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I'm a writer. I write about life with bipolar disorder - also known as manic depression - so my eponymous alter ego is MaNic Grant.

I've written more than 1 million words: it's the world's longest suicide note.

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nick@manicgrant.com

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September 11

1 min read

This is a story about flashbacks...

Spirit yacht

I have made a habit of writing my thoughts on September 11th, with a view to how the world has changed since 2001, and how my memories of that day affect my present worldview.

In 2015 I went to the Southampton Boat Show with a friend. That was a good day.

I think I'm planning on attempting to remember good memories.

 

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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.

 

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Modern Art

8 min read

This is a story about creativity...

Crack

Those who are blessed with independent wealth - trust-fund kids - may groan at my unoriginal and clichéd ideas. Those who have been lucky enough to attend public or private school (confusingly similar things in the UK) have been educated to be discerning snobs who act as a kind of judicial panel, deciding collectively what is to be mocked and derided as worthless, because it has clearly originated from the lower echelons of society.

We may study a piece of text and detect traces of vocabulary, style and grammar use, which indicates the author did not have the benefit of an expensive education, and as such we decide that their words are meaningless. We presume that the author holds detestable values and baseless immature views which have not been properly forged in the crucible of a fine university's debating society. We discern a certain lack of intellect from any impression we form of a person of being from a more humble background than our own. We prefer to only read works by those who are posh and impeccably well-presented in their homogenised manner of written communication.

We can quickly tell if somebody does a lot of writing, or if their writing style is a clumsy attempt to put their spoken words down onto paper.

Who has enjoyed the privilege of being able to read a very great deal, write an enormous amount, and have somebody paid to pore over their words? English is part of the mandatory school education of every child in the UK, yet as a nation we manage to produce many millions of people who don't know the difference between homophones such as "your" and "you're", which the public and private schools would not tolerate.

While an expensive education might give every child who attends those fee-paying schools a posh accent, an extended vocabulary and better grammar, it does not assure an academic future. Many children will prefer art to the prescriptive subjects, where there are right and wrong answers.

The position of power, gifted by privilege, is to decide what the "wrong" answers are in an area where there is no such thing as a "right" answer. With no more qualification than a posh accent and some snobbery, one can embark upon a career as an art critic, quite unwittingly.

Art exists in late capitalism as another rich man's hobby, like yacht sailing, horse riding, game shooting, vintage motor car racing and skiing. While some of the hoi polloi might have adopted those leisure pursuits in imitation of the wealthiest segment of society, a number of mechanisms exist to ensure that the poor man's version is inferior in every way, and not to be mistaken for things which are reserved for the wealthiest families. As such, the act of patronage is contained within that small group of individuals who speak in the manner of their patrons.

Who can really afford to write or paint for long enough to master the craft, without making creative sacrifices in order to be commercially successful? How many brilliant artists have been forced to become draughtsmen or take dismal tasteless commissions from gauche clients? We might love our favourite comics and assume that the artists are living happy, authentic lives which are true to their beliefs, but those who have seen it as a purely artistic endeavour find unhappy outcomes if they ever need to monetise their talents.

I can afford to give away my words for free because I have another source of income, but it means that my writing will never be anything more than an open journal - a daily diary which is publicly accessible. I don't have the time and energy to plan, execute and promote a piece of serious art, and I am forced to sell the most productive years of my life in order to pay rent and bills. I like to think that I am developing my craft, but the skillset for creative writing is quite different from the stream-of-consciousness which I produce.

Innumerable photographers have captured an image of themselves every day for considerable lengths of time, and countless more writers have kept daily journals. What I do is neither imaginative nor original. It would be easy to say that my writing is not art, or it is bad art.

It angers me that I should be denied the opportunity to be an artist. It angers me that my considerable creative talents and boundless energy for artistic projects, is thwarted by economic factors. I need to pay rent and bills, so I must sell my labour, but if I were to attempt to combine my job with my desire to create art, then I would be creating products not art.

What is art?

For me, I want to turn an exceptional period of my life - addiction and near-death - into a piece of art. My experiences have been so extreme that few people who've shared similar experiences have survived with their sanity intact and enough of a grasp of the English language to express themselves clearly on a piece of paper. Many people are lost to religion and other capitulations of the mind, or simply embroiled in family life, such that the difficult task of creating a piece of art which conveys some of the suffering endured, is rarely completed.

We might assume that a particularly rousing motivational speech or an incredible painting resulted from some God-given talents, but that's complete hogwash. We are a product of the surrounding environment and things that has driven us to repeat behaviours until they are innate. Anybody who says "I can't draw" has not practiced enough. When we look more closely at child prodigies, we see that their pushy parents are the reason why that child practiced a skill enough to become talented. There are no gifts - everything must be paid for.

