Monday, 14 October 2013

More words, less confusion.

So true, the pen is mightier than the sword, does the written word, need to be heard
to overcome a wounded heart, plunged through with the cold steel of a broken dream?
Is unseen verse, clumsy verb, the alliteration of broken-hearted desperation, enough to give healing explanation of what it feels like to be left,
speechless, falling, bereft,
cut to pieces, burnt to cinders, short of breath,
If left unread?
Although still said, it echoes unheard through that space once filled by the object of my desire,
The goddess to my demons,
who as she flew, bestowed upon me such feelings,
the like of which, previously only the stuff of dreams, never procured.
She who gave meaning to the world, soothed the past made sense of now and promised a future,
She was I,
But I, sadly
Cannot kiss myself goodbye,
With these words however,
I must try.

Sunday, 13 October 2013


The space you left I cannot fill, It feels eternal like
clouds that kill a summer sky.
And me, at fault for much, guilty as memories of your touch fade my penance is that what remains.
Your taste your smell, burnt onto my weary soul during time alone in our private word as we stared,
bewildered but smitten like children on an everlasting Christmas morning.
You gave me good warning but I, still falling, In pieces,
heard nothing but the sound of me drowning
In tears meant for you not I.
With nothing and everything
Ears ringing, lust deafening, a secret society of two,
As we joined each other like no other,ever had or ever will
Is that true?
As I write I hear that sound again
From another place it comes and then
I realise it's a different voice
Another heart beats alongside yours
The heart I only served to crush
Why could I not,allow your love,
To touch that space I could not fill,
And now your gone
Perhaps never will?

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Selling books or selling your soul?

