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I Don't Miss London

7 min read

This is a story about life in the provinces...

Primrose hill sunrise

For four years I tried in vain to get back my old life where I was an eligible bachelor living in the Angel Islington, zone one, and I could walk to work in the City and all the trendy bars and restaurants on Upper Street or skateboard into the West End. I used to park my car right outside my flat and go kitesurfing on whichever beach tickled my fancy on any given weekend. I used to jet off to exotic locations for several holidays a year. I was living the dream, and I tried to recreate that dream but I failed.

The closest I ever got to being happy in London was when I was homeless. Sleeping rough in Kensington Palace Gardens will be a memory I'll treasure forever, as will the hostels where I made friends with heaps of junkies and alcoholics. I started to rebuild a social group amongst my fellow homeless, and that made me happy; secure.

Blending a 'normal' life with one of homelessness and fraternising with the homeless is not easy. Keeping regular office hours is hard when your friends work doing casual labour and as part of the gig economy. Living in a hostel dorm, but having to go to work suited and booted in a crisp shirt and sharp suit, is something that's quite difficult. In the end, I lost everything again.

I wouldn't opt for the high-risk, high-reward strategy again, in London. It's too much pressure to maintain a high-living lifestyle. It wasn't really my choice to rent a luxury riverside apartment... I asked a friend if he'd help me find a place to live - given that I was homeless - and he decided that 25% of my monthly salary didn't sound like too much of a big financial commitment.... except it was actually thousands of pounds a month that I *HAD* to keep earning after I signed the lease. I wouldn't do that again.

Everything's a little easier in the provinces. I can drive to work. I can park for free. The roads aren't congested as hell and I don't have to pay a congestion charge. People are more laid back and they work shorter hours. It's easier to impress the bosses and the work's really easy too. Things are less competitive. Things are less hectic; stressful.

I feel bad that my lifestyle's quite polluting, but I can drive into town and park to go shopping. I can drive to see my girlfriend and park outside her house. I can leave work at 4:30 and be home before 5pm. I can drive to the beach. It's not an energy-efficient global-warming conscious lifestyle at all, but it's a hell of a lot less stressful and exhausting than living in an overcrowded city.

I love the social aspect of London, where there are so many interesting people and fascinating cultural events, but I was always too stressed out and unwell to participate. I was barely surviving in London for most of those four years. I was able to hang out in my lovely apartment for two years, but I was completely withdrawn - I hardly ever left the apartment.

I never quite got back to having everything I needed in London - there was always one thing that was badly broken in my life. When I had the apartment, I lost my job. When I got a girlfriend, I ran out of money. When I had money, I lost my friends. It's really hard to get and keep the things you need in London, mostly because everything's really expensive and takes a lot of effort and energy. You need to run just to stand still in London.

I commuted home from work just now and I sat in a big queue of traffic, but it was moving slowly and it didn't take long before I got through it. The sun was shining and I was in my little car, which is actually thoroughly decent for the money I paid for it, and it was alright. I could've phoned somebody for a chat. You can't phone a friend for a chat when you're stuck on an underground train.

Life's a hell of a lot simpler outside London. Things are within the realms of possibility quite easily. It won't totally bankrupt me to rent a nice apartment locally. Buying, taxing and insuring a car hasn't completely bankrupted me. The cost of living is substantially cheaper than London, to the point where money should hopefully quickly accrue. Tomorrow I will have earned enough money to pay for 6 months rent, which is great because I'll soon get to the point where I have more financial security. I need to have more security. It's been too long that I've been hustling like hell, trying to get back into civilised society.

I wish I could've made it work in London because I'm a proud person and it feels like I failed, but I made a few wrong choices and mistakes are costly in London. Everything's costly in London. At least London's big enough that you can make some really big screw-ups and get away with it.

There's pressure in the provinces to not screw things up, because your nosey neighbour is gonna know about it and never let you forget if you make a mistake, but life's a hell of a lot easier. Yes, you might have to hide your face in shame; you might have people gossiping about you behind your back; you might become a 'known' face, rather than just an anonymous member of the seething masses, like you are in London. I'm glad I went through all my troubles in London, where nobody will ever remember me - in theory, I live my life without prejudice, because I've been able to leave that part of history behind. That's one of the reasons why I've not gone back to Bournemouth - because of my messy divorce and the fact my ex-wife still lives there... it's her place now.

My life's got the potential to be delightfully simple and straightforward. I can almost sense the possibility of having a work:life balance. Things might become sustainable - it's certainly within the realms of possibility. I earn bucketloads and the cost of living is so much less here in the provinces, there's a good chance I can quickly get back on my feet.

I've only worked a week in the new job, but I'm making good progress and I'm managing to cope with the early morning and the lack of sleeping pills. I've managed to get where I wanted - local friends, local girlfriend, local job, car, roof over my head, money in the bank. There are things that still need fixing, like having a place of my own and getting more job and financial security, but those things will come soon enough as long as I can keep turning the pedals; keep getting up in the morning and going to work.

The guy I work with works a snail's pace, but that's OK. It's a marathon not a sprint. It's good for me to learn to work at a slower pace - it's more sustainable. I can't believe that we've achieved so little in the best part of a week, but who cares? The pace of life is slower in the provinces. We'll get there in the end. No rush.

If things go wrong, I'll probably end up eating my words and rushing back to the capital, because there's bucketloads of easy money to be made there. Here in the provinces, there are fewer choices. Of course I'm going to go back to London, chasing girls and big money contracts if this provincial life doesn't work out for me. London has rich pickings, where the provinces have only a few options that you'd be really happy with. I'll try to make it work, but it'll be more heartbreaking out here in the sticks, where it's hard to be philosophical about things not working out - there are only a few companies that you'd want to work for, and there are fewer potential soulmates.

At the moment, I'm quietly optimistic. It's Friday tomorrow, and despite the dreadful Monday morning, the trajectory of the week has been one of steady improvement. It bodes well.




A Short History of Nothing

9 min read

This is a story about a boring and uninteresting life...

Concrete bunker

I hate writing with constraints. I hate having somebody looking over my shoulder while I write, commenting on my half-formed sentences - writing is not a spectator's sport. I hate rushing to finish a piece of writing; I hate trying to squeeze in the time to sit and write. I hate having to consider who's going to read what I write and to second-guess what they're going to think. I hate having to write with a filter and to write in anticipation of how people might interpret things if they were to take my words out of context.

The context is that writing has been my stable and secure companion - my trustworthy and reliable friend - during some very turbulent times. The context is that during the period which I have been writing almost every day, I've been on one hell of a journey. With writing as the only constant in my life, the progress that I've made becomes more apparent - if you read my earlier writing then you can dip into periods where my life was quite profoundly different, although the words on the page don't really give that away at first glance.

To me, sitting down in front of the keyboard feels the same today as it did at any time in the past. To me, I'm every bit as coherent and articulate and compos mentis as I ever was - I can't perceive any difference in myself between who I am today and who I was at any previous time when I was writing this blog. If there have been changes, they've been to subtle to perceive in myself, given I have to live inside my own head for 24 hours a day. "You're looking well" or "you sound well" my friends say to me - they have the benefit of dipping into my life periodically, so they can see the trends, but I can't do that.

I suppose there is a great deal of improvement in my life, even if a lot of it remains merely potential at the moment - there's still a lot of hard work to do. I suppose if I was to think back to where I was a year ago or so, things are a great deal better than they were.

I didn't write yesterday but it's rare that I skip a day. Two years ago I accidentally destroyed an iPhone and a Macbook, on this day. A year ago I didn't even write for a whole week and when I started writing again I told some random tale of historical events from my divorce, seemingly to nobody in particular. It looks as if I was wrestling with the feeling that I was letting my [ex-]girlfriend down. I know what was going wrong - every single winter for several years, I've struggled.

I can see from the archives that I was away skiing back in 2008. March used to be a great time to be kitesurfing in Venezuela. This would be the perfect time of year to spend a couple of weeks lying on a beach. I wonder how far I am from those better times, when the years fly by because my life has regular holidays to hot countries. I wonder how much more hard work it's gonna take before I get back into a sustainable pattern of work, which largely depends on being able to have nice holidays to look forward to. I've chosen a lifestyle that is mostly miserable during office hours, but does carry substantial rewards during leisure time.

I'm not sure what to write about. I'm pretty sure what not to write about, but it's hard. To not write anything that's personal and could make me identifiable is really hard. To not write any of the detail of recent years is difficult, when I'm still processing those events. To break the habits I've gotten into and to lose the catharsis of writing about what I went through, is a big change. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to be entirely forward-thinking and live in the future when it comes to this blog, because the future mostly holds anxiety for me. I'm anxious, for example, about the day when this blog is stumbled upon by somebody who I'd prefer not to read it.

This is a weird transitionary period. I presume I'm writing with reasonable clarity, except for the fact that I'm being cryptic and omitting any of the gory details that already exist in the archives. I presume that my life - which seems stable to all outward appearances - is now becoming something valuable that I don't want to damage. I'm getting the things I need quite quickly now - there has been a lot of very rapid change; improvement.

Potentially, I'm shifting from the intolerable and unsustainable, to a life that's liveable. Potentially, the destructive patterns of the past have been vanquished - I've overcome some pretty insurmountable obstacles and I'm beginning to get a whole load of things lined up in my favour. Life is getting easier.

Historically, I've done a lot of moaning. The archives contain a lot of complaining. I've whinged a great deal about how awful things have been, but now my luck appears to have changed. I'm terrified that something's going to go wrong, but at the moment things seem to be going right.

I could erase my written records. I could expunge my digital identity. When I think about what I've written, I'm glad that I have created some evidence that I existed; I'm proud that I've documented my struggles. If I re-read what I wrote in the past, it's difficult for me to re-live that experience... I struggle to relate. There's a lot of stuff in the past that wasn't exactly brilliant, but I don't think that the answer is to pretend it didn't happen. No good ever came of pretending that I've got a blemish-free past and I've not got any baggage.

I feel reasonably well-adjusted, because I've exhaustively documented what's been happening to me. I feel more secure knowing that I've attempted to capture a little bit of myself at regular intervals. I feel like I understand myself, and that I know who I am. I feel like I have an identity.

