Condemned to live

HELLO TREES, hello sky, we'll meet again, with a smile and a song, and I think to myself, what a wonderful thump crash wallop, knuckles crack, nose bursts, blood blossoms all down Mr Portillo's little blue shirt, and you know what? I don't even have anything against Mr Portillo at the moment, and as for his shirt, he's always struck me as quite a well-dressed sort of a man. It's just free-floating rage. Juvenal would have understood, but then Juvenal is also dead, so to hell with him. Can't you just see him - smell him - nearly two millennia back, condemning the vices to which he was most drawn, slouching past the racetrack with his big old belly and his pout and his lousy teeth, snarling at the lip-licking popsies up on the Palatine with their fancy scent and their smooth, smooth thighs, and their rich bastard "protectors" ... once you got to a certain level, then as now, you could move up from fornication to cubiculation, trade the rat-shit arches of the Colosseum for the scented couch of a senator. The bitches! The bastards! And never mind that your man Juvenal is himself straight from the bath-house, slick with the venerean sudor of that self- same senator's wife. Times change, and we ... we remain the same.

This message of hope comes to you from one snatched from the jaws of death. What? Me, you fools. I mentioned my heart last week, and how it seemed to have got better on its own, and I spent much of Monday on a treadmill, wired up, being goaded by cardiologists, who then made me strap on the 24-hour monitor which records every heartbeat.

How dull my life suddenly seemed. They give you a little Patient's Diary, Time, Activity, Symptoms. Don't have any symptoms and my time's my own, but the activities. Oh dear. 13:25: Lunch. 14:00-15:15: Nap. 17:35: Wristwatch fell off. Picked it up. 04:25: Creepy dream. 08:15: Woke up with start (doorbell). Pathetic, really. I wanted to have an interesting life, one where the cardiologists would say "Blimey, no wonder his heart's packing up." 13:00: Lunch - steak tartare, Ch Beychevelle 1966, Viagra, three Siamese lap-dancers. 16:00: Arrested for public order offences. 17:35: Shared Siamese lapdancers with policemen. 19:00 - Solved cold fusion problem. 20:15-23:30: Award ceremony dinner. Received Lifetime Achievement award. 24:00-03:00: Cocaine, wrote short story, Viagra, Welsh lapdancers, fried- egg sandwich, fought. 04:00: Up. Kick-boxing. Cocaine. Jigsaw puzzle. Hashish. Woman from downstairs flat. Woman from downstairs flat's dog.

Now that is a Patient's Diary a man could be proud to hand in. But my own little effort? Pfoo. They'll look at me and think "Dull sod, why does he bother to go on living?" And I shall. Go on living, I mean. Because it looks as if whatever it was that was wrong with my heart isn't wrong with my heart any more.

I should be relieved, but I'm not. Not really. There's no mileage in it, no grandeur, no pathos, and, most of all, no prospect of all the things I always believed came with getting older. Experience? I think not. Experiences, yes; experience, no. "Here lies Michael Bywater," it will say on my gravestone, "None The Wiser". And that about sums it up, because there's no real sign of wisdom, either. What passes for wisdom seems to me merely a sort of creeping sloth, a lack of capacity; if I no longer fight, fornicate, drink until dawn, it's merely because I cannot be bothered. Discernment? Nope. My critical faculties are as bolloxed as they ever were; I may be better- informed, but I still burst into tears over Mahler even though I can see exactly how he pulls off his cheap tricks, and when some beautiful woman invites me back to her place for a bit of how's-your-cubicularum, I refuse not from decency or ethics, but because it all seems too much effort and I can't face another morning waking in a strange bed, going out to get some milk, and realising as I leave the shop that I have no idea of her address and all the streets look the same.

But what I resent most of all is that for the past however many years, I have been terrified of dying and never realised it. I only realise it now because the threat has been lifted, and it's a grave - hah! - disappointment. Timor mortis conturbat me said the poet, and it added grandeur, depth and texture to life. But once you realise that you've suffered timor mortis and it left you about as conturbed as popping out for 20 Dunhill and an Evening Standard ... well, one feels somehow diminished, a man of little sensibility and even less wisdom. The truth, I think, must be that I am shallow, vain, and condemned to live a superficial life, dying, eventually, in invincible ignorance. So I suppose I'd better stand for Mayor of London. See you on the Millennium Wheel, and watch out for the River of Fire.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own