My own so-called "gift" is a perseverance for tapping on keys in such a way which is mandated to be harmonious. A piano will happily play incorrect chords but if you press the wrong computer keys you will simply be told "command not found" or simply "error".

While I know that my writing doesn't get tested with the rigorous logic of boolean algebra, I feel confident that I can master writing as a lucrative craft, through practice and repetition, in exactly the same way that I taught myself how to program a computer as a child. I am certain that the skill of creating hundreds of thousands of lines of programming code which assemble together to make a functioning piece of complex computer software, is transferrable to the task of writing a few tens of thousands of words which produce a coherent story.

Few would disagree that music is an artform, but music is a piece of code executed on a machine - whether it's the notation on a piece of sheet music, or the laser-etched indentations on a compact disc, the creativity of the artist is coded and played through an instrument which adheres to strict rules. A grand piano only has 88 keys, while my keyboard has more than a hundred.

It's true that we've entered an era where almost anybody can call themselves a photographer or a writer, given the ubiquity of smartphones and the ease-of-use of apps which allow us to publish our photos and our words.

I offer up the photo at the beginning of this essay and these very words because I find both aesthetically pleasing and to have deep and profound meaning, beyond what you see at face value. In my text I offer up a glimpse of my inner turmoil, but I can never fully capture the full extent of every thought that races through my mind. My photo captures a moment that has immense meaning for me, but the viewer could never possibly know or guess correctly what that meaning is, which makes it a piece of art because it could only have been created by me, the artist.

"What even is it? I could take a photograph like that" I hear you say.

Yes, you could take a similar photograph, but it would have none of the meaning behind it, so therefore it would not be art.

"What are you even rambling about? I could write down my thoughts like you" I hear you say.

Yes, you could write down your thoughts, but they'd be quite different from mine and you wouldn't have the same motivations, so therefore it would just be yet another blog post from yet another blogger.

How can I claim to be creating art? In truth, I don't. I worry a lot that I'm wasting my time and creating a lot of meaningless noise. I worry that my creative energies are squandered on a pointless folly. However, this is still an impressive monument, whichever way you look at it. How many people have managed to write and publish more than a million words in a single document, with a consistent methodical approach, with regularity and with something interesting to say? How many people have catalogued their thoughts so thoroughly?

Not many.

 

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My Sex Problem - Part Two

7 min read

This is a story about overcompensation...

Weymouth harbour yacht

I wrote yesterday about having a sex problem. Not a sex addiction, or anything kinky, but that I have too much sex because my fragile self-esteem depends upon it. I use sex as a form of reassurance, that I've banished my unhappy adolescent and late teen years, as well as my early twenties, safely into the past. I use sex as a form of proof that those bad times are never going to come back to bite me. I can never go back to those unhappy times.

There's something I need to talk about.

There's something I need to mention.

I'm not a fool.

I'm not so stupid and gullible that I believe every boast and every lie that was told, at school and at college, about how much sex everyone was getting. I'm not swayed by the common misconception that everybody else was at it [fucking] like rabbits. I'm not convinced by the gossip and the bragging and the boasts of sexual conquests, which circulated widely in the pressure-cooker of the school and college environment.

What I know are the facts.

I only care about the facts.

I don't really give a shit how much sex, how many blowjobs and how many hand-jobs were being had by my peer group. I don't really care how many sexual acts were actually carried out. These are facts that I'll never truly know.

What I DO know, without a shadow of a doubt, is that the vast majority of people's adolescent schooldays included having boyfriends/girlfriends, and all the associated relationship learning and development that's associated with that. The vast majority had crushes, thought they'd fallen in love, sent love notes, asked each other out, declared themselves to be couples, were known to be couples, called each other boyfriend and girlfriend, and had at least kisses and cuddles... intimacy and a relationship status.

What I DO know for a fact is that the vast majority of my peers learned about jealousy, cheating, breakups, reconciliations, relationship arguments and all the other things which turned them all into well-rounded average people: One giant homogenous mass of people who've all had a more-or-less identical experience of teenage love.

What I DO know for a fact is that my parents blocked my opportunity to go to university, where I might then have had the opportunity to start playing catch up. At school, there were too many thick-skulled knuckle-draggers, but at university I would have been amongst my own kind: The academic high-achievers; the bookworms; the geeks and the ones who were bullied outcasts, because our brains were highly developed, but something about us painted a target on our backs, making our lives a living hell, when mixed in with a vast number of no-hopers, with no aspirations.

School was simply a holding pen, before prison for the guys, or pram-pushing for the girls. Those savages needed to be left behind, and university would have been my opportunity to heal some of the trauma, but my parents blocked and sabotaged my attempts to go, despite the ease with which I obtained generous offers from very highly regarded academic institutions.

