Are You Happy?

Are You Happy?

Whenever I think of happiness, I’m filled with this kind of hopelessness.

I can’t think of a single time when I have experienced the joy that I’ve read about – the kind of elation that spits
fire through the veins.

And that is all I’ve ever wanted. I’m not interested
in money, or popularity;
I’m not even interested in love, if I am being honest
with myself. I just
want to find a way to be happy for half-a-second; an instant.

I want to know what it is like to look into myself
and see something other than a hole staring back at me.

I want to know what it is like to be able to look in the mirror and smile,
and not immediately want to cry. It isn’t like I’d call myself depressed – I’d just call myself empty.
It’s like I’m watching a character;
like I’m staring around the room whilst these fingers
– weak slabs of meat and bone – type away.

It’s like I’m pushed on by the winds of habit;
like I’m driven forward by a sail and no storms touch me,
no cool waters make my progress all the easier –
no sunlight falls across my prow and
no rain makes my deck wet and dangerous.

I just go.

I just keep going, with no direction and no purpose and no stars overhead to light my way.

Whenever I think of happiness, I don’t even know that I would recognise it. I have slept with beautiful women and drank until I can’t see; I have smoked and walked and fought and knocked head-wracking painkillers down my throat.

I don’t want anything, except to be happy. And to be honest, I don’t think I’d even recognise it if I was happy, because happiness cannot be this hollow feeling in the back of my throat.

Happiness cannot be waking up with a bad taste in my soul. Happiness cannot be blinking in the sunlight and tightening my brow until I can see. Happiness cannot be hesitating in the shower and turning the heat up until my entire body feels like its burning and turning it up again. Happiness cannot be hovering over the disposable razors and cutting my skin without breaking the flesh until my arms sting but don’t bleed. Happiness cannot be drinking at 3:00 in the morning and waking up at 6:00 and wanting to do nothing more than drink again. Happiness cannot feel like a leash, holding me in place though I’m holding onto it myself.

Happiness cannot be this, this bloody, turgid life waiting for the next time I can go to sleep and, for a few hours, hate myself in dreams rather than life.

So, if you know how to be happy.
If you ever knew how to be happy.
If there’s something that makes you happy, let me know.

Because I want to be happy. But I don’t want to be happy, because I don’t even know what desire is. I don’t know what it feels like to want something so fervently that your heart races at the very idea. I know sex. I know drink. I know drugs. I know food. I know music.

I don’t know how to be happy.
I don’t even know if I want to be happy.

I don’t know how to want. But I know how to hope.

I hope that I’ll be happy one day.

The Empty Breast of Intellect: A Short Essay On the Ingrained Opposition to Intelligence

The Empty Breast of Intellect: A Short Essay On the Ingrained Opposition to Intelligence

Capitalism, the apparent victor of history, has done what all dogmatic ideologies and cultural systems tend to do, in the end. It has promoted and, indeed, cemented the dissolution of generally intellectual thought in certain areas. Whilst technology has grown, and we are all moving towards the gentle, comfortable state of the post-human (whether we like it or not), the minds to whom that technology is made available have become stunted and segmented.

I do not believe, for a moment, that I am outside the bounds of this generalisation; I firmly believe that I am just as stunted as everyone else. Similarly, I don’t call myself necessarily an anti-capitalist, though I firmly believe that an argument could be made that our society currently exists more in line with a perversion of capitalism, than that which necessarily developed over the last few hundred years.

Anyway, before I begin, I feel as though it might be beneficial for us all, myself included, to outline what capitalism is, to my perception.

The goal of capitalism is, in optimistic terms, the general circulation of wealth to improve comfort and self-awareness within the confines of the society itself. Within capitalism, we work and we are rewarded for that work fairly and honestly and we live to a certain degree of comfort based on our talents, the amount of work that we do and the opportunities we make the most of. Capitalism is based on ourselves, and wealth is self-worth and we worship it in practical terms, with a fierce kind of dedication, along with whatever spirits we might desire.

The only real opposition to capitalism, or the ideals of capitalism, is the same as the only thing blocking the ideal of Marxism from becoming a reality. We are people, driven by emotions and logic powered by the self. We are evolved primates, still longing to bare our teeth and take more than our share. Totalitarianism isn’t just an ideology, it’s a logical step from capitalism. Neoliberalism is totalitarianism, and it is how our society operates, with the exception that there is, truly, no law. The strong are not those in charge. Most of the time, it isn’t even the most intelligent, bravest, most daring or most unique. It isn’t those with a clear direction forward; it’s those with the ability to pretend to a personality that does not exist – thanks to the kinds of politics that developed in the 1960s and 70s, particularly in America, power is now dictated by the carefully choreographed personality that sways people from one candidate to another. Democracy has become its own worst enemy and I can only really blame one thing for that sad fact – culture.

Our culture is the main reason for the continuous failure of our society, particularly here in Britain. Our love of the underdog has, in a sense, been one of the primary features of our own undoing. We don’t want clever people in any kind of power, we don’t even really want intelligence because we are afraid of it. Instead, we have this strange desire to keep everyone at the same level. We don’t even want our leaders to be intelligent; how else could we explain the presence of our members of Parliament, our Lords and our council authorities? Intelligence is said to be prized by our school system but it is slowly and surely beaten out of us by our peers, our culture and, above all, our free time.

