Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Longest Shorthand in History!

I'M "learning shorthand" again. I'm so terrible at it, I can actually type faster than I can compose my jittery outlines in (Gregg) stenography. I've been trying to do online 60, 70 and 80 wpm dictations. I can just about do 80 words per minute, just as long as the audio is clear and the vocabulary not full of technical terms requiring obscure disjoined prefixes and suffixes, none of which I'm entirely sure of.

If you're wondering why I took up shorthand, it's because I always wanted to be a journalist and in this country reporters are expected to offer shorthand of at least 100wpm. Why would anyone actually use shorthand in this age of advanced voice recording technology? 2 reasons. 1. I originally wanted to be a techno correspondent for a music magazine and realized that trying to operate a dictaphone with a full-blown rave kicking off all around me was going to be challenging to say the least. And 2. there are certain situations where a person will only give an interview provided you do NOT record their voice. When a person wants to speak off the record, or anonymity or deniability are important, a person might well say "fine, you can take some quotes ~ just as long as you don't make any recordings of me actually saying this stuff"... know what I mean.

Also the art of shorthand is a fascination in itself. I learned Teeline years ago (from a book), but didn't think it fast enough, so I switched to Gregg's shorthand (the type they used in America). Gregg's shorthand has the advantage over Pitman's (a very fast traditional English system) in that it can be written on blank paper with an ordinary ballpoint pen. Pitman's requires either a pencil or a fountain pen with a special shorthand nib, because you need to be able to distinguish light and heavy strokes. (In Gregg you have long and short strokes instead).

People who know me know that I love doodling, so I've tried to channel this into some profitable arts. So I'm learning to draw properly, using a Chinese-style brushpen, and I'm attempting Japanese calligraphy.

The other great fascination with shorthand is, of course, the "secret code" aspect. Ever since I was a child I had secret codes that I could write off the top of my head, without reference to a crib-sheet. So I've tried to turn this fascination into a potentially profitable enterprise: hence my renewed study of shorthand.

By the way I think I have shorthand in my blood ~ literally! One of my ancestors published his own system of shorthand in 1647! You see! I wondered why the fascination with the dying art of tachygraphic penmanship!

I'm not being funny, but I find some of the American accents rather challenging to follow, especially when trying to concentrate on scrawling Martian-style scribbles across the page while simultaneously attempting to figure out an accent from halfway across the world. I found an Australian 60 wpm dictation for Teeline (see below). She's a lot easier to follow than the American lady, who sounds like a Speak and Spell machine. Remember those? The American ones always used to say "spell brrrr". I could never work out what she was saying.

OK I've got to go. I washed my clothes in Binky's washing machine and now she's freaking out about boxer shorts (which I do not wear) flying out of the tumble dryer... or something like that!

Illustrated: Short or Swift Writing by Simon West, published 1647 ~ my great great great great times about 35 uncle!  Gregg shorthand. It reads: Dear Sir: I was glad to get your letter of January 15th but am still in the dark as to the general purpose of your taking the trip to Lille at this time. Will you please let me have the details of the situation?... Teeline shorthand (currently the most popular method in the UK ~ note the cumbersome outlines); Pitman shorthand ~ I assume this is written in English but I've no idea what this says and to my eyes it might as well be written in Martian! 

Aussie speed dictation. Wow I can actually do this!...

Thursday, 20 February 2014


WHY, when I've got nothing particular to say (but post anyway) do I always become to negative? I'm referring to the post below, dated Tuesday 18 Feb, full of miserable ramblings towards the end. I'm not feeling miserable, not really. I'm just procrastinating through life, not clearing out junk from my house when I should do, not handwashing clothes promptly enough, so I keep running out of clean ones... that sort of stuff.


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

I want a dog/I want to die (I don't want to die really)

I WANT A DOGgie. Where I live you're only allowed one dog or one cat (not one of each). Really I wanted two dogs. One little and cute, the other large, scary and vicious-acting (ie a bodyguard-cum-guard-dog). The only type of dog that combines both characteristics is the Japanese akita breed. Fair enough, they're not little, (they're the size of a German shepherd) but they are thee cutest type of dog I have ever seen.

About nine months ago, late at night, somebody knocked on my front door and a rough-sounding street-gang-type character said to me, through the reinforced glass (I now know it is reinforced, because of what happened next) they said is somebody called J there because they're looking for a bag of weed.

The drug-reference from a person I had never met before at my own front door really put my back up so I said no there is no J here and went away.

Next thing I hear a loud banging and I can clearly see through the security glass that a whole mob of scum are trying to break into my flat. I was completely terrified and was in no doubt that if they had got in they would have smashed my head in. They would also have quickly discovered no such "J" lived in my flat, but would have tried to rob me nonetheless.

