Skip to main content

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


Blogger's Digest - Day Four of #NaNoWriMo2019

14 min read

Blogger's Digest: a Novel


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Four

Caroline and I were driving northbound on the M6 motorway. Matt & Kate, and Paul & Cath followed behind, in our convoy of three vehicles: my van and their two cars. Caroline and I were having an argument.

"I thought you said you wanted a family" she said, half pleading and half accusing me of deception.

"I did, but then circumstances changed" I replied, attempting an apologetic tone.

"So you don't want to start a family anymore?" she asked rhetorically. Her voice betrayed her frustration and she spoke her words a little aggressively.

"No, that's not it. I just don't know at the moment. Things are changing and it's a big decision" I said, evasively.

"But we had made the decision. I started taking folic acid. I stopped taking the pill. We were trying to get pregnant."

"Yes, I agree. That's what I wanted at the time. That's what we wanted. Then things changed."

"You mean you selfishly decided to quit your job and pursue this stupid hare-brained idea of yours. THAT'S what you mean" she said, gesticulating with annoyance at the van we were in.

* * *

I had quit my job.

I had quit my job because even after trying every anti-depressant that my doctor could prescribe me, I still found that my life was intolerable. I felt trapped by my career. The prospect of spending the next 20 or 30 years working a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday office job felt like a fate worse than death, quite literally: the anti-depressants had brought so little relief, and suicidal thoughts plagued me with ever-increasing frequency, such that I felt I only had two choices: resign or kill myself.

There was, of course, a third option. I could have opted to be off work sick on a long-term basis. The investment bank had a generous policy for anybody who was sick for more than 6 months, allowing them to retire early. The income would be a tiny fraction of what a successful investment banker who continued to work into their late forties or early fifties, would expect to retire with. If I chose to resign and keep my reputation intact, I knew I would be welcomed back into the investment banking world with open arms. I knew that being pensioned off early due to ill health would be a career-ending move: a reputational stain which would follow me around until my dying day.

Getting an investment banking job is paradoxical - you can't get a job in investment banking without experience, and you can't get the investment banking experience without the job: Catch 22. I had been lucky enough to get a highly sought-after summer internship, due to a distant relative being a senior executive at a City firm. Without connections, it was impossible to get a foot in the door. I knew that I was incredibly fortunate to have my career, and to have been rapidly promoted. I was liked and respected by many colleagues. I would not struggle to get my old job back, or find another investment bank which wanted to hire me. However, I could not carry on working in an office anymore.

* * *

"It's not a 'hare-brained idea', Caroline" I said, speaking her name with a condescending tone. I was annoyed and beginning to get angry. I spoke through gritted teeth. "I am a qualified electrician and the business is quite profitable. I am a skilled tradesman whose services are in demand in the local community."

"Profitable!" she snorted. "You had to sell the boat and the MG which you bought for me as a birthday present, because you said you couldn't afford the upkeep."

This made me furious. I was about to angrily reply, but she hadn't finished.

"We are going to Wales on holiday"  she said, putting particular emphasis on the word "Wales" as if we were taking a break from our pleasant lives to suffer the torments of Hell - a vacation to the underworld - or embarking on an excursion to a warzone. "Matt & Katie just got back from Florence, and Paul & Cath are going trekking in the Atlas Mountains in a few weeks."

"Yes, that's the whole FUCKING POINT" I replied; my temper was barely under control and my voice was raised. "The main reason for this trip was so that I could teach Paul & Cath some of the mountaineering skills they're going to need, and so they can test their equipment. It was YOU who has managed to turn the trip into a couples' romantic luxury getaway and insisted on us renting a gigantic converted barn with a hot tub. Paul, Cath and I were going to sleep in tents until you hijacked the trip."

"But Katie hates camping" protested Caroline.

"It's not about Katie. It's not about Matt. It's not about you. None of you were even invited. I offered to take Paul and Cath on a trip to Snowdonia to help them prepare for their expedition to Morocco."

"I needed a holiday, Gavin. I'm not going to spend my holiday, in the middle of February, freezing cold in a tent. We're not going skiing this year, which will be the first year where we've not had at least one ski trip - our friends are devastated that we're not joining them, and I'm devastated too. Skiing is the only time when I get to catch up with a lot of our friends. We haven't had a holiday since last year and we haven't booked a single holiday for this year."

"This is a holiday, isn't it? YOU wanted to make this into a holiday by renting a luxury converted barn. We went on holiday in November, which was only three months ago" I said with exasperation.

"This doesn't count. Malta doesn't count."


"Yes, it was a last-minute deal and the hotel was grotty - you said so yourself. It was a short-haul flight with a naff airline and it was cloudy half the time. You ended up having to buy a jumper and a pair of trousers on the day we arrived, because you were cold, remember? Besides, a week doesn't even count - that's what I'm saying. A holiday should be at least 2 weeks or else it doesn't count."

"DOESN'T COUNT?" I sputtered with rage.

"Yes. By the time you've unpacked and settled in, it's time to start packing up your stuff and getting ready to leave. It's hardly a holiday is it? It's more of a mini-break, except we went to Malta instead of somewhere exciting like New York or Rome."

"We've been to New York and Rome."

"I was just giving examples of proper mini-breaks. You get my point" she said, folding her arms as if the matter was settled and she had won the argument.

* * *

It was true - we had been forced to dramatically change our lifestyle since I had quit my job and become a self-employed electrician. Caroline's job as a solicitor working with asylum seekers, earned her only a fraction of what she would be able to earn if she joined an international law firm - like her father's - but she wanted to make a worthy contribution to society; she wanted to help the needy and vulnerable. She refused to countenance the idea that she could become the main breadwinner if she set aside some of her lofty principles and instead took the highest paying job she could find. However, she said it would break her heart to leave the charity she worked for; she couldn't live with the guilt, knowing that she could be helping clients with gut-wrenchingly awful stories, fleeing persecution.

For such a nice, kind and charitably-minded person, Caroline's version of a "normal" life had been shaped by her privileged upbringing. The enviable lifestyle which we had hitherto enjoyed together had been a continuation of what she had experienced throughout her life, without any interruption. When I bought her a highly collectable classic British sports car for her 25th birthday, she was thrilled - having dropped hints that it was something she'd always wanted - but lavish gifts weren't particularly exceptional in Caroline's family. Some years ago, her mother had given her father a hand-built limited edition Morgan sportscar, which she'd been on a waiting list for several years to obtain, to celebrate him becoming a partner at his law firm.

