Tuesday, 23 February 2016

101 Ways to Convince Your Psychologist You're Normal: You Have Reached Your Goal

Ugh! Today I have failed. I’ve lost momentum. I’ve come last in life’s eternal battle for survival, or at least that’s how it feels.

It took me two hours to just swing my tired legs out of the bed and even at that point I managed to convince myself that just my feet being on the floor was progress enough. I climbed in the shower, the water just falling on my energy sapped limbs as I made little attempt to work up much of lather.

I dressed in clothes that felt comfortable and easy to wear, no zips or buttons. The first top went on back to front and found me engaged in a struggle for life as one arm wrestled to be free of its entrapment. I drove around a bit, sat on my sofa, stared into space and ate too many Pringles. I congratulated myself on the fact that I ‘popped’ but managed to stop eating the little savoury chunks of cheesiness, a small victory which felt like the first landing on the moon.

One small step for mankind but one giant leap for a very lethargic Watson.

I’m in a funk, I’ve lost my mojo and I can barely find my ‘get up’ let alone my ‘go’. I imagine what I would look like with some ‘get up and go’ and it’s a vision of smiling, exuberant health, running through fields, the wind throwing my hair backwards as I skip merrily over fences in my figure hugging polyester sports kit. I hate the imaginary me, I hope that me slips over on the fresh morning dew twinkling in the fucking sunshine. Tosser.

Why do I feel bad? Is it because I’m not enjoying the warm embrace of my sofa? Is it that those cheesy crisps were not making my tastebuds dance with delight? I eat another one as I consider my own questions, pulling out a whisky for added comfort. No, the real reason I feel bad is because of everybody else, you know who you are, society, all of you. Bloody people.

It’s the pressure we put on ourselves because of our perceptions, real or imagined, of how the rest of the world is living. It’s no great surprise that as a nation our mental health was better when we were involved in World War, there is a comfort to be taken from the fact you are in the same shit as everyone else and not worrying about how you might have over trimmed your beard that morning.

‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ has been a part of modern life for a long time now but it’s started to take a new and sinister turn as technology and capitalism conspire to turn us against one another, and I’ve been sucked in and spat out quicker than a gherkin in a cheeseburger.

When I was working there was a word in constance use when talking abut technology and social media: gamification, the idea that we all want to compete against others or ourselves for little rewards no matter how pointless.

Collect all the medals, climb every mountain, personal best (yay!), be rewarded, free coffee on your next visit, map my slow walk into hell, eat less, eat more, you’ve stepped in 20 lifetime dog poo’s, go to the next level, people just like you bought better stuff, gold star, only 5 more breakdowns until your goal is reached, pyschocrosstrainer wants to be your friend, you’ve lost please try again.

I have two major qualities in life, one is being highly competitive and the other is being exceptionally average at everything I turn my hand to. Rah! I so want to beat you but I probably won’t, leaving me up for the next challenge whilst still crying about the last one I lost at. I’m still smarting from my last 2-0 defeat at ten-pin bowling and I had the little barrier things up.

Even being ill can become a competitive sport, quickest recovery, most drugs, days spent waiting on the transplant list and time spent just being alive. I’ve spent 21 years as a heart transplant patient, I didn’t train for it, I didn’t set out to become the longest survivor, if I had I’d have probably brought a supply of jelly babies with me or at least some kind of energy drink. 

The Russian writer Sholem Aleichem said ‘Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor’

The real tragedy is that over a century later social media has made us all reach for the comedy of the rich whilst playing the rich mans foolish games. 

‘I am a wise man!’ I shout out my top floor window as a passer by looks on with a face that suggests they far from believe my statement of intelligence. I don’t care. I’m tired of being judged, fed up of being third in a game of three. Fuck you passer by it’s only my opinion that matters and no amount of pointing is going to change that. 

