Friday, July 31, 2009

Much noise signifying nothing.

I listened to a show on Britain's binge-drinking culture the other day and learned next to nothing.

To be honest I was disappointed with Radio 4 with broadcasting this, and you can consider this an open letter of a sort as I'm breaking my Feedback virginity on this (next the Moral Maze). They chose as our guide PY Gerbaut, best known in this country as the man who saved the Millennium Dome, and now CEO of X-Leisure - Britain's largest leisure company, which runs leisure facilities, including bars and nightclubs.

The chief qualification PY (I'm sure he won't mind) had seemed to be that he was French, and in continental Europe they don't binge drink. Fair enough. We heard nothing of any expertise he may have picked up as CEO of a company that is 'in partnership' with, he didn't chose to interview any of his own staff to ask them what sort of problems they encounter in the business, or explain what his business did or was going to do to stop binge drinking associated with their premises. I'm getting used to the 'name' presented. No subject it seems can be explained to the public without a name - expertise is not enough, celebrity carries more weight and 'a journey of discovery' is even better.

The answer at which he arrived - and in fairness to M Gerbau he has written a much more considered article on the subject here.

M Gerbau promised us lots of people and lots of evidence on binge drinking and we got:

Tania Glide, who we were told used to call herself a binge drinker - we weren't told she's an author and journalist who's written a memoir on the subject. OK, I haven't read the book, it's had some good reviews, but is its author typical of the youngsters who are the chief 'culprits' if binge drinking's the crime? In fact, Ms Glide is now teetotal, suggesting she considers herself an alcoholic who simply cannot drink at all - alcoholics and binge drinkers are not the same. Why not walk down a high street on a Friday night and ask some teenagers why they're getting smashed out of their heads and how they afford it and if they have any worries about its effect on them?

Then a brief chat with an addiction psychiatrist who told us lots of people were getting sick from drinking. He identified price and availability as the key drivers to the increase in alcohol related illness.

Then a funny story from PY's taxi driver about a woman so drunk her clothes were falling off.

Then some students.

Then PY, his wife Kate, a television presenter, had a dinner party and talked about it. How nice - is this lots of people and lots of evidence?

"Scene seven, the drinks industry," says PY. And off to meet the Diageo chief to ask him what he thinks of Scotland's proposed remedy - higher prices. He doesn't like this idea. PY asks him if the industry is doing enough, he says they are making progress. Oh, that's good then.

Our addiction psychiatrist is back - although he's still not being asked anything about the psychology of addiction. He says again that price and availability is the thing, and that's where government should act on for quick cheap solutions.

Oh! A politician. Home office minister Alan Campbell. Stop people being sick says PY. People being sick is bad says Alan. Alan says eduction. PY says yes. Alan says changes in the licensing laws have helped. PY says nothing apart from "I totally agree with everything you said," but does raise cheap booze. Alan says people work hard and deserve a drink at a reasonable price. Bye Alan.

Then people - students, dinner party guests, Tania Glide? Who knows, I think they're PY's mates though, what exactly their qualification to speak on this matter are is not clear, but they're clearly having fun so that's OK.

"It's been a fascinating journey this last few months," says PY. You took months over this? Jesus.

And, the final word of PY. Lots of progress has been made and we can do more if industry, health experts and government work together, but in the final analysis (I'm joking there has been on analysis) we need to completely change the British culture as it relates to alcohol. OK. Job done then.

Please don't waste my time like this again BBC Radio Four.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Euphoria goes... Trolling along... Work and unwork... Faces, welcome and unwelcome.

THIS week, the euphoria of being sober has started to wear off. I've written before of the 'and now what' reaction and the feeling of the realities of life which I had so assiduously avoided in my insobriety crashing around me.

I've mentioned it to the nurses who supervise my Antabuse. They've been sympathetic and understanding: "Remember why you stopped drinking in the first place," one said, and it's good advice, so on it I shall try and stay focused.

Frustration and self-loathing, over sensitivity and anxiety are now my chief problems. I do get incredibly angry with myself if things even start to look like they might be deviating from the planned golden path (with apologies to any Peruvians reading). Freshly detoxed, there is a belief in one's own invincibility and power; released from the shackles of a daily dose of a strong depressant the mind starts to soar.

My way of thinking is scatter gun; my magpie mind has made me a pub quiz champion, but, now I crave focus. So, I'm full of ideas - poetry, articles I can write, screenplays of long-loved books, comedy. But, none of these ideas are given anything like the appropriate amount of attention needed to bring them to fruition, before another ten pop into the brain space. Result? Massive disappointment, a subsiding into the "Well, you can't do anything can you" mindset that is such an enemy to staying sober and the concomitant self-loathing.

I raised my anxiety problems - I genuinely do believe I'm more sensitive to my surroundings than many other people, I'm constantly jumping at stuff in my peripheral vision and earshot - to my key worker at the Community Addictions Unit. Also my worry at being kicked off the benefit I was on. He said there were drugs I could be prescribed to help with the anxiety - he mentioned Prozac, which I've taken as an antidepressant and didn't have a happy relationship with - but it was something for the future as they wouldn't work well while I was on Trazadone. Fair enough. I'm not keen on mixing chemicals at the moment. The other prescription is more natural - relaxation techniques, like breathing and mediation, and that's on my list.

So, to be positive, here I am BEFORE 9AM, writing my blog - one of the few tasks I have set myself and had any success at keeping up.

Life has been going OK. And, indeed, in the spirit of celebrating achievement rather than brooding on failure, I do remain on top of domestic duties and have made a few potentially difficult phone calls regarding benefits, appointments and the like. Hoorah for me - hold on there Cardiff Drunk, don't get carried away.

Oh, ok. I've also been emailing off for jobs, wasting far too much time on facebook (a new enthusiasm - I signed up ages ago, but never really used the site, but now it's in danger of joining the bad list), and I've been appointed as Assistant Editor of a website.

That's the biggest plus I guess. It's not paid, but it's a substantial and popular site, I've really enjoyed writing for it and I'm getting regular emails of stuff to edit for their blog - good CV-filling stuff.

Mrs CD is on holiday this week and next, and suffers no such problems with filling her time. After a day's rest to recover from recent over-exertions, she took me by the hand and led me gently to the local DIY superstore where paint and brushes were purchased, and as I glow virtuously with my early start at the keyboard, she's slapping blue round the walls of the kitchen - it's bringing her such pleasure and looks great.

