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For International Men’s Day (November 19th), I am interviewing a few other men I know who, similarly, have mental health issues. I’m trying to get a perspective on male-oriented mental health needs in our society today. I have edited this interviewees comments a little for clarity, readability and grammar.

Q1: Please tell us a little about yourself. How old are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

I’m 48 years old, from Wollongong, NSW Australia. This is a moderately large city just south of much larger Sydney. It was a steel town but since that became less profitable in recent decades it’s basically a university town these days, with some tourism thrown in.

I’m on the dsp (disability support pension), and have been for going-on ten years. As such I’m extremely fortunate, but one of a dying breed- the govt seems intent on phasing it out for mental illnesses. It has its downsides too. I’m basically institutionalised at this point.

I’m bipolar and have had a whole swathe of former life phases.

I’ve been a Green Peace canvasser, a kitchen hand, apprentice chef, bindery hand, printer, musician, serious drug addict (lucky to be alive, many friends didn’t make it and an) art student. I’ve started, done well with for a time, and eventually abandoned degrees in English, Creative Writing, History, Ancient History, Archaeology. I’ve done aged care work, online research and I used to busk a lot, but no longer.

I have two sons (one 10 one 17), but have been separated from my partner for almost 8 years. Somehow we’re friends still, and I’ve seen her and my boys almost every day in that time. That took serious insight and effort, but I’m also extremely fortunate, because she is extraordinary and never deleted me

Q2: What mental health problems do you suffer from, and how long have you been diagnosed for? Do you attribute them to any particular cause?

These days I have much less trouble, personality wise. I no longer have regular panic attacks either, but I’m still cycling through hypomania and major depression, just differently to before.

My mental health issues are complex, layered and interact with each other.

Where to start? Well, my mother has serious depressive and anxiety issues, so there’s a genetic component to it all. Whilst pregnant with me she suffered severe depression and spent 3 or more months of the pregnancy on Mogadon (a benzodiazepine), a drug she had severe reactions to including aural and visual hallucinations (8 years later when pregnant with my younger sister they wanted to put her on it again, by which time she was more forthright and told the doctor what had happened earlier. They tested her and found she was allergic). So I no doubt steeped in her genetic issues and that potent chemical, which I suppose had an impact.

I spent the first days of my life (having nearly died in foetal distress due to a chemically induced labor) in Gladsville psychiatric hospital with my disassociating and suicidal mum, in an open ward. Mum underwent many brutal sessions of ECT and somehow saved me by bribing a nurse to call my father to drive 2 hours to collect me. I spent the next 4 months in the care of my dad’s aunt. I suspect any useful bonding with mum never occurred, and this too had an impact on me.

My earliest memories are of taking care of my, by now, alcoholic mother. Dad was drinking a lot too and never home. She used to praise/coerce care from me, told me I was a good boy who would always look after mummy etc. This, obviously, is an excellent method for brewing personality disorders.

At four I fell from a ten foot viewing platform whilst dad was buying a horse, fracturing my skull, breaking my nose, and I was in a coma for a week. Many years later I saw a psychologist who’d spent her career dealing with brain injury clients. She tested me and found cognitive impairment from this and other head injuries. This explains my odd dyslexic moments and panic when filling out forms etc, as the impairment triggers fight or flight responses with those tasks.

So yeah, brain injury is a factor.

We travelled a lot. I went to seven schools in 4 years, which left me unable to make friends and cripplingly shy. Eventually I did make a friend at a new school. In hindsight he’d been coached to procure other boys his age, but I at 8, had no idea – obviously. So there was the sexual abuse, with a group of men. They drugged me a bunch of times,- a lot of it I thankfully have no clear recollection of. Eventually I abandoned my ‘friend’, saving myself from further abuse of that kind.

Another friend abandoned me at around the same time, which affected me badly. Years later I discovered he’d been abused by the same ring of people.

With any support at all, I may have been able to somewhat put the abuse behind me. I got none though, and worse was to come. At school, someone or other who knew what had happened spread it as a rumour, and the bullying started.

The wors thing that ever happened to me was the institutional abuse that followed.

My female teacher, as it happens a friend of THAT family, made it her project to torment, humiliate and brutalise me for a year. She egged the other children to bully me, beat me with blackboard rulers daily, and utterly demolished me socially. This harmed me so much worse than the sexual abuse. I have no idea how I survived that year.