I tear off my fitness band, throw down my phone, pick up a book and lay myself back down on the sofa. Yes! This is the life! Who cares if I get fat, what is fat anyway? It’s only someones opinion based on how everyone else looks around them. I can be fat, lazy, hairy and average if I want and there is nothing anyone can do about it. I may cut my hair myself and start wearing a red skirt and gold leggings. Who made all these rules anyway.

I’m free, free of society and it’s judgemental ways.

The phone rings. 

‘How are you doing? Have you done much today?’

‘No just read a little and watched telly’ I respond happily.

‘No walk today?’

‘Tomorrow, I’ll go tomorrow.’

I cry and make my Pringles soggy.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

101 Ways to Convince Your Psychologist You're Normal: The Family

I've been adopted.

Finally I've been taken into the warm, heaving bosom of my new family, one that will never let me down or fail to be there when I've got confused in the detergent aisle at Asda.

I had been searching for a new family for a while but little did I suspect that an almost insignificant event could lead to me finding them, and just before Christmas too. I imagine Jesus felt similar when the wise men turned up, even if he was just a baby.

There was no guiding star though so how on earth did my new family find me? It had seemed like a normal day, I'd been shopping for presents getting increasingly annoyed with my fellow shoppers lack of spatial awareness. I'd had sandwiches and been told off for sitting in an area reserved for VAT paying customers. There is nothing worse than an admonishment from a man with a fishnet over his face.

My frustrations grew later in the day when my exercise tracker decided to stop functioning. Not only was I getting bumped about by a range of elderly shoppers but I also wasn't getting any credit for my taking a few extra steps around them. This was too much! 

Like any decent person of British heritage I took to the only weapon I had in my armoury. I wrote a letter. Well an email. Even so I felt satisfied that I had put a full stop to the difficulties of the day. 

And now, I mere 24 hours later, here it was!

'So that we may assist you further and to help keep you in the Fitbit family and working towards your goals, please provide the following information.. 

'Please let us know if you have any questions, and we'll be glad to help you out. We look forward to your reply.'

Questions? I had lots but first I needed to share my excitement and the glow of happiness that had been stirred by knowing that not only was I part of the 'Fitbit family' but also that they cherished my place in it. They wanted to keep me! 

Sadly my excitement wasn't shared 'That just sounds like a automated response. Well as long as you feel welcomed to the Fitbit family'

Automated? It was addressed to me and besides it had been signed by Theresa herself and she'd even mentioned a 'thank you' from the whole Fitbit family too. I couldn't imagine my new family sending automated emails, they'd be more likely to send hand made cards with cute little animals on them.

I sent my reply out to Theresa accepting their kind offer of adoption and enclosed all the particulars that they required to formalise the process. I imagined Theresa to be sitting at her laptop trying to watch 'The Worlds Funniest Animals' whilst losing concentration as she waited for news of my joining.

A warmth hit me when within 60 seconds I had a response thanking me for my email. My mother can take days to respond to anything I send her, not so for my new family! They are there for me morning, noon and night. They are responsive, ever watching for any news that I may put their way.

Again my excitement was not shared by everyone 'Your mum will be very upset if you get adopted you know.'

It felt like I wasn't being allowed to move on. Why should I care what my mother thinks? 

'Well she never replaced my little bike. It's her own fault.' I responded getting ever more tetchy at the lack of support I was receiving.

It was true. I'd received a bike for Christmas one year, a little blue one that was cute despite being second hand. I loved it and I peddled it everywhere I could, round and round until my little feet could peddle no more. The only issue was when I peddled it down a hill. A bike needs two key functions, to start and to stop, and this is where my blue bike failed. I couldn't stop it. So a new bike then? Oh no! Just don't go down hills quickly and use my feet to stop.

My new family wouldn't do that. They've offered me a replacement tracker, a whole new tracker. All shiny and with a bell that works. Well OK, it doesn't have a bell, but I bet they'd add one if I asked them, not just say 'speak to your father.'

So yes, my mother might be upset but I was happy thinking about all the good things I could do with my adopted family. I expect they help old ladies across the road and rescue little cats out of trees. They'd enjoy picnics on the beach and remember to bring napkins and everything. They'd celebrate my birthday with balloons and one of those big banners placed outside my door. I bet they'd remember cake! 

