Blind Faith

A lot of my homeys are having babies. 

When i say homeys, i mean fellow men. I suppose they're not having babies exactly, women have babies, men become fathers. At around one in the afternoon on the first Wednesday of December, my brother became a father for the first time. Seeing someone so close to me go through something so heavy is very hard to describe, harder still to understand. To say it was amazing is a waste of a word, i haven't really digested it yet. For him it was so heavy it was overwhelming, for my folks and me it was overwhelmingly joyous, but it was also a reminder about how little any human being really knows about anything.

Especially the serious stuff.

My contemporaries going through the process of having kids is for me the most clear-cut sign of how everyone is styling every single thing out to the absolute Nth degree. No-one knows what they're doing. They just pretend they do. I wrote here about how my parents didn't have a clue what they were doing when they got married. And yet somehow they're still together. Seeing the expression on my brother's face in the hospital room hours after he became a father was a reminder that most of the time in life, you have to make a decision and then adapt to the results. That's the reality. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and step out into the abyss with nothing but blind faith to hold your hand.

Which is scary as hell, but not nearly as scary as doing the opposite. Making no decision at all. 

The sinister place Dr Seuss called The Waiting Place.

So plunge into the decision we do. 

Does it get any easier. Two award-winning docs following my man Guy through the process of becoming a pop paint the same bleak picture, and would suggest that no, no it doesn't get any easier whatsoever.

But obviously having a child is far from bleak, that wasn't my point. The reason i started this post talking about homeys is because it concerns the male response to parenthood. Like much of life, females have a head start on us brothers, being that they are more involved in the natural side of the world. Pregnancy for men is pretty abstract, i mean they go through none of the hormonal fireworks associated with the mother, they hear about cravings and feign a raised eyebrow and mumble something like... vanilla ice cream again, how interesting.

Post-birth they also find themselves at the shallow end of the utility-pool, because they don't have breasts. Turns out breast-feeding is about more than just nutrition. It's skin to skin contact, eye to eye gaze, the rocking is an embodiment of rhythm, it forms the beginning of the establishment of the relationship. And breast-feeding even produces children with higher IQs. But pops miss out on all of this. Instead they look on quizzically, pretend to be taking it in, and then balls up the first 53 nappy changes.

A new father would be much better placed to tell you this stuff. But in his defence, while some women don't feel maternal at all, the maternal instincts of some men are off the charts. Shortly after Mary was born, my father described how he saw my brother connecting to her with a type of totally animal intuition, emanating from both his heart and his body. Maybe men with more evolved emotional centres find a way of connecting with their newborns in a way other men find harder, i don't know.

My brother said he always wanted to have a girl. 

He says right at the beginning the idea freaked him out. But when they found out pretty early on in the pregnancy that she was going to be a she, he said he much preferred the idea. He'd heard about how men have more issues with boys, how a daughter is the apple of her father's eye. I also have a sneaking suspicion that, more so than a boy, he felt like a daughter would be more of a protector, and my brother quite likes company.

I don't have a girlfriend and with one sorry exception i can't remember the last time i went on a date, so i'm pretty far from the following predicament. But personally, the idea of being a father to a daughter makes me really quite scared, like almost queasy. And try as i might i can't get to the bottom of it. I have a feeling the reason is a bit more complex than sports, something a little deeper than Peter Griffin's moment of dawning realisation in the maternity ward.

I think it's to do with how little i understand women. 

Add in some Freudian stuff, sprinkled with my belief in the matriarchal setup of the world, that how contrary to our delusions women run shit, they control everything, but at a much deeper level than equal pay etc. Nature is female, women carry life inside them, men are tools, that kind of thing. And the weird idea that this figure of dominance, this embodiment of feminine power, would be so tiny and helpless but i think just pretending to be, doesn't convince me at all. Perhaps it's something to do with that thing that we never really escape the womb. Despite what we might think, we're all kinda still in there.

Like Hesse's quote about trees rustling.

A longing to wander tears my heart when i hear the trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, the longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one's suffering, though it may seem so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home.


There's a French-Canadian film called The Barbarian Invasions. About a man diagnosed with a terminal illness, and it follows the last few months of his life surrounded by his family and his mistresses. It's a pretty serious film, heart-breaking but also hilarious. There's a scene right at the end, where our man is almost on his deathbed, when he receives a satellite video message from Sylvaine his daughter, who is on a boat stranded out in the Southern ocean, unable to get back to see her pop, knowing she will never get the chance to see him again. It's a goodbye. 