My decision to become an electrician had been motivated, in no small part, by how guilty I felt about being an investment banker. Caroline was helping asylum seekers to escape torture and murder, and was comparatively poorly paid. Meanwhile, I was helping the wealthiest 1% to become richer and richer, while also becoming quite rich myself. I felt no 'warm fuzzy feeling' about the work I did. Often there were very ethically questionable things which I had to accept as part and parcel of the job. Mergers and acquisitions offered the opportunity for cost-cutting "restructuring" which inevitably meant redundancies. I was responsible for thousands of people people being sacked, while Caroline was heroically saving families from tyrannical regimes.

I had seen many colleagues squander their wealth, attempting new ventures, only to gratefully return back to their investment banking career after their startup companies and angel investments quickly gobbled up their wealth. An investment banker's entire career is spent scrutinising the accounts, forecasts and business models of their clients, to whom they are lending money or helping to float on the stock market - it's so easy to mistakenly believe that doing business is easy, when it's not your money or your company. Returning colleagues had gained nothing of any value - a very expensive lesson; a costly mistake. They all said they regretted ever leaving their comfortable investment banking careers. We used to make jokes about being kept in "golden handcuffs".

I decided that I wanted to retrain. I decided that I wanted to be qualified in something other than banking, but I felt certain that my age would count against me in law and accountancy: I should have chosen a different profession at a much younger age. I considered dentistry and medicine, which required a substantial amount of amount of time and money before I could expect to earn a high income. The living standards, which Caroline and I had enjoyed for many years, would be decimated; our plans to start a family would be delayed by 5, 6 or 7 years... or maybe more.

I chose a new trade instead of a new profession. Relatively speaking, the training to become an electrician was cheap, quick and easy. The expense of setting up my business as a sole trader - the van and the tools - didn't seem like very much money at all: less than the cost of what Caroline would count as a holiday, which met her expectations. If I did have to go back to my investment banking career, I would have lost very little money.

* * *

I sulked, bitterly, thinking Caroline was spoiled and entitled; that she was a bad person and that her expectations were unreasonable. I wanted to criticise her for wanting luxury holidays, when her asylum seeker clients were so desperately impoverished, but I knew that it would be desperately hypocritical of me - I had wanted luxury holidays just as much as she had. I had chosen to sell my soul, doing the devil's work as an investment banker. I could hardly lecture her for wanting the lifestyle to which we had both become accustomed. I wanted to tell her that it wasn't fair: she could feel smug about the good work which she was doing in the world, while I felt guilty about my own immoral profession. However, her choice to do low-paid charitable work was not to blame for my troubled conscience and depression.

The other thing I wanted to tell her, was that I wasn't sure if I wanted to carry on living. I wanted to tell her that I didn't want to become a father, and then decide to kill myself. It seemed like too much of a gamble: to hope that my depression would lift and my suicidal thoughts abate, as soon as we had children. I wanted to discuss all these things with her, but I didn't want to upset and alarm her. How do you renege on a promise to provide a wonderful life: a big wedding, children, a huge family home, private schooling, luxury family holidays, and enough trust fund money set aside to bankroll the children through university.

How can you admit that you've tried your hardest to keep going with an extremely well paid career, but the job makes you want to kill yourself, so the dream life we had imagined is over?

* * *

"Is this place we're going to be staying nice?" I asked, trying to make peace and restore a pleasant atmosphere in the van.

Caroline's face lit up. "Oh it's gorgeous. Every room has its own log burning stove. There's an Aga. The main living space is to die for - tall glass walls on both sides with panoramic views of the mountains, set in acres of private land. It's cosy AND luxurious. The barn is hundreds of years old and has its original oak beams, but the conversion was done by an award-winning architect. It's featured in lots of magazines. Did you not see the pictures I sent you?"

"Nope. So you're looking forward to it?"

"Yeah. Can't wait. Katie has brought a goose and Matt had found a butcher on the way who's got half a lamb for us to collect. We spent a small fortune on food and wine in Waitrose. This is going to be fantastic fun."

This was not what I had in mind originally. I had brought some packets of dried pasta and dehydrated sauce, which could be cooked on a camping stove, with melted snow, to prepare Paul and Cath for their trip to the Atlas Mountains.

"You should have brought the fondue set" I said, with barely concealed sarcasm.

"One step ahead of you! It's in Matt & Katie's car. I was going to surprise you - I know how much you love fondue."

"I wonder how many mountaineers carry kilos of cheese and a fondue set up a mountain in their backpacks" was the immediate reply which sprung to lips, but I managed to hold my tongue. "Oh yes, lovely surprise darling. We're going to have a lot of fun" I said instead, with the very best forced smile which I could muster.

I glanced backwards at the pile of rucksacks in the back of the van. When I had been loading everybody's rucksacks into the van it briefly reminded me of the expeditions I had been on with my university mountaineering society. I had been eagerly anticipating re-living some of those happy memories of time spent in the mountains. Now I felt as though my miniature expedition had been hijacked by Caroline and Katie's desire for a luxury jaunt into the countryside.

As we continued our journey towards Snowdonia National Park, I wondered if we would even leave the comfortable confines of the palatial barn conversion, and venture into the mountains at all.


Next chapter...


All The Money In The World

5 min read

This is a story about buying happiness...

Bitcoin miners

It seems straightforward to me that life can be lived like this: get money, spend money. I particularly like spending money in a way which maximises the amount of enjoyment, which often involves spending money on things which benefit other people as well.

One of the best things I've spent money on was a house with a garden, where I could entertain guests and have visitors to stay. I bought a hot tub, fire pit, big barbecue, lots of outdoor beanbags, patio heaters and other such things, so I could throw big parties in the warmer months of the year. I bought a yacht, which I took friends out on all the time and spent a lot of time aboard with my girlfriend, making long trips together. I bought a speedboat which provided an immense amount of pleasure, taking friends out wakeboarding and otherwise just having the thrill of messing around on the water.

Holidays alone are relaxing, but holidays with a girlfriend or a group of friends are a million times better. I've never subsidised my friends' travel, but I've paid for plenty of flights and accommodation so that I could have romantic holidays to exotic luxury locations with girlfriends, who otherwise wouldn't have been able to afford the trip.

I've bought my way into expensive sports, giving me incredible experiences I'll treasure forever. I've rock climbed, skydived, mountain biked, snowboarded, done mountaineering and ice climbing. Vast amounts of money have bankrolled a bucket list to die for. There are very few things left that I want to do.