So by 10 I was really, personality wise, a write off. I won’t mention too much about my teenage years. D&D completely saved me there, though.

Alcohol, cigarettes and pot from 13 or 14. Years later in my early 20s I was a daily amphetamines user, for perhaps 2 years. I used heroin but circumstances saved me there. My friends that fell badly into that world are all dead. I had easier access to speed so I lived, I guess. Numerous psychotic experiences in this phase caused further psychological issues.

Well I’ve gone on a lot. Basically, severe childhood anxiety (first treated at 10). Borderline Personality Disorder developing from that time too. I was diagnosed with that in my late 20s. Bipolar 2, some years later, after many serious bouts of major depression, self harm, hospitalisation, poor outcome with medication. So, heading towards 2 decades with 3 separate serious diagnosis. I’ve had aural abberations and whispered voices etc since the mid 90s- generally at the tail end of long hypomanic phases.

These days I have much less trouble personality wise. I no longer have regular panic attacks either. But I’m still cycling thru hypomania and major depression, just differently to before.

Q3: What, overall, has been your experience with the mental health system in your country? What resources have you accessed?

My experience with the mental health system in Australia has been mixed, to say the least!

I had a wonderful, calm and caring family doctor really early on, who helped me somewhat with my crippling anxiety, night terrors, sleep walking etc. I was maybe 9?

He died.

His replacement, who I recall confiding in when I was maybe 15 (suicidal), as it turned out, was a drinking buddy of my Dad’s. He accused me of malingering and told me to wake up to myself- then told my father the same thing.

He was embarrassed and resented me for it.

During my writing myself off on drugs phase I saw a few counsellors. They told me to stop using drugs!

The first excellent help I got was when I got clean. I went into rehabilitation at a drug crisis centre. The matriarch of the place was a no-bullshit, former junkie who had seen the worst end of things in the Cross. She was brilliant, courageous, tough-loving and bullshit calling. She’s the first person who got through to me with the idea that I’d better save myself, because let’s face it nobody else was going to. That whole phase of intense group therapy helped me a lot.

Of course getting clean didn’t fix my mental health problems. I had a really brilliant golden phase at art school, then hit the wall badly a few times. Intrusive voices, panic attacks, extremely discreet self harm. I saw a bunch of psychologists in this era. They were universally unhelpful. After the twentieth time being complimented on how intelligent, self aware and articulate I was, I got over paying $40-$60 for compliments and stopped bothering for a while.

Tried a bunch of different anti-depressants in this period. They exacerbated things. Somewhere in there I saw my first several psychiatrists and was hospitalised for the first time.

I loathed my psychiatrists. I still have a dim view of them:

“How have things been since last week? Sleeping? Thoughts of self-harm? Any other intrusive thoughts? What about those voices? Well, I’m putting your dosage up. Try that and see me again in a fortnight…”

I had a really excellent psychologist for almost ten years. He was a University crisis counsellor but liked me and never played the “you’re so clever” game. He was extremely observant,reassuring philosophical and insightful. He helped a lot and twisted his limited reach to help me more. One frustration I’ve had at other universities is the counsellors not being allowed to offer an ongoing service beyond one off crisis sessions. He finegled things to arrange for me to drop in weekly for a “that’s not real, but this is…” session. He really helped me in that regard, in terms of timely, friendly, gentle and pointed intervention.

I’ve been on the psych ward three or four times. I absolutely hate being hospitalised. It’s a limbo state, basically, powerful sedatives, sterile environment, nothing to do. It’s been years now but I’m glad I do Everything possible to avoid those places. I’ve avoided being scheduled each time due to my polite, friendly, manner and ability to think on my feet. If there’s one place where my risk of suicide multiplies, it’s locked up in a psych ward.

Q4: Do you agree that the mental health approach needs to be more tailored to both the individual, and to men as a group? If so, in what ways?

Yes to both.

There’s so much more that I could mention. As I’ve pointed out, I spent decades feeling generally frustrated with psychologists’ apparent expectation that everybody was unable to articulate their issues and with psychiatrists’ being interested basically in what dosage and whether to schedule me or not. I found that very few indeed of either had much patience for my reluctance to just submit to a lifetime of powerful medications.

As for the male issue: it was bad and now is worse.