This is what happens, you see, at crackhouses. And I'm pretty sure that before I took it my flat was a drug-house of some type. I know this by the string of dodgy and rough people and bailiffs who turned up in succession in the first few weeks I was living there.

So anyway now, late in the night, I can't sleep because I'm terrified that somebody will try and axe their way in again. So I think I've got posttraumatic stress disorder (I'm joking, I don't really think that). But I am traumatized and I need a very cute and savage guard dog so only an akita will do

Apart from that I am OK. I'm not horribly depressed any more. (Famous last words, coming from me.)

Last summer two people started beating me up here saying I was a grandiose drug addict (for saying that I wanted to speak 20 langauges fluently), that drug addicts are grandiose. Oh and that I felt I was "terminally unique" and that my depression was somehow different from everybody else's.

First thing: drug addicts are NOT grandiose. At least I've never met a grandiose one. They usually have very poor self-esteem and are the very opposite of grandiose. I have only ever felt gradiose during periods of "elevated mood~" (as the drs called them). I have had dealings with many a professional during these periods and nobody has ever thought I was on drugs, not even when I was in psychotic mania and dragged into the mental hospital, clear drug-screen card in hand.

The reason drs can distinguish drug highs from manic ones is that basically, when addicts are so out of it on drugs that they lose the plot they do NOT behave the way I do when I've been "elevated" in mood. Ie they're not outgoing, not chatty, don't laugh a lot. They tend to be paranoid, irritable etc. I know it because I've seen it enough times. (I used to live in a crackhouse.) It came back to me the other day though, after some of the remarks posted here over the years ~ I was completely out of it in a psychotic state and yet the hospital staff seemed to know at a glance that I was not on any drugs at all. (And methadone doesn't really "count" in their eyes; all it does to heroin addicts is stop them launching into withdrawal. Methadone isn't a "high" of any kind ~ which is why the addicts hate it so much!) The only drugs they asked about me being on in hospital were lithium and antipsychotics. That's because I had very florid symptoms of the psychotic condition known as mania,  (the manic phase of bipolar illness).

I had suspected I'd been having bipolar symptoms for years, but discounted them on account of my simultaneous drug-taking. But the weird psychological symptoms that later got diagnosed as "schizoaffective disorder" do predate my heroin period by quite a few years. In fact I went about four years in my early 20s not taking any drugs at all. When I moved to London I didn't know any drug dealers here and wasn't interested in drugs. So how I became a heroin addict is... ukh. A ridiculous story that I don't want to go into now. Suffice it to say that in certain ways I am the very antithesis of the gutter junkie I subsequently became!

I don't know why I'm talking about this issue again... Oh yes I do. Because my friend Binky keeps laughing and telling me I'm mad. She says she thinks I've got schizophrenia. I say why do you say that? And she says because I say and do weird things. She has spent many years in mental asylums, so she knows the signs. Sometimes I think she's only saying these things to weird me out... Does she really think I'm schizo? But she says she does. She says I know I am... blah blah. But I don't know. Do I know that I know? I wish I could say I don't care either but I obviously do care, otherwise I wouldn't be posting on the issue yet again!

I get weird symptoms, they wax and wane, but they always come back again and I'm claiming benefits on the back of being "mentally ill" (you can't claim for being a drug addict!) My family don't want to think it's real, but everyone who knows me and sees me day-to-day does seem to think it's real (I don't know why though). When I really went mad a few years ago it was immediately apparent that people thought I was completely crazy. It was written all over their faces and I don't even know what I was doing. Far as I knew, I was acting completely normally! And yet they all thought I was raving mad! I only thought I was "mentally ill" because I found it so difficult doing practical things: eg getting self, money, keys, phone, etc all assembled together in order to go out. One day I had to wash my clothes in the laundrette on the corner and it took literally five hours to get myself ready to go out. Literally all day. That is why I thought I was "ill". Plus I knew that drs seemed to believe hearing voices was a sign of madness. I didn't think I was mad because I hear voices. But I certainly knew drs saw it that way! The only reason I admitted what was going on was that I was tired of seeing different professionals and different people, all of whom seemed to have entirely different viewpoints on what was going on with me, because they all saw me in different contexts. And the problems I was having with day-to-day life, dealing with practical things like paying bills, organizing paperwork etc, were getting ever-worse. Then I found out, after being given a horrible label I didn't want, that such difficulties are actually hallmark signs of that type of illness.

