I’ve been holding off on posting anything alcohol-related, waiting for something worth saying about it, and here it is: 184 days.

The story of stopping began earlier this year (check out the Booze tag). Lots of those first posts were foundation stones; some laid carefully, placed with precision, some just tipped out and left where they landed. There’s a bit of biography, a fair bit of working through ideas about process and motivation. I spent a month or so writing my way out of something and into something. Finding myself inhabiting a different kind of mindset, kind of one I always had in mind but maybe didn’t feel set on, was where a need to write about it all so much fell away.

Perhaps my motivations altered.

“…distressing memories succumb especially easily to motivated forgetting”

– Freud

There have been a lot of associations with drinking bubbling up. I have been intending to document them (a richly-stocked draft folder attests)… but it all felt a bit too personal. As the above quotation suggests, it’s quite easy to ignore “that stuff”, seal closed a door and move on. That stuff beyond the symptoms (a constant sense of inability; feeling bloated in a vast, round number of ways; impoverishment (same); self-negation…)

While I have got on pretty well with being a sober person – lots of exercise, and diary, and making music, and reading a lot, and leaving my old job, and all that stuff – what all that clear-eyed thinkery reveals also is that, even with the dampers off, one’s head still works in certain ways, and that one of the reasons for applying the dampers is because those ways of working can be pretty fucking annoying.

Stopping seemed easy because I was ready to do so. Talking about the things that had me doing it in the first place… the walled-in rooms, the crumbled ruins discovered beneath the lake, are where the interesting stories are, of course.

Today, though! Strike up the anniversary waltz. It’s officially just over six months since I stopped drinking alcoholic drinks. Halfway to my target of a year off drinking, feeling good about it, break out the cake.

“Anniversaries”, though. As discussed in one of those early pieces, how to signify short-term dates of significance is unclear. Checking back through the booze tag from earlier in the year, I think a week was pebbles. Rocks tend to appear later in the anniversary stakes. Six months being a semiannual return, it’s better than pebbles. Something concrete, perhaps?

“… the Gagrakackan ‘tzjin-anthony-ks’, which kill cows at a hundred paces…”

Gin (and its lethal potential) is a recurring motif in the writing of Douglas Adams.

This was the level of gin hangover I had last Saturday. Gagrakackan. It waited until about 10.30 then settled in, like a deceased bovine atop my skull.

It wasn’t an “enough’s enough” moment, particularly. I’ve had a lot of them and I know they don’t really mean anything. I kind of knew it was coming, though, and that it was a necessary precursor to a cheerio. Me and tzjin-anthony-ks. And all the other spellings and all the other variants.

This series of top-ups in the Mortal Bath is going to be about all that.

Right, I’m going to do it.

IMG_20160525_211741Here’s to Douglas Adams. It’s Towel Day today, which I chose to celebrate by not finding out about it until slightly less than four of our Earth minutes ago.

Here is a link to a list article, many of which might be adopted as a life guide only by the terminally misguided (something something the one about airports).

Still – hey hey hey! – it was the DNA. So, yes, EFF IT.


Sorry about the lack of fiction this Friday.
I had written this quite interesting story about a couple living in a coastal village with a dog. The dog starts acting oddly, and it emerges that one of them has a guilty secret. Stormy climax and a twist ending.
The digital dog ate my homework.

Coming up in April, The Mortal Bath will be participating in the A-to-Z Challenge.


For the challenge, every day in April is assigned a letter of the alphabet, except for Sundays, which are an A-to-Z day off. So, April 1st = A, etc. Don’t fret, I’ll still be publishing Sunday in the Garden, horticulture fans. Alphabetical blog posts can be thematically coherent, or not, as long as the letters are on the right days.

Part of me is a bit suspicious of this sort of activity. The rules, I suppose, the ‘Hey, how about this idea?’ something-to-do-ness, keep ’em busy type thing. The part of me that’s an English teacher who on occasion plans “writing lessons”, if you know what I mean.

However, it’s a very small Gollum, muttering in the corner and braining fish. The A to Z project is something I’m looking forward to for a number of reasons.

Having developed bloggy momentum through the first three months of this year, I feel quite comfortable that the challenge is not so much in sustaining a daily output… although that is of course Still A Thing. The tough aspect foe me is definitely that it’s as much and maybe more the external deadlines – trying to set the posts to go out on the right day in different time zones, for example – and the structure.

Actually, though, the “letter days” aspect is something I have found really quite helpful for planning purposes. I dug out a yearly planner I’ve not been in since October and sketched out the month’s posts in advance. This might seem obvious practice for some, but it’s a novelty for me to attempt this much organization with The Writing, and I’m – blush – kinda liking it.

As a prompt, I decided to use a Birthday Book we have.


