The Latter Years

Good afternoon Dear Reader.  All is quiet on the Western Front, basically I’ve turned down Alexa’s volume from 5 to 3.  My boss said the radio was little loud sometimes.  I told him that it was because of my partial deafness.  He then said something that I could quite catch; I didn’t have my glasses on.

Yesterday I celebrated my 50th  birthday, and therefore, am no longer an old young person, but rather a young old person.  To be perfectly honest with you, and why the heck not be honest with you, I didn’t even think I would get this far.  It has been referred to as one of those milestone birthdays.  Like 18, 21, 25, 30, and 40.  But this one really feels advanced. 

Let me just check.  Weight around the mid section.  Check.  Deafness? Check.  Glasses? Check.  Hair?  What hair is left is now grey.  Beard, check. One of my redeeming features.  Knees?  Arthritis in the right one.  Dog?  Molly is fabulous.  Slippers?  Not really, I traded a pair of security boots for my son’s bright yellow Crocs.  Really comfy.  Children?  Check, one adult officially, might be leaving home soon, and one 12 year old daughter going on 30!  Becoming a snappy dresser with a little more elegance than before because I want to dress for myself, my wife, and don’t really care about what anybody else thinks.  Get those yellow Crocs!!  Maybe I’m finally an adult and have actually got the hang of all this adulting? Are there any more squares on the 50 year old bingo that I might have left out?

I check things that move out of my body from the front or the back.  That started happening late in my forties so I don’t know if it’s I’m the right decade.  Looking to see if I’m properly hydrated by the colour of my pee.  Feeling very out of sorts if I haven’t pooped by 7am.  Drinking a litre of water before I leave for work.  I have a smart watch, which tells me how I sleep and how far I have walked every day.  It also gives me my pulse and stress levels. 

Doctors.  Doctors seem to have become so much younger nowadays.  My old GP retired a couple of years ago, and the replacements aren’t even thirty and it’s like going to see somebody who’s just out of school and not older than my son.  At work I have noticed normal people leaving to go into retirement, and I have become one of the less young members of staff.  Youngsters come and join the team, and I don’t even know their names. 

I’m trying to think of the 50 year old stereotypes, and I can’t think of any.  No longer young, but definitely not old yet.  Professionally “they” seem to say well you’re not going any further.  If you leave now, it’ll be hard to find work elsewhere as you are considered “passed it” whatever “it” may be.  Do I just have wait here and wait for retirement?  Will I be able to retire? Politics and all that…  I really have no idea and it’s slightly frightening.

When you’re 20 you’re young and have energy to move mountains. It is the pssage from childhood into the real adult world and can be a rude awakening.  I just moved to France.  Asking for trouble I suppose.  By the time I was 30, I had one child and by the time I was 40 I had my second child. I was starting to get the hang of this parenting business.  During my forties I went through quite a lot of depression and wondering where the hell my life was going and probably was a little too self-centered and I would like to work on that during this next decade of my life.  Maybe my fifties are there to prepare me to be a grandparent.

As this new part of my life begins, I will keep you up to date regularly and you my even get some photographs from tie to time. Until then, I’ll just have to look forward to getting home and having a nice cup of tea and a couple of biscuits…

 

Facebook went down on me!

Hello Dear Reader, maybe you don’t know what Facebook is, or Instagram, or WhatsApp, but yesterday they went down on the entire world, but not in a sexy way. Facebook is the Face of Social Media, Instagram is the camera of Social Media, and WhatsApp is where we tell everyone what we are doing by private message.  Twitter was where we were all taking the piss out of the aforementioned Social Media outlets last night.

This is a big thing in an ultra-connected world.  At work I listen to the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2, and they spent 30 minutes talking about it.  It has featured on all the news bulletins that I have heard today.  This is a big thing!  So many of us have mobile phones, and I’m not talking about the indestructible Nokia phones, whose batteries are still working.   I’m talking about “smartphones” that are so smart that they have degrees in smartness from Smarty-pants University.  They are capable of so much more than the computers that sent men to the moon, and they fit into your pocket! 

Some people with depression and social anxiety called in to say how they depend on Social Media to have a manageable contact with the outside world, others who use it to advertise their small businesses to those of us scrolling through, and others of us who are addicted and can’t put our phones down, because of the dreaded FOMO, or fear of missing out.

