Endings.

I’m writing a new show that will be biographical and feature tales about mental health. Last time I felt the black dog tugging on his leash was after the death of my dad. In truth though that wasn’t depression it was me grieving, which is perfectly natural. I feel it’s important we recognise that and don’t define ourselves via a condition…some of these jokes are in bad taste…good.  

I hold everything the NHS does in the highest regard. Being Scottish I’m quite reliant on them. I hate these twits that say, “Ah but you can’t expect free care forever.” It’s not free. We pay for it. And being an ex smoker of 20 years, with the amount of tax I’ve paid, when my time is up I want a gold plated bed and disgraced Tories washing my feet while I whack their arses with a rolled up copy of the Morning Star.

I’m not claiming NHS care is perfect. I used to have an uncle who had an NHS pacemaker and every time he farted the garage door would open.

My dad went out in an NHS bed. Not so much to do with a Scots lifestyle and more to do with he was chock a full of white asbestos from his job. The funeral was lovely and very well attended but his cremation went on forever.

That was the last time I felt depressed. But the point is it wasn’t depression I was just grieving. We should recognise that, I feel it’s very important we don’t define ourselves via conditions. Being sad is sometimes the right way to be. I really don’t like how we romanticise bad mental health. Poor old Van Gough get’s that, “Ah well, the reason he was so great was because he was so tortured.”
Bullshit. They claim his last words were  “la tristesse durera” meaning  “The pain is eternal” Well that was conveniently poetic of him wasn’t it?…and just not true. You know what my dads last words were? “You maybe better get a doctor. I think there’s something really wrong with me.” Which makes perfect sense. He wasn’t rattling out little bon mots on the nature of being. “Ah the universe is a hurricane and we are nought but farts.” What? What’s he saying? I’m not sure, something about farting like a hurricane. Ah…it’s probably the mixture of hospital cabbage and morphine.

I reckon Van Gough’s last words probably were more along the lines of, “Speak up you fool, I’m missing a lug. What? No I don’t feel like getting it down in a painting! I’m really fucking depressed! Send out for some prostitutes and Absinth, that tends to work”

And if those really were his last words then he was wrong. Pain isn’t eternal…Well unless you’re watching Scotland in a world cup qualifier. In which case it can feel like it. The point is you get better. Of course I can still feel a swelling of emotion when I think of my dad, but it’s a nice feeling. I was just thinking today how he could be full of constant surprises. I remember watching indie band The Smiths on telly one day and he looked up from his paper and said, “What a lovely singer that man is. Perfect diction, you can make out every word.” I was stunned. As far as music went he wasn’t into anything post Sinatra. Now he’s gone from Sinatra to The Smiths and cut out pretty much everything in between. That’s some gap. Or maybe he just liked the idea of “hanging DJs” Then there was the time gay icon Boy George first appeared on Top of the Pops. Again he looks up from his paper, “What’s that.” He enquired? Not who, what. I said, “It’s Boy George. He’s gay.” To which he replied, “Well if gay means happy then that man’s ecstatic.” A joke I feel good enough to go in this show.

Although the death of my dad from cancer was anything but pleasant I didn’t find it horrific either. Life kind of prepares you for such stuff. And even in among all the pain nice things would happen. The day before he went he decided to rally round and find the strength to watch Scotland play England at Rugby. We hadn’t defeated England in an age…that day we won. Nice one God. I always reckoned if he did exist he’s probably Scottish and invented England to punish us for our sins.

Even on the day of his passing quirky stuff was happening. My family is like The Broons. There’s as many of us as them and like The Broons if one heads out to solve a problem then another nine follow behind them. On the day my dad was at the end he had been put into twilight to ease his pain. It was decided a word with the nurse was required and in typical Broons/Scott family tradition nine of them set off down the corridor and I was charged with watching my dad as I had a “nursing background”. I’d worked for nine months in a psychiatric hospital about ten years prior. They hadn’t been out the room more than two minutes and my dad decided, from whatever level of consciousness he was on, It seems to have gone a bit quite I’ll just sneak away now. And he stopped breathing. I got a fright. I then said, “Shit dad they’re all out the room. Could you please just hang on.” And he promptly started breathing again.

