Friday, December 09, 2011
Just quickly :)
There's a scene in my play Weepie where, for reasons I won't go into -- actually, there are no reasons, what reasons do you need to be shown?, one of the boys, named Petrel, is trying to prove to the other, named Edsel, his dedication to their cause and their friendship by accurately recalling the sequence of ingredients on a particular shish kebab skewer. Time and again, increasingly panicked, he tries to get the order right, working faster and faster through the possible permutations of meat and vegetables, until finally, in a sudden moment of clarity, he interrupts himself: "What the fuck am I doing? What am I doing, Edsel?" It was always one of my favourite moments in the original production -- Finlay Robertson as Petrel had a quite unerring sense of the complex rhythms of that sequence so as to make the scene as funny and scary as it needed to be.
I'm telling you that because I myself had a Petrel Shish Kebab moment yesterday afternoon, and it was really horrible. I was working on album review number five or six out of the promised Furtive 50. I'd enjoyed none of it to this point. Certainly not the writing; not even, very much, the process of choosing the fifty records I'd write about. The least annoying part of it so far had been the chore of setting up the skeleton posts, uploading all the album covers, filling in label names, the mindless bit. But now there I was trying to write -- not that the specifics matter, but... -- about Son Lux's We Are Rising: and it's a brilliant album, but it had taken me twenty minutes to write thirty words. The trouble was, though I genuinely wanted to share the brilliance of the music with you, I found I had no interest whatsoever in what I thought about it. It doesn't matter. Right now, it really couldn't matter less. The process of trying to write imaginatively about Son Lux seems sort of transcendentally irrelevant. I don't believe it is, actually, irrelevant: but for whatever reason I couldn't securely feel that there was any good reason to be engaged in that task.
Maybe it was the sudden settling of inertia that happens after you've handed your notice in. I'm sure that's part of it. Also -- no reason not to go for full disclosure on this -- I've been really struggling with depression in the past few weeks, not for the first time but for the first time in a long time and in a sharper and more debilitating way than for a decade. It's not (currently) constant but it's always lurking, and a twenty minute spiral can helter-skelter me with remarkable rapidity from an evenish keel to the blackest existential sump. Having to keep showing up to work -- I mean, the public bits of my work, first Keep Breathing last month and presently Wound Man and Shirley -- has been really hard and draining. Hopefully none of that comes through in those performances. It doesn't seem to, thanks to the warmth and generosity of most audiences. And from the moment I arrive at the venue till the moment I'm on my own again at the end of the evening, I'm OK. And then, after that, I might still be OK, or I might not be.
I think part of what made me not OK yesterday was the first comment on my last post. I have no idea -- I mean I honestly can't tell -- whether it's meant to be fun-snarky or properly cruel (and presumably the author neither knows I'm depressed nor cares that I might be), but in my present depleted state those two things are hardly different, particularly on a day like yesterday when it's gloomy and stormy out. I've also been proud about how little of that there's been on this blog over the past few years, the kind of pseudonymous below-the-line carping that now makes large swathes of the online media -- for me, at least -- untouchably toxic. If that's how it is now, even here, at a time when I'm not particularly enjoying myself or finding being here very rewarding, then, frankly, pepper lamb sweetcorn mushroom what the fuck am I doing.
Last night, in the few hours between leaving BAC and finally managing to go to bed, I spoke at length to two old friends. One of them, who has good reason to relate to my what the fuck moment, helped me to see that if I wasn't going to relish spending almost every spare minute of the next ten days writing album reviews, or at least feel sure of the value of doing it if I didn't enjoy it, then there wasn't much reason to do it. The other one, in a Skype window I dearly wished I could have put my hand through like Morten Harket, made me realise that I don't take enough care of fun. You know me, my dears, I'm not that good at fun. I sort of distrust it. But the aversion is self-destructive. Fun is play space. Fun is remembering how to be light. My work is nothing, is actually impossible, if I can't be light there. But I'm so focused on work, so caught up in it -- partly because my experience of it is not of focus in a narrow sense but of incalculable breadth and variety and excess such that it includes everything -- that I sometimes need reminding that, even if everything under the sun can be pressed into the service of my working vision, there still has to be room for lightness and fun and goofiness and kicking back. Sometimes in my life I know this. Sometimes I don't. Last night I didn't, till I did. Thanks, old friends.
So, there we are. The sky is blue this morning and next week I'm in Bradford starting work on a new show which needs to feel like a light and clear and blue-skied beginning, and the week after that it's the week that has Christmas at the end of it and sorry look I don't want to write any more record reviews. I want to go to the pub with people I love and have the sort of fun that I'll still remember when the utter, thoroughgoing, ineffable technicolor irrelevance of my opinion of the new Son Lux album has long since fully revealed itself.
I'm revising my intentions downwards. (There'd have been a song of that name had Lionel Bart ever got it together to collaborate with Alistair Darling.) I'll write one last post for this place sometime between now and December 31st. It might end up being more than one, but I doubt it. I'll say what I think I might enjoy saying about the past year, and maybe a little about the blog. And then we'll all set off into a new year, in search of lightness and new beginnings and a little fun. There is always quite a lot of this, whatever this is; but there's always a lot more of everything else.