Then the worries came. What if I wasn't good enough? What were their expectations of me? I didn't want to let them down or become the black sheep of the Fitbit family because my views on sex before marriage differed to theirs. Despite looking through their Q&A section for new adoptees there was nothing that could reassure me. I don't deal well with pressure and I'd agreed to something before fully understanding what my family expected of me.

A new family and already I was having stress. Normally I run in these situations but it felt difficult when my new family already tracked my movements. It began to feel more like a cult than a family and I was now stuck with Theresa for the rest of my life.

There was only one thing left for it, I had to resort to email again, I had to stop this before the pressure became to great.

'Dear Theresa and my Fitbit family, I'm really grateful that you have chosen to replace my tracker but I feel unable to remain as a fully committed family member. Don't get me wrong, I'd still like you to monitor my steps and all that exciting stuff, I just don't feel I can help you with cooking a Sunday roast or helping old age pensioners, plus my mum would be upset. Please accept my apologies to everyone including Uncle Brian.'

So there it was. I was an orphan once more, albeit an orphan with an elderly mother.

Within 60 seconds Theresa was back.

'We've received your support request. To update your case at any time, simply reply to this email.'

I sighed. It felt like an automated response.

Monday, 7 December 2015

101 Ways to Convince Your Psychologist You're Normal: Beards

Pulling a small piece of coagulated porridge from the scruffy tangles of my morning beard I reflected on a few strange conversations of the previous few days and how much this facial furriness had become part of ‘me’.

Beards. They’re everywhere. They’ll be on ladies next, probably removed from some poor Russian male in exchange for a few dollars only to end up on the face of a rich westerner with a need for ‘real’ beard extensions.

I’ve had mine for a couple of years now and it feels like it enters the room before I do and therefore sets the agenda on peoples perceptions of my personality. Or at least I thought it did.

I’d been at a party, the kind of party attended by friends and family and only a few outsiders of which I was one. In these occasions small talk is required. ‘Oh God’ I think to myself ‘what am I going to talk about?’ 

Normally I am relaxed and conversational but in this instance I realise that I don't want to discuss topics such as my health, my retirement or indeed my age. Even the weather has let me down the only commentary needed is that it’s been remarkably inclement.

Fortunately I have found a table where there is already a chatty person amongst us, happy to regale me with stories of various wonder ranging from the survival of automobile shunts to the various tricks of dirty old men. Barely a pause goes by until at least a full 15 minutes into the conversation (although ‘conversation’ suggests a two way interaction, which this was not.)

‘Oh you have a beard!’ says my table companion, with a degree of surprise that surprised me even more.

‘What did you think this was? Some sort of strange scarf?’ I respond slightly alarmed.

How could she not have spotted the main focus of my face? What has she been looking at since I got here? Has my beard lost its power and I’m now just an empty husk of a man with a non-noticeable face of fluffiness?

I’m left feeling confused and disoriented. In the past I’ve been called ‘monkey’ and ‘beardy’ for my hairy growth and yet somehow I’ve become just another face in the crowd. Maybe we’ve tired of the beard? You see so many that they start to become invisible. It makes me sad.

The evening draws on and I begin to enjoy my night, my self-obsessed vanity taking second place to the celebrations going on around me. After a couple of drinks I excuse myself and decide to head to the toilet which fortunately doesn’t have the usual quirky names denoting which entrance I should use for my gender.

As I walk in the small space is taken up with three men, two in the process of flushing out some fluid and one who is about to leave through the door. As he does so he looks at me and with a big smile says ‘great beard mate, man you need to show me how to grow one!’

His smooth, baby-like face looks at me in wonder as though expecting some mystical advice from the wise old man in front of him. I feel there is not much I can suggest in the short time that we have available to us and in many ways the mens lavatories seems to be the wrong place for a full beard consultancy.

