Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A slow death in Athlone ( search and destroy)

Is this how you see me
So I got a job as a bicycle mechanic, first I was hopeless, then I got better. I cycled the five miles into town and waited for the owner to open up every morning. I got good enough for the company I worked for to ask me to go over to the shop in Athlone and work from there. That meant getting up every morning, cycling to the nearest train station in Clara to get the early train into Athlone. the bike shop was only a few minutes walk away from the station so I'd usually get there nine nine thirtyish , but the train back in the evening meant that I'd get back home at eight or half eight ( I'd have to look back at train timetables to check this out) . The first day i worked in Athlone the owner just gave me the keys and walked out for the day , I didn't know but he was video recording what I was doing , throwing me in at the deep end , we went through the tape the next day. 

He seemed to be happy enough, happy enough to ask me to work there full time , so now I was commuting . the shop was open from nine till six everyday , he bought me a moped so I could get in more conveniently , but I ended up getting tonsillitis from the wind chill , and the near misses on the country roads were frightening , so what with my relationship falling apart and the dangerous roads my boss asked me if I'd move to Athlone , so saying good bye to my daughter and my now ex I moved into an empty flat by the railway station, near to the shop . Now I had to open up every morning and close up at night after cashing up. It just felt as if everything was over . But I bought my paintings with me and after a while I could afford to buy materials and with few distractions and no friends I started to paint again.

But they were strange paintings. I'd work all day , then come home , sit down on the sofa exhausted and smoke cigarettes drink coffee , stare at the tv blankly ( at first I didn't have a tv , just a radio I'd bought from Argos in the golden island shopping centre) and at some point I'd work up the energy to paint or cook . Not that I was cooking that much in those days , Pizzas from Tescos and maybe a snack box from the chipper.

I wasn't happy , its probably the most down and unhappiest I'd been since being a teenager. The paintings were more reflections of my emotional state , dark , black and strange like the unfriendly streets of Athlone at night in some respects it felt as if I was a ghost flitting through the streets at night , after the cinema or wandering out to the video store to get a movie . I didn't drink so I passed the pubs of which there are many and heard the laughter and the noise inside , it felt very much like the walks I took with my Childhood friend Michael around the streets of Droitwich, looking in at other peoples lives , except now it was just me and my empty flat .
Athlone was like a slow death. The commune had  collapsed , I'd given up on the life I'd chosen , and here I was exhausted at the and of every day in a town where I knew no one and the only contact I had from day to day were the customers I talked to in the shop. There had to be more than this. But how to get out of this trap that I'd allowed to be sprung on me , this whole life was bending me out of shape . At the interview for Winchester Clyde Hopkins, the head of painting , had asked me what I'd do to support myself during the degree and I told him , beg borrow and steal.

 These are choices we make as artists , do we choose to have
a job to support ourselves , and not be able to paint all the time , or choose to wing it and accept that there are some things we can't have , like security and possessions and sometimes even relationships , so we can carry on making what we are drawn to make.

These were hard paintings to make , because it really did feel like the end , that I'd betrayed whatever talent and opportunity I had been given again when I gave up drinking for this dead end mediocrity of a life where I had some things , but no time and no self respect . I didnt even smell good , my clothes had taken on the smell of grime and oil from the bikes I worked on , my hands had that dark and oily look that only mechanics hands can have . 

I see the paintings now as a wordless conversation or argument I was having with myself , arguments about relationships , sex , being used and a general lack of self worth giving in to abusive people who were basically using me for their own ends , when you lack for love you grasp onto the first person who smiles at you , but what you find is always a hidden agenda behind that smile , and an endless stream of lies. But a little kernel of hope was always there , in the back of my mind I kept returning to the story of Pandoras box , that the last thing left within that box was hope . Eventually I started to fight my way out of the prison I had placed myself within and one january night i get on a ferry back to Wales and left the flat and the job far behind .

Running away in the night

sadness of an empty bed
you must also cut and bleed

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