The Schizosomething Reading Kit™

Over the past few days, the Schizosomething Reading Kit™ has been deployed to full effect in St James’s Park. It feels like we’ve had a long hot Summer and it’s not even the end of April. I was praying that the weather would hold so I could continue to loll about in the sun reading all day, but the forecast says we’re going back to typical April showers.

Regrettably, utilising the Schizosomething Reading Kit™ is about all I have been able to manage. Updating this blog has been way beyond me, though this probably doesn’t matter. I looked at my WordPress stats earlier. I’m taking talking to yourself to a whole new level.

I’m working on a post entitled Wankergram, as when I’m not reading, I divide my time between calling myself a wanker and aimlessly scrolling through Instagram. The problem is, Instagram is so preoccupying. Just keeping up with Alexa Chung is a full-time job. There’s @alexachung, @alexachungstagram and @alexchungaesthetic, along with many other fan sites. I know she’s famously not just a pretty face, but how does this woman find the time to design her frocks?

I really need to cease beating myself up. Did I mention I did a course on mindfulness at the London Buddhist Centre in Bethnal Green? The monk said you improve your mental health by filling yourself with loving kindness, not by calling yourself a cunt. Well, they may have not been his exact words, but the sentiment was pretty much the same.

This is a brief post for people who haven’t been checking my pulse on Instagram or Twitter. I plan to complete Wankergram soon. Why not sign-up to this blog by email (box to the left)? I can absolutely guarantee that you won’t be bombarded.

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The Schizosomething Reading Kit™. Photo taken with my iPhone at my favourite reading spot in St James’s Park, April 2018.

 

Schizosomething is Unwell

“Schizosomething is Unwell” is a play on “Jeffery Bernard is Unwell” the statement which famously appeared when Jeffery Bernard was unable to produce his weekly column for The Spectator Magazine: unwell being a euphemism for worse the wear for drink, or downright drunk.

Bernard was a literary legend of London’s Soho who fraternized with the likes of Dylan Thomas, Nina Hamnett, Francis Bacon and other bohemians but was almost as well known for his feckless, chaotic lifestyle and inability to stay sober.

My lifestyle may be shambolic, but I am, however, sober. Haven’t touched a drop of alcohol since December 2016. I didn’t have a drink problem. I had a fat bastard problem. I needed to lose weight.

If you’re reading this, it means I have been unable to meet the demands of a “punishing” schedule producing 500-750 words a fortnight. I’m unwell with the Schizoaffective-induced lack of motivation I experience or one of the other symptoms that make my life such jolly japes.

There’s no need to send a get well soon email or leave a comment with a similar thought.

What am I doing? Probably lolling about half-heartedly listening to music or trying to read. I might still be up to playing with my accounts on Twitter or Instagram. At the very least I should be able to play with my cat, Schizo. If you’re reading this in Summer, I might be in St James’s Park.

This page will be posted whenever I don’t manage to write something new once a fortnight. Hopefully not very often. It will serve as a reminder for you to look at some previously published content – a shrewd editorial move – and I’m praying I’ll get it together enough to add some links to things elsewhere on the web to keep you entertained in my absence.

Obviously, you’ll wonder how I managed to produce this post. I worked on it for six months and just about had the wherewithal to (re)publish it now.

On Schizosomething:

Creative accounting: Probably the best post on the site. It goes some way to explaining my obsession with those bastards at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A).

Psychotic & proud: If you fancy a longer read, try this page. It includes my symptoms, medication, relationship with The Staff, my brilliant career and adventures in homelessness.

Elsewhere:

Patti Smith: This interview was undertaken by New York Public Library (NYPL) in 2010. She talks about youth, friendships and the artists and authors who inspired her. She sounds like an awestruck teen. She turned 71 in December 2017.

BBC Radio 3: Composer of the Week. Yes, I know this classical music show has been around since the stone age, and the podcast has probably been running since Queen Victoria came to the throne, but what can I say, I’m a late-developer, and I’m only just now getting into podcasts. It started as I can barely bring myself to watch television anymore. How does anyone? There are an impressive array of podcasts on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 4. Sadly, some can only be accessed in the UK.

The plan is to listen to Composer of the Week on Friday evening, and if I’m well enough, travel to Kensington Central Library on Saturday and collect some related CDs to listen to throughout the week. Only 40p each for poor old schizos and other disabled.

Madonna: Take a look at her Instagram account. No really. Now she’s not trying to look 25 all the time (she’s 59) her output is getting interesting again.

Alexa Chung: A young lovely I follow on Instagram (she’s 34, that’s not too bad for a 52-year-old to take an interest in and between 2002 and 2006 she lived with the photographer David Titlow who is twenty years her senior). I know there are gallons and gallons of stuff like this an Instagram, but I thought this was an exceptionally good example of the genre. Turn the volume up loud.

🎟 Sound on. 😎

A post shared by Alexa (@alexachung) on

Should I have the misfortune to republish this post, I’ll do my best to add some fresh links.

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The Coach & Horses (Established 1847), Greek Street, Soho. Photo taken with my iPhone, April 2006.

It was the famed drinking den of Jeffery Bernard, as well as being the regular hangout of the staff of Private Eye. It is still is a Soho institution.

When I slept on the streets I spent most of my days sitting on the pavement outside it. Some building site workers from Old Compton Street befriended me and used to buy me bacon rolls from a nearby cafe in the mornings and pints of Guinness from the Coach & Horses in the evenings.