My argument here (or at least this subsection of my argument) is based upon those three aspects – our peers, our culture, our freedom. The three weights that hold those of us down who aspire to be more than what we are. It is entirely likely that, having grown up in dismal town filled with repugnant people, my birthplace and my formative years have affected me far more than they should have done on subjects like this. Still, these are the opinions that I have formed in this place, with the shadow of the internet and all of man’s knowledge, with a few short years of library access before it was closed down and used as a squat; with access to an education system that didn’t push and didn’t pull and, in the end, was most useful when it left me alone and provided nothing more than an excuse to learn for myself.

Our Peers

Perhaps the largest chain around our collective ankles is ourselves. My complaints against the weight of our peers on the fragile resistance of our intellectual potential is threefold: one; the judgement of other members of society is one of the strongest corrosive elements available, so much so that our entire way of life is built upon it; two; there is a long-standing reticence against the admission or the development of any kind of intellectual advancement for favour as being seen as big-headed, arrogant or any other synonym you might care to name; finally, three; the threat of pretension remains a deadly weapon in the hands of the weak-minded and it’s use, in and of itself, should perhaps be more of a compliment than an offence.

Our Culture

One of the major opponents to intellectual development remains our culture. Over time, as we in the West have grown increasingly comfortable with ourselves, our culture has grown to be less of a benefit to our society as a whole and, instead, works to degrade and weaken our resolve. Our culture has become an enemy of the ideals of, not only capitalism, but also democracy and human development and evolution as a whole. Our modern culture is dedicated to a maintenance of the status quo, and promotion of apathy and an ardent supporter of the unfair distribution of wealth, power, health and resources that we currently have available.

Our Freedom

The freedom that we have is, actually, the freedom to be unequal. William F Buckley, one of the arbiters of the current political system of personality, once said something to a similar effect, and it should be worth noting that our freedom is actually a more debilitating aspect of the innate human resolve and resilience, not to mention to ingrained stubbornness of the British and other nationalities. I propose the idea that, with the ostensibly fair society that we currently have in place, when placed alongside the general freedom to travel, live, work, play and love as we will, our freedom and democracy actually becomes nothing more than another blockade to our realisation of ourselves. This could also be extended to include the idea that the national peace that we currently enjoy, with the exception of misguided spiritualists, is another blockade to the development of humanity and true personality, if not the realisation of a potential intellect.

Peers; Companions; Friends; Lovers; Family; Enemies; Equals; Superiors; Inferiors; Neighbours; The Ultimate Enemies in The Face of True Intellectual Pursuit

Sinatra Night In LiverpoolAs Sartre once wrote, and has been hideously misquoted time and time again, ‘Hell is other people’. I would propose the slight amendment to the quotation to suggest, in fact, the idea that ‘damnation is other people’ ignoring the religious imagery involved in that adjustment, or in the original quotation itself.

Damnation, in this instance, I would describe as the direction in which the world, certainly the Western World, is heading at a rate that has been hitherto unseen. Damnation, in the absence of any physical or spiritual Hell, must instead be considered the state of affairs in which the intellectual ability, the capacity for rational thought, is widely being bred and trained out of the general populace (of which I am one), if they could be said to possess it in the first place. Damnation under the guise of Ginsberg’s representation of Moloch as the bull-headed representation of capitalism.

To be damned, or to suffer damnation, is to undergo judgement and as we now worship society and wealth and popularity as the Holy Trinity, or at least an argument could be made for such, it could easily be said that other people are the main source of our damnation. Without a moral compass of our own, a morality which is typically provided by values imparted to us as we grow and weighed against personal desire and necessity and logical thinking, we rely entirely on others to judge us.

To be judged in a positive light by our peers, our society at large, remains one of the most rewarding and sought after events in modern life. Whether for our work, our attitudes or anything else, we desire to be applauded and accepted into the great ravenous pack that we know as society. In contrast, the daggers of negative judgement are sharpened on a daily basis, and embarrassment, shame and guilt all remain three of the worst possible feelings to undergo – although most of us will have some semblance of a moral compass as we go about our daily lives, it would be difficult to think that we would feel guilty or ashamed in the event of negative action that directly benefits us.

Personally, having suffered from anxiety as a child, I can attest to the fact that shame and guilt are two of the most devastating constructions of society – both of which originate from other people and awareness of their expectations of you which, over time, become little more than expectations of yourself. The fact remains that people, other people, create guilt and shame; they breed it into you and we are taught that they are aspects of humanity which need to be avoided.

We love the underdog, we love the idea of someone who isn’t as powerful, wealthy, popular, handsome, famous or intelligent overcoming their opponent through characteristics like passion and cunning. It enables us to believe that we have the potential to overcome those issues which we believe to be much bigger than ourselves; it suggests that there is hope against the world and all that is wrong with it. It is, essentially, a lie that we like to be told to help us sleep and to drag us on. In that regard, at the least, we are like children still looking for guidance; still hoping for someone to believe in us. Of course, it is understandable that this affection for the smaller weaker member of the tribe appeals to us – as we spend so long inside our own heads, it isn’t really all that shocking to suggest the idea that most of us, the common man and woman, are hyper-aware of our own weaknesses, perhaps more than anyone else. We know where we fail as the ideal human beings we would like to present ourselves as and it is important that we hear these underdog stories to learn that, even the weak and the flawed can achieve victory from the strong. It helps us to know that we are not the only damaged creatures in play.

This leads me on to my next point – the fear to present ourselves as something too much more than we are. The argument could easily be made, and is made with startling regularity, that we all like to pretend that we are better people than we are, that our lives are infinitely more interesting than they are – this is a myth that is not only perpetrated by ourselves, but also the perceptions of ourselves that we are able to cultivate online and across social media websites. There are many people who have been able to push this fear aside, or were lucky enough to never succumb to it in the first place, and have managed to make a great success of forcing their lives to be interesting by cultivating not only the perception of their personality, but their personality in and of itself. Bloggers, vloggers and social celebrities start to believe their own lies, much like politicians, rock stars and other people in the public eye, until they become the person they have pretended to be for so long.

