Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Me and my Ego: a digression on depression.

A happy, healthy ego is essential if one is to avoid harming others. Respect for oneself translates into respect for others and the world around us.

Sadly our egos are under constant attack from madvertisers [sorry slip of the keyboard but rather a rather clever neologism don't you think?], politicians, religious bigots, bosses, 'experts', journalists, fashionistas and so on who do their best to make us feel poor, threatened, guilty, inadequate, stupid, dowdy and ridiculous.

It's hard to survive this unremitting siege warfare. Most of us succumb most of the time and we carry the game forward and try to make others feel poor, threatened, guilty, inadequate, stupid, dowdy and ridiculous too. A very sorry state of affairs.

A couple of years ago my ego was a tattered mess. I was working as a therapeutic gardener in a day centre having to cope with 'service users' with 'challenging behaviour' and managerial hostility. At the same time I was shop steward and health & safety rep and having to 'support' colleagues suffering from 'work stress'. It all became too much and I came down with 'work stress' myself.

My head was full negative nonsense: I'm such a prat, twat, idiot, fool, pillock, failure; Oh God I'm so pathetic, feeble, unprofessional, 'unassertive', stupid. Can't spell. Can't add up. I'm ugly. There's probably something wrong with my brain, genitals, heart. I'm cursed. Everyone hates me. If people do like me it's because there's something wrong with them. I'm suffering from bad karma for the R.E. homework I didn't hand in to Miss Norgate, for dropping out of Cubs, Sunday School, The Sweyne School cross country team...Every decision I've made is wrong. I'm a waste of space... It just went galloping on like this without let up. My doctor told me I was depressed which I found depressing as I liked to think of myself as being mentally robust: the macho thing I can cope. But I couldn't.

What got me out of the big hole?

Firstly by understanding that the slurry of sorry thoughts sloshing about in my brain was not just a personal thing but something that other people experienced too. This insight came as a result of counselling and supporting others. It enabled me to see how other people felt on the inside and why they were nasty to others in turn. Hence my opening remarks above.

Depression is not a personal phenomenon, it's about how we all get on with each other.

Secondly by doing Suduko. Yes. I'm serious. It's important to find something that will take you away from the negative word stream. It's got to be something positive though. Swilling down great quantities of alcohol or watching cack on the box only provides temporary respite. Any activity that occupies the thinking processes weakens the depressive default position of destructive rumination.

Thirdly by taking some medication. I found Prozac helped . I'm generally anti-medication but I have to concede that this stuff helped.

Fourthly by finding my own voice. Some things that people say to you really hurt and stay with you for years. Whilst in my former post in Social Services a manger said to me, with a sneer on her face, What's the matter with you? Have you swallowed the dictionary? just because I'd used a word that I thought accurate and apt for the issue under discussion. I can't remember what the word was but the venom of the outburst left a serious wound.

One consequence of this was that I found myself unconsciously dumbing down. I found I fitted in better if I mumbled incoherently, was inarticulate and used the requisite cliches: 'inappropriate', 'challenging', 'empowerment', 'equal opportunities', 'inclusion'. The Newspeak of the 'Caring' Professions. An armamentarium of terminology designed to confuse, obscure, deflate, obfuscate, belittle, defuse any situation, condition or problem sorry 'issue'. There are no problems any more only 'issues'.

I care deeply about words and I love them to entertain, inform, evoke feeling; to waltz, bop, do the twist, stomp, strut, pole dance, pirouette, scurry, glide...You get the idea.

So part of my recovery was to start enjoying words again, to use them, play with them, shout them, whisper them without fear of the sneer and the put down. And here I am messing about with words and thoroughly enjoying it!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Filth but excellent coffee

I am so disgusted by the filthy condition of the market when I arrive that I take photos of it with a view to making a complaint. There we are in a top British tourist destination in a wealthy town, noted for its learning and one of the places to which visitors naturally gravitate, the market, looks dirty and uncared for. Would you get this problem in, say, Amsterdam or Berlin? No excuses are acceptable.

