Sunday, 29 November 2009

Unsporting Behaviour on Oil Drum Lane

When I was a child, from about the age of six, I regularly received inappropriate Christmas or Birthday Presents from my dad - from my parents actually, but my dad was the one with the income, so I expect in his usual domineering way he took little notice of my mother's suggestions.

My friend Heather had told me she was expected to contribute half the cost of her own gifts herself; the gifts I received were fully bought for me, they were just gifts my father wanted me to have rather than gifts I asked for. Having to contribute to my own gifts might have made me more independent and resentful, and eventually propelled me out of home.

I was utterly uninterested in sport. So, on successive birthdays & Christmases my father gave me: boxing gloves and punch-ball; a fishing rod; a Manchester United kit; a tennis racket and ball; a cricket bat, ball (not a corky), wicket and bales.

I did - at 7 - once get a transistor radio which I was pleased with but I've only just now realised that though it was given to me it was actually a present for himself and my mother as it spent the rest of its life in the kitchen and living room being used by them.

My mother once told me that when I was three or four my father spent Christmas Eve scouring the Shops to find me the Cowboy outfit I'd asked for, but I can't remember.

I can remember only ever getting a present I'd actually asked for, which was a Johnny Seven One Man Army gun.

I asked for an Action Man when they first came out and got some british knock-off called Tommy Gunn (which I now think was actually better). I asked for a little telescope and never got it, I asked for a chemistry set and never got it, and I asked for a bike and never got it.

Looking back the telescope and bike were probably too expensive for my skint parents, but there was no moment when I was taken aside and told "we can't afford it, but we'll help you save up the half-crown your gran gives you every week and we'll put something toward it" , or when I was a bit older "we'll help you get a paper-round and you can save up for it", or even "we can't afford a telescope but we'll get you a big book on astronomy and take you to an observatory". It wasn't if I was passively sitting by, I saved money for a little book on astronomy, and borrowed books on the subject from the children's library.

So I got gifts from my Dad, but they were gifts for the boy he wanted me to be rather than the boy I was.

The boy I was was Frasier Crane, my father was a particularly unresponsive and unsupportive version of Marty Crane.

Or more accurately and british, particularly later, he was the cantankerous, manipulative, and negative Albert Steptoe and I was the aspirational and trapped Harold.

My uncle, my dad's brother, had more of an idea of who I was - when an acquaintance of his died, my uncle made sure that he secured the man's amateur artist equipment - oil paints, brushes, a portable easel, some cheap textured board - and he gave them all to me. He had his own child, but she was only seven or so at the time so they were age-inappropriate for her, but he could have saved them for her for a few years to see if she became interested. Instead, knowing that at the turn of my teens I was already interested in drawing and painting, he gave them to me.

My dad was an armchair sportsman who didn't even try to convey his interest in sport to me by sitting me down with him and watching football on TV together, but he expected me to become suddenly sporty because I had a cricket bat. My uncle was a fanatical Man City supporter and an amateur league referee, yet he could see I was a different type of boy and supported that boy.

I don't blame my dad for being disappointed that I wasn't a typical sporty boy, but he could have supported the boy I actually was. It wasn't as if I was a namby-pamby softy-Walter, I got into fights with other boys, I enjoyed rough-and-tumble, I likes boy's toys like guns and games such as playing Japs and Commandos, I just wasn't interested in any sport beyond having a kick-about in the street with my little mates now and then.

I don't know whether he didn't realise that I wasn't interested in sport, or whether he was ham-fistedly trying to make me be, but, whichever, it went on for many years and was if anything counter-productive..

It was such a shame - stuck out on a council overspill estate in the middle of nowhere there was next to nothing for a boy like me and a bit of parental involvement or support in my interests might have made a big difference. Even actively trying to enthuse me about - say - football might have made a difference.

It wasn't as if I was lost in a big family, I was an only child so my parents' attention should have been undivided and largely undistracted.

This was probably when I first started feeling isolated and ignored and a misfit.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Birthday Treat

As a belated birthday treat for myself, this lunchtime I bought on spec Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity is Near". I love the idea of the Singularity, estimated to happen around about a third of the way into the 21st century, when the graph curves of the rate of technological and scientific advance become hyperbolic and all bets are off as to what the future will be like beyond the Singularity.

I hope it's right and I live long enough and have enough wealth to experience the transhuman condition.

The Burqa in their Limbic System

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,

The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

Sylvia Plath

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Some Years After

Here we are now, some years after
You and me and funny laughter
Don`t be scared, It's only dark
Soon you'll hear a meadowlark

Don't give up, just one more try
Rainbows soon will fill the sky.

See us in our upper limbos
Peeking through the blinds on windows
Down below and far as wide is
Slick is kissing old King Midas
Silly birds, you should know better
Tell each hero "go and get her"

Lady Luck`s the one we're after
Now and also ever after
Gosh, we caught her - gee, she's crying
Fortune teller, are you lying?

Do you see the noses growing
And wonder where the truth is going?

"Desolation Theme" - Ken Nordine

Friday, 13 November 2009

Pulham Down, or Ambushed by Suggestion

Max0n Crumb - fascinating story. Illustration by his more famous brother R0bert Crumb. Watching the famous Robert Crumb documentary by Terry Zwigoff put a sexual fantasy in my head I've returned to ever since

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The Narrowed Limits

I've had a new insight for the first time in weeks - months maybe, given how much I came to repeat myself on these blogs.

I woke up early again at around 5am - better than 2am as of late, there are plenty of people who get up for work at 5am - and a thought so very obvious occurred to me that I can't believe I've not realised it before.

