Below the Line

30.01.14
 
Although I’ve drawn a line under certain things, I have engaged with a couple of people today: people from the old life. Although that life is gone, in engaging with them the way I did, I almost think a greater mutual understanding is beginning to emerge. They’ve spoken with my key worker and everyone seems to be on the same page now: I fucked up (or things got fucked up) twice but this third attempt at recovery will work.
 
I’ve got my writing – my chosen path – and all concerned realise that it’s good therapy. And it’s not just the journal and the blog which I write; it’s poems and short stories, some of which are written in my capacity as writer-in-residence at the railway station.
 
Besides the therapy element though, as it’s my chosen path, the entrepreneur in me has re-emerged and my two websites are not only parked but – subject to a few transfers of code – hosted. I just need to build / design them. Until www.gilberthousepublishing.com and www.gilberthousepublishing.co.uk are fully up and running, I’ve built a fairly decent presence on Facebook with the limited tools available to me. Given that more internet searches are conducted on Facebook than even Google, I figure this is a presence worth having. I just need more “Likes” and fans, then I’ll be permitted to assign the page its own Facebook web address. So “Like” it please. 
 
Gilbert House Publishing
 
We can read and write
 
Fiction, non-fiction, copyrighting, editing and proof reading. 
 
(Quite clever I thought).
 
The domains and hosting have been financed by the modest sum I made from the sale of the Telegaph vouchers on eBay. Unable to transfer PayPal funds to my bank account – for reasons known only to my bank it seems – I was limited to direct PayPal purchases. So the entrepreneur hat went on and here we go…

The point it is I didn’t (couldn’t; wouldn’t) spend the money on booze. It’s gone on things to aid my recovery and move me forward; to build my business / self-employment / sole-trader and realise an ambition.
 
So as well as being a vehicle for my own writing (this story when it becomes the novel, as well as short stories and poetry), “we” – as an organisation – offer freelance, out-sourced (I was always a master of out-sourcery when I ran my old business) writing for print and online; copyrighting, editing and proof-reading. Publishing too, which will naturally include printing: back to my roots.
 
Of course the life of a broke writer needs to be financed and until Gilbert House is making a return, that’s where the casual work comes in (Working in a kitchen and doing the dishes works wonders for the hands.) That and building the new venture are what’s occupying most of a 14-16 hour working day at the moment. I’m not shirking and although I’m far from dry, I’m drinking far less: I don’t have the time.
 
The re-awoken entrepreneur is also and always looking for other ways to make money and eBay is something which has suggested itself as something relatively easy and requires little investment (of finance but investment of time is crucial for success on eBay: I’ve done it before). There are a few little gems I’ve spotted in the many charity shops in Tonbridge, which I’m certain I can make a good margin on: a framed Monet canvas (not an original obviously, nor even a print) at £4.95: have it!. Re-selling can be very profitable if the buying and selling are done right.
 
Whilst at CRI today, I had a rare case of the waterworks when I spoke to some fellow clients about my kids. We’re all friends there and can talk about anything (it all stays in the room), so I let go. There’s something not quite right but at the same time reassuring about being hugged by a 6 foot 4 armed robber and a brick shithouse who’s done time for GBH. But it let the pressure cooker off. Kindred spirits; birds of a feather.
 
There are things I’ve lost; some of which I’ll never get back; some of which I don’t want back; others which I want back but there is work to do and bridges to build. And yet others which never went away. I don’t have much but what I have is my life; things I couldn’t be without: my notebook and pen, my keyring (the one with no keys on it as I lost the last four homes which I had keys to. The one which holds my armless Lego torch, nail clippers, a pen knife, my Poker Stars gold shark card protector, my Victorian letterpress “S” Monotype wooden printing block, my silver Monopoly hat and my dog tag with “Dad” spelt in Binary. No keys though), my library card and my kids. I’d give up everything for them but I’m rebuilding for them.
 
I’m well above my lowest ebb but the line I wish to cross is still a way off.
 
I’m rebuilding, below the line.

