It was spring 2004 and yet again I was standing at a urinal in the Hamilton Hall in Liverpool Street Station in London pissing out another 10 rounds of shit beer with a chaser of vodka and Redbull.
Everything was too much or not enough, I was more lost than a something in a something.
The posters inviting me to consider a career as a Witherspoon Pub manager in the toilet were starting to develop a very unwelcome allure, this would mean I could plug into something and not have to think.
You could be forgiven for thinking that being a Witherspoon Pub manager was the unattractive bit.
No, it was the strong desire to do something where I did not have to think.
Where I was at the time was stuck, drunk, drugged up and looking to escape anything, whatever it looked like.
Maintaining The Status Quo
Everything was unattractive and the only thing more unattractive than everything was me, I hated myself and this cycle I was in, but I kept maintaining it.
In fact, the only thing I was skilled at was maintaining it.
I went home, felt shit and waited for the whole thing to start again.
I had to escape this, luckily at this stage, my head was so full of shit chemicals that it had not developed the wit and insight needed to dwell on suicide – unless you count aspiring to do a job where you don’t have to think as suicide.
The next morning Danielle called and asked if I wanted to work on a language camp in Poland in the middle of nowhere for five weeks, I’d be the only English person there, the pay was shit and you were not allowed to drink or smoke there.
So What Did You Say, Bernie?
Of course, I said yes right away.
I was enthused with purpose immediately, every reason I went to boarding school was now being fulfilled, I knew it would happen one day.
I was finally able to fulfil my destiny – I had been summoned to save these poor children from their post-communist hell and educate them.
What a wanker I was being.
Even now I still have not quite digested how life-changing and educational the whole trip was for me.
Even as I type this sitting on our friend’s balcony ten years later in Poland with my Argentine wife who I met here and our five-year-old son bashing into me, I am still pinching myself.
Back At The Ranch
I was back at my Dad’s house in Gray’s, Essex getting ready to go to Poland, it had been a few years since our Mum had died from a combination of cancer and something else I never plucked up the courage to ask what it was.
Looking back now I just could not deal with her having a terminal illness, I wonder if anyone can?
People say things like ‘you just get on with it’ and in some ways you do.
The Not So Great Escape
I became highly skilled at escaping and denial, I remember talking to my friend Clare about travel and joking about moving to another country, she asked something like was I after adventure or trying to run away from something?
I declared I was after adventure.
As you have guessed I was running away, I thought I was running away from Grays, Essex.
Even now Grays kills me and depresses me – every time I go back to visit our friends and family I get a deeper connection with Philip Larkin and know EXACTLY how Superman feels after a Kryptonite milkshake.
But I was not running away from Grays, I was running away from me and my nothingness.
So Not Fair
Today when #Babybernie (our son) shouts at me ‘it’s not fair’ – which could be anything from the wrong bit of Lego to me eating his whole dinner – I want to be able to let him know how unfair everything is, and most of that unfairness is in our heads.
I live in Western Europe where most things that seem ‘unfair’ are luxury items, ‘I can’t get a loan,’ they don’t have my favourite beer’ I was on hold to Sky TV for 15 minutes, I had to move house to get my child into a slightly less crap school”. I am a highly conditioned child of the 80’s – we are entitled to entitlement.
But in 2004 I was heading to Eastern Europe and was going to save people.
I headed off down to Lakeside Shopping centre to buy a big, black suitcase with the words CAT written on it.
I was a fucking pro traveller now.
Little did I know this was the last time I’d find any use for Lakeside Shopping Centre and it was the last time I’d ever take a bag this big away in my life.
Less is definitely more.
Tomorrow Part Two: “We arrive in Warsaw”