If you…

Some four hundred years before Christ reputedly walked the earth, a Chinese warlord by the name of Sun Tzu came out with some of the wisest sayings known to humanity. To my mind, the best of these was this…

“If you wait by the river long enough, you will see the bodies of your enemies float by.”

 You can take this literally, he was a warlord after all, but it can also be interpreted as meaning that if you leave people to it, they will wreak damage on themselves without you ever having to lift a finger.

Every now and then I catch sight of the car of someone who both actively and inadvertently caused me a lot of harm in the past and I see its rapid descent from showroom condition that its previous owner kept it in to that of a stock car. The decay of the car mirrors the decay of the person as the chaos of their life does exactly the same to them. For all the grief they caused me all I really have to do is nothing, they are ruining their life perfectly well on their own. 

When anything traumatic happens most of us feel the need to do something, to express our grief or upset in some way. I am probably more guilty of this than most, for good or bad, I wear my heart on my sleeve and often make rash decisions and do daft things as a result. What I should do is what Sun Tzu would advocate and that is wait…

Waiting is never easy though, we can turn off neither our thoughts nor our emotions and we cause ourselves a great deal of suffering in the process. Learning to trust that things will work out for the best can be the hardest lesson to learn and I have to admit that I am not quite there yet. 

Perhaps one day I will be though and I can take my place by the riverbank and I will be wise enough and calm enough to just wait.


The curse of being articulate.

I am always getting myself into trouble of one sort or another from threats of violence to legal trouble, through filthy looks, intimidation, black balling and every other form of recrimination. I have never, to my knowledge committed a crime or hurt anyone and yet if anything unfortunate were to happen to me, the list of possible suspects would be pretty long. 

I think a major problem is that I am a very honest person, I can’t bear liars and I find it almost impossible to lie myself. I can sugar coat the occasional hard to swallow pill but mostly I find it really hard to lie. Plus, I have a really bad memory for non facts and I would never be able to tell the same fib twice. Added to this, I am a champion blurter; if it’s on my mind, out it comes, there it is, honesty, truth, more honesty with a side order of tactlessness. I drunk alcohol recently for the first time in many years… Bad, bad move. Just crown me king of the blurters and be done with it.

Having abnormally high levels of empathy really doesn’t help, when you hear about some nasty thing someone is doing or has done I can’t help but try and put myself in their position, to try and understand how or why they could have done it; sometimes I can fathom out how things could have got to the point where they could have done X, Y or Z but mostly I can’t. Most of the time I find it impossible to comprehend the smallness of thought, the cruelness, the callousness or overblown self interest that would lead anyone to do anything unpleasant. I tried to put my mind in the head of an adulterer this week and couldn’t do it; no matter how hard I tried couldn’t imagine going back home to a spouse after getting out of someone else’s bed. Granted, compared to trying to comprehend how Tony Blair manages to live with the deaths of hundreds of thousands, it is rather petty, but I still can’t understand it.

Please don’t think for the second that I am some kind of self righteous person, my sins, flaws and failings are many and quite spectacular, but I do have a deeply defined sense of right and wrong and an easily peaked sense of injustice. I don’t really think that anything that I believe is particularly outrageous. I’m not homophobic, sexist, a religious zealot or a crusading atheist, neither am I a racist and I don’t preach my vegetarianism to anyone. The only reason I refuse to list all my shortcomings here is that I already have low s of esteem problems and I don’t wish to make them any worse.

On their own though, none of my opinions or beliefs should really get me into hot water but I suspect that the major cause of my problems is being reasonably articulate both visually and in writing. 
Much of my trouble is because I am capable of visually representing my upset, annoyance or disgust in an easily understood visual format. There is usually just enough detail to make those I am directing my criticism at squirm a little, or even a lot. When you get to the truth of someone and they actually aren’t very pleasant, they tend to get rather cross. Nasty people usually make excuses for themselves and they do it so often that they end up believing their own lies. There is nothing as disquieting to an accomplished deceiver than to be forced to look at their true self. Combine this with my willingness to put what I think in writing , it is easy to see why I have so many enemies for someone who leads an incredibly dull life.

I would be so much better off if I refrained from doing what I do. I would be richer, more successful, have a better love life and all that good stuff that sells things in adverts. Would it make me happier? Who knows? I don’t do the pride thing either, so I’m not going to try and justify who or what I am. Maybe I’m a complete idiot? Maybe I’m not? And to be really, really truthful… Does anyone actually care?