I'm incredibly bitter that I was separated from my dear friends in Oxford - a hyper-intelligent bunch who have achieved great things - and I was dumped into a school in the middle of fucking nowhere, where the best career opportunity was some kind of unskilled minimum-wage seasonal employment. The place we moved to from Oxford was a backwater dead end, because my parents are selfish dead-end loser alcoholic junkies, who never gave a shit about the consequences they were inflicting on my life; the opportunities they were actively denying me.

The picture of me is of me aboard my yacht, age 21, with my girlfriend.

Yeah, that's right, I bought a yacht when I was 21 years old.

I worked for a bank in Canary Wharf, London, earning £470 a day. I was 21 years old and I was earning £2,350 a week, and I owned a yacht, and I had a girlfriend. I was earning over £10,000 a month and I had a red sports car, a yacht... and most importantly, I had a girlfriend.

Can you see how insecure I was?

Can you see how materialistic I was?

For Christmas presents I used to buy people Fortnum & Mason luxury hampers. I flew business class and stayed in 5-star hotels. I was 21 years old.

I was a massively insecure, damaged, insecure person. I overcompensated by spending vast amounts of money on status symbols and living a making vulgar demonstrations of my wealth, because I was still a bullied kid... I was still a lonely bullied kid. I was still the kid who didn't have those kisses behind the bike sheds at school. I was still the kid who didn't ever have a girlfriend at school. I never asked anyone out, got asked out, fell in love, cheated, broke up.... I never had any of that, unlike almost everybody else in the whole entire world.

I used my brain to get a good job. Then I used by brain to get a better job. Then I used my brain to get an even better job, until the point where I was earning six-figures annually and I got all the status symbols to pro-up my fragile self-esteem. I got a "penis extension" red sportscar. I got a yacht. I ate in fancy restaurants and went on luxury holidays. All of it was a massive "FUCK YOU" to those awful years when I felt so unlovable; so unwanted... so rejected.

I don't even care about the sex, but it's symbolic for me. I have sex when I'm not horny - not in the mood - because it's a test... I want to know I can always have it, because it proves that I'm sexually attractive. It proves that without the sportscar, the yacht, the luxury holidays and the other status symbols, that somebody loves me. I need proof beyond all reasonable doubt that I'm now a person who people want in their lives, as a lover, as a boyfriend... as a husband.

Becoming a homeless, bankrupt, alcoholic, drug addict with mental health problems was a bit of a problem, but do you know what happened? I had some great relationships. I was homeless and living in a 14-bed hotel dormitory when I got together with an extremely attractive Italian girl, and we had a passionate romance. I was sleeping rough in a park when a wealthy Parisian woman fell in love with me and took me back to her fancy home in Notting Hill and nursed me back to health, despite my chronic drug addiction and incredibly unstable mental health.

I present myself now as exactly what I am: a penniless, mentally ill, recovering alcoholic, recovering drug addict, who lives a very precarious existence. I'm never far away from becoming homeless again, or being consumed by drug or alcohol abuse. I have no wealth anymore. I have nothing to offer. I'm not a 'catch'.

Because I feel so insecure about being 39 years old and not owning a luxury home, full of expensive furniture, with a sportscar parked on the driveway and a speedboat moored in the marina, all I'm left with is some kind of physical proof that I'm loved: does somebody want to fuck me, even though I'm a loser. I'm not even young and hot anymore. My hair is going grey and I'm carrying a few extra pounds of weight. I feel like I'm every woman's idea of a worst nightmare date: No cash, no assets, no flash car, no house... nothing to show for my 39 years on this planet. Why would anybody fall in love with me?

Sex is the only thing that gives me any certainty at the moment. Sex is the only thing that props up my fragile self-esteem, because my life has fallen to pieces.

I don't care that I missed out on sex as a teenager. I care that I missed out on love.

 

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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.

 

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The Supercrack Diet - Part Two

8 min read

This is a story about body dysmorphia...

Christmas photo

It's strange to look at a photo of myself with an old friend from not-too-many-Christmasses ago - at least according to my faulty memory - and not really recognise the face looking back at me as my own. It's not that I'm younger. It's that I can clearly see in many features of my face that I'd failed to escape from an abusive relationship and an acrimonious divorce unscathed. My life reboot had been sabotaged and it seems as plain as day to me that I was very sick.

My eyes appear at first glance to be bright and alert, but in a stimulant-induced way, so I wear a glassy stare into the distance, not looking at anything in particular. On closer examination, there are tell-tale signs around my eyes that I've been sleeping both too much and too little.

It surprises me how easily I can see from my face that I have hardly any body fat. In 2013 I had my body fat very precisely measured at circa 2%.

