100 (trivial) Things About Me

As soon as he receives a little applause many a writer believes the world is interested in everything about him.  The play-scribbler Kotzebue even thinks himself justified in telling the public he delivered a clister to his dying wife.

Georg Lichtenberg

I don’t have much interest in the low genre of confession, unless the confession contributes to the human library. I am interested in a few trivial details of the lives of those whose work I read, and, I do confess, I am interested in my own trivial details. Therefore, for anyone who gives a tuppenny toss;

  1. I am 47, white, male, straight, English and 6’1” in my socks.
  2. I grew up in Whitstable, which is a coastal town in Kent, south east England.
  3. My upbringing featured a unusual ‘amount’ of love and death, both of which I think there should be a lot more of.
  4. My family are very unusual. I know everyone says that, but in my case it’s true.
  5. 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.
  6. When I was 15 I had an argument with Sean Cosgrove about the end of the world. I said it would happen soon. I’ve been stone cold certain of this ever since. It’s almost got to the point that, so good has my life been from living as if this were true, that I don’t care if it is or not.
  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, which expressed itself as a mixture of rage, self-pity and awkwardness.
  9. But occasionally I felt enormous rushes of intense joy, for no reason at all, usually when walking up hills.
  10. Around the age of 20 I did magic mushrooms, saw my friend explode and realised that ‘everything is true’.
  11. 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. I nearly got expelled for going fishing with Sam C. Robb.
  12. After I graduated I went home and spent another year in bed reading.
  13. 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 an immensely shit job and I almost went out of my mind doing it.
  14. I’ve done a lot of shit jobs. The second worst one was working in a tannery, trimming cow hides; surrounded by piles of dead cattle-flesh, living-dead lizard-like humans and a constant overpowering stench of excrement. At least that one served some purpose though.
  15. I don’t own much and I’m usually close to broke…
  16. …because I’ve spent more than fifteen of the last twenty-five years not working.
  17. I used to have soft, golden-white, curly hair — the hair of an angel. Old women would touch it and ask me to bless them.
  18. Now I’m bald.
  19. I lost my hair when I was eighteen. It was pretty traumatic — I couldn’t stop thinking about hair for three years — but I learnt to be thankful it happened, because I’m vain and arrogant. Baldness is very instructive to a man in this regard, I found.
  20. Yes, vain and arrogant, 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, I’d rather smell shit than shit covered with air freshener.
  21. 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 quickly.
  22. 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 shallow, mediocre, barren middle-class world deeply appalls me; but I went to university, speak a kind of slack RP, love a lot of middle-class stuff and people, detest the corrupt egotism of townies and find ‘reverse snobbery’ — particularly from ‘working class’ folk who own lucrative businesses — pretty stupid too. So there you go.
  23. Whitstable was working class when I grew up there; shonky, shoddy, interesting — but it became hellishly gentrified during the 2000s and I can’t go home without feeling a sense of sickness, loss and simmering fury at the wankers who’ve colonised it.
  24. 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’.
  25. When I was eight I cried at Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. After that I thought I might be a Christian, but then I read the Bible, which was an unpleasant experience.
  28. 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 or ever met, and all the groups I went to were ghastly, serene, beatific, hollow and professional, like graphic design business meetings. Most ‘spiritual’ people I’ve encountered have been nothing.
  29. 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 (I suppose the Daily Mail would say I ‘was in a cult’). Barry said some things which were just nuts but I still think he was one of the most original and profound speakers ever to have lived. I also like U.G.Krishnamurti.
  30. Until 2015 I hadn’t lived anywhere for more than a year since 1996. I appear to be slowing down, which is probably natural.
  31. I’ve written two hundred songs, none of them finished. A few of them are alright I think, but nobody else ever seems to get very enthusiastic about them.
  32. I can’t sing, which makes me sad two or three times a year.
  33. It also makes people who hear me sing, sad.
  34. I did a few open mic nights in London, one of which, in Brixton, was so bad I threw up afterwards.
  35. When I’m concentrating too hard I hold my breath and make these stupid high-pitched creaking noises at the back of my throat.
  36. I’m short sighted in one eye and long sighted in the other, which means sometimes, when I’m tired, I look completely demented.
  37. I am pretty argumentative. This used to be a problem, because I HAD TO WIN. Now it’s okay, because I don’t. I’ll still go longer than most people down that particular rabbit-hole though.
  38. 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.