Sometimes I get smart and I figure out ways to earn money while I sleep. Most of the time I earn money the old-fashioned way, by selling my body to the highest bidder. I find the day job very often frustrating, slow, boring and unrewarding work, which poses little challenge, but it used to pay for an incredible lifestyle, so it somehow made sense.

My life doesn't make any sense at the moment.

I work harder than ever, but my life is nothing like it once was. My social life is non-existent. I'm single. I don't go on ski trips or sail yachts. I don't do much of anything except work and pay bills. There's never any spare money left, despite the vast amount of wealth that I generate - it's all hoovered up by "cost of living" and "cost of being alive".

I shouldn't complain. I'm very lucky that whatever I decide to do, things usually work out for me. I am often in the right place at the right time.

I also forget that I've lived an incredible life.

Except I don't forget.

It's precisely the opposite of forgetting: I remember.

I remember exactly how good my life was, and I wonder what happened to that life. I'm not sad, bitter and twisted about it - I spend most of my time and effort trying to get things back to how they were, before everything fell apart.

I've had moments which have reminded me of the life I used to lead. I went away with my most recent [ex-]girlfriend to Mexico for Christmas and New Year and we splashed the cash. We travelled in style. We lived life to the max. That was an excellent reward for a year of solid hard work. It tasted so sweet to enjoy the fruit of my labour.

I'm in the process of getting my new house furnished and set up exactly how I want, so I can entertain guests and have visitors. I'm lucky enough to be able to choose what I want, buy everything and have it delivered. Slowly, my home is taking shape. I suppose I should spare a thought for people who can't afford to even rent a little room, while I have 4 bedrooms, 2 reception rooms and a huge kitchen with a dining room at one end, which could comfortably accomodate a large family. I have brand new furniture, which is all lovely.

None of it seems to mean anything though. I have a big empty house and my life is very empty. I don't have a social group in the local area. I don't have a girlfriend. Life is lonely and feels quite meaningless, despite the nice house and good job.

I keep thinking that if I can earn even more money, then I'll be able to relax and think about what kind of life I'd like to live, but at the moment I work to live and I live to work. I don't know what I'm living for, except to pay bills and work. Obviously I'm glad I don't live in a hovel. Obviously I'm glad I have comfy furniture. However, my life is very incomplete and it leaves me feeling very miserable.




On Probation

7 min read

This is a story about being on tenterhooks...

Book quote

I'm a living contradiction. I choose security and certainty over the vain hope of hitting the jackpot. If I was given the choice between having a "B" grade, but not having to do any work or suffer any uncertainty, versus the potential to achieve an "A+" then I would take the "B" grade without a moment's hesitation. If you think that's settling for mediocrity, you're wrong - I choose my battles and I achieve "A+" grades all the time... as an accidental consequence of pursuing the things I'm interested in and passionate about.

The other part of my contradictory personality is that I choose to take incredible risks. I jump out of planes. I climb rock faces. I scale high mountains. I ride gigantic waves in gale-force winds. Why the hell would I do that?

There are a lot of risk-reward-cost-benefit calculations that go on inside my head.

I've gathered a lot of data.

The decision to take dangerous highly addictive drugs might seem like one of the most baffling choices that a person would elect to do. For example, taking heroin is seen as an indication of character flaw, but being a BASE jumper is seen as cool, although the latter carries the same risk of premature death.

Let's do a bit more in-depth analysis, shall we?

Cost of being a rock climber:

  • Rock boots: £45
  • Harness: £75
  • Chalk bag & chalk ball: £15
  • Rope £150
  • Helmet £50
  • Belay plate: £20
  • 10 quickdraws: £150

TOTAL: £505

So, for somebody who wants to climb a rock face safely, the minimum amount they're going to have to spend is over £500. Also, you might fall and die. Let's re-iterate that: It's pretty damn obvious that if you climb up a vertical rock face and you lose your grip, you can fall to the ground and be killed on impact.

Cost of being a mountaineer:

  • Crampon-compatible boots: £200
  • Crampons: £120
  • Base layers: £40
  • Mid-layers: £80
  • Shell layer jacket: £250
  • Shell layer salopettes: £180
  • Ice axes: £250
  • Helmet: £50
  • 9mm waterproof rope: £175
  • Ice screws: £120
  • Warthogs: £40
  • Deadman: £40
  • Backpack: £150
  • Survival bag: £20
  • Down sleeping bag: £300
  • Down jacket: £200
  • Tent: £350
  • Sleeping mat: £60

TOTAL: £2,625

So, for somebody who wants to climb a 4,000m+ mountain (Mont Blanc etc) then you're going to have to shell out more than £2,500. In fact, it's going to cost you a lot more, because you're going to need lots of things I didn't list, like spare pairs of socks, spare base layers, and also a stove, cooking utensils, plus all the other expedition gear. You're not going to have much spare change out of £3,500. Did I mention that you're highly likely to be killed by falling rocks, avalanches, falling into a crevasse, or simply plummeting to your death.

I shan't follow the same process for kitesurfing, yacht sailing or skydiving, but the financial cost of putting your life in danger can be staggering, especially when we consider that rugged outdoorsy types are somehow healthy and laudable people of good character and moral fibre; made of the right stuff.

Another group of people who we might consider are the entrepreneurs. Who are these people who reject conventional employment - salaried jobs - and instead choose to make their money by means other than selling their singular body and brain. Are these people risk takers too?

In fact, all the celebrated members of society have one thing in common: they've had the financial means to pursue avenues that are not available to most of the populace, because the need to eat, be housed and be clothed is an insistent demand which is too pressing for all but those who enjoy considerable economic advantages. Do not believe the bullshit - rugged adventurers are not brave souls and entrepreneurs are not gifted geniuses... they're all people who've had the financial backing in order to pursue their expensive dreams. Don't believe any of the "self-made man" bullshit. Behind every "self made" man are a whole bunch of people who've underwritten their risk.

I busted my shoulder up pretty badly - broken bones - on a beach in a remote part of Brasil. My startup co-founder broke his leg very badly indeed in roughly the same part of Brasil. That part of the world is many hours away from a good hospital with a surgeon and operating theatre where complex orthopaedic surgery could be performed. Would we have been so adventurous if we hadn't become somewhat complacent about the bubble we live in?

I'm on probation at the moment. I'm on best behaviour. I'm trying to impress my new girlfriend. I'm trying to prove that I'm a good boyfriend.

But, do I really think that I'm going to fail?

Have I ever been worried that I'm going to fall to my death?

Have I ever been worried that world-class medical establishments and all the many wonders of modern civilisation aren't rapidly available in an emergency? Have I ever been worried that somebody wouldn't patch me up as good as new, if I had an accident?