It's a difficult changeover period. I'm moving towards a more 'normal' life that you would recognise. I'm moving from a profoundly dysfunctional place to a functional one, even if it appears like I've been getting on with life just fine. I can still have a disproportionate reaction to the most ridiculously mundane stressors - having to buy a birthday present, have a haircut, get to work on time - but these things can leave me paralysed... without help I'd give up and refuse to leave the house.

I don't know what my life is now. My life is still taking shape in its new form; there are big changes that are happening. I need to learn my new routine. I need to prove myself all over again.

Suddenly, I have a girlfriend, a local job and a car. Suddenly, my life looks worth living, but it's also something that I could inadvertently damage. I have to be careful that I don't say anything that might prejudice my future. Before, I was writing urgently because I needed to get as much of myself down on paper before I died. Now, my big fear is how I'll react if something major goes wrong, but it might be me who precipitates my own downfall. I'm starting to have to pretend like I'm Mr Normal and my past is absolutely perfect, like everybody else does. I'm starting to feel the pressure to present a sanitised version of myself that's fit for corporate consumption. I'm starting to feel the pressure to put on the 'boyfriend material' mask that's suitable for introducing to parents and the like. My 'good' life carries with it a great deal of fear of failure.

There's a small part of me that wants to continue to make changes really rapidly, and to continue to fix up the broken things in my life. I want to rush out and rent myself a place of my own, and move out from my friends' place so that I'm living independently - standing on my own two feet. Part of me is in a big hurry to regain the self-esteem that's been lost due to my atypical living arrangements. Part of me is in a big hurry to encumber myself with societal obligations - such as paying rent and bills - that I've been lucky enough avoid for a while, because my life was so dysfunctional. There was no way that I could cope with much stress and responsibility, and my friends helped me... they continue to help me. It's embarrassing. I'm ashamed that I needed charity.

My past is not compatible with my present. My living arrangements are not compatible with forms that need to get filled in - I'm neither renting nor a homeowner - and middle-class dinner table chit-chat. There's a huge contradiction between the work I do and the difficult personal circumstances that I've been escaping from. Work colleagues, girlfriend, new people I meet... they're not going to understand. I don't fit neatly in a box. How can I be so successful in some areas, and have other parts of my life that are still undergoing repairs?

This is not a case of "fake it until you make it". I've already made it. I know the way - I've trodden this path before. However, there are undoubtably a whole load of things that got very messed up and I'm in the process of fixing. People don't really like the idea of recovery, improvement or otherwise escaping our fate - we're very keen to label and abandon so-called no-hopers; we're very keen to leap to the conclusion that somebody's of a certain 'type' and label them for life.

I'm changing. You've caught me on the hop. You're peeking behind the curtain. You're ruining the magic. This is the trick, you see: to fix the unfixable.

I can't write any more at the moment. I need to keep fumbling through this difficult transitionary period. I need to find a new voice, which acknowledges the past but doesn't drag me back there. I need to make sure that my identity doesn't depend on a certain amount of drama and destruction. I'm certain that my future depends on a return to more tranquil times.




The Flight I Never Took

7 min read

This is a story about missed connections...

San Francisco Flights

Like many people, I have a large collection of digital photos. My library starts in 2005, when a group of friends and I pooled our holiday snaps from a trip to Venezuela. Travel photography is the main thing that featured until my life started getting erratic. I have an increasingly random muddle of photos and screenshots, like a breadcrumb trail leading back to saner and more stable times.

2008 was the beginning of a much more exciting life than I had led before. I quit my investment banking career, developed some iPhone apps, retrained as an electrician, called off my wedding and went back to IT consultancy work. Having lived under the dark storm-cloud of an abusive relationship for far too long, I finally decided I'd had enough and broke up with my fiancée. I made a new group of friends and rebooted my life - as a prescription for depression, that shock treatment worked perfectly.

Fast-forward to 2011 and I knew that my relationship - back together with the girl who my friends call "the poison dwarf" - was destroying my world and ruining my happiness. I spent 3 amazing months in Cambridge and I'd fallen in love with somebody else, but I was too loyal; too faithful; too committed to give up on a failing relationship and go for what I really wanted.

In 2012 I capitulated and tried to follow doctor's orders - I started taking medication - and went back to the life I hated. I returned to the investment bank I'd previously worked for and tried to pretend like I was OK with that. I even got married to "the poison dwarf". I tried my very hardest to put on the boring grey suit and pretend like I was able to work doing the 9 to 5 office routine that I'd done for years and years, but my heart was broken.

I guess I never really got over the fact that I hadn't followed my dreams; followed my heart.

2013 brought the inevitable divorce, which necessitated selling my house and figuring out what to do with all my worldly possessions. In short, I didn't want anything to do with my toxic old life: the place and the things and the pain of everything getting ripped to shreds was just too much to bear. I wanted the whole lot to burn to the ground so I could start over. I wanted a fresh start.

I tried to court that girl from Cambridge who I'd fallen in love with - she liked me too and things were going well. It looked like I was going to break free from the gravity that tried to pull me back into a black hole. Despite me telling "the poison dwarf" that she could take as much as she wanted, she tried to destroy me. She just needed to leave me alone to get on with my new life, but she made the process of divorce into an unbelievably horrible disaster. Despite my attempts to make things quick and painless and give her a big cash settlement, she sabotaged my every effort.

In the midst of the acrimonious divorce, I tried to get away from the worsening British weather and get some rest and relaxation before Christmas. I was going to go to Florida and do some skydiving, and then I was going to go to San Francisco to see my friends in the Bay Area. The house should have been sold; the cash should have been in the bank - it wasn't, because "the poison dwarf" had screwed up the easy house sale that I'd worked so hard to make happen.

I was too sick to take my flight to America.

I think of 2014 as my annus horribilis given that I spent about 11 weeks receiving inpatient treatment, essentially for the problems caused by getting screwed over as a vulnerable person, by my ex-wife. She'd demanded a quick divorce and I'd said "take whatever you want" but then she made it unspeakably awful. After a rotten birthday where I found myself well and truly homeless, I repeated my magic trick of 2008: I got myself back into IT consultancy and made a load of new friends; I flew off to Tenerife with my new girlfriend and went kitesurfing. From the depths of despair and near destruction, I rose up and rebuilt myself.

What happened in 2015, 2016 and 2017, combined a winning formula of highly paid IT consultancy work and my ability to make new friends and rebuild my life, with the sensation-seeking desire to maintain a novel lifestyle: if nothing else, my life has been very exciting for the past few years.

Whereas most people live in fear of tarnishing their professional reputation and losing everything they own and hold dear, I found those things became incredibly cumbersome when I was unwell. To maintain appearances and pretend like everything is just fine, is immensely energy-draining. It's almost driven me insane, worrying about what former work colleagues and bosses think about me; what people know about my chequered past. Far, far, far more than the abuse my body has suffered, and the mental health problems I've been through, the biggest problem in my life has been worrying about people finding out the very things that I've catalogued on the pages of this blog, quite publicly.

We are now approaching a third San Francisco flight that has been booked, but there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding whether I will be going or not. I dearly wish to see an old schoolfriend who was pivotal in raising the alarm on social media, to the fact that I was in the process of killing myself - in essence, he was the last person I spoke to while still alive, telling him that I was sorry I wouldn't be seeing him in November [because I'd be dead].

Twitter conversation

It fucking horrifies me that the managing director of the company who I was working for at the time - who booked my flights out to San Francisco - was in the process of attempting to terminate my employment while I was on life support in intensive care... because he'd read this on Twitter!

Given that I've stubbornly refused to die, I feel like taking the trip to San Francisco in defiance of the arsehole who didn't care whether I lived or died. That gobsmackingly awful human being deserves to have to see me alive and well, taking a trans-Atlantic flight to go and see an old friend who actually cared about my life.

I feel like I might be calling on you - my social media friends - to help me raise Hell to show that vulnerable people shouldn't get screwed over by unscrupulous arseholes.

So, this is my call to action: I'd like to speak to you and I'd like your support in turning up the heat on people who put personal profit ahead of human lives. I've been wondering what to do with myself, and this feels like an important point; this feels like something symbolic.

Whether it's my ex-wife who literally said "I'd rather be a widow than a divorcee" or my ex-boss who literally fired me for being dead, I want to stand up to these fucking arseholes.




Am I... Evil?

12 min read

This is a story about seeing red...

Red alert

My dad had a fairly simple moral code for me, when I was a little boy: boys shouldn't hit girls or boys wearing glasses. That's about it. I remember guns were bad and I got in trouble (age 3.5) for looking like I enjoyed myself playing with a friend, who had brought his plastic guns with him. I eat anything and everything today, but I also remember being terrorised into eating rice pudding - which was slimy and disgusting in texture to me, before the age of 4 - so much so that I started throwing up with stress and anxiety, before every mealtime and lost so much weight I had to be hospitalised.

Perhaps it's clear, in retrospect, why I would turn to a hospital to protect me from bullies.

But, perhaps it's me who's evil, and needs to be locked away from the general public? Certainly, now that I've got chance to stop and catch my breath, I'm finding I've finally got time to examine the morality of the way I've acted in the past.

If you hit your kids or generally terrorise them to the point that they need to be hospitalised, trust me, they're not having a brilliant home life. At playgroup and school, I took this pacifism thing that my dad had been very angry about - a.k.a. playing with a friend with a plastic gun - very seriously and I got the crap kicked out of me by other kids... it wasn't until many years later that my dad suggested fighting back, which seemed somewhat odd given that I'd received these hippy lectures about being nonviolent. Anyway, I went down the path of pacifism and that's where I stayed. I was not having a brilliant school life - I was picked on every single day, to the point where, again, it would leave me collapsing in uncontrollable sobbing fits, while on the way to primary school.

Boo hoo! Get the violins out!

