Archive for the 'opsimathy' Category


n a v e l g a z i n g a n d s t o c k t a k e

so, it happened.

i am a 40 year old man.

i m p o s s i b l e .

impossible not in a literal way of course, and not in the way of suggesting that it’s so highly improbable. it’s not like i’ve lived the life of an unremitting daredevil, nor have i submerged myself in excess, whether of the flesh or of the chemical. in fact, comparably, i have been really quite chaste (though more due to disinterest than disapproval of any opposing stance). no, it feels impossible to be 40 because of the great myth of the aging process: that one day you’ll feel like an adult.

i have spent the vast majority of my adult life without gainful employment, and the minority engaged in what would be a stretch to refer to as a ‘proper job’. this choice of mine to remain ‘apart’ in this way has certainly cost me, certainly financially, and has probably left me somewhat socially retarded. now this could, i suppose, be seen as evidence of a single-minded iconoclast and fearless social adventurer, or indeed the reader might be forgiven for thinking that this is the role i am casting myself in by telling you this; but it isn’t. the truth is that many people pursue the things i have pursued and still hold down regular jobjobs. i think my refusal might have more to do with my inability to do things by halves, or in fact sensibly. but there you are.

despite what might be discernedi suppose, as successes, success on my terms and with regard to things i would wish it for, has thus far, to a greater extent, eluded me.

i am proud of several things i have achieved/created, none of which has earned me any money 
a t   a l l , not that pride and payment have anything to do with one another.

things of which i am proud (acknowledging that pride is supposedly a ‘sin‘, whatever that means, and enjoying this list all the more because of this):

# i have written three novels, all of which remain unpublished (unpublishable?); and yet i’m half way through my fourth. it seems to have become what i do.
# many years ago i wrote and performed a one-man show, which, while it gained good reviews ate money like a fat man in a cake shop.
# despite my  u t t e r  lack of  a n y  musical skill, i have made ‘musics’ of which i am proud.
# though (thankfully) childless, i have had a vasectomy.
# as a (not socially) mature student i completed a degree in creative writing, receiving a first, finishing in the top 50 students of the university.
# i co-created rective, a club which never failed to make a loss, and yet we kept going for an amazingly blinkered 5 years, enjoying (almost) every second.
# i co-created the double r club, which bizarrely has been an unprecedented success.

in my years on the planet i have broken an arm and a foot, the former in youthful misadventure and the latter in ill-conceived anger. since i was born i have not been hospitalised. i have my tonsils. i have my appendix. i’ve had kidney stones (arguably the worst pain i’ve ever experienced) and i have a “tight lateral-band”, which gives me a dicky knee.

i have lovely parents, a fact which shows its value more and more the older i get.

i have a girlfriend who is so much better than it could be reasonably argued i deserve. though i did a very good job of nearly fucking it up early on, she makes me laugh and amazes me on a regular basis. she’s stronger than me,  
f a r better organised and more focussed. at times i am, against her, not unlike a cardboard cutout.

while unwilling to call myself a ‘lucky’ person i think that, on balance, mostly good things have happened to me during my time on the planet. which is nice.

despite this i have spent a great deal of time angry.

the best lesson i’ve learned, though sometimes it appears i’ve retained this knowledge less than others, is to pick my battles. “mellowing with age” seems like a kind way of saying acquiescence; of being cowed. which i don’t think i have been, i believe i have merely refocused my ire. but then perhaps this is merely self-delusion.

i am often selfish. i am a self-adsorbed individual though, i think, rather than a self-centered one. empathy can be a struggle but it’s there, i just think i’ve done a good job of keeping it in its place.

“are you good or bad you ask yourself…” goes the the the song, but i’m not sure i ever have. not sure its even an interesting or meaningful question. i once sat around drinking with colleagues who both admitted they had done very bad things to certain people that they were ashamed of, and not only wouldn’t they reveal the name of the person they did it to, they wouldn’t even detail what they’d done. they asked me if i too had such a story to contribute but the fact is, i said, i don’t judge myself that way. why bother? as with empathy, guilt is there but if you can’t keep it in its place where does that leave you?

whether that’s any way for a 40-year-old man to think i have no idea, but there you are. or, in fact, here i am.



graduation was a  somewhat strange experience. and no i didn’t wear the gettup.  the ceremony took place at the barbican and as  walked in and handed the usher my ticket, which read g-29, she looked at it, looked at me and said “that’s row g, seat 29”. i have to say, after three years of ‘higher education’ i think i might have worked that particular conundrum out for myself. perhaps i looked particularly stupid.

