Hot Toddy with Turmeric. Finally! A Cure for the common cold. Or further evidence towards sectioning? The booze poetry of Wendy Cope and Phillip Larkin. Nicholson Baker: Peacenik.

Driven insane, more insane, by the quick return of a cold I am treating it with a hot toddy, fresh lemon and crushed ginger. I told Ruth, excitedly, that I had added turmeric, which has many health benefits and sometimes appears in recipes alongside lemon and ginger. Upon tasting she said, “Yes, you have.”

Never mind, here’s Wendy Cope on whisky, from Uisce Beathe

The plash and glub of amber liquid/ streaming into tumblers, inches deep, Life water, fire-tanged

which reminded me of Larkin’s Sympathy in White Major

When I drop four cubes of ice
Chimingly in a glass, and add
Three goes of gin, a lemon slice,
And let a ten-ounce tonic void
In foaming gulps until it smothers
Everything else up to the edge,
I lift the lot in private pledge:
He devoted his life to others.

While other people wore like clothes
The human beings in their days
I set myself to bring to those
Who thought I could the lost displays;
It didn’t work for them or me,
But all concerned were nearer thus
(Or so we thought) to all the fuss
Than if we’ d missed it separately.

A decent chap, a real good sort,
Straight as a die, one of the best,
A brick, a trump, a proper sport,
Head and shoulders above the rest;
How many Iives would have been duller
Had he not been here below?
Here’ s to the whitest man I know-
Though white is not my favourite colour.

I’ve been enjoying Nicholson Baker’s Paul Chowder novels, musings of a mid life poet, full of intriguing theory and goss. There’s a little romance, lots of Quaker-ish peacenik stuff, some of which is naive but it also takes in the poetry career of the founder of the CIA. He is one erudite, digressive motherfucker. Can’t agree on Philip Larkin – ‘his acid is too corrosive’ but there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had from these informative, highly entertaining novels. Thanks to him I can look across the coast to Eastbourne and it’s now glamorous: Debussy wrote ‘La Mer’ in the Grand Hotel (or at least finished it there.). Hear here

Nicholson Baker The Anthologist Travelling Sprinkler (the latter on Serpent’s Tail, my old publisher. Although he has fewer cadavers. And no kinky stuff.)

On The Couch – Chris Rea’s On The Beach

On The Couch

Between the crowded aisles I call your name
Up the hill to Lidl I daily go
Getting short of breath
A harbinger of death
Take me back to the place that I know
on the couch

The remote control from Argos I will keep
nowhere I can find it I could weep

Oh No! Come Dine With Me

On afternoon tv
take me back to the place that I know
on the couch

Forever on my back my heart will be
clinging on, my youth a memory
the horizon ever higher
my feet burning like fire
Let me lie, in the place that I know
on the couch

Chris Rea – monstrously brilliant singer and songwriter.
Official video

Nick and Samantha’s sweeter and lighter female vocal version is the second track on the Cafe Del Marr official 2014 remix

Kratom: herbal anti-depressant. Mood elevator. Energising painkiller.

‘Don’t call it a high! They’ll ban it!’ said more experienced Kratom users, many of whom need it to ease severe pain or to come off opiates. (Kratom is invaluable to recovering heroin addicts.) They need not worry as no one reads this blog. MI6 could post the UK’s most valuable secrets on here, instead of leaving their laptops in Vauxhall wine bars: the information would be perfectly safe. (LATER: Needless to say I was wrong, as so often, particularly when predicting anything.  Kratom was banned in the Spring of 2016, despite its proven medical benefits.)

This is a great shame as it’s far better than any SSRI anti-depressant I ever tried, with no side effects such as weight gain, loss of sex drive, suicidal thoughts etc, and it works immediately, well, after twenty minutes or so. This magical, versatile substance chiefly mimics opiates, even down to occasional itchiness, although you won’t start stealing, begging or listening to the Velvet Underground. This is no placebo effect or new age BS, it really does kill pain and zaps depression. It energises and calms, depending on quantity. You feel more communicative. There is pleasure from mundane activity, even household chores. (‘Verily this is indeed a miracle’: various ex partners and housemates.) Tonight, as well as the usual warm pleasant mood, it was easy to add an extra ten press ups and stomach crunches to my usual sets of forty, then forty seconds extra to a two minute plank exercise – extra energy and pain killing right there. I even laughed at Have I Got News for You – which is now tired, lazy and stale – although much improved by the insouciant Martin Clunes. He is a card. Incidentally, I have the same birthday as Ian Hislop. He’s four years younger, has not spent most of his life drinking and drugging to excess, as far as we know, yet looks like a weary double-chinned gargoyle. I digress.