For most of us, however, this fear to present yourself as better than you are is not solely manifested through honest living, but in the rejection of bettering oneself. For example, there is only one bookshop reasonably close to me, in my hometown, and that is a Waterstones. There is a category there, where much of the non-fiction tends to reside, and it is labelled as “smart-thinking”. It took me years to build up the courage to even approach that single cabinet, and I would never be able to do so in the presence of people I know. If I, hypothetically, were to spend any amount of time in front of that category, it would be as though I were placing myself above those who cluster around the romance or the cookery categories. It is impossible to overcome this perception of oneself as “better than oneself” in such a situation, and it always looks as though I am standing in front of that category in an attempt to be seen to be standing in front of the category, rather than any interest in the books that stand there.

Almost ironically, this same fear is what, for a long time, stopped me from applying myself in my education, stopped me from writing what I wanted to write, saying what I wanted to say, to the point that I still find myself checking anything I say before I say it for fear that it might come out sounding like I consider myself an intellectual. It is an ever-present fear of judgement or, rather, judgement of the me behind what they might believe I am creating for their judgement.

I am afraid of being considered arrogant, big-headed and, above all, pretentious. I am not afraid of having ideas above my station, but I am terrified of somebody else thinking that I might have ideas above my station in life.

Pretension, that old dog with bloody claws, brings me onto my third point. Pretension – “the use of affectation to impress”, or “a claim or aspiration to a particular quality”. As someone who is terrified of damnation, the term pretentious is one of the worst possible insults. It symbolises that I, or anyone else, is prescribing meaning to something that does not have meaning; it supposes that things like literature and art are weapons designed to elevate some over the positions of others. It proposes that anything we ascribe our meaning to is, ultimately, meaningless and that we are attempting to emulate what we might consider an artist, a writer, a musician or any person with any form of creative or analytical talent, to be.

It is a term that is used incredibly often, particularly around me; I’ve found. Particularly when I started writing things that I actually wanted to write, things that I gave meaning to, things that were wholly personal, but which is submitted for public view anyway. I will not argue and say that they are not pretentious; that I am not necessarily pretentious; but that there is every possibility that pretension should be, if not celebrated, then at least not condemned by its very nature.

Aspiring to be some other, something better, than what we are has to be one of the greatest possible goals in human existence, surely? Ascribing meaning, even if that meaning is only personal, to any kind of creative work is at least evidence of a semblance of coherent thought that recognises there is more to life than that which we currently are, surely? pretension could very easily be considered the driving force behind self-betterment, and we should not allow our love of the underdog to detract from that.

This attitude towards pretension is not something that we will be able to throw away anytime soon, unfortunately. For many years to come, everyone from students to artists, writers to musicians and even more common occupations will have to deal with the ever-hanging Damoclean threat of pretension hanging over them. This particular sword, cutting the air with sneers and condescension, is deeply ingrained into our culture and will be practically impossible to extricate without executing ourselves in the process.

Culture; Society; Entertainment; Discourse; Debate; Theatre; Perception; Emotion; Interactivity; The Pretence of Emotion; The Enemy of Intellectual Opportunity and Development

Extract from an encyclopedia. A much larger argument than I have the time, inclination or intellectual ability to actually address with any sort of conclusive effort, but our very culture itself seems opposed to the proliferation of intelligence throughout the country. It seems too obvious to point out, but the issue is so deep-seated that it is worth at least mentioning. The major opposition that society seems to present is not necessarily a loathing of intellect, but a love of fakery, personality and two-dimensions well-suited to the flat screens that we surround ourselves with. There are exceedingly intelligent celebrities, that’s true, but very few of them are necessarily loved for their intelligence. Instead, their intelligence takes on their entire personality, and they become a caricature of the concept of intelligence. It is alright to love noted theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking because, in a way, he has become the mascot for the intellectual underdog. Held down by his crippling illness, he has still managed to make wide and varied contributions to the scientific community, and his entire personality is treated, by television, as a brand.

Even then, Hawking and other scientific minds, are not listened to – most viewers switch their brains off when they appear on screen, and are content to be seen to watch these celebrities. Even fairly intelligent programmes, such as Stephen Fry’s QI, still offer little in terms of education as the focus of the entire programme remains on the entertainment factor. The intelligence is, in a way, treated as just another joke as questions that are so obscure or deliberately misleading are asked of celebrities who, for the most part, don’t understand them in the slightest.

Intelligence, just like any other aspect of personality, is marketable – we have a supremely heightened form of cerebral capitalism to thank for that. It is simply another great facet of the ultimate commodity that our freedom provides us with – entertainment. Therein lies the potential source of many modern ills and ailments, particularly the devolution of critical thinking, analysis and personal opinion. Entertainment and culture work to bring society together over shared narratives, shared opinions and feelings and experiences. It could be said to homogenise and gentrify what it means to be an individual, by promoting the ethics of the crowd over the development of one’s own. A bad piece of entertainment is not only like a poor commodity, therein lies the truth behind modern society; leaving us, the viewer, with nothing more than a bad taste in the mouth and revulsion at our wasted time. Entertainment is a commodity, a product, wherein we work to be able to have our free time sucked up by the experience of emotion – it is a strange quandary, when we work to consume, but we do not consume to nourish or better ourselves, but simply because we have no other alternative than to consume. Even the more interactive forms of entertainment which have superseded television and radio as the gods of modern life, such as video games, offer us little besides the shared experience. It is for this reason that buyer’s remorse is like having acid poured down into the back of your throat – you don’t just feel cheated of the money, but of everything that the potential for entertainment represented.