We broke the pattern yesterday with a walk and a lunch out. I managed to locate the community centre which hosts the martial arts class I was interested in attending - this is another step in that direction, the removal of another excuse for not going, I know myself very well and I'm terrible at coming up with reasons not to do things.

I saw two old compadres. One, a drinker from the pub I used to go to but no longer frequent. He was on his way for a drink, but seemed happy enough to see me and we had a brief chat about the evils of the world. The other was far less welcome. A fellow patient on the detox ward - the one who stormed out then returned drunk and shouting to scare the life out of me. He was drinking in a courtyard in City Road, and I could tell from his voice he was well along. I heard his voice but we didn't speak and I'm pretty sure he didn't see me. I held Mrs CD's hand tightly, put my head down and virtually dragged her past his perch.

Seeing him was the last thing I needed.

If you spent it, thank you for your time.

The Cardiff Drunk.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Yeah, I like whimsy, so?

The very lovely Candylion by the very Welsh Gruff Rhys, who may, I believe, have said hello to some marijuana once or twice. Absolutely beautiful stuff... Enjoy.

So now what?

Being an experienced detoxer, I like to think I'm fairly aware of the snares of sobriety, that is those things likely to spark a relapse. And, I feel one of them now.

I've arsed on and on about boredom and anxiety being my chief enemies and they're playing their part in the sheer ordinary complication of real life. That's the danger. Good lord it can be dull being sober. Don't misunderstand me, if ever a routine was deadening, limiting and dull it was my drinking routine. My mind loved it though, my mind was in a safe place.

I told one of the nurses in hospital that I used drink as a way to run away from real life - to avoid responsibility. "You've got a head start by admitting that," she said. (I was, and remain, a fervent self-analyser so can come up with this stuff like falling off a log).

Maybe so. And, now I've stopped running, here is real life in all its crushingly tedious monochrome.

That's why cannabis is a danger - forced to face what we'll just call stuff for now, it's another escape and I give in far too easily to its temptations. That it's not physically addictive and one doesn't wake with a terrible hangover gives dope at least two positives over alcohol - but my character is still that of an addict to escape and altering of consciousness and that's what it is, another means towards fleeing.

I mentioned all this to the nurse when I went to take my Antabuse at the Community Addiction Unit yesterday. "The novelty's wearing off," I said. "I need to find something to do."

She recognised the pattern straight away. "There's a real feeling of invincibility when you first detox," she said.

And it is that which is leaving me. Her chief suggestion was the Therapeutic Day Programme, which I completed, for the second time in hospital. I'm also on the list for counselling with the Cardiff Alcohol and Drugs Team, a possibly double-edged sword I'm rather wary about.

So. There is danger and there needs to be action. There needs to be a change beyond, I'm not drunk.

So, that is what I'm trying to do. The nuts and bolts of life I'm coping relatively well with. I've just finished the washing up, put away a load of dried laundry and cleaned the house - tasks which might as well have been the finding of the Holy Grail and the slaying of several particularly tetchy dragons to my alcoholic self. I still have a social life - via the pub, but that, counter intuitively, doesn't feel a danger to my sobriety. So now, that emptiness needs some filling up.

I've got my volunteering once a week, for two hours. I've got my appointments, at the very least three trips out a week, and now I need to write - and do so for money again.

If you spent it, thank you for your time.

Cardiff Drunk.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I saw Welsh celebrities!

I completely forgot to report two not at all exciting sightings of famous Welshmen in my last two outings - I shall have to become a paparazzo.

At last week's International Food Festival it was Wales's premiere thespian and seeming heir to the Burt's throne of an unfortunate personal life: Rhys Ifans. He swaggered (so I thought) into a Chinese restaurant and was heartily shaking the hand of the receptionist. I can't report on his state but D swore he was as drunk as a loon. I don't care, I hope he's happy.

Then yesterday in Penarth's main drag one of our fabulous rugbyistes with a nice but of synchronicity. I was coming out of a shop after buying my lottery ticket and having a quick read of the South Wales Echo on the stand at the door. The front page reported that Wales, Ospreys and Lions scrum half Mike Phillips had been arrested in Cardiff after a dispute over a taxi (such things are not uncommon it must be said, I'm sure the Welsh management would love it if all their players swore only to go out in England. Me, I'm quite glad that such heroes are still out and about with their flocks; even if they're fighting over taxis with them). I was distracted by the arrival of a very glamorous young woman at my shoulder, who started flicking through the Western Mail and laughing to her companion, who, on exiting the shop I spotted was said Mike Phillips - looking, as all professional athletes I've ever encountered do, enormously and glowingly fit and healthy and not at all perturbed by any arrest or scandal. I can report that he then headed in Gregg's the bakers, while his companion remained being glamorous in the street.

This is my second celebrity/apposite newspaper story encounter. The first was in Highgate Village in north London (I was only visiting with a friend on our way to see Karl Marx's enormous stone head, I certainly could never afford to live there), we were sat in a pub with The Observer on the table, the magazine of which featured a portrait of the Kinks' Dave Davies, when who should walk in but the Kinks' Dave Davies. I wonder if our double-taking stare at paper, stare at the Kinks' Dave Davies, stare at paper, stare at each other with open jaws routine had anything to do with his decision to use the gents and flee? I still wish I'd asked him to sign it, I'm a big Kinks fan, but was probably on the wrong side of the hungover, drunk equation that was my permanent lot in life then.

A bit of a blow... Out and about... No blogging no cry... Work...

No blog yesterday, nothing wrong, perhaps just a bit of a bloggage in the system. Mrs CD returned from her work assignment on Friday night and pronounced my chicken with butter bean soup excellent - all was smiles.

Yesterday, a visitation from the Drunk parents - both of whom are practically teetotal as it happens. This always makes me nervous and jumpy. I know what pain and worry I've caused them over the years; how much I am indebted to them in many ways, financially not least; but I know also that I have a few problems with them. I said that in going back to counselling I don't want to dwell on the past so I shouldn't do here. However, I do remain angry about some of my growing up - nothing but the tiniest of things, but they weigh heavy on you sometimes.

And. And, we had a super day out. We drove to Penarth (it's walkable if you've got the time) to find the town celebrating its summer festival. Mrs CD wanted to visit an exhibition by Joe Magee. Normally, a modern art show would trigger an automatic sneer in me, but the absence of drink seems to have sent my cynical side on a stroll. It was only a small show, but the premise was clever and the pictures produced were haunting and affecting.

