Wednesday, September 27, 2006

You can wag your tail but I ain't feedin' you no more

Alluded briefly to the black dog in my post 365 reasons to take prozac and also in this post some time ago. In a good humoured, well-intended (and welcome) reply to the second piece, someone remarked "And you are depressed about something"? (my question mark).

Well, belatedly, the answer is: No. I'm not depressed about something. I'm just depressed. Depression isn't "Oh well. I wish I hadn't painted the room that colour." Or, "I'm feeling glum today."It's something that lives inside the head and trundles around and around without any triggers, without any reason and apparently without any magic-bullet cure. (Hey! No pun intended! LOL!)

This week and last I was watching the television programme hosted by Stephen Fry on BBC2 entitled "Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive" and I recognised many of the traits of the illness as described by the various sufferers, including our host. Stephen, a comic actor whose work includes the TV adaptations of "Jeeves & Wooster", and earlier in the "Black Adder" series was the subject of inexplicable mood swings in his early teens which saw him slap the school nurse for suggesting he tie his shoelaces a particular way, climb about on school roofs, engage in credit card fraud and ultimately get locked up in jail. It wasn't until he walked out of a play in which he was appearing in 1995 in the West End and disappeared that a diagnosis of bipolar depression was made.

In "The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive" Stephen Fry explores his own history in a frank and revealing way. Along the journey we are introduced to fellow sufferers, and, sadly, the families of sufferers who have taken their lives. Stephen himself sat in his garage for two hours contemplating suicide, his hand on the ignition key of the car and a duvet stuffed into the gap of the garage door before deciding that he couldn't go through with it.

In the show, we learned that he once owned more than 10 cars at one time and he now owns 13 or 14 iPods. His mania, or euphoric mood swing often manifests itself in compulsive shopping. When he is down, which can happen for about seven to ten days a month, he experiences feelings of self-worthlessness and he spends the time lying in bed looking at the ceiling in his home until the humour passes.

Since his diagnosis, Stephen has avoided the use of medication. The programme explored the pros and cons of various treatments but did not resolve whether or not he would choose to take pills upon which he would have to depend for the rest of his life.

An interesting phenonemon among even those who have suffered horribly with the disease is that given a hypotethical button to press which would mean that they would never have had the condition but would instead have lived an "ordinary" life, the majority of those interviewed said they wouldn't have chosen to press that button.

My own levels of mood swings were at their height (and depths) in my 20s, which co-incides with my most productive time as a writer. It makes me wonder what level of manic mood swing I was in when I wrote my earlier pieces for the roleplaying industry, a time when I had many manic episodes and lived the dreaded peaks and valleys I ascribed to creativity.

Funnily enough, I don't seem to have those wilder swings I experienced in my 20s any more. When I'm happy, I am reasonably happy, not wildly charging off about the place. Not, either, laughing out loud at something I've written that strikes me as uproariously funny. When I'm down, it lasts for maybe a few weeks at a time. I'm in one of those down periods at the moment, and it's reflected in a lack of any creativity. There is no work being added to the blog. No thoughts of writing anything of interest even to myself alone. No push on to get more flat-packed stuff for assembly and fitting in the kitchen.

Someone on the programme (I think it was Richard Dreyfuss, but it could have been Stephen Fry himself) mentioned how they don't think they'd like to commit suicide; they just sometimes would like not to be alive. I know exactly how that feels. There is no active wish to go fetch the bottle of pills or hang off the Dodder Bridge, but instead there is a well of negative energy that sits there in the background. I sometimes think that I'm waiting to get through this life so I can get a better shot in another. It is a strangely comforting feeling and no doubt alarming to non-sufferers to hear.

It was interesting to find the stigma of depression is breaking down a little. Certainly programmes like this one will help non-sufferers to understand things a little better. We ain't moping around, sulking, being stubborn spoilsports. You wouldn't ask a diabetes sufferer why he was making a fuss about that jam doughnut. So why ask me to cheer up? I will when I'm able, okay?

Interesting television programme. I shall now stop trying the pulling of oneself up by imaginary bootstraps and just get on with things. This includes feeling depressed, for which, no doubt, the Lord will one day make me truely thankful.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Oceanfree ran off with my Winning Notification and Via9rA

Its heading into its third day since Oceanfree mysteriously shut up shop. Rumour on the Internet points to a changeover going on, but, like many of the Internet service providers, free email suppliers, dot-com wonderbreads, absolutely no advance warning of a loss of service was issued. So I like everybody else, have to sit it out and await developments. I'm without email. Uncontactable. It's spookily quiet, in fact.

