100 Things About Me

  1. I am 43, white, male, straight, English and 6’1” in my socks.
  2. I grew up in Whitstable, which is a coastal town in Kent, SE England (once shonky, shoddy and largely working-class, now hellishly gentrified).
  3. My upbringing featured a unusual ‘amount’ of love and death, both of which I think there should be a lot more of.
  4. When I was ten I had persistent fantasies of aliens coming to Earth and beaming me out of my French class because I was special, and they realised that. I think the aliens knew that there is nothing special about feeling special.
  5. My worst week at school was when I was eleven and a rumour went round that I wanked cats.
  6. When I was 15 I had an argument with Sean Cosgrove about the end of the world. I said it would happen soon.
  7. As a teenager I was fascinated with the mysterious inner experience of girls, which they liked, while, at the same time, being utterly terrified of same, which they didn’t.
  8. Between the ages of 16 and 25 I was fabulously miserable or terrified of everything and everyone for most of the time.
  9. But occasionally I felt enormous rushes of intense joy, for no reason at all, usually when walking up hills.
  10. I graduated from Sheffield University with a degree in English Literature. The course was nonsense, but I quickly learnt to write 2:1 essays very quickly and spent the rest of the three years reading whatever I wanted.
  11. After I graduated I went home and spent another year in bed reading.
  12. Then I got a job as a technical author — writing instruction manuals for computer programmes I didn’t understand — in a place called Poole. It was a shit job.
  13. I’ve done a lot of shit jobs. My worst one was probably working in a tanning factory, trimming cow hides (at least that one served some purpose though).
  14. I don’t own much and I’m usually close to broke…
  15. …because I’ve spent more than ten of the last twenty years not working.
  16. I used to have soft, golden-white, curly hair — the hair of an angel.
  17. Now I’m bald.
  18. I lost my hair when I was eighteen. It was pretty traumatic — I literally couldn’t stop thinking about hair for three years — but I learnt to be thankful it happened, because…
  19. …I’m vain and arrogant.
  20. I am, but there is also a part of me which finds my vanity and arrogance preposterous, which makes them okay, I think, like I think fear is okay too, provided you don’t pay it much attention or act anyway. Talking of which…
  21. …I’d rather smell shit than shit covered with air freshener.
  22. And I can say very stupid things, but that’s the price of not continually censoring yourself isn’t it? Being a berk is fine as long as you can admit your gaff and move on (or run away) quickly.
  23. I have an extraordinary long bowel.
  24. I usually call myself working class, because my parents were working class and I love the honesty, generosity and reckless trust in the future that I grew up with and also because, generally, the middle-class world deeply appals me; but I went to university, speak RP, love a lot of middle-class stuff and people, and find ‘reverse snobbery’ pretty stupid too, so there you go.
  25. Whitstable was working class when I grew up there, but became intensely gentrified and I can’t go home without feeling a sense of sickness and loss.
  26. And my name is working class too, like Wayne and Gary, which is why middle class Brits sometimes don’t like it. Darren sounds alright to me, so does Da: but I draw the fucking line at ‘Daz’.
  27. When I was eight I cried at Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan*.
  28. When I was 24, while watching the last part of Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth, I wept empty cathartic tears of pure sorrow for the condition of the world, for about an hour. It was very weird, almost frightening.