Whilst at work, my mind can wander, and something that comes back regularly is the desire to go back to my prep-school and tell them what the world is like in 2021, or forty years from now.  Some of my masters were WW2 veterans, others were baby boomers, and some of them weren’t actually that mad, despite appearances.  I remember one Maths lesson where the teacher told us to find arithmetic patterns in our times tables.  I got three and had to find the pattern.  My first algorithm.  Now these algorithms are omnipresent and artificial intelligence is using them and running the world, especially on these platforms.  Think back to Brexit, or the 2016 American elections. 

Smug people came onto the programme saying how we had lost the power of conversation, or how come people just don’t pick up the phone.  Some talked about the wake-up call.  Others were talking about Gen Z, who have lost the power of communication.  However, there is nuance everywhere, which is something these platforms like us to forget.  I see people like my daughter, who is always on her phone, but she is conversing and communicating non-stop with her friends at school or a version of her tribe.  My son does the same thing.  They communicate differently.  I often wonder what my First Form Master, Fr Gerald, would make of it all.  Now we use emoticons to reply to some of our messages.  Have we gone back to using hieroglyphs?  Is that a problem?  They say a picture can be worth a thousand words. 

How did I manage?  Not too badly.  To begin with, I was worried that my Internet might not be working. But I soon found out what was happening.  It wasn’t much of a hinderance.  I still had my music on Amazon Music, and I was scanning negatives for my son.  They were from 2016, and he shocked to see how he looked just 5 years ago.  I think he used the word cringe.  I missed putting them on Facebook to share them with the rest of my French family.  Maybe Facebook has its uses after all, and shouldn’t the rule be able about moderation?  Use it by all means, but don’t let it become your master.  I’m still glad that they’re online again…

Sorry

Hello Dear Reader from a rather sunny corner of France! My mood is like the weather. Warm and blue skied, and my disposition as sunny as you could wish.

I have had it said to me that my last few posts have been far too inward looking and intopestcive. So if you’re reading this then it means you have been patient with me and I would like to thank you for it. One person even said that “I had flogged it to death!” Again fair criticism and with hindsight this is probably true. Thank you for being honest enough to tell me. Tough love…

I would however like to try and explain myself. To start off with this blog was going to be about photography and showing photographs from when I went out every week with my camera. It was going to show the photography that doesn’t get shown anywhere else.

Like most creations it seems to evolve and change over time. The Covid19, the crazy bat fuelled light beer disease came along and changed all our lives. The writing, as a creative experience, evolved too. Then I wrote my first article with no photos. Wow, what a rebellion against my original goal.

So, when writing, one can have a tendency to write what one knows the most about. Well,for me, that would be me, my past and present and what I hope my future might look like. Stuff came out of my head and onto the screen. I would write with no censorship. It became a therapeutic exercise.

The article I wrote in November was a liberation for me and a new experience. Ok, a bit dark, darker even than he dark side with their cookies. But over the next articles, with some ever so important therapy, it has allowed me to heal and has given me so much peace of mind. I would even say it has helped me vanquish my inner demons, that have been there for far too long.

It’s like I’m so happy that I want to share this happiness with you too. It’s new for me so just let me get over the novelty value of the whole shebang, and then we can go back to boring photos of cats, Nantes, and other places. I might even share some of my photographic processes with you.

When this person told me all this, I was furious, although calm. But in retrispection she wasn’t all wrong. We all have issues, all of us. The past always creeps up on us and can shout “Boo!” at the most inopportune of moments. And let me assure you, this has happened. But, evacuating and exorcising these troubles has been a revelation to me. I have been told, “we don’t do therapy.” And I get that. Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone. I’m lucky. But you don’t have to cry alone, I had help, and this help has changed me, and I like who I am right now. Not perfect, but perfect enough for me.

Thank you for bearing with me up to here. Again I would like to offer my apologies for making anyone uneasy, or even shocking you. It is my story, and I accept each and every detail of it. I possess it and it no longer posesses me. Let’s hope my story can have a happy ending, but get this people, it’s not over yet. And that’s great.

Merry Fu**ing Christmas

I’m presenting another entry for the « Understatement of the Year 2020” competition.  It’s been a strange kind of year.  I’m wondering how I am coming out of it.  Trigger warning, I may talk about mental health in this article so get over it pussies!  Normally at this time of year, I’m never really good and this year is no exception.

