I’m not dead, at least, not yet.
I am quite tired but I am on schedule to poo out the required 50,000 words in November. Amazingly I managed to do it mostly without smoking. Had a lapse in the first week while recovering from a spectacularly disgusting headcold, which makes my behaviour even more ridiculous. Got a head and chest full of catarrh? Clearly a cigarette would be a wonderful idea right now.
I threw the pack away after about six rollies. Once I couldn’t even do that – I’d be so neurotically attached to the foul fucking things that I would always promise myself that this pouch of tobacco would be the absolute last but I’d finish it first. Otherwise it was wasteful. Then I’d finish the pack, the desperate oh-my-God-I’m-out-of-smokes panic would set in and the whole stupid cycle would start again. The other alternative was giving the pack away, usually to my father-in-law, since he’s in his mid eighties and old enough not to give a fuck anymore. Eighty four would be a good age to start smoking again – I might try that if I make it that far and if by then you can smoke anywhere that isn’t some kind of purpose built air-conditioned glass box on an otherwise uninhabited island in the Outer Hebrides.
But yeah. I got over it. Besides, I don’t think I’m even physically capable of smoking any longer. My lungs have been clean for too long to tolerate it and my sinuses set up an immediate protest. I didn’t even know I had sinuses until I was over thirty. And then I did. And then I had ear, nose and throat problems all winter, every winter and it was just a barrel of fucking monkeys, let me tell you. It was actually NaNoWriMo that persuaded me to make a real attempt to quit last November. I’d be typing frantically for fifteen minutes at a time and then I’d stand out in the freezing cold fumigating my overheated brain with a cigarette. By the end of the month my index finger was the colour of teak and I couldn’t so much as laugh without starting a coughing fit. It was definitely time to give up.
Writing and smoking have a weird affinity, so much so that when I stopped everyone started telling me really helpful things, such as “Oh yeah. It’s been three years but every time I sit down to write I get the craving.
Finally I read The Book by Allan Carr and I can still scarcely believe it now but it worked. Now, admittedly there’s no real bullshit about Carr’s method – it’s really a series of very simple but powerful cognitive behaviour techniques, but to me it was still like discovering the Yeti. I was previously unaware of the existence of any kind of self help book that wouldn’t be better used as lavatory paper or firelighters. I will occasionally buy these things if I see them in the Oxfam shop, just so that I can read and despise them. Deepak Chopra is a favourite. The other one I found was The Barefoot Doctor – some fortysomething Nathan Barley whose bewildering blend of new age bibble, mangled Taoism and narcissistic mental masturbation proved a stretch too far for my best friend. I tried to make her read it as revenge for her coaxing me to read one of those Mills & Boon novels that feature babies. Four of them. The heroine inherited quadruplets and mysteriously still had time to Stepford it up baking cakes and batting her eyelashes at the square-jawed personality vaccuum that passed for a hero.
I still think The Barefoot Doctor and his Handbook For The Urban Warrior was a fair trade for that fucking romance novel, but she took one flick through that book and was like, “No. No – I don’t care if I did buy you Defy the Eagle*. This has got to be not-allowed under the Geneva Convention.”
In her defence, it was pretty amazingly foul. Look at this mess. Just look at it.
As an antidote to Fascism, visualise the idea of individual freedom arising from your heart and pouring out of you like a fine vapour which proceeds to envelop everyone on the planet, with double doses for those you consider to exhibit the greatest Fascistic tendencies.
Be sexy in all you do. Repeat this affirmation often: “I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy. I am sexy.”
Transform the experience of washing into a meditation practise, by appreciating the magical properties of both water and the new present moment, leaving you ready as you towel off your privates to receive all kinds of gifts from the universe.
It’s just terrible. And there’s more. There’s a kind of cosmic ordering in which you imagine ‘a lasso of pure light’ landing around the new laptop you covet. There’s a whole special silly way to ‘centre yourself’ by concentrating on your perineum and thinking Taoist thoughts. There’s even a special ‘urban warrior’ way to poo. It’s complete and utter egotistical drivel from start to finish and has no redeeming features whatsoever, other than providing me with something to point and laugh at on the internet and a handy way of signing off this post. I’ll leave it to our Taoist Douchelord Almighty to do it for me.
It’s so hard to say ‘goodbye, farewell, may your road be gentle and take you to beautiful places and may your life be positively affected in great measures of ten thousand increments from reading this Handbook’, but that time has finally come. It’s hard on account of my separation anxiety.
I’ve become attached to you. I’ve been sitting for what seems like so long now, writing to you, presumptuously reaching for contact with the deepest part of your person, that I’ve grown to love you. And I don’t even know what you look like.
I’ve been writing to you from my creative confinement in various huts and bungalows all over Southern Thailand, hotel rooms in the Balearics, and secret locations in London (metropolis of cool).
It’s been a long, varied and challenging labour, but the baby’s out now and I’d like to thank you sincerely for reading it.
* You don’t want to know.