Magee took films of passing trains and captured the faces of passengers, sampling them and overlaying them with reflected images from train windows. The faces, rendered in black and white with very heavy shadows, framed in the curved squares of British train windows and swathed in leaves, trees and so on from the passing countryside had quite an emotional impact. Trains and train stations carry this weight - places of departure and meeting and journeys of hope, expectation or dread accompanied by strangers. I used to love watching my fellow passengers on trains and wondering what their stories were.

We ate at a little sea-front Italian, listening to another table complaining about their food - no garlic and no chili she said. Our pasta was just fine and dandy thanks.

Then a stroll up to the clifftops for an open air art show by local club members - lots of water colour views and even some semi-erotic oil paintings, which certainly stood out in genteel Penarth. My mum can't stop being a geography teacher many years after retirement and surveyed the North Somerset coast where my father spent his youth - largely holidaying at Weston Super Mare, a favourite day trip for us all when my brother and I were small enough to be entertained by cricket on the flat sands. I seem to recall my brother being quite a ruthless batsman on such occasions, being happy to compile enormous scores against a fielding side of just Dad and I.

I'm still jumpy about the neighbours, but am learning to live with it. Saturday night saw a stream of kitchen roll dumped in our front garden, triggering my awful we're-under-siege-paranoia. I dread weekends because I know that children will be about and doing their screaming thing all day but yesterday was quiet as can be. The school holidays will kick off soon and I'm trepidatious but determined to develop Mrs CD's insouciance - they're NOT INTERESTED IN YOU, don't be so interested in them - narcissism and persecution are close friends I think.

The blow came in a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions, who have decided I am well enough to work, and informed me that I'd already received one letter telling me this. I haven't, so will have to ring them on Monday morning and try to lodge an appeal. I saw my doctor last week who told me another two month sick note would be appropriate. They sent me the results of my questionnaire and I was far too easy going with it - I was drunk at the time, of course, so I can say my condition has changed. The greatest disappointment is that for the moment I can no longer access the services of Pathways which felt like a gentle and ordered progress towards returning to work.

The stark alternative of course is to work. Freelance writing's the aim, so, that must start.

I hope you're as well as can be expected and if you spent it, thank you for your time.


Friday, July 17, 2009

A small bad... small goods too... counselling... on the piss with the boys.

If I don't blog for a day or two that's always a sign of a small bad in my life. Nothing major though, just slipping into drifting and boredom slightly. It's coinciding with Mrs CD working away, so, must do better next week when she's away again.

I'd love to delight, shock and entrance you now with tales of sober derring do and edge-of-the-pintglass thrills, but there's little of that going on. Antabuse you see, if I drink, I'm in hospital and I don't want to go to hospital.

Things have moved along though.

The big news treatment wise is my first counselling session. Not a full blown talkathon but rather an assessment to see how I am and if counselling is for me at the moment. After my previous bad experiences I honestly ummed and aahed quite a bit about whether to go back. I was honest enough to tell the lady from Cardiff Alcohol and Drugs Team (CADT) that one of the reasons I was thinking of coming back is that I'm benefiting greatly from having things to do and appointments to keep. I told he about my excellent experience with the anxiety man at Pathways and that the short, sharp, practical nature of it had really helped.

Talking about the past isn't for me at the moment. I'm finding the longer I'm sober the more able I am not to wallow in painful memories. The blights of my youngsterism are mild compared to many and I'm in a position now where I think I want to say - that was then and thinking about it is not going to help me now. What I need is a future, I've spent too long as a victim of perceived slights in the mists of memory. There are a couple of things I'd maybe like to get off my chest but, avanti!

The waiting list is around a month, so we shall see what we shall see in due course.

That was about it for appointments this week. The other biggie this week has been a successful afternoon out with M and D. This really felt like a big step for me. I've been popping into the pub, but not for sustained lengths of time and just to chat. But this was my friends going out for a session - meeting in a pub and then going to other pubs.

And, it was great - I honestly can't remember having laughed so much in, well, in years. And that felt very good. My menu for the afternoon was:

One Pint gingerbeer and lemonade.
One Applejuice, to wash down some of all you can eat for £6.50 Chinese buffet in Queen Street - another first for me, and lovely.
One coffee.
Two teas.
Another coffee, a glass of water.

Too much coffee there, and I'm going to have to try and get out of the habit that there must be a full drink in front of me. It's a hangover from alcoholique days - as a drinker I always saw the glass as on its dregs and I'm sure others have faced the panic of NO MORE CANS AFTER THIS ONE.

We met at two and I gave a massive double take when I was told it was gone 6pm as I headed home while they went on to another bar.

And that's that. The screaming of children still perturbs me and was a fly in the ointment of that lovely day but I'm getting a little better with experience and I know one way to not make it worse - lay off the dope you idiot.

I've also met a fellow about writing for his website, and he's very keen and encouraging and also did my volunteering today - nothing more than putting stuff in envelopes but a welcome change from walls and computer screens.

Maybe more tonight, but I'm hoping to have a good long session on the music machine.

I hope you're all well and if you spent it, thank you for your time.

Cardiff Drunk.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Duck in burgers... Weather, effect on mood of... By the skin of Monty's teeth

Nothing to see here. Move along. More unremarkable progress going on here.

I overslept this morning and that's about as dramatic and difficult as it has got. I know why. I took my Trazadone too late - Trazadone says on its lovely little side effects leaflet, along with skin rashes and as with every antidepressant I've taken does sexual malfunction of various sorts (one included, I think it was Effexor, spontaneous orgasm, which sadly didn't trouble me), that it can cause drowsiness.

This, as understatements go, is up there with calling Pol Pot a little cranky. You take it and about 40 minutes later you're asleep. I've mentioned recently that I've noticed I'm dreaming again and that's new because with Trazadone I've been going LIGHTS OUT, then, about 10 hours later LIGHTS ON! It's good for me that I'm getting good sleep, so don't think I'm moaning. But last night I was a little tardy in popping my pills, so didn't surface until 10.30am.

And, as I say, that's it for dramas, triggers, crises today and that's pretty small potatoes I'm sure you'll agree. [Going through the spell check, I've just realised I've made it through a crowded public event with bugger all in the terms of panic - beyond having to go back to the car to make sure it was locked, of course it was, and that's worth noting - well it is to me.]