It's very simple - I've realised how narrow my social boundaries were and how little I stepped beyond them. I deliberately used the passive voice there because I don't think I knowingly drew those boundaries.

The specific realisation was this: it occurred to me that when I was at college I remained within that tight little group of Heather, the two Johns, Melanie, Lorraine and Lynn. I think everybody else mostly did the same. I considered for much of the time that the only women available for asking out were Heather, Lorraine, and Lynn. I didn't feel Melanie worthy of consideration, which was mean and shallow of me.

John had put dibs on Lorraine, John S had put dibs on Heather and for some of the time she was going out with Geoff, and I was so reticent with Lynn that I said nothing and she took up with Duncan W, despite her once having told me directly to "show some initiative" towards her.

It was ridiculous for me to have drawn my boundaries so narrowly. I think part of the problem was that art schools are so incestuous, one spends so much time in the company of a small group of people of one's own age in a way that is very unusual after infant school.

Most students aren't big mates with most of the people on their course, they see them only for a couple of lectures a week, instead they make friends with the people they share houses with, people they meet in social societies, political societies, and what have you. For instance, Heather would probably never have met Geoff if he hadn't been John S's housemate for a while. As I remember she lived at home for two terms until her parents moved out of the area, John lived at home for all but two terms, I lived at home, and Lynn lived at home for a good part of the course until her parents divorced and she and her sister moved into a council flat.

Such staying with one's parents is very unusual for students and - in my case at least - limited the motivation to find a social outlet, and also reduced the pressure. But I was particularly inert. John G lived in a bedsit in Whalley Range for a while, found on his own initiative, and everybody else sooner or later moved out too. The only move out I made was one term in Halls, and I only applied for that because I was drunk at the time and had found that everyone had moved in to Halls and I felt I was missing out.

My life being as limited as it was between the ages of 11 and 37, those four years at college were a time of particular opportunity I failed to recognise. I can see that I'd been primed to think very poorly of myself and my chances, but I should have perceived the situation as one of opportunity, I should have considered people on other parts of the course as potential friends and girlfriends, if no one else. It isn't as though I didn't have connections with other people on it, I used to be friends with Janet W, I knew Jean Y and Carmel McC quite well, and had slept overnight on their floor, and there were others too.

But I never picked up on these connections, I never struck out on my own.

After college, apart from getting very fat I was unemployed for most of 15 years, which pretty much put me out of the running for everything at a very important time in my life. Never the less, I'm startling to realize how little I ventured out of that little group at college, how narrowly I drew those boundaries.

When I did get a job, my confidence and situation were so deeply troubled that I made no use of my opportunities, I stayed fat, I stayed at home, I merely longed for women from a distance (and they were mostly Doctors, which didn't help). My social boundaries were drawn in so tightly to just me and my parents, despite working in an institution with nearly 2000 employees, the greater part of whom were women.

At college and at work I was potentially in clover, all unawares.

The funny thing is that out of the two Johns and me, I was the only one who actually approached women I didn't know at parties. The Johns usually did nothing, they would drift around chatting to other men or end up in the kitchen, but I would at least sometimes approach women - I at least pulled a couple of times.

On one of thesse blogs I used a line from a John Cooper Clarke poem *Midnight Shift" - "was there ever a thing so fair that smashed itself to bits". That was about a prostitute, but you could say something very similar about me. I was OK back then, and more fool the women I knew if they couldn't see it.

I sense a strange inertness and deep sexual passivity within a lot of women, so many women seem to need some kind of permission to find a man attractive, even if it's only the permission implicit in other women finding him attractive. I think it's the reason that women tend to be more interested in married men and divorced men than men are in married and divorced women - there's an aspect of "oh, he must be quite attractive, because another woman has found him attractive".

Women criticise men for being attracted to younger women, but women are so very often attracted merely to male status, rather than men as people, and put up with men they don't especially like, as in the old Mrs Merton joke "Debbie McGee, what first attracted you to the Millionaire Paul Daniels?"

Indeed, most women seem not particularly to like their male partners . For men, and their attractiveness to women, it's a case of "more gets more", As as sex women seem to want to be loved and desired by men more than they actively love and desire men. The only women I've known who exhibited anything I would call passionate love and desire are Melanie and Beverly M, a girl I knew at 6th Form. I could cite many examples but I'll pick the one closest to home: my dad always addressed cards and notes to my mam as to "my sweetheart" i.e. he actively saw her as someone he loved, whereas she always wrote "your Eva" i.e. she saw herself as someone who was loved by him. I've pushed female friends to voice their love for the men they are with, and find they wont, although they will say variations on "he loves me". or "I need his love"

I look back and see now how fine I really was and didn't realise it, and I think I must have read this female inertness as something that was directed at me, not something quite general in most women, to be overcome, or melted by men.

I don't and didn't have problems talking to women. I've never found it difficult being with women, never ever. I have a limited social life but I've always had female friends. I prefer the company of women, the conversation isn't limited to sport and boasting and getting pissed or high as it is with many men, and women are more comfortable talking about emotions.

If I'd had confidence, most of the rotten things that have happened to me, and that I've done to myself, would probably never have happened.

But I drew those limited and limiting social boundaries, or failed to see there were no boundaries there, and thus reduced my opportunities to none..

What I am trying to draw from this is that I'm not unloveable, not unwantable, not unable, not a social cripple, but someone who could have had a normal happy life, and perhaps still can have if I can get past this leaden crushing sense of worthlessness, and see and make and grasp what opportunities are still there, to get beyond the sense of shame at my perceived worthlessness that I've felt since late childhood.