June 2013.
I am sitting in a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous trying to listen to what the speaker is saying while at the same time staring at my mobile as a number I don’t recognise repeatedly interrupts my already fragmented attempts to stay focussed on what is being said.
The phone is on silent but the possible implications of walking out of the meeting to answer it, feel akin to putting my head inside Lemmy’s bass cab as he prepares for an onstage duet with John Entwistle, demanding they both turn their amplifiers up, such is the internal psychological noise this situation is generating inside my head.
I decline the call and try to regain some focus, it rings again, I stare at it again, I realise who it is and I’d be lying if I said they’d somehow obtained my number without my prior permission, but as I sit and pretend to myself this is an easy decision to make, the speaker in the room, mentions something about..
“Living in my truth these days...”
This may well sound exactly like the sort of pseudo-cosmic slop, many people feel is the foundation of self-help groups and thus reason enough to avoid them, but to me, it makes perfect sense and I decline the call.
As the person speaking continues to clarify how they managed to extricate themselves from the nightmare of their past addictions, a story I heavily identify with, littered as it is with bad choices, lies, self-loathing and the apparent inability to exist in their own skin, my phone rings for the third time.
Lemmy and Entwistle have now decided to perform Lou Reed’s metal music machine in its entirety with Mumford and Sons as special guests, clearly I have to make a decision, this cannot be allowed to continue, I walk out of the room.
By the time I’m standing outside, the phone has stopped ringing, allowing for the possibility that I will perhaps not have to take any responsibility for the decision as to what to do next, the phone rings again, Mumford and Sons invite Joseph Goebbels onstage to do an acoustic number...
“Hello, Simon speaking..”
“Simon, hello, it’s **** ****** from The Sun, you’re publishers said you’d be up for doing an ‘exclusive’ interview about your book”
So yes, as I’ve said already, our erstwhile hack has not tracked me down unassisted, the PR person in charge of promoting the book had given him my number because I’d told her I’d talk to him.
She has my best interests at heart as do the publishers of the book, they are trying to do their job and fully understand the potential for increased sales if the story is picked up by a tabloid that sells millions.
So do I.
Since coming into ‘recovery’ over 7 years ago, I have always worked; I’d no sooner be on benefits that I would heroin these days. I fully accept also that I am not deserving of a medal for doing so, going to work is what most people were doing throughout the years I spent gouging out, slowly killing myself, terrifying my family and friends and avoiding responsibility of any kind.
If any of you have read Too High Too far Too Soon, you will know already that I do not attempt to hide from a life shot through (and up) with behaviour I am not proud of, I don’t attempt to excuse myself from some of the pathetic decisions made during a decade addicted to heroin and alcohol, I did what I did and have attempted to make amends where possible in the subsequent 7 years I have been ‘clean’.
My life these days is a simple one, I go to work, pay my rent/ bills, ensure I provide adequately for my 5 year old daughter and have the absolute luxury of running a 10 year old motor.
As it is with many people, after taking care of these costs, plus the months shopping, there is absolutely nothing left, not a penny, ever. Again I am not seeking to obtain anyone’s sympathy by informing the world what most of us know already, times are tough, money is scarce, get on with it, unlike running a car, self pity is not something I can afford.
I wrote a book, a book similar to many others that attempt to describe addiction from the perspective of the individual involved, my wonderful agent has told me, from day one, most books don’t make any money, certainly not a life changing amount anyway.
I love my agent, he understands perfectly my inclination to drift off into fantasyland, he was one of the first people to read the book, so his opinion is one I value. My publishers have been utterly devoted to the cause as well, it goes without saying that without either of them, you would not be reading this article because there would be no book to talk about.
I am not in the business of telling people what they should read, anymore than I feel in a position to tell people what they should believe theologically, who they should vote for, or indeed what football team they should follow, it’s none of my business is it?
Yes I have opinions about all the above but I also have good friends who enjoy tucking into the stories served up by the tabloids each morning, others who answer the call to prayer 5 times a day or attend church on a regular basis, as well as mates who voted for the Tories and I’m even on speaking terms with a season ticket holder at Old Trafford.
I dearly wish I could promise my daughter a holiday of a lifetime trip to Disneyland, she lives a few minutes away from me with her mother, here in Hackney, an area of London where renting a tiny 1 bedroom flat won’t leave you with much change from £1200 a month. She comes to stay with me 2/3 times a week, we share a bed, its fine, she’s five.
