The Mad House

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

A priest was giving a religious discourse to the inmates of an asylum.  He was a few minutes into his sermon when one of the inmates started waving his arms about and shouting, “do we have to listen to this rubbish?”  The priest paused, and looked at the support worker who was in attendance and asked, “shall I stop speaking?”  The support worker replied, “no, it’s OK, carry on, you won’t hear any more from him; he only has one sane moment every seven years…

Indeed, one sane moment every seven years; that’s something that a lot of people would give their right arms for in this world that seems to have gone completely mad.  It is so difficult in this day and age, to keep sane in a completely bonkers world.  The problem is that we have all been corrupted by our conditioning, which started at a very early age.

The beauty of Zen, is that once it finds you, you can rest in the natural flow of things as chaos ensues all around.  The thing is not to get sucked into the drama, but rather to remain a witness as the drama plays itself out before your eyes.  In other words, be the stage, not the play.  These days, I’m getting much better at doing this; but I haven’t quite got the knack of never succumbing to the tricks of the egoic mind.  Even though I have noticed more and more lately, that everything I need just seems to flow effortlessly to me.  I still find myself on occasion playing one of the characters in an unnecessary soap opera.  Then inevitably, I have to feel the pain that comes with it before the penny drops and I revert back to the natural flow of the poetry that is Zen.

Don’t listen to the priest (ego), but equally, don’t be content with one sane moment every seven years.  Be neither sane nor insane… Be…



Who Am I? Part Twelve

The Roaring Donkey in Little London, Old Town, Swindon. One of my haunts during this period.


The car crash that was my relationship with Carol was on and off so many times. My mind was all over the place; it was like being one of the main characters in a horror soap opera. As stated in the previous post, I had already realised that the business venture wasn’t working but I was still doing some of the markets. However, Carol did not like me being a market trader and I ended up packing in completely before I actually intended to, simply to try to keep the peace. At that time it was the only source of income I had, so there was the small matter of finding a job. I couldn’t win, no matter what I did; I knew I could get a job with Royal Mail, but Carol didn’t want me working there either. It seemed that every idea I had job-wise, she didn’t like, but it just caused problems because I had no work. I remember moving out again and moving back to my mum’s place yet again. During this period I went ahead and got the job with Royal Mail; starting in October 1989.

But the soap opera continued. I moved back in with Carol and the problems started again virtually straight away. She didn’t like me working for Royal Mail because she thought, somehow, that it would give me the opportunity to cheat on her. Nothing could have been further from the truth. She became physically abusive on a couple of occasions as well. This seemed to run in the family. Her eldest son acquired his first serious girlfriend, a really nice girl, and it transpired that he was hitting her. Also, the twin who had always seemed to be the only level-headed member of the family had moved in with her boyfriend, also a really nice lad, but she started hitting him too. I remember him telling me once that she had thrown a very heavy object at him, that missed his head by a whisker. Violence seemed to be the order of the day and I spent most of the time just trying to keep the peace. This was a very difficult and unhappy time for me but eventually, before 1990 was half-way through I managed to make what would be the final break from the relationship. I ended up once more living at my mum’s place. I felt deflated, completely useless and a failure.

At least now I was able to go into work without having to worry about what I would have to face when I got home after my shift had finished. It wasn’t easy living with my mum, but at last there was some semblance of normality returning to my life. I was able to put in extra hours at the Royal Mail and boost my income. In May 1990 I even treated myself to a week away in the Isle of Wight. Once I felt that I was on my feet again I rented a house in Birch Street, which was in the Westcott Place area of Swindon. This meant that I could walk to work in around 10 minutes. Another thing that Carol hadn’t liked me doing was drinking, so when we were together my alcohol consumption was virtually nil. However, now that I was free, that was something else that would change. Also, for the first time in a while I started hanging out with people. There was a few lads I worked with who were really decent blokes and we would hang out together. But the darkness was descending and I started to sink lower. The trouble was,my new-found mates were all either married or in relationships, so they couldn’t hang out with me all the time. I noticed how isolated and lonely I was feeling, and I would also get times when I felt so unbelievably sad. As usual, I had the feeling of not belonging with regard to working at the Royal Mail; it was a male-dominated environment and some of the goings-on there did not resonate with me at all.

I remember that as winter descended I was doing quite a lot of extra hours and some night shifts. If I was on nights, I could go in early at 6:00 pm and do overtime before my shift started. It was such a bleak time; I would go to work in the dark and come home while it was still dusky, so I didn’t see much daylight. I spent most of my free time between shifts watching videos; I’d never watched so many films in my life!

The Prince of Wales in Union Street. Probably less than 30 seconds walk from where I was living.

By the middle of 1991 I’d moved to a bed sit in Union Street, in the Old Town area of Swindon, which was also within walking distance of work. Another lad I was friendly with lived in the house and he had a word with the landlord and got me in there. It wasn’t ideal living in a bed sit but the rent was unbelievably cheap; much cheaper than the house in Birch Street. I should mention here that at various stages between the late 1970s and when I moved in at Union Street, I had from time-to-time had access to cannabis/hashish again; and this was one of those times. I’d given up cigarettes so taking the smoke from this stuff down into my throat nigh-on killed me (slight exaggeration!). So, there I was, living within touching distance of all the pubs and eateries in Old Town, and at the same time I had an abundance of opportunities to get stoned in the comfort of my room. By now I was 36 and still no further forward in life than when I was a teenager.

I didn’t stay in Union Street very long. Out of the blue I got offered the chance to move into a basement flat in Dixon Street, which was just down the road from Union Street and on the edge of the town centre. I was in heaven…sort of. I still had access to all the pubs etc. in Old Town, but I was also around 2 minutes walk from all the pubs and curry houses in the town. Plus, I was even closer to work. It was while I was living in Dixon Street that I experienced some of my worst emotional pain. I will go into greater detail in part 13, but suffice it to say, it would be another five years before I understood why I’d been having these feelings for so many years…