  29. After that I thought I might be a Christian, but then I read the Bible.
  30. I was also Buddhist for a bit, but that didn’t last long either because I realised that there aren’t any enlightened Buddhists, at least none that I’ve heard of and all the groups I went to were ghastly, serene, beatific and hollow.
  31. The first living person I encountered who spoke sense about the universe without sounding like they needed a picture of a sunrise to do it, was Jiddu Krishnamurti. I read all his stuff — and never heard a cliché — and then I followed an Australian spiritual teacher, called Barry Long, for about seven years. He said some things which were just nuts (and his website does have pictures of sunrises) but I still think he (along with Ivan Illich) was one of the most original and profound speakers ever to have lived.
  32. Until this year I hadn’t lived anywhere for more than a year since 1996.
  33. I’ve written two hundred songs, none of them finished.
  34. I can’t sing, which makes me sad two or three times a year.
  35. It also makes people who hear me sing, sad.
  36. I did a few open mic nights in London, one of which was so bad I threw up afterwards.
  37. I’m fascinated by faces, why good folk look like good folk, and why arseholes look like arseholes and why so few people seem to see that they do.
  38. According to my wife I used to have a ten out of ten bottom (‘as good as a Dutchman’s’), but now it’s only eight out of ten, and seven out of ten is right round the corner. Update: It’s now seven.
  39. My wife also says I laugh in my sleep.
  40. When I’m concentrating too hard I hold my breath and make these stupid high-pitched creaking noises at the back of my throat.
  41. I’m short sighted in one eye and long sighted in the other, which means sometimes, when I’m tired, I look completely demented.
  42. I have unusual opinions about sex, gender, ego, imagination and emotion.
  43. I am very argumentative. This used to be a problem, because I HAD TO WIN. Now it’s okay, because I don’t (see 20).
  44. But I’d much rather have an argument with someone who was listening to me than a friendly conversation with someone who was waiting for their turn to speak.
  45. I find it very hard to find trousers I like (nicely fitted, straight or ever so slightly subliminally bootcut — it’s all bloody carrots nowadays).
  46. My favourite house hat has dog’s ears and an owl’s beak.
  47. I’ve lived in Oman, Russia, Japan, Spain, Australia, Saudi Arabia and I’ve travelled to lots of other places, but that doesn’t make me an interesting person.
  48. In fact I mostly travel to avoid work.
  49. And I’m also a bit of a compulsive bridge-burner. I like not having a choice. Choice is overrated, and so is hope.
  50. I think old friends are overrated too.
  51. I also think that you should spend all your time with your partner. Yeah, all of it.
  52. I don’t mind letting go of the rope.
  53. When I was 26 I went to Spain and lived in an anarchist squat, on a very remote farm and then in my own flat in Valencia. Thank you Spain.
  54. I am very grateful to Spain and I love living amongst those friendly, friendly Spaniards, but I do find them painfully literal — and Christ how they stare.
  55. I get on very well with people who somehow know or enjoy life at the core; utopian brickies, two-year-olds, outsiders, whistle-blowers, Japanese carpenters, autodidacts, the actually dying, the broken-hearted, outrageous extroverts, ultra-sensitive introverts, levellers, layabouts, ne’er-do-wells, bunkers, woodland folk, respecters of small gods, mad scientists, media-botherers and ecstatic artists who can draw hands.