Wages for substance misuse workers are not great, better than it is for many people, but still barely enough to afford somewhere decent to live here in the metropolis. I do the school run as often as possible, I cannot begin to contemplate moving away from Hackney and seeing less of her.
I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs, I don’t do much, its fine, like I said already I have a simple life which when compared to the chaos of the years lost to addiction, is a gift I cherish and try to not take for granted.
So, holidays abroad? Out of the question, being able to rent a 2 bed flat close to my kid when in a few years when it’s no longer appropriate for her to share my bed? Also out of the question, getting housed by Hackney council? Ha ha ha you must be fucking joking!!
My publishers are fully aware of this situation, I can assure you they would be almost as delighted as my daughter would be, were the book to sell enough copies to allow us a trip to McDisneyland, she’s my only child, I love her more than life itself, she wants to go, of course she does, she’s a princess!!
That’s the ‘back’ story, meanwhile, Lemmy, The Ox, Mumford and sons and Joseph Goebbels have now been joined by another, somewhat worrisome presence battling to make it-self heard over the din inside my head and no! I don’t mean the reporter currently waiting to speak to me on the phone.
The invisible lead vocalist of the in-head, onstage, super group of noise makers and wickedness, currently trying to decide whether having the Mumford’s backing up Goebbels is perhaps a sin too far, belongs to the internal department charged with providing me with, or indeed the removal of, my own sense of self-esteem.
It’s a tricky job and not one I would wish to be undertaken on a performance based salary, so to speak, of late we’ve kinda been doing ok, certainly better than ‘we’ were for many years!
When I was first informed of the interest of that particular paper, quite possibly at the same time as I was trying to figure out how I was going to eat during the week prior to payday, I’d reluctantly agreed to talk to them. I’d spoken to a few close friends about the situation, as I saw it, none of whom said it would make any difference to how they felt about me. Some went as far as saying that as the book has a happy ending, insofar as I write a little about my recovery from years of acting like an utter dickhead, perhaps the added exposure to people who might gleam a little hope for, either themselves, or loved ones similarly afflicted to myself for all those years, might perhaps alleviate the struggle I was clearly having in deciding whether or not to give that paper my ‘story’.
Why was I even struggling to make this decision? I’ve said already that what other people chose to read is none of my business.
I’ve supported Liverpool football club for over 30 years, that’s why.
If reading that last sentence leaves you none the wiser as to why this situation is a problem for me, thank you for getting this far in this article, but I’m guessing what follows will make no sense at all.
I go to Anfield on the rare occasions I can find a ticket and afford the day out, I took my eldest nephew last season, he’s a good lad who supports his local team (Bristol City) but on the journey home after watching ‘us’ destroy Swansea 5-0, he told me it was one of the best days of his life.
I will be taking my daughter when she’s old enough too!
A Liverpool supporter with a cockney accent who was born in Somerset may well bring a few wry smiles from those scousers in blue, but I’d like to think that
“Typical red shite”
Comments aside, the Goodison faithful can appreciate my dilemma just as well as those who worship on the other side of Stanley Park.
Feel free to judge me for not making, what I assume, for many would not have been a decision they had to contemplate for even a second, I can’t lie about it, at first I’d agreed to talk to the paper, everybody involved with the the book, only wanted it to sell well and perhaps make Disneyland a reality.
I’m standing outside the NA meeting, choices and voices combined with the mental image of my daughters face erupting with joy when I tell her we’re going to see Cinderella and friends next year.
All currently doing battle to be heard above the each other, never mind the guy from the paper, now suggesting we do this ‘exclusive’ down the ‘phone,
“Just give me a few names about the bands that were on smack Simon! Who did the most coke? What was **** like, was he on the smack too? Did they always pay you? How much money did you make? etc etc...
Suddenly, there is silence almost as if Lemmy and Entwistle have got bored and fucked off down the pub while Goebbels and the Mumford’s have also left the stage to go and discuss who’s made the more significant contribution to tyrannical humanitarian wrongdoing.
“Hello, Simon, are you there mate? Let’s do the interview now great for the book, just give me some good stories about *****”
There is an echo from inside the room I have just vacated,
“Living in my truth.....
“Living in my truth....
“Living in my truth....
“I’m sorry, I can’t do this interview, please don’t call again.”
“Living in my truth...”
I switch the phone off and return to the NA meeting to live in mine.
The next day I call my publishers to apologise for putting them in a difficult situation, they gracefully accept my decision, as does my agent.
My daughter, of course loves me regardless, as do my friends and family.
I’m very much hoping to sing “You’ll never walk alone” at the top of my voice at Anfield next season, but not if the cost involved would ultimately prevent me from taking Tabitha to Disneyland.

