Tag Archives: mental health

The Birdman of Aberdare

In which The Author sees the weirdness continue to build

On Monday I needed to make a phone call, so I took my mobile into the back garden. The reception in my house is unreliable at best, and it was a bright and mild autumn morning to stand outside.
I left the kitchen door open while I was on the phone. My back ‘garden’ isn’t really the grand vista the name might lead you to imagine, by the way. It’s more of a yard, with some very overgrown shrubs, a small pile of stuff which I keep meaning to sort out, and a shed with the door hanging off. It’s also a favourite rendezvous for the neighbourhood cats – which is why I very rarely get any visiting birds. They’re usually limited to the odd jackdaw dancing on my kitchen roof, and the occasional sparrow or thrush passing through.
It’s a total contrast to my mother’s garden, which is a haven for wildlife. Mine’s more of a concrete desert, really
That’s why I was amazed to walk back into the kitchen and find a robin cheekily perched on top of my stacking saucepans. It didn’t give me a second look, but just carried on swooping from perch to perch while I was watching it. I had to go out shortly afterwards, and I didn’t fancy chasing a bird around my house for a while. Instead I left the kitchen window open, guessing (correctly) that it would make its own way out when it had finished exploring.
I made a comment about the fact on Facebook, and Kristy M. replied immediately. She’s been interested in spiritual matters for as long as I can remember. She told me that the robin is a symbol of growth and development – exactly what I hope my proofreading business will experience in the future.
Janette L. also commented on it. She said that a visiting robin was often the spirit of a departed loved one. I’ve got a long list of possible candidates for that one.
Anyway, on Monday evening I was finishing off the proofreading of my first big project (not counting The Men Who Marched Away, of course). It was already dark outside. I heard a loud thud from the front of the house and went to investigate.
It sounded as though someone had thrown something heavy at (or possibly fallen against) my front window. There was no sign of anyone in the street, so I returned to the pages, a little bit baffled.
When I eventually decided to turn in, I discovered what the noise had been. An owl had flown into my bedroom window, and left a ghostly outline of its face and wings on the glass. (I tried photographing it last night, but it was a waste of time.) I’ve heard of such things happening, but I never imagined it would happen at my house. I assume that it must have been making its way from Aberdare Park, a short flight over the houses opposite mine, and been confused by the darkness through the glass.
I’ve only ever seen owls a handful of times, and I’ve always been very excited when I catch sight of one in flight. A tawny owl became our lucky mascot when I was playing for The Blossoms quiz team back in the day. We were making our way into the Brynffynnon pub (Llanwynno) when an owl hooted from a tree in the churchyard.
‘The owls are not what they seem,’ Liz P. said, referring to a famous line from Twin Peaks. Owls are traditionally associated with wisdom, so we decided that it must have been a good omen. We were right – we notched up our biggest win of the season that night.
It’s strange that a robin (change, growth) and an owl (wisdom) should choose to invade my house on the very same day that I completed my first full-scale commercial proofreading assignment.
In spite of my scientific background, after a sequence of strange events over the last decade or so I tend to keep an open mind on things these days. Six months ago I was ready to throw in the towel. Now, I’ve just embarked on the most exciting thing that’s happened to me since Brain of Britain, and that in turn was the most exciting thing that happened since I returned to university. Growth and development indeed!
Today would have been Dad’s 87th birthday. I’ll never be able to tell him about my successful foray into the real world of proofreading to his face, of course. The same goes for all the other family members I’ve lost in the last fifteen years. All the same, did Dad (or one of the others) suddenly look in on me on Monday morning, just as I was coming to the end of my first big job?
I hope Kristy is right, and Monday’s avian visitors were the signs of a change in my life. I hope Janette is right too, and Dad (and the rest of the family) are keeping an eye on me. Who knows, eh …?