Sorry to mention you, Greg, after that but there you go you're a big part of the Sunday scene and it's a pleasure to exchange a bit of bizarre banter with you especially as I'm going through my second adolescence. Lovely coffee, great music, good gags. An asset to the market. Cheerful witty and engaged with what's going on.
I meant to put your pic down here, not next to the rubbish. If I remember rightly we were experimenting with different facial expressions. This was something like wry, cynical but with a an underlying friendliness.

Eets the croonching-g and the roostling-g

Tim the haberdasher, tells me about going to the ballet in Birmingham. He asks for some nuts at the kiosk to nibble at during the performance. The Brummie lass serving looks at him with puzzled contempt and says [and I can't do justice to Tim's performance of this incident, very sorry, you'd have to see Tim wrapping his lips round the big Brummie vowels and contorting his face to get the full effect]: We down't do noots fer the bal-ay. Eet's the croonching-g and the roostling-g. Eet poots the dancers off. We do noots fer the pantomime but we down't do noots for the bal-ay

Good Greens, Bad Greens

Firstly Bad Greens.
Bought a cabbage from a Stamford stall last week. It was rotten inside. Old knackered stock. Even though it was cheap it was useless. Wont be shopping on that stall again. It's so important for us all to sell good stuff even if it is cheap stuff.

Secondly Good Greens.
A group called Groundwork had the charity stall opposite me. Really nice people: young, enthusiastic, keen. They made me feel jaded and grumpy. The group were gathering info on what the good folk of South Kesteven thought about climate change so that the South Kesteven and District Council could be better informed about opinion on this issue. Which when I thought about it seemed a bit daft. Surely what is needed is action on climate change not the gathering of opinion? It's as though the Council are worried about what people might think. They might as well ask what people thought about bubonic plague or influenza for all the good it would do. The important thing is to be out there planting the trees, insulating houses, cycling to work and getting folk to wear vests in the winter.

Monday, 22 March 2010

When I started this blog I set myself a rule: no whingeing. I need to amend that slightly. No personal whingeing. Which leaves me free to whinge on behalf of others.

Yeasterday [ I like that misspelling, rather Joycean don't you think? Used the day after one's been on the beer?]... sorry, yesterday afternoon small knots of traders gathered here and there, glum, whingeing. Whingeing, softly, gently,bitterly, viciously, [ I'm a fan of adverbs, parentheses and ellipses, by the way]. Whingeing with good reason, which is why I report it. Trade was poor despite the delightful spring weather. Stallholders with excellent goods for sale, many locally produced such as our own, were just not taking enough money to earn a living. This concerns me. It's part of a general decline of markets in this country. For years market trading has offered a niche for people like myself who, for whatever reason, don't like being employees of large organisations whether they be corporate or public sector. We thrive as people when in a position to be ourselves with all our idiosyncrasies and eccentricities and thereby contribute to the richness of the social world: the 'Dickensian Dimension'. Without us there wouldn't be much colour in the world. We're the raw material! Artists, poets, novelists, songsmiths need us!

Politicians come round markets before elections [Norman Tebbit, do you remember going round Leicester Market? All those fruit and veg traders jeering? On yer bike, Norman, on yer bike...]. I hope they come round this year. I really would like to talk to them. I've plenty to get off my chest.

Markets are part of the still rich ecology of urban life. Those that survive still offer colour and some kind of reality that Supermarkets and Malls will never be able to provide. Those corporate spaces are a Hell Realm to those who value personal freedom and individuality, zones for the generation of landfill and alienation. Avoid them! Come back down to the market!

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Enigma Cats and Cocos & Cakes

Well. More wet rain099oixede...sorry Hot Lips [Cat] jumped on to the keyboard. What is he trying to tell me? I type rain; he adds 099oixede. The secret formula? The Enigma Cat?