By the least amongst us.

Modern life is starting to feel like a perpetual race to the bottom, this farcical austerity agenda perpetuated for nothing but the most callous of ideological reasons. The banility of the media, the mawkishness of the news and current affairs shows, “show” being the operative word. A male friend of mine recently got stuck in a situation where a potential femail partner was justifying her promiscuity by saying that is was okay for men to do it, so why couldn’t she? A fair point perhaps, although the better conclusion would be to educate young men into not objectifying women and raising the bar on how humans treat each other all round.

In my view, it comes down to respect, respect for others and respect for ourselves. I have suffered from low self esteem in the past and when you are stuck in that hole, it becomes increasingly difficult to fight your way back to some sort equilibrium. For those with self esteem problems, the world throws constant problems at you; challenges present themselves where if you shoot too high, you could be arrogant or petulant and if you aim too low then you allow yourself to be treated poorly and you inevitably get sucked into a cycle of self loathing and depression. Some years ago now, I had to walk away from a potential romantic partner when she put me in direct competition with a particularly loathsome specimen of masculinity. I shall spare you the details but the fact that she even had to think twice about the decision was enough for me to walk away. Whilst I knew that I was doing the right thing, it still stung and still fills me with regret, however unnecessary.

The problem is that dignity, correct self worth, self respect, integrity or principles often come with a price tag attached. Doing the right thing in a situation can often lead to you suffering for it in some way. In my experience, doing the right thing often makes me feel like crap for a very long time, suffering from severe depression as I do. 

And I’ll be completely frank here… Being honest has done me no good whatsoever, it earns me neither friends, money nor does it get me laid. Although I do sleep at nights, that’s something I guess.

In the world today, doing the right thing seems to be seen as something quaint or old fashioned. A throwback to some earlier era that no longer exists. The thing that I don’t understand though is that, to me, a world without an internal sense of morality and common human decency is one that isn’t worth living in and all that we are left with is a big pile of shiny but intrinsically worthless stuff to sit on. 

Terrance McKenna put it best when he said, “we are led by the least amongst us, the least intelligent, the least noble, the least visionary” and it is a situation that oozes from the top down to permeate every level of the world today.

What chance do any of us have when we see a world run by crooks and narcisists? Where celebrity has replaced talent and intelligence and the only heroes left are the kind in stupid costumes in Hollywood movies?

The truth is, that I don’t like the world very much; I find it course, jarring and vulgar in the extreme. Just dealing with the world and its ill thought out wants and desires sucks away at my very soul. Sometimes I wish I could close my eyes and wish really hard so that it will go away. It won’t though. Shame!

Bored Now!

Do your ever get those times when everything is just too much? I’m having one of those right now. Something happens where you get to the top of a hill and there is a bloody great drop and an even bigger hill. You just want to crawl back into bed and sleep only to find that it all crashes down on you the second that you open an eyelid. The problem is that you can only sleep for so long, plus there is stuff in life that just won’t go away. 

The people I am happy to converse with right now could be counted on the fingers of a lepper’s bad hand. Yet the world goes on? I would love to be a tortoise, wrapped in straw and tucked away in a box for a few months, possibly years until all the hurt goes away. It never does though, it just finds more and more ingenious ways of getting under my skin.

I’m counting the hours until I can next go to sleep, trying to apportion my unconscienceness so as not to deal with those dead hours in the pre dawn. There is only so much art I can scrawl and regardless of the Instagram likes, it feels phoned in. 

Life feels phoned in too, going through the motions with little or no point as other people drift along without a care in the world. 

This is were I stop before I say too much and get into more trouble. Time for another nap I think.

Postcards from the Heart of Darkness

I think it is fair to say that over the last couple of years I was a pretty angry person. It is also true that I made some very angry art as a result of that almost constant feeling. That anger has gone now, as have the revolting characters that caused me to feel like that in the first place. Like all of my deeply personal art, images created whilst under a state of fury are hard to judge without some distance from the events that caused them. That said, I  can already see a few things amongst those works that I don’t actively hate, time will eventually tell on the rest. 

