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I write every day about living with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression. I've written and published more than 1.3 million words

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Profligacy

7 min read

This is a story about out-of-control spending...

Wallet

This is my wallet. It doesn't contain any cash. In fact, it doesn't contain very much at all. It's very thin, although not as thin as my favourite wallet, which unfortunately wore out. I like having a thin wallet.

My wallet contains a 'debit' card for my personal account (known as a checking account in North America, I think), a 'debit' card for my business account, and two credit cards. Also, I keep my drivers license as photo ID, and some stamps, in case I need to mail anything. So, that's 4 bank/credit cards and a card-sized driving license: 5 cards in total. That's all I need.

Sure, I need a little cash from time to time. Frustratingly, I had used the small amount of cash that I carry to pay for something, when I needed to pay the guy who cleans the windows in our street, so I had to live with dirty windows for a little while longer than I would have liked to.

Cash tends to stay in my pocket for so long, that often it ceases to be in common circulation: the UK is replacing all of its 'paper' banknotes (they were actually more like a kind of fabric, but that's just a geeky fact for you) with 'plastic' ones. The UK is probably the world's number one place to launder money, so of course we need to have wipe-clean waterproof money.

Anybody who's used a plastic banknote to insufflate a powdered substance into their nose - not me, obviously - will tell you that the new banknotes will damage the delicate membrane of your nose and cause it to bleed, quite often. However, at least you can wipe the blood off. Paying for stuff with bloodstained banknotes is rather embarrassing (but not the reason why I don't carry much cash - I just don't need/use the stuff, for any purpose).

If you've followed my blog, or you know me as a close friend, then you'll know that I've suffered from depression which has been quite relentless and uninterrupted; interrupted only by suicide attempts, I should probably add. My will to live has been long absent.

I was starting to give up and abandon all hope of surviving for more than a few more months. I was certain that if Christmas didn't kill me, like it almost did last year, then I'll certainly die in April or May next year. Basically, I could see no future for myself; no point in suffering any longer.

Then, I had a great idea: I'll buy a really fancy gaming computer, so I can play driving simulators, flight simulators, turn-based strategy games on a big monitor, and retro console games... generally get into gaming in a really big way.

But.

It was not a good idea.

Part of the reason for my depression, is because I'm home alone, in front of a screen all day. Part of the reason for my depression, is because of my sedentary lifestyle. Part of the reason for my depression, is that I lack real-world social interaction with people.

In short: the gaming PC was a bad idea.

But.

Then I had a really great idea, which was to buy a mountain bike.

I mean, I already have a mountain bike, so why would I buy another one? The mountain bike I have is the best that money can buy (to me at least) so why would I buy another one, if I couldn't buy a better one?

Good question.

Mountain biking is hard work. I used to be young, skinny and fit, but now I am old, fat(ter) and unfit. I am by no means obese and I am by no means so unfit that I can't do exercise, but my health and fitness have been grossly neglected during my interminable depression, as well as during lockdown, which made things even worse. I did try to finish the lockdown fitter, thinner and generally healthier than when I started, but, it was very hard. The best I managed to do, was to stop the rot, a little bit.

Pedalling a mountain bike uphill is hard work. You have to move the weight of the bike, the equipment, your clothes and your body, uphill. My super nice mountain bike weighs 24 pounds (11kg), my equipment could be zero I guess, if I was going for minimum weight, my clothes, including shoes, could be as little as 4 pounds (2kg)... but the heaviest thing is me. I weigh at least 22 pounds (10kg) more than I did when I used to ride my mountain bike regularly. So, basically, if I was to ride up a hill, it would be like me riding up that hill with a whole extra mountain bike on my back. Plus, I'm unfit too.

So what's the solution? Lose weight, right? Catch 22.

The best way to lose weight is to exercise, but if your favourite form of exercise - mountain biking in this case - has gone from something which is difficult but enjoyable; rewarding... into something which is so exhausting that it will destroy you to just go up one single hill, then the barrier to entry is too high.

What did I do? I bought a mountain bike which assists with my pedalling, to make it feel like I'm 22 pounds lighter. In fact, the mountain bike I bought can also assist with the pedalling so much, that it's like I'm young and fit too! Of course, I still have to pedal, and that still requires energy, so I'm getting the exercise I need to lose weight and to get fit again.

What I also did was buy a bunch of other stuff: waterproofs so I can go out in the rain, super-padded underwear to protect my ass (because it got soft since I didn't ride a bike for a long time) and a whole bunch of other really expensive stuff. Could I have done without that stuff? Sure. I guess I could carry a heavy mountain bike for miles and miles because I got a puncture. Sure. I guess I could get soaking wet, because it's autumn now and will soon be winter. Sure. I guess I could get run over by a car on the way to/from where I'm riding, in the dark autumn/winter bad weather. For sure, I could have avoided getting that stuff and said "I'm not going out on my bike today, because it's raining/dark/I've got a puncture or whatever".

You bet I'm worried that my spending is out of control. I spent a whole month's income.

Every. Single. Penny.

Like, no money for rent, no money for food, no money for bills, no money for transport... no money for anything except my bike, and the stuff to go with it. I spent every single penny of last month's 'wages'.

So, am I stupid? Am I rubbish with money? Am I a lost cause.