Follow Simon on Twitter @simonmasonsays
Too High Too Far Too Soon also has a page on Facebook

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Our Graham.
I moved to Stoke Newington in 1999 and as the world slid inexorably toward a new millennia and I toward my next relapse, I was also on the lookout for some new chums with whom I could share a can of Special Brew with at 7 o’clock in the morning.
It may surprise those of you who knew the man, but at that particular juncture, Graham didn’t actually drink Special Brew, so I guess I have to hold my hands up and take responsibility for broadening his alcoholic preferences in that particular area. Of course those of you who did know him, also understand that I am flattering myself by suggesting Grahams vast knowledge of alcohol required any expansion;
“Whatsthematterwuthya?, why are you drinking that shit?”
He rat a tat tatted at me as he roundly castigated me within seconds of my return from the 24 hour off-licence, a trip I’d undertaken with five minutes of meeting the man for the very first time, a meeting that had taken place within just a few hours of me leaving a ‘dry’ hostel in central London after a (almost) sober 11 months before being given the keys to 291c Amhurst Rd.
I opened my 2nd can of ‘Brew, Graham uncorked his second bottle of red and we settled in for an early morning discussion concerning the relative merits of Northern Soul, Charles Bukowski, ballet, Dub reggae and Iggy pop, it was roughly 7.45am.
If, like myself (at that time) and Graham, you found life to be a much happier existence when insulated from it by copious amounts of booze, dope and a record player, while showing scant regard for solid food and the ‘apparent’ necessity of owning a ‘telly, I can think of no better way of getting to know somebody, we were friends, he was my first friend in N16 and on some levels probably one of the best, insomuch as he gave me and my family something that nobody else I knew was able, or willing to do, but more of that later.
Graham made me laugh, often, he also made me want to scream with frustration on perhaps a more regular basis, I’m sure I’m not alone in that, anymore than I am the solitary recipient of one of his booze soaked kisses on the face whenever he and I would pass each other as we orbited Stoke Newington throughout the next 14 years. I choose my words carefully here, ’cos when I say ‘orbit’, I mean ‘orbit’.
This isn’t about me, but I would be selling the man and his compassion for most of the human race short, if I did not declare, that even at the very depths of my addiction to heroin and the attendant atrocious behaviour, Graham never once turned me away from his home. Ok he had nothing worth stealing so he didn’t have to worry about letting me sleep there from time to time and his own addiction to alcohol was as fierce and unforgiving as my own opiate stained existence as it barrelled out of control, but he never judged me, unless you can call him screeching
“Whatsamatterwivyouboy.......don’t you fucking dare fuck things up like I have with my kids, sort yourself out, ratatattat.....I’l l tell you ‘dis, I’m Graham Cyril Darby, who the fuck are you?”
Sometimes, when for whatever reason he’d decided he didn’t know who I was, he’d completely ignore me, I wrote the following piece about him many years ago, shortly after we’d first met and I was in search of someone to help me put some shelves up in my new flat, there is of course some ‘poetic licence’ involved, but then again, it is written by me and involves Graham so what do you expect?

Amhurst Rd.
Non-descript street, parked cars including an old red VW Beetle that has been partially painted blue with household emulsion.
A man sits on the steps to his house, drinking a can of Special Brew, there is a tin of blue paint by his feet, the upstairs windows are open a couple of old Hi-Fi speakers are resting on the window ledge blasting out dub-reggae, another man is pacing up and down shouting into a mobile phone clearly in conversation with the police.
“He’s fucking vandalised my car, the alcoholic prick has painted my car...what? What make? It’s a Volkswagen, What colour? What’s that got to fucking do with anything? It’s red, or at least it was red, the idiot’s painted it blue, now are you going to send someone to fucking arrest him? What? You want me to stop fucking swearing? What about the prick that’s just vandalised my fucking car you fucking imbecile? What are you going to fucking...Hello? Hello?”

