Sunday, 23 January 2011

Reality

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As a child I had a way of looking at things. A way that, at times, meant I was very lonely and confused.

For example take football. Why boys got so excited about this I NEVER understood. As you didn’t have to play the game in the first place, why get so upset about it if you lost and run around screaming with your t-shirt over your face if you won? The whole thing seemed pointless to me and beyond my comprehension as something that justified such a high level of energy being expended.

Similarly, other kids raved about how their Action Man had real hair. Even at age 5 I knew that it wasn’t real and was left feeling dissapointed again that all those exciting ads on TV were not at all like the real thing.

Marvel comics came from the USA and had adverts for Hostess Twinkies and x-ray specs that let you see through girls’ skirts. It seemed they were making fun of me as these items couldn’t be purchased in the UK and there was no way my folks were going to pay for international postage. They also had ads for additions to the Evil Knievel stunt bike that didn’t even exist in the UK such as a Grand Canyon rocket attachment. Life seemed determined to poke me with a stick.

At age 4 my parents bought me my own TV. Well…a Fisher Price wind up TV that played “London Bridge is Falling Down” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” while a series of pictures spooled across. Even then I knew it wasn’t a real TV even though my mother raved about how I’d now got my own one. I decided that even though I knew it wasn’t real and she knew too, it would be unkind to let this fact be known so I played along and enthused about how great it was.

Walt Disney characters from the two US camps (long before Eurodisney) would show up on TV and I’d silently wonder why anyone would think that that was really Minnie Mouse or Goofy when a). They were blatantly made of plastic and b). They were only cartoon characters anyway and weren’t REAL!!!

Father Christmas was a big dissapointment and by age 7 I’d sussed that it was a load of cobblers (despite the attempted deflection the previous year of “I know we haven’t got a chimney, we leave the back door open”).

As I grew up I became more and more frustrated with reality and what I was supposed to accept as “fun”. Scooby Doo did nothing except piss me off with its crap animation and canned laughter (which at age 6 I’d guessed was simply pasted on as how the hell would you film a cartoon in front of live audience?!!). The “running on the spot and then running with your hands by your sides” irritated the arse off me. I have never watched a full episode of Coronation Street and to this day can’t understand why people love this depressing pile of badly acted lark’s vomit featuring poor people suffering abject misery.

I listened to the song Angie Baby by Helen Reddy and it made me scream in terror as the boy spins like a top and is sucked into the radio “never to be found”. I was 5 when I heard this and it turns out I was right about him becoming a sound wave.


I listened to the Spiderman theme tune and thought they were saying “welcome friends, he’s ignored. Action is his reward” assuming that he was trying to be friendly and people didn’t want to know him because of the bad reputatation that nasty J Jonah Jameson had given him and that his only prize for being a good guy was the fun of doing it.. Turns out the line was “wealth and fame he’s ignored”

Movies were dire and it was only cartoons (as they had different laws of reality) that I could enjoy without getting analytical. We had to wait until Star Wars in 1977 for anything approaching a decent movie. Predictably though, shite like Battlestar Galactica, Battle Beyond the Stars and Buck Rogers span off from this with shite special effects and patronising dialogues.

Most movies that my friends enjoyed I couldn’t. Ninja films were rife in the 1980s and it used to drive me up the wall that bad guys only attacked one at a time and good guys never suffered any kind of guilt over killing. It also made me sick when the skinny Greek chip shop owner angrily defended the films saying “I could break your ribs with my index finger if I wanted to” when I slagged off Chuck Norris.

Religion pissed me off too (I was raised as a Protestant and went to a Catholic school). Not helped by the fact that my primary school taught both Darwin and Genesis and I was told “stop trying to be clever” when I asked where Tricerotops was if Adam and Eve were the first two living beings on God’s Earth. I pondered the logistics of Noah taking two of every single species into the Ark and wondered which poor sod got the job of mucking out. I tried to suggest that maybe the Bible was only analogous but was told to be quiet by adults who knew less than nothing.

I spent many hours wondering just how Batman got changed halfway down the bat pole and deduced that in the one second gap between us seeing him dissapear as Bruce Wayne and reappear in the Bat Cave, he jumped into a room at the side (as did Robin) and quickly scrambled for his gear.

