Monday, 22 May 2017

Here is the final episode of Blind Man On Crack, also known as How To Become A Crack Addict, which you can also buy on Amazon if you really want to.  After this last episode, there will be more musings, a couple of times a week, on the austere topics of appetite and addiction, if indeed they're not just two points on the same studded whip.

Chapter 22

The Nice Man Cometh

This is where I say, ‘I never looked back.’  I did though, a handful of times, mostly out of boredom rather than the old-style compulsion.  A few months in, when life had ground to one of its halts, I sauntered down the road like Noel Coward in search of some fine ground coffee, really because I couldn’t think of anything else to do with my morning.  Once I couldn’t get there fast enough, but now it was like wading through Starbucks latté-syrup.  Addiction had atrophied my life, but now addiction itself was beginning to freeze up.

There I sat, in a vintage haunt, a squat several floors above Superdrug.  It was nine in the morning, and my arrival was a thing of joy to those who’d money and charm had dried up in the night.  You had to go up a fire-escape and clamber over the roof to get there, a forgotten little space, comprising a kitchen-table, couple of chairs, strewn blankets and a cat, archly monitoring proceedings from various vantage points.  A girl I’d met somewhere down the line lit me up that first pipe, the one that lifts you to a place where all senses are sated, and librarians can be letches for as long as the high allows.  I leaned back in the creaking wicker-chair, that smelt of cat-sick, but felt almost as wretched as when I’d arrived.  I hurriedly had another, in case of any trickery.  But even though the high had disappointed, the aftermath was as bitter and tense as ever, and the weak, groggy smudge of heroin I smoked did nothing to assuage it.  This may have been one of the few times I left before the money ran out.

I no doubt tried again a few weeks later, but it was as if I’d arrived at a place of critical mass, where years of rage and stasis could no longer be safely contained.  If I went on, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get back.  I didn’t know if my mental health could take it.  Like a man who’d maxed out on every possible card, I could barely move for all the furniture I’d ordered, and all I had to look forward to was a bevy of bailiffs banging beardedly on my not-yet-kicked-in door.  And there was I, slumped, quiet below the windowline, gradually realising that the answer to damage was not more damage.

I’d stumbled on crack by accident.  I didn’t want to graduate to crystal meth, just to work my way towards another certificate, ten years down the line.  Tentatively, I began hanging onto money that months before I’d have squandered.  Slowly, as if planted by elves, food began appearing in the fridge, jeans and t-shirts in the wardrobe, and I wanted, I needed, to keep going.  Life felt like a frozen swamp I’d crawled from, but I had to know if I could stand, stagger, even walk, on dry land.  I put my mind to working out what life might mean in this new, yet distantly familiar, wilderness.

For years, I’d been recoiling from the physical pain caused by my sight-condition.  Crack alleviated some of this, albeit fleetingly, and heroin had its own slippery take on analgesia, the more you took, the more you needed, until it ended up taking you.  The days in bed between binges were spent mostly with eyes closed, minimising my need to look at anything, apart from the TV glow in the corner.  But now, up and about, and doing stuff, I found even a day’s worth of blinking could leave me jaded.  There was the emotional aspect to consider also, the disconnection I felt from the world, through not seeing it, and not feeling seen by it, and the relationships I knew this had cost me.

Also, the crack seeped into the fracture-lines caused by the abuse I experienced in my early teens.  In fact, the anatomy of my relationship with crack almost replicated that with my abuser.  In both, I was tricked into believing I was being given something nice, good, but secret, illicit - and there was I, confused as to the rules and legal moves, riven with desire and fear, my own sexuality barely nascent, dammed before it even began to flow.  The strange, stilted manoeuvres of that time were like playing chess in a minefield.  But I’d rather lose honourably than win cynically, any day.