Just been reading about human communication with the non-human realm in 'The Spell of the Sensuous', by David Abram. He describes his experiences in Bali in which he felt an intense rapport with nature. Holed up in a cave by intense Monsoon rain he watches spiders spin there webs:

I sat stunned and mesmerised before this ever complexifying expanse of living patterns upon patterns, my gaze drawn like a breath into one group of converging lines, then breathed out into open space, then drawn into another convergence. ... My senses were entranced.

He learns to slow down and attend to the subtle currents of the natural world around him. The song of birds, for example, becomes no longer just a melodic background to human speech, but meaningful speech in its own right, responding to and commenting on events in the surrounding earth.

He ascribes our poor mental health in the West to our impoverished relationship to a natural world that is itself impoverished. I'm in complete agreement with that. In fact it is self evident. If it is not self evident to you, dear reader, his point is proven.

Mike Munroe [Artist, two stalls up from me] tells me he's just been offered the chance to visit an exotic location: Cocos Island off the Costa Rican coast. He is being sponsored to make an expedition there, keep a blog, do paintings and sketches, make photos of his stay, and look about for the possible location of 'historic items'.

The Island is reputed to be the location of various pirate hordes , sorry, hoards, i.e. Buried Treasure! It is also the real location behind various works of fiction: Jurassic Park and Robinson Crusoe to name but two.

The really nice cake stall was next to me today. It's heartening to have such good stuff on the market, made by the stallholder herself, Samantha Shepherd. Her business is called 'The little Miss Cake Co.' . Her cakes are excellent and she is a hard working, very pleasant young mother. Good luck for the future, Sam!

099oixede Clue to the treasure ? 'X ' marks the spot! ;)

Monday, 8 March 2010

Hot flushes in M & S.

After a day out in the cold I slipped into the hallowed interior of Marks & Sparks. God! It was hot in there! I felt faint and flushed as I stood looking at the red wine display wondering if I could afford a bottle.

Is it really necessary to heat shops like this? How much energy does a department store gobble up in the course of a year? I had no problem in coping with the near zero temperatures because I was well dressed: two T shirts [one being my long sleeved Dr. Feelgood 'Milk & Alcohol' T shirt], thick shirt, waistcoat, tweed jacket, quilted trousers, thick boots, hat [essential! I love my hats]. So why can't those who work in shops turn the heating down at least a tad and compensate for this by wearing a thermal vest? I can hear the grumpy old man in me [he gets grumpier and louder every year] complaining: When I was a kid we didn't have any central heating...

Market trading is green trading. It doesn't use up the inordinate amounts of energy a shop does. A good reason for shopping on the market is it not?

Put your thermal vest on and come and visit us!

And keep it on to do your bit for energy conservation!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The Dropping of the Bollards & the Warmth of the Sun

Around midday the sun feels warm. I sit on my fold up chair and absorb its rays. I feel like an old lizard trying to quicken his blood ready for the new year.

The only downer of the day concerned the late dropping of bollards. The Melton District Traffic Wardens, resplendent in their fancy new uniforms, would not drop the market bollards until exactly four o'clock. Thus a tail back of dirty white vans spewing out diesel fumes built up, all the way back to Iceland [the shop not the country]. This meant that a very important gentleman could not get his shiny Rover Rover out from behind his office. He was remonstrating with the glazed eyed TWs when I interrupted to ask when traders would be let in he said: Excuse me! This is MY conversation. Very stroppy. I immediately dropped to the ground and begged him to allow me the honour of licking his boots. Sorry, I made that up.

In view of the stress everyone was experiencing it would seem best to give the TWs a useful job to do like care work or refuse collection and leave traders sort out their own access to the market. Other towns manage to get traders in and out without this degree of aggravation.

As for the very important gentleman he should be a TW for a year [ unpaid] as a form of community service.