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

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Minor Discomfort

4 min read

This is a story about unrealistic expectations...

Cleaning cupboard

I'm not sure where this 'unrealistic' thing came from. Realistically, we will succumb to a horrible disease, and then die. This much, our parents knew for certain when they decided to have children. Realistically, our parents knowingly condemned us to a life of deprivation and want; disease and death. Realistically, our expectation should be to die in fear, agony and discomfort, after struggle and suffering.

Is there any point in counting our blessings? Why not count our curses? Either option is comparably meaningless as a mortal creature in a godless universe.

I wonder how frequently a minor inconvenience seems sufficient grounds for suicide, to me. Certainly in the past few years, I've been so consumed with horrendous anxiety over 'trivial' life events, that I've lived with near-constant suicidal depression. I've lost count of the number of times that I've promised myself that I'll end the suffering if a certain unfortunate event occurs. I've lost count of the number of times I've felt, for a moment, on a knife edge about to end my life, triggered by seemingly the most minor of things; the most inconsequential and hard to fathom, for those who aren't troubled with such extreme sensations.

It's hard to know if things are getting better or worse. Certainly, I overcame problems with moving house, potentially losing my income, some invasive background checks, plus the hurricane-strength headwinds of debt and other money worries, which completely eroded any hope and sense of wellbeing, constantly. I dealt with breakups, losing my cat, a car which had to be scrapped, another car which got crashed into, multiple organ failure... you know, that kind of stuff. Normal everyday ordinary kinda stuff.

I'm no fan of the contrived platitudes about counting blessings, or suchlike idiotic nonsense. However, it did occur to me that I'm grateful that, for example, I have no need to deal with doctors or dentists; I have no need to deal with solicitors; I have no need to deal, on the whole, with the general public. I suppose it's a somewhat charmed existence, certainly versus being one of the oft-mentioned starving African children, or indeed the one any only person on the entire planet who's got it worse than everybody else, and therefore by extension is the only person out of nearly 8 billion, who's legitimately entitled to complain or feel sorry for themselves: everyone else has to suck it up and "count their blessings".

I reserve the right. I reserve the right to complain. I reserve the right to feel sorry for myself. I reserve the right to kill myself, whenever I want. I reserve those rights.

It seems to me, that the only way that humanity's self-awareness can be balanced, along with the curse of intellect which allows the perception of the futility of existence, is with the ability to end one's own life. Sure, vast swathes of humanity are too stupid and ignorant to be cursed with the comprehension of the awfulness and meaningless of existence; afflicted by angst, ennui, anxiety, depression and other horrors visited upon those who are elevated above the level of rutting beasts. Sure, it would be soul-soothing to be swept up in the mass hysteria; too busily acting like a slug or a wasp, intent on passing on its genes, like a mindless beast... sure that would obviously be better, in terms of personal suffering, but it's unethical to knowingly inflict such awfulness on an innocent victim: namely those children who did not consent to be born, nor indeed should have been born into such a dreadful world. There is no excuse for the crime of bringing children into this world, to suffer and die afraid, in pain, after a life of struggle, discomfort and unmet want.

I suppose it's an incredibly unoriginal and banal observation, that organised religion provides a convenient but provably wrong fantasy for those who wish to justify and forgive their own wicked deeds. You might argue that morality is the sole preserve of organised religion, and in a way you are right: there are no supernatural entities who sit in judgement over any of us; there is no objective morality; everything is permissable, within the confines of the universal laws of physics.

So, in conclusion: commit suicide, or commit murder, or don't. Nobody gives a shit. Nothing matters. Life is meaningless and all human history will be obliterated such that any and all existence of humanity's existence will be utterly undetectable; totally and irretrievably destroyed.

 

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Stock Footage

5 min read

This is a story about creativity...

Shave

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

However.

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

What's the difference?

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

Why not painting?

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

Why not writing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Survivorship Bias

5 min read

This is a story about chaotic lives...

Quantum eraser

I once spent the best part of a year reading theoretical physics books and papers, voraciously devouring the literature. I was obsessed with the subject - as a keen amateur - and still am, to some extent. My enthusiasm was so great, that I corresponded at length with some theoretical physics professors from around the world, who were kind enough to indulge me.

As with so many who catch the theoretical physics bug, I was fascinated by the idea that a theory so central to all of modern science - quantum mechanics - might have different interpretations, all equally unprovable, but a lot of fun to think about. The two which are most worthwhile talking about are the many-worlds interpretation (often known simply as "MWI") and the many-minds interpretation. I shan't summarise them here. I leave it as an exercise for the reader, if you are intrigued, to find the Wikipedia pages.

The many-worlds interpretation is something we are very familiar with, from books, films and TV. The concept of parallel universes is so ubiquitous, that it doesn't merit further discussion.

The many-minds interpretation is, oddly, quite obscure... but there are experimental hints that this interpretation might be closer to the fundamental nature of reality, than the many-worlds interpretation. I won't delve into either theory, except to explain some of the challenges to conventional wisdom, which are unintuitive to us.

I will not, of course, bore you with the "duality of light" wave/particle stuff, or Schrödinger's cat etc. which have been talked about ad nauseam, such that everyone is vaguely aware of it.

I will not, or course, talk about relativity. Not useful here.

So. Here's the thing. We like to think that our observations are independent. If I see something, then it happened for any and all observers. Let's take the tree falling in the forest. We agree that if nobody observed it, it's quite possible that it didn't make a sound. Fine. Good. However, most of us would say that if just one person saw the tree fall in the forest and heard it make a sound, then it absolutely did make a sound in this observable universe, for all observers. In other words, whatever happens for one person - observably - happens for everybody, even if they didn't observe the event.

Not true.