 More seriously Kratom has been a great help to my wife Ruth who has several longstanding conditions in addition to me being a massive pain in the rear. She has psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis on the soles of her feet, Oedema (swelling and water retention near the ankles), tendonopathy in the Achilles tendon. She can have agonizing pain while trying to walk, and doesn’t always have her prescription pain medication. For whatever reason the government would rather prescribe opiate based painkillers which are extremely addictive, often before people notice what is happening. 

Back to the good, safer stuff. Some people take a little Kratom powder washed down with juice, two to four grammes. I’m more of a vintage gas guzzler, running on heavy fuel. I gravitated to a large dose immediately, 15 grammes (the tea this makes is bracingly vile. Further proof it’s proper medicine.) Cutting down now. Ten grammes feels about the same, the trick is leaving enough free days inbetween doses.

It is of course much more sensible to get used to lower doses, which I eventually managed. 

It was foolish to hope for what I got from three day, no sleep ketamine binges or youthful overindulgence in booze, Afghan black and MDMA. Only an idiot would expect to get fully zonked from a medicinal herb (although I did on 30x strength Salvia Divinorum come to think of it, an especially gruesome near death experience.) but there is an upside to that mild disappointment: I’m not likely to get in too deep.

In any case, opiates were never my drug of choice – despite their fearsome reputation they don’t grab everyone. Fran Landesman, an enthusiastic lifetime drug user, was once injected against her will by Lenny Bruce, a Jehova’s Witness of heroin, a tireless, tiresome evangelist. She was not converted – having never liked downers, perhaps even less so after hours of vomiting on this occasion. Whereas her beloved marijuana was a lifelong companion, helping her create sublime poetry and lyrics.

Chaka Khan Chick Corea Spring Can Hang You The Most – inspired by TS Eliot’s April is the Cruellest Month.  music Tommy Wolf

Hunter S Thompson, not the most abstemious of men – whom I once saw almost comatose in a Hong Kong bar, reduced to a zombie drone of ‘Amyl nitrate. Amyl nitrate,’ – he had no time for heroin and the mushroom guru Terence McKenna thought cocaine was about much use as an espresso. Although you can remain unscathed or even uninterested in much more dangerous drugs you nevertheless have to use Kratom sparingly. Tolerance will develop. I’m not in a financial position to keep upping the dose but nor do I need to. What’s currently working: exercise, a little 5 htp, (a herbal serotonin booster), Stoic mindfulness, (‘there is depression’, not ‘I am depressed’. Thanks Ruby Wax. And if you think your parents could be difficult try hers.) My faithful SAD lamp blazes away by my desk. Cutting carbs helps: The Way of the Vain. Coming soon: my Jesus of Nazareth low carb diet book: ‘More fishes, fewer loaves.’

Careful moderation in alcohol and drugs is helped knowing there can be the occasional holiday with Kratom. It’s also good to have an anti-depression medication – without weight gain or diminishing sex drive – when all else fails. All of which beats white knuckle abstinence, Christian guilt and slogans – the boom and bust of 12 step. 

So this could be an actual cure for depression. With no side effects! (Unlike Big Pharma’s remedies.) Although I’m well used to false dawns, I’d like to raise a cautious cheer for this uplifting substance. Hell, let’s make it a full on Marine affirmation: Hoorah!


We have found excellent for range of blends, quick delivery and free samples.

Fran Landesman and the Wisdom of Wallace. ‘There’s Something Irresistible In Down.’


“I’m depressed”, I told Simon Wallace, for whom this wouldn’t have been an earth shattering revelation. It would have been as superfluous telling him I was a paranoid manic depressive, an alcoholic drug addict who later scored 18 out of 20 on a test for psychopaths. (I still have empathy and occasional regrets  but I’m working on it.) We were recording a track on an album of new Fran Landesman lyrics sung by Nicki Leighton Thomas, for which Simon, an exceptionally talented pianist and composer, had written the music. Fran Landesman was the legend whose work had been covered by various deities: Miles Davis, Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald – and the merely world famous. As usual I couldn’t see past my problems.
“I’m depressed,” I told him.
“Don’t be,” he replied.

