Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Five Go to Tow Law

Driving back over the moors from Stanhope is a sea of bright purple bell heather which it always is in August. We are almost into September and only three weeks from the vote on Scottish independence. I can understand why the Scots might want to go. The thought of a permanent Tory government - which we would have if they left - makes me want to beg to them not to but it's  nothing to do with me because I'm not Scottish, officially that is.
I'm a borders lass. My family has lived here for hundreds of years on both sides, my mother's family have been lead miners and farmers, my father's family was in business of different kinds for as far back as I can see.
Borders people are really neither Scottish nor English. With a name like Gill I feel so much more Scottish than English. For me England begins where Yorkshire ends south of me and although I have slight affection for all of it my loyalties lie here where there is a deep connection.  I call Cumbria, the Lakes, the whole of Scotland, Northumberland and Durham as mine.
My friend, Joan, who was born in Edinburgh says that when she was 'a wee one' she read Enid Blyton books about middle class English children and felt left out. So did I.  Five have never gone to the pit village where I was brought up, not even in my imaginings.
So while I do see that many Scottish people want to leave the United Kingdom if they go I will feel deserted. I love Scotland so very much.  If it wasn't for the fact that I have several very good friends in Durham the moment that independence was declared I think I would want to run to Scotland. For choice I would go and live in Morar where the silver sands are. Some of the most wonderful times of my life were spent there, sitting in a little blue boat with my young husband and a tiny champagne coloured kitten called Thomas, fishing by moonlight, the flash of silver under the boat as the shoal moved. I left my heart there.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Robin Williams

Manic, that's what the BBC news said about him. That he had suffered from depression all his life and had fought with drugs and alcohol. It isn't a fight with drugs and alcohol, it's the fight about depression and already this morning in the Guardian a report about how people with depression are very often not helped.
Have you ever heard that expression that talks about how we all hear a different drum? Many people go at a different pace, some of them a lot faster than others. I saw a video clip of an interview with Robin Williams yesterday about golf. It was very funny, he was talking at ninety miles an hour and everybody who listened to it recognised the truth.
People who race cars and motorcycles, for them each second is split and split again until a second is a long long time. For somebody like Williams you just go and go and go. There you are out in the limelight and you love being there because that's where you feel best, you feel effective, you're brilliant and it's where you feel right but the trouble is that you have to go back to the speed where other people are. You're way past the winning post while they are still coming up the straight so you have to try and slow down and then you come down and down and down.  And you're exhausted, you're worn out mentally and physically and you can't  bear the coming down and that's why you need the drugs to keep you from spinning up and down endlessly.
Boredom is the result, boredom is at the top of depression. Despair is at the bottom. Boredom is terrifying and the beginning of the downward spiral where you can't bear company, or you get as far as Tesco and then you can't go in, not because you don't want anything but because you can't make a decision.
I didn't used to be depressed. I can remember when all I needed was to have my husband come home from work and my child from school and I could stop writing and come down just as far as I needed to because love was enough then. Depression can teach you that nothing is enough and then you panic. I don't go out in the evenings very often unless it's to something formalised because I can feel myself thinking 'what the hell am I doing here?'
 It's not other people, it's me, I'm bored. I can't sit there because I feel like screaming. I can do it with wine, I can do it with concert music and with a decent play but even in the middle of all that if it's a live performance and I don't sit on the end of the row with the exit in sight I have horrible panic attacks where I can't breathe. I choke and cough and sweat.
My evenings have to be all absorbing otherwise people suffer because I complain and I become cynical and I witter on about stuff they aren't interested in. My close friends call it 'Liz ranting'. At that point I will do anything for a decent argument, for a decent discussion about something which is important to me while other people talk about normal everyday things. I just want to get out and go home.
I can remember hearing about Mozart and how his wife read to him when he composed and I feel that he needed the gap filling so that he would not give up. It amazed me that even he could have his concentration shot because there wasn't enough going on.
We all do it. We say 'if you work you can have wine, tea, coffee, whatever the hell'. I read, watch television, do crosswords all together, I can't just sit there. Very irritating for other people. What a complete pain depression is for all of us.
I understand what Robin Willliams felt. In a very small way I'm the same when I'm giving talks. I get myself on to a tremendous high, I love making people laugh, I adore being the centre of attention and then I come home and I drink wine because I can't stand the coming down, the aftermath.When the audience has gone home, when the book is finished, when the race is over what do you do?  You fill that bloody great big hole inside you with chocolate, with wine, with cigarettes or whatever makes you feel better.
Robin Williams brought a tremendous amount of pleasure and laughter to a great many people and God knows they are grateful to him but the price of such lives is huge. And it's the loneliness and despair of depression that kills you.