I think I may have given you the image of my mental health being like a wave.  At the moment I’m going back down.  People try to practice gratitude for everything as a way of ‘curing’ depression as if it were a rather fine ham for the Christmas table.  Well not me.  I should be happy.  I’m on holiday in 2 and a half days’ time for two weeks.  I should be happy, but I’m not.  I have a loving family.  I should be happy, but I’m not.  I have a roof over my head, and my family wants for nothing.  I should be happy, but I’m not.  When I think back to the ‘actual’ Christmas where Joseph was carrying his pregnant wife to Bethlehem, and couldn’t find a place to stay.  Air BnB hadn’t been invented, and he shouldn’t have been happy, but he was.  There was joy in his heart.  I should be grateful for all I have, and yet…

I have food from home.  The kind of stuff I can’t get over here, and I should be happy, but I’m not.  It’s awful.  Yeah, I forgot the Bisto for the Christmas dinner, you useless fool.  You have so much to be thankful for, and because you’re an ungrateful little shit, you feel even more guilty.  I can’t go to mass.  Last year I could and did.  I went to the Cathedral in Nantes and remember crying with joy at hearing the beautiful music from the organ.  I remember feeling physically moved and the music just passed right through me.  But not this year.  A Rawandan immigrant had been refused a residency permit, and the Bishop though he would employ the man as a janitor, and the guy who would lock the place up every evening.  The guy got rather upset about getting kicked out of the country and decided that he would burn the place down.  That beautiful 400 year old organ is no longer there and it breaks my heart.   There’s an article about that somewhere here.

That was last year.  This year is slightly different.  This year we discovered a virus, named after a light beer, and then the aforementioned beer producer found an other name that wouldn’t hurt its brand.  I present COVID 19.  A crappy name with an unobvious prime number.   We found out what it was like to be under house arrest, I mean lockdown.  We were told not to touch people and avoid people.  An introvert’s dream you might say, but I still maintain that we are a social animal, and when you take that away, we suffer mental health consequences.  Then they decided that, “oh shit, the economy is going down the drain, so you all have to go back to work, but have to wear shitty masks that you will end up becoming allergic too, whilst looking as if you have a speedo on your face, and when you beard pokes through, it looks as if you have pubic hair that needs clipping.”  You are not allowed to congregate at the coffee machine, and not allowed to stand next to eachother.

Then Summer came along, and the government said you can all go off on holiday, and so it seemed that the virus had done the same.  People felt as if the phoney war had ended and that it would all be over by Christmas.  I still can’t remember what I did this Summer.  Not because of Covid, but my brain just went on strike.  I know I got some good photos, and apparently, I went to Paris, but it’s all a blur, and I’m not talking about the band from the Nineties!

We could even go to the pub.  Then they said, that you still had to wear masks, but as soon as you sat down you could take them off etc.  This Covid Prime can’t infect you if you’re sitting down, having a pint and financially supporting the Guinness family!  Height restrictions and all that.  They had to move tables further apart, and then the Government said you had to close at 10pm and take a register of clients, with their phone numbers.  This was of course done, and then the G man said, well, you’re going to have to close anyway.  We’re going to launch the sequel to Lockdown, to be known as Lockdown II, the Sequel, not coming to cinemas near you because they’re shut too!  But for all those people not working in offices, you can still go into work but you have to come home straight away afterwards and you can’t meet up with your friends, etc..

Then they said OK we’ve finished messing with you.  Lockdown II is over.  Yayyyy, I can go out where the heck I like and don’t have to have a piece of paper saying where I’m going.  I can go to anywhere in the country I like.  I still can’t eat out of have a drink, or do anything remotely cultural, oh and the twist is that I have to be back home by 20h and can’t go out before 6h.  Bastards!

In other news recently in, a vaccine has been discovered.  Hang on, no that’s not right.  Three vaccines have been discovered.  The Chinese and Russians even have one, but they don’t count apparently on the news.  Not only have they been tested, but they have been approved!  But you can’t have one you fat slob.  Stop eating, and exercise, and loose weight!  You’re way down the priority list.  Nope, they’re for care workers, old dying people, the older people who aren’t dying yet, and then slightly less old people that aren’t dying, but not dead yet, and so on.  If you’re already dead, then you’re not eligible, oops…  #toolatemotherfucker  It’s either a very sick joke or somebody, somewhere, knows something.  And what is Bill Gates going to gain by being able to remotely control old people from a distance anyway?  Are they going to get uppity and rebel when the tea trolley doen’t have any more Chocolate digestives?  Other digestives are available, just not for the old people!  They’re probably going to go strike and die just out of spite.  We went through the war etc!

