Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

... and a Happy New Year

It's like the old gag about the guy with the New Year's Resolution "to stop procrastinating". At the end of January a friend enquires as to how it's going. The guy replies "Ah, I'm too busy at the moment. I'm gonna phase it in sometime in March".

Anyways, better late than never... The "so that was 2005 then? hmmmm"-post

Yes indeed. Another year over. And what a thoroughly shit one it was too. Mind you, it was keeping me an extra year from the grave, so in that respect I'm sad to see it gone.

I'm aware that Her Parasitic Majesty, The Queen of England made a similar observation about the general shitness of 2005 in her traditional Chrimbo Speech (she used that very phrase in fact... "general shitness"), and I don't want to appear as though I'm jumping on the royal bandwagon (a crime still punishable by death if done within sight of Windsor Castle), but all the same... 2005 was a shit year.

Leastways it was for me.

Of course, it was much worse for lots of people. Billions of people in fact. Whether it was hurricanes or earthquakes or war or famine or recovering from tidal waves, or just not having enough, there's no question that my year was significantly better than the 2005 experienced by many - indeed most.

All the same, I'm going to write about my year. The best teacher I ever had gave me some advice 'on being a writer'. He insisted that every human life was interesting enough to read about, so long as the person living it was a good enough writer. And I believe that to be true. I also believe that - on my good days - I kick ten shades of shit out of Martin Amis. And he gets on telly and everything.

Anyways, this is my blog, and my readership is self-selecting. So I'm sure that neither of you will be too put out if I prattle on a while about my 2005. I'll also fill you in on my plans for 2006 with regards to this blog.

2005 II: The Prequel (2004)

At the end of 2004, I said to myself (and to anyone who would listen) that I'd had a crap year and that 'oh-five would be an improvement. Life is a succession of peaks and troughs and I was convinced that 2004 was the bottom of the trough I'd been sliding into since the turn of the century. "2005 will see me heading in the direction of the next peak... it will be the year I turn things around". That was the theory.

And what a lovely theory it was too.

But it was wrong. Deeply deeply wrong. 2005 saw me continue my downward progress. Not only that, but the bastid slope got steeper.

Summer 2004 I discovered that I was ill. For several years I'd been "feeling like crap" (apologies if you find the medical jargon confusing), but attributed it to a general malaise. Depression even. I was in a deep blue funk and concluded that I'd emerge from it when I was ready - emotionally speaking. But in 2004, I was persuaded to consult a doctor for the first time in a decade. And a saga began.

Brain scans, body scans, injections, x-rays, surgery (minor), hospital stays and a shit-load of pills. Doctors with concerned looks on their faces consulted test results and shook their heads with a mixture of puzzlement and disbelief. Complex pieces of equipment were recalibrated and their readings were called into question. It was unsettling.

In the end, I made a temporary deal with The Man and I'm now dependent on Merck and Pfizer and Wyath Laboratories to sort me out with my daily fix. I find myself consuming pharmaceuticals in daily doses that make even my university years look tame. And - sadly - these ones don't allow me to see music. Or to intuit the fundamental interconnectedness of all things (though thankfully that one sticks with you). In return for downing these prescribed drugs, I have been "stabilised".

For most of 2005 I felt a tad gloomy about this. A dependency on The Man is not a sustainable state of affairs. Even if the large pharmaceutical corporations don't succumb to the coming global economic meltdown (in my view, they have a rather slim chance of survival) and specialist medications don't become the preserve of the powerful; I'm certain it's far from ideal - biologically-speaking - to take a handful of powerful drugs every day for decades.

I spent most of last year under the impression that this situation was fundamentally unalterable. Chances are, so long as I kept taking the pills, something else would eventually kill me. (It might be a bus. Tomorrow. We are none of us guaranteed anything.) But if I stopped taking the pills... well... "eventually" would almost certainly not be too far away.

I dunno... here's my thing... maybe it's all a big scam... maybe the 'doctors' are actually agents of Merck feeding me weird experimental psychoactive drugs and I'm really a 72-year-old woman living in a top-secret institute on the shores of Lake Lafayette in Tallahassee staring blankly at a screen detailing the events in the life of a 34-year-old man in London. Ever consider that? And if that's the case, the question that immediately springs to mind is why the hell aren't they changing the channel?

What with all those shows about millionaire playboys solving crime and sleeping with beautiful women. Or as Edward Ka'Spel might say...
We're the spectres on your screen
We murmur sweet transparent lunacy
Anyways, 2005 got a bit grim for a bit. But then suddenly a degree of grooviness and light. A possible route to actual health, as opposed to chemically-simulated health. However (and what a "however" this turns out to be). Amongst other things, it involves a fundamental change in how I live my life. Which brings me to...

The Future

As a result of all this and for lots of complicated reasons, I have decided to get the hell out of the city. My time in London has finally come to an end. I am moving to pastures new. Or rather, old.

I'm off to Dublin. The city I was born in, but left as a child. I've not spent more than a couple of weeks in it as an adult. My visits back to Ireland have always been to see my parents in West Cork. So although I've spent a few weeks in the country since my childhood, it's always as a tourist. A visitor. And almost none of it in my home town.