My first experience of domestic violence was me crying and being punched in the face, giving me two black eyes and a broken nose. I didn't even defend myself, let alone strike back... why would I need to? I didn't understand why I was being victimised like this, by somebody who was supposed to love me. I had to go into work with a bullshit story about having collided with a buoy while kitesurfing, to explain my two black eyes. It was the male extreme sports equivalent of "I walked into a door". I had to lie to her parents, when we went to see them for a planned visit soon after my face had taken that pommelling.

I'm 6ft tall (183cm), 13 stone (82kg) and I still retain some of my muscle bulk from rock climbing, kitesurfing and wakeboarding, although I'm obviously not in peak physical shape. I've got the mindset of a terrorised 3-year-old, ganged up on by two fully grown adults, but I'm in a body that can do some damage and defend itself now.

The problem - if there is one - is that if I feel bullied and attacked, and you managed to corner me, I'll smash my way out of the situation. I don't hit people - I'm still nonviolent. I don't get into fights. However, very occasionally I will trash something - more often than not it will be my own property - because the insanely horrible emotions just have to come out.

"Do you think that was the right thing to do?" a stern-faced looking policeman asks me. "Do you think there might have been a better way to handle that situation?" comes a second question, as if the first one - which I haven't had chance to answer yet - was not clear enough for me. Of course, I would have loved to handle things differently. Of course, I feel guilt and regret when I snap; when I can't take the onslaught anymore, and I've done something that I wish I hadn't - some property has been damaged.

She's asked me to travel out to the suburbs from the city centre; it's a considerable car ride away, including some travel on a dual-carriageway - the main road South, which turns into the motorway and would safely take me back to London, if we stayed on it. I get the cab to stop at a shop so I can buy some things for a romantic evening. I'm greeted with a hug, we lie on the bed kissing and cuddling... this is all how I hoped things would be; I'm relaxing and enjoying a pleasant evening; this is very nice. Then, she's hurling abuse at me, telling me I'm a terrible person... I'm sitting down while she's standing up, verbally attacking me and generally bullying the shit out of me. She suddenly asks me to leave... alright, no problem. I jump up, grab a rolling pin from the kitchen where it lies idle on the worktop and I smash her laptop to pieces, then I leave immediately. I regret it instantly and text her that I want to replace it, as I make my way to the nearest cab rank, to get a taxi to retrace the journey that I took hardly any time ago. Why had I been summoned to the suburbs for this abuse? Certainly, my loss of temper at the injustice of it all is in no way a justification for destroying her laptop - it was a disproportionate response.

I don't think people really see what's going on underneath the surface, even though I tell them.

Two police officers are interviewing me. It's 2am in the morning. I was just discharged from hospital after a suicide attempt, and my kidneys are still not fully functioning. My body is bruised as hell from where the emergency services had to kick in the bathroom door to get to me, slumped in the dark, dying. My muscles ache from the damage that was done to them by the massive overdose of opiates - prescription painkillers I had stockpiled. I answer the police questions. I admit smashing up that laptop - of course I did it and I want to replace it. The last messages I ever sent while still alive were attempts to get her bank details, so I could transfer her enough money to get a brand new replacement... although of course the destruction of her laptop must have been a shocking over-reaction in her eyes and upsetting for her, and I can never fix that.

Don't people see me as vulnerable? I feel like a 3 year old, being beaten up by grown-ups. I feel vulnerable; scared. People must see me as an easy target, because they certainly don't hold back when they're ripping into me. I find myself back in my trashed apartment at 3:30am on Wednesday morning. How did this happen? Why do people think I'm perfectly fine - OK to chuck out from hospital as soon as my kidneys are working a little bit? Why do people think I'm physically and psychologically indestructible? Why would the massive overdose that I took be seen as unimportant, and that I'm perfectly able to pick myself up and carry on with life?

I feel like I get a double-whammy. I feel that people take advantage of my good nature: my trusting and happy-go-lucky approach to life, where I try to be generous and loving. I take the risks - I make the first moves - and I put myself out there in the hope of getting something back. If I get nothing back, that's fine - let's just leave it there and move on. Why did I have to get dragged all the way out of the city centre and far from my home, simply to receive cruel and unpleasant treatment and be told to get out? My reaction was out of proportion though, so I also get the guilt. I'm guilty of smashing up that laptop. I'm guilty of seeing red, losing my temper, retaliating at the injustice of the situation, in a totally unjustifiable way. Now, I still carry that guilt and I always will - it stopped her hurling abuse at me, but that doesn't make it right. In fact, I can never make things right - I'm always going to feel terrible about her stunned silence, and the fact that it must have seemed like a crazy over-reaction to a bit of 'light-hearted' bullying and abuse in the place she'd dragged me out to, to do it - in the middle of fucking nowhere. If it sounds like I'm conflicted, I am. Where's the sympathy for the fact that I was taken advantage of, abused and left feeling totally abandoned in a strange city? Where's the consideration of the fact that it's obvious that I was on the edge: I very nearly succeeded in killing myself, as the very next thing that I did.

This whole traumatic episode has forced me to dredge up every 'bad' thing I've ever done, and reconsider whether I could have handled things better. What the fuck am I supposed to do? Turn down friends and girlfriends when they cross my path? Am I supposed to be negative and untrusting? Am I supposed to shut myself away, isolated behind closed doors and be anti-social, because I always end up just feeling like a mug... financially taken advantage of and cleaning up after my 'guests'. Should I not give people a chance? Should I be closed and negative, assuming everybody's out to get me? Certainly, everybody's come and picked my fucking pocket, quite gleefully.

I'm no angel. This is certainly not a piece that argues things in black & white. If you want to talk about black & white, then you have it in black & white: I smashed up her laptop with a rolling pin in a sudden fit of rage. My regret and remorse is meaningless - I did it, so that's that. I'm guilty of being an "angry man" right?

I wonder what percentage of my life I've been angry for. Certainly, most people who've known me for any length of time would not think "angry" as one of the first words that sprang to mind. Perhaps I just hide it very well. It's not really for me to judge anyway, what my personality is in the context of this tale and the wider issue of whether I'm some kind of crazed nutter, intent on smashing up the entire world.

I guess you could consider the nature of a dog, as an analogy. How much can you abuse the dog, before it bites you? Are the best dogs the ones that just whimper and maybe even shit themselves? Does a dog - even though it has sharp teeth and powerful jaws - only qualify as a good dog if it never turns on somebody who's abusing it? If you can answer that question, you might have gone some way to answering the question that fills me with doubt at the moment: am I a bad person; am I evil?

Frankly, I think we're all capable of saying and doing regrettable things, in the heat of the moment. The question is, how do you feel about what you did? Do you do horrible things on a regular basis? What's your predominant personality - are you a victim, victimiser or something in-between?

I don't want to fall into the trap of feeling too sorry for myself; feeling too victimised. I've said and done things I wish I hadn't. Also, why can't I stick up for myself? Why can't I avoid the people who think it's OK to pick my pocket? Why can't I tell those who would take advantage of me, to fuck off, before they bleed me dry?

I've seized upon this word "vulnerable" which neatly sums up me and my situation. I trust when I shouldn't; give when I shouldn't; take a chance when I shouldn't and generally end up fucked. Surely nobody would argue with the facts: I'm the one who ended up isolated and alone, dying of an overdose, losing all my property, losing a lucrative consultancy contract and an employment offer. I'm an example of the person that lawmakers had in mind, when they created laws that protect me from mental health discrimination and prejudice based on confidential matters.

There's a line in a song I've probably never heard, but I know the lyrics because my guardian angel told them to me. The song talks about how bullying a kid every day created a monster.

Am I a monster? I certainly seem to fight with monsters. Perhaps I would be wise to remember the words of Nietzsche, and be careful that I do not turn into a monster myself, if I continue to fight monsters.

It's not my instinct to fight. It's my instinct to be nonviolent. I only fight* when I've got nothing left.




* - I don't mean fight her. She's got the money to replace her laptop now, I hope, and I really hope we can move on with our lives as best as we can, although I do appreciate that it was traumatic and seemingly an over-reaction from me. I feel very bad about what I did.


Goodbye, Grubby River

8 min read

This is a story about an addiction to adrenalin...

Kitesurfing the thames

See that red circle? That's where I've lived for the last 2 years. Only two or three times a year, the combination of wind speed, wind direction, and a low tide will all co-incide, creating perfect conditions to be able to kitesurf at my local 'beach'. That's me, launching my friend's kite at the edge of the water.

The water is slightly brackish, but at low tide it's mostly full of really really nasty stuff that will give you an ear infection, eye infection, gastroenteritis or other medical complaint due to contact with and ingestion of faecal coliforms.

I was on holiday on a North African desert island, with a beautiful sandy beach and warm water, one week after I excitedly told my friend that the conditions were perfect for him to achieve a lifelong ambition of kitesurfing in the middle of our capital city... far, far away from the sea. Is it any wonder that I didn't want to spend a week puking my guts up and taking antibiotics?

River thames kiteboarding

Just to prove I'm not pulling your leg, above is a picture of my mate dodging his way in-between boats, as he crossed the river on his tiny kiteboard. He even did a trick because he knew that a bunch of shocked onlookers were videoing him - ever the showman, but who can blame him?

If you don't believe me about dodging between boats, have a look at the kind of vessel that cruises down the river, that I can see from my living room.

Cruise liner

Yeah, that's the same river and yes that's my lounge and balcony. That's the same view that I have taken hundreds of photos of, all from that same vantage point. Yes, that's a frigging cruise liner sailing right past my apartment, which is every bit as surreal as you'd think it would be.

Also, if you thought I was making pathetic excuses about why I didn't want to go into the dirty brown water, then check out this next photo, taken a week or so later.

Me kitesurfing

Yeah, that's me in the shades, looking all pasty white because I don't get to leave the house much these days. Just look at the beautiful aquamarine colour of that water. There was no need for a wetsuit - the water was as warm as bathwater. Why would I want to swim in raw sewerage when I had this week of kitesurfing heaven to look forward to?

I will my miss riverside life, but I've paid a king's ransom to experience it, and I've also had a queue of lazy liars, who've wanted to take advantage of me and my industriousness & ingenuity. It's been hard work to make these kind of iconic and memorable life experiences possible. It might sound boastful, but is there anything wrong with reaching a point where you can look backwards and say - without a shadow of a doubt - that you've lived your life to the fullest possible extent.