Raises the can to his mouth, takes a long swig, burps and looks at the man on the phone who is now giving his details to the police operator.
“Is it because you support Arsenal?”
What the fuck are you talking about? What have Arsenal got to do with anything and turn that fucking music off you stupid, useless alcoholic dickhead.
“You don’t like reggae? just don’t understand the vibrations do you, it sooths the soul man...makes for some peace in this violent world eh? “
He goes inside and turns the volume up, returning with another beer and a framed photograph.
“Right! The fucking police are on their way and this time I’m gonna make sure they arrest you and..
“It’s because they play in red isn’t it? Yeah man..I can see that, red is the colour of anger too of course, anyway, do you know who this is?
(He holds up the photograph while the first man continues to talk pace up and down examining his car)
This, my man, is a photograph of the West-Indies team from 1980, Lloyd, Richards, Holding, Garner, Marshall..
“Are you fucking mental? Why the fuck do you think I’m bothered about fucking cricket?
(Pointing at the car and Graham)
This! You are going to get fucking ‘nicked for this and when they’ve taken you to the station I’m gonna call the council and get you evicted and you can take the fucking West-Indies cricket team with you when you go., maybe give Viv fucking Richards a call, see if he’ll put you up?
“Did you know, that no two countries that play test cricket have ever gone to war against each other?”
As he is speaking another man crosses the road and approaches him.
“What about India and Pakistan? Are you Mad Graham?
“I might be, but you’re probably asking the wrong person, is that a rhetorical question or do you want to know my name? Anyway, who’s asking you lazy bastard?”
“Linda sent me over, she said you could probably put some shelves up in my flat if I asked nicely and I’m not a lazy bastard, I just don’t know how to do things like that! Anyway, what about India and Pakistan aren’t they at war all the time?”
“Jesus fucking H Christ, who the fuck are you? And what the fuck are you two talking about? That prick has just vandalised my car, the police are on their way and he’s going to be arrested for criminal damage! Fucking cricket..What the fuck?
Oh Linda sent you did she? She likes you but you never take care of your front garden, that’s why she thinks you’re a lazy bastard, it’s got nothing to do with not having any shelves.”
“I didn’t know it was my garden, I live on the 3rd floor, I thought it was hers?”

“It is, but it’s not a very big garden is it? You could do it, besides she’s got three kids to look after and no husband, you should make more of an effort to be a good neighbour man.”
“That’s fucking rich coming from you! You just wait ‘til the Old Bill get here and I show them what you’ve done to my car, look at the fucking state of it?”
“They’ve been to war on at least four occasions, although many people consider the conflict of 1999 as more of a skirmish than an actual war”
“Do you like Iggy Pop?”
“Yeah, of course, I preferred him with Stooges to be honest, but The Idiot is one of my all time favourite albums, not sure he knows much about cricket though, Americans don’t really understand things like that, they prefer golf, shit beer and eating too much as a rule.”
Who was the better batsman, Clive Lloyd or Viv Richards?”
“Oh fuck me, now you’re asking.”
Hello? Can you two stop you’re fucking nonsense for a minute, I want a witness statement for the police and seeing as you’re here I think you (nods at 3rd man) will do nicely.
Personally I prefer the big man, Richards was technically more gifted for sure, but Lloyd could
(Stands up and starts shouting)
(Sits down) You want a drink my man? I got ‘brew or Wine.”
“I’ll have a Special Brew please mate, now look, can you do the shelves for me and I’ll have a go at Linda’s garden, deal?”
“Ok, if you forget about India and Pakistan, for the time being?”
“Not a problem, although we’re talking about a lot of fucking people, we can’t just pretend they don’t exist?”
“Ok, let’s agree they have only ever been involved in numerous minor conflicts based on minimal loss of life when compared to the carnage of the two world worlds and also that the partition of India was badly handled by The British in the first place and as such whatever ensuing difficulties the two countries have experienced must be seen as partially a result of post-imperial jockeying for national stability, underpinned by religious and social-economic factors that were already firmly entrenched in both countries for hundreds of years prior to aforementioned partition, ok?”
“Fine by me and for the record, I consider Viv Richards a better batsman than Lloyd although I think Sachin Tendulker puts them both in the shade by quite some distance”

“Wanna fight about it, ha ha ha !”
Graham then goes back inside his house, Iggy Pop comes on the stereo at serious volume and he returns with 2 cans of Special Brew and a joint.
Graham. “I fucking hate cricket, fuck knows why I know so much about it.”