It's never really crossed my mind that I might not get what I want. Of course, I've had heart-stopping moments when I've suddenly realised how staggeringly exposed I am. I've spent so much of my life living on the edge that I've become desensitised to the worrying fact that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the more times I put my life at risk, the greater the chance that I'm going to be badly injured or killed.

I was worried that I was too fat, old, mentally ill and addicted to drugs and alcohol to ever meet somebody who'd fall in love with me. I was worried that I was too indebted and lacking in any assets - such as a fast car and big house - to be attractive to any object of my affections. I was worried that I was a washed-up loser; a has-been.

Our whole lives are lived under Damocles' sword, somewhat. We could mess up our exams. We could mess up our careers. We could mess up our relationships. There's never a single moment when we can really relax and feel like we're not on probation in some way.

I guess I'm pretty sanguine. I get anxious and I torment myself a very great deal with catastrophic thinking but ultimately, I feel the fear and do what I was always going to do anyway. I'm well aware of the innumerable and virtually unimaginable risks, but if you examine my behaviour - as opposed to what I write - then you'll see that I never choose the low-risk option; you'll see that I continuously pursue the very best that life has to offer, despite stress levels which are almost intolerable.

Tomorrow is an important day, but I already know that I'm going to be OK. My risk is underwritten. What's the worst that can happen? Death? Hospitalisation? Been there. Done that.




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.





25 min read

This is a story about treating every day like it's your last...

Climbing dolomites

My life plan was a fairly simple one: earn loads of money working in IT, marry an attractive & intelligent girl who was into outdoorsy stuff and live happily ever after. I lived by the seaside. I owned my own home. I had masses of savings. I owned everything outright: my car, my boat, the furniture... I paid cash for everything.

When it turned out that the girl I picked was, errr, 'incompatible' with living happily ever after - to phrase it delicately - I didn't really have a plan B.

To be honest, after my marriage went to shit, I hadn't really planned on living very long. I'm really rather surprised to find myself alive and in reasonable health today. I was warned that my new plan - to take copious amounts of drugs and die in a hedonistic blaze of glory - would drive me insane and I'd find myself permanently brain damaged and dying slowly and painfully as my organs shut down one by one, or perhaps I would just suddenly and unexpectedly drop dead.

"Suddenly and unexpectedly drop dead."

Isn't that a risk that we face every single day anyway? There's a certain chance that your heart is just going to stop pumping and go into cardiac arrest at any moment. If you have a cardiac arrest outside a hospital, you're 80% likely to die.

The biggest threat to my life at the moment, statistically - and this goes for any 37 year old man, not just the ones with bipolar disorder and substance abuse issues - is suicide. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 50.

If I made smart lifestyle choices like not taking copious amounts of dangerous drugs, riding my bike through central London in rush hour traffic with no helmet on, stopping eating and drinking to the point where my organs fail and I piss blood, you'd have thought that I'd be doing a pretty good job of minimising my risk of premature death. NOPE!

What about all those extreme hobbies of mine? Off-piste snowboarding, skydiving, mountain biking, kitesurfing, rock climbing and mountaineering. You'd have thought that it'd be a good idea to give up those dangerous sports, if I wanted to minimise my risk of premature death. NOPE!

I was trying to have this argument with the Royal London Hospital consultant in the Renal High-Dependency Unit, where I was being kept alive by dialysis. I basically said, look, you're going to have to discharge me and let me go and start my new job and I'll just have to take the risk that my kidneys get worse and I drop dead. "You're playing Russian Roulette with your life" she said. Not really. The biggest threat to my life is suicide, and it was inevitable that losing my job would leave me in a psychologically critical condition.

One thing I quite often hear is criticism of risk takers. "How can you climb that mountain and risk your life, when there are people who are terminally ill, who would give anything for just one more day alive?"

"Treat every day as if it's your last."

That fairly innocent sounding platitude actually backfires, when you realise that it's an incitement to maximise your risk in pursuit of hedonistic pleasures and thrillseeking.

Knowing that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50 is just a meaningless statistic, until you lose a friend or a relative to suicide, or you become suicidal yourself.

That's me in the picture above. I'm stood on a pinnacle of rock that's nearly 3,000 metres above sea level. If I fell - and I'm not tied onto anything - then it would a very long freefall before I went splat into the ground. Why am I not tied on? Why haven't I taken the precaution of attaching myself to a rope? Is it because I was suicidal?

The more you climb; the higher you climb; the more steep and perilous things that you climb, you start to become used to the exposure. The constant threat of falling to your death is something that you just get used to. One slip and it's curtains... but you're not afraid anymore.

I've got rather a toxic mix of psychology. I've got the ability to manage my own fear, stress and adrenalin, so that I can throw myself out of planes or climb frozen waterfalls, but when I become suicidal, I'm acutely aware that I could act on a suicidal impulse very calmly and methodically.

What is this silly little dance we call life anyway? Is it about procreation? Is it about making money? Is it about looking after your grandparents and parents as they get old and die?

Do I 'owe' anybody anything? Do I 'owe' it to my parents to treat the fact I'm alive with respect because they 'gifted' me a life that I didn't ask for? Do I 'owe' it to terminally ill people, to treat my life with respect, because I'm lucky and they're not? Do I 'owe' it to my friends to struggle on through the misery, because they'd be a bit sad if I committed suicide?

There are a couple of families - one in Ireland and one in Bletchley/Suffolk - who have been there for me during my darkest moments. There's a friend who I would've seen over the Christmas break, except for an unfortunate bout of illness laying him low. There are a handful of people in the world who've seen what my friend Laurence calls 'The Horrors' and they've protected me; stuck by me; defended me and been loyal friends. There have been people who've appeared unexpectedly - most welcome - back in my life. I'm not the most predictable of people, having decided to visit an old school friend in San Francisco, booked a flight and boarded it, within the space of just a few hours.

That's how it goes. Here today; gone tomorrow.

The speed with which my kidneys failed was shocking, even for me. The fact I needed dialysis was shocking, even for me. The length of time it took my kidneys to start working efficiently again was shocking, even for me.

Does that sort of stuff make me think "oh wow! that was close!" and "I better be careful and treat my life with respect"? You're asking the wrong question. My suicidal thoughts drive my reckless risk taking behaviour. Suicide was, and still remains, the biggest threat to my life. The shitty stuff that happened was all a consequence of my flirtation with death. I don't quite have the nerve to take the active steps to 'pull the trigger' as it were, because I know that I'm psychologically strong enough to just do it, without hesitation.