So then I lean out his room and call on the family. As I was doing this I did the most ridiculous thing of keeping one hand on his bed, like you do with a shopping trolley in the supermarket…in case someone is looking for exactly the same groceries as you and makes off with your stuff. I’ve no idea where I thought he might be going. I think the chances of him leaping up and announcing there’s maybe some time left for a final bet at the bookies were slim.

PS My dad’s the one on the left in this photo.

 

 

 

We understand why you’re feeling down.

Christmas is nearly upon us, and all the good things that brings will be enjoyed by many over the next few days. But it goes without having to be said this is also a very difficult time for people who are suffering a multitude of problems. The first thing you should realise, if you’re one of those people, is there is nothing wrong with feeling the way you do. So don’t add that to what, I’m sure for some, seems like an endless list. The people around you understand why you feel like this. The number one reason for that is at some point they’ve been in the same place as you.

I remember one Christmas Eve sitting alone at night in my parents living room and just breaking down, thinking my life had reached such a point of desperation that it would never right itself again. That I would never feel like the person I used to be again. That was years ago. Today I’m as happy as one can be. Yes still got problems, still got worries, can still crash on the odd day and start building my own endless list. Thankfully it only happens on rare occasions.

There’s no magic wand we can wave to make these things better overnight, but I do stress here…Things will get better. I’m no councillor. I don’t know therapy but I’ll share here some things that are cost free that have worked for me.

  1. If there’s someone who’s hurt you in your life, who you no longer want to influence your thoughts…write a letter to them. It’s not to be sent to them. Just write a giant FUCK YOU! to that person and to why you’re done with whatever happened and how in the future they ARE NOT going to influence how you approach your own life.
  2. Treat yourself. I know this is not so easy to do when money is an issue, or is the issue that’s causing the stress. You don’t always need money to do this. There will be a multitude of free activities on in the nearest town. Look them up. Go participate in one. Do it for you. If you do have some spare cash buy yourself something frivolous and unnecessary. You’ve earned it.
  3. Make a list of all the good things you’ve done in recent times. You’ll be surprised once you add them up.
  4. Get some air. Try to get to some open country. The space is good. If you’re alone enjoy the solitude. Enjoy not having to have this time committed to anything but you.
  5. And as I say at the start, accept something is wrong but don’t let that define you. Your unwell. There are many effective treatments to address this. Remember you’re not the only one being reflective right now. Someone somewhere is probably being reflective about you.

An Imagined Syrian Refugee.

For a writing exercise we were to create a background for a central character. I imagined a Syrian refugee. All of this background is fiction but comes from research I did on the situation…

 

CHRISTIAN SHAMMAS (A Syrian refugee)

Christian Shammas is a 22 year old Syrian refugee. His mother Camila Abdel-Massih (surname means servant of Christ in the Arabic world) was a Palestinian Christian who fled to Syria as a child with her wealthy parentsduring the 1967 war. His father Tabarank Shammas is an Syrian Arab and Sunni Muslim. His father is from poorer farming heritage.
Although interdenominational marriages are not unheard of in Syria they are not common. His mixed faith upbringing led to bullying as a child.
Christians first name in the Arabic tradition means love and his surname means friendship. He likes to introduce himself by pointing this out.
Before having to flee his hometown of Damascus in 2015 he was studying dentistry.  He is fluent in English and French. (Both popular second languages in Syria although English is preferred.)
Despite being very well educated Christian is profoundly dyslexic which leads to huge problems for him when he has to flee the country.
During the Arab spring of 2013 he was arrested by Bashar al-Assad security forces with 13’000 other online activists and severely tortured leading to him walking with a severe limp.
He has a seven year old sister Mary Shammas who is entirely uneducated in any formal way.
During some carpet bombing Christian and his sister were separated from his parents. He doesn’t know if they are alive or dead. He has no idea which side was behind the bombing but is determined to find out.
As a refugee in Syria he is recognised by two of Assad’s secret police who threaten to rape his sister. He kills them both with a pistol he found in some ruins.
This forces him to flee the country with his sister with money he has stashed. He makes it to “The Jungle” refugee camp in France which is where we find him.
The only physical possessions he has apart from the clothes on his back is an I-pod and charger. The I-pod is filled with the poems of Syrian poet and Nobel Prize nominee Adunis.
He quotes this poetry often to his sister when she is distressed. The I-Pod is also filled with songs by Elvis. Listening to Elvis also helps calm his sister.
Whilst at the camp his young sister is being targeted by human traffickers.
The camp is now to be demolished and to protect his sister Christian agrees to have her moved to the UK. He has no idea how to contact her once this happens. Christian is to remain stranded in France. Whilst at the camp he befriends a Syrian man named Sayid Burhan who helps him with daily life. For the journey to the UK he entrusts his sister to Sayid.   Unbeknownst to Christian he is the leader of a child trafficking group. Christian finds out the truth a day after he last sees his sister.
Some Quotes.
 “To the country dug into our lives like a grave, to the country etherized, and killed, a sun rises from our paralyzed history into our millennial sleep” ― Ali Ahmad Said Asbar Adunis
“What did we lose, what was lost in us? To whom do these distances belong that separated us and that now bind us? Are we still one or have we both broken into pieces? How gentle this dust is- Its body now, and mine, at this very minute are one and the same” ― Adonis, If Only the Sea Could Sleep
 “If only we were not that seedling of Creation, Of Earth and its generations, If only we had remained simple Clay or Ember, Or something in between, Then we would not have to see This World, its Lord, and its Hell, twice over.” ― Adonis