There's good evidence that each of us experiences his or her own 'version' of reality, and our observations can be different, despite us NOT living in parallel universes. It should be noted that I'm not talking about relativity. We know that when a person is travelling faster than us, or closer to a massive object, time flows at a different rate for them, such that our synchronised wrist watches would show a different time, when compared with each other at a later date - that's just relativity (special and general, respectively) and that's not what I'm talking about, even though it's pretty mind blowing. No... what I'm talking about is two different experimental observers observing different stuff - one says that the tree in the forest made a sound when it fell, and the other says it was silent. It would seem - at a quantum level at least - that this kind of observer independence is entirely supported by experimental results. Search for Wigner's friend if you want to read more on that one.

Anyway, moving on to the original point of my essay, I'm a little bit fascinated by quantum suicide. Quantum suicide says that if we were to use a binary quantum event - something with a 50/50 chance of happening - in order to commit suicide, then weirdly, we would never be killed. Because we are the observer in the experiment, in all the instances where we are killed, we are no longer around to observe the results, so - implicitly - we only remain conscious, as an observer, in the case where the event which kills us does not occur. All clear?

Further, I often think that it's quite remarkable that I've survived up until this point in my life, given the vast quantity of near-death experiences I've had, and the reckless risk taking. However, my survival is not evidence that the probability of my death was lower than I had estimated: quite the opposite. There are two distinct possibilities: firstly, I've been extremely lucky, and anybody else who copied my behaviour is almost certain to die. Secondly, I'm unaware of all the infinite ways that I've died, snuffing out my consciousness, and therefore leaving me unable to recount this tale of miraculously cheating death.

I am - to a small extent - somewhat convinced that there's truth in the many-minds interpretation of quantum mechanics, given my first-hand experiences. I may, in fact, calculate the odds that I should have survived everything that I have survived, in order to put a precise figure on exactly how improbable it is that I'm alive, thus providing some empirical evidence for the many-minds interpretation of quantum mechanics... although readers should beware of survivorship bias: if you copy my behaviour, you will most certainly die.

 

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Give Me One More Chance

3 min read

This is a story about begging for forgiveness...

Path

Relationships are brutal battlegrounds. Relationships are full of push-and-pull; games; mindfuckery. Relationships are an energy-sapping, life-force-sucking, second-guessing, head-wrecking, confusing and altogether mostly time-wasting exercise.

Sure, I love company. Sure, I love to socialise. Sure, I like my friends. Sure, I like companionship.

However.

I don't need the hassle of anyone disloyal. I don't need any backstabbers. I don't need any parasites. I don't need any spongers. I don't need anyone who's going to give me grief, when I'm just going about my business; trying to get on with my life.

From what I see, including my own first-hand experience, an extraordinary amount of time is wasted on people who are undeserving of our time and attention; people who are manipulative time-wasters.

I've screwed up a relationship, or maybe two, which were really worth saving. Through my own stupidity and foolishness, I've thrown away a really good relationship. I regretted it, for a short while, and I admit that I tried for a short while to see if it was salvageable, but I quickly realised that I was wasting my time... it was too late. I haven't wasted any time on regret since then, but I do think it's a shame. If I could live my life over again, perhaps that's something I might do differently, but I can't, so I don't waste time on impossible hypotheticals.

Not living with regret is liberating. Instead of being made to crawl over broken glass by despicable shits, who aren't worth the time of day, instead, I move on with my life. Nobody's got any hold over me. I don't owe anybody anything, except a debt of gratitude to kind and loving friends, and exes, who offered their love and care unconditionally.

I've been a very lucky guy. I've had some lovely girlfriends. I've been loved.

Only a couple of my ex-girlfriends have been... difficult; unpleasant. I've been treated very well.

I find myself estranged from my parents, which has been such a huge improvement to my life that I struggle to find the words to express how liberating it's been to cut those sociopathic, antisocial, alcoholic, addict, selfish shits out of my life. I'm on good terms with my sister, so I can do family... provided it's not toxic.

I'm divorced, but I've had plenty of fulfilling, rewarding, happy long-term relationships. I can do relationships... provided I'm not getting punched in the face.

I've fallen out with friends, which was sad, but inevitable given how chaotic my life was; how unwell I was. I've drifted out of contact with friends, which was inevitable given that they are consumed with spawning brats to replace themselves with. I have old friends and new friends, so I can do friends... providing we stay somewhat within sight, and within mind; I know from being moved around 8 different schools in my childhood, that no friendship really survives geographical hurdles.

I don't have enough friends. I don't see my sister enough. I don't have the social life and support network that I need. However, I've learned to cope. My shitty childhood taught me to cope with my relationships being ruined by my alcoholic, addict, waster, loser parents, who kept moving me around; 8 different schools.

I think to myself "that's a shame" when I think about "the one that got away" but... I'm used to rebuilding; I'm used to starting over again.

 

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Dark Thoughts

4 min read

This is a story about storm clouds...

Rain on glass

I often assume that after a lengthy period without abusing drink, drugs, medication and other mind-altering substances, I'll reap some rewards. I tend to think that a period clean and sober will bring good health, and in turn, that life will improve. It's certainly true that drugs have brought nothing but chaos and turmoil into my life, making it completely unmanageable, as my mental health problems are exacerbated. Eliminating most psychoactive substances has certainly turned my life into something which looks - to the outside observer - to be stable, productive, functional and indeed, at times quite enviable. To all intents and purposes, I look, smell, sound and act like a normal member of mainstream society.

Internally, there's nothing to help me cope with the intrusive thoughts; the traumatic flashbacks.

In the comfort of my own home, as I've already written about, I yell out, grimace and flinch, as I'm assaulted by all kinds of post-traumatic flashbacks. I have horrible nightmares. I suffer lengthy periods of skin-crawling agonising anxiety, where the hands of the clock are barely moving; it lasts for an eternity.

There are no rewards for being clean and sober; only suffering.

It's unthinkable, lifting the lid when there's so much trauma. It's insanity to have it all hitting me like a freight train, every single second of every single day, even when I'm asleep.