And that, is as good an example of the man and how he lived as I can think of right now, It’s essentially a true story, you’ll forgive me if I’ve spoken for him, but having said that, if you knew him, I think you’ll have many such stories of your own eh?
And as to the reference I made earlier about Graham doing something for me and my family?
By the time Tabitha was born, I was over 2 years clean, still living with Tamara in the 1-bedroom third floor flat on Amhurst rd while Graham had moved into a rather splendid, well it was when he’d received the keys, Victorian townhouse just round the corner, complete with a marvellous, if somewhat overgrown south-facing garden. We both belonged to the same housing association, to whom, I’d recently made a claim for a move due to the arrival of Ms Mason, a request that although sanctioned, came with a unspoken, but not very well unspoken caveat stating,
“Yes you’re entitled to be re-housed, but don’t hold your breath, it ain’t gonna be anytime in the next 5 years or so”.
Graham knew this, despite his affliction to alcohol having progressed the way it always does to someone with this particular condition, somewhere in his booze soaked brain, there was still a strong connection to a BIG caring heart. Yes he was a fucking nightmare to live next door to most of the time and yes, despite it probably being the last thing he actually wanted to do, he could scare the shit out of anyone who didn’t know him, or, was simply not in the mood for his delirious, alcoholic ranting and yes he was a fucking pain the ass, BUT......
Underneath all that and despite of his own sense of self-loathing and the damage inflicted upon himself because of it, there was a remarkably beautiful, highly intelligent, funny, opinionated, passionate, considerate and caring human being. Apart from when he was really really pissed ‘cos then he was a fucking nightmare!
He came to the flat on Amhurst rd unannounced one day, shortly after I’d been round to visit him for a chat and, amongst other things (Iggy Pop, Dub Reggae Bukowski etc) bemoan the fact there were three of us cooped up in a tiny one bedroom flat with apparently no chance of a move anytime soon.
I answered the door to be met by graham in his latest sartorial ‘experiment’ , an apparent combination of Islamic headdress, leather trousers and a skirt.
“Whatsamatter wivya?”
He ratattatted in my direction, can of brew in one hand, rollup dangling from his mouth as he blew a cloud of Special Brew fumes and Drum tobacco fumes in my face.
“Morning Graham, what’s happening?”
“Do you want my house, you need it, for the baby, I don’t need it, I’m a cunt”
“Sorry? And no you’re not, but what do you mean, do I want your house?”
“Come to mine tomorrow, early before I’m too pissed”
“What time?”
“6.30..... in the morning”
And off he went squawking and ratatattatting up Amhurst Rd.
I could add some sort of ‘context’ and/or explanation as to why he’d made me this offer, but it would detract from the place, the man, the magnificent heart from whence it ultimately came so I’m not going to, suffice to say, it took a while and the process was not without its stressful moments.
I collected Tabitha from that house today having finished work early and deciding to surprise her with a trip to the fish n chip shop on Stokey High Street. 5 Years and many many changes later, she lives with her mother in a beautiful home, a home I would never be able to afford to rent it it were in the private sector and as for buying? Ha you can’t get a front door for less than £250,000 in Stoke Newington these days! It’s changed, I can’t afford to rent there or indeed anywhere in London you might actually want to live! But my daughter has a home, thanks to the hard work(and battered credit card) of her mother, a beautiful home, in an area that despite an influx of luridly coloured chinos, beards, awful medieval haircuts and of course a multitude of middle-class media types with disposable income, still retains an echo of the Hackney of old, the Stoke Newington I fell in love with all those years ago.