  39. I’ve lived in Oman, Russia, Japan, Spain, Australia, Saudi Arabia and I’ve travelled to lots of other places, but of course that doesn’t make me an interesting person.
  40. Anyway, I mostly travel to avoid work.
  41. And I’m also a bit of a compulsive bridge-burner. I like not having a choice. Choice is overrated I think, and so is hope.
  42. Old friends are overrated too, although I do miss a couple that I recklessly jettisoned in my youth.
  43. I also think that you should spend all your time with your partner. Not in a creepy addicted fusion of minds, but in giving up the need to get away.
  44. 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. Two good years, those were.
  45. I am very grateful to Spain and I love living amongst those friendly, friendly Spaniards, but I do find them painfully loud, literal and unsubtle — and Christ how they stare.
  46. I get on very well with people who can pay soft attention. Few people can, I find. Almost nobody.
  47. 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 surprising lack of awkwardness about nudity, and the implicit acceptance of quiet eccentricity.
  48. 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.
  49. 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 practicing the piano.
  50. Eventually I had an affair with a married woman (my piano teacher) and got fired for it.
  51. I split up with my piano teacher because I wanted to become a postman in France, but that didn’t work out either.
  52. 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 distill hooch or weld, but there you have it.
  53. 2019 update: I’ve learnt to fix bikes! A bit.
  54. I can dance alright though. I wonder if that will help?
  55. I am getting into gathering mushrooms and wild fare, although the seasons are all fucked up now, so such things don’t grow like they should.
  56. I love animals and I don’t understand people who don’t pay them much attention.
  57. I want to start a revolutionary broadcasting company. Or a theatre group. Or a cult. Or a revolutionary theatre cult. I am fairly desperate to make a television show or a film.
  58. I had all my possessions and all my money stolen once, while driving through Spain. It wasn’t that bad.
  59. My porn name is ‘Brutus Dean’.
  60. Every time I go to a large city I’m amazed at how transparently unhappy everyone is there.
  61. I’ve spoken in speaker’s corner a few times. Nobody paid any attention.
  62. I studied to become a pick up artist, but wasn’t very good at it, because the whole thing sort of confused and disgusted me. I enjoyed learning to not be afraid of talking to women though.
  63. I did internet dating for a while too, which led to an emotional apocalypse.
  64. Unusual things happened to me around this time of my life. We’re up to about 33 now.
  65. Around this time I also went through a period of doing ridiculous things in public in order to try and defeat fear of doing what I felt like doing.1. It kind of worked.
  66. My favourite music is Velvet Underground, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Can type stuff, but I also listen to lots of roots reggae (pre 1975), old blues, foolish disco, eighties pop and classical music (Bach, Beethoven and Mozart). And I dig this kind of thing. And this.
  67. When people say to me ‘I don’t like the Beatles’ it feels to me like they’ve just said ‘I enjoy torturing children.’
  68. I’ve been rejected by publishers and agents about, oooh, four hundred times? The first 350 of those were good judgements on their part. Now agents and publishers regularly tell me ‘I love it, but I can’t sell it,’ and they’re probably right.
    I’ve spilt a fair amount of ink criticising the spineless, moral emptiness of the middle-class, so I suppose it’s no surprise that I can find no access to the artistic establishment they dominate; makes life difficult though.
  69. I enjoyed living in Russia, because Russian food was excellent, and Russian people were deeply warm and the sense of bigness produced awe, but it was also pretty scary and the lack of joie de vivre there was fairly disheartening.
  70. 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.
  71. Nice clothes and a good bike are probably my weak points, ‘stuff-wise’… and the computer of course. I think 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.
  72. Philosophically I’d describe myself as a kind of pantheist transcendental idealist; 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 (of time and space). Here I explain this.
  73. I’m also an anarchist in the straightforward electrifying sense that I reject all ‘legitimate authority’, all kinds of states, all laws (including all conceivable laws of human nature), all rigid hierarchies and all rights as inhuman shams. I occasionally describe myself as an omnarchist though, to distance myself a bit from anarchism which is as a whole, too rationalist for my taste, tends to neglect the intelligence and ludicrous strangeness of the context and absurdly tends to reject, as the name indicates, all leadership, which is childish.
  74. 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 that self creates and inhabits.
  75. How can people relax in rooms with direct ceiling lighting? I also agree with Schopenhauer that people who can tolerate loud noises, continual door banging, dog barking, etc, etc have reduced mental powers.
  76. 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.