‘Cheers mate’ I respond whilst making my way in-between my two new urinal colleagues. They look at me. I give them an all knowing look, respect is in the air and for a small moment I am the alpha male. I would let out a little roar but that could be construed as a little weird so I suppress it.

My beard. It’s my one expression of my manliness. It doesn’t define me but it shows that despite my general sensitive and caring nature that I am still very much a man.

For the young, beards are a recent phenomenon but my love of facial fur has been long in its history and it’s that reflection of manliness that always drew me towards it.

The 70’s was the last time that men were really proud to show their growth and as I grew up all the tough guys sported an impressive moustache or beard the most iconic of which was the ‘tache on the face of the legendary Tom Selleck famous for his role in Magnum P.I.

We all have our heroes and I had my own Tom Selleck in the form of my Uncle Tony. Tony wore a ‘tache that Selleck would have been proud of and just like the Magnum P.I. character my uncle was everything that I thought a man should be. Tough, strong and smoking a cigarette.

I wanted to be like my uncle, I wanted to be seen a tough and strong and I wanted him to be proud of me. All our heroes have their faults and Tony was no different but it was what I saw in him that was important to me.

Sadly my uncle passed away after his own battle with ill heath but he did it in a way that reinforced my image of him as a tough character. Sitting with him I knew that he respected my own battles with health and that made me feel proud. A ‘tache now gone but never forgotten.

The porridge still isn't fully out of my whiskers but I’m starting to enjoy the fact it’s there, after all only real men get to pull their food from their hairy face.

My beard is a big part of me, it not only reflects who I am now but it also is a nod to my past and the influences that made me who I am.

I just wish my uncle could see my bushy beard now. I’m sure he’d love it.

Monday, 23 November 2015

101 Ways to Convince Your Psychologist You're Normal: It's Chriiistmaaaas

Celebrities you've never heard of, local radio and a national outpouring of love towards Noddy Holder. Christmas light switch-ons are in full swing and I’m already feeling grumpy about additional queues at the supermarket stores.

I’m going to say it, I hate Christmas. I know a lot of you get excited about the prospect of children arguing, disappointing roasts and the difficult question of whether ‘granny’ is sleeping off the meal or has actually died, but for me it’s just a time for hiding.

I’m not alone of course (well sometimes I am but I actually like that) as it seems the Odeon and Vue cinema chains are with me on this one, banning as they have the latest commercial from the Church. Force Christianity down a cinema going publics throat at Christmas? Oh no, we like Christmas but not if you're going to start mentioning Jesus and all that. Maybe I’ll just spend Christmas in the cinema where I’m safe from such propaganda. At least you get popcorn.

Staring at my undecorated flat I start you wonder when I became so adverse to Christmas? Am I being all moralistic about what Christmas should mean or do I just hate the idea of everyone else having fun? I’m the man that bursts balloons, baulks at baubles and brings a bottle of Shloer to the party. 

No more. I must have fun, I must start enjoying this before I become one of those strange, hairy men standing outside the shop with an ‘The End Is Nigh’ sign. Mind you, if the end really was ‘nigh’ I probably wouldn't spend my time painting a sign and making sure everyone knew about it. I’d have a cup of tea at least.

I had considered volunteering as a helper for the Christmas meal for the homeless like I used to many years ago.  The first time I went I got a little confused about the dress code, I mean you don’t want to show off your new winter knit to a multitude of folk who sleep outside so I wore what I considered to be ‘casual’ wear.

As I stepped into the church I was greeted by one of the organisers who started to lead me through to one of the tables.

‘I’m here a a volunteer to help’ I said quietly through my unshaven whiskers.

‘Oh!’ she replied with a look of disbelief, ‘well of course you can help as well.’

As I sat down I could see her talking to another organise and it was clear she hadn’t believed my ‘volunteer’ status but assumed I was homeless but too proud to say. In the end I relented, had my dinner, won a game of bingo and took a new jumper home with me.

I take a look at the website where you can volunteer your services but it seems they are over-subscribed this year with help. If you are going to be alone at Christmas though you can still come down to help. I’m not going through that again even if I am in need of a new knit.

