit flat: the characters are flat, the scenery is flat and the narrative is flat; the ending is one of the flattest, laziest and most disappointing I’ve ever come across. I wanted to love this novel – I really did – but in the end it left me feeling a bit irritated and underwhelmed.

In conclusion, I suppose I’m just too cynical for fate, destiny and the Alchemist.

A note on book reviews

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Posted in Book reviews

Goodreads book review – The good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ*

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel ChristThe Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I came to The good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ having read the His dark materials trilogy but found none of the withering and thought provoking criticism of the power afforded to organised religion in those works here. In fact, Pullman’s retelling of the story of Christ felt a little juvenile and little lazy. It added nothing salient to the weary debate about the value and nature of religion, and at times seemed like an unnecessary and cheap point scoring exercise.

Of course Philip Pullman is no stranger to religious controversy and perhaps, given a certain inclination of faith The good man Jesus and the scoundrel Christ is a deeply controversial work. For my part – not being of that particular inclination – I can only set aside the apparent controversy and conclude that without it this is little more than a story about the nature of stories. I’ve read plenty of stories about stories before; the blurred lines between fact, fiction, truth, history and memory have been explored time and again elsewhere and sadly this book didn’t feel anything like a stand out example of an over familiar post-modern genre.

It’s disappointing not to find something positive to say about a novel, so I suppose it’s fair to say that there is some charm in the fable like nature of this one – although perhaps this owes more to the gospels themselves than to Pullman’s rendering of them.

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* A note on book reviews

Posted in Book reviews

Goodreads book review – Death at intervals

Death at Intervals

Death at Intervals by José Saramago
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The central premise of José Saramago’s Death at intervals is simple, if impossible – one day, without warning, people stop dying…. And so ensures a fascinating exploration of some fundamental and enduring human concerns –our relationship with mortality, our reliance on governance, the morality of euthanasia, the roles of state and religion, and (not least) the nature of love and the meaning of life.

I loved this book in so many ways and the story itself is mischievous, thought provoking and challenging. Whilst Saramago’s rendering of the conventional sentence feels a little meandering and difficult at first it is well worth the effort and perseverance, particularly when it comes to the perfectly drawn plot twist – the anticipation of which runs to more than ten pages and feels like a sentence spilled into a paragraph spilled into a chapter. (Incidentally, if you want to get the full effect of this book I’d recommend reading it without first reading the publisher’s blurb on the back cover). For me, the stand out thing about Death at intervals is the ambiguity of the narrative voice – at times it is difficult to determine where speech ends and the narrative voice resumes. Unreliable narrators are something of a favourite of mine, because, as Saramago himself puts it ‘one cannot be too careful with words. Words change their minds just as people do’.

In summary I think this is a brilliant novel by a brilliant writer and I’m looking forward to reading more of his work.

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Posted in About today

Sing when you’re winning

In celebration of finding myself singing along to the radio earlier today* I have finally completed my sparkly new Spotify playlist. This is an important step forwards because, although I am usually passionate about music, I felt like I’d lost my enthusiasm in recent months. Making a new playlist is something that appears on one of the small things lists, and this is the first one that I’ve been able to cross off completely. I think that’s what you call progress!

Anyhow, here’s a link to the playlist, just in case you’re interested:

Small things

Enjoy!

*The song was A girl like you by Edwyn Collins (and no, I can’t explain why I would sing along to this song in particular).

Posted in The small things lists

All the small things

I’m conscious that the lists I mentioned in my earlier post must seem rather small to a ‘normal person’ (it’s okay, I’m the one with mental health issues – I’m allowed to indulge in a little bleak humour if I feel like it) and to be honest, they’d probably seem quite small to me if I were feeling a little better. But I’m not feeling a little better quite yet and they’re about as big as I can get. For now.

Depression brings with it all kinds of negative thinking  – paralysing feelings of hopelessness, an overall sense of dread and rather distressing thoughts of self harm to name a few – but none are more damaging that the guilt and shame that you somehow end up heaping upon yourself during a low period. The smallest of ‘failures’ is turned into a major catastrophe in the blink of an eye and the guilt and shame that you feel in light of this self imposed fail mark is enough to render you utterly defeated and send you yet deeper into the mire.