I like to think that my brain is mending itself. I like to think that by reliving those traumas, my brain is kind of re-organising itself and exorcising stuff. I allow myself to yell out, flinch and grimace, because it seems better to let it out than to fight it and attempt to suppress it.

Thinking about it, there's mountains of stuff. There's an unimaginable amount of stuff.

The memories - the bad memories - come thick and fast, intruding into whatever I'm doing, unless I'm really working hard; really concentrating on something. I have so few distractions that there's plenty of time for my brain to throw a relentless torrent of terrible, dreadful, awful traumatic memories at me, which are so bad that they're physically painful and cause me to cry out in shock.

I don't think I'd have been able to cope without medication, but now I've lost that crutch, it feels like I stored up years worth of terrible stuff without dealing with it properly. Now it's all hitting me, seemingly all at once.

I'm unusual, in that I'm one of the least psychoactively altered people - I don't have any tea, coffee, coca-cola, fizzy drinks, nicotine, cannabis, alcohol or medication. I don't eat, drink, swallow, smoke, inject, snort or otherwise ingest anything mind-altering. That's very unusual. To give you an example, out of hundreds of people I work with, I'm the only one who doesn't drink tea, coffee or other caffeinated beverages, and my teetotaling makes me even more unusual.

As a friend said to me, quoting a popular Tweet: I'm raw-dogging reality.

It's really brutal. It's really awful. I don't recommend it at all. It's not nice. In fact, it's thoroughly unpleasant and intolerable. Don't do it. It's not worth it. It's not healthy, it's hell.

Why am I doing it then?

I have the unshakeable belief that I can achieve mood stability by avoiding all mind-altering substances, including the things we don't usually bother to think about, like tea and coffee. I feel a lot more stable - mentally - having given up everything. I'm trying to regulate my mood by doing other things. I'm hoping that I develop some healthy habits.

Certainly, after a couple of weeks teetotal, I have a lot more energy and enthusiasm; I'm a lot more active; I sleep better. These are not things to be sniffed at. Alcohol and depression combined to create a very sedentary lifestyle, which was horrifically damaging to my health. I was drinking myself to death, even though I appeared very functional and otherwise doing very well in life.

So, I'm suffering the dark, horrible invasive thoughts, driven to find out whether my brain will eventually rid itself of the toxins and settle down. Certainly, there are health benefits, but I am suffering a great deal.

 

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Not Colourblind

6 min read

This is a story about racism...

Graffiti

If racism is the inability to be wilfully colourblind, then I am a racist. I'm sorry, but if the aim is to pretend that we don't perceive differences in appearance, then I feel that anti-racism is doomed, because it's dishonest. Instead, we should talk about what's really going on; be truthful.

Of course, my default position as a member of the metropolitan elite, is to say that I'm not a racist. To be a racist in polite, educated, civilised middle-class circles, amongst professionals, is unthinkable. There is a viceral rejection of any slight hint that we - educated middle aged white people - might possibly be a bit racist. However, it's there - in some [small] part - and we should talk about it.

Children are a good benchmark, because they have a tendency to be much more honest, unfiltered and uninhibited. Children aren't subtle and devious, and generally haven't learned to hide or disguise what they really think. In fact, adults aren't great at hiding what they really think either. Everyone knows that "anti immigration" really means anti-non-white (i.e. racism).

We should acknowledge that children will, quite naturally, bully and otherwise victimise minorities who look and act differently. Children are vicious animals who will attack anything "other"... but where does that animal - bestial - behaviour come from?

The Price equation shows us that it is a rational strategy for a person to attack and/or kill anybody who does not look similar, even if the attacking/murderous individual is killed or injured in the process. In fact, our genes encode racism into our very fabric. We are evolved to attack those who are obviously genetically unrelated from us - this can be mathematically proven to confer an evolutionary advantage. Unfortunately, at a bestial animalistic level, we are hard-wired to be racist.

Of course, we are not animals. We are not children. We are civilised people. However, we are animals, and we can easily regress into childish bestial behaviour.

That is what is happening.

Spend a moment watching Donald Trump or a Brexit voter speak, and imagine their words coming out of the mouth of a child. Do you see how the words match perfectly with a mental age of a child? We have entered an era when infantile idiots are given a voice - a platform - and they have clumped together with other thick-skulled neanderthals, and are now brazenly dragging civilised society back into the dark ages; back to a place of rampant racism, mobs, hysteria and bestial behaviour.

But, calling racists racist hasn't got us anywhere.

It's not surprising to me that 51.9% of the UK is racist, because most people in the UK are very stupid and immature; we do not have a society full of educated individuals, but instead a mountain of morons. Take a look on Facebook, where racists like to congregate, and you can see a pitiful display of bad grammar, spelling mistakes and sentence construction which would make any decent educated person blush with shame. Instead of reading good books, the racists spend their time share their views with other near-illiterate racists, hammering on their keyboard with their clumsy fists.

Calling racists racist hasn't got us anywhere, but we do need an outlet for our frustration with them.

So, am I colourblind? Absolutely not. It would be an absolute lie if I pretended that I was unable to make an educated guess about a person's ethnic background based on their skin tone, along with other clues, such as hair and facial features. Likewise, I can probably make an educated guess about where a person grew up based on their accent. To claim that I couldn't do such a thing would be disingenuous.

Do I discriminate? If the question is whether I go out of my way to thwart, undermine or otherwise prevent a non-white person from enjoying the same opportunities as a white person, then the answer is no, I do not consciously do that. I do - absolutely - change how I speak and act, depending on my audience. If I'm speaking to somebody who doesn't speak English fluently, I will simplify my language; slow my speed of speech; speak with clearer enunciation. I do discriminate, but I don't do so maliciously.

