Hi there… everybody.
I’m not quite sure why 110 of you yesterday arrived at this blog to look at pictures of doberman puppies, hot guys and beachball babes, but I’m delighted you found them here.
A Thai Oddysey: living, working and fighting
Hi there… everybody.
I’m not quite sure why 110 of you yesterday arrived at this blog to look at pictures of doberman puppies, hot guys and beachball babes, but I’m delighted you found them here.
It’s been a while, huh?
To be honest, we’ve both had other things on our minds, and Thailand couldn’t be further away. Ok, geographically it could be further away. But not much.
I think if I’m going to continue blogging, it’ll probably be in a different place, but no such place exists yet, so I’ll leave you with this post, more as therapy to me than anything else, safe in the knowledge than after such a long break between posts, very few people will be reading this. Why bother then? Sometimes it’s nice to talk even if nobody is listening.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever suffered from depression… Nobody? Or is it just that you’re so depressed that you’re overwhelmeed by the futility of raising your hand?
Difficult to tell.
If you have, this might all seems very familiar, or it might seem totally alien – it is like the monster under the bed, taking a different form for everyone, similar only in the sense that it is whatever is most terrifying, most damaging to you personally.
For some people, so I hear, it is like a grey cloud, a thick fog that settles over everything – colours seem muted, sounds are muffled, emotions dulled, everything is an effort, like walking through water. Food tastes like nothing, so that there’s just no point eating.
I imagine that would be a total bitch. At this time of year, when colours should be so bright, and everything is designed to produce sensory pleasure, to have your senses say “No. I’m not interested” would make you wonder what the point of getting out of bed is.
For me, it’s not like that. Most things are *more*.
Kal said to me yesterday that he would have thought that could be quite enjoyable, and I guess it probably would, if I were happy at the same time.
For me, now, bright lights are blindingly bright: they make my head hurt and burn themselves on my retinas. The Christmas music is almost violently insistent, like a brainless sparrow battering itself off a window pane again and again and again, leaving greasy feathered impressions of itself behind. The taste of food is amplified so that if it’s sweet or its bitter it’s too much to handle, and pain hurts more than it should, making me aware of every niggle and bruise. Clothes irritate my skin so that I only want to wear baggy, soft things to give me space, so I don’t feel like I’m being suffocated.
It’s life to the Nth degree.
I don’t feel anything on the inside.
Even when I’m clearly unhappy, crying for no real reason; extra-salty tears unabashedly running down my extremely cold cheeks, there’s nothing on the inside. Just space.
I try, on occasion, to describe how I feel, and I never get it quite right. I have a few metaphors and similies which seem like they *almost* cover the basics, but it’s not that easy to pin down.
It’s like being eaten alive by something unbelievable cold and old and which doesn’t even notice you’re there. Like plankton consumed by a basking shark. Consumed but unnotticed, carried along against your will.
Or it is like drowning. Like being in a cold, dark sea where the only thing stopping you from drowning completely are occasional bubbles of happiness, giving you enough oxygen to last until the next one. But what if the bubble doesn’t show up, or there’s too much of a gap between bubbles? Well, you drown.
You’d think that feeling nothing wouldn’t be so hard, but it is. It makes it so much harder not to think.
I’ve rarely been honest about how I really think when I’m really depressed, as I currently am. It’s not an easy thing to do, and I wouldn’t do it here except I feel the need. One reason I never talk about this is because there is only one person who I know will, if not actually understand, at least react correctly, and Kal’s always been a lifeline in that sense.
So here it is.
I genuinely want, at times like this, to go to sleep and never wake up. Not to actively kill myself, I couldn’t inflict that on the people I love. Just to sleep forever, anything so I don’t have to think thoughts that are so lucid they can’t be rational.
After a decade on and off prescription drugs to try to make me feel “normal”, I’m coming to believe if not accept that this may be who I really am. My base-level, when all distractions are stripped away, when artificial happiness and interesting going-on are absent, might be this. I might never be able to feel like I’m supposed to without chemical help.