My trip to the Golden Gate Bridge was a metaphor for just how quickly, impulsively and with single-minded determination I can reach the point of no return.

My friends who hosted me in San Francisco read some of my recent blogs and asked if there was anything they could do to help. These are some of the people I admire and respect most in the world. They have super busy stressful lives raising little kids on the other side of the Atlantic, on the West coast of America.

What can anybody do? Everybody's got their own problems. Everybody's got their own money worries. Everybody's got a lot of shit on their plate. We've built a society where we are isolated, alone, overstretched by ordinary life to the point where we're just about managing. Who can afford to shoulder part of the burden for somebody who's struggling? Who can afford the time? Where are you going to find the energy when life is already so exhausting? Who has the financial means to help every fuckup with their begging bowl held out?

More fundamentally, under what kind of terms am I prepared to help myself? Arguably, I've thrown away 3 very well paid IT contracts for 3 massive banks, doing work that I can do with my eyes closed. Why the fuck would I do that?

I'm a complex beast. I feel guilty about my role in building systems that were pivotal in the financial crisis of 2007/8. I hired a development team in Mumbai, India, and I led that team to create a trade confirmation system for derivatives that handled over a quadrillion dollars in volume, in its first year. That's immoral. I knew what I was doing. I was busily fixing my own mortgage rate, knowing that there was a credit crunch coming. I invested my money in physical gold, because I had so little faith in the banking systems that I helped build.

I also had a taste of what it's like to own and run my own company. I outsourced. I ran software projects. The only difference was that it was my money and nobody could tell me "no". I could do whatever I wanted, and the ego rub from holding the job title "CEO" is a hard place to come back from. I now wander from company to company, pointing out the things that are on fire, fixing them if they let me or otherwise getting into conflict or suffering incredible boredom and frustration as I try to keep my mouth shut about the impending disasters I can see unfolding. Sure, I get paid a buttload, but it upsets me. I still spend money like it's my own.

That last project I was working on had an annual budget of about £25 million and was handling 30 customers a day. Basically, the cost of customer acquisition was over £2,000. These were not high-net worth individuals. They were simply ordinary banking customers. The project was not very complicated, but the waste was incredible.

What the hell is wrong with me? Am I a prima donna? Am I Goldilocks? Everything's got to be 'just right' for me? Do I consider the kind of work that's available to me to be 'beneath' me?

Certainly, I struggle with the prospect of having to do the kind of job that I mastered 10 or 15 years ago. I sometimes laugh out loud in interviews when somebody asks a question that's the equivalent of asking a master builder if they know what a brick is. Is it arrogant? I don't give a fuck... it psychologically destroys me, running projects for dinosaurs who pay top dollar for the best consultants and then don't listen to them.

I remember quite distinctly in 2001, I was deciding whether to learn a new(ish) computer programming language. I read a book about it. I was already learning another programming language at the time. Then it hit me: I had become a polyglot, somewhat by accident. I was able to read any code and understand its function - its intent - no matter what the actual specific implementation technology was. I knew that me and software had reached the end of the road. I asked my boss for a sabbatical while I considered what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

It's kinda hard to change career direction and it gets harder with age. You not only have to bankroll yourself through training and getting started in whatever new thing it is that you're doing, but if you're turning your back on one of the most lucrative careers there is, you'd better be pretty damn certain that you picked the right alternative.

I bump along the bottom, being dragged back into god-awful, boring, unambitious, ill-fated and badly run IT projects, whenever my bank balance reaches danger point. But the hardest thing is the dread: the dread about selling my soul; the dread about having to keep a straight face when people are panicking and running around like they've never seen some mundane issue before.

I can't escape. I'm in a deep hole. The hole isn't deep at all for an IT consultant, but for almost any other job, it's an inescapable pit of doom. The reason why I got in such deep shit is divorce, mental illness, and being smeared all over the streets of London, in and out of hospital. Like I said earlier, it's a miracle that I'm still alive.

I hadn't really planned on living this long and that's a bit of a problem. Because I'm so suicidal and trapped, I guess there's an easy decision to be made. I know that I have absolutely no problem following through and overcoming any psychological hurdle that might stop most ordinary people from killing themselves.

I wrote this, while I was working my last IT contract:

Once he had started, he knew there would be no stopping until it was done.

That's why it had taken him so long before he started his final journey; because he could picture every single step of it. He knew that he would just methodically follow the steps, and then it would be over. He could be cold and clinical when required; rational and calculated; measured in his approach. There would be no panic, no rise in pulse, no hyperventilation. To all outward appearances, there would be nothing that would cause alarm or alert suspicions in anybody, until he was at the very brink; in the final moments.

The imagery of the bridge was so ingrained in everybody's mind, because it was such a major landmark. The bridge had featured in so many films. The bridge had been photographed so many times. The bridge was a prominent part of company logos and corporate branding. The bridge was something you could close your eyes, and picture it in exquisite detail. If you were asked to draw the bridge from memory, you'd be able to make a passable sketch of it. Even if you'd never been to the bridge before, it felt like you had been there.

That's why he had never been to the bridge. He could never be sure if he was there just in his imagination - where there were no irreversible consequences - or if he was there in real life. It would be so easy to follow through with his day dream - his fantasy - in real life. He'd played it all through in his head so many times.

Staring up at the spot on the centre of the bridge, where it was highest above the river below, he could imagine himself walking up to that spot, knowing that when he reached that point, only the chest-high barrier would separate him from the edge. He knew that the hardest part would be the bold step of climbing over the barrier. It would be so easy to peer over the edge, while safely protected by the barrier, and then chicken out. That's why mental preparation was important. That's why visualising the whole thing in advance was important.

He wasn't unfamiliar with the psychological battle of overcoming your fears and hurling yourself over a mental obstacle. Stepping off an edge was something you did every time you stepped off the kerb and into traffic. Vaulting a barrier was something you did when you climbed over fences as a kid, playing with your friends. He had done bungee jumps, where it was up to you - free will - to actually jump. He had done skydives and parachute jumps, where it was up to you, whether or not you hurled yourself out of a perfectly good aircraft. He knew he could overcome the psychological challenge of cutting loose and falling. Falling, not attached to anything, tumbling free in space. Nothing to grab onto. No second chances. No way to change your mind once you throw yourself out into empty space.

People talked about cowardice, selfishness, but they missed the point. People didn't understand that have to be brave to choose to put your life in danger, especially when falling to your death is one of the obvious risks. You also have to be brave to choose death. Who knows what happens when you die? Fear of the unknown is why people cling to life: self-preservation instincts.