By age 10 I was being almost constantly bullied. Mainly through having a big mouth and a puny body. I regressed more and more into my own head and loved heroic figures like Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker.

By the time I went to Secondary school it was almost unbearable. I was teased, bullied and thumped nearly every day and had a mother who simply told me it was my fault and a father who couldn’t help me as mum had overruled him when I was 4 about hitting back, saying that being “nice” to everyone was the clue. Therefore when I was hit it was my fault for not being “nice” enough.

Around the age of 12, I started to like girls but due to being hyper sensitive and having the self confidence of Nelson Mandella’s ghost writer, I found them to be unfathomable. I also couldn’t understand just what was sexy about the surly, gum chewing 15 year old bully who swore and gelled his hair and why “bad boys” were so popular.

English teachers raved about Shakespeare which is great if you’re a literary prodigy or someone studying for a master’s degree in Literature but boring if you’re a hormonal 14 year old.

The ZX Spectrum came out and I got the 48k version for Xmas. The games were crap even though we had nothing to compare them to with Daley Thompson’s Decathlon being one game guaranteed to wreck your Quickshot 2 joystick.

James Bond movies annoyed me, especially as I grew up with Roger Moore playing 007. Something I couldn’t put my finger on at the time just didn’t feel “right” about his portrayal of everyone’s fave super spy and it was only later that you realsed Bond was mean to be the immortal fantasy figure of white, young English guys and NOT a wooden actor in his 50s who looked like he couldn’t win a fist fight with St Winifred’s school choir.

A trend in movies that died out in later years was that the male and female lead in a movie had to shag each other, even if facing imminent danger. The Jack Nicholson movie A Few Good Men was the first to say “hell with that, maybe they don’t fancy one another and/ or they’ve got other things to think about”.

Censorship drove me up the wall. The MPAA in the USA and the BBFC at home cut every movie to ribbons and I wondered if it was just me who knew that there was no proof whatsoever that normal people would commit crimes after watching Friday the 13th part 4. My mother, school teachers and even kids my own age would subscribe to this belief just because it sounded intelligent. While watching The Exterminator my mother exclaimed how nasty it was of him to rob that nice man’s motorbike to go off and kill some muggers and wouldn’t it have been better for him to comfort the old lady the muggers had robbed that the biker had stopped to help?

Life was confusing. Reality had gone from being frightening to being very, very dull.

In 1988 I found UK punk band The Macc Lads and was one of their biggest fans for about 6 years, following them all over the country and eventually getting backstage at gigs. The fact that a song like “Sweaty Betty” could be popular and all the things I had been told to never do in order to get on in life, the Lads were making money from. I couldn’t believe it that a band who encouraged people to gob on them at gigs and were sometimes injured by their own fans (the same ones that shook their hands afterwards) were making over 100 grand a year just on t-shirts.

But the reality was depressing. They thought I was irritating and tolerated my presence the way you would a loyal dog. In 1994 they abandoned me after a gig (nothing personal it happened to others before me) and I finally realised the huge gap between what I was doing and what I was telling my friends I was doing the day after. I walked away then and their apparent reaction was complete indifference.

Sex was the biggest let down. I lost my virginity to some fat, ugly girl two weeks before my 20th birthday after a pub crawl (who to add insult to injury didn’t want to fuck me in the morning either) and on penetrating her thought to myself “is that it?” after assuming that mountains would crumble, seas would roar and Superman would fly past and give me the thumbs up. It was that this point that I realised a fist is a lot tighter than the average vagina and as I wasn’t in to bum sex, I would have more fun in my own imagination.

At university I wore a black biker’s jacket, dyed my hair purple and showered twice a week. I was a walking Macc Lads charicature. I was rude, drank a lot and belched. Then one day I got caught on the back stairwell of the Uni library by a member of staff where students weren’t allowed. She enquired “are you supposed to be here?” and when I replied not she snapped “WELL go back then!” to which, instead of burping and telling her to go fuck her dead granny…I simply walked back with my tail between my legs and carried on as a charicature until I left Uni 2 years later.

My first job was working for a bitter, 40 something old cunt who had obviously been previously treated badly by her own superiors . While only a supervisor she treated me like a servant, forced me to work weekends, through lunch and stay late and as I was a Temp threatened constantly to fire me if I didn’t comply.