When casting the role of the daughter, who appears just once in the whole film in this scene, the actress Isabelle Blais recorded herself doing a read-through and sent it by email to the director Denys Arcand. He recounts that when he saw it for the first time, he broke down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably. And once he'd recovered, he called her to say the part was hers.

This is part of her monologue.

It's been too long since i last saw you. My daddy. My papuschka. I'll have missed you my whole life. Tell yourself that i'm a happy woman. That i've found my place. I don't know how you did it, but you managed to pass on your lust for life, you and Mum raised incredibly strong children. It's a miracle really. 

And then she goes straight for the jugular.

I don't want to ruin it, just watch it.

I had to put the clip on youtube cos it didn't exist, and just editing it reduced me to a blubbering wreck.

It's basically the opposite of Peter Griffin in the maternity ward. It made me think the real reason why i'm so freaked out about maybe having a baby girl one day, that perhaps i wouldn't think twice about were it not a girl, is that the stakes are too high. There's something about the bond between a father and a daughter that sits right at the top of the cake. You don't mess with it. Like, what is stronger in human nature than that. Her looking up at him, him looking back down at her. It's totally different to father-son, it's more hardcore it seems to me, it might be the single most precious dynamic that exists. And so perhaps rightly so, it scares the shit out of me. 

I think i'm afraid my hypothetical daughter will see right through me. She'll realise what a deficient human being i am, erring and bumbling and fucking things up. And what's more she'd be female. Those strange beings i uphold as radically dominant to men in almost every way. I couldn't hide from her. 


My mate Alfie has a five year old daughter called Iris. He told me the other day that although he didn't think he would be the type of person to admit this, Iris is his best mate in the whole world. He says he tells her all the time. And he said if it came down to it, he'd hang out with her above anyone else.

He also said this. 

Whatever veiled moments of glory life might throw our way from time to time, they sure as hell won't come about as a result of inaction. Life demands that we live it forward. This whole thing about my friends becoming parents being an act of blind faith, seeing my brother with Mary and the emotions she's brought him even just over the course of the five short weeks of her life so far, me freaking out about the idea of being a dad to a little girl one day, they're all examples of the same thing.

We have this idea that we need to believe something strongly before we decide to do it. But actually much of the time, what we need to do is act. And then figure out what the hell is going on, while we go. Like Douglas Adams' character Dirk Gently says in The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul...

I may not have gone where i intended to go...


 but i think i have ended up where i needed to be.

Between Two Lungs

What the hell is this guy up to.

Looks pretty suspect. 

At first glance it looks like our man is mid-anecdote, re-enacting the details of some sordid night straight out of the Weinstein back catalogue to his mates. But probing deeper into Google's stock photography sheds some light on the matter. Turns out Cardigan Jim's impression is nothing more than a bit of coughing and wheezing on account of an unexpected bout of asthma, which is being soothed below by a hit from his inhaler.

Asthma affects 350 million people worldwide, and five million in this country. Three people die every day from it in the UK, it messed with people as far back as Ancient Egypt, and quacks still haven't found a cure for it, apart from preventative medicines called corticosteroids aka asthma pumps. With all this in mind, it's something to be taken pretty seriously. 

Only, i can't take it seriously. 

Because asthma is the lamest shit on the planet.


I've had asthma as far back as i can remember. I think i might even have been born with it. As much as one eventually gets used to ones disabilities, i think it has always been a lingering source of embarrassment. Not because it's something to be ashamed of, but because it's just so fucking lame. Asthma is the quiet guy in the room with no opinions, wearing the world's most annoying T-shirt. If i had more grounds to hate him i'd probably like him more. I could react to him. But this guy is harmless, and yet his T-shirt makes me want to drive my forehead aggressively into his nose.

This is basically my relationship with asthma. Because i can't take it seriously, i find it intensely annoying. Some people have such debilitating asthma that it governs their every day. The thing about mine is that i can very nearly almost forget about it, but can't. If my asthma was serious, if it was legit, i could respect it. But my asthma is so Sunday League. Not bad enough for me to live in constant fear of an attack at any moment, but bad enough that if i find something a little bit too funny that could bring on a wheezing fit and getting an inhaler out is going to kill the vibe. Bad enough that if forget my ventolin on a night out, i'm going home to get it. 