Am I guilty of unconscious bias? Absolutely. The whole point of unconscious bias is that I'm not even aware it's there. I've grown up in a society dominated by whites, so it's totally expected that I am riddled with all kinds of prejudices and biases, which I haven't been able to iron out and get rid of through sheer force of will and hard work, although I do try my hardest to think in an inclusive and unprejudiced way.

Am I guilty of white privilege? Yes.

Whoever said "it is not enough to say you aren’t racist, you have to be anti-racist" summed it up very well. Knowing what we know about the Price equation and our genetic predisposition towards racism, we have to fight against our DNA. Genes are risk not destiny so it's not true to say that because our genes code for racism, we are automatically racist, but if we do nothing then we do revert to racism as a default position. This is why we have to actively choose to be anti-racist; our natural instincts are wrong and this is why populism has led to terrible things.

These are my thoughts on a charged subject, and I expect I have made mistakes. I hope to be corrected.

 

Addendum:

I realise that "colourblind" is an aspiration - although unachievable literally - which metaphorically means treating people exactly the same, regardless of skin tone. I think that when racists speak out against multiculturalism, they are really saying that they hate non-whites; they don't hate Northerners or Scottish people moving to the south of the UK, for example, despite the cultural differences. For my part, I think that the "melting pot" as exemplified by London, is the ideal picture of modern society, although of course it suffers socioeconomic segregation and many problems. I think that we should aspire to the level of multiculturalism and tolerance we see in the capital.

I also see that I am prone to being too literal sometimes. For example, "Semitic" relates to both Hebrew and Arabic, therefore Islamophobia is anti-Semitic, technically and literally, although it's so often used to mean "Jew hating" that the literal meaning is not relevant and I realise it's wrong to point out that quirk of etymology.

 

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Insane in the Office

4 min read

This is a story about vacation...

Pixelated

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

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

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

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

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

I'm so bored.

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

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

I should stop caring.

Not my circus, not my monkeys.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interminable.

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

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

 

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Blogger's Digest - Day Ten of #NaNoWriMo2019

9 min read

Blogger's Digest: a Novel

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Ten

I knew that I would find my old schoolfriend, Tim, at the London Boat Show in January. He had stayed in Hampshire his whole life, to be close to the sea, attempting to scrape a living in the marine industry. Undoubtedly the most talented sailor in the sailing club when I joined, as a child, he came from a long line of men who had worked at sea and on rivers. His father, who had taught him to sail when he was a very little boy, was a member of the London Fire Brigade working aboard one of their two fire boats. On his father's four off-duty days, he was a volunteer crew member for the RNLI, on the local lifeboat. Salt water ran in his veins.

I had several ulterior motives for attending the London Boat Show.

I had planted the idea in my friend Ian's head, that we should pay a second visit to see a particularly fast racing yacht, built with classic lines, which he had taken a great deal of interest in at the Southampton Boat Show back in September, when we had been granted a much-coveted viewing appointment. The yacht he had taken an interest in had recently featured in a James Bond movie, and there were very many members of the public who wanted to have a tour, but who were not serious buyers. Ian had the money and had always wanted to buy his way into the prestigious invitation-only racing, which happened in the South of France every summer: the price of entry was to own a yacht which was either an authentic classic, or a modern classic, judged by the race organisers to be just so, which rather nebulously meant that you had excellent taste and the decency not to be vulgar with your wealth.

I wanted, at the appropriate moment, to convince Ian to help me sail from Brighton to Corfu, over the course of the summer. I knew that he would not, and could not commit to doing the entire voyage all at once, so I hoped to persuade him to help me for a week or two at a time: the South Coast of England to the South Coast of Portugal, then onwards to Sardinia or maybe Sicily if the wind was kind to us, before finally completing the final segment of the trip. I knew that the prospect of doing a seriously long sea journey would be appealing, and he owed me a favour or two after having crewed for him on many occasions, but he would have regattas and other racing events over the summer which he wouldn't want to miss. I would have to convince him that he could fit my trip in, around his other commitments.

I had asked a number of other great sailors I knew, who I imagined would have been very happy to spend several weeks with me, moving my yacht from Brighton to Corfu. However, none had been forthcoming with any help whatsoever. Besides a cordial catch-up on how our lives had been progressing since I had originally left the bank and subsequently left London, post-divorce, our friendships had dissipated and I could tell that they had no interest in any serious ongoing friendship. My old London friends were too consumed by their demanding city lives, trying to placate their demanding trophy wives who had insatiable designer handbag buying habits, wanted increasingly large houses in Kensington and Chelsea, nannies, au pairs, and other hired help, and wanted the children to go to the best private schools: long gone were the days when we used to enjoy countless after-work drinking sessions.

Resistant to the idea of hiring a professional skipper to help me, or taking a gamble on an amateur who I might hope to stumble upon, I racked my brains and came upon a possible solution: my old school-friends who had continued to sail. Tim was the obvious first choice. I knew from social media that he was still an incredibly active sailor, and we had the pretence that we had stayed in touch, when in fact we hadn't seen each other for almost two decades.

London has a strange habit of dividing us. To those who abhor the concrete jungle - the big smoke - the M25 motorway ring-road is a kind of force field, which kept them out; they never went near the place and specifically avoided it, wherever possible. Meanwhile, for those whose career ambitions could only be pursued in a place like London or New York - in the Square Mile or on Wall Street - everything outside London suddenly seemed backwards and twee; provincial. It was difficult to avoid a certain amount of snobbery, which prejudiced those of us who felt we were at the centre of the universe, against those who had chosen a more ordinary family life, at a sedate pace. Like oil and water, London folk and the rest of the British didn't really mix: wealthy Londoners couldn't understand that most restaurants and bars served terrible quality food and drink, and didn't accept card payments, while non-Londoners couldn't understand why anybody would live somewhere which cost £10 for a pint of beer and a modest-sized family home some distance from the centre would cost upwards of £1 million.