My CV, when I tried to put one together, looked like it had a page missing.  Over the years, I’d frequently passed a local theatre, but never even been to see a play there.  I sent an email to the manager, saying I’d done a bit of comedy, and would like to reconnect with a theatrical environment, deploying phrases like ‘keen interest’ and ‘reliable nature’, as recalled from days in the psychotherapy office.  I didn’t even know if the world still had offices, but I thought some of the phrases might still apply.  A reply came swiftly back, and I am, even now, a bit player in the workings of this lovely, ancient establishment.  I’ve seen a handful of productions, and even been to a few opening-night parties…champagne all round, and the buzzy banter of actorly folk, some with personalities as precarious as mine.  I’m going there today, as it happens, and it’s nice to have somewhere to go that doesn’t smell of cat-sick, or leave you wanting to die.

In my virtuousness, I contacted a local charity, volunteering to befriend an elderly blind person in Isleworth.  Having had a few near misses with the police, I was relieved my CRB check came back free from arrests, cautions, and reprimands, which would have rendered me ineligible for almost anything but more crime.  At first, things seemed the wrong way round, as Jimmy, retired abattoir-manager from Feltham, seemed to have a better social life than me, but at least he didn’t slaughter me, and you woudn’t believe the things you can do with a melted pig’s head.

I even re-engaged with my main love, writing music.  Under the edgy guise of Benjamin Lo-Fi, I began leaving CDs (already an anachronism) on walls and hedges, at bus-stops, on the cistern in coffee-shop toilets.  I cunningly tweaked my Youtube tagwords, and audience figures rose by anything up to three a week.  I now have a small fan-base in Moldova.

As good things happen when you do good things, one day I spotted a banner opposite the theatre, for comedy-improvisation workshops.  I’d dreamed, albeit with a degree of terror, of doing this kind of thing since watching ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ back in the 90s, with Josie Lawrence, Paul Merton, and other luminaries.  It’s the best thing I’ve done in years, after escaping the merry-go-round of death, of course.  I’ve even done a few bits of stand-up in local comedy clubs, although my fourteen-year-old script has needed a bit of an update.  Baywatch was a pretty soft target, even in 1998.

But life’s no quarantine.  Out and about, I still see some of the people I used to drag around with.  A few have even got clean, via NA, the drug service, rehab, or a niggling desire for a life with some change in the pocket.  Others have just become rumours, referred to whenever someone still living wants to reminisce or backbite.  Jacob, last I heard, was in hiding in Hayes, wanted for a sexual assault in Shepherd’s Bush.  Dennis was deported to Grenada, according to someone whose sofa he lived on for a while.

Others lie underground.  Faith died on Christmas Eve, 2011, according to one of her neighbours.  Suzie, Spike’s battered other half, went around the same time, as did Sam, their friend who came to see me in hospital when I overdosed.  Debbie of Droop Street, as already mentioned, died just before my return to London, swiftly followed by her heavily sedated brother, Freddie.  I could go on.

But what about Sandra, the spark that provided the catalyst for this little story?  According to a mutual acquaintance, she was apparently homeless in Harlesden, probably sofa-hopping, plying her dying trade as and when, and with whom, she could, between the odd kebab and microwaved fish-pie.  What you hear about people is often false, or at least imbued with some kind of grudge or vendetta.  You might find some of them on Facebook, but then that’s just them lying rather than someone else.

Even my little flat, once a symbol of inertia and unshakeable memories, is a bit more shipshape now.  I found a factory-second Turkish rug on eBay, which my feet now land on when I swivel out of bed.  A solar-powered wind-chime hangs from the curtain-rail, which colour-shifts and gleams in the evening, if it’s been sunny enough.  There are even a few plants around, sucking in the toxins, looking leafy, adding life to a slightly barren cube.  I even managed to get my books up from my mum’s, which at least make me look a bit scholarly, and remind me of being at college, when smoking a joint was pushing the boat out.  The walls, now dotted with various bits of art, are blueberry white in the living-room, and TARDIS blue in the hall.  No more the smell of Lynx Singleman hanging in the air, but the mellow smoke of a sandalwood joss-stick, curling in from the windowsill.  The place is just beginning to resemble the Marakesh grotto I envisaged, over a decade ago.  Could be time for a housewarming.  But don’t you just love a hippy ending?