The last two Christmas Days don’t give me much to offer in way of finding the whole fun side of the festive season.

Two years ago I spent it alone sitting on the toilet with diarrhoea whilst simultaneously vomiting into my sink. At least I didn’t put on weight.

Last year I got a little further by managing to at least cook a Christmas dinner but the night before and throughout the day I was being sick again. I didn’t get to eat a thing.

I’m slightly concerned that should the same vomiting bug hit me again this year it will have become a ‘tradition’. Each year people will say ‘oh you can’t pull your cracker until Mark’s vomited’. They’ll have little toilet shaped baubles on the tree, porridge will be provided as a desert to represent the suffering I go through to save mankind. You’ll get your kids to put out the Christmas bucket and see if Santa has left a spurs in the morning. I can’t let that happen.

So what do I do? How can I find this joy that seems to have left me at childhood? How do I embrace the bright lights?

I could get inappropriately drunk and photocopy my behind? The trouble with being retired is that your office party consists of only one invite. There is a slight chance of sexual shenanigans taking place but i’d probably just fall asleep on myself.

Maybe I should go and see Santa and let him know what I really want for Christmas? Sit on his knee, smile into those twinkling eyes and give him a little tug on his long, white whiskers. The trouble is I don’t even know what I would wish for. At least I’ve been a good boy this year so I still have the chance of some lego.

The problem is I’m too remote from people, I’ve become a hermit. I just need to see those I love and share in the silliness of the season. Laugh, throw a snowball, sing carols and drink spiced cider.

So if you see me this Christmas make sure you make me smile and shout ‘It’s Chriiiissssttmmaaaaaaaas!!’

As a small Christmas gift to my handful of readers I thought I would share some of my new found spirit. If you’ve read my book you’ll know I try to play the guitar and a few other instruments all with the ability of a small, partially deaf, child. I year or two ago I recorded a small tribute to the Christmas tunes we all really used to enjoy when we were young.

So sit back, get a glass of eggnog and enjoy a slightly disconcerting version of ‘Little Donkey’ by me. x

Friday, 20 November 2015

101 Ways to Convince Your Psychologist You're Normal: Slush

I love slush. Not the muddy type that makes skid across the road and fall on your posterior, but the brightly coloured, sugary type that makes your brain freeze. More importantly I love a Slush Puppy.

I’m sure I should be past Slush Puppies by now but my alcohol consumption has regressed to such a level that even an alcopop doesn’t really offer enough sweetness and post-consumption energy.

There is something about the friendly little dog dressed in his jumper and knitted bobble hat that just draws me in every time. Slush Puppy. Yum. Don’t mix colours though, oh no, that could be dangerous. Only a fool mixes his slush and I think we’ve all seen what happens to those that do.

As I sit slurping the icy goodness I wonder what made the slush people go for a dog as their brand image. Do dogs like ice I wonder? And do they only like it when it’s provided in a semi-melted state?

Apparently some nice gentleman called Will Radcliffe invented the Slush Puppie in 1972. He doesn’t mention why the puppy, plus at 40 years of age he’s hardly a puppy anymore. Staggeringly, since launch over 175 billion cups of slush have been enjoyed by just us european folk. That’s a lot of slush.

It doesn’t seem he ever got round to naming the puppy which seems a shame and sadly our friendly sloppy ice salesman died in September of 2014.

It must be the sugar but the more I slurp the more my mind has started to get upset about Slush the poor unnamed puppy, and I’ve even started to wonder if he’s related the the Hush Puppy? What is it with the ‘ush type brands and their love of dogs?

Well the Hush Puppies dog is a similar sort of Bassett Hound but luckily for the Hush version it seems his real name was Jason. Jason? A dog called Jason? These Americans really are a strange lot I think.

Maybe the brand concept should be taken further by other stores:

Lush Puppies* - small pieces of bath bombs and soaps all wrapped up in your own small doggy bag, perfect for those who just want a little smelly pellet of everything.