Well, I wanted to commit suicide for a very long time, but now I'm just excited about riding my bike; now I've got a reason for living again. I'm not sure how long that's going to last, but money really can buy happiness, it seems; or at least money can get rid of depression, temporarily. Maybe, like a drug, the depression will only go away for a really short time and I'll have a terrible hangover/comedown. I expect that's true, but let's not be too hasty. Last time I did something like this, I got fit, healthy, happy, more social, more attractive athletic body, identity, self-esteem, and I had a lot of fun. Let's wait a while before we start calling me stupid for doing this.

 

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Cone of Shame

5 min read

This is a story about being mute...

Kitten

I suppose my beautiful baby girl is not mute, per se, because she's actually a very vocal cat; she makes a much bigger variety of cat noises than I've ever heard - everything from growling deeply, like a big wild cat, to sweetly mewing like a tiny kitten.

I often play a game when I'm making myself a sandwich at lunchtime, where I will say to her "meow if you would like some ham", to which she always replies with a meow, indicating that, yes, she would very much like a little ham.

My bengal - heartbreakingly still missing after 3+ months - didn't really have manners, shall we say. If she wanted something she would grab it, and if I didn't let go, she would have a tug-of-war competition with me. Of course, that kind of behaviour is intrinsic to the bengal breed, and part of the appeal: they are incredibly intelligent and determined animals, who will always do what they want; get what they want.

My ragdoll - pictured - had to wear the cone of shame for a couple of weeks. It's a common misconception that bengals are smart and ragdolls aren't. In fact, my ragdoll will play fetch, open doors and copy other stuff she sees me doing, or just figure things out for herself because she's smart. She is, however, a lot less prone to getting bored and becoming destructive. My house is in need of a number of bengal-related repairs, and that's even after cat-proofing my entire home.

I used to have to wash my duvet and bed linen at least 3 times a week, because my bengal would get into my bedroom and urinate on my bed. If she couldn't get in my bedroom, she'd urinate on anything of mine she could find: clothes, bags, blankets, tea towels, bath mats... whatever. She had no fewer than *FIVE* litter trays to choose from, and I used the special pheromone spray to try to help calm her down, but she basically was on a one-cat mission to urinate on everything I own.

I would not get another bengal, although of course I am desperate to be re-united with my poor lost baby.

My ragdoll is the perfect cat: she's very entertaining, just like a bengal, because she's smart and wants to play fetch and other games; she can be trained to do stuff. But, the main thing is, she doesn't urinate on any of my stuff. Well, actually, there was one time, which is the point of this essay.

Every time I go in the bathroom, my cats have always wanted to be in there with me, playing. I got into the habit of shutting the door with my bengal, otherwise she would shred all the toilet rolls, pull all the towels and bath mats onto the floor and urinate on everything. So, I kept the door shut. However, the cats love being in there with me, for some reason.

With my ragdoll, whenever I'm in the bathroom, she wants to be in the bath for some reason. I suppose it's like a hidey-hole or something for her. We even play a game where she thinks I can't see her, as she's poking her head over the edge of the bath. When she notices I'm looking at her, she ducks her head down, but her ears are still poking up. If I peer over the edge, she ducks even lower.

My ragdoll's love of the bath is immense, it would seem. So much so, that when I picked her up, because - instinctively - I didn't want to leave her in the bathroom, given the habit I'd gotten into with my bengal - when I carried her through to the bedroom and put her down on the bed, she urinated on it... first time and last time she's ever done that.

I guess it must be hard, not being able to communicate effectively. I try my best to figure out what's going on in my cats' head, but - as all cat owners will tell you - the mind of a cat is quite impenetrable. However, I let my ragdoll play in the bath whenever she wants now. In fact, I pretty much let her do whatever she wants, because she's such a gorgeous affectionate loving creature, who just wants to eat, sleep and snuggle, with the occasional mad moment where she wants to play rough, or just run around like a lunatic.

So, I'm sure you didn't come here for cat breed advice, or indeed an essay on the subject of my hit-and-miss experiences of cats who like to urinate on everything - bengals - versus the "perfect" domestic cat - my gorgeous ragdoll girl.

No matter how much I might moan and complain about how miserable and pointless life is, cats are the best.

 

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False Economy

3 min read

This is a story about value for money...

Torn jeans

I watched a documentary about the manufacture of jeans, and I was surprised to learn that most of the jeans which we buy in our high-street shops come from a handful of factories, in Turkey, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Indeed, almost 80% of the jeans we buy come from nearly identical factories. The premium brand jeans are made in exactly the same factories, using exactly the same method, and by exactly the same machines and people. The only difference between £300 jeans and £30 jeans, is the label, and the style.

Of course, you might say, style is everything. For sure, I don't want my jeans to be too heavily faded, too baggy, too skinny... but also too plain. Having a bit of character is what makes a pair of jeans look good - fashionable - instead of being just a plain old pair of blue denim trousers.

You might think that, knowing the facts that I do, that I wouldn't be so foolish as to assume that my mid-priced jeans would last longer than a cheaper brand... but you'd be wrong.

The knee just tore on my premium brand jeans, which cost me about twice as much as I've ever spent on a pair of jeans in my life. I suppose I've owned these jeans for two years, and worn them almost every day, so in terms of value for money, we could say that they've cost me something like 18 pence per day... which sounds quite reasonable, to me.