The Neighbour of the Beast

29.01.14
 
Rough night last night: the next door neighbour had left their dogs outside, barking away and keeping me awake. So I went round there, grabbed the dogs and put them outside my place to see how the neighbours liked that. Then at 3 O’Clock this morning, the same neighbour was banging at my door. They might have woken me up but it was okay as I was up playing my drums.
 
Before I move on, I want to draw a line under the criticism, nagging, doubting and bitching that I’ve been receiving from certain quarters:
 

  • am engaging with the CRI recovery programme: I’m there every day.
  • am sorting out benefits and housing: there have been hiccups which have caused delays.
  • am working; 14 hours a day.
  • am receiving support; from friends, believers and general helpers.
  • am being encouraged in my chosen endeavour: CRI are supporting me in becoming a professional writer.

(www.gilberthousepublishing.com and www.gilberthousepublishing.co.uk are now mine. I have a trading name as a sole trader and as well as my own writing, I can write for others, copyright, edit and proof-read.

am getting better.
 
If anyone wants to swap places with me, I’m actually not willing to do so as I wouldn’t wish my current predicament on anyone. I have vision though and things will be good. And then I’ll still not swap. I like where I am and don’t want to be where my doubters are.
 
And if anyone wants to check up on me, send me a private message and I’ll make you an approved contact with my key worker at CRI: one person has already done exactly that and my key worker will confirm that I’m making progress, especially in my chosen path of writing, which is aiding my recovery. That’s why he’s had the confidence in me to approve my application for the netbook.
 
I am not going to indulge this any further and be held back by it. The lack of understanding impedes my recovery. I am literally sick and tired of it.
 
______________________ < I’ve drawn a line.
 
I’ve been working for most of the day (as tends to be the case); on the book and on practical things, at CRI, in the library, McDonald’s and the railway station.
 
Gilbert House Publishing now has a web presence. I need to build the website itself and that’s way down the to-do list but I have at least secured the domains, paid for with the proceeds of the Telegraph vouchers eBay sale, which sold for £60 in the end.
 
Whilst in the library – whilst researching family names and places for the book – I happened upon The Official Guide to the South Eastern Railway and its Branches, by George Meason. It’s integral to my plotting. It was published pre-Beeching and is a fascinating study.
 
After the library closed at six, it was the usual interim stop gap at McDonald’s for a coffee, before taking up residence (as poet and story teller) at the station. I’ve concluded that the music played in McDonald’s is actually okay; although that could be because I’ve been music-deprived for so long. Or it could be that they change the music for my benefit whenever I’m in. I shit you not: chatty man that I am, I’ve got to know the staff. We’re on first name terms. Their names are easy as they wear them on badges; I’m just easy to remember (or hard to forget). We’ve spoken of musical preferences (the staff and I) before and whenever I’m in, mine are played. The soundtrack to my life at the moment. In McDonald’s and other haunts, I’m quite a cult (that third letter is the right one); quite famous (infamous?) I’ve been told.
 
There’s a button gone missing from my cap: the cap my key worker says there’s so much going on beneath. The cap my psychologist said is the lid which keeps so much in. The missing button has left a white space, about the size of a pound coin. Someone suggested today that I should fill it some way. It’s a small space, I was lacking ideas, so I asked them to do it instead. My cap and therefore the left-hand side of my head now bears the legend “42”: they recognised me and had read the blog. Such an apt insription in any case.
 
I’m three quarters of the way through Life of Pi now (when I get a moment away from working, I read. Moments are rare, which is why it’s taking me so long to finish the book). It continues to be a rivetting read; the protagonist having much in common with yours truly.
 
Busy day tomorrow: doctor, benefits, forms, working on this and Gilbert House but I’m afforded a longer day as the library is open until 8PM on Thursdays. then the weekend to suffer. But I’m being taken for dinner on Monday, so there’s a light.
 
As if to make the weekend more unbearable, the weather forecast is for rain (because we need it). With only around two or three exceptions, it’s rained every day since I’ve been out: 36 days now. I’ve gone beyond being depressed with it and am now angry; with the weather. I thought hell was supposed to be warm and dry but it’s not: it’s cold and wet.
 