He'd been a leader in the mountains and on rock faces. The leader always took the biggest risk of falling. At some point, falling became inevitable. If you roll the dice enough times, your number is going to come up eventually. If you take risks, you have to accept the increased chance of injury and even death. He'd had friends who had been killed or permanently disabled. A certain amount of "it could never happen to me" bravado and gallows humour stopped people from losing their nerve. At funerals, people would say that "he/she died doing what they loved" which was true, but this was mainly to distract from the reminder of our mortality, while doing the things that we - the living - love.

Those psychological skills, as a rock climber, mountaineer, bungee jumper, skydiver... they all now worked against him. He knew what it felt like, to be on the edge of a perilous drop, with nothing holding him safe except his own grip, and his own sanity: to not hurl himself over the edge.
At the top of tall buildings, on a mountain, or at a cliff-top, it troubled him how easily he could just jump off. He had to stay away from the edge; not because he wanted to keep himself safe, but because he didn't know if he could trust himself to not just jump. It would be so easy. It was the ease of it that troubled him. The proximity to a fall that would deliver a swift death called to him like a siren. Instead of being appalled by the fear of death, there was an allure.

When learning to climb, people clung to the rocks with white knuckles. They kept their bodies pressed as close to the cliff face as they could, as if being flat against the surface would mean that they were somehow safer from the pull of gravity. Most people were not psychologically prepared to be climbers or mountaineers. People on mountains collapsed on the flat ground, when sheer drops to either side of them overwhelmed them. Our instincts tell us to lower our centre of gravity, but when you are up high, gravity can only pull you down. It doesn't work, putting yourself closer to the cliff or the ground. You will still fall to your death.

There was something different about him. Sure, he wasn't the only one with the strange mutation of the mind, that allowed him to overcome the self-preservation instincts, but it was rare. Most people dislike heights. Most people are scared of falling. Had he always had this ability to put himself in a position of peril, and to overcome the instinct to simply freeze, to overcome the instinct to not jump out of the aeroplane, or climb up high where you could fall.

Possibly through repeated exposure to perilous situations, he had become immune to the threat of death. He had become comfortable, being in situations that put your own mortality as the immediate and most pressing concern. Sure, you could die crossing the road, but most people aren't thinking about that. Those first few times that you jump out of a plane, you most certainly are thinking "what if my parachute doesn't open?".

But the what ifs can be set to one side. What if I end up in Hell? What if I change my mind, in the split second before I die, when I'm past the point of no return?

Death is the great unknown, and we intrinsically fear the unknown. He had become well practiced at entering the unknown, in mortal peril. Who knows how you're going to feel, plummeting towards the ground at terminal velocity? He knew.

In a way, he had answered too many questions that previously had comforting answers dreamt up by priests, shamen and witchdoctors. The answers of the unknown, and of the intrinsic fear of death that dwells within all mortal creatures, for the purpose of self preservation instinct, had been given by those who sought to profit from believable fairy-tales for simple minded idiots. His rejection of organised religion gave him little comfort, in an uncaring universe.

Science tried to give answers, but it could offer no meaning. Why was anything the way it was? It just was. Even science broke down at some point, demanding that those who studied it just accepted the cold hard equations that revealed themselves in the mathematical patterns that were observed in reality. However, science had nothing to say about how to adjust to the incomprehensible vastness of the universe, the insignificance of existence and the seeming finality of death.

Science demonstrably showed that there was nothing after death. After the neurons of your brain ceased in their electrical dance, you were gone. There is no soul. A person is nothing more than the quantum potential, held in a brain. Consciousness is nothing more than an illusion, an unintended consequence of the vast complexity of an organ belonging to an organism that was only intended to allow genes to replicate.

What had he done, opening Pandora's Box by studying theoretical physics, and all the applied sciences that were derived from the fundamental rules that governed the universe? It was if by pulling back the curtain, and shattering the illusion of the theatre that played out in front of his eyes, he had of course ruined the enjoyment of life.

The willing suspension of disbelief was necessary to get any enjoyment out of any theatrical presentation. For sure, the sets were made of wood, and the birds were painted onto the background and never flapped their wings. For sure, it wasn't really snowing when a stage-hand in the rafters tipped a bucket of white polystyrene balls from above, but the illusion was passable if you didn't pick it to pieces.

He had picked everything to pieces. By relentlessly asking "but why" until the question made no sense anymore, nothing made any sense anymore. When he had reached the realisation that he was nothing more than an insignificant speck in a universe that was as good as infinitely huge, and incalculably complex, it was hard to return to a simpler, happier time, when there was some mystery and joy in things. When you can reason everything from basic principles, there is no more magic in the world. When the magician's trick can be picked apart by logic and reason, he turns from an entertainer bringing joy and delight to his audience, to a con-man.

Everything had turned to shit for him. With a Midas touch, he now applied sharp reason and logic to everything he saw, and the curtain was permanently pulled back. He saw humanity's ugliness. He saw people fighting and fucking each other over, and just vast numbers of total idiots, everywhere he turned. His heart was broken. Where had the beauty and mystery all gone? What questions were there really left to ask, when it seemed like all could be answered on his own, using base principles.
Through extrapolation, he saw no more point in continuing his life, than a scientist would in repeating an experiment that has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt to yield the same results time and time again. Only a fool does the same things expecting different results, he was often fond of saying. If you keep putting garbage in, you'll keep getting garbage out.

The world had exhausted him. In love with ideas of building a utopia as a child and young man, he now accepted that there was no shortage of good ideas, but there was also no shortage of people who didn't want to see them implemented. There were too many vested interests. People had too much to lose. He couldn't fight the world anymore, with reason and logic, and arguments about the greater good. Nobody wanted the greater good. Most people just wanted to be at the top of the pyramid, king of the hill.

Perhaps that's why men climbed mountains, because for a brief moment when you stood on the summit, you could count yourself amongst just a handful of people who had faced great adversity to be higher than almost everybody else on the planet at that moment. Standing alone on the top of Mount Everest, anybody else you could see, with solid ground under their feet, would be literally beneath you. The air passengers and astronauts in the International Space Station don't count: they didn't walk there, on their own legs, and they're not standing on Earth.

That was a brave thing, to get into an aeroplane or a rocket. We have become desensitised to it, now that jet travel is commonplace, but imagine those first adventurers in space flight and aeronautics. Imagine again, how mad it is to put yourself in a position where you could fall to Earth.
So, he supposed it was apt, that he should end his life in this way: falling.