From social media stalking, I knew the name of the company which Tim had been working for, at least at some point fairly recently - it was always possible that he had moved on since he had updated his profile. The marine industry is fairly small, and I knew that it was probable that even if Tim no longer worked for that company, somebody would know which company he'd moved to, who would also most likely have an exhibitor's stand here at the London Boat Show.

As luck would have it, I spotted Tim quite easily, lingering near a rack of glossy brochures full of stainless-steel yacht rigging parts, which the company he worked for manufactured and sold.

"Tim! Fancy seeing you here" I joked, knowing that his career in the marine industry meant that he'd spent the last couple of decades attending boat shows.

Rather cynically, I had prepared a game plan for us to become fast friends again. My background research - social media stalking - told me that he had married his girlfriend who he'd been dating the whole time we'd known each other, and he had two children, one of whom had recently started secondary school and the other I estimated to be 2 or 3 years younger, still at primary school. I also knew that he and his wife had won a number of dinghy races during the previous season, and I knew what class of dinghy he was sailing in. From my many dismal, boring, depressing years working in offices, I knew that a surefire topic of conversation, guaranteed to create a bond with a colleague, would be to show an interest in their kids, first and foremost: extra points for remembering names, ages, and whether they were into ponies or whatever particular things their doting parents were encouraging them to do.

I knew that it would be very hard for Tim to get time off work, as well as leaving his wife looking after their kids, but that he was always a sucker for any seagoing adventure: at school he often played truant when a local fisherman offered to take him out on their trawler.

Having spent a long while catching up on Tim's life events, since we'd parted company so many years ago, I then said enthusiastically that I would love to come and visit; that we should rekindle our friendship. We had been very good friends at school, but our lives had gone in very different directions since I had gone away to university, and Tim had never left our home town in Hampshire.

With a great deal of happy excitement and promises to stay in regular contact, and make definite arrangements to see each other again soon, I was about to make my departure; we began saying our goodbyes.

"Oh, er. I'm moving my boat from Brighton to somewhere a bit further south for the summer. Cross-channel sort of thing. Been asking around to see if I can find another qualified skipper but haven't had any luck. You don't know any trustworthy chaps who'd be up for a few days at sea, do you?" I asked, casually.

"No not really, but I might be able to swing a few nights away from home - boys' trip - if I play my cards right with the wife. I'm owed some nights off after she went away on a hen do last year" Tim replied.

"Well, chat it over with her and let me know what dates might work for you - I'm pretty flexible" I said.

We shook hands and then, exchanging a simultaneous grin, we gave each other a spontaneous hug. I think we really had missed each others' company, over the many years, and we were glad about the prospect of re-entering each others' lives. Making and keeping friends had proven to be so difficult, in adult life.

Ian had been ridiculously easy to convince to join me on my trip. The only sticking point for him was that I paid for his flights, which I naturally agreed to. It seemed a little ridiculous that he was seriously considering purchasing a yacht which would cost him the best part of £1 million, yet he wanted to make sure I would cover his travel expenses. I wondered if the reason why Ian was so much more wealthy than me was not because my career had been disrupted by my depression, but because he was a notorious tightwad.

 

Next chapter...

 

Blogger's Digest - Day Eight of #NaNoWriMo2019

11 min read

Blogger's Digest: a Novel

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Eight

The Round the Island Race was a fairly self-descriptive event. Each year, thousands of yachts would race around the Isle of Wight in Hampshire. Obviously, the fastest circumnavigation wins the race, but in yacht and dinghy racing, there is a handicap system, so that vessels of different class can compete - theoretically the best sailor in the worst vessel should still win the race, and an average sailor in the best vessel should have no unfair advantage conferred by the vast amount of money that they've spent on the very best racing yacht or dinghy.

Much like the London Marathon the fastest yachts would start first, and the slowest would start last, for two obvious reasons. The first reason was for safety: having extremely fast racing yachts overtaking vast numbers of slow-moving pleasure craft, would be a recipe for collisions. The second reason was to create the illusion of competition on the water: overtaking another yacht of the same class was a minor victory, and being first in your class was a victory in and of itself, even if you might not end up winning the race, after your circumnavigation time was adjusted based on your handicap.

The sport of Formula One motor racing is an opportunity for car manufacturers to demonstrate what they can achieve when money is no object, and there is a lot of attraction the general public feels towards the passtimes of the rich and famous. Yacht racing is no different, with the America's Cup yachts costing $10 million dollars or more, and the research, development, plus the cost of their professional crew, adding an exorbitant amount more to the price tag for the privilege of competing in the world's most prestigious sailing championship.

The great attraction of the Round the Island Race, was that anyone could enter. Anyone with a yacht, that is.

Imagine being able to drive your ordinary family car around a Formula One track, straight after the Formula One cars have just finished their race. It might not exactly be an everyman accessible sport, open to the masses, but it was a brilliant opportunity to be part of a flotilla of thousands of yachts - a spectacle; a tourist attraction - all racing around the Isle of Wight, attempting their circumnavigation in the fastest possible time: one single 'lap'.

I had done it once before, when I was 23, in my small racing yacht. My crew were all experienced sailors and competitive dinghy racers. We were young and foolish; we were brave and stupid. We sailed well and finished 7th in our class, which was a great achievement, because it was mostly semi-professional sailors who finished ahead of us.

This time, my crew and I were moored up Portsmouth, getting very drunk and having a delicious meal, but I was very anxious. My crew were all amateurs, and we were going to be racing my 'floating caravan' which had been my home for well over a year. It did not feel at all as though my mobile home should be subjected to a punishing race at sea. I felt my crew were woefully ill-prepared, which was my own fault for inviting them. When I had entered the race I thought it would be fun. As we drew closer to the start, I thought it was going to be hell, for all involved.

* * *

Sian was a level-headed lady and she did not enjoy sailing at all.

