Monday, 10 October 2016

Dealing With Stuff


As I advance into my fifth decade, I know now part of getting old is realising and accepting that certain things will never happen to me.  I know now that I will never have dozens of friends, or be the life and soul of the party.  I'll never be highly-paid journalist with a bulging contacts book and I'll never be suave, socially sought-after man about town.  No, my various disorders and conditions have put paid to that.  I know now there are many things I'll never be capable of.

Such things as anxiety, depression and Asperger's are not really disabling in the sense they absolutely preclude doing anything.  But they do make things harder than they otherwise would be, and since they're "invisible", they rarely get you much sympathy unless they become completely and absolutely obvious.

Due to this, my pubgoing abilities are more limited that they otherwise would be.  I wouldn't be able to go to the Moorbrook on a day that North End are playing at home (I tell people that it'd take too long to get served, but really it's too crowded).  During a recent Meet The Brewer there, I had to leave when it proved more busy than expected (actually, I was found by someone hyperventilating against a wire fence, but never mind).  Had I been around during the "glory days" of the pub in the 1970s that Mudgie goes on about, I would probably have never gone to the pub at all.

This came up when people asked if I was going to IndyMan this year.  Quite apart from all the piss-taking I've doled out to the event over the last year, my previous experience of it was somewhat less than wonderful for me.  It's a long way to go and a lot of money to spend just to feel anxious in a public place.  I did look at all the photos on Twitter showing people having fun and felt a bit sad, but I knew that it wouldn't be the same to me.

I'm lucky in that my days off coincide with the quieter parts of the week.  There are less people to deal with, and less chance of my fumbling attempts at social interaction going badly wrong, which it frequently has.  Again, not really my fault, but try explaining that to those who know nothing about it.  So generally now, I sit on my own.  With electronic diversions, it's far less tedious than it used to be.

By this point, I'm sure you're wondering "Then why does he go out at all?".  Fairly easy to answer. If you have recurrent mental health problems, being stuck in the middle of the same walls, seeing the same things and listening to the same sounds over and over and over again, well, it does your head in, basically,  If you stay in your house too long, it's well documented that mood gradually lowers and you become isolated and less able to function in the world when it confronts you.
Oh dear. Not my best night

This "social muscle" needs to be exercised, but I have to be careful not to strain it.  My followers on Twitter have probably observed this,  If I've overloaded my capacity for human interaction for that week, I generally have a meltdown and curse the existence of everything.  It's then I declare a "people free day" and stay in.

It's a fine balance, and I frequently fall off.  Despite everything, I'm only human.  I get it wrong often, but I'm finding self-management easier than I did 20 years ago.  I can understand why people consider me a bit peculiar because I don't act in "expected" ways, but I generally find ways to defuse or avoid any difficulties.  Occasionally, I've got into real trouble (such as here), but probably no more than any other pubgoer, even if the reasons are different.

So, if you ever happen to be in Preston (or unlikelier places for me) and I'm on own in a corner in a pub with my tablet and a pint, I'm not setting out deliberately to ignore you, disconcert you or offend you.  I'm just doing what I can cope with at that moment.

And if you think any difference, then I'm sorry. For you, mainly.


  1. I know what you mean - after a couple of hours at a beer festival or any kind of "social gathering", I'm thinking that it's about time to head home or at least to find a quiet pub corner.

  2. I live alone and if I don't leave the house for two consecutive days, I feel hemmed in. I was declared surplus from my last job and was retired early, so I don't even have the social interaction of the workplace during weekdays. Isolation isn't good for anyone.

    Pubs are the only institutions that I can think of where you can walk in off the street, buy a drink and be entitled to sit there as long as you like, with the option of talking to strangers or not, as you prefer. Try talking to strangers in a café or restaurant and see what reaction you get. Actually, just try lingering too long in a café over one coffee without speaking to anyone and you may get suspicious looks, perhaps even be told to move on. This doesn't usually happen in a pub.

    I'm sure that you and I use pubs in different ways, but there are some similarities as to why we both go to them.

    1. That's as good a case for pubs as I've seen Nev.

    2. Even the buying a drink part doesn't seem to be necessary in my local Spoons

    3. @Nev - any objections if I reproduce your quote (without naming you) for a column in "Opening Times"?

  3. Yes, a quick trip to the pub provides "something to do" and a bit of social interaction even if you don't really converse with anyone apart from the bar staff. People mock blokes sitting on their own in Wetherspoons, but surely better that than just sitting miserably at home.

    My mum sometimes used to say to my dad "what's the point of going to the pub if you don't talk to anyone there?" but that's missing the point.

  4. Seven years widowed and recently retired - I'm another who enjoys going to the pub but prepared to be on my own. It's what pubs should be for - for social interaction and the (perceived) anti-social.

  5. Haven't made it past the sentence with "fifth decade", because it reminds me that I've now entered my SIXTH DECADE. Yeah, thanks for that, Matthew.

    No, really, I spend a LOT of time alone. And yet I also don't necessarily want to socialise when I go out. I do more so when in England, because it's foreign territory and thus very interesting in that regard, just to experience the pub.

  6. I too have an invisible condition, in my case a physical one, which restricts the places I can go. I understand why other people struggle to appreciate that and think you're being anti-social when you're not.

  7. at least i'm not the only one.

  8. I'm in a similar boat to you, Matthew, although I'm quite a bit younger than you. I just go to one of the local micropubs in Longridge and have a drink or two there. I wrote a bit more about it at Mudgie's blog.

    Did you go to the Broughton Beer & Pie Festival that was on this weekend? I went for a couple of halves. It was alright.