Idle Eye 166 : The Rec

In order to combat the insomnia I’ve covered previously, for the last few weeks I’ve taken to power marching the boundaries of a small park behind my flat. It’s called the Rec, short for recreation ground, but the obvious homonym is far more apposite. For every day, I encounter troubled souls doing something similar, usually alone and lost absolutely in thought. As I myself have discovered, there is comfort to be had in movement, but more particularly in the routine of it. So it comes as no surprise to see now familiar faces in now familiar spots at very specific times.

If I set out at 9.30am, I know that at approximately 9.40am I will see an elderly jogger under one of the horse chestnut trees, his face distorted, eyes dead. He does not acknowledge me, nor I him, but we both know. Similarly, if I leave twenty minutes later, I’ll twice pass a woman dressed rather more formally than is required for a walk. She moves at a crawl, her head tilted in reflection. Every time I pound past them, trying desperately to get to a place where the body becomes exhausted enough to allow the brain to function, I can’t help but wonder what it is that brings them here. Tragedy? Loss? Loneliness? Or is it perhaps something altogether more banal? Whichever, I have found myself actively anticipating these fleeting moments and building them into my own routine.

The dog walkers are a little different, for they have a companion and are more inclined to offer up pleasantries as I approach them. This induces mild panic, as I will momentarily be forced to leave the safe haven of contemplation in favour of an appropriate response, usually preceded by an active engagement with the pet itself. It is enormously disruptive, so if I see one looming on the horizon I tend to adopt the requisite speed to avoid them entirely. Sadly this isn’t always possible, and it takes a good lap of resentment to get things back on the level.

There is one character I haven’t quite yet figured out. He wears green municipal fluoros and carries a large bag, presumably for collecting leaves. Invariably he stands inside one of the hard tennis courts, clutching the wire mesh with his free hand and staring out at something in the far distance. He hardly moves as I circumnavigate, and the only times I haven’t seen him is when the court is occupied. Which isn’t all that often. It is a magnificently solitary pose, akin to John Fowles’ French Lieutenant’s Woman but lacking the insider knowledge as to why this is so. In all probability he’s just on the skive, but where’s the romance in that?

When the book campaign ends this Sunday, I’m going to knock it on the head. I’ll have stacks to do and it’s all too easy to become yet another ghost. But I hope they’ll notice I’ve gone.

IE Audio 4 : The Demon Grog

Bit of back story here. Not all that funny either, but at least it demonstrates we can pull something out of the bag if pushed.

https://theidleeye.wordpress.com/2015/06/10/idle-eye-156-the-demon-grog/

Idle Eye 156 : The Demon Grog

Of all the relationships I’ve ever had, perhaps the most difficult is the one I still hold with the booze. It’s pretty shit, to be frank, and I didn’t choose it either. My namesake grandfather died of it before I was born, as did my own father indirectly, and it will probably see me off prematurely if the snout doesn’t get me first. Its claws are pan-generational, way outside the boundaries of logic and reason, and conveniently, a quick re-read of the above somehow absolves me of any absolute guilt, thereby allowing me to persevere with more of the same in order to write dispassionately about it. As if that makes it okay. The obvious, entry-level question filed by those close enough to be concerned, is this:

Do you drink alone?’

And the most honest answer I can give is:

Yes, I do. I drink alone out of preference. Because then, finally, the ever-present critical voices (which extend into every cranny of my existence) shut up long enough for me to be able to do the things I actually care about. Until I go down the opposite slope and couldn’t give a toss any more. Can I get you a top up?’

It’s not what they want to hear. And those I’ve upset along the path (trust me, there have been a few) will see it as a romanticised excuse, along the lines of Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited, very much the architect of his own downfall despite every gift life bestowed upon him.

Someone kindly gave me a book last Christmas. Called ‘The Trip To Echo Spring’ by Olivia Laing, it discusses the troubled link so many writers have with the demon grog. Not that I have ever considered myself a bona fide writer, and thereby lies the problem. The very term has such powerful connotations that the unsure are crippled at the starting blocks, pitifully reliant on whatever it takes to be taken seriously. Until the crutch becomes counterproductive, by which time it’s usually too late. Between these, I walk a fine line: If that glorious moment ever comes about when something I have created becomes a thing, I’ll probably be too mullered to notice. But maybe you will, and I’d be grateful if you could let me know. We’ve been around the block together for nearly four years. You owe me.

I have a rule. When I spew this stuff out, usually late at night and alongside a bottle of Pinot, I resist the temptation to hit the publish button until the following morning. Because, no matter how cathartic it may seem at the time, the unforgiving light of a new day will invariably reveal my incisive efforts to be little more than a muddled, steaming pile of cack. But ask yourselves something: You’re reading this. Does that mean it’s through quality control, or am I slumped comatose over the return key?

I’ll leave that one with you.