There used to be a time when the future couldn't come soon enough. I wished away today on tomorrow's dreams and ambitions. Then, I lost my virginity, learned to drive a car, got my first full-time job, bought a house, married a girl... one by one, I ticked all the things off the list.

How rich and 'successful' do you want to be? I've owned both a yacht and a speedboat. I've stayed in fancy hotels and had luxury holidays. I've eaten in the best restaurants, had the most gourmet food and drunk the finest wines. If you continue in relentless pursuit of the glitz and the glamour that you see in films and on TV, then you'll never be happy and content. No matter how many digits you have in your salary or net worth, it'll never be enough. Do you want to earn a million? Why not a billion? Do you want to be the first trillionaire? Why not a quadrillionaire?

If you were cursed with even a handful of braincells, I hope you'd quickly figure out - like I did - that things like experiences and friendship have an intangible value that can't be measured in dollars, pounds, euros, yen, rupees or even shiny gemstones and lumps of rare metals. You can't eat diamonds, although I must say I haven't tried. I have had a drink that contained actual gold, floating around and getting stuck in my teeth, like shiny bits of food, but even if I drank loads of that stuff, all I'd end up doing would be quite literally flushing money down the toilet - gold cannot be metabolised.

So, it's with a heavy heart that I leave my riverside home tomorrow, but it's not been the best place I've ever lived. The best place I've ever lived co-incided with when I had the most friends who I saw on a regular basis. More friends = more happiness. In some ways, my apartment block has had the stench of misery about it - full of rich old men with nothing to look forward to in life except a swift and painless death.

Maybe that's all there is for me in the future: frustration, disappointment, age-related illness, pain, discomfort, suffering and then death. However, I've got a few years before I'm 40 (technically) and I haven't passed on my genes to any unfortunate offspring yet. I'm still a hopeless romantic who believes in true love and holds out hope of meeting a special somebody to spend the rest of my life with; to grow old and grey with.

There's a moral question about whether it's right to drag an individual kicking and screaming literally into existence, as a shitting, puking, pissing, blood and amniotic fluid covered hopelessly helpless baby version of a fully-grown human being. There's another moral question about whether it's right to do so, when you can see that climate change and Donald Trump have our planet on collision-course with disaster. There's a personal moral question, about whether it's right to take the risk that I might pass on bad genes, or act as selfishly and irresponsibly as my parents did - to inflict as much misery on an innocent child who has no choice in matters which so deeply affect their quality of life.

I'm so desperate not to be like my dad, that there's an easy way to guarantee that never happens: to never have children of my own. However, can I say that I really experienced every possible thing that it's possible for a human to do, unless I sire and rear my own genetic offspring? It's a gut-wrenching decision. I'm more risk-averse than you might think, given the number of times I've risked my own life, but it's quite another question entirely when you're talking about the miserable childhood of some poor kid.

In leaving the capital city, I leave behind a huge pool of highly educated, highly intelligent and devastatingly beautiful women of my age, who decided to have put career first and placed motherhood on hold. Now they're all shitting themselves about the sun setting on their fertility, and make bloody brilliant girlfriends, to be honest. Prior to my my thirties, my experiences of the opposite sex had rather made me wish I was homosexual.

Sunset skyline

Talking of sunsets, this is the last photograph I'll ever take from this balcony, in all likelihood. I literally just rushed out and snapped this photo in-between writing the last sentence and this one. This is goodbye. There will be no time for anything more tomorrow, as I throw the few remaining unpacked items into my luggage and head off to start my brand new life: a fresh start; a new beginning.

You could have walked in on any chapter of my life and felt anything from pity to envy; from disgust to sympathy; from protective instincts to the desire to join a long queue of people who'd like to cause me distress and misery. If you think I've lost my sense of perspective, you're wrong; you've leapt to the wrong conclusions and too hastily. There are two years of my life captured here, on the pages of this blog. I invite you to dip in at random and judge me based on the extreme ups and downs that you can read about... everything I've been through.

Of course, I view myself as no different from anybody else. We all get hungry, we all get thirsty and most of us want to get laid. Beyond that, of course I view pure blind chance - luck and probability - as the only over-arching thing that's led me down one path, while you down another. Our places could easily have been the other way around, in another life; another universe.

So, dear reader, I will write to you again, after I've arrived at a destination that is completely alien to me.

Wish me the best.




Goodbye, London

14 min read

This is a story about fresh starts...

Super sunset

My luck is astounding. In fact, it's almost enough to make me believe in divine intervention and go all religious. However, I've studied theoretical physics, so I don't believe in imaginary sky monsters.

Underpinning our entire understanding of the universe is a theory that says that our very existence - our consciousness - is determining the reality that we experience. To give you a simple example, when you look at the Moon, every single atom of the Moon must choose its position in the sky, but when you look away, all those atoms could be anywhere... it's as if the Moon doesn't exist until you choose to look at it. The very action of looking at the Moon is what makes it exist, roughly where we expect to see it, but until you turn your gaze to the night sky, those atoms are just a probability cloud.

Just as we all know that Schrödinger's cat is both alive and dead until we open the box and look inside, what is less well known is that same uncertainty principle means that if you're not able to witness the universe around us, it completely collapses into a mathematical mess of probability - basically, if you die, the universe dies with you.

"But that can't be true! People die all the time!" I hear you scream.

Yes, you're right, but how would you witness their death, unless you had your own universe in which to observe independently. You can prove this fairly simply, by having Alice and Bob both make observations of quantum mechanical experiments, and see who is the one who is influencing reality. If you're Alice, you'll see that Bob has no effect - it's all down to you, baby. This universe is all yours.

"He's lost his mind and gone hypomanic again" I hear you grumble with frustration.

Until you've read Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics by John Bell and you've read the various interpretations of quantum mechanics - from the Copenhagen mathematical abstract idea, to the multiverse and the many minds interpretations - then I'm afraid, dear reader, that you're not qualified to judge me.

If you go deep enough down the rabbit hole, then you arrive at a quantum suicide paradox, and quantum immortality. Basically, in all the possible universes where you die... how would you know about them? In an almost infinite number of ways, your brain and your consciousness have died, but there are still an almost infinite number of universes left where you're alive and well. Does your brain hurt from all this? Well, try taking a gun, pointing it at your head and pullling the trigger - you won't die! Quantum mechanics literally predicts that the gun will misfire. In the universes where your brains got blown to pieces, you won't be alive to witness the aftermath, so you'll only be consciously aware of the universes where the gun jams or misfires or malfunctions in some way.

Basicallly, re-imagine the Schrödinger's cat experiment, but if the cat dies, you die too. What would happen is that every single time you ran the experiment, you open the box and find the cat is alive. You could do that experiment a thousand times, and 1,000 cats would be alive and well. The reason is simple: who's going to open the box if you and the cat are both dead?

Without a god, this is the only way that I can reconcile my experience of reality with the vast quantity of scientific books and academic papers that I have read over the years. God(s) are far more convenient and quite a lot more fun. Imagine being an ancient Greek, or a Roman: you'd have had loads of gods to thank and blame for everything that happened, good or bad. Learning stories about these imaginary sky monsters is a lot easier and more fun than learning differential calculus, matrix mechanics and imaginary numbers.

How does any of this relate to me and leaving London? Well, only a few weeks ago, I thought I was going to be sleeping on a sheet of cardboard in a doorway, sheltering from the rain. I thought I was going to be scouring London for empty houses with overgrown back gardens, where I could pitch my tent in the undergrowth and live in quiet seclusion; free from the possibility of being beaten up or pissed on by a lager lout; safe from the chance that I might be mugged for anything valuable that hadn't already been stolen from me.

Every area of my life had collapsed. I'm estranged from my family. I had lost touch with friends. I had broken up with my girlfriend. I was in arrears with my rent. I had no job; no income. Just servicing my debts was going to gobble up the few pounds and pence I had left. I'd sold everything of any value and raised a fairly paltry sum of money for my weeks of effort. I was going to lose my deposit and be unable to raise the rent and deposit needed to get another place to live. How would I pay the ongoing rent anyway, without income? Destitution looked like a certainty.

Then, I looked at the Moon and the planets aligned or the gods smiled on me or whatever you want to believe, but my plans to commit suicide by taking a tramadol overdose got transformed into a plan for a fresh start: the chance to have another go at getting the secret recipe right: friends, family, home, work, income, expenditure, stress, fun and every other variable that needs to be tweaked until it's just right, and you want to live more than you want to die.

If you've never taken a razor blade or a sharp knife, and deliberately cut into yourself, looking for veins and arteries, then you'll have no idea what I'm talking about. The closer you get to death, the closer you get to meeting your maker. Stephen Hawking could have sought solace in the mumbo-jumbo of religion, believing in an afterlife, after finding out that he had between 2 and 4 years to live, when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Instead, he wrote "A Brief History of Time" and discovered that black holes evaporate by radiating X-rays and wins the Nobel Prize at the age of 71. He's 75 years old now. He says that "god" is the universal laws of physics, which are still not fully understood by us... the Standard Model of particle physics is good, but it's just a model - there's no theory that explains why there are up quarks, down quarks, top, bottom, strange, beauty and charm. What the f**k is a tau neutrino and why do we need them? There's no theory that tells us for definite whether an electron is a fundamental particle and we've never actually seen a proton decay, although we have smashed them to bits and tried to figure out what the hell they're made out of, by looking at the pieces of debris that come flying out of the collision.

We're living in an age where we can actually make antimatter. You know that science fiction stuff? It's the most expensive substance on the planet, and you can't charge for it by weight because it has negative mass. That is to say, if you put it on some scales, it would float up and not weigh them down... you'd have to PAY to have people take your antimatter away, and you'd only need a tennis ball sized amount to pretty much destroy our whole planet, because of course as you know E = mc2 and there's a f**king shit tonne of energy bound up in matter. When antimatter meets matter, the matter is annihilated into pure energy and you'll get something that will beat the shit out of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and every nuclear explosion ever detonated all put together.

Do you want to see my life, reduced to atomic scale?