A year or two ago, still in the thick of my drugs hell, a friend in a meeting handed me a cup of tea and asked, ‘How’s things?’  I said I was depressed, because I’d used.  Then he asked, ‘How’s things apart from that?’  But there was no ‘apart from that’.  That was all there was.  I’d been frozen out of my own life, placed in some arctic ghost-world, with no landmarks, no relief, no Ray Mears, where desire and remorse roamed, conjoined, despising each other, their footprints a shrinking circle, icy itinerants, lost, longing for spring.  And so, as the world warms up, I too, like an intransigent glacier, must crack, creak, thaw, and flow.  I could go on, but I’m sure we both have things to do.

Or not do.

‘Moving liquid, yes, you are just as water,
You flow around all that comes in your way…’

(Kate Bush, Moving)


Thank you so much for reading.  And now, it's songtime:  Delete History

I will be back in a few days with more related ramblings. X

Friday, 19 May 2017

Here is the penultimate episode of Blind Man On Crack, otherwise known as How To Become A Crack Addict.  I hope you enjoy it, or something in that ballpark...

So, after that gratuitous graffiti, here it is...

Chapter 21


More months of torpor crept by like a deviant monk, and my counsellor, probably lost for ideas, mentioned an approach to matters addictive called Intuitive Recovery.  She said it was different from the twelve-step fellowships, and that, if I would like, she’d refer me.  If the drug service had run a loyalty-card scheme, this transaction would’ve been the sun-lounger and parasol.  Soon I would be in the catalogue, tanned and sated in a recovery position, smoothie beside me on responsibly sourced decking, implying a fun approach to responsible living.  Yes, maybe it was worth one more lunge at hope.  It would be a four-day course to take place at one of the drug-hubs in the borough.  It all sounded fairly inoffensive, and at least it would get me out, show me new coffee-shops to sit in.  Then, after a few more weeks of stasis, up came my number, and it was time to unfurl that parasol.

There we sat, 10am (dawn in drug-world) on day one, me and six classmates, in various states of mental and sartorial repair.  Before us, two tutors, an impish Mancunian and a London lass, and, behind them on a whiteboard, a diagram of a human brain.  They seemed sparky, welcoming, but not overly, and my cult-radar went into standby.  I was tired of the twelve-step idea of the ‘disease’ of addiction, so opened what was left of my mind in the hope that, somehow, something helpful might get jemmied in.  I was desperate for almost anything to refresh my senses, just make sense to me.  I’d have almost pinned my colours to a seminar taken by Keith Harris and Orville, with Emu on the basics of relapse-prevention.  It was a torrid yet tired state - any clarity that did shape as a light-bulb above me, I’d reach out and switch off to conserve resources, with only just enough energy to do that, tired of light, tired of the causes of light.

Thankfully, though, my credulity wasn’t overstretched.  No puppets were deployed at all, nor any form of ventriloquism, another nice change from the twelve steps, which seemed like one big act of mass-ventriloquism, especially if you happened to stumble on a convention.  No strings attached, but puppeteers everywhere.

Our tutors were both ex-users, but didn’t seem to be bringing with them an agenda, hidden or otherwise, or presenting themselves as templates of what ‘recovery should be’.  They didn’t want us to shout into cushions, talk to empty chairs, or paint mugs.  I was glad of this, because by now I was counselled out.  As far as is possible in a world of drifting, fought-over meanings, they seemed to offer facts rather than ideas, or even ideals.  Not everyone was quite so enamoured though.  One guy behind me asked to go to the toilet, and that was the last we saw of him.  So, to a dwindling class, our tutors talked about the brain’s relationship with pleasure, and showed how addiction can be seen as a natural and normal state for the brain to adopt, once introduced to a suitable catalyst - no more a disease than desire.

To me, this brought back my concept of addiction to me.  More clearly I saw my problem as part of me, rather than a diffuse offshoot, a shadow-self, a mishmash of disease and defects that other people were defining around me.  Rather than the ‘disease’ of addiction, the course spoke more about the ‘decisions’ of addiction.  Rather than the ‘addict’ as something someone is, the inflection was more on ‘addiction’ as something someone does, a string of decisions that keeps alive the diminishing loop of relapse, remorse, and repetition.