The body I'm in today feels very alien to me.

But the face in the picture above is also a different person, I feel.

Every couple of weeks I start skipping breakfast, having light lunches and smaller, healthier evening meals. Every couple of weeks I take a break from drinking alcohol. It doesn't make any difference.

For more years than I care to remember, I've woken up and I've dreaded going to work, and I've felt oppressively burdened by debt. My life is very simple, and in many ways very enviable, but it's also thoroughly awful. Theoretically the awfulness is only a temporary situation, but somehow it's turned out to be a nonstop nightmare lasting half a fucking decade.

The nightmare could be lazily attributed to drug addiction, but you might be surprised to learn that the truth is far less conveniently simple.

Having spent more than two decades trapped in the rat race, being a very stoic, quiet, boring, obedient and subservient tiny cog in a massive machine, and suffering the incredible boredom of going to bland beige offices, attending endless interminable meetings about nothing, shuffling paper around a desk and pretending to look busy, it was fucking exciting to go insane and embark upon a drug-fuelled rampage.

You might think that police, paddy wagons, Accident & Emergency, high-dependency wards, psychiatric hospitals, police cells, intensive care, sleeping rough and hostel dorms would be the worst thing imaginable - and those things probably were terrible at the time - but you need to understand the psychology of a person who wants to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and plummet towards the ground at terminal velocity. If you think that only stupid people get addicted to drugs, it's you who is stupid, because you haven't appreciated the value in calculated risks.

I would thoroughly advise every person on the planet to avoid supercrack like the plague, but it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge some attributes of my experiences of the last 5 years, which might be considered surprisingly beneficial.

Weight. Loss.

We'd all like to be a bit skinnier, wouldn't we? We'd all like to lose a bit of that hard-to-shift belly-fat.

I look in the mirror at the slight gut which has appeared in the ten months which I've been working, without the interruption of a drug-fuelled rampage, and I think "where the fuck did that gut come from?"

It depresses me that I've put on weight.

It depresses me that my appearance has changed.

I'm not fat. I'm not overweight. I'm just kinda 'normal' for a 39-year-old bloke, but that fucking sucks, because I took for granted the fact that I was as skinny as a racing snake on a diet. There's something attractive about an 'athletic' body, and that's not the body I have anymore... or rather, that's not the body I have at the moment.

One of the reasons I kept ending up in hospital, is because my body ran out of fat to break down to keep itself alive, so it started breaking down my muscle. When my muscle was broken down to provide energy to keep my cells fuelled and save my life, there were a lot of toxins released too, which totally fucked my kidneys. Basically, I was starving to death but dying of kidney failure faster than I was dying from lack of glucose, because I was so unnaturally lacking in body fat. My body made a very tough decision at a certain do-or-die moment, to destroy muscle allowing my heart to keep pumping for a little while longer, at the expense of my kidneys.

I eat.

I eat a lot.

I drink.

I drink a lot.

I eat and drink whatever the fuck I want and however much I want. I have juicy fatty steaks with butter sauce, washed down with lashings of red wine, every single night of the week.

I'm a disgusting old man.

I've been so depressed and oppressed by my awful circumstances, that I've barely been outside all summer. My skin is pale. One of my arms is covered with ribbons of self-harm and suicide attempt scars. One of my wrists has a big lump where a bone was broken by police who were kindly assisting me in getting to hospital. I've got this gut. This fucking gut. Where the fuck did it come from?

Have you heard of DNP?

It's a fat burner.

I'm highly tempted to take a week or two off work and just burn off the fat using this drug which increases your metabolic rate. Of course, a side-effect is malignant hyperthermia, but that's nothing I haven't already experienced a great deal of, as a supercrack addict. Also, insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks, tachycardia, organ damage and death... all risks I'm prepared to accept in order to be skinny and gorgeous again.

Although I'm crippled by mountainous debts, I drive a wreck of a car which is worth less than my phone, I live in rented accommodation and my body is covered with scars from drug-fuelled insanity, self-harm and suicide attempts, the most damaging thing to my self-esteem is what I've done to myself during this period of so-called health and wealth. While I've been earning megabucks for massive organisations and being mostly abstinent from supercrack, my life has materially improved massively - I've earned an absolute fortune - but psychologically it's been awful, and my body has suffered far more than even the very worst days of my supercrack addiction insanity.

I don't think supercrack is a solution, although the weight-loss is arguably a very desirable side-effect, in much the same way as a bout of explosive diarrhoea or a tapeworm infestation might be. Unfortunately, society worships the skinny, just as much as it worships the bipolar, even though those people might not be very healthy people at all.