There are only THREE cool things about asthma:

1. Google's stock photography.

2. The urban myth that hitting your ventolin like 8 times in a row can get you a little bit high.

3. Vlad The Inhaler.

Other than that, there is no saving grace to having asthma. It makes you friends in the same way that not getting picked for football makes you friends. Ventolin chat is boring chat. Imagine a survival of the fittest situation, how long would a group of asthmatics rolling around together last in an apocalypse. Who are you guys. We're the asthma crew. What does that mean. We all have asthma. Every one of you? Yeah. Okay, stay here. We'll come back for you.

Having asthma over the years has meant i always had to stay on the boat when people went scuba-diving, i always had to sleep in the bed on sleepovers when everyone else was on the floor, because of dust mites in the carpet, thus rendering sleepovers a bit shit, and when i was young i had it so badly that my parents had to carry around one of those syringes encased in its own special box like the one out of The Rock, so when i had an attack they'd pin me to the floor face-down, pull down my trousers, and inject hardcore steroids into my arse.

But above all, i think my beef with asthma stems from the fact i am a man

And as far as i can tell, asthma is the antithesis of manliness. It is an evolutionary sign of weakness. I read somewhere that women are attracted to symmetry of features, to smell, to genes they know instinctively will continue a strong healthy bloodline. Basically not asthma. My experience is that pulling out an asthma inhaler on a first date doesn't usually get you a second. Imagine a situation when you're with a girl you've always longterm fancied, and shit starts kicking off around you. How much are you really going to assuage her fears by gripping her shoulder and being like hold my ventolin, i'll handle this.

I'd go into how having an asthma attack in the bedchamber is the least slick thing in the entire world, but apparently The Daily Express have written an entire article about it.

When you have an asthma attack during sex and you don't get rushed to hospital, there's something about that moment when you're sitting at the edge of the bed, wheezing heavily between hits on your inhaler, while a female crouches next to you and pats you on the back and pretends to be concerned, as she tries to process how abruptly both physically and mentally unturned on she has become, that stays in your mind for a long time.

People say our vulnerabilities are what make us cool. I recently wrote something about depression and the response i got from it was amazing. People said it was brave, that it was vital, some actually told me stories of their own experiences. I have a feeling this admission of my own asthma won't kickstart the same kind of dialogue. Being depressed is kind of cerebral, mysterious, or at least pity-inducing. Being asthmatic is none of these things. All it is, is Darwinism in its most brutal form. It's literally being lame, in the original sense of the word. Someone to be weeded out, genes to be extirpated en route to the ├╝bermensch.

The worst thing about asthma is that it's so psychological, it's actually psychosomatic. So writing a whole long post about asthma, obliging myself to think about it for a long period of time, has actually given me asthma. Right now i'm actually pretty wheezy. Nothing in the world is less cool than that.

So... what you get up to this afternoon?

I had a self-induced asthma attack.

Jesus, what were you doing?

Literally just sitting at my computer for a couple of hours, writing.

Fucking hell, what were you writing about?




My mother just fired me some very confusing feedback, an opinion founded on the one hand upon seven decades of life-experience from the point of view of being a woman, and on the other i feel blinkered somewhat by a mother's love.

There's also a romantic vulnerable side to it which turns some women on.


Why does this make me feel even worse.

So Was Red

If somebody invited you to something you weren't going to be around for, it would make sense to decline the invitation. A bit ridiculous to make plans you won't be there to partake in. A good definition of depression is the idea of there being no future. Mental health is thankfully something being taken more seriously now than ever before, and with a keen eye on the pulse you could say dropthebeatonit is in vogue as per by addressing the topic of the day. But i'm doing it for another reason. Depression has been a topic of the last twelve years of my life, and i suppose aggressively the topic of the last 29 days of it.

It had been on the agenda to write something about depression for a while. I didn't think i'd be in its grips when i did. Being my own case study will hopefully help make this piece as honest as it can be, and in the end honesty is all we're really after. No irony, no hiding behind humour. Not a collection of memories of a mood, but a real time description of an experience. Writing this now it seems clear this is the only state in which i could do what i'm feeling justice, but the horse's mouth also pulls hard on the reigns of the pointlessness of the whole thing. This has made me bail on the exercise five times in the last three days. Quacks call it a depressive episode. For me, it's like pressing mute on joy.