A quality little item, as you’d perhaps expect from a hotel revelling in its majesty. It has a poetic quotation for each day, some of which chime with the letter of the day, so I’ll be using it for that, and there are some birthday-linked posts in there as well.

So, let the sequence commence!

If he allowed it, I’d embed some Prince here – yeah, yeah, yeah, yeahhhh – but you can have an Alphabet Treat from Cypress Hill instead: A to the NSFW musical link

The refuting of Newton

The biggest surprise at the symposium had been the Horseman Group’s paper. Their science had, incontrovertibly, they said, been able to draw only one conclusion from years of research. Although raising many questions, rationally, evidentially, there was no doubt about it. There was a big wave hitting the earth directly, and it was going to mean there was no such thing as gravity.

Sir Lionel Horseman commented: ‘Our findings show it – gravity – simply will not work in the way it once did. It’s going to get a bit strange. Sorry.’ Building on the emerging work of von Welle, Hokusai and Lahar, Horseman’s paper meant all accepted views of the earth’s place and motion in the universe had to be revised. Simply, one would have to abandon Newton, Einstein, and, of course, gravity.

Given the significance of this paradigmatic discovery, reaction was curiously mixed. Some embraced the new thinking straight away, ascending off world majestically over the next weeks, dropping encouraging pamphlets, weighted, to the surface. Papers fluttered in their wake, just out of reach. For the majority of humankind, orthodoxy, habit and government-urged caution restricted reaction.

The Horseman Group scientists were, however, unequivocal. ‘The effects will become more and more pronounced,’ stated Sir Lionel, from the Group’s laboratories, in an un-geostationary satellite craft.

Gradually, indeed they did, the effects, become more pronounced. People standing by a fireplace might watch the smoke curl out along the floor. A photo frame from the mantelpiece drifts past noses. In some parts, tea became an impossibility.

For a while, sales of super heavy materials went through the roof. Then the materials began going through roofs, until eventually super heavy materials miners started upping tools and leaving as well.

Willing themselves into a zero gravity state, people found themselves flapping their arms, performing tentative leaps and hops before finding themselves among a rising number of people rejecting gravity, drifting with a smile and shrug, delighted exchanges:
‘What’s up?’
‘Hey, we all are, Jack!’

Many months passed.

One person who refused to believe was Nem. Nem was intelligent. He was inquiring. He had read all the pamphlets dropped by the Uprisers, as they were sometimes mockingly, sometimes reverently referred to. He loved their ideas, but he could not fully commit to them. They were ‘only ideas’, he harangued his partner, Gaude. ‘They’re only words, saying one thing now that other words didn’t. Surely the fact we’re standing here is proof enough?’

‘Yes, yes,’ she would say, forcing a floating foot back to ground, in her affection trying to calm his increasing upset, kissing him tenderly. Soothed, they would nestle in each other’s arms in the sunset, watching little specks of orange and silver rushing up from the horizon across the water like bubbles in a drink.

Although loving Nem deeply, Gaude’s eyes became sadder day by day, seeing things Nem could not or would not. Nem had begun studying the Real Effects of Gravity, an equal and opposite reactionary movement, becoming burdened with books, diagrams, models, driven to prove gravity existed even as near by objects, for years points of reference and comfort, began slowly to detach themselves and drift off into space. Gaude hardly saw Nem, consumed, agitated. She tended their garden with thoughts tumbling.

One day Nem woke and Gaude had gone. Making enquiries in the village, the few remaining people rolled their eyes upwards, he assumed by way of explanation.

Nem found Gaude’s disappearance an affront to centuries established logic. Living alone in the old house, he studied, annotated, experimented. He stood on the roof and cast lumps of metal towards the ground. The lumps hovered annoyingly around the gables at his feet. One afternoon, the tiles around him began peeling away with the beams. The stones of the house itself fell away one by one, until one morning Nem found himself in a field in the open air, only the faint outline of their former home around him.

He sat alone on the cold ground and cried idiot, heavy, earth bound tears of incomprehension.

After a few days Nem recovered enough to move to one of the inland towns, where the collective effects of massed buildings and people created enough pseudo gravitational pull to allow them to continue their old ways. His research continued. Attempts to distract himself by jumping into guilty, loveless tangles with others came to awful ends.

‘Nem would begin persuasive and engaging. Oh! though,’ speaking as eventually they ascended, chatting as they floated, ‘he would become so serious and angry about it!’ ‘He would inevitably start talking about Gaude, and push us away!’ Another, shaking their head as they rose, slow fireworks above rupturing ground, a patchwork quilt having the padding vacuumed out.

One day, Nem was sitting in a pub trying to keep his drink down. A young woman he’d never met before sat near him. They started talking. Nem thought she was very funny. Mabbel, with beautifully still hair and a kind face, thought Nem was quite serious and strange with his grumpy expression, but he seemed nice. They talked for hours and hardly mentioned gravity at all.