Why is that so difficult to accept? If anyone else were to come to me and describe feeling the way I feel, describe the shame they feel at being unable to control their own brain, I would tell them they were being too hard on themselves. “Depression is an illness”, they say; I say. Like any other you can’t just wish it away. You can no more, as a depressive, will your brain to create serotonin than a diabetic than force their pancreas to make more insulin.
I know that.
But I don’t care. I should be able to handle this. I should be stronger than this.
Kal does a pretty good job of not panicking when I talk this way, al least not so that I can tell. It may be he has a swat team of psyche nurses round the corner, lurking with loaded syringes, ready to cart me off to the funny farm where I belong, but he gives no indication. Just listens, and challenges the more irrational of my thought processes when he can.
Yesterday I explained to him the worst thing about it all.
I can end this. It is within my control not to feel like this ever again. I don’t have to suffer this.
But I will.
I remember my father talking to me about “duty” alot as I grew up. He is an extremely disciplined, moral man, and sadly it is from his side of the family that I get this tendency towards to depression. Having grown up with a parent with severe depression, I’ve seen some of how bad it can get, and I know the impact it can have on a family and on an individual and I’m determined not to let that happen to me, or to my family when I have one.
I never really understood what he meant about duty and what a burden it is until I started to suffer properly with depression. We all have access to ways and means of ending our lives, but we have a duty not to use them.
I have people in my life who love me and who would blame themselves forever if I committed suicide. They would think they should have done something different, and their lives would be marred forever by what they would consider to be a catastrophic failure on their part. They would lose their only daughter, or their best friend, or their colleague, or their training partner and wouldn’t be able to understand why she had made such a selfish choice.
My dad has a duty to us to carry on trying his best to deal with depression on a day-to-day basis as best he can. Not to turn to substances to get him through, not to burden us all with worry about his welfare, not to make a selfish choice which would put an end to his suffering, but cause so many more people to suffer.
I have that duty as well. And it’s not fair – I desperately want to be selfish, not give a shit about everyone else and go and be as self-destructive as I feel the need to be, whatever that would entail.
I know though, that in a week or two or three, I’ll feel ok again and this will seem irrational and distant from my life. Something else will come up to give me focus, take away my thinking time and give me a few more layers of resilience for a while.
When that happens, I’ll think I’m cured. That it’s gone forever, I’m fixed, normal, safe.
Maybe I’ll have the good sense to re-read this and realise that it’s only a temporary reprieve; I’m in remission.
Maybe this is it: this is me.
That’s you, that is.
Okay, so a month and a half ago (roughly) Sarah landed her membership advisor job with Edinburgh Leisure and I, being the wonderful husband that I am, accompanied her on her first proper morning on the job so that I could be her guinea pig. I’d be the first member she’d signed up without any supervision and therefore the one she’d make any hideous mistakes with – all she’d have to fear would be my usual cheeky chappy mockery, rather than irate customers storming out with steam evacuating their craniums via the lugholes. This first day was at Leith Victoria Swim Centre, the centre where she’s still stationed and a mere 10 minute cycle from the flat. However our nearest gym – Portobello Swim Centre – is but a 2 minute saunter from the front door so that morning was the only time I set foot in Leith Viccie’s.
Now the gym here in Porty is all well and good. Fair enough I have no real basis for comparison since, as noted earlier on this blog, I used to have a chronic fear/hatred/contempt for gyms in general and had never really set foot in one. Since my induction lessons the facilities have seemed more than adequate, there being plenty cardio machines (treadmills, crosstrainers and the like) as well as more weight machines than I currently use in my programme. There’s enough of everything that I never have to wait to get on a particular machine and if the buttons are a little less than responsive or the wee TV sets behind them are stuck on a channel (or totally knackered) then that’s a minor detail. It’s not a problem. Why? Because gyms are purely functional, they exist solely to get you fit and the machines could be spikey, gear-ridden, steampunk monstrosities (in fact that’d be pretty damn cool) for all I care. Or so I thought.