I am in a much better place now, I have cut myself off completely from all of the moral bankruptcy that was starting to eat away at my insides. But this left me with a major problem, what on earth was I going to draw? There are many people who misunderstand my art and that is fine by me, they see brightly coloured, smiley paintings and it makes them smile. The problems start when they see the other stuff, they find the darker imagery upsetting and, in some cases, people have even felt cheated or betrayed by me going off and creating something that they regard as upsetting or even obscene. As far as I’m concerned though, one of the primary jobs as an artist is to hold a mirror up to the world; if people don’t like what I am showing them them perhaps they should start looking for someone to blame much closer to home. 

I personally feel that it is impossible to create art whilst dealing with only the jolliest of subject matter, decorating yes, art no. Brightness is flat, as is dark, and when need a combination of the two states to give an image depth. One without the other ends up rather banal in my books.

In that spirit, between all the jolly illustration pieces I’m am doing right now that I can’t actually show anyone, I am exploring universal themes of darkness; those of war, cruelty, exploitation and inhumanity. I am trying to make sense of it all and why we humans fail to learn. From the Belgian Congo to Vietnam , from the concentration camps to the systematic maltreatment of the poor and vulnerable by the current British Government, even in the ineffectual, hypocritical and self congratulatory behaviour of those who think they are helping in some way;  that darkness that is always there,  waiting… 

He’s stopped dancing.

I recently rewatched Quadrophenia, the film based on the Who’s concept album of the same name. It’s one of those movies that has become a stylistic and cultural artefact that says as much about the viewer as it does about the characters it depicts. It tells the tale of teenage Mod Jimmy as everything that gives his life meaning and purpose is rapidly stripped away over the course of a couple of weeks. His friendships are exposed as ephemeral and the youth culture that he has so heavily invested in quickly becomes nothing more than a thin veneer with no substance beneath it. It’s a film about growing up and moving on at heart and where it used to be something I could just throw on in the background whilst I was working, I now find it extremely uncomfortable to watch.

What originally drew me to it was the clothes and particularly the iconic mod parka, the us army m65 fishtail parka as worn by many of the main characters in the movie. I’m lucky enough to own one and I love it dearly and it feels strangely right wearing it in a town that was an infamous stomping ground of the original mods. What now repulses me about the film is the cognative dissonance between the core theme of the movies and the world I see in the seaside town where I live.

At an assumed age of 19, Jimmy is slightly ahead of the game in Quadrophenia as he realises how shallow the world he occupies is, the girl he falls for has feet of clay, the guy he hero worships has a job as demeaning as his own, his friendships are extremely conditional and it is clear by the end of the film that he had rejected them all. In short, he wises up.

What I find upsetting is that I witness people in their forties, fifties and even sixties who are clearly lacking in that level of nouse where they can think as an individual and sheepishly follow, huddled together with other equally damaged people in a vain attempt to try and remain ‘cool’ way beyond the point that their responsibilities would have suggested that perhaps they might have better things to be doing with their time and energy.  Watching Quadrophenia under such circumstances, I may as well be staring out of the window. The only difference is that those I witness daily usually have less hair, more wrinkles and wider waistbands; sadly, the only thing that has remained a constant are the juvenile intellects or lack thereof.

It has been a long time now since I have even attempted to engage with vast tracts of my community, it’s quite clear that we barely even speak the same language any more. When middle aged people think nothing of existing in a limbo of drug abuse, criminal negligence and extreme narcissism, there is absolutely no common ground on which I can relate to them. It seems that I shoved my own metaphorical lambretta off Beachy Head a long time ago whilst they are all still going around in circles on theirs. 

A lesson in harsh reality from a virtual world

I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time over the past week in the virtual world of Skyrim, killing dragons going on quests dragging your character  up the greasy pole of a fantasy world’s social system by fair means or foul. Whilst I will happily acknowledge that as a pass time for a middle aged man it is deeply dubious, it is still far more benign than the substance abuse and risky behaviour of some of my peers.

Whilst I still prefer the lighter and more child friendly Rpg series The Legend of Zelda, Elder Scrolls Skyrim has one very important lesson for everyone, you have to live with your choices. It is impossible to complete every mission in the game on one playing as your character’s choices will often close off other options and that potential mission will immediately fail, there is even an ominous sound and a big pop up banner to tell you so. If you choose to fight the injustice of the empire, there is collateral damage and blow back on those you have started to care about (in an abstract computer generated way), if you choose law and order, others suffer. You can’t really win, just create choices that you can, sort of, live with.