The problem with "pre-distressed" jeans is that, although they look 'good' from the moment you put them on, they end up looking progressively more and more scruffy, until people just assume that you're so poor that you can't afford new clothes; until they cease to be fashionable and instead become part of a dishevelled look, which nobody finds particularly attractive.

Anyway, I've done something which I've never done before in my life, which is to purchase clothes without trying them on in a shop. I had a horrible retail experience on Sunday, where I had to queue in the rain to get into the shop, and then queue again to purchase the product I was buying. Also, given that my city is in a second lockdown, it seemed more civic minded to do my shopping online.

At least I don't have to be in the office anytime this year, so nobody at work will see me wandering around in jeans with a massive rip in the knee. I literally only ever own one pair of jeans which I love and wear all the time. I suppose I should buy several of certain items, when I find something I like, so that I have a like-for-like replacement when the item(s) eventually wear out. I've done that before, with a few things, and it's a good strategy for somebody like me, who has a very small wardrobe.

I'm sure you probably came here hoping to read something a little less mundane than a 500 word essay about my worn-out jeans. Sorry.

 

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Electronicat

5 min read

This is a story about technical stuff...

Electronics

Of all the hobbies I thought about getting into, most of them were sedentary; indoors. I thought about getting some kind of retro games console. I thought about getting a new games console. I thought about getting a gaming PC. Then, I thought about maybe doing something really geeky. I started looking into software-defined radio, with the intention of making a home-made radar, perhaps, or doing my own mobile phone base station. All of this, I decided, was expensive and wouldn't help me with my need to get outside and exercise.

I did some of the projects on the cheap. I managed to turn my 5 year old laptop into a pretty decent retro console, with nothing more than a cheap game controller pad. I got a whole buttload of electronics experiments I could do with a super cheap tiny little computer (pictured). I managed to make a home-made sonar. Not quite radar, but not too bad for a bodger.

Still, I found myself spending most of my time looking at a screen, indoors.

Also, although the projects have provided some intellectual challenge, they haven't really opened up any social avenues. I'm sure that if I got really involved in - for example - the software defined radio community, online, then I would kinda get 'social' contact out of that, but I already get more than enough online social contact. The thing I'm missing is real world social contact.

I know from past experience that when I've done something ridiculous, like suddenly deciding to get into kitesurfing, it's taken my life in a brilliant direction. I've travelled the world, in search of the best wind and waves, and made lifelong friends along the way.

My life is very nice - enviable - in a lot of ways. My beautiful cat keeps me company, and she likes company too; always wants to be nearby, getting involved with everything I'm doing, which is not always ideal when working on a microelectronics project, for example. For sure, I have options and opportunities which a lot of people can only dream of.

However.

I am also more socially isolated than you can possibly imagine. Estranged from my family, far from friends, without a support network. The litmus test is this: if you're hospitalised for a major medical emergency, who's there for you? I can answer that question. I can answer that question very well, and the answer is not good, although mercifully I did have a work colleague and a friend who happened to be visiting from abroad, who were kind enough to visit me, hooked up to a dialysis machine for 4 hours a day; a hospital stay of more than 2 weeks; a medical emergency that pretty much nearly killed me.

That's not a dig at my friends, of course. They've become used to leaving me sleeping rough or otherwise homeless. They've become used to leaving me in hospital, dying, alone. That's fine. I've come to terms with that.

I do have some VERY good friends. I am lucky enough to have one or two friends who would help me, if I asked. The rest... I'm not sure if I can even call them friends... more just people who I used to know, but now they're just strangers who I happen to see updates from on Facebook. They might as well be celebrities who I read about in tabloid newspapers or gossip magazines.

This wasn't supposed to be a dig at my acquaintances [former friends]. This is about what I'm doing to sort my life out, to make it bearable.

Possibly, by getting back into mountain biking, I have opened up the possibility of making some friends and building a support network; having a social life. We'll have to see. "Social life" might just be something which I'll never regain; I'm too old to be able to [re]build one now, having lost my old one. Anyway, I remain optimistic.

For the first time in forever, I felt motivated to start to plan for the future, in a way that's not just planning for my suicide. I've been planning what to do when my backside isn't so sore, and I can ride my new mountain bike again - where am I going to go?

Suddenly, winter doesn't look quite so bleak. I have good winter clothes and a reason to be outdoors, in the wind, the rain, and the mud. Not many people have the strange twisted kind of brain that I do, where I love extreme weather: keeps the fair-weather tourists away. On the bike ride I went on, on Saturday, there was not a single other soul on the mountain. I'd hardly describe it as "perfect conditions" but in the forests around the summit of the mountain, I hardly noticed the rain; I was going to get covered in mud anyway. It was delightful; ecstatic; euphoric... to be hammering down deserted mountain tracks, without having to worry about crashing into anybody. A far cry from the queues to get into shops, which seems to be something that the ordinary folks are spending their time doing.

Of course, everything's more fun when there's a social aspect, so I'm hoping to find some people to go mountain biking with, but people are already contacting me (which is unheard of) to arrange some biking trips, which is a good sign; a sign that I might get the healthy habits which I need in my life, along with a truckload of fun and adventure.

 

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Stock Footage

5 min read

This is a story about creativity...

Shave

If you were to ask 100 people "can you draw?" most of them would answer that they cannot. If you were to ask 100 people "can you paint?" I expect that more would answer that they cannot. If you were to ask 100 people "can you compose and play music?" then most would say that they could not.