Now they’re talking about bubbles.  Bubbles are no longer about blowing, but are about families without the blowing.  All depends on the family I suppose.  I can have people in my bubble over for Christmas.  But not because the government said so.  I live in France, and they said that the curfew wouldn’t be enforced on Christmas Eve so people could gather, but only six adults at a time.  But if you think you can meet up for New year’s Eve, then you’re buggered!  So, you can officially celebrate a Christian Religious festival, and yet not the secular piss up at the very end of the Year.  And all this in an extremist Secular country, that is being mean to the Muslims, to stop those naughty Islamist shooting an beheading us when we make a joke about the Prophet (pbuh).  Double standards or what, even for French politicians.  But as that Luvvie Noël Coward said, there’s something Vichy about the French.

Don’t get me started about Brexit!  Biggest mistake since the French thought they could fish in another country’s Sovereign waters and get away with it.  Oh wait…

On a more positive note, Trump has officially been voted out by the Electoral College in the United States of America.  Let’s hope that the new guy will be better than the last President.  

I still feel pretty shitty despite the Christmas music on BBC Radio 2, but at least I managed to get some of my frustrations down on paper.  It’ll get better by Christmas…

Homesick, but not just.

If you have read my previous articles, you will know that I am not always bright or breezy, unless I have just eaten beans, then I can get quite breezy!  The other day, my boss came in and asked me how I was.  As any Englishman worth his salt, the answer to the phrase, « and how are you at the moment? » the answer should always be « Oh, I’m fine thanks! »  You might have just taken one for the team, or have just had your leg eaten off by a tiger, the answer should always be « Fine thanks » or « well, mustn’t grumble… »

I was a fool.  I fell into the trap and proceeded to tell him, sparing no details.  I think I must have scared the poop out of him.  I think he was visibly in shock.  I had obviously said the wrong thing.  Yes, people should be able to talk about mental health of lack thereof, but they should ask if they are not ready to hear the brutal honesty that can go with the answer.  To be honest I have a blank as to what I may have said, but left him in no doubt about how I was feeling, and that I was lucky, as I was rising up the wave once more.

He went on to say that he would have to talk to his boss, or my plus 2, and I replied, you have to what you have to do, not fully realising the bomb that I had just dropped.  It was too late anyway and out of my hands.  When that happens, you just suck it up and keep going.

The next day I got a call from my plus 2 telling me to come into the meeting room and asked if I knew why he wanted to see me. I was on one side of the desk, and my big boss, and that nice man from Human Resources was there.  They asked me the same question, and I answered them as honestly as I had my boss.  I think they were as shit scared as he was.  I explained that even though I had be harried by suicidal thoughts, that I was going to get through it, as we weren’t working for France Telecom, and I didn’t want to give them some extra paper work.   If there is a suicide in the work place then some very difficult questions are asked in the ensuing inquiry.  There might have been some nice flowers from the Company on my coffin, but it is not ideal.  I explained that I was crap at tying knots so hanging myself would not happen.  Saved by my own incompetence!

Strangely ever since having told them how I was everything in their comportment, or attitude towards me has changed.  Am I on suicide watch, or do they just think that I am mad and need shutting away? Now I am training somebody to do my job as if I have an accident or worse, there is nobody who replaces me.  I have told my trainee what happened so at least she knows.  The other colleague that I have on the phone every day, and orders all my stock, is up to date on the situation too. She is the person that often keeps me sane, allows me to tell my crap jokes, and actually laughs at them.  She seems to think that I’m fine, just different.  And, you know what, I’m fine with that. 

I do however feel like a criminal that is about to face sentencing by a judge.  I hope those nice gentlemen in white coats don’t try to take me away.  It is like having the famous Damocles sword hanging over you.  Thank heavens I still have my photography, and that I am still very capable of doing my job.