Today I decided to go along to Leith so I could say hi to Sarah, hopefully brightening her day a little, and check out the bits and pieces over that side of town. Oh. My. Sweet. Fucking. Christ. The shiny! It burns! It’s like gym porno in that place, everything is super-new and super-hi-tech. The cardio machines have TVs and radios built into them, not to mention the fact that as you’re running/cycling/climbing it’ll plot your progress round a wee imaginary hill or racetrack. You can even select standard speed buttons on the the treadmill (set your own speeds for Walk, Jog and Run) so you can change pace instantly. I didn’t use any weights machines or equipment cause I do resistance training on odd days and this was a day off, but there was so much of it, it looked like the Terminator’s pleasure palace. Even the walls, windows and carpets looked brand spanking new, as if I was there on the opening day and was depositing the first drips of sweat on the hallowed surfaces.
Actually I probably had my hardest cardio workout to date just because I was so entranced by the graphics, the buttons and the shiny shininess of it all. But it’s wrong! A gym should be a place for honest hard graft, not for pretending you’re a sweaty airline pilot. Leith Victoria is a bimbo, an airhead, a whore! The whore of Gymylon! She’s Jenny Mcarthy to Portobello’s Julianne Moore. A bourgeois den of iniquity compared to Porty’s proletariat paradise. It’s all flash with no substance (well, technically more substance as well as the flash) and as such will probably corrupt the youth, erode our most cherished values and, I dunno, unleash some new kind of supercancer with huge muscles for good measure.
The thing is, as much as I know it’s wrong and no good can possibly come of it ever, ever in a million gazillion years…
I wanna go back…
Woohoo, after a lengthy hiatus the mighty Kiltreiser are set to hit the road once more. For the uninitiated, Kiltreiser is not only my handle on this blog but is also the name of my band, the hardest-working three piece in the whole universe of mock-metal. Personal issues have kept us safely away from the unwashed, huddled masses for almost a year but on November 30th we’ll be rocking the living shit out of The Ark on Waterloo Place in Edinburgh.
I believe we have the headline slot since we organised the gig but that’ll probably be decided on the day. Taking the stage with us will be some good friends of ours: wild ‘n’ wacky Wildtype; the fast, furious and fearsome Fireside Aliens; and one other as-yet-unnanounced tribe of troubadours. We’re hoping for Iron Maiden or Suicidal Tendencies but they aren’t answering our calls for some reason – must be on tour in a jungle with shit reception…
Anyway, for those Edinburgh-based readers of this blog please come along and wave your hands like you just don’t care. In fact, wave them in the air like you really DO care.
Kiltreiser. The sound of an quadrospazzed generation.
Whilst for many of Edinburgh’s inhabitants that title might serve simply as a brief synopsis of a standard Friday night on the town, for me those were the major events of this Saturday and they took place over the space of 22hrs, rather than 3 or 4.
At 8.30am this Saturday morning I dragged myself out of bed to the sound of hammering rain and a gale blowing outside. Peeking through the blinds I was not a happy chappy to see such typical Scottish summer weather (ok, it’s Autumn, but really, what’s the difference?!). The washing was trying to blow off the line in the garden but couldn’t manage it because it was too heavy from the volume of rain weighing it down. Nice.
Normally I wouldn’t care. I don’t like mornings unless I am asleep while they are happening or still awake while they are happening. In actual fact there are conditions under which I enjoy a drich, cold, windy morning: namely when I am snuggled up in bed, under a duvet, listening to it being resolutely outside, because then it is someone else‘s problem. “Ha ha!” I commonly think to myself, “Some poor bastard’s outside right now, being all awake and cold and that. Sucker”, before falling pointedly asleep.
Hang on, I’ve just dropped my halo… Got it.