Homebase Gush Puppy* - strong, sticky backed neoprene tape that can be stretched round leaking pipes for an instant fix. Safe and strong, stop that leak before it becomes a gush.

Andrex Rush Puppies* - small individual packets of five moisturised toilet sheets, perfect for when you are caught in a rush. Carry Andrex Rush Puppies with you every day and never again have to face that paper-free cubicle.

*all ideas are a copyright of Zico Watson. Further product ideas available on request.

My one gripe is that this middle aged man can’t seem to enjoy the delights of a Slush Puppie from the comfort of his own armchair, thus avoiding looking like he has stolen some small child’s drink from a different bowling lane.

This I must solve. I want adult slush and I want it now! And no I don't want a cocktail, I want a man’s drink for I am a man!

It seems like it should be a simple formula, after all you need a sugary drink that has reached freezing point but not yet fully frozen. With equipment in hand I am soon on my way to making my own sugary heaven and I can share with you all the steps you will need to take to make this for yourself.

First you will require the following:

A freezer
One can of beer (any sort, so like me go wild and use Asda’s own bitter)
Your favourite glass
A pair of scissors
Some warm gloves
A few sheets of kitchen roll

Step One: Place your chosen beer inside the freezer compartment. 

Step Two: Wait for approximately two hours. 

This is the hard part. As a man I completely forgot the preparation time required and found myself wanting the slush immediately despite it only just going in the freezer. I ended up having two cups of tea, a lump of cheese and getting lost in a football match on TV. Preparation is key.

Step Three: Remove your beer and pull the ring pull open.

Step Four: Take the kitchen roll and mop up the mess that is on the worktop and floor.

Step Five: Pour a dribble of icy beer into your glass allowing the newly formed slush a little more freedom in the can.

Step Six: Put on your gloves and use the scissors to cut the top off your beer can (If like me you find you have cut your finger it would be best to find a plaster before any blood get’s into your icy nourishment.)

Step Seven: Pour the slush into your glass and enjoy your drink!

It really is that simple and despite my slush melting after five minutes I found it more than adequate given the amount if time I’d been waiting anyway.

Man slush. Slush Dog! And a dog with a name, probably Tyson or something and certainly not Jason. I think I probably need a few more runs at it before I go on Dragons Den but I can see a whole new market opening up like a calving of a giant glacier!

I might try a Guinness next. That would be amazing! Especially if the ice crystals formed a lovely white snow cap on top of the stout’s goodness.

After all the excitement of the day I am soon in bed and looking forward to my new venture.  What a kind, Ohio man started back in 1974 I will finish off in 2016! My mission awaits.

Monday, 9 November 2015

101 Ways to Convince Your Psychologist You're Normal: Colin The Bottom Man

I am sat with my mother. I don't often sit with my mother but she had requested I do so. Normally I would grumble but I'm offering her support. I feel proud. I’m being a good son.

Today we are visiting Mr Colin Oscar Pee and he is going to have a little look up my mothers bottom. Hopefully it'll be a fleeting visit as I really don't want to be here longer than I need to. Mind you hospitals seem so much more fun when you're not actually the patient, especially when intrusive investigations are called for.

There are some clinics that offer the visitor a glimpse into the future, the gastro clinic is certainly one of those as a mixture of pensive pensioners sit perched on their slightly panicking posteriors. If getting old means endless days waiting to be ‘probed’ then I’d settle for an early death.

Like the majority of the elderly we have arrived significantly early, after all you just don't know what could delay you on a five minute drive to the hospital what with all those wards and corridors to navigate. If it hadn't been for the 'nil by mouth' I'm sure we would have brought a picnic.

When I see 'nil by mouth' I generally take that as an indication that I shouldn't put anything in my mouth let alone swallow it, however my mothers interpretation of this rule has been to have beef soup followed by a mug of bovril.

This poses two questions. Firstly how is that 'nil by mouth'? (clear liquids apparently), and who in their  right mind follows beef soup with a mug of bovril? Wherever Colin goes today he is in for a surprise I shouldn't wonder. 