I left this job for one working inputtng computer data in an open office full of unfunny, soulless, Coronation Street-obsessed middle aged people who’d been there for 20 years.

I faced the clock.

I hated every second.

In 1995 I moved to Milan and was expecting to feel elated like people do in movies when the train pulled in to Central Station at 5.30am. As it was I just felt tired and dirty and was preoccupied with finding a job.

I fell in love for the first time (at nearly age 26) and got my heart broken so badly that I cried for 3 days. I vowed that if I was never going to feel that bad again. In 2002 I fell in love again. It didn’t work out and again I got hurt. Shit, was reality really worth this much pain and misery?

Reality slowly became more and more boring until finally, I simply gave up.

I relapsed into a world in my own head. I worked in jobs that paid me enough to survive and ceased to try and achieve. When I managed at a summer camp in 2005 and gave reality a chance it appeared for a while that maybe I’d been a little harsh on the old fella as I ran THE most successful camp the company owned while working as a Special Constable for the City of London Police and being on duty on July 7th 2005 just after the terrorist attacks.

I trusted reality just a little too much though as the following year the company made it clear that if I wanted the job again I’d have to be “nice” and not be so strict and go for a beer with my staff and be less bossy and let junior managers have a say…etc, etc. This was all to generate “good feeling” and therefore more revenue but it all fell apart as I was acting against type and ended up resigning.

Reality was being a bit unfair.

Final burst of adrenalin was when I joined the Regular police in 2006 which completely utterly destroyed all my illusions. I had a cretinous, ignorant and vicious sergeant and it proved to me that there is nothing in a job more frustrating than working for someone who is less intelligent than you are. I quit 18 months later. I wrote a book about the experience and made certain that those who had pissed me off knew about it and would never forget me.

I was now completely out of love with reality and went to Crete with suicide thoughts to stay with my dad.

After 5 months of living a fantasy life and finally coming through my depression I realised that I could function as a human being again but shut myself off from being anything other than a “mate” to anyone else. I would forever now cherry pick what emotions I wanted to feel and ignore the rest. An attractive Irish girl posted on Couchsurfing.org that she was coming to Rome to live and would appreciate any help anyone could give her in getting a foot hold. I helped her find a flat, a job and went to parties with her without once hitting on her, just to prove that I could be a “nice” guy without wanting anything back.

Reality was now mine to control.

I had a blast. Drinking heavily, shagging occasionally and living in the eternal city. Something kept nagging at me but I ignored it. I’d been hurt too many times to care and regarded the isolation and loneliness as a small price to pay for being “free”. My Facebook statuses were quotes about my exploits and my blog was full of stories about shagging and drinking, which while all true, didn’t fulfull me in any way.

I was now as bored with my fantasy life as I had been with reality .

But now I’m in love again and my girlfriend Mich and me live in Mexico with her family. I fought against the flood of reality that was gushing towards me and sub consciously did some very odd and stupid things when we met to see how much she would take (e.g. “fancy a threesome with her?” or getting so drunk I couldn’t walk and then farting in bed all night).

As I kept this demeanour up of being someone who at the end of the day was an island and felt no pain I could see little chinks of light appearing through my armour, like that bit in Return of the Jedi when Han Solo is thawed out from the carbonite. Finally yesterday I was standing in the shower and in front of me I saw my fantasy self, dressed in faded, ripped black leather like Mel Gibson in Mad Max 2. I hugged him goodbye and he walked away, fading into the distance until he was gone.

I haven’t had a drink since Christmas. I haven’t smoked in months and today I sat on the sofa with Mich and watched Wuthering Heights while sipping tea.

Finally I have reality switched back on again and for the first time in a long time it feels wonderful.

I love you Mich.


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3 comments:

  1. Mich I love you too! ;) Lance, it's been a long road, but you've made it. Certainly have learned a lot and through that I think you are really appreciative of what you have. I'm so happy for you and PROUD of you. You are a great person - keep being that person and being happy! :D

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  2. Phew! For a minute there, it was all doom 'n' gloom...but luckily for you mister, the love of a good woman has put you on the road to a new & improved reality! Hoorah! I'm very happy for you! :o)x

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