However.

If we asked 100 people if they could do a dot-to-dot picture, or paint-by-numbers, or indeed play a piece of music which had already been composed, then most people would say that they could do all of those activities.

What's the difference?

I suppose it must be self-confidence. Since smartphones became ubiquitous, most people would consider themselves to be professional photographers, curating their Instagram pages full of their 'art'. What happened, to change photography from an art into something which the masses think they're brilliant at, and would have no problem answering "yes" if they were asked if they can take photographs. It seems to me, that having taken away the complexities of shutter speed, aperture, film speed, lux levels, considerations about depth-of-field and whether the subject is moving... now that photography is point-and-shoot, everyone thinks that they're brilliant at it.

Why not painting?

I suppose we take photographs all the time. If you have children and/or pets, your phone will be filled with photos of your progeny and/or your fur babies. If you are a youth, your phone will be full of selfies and suchlike. We are, perhaps because of the social changes which have occurred due to technology, getting a lot of practice taking photos, but we are still getting almost no practice painting, unless you are a professional fine artist.

Why not writing?

I find it unusual that, given how much screen time we all have now, writing isn't going in the same direction as photography. For sure, I suppose that people have a Twitter account, but not a blog. People have a blog, but don't write for a newspaper or magazine. People write for a website - like Buzzfeed - but don't have any published books. Perhaps everyone is writing more, which - like photography - makes it seem like people are still rubbish at it; amateur (myself included, of course).

An interesting thing happens when you make a piece of art and put it into the public domain: people who lack the confidence to be creative, connect with that artwork; they are moved by the artwork. If you love a particular song, why don't you learn to play the instruments so that you can make more of that music? It seems a little mad, to think that we each possess the ability to scratch our own itch, but perhaps it isn't true: maybe the world really does divide into creators and consumers.

I wonder why I don't include more quotations and references in my work. It's not because I'm not well read, or I can't think of where my thoughts and ideas came from: I know my source material, almost without exception. However, while my influences are well known to me, I don't see any value in parroting the authors whose work I admire. For sure, I could write a lot about other people's ideas, but it's the amalgamation of the accumulated wealth of knowledge in my mind, which is interesting. I'm not here to masturbate the dicks of the academics who had the good fortune to be afforded the time and space to formulate their own ideas, and publish. No, I already paid for their books; they already got my money. I took the best bits - cherry picked - and used that knowledge to build my own worldview.

I think to attempt to be original is foolish; a childish mistake. When we are young and immature, we choose unusual hairstyles and wear atypical clothes, in an attempt to achieve originality. Of course, there's nothing original about red trousers or a leather skirt studded with metal spikes: those superficial and pathetic attempts at originality are, in fact, the very opposite; the classic clichéd attempts of immature insecure people, to appear original.

I often worry that perhaps I'm trying too hard to be original, making the same immature insecure attempts to deliberately avoid the typical; the common; the ordinary.

I hope that what I'm achieving, is a kind of beautiful simplicity. The authors who I admire the most are the ones who have mastered the English language to such a great extent, that they don't feel the need - driven by insecurity and pomposity - to pepper their prose with long and obscure words. As [George] Orwell wrote: Never use a long word where a short one will do. I know it's a fucking cliché to quote Orwell, which is why I'm fucking doing it: because to deliberately avoid quoting him, in a desperate attempt to appear like more of an original thinker, ironically achieves the opposite.

Of course, there's always a danger whenever we start thinking "I know enough now" and that we can stop reading; stop looking around for influential figures. My worldview is, however, difficult to substantially influence now that I'm older. My mind isn't closed, but don't expect me to suddenly U-turn on some views which are quite integral to my personality and identity, such as being a socialist; a scientist. Don't expect me to suddenly find God, or start writing about how poor people are lazy and we should kill them (or at least let them die; same difference).

To write about writing is a self-indulgence which I too frequently embark upon. Apologies.

 

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Infamy

3 min read

This is a story about wanting to be noticed...

Why I write

This is not a pity party, and everyone has an equally valid claim to misery and depression, but it's important - to me - that I relate this part of the most influential period of my life.

At home, I could do nothing right, and was largely ignored other than as an ornament; a clothes horse; a performing animal, let out of its cage to delight the adults, as a party trick, and otherwise told to be quiet and keep out of the way.This, I think, is not unusual, but was greatly exacerbated my lack of a sibling until the age of 10, and my parents' extreme anti-social behaviour, which left me isolated in the extreme: often in very remote rural areas; far from friends and schoolmates.

At school, I could not avoid attention of the wrong kind. My parents' obsession with training me as their performing animal, for their party tricks, meant that I was either alone, or doing my routine for adults. I had no relationships with children, before school. If you want to fuck up your children and ruin their lives, it's quite easy: do everything in your power to make them different so that they don't fit in; deprive them of every opportunity to socialise; force them to act like little adults, instead of allowing them to be children - that will guarantee that they won't fit in at all at school, and they will be bullied from dawn to dusk, every. single. fucking. day.

Good manners and confidence in the company of adults did, briefly, confer an advantage in the workplace. This supposed 'maturity' was useful for making a good first impression. Employers certainly mistook me for a person who was mature beyond their years, but this was entirely superficial: a party trick learned, because it was the only way I was able to receive praise as a child - from the small amount of adult company my parents kept; those rare occasions when I was trotted out and expected to perform. However, I had no maturity at all - the social isolation, the neglect and the deprivation, was masked and hidden behind impeccable manners and precise diction; expansive vocabulary, learned from books.