There is a current belief that intelligence is a marked quality that can be, essentially, bought and sold within the public gaze. By choosing to stand in front of the literary fiction, or the “smart-thinking” categories, you are staking your claim to purchase the potential of intelligence. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of intelligence as a commodity is the ability that it can often give us to lie to ourselves; to convince ourselves that we are actually intelligent despite what our breast happens to tell us. Literature and intelligence were, for a long time, intertwined. Looking at the most popular books of the time, it is difficult not to look back with nostalgia upon the days before I was born, when men like Orwell, Vidal and Bellows all wrote in fairly simple, attractive ways which encouraged a mass readership without forcing themselves to dumb down, or hide, the purpose of their writing. Above all else, what we are lacking is a literary, narrative, entertaining voice to take a stand for something, in favour of something. The established system of beliefs that we have, that purely dominate the literary scene of the time, is that of the upmost liberalism. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but when all modern fiction offers us the same advice in terms of morals, then it is not difficult to see why culture and society tend to push people in certain directions, instil us with certain morals and neglect to propose the development of our own. It is all too easy to accept something as good, or bad, when considering the comprehensive benefits and negatives to each point is taxing on the brand. Writing, modern writing, is not so much opinionated as safe; thanks to the political and cultural ideology of tolerance, at least, incredible tolerance in many areas and absolute zero in others, it is impossible to create something that might actually offer even the potential of an impact on a large scale.

By being so irrepressibly middle-ground, by offering relatively unconstrained freedom, our culture has managed to turn our innate apathy and fear and rage into a weapon that effectively allows us to police ourselves. Minor crimes are fine, because our educational system has taught us that we are all special, that there is no one like us in the world, and as long as we believe that we’re doing the right thing, rules are essentially made to be broken. Theft is permitted so long as there isn’t a direct victim. Murder is fine in the name of fear, as we allow immigrants to starve, drown and be murdered in the streets of their hometowns by terrorists that we armed, directly or indirectly. Crime is, essentially, a joke when compared to the crimes of conscience that our society has committed in our name and in the name of all that is good and sane and democratic about the Western World. If our foreign policies, economic choices and general attitude had a name, it would be murder by committee and delegation.

That is the background for the culture that promotes idiocy and joy over intelligence and anger. That is the backdrop against which we applaud half-wit comedians who swear and appear in sold-out arenas on Segways and chequered shirts and cries of ‘you beautiful motherfuckers’.

One current trend with actually promotes the commodity of intelligence has to be the encouragement of the mentally subnormal on our television screens, across the internet as well as in our seats of power. People who replace depth with an embrace of their shallowness. Actors by any other name who turn their stupidity into a brand which they can market, like cultural critics would marketing their intelligence. The promotion of the shallow over the deep signifies the love of entertainment, the love of our free time being soaked up until we sleep and start again. However, these brands play on a much more cunning level than we might expect. When the intellectually shallow, who rejoice in their idiocy, appear before us we are able to rejoice and realise that we are, actually, intelligent compared to other people in our society. Incredibly, rather than making us furious at the failures of an educational system and horrifying parenting which allowed the development of these brands, it amuses us.

Laughter, and the judgement, of these people in society hugely amuses us and could, eventually, play a major role in the continuing function of society. One argument that could be considered is that it creates an “us versus them” mentality, similar to “the self versus the other” idea. By giving us a shared laughter point, a shared target to mock, we are able to make the most of a more liberal and easily justifiable “minute of hatred” such as Orwell wrote about in 1984. By bringing a community together against this one person, or this small group of people, society is able to create communities within itself that can easily work together to keep themselves sane in an insane world. Culture, in this instance, presents us with an opponent, satisfies us that we are more intelligent than they, and gives us a community within which we can rejoice that satisfaction and share it with others. If intelligence is a commodity, as I have begun to believe, then surely the inverse is equally true and stupidity – sheer, bloody-minded, ignorant, innocent, cruel, hollow, plotted and circumstantial idiocy is like ambrosia when it comes to sustaining society. Capitalism has performed incredibly well at keeping us in place by the development of these communities, and the promotion of a morality which encourages us to support and adhere to the beliefs laid down by these communities.

Communal ignorance is a well-documented factor of humanity, and it comes down to a certain meekness; a certain desire to be included and not stand out. Community is another of the major threats to intelligence, particularly as an influx of diverse opinions, delivered in such quick succession that they are impossible to truly intake and reflect upon, is nothing more than white noise – a smokescreen used to blind and befuddle for long enough that the next topic, the next opinion, the next horror occupies our minds instead.

Interactivity, with each other and with our culture as a whole, is a powerful blockade to personal intellectual development.

Freedom; Liberty; Joy; Desire; Design; Inequality;

The sun through the fog behind a silhouetteThe greatest blockade of all, to our intellectual development, to the absolute advancement of ourselves, is our freedom. I am not speaking in favour of totalitarianism, control or dominance, but of our willing ability to deny ourselves development. We are free to do as we choose, within reason. We are free to avoid our own intelligence, to spend time in front of entertainment without intellectual stimulation.

We are not forced to learn different ways of thinking with the cane across the knuckles or the spine; we are not forced to perform well or pay attention in class as children; we are not forced to go to university. Over time, the gentle build of ‘human rights’ and our free, classless society with weakened expectations and the willing desire to oppose expectation, has given us comfort.