Ukh, it's so miserable thinking about this, but I have nobody to talk about it with ~ hence this post here. Binky knows all about mental illness, but her viewpoint is "you know you are mentally ill why don't you just accept it". But I don't walk around thinking "oh I feel really schizo-affective today". I only ever "feel" schizo-affective in the context of form-filling, when they ask about my difficulties and I know that, in doctorly eyes at least, schizoaffective disorder does explain them. (Drug addicion doesn't.) Bear in mind, I know loads of drug addicts. At some point a few years ago I looked around myself and thought "how come my life is in such a mess and nobody else's is?" The drug addicts I've known have always functioned pretty well. I mean, a lot of them functioned well enough to fund £80 a day ($133.60) heroin and crack habits. I gave up begging on the streets years ago, so my habit was much smaller than theirs.

The methadone clinic used to imply that if I would only stop using heroin and stick to the methadone my problems would magically disappear. Now they take an exact opposite tack, saying methadone isn't meant to cure mental problems, it's just a small step etc etc etc. In other words they lied through their teeth for years on end and now they wriggle out of it on the back of a psychiatric diagnosis If they'd ever listened to me ( or even asked me) they'd have known the reason I gravitated to heroin in the first place was that I wasn't feeling OK, wasn't doing OK was NOT OK. It never has just been a question of me just dropping the drug and things would magically be all right. They never were all right. I never had anything to go back to. Because I wasn't OK and wasn't well. I don't think I'll ever be truly well or OK, not in this lifetime. My resolution is that however messed up my life is going to be in the future, it can bloody well be like that without my being addicted to drugs into the bargain!

I was reading my Michael Jackson book, about him and Elizabeth Taylor being on drugs off drugs on again off again. Opiate painkillers we're talking here. Exactly the same drug-family of choice as my own. I thought ukh is that really what it's like? Will I never be free? I'd rather be dead than on drugs for ever. I'm the only person I know who really seems to want to come off heroin and methadone and be dependent on nothing for the rest of my life. I'm determined to do it. I just want to get OFF this methadone. Then if I do go back on heroin at least I can deliberately overdose and die. The way my tolerance lies at the moment I've not a snowball's chance in hell of accidentally overdosing and dying. I really wish I would die in my sleep because at least that means I wouldn't have to put the work in of learning to live life on life's terms, as they like to say at AA and NA).

My ambition always used to be to detox off the methadone and then kill myself so that I could be drug-free into eternity. The best means of suicide would be a deliberate heroin overdose, because a Muslim outside the library told me that if you commit suicide you will spend eternity in hell committing the same act over and over for ever and ever...  (Meaning I could then spend eternity shooting up heroin.) I really really do want to be drug-free, but I don't know how I can live like that. I have never lived like that before. What I had before wasn't a life, it was just an existence. I never was OK until heroin. The only thing that has ever made me feel OK, apart from heroin, was madness! Doesn't say much about life, does it.

Ukh how did I get on this self-indulgent negative current again. Well that's what I was thinking so that's what I'm posting. Sorry.

Benidorm is a vulgar area of Spain where only Northerners go



Tuesday, 11 February 2014

No News Good News

I HAVEN'T WRITTEN anything here because not a lot has gone on. I didn't have a good Xmas, really. Or a happy new year. I don't know, I must have been depressed, or sick, or something. I don't know.

Hey I just got a comment saying I was delusional because I thought I could get in print. Well... maybe I am, maybe not. Fiction writing is not like blogging. Everything goes through at least two drafts, if not five, six or seven. Here I just tap it in and press publish; there I weigh every word. Fiction is about characterization and dialogue. Blogging is just me reporting every turd I've done. My fiction, you might argue, is just a literary turd ~ and a real steamer of a sloppy one at that! They have almost nothing in common, so you can't really assess my ability to write novels by reading my blog. 

Anyway I haven't written anything for about a month. I finished my first (short) novel in computer-ready form and almost instantly spiralled into depression so bad I couldn't focus enough to weigh up two versions of the same short passage, to work out which should go into book two. I don't know why I got like that. My GP wanted to up the meds by another hundred milligrams, but I don't want even more antipsycho tabs. The ones I'm on are causing enough side-effects as it is.

Er, I don't know what else to say. I feel like I'm under seige. I have this feeling that I need a guard dog. I saw the most beautiful doggie on the Australian Animal Rescue programme. At first glance I thought she was a St Bernard. She was really cute, but she had been bitten by a snake and they couldn't save her. So she died. And she was one of the most beautiful dogs I have ever seen. And she wasn't a St Bernard, she was an Akita. I have always wanted an Akita puppy but have never seen them for sale. I have this daydream that one day a stray will come looking for me, and that will be my sign.

An akita puppy. See how cute it is..?? Though I think this one, with the sawn-off legs look, is something of a crossbreed...

I must go. Hope everyone's all right...

Hachiko monogatari: the tale of Hachiko, the faithful dog who never stopped looking for his master...