Of course, the city of my memories bears little resemblance to the Dublin of today. Which is no bad thing. I have no fondness for those memories... no nostalgia about Dublin in the 1970s. Indeed when I look back at my life, the decision of my parents to emigrate represents a massive liberation for me. Those who meet me today may be tempted to mutter something about frying-pans and fires.

In response allow me to point out that you get burnt by both, but at least the fire is interesting to look at.

The place I'm moving to is basically as far south and west as you can get in Dublin while still being on the transport system. Rathcoole to be exact. Intriguingly, within easy cycle-range of an area densely populated with prehistoric sites... burial mounds, tombs, stone circles and the like. I suspect if the Irish economic boom were to last another decade, Rathcoole would no longer be a relatively rural area on the edge of a big city. It would become a city suburb.

However I don't imagine that will happen (not that I plan to be in Rathcoole very long... it's very much a stepping stone... possibly to somewhere even more rural). No, my regular reader can probably guess the kind of odds I'd give on the Irish economic boom lasting another ten years.

See, although Ireland would be one of the least badly affected Western economies were a shortage of fossil fuels to play havoc with global capitalism, it's very much a relative thing... the difference, say, between a really really really hard kick in the balls and a really really really really hard kick in the balls. An altogether academic distinction to the man sobbing on the floor.

Home from Home (or: I Guess I'm Already There)

I left Ireland when I was twelve and I called seven countries on three continents "home" before I'd finished university. I've spent most of the time since university living in London. Living in nine separate places, though never south of the river. Of course. During that period I had extended stays living / working / travelling in Saudi Arabia, Germany, Brazil and the US (I spent almost the entirety of 1998 in Chicago). All that time though, I kept a flat in London. So by default London became the place I called "home" when I was living in hotels or tents.

It's the place I'm most familiar with. The place I have the longest uninterrupted connection with. It is my home. And now I'm leaving it "to go home".

Which, frankly, is all a bit fricking weird. When a cousin telephoned out of the blue and told me we'd have to go out for a drink "when I get home" I got a strange urge to whistle the Twilight Zone music.

All the same, Dublin is incontravertibly my "home town". I was born there, and lived there until the age of twelve. I was educated by the christian brothers and steeped in the unique mythology of Dublin at school and home alike. When I first set foot in Greece, I was definitely a child from Dublin. And so, for quite a few years I've known that one day I'd have to live there as a adult. Not for any exorcising demons bullshit (though there may well be a few ghosts lurking here and there), but simply because my understanding of who I am as a person will be forever lacking an essential component without a greater understanding of the place I came from.

Then I can piss off to the sun again.

Well, who knows? Neither my childhood memories nor my more recent short visits give the impression that it's a place I'd want to spend my life, but a confluence of external factors have made Dublin a good place for me to spend a year or two, so it makes sense to take this opportunity and learn a bit about the place while I'm there.

What about this place?

Well, there's a thing. To be honest, with my emigration / return being a shade less than five weeks away, I expect things to get a wee bit hectic and blogging to be light. Not that it could be much lighter than the past couple of months (I know, I know, I'm sorry... but I like to think I offer in quality what I lack in quantity. Matron.)

However I'm giving some serious consideration to reinvigorating my blogging efforts. Redoubling even. I have this hazy idea of tidying up my writing (just a very little bit), losing the nom de clavier, and focussing somewhat on Ireland (as seen through the eyes of someone who spent their childhood there, then spent 22 years all over the place, then came back).

Anyone who objects by saying that a switch of focus from the UK to "little old Ireland" might result in my writing becoming somehow less relevant, or less accessible, will be soundly beaten to death with a copy of Ulysses. Wielded by Shane MacGowan.

Not really. I'll do it.

I've no doubt that the same staggeringly destructive short-termism that I delight in revealing in British politicians is amply illustrated by their Irish counterparts (and if it isn't... well, that'll be a story in itself). And I'm curious to discover just how much damage the Celtic Tiger has done to the nation, how deeply the roots of Catholicism still go, and whether the spirit of a long and extraordinary history still lingers enough to be savoured without commodification or mediation.

We shall see.

Anyways, that's roughly the shape of things. Expect little activity between now and - say - the end of February. Then I'm going to launch the new site (probably using WordPress) with the new agenda, and threaten to firebomb the home of any bloggers I know who don't put me on their blogroll and big me up.

So yeah. Happy new year.

10 Comments:

Anonymous JB said...

Wow, long entry! I've only been to Ireland once, but I found it a lovely calming, beautiful place.

18/1/06 15:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dublin will ease your recovery better than London? How? Are you thinking of dingle dolphins? Whatever it is I hope it works out, look forward to further adventures of ireland's prodigal

22/1/06 21:50  
Blogger L said...

It's been a while since I was in Dublin, but I had a lovely time. People were so much friendlier than they are over here.