Funnily enough, I couldn’t be bothered to walk to Sainsbury’s tonight in the rain to get my baccy (25g for £7.15), so I went to a newsagent next to McDonald’s and although I expected to pay more, found a different brand to my usual: Carlton; 25g for £6.66.
 
I am in hell.

Alright Now

28.01.14 (still)

When I popped into Sainsbury’s earlier, I thought I’d check on their water: yesterday it was still water and today it’s still water; so that’s nice. They’ve labelled it and everything.

I’ve been working on the book and on Gilbert House Publishing: both are going well but both require a fuck load of work. That will keep me busy and at the moment I’m working on average 14 hours a day: 14 working, six sleeping and the remaining four in rehab; socialising and eating. Working is writing, reading, researching and sorting out the practical stuff.

I’m sorted (or getting sorted). If anyone needs a character reference, speak to my mate Becca, who knows me better than most it would seem (it would seem that she’s very intuitive and has a good memory, or pays attention to me at least).

I don’t go in for terms of endearment – “love”, “dearest”, “baby” etc. I usually address my male friends as “mate” and the female ones as “mate”, or sweetie. One I have reserved though as a kind of ultimate accolade is from one of my favourite films – Ghost – “You’re alright”, as Oda May Brown says to Sam Wheat.

Beck: thanks for sticking by me and believing in me. You’re alright.

Forgive and Let Die

28.01.14

I met Becca and her friend Ellen today at CRI, then we all met up with Blue and Jazz. The reason that only some names are changed or witheld on here is to protect the innocent. Where someone doesn’t mind being mentioned, I mention them by their proper name. The ladies had to depart at around noon and I spent the rest of the day writing.

I’ve gained a bit of a monopoly on the sole computer at CRI, where I’m not limited to an hour’s use per day as I am at the library: roll on getting the notepad / tablet, so that I’m no longer constrained. The CRI staff are fine with me monopolising the computer and a few of them have taken an active and ongoing interest in what I’m doing. Although I have relatively few official followers of this blog, my dashboard confirms that I have readers / views in the hundreds every day.

I was heartened today to be complimented on my writing by Becca’s friend Ellen, who read the blog prior to meeting me to see what she was getting into (I can only assume). She thinks my writing is clever and she’s another who recognises my ability to place meaning between the lines: show, don’t tell.  

Jazz (Blue’s dog) thinks I’m okay too, although she doesn’t read the blog. She’s Blue’s best mate and fiercest protector. But when her daddy needs to go off to somewhere she’s not allowed (most places), she’s okay staying with “Uncle Steve”. Blue’s my bruv. Even today, Jazz saw off some muppet who approached us when we’d rather he hadn’t. He was off his nut on Methadone and we asked him to leave. Jazz was up on her haunches and growling. We pointed out that the dog didn’t like him, to which he replied that he was a “dog whisperer”. Whisper at her mate and she’ll rip your face off. Jazz made sure he left. Mr Methadone was one seriously threatening character but I felt safe with my cage fighter brother (undefeated) and 2000lbs per square inch of dog bite at our disposal. I also have on-board protection, should my brother and niece not have been there. It’s nice to be able to relax and not have to watch your back.

That on-board protection is handy to have about my person when sleeping at Gilbert Arse. Although I’m in a back room, with one door barricaded and another tied shut with electrical cable, there is no escape to the rear of the building. Therefore the only means of escape – should it be required – is back the way I came, via any assailant. What I carry (I’ll not say), combined with the training in self-defense I’ve received, pretty much guarantee my safe exit.

Despite my efforts and documented demonstrations of starting over and getting better (proof upon application via my key worker), the proverbial kicking continues from certain quarters. Just today: “…all these girls…” apparently see me as some sort of danger; a challenge; to be tamed. You don’t know me any more: I’ve changed. I have lots of friends out here, many of them girls. They don’t see me as you may think. They like me for what I am.

Probably the closest friend (confidante) I have at the moment is Becca. We’re friends. In another life it might have been otherwise but for now she’s a friend; a rock; a prop-up; an ear; a shoulder. She doesn’t judge and I love her for all the right reasons. I’d kindly request that my nemeses don’t fuck this one up in the same way that you’ve engineered others. My friend is aware of my baggage and carries it for me. My heart has been broken too many times already.