John Gets Mad. Bi-Polar tales 1. (Don’t be a pain in the arse.)

I’m soon going to do a new show based around experiences of mental illness called John Scott Gets Mad. The things I post here are first ideas of what will be in it.

There’s a fair bit of hippy dippy thinking out there that goes along the lines of, “oh but if you take a medication for your mental health problem you’re not addressing the problem you’re just masking it.”

Look the condition I have is genetic. It requires treatment but is also very treatable. If it rains you put on a coat. It’s the Same idea when taking a treatment. Of course you get whack jobs like Scientologist Tom Cruise who claims all mental health treatments are the work of the Devil. Perhaps Tom if you took a pill you might have a moment of reflection on your double divorces and come to terms with the fact that your gay.

Saying that, having a mental health disability isn’t an excuse for being a pain in the arse. Or so my wife keeps telling me.

I once went on a tour to raise awareness on suicide in the highlands of Scotland. It’s really proportionally high up there. Lots of alcohol and access to shotguns.

The woman who organised the tour works with self harmers. She herself was a self harmer. She was also one of the rudest and more difficult of folks I’ve ever had to deal with. If she wasn’t trying to completely control everything we did she spent the rest of the time trying to convince us we were all self harmers. By the end of two weeks I was wondering why she had to self harm at all. I would have happily offered up a quick punch in the kidneys.

“Oh you bite your nails. That’s a sign of self harm. Oh you smoke. That’s self harm”…OK you got me there…”drink, that’s self harm”…Fuck you the reason I’m drinking is to get through the next week with you. The best one was, “If you were a Goth in the 80s there’s new evidence to suggest that’s self harm.” Are you kidding me? The reason I was a Goth in the 80s was because I liked to sleep with slightly over weight girls in fishnets. How can being a Goth be an illness when you’re in a band called The Cure???

But the biggest pain was the obsession she developed over the size of my luggage. Every day at regular intervals. “That case is TOO BIG. It’s too big for the Highlands. It’s TOO BIG for this tour.”

The reason my case was bigger than the other comics was they were all going home half way through. I was away for a full 12 days.

Eventually one night in a calmer moment everyone got to speaking about their families, partners and children. “Do you have any children John?” She enquired. “Yes I’ve got three.” I replied. “Oh really? That surprises me.”

“Oh..Well I should explain none of them are mine…no they’re all in that big fucking case I’m dragging around the place.”

 

A very, very short play.

I’ve been delighted to be accepted to do a script writing degree at University. As part of my application I had to write a two minute piece of script around the title “Where were you last night?” This is what I came up with.

WHERE WERE YOU LAST NIGHT?

We see an elderly woman Jean sat alone. In the background we hear the noise of a front door opening.

 

JEAN: Is that you Robert?

BRIAN. No Jean it’s me Brian.

JEAN. Brian? Should you not be at your work son?

We hear Brian talking loudly from another room.

BRIAN. Not today. Today’s the day I take you to the pensioners dance.

JEAN. You’re talking me to the dance? But you should be at your work. It’s your father’s job to take me to the dance.