At first I was pleased to have a platform, or gallows, from which to jeer at the twelve-step rabble, but even this kneejerk rebellion dissolved into less rigid thinking.  Maybe one person’s disease was another’s bad decision.  A twelve-stepper and a peddler of more clinical ideas might use different terms, but in the end they’re both trying to do the same thing, stop resorting to the quick fix.  Why sing from different hymn-sheets when we’re all shouting into a whirlwind anyway?  What’s in a name when it’s swept away in the hurricane?  I can be booked for warzones.

I’d been lost in the noise of it, past advice, current advice, and advice that it seemed I was doomed to hear for the rest of my days, but never heed.  Riddled with self-doubt, I still thought maybe the twelve steps would save me after all, like open arms I could no longer afford to shun.  Maybe I was, as one NA fundamentalist had implied, in denial, not ready, not willing, or thought I was ‘special and different’ (SAD).  Beset by clichés, I sometimes thought my only option was cling to one, in the hope it might take me somewhere safe.  Better live shallow than die deep.  Or maybe I was doomed to go round and round in the proverbial revolving-door of treatment, one that, if you’re not careful, spirals in the more you spin, ‘til you’re coiled around the spindle like a barber’s sign, face, just discernible in scarlet diagonals.

But here, in my informal-yet-lifesaving classroom setting, kettle’n’biscuits never far from reach, I didn’t feel preached at, or challenged simply for having a mind, asking questions.  I felt spoken to on the level, factually, without recourse to the cobweb-clad identity of the ‘addict’, which by now was beginning to remind me more of the idea of original sin, transubstantiated into substance.  I didn’t feel patronised either.  The tutors, though ex-users, had nothing of the sinner that repenteth about them, no do-as-I-do map leading from rock-bottom to a precarious ledge halfway up a cliff.

It was a shaky progress, though.  My demons and analysts were in full chorus throughout.  On day three, with just three of us left, money went into my account, and I felt a compulsion to score when I got home, but somehow resisted by getting stoned and staring at octopi on Eden.  I even had a dealer’s number in my phone, which I’d not quite deleted yet.  It was touch’n’go – using would have scuppered the course, left me with a diminishing set of options, and more weeks of fear and despondency to negotiate before yet another hopeless push at hope.  Their tentacles drifted balletic before me, seeming to wave me through, to a place of fluid blue.  Almost as clever as dolphins, octopi, can even do crosswords - well, could if they could write.

Day four had a motivational, end of term feel to it, and everyone, that’s to say the three of us who’d stuck it out, seemed enthusiastic, even enlightened.  We recapped, and looked at ways of keeping ahead of the addictive voice within.  Then, after lunch, we completed, having turned up and said enough to indicate we’d been mostly awake.  We were each given a certificate, a key-ring, and our workbooks to refer to as and when, but more, much more than this, they gave me what addiction, even rehab and twelve-step fellowships, hadn’t – a sense of a self.

Back in my flat, I was relieved to have made contact with people I found authentic, and sane.  I was sad it was over, but they weren’t selling a set of values, an identity, a lifestyle, so why would they keep us?  But it was no Saul-to-Paul thing.  I wouldn’t have trusted it if it had been.  There was no moment of clarity, more of a continuation of the tearing away of the cobweb, rubbing away of the condensation, and this experience consolidated what I was already coming to realise, rather late, some might argue, that I was in the driving-seat of my life, whether I liked it or not.  I’d been writhing in the boot, bound, like a Houdini tribute-act, bent on getting famous for failing.  Now it seemed, though, that the ropes had never been tied, boot, never locked.  Whodini?

But I still felt frozen by years of inactivity, having lived in a flat for a decade that many couldn’t have stood for a year.  It felt like a museum to motionlessness.  But I was the gaoled and the gaoler, bewailing my confinement with key in pocket.  Socially, I felt translucently alone, like I was slowly disappearing due to lack of human contact.  People would pop in and out of my life, but it was intermittent, and mostly drug-related, how to get them, how to avoid them, what to do if you’ve used them and are feeling bad.  Some old friends were gone, some were never there, even fewer still around, and there’s only so far you can take your relationship with your pharmacist.