Leave me alone, please. Either forgive me for whatever it is you’ve perceived me to have done or let me die alone; as you wish. 

 

C(10)=Me

28.01.14

I believe in myself: if only others would do so too and support me, rather than be dismissive.

But I’m doing it on my own now, with my new friends, some of whom are in the same boat as me; the ones who get it. Not people I’m clinging to as some have suggested. I acknowledge that I still have friends from my old lives and I value those who are left. The rest won’t be reading this; they’re gone, along with everything else which was unpleasant before.

I turned down a place at Shelter last night. Not because I couldn’t be bothered and would rather piss piss about but because I at least have a roof at Gilbert Arse and others have no such luxury. Beds are limited in number and the co-ordinators have the unfortunate task of allocating on a needs basis. I was pre-approved and had a free meal lined up but I gave the meal and bed to someone more needy. The Shelter co-ordinator thanked me for being so candid, kind and generous and said I’d been a massive help in freeing up a space: glad to help.

(But I’m selfish of course.)

I’m content. Contentment and all those other C-words – there are ten in total (work it out) = Me.  

Paperback Writer

27.01.14
 
Having previously delved into my family history (despite being disowned, I still have a son to continue the name should he so choose), today’s library reference session was into the family name:
 
This famous and interesting name is English. It has three possible origins, although all overlap and have fused with time. The first is residential and pre -7th century Olde English. It derives from the word “lacu” meaning a stream, and hence would have described one who lived or worked by such a place, the second is also residential but from the Roman (Latin) word “lacus”, which means a lake or still water. In these contexts it may also have descibed an inhabitant of villages such as Lake in the county of Wiltshire, or Laker Lodge in the county of Sussex. The third possibility is occupational for one who “laiked”; an early English word for doing work, and one that was still in popular use in Yorkshire in the 20th century. In this case it may have been applied to any useful work. The village of ‘Lake’ appears in the Feudal Rolls of the county of Wiltshire in the year 1316, whilst Laker’s Lodge is now a diminished hamlet near the village of Wisborough Green in the county of Sussex. Modern forms of the surname include Lake, Lack, Lakes, Laker and Lakeman. Early examples of the surname recording include John Lakeman of Essex in the year 1320, William le Lakere of Hampshire in 1325, and Robert Laker of Sussex in the wills record of 1595. William Lake was an early emigrant to the colonies of New England, leaving the port of London on the ship ‘Assurance’ in July 1635, bound for Virginia. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard de la Lake. This was dated 1200, in the Shropshire Pipe Rolls, during the reign of King John, 1199 – 1216. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to “develop” often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

I also poured over the censuses going back to 1841 and was able to confirm what I’d discovered when I previously undertook similar research: that some of my family’s ancestors emigrated to America and became very wealthy there. Quite spooky parallels to Victor Frank, his son and the son’s adoptive parents.
 
The plot for the novel continues to be fleshed out and is really taking shape. I’m currently working on character profiles and biographies. Masses of research to do, into family names, locations and so on.
 
Today I founded Gilbert House Publishing: this is not a limited company but a trading name for when I’m a sole trader at some point. Until then, I’m not earning anything from what will be my publishing vehicle, so I may continue to claim any benefits I’m entitled to (finally got the forms through today to my care-of address) whilst writing, which is my therapy.
 
As well as being encouraged by CRI as a therapy, they run the creative writing courses previously mentioned (starting next week as it turns out). I was talking to the course co-ordinator today and besides the actual course, they offer residential away breaks / workshops, which I’ll be attending: busman’s holiday. In addition, the writing group gains access to various resources, including published authors who can mentor, agents and publishers. There’s also a quarterly anthology of members’ work published by CRI: my short stories are likely to appear in that. It’s support among peers and mentors and a route to writing professionally. So I hope my doubters might now stop doubting and see that I’ve engaged with CRI recovery; not only in recovery but in achieving an ambition, which they recognise as being realistic and which they encourage. And all of this virtually guarantees that my Small Sparks application for the netbook / tablet will be approved, as I’m engaging. 
 