BRIAN. You’ll see him at the dance. He said yesterday he’d get you there. Do you not remember?

JEAN. No son. You know I forget things. I’m just at that age. I’ve not seen your father all day. He’s probably down the bookies. He can spend hours in there deciding on a two pound flutter. I’ll give him what for when I see him at the dance.

BRIAN. I’m sure you will. Would you like a quick cuppa before we head.

JEAN. I’ll come through and make it.

BRIAN. No you sit where you are. I’ll bring it through.

JEAN. Have you seen your father today?

BRIAN Aye I’ve seen him. Just give me a minute and I’ll explain.

JEAN (To herself) Imagine leaving your son to take his mother to a pensioners dance. What an affront. I never know where that bugger is from one day to the next. Bookies and the pub, that’s all that matters to him. I’m not even sure if he came home last night. And at his age…

Brian an elderly man enters carrying a tea tray.

BRIAN. Here you are pet.

JEAN. Who are you?

BRIAN. It’s me pet, your husband Brian.

JEAN. But…but…Brain’s my son. Robert’s my husband.

BRIAN. No pet. It’s the other way around. You get that mixed a bit at the moment. Don’t worry about it; it’s just part of the condition. Things start to come back to you when you see my face. But when I leave the room…I’m sorry I should have come in right away.

JEAN. (Touching Brian’s face and looking directly into his eyes. Beginning to realise. Becoming tearful) Oh…Oh no…Oh I remember now. This is terrible. What must you think of me? What must you think when I don’t even know my own husband. What’s to become of us Brian? This is going to get worse. I’ve got early onset dementia but I’m not stupid. I know where this ends.

BRIAN (Kneeling before her) I’ll be here my love. I’ll always be right here.

JEAN. And who’s going to look after you when I no longer know who you are. This is as bad for you as anybody. How will you cope with that?

BRIAN. I’ll cope just fine pet. That’s just what life has set out for us. Even when you’re confused I’ll know that you’re there.

JEAN. I know…I know. But where were you last night?

BRIAN. I was here pet. I’m always here. Right, do you fancy getting down to the dance. Condition or not we can still cut up the floor better than the rest.

JEAN. Yes. I would enjoy that. (Laughs gently)You’re right. We’ll always be great dancers. One day I’ll be thinking I’m the belle of the ball. So many great dancers will be getting me up on the floor…but all the time it will be you.

 

 

 

 

 

David Bowie. A fan and friends remember.

Last week due to unforeseen circumstance I had to write about Bowie in ways I wasn’t expecting. Out of respect I’ve let that sit for a week…this is the blog I would have liked to initially post…

 I said to myself. A few minutes later the first tears of many that day arrived.

Around 10 minutes after hearing the news of Bowies passing I discovered an email saying I’d been accepted to university for my BA hons in Drama and Script, something I’d wanted to do since childhood (I’m 46 years old at this particular earth moment). My emotions were now properly roller coasting. My mum who’s now 81 and as decent a Christian type as you’ll meet anywhere said, “That’s David Bowie leaving the planet and passing on some of his life to you.” Yes my mum is awesome. Sometimes she IS Ziggy Stardust. Obviously such a lovely statement didn’t help stem the flow of tears on my 3 hour journey home to Newcastle.

The first message I got was from an old school friend Yanthe. She texted direct to say she was “Blubbing like a bairn.” Next a lot of old friends started to message on Facebook, many remarking on how on hearing the news they immediately thought of me. It was nice to have my life long devotion to him recognised. You should understand that by the time I was 13 my bedroom was like a shrine to him with little wallpaper showing due to images and cuttings and posters and lyric sheets of Mr David Bowie. I once read years ago that the only fans more devoted are Elvis fans. I think we may have way outdone them by now. One message from my friend Andrew reminded me of the night I had him laughing uproariously by playing the Laughing Gnome single at the wrong speed of 33 and a third and then how I’d I’m scared him shitless by playing the start to the Diamond Dogs LP in pitch darkness. Happy memories. Young teenage carefree mucking about memories.

Why Bowie? I dunno. You could ask the millions of other devoted fans and I’m sure there will be many stories of him making us feel accepted as outsiders. I think there’s more to it than that. I think beside all the man from outer space perception there was a feeling of him being one of us that stretched way beyond isolated teenage angst. He was anti establishment/ established ideas of what you can and cannot do. Aren’t we all a bit like that?