She enjoyed visiting me when I was moored up in the marina, and she enjoyed motoring through the dock, out of the marina, and up to the breakwater, where the sea was flat and calm. However, she hated things when even the gentlest of waves began to cause the yacht to wallow slightly, and she hated things even more when the sails were up and the yacht began to lean over - to "heel" in the yachtie parlance - and she felt sure that we were about to capsize at any moment.

Poor Sian never lost the instinctive feeling that whenever the yacht was not completely flat and level, that we were sure to sink straight to the bottom of the sea. The moment the yacht heeled over - leaning as the wind caught the sails - she would grab the nearest handrail and cling on for dear life; her knuckles literally turning white, as she gripped to tightly.

A catamaran - with its two hulls - might appear to offer more stability than a single-hulled vessel, but any yacht sailor will tell you that a capsize is much more likely in a catamaran than a regular single-hulled yacht. To capsize a catamaran yacht would be catastrophic, as the mast would be smashed to pieces and it would end up fully inverted - upside down - and the crew would require rescuing by the coastguard, or anybody responding to a mayday distress call. Sian often asked why I didn't get a catamaran, which she felt sure she would prefer, and I explained repeatedly, as many different ways as I could think of, and as patiently as I could, but she persisted in her mistaken belief that my yacht was capable of capsizing at any moment, and that a catamaran would be much safer.

We hadn't been out sailing more than a handful of times before the entry deadline for the Round the Island Race was fast approaching, and I foolishly thought that Sian would soon find her sea legs. She seemed enthusiastic about the idea of sailing around the Isle of Wight - she imagined that it would be a romantic trip, like going on a cruise. I managed her expectations very badly and was exceedingly over-optimistic about my ability to convert her into an enthusiastic sailor.

Having invited Sian to be my first crew member, and buoyed by my ambition to introduce a group of amateurs to the joys of sailing, I proceeded to invite three other people who had expressed a keen interest in crewing for me. I hadn't really done much sailing all year, given that I thought of my yacht more of a floating home than as a racing vessel which I would gain much excitement from sailing. My 'floating caravan' did not enthuse me to go sailing, but the prospect of introducing some people to the sport was something I was motivated to do.

* * *

The voyage from Brighton to Portsmouth, the day before the race, was the first time I had assembled the entire crew aboard my yacht. This was the only opportunity I'd had to attempt to train my crew to work together to complete a handful of fairly simple manoeuvres. My yacht was built for comfort, not for speed, and had a number of convenient features which meant I could sail her without crew. However, during the Round the Island Race, the helmsman - me - could never leave the wheel unattended, because of the vast number of other yachts which we might collide with. Only I had the skill and experience to steer us safely through the start of the race, and around the Needles, during the first leg, when all the yachts in our class would be tightly bunched together and vying for position. Only I knew the 'rules of the road' and therefore who had the right of way. Only I knew how to spot and avoid collisions. For the most part, my crew would simply be pulling ropes, while I barked instructions at them.

The pre-race passage was a great success for my crew - they literally learned the ropes very quickly, and their confidence soared. The sailing conditions were very kind to us and we bonded well - the crew worked very well together as a team. There were more yachts than usual, making their way westwards, but it was very relaxing and easy sailing for me, without any of the close-quarters manoeuvring of racing, where yachts and dinghies would clump together, sometimes inches apart, and sometimes colliding. It was a leisurely trip and it was great to know that my crew understood the basics, but I knew that they were hopelessly ill-prepared for the race.

Sian was sulking, because she had imagined that the trip would be a romantic getaway, but she hadn't reckoned on how different it felt to be aboard my yacht with other people. It's often said - figuratively - that a boat gets a foot shorter every day that you're on board. Sian and I had had sex on board before, in the marina, and she wasn't too bothered about being overheard by the neighbouring berth holders, but it was pretty clear that any pre-race nookie was going to be somewhat spoiled by the fellow crew members sleeping in close proximity, with only flimsy thin wooden doors in-between us.

My other crew were in fine spirits, although they didn't seem to appreciate that we would have to leave our mooring and make our way to the race start at approximately 7am, in order to arrive at our allotted time. The moorings near the start/finish line were impossible to book in advance, and were reserved entirely for serious professional racing teams. We were lucky to be as close as we were. In my younger days, I would never have entertained the idea of racing with a terrible hangover, because of sheer competitiveness, but now I didn't want a hangover because I knew that it was going to be a very long day - something I wasn't able to impress upon my well-lubricated crew, who were drinking as if we had finished the race, not about to start it early the next day.

Still, I knew I could take care of getting us most of the way to the start/finish line of the race, with minimal help, if my crew needed to sleep off their hangovers. Unfortunately, the rules of the road said that a yacht without its sails up - using its engine - has to give way to a yacht which is sailing, which I knew would mean having to weave in-between vast numbers of yachts, if my crew were not awake and doing their job, as we got closer to the start of the race.

I really wanted to be a good skipper and ensure that everybody had a thoroughly enjoyable time, but there was a certain amount of telling people what to do by shouting at them, which was unavoidable. There wasn't a skipper in existence who hadn't had to shout "pull the red rope! no the red one! no that's a green one! the red one! the other one! yes that one! pull that one!" or words to that effect, when somewhat under pressure to avoid colliding with other vessels and keeping an eye on all the other crew members, to make sure that nobody was doing anything stupid and/or dangerous.

My relationship with Sian had been thoroughly pleasant, and we had never quarrelled. I desperately wanted to avoid her ever seeing my bad side, but I knew that if there was ever a situation which was guaranteed to bring out somebody's less desirable character traits, it was when they were in charge of a yacht. I prided myself on being a patient teacher who was calm in a crisis, but I knew that the build up to the start of the race, and the first leg - down to the Needles out of the Solent and out into the English Channel - would be incredibly stressful for me, trying to avoid colliding with any other floating caravans, which were also taking part in the Round the Island Race, and were probably crewed by equally incompetent amateurs.