This problem with choice set me thinking about my choices and of those that have crossed my path. I make choices every day, choices of what to do and what not to do and every single one of them has a consequence. Those consequences don’t always seem that important, but then how do we know? It’s not as if we hear an ominous sound and a message pop up with every serious choice. It could be hours, days or years before that decision reaps its reward, for good or ill. 

I’ve seen the consequences of other people’s decisions and some of them have a sad  inevitability to them; or they do from an outside perspective. In my experience it is far easier to see how someone else’s decisions are going to play out than our own, we lack the detachment to see our own actions for what they are or the gravity that they might have on our lives. Perhaps this is for the best as it may be kinder that we never have it spelled out to us that we have just missed out on our chance to meet the love of our life or that dream job through some random choice we made. After all, unlike Skyrim we are sadly lacking in the chance to wipe the save file and start again from scratch.


Its New Year’s Day and I’m starting the year as always, hangover free. While the rest of the populace nurse their pounding heads I’ve just been waiting for the rain to stop falling long enough for me to go out and get a bit of sunshine. It finally appeared a couple of hours before it is due to set, but I’m making the most of every second. 

Into my forty eighty year and what makes me happy is very simple, warmth, sun, the sea, rolling clouds… I get most of my happiness from being able to make art or read a book, nothing flash or fancy. 

I have to admit to the guilty pleasure of knowing that everything idiot in the country will have drink themselves into a monster hangover last night and that to them, the same sunshine will be stinging their eyes and will probably be shut out by closed curtains or dark glasses, and for the next two hours I will enjoy that too.


I walked past someone this morning, someone who has actively caused myself and numerous other people a lot of harm. Their life isn’t particularly hard, their house was paid for in cash by a parent and, despite a chaotic life filled will drink and drug abuse, they are still working with children and young adults on a regular basis. Regardless of how charmed a life this person leads, they lead, they are constantly angry, ranting about the entirety of the other gender of the human race. All because they were sexually abused by one of them as a child. 

They are not the only person I have met like this, I have met both men and women with issues with the opposite sex or with the same sex but with a different sexuality. Something happened to them and they have widened that blame to everyone with matching genitals. It’s easy to understand why, but it really doesn’t hel to expand your targets of hate from a specific person to an entire gender, or even race or religion in some cases. Things get much worse when people start to hang around with others wth a similar set of predudices, because that’s what this becomes predudice, to pre judge in Latin. They sit around swapping notes on the terrible mess that their  life has become, wedging every wrong action into their grand story of how hard done by they are. It never seems to occur to them that the fault might actually be their’s or that their own actions and choices were the root of their constant misfortune.

I’ve worked with many people in a therapeutic capacity who have experienced the most horrific abuse as children, from mothers, from fathers, family friends, teachers, priests… Whilst they struggle with it on a daily basis, they are at least pointing the finger at the right person. I.e the perpetrator of the crime that was done to them. 

Frankly, there are a lot of horrible people about, enough to provide everyone with those that they can legitimately dislike. I can reel off at least twenty people who should by rights be punished for their terrible acts including the person I met this morning. No one needs to add more people to hate than those that truly deserve it.

Blame is easy, and indiscriminate blame is easier still, but it solves very little. What it does do is to distract people from examining their own behaviour, which is the only thing they actually have any control over and can do something about.

Pity the fool

I’m not very good at being shallow, I find it hard to do pointless things or to be around trivial minded people. Neither am I any good at letting anything drop and if someone crosses me or betrays me… Well… Enough about that… The flip side is that I am very loyal and am a great believer in fairness.

What I have found deeply frustrating recently is just how many people are happy to let the most disgusting of actions slide, infidelity, betrayal, complicity, duplicity and cowardliness all have recieved a free pass in certain quarters whilst a knot of pure fury burns in my stomach. 

In a way though, what these people are feeling is far worse; they feel pity. I know that there is a group of people out in the world who feel negative emotions about me, from mild dislike through to utter hatred, but those people are generally regarded as pretty loathsome and, outside their bubbles of equally awful friends, the world in general has nothing but contempt for them. To be disliked by such people is actually a seal of quality, a sign you are on the right track and knowing that, I haven’t lost a second’s sleep worrying about the opinions of such people. 

To be pitied though is a much sadder state of affairs, particularly when it is by kind, decent, people who are doing rather well in their lives. When people look upon your life and cringe with embarrassment at what you are doing or the state you have got yourself in, it says nothing good. Personally, I’d rather be hated.