It’s at moments like this that I wish I could just go home.  Not just the country, but the year too.  I want to wake up in 1979 with all that I know now, and be a kid again, and tell my parents not to send me away to school, tell the guy that sexually abused me to bloody stop and go and get some help, tell the bullies to go and run under an oncoming bus, tell my teachers that they had no idea about what would be useful in my later life, right all the wrongs that I could have righted, and tell that kid, that despite everything, it would be OK, and give him a big hug.  He needed it…

I don’t know where I am at this very moment in my life.  I think back and wonder what if.  How would my life have changed?  I might have bought shares in Apple and in Google.  I might have learnt to drive earlier.  I might have drunk less alcohol when I was 16 and 17, and tried to find a different way to express myself and treat my many woes.  Thank the lord that it’s a nice day out today, and earlier this morning we even got a full double rainbow.  The little things keep you going.  Thank you for listening Dear Reader and I promise to try be a little more cheerful.

Some people don’t know how to handle mental health worries and managers need to be made aware of the problem, and take away the stigma that is the result.  Training, training, and even more training. It’s not a pleasant situation and even more so when you feel stigmatised.  Shit happens, but I’m not dead yet!

My old friend

My old friend melancholy is back with avengeance. She’s a bitch and knows exactly what you don’t want to hear. She reminds you that you are in a sexless marriage, that you are useless to everyone, and that you would be better off dead.

If I look for sex somewhere then I’m the shit, but it’s not the “done thing” to impose oneself. And sex is not just the only thing lacking in my life.

I want out. I want to die. That’s why I’m slowly killing myself. When I’m not good I eat, which will only bring me closer to death, and yet, in an ironic twist of fate, if I don’t eat the same fate awaits me.

At least as a fat guy, society has decided that I’m not allowed to be a sexual being. Who would to have sex with me anyway? Not even my wife does, so why would anybody else?

It’s not just about sex despite what society might say. It’s the connection that sex can give its protagonists, or even the intimacy. Since the advent of Covid we have been told to be wary of everyone else. We all have masks on. We are told that we have to socially isolate. We are social animals and this lack of physical contact is ruining all of us. It will leave scars on all of us for years to come. The problem is that I love my wife deeply but it’s as if there’s a gulf between us. Maybe through death I will be able to set her free.

I feel lonely every day. I am on my own every day at work and work on my own, and it’s the same at home. Solitude can be a blessing, but it can very quickly become a great burden. I even feel resentment every time that people ring me at work. I have my work to do and it’s as people are just interrupting my day. How inconsiderate of them.

I will not be missed. There may be slightly fewer photos on Instagram but people get on with their lives. Life continues despite death of one the protagonists. Eventually people cope and “get over it” and the person really is “laid to rest.”

I just don’t fancy dying in France. I want to die at home. It might have been a fashion in 1914 to 1918, And my grandfather had a couple of brothers eho were killed and buried over here. I want to die at home. I’ve been here for 26 years and I’m fed up of it all. Boris may have ruined my country’s future, but it’s still home.

As a Catholic I try and offer my suffering up as a sacrifice for my many sins. That’s what Ste Thérèse de l’enfant Jésus told us. She was dead by the age of 30 and was a Doctor of the church.

I’m not suffering from despair, I just want this situation to end. I know I should just suck it up buttercup, man up, and stop feeling sorry for myself. Easier said than done. That’s what I was told by my form master when I was at prep school. My mother would say the same.

Some would go and offer sympathy on Facebook, as if a message on a virtual notice board would help. I’m not putting down peoples’ intentions, but you have to get real. It’s like putting a black square on social media. It doesn’t help.

Some would say, go and consult. That doesn’t help either. The head shrinkers are madder than me, except they know they are. I just have a small inkling that they’re even more full of shit than my intestines after eating a whole load of fiber.

I don’t hate any of you. I just hate myself. I am told that God loves me. I am trying to believe that, but it’s not easy every day.

Time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana. This is why I hide myself in my bedroom as soon as I get home. It’s why I do photography. At least when I’m out with a camera I’m doing something instead of thinking. That helps sometimes. Anyway. I’m not dead yet so you’re going to have to out up with for a little while longer.

Here is a selection of photos from last Saturday. Long exposure, shitty weather. I was going for minimalism and maybe a couple of shots I managed it. In some I caught ghost figures due to people not caring and wondering into shot.

Please have a better time of it than me. I’ll get slightly better with a little more time. As I said, I’m not looking for sympathy, or for help. I’m just sharing what is on my mind. Thank the Lord that Adele isn’t singing on the radio…