I’ve caught the end of the stiff upper lip, grin and bear it phase, where talking about my dark thoughts was obviously triggering for doctors, and now we’re at another extreme, where I feel generally unable to express myself for fear of being exposed as ‘toxic’.

One issue I’ve found in clinics and community centres is a generally negative attitude towards males. Whenever I’ve mentioned behavioural issues with my teenage son there’s been an expectation that he’s been violent. This was also assumed of me on a number of occasions when assisting my former partner with accessing care herself- once it became apparent we’d had arguments it seemed a given to them that I’d been violent, when in fact my partner had at times been physically abusive towards me.

Water under the bridge now, but galling all the same.

Whenever I’m in those circles I’m very aware of being seen as a potential postal case. That’s totally tied to me being a dude. I understand why they perform the protocols they do, but I often feel like they’re gaslighting me, trying to get me to admit to being somehow a threat.

So now I avoid them like the plague. It’s been 2 years now.

Q5: How do you feel the mental health system in your country currently fails men?

I answered this somewhat in q4.

Well, I guess there is more to be said.

Personally it seems they have a problem with a ‘one size fits all’ approach. On the one hand it sucks to be perceived always as a potential threat. Thing is, I’m polite, I listen, I don’t abuse staff in any way. This, within their binary framework, merely serves to remove me from the “perceived as a threat” category whilst also removing me from the “needing care and intervention” category.

It’s a squeaky wheel issue.

An old comrade with similar issues but a very different personality has created endless wreckage for others, regularly abuses any worker within earshot, misses appointments etc, yet whilst I’m on the edge of eviction in a decaying private flat (howdy homelessness!), he’s on his 4th dept housing flat, 3 of which he abandoned without notice, one of which he left with fire damage.

Is he more mentally ill than me?

Not really. He’s more criminal. He’s also still using drugs.

I guess my point is the system seems tailored towards ‘fixing’ the obvious problems and ignoring anybody with a complex case that can be delayed without immediate repercussions.

Q6: Why do you think it is that men access these services less frequently, despite being the majority of suicides and other negative outcomes?

Good question.

Not for the reasons they used to.

It’s bizarre and topsy turvy. Where once an earlier ideology invited men to be open to seeking help, let their guards down, now the whole social environment actively discourages that. Men are aware they’re seen as a potential threat. Malfunctioning men much more so.

I’ve stopped calling Mensline in recent months, for fear I’ll have the police at the door and end up either scheduled or dead. Australia has a long history of police shootings that started out as poorly prepared mental health interventions.

Q7: What do you think could have helped intervention, or seeking help, earlier in your illness?

A number of things would have helped.

Relating to the abuse, well, socially it was a fail on every level. I feel very confident that, with the same circumstances today my school would have identified the issue and staged some form of intervention. I feel like cultural factors in the late 70s/early 80s made it simple for me to be revictimised.

Obviously my parents really were no help. Not even 15 years later where, having gone through rehab I confided (not accusatively) in them about the abuse. I was chastised for upsetting my mother. It’s never been discussed again.

The key phase of my D&A recovery should have been a great opportunity for professionals to step in, but it didn’t happen that way, beyond the rehab I went to.

In this phase I was hounded by drug squad detectives seeking dirt on my former dealer, threatened, coerced, forced to make a false statement and then to move away when said dealer put out a contract on my life. In that predicament I failed to meet social security requirements and was kicked off the dole.

Homelessness yay!

None of this was a useful response to a troubled, self-destructive young man who was trying to get well, and very visible within the system.

Somewhere in that phase I did a work for the dole program, restoring the old military harbour defences at Port Kembla, clearing out bunkers and tunnels. This was fascinating work and made me feel useful at the time. The private agency that ran the program were crooks who gave us zero resources.

The supervisor, a lovely Christian man with a real interest in helping this group of lost misfit lads, brought his own tools to work and taught us some carpentry, concreting etc. My interest in a career in archaeology stemmed largely from the real desire of that one guy to help me. More of that kind of thing would have helped me a lot.

So yeah. I guess interested parties who were unwilling to let a young man slip through the cracks, and who offered a pathway to making me socially useful again- that would have helped the most. Very grateful not to have been left to starve, but more help with reentering society and getting work whilst managing my illness would have been better.

Q8: What have been the positives in your treatment through the mental health system?

There have definitely been positives.