I’m Still Standing (just …)

In which The Author catches up

In case my regular readers have been wondering, I’m still about. Just about …
Instead of reinvigorating me as usual, that last trip to London has left me feeling remarkably down and antisocial. I’ve been to the library exactly four times in the past two weeks, just catching up online and not bothering to stay long.
I’ve been to the pub just once, last Wednesday afternoon, and I only called in to buy my draw ticket and have a quick can of Coke. I’ve even been avoiding the park. This weekend it was full of rides and stalls, and I daresay the odd jazz band as well (see my other blog The Carnival is Over). It would have been a particularly unwelcoming environment for someone who doesn’t enjoy the sound of screaming kids and what seems to pass for music these days.
Instead, I’ve stayed at home and read books instead. I finished Ben Aaronovitch’s latest novel Foxglove Summer within a few days of buying it, so I’ve returned to the start of the series and I’m currently re-reading Rivers of London.
I noticed a fair number of typos and mistakes while I was reading Foxglove Summer, so I made a comment about that fact on Twitter. Within a few minutes I had a reply from a senior executive at Orion Publishing, asking whether I was reading the hardback. Apparently there’d been a glaring error there. I don’t know if I’d found the same mistake, or a different one. It doesn’t matter, because her next Tweet invited me to send in anything I found.
I ended up re-reading the book in minute detail, and sending them seven pages of corrections, comments and suggestions. I thought my cheeky approach might allow me to dip a toe in their pool of freelance help. I posted it on Thursday and so far I haven’t heard anything from them. I know people are on holiday, and there are lot of book festivals at this time of year, but I thought I might have had some feedback by now.
The What The Papers Say crowd are starting to gather in Aberdare Library as I type this. They’re the old folk who used to read the tabloids in the day centre a couple of minutes’ walk away. Then the day centre decided it couldn’t afford the papers any more (see A Nice Little Earner).
Instead of going there, they all come here and discuss the issues of the day under the misapprehension that they’re competing with a TV tuned to Crap in the Attic and with the volume set to 11.
It’s quite dispiriting to have to listen to their intellectual discussions. Since nearly all the papers on offer in the library back the Tories and/or UKIP, the world-view of their readers dovetails perfectly with their right-wing, xenophobic, racist, pro-Cameron editorial agenda. Then again, as I pointed in No Future a few years ago, the Welsh working class are among the most right-wing people I’ve ever encountered anyway. It’s a chicken and egg situation – do the punters get their opinions wholesale from the Daily Express and the Daily Mail, or do they simply like to read a paper which reinforces their own prejudices? (Answers on a postcard, please, to Dr Ayo Banji, Lecturer in ‘Language, Power and Ideology’, formerly of Cardiff University.)
I’m definitely going to put my house on the market in the next couple of months. I can’t afford to do the jobs that need doing, and the longer I leave them the worse things will get. I need to cash in my only asset and get the fuck out of Aberdare as soon as possible, before I end up killing myself (or killing somebody else, which is arguably worse). I don’t know where I’ll go yet, but with a bit of cash in the bank I’ll at least have a cushion while I find somewhere new and something new to do.
There were some lighter moments over the weekend. Saturday was enlivened by Radio 4’s broadcast of Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, starring John Hurt as the incorrigible journalist, boozer, gambler, womanizer and saloon bar philosopher. Amazingly, it went out in the 2.30 drama slot, albeit with a well-placed warning of ‘Very strong language from the start.’ Considering that Jeff’s first line is ‘Shit!’ and his second is ‘Fuck!’, I think that was probably a fair comment. I can’t wait to hear the comments about it when Feedback comes back on the air next month.
In the evening I watched the Rutles film All You Need Is Cash for the umpteenth time. It gets better every time. I found an audio commentary by Eric Idle hidden in the menu, so I listened to that while watching the movie. I hadn’t realised that the much-missed Ollie Halsall not only played the guitar solos, but also sang Dirk McQuigley’s parts and featured as ‘Leppo’ in the Hamburg photo. Talking about Ollie’s involvement with the project, Mr Idle simply says that Ollie enjoyed himself too much. That’s a nice way of saying that he had a long drug habit which finally finished him off.
Colin R. was in Aberdare a couple of weeks ago, and asked me how many posts I write. At the time I was averaging about three a week. Now it’s down to one at best. There isn’t much to write about when you’re too fed up to go out and too pissed off to talk to people.
Having said that, I’ve started a subsidiary blog called O’Gorman’s Unfamiliar Quotations. It’s a compilation of wit and wisdom drawn from books, TV shows, films and radio programmes, and odd snippets from other sources. It’ll grow in time, as and when I come across something worth sharing.
As for this blog – don’t hold your breath until next time.