It took me some years to see the wisdom of this, at the time I thought this was just ‘pull yourself together’, what people who have never been clinically depressed generally say. It was actually closer to the wisdom of a Zen Master. Or perhaps he was channelling some of Fran’s mordant Jewish humour. In any case, ‘poor you’ wouldn’t have helped neither would indulging such a basket case in a talking cure – not unless we’d had some decades to spare. I later drove some therapists nuts picking apart their systems – ‘I don’t think writers should do therapy’ said one eventually, more restrained that I may have deserved. I had the feeling he may have been saying a great deal more to friends or his own therapist, perhaps a priest may have been required. The best cure on offer was the cognitive behaviourial shock of Simon’s ‘Fix it!’. Although I didn’t like it at the time.

There followed therapies, chemicals – some legal, mostly otherwise – philosophical and spiritual dabbling and far too much debauchery. Waving the white flag of Stoicism eventually helped – it’s often not possible to be happy so don’t beat yourself up – but I’ve never been one to put up with reality if there’s an alternative. And you still need a cure for pain.

One solution – temporary, like the others – is to use toxic experience as fuel for stories and music – or just jokes as an instant salve. I never tire of Larry Sanders on the Jewish Mcdonalds menu option: the Never Happy Meal. You can almost see the bickering family.

Fran Landesman Find an Audience
“When the life you’re livin’ don’t make no sense
And the pain it’s givin’ gets too intense
If you’re lookin’ for a sympathetic ear
Never tell your troubles to your near and dear
Find an audience”

Back then I was also editing Fetish Times: Fran was happy for us to include a poem featuring a dominatrix. Mose Allison also liked the mag. We should probably veer off the subject of jazz musicians and fetishism before I mention that Miles Davis was once found by a lover called Susan in some of her clothes. (‘with those skinny little legs he looks just like Minnie Mouse’)  Too late.

She was immortalised in the track Lazy Susan


Nicki Leighton-Thomas’s Forbidden Games is available here, CD and download

I play on ‘Waiter the Check’, a Noir lament, beautifully sung. I’m…well…a tad wayward, OTT, borderline insane. That’s method acting for you.

Ian Shaw’s deservedly highly acclaimed cd of Landesman lyrics A Ghost In Every Bar includes twelve written with Simon Wallace who accompanies on most tracks. This shows off Ian’s range, both tessitura and tonal quality, without the virtuosity getting in the way of the songs or blurring the words. Soulful and beautiful. There’s a very fine version of ‘Down’ about the perverse attraction of depression.

‘Down has some terrible attractions, featuring some desperate distractions
and that hook of misery sings I’ll never set you free
Down makes some dangerous suggestions, taunts you with those sweet depressing questions.
and you tell yourself to quit but you really must admit there’s something irresistible in Down.’

Finally, who can argue with her ‘Jewish Haiku’?

‘That summer I met a handsome biker on crutches,
everyone has a brick wall waiting for them somewhere, he said, smiling.’

Fran Landesman 1927 – 2011


Ten great Fran Landesman Simon Wallace songs on Sarah Moule’s excellent Songs From the Floating World

Fran’s Desert Island Discs Includes some of her best songs, fascinating tales of Lenny Bruce and Miles Davis, being lured to London by Peter Cook, open marriage and the Beatnik parenting maxim: ‘Hang loose and lighten up’ – which led to one of her sons moving out for a year, in search of boundaries.
Biographical material from a proper journalist, Marc Myers. Photos of the young, gorgeous Fran.

Next Time: Kratom. An actual cure for depression, a relaxing, euphoric herb which mimics opoids. Might be habit forming. What could possibly go wrong?

AA versus Harm Reduction. Seneca’s Sickest Burns. Marcus Aurelius’s Art of War. Rage Against…Pretty Much Everything.

Welcome to the only wellness and sanity blog that drives its readers stark raving mad. And I am, of course, the person least qualified to write it. My Native American name would be ‘Skin Too Thin’. As I once tweeted: ‘Eclectic, Bi-Polar, no anger management, I’m the only artist to have split with themselves due to ‘musical differences’.