As a single man - and rapidly approaching 40 years old - of course I want to feel sexually attractive. While girlfriends have always said "I like a bit of meat on your bones" fnarr fnarr, they have had a vested interest in my health and robustness as opposed to my raw attractiveness, in terms of a skinny athletic body.

The temptation to restore my athletic figure with a week or two of unpleasant suffering, taking a fat-burning drug and feeling like shit, seems like a small price to pay for the prize of being more sexually attractive. With the insecurity of feeling like I'm a washed-up has-been loser, dirty old man filthy pervert, useless debt-riddled, asset-less waste-of-space, with nothing to offer womankind, it's sorely tempting to take some short cuts. What happened to my house, sports-car, yacht, speedboat, cash pile and other desirable material things, which would be highly coveted? What value is there in a 39-year-old who's pale and average build? I'm ten a penny.

This is the calculated gamble. Presently, my gamble is to get rich quick, or more precisely, to pay off my debts incredibly quickly at the expense of my health, social life and mental wellbeing. The price I pay is my appearance: I eat and drink too much; don't exercise.

Of course, I have no plans to resume my supercrack-fuelled insanity, but to not acknowledge the rewards and unexpectedly positive benefits of better living through chemistry would be disingenuous.

 

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Universal Basic Income

7 min read

This is a story about late capitalism...

Bank notes

Having been part of the JPMorgan team who built a system to process more than a quadrillion dollars of credit default swaps per annum, and also the system to find out who was holding the pass-the-parcel when the music stopped, only to discover it was full of dog shit, I feel pretty responsible for the credit crunch and financial crisis, which has plunged us into a global recession many times worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. I'm pretty disillusioned with capitalism.

I've had front-row seats for most of the insanity of the past 25 years - dot com, Y2K, 9/11, credit crunch, financial crisis of 2007/8, Bitcoin etc. etc. - and I was a fully paid-up subscribing member of the 2% profiting handsomely from others' misfortune with my snout deep in the trough.

By 2008 I was sickened by the way I'd turned a blind eye and ignored my moral compass, because I enjoyed the wealth and privilege. I was able to buy a house, a yacht, a speedboat, sportscars and go on enough luxury holidays to help me set aside my misgivings about what the investment banks were doing to the global economy, by creating fabricated securities such as derivatives, which were somehow valued at a vastly greater sum of money than the aggregate value of all the precious metals, gems, land, property, cattle, food, commodities, industrial plant, machinery, companies and cash that exists on the whole planet. I was shackled with golden handcuffs - who in their right mind would give up their trophy wife and pull their kids out of private school, to slum it with the hoi polloi?

I decided that I was sickened by the bullshit synthetic world of digital securities and digital bank balances, and the global computer network with all its software and data, which actually doesn't create anything real or tangible. It seemed like the infamous tulip speculation bubble in the Netherlands during the 1600s. It seemed like utter insanity to place so much importance on a bunch of binary ones and zeros which exist nowhere but as a tiny magnetic bump on a disk platter, an electron in a memory chip or a photon in a fibre optic cable. The entire weight of the internet is estimated to be about the same as a golf ball, if you add up all the electrons. It's madness to think that any of our digital scorekeeping - i.e. your bank balance - will matter at all when global warming really starts to bite.

I quit my investment banking IT job at JPMorgan and I retrained as an electrician. I wanted to build real and tangible things with my hands. I wanted to learn a trade which couldn't be outsourced or automated. I wanted to escape the virtual realm of high finance and software and into a field which could make a real difference in people's lives. Try living for a day without your lighting, heating, hot water, power shower, cooker, dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer, kettle, toaster, fridge, freezer and the myriad other electrical appliances which you don't even notice are there in your life, saving you untold time and physical labour.

It turns out, we don't value tradesmen as much as we value bankers.

I could've scraped a living, but it was hard work with little reward. The work was dangerous and dirty and the general public expected to get everything for virtually nothing. I didn't much fancy working my whole life with the threat of bankruptcy and my home being repossessed, never having enough spare money to enjoy what little leisure time I had. Economically, it wasn't viable to be a tradesman, except as a kind of break-even hobby. It made no economic sense to use 100% of my brains and brawn, but receive so little reward.

Subsequently, I've returned to making software systems for banks, doing so as a consultant and getting paid even more. I've been a leech on a leech, and the cash has poured in.

Throughout this journey my priorities have completely changed. Instead of aspiring to acquire and accumulate vastly more than I would ever need, and fantasising about buying bigger and better houses, yachts and other material possessions, my fantasies have taken on a completely different guise.

I've been fantasising about quitting the rat race, and having secure housing. I've been fantasising about having enough money to read books and write. I've been fantasising about having time and being free from the tyranny of the alarm clock and bullshit jobs.