The amount of pensioners staring at miniature watches makes it obvious that that Colin is running a little late, too many bottoms I would imagine and maybe he's just a little fed up of being a bottom man. All that training, seven years at least, and then it comes to this.

Finally my mother is called through. The smiling nurse advises me that I might as well go for a drink as they will be an hour at least, I however suspect it will be longer once they find a combination of bovril and beef that they weren’t expecting.

Just as I find my change I realise that my mother has left me with her coat and handbag. Do I leave it here? Should I take it with me and roam the canteen looking like a small time crook or worse just a man with very strange fashion sense. I choose to stay, I have my kindle after all and a tea would only make me want to wee. God! I’m not drinking in case I want to wee, I really have arrived in my rightful place amongst the infirm.  

Before that thought grasped me I had started to feel very young and trendy amongst my fellow patients and their carers. I don't have a stick, my hearing is good and i'm using a phone instead of a pen and a crossword. One lady gets called. No response. Another call and still nothing. On the third attempt a lady jumps up with her stick 'oh you mean me!? I don't use that name!'

This means either the lady is a little mad and can't even recognise names she has previously had, or more worryingly she just decided that the nurse must be calling her despite it not being her name. In the land of Alzeimers the bearded, middle aged man is king.
As I look around I realise that there are also a few other sons about today nodding politely whilst clearly not listening to what their mothers are saying. We become aware of each other and I make a point of folding my mothers jacket up neatly and placing her handbag on top of it. ‘Hah’ I think to myself ‘your mothers probably wish they had a son like me!’ I feel certain I’m the best son. Maybe one of the nurses has a little medal I could have.

Time passes slowly and it seems that everyone else is returning from Colin and his assistants. Where is my mother? What are they doing in there? 

One old lady returns from behind Colin’s door and slowly makes her way over to her husband. She looks like she needs to take care with every step and still appears slightly dazed. ‘Can we go home now!’ her husband barks as he heads first out of the door. I shake my head in disgust and look around for moral support. I find it. Our looks are full of contempt. How could anyone be so heartless.

Finally my mother appears. She seems jolly and as usual is quick to point out to the nurse with her that ‘this is my son’. This is a disaster as it means the poor lady has been subjected to my life story. 

‘I’ve heard so much about you’ she says. Too much I shouldn’t wonder, and it’s bound to be that nurse I see when I’m next naked again in hospital. Typical.

Before I can ask if it went OK my mother proceeds to tell everyone about the contents of her insides. I shrink inside my jacket as she continues to regale her audience about Colins skills. Faces mix from confusion, sympathy and horror.

‘Can’t we just go home!’ I say rather too loudly for even my liking. The expressions show that I have now lost my place as ‘the best son’ and I have joined the other elderly husband as an uncaring carer.

As I leave I look to the nurse for my medal but none is forthcoming. Feeling a failure I look back to my fellow sons for some much needed camaraderie and support. They look at me with smiling, smug grins, their places in the ‘good son table’ now looking down on mine.

We leave and I hope we don't ever have to see Colin again.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

101 Ways to Convince Your Psychologist You're Normal: Heroin & Hookers

I drink tea, quite a lot of tea in fact. I also am partial to a portion of cheese at least once a day, sometimes I even go back for more especially if its brie. Ah brie, how I love your warm, inviting embrace.

Small addictions that make a mid-life man, wearing a pair of slightly too comfortable slippers, smile.

My mind drifts off and creates that image. Is this what I have become? Safe, respectable, boring. Boring? I can’t be boring I say to myself. Only last week I claimed that some post had gone missing so that I could get two for the actual price of one. Living on the edge. Theft by stealth.

I’ve  felt quite nervous since, imagining how the story could break in the newspapers ‘Postman Brings Down Internet Fraudster’. Maybe I should just switch off my broadband until things blow over? 