The world through my window seemed like a dream seen through a prism.  Each day felt like a piece of cold plasticine, its potential remote, something could be made from it, with some patient, thumb-numbing moulding, even though there were bits of hair and grit in it.  I was tired of hurriedly morphing little men, only to fist them flat because they wouldn’t do the high-jump when I wanted.  So I chose to adopt the attitude that genuine change is plasticine, not damascene.

For weeks, even the slightest threat of normal living flummoxed me.  There wasn’t a lot of food in.  There was money in the bank.  What was I meant to do with that conundrum?  One evening, I found myself milling through the rush-hour, pacing to the cashpoint, transmuting into that familiar apparition of pure appetite, to emerge scowling, on the verge again, outside Sainsburys Local, where I bought a pizza I couldn’t read the label of, and milk.  I ate it watching Time Team, and cried.  It was ham’n’pineapple.

Thanks.  As ever, here is a song for you, by me:  Delete History

See you in the next day or two I guess?

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

EPISODE 20 of Blind Man On Crack

Hello.  Thank you for dropping by.  Here is the 20th gaudy episode of Blind Man On Crack, or as it's also known, How To Become A Crack Addict.  You can find it on amazon as an ebook, if you do that kind of thing, or just read it all here, where there are also other thoughts, pictures, songs, etc...

Chapter 20

Putting The ‘Cess’ Into ‘Success’

As the twenty weeks drew to a close, my archive of trauma thoroughly rifled through, I was still acting like a therapeutic puppet, showing the counsellors, as best I could, how much better I was, and the peers who came after me that it was possible to stick it out, to change, to get better.  I didn’t mention my attempted relapse, just perpetuated the performance, attempting in morning group to seem insightful, funny, and honest, or at least something that could pass for honest.  Shame we weren’t allowed on the pier – could have made some pocket money spinning a beach-ball on the end of my nose.

Then it was time to matriculate, graduate, vacate the premises.  It was Wuthering Heights Day, July 30, birthday of both Emily Brontë and Kate Bush.  People who’d stayed the course were seen off in a format akin to ‘This Is Your Life’, which took place in the morning therapy group.  I’d already been part of half a dozen of these seeings-off, and now it was my turn.  Twenty people had left early, for various reasons, in the time I’d been there, whereas only a handful had completed, although I think inertia played quite a big part in my doing so – and, of course, leaving on Wuthering Heights Day would surely mark an upturn.  Didn’t the Calendar know who I was?

So there we sat in the sun-flooded therapy-room, blanched by years of support.  It was customary for the departing to give everyone a card, peers and therapists alike, which I did, reading them out as I sat there next to my counsellor, relieved and terrified to be leaving.  Cards read, everyone fed back at me, saying stuff that, frankly, if it hadn’t gone in by now, wasn’t going to.  My counsellor then recited a poem she’d chosen, as was also routine.  She read, in her zigzag tones, a simple string of stanzas by graveyard-poet and mental-patient, John Clare, called ‘The Vision’.  Her nod to my sight-condition, needless to say, moved me.  Then, swivelling in dazzling beige, she handed me a gleaming heart-shaped key-ring, and a pencil with the word ‘success’ etched into it.  Then Abigail, who’d been a good friend through my time there, presented me with a box of paints, a gift from the peers - as I’d shown great promise in the draw-your-own-future workshop.

An hour later, in the slot between morning therapy and lunch, I walked to the station, flanked by assorted peers, old and new, who waved me off as my train pulled away, and began its journey back to London.  Being me, I’d not arranged for anyone to meet me at the other end, so, arriving solemnly at Paddington, I dragged my bag across the concourse, and got a taxi back to Shepherd’s Bush in a state of increasing trepidation.  As various using landmarks passed me by I knew, unless I was about to have a Damascene moment, that I was doomed to be stubbly for the foreseeable future.

I opened the door to my flat, and it was dim and musty within, traffic singing Siren-like beyond deep-green curtains.  I pulled one back with a dismal swish, switched on the hi-fi, which still had ‘You Are The Quarry’ by Morrissey in it.  A box containing my reading-screen, laptop, and various clothes, sat taped-up on the floor, but I had no inclination to unpack.  So, after carefully weighing up my life, the pros and cons of relapse, the pros and cons of recovery, and the various permutations of grey in between, I picked up the phone and rang Spike and Suzie, where I spent the entire night squandering what little money I’d saved whilst away, crawling home the next morning, almost suicidally depressed.