There are, of course, many alternative email options. I have a G-mail account (but can't remember the settings without having to go fish out an old diary. Yes, you've guessed, any password questions would doubtless be forwarded to my non-working email account!), and one can always get the dreaded Hotmail going. But there's a comfortable familiarity about using one's own accounts on one's own computer in Outlook, complete with the never-ending Rules and Blocked Senders lists that grow and grow with every piece of crappy spam that comes in.

How much do you rate the chance that Oceanfree (or their new incarnation) are working furiously at spam blockers as we read this? Maybe that's the cause of the delays? No. I didn't think so either.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

UFO Over Firhouse: Alien on Doorstep Shock!

On Monday morning the local Council arrives in my area and takes away the household refuse at a fee of €8 per binload. As they come quite early (and, because for the past almost three years, I am now a wage slave and leave for my job quite early) the bins tend to be at least wheeled to the front of the house the night before. We affix a tag to the handle which proves we've paid the €8. As this is a valuable little item, we wait until morning to put it on the bin. Some bugger would surely steal it otherwise.

Anyway, I was standing tending to our wheelbin last Sunday evening when I was mildly surprised to see a circular object whirring steadily over my head about sixty feet up. At first, I couldn't make out exactly what the object was as it hovered there. It seemed to have a large, dark nucleus at the centre around which spun a pale coloured aurora. The think buzzed fairly loudly too and kind of wobbled uncertainly in its spinning motion.

A second or two later, the shape stopped spinning and straightened up into the shape of a model helicopter, the kind controlled by radio transmitter. The tail rotor stopped spinning momentarily, then started up again. Then the machine flew onwards for all of forty feet towards the gap between two houses to the rear of us before all power abruptly ceased and it dropped to a death on (by the sound of it) a concrete surface.

"Talk about having to wear a hard hat in your own back yard!" I said to Herself, telling her the tale.

We sat for an hour, watching television and drinking beer. Then the doorbell rang. Herself got up and answered it.

Smirky Greensleeves was standing on the doorstep.

"I got a new model helicopter today," he said, a picture of buck-toothed innocence. "And my Mom and I were flying it in the field and we lost it. You didn't see it did you? I've asked at all the other houses."

We wondered why he'd asked at all the other houses first. Herself was trying to dice him with death rays from her eyeballs as his little bright halo pinged audibly above him.

"It crashed over there," I said, pointing over my shoulder towards the rear of the house.

His little ratty eyes grew rounder.

"You saw it?"

"Yes. It went down..." I walked towards the back window and counted houses. "... After the second house on the next road."

Mock, fawning, incredulity.

"It went all the way over there?"

Okay kid. I can't hold Herself back any longer. If you don't feck off she will be peeling your skin off in about five seconds.

I retold the tale of the buzzing noise and the yoke spinning around and the short onward flight and the crash.

I added:
"You should fly those things close to the ground, you know?"

"My Mom and I were flying it way off over there," he lied, waving his arm back out towards the field. "There's some power in them," he grinned.

Like right. I was a kid too for a while. I know the first thing any kid will do is try to find how high and then how far away a model aircraft will go.

He buggered off. Half-an-hour later he was back again.

"I went around there and there's no sign of it."

"Well, it might have crossed the road to the other houses," I said. "It's difficult to say. I did hear it crash though."

"Well I can't find it."

"You're welcome."

I looked out at the gathering evening gloom.

"You're going to have a hard time finding it in the dark soon anyhow," I said.

"Yes. I might go home and go to bed and get up real early and look again," he replied through his lollypop-stick grin.

I've not been buzzed recently by any more model helicopters. Either he found it and it was damaged beyond repair, or, as I suspect, a neighbour pushing out their Sunday evening / Monday morning wheelbin found a junked toy scattered about a driveway and swept it up as so much litter.

I like the wheelbin idea.

I really like it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Fairy Builders at it again

The fairies have come into our garden, most unexpectedly, over the past few evenings. We can tell by the host of fairy mushrooms that have sprung up in the long dandelion leaves that should instead be a lawn, and all around the pieces of sawn tree trunks. Don't know why but they seem to prefer the log with the solid butt of cement on it and the offcut tiles.

The picture isn't great, I know. Had to take it with the camera in the mobile phone as the better digital camera is out of juice. But they look like little artificial ones that those type of people who like to will paint on the base of a garden gnome. A new wonder.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

No Junior Cert astonishment & indignation here

Nope. I don't subscribe to it. I've been listening to the annual astonishment, indignation, condemnation of the activities of our 15 year olds celebrating their Junior Cert results, and it's the same old annual nonsense trotted out each time. Fact is, we're human beings and humans have dolled themselves up and got hammered to mark all sorts of events from the time we discovered drugs and alcohol. In some Brazilian rainforest a teen is probably painting themselves red and black right now and going on the lash with copious amounts of fermented grandmother spit. The only difference is that our wee lassies paint themselves orange all over and wear more clothes. Barely more.