We pottered around happily enough, Mrs CD in the garden, me in the kitchen and then drove down to the Bay - Cardiff's version of the redeveloped docklands that have sprung up in pretty much every major port in Britain, usually replacing ships with the arts and restaurants and stuffing warehouses with bijou apartments and lofts. This, apparently, regenerates the economy of the area. It wouldn't be too cynical to suggest this is really gentrification. There are jobs of course, as waiters and the like, but, aren't you just shifting problems elsewhere. I'm not really qualified to pontificate on this, but that doesn't usually stop me. Still Cardiff, as a capital, at least had the chance to pop a rather swish National Assembly there and the Opera House which seems constantly busy. Cripes, who am to moan anyway, I like the Bay (I know older Cardiffians who refuse to countenance this term and gruffly correct me: "The Docks!"), it's aimed squarely at a Guardian reading handbag like myself. So good luck to Pizza Express, the Glee Club, Gourmet Burger Company and all who sail in them.

It was the International Food Festival today, hence the duck burger. Very nice it was too. A nice wander and we caught a bit of music, for one of which M was doing the sound for. We gave C and D a lift down and popped them back to the Pub afterwards. All pleasant enough.

The weather was superb. After listening to the cricket this week, I'd been briefed that it was going to rain today, but it's been perfect. The sun beat down, but the Bay always benefits from the cooling effect of the sea breezes. Everyone seemed to be having fun.

I got back just in time to catch England's fortunate escape with a draw in what was quite a thrilling finish. (Ah, American readers, you don't get cricket do you - that's a shame, you're missing out on one of the world's great games, I suggest you get a copy of the rules forthwith and cast off baseball as the pointless waste of an afternoon it so obviously is).

I've done a bit of arsing around on this ol' machine and that, and that's about all.

On the drinking front, sober as an umpire of course. The only time it struck me was at the festival where I was assaulted with bibuliscious alcohol of almost every description but had to pop to a local corner shop to get a bottle of water. And, I do still miss the damn stuff - every day to be honest. That rush of I don't want to drink the other day is anomalous - that's why I remarked on it I guess. Almost every day I will at some point think, I wish I was drunk, and it's not a craving for a sensible couple of pints, it's for being drunk, drinking to sleep, or that glorious feeling of being in the pub in the early afternoon having got down the four or five pints that make you feel first human, then mmm, quite tasty really and knowing you've got £20 in your pocket and nowhere to go and some decent spliff and some cans at home. Oh yes, I still miss that.

Still. Getting sleepy already from all that sunshine.

If you spent it, thank you for your time.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Not enough hours in the day for filling up all the hours in the day

It's a flipping full-time job this sober lark innit? I'm finding more and more that I'm coming to the end of each day thinking, I should have done... I haven't done... I still want to.

All good stuff I guess. Boredom's the enemy here. So, what with my almost constant low-level housework going on, taking medication, going out to a garden centre today (at Mrs CD's behest - she loves her gardening and we both want to get a Lemon Verbena plant. I love the tea, which seems to have vanished off the shelf of late, if anyone knows why I'd love to know - a bad 'bena harvest, a run on lemony herbs or a revolution in the Verbena growing outposts of Mexico; I miss it.)

Of course a fair amount of all this busyosity is no-good-time-wasting bobbins by most standards. I, despite being a man, am fantastic at multi-tasking. I say I'm fantastic at it, but what that really means is I do lots of things at the same time which means that the thing I set out to do takes four times as long. So, I pop onto the computer to write this blog, or send an email or find something out and while there check Facebook and Myspace and decide to try and write some music and read the Guardian comment page and I MUST, simply MUST have the radio on while I do this and bless my soul but it's three hours later.

Still, I'm 10,000 times less a prevaricator than I was, when a huge chuck of at least four hours of each day was red inked in and underlined as 'Sitting in the pub.' And, along with all the time-wasting feats I make little steps forward - I'm meeting someone early next week about writing for his website; unpaid but good for the CV and hopefully enjoyable. I've sent a couple of emails and made some steps towards cancelling an account I no longer need - and, a message for British Telecom here: the way you hide details of how to cancel accounts both on your automated phone system and your website no doubt makes commercial sense in that people will, as I certainly would have done two months ago, give up, but it's snidey, cheap and tawdry and makes me hate your company.

Today's been OK. Up early, breakfast, coffee, garden centre, nice lunch cooked by me, cleaning up, computering, including writing a piece of music for to submit to a library music site and even doing something for a no-doubt foolish, quite possibly pretentious and awful arty project.

I will bore you with the details. I write and record (on extremely cheap software) electronic music, abstract but quite tuneful, retro-futurist popadelica things which I enjoy and which have even had minor public outings. Well, I thought I'd like to do something with words, random words, which is why I spent a good chunk of the afternoon picking out every third book on my bookshelves, going to page 33, skipping three words and writing down the next three. I then emailed a load of people asking if they'd be willing to read out said snippets into a microphone for me to digitally mash, loop, reverse and generally mess about with before crunching them into some sort of, err, sound.

Then I cooked a very nice pasta dinner and now I'm shattered.

It's all very inconsequential but I'm enjoying myself in a self-contained and level-headed sort of way.

It struck me very powerfully the other day as I was walking to the pub to see C. I don't want to drink. I'm not saying that's it, I'm cured, Drunk in Cardiff will now become an even more tedious litany of the pedestrian and prosaic without even a light panic attack to leaven the mix. Neither am I saying, although I'm noticing every day how much more at home I am with moderation, well, I can have a drink now and be sensible about it. That's the last thing I want right now - I'm scared of drinking and happy to be not drinking. I'm lucky that so far the tests and triggers have been relatively few and far between and they've only been little bumps in the road - tougher tests are as inevitable as an England batting collapse but really, so far, so good.

I wanted to get a little counter for the blog to tick away the days since I last had a drink. I couldn't find one (any clues gratefully accepted) but as I had my last drink on May 31, I think that makes 41 days sober, so tomorrow it'll be six weeks without a drink.

Champagne corks ahoy!

If you spent it, thank you for your time.

Cardiff Drunk.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ohhwaahoo, dunnananaah dannannaaah ooo.

I'm entitled to join Ice Cube today in saying this.

Not, of course, in Ice Cube's beep getting, drunk but not throwin' up, basketball playing way - although, it is true that none of my friends have died in South Central LA today, not that I've heard anyway.

It just all went pretty good, pretty busy, pretty eating three proper meals, doing washing, cleaning, doing the shopping I needed to do, restarting my volunteering again, sort of way. Woohoo. Pleased I yam, oh yes.

Oh, yeah, and with minimal rain delays I've been able to listen to the mighty Test Match Special, which the caravan being in Cardiff even told me when it was going to rain and I had to get my washing in.