Self storage

There it is. 7 cardboard boxes, a couple of bikes, a bag full of kitesurfing gear, a guitar that I'm too talentless to play and its amplifier, and a filing cabinet full of old post that I really should throw away. I'll be adding in a load of duvets and bedding and clothes that I only wear infrequently, but it's sad how my entire life doesn't even fill this tiny space, when compressed like atomic fusion.

I leave this riverside apartment, which to all intents and purposes looks idyllic to the uninitiated, but in fact, the endless boats full of drunk people dancing to disco music - in their flared trousers or whatever the kids are wearing these days - is nearly continuous on the river side, and the local watering hole - the Tooke Arms - has a police van parked outside every Friday and Saturday night, to take away those who inevitably become so drunk and disorderly that they no longer appreciate the saintly patience of our beloved Metropolitan Police. You really REALLY have to piss off a London policeman to get yourself arrested. Trust me; I've been there, done that and got the bracelets (handcuffs). You don't get to keep any souvenirs, unless you want to frame your cautions and criminal charges (I have none of the latter, and I don't know if they even give you a certificate, like when you graduate from university).

I'm around in the capital for a little while longer, so if you want to say goodbye in person, then you should register your interest now. The day that I leave with as many bags as I can carry on the train, keeps getting pushed back and back and back, but it'll be worth it, especially if I get to meet two twin boys for the first time - the baby sons of the couple who rescued me from a messy divorce and a very unhealthy mess I'd gotten myself into.

It's interesting, when you're challenged to think what you really need, day to day. There are your favourite clothes, of course. There's your phone and your laptop and the accompanying accessories, but there's very little else. I'll take my Lumix camera with a Leica lens, even though my iPhone takes perfectly good photographs. I'll take my headphone amplifier, even though I can already deafen myself with earphones that only cost £30. I'll take 2 books I want to read, even though they're heavy and made out of tree pulp, and once I've read them they're just wasting valuable space on the planet and depriving us of oxygen giving trees. I'll take my suit - which is virtually brand new - and overcoat, even though it's total overkill to look like a sleazy salesman, in whatever off-the-peg trendy fashionable garments were available that season.

I've not even seen inside where I'm going to live. It's a total gamble, but it's bound to be better than a doorway that smells of piss and has spikes on the ground to discourage you from trying to shelter from the elements there.

As I wrote in a stupid lovesick poem a little while ago, I don't remember ever feeling this daunted and exposed; fearful & anxious. One little slip and the whole house of cards comes tumbling down, and the devastation that I felt when I lost the Lloyds contract earlier this year will look like a piss in the ocean by comparison.

It's almost like I'm holding the universe to ransom: I'm saying "gimmie what I want or I'll kill myself". Obviously, nobody gives that much of a fuck about threats like that. In fact, if you were to beg your doctor to put you in a safe place, where you couldn't harm yourself, that very act of self-preservation would be proof that you don't actually want to die: Catch 22.

Anyway, the universe has ponied up and given me everything I ever wanted: 98 out of my 101 things on my bucket list. Every cloudy evening, I think "oh bummer, no nice sunset tonight" and then there's this beautiful sky that suddenly appears all lit up in orange and gold, and with wispy white vapour trails from the planes overhead, and every shade of grey in amazing cloud formations.

I could share 100 photos with you, every one of the same view from the same vantage point, but every one has something of interest, even though it's the same skyline. Whether it's fireworks going off on New Year's Eve, or a long-exposure shot of the supermoon, taken with an 8 second shutter on a tripod. Those who are of the Christian faith, would say I've been "blessed". I simply view my consciousness as an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, but also a complete accident - simply a statistical co-incidence. I've been very sad to lose things and I've suffered terrible stress at times, but I always get what I want in the end, even if it seems like blind luck.

I want to share more. I want to write and write, but if you read what I wrote before, you'll understand the fragility of my situation; the precarious position I find myself in.

I know that I'm revealing a side to myself that has no place in this day & age of mindless 'entertainment' programmes, where some botoxed pretty-boy with teeth that are blindingly white, chats mindless bullshit to a bottle blonde with big fake titties. I read "Brave New World" and other dystopian and utopian novels when I was very young. One of the kindest gifts I ever received from my dad - as I remember - was a book that explained special relativity for kids. Imagine that! Imagine having your 8 year old son travelling on a beam of light looking at his watch and seeing the hands tick just like normal, but when he comes home, Dad's been dead for millions or billions of years. That's just f**ked up.

I'll write again, before I go, but it's 1am and I'll have a regular 9 to 5 job soon. it won't be quite like the corporate humdrum I'm used to, but I've still got to play by certain rules; societal norms. I've got a week to straighten myself out.

I want to tell you about all the hidden gems of London that you'd only know if you've lived here for 10 years or more. I want to share my heartache about leaving the capital of the country that my identity is inextricably bound to. I speak the Queen's english with an old-fashioned BBC TV presenter's posh accent. "Sorry" is a kind of punctuation, where I start and end every sentence with what seems like an apology, but it's not... it's just the product of that inexplicable 'Britishness' that we offer insincere apologies all the time: "Sorry", "begging your pardon", "excuse me" and even the British "ahem!" cough that basically says "get the f**k out of my way you piece of s**t tourist" with an insipid smile as the feckless idiot steps out of the gangway they're blocking.

Oh London, I'm going to miss you so very much. With your cultural collision that's so inclusive that the sum total of all the terrorist attacks has claimed less than 100 lives, ever. 52 on the 7th of July 2005, but all the others don't even take the total into 3 figures. How can you strike a blow against a city that speaks more languages than any other on the planet. New York - in 2nd place - speaks half as many languages as London, which can boast 100+. To attack London is to attack humanity itself.

There would be novelty if I was moving to New York or Tokyo (numbers 99 and 100 on the bucket list) but to experience another major city in the UK is still exciting. I just hope it isn't like Bournemouth - trying so hard to be like London, or even like Brighton, but ending up as a cheap and tacky pastiche that offends the sensibilities of a genuine Londoner.

Of course, those born in London call me a "blow in" and mock my privileged existence, but taking the example of my friends with the twins. Their house cost them the equivalent of £1.3 million, and the beneficiaries were what the British refer to as "benefit scroungers" - people who've never worked a day in their lives and have now f**ked off to Spain, where they live in idle luxury, as tax exiles.

Oh London, how I love thee.

Better publish this or I'll be writing all night again.





12 min read

This is a story about changing beyond recognition...

Missing boy

This 25 year old Londoner was hopelessly addicted to kitesurfing, and had secured a job in Bournemouth, where he would work mornings and evenings, leaving his afternoons free to go to the beach. Working for a huge international organisation, he had secured a ludicrously good deal - salary and relocation allowance - and the Human Resources (HR) people who he negotiated with had no idea that the real prize was to be able to kitesurf every day.

Despite being confident and outgoing, he was hiding crushing insecurities about his attractiveness to the opposite sex - a complete lack of self-esteem - and was struggling to find the girl of his dreams, who would be the cherry on top of a lovely cake. Being a hopeless romantic, and pretty inexperienced despite his 25 years on this Earth, he could fall in love at the drop of a hat and be heartbroken when a simple fling didn't turn into anything more serious.

Hot blonde

Overcoming his ineptitude with women, he got together with a girl who looked perfect on paper and she was a pretty and petite blonde. He was smitten. She was a science graduate and a computer programmer. She even worked for a client that he'd worked for 6 years before, and he knew many of her colleagues.

In the words of one of his best friends, she was a "conversion project". He would teach her to kitesurf, and then they could travel the world together, chasing warm wind, soft sand and water that was mirror flat or had perfect waves. Brazil, Venezuela, Cape Verde, South Africa, The Canary Islands... there was an endless list of exciting countries to visit with this beautiful girl, and kitesurf together.

Poole harbour

There she was, giving it a damn good go in Poole Harbour, under his tuition. Why she was wearing a buoyancy aid in water that's so shallow you can stand up in it, was anybody's guess, but I guess it made her feel more confident. Kitesurfing in those days was super dangerous - the emergency release mechanisms were just being developed, and if you let go of the bar, you'd be dragged along out of control, like being tied to the back of a speedboat being driven by a maniac, until you crashed into one of those harbourside houses.

After a year, he decided to propose. He asked her dad's permission. He did all the things that he thought he should do: buy a house, get married, get a pet, have kids. Thankfully - for the kids' sake - they stopped short of doing that last one. Just looking after their a cat had a very strong bonding effect. Their cat is probably the reason they stayed together as long as they did.

Hawaii wedding

They got married in Hawaii, of course. He was allowed to wear flip flops, but not board shorts. In fact, he had a tough time from bridezilla for almost the whole trip until he put his foot down and said he just wanted to sit by the pool or on the beach, drinking ice cold beverages. She wanted to be sightseeing in a decrepit camper van that they weren't insured to drive. He checked them into a luxury hotel, which cost a small fortune - it was Christmas time after all - and finally, for a brief moment, he had a tiny bit of holiday relaxation.

Notably, they didn't take their kites or kiteboards. Travelling with a wedding dress and linen suit was a teeny bit difficult, but not as hard as lugging a 30kg bag that's nearly as tall as person. However, Hawaii has wind, waves. warm water and beautiful sandy beaches. Barely a few hundred metres from where Barack Obama was spending his holiday break, our missing young man was forced to try pole dancing (windsurfing) for the first time, in desperation to get his 'fix'. There was the shame and indignity of being a beginner windsurfer he was an experienced kitesurfer in a paradise location, who could have been having the time of his life.

Pole dancing

After landing at London Heathrow, after over 20 hours of flight time, it turned out that his new wife had used an online booking website to arrange the taxi home, but had not accounted for the fact that they would be away over New Year's Eve. An innocent mistake, but it left them stranded, exhausted, in the middle of the night.

Within a month, he was in private hospital. It was all too much for him. She would rage and throw tantrums when things didn't go her way. He would bite his tongue and try to fix everything. The pressure to please her was unbearable... but it was never enough. He'd bought her a hot tub because she said she had loved having one in California. He'd shown her the world, staying in the best hotels and eating in the best restaurants. He'd married her in one of the most romantic destinations you could ever choose, and he'd even agreed not to wear board shorts. She was threatening divorce while he was sending her a different flower every day, from hospital, to show he still loved her. Despite him being a generous lover, she was on 'no strings attached' dating websites, looking for sex.