I spent most of the next six weeks in bed, not really washing or brushing my teeth, and eating whatever there was, or wasn’t, in the kitchen.  On a money-day, I’d manage to get up and blow it all on crack’n’heroin.  I was not the functional and productive member of society I’d been hoping to become.  Occasionally, I’d open the curtains to indicate to neighbours I at least had basic motor-skills.  Days and nights went by with the Discovery Channel repeatedly recounting the history of the longbow, story of the musket, or how, according to the Mayans the world was due to end in 2012, which helped a bit.  I managed eventually to get to my doctor, and she put me back on antidepressants, and, after a few weeks, things went from near-suicidal to just wishing I could die in my sleep, without having to do anything, or at least before the next showing of ‘Extreme Archaeology’.

I’d kept in touch with a few of my ex-peers, including Abigail.  She was now living in the town we’d rehabbed in, and invited me down to come and stay.  This felt like a validation, of sorts.  Even sealed in my flat, things began to feel a bit like life.  I’d somehow not used for a couple of months, which was progress.  I liked Abi, and was determined to tell her so when I saw her.  She had Emo tendencies, and knew about things like Pavlov’s dog, and that bloke’s cat.

And there I was, on the train to the coast.  Slough, Reading, Bristol Templemeads, and I was back in the backwater, the marshy heartland of the Druid Marketing Board.  A text-flurry in a blackspot can be dangerous, but I deigned to tell Abigail I was looking forward to seeing her, and that I’d missed her, and part of it might have rhymed.  My provider’s name flashed on and off - then a text from Abi read, ‘Don’t think so,’ which, naturally, I took as a stern dampening-down of my headstrong advances, until I realised it was probably the reply to one sent minutes before, ‘Do you want any milk?’

Then, on the platform, a vague embrace, and a stroll to the Waterstones with a coffee-shop in it.  We even dropped in on the old rehab on our way back to hers.  I didn’t want, but had a brief chat with my counsellor before leaving.  She said she’d been ‘very angry’ to hear of my relapse, and believed it to be the work of my ‘rebellious child’.  I vaguely appeased her pigeonholing, then threw a fish about self-parenting, said she’d made some valuable points, and left.

Later, Abigail and I were sitting in her room, Manic Street Preachers crooning in the corner, and I was determined I should tell her how I felt.  My mouth was dry as sand, and I felt like I was being throttled – but, somehow, as the Welsh bards bawled, I managed to force up a jumble of words that just about got the message across.  Having deciphered my gaspings, Abigail said she was flattered, but didn’t feel the same in that regard, but valued me immensely as a friend.  I felt defeated, yet vindicated.  But my plan was foiled.  Maybe I’d pinned too much on it.  Then I started crying, copiously.  I went to the bathroom to regroup, returning apologetically to find Abi in tears, being consoled by a housemate, but apparently it was nothing to do with what I’d said, which, in my book, is a date.

The next day, I felt brittle and self-piteous, plus feverish, as if the pent-up passion in me was trying to sweat out.  I announced my departure, making out it was purely for medical reasons - Abi and I hugged a vague goodbye on the platform, I hopped on board, and there was no need to worry about the Druid blackspot anymore.  I seemed to half-exist again, and felt Emma, back in the office of olde, endorsing my ongoing quest for a basic level of affection, like a tick on a memo.

Back in the Bush, I returned to the drug service and continued regaling my counsellor with various views and grievances.  I was glad, though, that she shared my opinion of my therapist-on-sea, and felt I seemed, in some ways, more damaged by the experience than helped.  She was sad also that my plans to woo Abigail hadn’t come off, because she’d seen a change in me in the weeks before my visit.

But life felt empty, and there seemed little to talk about.  I needed a course, some work, to flourish, see more people, but an empty life can seem so full you can’t move, and I ended up resorting to using, as much out of boredom as anything.  I was still showing up at NA meetings, sometimes even AA, because by now I felt so embarrassed to be seen in NA - then I tried a spell in CA (Cocaine Anonymous), but in none of them found a spiritual home, or even a gateway to one.