Because we are comfortable, entertained, fed; we don’t need to be intelligent.

Because we are free, or free to an extent, we don’t need to develop intellectual thoughts to obtain that freedom.

We are driven by the basic desires; hunger; thirst; acceptance; comfort; warmth; safety. We are not driven by a desire to build a better world, to create things that leave our mark on the future. We are free to forget, free to ignore, free to be unequal. We are free to better ourselves, and that freedom makes us less than we could ever be.

Saying that, I am a major proponent of freedom. I think it would be the greatest thing to obtain, even if it destroyed our culture and our society. Freedom, ultimate freedom, is such an alien concept to most of us that it is a wonder we could conceive it at all.

Capitalism is the enemy of total freedom, but provides us just enough freedom to make us believe that we are free. Just enough freedom that the avoidance of our intellectual development is a choice of our own.

Through this half-freedom, we work to damn ourselves to ignorance. We are free to be stupid, ill-informed, ill-educated, incapable of thought beyond decision.

Through this freedom, we have emptied the breast of human intelligence and ingenuity and, instead, drank ourselves to death on the milk of ignorance.


As well as half-though out political essays, I also write poetry and prose. If you are interested in reading anything else I’ve written, you can click on any of the images to your left which are all free eBooks, available to download from Smashwords. Alternatively, you can read some poetry right here on this blog, such as Coal Carthage, A Red Dress or On Passion.

As always, if you disagree with any of the above comments, feel free to let me know!

Solpadol: My Brand New, Free eBook!

Solpadol: My Brand New, Free eBook!

Solpadol is a semi-fictional, semi-confessional eBook based around the twin sins of drug abuse and unrequited love. This is the latest novella I’ve managed to drink my way through. It’s the most recent entry into the Broken Polemic series, which has so far included Adjective Narcissism and God Metaphor. If you’re unfamiliar with my Broken Polemics, you can click on the links to learn more about them.

Taking place over a single day, and revolving around a simple conversation between the unnamed protagonist and the woman he used to love, this piece of writing explores dependency on love, nostalgia and a range of other pleasant-sounding emotions in a similar vein to drug dependency and addiction.

Before, I’ve focused on art and religion, but I have to say that love – or the dry thirst for impossible love – has had such a major effect on my life that if I had felt confident enough I would have liked to tackle a year or so ago. I’ve done my best to avoid a lot of the deliberately garbled, complex sentences that put so many people off of my previous attempts, but I think it’s fairly obvious that I’ve been reading (and writing) a lot of poetry around the same time.

What Is Solpadol?Solpadol covering image for free J.W. Carey eBook

Solpadol, itself, is an industrial-strength painkiller that is regularly subscribed to deal with agonising back pain and a load of other really debilitating issues. For the last year or more, I’ve been using it to numb myself to the horrors of work on a daily basis, as well as a few aches and pains of my own. A couple of these things will send me to sleep, but I’d recommend avoiding them if you plan on drinking. Believe me, it really fucks you up. Not in a good way.

Still, being half out of it all day does make it go a lot quicker.

I’m off it now, but it really impacted me whilst I was taking it (and all it will take is one bad day before I’m knocking them back again). It kind of let me run my daily life on autopilot, and spend a lot of the day thinking instead.

Why Did I Write Solpadol?

Simply, I wrote Solpadol because I wanted to draw a comparison between the effect of unrequited love and drug abuse. Love is the strongest and headiest drug I’ve ever known, but I know that if I was me, now, I wouldn’t fall in love as hard as I have done in the past.

Above all else, I wrote Solpadol because I have known love in smokeless bars, and felt the disappointment when it fails, even if it never really gained any momentum. I have fallen in love with women I’ve spoken to for a few hours and those whom I’ve only seen perform once, in an alleyway in Edinburgh.

I wrote Solpadol because I once heard a Tom Waits lyric that said ‘falling in love is such a breeze, but standing up is so hard for me’, and I think that line fucked me up a lot more than I’d ever care to admit.

Get This Free eBook From Smashwords Today!

This eBook is completely free, so download your free copy today. To download the eBook from Smashwords today, all you need to do is follow the link, or click on the Solpadol image to your left, or at the bottom of the page on mobile devices.

 

In Which, I Died

In Which, I Died

The moment has never been enough to sustain me, to hold my attention for even the amount of time that the moment needs to become the past; this crippling disability has forced me to grow into a permanent state of dissatisfaction, only occasionally broken by the slightest sensation. I can recall, perhaps, three occasions over the past year when I have been truly happy.

One, whilst I was growing increasingly sober in a nightclub in Liverpool, saw sitting against the wall, with my feet angled out and up, and my heels digging uncomfortably into the metallic edge of the box the place used as a table. I couldn’t hear anything besides sound – I couldn’t see anything but light, but light which came in flickering diodes and blinding still-shots which twisted through the filtration of my eyelids – I could feel nothing but sensation, from the harsh surface against my buttocks and my back, to the aforementioned heels, to the vague coiling of something in my stomach which warned me, in no uncertain terms, that I had ingested the same old poison into myself; I wasn’t quite immune.

But I was thinking how fine it would have been if I had died then; if I had lived in that moment from a literal perspective, and if I was dead the rest of the time. What if my life, a mean, scrabbling, laboriously dull affair, would have been greatly improved if I learned, at the end, what it meant to be alive?