With this in mind, it important that, as I try to reach in a pull myself out of my pit, I don’t set myself unrealistic targets. What I’m actually  trying to do is build achievements little by little without the prospect of guilt looming large and challenging my progress.  So yes, the things on my lists (from here on in to be known as the ‘small things’ lists) seem fairly insignificant in the main scheme of things but I refer you to the wise words of Vincent Van Gogh:

‘Great things are done by a series of small things brought together’

So my take on it all is…. what he said.

Is seems like a good time to review my progress with the small things lists. It’s not looking too bad really (note the things I’d like to do are a little longer term so nothing to report just yet):

Three things I need to do:

  1. Visit my friend and her new baby: In the diary.
  2. Get a haircut: Well no, not yet. But then I haven’t decided what I want to do with it yet.
  3. Make a new Spotify playlist: Most definitely in progress. It’s going to be a masterpiece so may take a while to complete.

Three things I like doing:

  1. Walking in pretty places: Did you see the weather this weekend?!
  2. Wii Fit: Check. Three sessions under my belt.
  3. Reading: Finally got around to starting José Saramango’s Death at intervals.

I think that’s looking pretty good, no? Go me!

Posted in The small things lists

Being boring

One of the songs I heard on the radio this morning – courtesy of the rather marvellous Sean Keavney on the equally marvellous Radio Six Music – was one of my guilty pleasures: The Pet Shop Boys, Being Boring. If you’re not familiar with the song all I’ll say is that I suggest you acquaint yourself and leave it at that. I should confess to having something of a soft spot for the Pet Shop Boys (it’s a camp thing I think), but beyond that, the song has always resonated with me partly because it’s sad and sad always resonates, and partly because ‘being boring’ can be an outcome of depression for me.

I was a shy child and I grew up to be a shy adult; that’s just my character, and it isn’t much of a problem for me in normal circumstances. When I’m well, shyness is an obstacle I can overcome  fairly easily – I can get out to do things and socialise, I can even, on occasion, bring myself to try new things and meet new people. But when I’m not so well, the low mood and shattered confidence I experience exacerbates the problem to epic proportions. I suppose you could say that the two things – shyness and depression – come together to form a perfect storm. Here’s why….

When things get bleak, I don’t like myself very much at all, and to be fair, my company sucks. That’s barrier number one – if you can’t bear to be with yourself why on earth would anyone else want to spend time with you (not an altogether illogical thought process). After a little while with my dark passenger on board, I start to resemble what my mum would describe as ‘death het up’. I’m not eating well and I’m usually not sleeping so I look tired and drawn. Being bothered about my appearance is beyond me and even getting a haircut is a challenge too far so I also look dishevelled and worn around the edges. That’s barrier number two because I don’t want anybody to see me like that, or for that matter think that I’m really  like that (this one not quite so logical, granted). Barrier number three is the big one for me, because eventually I lose all interest in the things that usually interest me. Put bluntly, I don’t actually have anything to say apart from ‘life is unbearable for me right now and I wish I was dead’… not much of a conversation starter, eh? So, for me, all of the barriers seem to conspire to knock what is already a slightly fragile sense of confidence and increase my shyness tenfold.

By the time I’ve landed in my pit it really does feel like the only thing I can do is stay there and hide for a little while because I didn’t have the confidence to do the things I was doing in the first place. All of which just makes the barriers bigger and more difficult to break down. The challenge, of course, is to do something about all of this.

We’ve already established that I’m a little shy so I think it’s safe to say I’m not taking up speed dating any time soon. Some things, however, are more realistic and I’ve started by devising myself a couple of good old lists!

Three things I need to do:

  1. Visit my friend and her new baby
  2. Get a hair cut
  3. Make a new Spotify playlist

Three things I like doing:

  1. Walking in pretty places
  2. Wii Fit
  3. Reading

Three things I’d like to do:

  1. Join a book club
  2. Get a manicure
  3. Join a gym

Finally I’m armed with some achievable lists and I can forget about the other things that crowd my thinking for a little while. There are lots of things I could do, but right now, these are the things I’m working towards. When I start pulling them together, I’ll be socialising again, taking care of myself and maintaining some interests. Feels like a plan. I’ll let you know how I get on….