It wasn’t long before Christmas was upon us again, and my goodwill levels rose accordingly.  One night, I was sliding about on the ice at two in the morning, on my way to the cashpoint, and then Faith’s.  I hadn’t been there for a year.  Would she even still live there?  She might have been in treatment too, or somehow got clean in the drug service ten doors down the road.  Maybe she’s rung the changes, gone sienna in the bathroom, Etruscan Sundown on the landing.  Gerald, Faith’s lumpen ex, as if of wax, answered the door.  He seemed semi-animated to see me, perhaps because he sensed a pipe.  I stepped inside, as if back in time.  Faith called out from the kitchen, but was apparently entertaining.  Then Jacob emerged from the bathroom, where he’d been having some quality-time with a girl of his choosing, who now closed the door on proceedings.  I felt like stone.  Granite, I shunned the sculptor’s chisel, in favour of stasis, or maybe I just liked making phrases up about it.

Jacob was cordial, and furnished me with a pipe.  He felt the need to tell me how displeased he’d been to see me with Dennis the previous day.  He’d spotted us, outside the bookie’s, ‘going off, as if to score’.  The next day, he saw Dennis asleep on a mattress at David’s, so crouched down, held a knife to his throat, shook him awake, threatening to slice him if he dares interfere with one of his associates again.  There was something engulfing about Jacob’s eyes as he delivered his lecture.  He gloated that Dennis had begged him for clemency, and that clemency was his to give.  We smoked away in the living-room, with occasional help from the girl he’d been in the bathroom with, a stout Liverpudlian called Lesley.  Then, once again, it was out into the icy wilds to hunt some cash.  I was just grabbing the notes when Jacob decided we should relocate.  Faith’s place was a dive, by all accounts.  He’d have made quite a good estate agent.

Shackleton-like, we negotiated the fluffy downpour whirling about us, and, before long, ended up with a girl maybe had crack-psychosis.  She’d chatter and move about, take a pipe, offer something sexual, then apply two lit lighters to her already stubbly hair, insisting there were bugs under her scalp, and could we see them, could we hear them?  A ghoul on a crutch invited us away from her, upstairs to his place, which was equally peopled with assorted psychiatric evacuees, one of which Jacob knew, a moustachioed northerner called Carl, who told me he was a clairvoyant.  It wasn’t long before he was punched in the face when smoking from a glass pipe.  Blood poured and sprayed as he lunged around.  The culprit raged into the hall, cursing, and out, smashing the door behind him.  Jacob fashioned the seer a towel-turban, to staunch the wound.  Hadn’t seen that coming.

By morning, I was back out on the ice, looking for the nearest cashpoint.  A guy was begging opposite the BBC, a bobble-hatted figure I’d apparently met before.  He asked me if I wanted to get something, introducing himself as Pav – maybe it was short for Pavement.  I figured I may as well stay with him, rather than go back to Jacob and the psychic.  Pav asked me if I’d keep an eye on his pitch, skidding off to tell a colleague he was moving on.  I remained, lemonlike, shivering, white cane dangling like an icicle, pointing down to a slush-embedded Addis tub.  I seemed to be good for trade, and when my friend returned, he said, ‘Hey, someone’s chucked a two-pound coin in.’  I was glad to have been of help, and now know how MPs must feel when they play homeless for an afternoon.

Pav scooped up the tub, and bad me follow.  Round a corner, down some steps, and we were in someone else’s flat, knee-deep in hoarded rubbish.  A sofa, covered in tired-looking blankets, could be discerned, although getting to it involved wading through newspapers, hubcaps, supermarket-baskets, bottles, cans, and god knows what.  We crunched over and propped ourselves on an edge, as our host languished like a Beckett character in his own detritus.  His name was Rod, and he told me he’d been an environmentalist.  Seemed he took a lot of his work home.  Said he’d been an extra in ‘Alfie’.  Had a memento, somewhere.

Then I smoked some heroin and was sick in his indescribable toilet.


Well, that's today's episode done and dusted. As ever, here is a song for your consideration, just click on this youtube link, if you want to:  Farewell To The Stairwell