Ups and Downs
I’ve not posted in a while. I missed a few days, which became a few weeks, which somehow became a few months. It’s dawned on me that time disappears rapidly when you’re not recording the passage of each day. It’s scary.
The longer I’ve spent away from here, the harder it’s been to find the right words to explain my absence. It began with having frequent blank days, the kind of days when I was mostly locked inside my head, dealing with an overwhelming emptiness, every little thing an effort. On such days there was no inclination to post a picture—although I never stopped dragging myself out to get at least that one specific photograph each day. That exercise is a bit like taking a daily pill, sometimes hard to swallow but I do so because I know it’s essential for my health. It’s become about making the effort to engage with the world. Photography is merely the vehicle.
I’ve kept on writing, in my notebook, although I catastrophically suffered the loss of one early in the summer. The stupidity surrounding that was as difficult to come to terms with as the loss of so much precious writing. It was a horrible experience and had the effect of disengaging me even further.
I’m still trying to complete a certain story that insists on being told, although I fear it’s losing faith in my ability to do the job. Nonetheless, just occasionally, I come up with something that persuades me it’s not a complete waste of time. And so I carry on. The words arrive slowly, often painfully slowly, but while they do keep on coming, my writing has to be the focus of my attention, especially when energy remains in short supply,
I’ve alluded before to my physical and mental health being fragile this year. The former is relatively easy to talk about, the latter less so. There is something of a stigma attached to poor mental health: the D word. It’s also easy to feel a fraud when there’s nothing tangible to point at, nothing to present for examination other than your own inadequate words. I need to summon up no little courage to own up to my head not being right.
Following my accident, the external injuries to my fractured skull healed quickly, but the internal ones never will, not completely. It’s taken a long while to accept that fact. I’ve been in denial. All my life I’ve earned my living creating software. From beginning to end it was all about problem-solving. I was good at it. Very good indeed. But I now struggle to analyse and work through even quite simple analytical tasks. My thought gets sent down pathways that terminate in a bruised and beaten-up part of my brain that no longer works in the way it once did. It seems like magic now, the things I used to do.
That certainly applies to my period writing computer games in the 80s. I got a message the other day from someone who had tracked me down to thank me for all the pleasure I had given him as a kid. It was really touching. And people are still playing my games. It’s extraordinary. I’ve discovered that I still have fans. There are videos! All this stuff was written in assembly language, pretty much the raw code of the processor itself. I can’t even begin to think about how I did it.
I’ve been avoiding spending time on the laptop. The computer screen, as a window into the larger world, started to become a source of anxiety. It started to become my enemy. It’s rather ironic that now I’m trying to befriend it again, I can’t spend long there because of a backache I’ve developed, the first time I’ve ever suffered this kind of incapacitating pain. Yet, despite that, my head feels better than it has in months. I’m on an upswing. It does simply seem to be the way of things. Ups are followed by downs just as surely as downs are followed by ups. Huge apologies here for going AWOL for so long. It’s been a very poor show from me. I trust you understand.
For the record, this was the day that the golden era of English cricket came to an end, after a glorious reign of precisely three weeks. We lost the first Ashes test by 251 runs after having the Aussies at 122-8 mid-afternoon on the first day. It could be argued that the narrative of this match was just as extraordinary and far-fetched as that of our World Cup victory. They mirror each other, not with the result but with the ups and downs and personal drama. It’s always ups and downs—in sport as in life. In England’s victory (was it really just three weeks ago?), we saw the redemption of Ben Stokes. In Australia’s victory, it was that of Steve Smith. It was a privilege to watch them both, at the human as well as the cricketing level. Sport is at its finest when it’s not just about the sport itself.
I was in Leeds for physio and perhaps fortunate to have missed the sorry denouement. I’ve not felt emboldened to take a candid street shot for some considerable time. Of course, I checked in afterwards and the very sweet Jingyi, despite her shyness, kindly obliged my request for a portrait. The pill slipped down easily today. I always feel better for taking my medicine, particularly at those times when I least want to.