As I mentioned earlier, having a good counsellor who I was able to see regularly, at times for long stretches, had a big stabilising impact on me.

The odd professional who was willing to be very honest with me helped a lot here and there. I have no use for a counsellor who, basically, seems to want me to think well of them first and foremost. I’ve had too many pandering psychologists so the straight dice ones were precious.

I’ve had the most success with intensive CBT (weekly sessions for a year) and group therapy around personality issues. Also I picked up many useful awareness tools with an intensive program using theories of Internal Family Systems (basically identifying splintered off aspects of identity that manifest: the abandoned child, the angry child, the punitive parent, the mediator, the medicater etc, and attempting to manage these parts of one’s self by accepting and validating their various conflicting motives whilst imposing a new responsible parent identity to intercede.

Sounds nuts, helps me a lot.

Q9: What would your idea of a perfect mental health system look like?

OK, I don’t believe there could be a perfect system but let’s see if I can make a list of things I’d like to see.

1) Being Useful. A focus on reactivating patients, paths to getting back on your feet rather than a welfare limbo. I’m not against welfare. I do feel I’ve benefited more from people believing in my potential than I have from people feeling sorry for me.

2) Housing. A stable and secure home base is a necessity but one which seems a rarity now. Oh well- only 6-8 more years to wait, if I’m lucky.

3) Routine. I felt a lot of benefit from small things that seemed to foster structure in my chaotic world. Drop ins and call backs from the suicide callback service, weekly sessions of group or individual therapy.

4) Removal of frustrating issues of red tape. Lack of access to medication I’ve been subscribed but which is only on the pbs for schizophrenics, leaving me forking out hundreds of dollars a month for meds (guess what? I went without).

5) Funding.

6) Maybe the odd program focused on responding to the issues many men are facing in the community. That’s not a high priority lately.

7) Maybe a tobacco ban need not be deployed on every square metre of every psychiatric ward in the company.

Q10: What has given you hope and pulled you back from the brink? 

My kids are my strongest protective factor.

Good company and being of use to people really saves me ultimately.

The fact that people have always wanted to be in my game has been a constant source of timely weekly validation.

Also just being a curious bugger. Boredom isn’t a thing for me. Whatever else has occurred, it’s true I’ve had a lifetime of daily reading, and I’ll never get to read everything.

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For International Men’s Day (November 19th), I am interviewing a few other men I know who, similarly, have mental health issues. I’m trying to get a perspective on male-oriented mental health needs in our society today. I have edited this interviewees comments a little for clarity, readability and grammar.

Q1: Please tell us a little about yourself. How old are you, where are you from, and what do you do?

I am 47 living in London and now a (sort of) full-time artist. I’m married with a 12-year-old step-daughter, but am currently staying with local friends because the people we lodge with have a two and three year old. Plus I do not want my current mental condition to be around my step-daughter constantly.

Q2: What mental health problems do you suffer from, and how long have you been diagnosed for? Do you attribute them to any particular cause?

I have been diagnosed with BPD, EUPD (essentially the same thing and a catch-all for those that do not quite fit standard issues). Along with Social Anxiety, Chronic suicidal depression, and tentative diagnoses of other more complex issues including PTSD. 

As to cause, I think I have always had these problems. It is more to do with running out of the mental and physical energy to continue to cope.

Q3: What, overall, has been your experience with the mental health system in this country? What resources have you accessed?

Complicated and everything from utterly terrible to extremely good, sometimes on the same ward, during the same admittance.

Night-staff, in general, were the worst and tended to not follow the rules about certain things, like the escalation of emotional behaviour or ignoring patients. Sometimes they were actively rude to patients, including me.

Outside of ward, I found that, generally, the Home Treatment Team were useless other than for bringing medicines. However, places like the SUN Group, which is a twice-weekly mutual support session for sufferers of a variety of mental health issues, have been extremely useful. ADAPT (once they sorted out my Care Coordinator) has also been helpful.

I also undertook Art therapy while on-ward, during the most recent admittance, and also managing emotions as a sort of therapy/workshop. This was, personally, less useful as it told me things that I have known since childhood, but it worked well for the support of others. 

The art therapy is set to continue as soon as a long term placement is available.

Q4: Do you agree that the mental health approach needs to be more tailored to both the individual, and to men as a group? If so, in what ways?