Crepe suzette

If crêpes Suzette, flambéed at your table, with the best views of any restaurant in Malta, is not enough to whisk a girl of her feet, he was left bamboozled as to how he could possibly please her. He was completely naïve, believing that if he treated her like a princess, she would love him as much as he loved her. He was wrong. It hurt and he was heartbroken.

It made no sense. People would come to their summer garden parties and be served home-made burgers and marinated chicken, plus endless varieties of sausages hot off the barbecue, while a range of delicious salads that she had prepared, were laid on for the vegetarians and to garnish the plates with. Fire pits and patio heaters kept people warm after the sun went down, and there was the hot tub kept at a toasty 38 degrees (100 degrees Fahrenheit).

It made no sense. People would come out for trips on his boat to see one of the largest natural harbours in the world. Him and his wife were a natural host and hostess. They were a great team when they were entertaining guests.

For her birthday one year, he took her in his boat up the Wareham River, moored up outside The Priory Hotel, and they ate lunch on the patio, which was some of the finest dining in Dorset - cooked by Michelin star standard chefs - with beautifully manicured lawns leading down to the river bank.

Why they quarrelled and grew apart is a mystery. She wanted to learn to sail and he was an RYA dinghy sailing instructor and experienced yacht skipper. She wanted to rock climb and he had the qualifications and experience to teach her. She wanted to climb mountains, and he had spent months in the high Alps and was a mountain leader (guide) experienced in dealing with emergencies, working with groups of varying ability, and acclimatising to altitude. He taught her how to snowboard and was grinning from ear to ear when she followed him off piste without a moment of hesitation.

All the things

However, he was baffled and slightly insulted that she spent a lot of money to go and learn from other people. He'd taken her sailing multiple times, and taught her a lot. He'd taken her rock climbing, and shown her the ropes; pardon the pun. He'd taken her into the mountains and shown her the basics of navigation, safety, route planning and even how to retreat when things don't go to plan. That's our missing man and his ex-wife, in every picture above except the mountain one. where he's the one taking taking the photo.

He was, undoubtably, looking for the love of his life, but married the wrong person. Friends warned him that him & her weren't a good match. "The poison dwarf" was too hot to handle, especially for a sensitive guy who was relatively inexperienced with women and still nurtured the Disney "happily ever after" idea of finding true love. He mounted a kindness offensive - an attempt to satisfy her every whim, her every ambition, but yet it still wasn't enough. He was delicate. She was aggressive.

It made him sick - mentally unwell - all this arguing and rejection. He wanted to just grab her and squeeze her tight until she felt safe and loved. Maybe that was the problem: she felt trapped and smothered. They met when she was only 23, which I guess is quite young, considering that he proposed when she was only 24. For their parents' generation, that would not have been unusual, and he did things the old fashioned way: buying a house to start a family. However, she complained she hadn't seen enough of the world; experienced enough of life's adventures. He set out to rectify this, but what she was really saying is "I'm not ready to be a one-dick woman just yet".

His best friend coined the phrase "conversion project", which is to take a girl and turn her into a kitesurfer; a sailor, a climber; a mountaineer. This friend literally asked "are you ready to be a one vagina man?". Soon after that, this friend went on a trip to sow his wild oats across Scandinavia, before coming home to marry the poor girl who'd had to tolerate this temporary break-up in the full knowledge that his motive was completely unreasonable. They're a happy couple with twins and a lovely house now, so maybe he was right. At the time, his wife wanted to punch his friend in the face or testicles, or probably both.

Before his petite blonde wife, the happy smiling 25 year old - pictured when our story began - had tried to make it work with a kitesurfer who lived 186 miles away, and nowhere near the sea. He'd tried to make it work with other kitesurfer girls too. An incredibly beautiful Burmese kitesurfer girl seemed to be flirting with him when she was on holiday with him in Sardinia, but he was so shy and inexperienced, he didn't dare try to kiss her.

Our missing man tried to make it work with his wife, again and agan and again and again, and eventually it broke him. He broke down and sank into depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol abuse and made a stupid mistake which was his ultimate demise: the abuse of legal highs. This was the beginning of the end.

In the chaos, confusion, stress and trauma of divorce, selling his house, saving his most precious possessions, leaving the town he'd called home for 8 years and all his friends... all mixed in with toxic additives like mental health problems, addiction and alcoholism, he was a little lost boy. He's been missing for nearly 11 years. There have been times when somebody who appeared to be him popped up briefly, but like an apparition, he melted away into nothingness again.

Is it any wonder that he disappeared? He gave so much of himself away - his love - trying to make relationships work; trying to make girls feel special and cherished and loved and like princesses; trying to please; loving unconditionally.

This blog contains the bitterness; the accusations of wrongdoing - the evidence of the inexcusable and terrible behaviour that was perpetrated against the author. This blog tells the story of why that young man went missing, and why he's still missing. Perhaps why he'll never be found. If he's missing, perhaps, you shouldn't search for him.

Perhaps there's no place in this world for a naïve little boy who has so much love to give, but nobody to give it to. So many times in life he was left reeling, hurt and wondering what he did wrong, when all he tried to do was to be as nice as he could possibly be. Perhaps that silly little boy got it all wrong, and life's not about being nice and kind to people; it's about using people and getting what you want at all costs. The boy was not made for this world - he was like an alien from another planet.


Look at this old man. Look at the sadness that he tries to hide, but something in his eyes betrays him. He knows he's nothing like that happy smiling 25 year old young man, photographed 12 years ago. He knows that all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put him back together again. He knows that whatever it was that happened, it damaged him badly. Unconditional love, infectious happiness, a sense of contentment and the enthusiastic exuberance that characterised our missing little lost boy, are qualities that this old man doesn't possess - they're completely different people.

It's a tragedy when we lose somebody who brought fun & excitement, adventure & exhilaration, thrills & spills, into people's lives. It's a tragedy when many lives are touched - improved - and then we lose that person.

I don't think we'll ever find him though. He's gone forever.




The Breakup

13 min read

This is a story about mismatches...

Odd Shoes

Writing is hard. More specifically, writing well is pretty damn hard. To write well every day; to finish a book; to have the discipline - that's the hardest. Lots of people write - it's our preferred method of communication these days, rather than the phone. My Facebook friends are mostly what you'd term "well educated professionals". Some of my Facebook friends are people who used to write every day on the same discussion forum as me. When I step out of that bubble, I'm reminded that it was the general populace who invented 'text speak' and still use it to this day, because writing is just a means to an end for them - to send short colloquial messages about their banal lives, where the style, grammar and intangible beauty of a well-constructed sentence has zero value to them.

When I started my blog, I didn't know where I was going with it. Then, I remembered that a friend who aspired to be an author, and has now published three books, said that he was going to blog for a year, to test his discipline and hone his art. I copied that idea.

When I started my debut novel, the idea was to write at least 1,667 words a day, so that after a month, I would have achieved a 50,000+ word count.

This year, things started going wrong almost from the very outset.

In the blink of an eye, I found myself in hospital on a high-dependency ward, with acute kidney failure. My weight had gone from 77kg to 95kg, because I had stopped urinating: my bladder was empty. I was on dialysis and generally being poked and prodded by some very worried looking doctors. I didn't have my laptop or a means to connect to the Internet - those aren't the kinds of things you take with you when you get a phonecall from the doctor you saw in Accident and Emergency saying "how soon can you get back here? Do you need us to send an ambulance?"

Like dominoes, the pillars of my life started to collapse. First, I lost my job - they couldn't wait for me to get better, even though I discharged myself from hospital after two weeks, against medical advice. Then, rent, taxes, bills, insurances and everything else started to become a matter of imminent financial implosion. Depression tore through my mind like an inferno through a building. The strong opiate painkillers, that I needed for the leg injury which caused my kidney failure, made doing anything at all quite challenging - it might not have been heroin, but I sure as hell got sick if I forgot to take my 4-hourly dose. Writing and work were replaced with lying on the sofa in a drugged-up haze, half-aware of whatever was on TV.

You'd think that after I got off the painkillers and I could walk distances again, without it causing me agony, I would be ready to find another job. Anybody who followed my story through December and January, will know that Christmas and New Year scuppered my job search. Effectively, I went through the stress twice, and then lost the job anyway through no fault of my own. I wrote about how psychologically damaging that was, having argued with the doctors so much, discharging myself and getting angry phonecalls from doctors and consultants saying I needed to go back to hospital; I was risking my life and I was still critically ill.

I didn't need concerned doctors to tell me I was still ill and in no position to work - my commute to work, with my heavy ankle brace, caused me untold pain. How was I supposed to travel every day on overcrowded public transport, and walk the final part of the journey, when it would leave me exhausted and crying in pain when I got home. I was relieved when my boss told me to take some more time off to get well; only it was him being cowardly - my contract was terminated soon after leaving the building.

Everything else from that point has been measured by that yardstick.

If it's hard and stressful to get a job - and to start that new job - under normal circumstances, can you imagine pulling out a 25cm dialysis tube from a massive blood vessel in your groin, with blood everywhere, and leaving hospital when all the doctors are begging you to stay? Can you imagine your first day in the office, except that less than 48 hours ago you were considered so sick that you might need a kidney transplant, or even die because the dialysis wasn't working effectively? Can you imagine working those first few days in your new job, getting phonecalls twice a day from different doctors saying that if I turned up at any A&E and had a blood test, they would admit me to hospital as a critical case, because of the dangerous toxins circulating in my bloodstream? Can you imagine dealing with almost unbearable pain as well as doing your job? And then what happened? I went to all that effort and I lost the job anyway.