I'm not sure what being suicidal really means. If it means not wanting to be alive then sign me up. If it means fantasising about ways in which to die, or making no plans because you have a strong conviction you're not going to be around for any of them, or wishing the people who love you didn't exist because you checking out would cleave their world in two, sign me up. 

But i don't think it does. 

I think there's a chasm between not wanting to live and wanting to die. The absence of one thing doesn't always mean the other. When you're depressed, the idea of not existing for a while is a comfy place, to get the popcorn out and distract yourself from the pain of living. Same as drowning yourself in booze or fucking yourself up on drugs. But like i said it's a fantasy, a distraction. The trouble with humans is that impulse can bridge that chasm very quickly. Not wanting to live can become dying in no time at all. Practically speaking, it's not difficult. The tragedy of suicide is that nothing is more final and irreversible, you don't get a take-back. If leaving the pain for a while was the objective, not existing forever is what you're left with. What the people who love you are left with. Camus said it's braver to live than it is to kill yourself, but i'm not so sure.

My depression began proper in my early twenties. But i think it had been there in some form all along. My father recalls a sadness in my eyes as a child, i lived a lot inside my head, kept everything cooped up, i was melancholic on my birthdays. Things got quite bad at university, but it was aged 22 i remember the blinds came down hard. One February morning i got into bed and didn't get out again until early summer. A doctor prescribed me anti-depressants, which seemed to help, and which i've been on some form of ever since. 

From then on going forward, on average a couple of times a year, i seem to go under. A friend of mine came up with a name for it. He called it the quagmire. It's a disappearing act. Until the worst of it is over, domingo goes awol on the world. Those who don't know me that well might be surprised, since i only really show my face when i'm feeling good. But the idea of going to the pub in the middle of an episode is as appealing as strapping a sandwich board to my chest John McClane style and going for a walk through Harlem.

Depression is complex. It's an each to his own thing. Mine is different to yours is different to hers. But it's important to point out to those who might not be aware, there is no logic to it. It is not a causal thing. It's not tripping over and stubbing your toe. It's your toe beginning to throb for no reason while you're sat on the sofa. It's not an unhappiness provoked by hard luck or a string of unfortunate events. It's a land mine that goes off under your foot on a beautiful summer's day. 

To accept i'm not responsible for my depression is something i find pretty hard. People with a healthy degree of self-loathing don't need to search far and wide for who to pin the blame on. Personally, it takes those closest to me to remind me the quagmire is not my fault. The first person i'd spoken to in a week was my brother, when he called me three days ago. When i told him how i was feeling he listened, paused, and seeming distinctly unfazed said to me mate that's okay, that's what happens to you sometimes. It's been happening to you for fucking ages.

Depression can get a whole lot worse before it gets better. Not unlike a tumour, it can grow if left unchecked. Because the outside world becomes so scary, isolationism is a coping mechanism. But the less you check in, the more stilted your truth becomes. You tumble further and further down the rabbit hole, further and further away from the light. Like a domino effect, things you wouldn't think twice about become progressively more difficult. Normal shit can become terrifying. That terror you felt in the hush of the examination hall at prep school, walking down the rows between the desks scanning for your name, is the same terror i felt yesterday walking along the milk aisle at Tesco's. 

As reality drifts out of focus, tiny little actions take on a crazed importance. Little rituals are flotation devices in 50 year storms. For me it is making myself a coffee in my Supreme espresso cup. As stupid as that sounds, that action is often a last ditch attempt to save myself. Last week i could not for the life of me rationalise any point in the act of making a coffee to then drink it. Since i've been writing this, over the last two days, the coffee machine's gone on again. It's like a symbol of fighting back up towards the light. 


There is no self-pity in depression. There is confusion, anxiety, inertia, self-loathing, panic, hopelessness, flat-lining, hours of staring into the middle-distance, but there is no self-pity. Self-pity in depression is like volunteering to down a pint of water while drowning.


You know that nervous excitement you get before a first date. The feeling you used to get before Sports Day at primary school. A kind of strangulating adrenaline in your gut, almost a nausea. Imagine you couldn't switch that off. For some reason these are the physical symptoms of my quagmire. It's what i feel right now, what i've felt day in and day out for 29 days. When i close my eyes at night, and in the morning, and when half asleep i grope through the dark to take a pee. People think a mental illness is only felt in the mind. This isn't true. It's also physical.