Regardless of gender, there needs to be more money spent on mental health issues. They are closing aspects of the system down quietly, without informing the public. While I was on-ward, the “rest area” for potential patients to wait for beds was scrapped, which would have been a good thing if it had been replaced. Now mental health sufferers in need of admittance have to go to A&E at the main hospital.

Also scrapped was the Day Treatment Team, which normally organised activities and was in charge of running therapies and care groups. Those tasks have now fallen to HTT, more precisely the well-trained ones that are overburdened already.

So the simple answer is more money, more training for staff, better wages for front line staff, and more ward space available countrywide.

Q5: How do you feel the mental health system in this country currently fails men?

There are minimal resources and activities, particularly catering for male patients.

Q6: Why do you think it is that men access these services less frequently, despite being the majority of suicides and other negative outcomes?

Toxic masculinity meaning that males tend to grow up with less confidence to talk about and express the worries they have about mental illness.

Q7: What do you think could have helped intervention, or seeking help, earlier in your illness?

The need for GP doctors to be better trained in spotting mental health traits, particularly in the young and teenage population. Also, active encouragement for men to go to their GP for mental health issues as well as physical problems.

Q8: What have been the positives in your treatment through the mental health system?

I have found new friends in unlikely ways. I have actually encountered some forms of therapy that have the potential to at least help me cope better. Finally, medicinal help which at least partially seems to be of help

Q9: What would your idea of a perfect mental health system look like?

I am not sure, but probably utopian and universal, and as interlinked to each person as education and general health care should be. 

Q10: What has given you hope and pulled you back from the brink? 

Relatives, friends, other people that have shown such unconditional love and care to me. Globally, the continuance of possible care that could make this all easier to cope with, and striving to keep being creative and to push myself to do projects

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For International Men’s Day (November 19th) I am interviewing a few other men I know who, similarly to myself, have mental health issues. I’m doing this to try and get a perspective on male-oriented mental health needs in our society today.

It would be unfair to conduct these interviews without answering the questions myself. If you would like to contribute, anonymously of course, feel free to contact me at grim AT postmort DOT demon DOT co DOT uk.

Q1: Please tell us a little about yourself. How old are you, where are you from and what do you do?

I’m in my mid forties, and finally look it. I’ve felt older than I was for a very long time. I live in a small village in the South of England, very pretty, very rural, proper hobbit country. I am a ‘creative person without portfolio’. Primarily I write and make (analogue) games, but I’m doing more video and design work as time wears on.

Two interesting and relevant tidbits of information for you.

First, rural suicide rates tend to be higher. It’s hard to single out why. It might be difficulty of access to services and support. It might be social isolation. It might be the way in which old, rural ways of life have changed or ended.

Second, while the ‘tortured artist’ stereotype is well known, apparently it only significantly correlates with writers. Such is my luck.

Q2: What mental health problems do you suffer from, and how long have you been diagnosed for? Do you attribute them to any particular cause?

I have been diagnosed with moderate to severe depression (with suicidal episodes) since 2007. I can’t remember when I got my other diagnoses, but they include anxiety and dependent personality disorder. My anxiety is mostly social anxiety, which is in a really lovely tension with the anxiety.

Q3: What, overall, has been your experience with the mental health system in this country and what resources have you accessed?

Mixed.

I have been fortunate in that my local doctors have been pretty good and fairly well switched on to mental health issues compared to those of many others. On the other hand I have found the huge waiting lists for mental health provision a constant frustration, and the one-size-fits-all approach in UK mental healthcare provision to be next to useless.

I was able to afford private assistance for a while, with the help of family, but that had diminishing returns in terms of help. I also tried accessing the charity MIND, who were useful in pragmatic but not therapeutic terms, and iTalk, which is convenient but disruptive and has long waiting lists.

After years of illness I finally sought financial aid and it took over a year to finally get any. I’ve also suffered societal suspicion and hostility for even seeking aid. Even without the problems around ATOS (Independent Assessment Services) and others, our society at large is innately hostile to people who need help.

Q4: Do you agree that the mental health approach needs to be more tailored to both the individual, and to men as a group? If so, in what ways?

Yes, which is why I asked the question to others!

I appreciate that the NHS operates a triage system, and that mental healthcare is expensive and long term, and so – brutally put – not great value for money. It is, however, a huge problem and while the NHS as a whole needs more money, we do need to focus on mental healthcare and cost-effective preventative care.