I should be over instant flare ups and pointless bickering. But would the Stoics have been so damn philosophical if they’d had internet feedback? Never mind Seneca’s Epistles we’d have Seneca’s Sickest Burns, Marcus Aurelius’s Art of War. Zeno’s On Landing the First Punch, Cicero’s Kill ’em all, Let Zeus sort ’em out.

I was informed that I’d be ‘in trouble’ if AA responded to my last blog. What? Some sheep are going to bleat at me? And why can’t they respond? Because alcoholics can’t be trusted with anything. Great. So you can’t criticise 12 Step, despite its very high failure rate, or its reliance on belittling recruits and herding the flock with with oft-repeated slogans – a mind control system also used by Chinese Communism and religious fundamentalists.

This came from a dear friend still enthusiastic about Erhard Seminars Training, EST. Which involved what is now termed abuse: breaking and rebuilding newbies, who were called turkeys, and a lot worse, for the first weekend. You got the enlightenment in the second weekend – and it wasn’t cheap. This programme is maybe quicker than a Zen monastery and perfectly acceptable if you’re submissive: I’m not. (Except, occasionally, during some therapeutic intimate procedures when I was far too ‘toppy’ for most orthodox dominant facilitators, summed up by Spencer Woodcock’s Fetish Times cartoon: ‘I might be your slave but you’re not going to be boss me about.’)

Shouldn’t I be indulging my critic in Socratic dialogue? No, this is a Thousand Year Reich of Rational Tyranny – No God, No Higher Power and we might even be unkind to earthbound deities, such as Alain De Botton. (Did I really once address the people’s philosopher as ‘baldy’? When I’ve had a shaven head since 92 myself? After enjoying some of hos books? Must be my legion of demons. Some of whom are more persistent than a milk-seeking moggy.)

Higher Power not needed Harm )

Some worship the Spaghetti Monster. I need to kick carbs but…it’s dangerous to be hungry so…God make me virtuous – but not yet.

Boring but necessary disclaimer, in case I get attacked by another Stockholm Syndrome 12 Stepper – you can get a great deal of help from various programmes but they’re only as good as the people in them. They differ widely from place to place.
I could never quite avoid enthusiastic evangelicals but at least I never experienced the Hollywood model which involves microphones, applause, people joining just to meet important film people, and, across America in general, people who are there unwillingly as a legal sanction.

I dabbled in AA and NA over three decades, getting an occasional boost but doing most of it alone. I was never convinced, not for long. I was still shocked when a Doctor told me AA doesn’t work for everyone. How can he say that? Isn’t it the way. the truth, the light?
It can be.
But I can’t be hypnotised and I don’t take orders. Which is no doubt reprehensible if you like the hair shirt, or were raised Catholic.

What worked best was my wife asking me to stop: she was pregnant with our first child. I managed eight and a half years continual sobriety – apart from two beers to redirect a troublesome acid trip and one beer during an especially aggravating Christmas with the in laws, Just ONE beer? someone asked, clearly used to the pressures of Stressmas – although they may not have experienced, as I did, a sister in law running from the Christmas preparations into the snow, screaming for a divorce. She reappeared eight hours later to find that her husband’s present was a self help book entitled (rough translation from the German).’Openness in Marriage – One speaks: the other listens’. The ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’ were a little strained. As we sat around the Christmas tree among discarded wrapping paper and the wreckage of that marriage my father in law held up a glass and said, entirely seriously, ‘So, despite it all, a totally successful Christmas’.

Was this ‘Fake it to make it’? one of the 12 Step slogans I was recently dismissing? Which can work. If you want them to. There is a lot of good in the 12 Step programme but the sheer volume of horror stories related on tell another story. People need to know the antidote to bad experiences and alternative recovery options.

My current abstinence is enabled by vanity – flatter stomach, not looking eight thousand years old – and the need to avoid the Grim Reaper. There’s also a fanatical penny-pinching delight in what drink no longer costs. This works better – for me – than pious homilies and holding hands with people with whom you have nothing in common. And I’d rather drink green tea with lashings of fat-busting lemon while watching Ray Donovan. You can keep stewed builders tea and a glum browse of 1930s tracts about taking a moral reinventory and the importance of ‘keeping regular’.