As life has worn on, my age relative to my peers has become less obvious, less remarkable. Instead, those deep wounds inflicted in childhood have come to the fore. Exacerbated by extreme stress and intolerable circumstances, the socially isolated child, deprived of a social life and otherwise ill-equipped to face the world with the same skills and experience of his peers, has resurfaced. I feel as though I'm suffering the same horrors again.

In extreme circumstances, we revert to 'type'... our 'true' personality surfaces, and our mask slips.

I wonder to myself, as I write stuff which is read by thousands of people who are suffering a life-and-death crisis in their lives, whether I am flirting with infamy. Why do I not implore them to seek professional help and bombard them with crisis counselling phone numbers?

Maybe I'm evil.

[Note: I lost a few hundred words here, because of an auto-save glitch, but I can't be bothered to re-type what I wrote. I hope it still makes sense without the conclusion, as I originally wrote it]

 

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Who Should We Murder?

5 min read

This is a story about the collapse of civilisation...

Come into the factories

We like to laugh at the stupidity of 'primitive' civilisations which used to make human sacrifices to the sun god. However, we also live in an era - today - where we make human sacrifices to imaginary concepts.

The squeals and cries of "the economy!" in the face of a deadly global pandemic, indicate that global free-market capitalism demands human sacrifice at the alter of Mammon. In a more civilised society, we wouldn't kill people for the sake of an abstract concept, such as money. Money can be created at will, with the stroke of a key on a keyboard: it doesn't exist; it's not a physical commodity; we can continue to grow and harvest crops, rear cattle, fish the seas, build houses, make clothes and do all the other physical, tangible things that we need to, in order to be healthy and happy. We do not need money. To demand that people die for the sake of money is exactly the same as sacrificing people to the sun god; equally delusional and psychotic.

We've been looking for people to murder for a long time now. In the UK, we've had many years of wanting to murder non-whites, under the guise of so-called "anti-immigration" policies. Instead of looking at how we can improve our quality of life, instead our efforts have been ploughed into worsening the quality of lives for people. The 'hostile environment' policies of Theresa May were as damaging to vulnerable white working-class people as they were to the non-whites they were designed to injure and kill. Given half a chance, 51.9% of the country would be out on the streets slitting the throats of anybody they didn't deem to be like them: non-whites, gays, transexuals... and probably a lot of the liberal metropolitan elites too. Why stop there? They wouldn't. They'd kill anybody they had got a grudge with too, and still not be satisfied. When the food and medicine ran out and the power went off, they'd then kill and eat their own children - "Spoiled little brats... I showed THEM who's boss".

As a self-confessed leftist and Benthamite utilitarian, I must say that I have indulged in a few wealth redistribution fantasies. I don't think that we should kill and eat the rich, but we could certainly take 90% of their wealth, in order to lift living standards for billions of people.

On closer examination does murdering a few people really seem so bad for the greater good? We must explore the question.

Let us think about a mass murderer who's beyond hope of rehabilitation. Even if we do not sentence the mass murderer to death as a punishment, it is costly to imprison them. Why would we waste valuable resources on somebody with zero utility, who poses a very real and significant risk to the general public, and indeed anybody in charge of keeping them imprisoned. It seems to make sense to kill the mass murderer.

What about billionaires? We don't need any billionaires, but we certainly need their wealth. It seems fairly obvious that we should take and redistribute the wealth of billionaires, but what do we do with them? Well, I see no reason to kill them - what harm are they, once they're stripped of most of their wealth? If they build more wealth, we'll just take it off them again. In fact, perhaps stripping them of wealth encourages them to create more - a win:win situation. They can remain obscenely wealthy, but not so much so that we have any hunger, homelessness or exploitation left in the world.

What about Jews?

Let's imagine that hypothetically - although I must make it clear that I am exploring this anti-Semitic canard purely to illustrate how ridiculous it is - lots of Jews are billionaires. Well, why decide to treat the Jews differently? It's perfectly philosophically and ethically acceptable to strip the billionaires of most of their wealth, provided they are left with plenty and aren't mistreated. Why would we single the Jews out, even if there are lots of Jewish billionaires? Just go after the billionaires and don't persecute anybody because of their religious faith, right?

I'm not saying that choosing a particular identifiable group and murdering them isn't "economically sound". In fact, it's definitely "good" economically to commit murder, as the many wars from history will attest. If you kill somebody and take their wealth, you become wealthy and there's one less mouth to feed; one less person to house and clothe. Of course, murder seems completely logical, if you believe that "the economy!" and money are the most important things in life.

Of course, then there's the temptation to murder Jews and/or non-whites. Why not just redistribute wealth though, instead of committing mass murder? Why not target the wealthy and not Jews, Muslims or non-whites? If you are in favour of wealth distribution I will support you, and so will the majority of other people. If you are in favour of persecuting Jews, Muslims and non-whites, then I will fight you every step of the way.

 

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Insane in the Office

4 min read

This is a story about vacation...

Pixelated

It's been pretty much four whole months since I saw my colleagues face-to-face in the office. As the lockdown wore on, my hair got longer and longer. Working from home, I've tended to wear scruffy clothes instead of wearing a smart shirt. These things make a big difference.