The misunderstanding of mental illness arises from the strength of its disguise. People find it difficult to believe what they can't see. There is no leg in a cast. No loss of hair from chemotherapy. Just someone to the untrained eye doing an on-point impression of a wet blanket. Sitting here right now, hand on heart i can say i don't think anyone would choose to feel like this. Last week i remember thinking this was never going to end. This was not a perception. It was my reality. The idea it might not be, is as difficult to get my head around as convincing the man in the street his entire reality and everything he knows to be true, is itself make-believe.


I read a parable once about a man who envisions a glittering future for himself. He works his way inch by inch towards this glittering future, and one day it presents itself to him at last at the top of a long staircase. He packs up the contents of his old life, puts on his best garms, and starts climbing. As he reaches the top of the staircase, he sees his path blocked by a huge security guard, who holding his massive arm out, point blank refuses to let him pass. 

Despite lengthy protestations the guard stands firm. He tries again the next day, and the next month, and the next year, and the security guard is always there, blocking the top of the staircase, the only path to the man's idealised future, pinning him to the shackles of his old life.

The point of the parable is this. There is only one character in this story. The security guard and the man are the same person. The security guard is the glitch, the fog inside the man's own head that is barring his own path and stopping him moving forwards. It is something within him that is getting in the way of his glittering future. The reason i mention the parable is because i want to make it clear that this thing stopping the man in his tracks, whatever it is, it's not depression. Depression is not the security guard. 

Depression can make the staircase five times longer, or make the man especially heavy-legged on the climb. It can serve to stall or delay the glittering future, but is does not bar you entry from it. One of the most important and difficult things to remember is that the depressive still has the power to affect his life, even in the deepest darkest grips of it.

As cold as it gets in Russia, the Russians don't believe in the idea of it being too cold. They believe you're not wearing enough clothes. The Russians can't change the weather in Siberia, just as i've learnt i can't halt the onset of my quagmire. But we can both do things that protect us against the full force of the gale. I can keep active. I can distract my mind with work. I can choose not to self-medicate with shit that in the long run will only make me feel worse. I can try to eat healthily and do my best to take exercise. When i'm at my worst the futility of these things seem insurmountable, and to lead myself almost blindly into them is all i can do. And yet fail repeatedly.


Columbo would be into this next bit. 

There is... one more thing.

Over the past few weeks i've realised the most important thing we can do, is talk about it. To share the weight of whatever is going on inside our heads, with others. We can get together and lend each other our ears, and just listen. Actually listen. Much of the time people don't want advice. All they want is an ear. And if you do get the opportunity to chew someone's ear off, make sure you offer yours in return. If this piece is anything, it's an encouragement to communicate. To look into the eyes of the person next to you and ask them how they are. Tell me how you're you doing. And once they've muffled a reply, slowly repeat the question again. I think you'll get a different answer the second time you ask.

There isn't a person on this planet that doesn't have something worrying them. We all got beef. Everyone has a humungous sirloin steak slapping them across the face always. And it makes us feel very alone. But the antidote to loneliness is meaningful connection. Asking for help is an action of self-respect. It means you mean something to yourself. Admitting you're ill means you think you're worth saving. 

The pretending we're okay is what really fucks us.

This last month has been horrible. As i said it's been like pressing mute on joy. Happiness doesn't reign here. Neither have i felt incredibly sad. Just one long unmoving flat-line. An interior voice shitting on all my plans. Bulldozing my future and pouring cement over the rubble. Pushing away the people i love and the people who love me. In the end, depression is like some inconsistent stick of 90s chewing gum. Horrible to chew alone on, day after day. But for some reason much more bearable when shared.

The reason it has taken me three days to write this, is because i keep telling myself this is ridiculous. It's pretty far from the normal currency of dropthebeatonit. It feels like one long overshare that i've talked myself out of continually. But this is the reason i need to publish it. Depression is twice as common in women as it is in men, and yet men are three times more likely to kill themselves because of it. I wonder why that is. Could it be because we're so bad at talking about it. 

What i've just written is the most i've told anyone about my depression. Which makes me feel a little bit sick. I don't know if people will look at me differently if they read this. I don't know if writing this in retrospect will feel like i've lost something. That i've let something out the bag. I'll no longer be able to go awol and pretend i'm fine. But then again, most of the people who know me already know about my quagmire. Just perhaps not the extent of it. One thing i know is i'll have got closer to running out of things to hide. Which is a good thing, i think. No secret is as bad as the hell you construct inside your own head.