I've been a full-time IT professional for 20 years, and to be honest I lost the love for it very quickly. I spent most of 1999 recovering from weekends of all-night raves. I spent most of 2001 to 2005 chatting with my friends on a discussion forum and organising kitesurfing holidays and weekend trips away. 2005 through 2008 I worked very hard, but I surrounded myself with alcoholics, who were some of the very best people I've ever had the privilege of working with. 2008 I thought I was pissed off with JPMorgan, but it turned out that I had simply reached the limit of what I could take with IT jobs for big companies. Ever since then, I've made my money as an entrepreneur, independent developer and IT consultant, as well as speculating in emerging technology (e.g. iPhone apps, Bitcoin mining). I work about 5 months a year, and I hate it, but it pays the bills. My last contract paid £660 a day, so you can see, I don't have to work for very long to earn what I need.

So, now I'm in the situation where I was tipped over the edge. It's not normally very hard for me to find a new contract, and I find the actual work very unchallenging; easy. To have worked so hard to get well, get out of hospital, get to that job, and then to lose it... when I fucking hate IT work anyway. It was the last straw. The company said they'd have me back as soon as I was fully recovered, but the spell was broken - I used to put up with the boredom and the bullshit, because I was earning the equivalent of well over a hundred grand a year... if I ever worked a year. I can't go back to it. You could offer me £1,500 a day, start tomorrow, free rein to work on whatever project I want, and I don't think I could do it. It's like all that hatred of the job and the politics and the bureaucracy and the insanity and incompetence of people in positions of authority, suddenly hit me all at once.

I stopped caring that I'm going to be nearly £6,000 short on my tax bill, in 27 days time. I stopped caring that I'm not going to be able to pay my rent next month. I stopped caring that if I go bankrupt I'll never be able to work in financial services again, be a director of a company, have anything except the most basic bank account, which means I wouldn't be able to - for example - rent a car. I stopped caring that I'll never be able to get another mortgage or rent my own place. I stopped caring that I would lose my excellent credit score - I have borrowing facilities of £30 grand and no debt that shows up on those credit checks. I stopped caring that many of my possessions would be sold by bailiffs for a fraction of what they're worth. I stopped caring that I would lose things that I spent years and years choosing and customising: a mountain bike I bought when I was 18, with the lightest frame money can buy, handmade and hand painted - including my name - which I have added the very best of everything to, bit by bit, until the total cost of the bike is as much as a decent car... but it's not about the cost; it's about the pride in doing that - the pride in customising something with painstaking effort over 19 years.

Now, I'm a minimalist. I'm a digital nomad. I've used all my experience as a mountaineer and Alpinist to travel light, with clothes that pack small, but they're super warm and everything either dries quick or stays dry. I have a grab bag that weighs perhaps no more than 15kg, but I could sleep quite comfortably in an extremely cold winter. I learned through bitter experience, the discomfort caused by cheap equipment: blisters, wet feet, damp clothing, sleeping mats that don't stop the cold penetrating from frozen ground, tents that get flattened by gales, synthetic sleeping bags that don't keep you warm. Everything that I carry meets the three criteria: light, strong and expensive. There's also a fourth criteria: how effective something is in terrible weather. It might be subtle, but there really is a big difference between a 'good' waterproof jacket, and one that costs well over £400; for example, are you able to use the hood but still move your head to look around? How many drawstrings are you able to operate without having to unzip anything?

There's so much crap that I just want to dump. I've ended up with paperwork that goes back to 1997. I only ever wear a few different outfits and I wear my clothes until they're threadbare. I could lose 95% of my clothes and not even miss them. I have boxes of stuff that I rescued from my house before it was sold, during my divorce. It was a smash & grab - I was paying for the man & van by the hour plus we had to get back to London before my self storage shut. I literally took no more than an hour to grab anything of real value, and a mug that my sister hand-painted for me. Can you imagine that? I dumped my books, a summerhouse that I designed and built myself, stuffed full of gardening equipment, garden furniture, tools, mountaineering equipment like ropes, ice axes, crampons, a pile of kites that probably cost me many thousands of pounds when they were new. I dumped my hot tub. I dumped games consoles, games, DVDs. I dumped kitchen knives, Le Creuset cast iron casserole dishes. I dumped my Weber barbecue, my fire pit and patio heaters. I dumped the bed I bought when I moved to West Hampstead in 2000. I dumped the oak dining table and chairs I bought when I bought the house. I dumped an antique sash window that had been turned into a mirror by my dad, as a Christmas gift. I dumped the huge wardrobe that I built to go right to the bedroom ceiling - one side customised just how my ex-wife wanted it, and another side customised just how I wanted it. I dumped a garden that I had lavished hundreds of hours on, making the grass lush and green, weeding the path, mulching the beds and tending the mature shrubs and palm trees. I dumped my electric guitar and electronic drum kit. In fact, I dumped a whole band's worth of instruments for playing Guitar Hero. Where was I going to keep all this stuff, living in my friend's spare bedroom? It was going to be ages before the house was sold and I got the money to get a place of my own again.

Now, I have a place of my own, by accident. One friend thought he was going to live with me rent free, but he hadn't done the maths - the rent was more than his salary, and he was fucking useless. The one bit of work that he was supposed to do that would have brought in some money for my company he fucked up. He hassled me for an interview at HSBC, which I wangled for him... and then I had to deny I knew him very well, as he was exposed as inept. My next flatmate didn't pay his rent for 3 or 4 months and never paid me any bills. He was surprised when I told him that he was going to find his stuff dumped on the street if he didn't get the fuck out.

If I was going to cut & run, I'd want my two MacBooks (Air & Pro) and I guess I'd take my iPad Pro too - call them tools of the trade - plus 3 pairs of high-end headphones, and my grab bag (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat) with my good waterproof jacket and my down jacket. I'd wear my waterproof trainers, water-resistant trousers and my fleece, with a merino wool base layer. I'd take my passport and €500 in cash that I have lying around. I'd take phone and a battery pack that can charge it 12 times. There's not a lot more that I tend to travel with, except copious quantities of benzodiazepines and Z-drugs. When you live in a hostel for a year, you learn what you need and what you don't. When you live under a bush in a park or on a heath, you learn what you're prepared to have stolen, potentially. It took my fellow homeless in Kensington Palace Gardens over a month to find my hiding place - people don't really venture into massive thorn bushes. If you're smart, you can disappear from the world, despite living in a densely populated city. People's dogs would smell my food, but their owners couldn't see me in the gloom. Hampstead Heath is somewhat more of a challenge, because people like to fornicate in the bushes, but the general rules apply: people are lazy and stick to the paths mostly, so by choosing the remotest part of the heath, you very rarely see anybody.

My life is in the process of breaking up again; disintegrating. I don't care. I am so depressed.

Let it all burn down, I say.




Nice Day to Feel Suicidal

8 min read

This is a story about sun tans...

Isle of dogs

For orientation purposes, that's the bottom of the Isle of Dogs, where I live. I'm standing South of the Thames, taking the photograph, facing due North. You can see the towers of Canary Wharf in the distance. My apartment block is around the corner to the left, where the river meanders into central London. The O2 centre and the Thames Barrier are downstream to the right. You can't see the right-hand sweep of the river in this photograph, but the river goes North-South on both sides of the Isle of Dogs, which isn't really an island at all. Go figure.

This relaxed trip to the supermarket should have been a jolly affair, where I was free to peruse the shelves for all manner of tasty goodies. After sex comes food and fine wine. What other joys are there in life except for hard drugs? Childbirth you might say, but birth gives rise to responsibilities, guilt. At the moment, I'm my own man: no boss is going to chastise me for taking a leisurely stroll during working hours; no mother of my child is going to be angry that I'm not bearing my fair share of the burden of childrearing. I can kill myself and not leave a trace.

When I was working, I used to manage my moods using my skin tone. The more tanned I was, the more relaxed, happy and easy-going I was. Starting to go pale and pasty sounded alarm bells in my head that caused me to book a nice two-week break somewhere hot & sunny. Why the hell do I live somewhere that is engulfed in grey clouds 90% of the time? Probably because I never care about the weather outside when I'm working.

At the moment, I'm white as a ghost. People who knew me during happier times would barely recognise me without my all-year-round tan. Perhaps being untanned is good though at the moment: the scars that run the length of my forearms don't really show. I cut with a razor blade, which was so sharp that my skin healed with very thin scars. I can see the scars. I know what they mean.

Sun tanning is like meditation. It can be forced relaxation, if you're really determined to lay down some skin tone. At times, it's a byproduct of simply being in a hot country doing outdoor adventure sports. Even in the UK, you can pick up quite a tan if you're out on the water all the time - where you get twice as much radiation due to the reflection of the sun's rays. It's not quick, easy and painless. There will be times where you overcook yourself, and you'll have to apply moisturiser carefully for the next week. There will be times where you've got a lovely brown front, but your back is white as white. If you wear sunglasses you'll get panda eyes; if you don't you'll get squint lines (and possibly damage your eyes).


Who's that white guy wearing sunglasses?

My kitesurfing friends would meet an unrecognisable version of me today. Gone is the laid back surfer type guy with sun-bleached hair and clothes, rough hands and olive skin. Instead, comes a bundle of stress and nervous energy - or lack of energy - who seems defeated and stuck in a rut, ruminating over and over about what might have been but never was; growing old disgracefully and inelegantly; making a buffoon of himself. Who is this tramp, more suited for swigging cans of strong lager and bottles of cider in the park and fighting over cigarette butts and pennies? Who is this jester, who would turn his own legacy into some kind of running gag? A joke, but not a funny one. Just sad and pathetic, and unapproachable. "Leave him be, there's nothing we can do for him" they say to each other; the people he once travelled the world with in search of the trade winds.

Relaunching myself was supposed to be a third time lucky affair, following the same winning formula of highly paid IT contracts for banks in London, plus kitesurfing holidays to hot & windy countries. It was a costly relaunch. A small amount of money to get scrubbed up and respectable for Barclays. A slightly larger amount of money to get hosed down and straightened out for HSBC. Then, an absolutely incredible amount to finally launch myself far enough to complete a contract for a very happy client and even take a kitesurfing holiday smack bang in the middle of it - see picture above. Regrettably the momentum wasn't continued and I started to get obsessed with the idea of finding love and achieving something in life to be proud of: writing a novel.