Business attire is important. There are plenty of useless idiots in the working world, commanding high salaries simply because they wear a nice suit. Wearing the right clothes is an effective way of getting people to respect you and to value you, and your opinion. Without the visual cues of the business attire, people can only judge you based on what you say and what you do, which they are hopelessly under-qualified to do.

Being face-to-face is important. So much of nonverbal communication - such as reading a room, or looking for body language - is useful to know if you're rubbing somebody up the wrong way, and therefore to know whether to back off; to let something drop.

In the office, a vast amount of the working day can be eaten up by simply moving around the building - looking for meeting rooms, walking to the toilet, walking to get a sandwich, walking to get a drink - plus there's a lot of opportunity for ad-hoc chats with colleagues. At home, I'm alone with my thoughts for most of the day. I'm incredibly bored. When we have a meeting I'm desperate to talk to somebody; so isolated and lonely.

At the office, if I'm acting a bit strangely, somebody can have a quiet word in my ear. "Is everything OK?" they can ask, kindly. At home, nobody really checks in on me; there's no human connection.

I'm so bored.

I get through all my work so quickly, because there isn't enough to do, and I'm alone with no distractions.

The autumn, winter and spring are going to be incredibly hectic, stressful and high-pressure, so I'm keen that the workload should be managed effectively; expectations have to be set appropriately. I find myself being very forceful, trying to protect myself and my colleagues from being overwhelmed; overstretched. I push back hard on the insidious scope creep; the relentless push to overpromise and underdeliver; an army of soft-skilled fuckwits saying yes to everything because they're yes-men; people-pleasers who don't actually have to do the work themselves - it won't be them who have to work late into the night and over weekends in order to deliver the undeliverable. Nobody thanks you when your project is late, you don't deliver everything you said you would, and the quality is atrocious.

I should stop caring.

Not my circus, not my monkeys.

I should just take the money and keep my big mouth shut.

It doesn't make sense to rock the boat. I should be diplomatic. I should smile and take the money, and ignore the problems; ignore the disaster that's brewing. I know it'd be better for my bank balance to just keep my mouth shut.

It's difficult. My mental health is not compatible with office jobs working for huge organisations, but it's easy money. It's a LOT of easy money. Hard to turn down that kind of money, even if it's toxic to my mental health.

I haven't taken any time off since the start of the year. I have been working as hard as I possibly can. I just want this atrocious period - of financial insecurity - to be over.

When you're going through hell, keep going... and go as fast as you can!

I opt for ripping off the sticky plaster as quickly as possible; a short sharp shock.

Except this isn't short and sharp... it's prolonged.

Interminable.

I'm not sure what I'd do with time off anyway. UK citizens are not exactly welcome in a lot of places, given that our nation is riddled with deadly disease. I hate travelling alone.

I do need some time off though, before I have a breakdown; before I get too sick to work. It's strange, my mental health is very bad, but I'm still very productive. I assume that I'm very difficult to work with at the moment though, but I don't really know, because I don't get any feedback; I don't have normal interactions with anybody. I'm completely isolated and losing my mind.

 

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Blogger's Digest - Day Fourteen of #NaNoWriMo2019

7 min read

Blogger's Digest: a Novel

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen

Three days of self-imposed isolation aboard my yacht, moored up in the marina, had passed with me spending 95% of my time in bed. My appetite was a fraction of what it normally was, but I had eaten almost everything which required no preparation: cold ravioli, beans, spaghetti hoops and other cans. My T-shirt had dried drips of tomato sauce on it and my hair was greasy and had a permanent cow-lick, from the position I had been mostly resting my head on my pillow.

After three full days of total isolation, which I suppose would not be unusual for a solo round-the-world yachtsman, but was particularly odd in a busy marina during beautiful weather, I felt as though I had a mission to accomplish which I was suitably motivated to pursue, such that I would have a shower, put on some clean clothes and head for shore.

Being alone with my thoughts for so long, I had somewhat fathomed what was at the root cause of this unexpected episode of depression: I was burnt out. It might sound rather odd, considering that I'd quit my job and had decided to spend well over a year in pursuit of leisure. However, I hadn't admitted to myself how heavily the long voyage had been weighing on my mind, and causing me a continuous amount of stress.

I should - of course - have paid the money to have my yacht transported to Greece, but I had dismissed the idea, because of a mixture of pride and also wanting to challenge myself. I knew that it would be a huge achievement I'd feel proud of for the rest of my life, if I managed to sail such a long journey myself, and that I would feel like a cheat and a failure, if I took the easy way out. I wondered whether I would appreciate the Mediterranean as much if I simply flew out there to join my yacht once she was delivered.

I had chartered yachts all over the world, and it was a great way to experience sailing in a different part of the world, for a short holiday.

This was not a holiday.

It was never meant to be a holiday.

I'd made the commitment to live aboard my yacht permanently, because I wanted the adventure and I relished the challenge, but I had been defeated by the UK winter. I had considered the various ways to make the British weather more bearable aboard a yacht, but the appeal of undertaking a very long journey was too much to resist, when it was simply an idea: one of several options which I was considering.

I decided to take the plunge and start arranging my epic voyage during the winter, when I hadn't been sailing for a couple of months, and I was missing being at the sea. With hindsight, I was over-confident and too ambitious. The process of making the arrangements had consumed me, and I hadn't stopped to consider whether I was making the right choice, because I was too busy persuading everybody that it was a great idea - I believed my own bullshit.

