Sunday, 10 December 2017


In case you were wondering, I only squeezed another 24 hours out of my manic upswing, beyond the writing of last week’s colyoom.

As predicted, a comedown arrived, accompanied by a collapse of mood and energy, but  nothing too extreme; nothing a couple of solitary hours on a beach wouldn’t solve.

Off I head, back to my old stomping grounds. The cliffs are dark and defiant; the sand white, strewn with felled forests of diverse seaweeds.

I walk up to the distant headland, with the cold wet wind behind me, and sit on a rock. Then I choose another rock out there, at the water’s edge, and watch and marvel at how quickly the tide is pulling in.

This is my meditation, my mindfulness if you must: I just call it sitting on a rock.

Waves gradually encircle my staring rock, offering the illusion that it’s drifting out into the ocean. Once the water has risen enough to completely cover it I stand, stretch and realise I’m bloomin’ freezing.

Time to head to a nearby town for a cuppa and a toastie.
Into a pub I’ve visited for over 25 years, a place where sentimental memories abound, but today the lass behind the bar tells me she can't do a toasted sandwich ’til 12:30.

There’s a couple eating soup and brown bread to my left, and over there a fella is tucking into his Full Irish, so I ask her if she is serving food.

Sticking her chin up and out towards me, she charmlessly states


At which point I put on my coat and leave, frosted with sadness.

Off down the road to another pub where far more locals are found: always a good sign. Loads of young smiley staff are whizzing around and when I thank her for bringing my tea she says

“You’re very welcome!”

Music to my English ears, which still struggle a little with the ubiquitous Irish server’s: “No problem.”

Unlike the Gents in the other place, where a feeble machine wafted warm sparrow farts onto my wet hands, here there’s a hand dryer that really drys hands.

Lovely staff, great food, and I’m feeling just a bit pleased to have broken with routine and found somewhere new, and then it hits me.

I’m a bit too pleased. 

How pathetic. 
How miserably sad and cowardly we have become. 

Yes, I know I’m writing about myself, but you too have rituals and habits that you’ve created to protect you from unknown threats.

Trouble is, there are very few significant unknown threats in our everyday lives. Today’s First World society offers us a pampered plush existence. The vast majority of you reading this will not go to bed hungry tonight.

You will not have ice on the inside of your windows in the morning. Your toilet will flush and your shower water will be hot. You will not go to bed fearful that someone you love will be taken in the night. If you become unwell you will be cared for. If you are poor, there is help available.

Yet everywhere you look, people are suffering from anxiety. Stressed out, exhausted, depressed, they are prescribed pills to calm them down, because even if the reasons for their fears are not justified, their fears are as real and frightening as finding a lion in your bedroom.

Does changing the pub in which I eat my toastie represent the extent of adventure in my life? If so, I need a lot more. We all need more, because our technology has outpaced our evolution.

When you suffer stress or panic attacks your system has been flooded with adrenaline, produced by your body’s ‘fight or flight’ mechanism.

Back in the days before Netflix and tea bags, when your ancestor was facing up to a wild animal that she was hoping would be her dinner, or another that wanted her to be its dinner, I don’t think she wrote a To Do list.

She didn’t ask Siri or Alexa what percentage chance she had of success. She didn’t google “How to kill a sabre toothed tiger.”

She acted. She either fought or fled, and her chances of success were massively heightened by the presence of adrenaline coursing through her veins.

Years ago I experienced a massive panic attack and let me tell you, whoof, those babies are as scary as life gets, and that’s kind of my point.

Is all this anxiety that’s destroying so many lives today the result of us leading cumfy wumfy existences, that rarely require life or death decisions?

Our bodies are still designed to deal with such extremes, yet instead of chasing a gazelle that you fancy roasting on a spit, or outwitting the snake that was sitting on your chest as you awoke, the most stressful part of your day comes while you’re watching tele, when that dialogue box appears on screen to tell you that you’re recording too many programmes and have to cancel one of them.

I’m not a medical professional, so if you are one, please refute my lay theory that if we had real encounters with dangerous things, we’d feel less stressed.

With eyes on the front of our faces, we are designed to be predators. We used to kill or be killed, and now we worry about where to eat toasties.

Well that’s a trifle unfair. We worry about money and rent, mortgages and bills. We worry about our childrens’ use of social media and whether we can afford to run two cars any more.

All these fears are substantial and real, but the amount of stress they create goes far beyond the worth of the problems they represent.

I’m pretty sure that if I was going face to face with a hungry lion, the last thing I’d do is have a panic attack.

©Charlie Adley

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