I flickered my eyes open, to draw in one last sight; I took a deep breath, to feel my lungs burst with oxygen; I curled my fingernail into the palms of my hands, that I might experience the pleasure of agony in one final moment; I pulled my lips apart, to feel the smokeless atmosphere upon my tongue and between my broken teeth; I tried to listen to the song, and heard the words displace my last thoughts.

There were three women dancing some feet ahead of me, on a ledge which led to a few steps which, in their turn, trailed down onto the main dancefloor. There were stop-motion, the lights illuminated their solitary positions for a long moment, before darkness descended and they were free to move. I saw arms raised in unheard pleas, strands of hair whipping the atmosphere in reproof, feet propelling slim, young bodies from the cruel floor and gravity and constraint. I sensed arousal skirting on the edges of myself, and I rejected it. For a moment, I longed for it to consume me.

I felt my nostrils complain as they stole every scrap of air they could, felt each follicle of hair tremble beneath the sudden onslaught, felt the air punish the back of my throat as it passed and my lungs expand within my chest; it was an eternal death rattle, a scentless inhalation.

I thought I felt dead protein burst through my skin’s veneer, felt it pierce through the flesh and into the muscle beyond. I felt the warmth of blood pulsating around them, a warmth which spread through my fingers and arms as though some dam had suddenly burst beneath my pressure; I felt knives in the dark and rejoiced in the fact that I was so feared that my own body could such a thing to me.

I tasted the air, tasted the sweat and the manufactured smoke and the sickly sweetness of foreign vomit like I never had before. I found beauty in that taste, in those ugly components, boasting their hideous countenances. I could taste the three women, knowing nothing but themselves and their audience; I could taste the barmaid, pouring out shots and nodding along with the music; I could taste the DJ himself, like a pontiff on a pedestal, bringing his people closer to their gods.

The words were alien, beyond my perception, and I was bacteria in the undergrowth of existence, studying two monkeys as they rubbed sticks together and drawing closer to the warmth. I followed the song down strange, illicit pathway, I felt it permeate my being and force my heart to beat along with it. I felt my lips move along with words I didn’t know, words I had never known and would never know, and would reject as a folly if I did, if I had, if I could.

 Had the world been kind, I would have died – I would not have bastardised my moments with trying to capture it; to live it, that I might repeat it, in my dissatisfied memory. Like a picture, like anything which has ever been recorded, the moment was a falsehood beneath the weight of the moment – the Art was meaningless beneath the paintbrush of Art – the picture was broken, out of focus, through the lens – I was dead, as I longed for death and struggled to stay alive.

But he, my friend, sat beside me with a heavy exhalation; made some crude comment about the girl on the right-hand side of the trio, and shoved a plastic glass of whiskey and coke into my hand. I felt him knock our glasses together, as though a toast over recently acquired farming tracts in Africa, and his speech vanished into the sound and the liquid as my thoughts wove themselves a noose from his company.

I was happy then.


Just a quick reminder, every eBook you see on the left of the page is completely free. The Caitiff is my first full-length eBook, in terms of a novel; Mychandra is a novella and my Broken Polemics are the more experimental forms of writing I began in university.

Reading Kerouac

Just a random bit of prose I conjured up on the bus. Conjured looks weird, doesn’t it? Conjured, conjured, conjured; con-jured. Never mind. Enjoy


He isn’t a particular interesting figure. His hair is unkempt and overgrown and bedraggled, like vines, like that of a homeless man recently caught by the rain. His jaw is obscured by a slim beard, shaved at the cheeks and the throat, but still the hairs that cluster there loop over each other and create a wild aesthetic. He doesn’t have much in the way of a chin, and the tips of his beard are in-line with his upper lip, so pronounced is his overbite.

He laughs with the bookseller, says something about his sister and they talk briefly about Kerouac – they don’t know each other, that much is obvious, but instead share the laugh of men who might have been friends. He pays on his card, calls the bookseller ‘mate’ in a voice unsuited for it and stuffs the four books into his bag before leaving the store. I had seen him pick the books up; I knew what three of them were. The Tropic Of Cancer, by Henry Miller. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. On The Road, by Jack Kerouac. An eclectic collection and, despite myself, I find myself dropping the book I had in my hand and following him out into the main hall of the shopping centre.

2015-04-06 00.32.25
I tell you, I’ve walked through Wigan on some miserable goddamn days, but this morning was a pretty bad one.

He is already clipping away across the faux-marble. He walks with a strange gait, one that looks almost lopsided. Whilst his right foot does not make a sound, whilst he moves like a ghost and his impact on the earth could have been a whisper, his left lands heavily with every step. It isn’t a limp, but the suggestion of a limp.

His entire body is rigid, firmly held in its position as he moves – his is not a choreographed rigidity, but an innate thing, like he has arthritis in his entire body, like it has permeated his personality and left him stiff – inhuman. He has to wait for a moment at the glass doors to let a fat couple through; they don’t even look at him, but I have to slow down so I don’t walk so close to him. I don’t know why, but it seems wrong to let him see me – there is something about this, a voyeurism, perhaps, to know that I am viewing him and that he cannot see me or, if he did, his eyes would flicker onto someone, something, else.

The wind is hot, like that of a hand dryer in a public bathroom, and the smell of the main street is much the same. It is raining, weakly, and the man buttons his blazer and pulls the hood over his head. He is a tall figure, and easy to follow as he moves through the meagre crowds. I can hear his left foot, every second step it hits the floor like all his weight comes crashing down on it, as though he couldn’t lift it for any length of time.