I'd live in a Soviet-style apartment and have beige products - no consumer choice - if I could be intellectually free. I'd travel on the bus and give up exotic foreign holidays if I no longer had to play along with the charade of late-capitalism, where we are all commuting too far, working too many hours, and living under constant threat of losing our jobs, losing our homes and subsequently being made destitute. Given the choice, I choose equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity.

It seems pretty obvious that the equal opportunities experiment has run its course and it would be inhumane to continue. Free markets are efficient, but they are only efficient at stripping away people's security, happiness, dignity and any hope of ever feeling content or satisfied. Capitalism is - by its very nature - a force which will price gouge humanity for the basic essentials, such as food, housing, transport, healthcare, medicine and to some extent education.

Our poorest 50% struggle to afford the basics, while even the very rich are miserably struggling to attain the academic qualifications which will allow them to compete, lest they be trampled by the struggling masses, desperate to realise their opportunities. The competitive element of capitalism has turned us into slaves. Our lives our wretched and appalling.

I desperately want to drop out of the rat race, but to do so would see me persecuted. I wouldn't even be allowed to sleep rough and beg for food without being arrested and locked up. Society offers me no ability to house, feed and clothe myself, with any degree of security or quality of life. Working a zero-hours contract McJob is not going to earn me enough to pay rent and bills, buy food, travel to work and have any kind of life worth living. The theft of our time and freedom is an awful crime perpetrated against most of society. The chance to stop and smell the roses is denied to us when we do not have secure food and housing.

The only viable solution that I can see is universal basic income (UBI). I just don't see how else we're going to be able to stop the terrible decline in living standards and save humanity from the tyranny of exploitation by the capitalists. It seems like we're at breaking point when even the middle class children are becoming slaves to the capitalists, with enormous loans for their education, which might win them a low-paid job in a completely unrelated field from their university degree if they're lucky - the unlucky ones end up unemployed.

It's a sad state of affairs when our fantasies revolve around basic needs, such as secure housing.

It's not my idea of a good time, sitting at home smoking cannabis and playing computer games, but I don't see any reason why it's not morally acceptable or right to allow people to do that, and not threaten them with homelessness and starvation if they don't get a bullshit McJob and otherwise comply with the tyranny of late-capitalism.

The idea that we live in a land of opportunity and that hard work will bring rewards has been proven to be a lie, and ever more-so during each passing year. It's time to let people live lives of quiet dignity, rather than frantic futile desperation.

It's time to just give everybody enough money to live in peace.

 

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Where Did It All Go Wrong?

4 min read

This is a story about dead ends...

Sinclair A-bike

Sir Clive Sinclair is a very clever man. So also is Hermann Hauser. So is Dr. Robert Sansom. So are the fellow members of my cohort who were lucky enough to be chosen from a very great number of hopeful applicants for an opportunity to fraternise with Cambridge's tech elite. We were destined for greatness.

The pinnacle - the apogee - of an entrepreneurial career in tech would be the moment when you have the undivided attention of a packed auditorium with a total net worth of tens of billions of pounds. Even if only for 5 or 10 minutes, all eyes are on you. It's your 5 minutes of fame, insofar as any geek can ever expect to have in their lifetime.

With offensive dismissiveness, the egotistical front man who would claim credit for the meeting of these minds, said my co-founder "was last seen with twins around his ankles" (he actually has 3 young children) and that I had returned to my former career with my tail between my legs.

Whatever I do, I think I do it with dedication and I achieve results. I obsess over my goals and I work tirelessly to reach them.

However, I feel old, unwell and somewhat burnt-out; spent.

If intellect was a good predictor of wealth, we'd see a much stronger correlation between the top exam grades, first-class degrees, doctorates and those who have been lucky enough to earn their fortunes, such that they have the financial means to retire early. If you think that a high IQ and studying hard at school and university is going to help you get ahead in life, you're sadly mistaken: you'll be a wage-slave in the rat race, just like everybody else.

I thought momentarily that I had found a tolerable compromise: a way to enjoy the lifestyle of the trust-fund endowed sons and daughters who can rely on family wealth to bankroll their carefree existence, while only sacrificing a small amount of my time each week to rather boring, menial, unethical and demeaning labour. I struck a deal with the devil, as it were.

Realising, however, that I was cash rich and time poor, I started work on projects which far predated websites like taskrabbit.com and mybuilder.com. My dot com - getajobdone.com - might not have been a world-class brand, but this was soon enough after the dot com boom [and crash] that I can claim some bragging rights.

I was too young and inexperienced to profit from the dot com boom, but I was at the very forefront of the iPhone app craze.

But where did it all go wrong?

How did I end up back in my old career, as Jon Bradford so astutely [and offensively] observed?

Fuck you. That's why: fuck you.

