Friday, December 09, 2011

Revising downwards

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.


Annie Rigby said...

Hi Chris,

Great post. I'm fortunate not to wrestle with depression, so I have no words of wisdom and simply wish you well. But I know what it is to fill a life with self-made obligations that seemed like such a good idea and so necessary at the time, and then sacrifice a lot to get them all done properly. I don't know how to stop doing this (or even do less of it), but you're right about making space for fun. I danced like a nutter for 10 minutes on Wednesday night and that was good.

So fuck the furtive 50. Embrace the space. Put on a party hat (even though you might have a sneaking suspicion it looks a bit rubbish). Take care. I care about that.

Chris Goode said...

Brilliant, Annie. Thank you very much.


Natalie Querol said...

Hi Chris

I second everything in Annie's comment. Play is the birthplace of invention, unexpected connections, inspiration, insight, deepened friendships, energy and joy, yet we live in a society that considers play and its life partner fun to be but childish frivol. Take play and fun seriously and you can't go far wrong I reckon.

Also, I thought this might be an appropriate moment to let you know that in the last few weeks I've heard numerous people cite you as the person that most inspires them, who's work they'd most love to have in their venue, and with whom they'd most like to collaborate. Separate people, separate occasions, same great taste. And every one of them could talk at great length about what makes you so special.

Alison Croggon said...

I'll miss your blog, Chris. It's been a bright light in my constellation. All sympathies on the sucking black hole of writerly energy it represents. And, whatever that comment was, fuck 'em. Fun is important, but so is leaving that kind of gracelessly nasty bullshit in the midden where it belongs.

Chris Goode said...

Gosh, Natalie.

thank you :)


David Lockwood said...

Hello Chris

Had never heard of your blog until reading in the Guardian that it will soon be gone. Having looked a little now, I think this is a great shame.

And as to the comment on the last blog post... Keep Breathing at The Drum was my highlight of the year. Both my girlfriend and I wept tears of joy and I can't thank you enough from the bottom of my heart. For that, you must deserve happiness. Surely. And if you don't get it in London, come to Devon. It may rain more, but the scenery is beautiful.

Jonny Liron said...

Hey, I think we should have a party here at the end of the month, like a blog party, everyone bring something, what do you reckon?

Ian Shuttleworth said...

I've found myself reading blogs less and less over the last year or so, so I can imagine that feeling mucho magnified re. writing 'em. Much as I'll grieve at the insolvency of Thompson's, I can't blame you the teensiest tiniest leeetle bit. Do know, though, that neither artistically nor existentially are you ever alone. And it's been too long since I've seen you. So there.

Jo said...


Chris Campbell said...

Dear Chris
Your show at BAC the other night was a very beautiful and consolatory thing for at least two of your audience, I can tell you that.

harryg said...

Dear Chris,

Although I'm saving some of your longer posts to read when I retire along with Anna Karenina and Moby-Dick) I do enjoy - have enjoyed - them being there; and regret, lament the end of the affair, all the more for it having been sparked off by such a caper-witted remark by a buffoon. But I'm sure your thinking and your wit will resurface in another venue; and only hope that I'll be technologically adept enough to follow you there.

Bests wishes, as ever


Chris Goode said...

Alison, David, Ian, Jo, Chris, Harry: thank you all very much. I'm touched by these warm wishes and I feel like a heel for having sort of solicited them (and the other kind messages I've received aftchannel).

I think for the sake of hygiene and in the kind of effort of scrupulousness that ought to attend writing about depression, I should be careful to say that being depressed and being trolled on the blog are not connected in any meaningful sense, and that comment didn't in any way prompt the decision to end the blog -- in fact it responded to the post announcing the end. All it did was make it easier. I ought to be grateful, really.

I'll miss this space more in relation to being able to let off this kind of emotional steam than I will in respect of the kinds of critical functions it's intermittently had. Anyone can tell you why this or that play is good or bad or both; not everyone can tell you what it's like being me. (Though I think Andrew Haydon might have a pretty fair whack at it.)

Anyway, thank you. It's been a privilege to be read by you. One last post to come. Sound the bugles. Or whatever. Just not ukulele, that's all I ask.


Jonny: I think the idea of a comments party is a great one. I'll make some space. xx