I just have one question though: why are all the sheep spray-painted in the countryside? I couldn't drive anywhere in the country without seeing sheep spray-painted in bright pastels and milling aimlessly around moldy old piles of rocks...

it was a marvelous vacation, however

24/1/06 05:19  
Anonymous Paul said...

I hitched through Ireland a few years back.

I started in Dublin, where the first person I met wrote the names of Connolly and the rest of his band of outlaws. Headed South and West to a council estate near a hill, where I smoked pot and got drunk with a group of ten year olds. I gog advised not to camp there or I'd be mugged by smackheads, so I got paranoid and walked for miles up the hill until I felt safer. But not that safe. I didn't sleep at all that night.

Then away to a tiny village between Dublin and Naas, where I slept, in a tent full of puddles, for 36 hours in the overgrown garden of a burned out house.

It rained and rained, then rained some more. After that, it drizzled.

Ended up in Waterford, via some place with a canal.

The sun came out. I played guitar in a waterfront bar with a group of other people that had just happened to carry musical instruments into a pub at 10 in the morning. And I managed to get back to Dublin in time for the ferry.

Marvellous!

26/1/06 03:51  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

anonymous wondered... Dublin will ease your recovery better than London? How?

Y'know, I've been wondering about that myself. Right now I'm falling back on "well, it seemed like a good idea at the time".

The fact of the matter is; I've come to the conclusion that my first priority must be "to get healthy". This will require a change in lifestyle and it's clear to me that the 'comfort zone' I've created for myself here is generating a huge amount of inertia.

Rather than use up energy struggling with that inertia; my solution is to "get the hell out of London". And once I'd made that decision, I was faced with choosing where to go next...

In truth, I don't feel actively drawn to anywhere in particular, and Dublin has always been the default option after London for all manner of reasons (as mentioned before, I feel strongly that it's somewhere I should spend some of my adult life, as it was where I spent most of my childhood). Then, on top of all that, when the purpose of my move became "to get healthy", Ireland became the obvious destination for a bunch of reasons.

JB, that lovely calming, beautiful Ireland... the almost 'mystical' place of the Tourist Board commercials does actually exist. When I sit on the clifftops in West Cork there's nothing about them that could be exaggerated by a commercial. Just like Scottish Tourism commercials actually can't do justice to the majestic landscapes of The Highlands, however good the film-crew.

However.

The vast majority of people living in Ireland (or Scotland for that matter) don't experience that side of their country on a regular basis (if at all). Most people in Ireland live in the same ugly concrete landscape as most Europeans and Americans. And they don't spend their days lying on clifftops in the sun; they spend them in traffic, in the office, and in a rush.

As for the legendary friendliness of the Irish people, L... there is - again - a great deal of truth in it. I suspect several dry books and innumerable doctoral theses have been written on the sociological reasons for this. For my part, it's something I find constantly worthy of remark.

Of course Ireland has more than it's fair share of violent and nasty people (one only has to remember the reason Ireland most often makes the news). But the average, normal random person you meet in Ireland is far more likely to make eye contact, begin a conversation, and basically engage with you as another human being, than in any other country I've ever been.

From what I gather however, the recent influx of immigrants into Ireland (for the first time in recent history; an economic success) is really putting Irish hospitality to the test and exposing a long-dormant xenophobia.

Turns out, it's one thing to be friendly towards foreigners who appear for a couple of weeks, drop a bunch of money, and go home. It's an entirely different proposition to be friendly towards the foreigners who arrive with no money and apply for jobs.

Notwithstanding, of course, the fact that the Irish made a career of doing exactly that to every country that had an economic boom during the past 200 years.

All this is creating tensions that never existed in Irish culture before and creating a more generalised suspicion of others which translates into a less friendly place for everyone.

That said, even now the people in Ireland are still friendlier than anywhere else I've travelled. I suspect that part of Dublin life, if nothing else, will be a refreshing change.

Paul, that "tiny village between Dublin and Naas" could well have been Rathcoole. It's one of several places that description could apply to. There is a sense in which the place is "the arse-end of nowhere", but it's actually perfect for my purposes. Small, quiet and surrounded by fields and forests; yet still on a city bus-route, so the cultural life of a major European city is available for Friday nights.

I used to do a lot of hitching myself (and Ireland is the easiest place in the world to hitch), but I was thinking of getting a bike, strapping my tent to the back and heading off for a few days at a time. There's a sense of isolation from the landscape, of "passing across it" rather than "being in it", when you're in a car.

Cycling is a great way to experience the place you're travelling through (and still be moving fast enough to put some decent distance between campsites).

28/1/06 19:17  
Blogger RA said...

I wish you well with your move and hope all that you hope for comes from it.

The last time I was in Dublin was for a gig. A great night only slightly spoiled by waking up at about 5 am in a hotel laundry cupboard rather than the bed in the room I'd paid for.

When I get more time I'll tell you Belfast Frank's great Bowie story that took place in Dublin too.

4/2/06 21:41  
Anonymous Double Glazing said...

I think it's time for us to build this topic again.Christmas was celebrated a few days ago and we are now preparing for New Year's Day.I'm wishing everyone a Happy and Blessed New Year.

27/12/10 23:32  
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