To pick up where we left off last time, side effects of anti-depressants include eating and sleeping more – ideal, with Christmas coming up. Also, they are easy to get hold of. All I did was nip to the doctor for a routine examination of a wrist injury sustained in the Tennyson Road Incident and walk out with enough Citalopram to keep me in hysterical larfter for about eight months. The wrist will never be the same, but there is a broader context: it was a nasty prang, and my doctor wanted to monitor PTSD-type symptoms, of which there have been several. For example, I am now a nervous, rather than simply physically attractive, passenger, convinced that anything at a left-hand junction is about to pile into us. Not that it would matter in our Land Rover mum wagon, which could withstand Godzilla throwing it through a skyscraper, but this sort of symptom does not understand rationality: on long journeys my right leg aches from incessantly pumping a non-existent brake pedal. Then there’s the nightmares, the waking up shouting, the jumping at shadows, and so forth. It’s not much of a giggle, all things considered.

Then again, it’s worth remembering that I came out of the incident in better condition than the cabbie who drove into me. Facing prison for criminal negligence, he committed suicide shortly before the case came to court. This is inexpressibly sad. For a while I


replayed the event over and over, convinced it was my fault in the way that I now understand is common among victims of physical trauma. It wasn’t. He was drunk, speeding and jumped a red light onto a roundabout, and in ninety-nine alternate universes, I never got up off the tarmac. My doctor asked if I felt suicidal, as she is obliged to do. I said I didn’t, but admitted that my facial hair was not the beard of a happy man. She agreed, rather unprofessionally. ‘I’m a barber,’ I said, ‘imagine what it’s like for me, going out in public like this’. She already knew I was a barber because I cut her husband’s hair. The first time, I covered up a lazy haircut with combing and gel – this was also unprofessional, so I suppose we were even. In my defence, the first thing you learn at barber school is that if in doubt leave it long and chuck a load of product through it, so I was only following protocol. I’ve cut his hair several times since, incidentally, and he remains of the few clients I have who is not either extremely old, clearly dying or possibly already dead.

We had discussed PTSD, male depression and similar phenomena before. This was at her house, after the lazy haircut, perhaps because we were all depressed about it, even though only two of us were male. This isn’t true, actually, as only I knew it was a lazy haircut and was keeping it to myself. Anyway. Male depression is in the spotlight, with current thought citing perceived loss of masculine roles and, indeed, perceived loss of masculinity itself as the main causes. This seems reasonable, although I th


ink it is part of a wider issue with identity in contemporary society. To paraphrase enormous Edwardian essayist GK Chesterton: ‘when people stop believing in God, they start believing in anything’. To paraphrase any number of nutcases at Runton, society is being routinely homogenised so that we lose our identity and become even more unhappy. Unhappy humans emit the low frequency vibrations that multi-dimensional shape shifting lizards from the rings of Saturn feed upon, and considering they are already keeping us in a state of constant fear via social media for this exact reason, it is no wonder they are secretly running the planet. My professionalism keeps me from having an opinion on this brilliant nonsense. Be that as it may, pointing out that society is unhappy is hardly breaking a story, but it’s a long ride to the doctor from here, especially during the boring bit of the coast road between Eccles on Sea and Mundesley, and I have to think about something.

I am writing this on Remembrance Sunday, about which I have mixed feelings. No one fought a war for this useless pantomime of a society, but then few people fight wars for anything in particular. Humans are their own tragedy, war is a by-product of this, and most people fight wars simply because there is a war on to fight. Also, a fine example of dignified national reflection has in recent years attained a mawkish sentimentality that no one walked slowly towards machine guns for. That said, wandering across the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, Northrepps with my dog at half past ten as the village was gathering, it would have been terrible form to simply pass through. We walk here often, chatting to the verger who is struck by Archie and his enthusiasm for literally everything. Also, I’m no slouch when it comes to medieval architecture and know a fifteenth century ecclesiastical building when I see one, so we discuss this while he regales me with tales of smugglers, highwaymen and how the vicarage had the only bath in the village until 1900, while Archie leans against his legs. ‘He’s being very quiet today,’ he said, as the vicar read out the names of locals killed in World War One. It was a long list for such a small village, and it never really recovered. The list for World War Two was shorter but perhaps sadder, because there was no one left to fight in it. ‘Yes,’ I wanted to hiss, ‘he’s at a fucking Remembrance Day service,’ but decided against it. The Last Post sounded, the wind rushed up from the sugar beet fields, leaves scurried about the gravestones, and the world turned a-new.


Main – St Mary the Virgin, Northrepps. At full flight my dog would cover the ground between here and the tower in slightly under four seconds. Takes two minutes to get him off the sofa, mind.

Top inset – War memorial in the churchyard.

Middle inset – Horses in pasture behind the church. They are lying down as a mark of respect.

Lower inset – Churchyard, facing out across the sugar beet towards Sidestrand and the North Sea. It is a peaceful place.

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