I won't bore you with the tedious details so unremarkable are they in any even close to normal life but to me these things are new and doing them a thing of wonder, boring yes, but boredom's been sloughed off with Mr Strongbow and Uncle Stella before, now it's just got through.

And, I didn't even have to use my AK.

If you spent it, thank you for your time.

Cardiff Drunk, smiling.

I bet something goes horrible wrong tomorrow though ;O)

A couple of days off air in the smoke... Very much better ta.

Drunk in Cardiff went off air for a couple of days there. Silence. Of all the things I put on pointless lists of what I ought to be doing - every day, every week, this particular day - blogging ought to be the easiest to do. I clucking love it I do and, whatever it might mean to you my lovely 13 or so readers, I do think it's genuinely therapeutic for me. I get stuff out of my head and in the getting do some mulling and such and I love writing so it easily fills time and feels at least useful in a silly old sort of way.

Much more useful than what I did over the last couple of days which was smoke too much dope. D'oh! Nothing too spectacular I should add and I still feel on an upward slope from the bottom of the ditch. However, I did end up doing far too much just sitting around doing sod all. Still, being gently to one's self being the watchword of early recovery - I forgive myself. There, that's that then... This whinge has now ceased to be.

On the Wednesday I had to toddle into town at the unaccustomedly (is that a word? Let's see what dodgy Mr Spellcheck says (Mr Spellchecker say no, Mr Cardiff Drunk say sod yer)) early hour of 10am - I mean, for god's sake, what do they think recovering alcoholics are among Britain's worse at? Enjoyed it really. It feels good to be part of the working, walking world and out of the triangle that my life had become - home - pub - corner shop - home - and getting round a bit more.

The occasion, for it still demands an occasion, was a course at Pathways. Called rather nebulously Directions, it was, in fact, a damn good day's work - well, 10am till 2.30pm is as close to that as I'm likely to get for a while.

As with my little anxiety session, things started well with the course leader (for a dozen of us too-sick-to-workers there was one leader and two 'facilitators', although I think one of them was just sitting in as part of her induction to a slightly different job) telling her own story of depression. As I signed up with a nod to all the confidentiality stuff I won't go into any details, but it was rather moving. As we went round the room we all had similar stories - I think of the 12: one left early, one left at lunch time and of the survivors all but two were there with mental health problems and those with physical ills spoke of similar problems.

It went well enough all things - including my own cynicism - considered. Kind of motivational, kind of self-helpy, a smidgen of positive thinking, a spot of CBT-esque language. I've gone through all this sort of thing before but my own situation is such that I'm so much more open to it now. It helps that the people are coming from the right place - Pathways is proving positive so far, in the preparing you for work, we'll see how touchy feely they are around offers of work and as the time ticks along.

Thursday was OK too. I overslept and missed what should have been my second session of the course, but I've got in touch and they're going to send me some literature. I need another pile of paper to sit next to the other 13, so that's good.

So, I pottered around and did a damn fine clean up in the bathroom - you could indeed eat your dinner off it. C came back from the pub with me to listen to a CD and have a small smoke with a coffee. It went a bit off the rails there - I'm still anxious and jittery enough that cannabis is very much a hit-or-miss mixed blessing. It's probably a good thing, but I'm definitely tending towards paranoia and expecting the neighbours to batter the door down with axes, guns and bits of hosepipe stuffed evilly with the very small, crystalline gravel you can buy in garden centres. So, another area of my life with more moderation in it.

Yes, off the rails, like this very digressionary post (that's got to be a word surely, it's staying whatever Mr so-called Spellchecker says). Got a bit nervey so had a bath and went to bed only to have to get up and eat half a reheated corned beef hash - a taste acquired in hospital.

However, in the be-gentle-with-yourself, all-is-forgiven mood of the moment, I still feel better. Things slip a little but I'm more able to stop myself from total annihilation.

So, yes, I'm very much better ta.

If you spent it, thank you for your time.

Kerdiv Drunk.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Psycho education for anxiety. A begginer's guide.

Right, this is what I was taught in one one hour session by a psychologist. It's not going to be comprehensive, but if you are struggling with anxiety too then it struck me as the most sensible and practical advice I've been given on the subject in all my years looking for treatment and you might like to find out more.

The first part of the session focused on explaining what anxiety was, why we need it and why suffering it in the way that I, and maybe you, do is inappropriate.

So, anxiety is necessary to a stone age creature like man to us deal with physical threats. If you experience anxiety, the symptoms are the body preparing for violent attack - ye olde fight or flight reaction. So, sweating to make you slippery (apparently, according to my psychology guy!), increased heart rate to get oxygen to the muscles, breathing more oxygen in, stomach upset as chemicals pour into your system. As the anxiety increases so do these symptoms, into a panic attack in fact, until it escalates and you go into a sort of pre-shock and your body starts to shut down, which might even involve hallucinations and you will almost certainly believe you're about to die.

Now, this is great for dealing with physical attack. However, in our society, although there are threats and dangers, most of our anxiety is centred on things for which this physical preparation is completely inappropriate, but it is the only response our body has.

Anxiety sufferers (who tend to be intelligent, deep thinkers and very concerned with the world around them flattery fans) are wasting their time worrying about fantasies. Almost everything that causes the response above in anxiety sufferers is an irrational fear. If you are afraid of crowds for example you are afraid of a fantasy - if a friend rang you and said they were in town and it was crowded, you would not advise them to flea, would you?

But humans are learning creatures and by being anxious about certain situations your mind will learn to behave this way. Your response is that of something under attack, which tells your brain that the situation - crowds for example - that makes you anxious, is something that is worth being afraid of, because it produces the response that comes with being under attack.

Now, the two ways I was taught to try and deal with anxiety.

The first starts with the preceding information and using your brain rationally and logically.

When you experience anxiety remember what is going on phsyically and why you are starting to feel so bad, it's a fear of fear, a fear of nothing and you CAN overcome it.

The second is not to behave in certain ways and take some actions to deal with the symptoms of what is primarily a physical problem.

So, try and control your breathing. I've had breathing into a paper bag recommended for dealing with panic attacks, or try to breathe slowly through your nostrils for short time - your body is trying to flood your system with oxygen.

Your system is also heating up as lots of chemical reactions go off and making you sweat too. Try and drink some cold water, take off clothes if you can.

Try to walk steadily. It's calming, familiar and stabilising - it is NOT running. But, it's not a good idea to isolate yourself, sitting still and alone: this is like hiding and will only increase the anxiety.