A guy called Matt Haig wrote a book on depression called 'Reasons to Stay Alive'. I'd recommend it to everyone, you can find it if you click here. This guy suffered from depression for most of his adult life, and came very close to throwing himself off a cliff when he was 24. Below he writes his suicidal-self at the time a list of ten reasons not to jump, ten reasons to keep on trucking. This is the tenth.

He also wrote the words:

Depression lies. Depression makes you think things that are wrong.

For me that was one of the best things i could've read. To remember that this thing inside my head can often be found speaking out of its arse. W H Auden once said If you take away my demons, you'll take away my angels too. This might sound hypocritical, but i don't hate my depression. And i wouldn't necessarily live my life over without it, given the choice. We are the product of all the moments of our lives. If you took away my depression i wonder how much of the good stuff would be deleted along with it.

Depression isn't all bad. The flip-side of it can be pretty fucking incredible. The benefit of seeing through a glass darkly is that when finally the light comes in, shit gets colourful very quickly. Speak to anyone who suffers from it and ask them about the extent to which they can make themselves happy.


As bad as things have gotten in the last few weeks, maybe the storm clouds are parting. I don't think i could have written this two weeks ago. I would've sat in front of my computer for two hours without even realising it was out of battery. To go back to where i started, on the question of not wanting to be alive. As helpful as this reverie might've been when things were very bad, what i've realised in the last month is that i'm really not going to kill myself. Don't worry mummy. Not this minute. You might not want to be here very much right now, but let's not go overboard.

It is passing, it seems. There's an out. Somewhere up there is the crack of light inside the snow drift. The house fly knocking all morning against the window is moving ever closer to the open latch. And out into the spring air. Life is waiting for you. Camus was right. It is braver to live. But it's also a lot better. I said before that the absence of one thing doesn't always mean the other. But in some cases the absence of one thing can only ever mean the other. When you remove death from the equation, the only thing you're left with is...


I can feel now there's some living to be done.

Why not get busy doing that.


Running For Love & P'z

Who be these cats.

They're three friends of mine who have masterminded and are taking on - no shitting you - the world's hardest duathlon, running and cycling 2,000 miles from Sarajevo to London, as we speak. In the company of around 50 other fool-hardy souls. All in the name of raising money in the fight against human trafficking. So far they've raised 91,000 sheets and counting. 


We've been following them every step of the way making films about it all.

Check out the first two.

If this doesn't inspire you to get up off your butts and walk to the shop that split-second faster than you might normally, then you need a snickers to the forehead. If it does then right aown. If it does nothing, then at least make yourselves feel better by donating even the smallest amount to this cause, one that affects 21 million people globally as we speak.

Here's the page to donate.


Check it... 3rd film just dropped.

A Song For The Elderly

At the end of 21 Grams there's a Sean Penn monologue about the weight of the human soul.

Which starts with the line.

How many lives do we live. How many times do we die.

Watch it, it's beautiful.

With the exception of light at the end of the tunnel experiences spoken from hospital beds, or coffins with scratched ceilings, or reincarnation, i think we must only die once. In terms of the heart stopping and the soul escaping and the flesh rotting. The dust to dust idea. I've always been drawn to things that we can't understand or explain, maybe for the reason that we can't understand or explain them, and up until recently when it came to the idea of the Next Chapter i was happy to sit on the fence with the sun on my face dangling my legs in the late-afternoon breeze. But strangely, these days i find it hard to believe in an after-life.

I subscribe to what Bertrand Russell said.

When i die i shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive.

Bertrand Russell 1872-1970 philosopher, aristocrat, pipe-smoker

But why should we have the arrogance to assume that only logic and science within the spectrum of human understanding is what is actually out there. There is an argument for the existence of God based on ants. It runs that if ants can walk the earth in their billions completely unaware of the existence of us, the self-styled omnipotent species on earth, then equally why should it not be possible that something greater than us should exist outside the spectrum of our own understanding.

It's a question that has polarised humanity's best minds. One of my most relentlessly rational homeys and father of three months GKeezie believes that we must hang around in some form or other after the landlord finally kicks us out into the cold. Einstein was a huge fan of mystery too. This coming from a man the sum-total of whose credibility rested on nothing less than absolute conclusive proof.