He walked up the steps, to where the bridge departed from the land, crossing the chasm below, held in space by the tensioned steel structure that towered above. He started to cross the bridge to the opposite side, that he had no intention of reaching.

In a dreamlike state now, his vision narrowed. His hearing was dulled. The fine detail of the universe around him seemed to fall away. He no longer noticed the cars driving across the bridge: their engine noise, and the rush of air as they went past. He no longer noticed the people, who were photographing themselves, talking to each other and headed to their own unknown destinations. He no longer noticed the rumble of a jet passing ahead, or the blast of a horn on a giant ship, that passed under the bridge, on the river below. He was now living his daydream, with everything playing out exactly has he had pictured it so many times before.

Reaching the centre of the bridge, he turned to the barrier. He couldn't hesitate for a single moment. If he hesitated, then doubt would enter his mind, and he would start to have thoughts: rational thoughts. He would start to re-analyse things. He would start to talk himself out of what he was going to do next. He would start to think about the "what if?"s He would start to enter some unknown situation, out of control from the destiny he had chosen. Things could easily get out of his hands. Some kindly good Samaritan could step in. The police could become involved. Psychiatrists. People to save him from himself.

He threw his leg over the barrier, and lowered his foot to the little ledge the other side without a pause. He then brought his other foot to meet the other on the ledge. He was now stood with his back to the river, facing onto the bridge, but on the outside of the barrier. He stared dead ahead for just a second, steeling himself to make the final moves.

He twisted his body 90 degrees, and swung his left foot out into space. Now, he swivelled on his other foot on the little ledge, and reached behind himself, grabbing the handrail of the barrier, with the bridge now at his back. He returned his left foot to the little ledge, with his feet now pointing outwards.

Pausing to look down, he didn't really see anything. His vision had glazed over. He knew that to focus on what was below him, and to consider the height that he was at, would be to invite a sense of peril into his mind. He had put himself into a trance-like state. All of the mental rehearsals beforehand had prepared him for this. All of the times he had pre-visualised these steps, meant that he was now following a dance routine, and his mind was quiet and calm. All he had to do was exhale, and make his final move.

His stomach rose in his chest, constricting in his neck, before he even released his grip. His body anticipated the weightlessness, before he had even stepped off the ledge. He knew he was going to jump, before he had even done it. He knew he had passed the point of no return - psychologically - before he had even physically started the process. The decision had been made in his brain, and the signals were being sent to his muscles, but he was already conscious that he had done it. He had jumped, even though his hand still gripped the barrier and his feet were still on the ledge.

Now, he was just a passenger. He felt himself let go of the handrail, and let his arms drop to his side. He felt himself squat slightly so that he could launch himself off the ledge. He felt himself straighten up, springing forward and away from the bridge. He brought his arms up, above him and pushed out his chest, forming a 'Y' shape with his body, as he cut through the air.
He didn't tumble. He fell fairly flat, with a slight incline towards the ground, as he gently rotated towards a head-first plummet to Earth.

He felt the air briefly rushing past his face, and heard the noise of wind get increasingly loud. He didn't see the ground coming towards him. It was all too quick, in the end.

Then, blackness and silence.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.




A Sense of Entitlement

12 min read

This is a story about arrogance...

Sailor Boy

It occurs to me that many people might be offended by the vulgarity of me discussing - with candid honesty - the good fortune that has come my way, and decide that I feel entitled in some way to those things bestowed upon me by pure blind luck.

In the UK, it's considered to be in bad taste to talk about money. However, we are given to flamboyant displays of wealth, which are obviously our way of screaming "LOOK AT ME!! LOOK HOW SUCCESSFUL AND AMAZING I AM!!" at the top of our reserved British lungs.

I once shared on social media a document that I had discovered that had the rates that a bunch of us banking IT consultants charge our clients for a day's labour. The amounts are obscene.

When I first started as an IT contractor at the tender age of 19, I was paid twice as much as I had been in my previous job, and it totally went to my head. I bought Harrods hampers as Christmas gifts and whisked my girlfriend and I off to New Zealand on a business class flight, chartered a yacht and stayed 5-star all the way. Take the bullied kid from school, treat him like shit his whole life and then shower him with wealth and he might just end up rubbing your nose in it, because it's sweet relief after 12 years of playground and classroom hell.

That first contract paid just under £40 an hour, by the way. I was living in Winchester and working in Didcot, near Oxford. It was good money for a non-banking project outside of London, even by today's standards. I offer you the precise number, because I want you to judge me.

Imagine the whole time you're at school is made pure hell by endless bullying. Imagine being a social outcast. Imagine not even being able to cultivate a teenage romance until you left school at age 17, because you carry too much of a reputation of being an unpopular geek. Imagine all those beatings and lonely times where you're singled out because you're quiet, sensitive and then simply labelled as a soft target. Once you become the bullied kid, you stay the bullied kid and nobody's going to want to know you because they don't want to risk becoming bullied too.

What do you do instead, if you're denied friends, popularity, girls, a social life? You stay home and tinker with computers.

So, if it appears boastful when I talk about landing a well paid contract for a major UK corporation when I was just 19 years of age, it's because I fucking paid a lot to get it. Remember your first kiss with your first girlfriend? Remember hanging out with your friends? Remember how fun your school days were? Well, imagine swapping all that out for 35 hours a week of being bullied around the clock, for 12 straight years.

I'm exaggerating slightly, because I got to do my final 2 years at a 6th form college, which gave me a bit of a chance to re-invent myself away from the image that my dad had destroyed by expecting me to cycle to school from fucking miles away on a stolen girl's bike, every fucking day, past all the other kids arriving at the school entrance. Kids don't forget shit like that.

Did I have friends? Yes, I was very grateful to have a small handful of other geeky bullied kids who I count as my friends. We stuck together, as the hated soft targets. We tried to take a stand. It only made us hated by teachers and headmasters/mistresses, because we made the bullying problem more conspicuous.

So, I became a young adult with hideous insecurities. My parents were c**ts. Almost everybody at school had been a c**t. Naturally, this mistreatment denied me any self-confidence that would have allowed me to get a girlfriend. Somehow, I fell into a couple of trysts with girls from other schools, and even managed to lose my virginity at 15, but this was through the artificial confidence that drugs gave me, the one time I used amphetamines in my teens.

I found my way into sailing, rock climbing and mountaineering, and those things gave me a bit of an identity beyond that of a geek, but there was so much damage to be repaired. It was only in the final couple of years at school that I was a member of Lyme Regis Sailing Club, Dorset. It was only during my couple of years at 6th form college that I learned how to rock climb, and went on a couple of expeditions to the Alps and the Dolomites.