He turns into a sandwich shop and I take up position on the opposite side of the road. I can see him through the window as he queues, and taps his phone with his thumbs whilst he waits. He is the tallest person in there, towering over those on either side of him by some inches. Oh, that I could know what he ordered – that I could know this figure in such a way! I see him chatting to the young woman behind the counter – they both laugh, but even from this distance I can see a certain wariness in her posture. She doesn’t like him, it is obvious, but he still smiles – he still turns his head to say something as he walks out of the door.

By the time we have walked on some more, his leg has developed a defined limp. I catch up to him easily, though I try not to. I catch a flash of his expression in an empty store’s window as we pass, the darkness and dust creating a mirror like surface. His mouth his a grim line, his skin is pale and his eyes are bright, feverish, and his pupils are distended. He is certainly in pain, that much is obvious, and I pretend to take a phone call, and slow my pace to allow him to gain a few more feet on me once more.

I hold half a conversation, and he vanishes into a small, ugly-looking building opposite a mechanics. It is an office of some kind, I read the name above the doorway as I move past. It kills me not to know what he does, what he is doing; is he a digital marketer, a technical analyst or a copywriter? An advertising consultant, a first-line support employee or a cold-calling salesman?

I wonder, briefly, if I should wait for him to exit the building and exist once more, but no; he has let me down. No man who reads Kerouac should work in an office – I wonder how he hasn’t killed himself, and I consider murder.

Small-Town England

Small-Town England

It is a conscious decision. I allow my feet to carry me across uneven oceans of stone, broken by islands of dirty rain-water like a British, land-locked archipelago. I let them trace broken circuits throughout the town and follow the ghosts of themselves. I try to consider how often these same angular cobblestone have eaten away at the soles of my boots; how often these same walls have loomed over me and rejoiced in their dominance.

2015-02-08 23.43.57
Just a quick picture I took on my phone, and experimented with nostalgia filters – because I’m unimaginative and pretentious and I think some deep, dark part of me thinks that this is ‘artistic’.

I can still taste coal-dust in the air, or I can dream that I can. It is a romance that hangs over this town like a shroud; a romance that moved through the thoughts in silent, subtle ways; a romance that curled about the larynx and then, without a moment’s hesitation, tightened. This place would render a man mute, if you let it.

The road stretches upwards and I walk along it. Some feet behind me, it is cut off by a series of black iron bollards and so I make the most of the uncommon freedom to move in a twisted, snaking pattern along the tiled stone itself. There is a distinct pleasure to be found in walking in any direction you please and, if I had been the last man alive, I could have spent my last days moving in pointless shapes across any terrain I pleased.

I catch reflections of myself in those few shop windows which have raised their shutters at this early hour. I refuse to look as blatantly as I might desire, and I resort to fleeting glances at the state of my hair, at the shape of my shoulders and the angle of my arms as my hands seek the warmth of my pockets. I would look better as a silhouette, as a blackened image in a burned retina.

I am following someone, unconsciously. My feet have taken advantage of their liberty, and they pursue a tall, broad-faced woman as she descends a set of stairs into the shadows beneath a bridge. The bridge is an internal one, closed off from the world, and it is part of the dead shopping centre which clings to the centre of this place, like an old God refusing to believe in science.

It is not an ominous pursuit and, in fact, she is moving a little faster than me. She vanished into an arcade several seconds before I arrive at its entrance and, though I see her moving through the narrow causeway of commerce, I ignore that turning and move on. I pass beneath another bridge, and try to count the pieces of chewing gum stuck the floor. I lose count at twelve, and the rocking of my body’s motion jars my brain until I cannot count past ten.

I dream, then, that I am following in a ghost’s footsteps. I follow the spectre left, and then right, and through a small, dimly-lit arcade within which the very first stores were opening. I saw a jeweller’s, and the young woman with neon-red hair and a lip ring offered me a fleeting smile as she typed in the code to an electric lock. I smile at her, and can almost feel her shudder in revulsion. I do not have a nice smile – it twitches dishonestly across my face and makes a mockery of my emotion.

The shadows give way to light again, and the wind picks up. A little way up the road, I can see a family stabbing at the air with their hands and their voices. The mother is rounded, and she is leaning heavily against the handle of a pram as though it were a crutch. The child itself lolls in its seat, rocking its head left and right as though trying to ward off unwanted nightmares. The elder child is walking beside them both, in a school uniform with a navy blue blazer and grey trousers. He has a flat face, still grazing at the edges of masculinity, but it will grow harsher in a few years and turn into the expressive front of a pugilist.

2015-04-12 09.12.34
This is imaginatively known as the ‘Big Face’. Say whatever you want about us ‘Wiganers’ we’re nothing if not creatively honest.

We pass each other, and I cannot help but feel the divide between us. It breaks the air around us into sharpened wounds, and I cannot move through those sharpened edges to this family. I avoid looking at them when we are close together, but I may as well be staring at them. I think I hate them; I think they hate me. We would all be fools not to.

I pass through another arcade; this time an internal one which stretches over the outside marketplace, now nothing more than narrow iron girders where stalls once stood, and an elderly woman selling cheap, but hardwearing, handbags and travel accessories. Makinson Arcade, it is called. I walk past a shop called Love Forever – it has closed down and the dust wages a gentle, deathless war against our health.


Thank You. This little piece of prose has been cannibalised from a short poem I’m working on – it’s more of an exercise in description than a genuine narrative. I think I’d like to ‘prose-ify’ (that needs to be a word; I’m going to start using prose-ify (prosify?) in everyday conversation) the rest of the poem at some point, but I don’t know how well the imagery might translate towards the last few verses.

The Burden: First Draft – Extract #1

Remember, The Caitiff is free on Amazon til’ Friday the 27th! You can pick it up here in the UK and here in the US.