In actual fact, I deserve no halo, because I didn’t bother raising any money for it (apart from the registration fee you have to pay anyway) and I couldn’t even tell you what relief for Burma I was specifically running for- I just fancied a challenge.
The race started at 11am and I had managed to enlist two lovely guys from training to come and run with me, so we met at 10am to register. The blurb on the website advised us to meet beside “the big white tent on Melville drive”. A big white tent looks like this:
There was no big white tent.
There was a tent. It wasn’t white. It wasn’t big.
At first we passed it by, thinking it may the home of an itinerant gentleman.
Ah. Not a large scale sporting event then.
However, there were maybe 100 people running and after we’d passed some time having a coffee and getting warm, the weather had improved a bit and we started the race at 11am on the dot, following a motivational speech from Robin Harper, leader of the Scottish Green Party. I like him. He’s lovely.
The boys found it a doddle, the bastards. I’m going to blame it on their significantly longer legs (nothing to do with all that running they do all the time, hell no), so even though they could have shot off and done it in about 16 minutes, they hung back with me and kept me company, meaning we all finished together in a very respectable 24.02. Huzzah!
Burma will be so relieved.
So, that was my day between 08.30 and 11.24, but I’ve got things to do and places to go, so 11.25-07.30 will have to wait for now.
Just back from the gym, slightly knackered but feeling generally good. How on earth did this happen? As anyone who knows me will testify I have never been much of an active person. I mean I used to swim and ski a lot when I was younger but since leaving school my main exercise consisted of dancing while on too many amphetamines and making pathetic attempts to run for buses.
This all changed when Sarah mentioned the Pedal For Scotland event which I foolishly (in a misguided gesture of love, cameraderie, etc) decided to sign up for. It all started with training for the event, mostly cycling east along the coast, gradually increasing my distance and noticing that I was no longer out of breath after reaching the end of the promenade. All of a sudden strange growths began appearing on my legs, elongated tumours that I hadn’t seen for about 10 years – Sarah says they’re called ‘mussels’ or something like that, something seafood-related anyway.
Then Sarah landed her job with Edinburgh Leisure, meaning that I was now eligible for a membership at a host of gyms at a vastly reduced rate. Now I have never ever ever been a fan of gyms despite, I admit, never having set foot in one until about two months ago. However, this new-found discovery that I wasn’t fated to be an out-of-shape couch potato for life made me curious so I signed up and whaddayaknow? I actually liked it. I’ve got a cardio and weights programme all worked out for me and I’m about to start pushing stuff up to the next level. I’ve lost some flab from all kinds of places and these tumour things are sprouting up all over the place. I feel generally much better than I did before, much more active, confident and generally spritely.
One of the weirdest things is that I actually enjoy the exertion, one of the main things that kept me away from serious exercise before. I only ever used to break into a sweat for two reasons, namely if I was in:
1 – Trouble
2 – A Catholic School playground (sorry, poor taste)
Now, however, I’m gladly exhausting myself pretty much every chance I get. In fact I feel all bored and restless when I can’t get to the gym, a most bizarre situation. Anyway, long may it continue!
On an unrelated note I’ve also been thinking about getting a new tattoo, a huge one on my back to rival Sarahs masterwork which I’ve been jealous of since I met her. It’s taken me ages to think of what I’d like to get and didn’t want to rush it in any way, preferring to wait till exactly the right thing came along. Well I was browsing ScienceBlogs the other day (I’m a geek, deal with it) when this beauty hit me right between the eyes.