It wasn't that parts of the journey wouldn't be extremely enjoyable and well within my comfort zone. I knew that with even the most incompetent crew member, I could easily hop from harbour to harbour, without too much trouble - it would be fun, even on unfamiliar coastlines. The problem was that a sustained period of many of these short hops would have to be joined together, in order to make good progress. The problem was that the journey contained some difficult legs, in waterways which I would have ordinarily gone out of my way to avoid - I had no desire to tangle with busy shipping channels, or sail through straits which were famed for their dangerous currents and many shipwrecks. All the pressure and responsibility was on me, and me alone. I had bitten off more than I could chew.

I still desperately wanted to complete my epic voyage. I knew that at almost every point, now that I had made it to Portugal, I would be better off turning back than carrying on, if I simply wanted my yacht to be transported to Greece. The solution was quite clear to me, and I felt much happier that I had accepted my new decision and was putting it into action.

* * *

"Bom dia. Você fala inglês?" I said to man behind the desk in the Marina office. I had been memorising and practicing this one phrase - "good morning. Do you speak English?" - repeatedly for most of the morning, learning it phonetically using a phrasebook I had brought with me for this part of the journey.

"Yes of course. You're on berth C10, right? You spoke to me the night you arrived" the man replied.

"Oh, it's you. You sound different on the radio. I mean, you sound different from how I thought you would look" I stumbled.

"Ha" he said, politely tolerating my bumbling British awkwardness. "How can I help?"

"Do you know a British skipper called Nikki?" I asked, my face sweating and my hands a little clammy - this was extremely embarrassing.

A broad smile spread across the face of the man. "Yes, of course I know Nikki. She left this morning on Moinho de Vento."

"Vento?" I said in a quizzical tone. I knew that this meant wind, so I assumed he was using a colloquialism, like gone with the wind to say that she'd sailed away. I was crushed. I was also puzzled, because there was no wind and there had been none for several days. "But it's not windy" I said, stating the obvious.

"Yes sure. She's just taken some clients out to get drunk."

"Drunk?" I asked, still perplexed.

"Yes. She takes clients out on Moinho de Vento very often. She's the biggest yacht in the marina and she's mainly used for corporate functions" the man explained. "You don't know her?" he asked.

"Know her? I met her a few times, you know, hanging out at the marina bar" I replied.

"No, not Nikki. Moinho de Vento."

"Ah. I get you now. Tallest mast in the marina. Hard to miss her. I didn't know her name though" I said, feeling like I was making a complete fool of myself.

"Should I tell Nikki you're looking for you? I know she was trying to find you the other day. I told her which berth you're moored on. I hope that was OK?"

"Yes, fine. I mean great. I mean thanks for telling her where I'm moored, and it'd be great if you can let her know I'm looking for her when you see her."

"OK no problem. Consider it done. Everything OK? Happy? Anything else?" the man asked with big genuine smile, putting me somewhat more at ease after my ordeal.

"No. That was it. Thank you."

"Ok my friend. See you around. My name is Eduardo" the man said, offering his hand, still beaming.

We shook hands and I said "adeus" by way of a goodbye.

"My friend, I applaud you for making the effort with your Portuguese" Eduardo said.

It wasn't until I got back aboard my yacht and checked my phrasebook that I realised I had used a version of goodbye which implied I had no intention of seeing Eduardo ever again.

 

Blogger's Digest - Day Eleven of #NaNoWriMo2019

9 min read

Blogger's Digest: a Novel

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Eleven

Tim had very kindly agreed to assist with the first leg of the passage - from Brighton to Roscoff. He would then take a ferry back to the UK. It was no more than a couple of days, but it was all the time he could spare, away from his family duties. I was very glad to at least start the lengthy journey with 3 experienced skippers aboard.

The logistics were torturously complex. I had to collect Tim from his home in Hampshire, bring him to Brighton, then he would be collected in Plymouth by his poor wife, who'd have been left home alone with the children for 3 nights. For Tim, it would hardly be much fun, given that a substantial part of our crossing would be at night and none of us could get drunk, but he seemed to enjoy offshore sailing.

I did not enjoy offshore sailing.

The English Channel has busy shipping lanes and strong tides. The currents around the Channel Islands were extremely fast and dangerous. The Channel crossing from England to France sounded like enough fun to tempt Tim, but I was dreading it. At least with experienced help aboard, I felt far less weight of responsibility on my shoulders.

As we approached the Cherbourg Peninsula - some distance offshore - we were intercepted by a French customs vessel, which loud-hailed us and instructed us in French to switch to a specific VHF radio channel, whereupon they told us to prepare to be boarded. Mercifully, my French was quite good and Ian possessed a particular International Certificate of Competence, which they were very keen to see. The UK has no regulation of who is allowed to take to the water in a sailboat or motorboat - akin to allowing people to drive on the roads without a license - so the French were particularly careful about who they allowed to cross from international water into French territory, especially if they were most probably from the UK. Incompetent UK skippers would often be ordered to get out of French waters.

Having dropped Tim off in Roscoff, Ian and I took the opportunity to have a couple of restaurant meals, drink some wine and a good night's sleep, before we set off on the next leg of the journey.