I can't afford to be sitting around, taking in the river views and strolling along, taking my time, while the gap in my CV grows ever larger; my skills get rustier; my fear of failure grows; my anticipation of the misery of paying back the money it cost to simply stand still, drives a stake through my heart. Vanquished, I feel.

Two of my friends have had triplets this year, at about the same time. Just about all of my friends have left London, settled down and had kids. Down on the South Coast, an old colleague offered me work. I know that there is plenty of sand, surf and wind to be had in Dorset, as well as the potential for some much needed income, but what about love; what about proving everyone wrong and making it work against the odds? I'm almost forcing the hands of the clock back so I can have it all - the wealthy lifestyle, the loving wife and at some point later, the kids - despite the fact I'm 37 years old and I really haven't got time after two failed attempts and a third that I didn't capitalise on.

Bournemouth, Dorset. My nemesis. I could so easily get trapped down there. Imagine the conversation I'd have with my ex-wife if I bumped into her:

Ex: "Hi"

Me: "Hi"

Ex: "How're you?"

Me: "Depressed and desperate"

Ex: "I thought you were earning insane amounts of money in London"

Me: "I was, then I wasn't, then I was, then I wasn't, then I was and finally I gave up"

Ex: "Oh"

Me: "How are you doing?"

Ex: "Met a great guy. We bought a nice house. Just about to have our second kid. We both work part-time"

Me: "Yeah, I remember that was always the plan <sigh>"

Ex: "Well, good luck"

Me: "Actually, can you phone the mental health crisis team for me, please, because I think I'm going to stab myself in the neck with a plastic fork"

Ex: "Look, we got divorced and I'm not involved in your shit anymore. Look at the mess you're making of the supermarket floor"

* she storms off *

Me: <gurgling noises>

* our hero collapses dead in a pool of his own blood, his jugular vein severed by the plastic cutlery that accompanies a supermarket takeaway salad *

That's pretty much how I imagine how it goes, hence never going back there. Hence being terrified of being sectioned there and being seen by former friends and colleagues, shuffling along heavily medicated up to my eyeballs as the staff members of St Ann's Psychiatric Hospital take the crazies out for a walk, to get some fresh air.

Bournemouth is not a place where you want to be suffering from mental health problems, addiction or alcoholism: they're too well prepared. They'll swoop on you and the system will just scoop you up and absorb you. You'll become part of the horde of other dreamers who made their way to the seaside, but found that it's a dead-end: the sea is an impassible barrier.

London's tried to eject me every which way it can, but it hasn't succeeded. I feel slightly bloody minded in staying, despite the risk to my life, but I also think that if I kill myself, I've at least got one thing to be really proud of: I fought off those who wanted to see me swept out, like I was some leaf that blew into your house. I got back to London, and in some ways, I made it work.

Rest in peace, me.




Spectator or Participant?

9 min read

This is a story about being a groupie...

Windfest 2007 Podium

On the steps of the podium stand the winners of the 2007 Poole Animal Windfest. There is a girl and a boy for 3rd and 2nd place. If you look closely, where is the boy who won 1st place?

In 2007 I was involved in building part of the software system that processed over a quadrillion dollars worth of toxic bullshit for JPMorgan, in a single year. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a bad job and they didn't treat me badly. In fact they kept a private driver waiting down by the seashore; engine running; waiting for the kitesurfing competition to finish. Then I jumped in the Mercedes with smoked glass windows and we sped off to Heathrow for me to catch a flight. I didn't even have time to wash the salt off my skin or sand out of my hair... or collect my prize for winning the competition.

There used to be a time when JPMorgan's main office in Bournemouth had squash courts and a gym onsite. There was a bar. There were enough car parking spaces for everybody, so everybody drove to work. Then, they grew; and they grew; and they grew. Investment banks were - and still are - ludicrously profitable. The IT budget that paid for my little team of 30-odd people was circa $10m per annum. You're never quite sure what the real numbers are though, when you work for an organisation with 130,000 direct employees.

Slowly, prefabricated office buildings sprang up on parts of the car park. The bar, gym and squash courts were turned into office space. That was OK. We still had several tennis courts and a sports centre nearby with badminton courts and 5-a-side football pitches. You could park nearby in an overflow car park. It was still a great place to work, and nobody had a fucking clue what they were doing or what impact it would have on the world, unless they really stopped and thought about it.

I've always been one of those pain-in-the-ass employees who does stop and think about the ramifications of everything that's being done. When it turned out that senior management had decided to support outsourcing a lot of our software development, I was very vocal about my displeasure and concerns. I was a thorn in the side of everybody more senior than me, in the hope of JPMorgan seeing sense: cheaper employees do not equate to cost savings. You get what you pay for.

So, I got landed with a stinker of a project. To train up about 20 brand new offshore employees, in Mumbai, and also to build a piece of software that was not only late, but was a critical component in a global initiative to get all the toxic bullshit warehoused in one place - a depository - so it could be figured out who the fuck owed who what, and how much? Who was holding the toxic debt? Who was bankrupt?

How big is a million dollars?


It's hard to say, but it's probably a few times bigger than the value of your house, or twenty times bigger than your salary. Now, let's multiply that by a thousand.


Now what you're looking at is a billion dollars. 1% of a billion dollars is $10 million. You'd be pretty happy with $10 million, wouldn't you? That'd set you up for life. Now, let's multiply that by a thousand.


This is quite obviously a trillion dollars. 5 trillion dollars is the value of all the world's 'money' - the cash in your pocket, the coins in your purse, your bank balance etc. etc. Now, let's multiply that by a thousand.


We've reached a quadrillion dollars. 1% of a quadrillion dollars is $10 trillion, which is twice as much as all the 'money' in existence. So, how the fuck does JPMorgan process over a quadrillion dollars in a single year? Two answers for you: 1) Derivatives 2) Financial crisis of 2007/8

A derivative is a financial instrument that derives its 'value' from an underlying security. By security, I mean something tangible: a fucking house or a metal coin that has its value stamped on it. Derivatives are just pieces of paper that say "in the event X, I will pay Y"... for example "if the stock market goes up, the value of this derivative goes up ten times as much". Derivatives contracts have been created that have become more valuable than all the 'money' in the world. As much as a thousand times more valuable. This is just worthless paper, and nobody has the money to pay up: insufficient collateral.

I know, right? Don't stop and think about this stuff too much. Nobody else did. There was too much money to be made.

So I get landed this stinker of a project, drive off from the beach at Sandbanks to Heathrow airport in a luxury car, in order to train 20 or so Indians on how to build a piece of software that's going to be instrumental in the Financial Crisis of 2007/8. I'm an engineer. I solve problems. I stopped thinking about the madness of outsourcing to India when JPMorgan was already plenty profitable. I stopped thinking about the madness of there being quadrillions of dollars worth of derivatives contracts, when there was only $5 trillion of money in existence. I started thinking about software designs and who I had in my new team to build this software system.

7 star hotel

At some point, I was seduced. I was seduced by limo travel, private drivers, 7-star hotels, business class flights, everything paid for on expenses, company credit cards. I was seduced by everybody telling me what an important project it was, and what an honour it was to be in charge - the manager - when I was only 27 years old; so young & ambitious. Giddy with this seduction, I started to see the world in different colours. Things were rose tinted. I was sucked in. It was like I was dreaming.

A year later, I'd woken up from a nightmare where I'd played a significant role in helping the Investment Banks to hold the world to ransom. "Pay up, or we'll crash the global economy and plunge the world into a depression that will make the 1930's look like nothing" they said. And the ransom was paid. Every government; every central bank coughed up hundreds of billions, so the bullshit could continue and none of the bullshitters had to lose a cent. In fact, the only people I knew who lost their jobs were the ones who were replaced by Indians I trained.

I started thinking again. Big mistake.

I took to the bottle. I drank every lunchtime and every evening. I was drunk most of the time. How could JPMorgan sack me or even reprimand me? What they'd paid me to do; what they'd asked me to do... they could never make that right. They just let me do whatever I wanted, which was mostly to go to the pub and get drunk. Nobody ever questioned it.

As Bear Stearns was being taken over by JPMorgan - asset stripped under the auspices of being 'rescued' - I'd had enough. Building software for banks made me sick. I was sick at what they did to their own people. I was sick of what the industry was doing to the world. I was sick of producing nothing of value; helping nobody except the lucky few who knew how the con-job worked.

Don't get me wrong, I should have looked the other way; kept taking the fat bonus cheques and big salary; kept those golden handcuffs on - loose enough that they never chafe - but I wanted to get as far away from it as possible. The whole thing left me feeling like I had blood on my hands. Every company that went bankrupt; every person who lost their job; every home repossessed; every suicide due to financial worries... I was one of the co-conspirators who fleeced them out of their money and assets.

Some colleagues stayed, but most of the cynical ones - like me - drifted away. Some died or at least nearly did, as they beat themselves up with alcohol for their sins. JPMorgan paid for a lot of people to go to The Priory to dry out. Those who couldn't face working again were pensioned off early. You only had to work for a year, and then you were covered by a generous insurance policy so you never had to work again. Occupational health were busy, getting rid of an entire generation of engineers who had built the bedrock foundations of the global financial services empire, now shakily propped up using public money. Masses of public money.

Ten years on, I watch in horror as those hastily made repairs to a fundamentally broken system start to crumble.

UK debt

Record high national debt and record low tax receipts. Our economy is 80% financial services - an industry that's booming if you haven't noticed. You probably haven't noticed unless you work in the Square Mile or Canary Wharf. You've probably seen stagnant wages, a lack of jobs and insecure employment, such as zero-hours contracts. There's always a McJob, if your self esteem is finally fully eroded by the capitalists.

Brexit had a frontman - Nigel Farage - who was a trader from the City. Brexit had billionaire donors, like the stockbroker Peter Hargreaves, who literally said "insecurity is fantastic" - referring to his desire to see workers abused by their employers, in the interest of profits.

I don't wish to segue into commentary on current affairs, but you have to be aware who you're dealing with. Who's putting words in your mouth? Who's planting ideas in your head, through the newspapers and TV channels they own?

You have to wake up out of your nightmare.