When Graham died on Thursday, that echo got a little quieter, I’ll miss him dreadfully as will many of us.
We will be holding a ceremony of remembrance for him shortly, all welcome, watch this space for details.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Simon Mason,
Author of Too High, Too Far, Too Soon, will be reading from the book at Stoke Newington Literary Festival, Saturday 8th, Sunday 9th in the Budvar Tent.
This book is a memoir, already described as ‘Britpop meets breaking bad’ although quite where that came from I’m currently unsure.
Alan McGee, founder of Creation records once described me as
“The Rock n Roll doctor”
Which was very kind of him as for much of the story it is clear I was more in need of a doctor than I was capable of actually behaving like one, albeit one of a somewhat different variety to your local GP!
Escaping from a “tatty seaside town” to the metropolis in the mid eighties, the journey moves from wide eyed (too much speed) teenager to the ever present narcotic appendage powdering the wheels of a music business seemingly enthralled by any band with a half-decent haircut and a an appetite for staying up all night talking nonsense. As the lines get longer and the guest lists bigger, it becomes glaring obvious to everyone other than our protagonist that all is not well.
Finding yourself standing in front of 10,000 utterly obliterated Scottish indie kids as they scream for the band you’re currently ‘working ‘for to come on stage as the two pills and half gram of coke you’ve just ingested vie for space in your bloodstream, may sound like the kind of experience a I could only have dreamt about when I was younger. When you have a wrap of heroin tucked inside your pocket that on some level is telling the other drugs in your system to fuck off because they are redundant now, somehow takes some of the sunshiiiiiine from the moment.
Live Forever?
Only as long as we don’t run out of smack eh? In which case it’s die forever, or certainly feel like you want to die until we score some more eh Simon?
Oh and did I mention that as well as having something of a drug problem, I was also labouring under the illusion that rather than being the provider of staying awake material to rock stars, I was in fact only passing the time until the roles became reversed and people would be giving me their drugs in order to circle my orbit and serve up the attendant satellites to MY universe, yeah I’m a rock n roll star!
Not surprisingly the Britpop party comes to an end, at Knebworth, when as many people have previously said, we should have ALL called it a day, maybe started being kinder to ourselves rather than slide away to anywhere that availed the chance to stick needles in myself, generally upset everybody I came into contact with while becoming an unwashed, undernourished junkie scumbag.
Much of this story takes place in Stoke Newington, so I’m actually feeling very privileged to be appearing at this year’s Lit fest, almost 7 years to the day since I last injected a speedball whilst cowering in the car park, the very same car park I will be reading extracts from the book from, rather than trying to find a vein that hasn’t collapsed .