Try and do some muscle relaxation if you can.

DON'T give yourself more energy - definitely avoid caffeine (and, if you suffer from anxiety than you should probably look at what your caffeine intake is as too much can, on its own, trigger a panic attack. The psychologist I spoke too described it as speed, it works in exactly the same way, he said.)

The same with foods or drinks that are full of sugar - you're feeding more energy into your system, which is not what you want to do - try water if you can.

Cigarettes are not a good idea. The relaxation of smoking is just the satisfying of cravings, and nicotine is a stimulant - at another relaxation related thing, the leader said one of the reasons smoking can relax people is because you tend to breathe more slowly; this chap was skeptical but did say that you're certainly breathing in less oxygen when you're smoking because you're filling your lungs with carbon monoxide.

Try and keep your metabolism steady - avoid getting hungry and eat three good meals a day and as healthily as you can. There you go. Now that's only what I remember from one session but it might be something you'd like to try or try to find out more about.

The psychologist I spoke to added that the worse thing you can do is expect to do this instantly and then consider yourself a failure if it doesn't work. You'll need to learn and it may well happen bit by bit, but even if you're only trying to do something or using the logical thinking stuff at the moment you are on the right track.

If you spent it, thank you for your time. CD.

Last night a psychologist saved my life. (A day off).

I was doing pretty well yesterday, until I realised that at the rate I do things I don't have enough time to fit everything I want or need to do in a day. Whoops. Hence no blog. Mr Spliff came-a-calling too, but nothing to major and it hasn't engendered any kind of mental breakdown (yet), so we'll let that one pass.

I had to go into town for another appointment at Pathways, the job service for the mentally challenged. This was an occupational therapy kind of deal and it was the best advice on anxiety I've EVER had in all my years haunting GP surgeries and A&R wards and the like and BEGGING to get them to take me seriously and do something to help me with what I, but apparently no-one else, consider serious mental health problems that need treating. Treatment by the way is not the same as approximately one second's thought and then playing a game of "I've taken that, they took me off it, it made me sick" as you roll through the list of antidepressants.

Well, enough of the whining already.

I went into the little office and the guy, who was much younger than me I think and almost aggressively dapper, asked me where I felt I was and what my problems were. Anxiety is a big one when it comes to getting back to work, I told him and bang, he was off.

I'm going to put in another post on what he taught me, which he called PSYCHO EDUCATION (so I will too, him being the psychologist and all), in that one hour session, so impressed was I with this, to me new set of techniques. And that was key - actual practical things you can do to not feel like this.

The first thing he told me was that he had suffered almost constantly and terribly with anxiety in his late teens so knew what it was like and that these techniques work. I was bowled over.

Sadly, just before I left, he said he was going to have to leave the job fairly soon as he was finding it a little difficult to have to spend such a large part of every day talking about the problem that nearly took his life apart - like me hanging round in the pub all day, I offered. It's a shame because he's very good at it.

He also offered advice on getting over my alcohol problems. He was wary of AA, thinking it rather too guilt-based and also putting yourself at the mercy of other people's moral standards. Don't consider drinking again a failure, he said too, that will only make any slips worse and you've already done something incredible already. (I'm really digging all this praise at the moment - D is always telling me how well I look and how proud I should be of what I've achieved, one of the old guys from the pub said pretty much the same the other day. I'd better take it while I can, it's not going to last forever.)

The rest of the day was slightly disappointing really. I didn't do much more than buy some computer games (only a tenner), have a couple of squashes in the pub, cook some dinner, have a smoke and mooch about till bedtime.

No alarums and no surprises.

If you spent it thank you for your time.

Cardiff Drunk.

PS, I think my spell checker on blogger is still highlighting correctly spelled words, anyone else out there having this problem.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Nicotine, a dream and a dangerous coiled sausage...

For some reason I woke up at 3am this morning and stayed awake to 5am then slept in till 10.30am. Not the best start to the day but I think I must have taken my Trazadone too early, I'm also remembering the part of my recent courses on sleep that warns of nicotine withdrawal causing waking. I do have a fag last thing at night and it's almost always one of first things I do on waking.

I've also noticed that I'm dreaming. I thought for a long time that I didn't, so rarely did I remember dreams. But, I gather - only from the university of popular science on telly - that we do all dream. There's even an idea that people with depression suffer from the wrong sort of dreaming - I think it's the non-rapid eye movement type of dreaming that we are not aware of and tends to be darker. Well, in the last two nights I've remembered two dreams, probably because I woke at the end of each. The first was about a giant slug - an obsession of Mrs CD, who fights a long and attritional war against their many evil doings in the vegetable patch - I don't recall feeling particularly distressed by it. The second involved Charles I and me and some friends being chased by him across the recreation ground that was my chief playground as a child, the whole affair was narrated as if it was a television history documentary and as I woke I'd just given up making my escape while climbing under one of the fences into one of the gardens that adjoins the rec'. I've often had dreams in which I'm chased, besieged, hounded and persecuted - but as with the slug I had no sense of being very much distressed by the royal pursuit.

I was pleased with myself this morning though; after that fag I went and did 10 minutes of cycling on the exercise bike followed by a test to see how many press-ups and sit-ups I can do. If I'm going to take up a martial art I need to do some preparation I think and - fanfare - I can do 10 press-ups and 20 sit-ups. Mike Tyson I am not, but it's a start and exercise is good for alleviating depression.

D and C came round. D to look through some books I'm sending off to the charity shop and C just for a cup of coffee on their way to the pub and their well-established Sunday routine of a pub roast, a few pints then a session of smoking and listening to music from C's enormous and magnificent record collection. It was all very pleasant and easy and laughter was had all round.

Then an experimental lunch. Mrs CD and I popped into an African shop on the way home yesterday and picked up something that has been intriguing us. The shop seemed to sell very little apart from a cabinet full of some sort of curled sausage. Although the shop is run by black Africans said sausage - which is mighty in its dimension, such as gods will shudder at its sight - is an Afrikaner thing called a boerewors. They sat there in chili, garlic and plain variety and we started off, timidly with a plain, which I stuck in the onion with some onions, sage, garlic and peppers.

It was a qualified success - in that I really liked it and Mrs CD wasn't 100%, finding it a bit rich. It produced a hell of a lot of fat in cooking but that was easily dispensed with and from the consistency of the final product has a fair proportion of blood and offal in it. Mmm, blood and offal.