    An ordinary, wanky, author’s photograph.
  77. Not long after leaving Saudi the minibus I drove to work in was mowed down in a hail of bullets. True story.
  78. 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, feminism, sexism, democracy, tourism and smooth, inexpressive faces.
  79. 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, at unnatural speeds in a thimble. I also have the same horrible feeling while Skyping, Zooming, etc.
  80. And taking of faces, I’m very interested in why good folk look like good folk, and why arseholes look like arseholes and why so few people seem to see that they do.
  81. I am interested in religion, occult sciences and conspiracy theories — but I don’t take them literally. I believe in God, but not literally. I’m ‘Aries sun, Pisces moon and Gemini Ascendant,’ but not literally. I think the world is controlled by The Forces of Evil, but not literally. I think taking any kind of theism or idealism literally is as small-minded as taking the theories, measurements and facts of science at face value.
  82. 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.
  83. I’d rather spend time with a boring person than a tight-fisted one — although they’re usually the same.
  84. The worst job I’ve ever had, much worse than the tannery, was teaching boys in the UAE. They were all possessed by the devil.
  85. I find what is happening to children now to be nightmarish beyond all imagining.
  86. My uncle had a top ten pop hit in the eighties.
  87. I practice meditation, but usually when I’m single. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of value in it.
  88. I like getting old. Inconvenient though, isn’t it?
  89. I don’t watch any modern television. Not because I’m too cool for it, but because it is shite.
  90. Likewise I don’t have, and have never had, and never will have, a smartphone, and my life is better for it.
  91. I don’t drink, as such, but I love a single malt whiskey every now and then. My theory is that this is because my Mum abstained from drink during her pregnancy with me, but got smashed on whiskey one night after an argument with my Dad.
  92. ‘Why should I farm when there are so many Mongomongo nuts in the world?’
  93. I currently live in the shit end of Reading, an extremely average madhouse / half-decent dystopian stain not far from London.
  94. ‘Okay, that’s enough about me. Let’s talk about you; what do you think of me?’
  95. I would like to make a lot more trouble, although I’m quite confident that my contribution to humanity’s fine tradition of trouble-making will turn out to be significant. (2021 update; I suppose while we’re on the subject of trouble-making I should say, to anyone who doesn’t already know, that I am totally opposed to lockdowns, that I have been so from the very start, that I have never worn a mask or had the jab or downloaded a tracking app, and, unless I am overpowered by the state and a needle is forced into my struggling body, I never will. I would rather live on the streets. In fact I would rather die.).
  96. I don’t really want to settle down, mostly because I don’t like living anywhere. That might change though.
  97. I want a Macaw.
  98. Cheesy as it sounds, I love being alive.
  99. Although reading is and can only ever be a stand-in for life, and I do my best to read direct, as it were, from The Unspeakable Book before everyone’s eyes, the reason I love reading great literature, is that the feeling for the love of life that transmits itself down the centuries from those who went before us is an immense consolation and pleasure. I wish that I could surround myself with more actually alive people who live that same way, and give voice to it, but there you have it; we live in a lonely world. But the world is not life, and for those who feel it in their bones, life is not, nor ever can be lonely.
  100. I once delivered a clister to my dying wife.

Note

  1. Inspired by Chris Morris’ ‘shop bothering’, in which he sent Paul Garner into shops and gave him stupid instructions through his phone.