Tuesday, 29 May 2007


Sometime in the early nineties, a letter arrived on my doormat. It had been sent, unsolicited, via airmail from the USA. Los Angeles, to be more precise. It purported to be from someone who had written to me on the basis that we had the same name. Since I want to retain at least a smidgen of anonymity, I'll call him troUSers (see what I did there?).

My initial reaction was that it was a practical joke: I knew at least two people at the time who were living in Los Angeles and I could imagine it fitting in with their sense of humour.

A couple of things tempered my certainty that someone was trying to pull a fast one, however. Firstly, the address on the envelope had enough inaccuracies in it to have run the risk of not being delivered to me at all. If this was a friend playing a joke I don't think they would have gone to that level of cunning detail.

Plus, from what was written in the letter, troUSers had found my address via a book which contained a huge list of people with my/our surname. I guessed that this information was gleaned from the same databases that junk mail senders would have access to. I recalled that my grandfather had, a few years before, been sent a similar book on approval by some sort of book club. He'd sent it back to them, saying "what would I want with that bloody rubbish?"

So, it seemed possible that it was indeed a letter from another trousers. Different middle name. 5 years younger, to the week.

I was a little freaked out. My surname isn't uncommon, but my first name is - there can't be ever so many of us in the world. I remember wandering through town the same day, and feeling like I was being watched: nonsense of course. But, if I could receive a letter from the other side of the world from another trousers, then it wasn't quite so easy to dismiss that slight feeling of unease.

This was also a good few years before the internet, for all intents and purposes. This kind of thing didn't happen, you couldn't just run a search for someone. It was weird.

But, I'll cut a long story short. It was true. This guy genuinely was troUSers. He turned out to be a nice guy too. I'd had the feeling at first that he was going to be some stereotypically snotty, arrogant, brash kid, and I was quickly proved wrong. Similarly, I learned, he thought I was going to be an uptight, aloof, typically English sort of bloke.... which probably wasn't helped by the fact that my first couple of letters were written to him with a chisel-tipped fountain pen, full of squiggles and flourishes, and lots of Jane Austen-style language. I was relieved to find that his own preconceptions were quickly dispelled.

We wrote to each other on a fairly regular basis, and we met once as well. He was in London for a week, and travelled up to see me by train. I had a very odd time explaining to the staff where I was doing voluntary work at the time, "sorry, I can't come in tomorrow, there's this guy who's also called trousers, from Los Angeles, and he's in town..."

We're in touch via the net these days. He's a musician, like me. He's an active musician, unlike me, and he's also verrrry talented (like me - obviously). I'll be meeting him for the second time ever this weekend, since he's over on these shores and is going to be playing a gig.

As with the above, its going to be weird....but wonderful. I can't wait.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Crossed Wires

In a wee while I'll be going out to watch the playful, intense, innovative and wildly inventive instrumental combo called Battles. I've seen them a couple of times and they're well worth paying a few quid to go and see.

However, what's really compelled me to go is the fact that The Modified Toy Orchestra are playing as the support act. Modified Toy Orchestra are five dapper gentlemen who play music only using toy instruments which have been electronically modified (I'm still puzzling over how they got their name). They're quite marvellous, and if they play "A Grand Occasion" (go on, click on the link), then it really will be one.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007


Having closely viewed some thought-provoking posts by both Ms Melancholy and Stray, I got to thinking about my own experience as a Mental Health Worker in various roles and settings, stretching back almost a decade and a half. Its not beyond the realms of possibility that I may publish some posts in the near future about this. As yet, I'm not sure precisely what form this/these might take.

Whatever I might come up with, here's what I'm posting as a starting point: I don't want to do it anymore. The job, that is.

Working in this area can be very challenging and stressful - though not for the reasons people tend to think. I think I've grown and learned something from the most difficult and challenging situations and interactions with people. I'm sure I've discovered plenty about myself as well. Then there's the wealth of times when things go well, are positive, when people move forwards in all sorts of ways (or even just stop moving backwards quite so quickly). Its not the clients (or whatever term you wish to use) that are making me want to leave, far from it.

The structure of service provision - and, crucially, funding - has changed in recent years. It has led to the provision of an increasingly target-based, outcome-led service which to my mind treats people more as statistics than individuals. I've no problem with accountability and so forth, but I think the balance has tipped too far. What targets can you set for the days when taking the time to listen or just being there for someone may be what they need at that particular moment in time? No boxes get ticked for these moments, no clear progress can necessarily be measured: no markers for what can be a valuable experience upon which rapport (and other benefits) may be built. Until very recently however, these changes haven't had such an impact on my work, and again don't constitute the reason that I want to get out.

The amount of paperwork we now have to complete is astonishing. Everything has to be signed for and agreed, and the time taken to carry this out ("did you just breathe out then? You need to sign this box here...and here if you breathe in again") regularly gets in the way of the work that we're supposed to be doing. It also reflects on the changes mentioned above: it seems less important to be supporting individuals, than to be seen to be supporting individuals, and having their signature to prove it. Its a pain, and its tedious. Even so, its do-able - just . As above though, this on its own or in combination with any of my other moans, is not reason enough for my wishing to bid it all farewell.

The wages? Don't even go there.

I could go on, but it would be sidestepping. The thing is, there's just something besides all this which, if I ignore it, will be to my peril.

Its me. There's not enough of me in this job, not anymore. I'm not fulfilled, my heart is no longer in it. There are other things I need to do, and I need to find out how. I need to get back to being seriously creative. I need a real change. Apart from applying for other jobs, I'm puzzling at the moment as to precisely how to go about it. I'm not even asking for answers or suggestions from anyone who might read this: I'm just posting on where I'm at right now. Perhaps this will serve as my own marker from which I can start moving forwards (or even sideways). I hope so.

Air con

Typical, we get a couple of days of warmer weather and the very same people who have been saying "Its too cold!" are now saying "Its too hot!"

For such people I would suggest the following helpful tip, passed on to me by a friend. You'll need some balloons and a large fridge/freezer.

If hot weather is forecast, blow up a suitable number of balloons and put them in the fridge for at least two hours to allow the air in them to chill. When you wish to cool down, take them out of the fridge, pop them, and the resultant release of cold air from the balloons will have an instant cooling effect on the room.

You'll all be trying it I'm sure.

Sunday, 20 May 2007


Don't mind me, I'm just playing around and working out how to do things. Like posting photographs.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Like mould on a slice of bread

Is it unwise to begin with all the "don't knows" - i.e. broad themes or angles for this site, or what anyone who cares to visit here might expect? The point is, I'm not entirely sure myself where this might go. I reserve the right to be entirely inconsistent, to say the least. There may be indulgences, irrelevances, circumlocution, introspection (not to mention indirect speaking and looking inwards) and perhaps a bit of tautology.

I'm sure it'll have its bad points as well.

Whatever, if this site does develop or grow in any way, shape or form (or smell), it'll be as the title of this introductory piece suggests.