Cracking stuff. That's about all really. A short walk in the park, getting caught in a downpour on the way home. Mrs CD lasted all four odd hours of the tennis and I caught bits - very intense and close. Dinner. A bit of telly - Orangutans: I fecking love Orangutans, if you could buy them as pets I would and walk it every day.

Ah, ginger apes!

If you spent it thank you for your time. Apologies for being so dull at the moment - you'll have noticed no paranoia today despite a full sunny afternoon of kids swarming all over our front yard and so on, but, I'm slowly coming to terms with it, thank Hicks for that.

Catching up - National Museum of Wales and a nice Italian

I'm still a post behind, so here's what happened yesterday. If you looking for something particularly diverting you might want to look elsewhere, because little of note happened: no addiction thoughts, progress or crises yesterday.

A gentle sunny day with light rain squalls in Cardiff, and tout de South Wales out in the streets promenading and the like. Mrs CD and I bobbed to the National Museum of Wales to take a squint at their Diane Arbus exhibition. I think they've had a bit of a revamp lately, opening up some new galleries and putting more of their collections on display. Certainly, on a couple of previous visits I felt the building rather overshadowed the exhibits - it's monumental, classically inspired civic architecture. Nothing wrong with that, it's a very nice building, but there seemed a lot in the way of empty space, especially in the massive entrance hall.

I enjoyed the photography. I see, some critics think of Arbus's work as a little exploitative; a freak show. You're certainly stared at a lot by her black and white subjects, who might be generally classed as outsiders and indeed freaks, from the sideshow world of sword swallowers, tattooed men; but also the non-white, the mentally ill, strangely intense looking little children, transvestites and dominatrices. I liked the sharpness of the images and the everyday boredom of their cheap rooms and the parks and squares of New York.

"You can't help thinking about what future they had," Mrs CD said. And, if you did, you wouldn't be imagining an enormously happy world of joy unbounded and success everlasting. But, you did care, and you can't say more than that for a photographer, can you?

We popped into an Italian restaurant afterwards for their cheap lunch special and very nice it was too. Pizza for me, Spaghetti Marinara for Mrs CD. The waiting staff were like dancers, run off their feet but very professional and smiling all the way through an efficiently marshaled lunchtime rush. The rain got up and drove the foolhardy souls who had taken advantage of the outside seating back indoors, all brilliantly handled by the staff, who grabbed their plates and shuffled tables to squeeze them in.

Then home, too late to catch the battle of the incredible Williams sisters. Liver for tea (it's, like, way cheap), a bit of telly and early to bed. My nerves got their usual rattling with a something that went bump in the night: "Someone's throwing things at the door," I panicked, an idea that Mrs CD had no time for, and, who was the voice of reason come the morning? Not Mr Paranoid, but Mrs Calm Reason, who had a fallen ornament to point to rather than my imagined horde of knife wielding night crawlers.

Lessons to be learned. My nerves are still awful and my usual nerve tonic is out of bounds - I drank for armour and I drank for courage - so, I'm just going to have to get used to a life where children scream and shout happily in the street and I don't extrapolate away to some victimisation or attack.

It will come, we must hope for that.

One good thing that's come out of my jangled hyper-sensitive nerves is that I've barely touched a spliff since leaving hospital. What's the point? Where's the joy when you just end up a bag of jelly praying for sleep. No bad thing at all.

If you spent it, thank you for your time.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Crikey and crivens, I missed a day! A question for bloggers.

I remembered what the new thing I meant to write about on Thursday was, just as it was supposed to be happening. Then I forgot to write a blog at all on Friday; things fall apart as they say.

Only in a very minor way however. You can blame Mrs CD for the non-bloggery, she was catching up on her tennis on the lovely i-player, so I wrote some music on the other machine, an altogether healthy and enjoyable thing to be doing I'm sure you'll agree.

The New Thing, was supposed to be attendance at an AA meeting. I went into town again and mooched round the new central library. One of my cousins has done some of the family history and I'm, of course, entirely thrilled to discover that my mother's grandfather's uncle - which I believe makes him my great great great uncle (but, hey, we're not exactly over endowed with over-achievers in the Cardiff Drunk family, so I'll take him) - rejoiced in the rather spiffing title of Archdruid of North America and was the first such no less. Americans wishing to pledge fealty and offer up giftage and tribute should just email me and we'll sort something out. It's a strange Welsh thing, but still it's nice to know there was a notable in the family. In fact, ironically enough, he was a reverend and quite the anti-liquor activist, to such an extent that his church was bombed by some of Pennsylvania's naughtiest purveyors of grog.

It was while I was pleasantly pootling round the library that I remembered the AA meeting, which was a good half-an-hour away and due to start in ten minutes. Oh well. I will try again next week.

That minor piece of absent mindedness aside I had a pretty good day, thanks for asking. Library, sat writing a postcard to my mum and dad to go with their copies with a coffee. Popped in to the Community Addiction Unit to take my Antabuse and saw another old Whitchurch hand there. Bought a notebook in order to sit scribbling in the park like some mysterious all-seeing eye type of fellow. Bought a sandwhich and went to the park and realised I'd look like some all-too-familiar pain in the arse pretentious failure sort of fellow (must work on that positive thinking a bit harder), so read a magazine. Then to the pub for my pints of blackcurrant and soda water - orange if I'm feeling devil may care - and watched Andy Murray exit Wimbledon with C.

Then got a very nice Chinese from the local takeaway - the lady behind the counter of which is the loveliest, smiliest, most patient and helpful lady behind any counter in any city on any planet.

And, really, that's about it. No alarms and no surprises, which might make CD a dull boy, but does him no harm at all.

I was glad to have done some music. It's not particularly accomplished and I'm never going to earn my living at it - although I have earned about $10 from a download site! Woohoo! - but I do find it totally absorbing and very good fun.

A quiet day then and with little thought of addictions or booze or feeling down. And, I know why, and this is the important thing. I keep myself busy, washing up and taking pills and putting washing away and walking and GOOD THINGS. A day of hope for more days the same. The beautiful weather doesn't hurt at all of course; that will pass, hopefully the lessons learned will not.

If you spent it, thank you for your time.


A question for blogger users. I'm convinced my spellcheck here is highlighting words which are correctly spelled and offering as a replacement the word I've used. Is anyone else having this problem?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A touch of the sads and the strange case of the vanishing euphoria - new things tomorrow though!

Three times I've been detoxed in the community - over ten years ago and twice in the last three - and three times I've returned to (initially) moderate drinking and straight on down the corridor, through the door, past the cliche and back in alcoholic trouble again.