I’m not saying this for effect but my earliest memory is of Bowie and the Spiders doing the Jean Genie on Top of the Pops. I was 3 years old.  I remember my mum and dad remarking about “the state of him” I remember my older brothers and sisters saying they liked him. My next encounter with him was when I was 5 and Space Oddity was at number 1. He’s got two different eyes. That really stuck in my head. Next up Ashes to Ashes is at number 1. I was 10 and found the video for the song mesmerizing. He’s dressed as a clown, while being chased by a bulldozer and his nan seems to pop up at the end. What a curious man. Ironically the moment I was confirmed as a lifelong fan was exactly the same moment a generation before me had fallen for him. May 1983 was the 1000th edition of Top Of The Pops, by now I was already taking an interest but when I saw that clip of him and the Spiders doing Starman…well that was pretty much it. There cannot possibly be a better song or cooler man in existence.

My favourite memory is less a memory and more a confirmation of higher forces than me pointing out that we are all supposed to be a fan at some point or another. My favourite book on Bowie is Ziggyology by Simon Goddard. The book begins with a quote by Arthur C Clarke and goes on to examine many aspects of history from cosmology to Pythagoras to Gustav Holts The Planets (used as walk on music by The Spiders) and the crossing of artistic, historical and scientific lay lines that all lead to the creation of Ziggy Stardust. In some ways the book is as much about synchronicity as it is about that period in Bowies life. The dictionary definition of synchronicity is… “the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.”

First let me explain my own personal connection to the books author. Prior to publishing Ziggyology Simon wrote the book Mozipedia. a thorough documentation of all things Morrissey and Smiths related. Upon opening Mozipedia  you’ll find on the fist page a preface dedication, “For misery guts of Bonnyrigg.” Where’s Bonnyrigg and who’s Misery guts? Well Bonnyrigg is a small town in the Lothians of Scotland where I grew up and Misery guts is a certain Paul Johnson a school friend of mine who lived just around the corner from me. He and the author have been long time pen pals. He’s as much of an authority on Moz as I am on Dave. We used to listen to both in each others bedrooms. Look at that a book written for each of us…even though Simon doesn’t know me from Adam. But that’s not the great cosmic coincidence. No I have a BETTER one than even that.

I was at Heathrow airport train terminus London, sat on a platform reading Ziggyology. I’d just got to a part describing how Rick Wakeman came to put together the beautiful piano work on Hunk Dory.  I glanced up and there on the platform opposite was Rick Wakeman. Now, knowing the nature of this book I thought no way, you’re willing that to be him stood about 20 feet away.  So with minutes to go before my train arrived I ran across the platforms walkway and up to him. “Excuse me sorry to bother, but you are Rick Wakeman aren’t you?” “Yes.” “Ha! Unbelievable I’m just reading about the wonderful work you did on Hunky Dory.” “Thanks.” “Sorry got to run again my trains coming.”

And that as they say was that. You can make up your own minds from there. The book does finish on a sentiment that I loved upon first reading. After the author makes all his connections and lays out all his evidence he concludes…WE ARE ALL ZIGGY STARDUST.

Couldn’t agree more.  Bye, bye…we love you.

A Christmas story….Sanity Clause

A wee thing I wrote for a charity book of Christmas related stories by comedians…

 

“Sanity clause? Sanity clause? There ain’t no sanity clause.” So goes the Joke between Chico and Groucho from the Marx brother’s movie A night At The Opera.

It had been ringing in his head for months now. It was an acute reminder of people’s lack of belief. A belief that people are told they should grow out of. Silly people.

But it was that very lack of belief that had put him where he was.

Cornhill psychiatric hospital wasn’t the worst place to spend an entire year. The food wasn’t bad and he’d made good friends with many of his fellow patients. Some of them were quite happy to accept he was the real Santa Clause. But now he was full of an almost electric excitement. He was thrilled with the knowledge that 10 minutes from now the magic would kick back in and his powers would come back.

 

Most people think that Santa is magical all year round, but that’s not how it works. The magic window lasts four hours between midnight and 4 a.m. on Christmas day. That’s when he can be everywhere, with every present, for every person, assisted by his loyal reindeer.