    Promotional picture for my book-signing tour.
  56. I love Japan. Just thinking about the place makes me get a bit choked up. I love the small beautiful things everywhere, and the palaeolithic style of reaching a decision, and the volcanic baths, and the lack of awkwardness about the body, and the implicit acceptance of quiet eccentricity.
  57. I sometimes sit and do nothing at all, and then people say ‘what’s wrong?’
  58. I can handle a hell of a lot of stress, but can’t handle teeny tiny amounts so very well, at least they bother me inordinately and I go to stupid lengths to find out where they are coming from.
  59. In Oman I worked twenty five hours a week in a language school. The rest of the time I spent alone in a huge flat next to a slag heap learning French verbs and practising the piano.
  60. Eventually I had an affair with a married woman (my piano teacher) and got fired for it.
  61. I can’t speak French or play the piano.
  62. I split up with my piano teacher because I wanted to become a postman, but that didn’t work out either.
  63. I can’t make anything physical with my hands. I’m not proud of that, and when society collapses I’ll probably regret not learning to make kerosene or weld, but there you have it.
  64. I can dance alright though.
  65. And I’m getting into gathering mushrooms and wild fare, although the seasons are all fucked up now, so such things don’t grow like they should.
  66. And have you noticed how few insects there are now, and how few birds?
  67. I love animals and I don’t understand people who don’t pay them much attention.
  68. I want to start a revolutionary broadcasting company, run as an omnarcho-syndicalist collective.
  69. Every time I go to a large city I’m amazed at how transparently unhappy everyone is there.
  70. I’ve spoken in speaker’s corner a few times. Nobody paid any attention.
  71. I studied to become a pick up artist, but wasn’t very good at it, because the whole thing disgusted me. I enjoyed learning to not be afraid of talking to women though.
  72. I did internet dating for a while too, which led to an emotional apocalypse.
  73. When I was about 30 I went through a period of doing ridiculous things in public in order to try and defeat fear of doing what I feel like doing. It kind of worked.
  74. My favourite music is Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Talking Heads type stuff, but I also listen to lots of reggae, old blues, foolish disco, eighties pop and classical music (Bach, Beethoven and Mozart). And I dig this kind of thing. And this.
  75. I’ve been rejected by publishers and agents I guess about four hundred times. The first 370 of those were good judgements on their part.
  76. I enjoyed living in Russia, because Russian food was excellent, and Russian people were deeply warm and the sense of bigness was literally awesome, but it was also a pretty scary and the lack of joie de vivre there is disheartening.
  77. I wish I could go more often to the tailor. If I had money I’d do that. I’d get a decent bike too.
  78. Nice clothes and a bike are probably my weak points, ‘stuff-wise’… and the computer of course. It is possible for us to live with all the benefits of computers, and the internet, without either — but it will take an extraordinary revolution. I’m glad I’ve got a good enough computer now to be able to write about that.
  79. Philosophically I’d describe myself as a panpsychic / pantheist; which is to say my experience is that the entire universe is conscious and the sense that it isn’t — that only bits of it are conscious — is, ultimately, a useful illusion. I’d describe myself as a paradist too — a paradoxical both-and state of monism and dualism.
  80. Politically I’d describe myself as an omnarchist, which is my own coinage. It means anarchism, founded on the intelligence of the context, with temporary leaders who have no power whatsoever, comprised of cooperative dunbar groups.
  81. Because I say that the divisions of the self are ultimately illusions (that, for example, theism and atheism are the same thing, that ‘left’ and ‘right’ are the same thing, that capitalism and communism are the same thing, that the ‘schools’ of western philosophy are superficial illusions, that modern feminism is as loveless as sexism and that pharmacratic totalitarianism is no different from theocratic totalitarianism) people who gain the largest part of their identity from a cause, club or cult — which is to say, who take their selves seriously — don’t tend to enjoy what I have to say about the ghastly virtual reality it creates and inhabits.
  82. How can people relax in rooms with direct ceiling lighting?
  83. When I lived in Saudi Arabia the first time (I’ve been there twice) I felt as if I could be killed at any moment. I learnt to just accept it — ‘I am a body of glass in a storm of bowling balls’ was my mantra — which is one of the more useful things I’ve learnt.
  84. I have an extremely low opinion of emotion (as opposed to feeling), schooling (as opposed to doing), high speed transport, the medical profession, photography, progress, modern art, video games, pornography, modern feminishism, tourism, tapered trousers and smooth, inexpressive faces.
  85. Talking of video games, I was extremely good at Mario Kart when I was eighteen, but I’m a dreadful, overly hesitant actual driver now — I resent how focused you have to be on a road and I’m forever hyper-conscious, while driving, of hurtling through space and time in a tiny metal box.
  86. I usually smoke cigarettes — organic rollups — in May and June.
  87. I sleep well, about eight hours a night. During the summer I wake up half way through and get up and read for a bit, or sit in a cupboard.
  88. I’d rather spend time with a boring person than a tight-fisted one — although they’re usually the same.
  89. When I was in my twenties I used to get emails from some guy called David who thought I was someone else, a relative of a woman called ‘Marjorie’, who was getting very old. He would update me every month or so on her deteriorating condition, until she died. I’m ashamed that the person he thought he was writing to never found out about Marjorie, but I’m also glad that Marjorie was part of my life. Thank you Marjorie.
  90. I practice meditation, but usually when I’m single.
  91. I like getting old.
  92. I like feigning elk.
  93. I don’t watch any modern television. Not because I’m too cool for it, but because it is shit.
  94. I don’t drink, as such, but I love a single malt whiskey every now and then. My theory is that my Mum abstained from drink during her pregnancy with me, but got smashed on whiskey one night after an argument with my Dad.
  95. ‘Why should I farm when there are so many Mongomongo nuts in the world?’
  96. I live in England at the moment, looking for work, alas. A low-flying position in the precariat looks likely.
  97. ‘Okay, that’s enough about me. Let’s talk about you; what do you think of me?’
  98. I don’t really want to settle down, mostly because I don’t like living anywhere. That might change though.
  99. Cheesy as it sounds, I love being alive.
  100. I want to make a lot more trouble.

 

* I wept over Spock’s death, but that was then. Now I know that Khan is actually the hero of the piece, an idealistic revolutionary battling, but tragically defeated by, the fascist federation.

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