How cool is that?! Now I could never just steal someone else’s tatto so I’m going to spend some time thinking about it, gathering other ideas, talking to the local tattoo shop and generally fannying about till it’s exactly what I want. I picture it being the same kind of style (the bold black lines) but adding some more colour and texture into it for variety. The head of the beast should be around the nape of my neck with the tentacles to the side exploring around my shoulderblades. As well as that I’d like the tentacles to extend further down, especially in the centre (i.e. down and around my spine) and also to try and get some H.P. Lovecraft influence in there – that’s right, Cthulhu motherfuckers! The local tattoo guy’s eyes were lighting up as I described my current thoughts on what I wanted so hopefully he’ll help come up with an absolute stormer. As soon as I have any more ideas or preliminary arrtwork I’ll post it here for your viewing pleasure. God knows how I’ll finance it though, probably have to get into this ‘crime’ business I keep hearing so much about. (Crime doesn’t pay? If not then why bother making it illegal? Stands to reason it’s worth a shot!)
Anyway, I’ll leave you with two recommendations before you go off and enjoy the weekend while I work this evening from 5 till closing time. First is that you go out and buy/stay in and download some tunes by The Gotan Project. Can’t remember how I stumbled across this but it’s well worth a shot if you fancy something different, essentially tango music but incorporating lots of samples and dance beats. Some of it is up-tempo, funky and makes you want to grab a rose ‘tween your teeth and tango the night away, other parts are more chilled and atmospheric and generally make you want to drink expensive red wine and smoke constantly in a sexy Spanish stylee.
The second recommendation is that you watch this quick clip. I don’t care if you don’t like Star Trek – neither do I – because this made me laugh so hard at one point that the laptop almost de-lapped itself. Enjoy!
As noted in previous posts I’m currently bringing in some small amount of cash in the pub downstairs from the flat, The Espy, while waiting for something more financially viable to crop up (Games Tester for Rockstar North? The application is already in!). While the pay may be abyssmal I actually really enjoy the work; getting to chat to punters, enjoy the atmosphere and generally have a laugh with colleagues is such a great change from sitting in front of a screen and getting yelled at by subhuman clients and moronic bosses all day.
Now to give you some background, The Espy opened it’s doors a few months ago and we were really interested to see how well it would fare, especially given the chequered past of that particular premises. In the three years we’ve been here it had seen two previous owners, both of whom operated it as a run-of-the-mill boozer (crap food, crap music, big telly for football, unfriendly to kids and families, etc) and consequently neither of them lasted past the summer. From what we’ve heard that’s actually an improvement on past performance – previous incarnations have been described in terms similar to Mos Eisley from Star Wars (“wretched hive of scum and villainy”) and the building’s reputation was such that it even featured in a Rebus novel and TV adaptation. Unfortunately we were elsewhere when Ken Stott and his team of coppers were filmed skulking through the back garden en route to raid the place (seriously!).
Anyhow, back to modern day. Gareth and Amanda, the co-owners, have taken a run-down pub with no clientelle and a terrible reputation and worked some kind of a miracle on it, turning it into the most happening place in Portobello. The food there is incredible and word has spread about it so rapidly that with next to no advertising or media exposure it’s already at the point where we are turning people away left, right and centre from Thursday to Sunday unless they have a reservation. IMHO the reasons for this are Amanda’s huge attention to detail, the atmosphere that has been created and the family-friendly nature (it’s more of a cafe by day, restaurant by night which happens to also sell booze).
Now although things are currently going well the acid test is going to be how well we do over the winter months; it’s easy to run a beach pub when the sun is shining but once the wind picks up it’s another story. To that end a projector screen has been installed to allow us to show movies (absolutely NO television though, especially not sports) and we’re looking for ways to best utilise this and other ideas to keep the business steady till it warms up again in 9 months or so.
Here are some of the ideas so far:
Music – Okay, this already happens, but it’ll happen a lot more. Chirpy cheery local bands to get people buying beers (without annoying the neighbours)
“Cheesey Tuesdays” – Amanda’s current brainchild. Basically you pay £X for a ticket and are treated to a selection of speciality cheeses and liquors/wines along with a classic cheesey 80s film. Will be limited to 12-ish per night as that’s all the comfy seats we can fit in front of the screen while allowing space to eat and drink!