I am not, by any means, a conventionally masculine dude. Being a thensitive artitht and all, but the system as it stands did not suit me, and I have seen how it doesn’t suit other men even more. It’s not just stigma, it’s personality differences (in aggregate), mindset and something as simple as time. Men take more time to open up, so standard appointments for talk therapy, simply aren’t long enough.

There’s other examples, and approaches that could help and do exist on smaller scales, but it’s hard – politically – to get help for men as a group.

Q5: How do you feel the mental health system in this country currently fails men?

Timing, stigma, the lack of tailored provision, the fixation on talk therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. Things I’ve already mentioned.

I have also found that while people like to blame things like ‘toxic masculinity’ that becomes a blaming of masculinity in general. I also find that while people say they want you to open up and be vulnerable, or more generally that they want men to, the reality is that many people react with disgust at seeing a man be vulnerable or weak. Others exploit your weakness, pretend you’re not ill or are using it for attention.

I think men, in particular, also feel the stigma of incapacity, of reduced or removed ability to work, more. There also seems to be a little more hostility to people with mental health issues and men (not that there’s much in it) when it comes to seeking financial aid and assistance.

Q6: Why do you think it is that men access these services less frequently, despite being the majority of suicides and other negative outcomes?

All the reasons I’ve already stated. We say one thing, we encourage people to open up and then we punish them for it. We discourage people from taking medication or seeking help, we punish them when they do. Family and friends might not, but society as a whole does. Unless you have that direct connection you’re part of that amorphous ‘scrounger’ other.

Self reliance, toughness, stoicism, these are good things, but they’re also being demonised as toxic. As a man, you’re caught between all manner of different expectations and prejudices from all sides and – if you do seek assistance it’s less likely to be helpful.

Once bitten, twice shy.

Q7: What do you think could have helped intervention, or seeking help, earlier in your illness?

My initial symptoms were more like exhaustion, chronic fatigue and so on. I also really, desperately, didn’t want anything to be wrong with my mind – of all things. I’d never been particularly strong, charismatic, good looking or much else, but I’d always been able to rely on my brain.

Feeling like I was losing my mind was devastating more, perhaps, than it could have been for others, because I felt that it was all I had. It also made me very resistant to taking antidepressants, which also affect your mind.

Better to be foggy and alive, than clear and dead though, right?

A more dogged, persistent and forceful doctor earlier on could have helped more, but all things considered I was lucky.

Q8: What have been the positives in your treatment through the mental health system?

Everyone – other than assessment services – really cares and really does their best within the limitations of the system to help you. If you can afford to go private you can find specialised care and different approaches that may help, but it’s just not there as part of the NHS.

Q9: What would your idea of a perfect mental health system look like?

If the system we have were more varied, more tailored and better funded I think we’d just about be there. Cognitive behaviour therapy and talk therapy just isn’t enough and we need individuated care.

Changing societal attitudes is a longer struggle and it’s not really something you can impose.

Q10: What has given you hope and pulled you back from the brink?

Friends and family, and pure stubbornness. Having pets and people who depend on me one way or another. Close run thing, but has been the most effective lifesaver.

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FuckThisPrickI know, it sounds like a bad supervillain’s name – and maybe it is.

Groundlord is a tree-surgery company in the Andover area, whose concept of ‘surgery’ would seem to be more in keeping with a medieval barber than the consummate professionals we think of what we use the term.

They, most particularly Joshua Pritchard is an abusive and destructive individual, whose skill in the horticultural arts is matched only by his debonair witticisms. To wit, ‘faggot’.

Now, it can take an awful lot for an Englishman to get his dander up. I think we can all draw comfort from the knowledge that in whatever post-apocalyptic scenario bedevils us in the future some starving British ghoul, eating cold rat from a Wellington noot with a corkscrew, will still sigh and comment to themselves ‘Still, mustn’t grumble’.

What, then, could drive one such as myself to put digital pen to digital paper and to misplace my rag in such a manner?

woodsbefore

This is what the hill path used to look like.

Well, this chap – who is to arboreal care what Bob Dylan is to clear vocal delivery – has been employed to ‘tend’ some much-beloved woods at the top of the hill in St Mary Bourne, Derrydown Copse. Apparently, we live in Bizarro World as the word ‘tend’ apparently has a meaning we would more commonly associate with rampaging Vikings than with people we entrust our plants to.

