This is Forty


For days now (I have no idea how many) every minute of every waking hour I’ve either had a drink in my hand or been within three feet of one. The only times I haven’t had this luxury of proximity is when walking to the pub. I say walking, but the sheer elation I know I’m going to feel at getting inside one of those things, coupled with body and mind screaming out for alcohol means it’s less walking and more half-shuddering, half-body popping. I know, not ideal.

Yesterday I was forty. Today, I woke up thinking I was a Greek fishing village. I didn’t feel like me. I didn’t feel like anyone else either. I felt like a Greek fishing village, thought I was a Greek fishing village and contained everything that was going on there. There is no other way I can put it. 

Naturally, I’m both simultaneously fascinated and terrified by this peculiar turn of events. Wine helps to ease the struggle of getting through the day as a geographical oddity. Later my brother says, “I once thought I was the rock of Gibraltar,” which immediately thrills and comforts me, before adding, “But that was in a dream.” I crumple.


A Greek fishing village, earlier.


Everything aches. I sit in a hot tub in the rain. I almost fall into the hot coals in a sauna, then almost wish I had. I drink.


Wake up with almost unbearable tinnitus: a deep, whirring hum in one ear and a high-pitched yelping in the other. I’ve had years of this. I’m not sure I can take much more of it. If there were a nest of vipers at the foot of my bed I would happily slither in and join them. If a canyon full of broken glass, shards of metal, and wild animals existed outside of my bedroom window I wouldn’t think twice about leaping in there. Unfortunately there isn’t, so I settle for attacking my mattress and beating up my pillows for ten minutes. The rest of the day is spent drinking. 


Trying to get off to sleep on Thursday night I soothe myself with thoughts of that time I worked out in Singapore, or that time I worked in the Caribbean, or that time I took a train with my then wife through the centre of Australia and how much I enjoyed seeing the seemingly endless miles of scorched red rock. I feel calm thinking of having lunch under a jungle canopy.

Then it stops calming me. I don’t think of it as me going having lunch in the rainforest, but my brain. It’s not me slicing through the centre of Australia seeing things, it’s my brain interpreting light waves and sound waves and making sense of things. My brain is making my fingers punch numbers into a phone and it’s making sounds come out of my mouth, then it’s making my limbs carry bags and whisk it off to the airport and it gets me to feed it booze and gets me to stick my hand up my then wife’s dress to give it pleasure. My whole sense of self dissolves, and I’m just this terrier-like entity, this mush, this interpretation-machine, existing in my skull. I take quadruple my usual amount of sleeping tablets.


A nest of vipers, earlier. 


Friday is better. I eat fish and plants. I play tennis and win. I swim. I try not to think about my brain. I drink one beer. When you’re better, I say to myself, you should spend the rest of your life being nicer and kinder to people. This thought pleases me. You should also, I add almost unconsciously, try being nicer and kinder to yourself. This one scares me. Have I ever been either nice or kind to myself? I meditate on this for a while until I realise that, not for the first time this year, I’m in danger of crying myself to sleep.


I play tennis and win. Without having to give it much thought, I play poker and win too. I eat fish and plants. I lift weights. I do some yoga. In the evening I buy an avocado in the rain. I turn off my phone. I drink one beer and wash the grill pan. Saturday.


Busy for a Sunday: Internet-taught yoga, internet-taught Shaolin Kung Fu, winning at poker, swimming, sauna. I feel, possibly for the first time, that I’m beginning to work as a person. Colours are sharper than normal. Flowers leap out at me and I sit and stare at them for hours. When I go to the toilet, it no longer smells of corroding metal. I stop feeling scared in my own body and in my own mind. 

People in Boscombe are buying crack cocaine and heroin when I leave the health club. People in Boscombe are on their way out for the night, happy. People in Boscombe are sitting outside drinking and look to be enjoying themselves. Temptation is everywhere here. Part of me wants to join them, to get into trouble. Part of me wants more physical and psychological scars. But another part of me – a bigger and better part – doesn’t. That part of me is intrigued by how far I can take this: this plant-eating, this exercise, this non-drinking, this new-found industry. I feel as if I’ve been on the fringes of my mind’s unedifying canyons this week and, well, I don’t want to be on those fringes  far too often. Let’s see, shall we. 

4 responses to “This is Forty

  1. Step away from the unedifying canyons….

  2. I’m moonwalking away from them, Heather.

  3. Well, happy belated birthday! Good to see that your forties is going so well.

  4. Thank you Andy. It is going well, isn’t it. Isn’t it? Not sure I can tell anymore.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s