I make simple plans which seem fairly achievable, like having a nice little apartment with sea views and a yacht in the marina. Simple plans like having a job where I can drive to work in less than 15 minutes and enjoy a 6-figure salary. Then, it all goes to shit, so fuck you. I have it, then I lose it. I get a taste of it, then it's snatched away.

Where did it go wrong? Fucking everywhere, that's where. Everywhere from breakups to losing jobs - through no fault of my own - to the fact that the world is just a crazy competitive dog-eat-dog awful cut-throat world.

I live a charmed existence, by all accounts, but you should never forget the sacrifices I've made. While the rest of you have been creating clones of yourselves and lining the pockets of the banks with your mortgage interest payments, I've been cut loose in a world which views a man with no family ties with suspicion. In fact, having no family ties and no local connection to anywhere puts me at risk of destitution; total abandonment - I'm one of society's unwanted members. No safety net exists for me.

In 25 hours I'm hoping to be reunited with an old friend whose path through life might see him [incorrectly] labeled as an "overnight success" story. What a world apart, the last 6 or 7 years of our lives have been. How could we ever reconcile the differences in our experiences? Him the millionaire and me the pauper.

To divine where it all went wrong is an impossible task.

All I know is that I'm exhausted and I've got nothing to show for my efforts.

I'm not bitter though, I think. I cherish my experiences, no matter how harrowing and traumatic they've been.

 

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Shattered

4 min read

This is a story about premonitions...

Driving License

All I needed was a run of good luck... a couple of contract extensions, or maybe two long contracts. My client in London loved me and wanted to keep me, but I hated working on my own in that office, with the rest of my team in Warsaw. Something local came up... 2 years of project work supposedly. It was a gift from the gods. It only had to last until November and I'd have been home free: debts cleared and with a healthy financial cushion again, living a very comfortable lifestyle and able to reduce my hours to part-time or take a lower-paid but more rewarding job; a more secure and stable job; a more sustainable job.

I was getting nervous. Taking a holiday before you've secured a long contract extension is always risky and I was reluctant to lose the income too. I was getting the ever-growing feeling that my luck was running out. One project was getting close to completion and there didn't seem to be another one in the pipeline.

"Would I consider staying, but getting paid less than half?" came a question, which was actually more flattering than it sounds: there would be job security and other perks. The sums just don't add up though. I can't afford to take that kind of income hit until I've cleared my debts and built up a decent pot of savings.

Anything could happen. Theoretically, I've got two more months before I need ink dry on a contract extension or a new contract, but in practice I'm only ever two weeks away from being shown the door. Two weeks to find something new. Two weeks to answer the question: "what next?".

What is next?

Do I go back to London, where there's heaps of opportunities? Do I find another coastal town or city where I can reproduce my enviable lifestyle of living close to the beach? Do I go back to the Bournemouth/Poole area, where I have many old friends who I could reconnect with? Do I cast my net wider? Why not try somewhere I've never been before? What about Nottingham? What about Cambridge? What about Bristol?

I could do nothing. I could sit and wait. I've got the skills and somebody local is going to need them sooner rather than later.

I might be worrying about nothing. I've impressed the right people. I've proven my worth. Perhaps I'll be the lucky one. Perhaps I'll be kept around, because I'm a handy guy to have around. Certainly my client in London was quite happy to pay me to sit and do nothing, just in case something came up: services retained, if you like.

Nothing makes sense to me. Why am I here? What am I doing? What do I want? Where should I go? What should I look for? What makes me happy? What do I need?

Local girlfriend, local job, nice apartment, drive to work, walk to the beach, yacht in the marina, amazing place to kitesurf just down the road... then a breakup and the job's under threat. It's not a big place where I live. There aren't a lot of different organisations to work for. It's not like the Square Mile and Canary Wharf where you just keep moving from bank to bank, going round and round, going back to where you've been in the past: a never-ending stream of projects that keep the cash flowing.

Play it cool. Don't catastrophise. I haven't actually had any bad news yet. It's all rumours.

Sit tight. Be cool.

But, what the hell? Why am I here? What the hell am I doing? What the hell would I do in the worst case scenario?

I didn't know this was going to happen, but it was my biggest worry. Everything can fall to bits in the blink of an eye. Dream shattered. Plans demolished. Hope destroyed.

Let's just say I had a premonition.

 

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Drop Out

6 min read

This is a story about life falling apart...

Pile of stuff

I've started to put my life back in good order, but I still have to get well enough to go back into the office sometime soon. I look like a tramp at the moment. A very tired tramp.

My bedroom carpet has been deep cleaned. The walls really need a wipe down and there's a bit of decorating touching-up to do. Considering I barricaded myself in there for days in very unsanitary conditions, it's not too bad. I need to buy a new bed, but I hated the old creaky one anyway. It's alright, but has a very ugly repair to one of the bars, which I decided I needed for my barricade, so I bent it in half until it broke.