Same thing next year. Mark it in the calendar.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My first text message sent from inside a cupboard

Isn't that anti-perspirant a total model for having an Irish origin? I mean "Sure it won't let you down" is such a local motto... Anyway, Christy Moore is a high desert Andean mummy in comparison to me when I start doing any kind of physical labour, and so it was in the kind of frame of mind where my clothing had become so uncomfortable that nudity was about to take place that, two hours into adding another flat-packed kitchen cabinet in our never-ending project, last Monday, I received my first text message while standing on a chair inside a cupboard.

"How's it going?" Herself asks.

Well, I'm about to startle the neighbours and lose little pozidrive screws in the folds of my bare, fat, sodden flesh, I wanted to reply, but instead I waxed slightly lyrical about the quality of the box I was putting around our fridge and how much she would like it when she came home. My own opinion of it is not so settled. It is a little off square. B&Q have a device for curing this by adding two steel braces to the rear, but they (unnecessarily) point out that one should be careful not to obstruct the actual fridge by installing them. So I have one brace above the level of the fridge and one out of sight in another room entirely, doing nothing but, I suppose, gathering dust.

I have also acquired the habit of slamming the cupboard door. I may later add those clever little hinge things which connect the door of the fridge to the door of the cupbaord, but for now one opens one wooden door then opens the fridge. On removal of two (count them, it is getitng late after all) tins of lager, one closes the fridge firmly then applies the same amount of pressure -- in this case unnecessary -- to the cupboard door. The resulting BANG! noise has made me almost swallow my own tongue standing in the darkened kitchen over the past few evenings.

My excuse for not doing the other side of the kitchen is now removed. I shall have to learn the arts of not being flooded and not being electrocuted. Love it.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Closing the gate looking up. Or stepping outside onto the grass to the rear of the house with the sun already disappearing. In the last light of navigation the crows begin to come home in twos, then in scores, finally in one great flock like burned papers wheeling over.

They caw-caw at each other. Answering, another caw, further off, fainter, as more come into view. They poke at each other in flight, full of mischief.

"Look out! You're falling!"

"No I'm not! I can fly higher than you!"

The strong beat of black wings, the noise and cackles suddenly overhead now, black crosses flapping by. Some are glossy with this year's feathers. Many beaks are greyer, wiser. The urge to stare upwards vertically is sore in the back of the neck as they pass over.

On windier days the passage is quicker, but no less puncuated with enthusiasm. They streak by, arcing back to circuit over the houses as if the journey should only take so long and no longer, turning back on their flight paths in figures of eight.

Then, a mirror version of their first appearance, the throng thins as the majority seek roosts further down the road in the trees beside the convent and by the river. Some few pass by in sixes, fours, twos, until only one more comes lately by, calling for the others, wings beating purposefully homewards.

It happens every evening. I am glad.

Monday, September 04, 2006

But there is always the bathroom to finish

Overdue tax returns notwithstanding, I attacked the bathroom with a dodgy mastic gun and a bottle of sealant on Sunday morning. Anything to avoid doing the dreaded online return, I suppose. We had a bit of an accident involving a large boot and a toilet a long while ago. The replacement throne was inserted into the throne-shaped gap in the tiled floor and left to prove itself awhile before I went to the trouble of sealing and tiling around it again. The "proving period" turned out to be more months than I care to remember at the moment. But considering an almost entire tube of sealant had to be used to bring the cavity around it up to the floor level of the tiles will probably hint at why I was loathe to approach it. Once cured, I will put some nice dainty likkle tiles around it, daisy-petal like, as it was before the boot and bog accident. 'Tis hard on the knees though.

Dyslexia For Cure Found

The above headline in a spoof newspaper in the oft-repeated "Naked Gun" movie is about the highlight of the past week. Naturally, I've been drinking whiskey, which I love drinking but which nonetheless has a dampening effect the next day on my mood. Had a face like a slapped arse this morning in work. Quite sure my workmates wondered if I was still taking the correct pills. The day was busy in a paper shuffling kind of way. I am to be left to my own devices from Wednesday onwards for five weeks when my most-valuable and much appreciated clerical officer goes on holidays and I have to phone-juggle and report write at the same time. I think I shall have to take to wearing the flip-flops that Herself bought me during the summer after all, so I can write with both bare feet while speaking to irate customers and typing up-to-the-minute statistics for my boss's boss's bosses. Where did I leave that bottle?