Having money was the first vindication that I had value as a person. I bought a flash sportscar, and I'm ashamed to admit that it improved my confidence. I found it easier to talk to girls with the crutch of a fast motor vehicle. The status symbol worked as it was supposed to: a fanny magnet.

Of course, the more money I got paid, the more I felt that I was worth. I did become arrogant. I did think that I was 'worth' the money. Again, I ask you to consider the context: I was a young insecure geek, who suddenly had a cash windfall. Of course I was going to use money to prop up my fragile self esteem.

Today, if I tell you about the lovely apartment I live in, how I earn obscene amounts of money, or that I'm working on important projects, then you can infer this: something has wrecked my world to the point where I am slipping back into old insecurities. It's not boastfulness. What it is, is pure terrified protection of the last dregs of my self esteem.

Some pseudo-psychologist will tell you that it smacks of egotism. Not true. Over time, I have developed humility and come to recognise the complete disconnect between what I'm paid, what I do, and how much value I really have. I consider myself overpaid, what I do as trivial and unimportant, unnecessary even, and I've been humbled to see that I contribute very little of value to the world.

Every time I talk about this or that thing that I did... it's because I'm really suicidally depressed and I desperately want people to sit up and pay attention, and say "hey! He isn't just some expendable worthless piece of shit. Maybe it would be a bad thing if he died".

I'm desperately trying to see the value in myself, even though in pure pounds, shillings and pence, I can see that I'm very much 'valued' by my employers. However, I now no longer associate salary or contract income with value, because I can see no link between what I do and how much I get paid. It maddens me that I'm so much better paid than, say, your average artist who gets paid £10,000 per annum.

In-between my first contract and my second contract, I did my yacht skipper qualifications with the Royal Yachting Association. After my second contract, which paid £470 per day, I was able to purchase a yacht. Did I buy the yacht because I loved sailing? Partly. But the real reason I bought it was because I felt insecure. Owning a yacht is quite a big status symbol. It's also a massive waste of money. Just keeping a yacht in a marina costs thousands of pounds every year.

As each year passed after school, I maintained the advantage of the head-start in computing I gained at the expense of an enjoyable childhood. The bullies from school struggled, while the geeks inherited the Earth. It was hard not to become cruel towards those who I perceived as having persecuted me, and rub their noses in it.

The Square Mile has a certain macho culture, as well as encouraging vulgar displays of wealth. For a while, I was eating out in expensive restaurants, taking taxis and drinking in wine bars. Did I do it because I enjoyed it, or did I do it because I could at such a young age, and I knew that it was sticking two fingers up at the bullies?

What happened next is that I had a couple of nice girlfriends, and I started to feel less insecure. Everything was going my way, and I started to feel less like I needed to flaunt my financial success, just to prove that I wasn't scared of the bullies anymore. I started to feel less like I had to pack as much fun in as possible, to make up for lost time.

For a brief time, I was reasonably secure and happy in myself. I had developed my own identity. I had grown my self confidence. I actually felt popular for the first time in my life. My life was no longer about money and status symbols.

However, I was still desperate for love. I felt like I had missed out on having a childhood sweetheart and a university romance. Then an abusive partner and a messy divorce deprived me of my comfort and confidence I took from owning a house and having beautiful hand-picked things. By this stage, having a speedboat and a hot tub was about having wild fun with my friends, not about shoving my wealth and good fortune in anybody's face. I had a fast car because I enjoyed driving, not because I needed it for my fragile male ego.

Everything got smashed to shit during my divorce, and I found myself sleeping in my friend's guest bedroom, trying to rebuild my life, but having nowhere near the capital reserves to re-enter London society. My ex-wife made everything as stressful and destructive as she possibly could, and dragged out proceedings using every conceivably unpleasant and spiteful tactic she could, depriving me of even the collateral that was locked up in my home.

With nothing but a rapidly dwindling stack of money, I was in no position to start another business. I had to go back to IT consultancy. Some may say that it was hardly a bad option, but I had worked hard for 16 years so that I didn't have to do the bullshit rat race anymore. It was heartbreaking.

I let everything burn to the ground, and I got very sick indeed. 2014 saw me spend some 14 weeks in hospital and other kinds of inpatient treatment - I was dreadfully sick. That truly was an annus horribilis, even though I did manage 3 months of consultancy for Barclays at the end of the year.

2015 was pretty shit. I still had not managed to reach the escape velocity and launch myself into a stable orbit. It was a rough year, but I still managed to do 4 months of consultancy for HSBC in the summer/autumn.

2016 got off to a really shit start, but I should be able to do 5 months of consultancy for an undisclosed client before I absolutely lose my mind with the fucking rat race.

I have to be in some total shite part of Greater London for an 8:30am breakfast meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) and I already just want to jack in the job because it's predictable bullshit that's doomed to failure and is being hopelessly botched. However, it's easy money and in the context of the shitty situation I'm in I need the cash.

For context, I earn 28% more than I did when I was 20, which means I've been getting an annual pay rise of 1.75%, so excuse me if I'm not exactly thrilled to be getting out of bed in the morning. Especially considering the day job is even more boring than it was back then when I was young, fresh faced and inexperienced.

Of course, I'm able to see that I'm well off. I know that some people are getting pay cuts in real terms, and still others are out of a job despite their eagerness to work. I'm aware that in absolute terms, I get paid an eye-watering sum of money.

However, all my money is just going towards paying back the debts I ran up keeping myself alive. I actually paid for a great deal of private treatment, because it didn't seem right to burden the NHS with the costs in light of my potential earning power.

I am limping towards the day when I basically reach zero, so I can die with dignity knowing that my life insurance policy can be left as an estate for my sister and niece, and not be squandered on trivial debts run up simply because my own family and the welfare state offered me no assistance. Camden Council didn't offer me so much as a cardboard box to sleep in, let alone a hostel bed.

I simply don't have the energy to keep turning the pedals in such thankless pursuit of nothing. It will have been an exhausting marathon to simply reach zero again. Of course, with further months and years of IT consultancy for big corporations, I could in theory become rich again, but I'm at the limit of what I can stand. I've had enough. I'm ground down. I'm through. I'm done. Stick a fork in me, I'm cooked.

The pointless toil... for what?!?!

And so, if you think I'm entitled, arrogant and boastful, I hope you can see that it's simply because I'm exhausted and scared and insecure. Of course I see the value in the garbage collector and the nurse. I just don't see the value in myself, now that I am spent.