And after many years with ketamine and MDMA, alcohol just feels like an expensive lobotomy. On the very rare occasions I succumb the hilarity and relaxation window is soon gone, leaving just dumb aggression – which could have serious legal consequences now I’m running out of Police cautions. Even words on the internet can now get you a custodial sentence.
Link shows possibly inflammatory cartoon of AA member doing research (unconscious drunk on floor) contrasted with Harms Reduction member researching at computer, jotting down information.
Perhaps harsh – let’s not forget ‘Whatever works’. If you’re happy submitting to the group, God or a higher power then get on your knees as recommended by some 12 Steppers. I’ve done it. The handful of meetings I attended helped the eight and a half years abstinence. But the hair shirt doesn’t suit me. I’m standing on my own two feet.

Health and strength to the people for whom it works but if you don’t want to be guilt-tripped by uptight slogan-junkies other options are available.
Whatever works.
You could even mix the different approaches. Might make a good cocktail…

Upside of Robin Williams’ Suicide? Orange Papers. Communal exorcism for recovering 12 Steppers

Sincere condolences to Robin Williams’ family and friends. Many thanks for much entertainment and enlightenment.

In the wake of this tragic event a Doctor wrote, ‘Depression is a terminal illness’. Thanks, mate. I was already massively bummed out – for if Robin Williams couldn’t fix it then who can? The Quack might have put that a little less bleakly. Well, I’ve been on death row for more than fortyfive years now.
I’m aware there may be no cure for depression, not for everyone, not all of the time. But it can be managed. Unfortunately I’m about as much use as a BBC middle management drone, without the salary or the job security. Although, like them, I have this position for life.

Robin Williams’ death hurt, especially coming at a time of particularly grim world news. I had a wallow in gloom and doom. Then a Facebook friend mentioned that the troubled star had been back in AA. It hadn’t worked and look what happened. Is their policy of belittling and breaking down new recruits correct? Is it even safe, if you’re especially vulnerable? (My own guess would include a possible anti-depressant malfunction, which can also trigger suicidal thoughts). She cited Orange Papers, an online resource where people seek abstinence or moderation through logic and scientific analysis. Mostly they have a blast sharing 12 Step horror stories, a sort of communal exorcism.

So, sorry to be selfish, but I was guided to something positive as a result of his death. (You could also say, to be appropriately respectful to a great man: he is free of pain, he lived ten lifetimes in one, he excelled in more ways than he could initially have hoped for, he grew as an artist, he helped many people not just with his work, he experienced reciprocated love, and he had children, which is most of what the universe wants us to do. All in all, one of evolution’s finest products.)

While we’re bitching at 12 step it’s worth mentioning the rational variation: – all the benefits of group recovery without God Junkies preaching and leeching. 12 step may work for you, although there is no statistical evidence to prove it’s any better than willpower. You’re more likely to meet a Christian vampire getting high from spreading the gospel. Hey! Physician, heal thyself. Get a dopamine hit from something else. Model trains. Mini golf. Cultivate your own garden.

So if you feel you have been used or abused by 12 step groups, or if it didn’t work for you and you want to know why, a veteran will tell you all you need to know – and sometimes more 🙂 – at Also on Facebook.

If you’ve been affected by suicide, particularly the inexplicable choice made by someone who had everything to live for, find a sympathetic friend or a professional who can help. Don’t read Night Train by Martin Amis – which just muddies the waters, unless you’re determined to top yourself, in which case fill your boots.

This short, clumsy novel is deliberately inconclusive, and the ending doesn’t make sense, in the unlikely event you can work out what is actually happening. Art imitating life? Or just shoddy and slapdash? – what you’d expect from an experimental writer whose chief concern is looking clever. H’mm, more than ten years since I read it and I’m still furious.

LIFE AFFIRMING FINISH. (fade up happy music. Cue dancing girls) Currently I’m feeling mildly positive: exercising more, just got a big SAD light therapy lamp (only £50 + p+p as opposed to the £100 I paid twenty years ago., hardly any drink or drug use this year, further improvements to my diet. Things are getting better, despite the serious long term challenges, And I’m convinced that pumpkin seeds are improving, ahem, male vitality. (Could be the zinc.)

Maybe depression is a terminal illness. But remission feels good. You’ll have to drag me aboard the Night Train. I’m not buying my own ticket.

………………………………………… ‘We help people recover from addictive behaviour and lead meaningful and satisfying lives.

Our approach is secular and science based; using motivational, behavioural and cognitive methods.

We run a network of self help meetings and also partner with care professionals.’