This is the new life I’ve chosen, as it’s the route which is really going places. I’ll take casual work when I can and I’ll continue to work on the practical stuff but when it comes to work, this is what I want to do and I don’t see that I’ll get a better opportunity. I never liked working for someone else anyway. So I’m effectively self-employed as a writer, albeit on a zero wage. Writing is what I love and I rate job satisfaction over financial reward (that will come).
 
I know I’ll be branded foolhardy and irresponsible by some but this is the way for me to go: my chosen route. Shitty bits aside, I almost wouldn’t swap this new life for the old ones. I miss the home comforts but this is much more enlightening. That’ll be branded a selfish sentiment but it’s what makes me better that counts and this is it; and I’ve been told to concentrate on myself.
 
There is much to do with Gilbert House Publishing, just as there is a lot of work still to do on the book but I hope my detractors will write this in their diaries, tear out the page and smoke it: like Kaiser Soze, I’m gone in a puff of smoke.
 
The old life just ended. I didn’t kill myself, although the treatment and lack of support I received from many people might well have led me to do so. I AM working; I AM NOT wasting time: I’m getting better and better. Inner resolve and self-belief, as well as the few who also believe, are what have kept me afloat. And now things really are afloat. It’ll take a long time but time is something I have plenty of.
 
If I’m branded selfish, I’ll live with it; selfishly. It’s all about me.
 
There’s casual work (less than 16 hours per week to maintain benefit income) to make ends meet whilst the writing goes on. Myself and my agent feel it could be 2-3 years before the final thing is ready, even if I work on it as much as possible around the casual work (I don’t tend to sleep much).

I always knew that the life of a writer was tough and now I’m really living it (and loving it). 

Never Judge a Book

7.30AM and I’m in Wetherspoons. Having got to bed at 2 O’Clock this morning, I was awake again at six and couldn’t get back to sleep (FFS), so I arrived at ‘spoons at seven and I’m having a coffee before heading over to CRI for Breakfast club and to use the computer.

I’m not having breakfast in ‘spoons but I note that a “Traditional Breakfast” of eggs, sausage, bacon, beans, mushrooms, hash bowns and toast is £3.29. The last time I had breakfast was in McDonald’s, where a similar sum will buy you a fucking muffin. ‘Spoons next time.

This is the time of day when the housekeeping gets done. I was just outside having a cigarette, observing the window cleaners working inside, cleaning the windows (that’s what they do) and found it quite therapeutic to observe.

Dinner at Shelter last night was multiple choice and I went for beef casserole followed by chocolate cake with custard: both were delicious. The cooking and catering staff, as well as the rest of the volunteers, were fantastic. I was made to feel very welcome.

Most imposrtantly though, those in the same boat as me are a great bunch. I almost don’t want this to end as people out here are so much more genuine than many others I’ve known for far longer.

My friend didn’t return last night but there are people looking out for her: that’s the way we work out here.

Often friendships which would take years to build otherwise are formed here within minutes. We understand and look after each other. Just tonight I’ve met three people whom I would trust (and have done) with my belongings and eventually my life. And that works both ways.

Much like at CRI, there’s free, donated stuff available at the Shelter church: clothes and so on. There was another candle incident last night at Gilbert Arse, which resulted in my £200 Crombie coat getting caked in wax: impossible to remove, so it’s ruined. And what did I find at the church? A Crombie coat, better than the last in fact: full-length and double-breasted; a bit like a German trench coat.

Another new friend, whom I met last night – Gemma – is having a bit of a hard time at the moment, so I’m meeting her later to keep her company and do whatever I can to help, even if that’s just to listen. That’s what we do out here.

Just like my former partners, these people come with baggage. Everyone has a past and deserves a second chance: not to be judged but to be accepted.

The plotting of the book is going well and I’m building a strong structure; so much so that the cover design is in the offing; I can see it now, like a foetal scan; like a new life just beginning. 

Tomorrow I’m meeting my friend Becca. She knows of my baggage, accepts me for who I am and is a very good listener. I’ve only known her for a short time but already she can seemingly read me like a book.

She doesn’t judge me though.