My anxiety about the impending race and my sulking girlfriend didn't fully dampen my spirits, and I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening, getting drunk with my crew.

I awoke at 6:30am, dreadfully hung over, and was immediately struck with the horrifyingly embarrassing memory that Sian and I ended up having drunk sex when we had returned back to the yacht. We had been exceptionally noisy and it had lasted far longer than it should have done, because I was so inebriated. I tried to shrug off the shame and began my preparations to set sail for the start of the race.

 

Next chapter...

 

Blogger's Digest - Day Six of #NaNoWriMo2019

14 min read

Blogger's Digest: a Novel

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Six

I was completely unable to relate to people who had sensible grown-up calm and amicable break-ups, where they remained friends with their ex. It felt to me as though it was a betrayal of my whole "jump in with both feet" ethos, regarding the pursuit of love, to simply drift apart and then one day decide to separate: a simple and straightforward life decision like any other, akin to purchasing a refrigerator, or switching energy supplier. In my version of a breakup, there needed to be tears and passion, breaking up, making up, taking a break, getting back together - it needed to be messy and complex, and emotional. Where was the love if two people just decided one day to go their separate ways, and then divided their possessions and moved on with their lives?

"Falling out of love" was something I was a little familiar with, but not something I would tolerate. I'm not an idiot: I know if somebody is deliberately picking fights with me, or sulking, or otherwise acting in a way that suggests that they'd really like to end the relationship - probably because they are flirting with somebody else - but they are too spineless to do the honourable and honest thing, and take the plunge before having secured their next relationship. I'm not the kind of person who wants to have anything to do with anybody who's continuously trying to 'trade up'; lacking in any loyalty or moral fiber.

I took my relationship commitments pretty seriously. I'd never had a casual girlfriend. In fact, I'd only really had Caroline. I'd been on some dates and had a fling with a friend while Caroline and I were on a lengthy 'break' but I was quite unfamiliar with anything other than monogamy and it never occurred to me to look outside the relationship for anything extra, or better.

One of my friends had an open marriage for a few years, and another friend had a girlfriend who was very promiscuous, which he seemed to grudgingly tolerate, but on the whole, my entire circle of friends and colleagues were all married, engaged, or in serious long-term relationships: I was never aware of any infidelity, and break-ups and divorces were virtually unheard of. Of course, investment bankers often tended to be regular patrons of strip clubs, escorts and many had a mistress, which was handled extremely discreetly. None of that was my 'scene' - I wanted a plain vanilla monogamous committed lifelong relationship with somebody who I was head over heels in love with, and I knew that it would require non-stop work to keep a great relationship alive.

The death of my relationship with Caroline had begun with how she had reacted when I got sick, when I quit my job, when I wanted to be an electrician and when I wanted to move to Brighton. Each time, she had made it abundantly clear that our relationship was predicated on an unspoken agreement, which I had never signed up for: I was expected to remain healthy and earning big bucks in investment banking, supporting her in her underpaid charity job in London, and to not expect any such reciprocal arrangement. I often thought of the marriage vows "for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health" and this was the standard to which I tried to adhere. Caroline wasn't at all supportive when I quit my job or started business as an electrician - in fact, she constantly complained about the decline in our living standards, however her blanket rejection of any better paid job was something I'd had to accept. She'd flatly refused to discuss moving to Brighton.

She'd paid little or no attention to the appointments I had been attending, over the years, since the first visit to my local doctor's surgery in my adult life. At first, I hadn't wanted to worry her, but it had become increasingly apparent that she just didn't care about my health or wellbeing: she just wanted me to bring home a massive income, doing a job which was killing me. She placed the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed as the top priority, and the delivery of all of the extra anticipated things she would be getting in future - an extravagant wedding, a private school education for our children, a bigger house, trust funds for university - were non-negotiables. She wanted what she wanted, and the only route to getting that was me or somebody else, but she certainly wasn't going to compromise one little bit.

Left with no other options, I confronted Caroline with the opinions of my doctor, psychiatrist and therapist.

"Caroline, I'm not sick. I need to make lifestyle changes, because this life - London and investment banking - is making me unwell. I'm not saying I want to move to Brighton because it's a selfish dream of mine. It would have been great if I could have carried on with our old life, but it wasn't sustainable."

"What are you saying?" she asked.

"I tried all the different anti-depressants, but they didn't work. It wasn't safe. I was suicidal. I tried switching a different way of making money, but I simply couldn't earn enough money to support the lifestyle you want; I can't give you the future you want. I've found a compromise: this job in Brighton pays incredibly well and we'll be able to afford a much bigger house than in London. I can work fewer hours. I can work from home sometimes. It's so much better for my health."

"But all our friends are in London. Everything is here. What about my job?"

"You're a solicitor. You can work anywhere. There are plenty of legal firms in Brighton" I replied.

"I like my colleagues. I like my clients. I like the charity I work for. I'm not doing it. I'm not moving. I'm not discussing this. No. The answer is no."

"This isn't brinksmanship. This isn't an ultimatum. I don't like it any more than you do, but this is the situation. The only way I can earn enough money to maintain our standard of living and give you everything you want, and not kill myself, is to take a less stressful job in Brighton."

"You could take a less stressful job in London" she suggested.

"You don't understand. You can't leave before your boss. Leaving at 7:30pm is considered early. People are answering emails at all time of the day. All the banks are moving their middle office and back office functions out of London. This is the only chance I have to keep my London salary, without having to keep the London working hours and the pressure of the front office."

"Tell Human Resources that you're not well. Tell them you need to work part-time."

"You don't understand. That's career suicide. I'd be paid off. They'd offer me a hefty amount of cash to leave, but I'd never be able to work in investment banking again. I'd be blacklisted."