What was I thinking? Why did I need that little kick of excitement that fooling a multi-national corporation brought? Why are my only addictions cheese and tea? Surely by now I should be at least addicted to coffee and joining swinging clubs for the over forties?

Actually I do have one other addiction but like most actual addictions it’s one I shy away from and try not to talk about. And besides everyone likes ‘I’m A Celebrity’. Yes  I’m ashamed but I know I’m not alone in having that dirty secret.

I take another sip of my tea and push deeper into my slippers. As I try and reflect on my life it becomes apparent that I have had to live by a set of rules dictated by a set of doctors. ‘Don’t eat this’, ‘don’t drink alcohol’, ‘you cant go there’ and you ‘certainly shouldn't insert that there Mr Watson.’

I want to rebel. I want to do all that I shouldn’t. Yes! I will ignore the asthma clinic’s advice about using my brown inhaler more than my blue one. Screw you! 

It’s not enough though. I need heroin and hookers and I’m not leaving this world until I get them!

My respectable self knows that jumping feet first and going straight from tea to heroin could be a bit of a gamble. It’s not that I think I need heroin and hookers now, just sometime in my life. My thoughts of death are so frightening I think it’s only fair that my final curtain call should be made a little more fun, my last few moments a blur of drug induced haze and loose women. Bliss.

That’s decided then. That will show the world I’m not boring and without zest for life. The only questions remaining are knowing when I will die and how to secure an arrangement with the right people to provide the service at short notice. 

Of course I can solve one of these questions by choosing the timing of my own death yet even Dignitas, the assisted suicide service, use the tagline ‘to live with dignity’ which is the very opposite of what I want.

Maybe they have a ‘death without dignity’ section? Looking through their advice though it seems unlikely that they will cater for my needs ‘Frequently, members want to die in the company of those closest to them. Dignitas emphasises the importance of involving friends and relatives in the process'

Friends and relatives? 

They also mention that the barbiturate is added to water and once drunk ‘the patient falls asleep within a few minutes, after which sleep passes peacefully and completely painlessly into death.’

Painless it might be but I would imagine I’m going to be paying by the hour and a few minutes is not going to be enough, although I’m sure some past girlfriends may say I will adequately achieve my goals in that time.

I’m not sure I’m ready for the one-way checkout of the Dignitas clinic just yet but I do need to take their advice and that ‘assisted dying requires careful preparation.’  So where to find my heroin and hookers?

A quick search on google reveals that two ladies have produced a smartphone app where customers can ‘order’ them for anything up to £500 a time. I think of my phone signal whilst in hospital and imagine my final, frustrating attempts to get wi-fi as my barbiturate gets mixed. Ah well at least its promising.

Heroin proves more difficult and I know google isn't going to provide the answer. Somehow I need to find my local dealer and the closest I have come to a dealer was a lad in work who was doing a good line in panini football sticker swaps.

There is only one thing for it, I’m going to have to make my way out of my flat and search for a ‘score’.  I’m not even sure if that’s the correct terminology, but what I do know from watching ‘The Wire’ is that I need to wear a hoody and I should look for kids hanging round corners.

I make my way to a dimly lit park that acts as a thoroughfare to a number of small streets. I sit down on a damp bench and pull my hood up and put on a pair of dark glasses. I imagine I look pretty ‘street’ although my flask might be giving the game away. I tuck it in my pocket. 

Nothing. It’s just cold and damp. Maybe I should be giving some kind of signal?

I try coughing. Short sharp coughs. I choke on myself and actually start coughing more than I intended. Far from being a face in the shadows I’m now looking like someone in urgent need of the heimlich manoeuvre.

I see someone! A thin dishevelled figure appears through the fog. Could this be my dealer? As he moves closer I see he has an even more dishevelled greyhound with him. Heroin chic of the doggy kind. He moves closer to where I am sitting. The greyhound hunches over and does a poo. They leave.

No drugs and he didn't even pick up his dogs excrement. I head home feeling I have had enough excitement for one day. It’s cold and I’m really looking forward to my slippers.

Maybe heroin and hookers isn’t all that.