The wind is bitter and icy at the moment, so I go into art galleries looking for something to keep me warm. The little town is almost deserted at this time of year save for a pairs of determined tourists who walk slowly, head bowed against the weather. Here and there you see the much faster locals darting around, their heads usually covered, not looking but following the pavement below, navigating all in front of them by cracks, manhole covers and bird shit. All the cafes are deserted so one-on-one conversation is guaranteed with grateful owners who stare forlornly behind brightly polished counters. Everything is so clean and clinical and decorative lights blink sadly. I order tea and try and concentrate on my book but my head is swimming. I haven’t been sleeping well lately.
Even on the quiet streets I take the quieter, hidden ways; the alleys and narrow short cuts that are my escape routes in the stifling heat of high summer when fat fucks come to gorge on fried oil and sugar, and scream and fight, and go lobster red and despise their families a bit more. Forces of habit allied to forces of nature, so I leap up stairs two at a time and allow myself a moment to breath, heavy steam from my wheezing lungs. I try to lift weights some evenings but I struggle to lift a smile and I end up staring at puny arms trembling, waiting for endorphins that stand me up.
In the narrow alleys I can shelter from that biting arctic blast. No clouds, no sky, no light, nothing to photograph. Shuttered shops and empty holiday lets echoing with laughter. I storm through The Haunted Tunnel and emerge from dark back into grey.
I’m going through quite a restless period, looking further out to borders. My once comfortable job has become a source of great annoyance to me, and it has bled into my private life – that is, the life I lead once I close my front door and remove my uniform and I cease to be a worker in a hotel and become a writer, a photographer, a wanker again. Thinking of leaving not only my job but this town, from this-there to where? Perhaps to another city. Perhaps to another country. Perhaps I’ll teach English to the Chinese or work and smoke dope in Colorado. Perhaps I’ll do none of those things. Perhaps it is just A Phase. Set your phasers to glum.
To improve my mood, I vowed back in November to stop drinking other than for social occasions. Which, considering all my friends are at least 150 miles away in any direction, may as well be a blanket quit. Even on those rare meetings, I intend to keep it down to a glass or two of red wine. With the exception of a Christmas party, and a couple of presents, I’ve kept to that. It got to the point that having a couple of lunchtime pints on a day off or enjoying some wine with a film and/or writing during a free evening stopped becoming a pleasure and started becoming a routine. From routine to habit, from habit to addiction. It was time to stop. I couldn’t do any of the things I love. Always too sleepy to write, to draw, to read a book before bed. The frustration of sitting in a bar, my mind loosened by alcohol and ideas shaken free, only to come home and be too tired to act on them. Waking up too late to take pictures of a sunrise. These are the things I love and in dark times – however locally or globally you want to cast that net there is darkness – I need the things I love right now.
I’m sending more of my writing to literary magazines. I’m sending pictures out to websites. No longer tired but wide awake. Unfocused maybe, but re-learning discipline. I wish I had a job with more conventional hours. I’d love to take a yoga class or learn a martial art. Something that requires commitment, discipline, focus. All those silly words that might be taken for granted, but get lost in the hazy fog of a terminally nostalgic drunk. When I’m sober I look forward with a greater clarity of my purpose in life. When I’m drunk I look back forlornly at times I’ll never get back again.
The money I’ll save could help me if I quit my job and get something with less hours and more free time. If not, well I’ll work hard and play more. I want to go to more gigs, where live music can provide all the mental intoxication I need to exist. I want to visit places, new places and new photo opportunities rather than trying to find the thirty-seventh angle of the same fucking buildings. When I think of how much money I blew in 2016 just from a bottle of wine a week, a bottle of wine that usually got me precisely nowhere, just wallowing alone in old stories and idyllic times as a child, as a teenager, at University.
I hope I can keep this up. This enthusiasm, this spurt of energy I’m putting into my proper career. It’s a stuttering start but between my hours I’m trying. Spending time in the library with the Writer’s Handbook. Looking online. Hunting down independent notices in bookshops. This evening I edited two stories and emailed three of them to literary magazines. Another publication has six of my pictures waiting in their inbox. They might reject them but at least I’m trying again.
I sit in this little cosy house, the walls covered in my heroes, candles flickering from my badly fitted windows. Whilst working this evening, I enjoyed Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil docu-film, one of my top ten favourite films of all time. Around halfway through I realised – it’s the first time in years I’ve watched it sober.