the frankly enormous hall and the utterly bizarre multi-coloured faux medieval outfits worn by the faculty gave the whole thing the air of a religious cult rally. as i sat down a fellow student suggested that, if offered, i should not drink the kool-aid. i expected at any moment that we’d all be urged to suicide, that we may all meet up in the u.f.o. in the tail of haley’s comet.

what was strangest though was to discover that i finished in the top fifty students of the university. still not sure if that should be a matter of pride for myself, or a damning indictment on the educative prowess, or lack of same, of the university. in lieu of a mortar board to throw into the air when pictures were taken, i chose instead to throw my wallet. it seemed apt considering the expenditure involved in further education. some threw their shoes. not kidding.


i l e a r n t o a c c e p t m y r e w a r d

headgear aloftby way of a prize for my degree results, hostess elisabeth bought me the following:

1# something called a ‘smiley lick‘ from hotel chocolat -a strange name, i mean, who licks chocolate? you don’t lick it, you bite it!

2# a 20 piece box of 74% dark chocolate ‘batons‘ from hotel chocolat.

3# a mug with ‘mr. perfect‘ on it.

4# a dvd copy of tod browning‘s 1932 film freaks’ (not quite sure what she’s trying to imply with this last one).


also, in the congratulations card, she drew a small picture of a cat, which i think is just fantastic. it manages to be both innately cat-like and genuinely funny to look at.

 hostess elisabeths cat

and this from a woman whose artistic history involves teachers glaring bemusedly over her shoulder, asking sarcastically why the people she’s drawing are all square, each one drawn with a ruler. a late bloomer then. this time next year, the turner prize


a r m e d t o t h e t e e t h f o r a l l p o e t r y r e l a t e d c r i s e s

degree results are in. apparently i got something called a “first class honours”.

um, blimey.

lary llama

so, three years not entirely wasted then. well… that’s my story and i’m sticking to it.

can you say “even less employable than when i started?”


d e a r t h o f a n o p s i m a t h

empty head“oh mother, i can feel the soil falling over my head…” 

currently plummeting into the post-university chasm, dissertation handed in (for better or for worse), feeling a little dizzy and a mite cheated at the percentage of the three years i paid for actually spent in the learning of 
                                        ‘ t h i n g s ‘
part of me seems still to believe that i’ll be going back in a few months, but that particular part is clearly an idiot and has obviously not learned a bloody thing. perhaps i should have it surgically removed.

“the term ‘institutionalization‘ may … be used to refer to the committing by a society of an individual to a particular institution such as a mental institution. the term institutionalisation is therefore sometimes used as a term to describe both the treatment of, and damage caused to, vulnerable human beings by the oppressive or corrupt application of inflexible systems of social, medical, or legal controls by publicly owned, private or not-for-profit organisations or to describe the process of becoming accustomed to life in an institution so that it is difficult to resume normal life after leaving.”

the cynic in me however leans further towards psychological damage as an explanation…

stockholm syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which they have been placed.”

so then… back to twiddling my thumbs? perhaps i should take up knitting. maybe model railways. maybe build a scale model of gloria hunniford out of matchsticks. perhaps set up a strict regime of self abuse and simply masturbate myself into an early grave…?

on second thoughts, i think i’ll just become a wild success and earn embarassing amounts of money. i mean, it’s not like they give these degree things to just anybod-




 no, seriously, fucking  w h a t ?


o p s i m a t h n o m o r e

job-centrea nugget of wisdom read on the day of my very last lecture at university:

“degrees have a way of warping people – it’s not good for people to spend that amount of time at university, acting like rock stars on weekdays. they get so distanced from the real world they haven’t a fucking clue what’s needed. it’s a luxurious prison, almost. once they get out, once they’re released, they’re good for nothing other than having weekly reunions with their old housemates, getting jobs with their old housemates, or staying on to receive more educational therapy or forming piss-poor bands. and they’ve all got floppy fringes.”

– from renegade by mark e. smith


a n d t h e w o r d f o r t o d a y i s :

dictionary1ratiocination /ˌʃiˌɒˈneɪʃən, –ˌoʊsə-, ˌræti-/  [rash-ee-os-uh-ney-shuhn, -oh-suh-, rat-ee-]


–noun  the process of logical reasoning.



1520–30; < l ratiōcinātiōn– (s. of ratiōcinātiō), equiv. to ratiōcināt(us) (see ratiocinate ) + –iōn– -ion