I do know one thing. That at some point in the future, certainly bedecked in boxfresh AF1s...

I will wax from the pulpit about the certainty of an after-life.


You see, this after-life quandary is just one example of how our opinions on things change in relation to the different stages we are at in our lives. Anyone who has reread old diary entries and looked perplexed as they see a page written in their own hand-writing, spewing forth thoughts that could never possibly have come from their mind, will acknowledge how much our brain can change. Not just a particular opinion. But a complete outlook.

Just as spring eventually loosens winter's grip and autumn pulls down the blinds on long heady summers, so to over the course of our life we will encounter change, not just from the outside but more specifically from within. Right now, despite its insistence on remaining tediously butt-cold, spring is changing everything in our natural environment. There is a continent-wide shift in play.

Check out these same trees, over the course of the four seasons.

The trees themselves, their whole entity, they don't change. But over the years their trunks will morph and fatten, their branches will grow out in different patterns shaped by the wind, they might be felled in storms or pruned by zealous park-keepers, and every year their leaves will spring and bask and die and fall.

The trees are always changing, yet somehow they aren't.

I think it works as a metaphor for how we as people change. The naysayers who maintain that people never fundamentally change are both right and wrong. Just like the trees, we are somehow capable of change and simultaneously incapable of it. We are the tree, but we are also its morphing trunk and falling leaves. And just like the tree, our lives too are made up of seasons

The Wonder Years was great because it pitched the idea of simultaneous time. The mature narrator, speaking to us from inside the mind of a teenage Kevin, was a reminder that time doesn't have to be linear, that the different stages of our life are all interconnected and playing out simultaneously.

I'm reminded almost every day how connected i am to the six year old inside me. I'm looking out for him all the time, i'm still fighting his battles, i still feel his pain. If i stretch my imagination i am also connected to the 75yr old in me. He's studying me quizzically right now by the fire in his carpet slippers, watching as my actions and today's life choices form the tapestry of the life he has to look back on.

Old age is staring me in the face in a more real way too. In the form of two of the people closest to me in the world. As my parents grow older, as they move towards the music and take the floor in a slow-dance with their mortality, i realise they haven't changed. They're still the same children whose blurred photographs stare back at me from old photo albums, the same expressions of joy or boredom or surprise spread across their faces.

They mean the world to me because i love them. But to the outside world they're anonymous people in the autumn of their lives. There's an old lady in my local Tesco's who regularly holds up the supermarket queue to talk to the cashier, much to the ire of the impatient groaning under the weight of their laden shopping-baskets. But it could be the only conversation this lady has all day. She might have lost a few braincells, but she was also once probably the matriarch of a large family. I guarantee in her prime she had guys queueing round the block just to speak to her. She has seen all of life. She demands our respect.

Same as Alf, regardless of where he posts his letters.

Old people are us. 

Because one day, we'll be them.

If we lack respect for them, we disrespect ourselves. We disrespect the cycle of life that we ourselves are involved in. I wonder if this trigger-happiness to dehumanise the old is something we need to start checking ourselves for. Why should it take a leap of imagination to think of old people as young once? Is it not all part of the same grand arc of life. Just as the leaf grows hesitantly out of the branch, dances for a while in the summer breeze before turning brown and falling to the ground. That's life. 

Alf could tell you that.

Funnily enough Alf is the lead character in all of this. I'd send him a letter about it, but i'm not sure he'd know how to return it. Oscar Wilde said the tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is youngAlf is connected to all of us, by reminding us that one day we will be just like him. By reminding us that we are all connected. Young and old are all the same. This doesn't change because we sprout nose hairs or start to feel the force of gravity weigh more heavily on us. It doesn't change because the distance to our feet can feel unbreachable when the time comes to put our socks on. And it doesn't change because we post all our letters in the dog poo box. We'll still feel the same inside as we did when our bodies worked without a second thought. Our parents would be the first to tell us that.


I'll leave you with the ending of Prufrock, where a 22 year old T S Eliot somehow manages to write from the perspective of a man both looking back on his life, whilst wondering what old age might bring.

I grow old... I grow old...
I shall wear the bottom of my trouser's rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.


We can start singing, even if the mermaids won't.

We can at least remind ourselves to from time to time.