 

Ah yes the loyal reindeer. It was those very guys that had helped put him in this situation. But even after a year in a psychiatric hospital he didn’t really blame them for staging a walkout on Christmas day. Santa knew who the real villains were. You see, what people don’t understand is that Santa and his reindeer are essentially a voluntary organization. They don’t get paid for the work they do. They rely on donations from the public. Perhaps I should add…the public that believe.

But in recent years those donations had dried up. They were disappearing because of all the bankers, corrupt politicians, non-tax paying corporations and an elite group of people that wanted to keep all the planet’s resources and money for themselves.

And so Santa hadn’t been able for the third year in a row to give the reindeer their bonus. It was because of this that Rudolf, Dasher and Blitzen had staged a walkout. But this didn’t make Santa angry. Now that he knew the reindeer would be back to get him in 7 minutes time it actually made him smile. Good old socialist Rudolf. People always misunderstand why his nose is red.

 

So with minutes to go and the magic set to kick back in Santa made a mental note. He made a note that all the bankers, the politicians and general greedy bastards of the world were to be put on the naughty list. No more presents for them. People also misunderstand why Santa’s outfit is red. Silly people. What other type of person but a socialist would spend all year working as a volunteer, to bring happiness to all the children of the world for the rest of eternity. And despite three of his fastest reindeer staging a walkout, he would press ahead anyway and make his absolute best effort to make Christmas happen.

 

But it was because of all that good will that he’d ended up here. You see with three of his fastest reindeer out on strike, the magic sleigh was running at twenty per-cent less than normal speed. That is why he never made it back to Greenland in time. The magic wore off at 4 a.m. And when the magic wears off the presents disappear, the sleigh disappears; the costume disappears and most importantly of all the reindeer disappear. And so at 4.01 a.m. on Christmas day he found himself stuck. Magicless, in Aberdeen.

 

It put a wry smile on his face now that he’d been so naive. He’d spent so much of his time away from people during his working year that he’d forgotten people had stopped believing. That’s what happens when the world treats them unfairly and makes them sad.

So when he approached a police man early on Christmas morning asking for directions to Greenland…Well, you can fill in the rest of that story for yourselves.

 

But all that was in the past now… Counting down… 5 seconds to Christmas day…5, 4, 3, 2, 1. WHOOSH!

That was the noise the magic made when it kicked back in. WHOOSH! And his costume reappeared upon him. People who saw him that night swore he actually sparkled. WHOOSH! And the sack was on his back. WHOOSH! And his boots and belt fastened upon him. WHOOSH! And in the distance you could hear the sound of sleigh bells. Sleigh bells being drawn by magic reindeer. Fast magic reindeer.

And with all that Santa began to laugh. A laugh filled with the purest of joy. ”Ho, ho, ho!”

But before Santa made his way magically around the world he wanted to do something he’d never done before on Christmas day. He wanted some people to see him.

He made his way out of his own room and headed for the depressed people’s ward. All the doors were obviously locked in the hospital, but that can’t stop Santa. As all the believers know very well that he has a magic key. (The one that he uses for houses that don’t have chimneys)

When he arrived at the depressed people’s ward he took a deep breath…and then threw the doors open. “Ho,ho,ho! And a merry Christmas to one and all.”

And JUST LIKE THAT! Twenty depressed people were cured of their malady. Because now they had something to believe! Santa had reminded them there is always love in the world.

Then he headed up to the deluded peoples ward. Another deep breath, “Ho, ho,ho! And a merry Christmas to one and all. And JUST LIKE THAT thirty deluded people felt better about the world. Because now they knew that some of their strange ideas are obviously correct!

Finally on that magic night Santa made his way to the staff room. He wanted to thank them for all the hard work they do throughout the year. A final deep breath. “Ho,ho,ho. And a merry Christmas to one and all.”

Some of the staff nearly shat themselves. And with all blessings to all the good people of Cornhill Psychiatric hospital done, Santa climbed out the window and onto his sleigh. All the striking reindeer were delighted to see him again. WHOOSH! And he was gone.

Back in the staff room the chief psychiatrist turned to a doctor and said, “Well what would you call that?”

The doctor replied, “That my good friend, I would call a misdiagnosis.”

 

THE END.