Hallowe’en – An obvious one, just showing some scary films and, if my plans come to fruition, getting the staff’s faces painted by the tattoo studio up the road.
Beers ‘n’ Steers – My idea, probably a one-off but could be repeated with other genres. Your ticket money gets you a Man-Burger (James’s invention which is basically just burger and chili in a bun), a manly beer and a Western. Maybe even offer a choice of Westerns so people can go for classics (The Good, The Bad And The Ugly), more modern fare (The Quick And The Dead) or comedy (Blazing Saddles of course). Please note that I will quit if Wild Wild West is even mentioned. We already have some novelty cowboy hats in the bar but maybe punters could get a free extra pint if they bring their own?
Christmas – Feel-good Christmas movies, mince pies, mulled wine, etc. An easy one.
Does anyone out there have any other suggestions? Basically anything I come up with will get me brownie points, bonus pints and possibly even the holy grail of more shifts. Any ideas welcomed as long as they don’t involve porn or weird communist-era Czechoslovakian animation. And I think they’re already planning to serve White Russians for the inaugural screening of The Big Lebowski…
Recently, more and more people from far, far away (as far away as say, Dundee, or America) have been having a look at our blog, and whilst this is fantastic (and you guys really should feel welcome to comment… COMMENT!!!), I figure a alot of you will be looking at the title of this blog and doing this:
*looking at the title*…. Thailand…..
*looking at the content* … doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Thailand, maybe I was wrong…
*looking at the description page* … nope, definitely says they were moving to Thailand…
*contacting Trading Standards* “Yeah, Hi. There’s this blog, and it’s lured me here under false pretences. It’s supposed to be about moving to Thailand, but clearly they’re still in Edinburgh. WTF?! Yeah. You know what to do. Kill them.”
Well, that’s all perfectly understandable: you’re disappointed. You wanted to read about wonderful adventures in Paradise. You wanted to know what happens to real people who move 7,000 miles away to a country where they can’t speak the language, read the road signs, or do anything other than guess at the ins-and-outs of social etiquette.
Believe me, we want to write about it. We’re pretty disappointed too!
So, here’s the skinny; why we’re not in Thailand; what we’re doing instead and the plan as far as it stretches (which is about 4 weeks into the future). Questions we feel you may need answered:
Why the hell aren’t you in Thailand?
The economy died.
The basis of our plan was that we would sell our flat to get the money to pay off debts and fund the trip. This has steadfastly refused to happen ever since we put the flat on the market in April. For further information about how it took us 2 months to get the stupid thing on the market in the first place, see the Saga of Able Flooring, parts 1, 2, 3 and 4. In general, April is the month to look at for details about the hell we went through trying to get the flat on the market.
Anyhoo. Eventually we did get the flat on the market and…
Ok, we get viewers: maybe 1 or 2 a week, but so far no notes of interest, no offers, and following our moves to fixed price, then reduced fixed price and then replacing our previously terrible schedules with lovely ones… nothing has changed.
What are you doing instead?
Hmmm. Tough one.
We both gave up our proper jobs for moving abroad – Paul finally quit his super-stressful job to do a TEFL qualification and I just didn’t look for a new teaching job. See previous blog for details. Oh, wait, you can’t: I had to delete my posts about teaching because Big Brother got me.
So now I have a significantly less stressful (but badly paid) job, which is pretty ideal as it allows me to train as hard as I like, and Paul gets a few shifts here and there in the pub downstairs whilst searching, fruitlessly, for a job with a decent wage.
So, what’s the plan, Man?
Well, it depends on how long we’re stuck here, really.
I’m going to keep training hard and fighting as often as I can, hang onto my new job and try to stay sane.
Paul’s going to look for a proper job until he gets one, which we hope will be soon.
If he gets a decent job and we’re still getting nowhere on the flat I’m going to start working towards a Personal Trainer qualification and the second, and I *mean* the SECOND the flat sells..
We are gone.
Anything we missed?