Looking Out

Alan Turing - photo (c) Allison Ursula Smith 2013
Alan Turing – photo (c) Allison Ursula Smith 2013
Today I was going to bang on about how depressed I am feeling. Again and as usual. I was going to post about how terrified I am about everything. But I then read two separate posts by two separate people both of which altered the course of this post. The strange thing is that the title remained the same.

The first piece I read was by a woman called Lauren who was engulfed by an Internet furore that drenched the already soggy video game media in the kind of shit that consumers find particularly sticky. The furore was about journalistic integrity being compromised by games companies and their marketing and PR wings.

It was a horrible, tawdry little furore and Lauren bore much of it due I now believe to inexperience…

I believed she was a drab illustration of the at best doe-eyed naifery and at worst the mendacious new breed of writer/marketer that now exists in games journalism. She was what I – in my priestly (a priest of the old ways of journalism, ways that are embedded in a mythical past that obfuscates the Disney parties on London rooftops and the flights to Austin Texas all paid for by publishers in the 1990s and overlooked in my own eye-moting criticism) thought of as thoughtless and self-seeking.

Now, maybe there was some of that. But then Lauren, via Facebook, comes up with this on a group I belong to called ‘UK games journalists‘. Well, no, I won’t print the whole thing as I don’t have permission to. I will print the two lines that stood out to me and made me think and rethink. And I will say, “Well done Lauren and thanks for making this old priestly fool take another look.”

I’m highly stressed but…

I’m not depressed.

The second piece is by a new friend of mine. I met Ally a week or so ago when she came over to my new home with her partner, a friend I’ve known for a while and who on his own makes the world a better place. They work well together. I like them individually and as a couple. That’s immensely pleasing, comforting and energising.

So, they were visiting from Canada and as part of their trans-Atlantic trip, they came for something to eat at my new home – a 1930s house that I had lived in for less than a week and that terrifies me because I own a bit of it. I don’t rent it. I’ve rented accommodation since 1999. But this, huge, sprawling debt on invisible foundations with its surf-like floors and junglish garden, I own. I own it along with my partner, a women with a brilliant mind, a great deal of which is currently overcome with “Jesus Christ! A house! A partner who is either depressed or stressed. Jesus!” But I put words into her mouth as well as digressing in a terrible way.

Prior to 1999 I owned two houses, in Bath, in England. An expensive place to live let alone to own property. Back then I had a breakdown. Back then I drove a car into a wall.

More digression. The point is that Ally also has a blog. It’s called “The Shadows of Birds”. It’s highly readable. The first post I read on it, the latest post on it as I write this, is about Alan Turing. It’s also about Ally meeting a man in a park in Manchester, England. It has resonances to a man I met in an office in the 1980s given that it speaks about hidden languages and clubs and loves. It’s also a fabulously rich and crisp (an impossible combination) piece of prose that I both envy and appreciate in equal measure.

It contains writing like this:

On my recent trip to England, I took the train to Manchester for the day to visit his statue. At the feet of the statue are these words: Alan Turing, 1912-1954. Father of Computer Science, Mathematician, Logician, Wartime Codebreaker, Victim of Prejudice.”

When I was twenty-seven, I promised myself that I would write a novel about Turing. I knew that it would take many years. I’ve written passages: chains of numbers mixed with poems, lists of poisons, alchemy. Long passages about a man who was once a boy who made up beautiful, strange words. The sounds of seagulls fighting was “quockling.” This same boy grew up and danced with men in Norway in clubs not known to the public. I see him there under dim lights between bodies whose skin smells like fog over the sea. He carries himself across the dance floor like a ship with its mast on fire.

I’d recommend you read it. It’s here. Tell Ally I sent you.

So, thanks to these two – much younger and in many ways wiser – people for deflecting this post from a dull perambulation through more piss-weak yet cumbersome self-loathing. It seems that “Looking Out” does not have to mean “Be frightened of what might happen next” after all because sometimes that proves to be inspiring rather than disabling. That inspiration can come from a brand new source or even from an old source viewed from a new angle.

Please leave a comment. Many thanks.