For more on Jeffery Bernard see this excellent article in the Soho Journal (I discovered this publication while researching this blog post, it looks like a good read). There’s also the obligatory Wikipedia page on the man.

You can listen to Jeffery’s appearance on Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4’s website and read his column in The Spectator from Christmas 1981 which pretty much sums it all up (you can sign-up for free and get access to several articles a week).

There are photographs of Jeffery Bernard on the website of the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), this one with Richard Ingrams, co-founder of Private Eye.

I thought there was a painting of Jeffery on the NPG site, but I can’t find it. However, I think it’s the same painting used on the cover of Just the One: The Wives and Times of Jeffrey Bernard 1932-1997. I’ve read this biography and agree with a reviewer who described it as spiteful. That said, overall it was a good read: you can get it from Amazon (but unfortunately not on Hive).

Finally, the column Jeffery Bernard is Unwell was adapted for the stage by the writer and journalist Kieth Waterhouse. It was originally staged in 1989 starring Peter O’Toole. There’s was a rapturous review in the Evening Standard for the 1999 revival.

Happy Christmas!

Wherever you are, whoever you are, I hope that you have a Happy Christmas.

I’ll be enjoying a traditional Christmas, by which I mean I’ll be spending it alone with my cat. I don’t get lonely at Christmas for the same reason I never get lonely throughout the year: far too self-absorbed. I have no idea how people find the time for family and friends at Christmas. There’s so much to enjoy this time of year.

I had a Dickens-themed Christmas planned. I was going to attend a Charles Dickens & Christmas lecture at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) and pay a visit to the Dickens Museum. Sadly I didn’t have the motivation to go (if you want to know more about my Schizoaffective-induced lack of motivation see the Psychotic & proud page). I’ll attempt another trip to the Dickens Museum in the week between Christmas and New Year.

In January there are lots of gallery and museum shows I want to see on top of my regular visits to the V&A, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery: El Greco to Goya – Spanish Masterpieces in the Wallace Collection; Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters & Bellboys in the Courtauld Gallery; Can Graphic Design Save Your Life? in the Wellcome Collection; Rachel Whiteread at Tate Britain.

Pity the poor gallery-goer. Being pretentious is exhausting. No wonder I see Christmas as a much-needed break from people.

Every Christmas Eve I like to listen to carols on Classic FM. On Christmas Day at 1 pm, there is The Nation’s Favourite Carols top 30 countdown. You can listen to last year’s winners on site, and there’s a brief guide to each carol. I mostly like the pagan-influenced, The Holly & The Ivy and In the Bleak mid-Winter (Gustav Holst version), that sort of thing.

Another Christmas pleasure will be Neil Gaiman Reads Charles Dickens’s Original Performance Script for “A Christmas Carol”, on Brain Pickings. Maria Popova describes A Christmas Carol as, “the classic 1843 novella, which blends elements of science fiction, philosophy, mysticism, satire, and cultural critique to tell a timeless story about the benevolence of the human spirit and our heartening capacity for transformation and self-transcendence”.

I’ll be listening to it after I have enjoyed my Christmas lunch, supplied by my lovely neighbour Sue (I eat fish, but I don’t eat meat, so I’ll give the turkey a miss).

Post lunch I’ll be thinking how lucky I am to have a decent meal and not have to rely on a foodbank, though I’m sure foodbanks do their best to provide something festive. It’s been a year now since I stopped drinking alcohol, so I donated the money I would have spent on booze this Christmas to the local foodbank.

Primarily a result of stopping drinking I have lost four stone in weight during the past year (on top of two stone the previous year). When I come to weigh myself next week, I will have put it all back on. When I sat down to write this at 11.25am on Christmas Eve, I had already scoffed four Mr Kipling’s Cherry Bakewells. I bought a family-sized strawberry trifle for Christmas and Boxing Day, and I can see me having it for breakfast. What is it with food and Christmas? We’re no longer peasants celebrating the passing of the Winter solstice, having survived another year. There’s no need for this gluttonous abandon.

 

Featured image: Fortnum & Mason window. There are some behind the scenes photos of the making of their Christmas window display. The photo was taken with my iPhone, December 2017.

An old grey donkey

I’m going through a period of very poor motivation which explains the lack of updates here. Maybe it’s the season. I’ve become a two-nap-a-day person over the past month. Then again, it could be the medication. Sodium valproate, the mood stabiliser I take, is known to leave you feeling exhausted.

I have been out. As a member of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) I was able to see the Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion exhibition for free. It’s not my sort of thing, and I expected to have a bit of a sneer, but I ended up being thoroughly charmed by the frocks. You can see a gallery below along with a video of the V&A’s Christmas Singing Tree on my Instagram.

It’s lovely having the world’s leading museum of art, design and performance on my doorstep. If only I felt a bit more comfortable sitting in their cafe and the staff were a tad more welcoming. They’re welcoming to the Poppys & Millys – I’d better not start, already said enough in the post Creative accounting.

In a few week’s time, I’m off to see the Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic exhibition at the V&A with a couple of friends and their two-and-a-bit-year-old son.

I bet not even I can remain miserable in the face of Winnie-the-Pooh.

There will be a longer blog post soon. Promise.

Featured image: A photo of the Winnie-the-Pooh exhibition poster, taken with my iPhone, November 2017.

The title, “An old grey donkey,” is taken from the Wikipedia page about the character Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh. Apparently, he had a low opinion of the other animals in the forest, saying they had, “No brains at all, some of them”.