They’ve been criticised before, of course, there is a local Facebook page where people have raised their concerns about the work that has been going on. Many of them, including myself, quite reasonably, asking about the work that was going on, the apparent destruction, the wildlife, and trying to ensure everything was as kosher as Rosh Hashanah.

These concerns were met with a tirade of abuse from Mr Pritchard, and a constant excuse of ‘conservation’, which has grown about as convincing as a combover. Appropriately enough, the copse on the hill could use a combover to cover over all the bald patches it now sports.

58453580_210701223224235_5970519973747950810_n

And this is it now, bald as Patrick Stewart

Maybe the work did have to be done, but it has been going on for a couple of years now – this progressive destruction – and the promised boon to the local wildflowers has not been forthcoming, nor has proper care of the birds, nor proper testing of the Ash trees.

You’ll pardon me, I’m sure, if I have trouble believing that someone addressing me as ‘Oi, faggot’, is au fait with gene-testing for Ash die-back resistance.

It’s less a copse or woodland now, and more a loose collection of socially awkward trees at a school disco, trying to maintain their personal space. Perhaps ‘corpse’ and ‘copse’ are spelt similarly for a reason.

Quite apart from that, I don’t think in this day and age we should happily, and without pushback, suffer abuse gladly (particularly homophobic abuse). Certainly not just for showing polite concern about their work. Less polite as time wore on and the abuse piled up, but still, an effort was made. The venom and vociferousness of the abuse is just the excremental icing on the faecal cake.

So, if you enjoy hiring rude, obnoxious, bigoted gentlemen whose talents are better suited to onanism (figuratively handling wood, rather than literally), knock yourself out. If you want to recreate World War One’s No-Man’s-Land, or you can’t afford agent orange, you might have some use for them.

Otherwise, steer clear.

image

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graveyardofdreamsGraveyard of Dreams by H. Beam Piper
Read by Felbrigg Napoleon Herriot

The people of Poictesme scrimped and saved to send Conn Maxwell off-world to carry out a secret mission. Conn was to infiltrate the military and find the secret location of the “Fleet-Army Force Brain” a supercomputer buried somewhere on Poictesme. Now Conn is returning home with a secret he dare not tell his people.

1 MP3 file, 45.4mb, runtime 49 mins 41 seconds

The first independent to go on sale on my site. If you have RPG or other tabletop game material, or fiction or audiobooks that fit the overall ‘ethos’ of Postmortem Studios I’ll consider selling your material on my new site too. Get in touch.

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A great deal of Brexit sentiment, and more broadly nationalistic and populist sentiment, comes from people’s nostalgia for a Britain that no longer exists and cannot exist in the modern world. Britain always seems to be looking back, through coke bottle rose-tinted spectacles to Victorian imperialism or to ‘Fortress Britain’ standing defiant against the evil Hun. How ironic then, that many who express this sentiment are far closer to fascists in their outlook than those who fought them.

There’s another kind of nostalgia and another kind of Britain though, the one built by the people who returned from that war and in a time of inescapable austerity built the institutions we used to be so proud of.

As Empire slipped away, by and large more peacefully and with better grace than the other Imperial powers, and we struggled with rationing that dragged into the 1950s, we instituted the National Health Service. A huge and costly change but one that greatly improved the lot of all our citizens. Having pulled together in wartime we applied that same spirit to civil society and while planned economies would end up discredited this period did give us nationalised industries that worked for the people and a blunting of poverty and homelessness previously unparalleled in our history.

Those soldiers who returned home had fought alongside people from all around the world, and had seen the horrors (my grandfather liberated Belsen) that indulging nativism, populism and nationalism could cause. While the euphoria of peace wouldn’t last, alliances, talks and internationalism became obvious in their utility. The United Nations, NATO and yes, even the European Union were born out of those realisations.

Where the wartime generation gave us our social fabric and our institutions, the postwar generation brought us social liberalism. A great flowering of free speech, free expression, acceptance, LGBT tolerance and equality and a huge interest in foreign culture, food, art and more.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that we, for some perverse reason, set about dismantling all we had accomplished – or at least the ruling classes did. Now, weirdly, that same destructive attitude is being displayed by your average Jane or John in the street. A lashing out at the few remaining institutions we have, and the hard-won victories for personal liberty we won.