Crossing the Bay of Biscay was the part of the entire trip which I was dreading the most, because we would be further offshore than we were at any other point. To hug the coast of Western France and Northern Spain would be a huge and unnecessary detour, adding a great deal of travel time, but I was prepared to do it in order to be close to a number of ports, if we decided that we wanted to stop for rest or shelter. Ian convinced me that we would be able to manage the crossing between just the two of us, dividing each 24 hour period into 6 watches, lasting 4 hours - this would allow us to sail continuously and arrive at the tip of North-Western Spain without being too sleep deprived. "It will be a slog" Ian said, "but it will be worth it to make good progress".

The forecast predicted plenty of westerly wind, which was encouraging. I was hopeful that we would be able to make the crossing in good time.

I had not considered the rain.

Each 4-hour watch was quite punishing and unpleasant. With the wind and waves hitting the yacht at a 45 degree angle, the bow slammed quite heavily into the choppy water, and vast amounts of spray and rain were driven into the skipper's face. Facing backwards helped immensely, and was necessary to check for any large cargo vessels, cruise ships, tankers and other large ships which approached rapidly from behind. However, it was also necessary to keep looking forwards as much as possible, to keep an eye on the instruments and a look out for any large ships coming in the opposite direction.

As a pleasure-cruising yacht, designed for comfort as a 'floating caravan' she was ideal when moored up in a marina, or for short trips in fine weather, but lacked any of the equipment which she needed for offshore sailing. Without radar and an auto-helm system, which worked well when the wind and waves were unpredictable, she was entirely reliant on her skipper to be far more alert and in control, than any vessel which would ordinarily undertake such a long offshore passage.

To save the hull and rigging from the worst of the constant pounding by the waves, Ian and I steered my yacht up and down the crest and trough of every wave individually, trying to minimise the number of times when the bow would come clear out of the water, and come crashing back down, violently shaking the whole yacht.

Because of the wind direction, it was more important - more efficient - to keep the direction aligned with the wind direction, than to steer the most direct course. We could travel one or two knots - nautical miles per hour - faster if we kept the sails filled with wind from the correct direction, by constantly steering the boat, hunting for the optimal angle. Over the course of the 500 nautical mile leg, this would equate to 12 hours or maybe even a whole 24 hours saved. Perhaps it might not sound worth the saving to an ordinary person, but to competitive sailors like Ian and I, we were keen to cross the Bay of Biscay in the quickest possible time.

Taking it in turns to rest/sleep below decks, alternating as skipper at the helm, we hardly spoke for the whole journey, besides exchanging a few pleasantries. At the end of each watch, enough spray and rain had penetrated our wet-weather gear, that we were damp and cold, and desperate to peel off the soggy clothes and warm up in bed, sheltered from the wind.

It was not at all fun.

As we passed well beyond the point of no return, where it would have been completely pointless and counter-productive to turn back, I spent an entire 4 hour watch having a mild panic attack, feeling as though I had made a huge mistake and that we should turn back. Why was I putting myself through this, I asked myself. I had plenty of money to have my yacht delivered by either a professional crew, or else I could have her transported by road or sea. Why had I done this?

"Change of plan. I'm going to spend the summer in Bordeaux" I said to Ian, as soon as he arrived on deck to swap over with me.

"You've never been this far offshore have you?" he asked.

"No. It's bloody terrifying" I admitted.

"I had the exact same reaction you're having, the first time I crossed the Bay of Biscay. It's natural. It'll pass" he said, reassuringly.

"But this is miserable" I complained.

"At least we've got wind. We were becalmed for two days when I did it."

"Sure, but it's right on the nose. Close-hauled all the way" I whined.

"Call yourself a racer?" Ian joked, with a huge grin. The upwind leg of any race was always the most exciting, when every sailboat would be tacking backwards and forwards, and each time your path crossed with another competitor, you knew whether you were ahead or behind in the race. The upwind leg was where races could be won and lost, by pinching a little bit more, and squeezing a little more performance out of your sailboat than your competitors could. Ian was right: viewed as a very long race, I should have been loving the sailing.

"It would be stupid to give up at this point, wouldn't it?" I asked.

"Yes. This is the hardest part. You don't want to bail out now and spend your summer in Bordeaux. If you keep going, at least if you decided to bail out halfway you can spend your summer in the Balearics, and pay a visit to the Côte d'Azur."

He was right. I didn't want to spend my summer still stuck on the Atlantic Coast; I didn't want to spend my summer in Bordeaux. I wanted to get as far south as possible and into the sheltered warm water beyond the Gibraltar Straits.

"Thanks, Ian" I said. Below deck, I realised that I was finally now committed to an idea which had seemed so appealing in principle, and I knew would be rewarding in the end, but I had always been aware would be a huge challenge. My life had been quite easy in many ways, so I suppose I wanted to challenge myself like this; I wanted the sense of achievement. However, when faced with the enormity of the task ahead, I most definitely wanted to take the easy way out. I was glad that Ian had talked me out of abandoning the trip. I felt a little ashamed that I wasn't as dedicated and committed to sailing - and its occasional hardships - as my friends.

As I settled down to attempt a nap, I thought about how authentically my friend Tim had lived his life: pursuing his passion for sailing, instead of chasing money and sacrificing his pleasant life by the sea, for city living. He seemed happy and contented. I wondered if I had made the right choices in life, as I fell asleep in my bed, which was being fairly violently shaken as Ian steered us expertly through the waves.

 

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