So, I do have some experience of the problems of being sober. Yep. The problems of being sober. As part of the Therapeutic Day Programme (TDP) in hospital we were asked to recognised dangerous situations that might precipitate a lapse, or full blown relapse: sobriety is on that list.

And, no, it's not some piece of therapeutic smartarsery or semantics (or should that be semiotics pedantry fans?) because of course you can't relapse unless you're sober - nah, nah, nah, nah, naaaah. No. Sobriety is dangerous for us lot, particularly at the end of the early days. Or rather that's what I've found, and from speaking to professionals so have they - three months being a particularly dangerous time.

In the past, I've come out of detox with a real sense of euphoria and hello-clouds-hello-sky-hello-challenges-of-life spirit of the blitz. Not really this time. I had my euphoria in hospital when I found I was coping with a hot-house atmosphere and people who I wouldn't normally necessarily spend time with and doing fine and enjoying meeting different people.

It's passed remarkably quickly though. The slight annoyances of the area in which we live - which I have blasted into the stratosphere of planet paranoia are the main reason. I also had a very good and demanding job after one of my recent detoxes and with that as an all-consuming spur managed an encouraging six months sober. The other two ended after three - the first time it was naivety, dishonesty with myself and boredom (my greatest foe I think, greater even that tiny Jermaine De Foe). I had a job but, again, was unhappy with my situation - largely living in a city. I really am not very good at large numbers of people, I'm a country boy by birth, upbringing and inclination and find cities tend to grind me down.

But, I - and again, the pro's agree and make a positive mantra of this one - should treat these 'failures' as lessons in recovery.

So. Previous detox failures have folded soggily around the problems of boredom and stress and shifting of addiction to something else - in the case of the six month one marijuana and porn. So (and yes, I am this thick) these must be addressed and or avoided.

I'm doing my best at keeping busy and making lots of appointments. But, I'm also trying to be realistic and not expect myself to immediately write novels, screenplays and the like and aiming to get into some sort of part time work within three months and I started writing a short story today. I've also looked at taking up a martial art and have found several local clubs - now comes the scary step of emailing them to see if I can join in. Stress, I'm doing less well with and the exercise is an attempt to address this. But, I mustn't be too hard on myself, I've just stripped away my entire coping mechanism for life and it's going to take a bit of time to build a new one. I've avoided panic attacks so far, I'm booked in for counselling, I can go back to my volunteering soon, I'm preparing for work - NOW, ALL THIS NEEDS TO BE FOLLOWED UP. This is where I have fallen down in the past.

The next danger comes next week when that most terrible of things will come to pass - Cardiff Drunk will be home alone! Zoinks. Beyond alerting Interpol what are we to do. I do know that the travelling away of Mrs CD has precipitated even worse levels of self-destructive drinking than in the past. Look, it's a danger, it's a trigger, so we see how it goes - Mr Antabuse remains in my insides and at my side. I have at least five appointments of varying heaviosity in the next week so... plans of a sort are in place.

I put New Things Tomorrow as part of my title and can't for the life of me work out what they are... I'll no doubt report them if they crop up. An empty dirty laundry basket and a much cleaner house have already arrived, so they don't count.

Onward and upward!

If you spent it, thank you for your time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Appointments... We're everywhere... Egg in ointment...

Another beautiful day in Cardiff and a busy one for this recovering drunk. First, off to the Community addiction Unit (CAU), thence to see an employment coach at Pathways, the private scheme designed to help people get off Employment Support Allowance (the benefit formerly known as incapacity benefit) and back into work.

At the CAU I bumped into a fellow patient from the Therapeutic Day Programme and had a brief but pleasant chat. Yesterday, I saw a former inpatient in a nearby street, who I don't think really remembered exactly who I was but placed me from the ward and shared a quick few words on his will to stay dry - he's got a place in a dry house and seemed pretty happy with life.

Then, I got myself a counselling appointment at Cardiff Alcohol and Drugs Team. I had to ask to see a different person from my previous visits - I felt quite badly let down by her; she jumped from idea to idea, starting me on a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy path, then forgetting and setting off on something new. Finally, she decided Schema Therapy would be a top idea (because of the psychology degree she'd taken and seemed to mention every session). I was labelled as fitting the worthlessness schema, with which I had no problems - the handout, describing the personality type and the dreadful fear of being found out fitted me well. So, I was given two weeks until the next session to work on remembering my worthlessness: when did I first feel that way and why. So, I dutifully did. When I returned, I was told that I no longer needed counselling until I had completed my detox because there were other people with more serious problems. Fair enough, but not handled the best.

Anyway, I have an appointment for an assessment in a few weeks time.

I also have two more appointments as a result of my visit to pathways (where I saw two other detoxees!). I'll get my CV reviewed and I've been booked to see an occupational therapist to address my anxiety and put on a two day course on preparing for work. I don't hold out huge hope - I told the lady who took my welcome interview that I wad a journalist and she looked through the list and clicked customer services - computer say change career.

Still, I'm glad I did it, glad I made it out the house and kept an appointment.

I know one of my readers will be a little concerned to hear I then went to the pub for a couple of hours. But, it was fine - I saw C, drank squash (I'm a cheap date now ladies!) and watched Andy Murray cruise through to the Wimbledon semi's, which will no doubt be a cause for national over-excitement, he'll be knighted if he wins, they seem to do these things so much more quickly nowadays (sorry for showing my age).

We had people round for dinner. Outside, in the back garden. A source of great anxiety for me after the recent showers of coins over the wall. And, in due course over came a coin, which hit one of our guests on the head, then a ball - she stood up, shouted, "hello, would you like your ball back? Yes, but you'll stop throwing coins now, OK?" perfectly dealt with; why can't I do that. Of course if I knew the answer to that I probably wouldn't be recovering from a 25-year drinking binge and taking antidepressants every night.

My mood was not improved by discovering, on going to drive them home, that the car has been egged. Not aimed at us, just kids etc, but adding to my feeling of not belonging here and being under siege and frightened. Stupid? Maybe, but how I feel. What to do? Keep taking the tablets, ask for guidance from counsellors and try and keep some perspective - this is a generally nice area there's just a couple of naughty kids and a few gits none of whom have the least interest in me, my life, or making it a misery.

As the mighty Robert Zimmerman said: "Keep a clean head and always carry a lightbulb."

Cheers Sideshow Bob.

If you spent it, thank you for your time.