"They can't do that! There are employment laws!" she bristled.

"Yes. We would get a very large financial settlement, but I've done the maths and it doesn't add up: it's not enough money to support the lifestyle ambitions that you have. We won't be able to get the house in Zone 2 with a large garden, like you wanted. We won't be able to afford private school for three children. We won't be able to send three children to university, without them having to go into debt. We won't be able to buy them their first car. We won't be able to pay the deposit on their first home. We won't be able to pay for their weddings."

"I'm sure we'll manage."

I laughed at the ridiculousness of the notion.

"MANAGE! I've had to put up with nothing but complaint after complaint ever since I quit my job, about how much pain and suffering it's causing you, having to tighten our belts" I retorted, unable to keep my built-up frustrations and resentment under control.

"So how do you propose we split everything? 50:50?" she asked. The coldness of her tone - the lack of emotion - utterly enraged me. I could not have felt more used. I felt like nothing more than a walking wallet. I was completely speechless that she could segue so effortlessly into a discussion about who was going to get the crockery and who was going to get the vacuum cleaner. It was heartless. It was brutal.

* * *

Life in the marina was unusual, but it was novel. Instead of having supermarket shopping delivered, I had to drive to the supermarket, buy my shopping, drive back to the marina and load the bags into a trolley, which I would then wheel through a security gate and down to the pontoon where my yacht was moored.

I was not supposed to discharge my yacht's toilet while moored within the marina, but I was damned if I was going to walk all the way to the toilet block every time I needed to use the loo. Out of paranoia of being reported by a busybody fellow berth holder, I ran the shower every time I pumped out the contents of my toilet. A little seawater circulated every time the marina's lock was used, but the water was essentially a stagnant pond, so the discharge of raw sewerage - my untreated bladder and bowel movements - was quite an antisocial practice. I justified my actions, because very few people lived aboard their boats, and fewer still used them on any regular basis.

Caroline hadn't the money to buy me out of our shared mortgage on our London house. Her wealthy family were notoriously stingy and had refused to lend her the money, despite the huge financial gain she stood to make. I could have bought her share, but having no use for a London home anymore, I knew that she would try to manipulate me into allowing her to stay there rent-free, or at least at a hugely discounted rate: she had already made several attempts to emotionally blackmail me, saying that she had made terrible sacrifices for me, when I had quit my job and become an electrician. Essentially, she felt entitled to a vast sum of money - who knew how much she felt entitled to? It was my closest friends who begged me to be firm but fair, and to take back the hefty initial deposit which I had paid, and to split the remaining sum equally. In fact, my friends begged me to give her a share in proportion with her contribution, which was my legal entitlement, but I didn't want to face the court battle which she was threatening, and neither did I particularly begrudge her the hefty extra sum of money, if she was enough of a bad person to demand it - she could live with the guilt of knowing she picked my pocket, but I could not live with the guilt of knowing that she would struggle with the sudden drastic change in her financial circumstances, without a golden parachute, gifted to her by me... not that she was grateful, of course.

I was left with easily enough money to buy a very nice house in Brighton, with very little mortgage, if any. London property prices were so vastly over-inflated versus the rest of the country. However, I wanted to keep my options open. Perhaps I wouldn't like it in Brighton. Perhaps I would miss London. I decided to defer housebuying, and instead bought a yacht.

My new - but second-hand - yacht, was large and well appointed, but more akin to a floating caravan than anything luxurious. I bought it because of its spacious interior: enough space to sleep 6 in 3 cabins, with extra beds in the saloon too. The bathroom, galley and other aspects of the yacht were a world apart from the small yacht I had purchased when I was 22 years old. There was a fridge, a shower, an oven. With mains-voltage shore power hook-up, I could use regular household appliances without worrying about draining the batteries. There was enough headroom to accomodate my 6 feet of height, in most parts of the vessel, although I did have to duck through doorways and shower in a rather awkward position.

Life aboard the yacht lived up to my expectations mostly. There were minor inconveniences, such as having to cart anything I wanted to load onboard or take off, having to be done using a trolley. Putting out the rubbish became something which I did little and often, on my way to work, as opposed to carting heavy black bin liners all the way to the marina refuse dump. Shopping was an almost daily chore, because the fridge had such little capacity and I had no freezer.

There were problems which I had not anticipated, which were a little more difficult to deal with. My colleagues had begun to notice that I smelled of diesel fuel. The smell had entirely escaped my notice, because it lingered with me constantly. A small amount of diesel fuel inevitably ends up in the bilges of any vessel, and it's virtually impossible to eliminate the smell, which permeates all soft fabrics. Yacht owners are quite used to the smell, and no longer notice it after a while, but to my colleagues it was a topic which nobody had been brave enough to broach - it was only by chance that I overheard one colleague saying to another "you mean the guy who smells of diesel" in a context where they could only have been referring to me, that I realised there was a problem. My solution, of keeping all my work clothes at work - my suits and my shirts - required an extra locker, and I had to get up earlier than I would have done normally, in order to be able to shower and get changed at the office in the morning.

The thin, light and strong walls of the hull of my yacht were a quite ideal building material for a seagoing vessel, but provided inadequate sound insulation for a home. As the spring turned into summer, and an increasing number of people decided to have parties on their gin palaces, the noise pollution became rather problematic. I purchased an excellent pair of earplugs, but these were so effective I was often unable to hear my alarm clock in the morning, and they irritated my ear canals, causing inflammation and pain.

My new life in Brighton, despite its teething problems, was on the whole a very happy one. My commute was short, I worked far fewer hours, and the atmosphere in the office was generally less competitive and high-pressure than it was in London. The laid-back attitude of my staff rubbed off on me, and I felt that the culture was much better for my health and wellbeing. I was optimistic that I might have found the route to a sustainable and contented life. I was hopeful that I had seen the last of depression and suicidal thoughts.

 

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