Nem and Mabbel started to meet regularly. He spoke about Gaude a few times, and gravity more often. Mabbel would listen, but eventually her silences made him stop talking. Then they would embrace in the silence. Nem found Mabbel soothing to his anxious mind, lost in her animated eyes. Most of all they loved to dance, and they would dart around each other in the parks and fields around the town, leaping and jumping and laughing in the sun.

Many more months passed.

One day Mabbel came to Nem. She could no longer ignore the non pull.

Nem stood rooted to the spot as she told him. She took him dancing. ‘We have this’, Nem said. ‘Yes we do, my sweet,’ said Mabbel. ‘Though I don’t know if this is enough.’

As they danced they found themselves drifting higher and higher, until Nem shouted fearfully and forced himself to the ground.

‘This can’t be right,’ he called to her. Mabbel managed to struggle to the surface. She threw her arms around him. ‘Does it have to be anything?’ she asked, nibbling his earlobe. ‘I don’t know’ he finally said, and burst into tears as she floated backwards, away from him.

Around him, trees uprooted and turned slow majestic cartwheels into space.

What could have been hours later, Nem looked up. Far above him, to his immense surprise, causing a lurch in his stomach, was Mabbel. A tiny dot, she was not moving, hopping from tree to tree, climbing through the sky.

It looked very dangerous. People were calling to Mabbel from the pro gravcraft stations, holding up space equipment, mouthing imprecations. Mabbel was still calling Nem, her hands stretching out for him. Tears streamed across his face, and he reached out his arms uselessly.

A sudden grinding of ground beneath made him stumble. As he fell, he felt a rush of air against his wet face, and realised finally that all around, a deep rumbling spoke of the very core of the planet shifting. Nem’s mind cleared. He stood and danced, giddy exaltation. He jumped and sprang and bounced. Far above him, Mabbel’s hands flew to her mouth.

Nem finally gave one giant leap and shot through the air, looking about briefly to see mountains crumbling and following. He looked towards and through matchstick trees, spinning in the dissipating blue, to the figure of Mabbel getting nearer and nearer, until he bumped into her arms and she caught him and together they spun wildly, with abandon, kissing and tumbling and laughing and spiralling up, up and away.

Having set myself a goal of posting every day in January this year, it is most of all a slight relief to get to the end of the month having managed to keep up the effort. New year targets, resolutions, habit changes, whatever you want to call them, have to be managed to avoid leaving one’s self open to self-recrimination or disappointment. ‘Managed’ in a couple of senses, I suppose. This is one that I managed.

The most significant habit change has been to stop couching my material efforts as aims, in the simple future tense formation “I’m going to…”, or that worse and most wistful phrase “I need to…”. About a week and a bit in, I had a mental shift from “trying to post every day” to “posting every day”, and it became a self-sustaining endeavour.

Anyway, an ongoing positive experience. That’s enough end-of-month own trumpet tootling. Here is Bix Beiderbecke on cornet – much nicer:

Frankie “Tram” Trumbauer Orchestra feat. Bix Beiderbecke – Singin’ the Blues

[“Excerpt from the forthcoming novel”]

Scribbled patterns in the frost on the car roof representing an inner lack of direction. Today or tonight, a long time ago, they had been talking about the aging process. Taking a cross section and seeing if they noticed any signs of weathering.

Monday looked at himself in the car window.  The glass was dark beneath the street light reflecting off it, clear as a mirror.  He thought, I’m looking rough as fuck.  Royally ruined.  What a state.  ‘I am the state.’ The mangled accent rumbled aloud from a ragged throat, followed by a cough. ‘This is what you get for exceeding your cigarette quota.’ A moment of tight lipped self-regard.  There was a click from up the path behind him.

‘Are you done then?’ Monday asked, charging his voice and expression with feigned impatience, turning.  They had been a pure age descending the three flights from the top floor, down the close and out into the frosty street where Monday’s breath hung heavy and sweet from the bottles of cider they had been necking.

‘Keep your neb on,’ Pamela said under her shoulder, standing by the door putting her keys in her clutch bag, lit up in the white light of the street lamp.  Neil had got down the path already and was handing Monday the business end of a fat joint.  The delay was explained.

‘Nice planning,’ said Monday, taking a toot.  Pamela said ‘Come on, we’re late’, and clocked off on heels working like ice picks in the thin covering of frost.

Four months! Well, we had a second child. Work is really busy. And, as advertised by the spring equinox and solar eclipse… there’s change afoot.

I was just talking today in a teaching job interview about how great the internet is as a medium for writers, anyway, and there I am not making time for it. I barely get time to read at the minute.


I’m sure imminent Easter holidays and some day trips will fix things. The sea! The sky! The sea! The sky!