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Ben now and then

It’s been a week, where once again the past, or to be more precise, my past and a few of the characters from it, has caught up with me and been illuminated by the floodlights of the present day and where I find myself standing bathed in the truth of sobriety and the personal journey it exposes.
There are of course fleeting periods when I sometimes feel I would prefer the twilight of having no responsibilities other than maintaining the opiate saturated comfort and the pursuit of necessary funds to facilitate this. Strange as it may now sound instant nothingness was a luxury item I felt I would always try to afford despite wearing the rags of savage addiction as I gouged away so many years of my life inflicting the fear of untimely but perhaps necessary non-existence upon myself and others who tried to care and not care in equal measure.
Care because they couldn’t not care, try not to care because the futility of that exercise mirrored the futility of who they cared about, it that makes any sense at all?
I’ve not written much of late aside from regular attention seeking status updates on Facebook, my creative juices have been as dry as the bar at an NA rave, my musical postings somewhat kinder on the ear I’d like to think! I seem to have moved away from misery inspired prose which was my stock in trade for fucking..YEARS, as my own recovery has progressed, to....well...not much at all on the creative front. I am not upset by this in the slightest (ok I am just a little bit) but have to admit to feeling slightly perplexed as to why someone who considers himself capable of arranging the English language into occasional moments of consciousness and descriptive narrative seems incapable of utilizing positivity as a resource for such.
I’m actually quite relieved that I have not ‘done’ an REM circa ‘Shiny Happy People’ and inflicted my prevailing sense of positivity upon the masses aside from hopefully enthusing my daughter Tabitha with the notion that she can achieve anything she wants to, she’s only 3 and a half so at this point all she wants to do is watch Scooby Doo and draw pictures of monsters which I help her colour in, doesn’t exactly qualify me as a pushy parent does it?
So what has provoked me to the extent I’ve decided to sit down and try and remember how to type again?
Like I said, the intrusion of the past, namely 2 people who had significant input into my drug-induced non existence.
The first, someone I consider to be a friend despite only seeing him in person once in the past half decade. The second someone I convinced, or tried hard to convince, was my friend because he was the only heroin dealer I could manipulate to provide me with the baggies of instant nothingness I spent so much time perusing when the pursuit of which had reduced me running into Sainsbury’s and attempting to steal something worth £10 or more to somebody/anybody I could convince was in need of said item(s).
Ben once arrived at my barren, as in devoid of gas/electricity/carpet/hope/toilet paper flat on Christmas day afternoon, knowing he would find me lying on the furniture (I had one couch) staring at the woodchip covered walls that contained my non existence clucking my bollocks off with no chance whatsoever of scoring that day, with 3 cans of Special Brew, some smack and a Christmas cracker purloined from his families festive table a few hours earlier. (The Christmas cracker not he ‘Brew and heroin I hasten to add!)
To me, as I practically dragged him up the entrance stairs to my own little shop of horrors having looked out the window to see him outside smiling trying not to vomit/shit myself with delight upon seeing him there nodding ‘yes I have’ to the question he knew I had to ask him, he was the messiah the three wise men and father fucking Christmas all rolled into one, fuck the gold frankincense and myrrh give me the heroin you beauty!
As I greedily cooked up my own immaculate conception on the spoon and gazed at my battered arm to find a vein that was open on Christmas day before delivering the contents of the syringe into my bloodstream Ben informed me that
“I knew you were on your own today and probably didn’t have any gear or money (or gas/electricity/carpets/hope/toilet paper) so I got the old man to drop me off after we had Christmas dinner and before he got too pissed to drive, do you mind if I stay the night I’ve got a few quid we can go up to the Turkish shop and get the electricity and gas key charged up, get some more Special Brews and watch the queens speech.”
I’ve got some crack too, shall I make a pipe old chap?
“Save it for the queen’s speech”
I said.
You love him as well now huh?
Fast forward nearly six years and I’m just parking my car after completing my first day as development manager for a 12 step rehab still a bit dazzled as too how the fuck someone like me got to be so highly regarded as to warrant being headhunted for the job in the first place and having just decided to drop into the main reason why I’m in that esteemed position (My local NA meeting in case you’re wondering) to get some ‘context’ when I see a face from the past.
Its Bens face and it’s attached to what remains of the rest of his body.
We walk and chat along the chilly streets of Stoke Newington, something we’d not done since shortly after the event I just described, Ben informs me that he’s moved to Acton but still comes over this side of town to score
“Helps keep my habit down old boy”
Junkie logic.
“What’s with the suit Simon, you been in court again?”
I inform him of the events of the past 6 years, show him photographs of Tabitha on my iphone and remind him of our last Christmas day together all those years ago.
He smiles, briefly.
“Don’t you want to stop mate?”
There then follows a silence I can only describe as cinematic in its intensity.
“No, not really old chap, you see this is my life, I’ve missed out on all the things you’ve got... Tabitha is a real cutie isn’t she?”
He says as he hands me back my phone.
“You could have it too Ben”
We are now standing outside the door to the NA meeting I’d planned on attending.
“In here mate, this could help you”
Ben shuffles from side to side.
Another silence.
“No..No Simon I’ve got my life you’ve done well, but...”
He hacks up some phlegm the size of a golf ball.
“I’m afraid I’m probably going to smoke this shit until I die mate, my lungs are fucked now, there’s not much point in stopping old boy...not now.”
Ben..Come on inside its warm and..
But my friend has to go and score and I understand this better than most.
I give him my number but know he won’t call.
We hug, then I step inside to continue my journey and Ben shuffles away to continue his.
“Call me Ben”
I shout after him
“ But you’re not called Ben are you old chap?”
He attempts to laugh but his lungs get the better of him, he turns the corner and is gone.
So he was the first person from my past that provoked me to start writing again.
The second person?
That was me of course.
Me and Ben.
Now and then.