It’s not just coming from one side however. For every EU-hating Daily Mail reader, there’s a Guardianista demanding censorship. For every skinhead brawler there’s a mask-clad antifa. The nationalists and populists undermine everything that made the nation something to be proud of, the ‘Social Justice’ left threatens our individual and collective freedoms, and makes the right stronger with every illiberal act.

I want my country back too, but my nostalgia is for a country with social housing, a well-funded and publicly run NHS, infrastructure that works for the people, university grants, polytechnics, apprenticeships – and yes, free milk for schoolkids. I want my country back, where my business is none of your business, where ideas of ‘obscenity’ or ‘problematic material’ are attacked with the same robust energy we have devoted to Lawrence, Wilde or Kubrick.

Most of all though, and my bias shines through here, I want the British Left to be left-wing again. Concerned with society, its function and ensuring we lessen people’s suffering and have a country that works for all of us. I don’t want it to be monomaniacally fixated on whatever middle-class first world problem du jour is exciting the chattering classes.

Hey, my nostalgia may not be any more accurate than yours, but isn’t that vision a better one than a domineering, insular, jingoistic, ‘I’m alright Jack’ bully of a country?

I think so.

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gleb-konovalov-uncensoredAnyone who has known me for more than five minutes knows that I hate censorship. I go on about the importance of free speech and free expression the way vegans rattle on about tofu or nut cutlets. Whatever it is that suppresses speech, whether it be governmental interference and sanction, political gatekeeping by de facto tech monopolies or the public/private partnership that is financial censorship.

There is one form of censorship that is more insidious, however, and one with which I have trouble dealing. That’s self-censorship.

“The exercising of control over what one says and does, especially to avoid criticism.”

Believe it or not, I am very tired of fighting with people about things, especially when people seem to have developed somewhat entrenched and peculiar ideas about me. Ideas that I do not recognise as having any basis in reality. When I also defend ‘icky speech’, as Neil Gaiman calls it, not from content but on the foundation of free expression, people seem incapable of separating the principle from the material.

The Voltairian concept of free speech (actually articulated by Evelyn Beatrice-Hall) seems just about dead, and in combination with ‘Death of the Author’ your intent or purpose in creating material matters, not one jot. People will tell you what you meant (invariably giving it the worst possible interpretation to meet their own biases) and your opinion on what you made and why is entirely irrelevant.

But I am tired, so very weary, of this constant fighting and unlike some others I genuinely care what people think of me, and why. I want people to acknowledge the truth, I don’t like to see innocent people slandered and if I can take some heat away from someone else, I will! Profoundly suppressed masochistic tendencies perhaps.

Everything I do, everything I have done, for going on five years, has been subjected to the most intensive scrutiny by some devoted haters. If they can find a way to disrupt what I do, my living, my work, my life, they’ll do it. Any time I produce a game, a T-shirt design, a piece of written work, a Youtube video, a blog post – anything – they’re picking over it for something to damn me with or some spurious manner they can justify a takedown, censorship or other interference.

It’s wearing, it’s exhausting, and so I find myself doing something I hate; censoring myself.

I find myself questioning whether it’s worth another internet slap fight. Whether it’s worth being called a liar, misogynist, incel (that’s a new one), racist (!) and other nonsense, just because I don’t march in absolute lockstep with one group’s ideology in every particular.

Of course, on the other side, I have people screaming that I’m a Communist, Cultural Marxist, immoral, degenerate traitor and speculating about my racial grouping for some reason; again, because I don’t march in lockstep with their peculiar beliefs.

By doing that, even not going forward, I am betraying my principles for the sake of self-care, but it doesn’t sit well. It’s a paradox of esteem and self-actualisation (to put it in Maslow’s terms). You can’t self-actualise without esteem, but you can’t maintain esteem if you self-actualise.

The temptation to surround yourself with people who agree with you is strong, but I see the danger in that of the way other people have gone off the rails. It’s a trap, a maze with no exit and so, every time I make a creative decision it’s gut-wrenching torture of self-doubt, balanced – perhaps in an intimately colonic way – on the horns of a dilemma.

I think I have to uncensor myself in the long run, but it’s a hard thing to do. It’s harder not to be my authentic self though.

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