As you can see, my temporary window coverings have been taken down. The low-tack masking tape I used hasn't left any marks or pulled off any paint. However, in the very worst case scenario, I could replace the underlay and carpet, replaster and repaint all the walls, and re-do all the caulking, which'd cost me about £1,000, plus the cost of replacing the bed. Frankly, if I stay for a couple of years and do a bit of touching up with roughly colour matched paint, nobody'll really notice - there's a huge patch where the paint is a whole shade darker, because I moved the wardrobe out of my bedroom and into my dressing room.

As for me, I'm exhausted. I had to get up and tidy my bedroom before the carpet cleaner arrived at 10am. I slept on the sofa. I probably didn't fall asleep until about 3am, even though I had sleeping pills and tranquillisers.

I have a mountain of towels and bedding to wash. The bathroom needs a good clean.

I need to re-stack up all that crap that's on my bed behind my second, superfluous, bedroom door. Perhaps I could get things a bit more organised while I'm at it, but I'm too tired.

During all this craziness, there's been a Royal wedding and apparently there's a big local music thing that all the locals are going on about, like it's not just some random concert. So many people have told me that "the place will be gridlock". London can put on a marathon all round the centre of a city of 10 million people. I think the Billy Ray Cyrus cover act playing "Achy Breaky Heart" headlining Wales' "Big Weekend" isn't going to cause too much of a problem for a city which is about 1-2% as big as London.

So, I've dropped out at the moment. I'm not going to the office. I'm not seeing anybody. I'm not leaving the house. I'm not leaving my apartment. Sometimes, I'm not even leaving the same room for days.

Problem is, in London you can pretty much shove your thumb up the Queen's arse and get away with a slapped wrist, but here it's a proper community and people stick together. You can't misbehave without getting in serious trouble. People gossip. Messages and emails get forwarded again and again and again. Faces get remembered. You bump into people you know.

If all else fails, try Wales, but I still need to be careful not to shit on my own doorstep cos what I got away with in London FOR YEARS just will not fly round here. I wanted a clean break, a fresh start, but I've already fallen out with a GP who was partially responsible for a young man's suicide, and a girlfriend who seemed to think the worst of me, despite evidence to the contrary. I've been accused of writing stuff on my blog about people and their families and generally sharing private stuff. Bullshit.

I need to act a bit differently now I live in this tiny city, so that I don't fall out with any more friends and break up with any more girlfriends, but you know EXACTLY who I am and EXACTLY what I think, without naming names or sharing private things... of my friends. If you're not my friend, you're fair game, except I'm not nasty and vindictive.

I'm feeling a bit sad that I've only got 2 non-work friends in the city, and that a great opportunity to socialise is currently a bit difficult because I don't want people from work seeing me when I'm looking so unhealthy.

I went on a site to find drinking buddies, and meetup.com. Jesus, that's depressing. My ex-girlfriend was always worried that I was "downdating" because the pool of available hotties in this tiny town is nothing like London, where Tinder brings an endless stream of stunning intelligent and cultured women.

If the work dries up here and I fail to find a social group I like, I think I could end up going back to London, now that I have the money to do it in style. Being able to drive to work is brilliant, but I'm so worried that I'm not going to find friends and a girlfriend who have similar values, goals and ambitions.

You know what I really miss? My cat and my girlfriend's cats.

It's amazing how quickly I went from viewing a yacht, drinking in the sun at a food festival, having a picnic in the sunshine, and finally getting a bit of a tan... to losing my girlfriend, risking my job, wrecking my bedroom, losing my mind.

I think I just want to drop out completely. I'll empty my bank accounts to pay back my guardian angel, and the taxman and the banks can go fuck themselves. I'll leave the country and go live and work somewhere you don't have some god-awful experience every time you just want to get a bit of money or a place to live, somewhere laid back. It's stressing me out too much, the pressure of staying in the rat race and keeping squeaky clean - one black mark and you're f**ked.

My ex-flatmate who owes me about £6,000 in unpaid rent and bills, also owes thousands to basically anybody who would give him any kind of credit agreement. The red bills - final demands - and debt collectors started appearing soon after I threw him out (I gave him SO MANY chances, but he kept lying and the debt kept getting bigger). Now, if his Instagram is to be believed, he's living the high life, so maybe there's a lot to be said for being a thoroughly disreputable and immoral piece of shit.

Personally, I've contributed the best part of a million quid to the economy, and I've worked my arse off to never default on a debt and always honour my commitments. Maybe that's where I'm going wrong. I need to just be a flakey drop-out. I think it'd be more fun. It'd certainly be a lot less stressful.

 

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