So, as you might remember, I’m working on a short story/novella type thing at the minute, and I’ve already shown off the first draft of the prologue, so here’s the first draft extract of the Burden proper!


He watched the cigarette smoulder in the ash tray. The sunlight came through the slats across the window in neat horizontal mockery. One of them, the third from the top, if he was any judge, lit the glass with sparkles and made the last remnants of the curling smoke blatant in the air. Robert Amuigh found little pleasure in this position. The sunlight was an irritant to his blurred vision, the cigarette was his last and Rosemary, sprawled as she was across half his body, the remainder of her clinging to the single bed with some dream-like ferocity, was numbing. The air possessed a particular haze, one which suggested it could be convinced to surrender to the light at any time, but Amuigh preferred the dark. He found that it encouraged his thoughts where illumination contributed only further distraction.

Amuigh was thinking, idly, about death. Not with the fascination of some Genevan Doctor or a zealot pronouncing that true life existed after one’s expiration, but in much lazier terms. His elder brother, a man he had – unsurprisingly – known since birth, had died mere days before. A funeral was being held the next day after next and, simply put, Amuigh didn’t want to go. He wondered at the narcissism involved in mourning. His brother was dead and, strangely, he had been the one receiving sympathy. Even Rosemary had looked upon him with guarded eyes since the news broke, as though he was likely to burst into tears at any moment. Her speech, too, was delivered with a slow reveal, one which constituted careful examination of every word, lest some idle comment slip from those thin lips.

Amuigh tried to picture her from memory. He tried to trace the outlines of her face; the curvature of her nose, the soft definitions in her hair, the cheeks which leant towards the gaunt; her eyes glimmering at him like glass in the sun, widening as they passed into shadow. He saw the hair first, the tangled mess it habitually turned into, the carefully trimmed eyebrows and the short eyelashes floating on his mind’s canvas. Her skin appeared next, an unblemished flesh possessing an olive tone; perhaps a result of some distant Italian origin? There was little hint of it in her personality; she was wholly proud of her nationality for some reason, one alien to him. Her features were impossible, he couldn’t seem to make them fit on the blank face he had created without imagining some hideously proportioned monster, something man-made and all the more horrific for it. He tried to shuffle them, as one would shuffle a pack of cards, with no avail.

He felt her stir against him and turned his head from the cigarette. His own body repulsed him; it was an ugly thing. He wore a pair of loose briefs but, besides that, he was naked; his body on display. He had lost weight recently, weight his already slim figure could ill afford to forfeit. His ribcage was like that of a long-dead sea creature, washed up on land, with white bone nudging the flesh as though a threat of escape. His stomach is little more than a shadow, a darker patch in the room’s half-light, a sunken plain upon which he often imagined Mongolian riders warring with their enemy.

His legs were thicker than the rest of him; long and covered in curled, intertwining hair which repulsed him, reminded him of a dog’s fur after an encounter with a muddy puddle. His knee, the one which was visible, was drawn towards him, leaving a sharp incline of flesh to block half of the room from his gaze.

Rosemary was naked, though Amuigh tried to stop himself from looking at her – from drawing her in with his greedy sight. He felt an undeniable shame every time they lay thus, as they both drew in deep breaths for a few moments, until their muscles quietened their demands for oxygen. It wasn’t like the movies. They never fell asleep in each other’s arms, they never held each other close as soon as the act was done – they were too busy cleaning themselves off, wiping away his expulsions and her sweat and, when they did return to bed, the softness between them was replaced with a guilty distance.

Eventually, he could bear it no more, and allowed his eyes to shift from his own sparse musculature to her tanned flesh. Rosemary glowed with health in comparison to him, like a sun goddess come to earth. Her trailed up her legs, admiring the way they crossed one another as she lay on her side. Her groin was a shadow between her thighs and her hips and, Amuigh thought he felt arousal stir again, but the impulse passed just as soon as it arrived. The slightest hint of muscle could be seen in her stomach, and Amuigh felt the familiar need to place his hand against, to feel her health against him – he hated that impulse, as though she were a racehorse he needed to doctor.

Her breasts sagged pleasingly, just large enough to move with gravity, and the pink flesh of her areolas was the palest part of her. Her shoulders curved beside them, leading up to a slim neck, a strong chin, a pair of tightly-closed lips, a small, slightly-upturned nose and her eyes.

She stared at him, her eyes wide. In the shadow of his profile, distended and disjointed across her features, her pupils were little more than glittering ovals. In the shadows, he knew, those black circles would have enlarged, would have bullied the iris away from the centre; nothing but a slice of brown around the black.

Rosemary say him turn away from her; no smile, no sound. It hurt her for a moment, but she remembered that he was hurting. Robert was in agony but he hadn’t the personality to express it as she might. There had been no tears, there had been no vicious outbursts. Those she could have accepted, but it was the lack of reaction that scared her the most. A man given to a gentle mediocrity of emotion at the best of times, he had retreated from her, in his grief, to some deep, dark place and she had no method of following. She had to coax him out again, to toss a rope into the darkness and wait for the distant weight of his mind on the other end.

Amuigh knew he was evil. He had argued that evil was relative; that there was no such thing as an unequivocal darkness, no Heaven and no Hell and no judgement; but there was certainly an absence of light and that was certainly how he characterised himself.

He looked towards the cigarette again; the last dregs of smoke vanished into the air but he did not see them. Amuigh closed his eyes, tightening the muscles until the glimmer of her gaze was replaced with flashing lights and shots of pain.