Not with a whimper but with a bang

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The Independent Culture
I used to think the great thing about madness was that it left the sufferer unmoved. I mean, you'd be swallowed up in the internal logic of the thing. You might occasionally notice people looking at you oddly, but you'd just think, "Silly buggers. Have they never seen a 6ft kumquat before?" and leave it at that.

Well. It isn't true. Believe me. I am going mad, and it's a worry. You notice. "Uh oh," you think, "here we go again." Maybe it's like swimming. Maybe it's lovely once you're in. But the interim stages are a bother.

It's probably my own fault. I should have led a better life: been a civil engineer, taken out a mortgage, done my bit. None of this writing stuff, or, worse, one of those nice columns. You know the sort. My new boyfriend is quite nice but I bet it doesn't work out. How I had this, you know, lunch. Aren't men bastards. Guess what I wore to the theatre. Men; honestly.

But I'm the wrong sex for that. Men can have dull lives, just the same as women - good God, I mean, we worry about lunch, too - but we're not supposed to mull it over in public. We're not really supposed to mull it over at all, not any of it. Mulling over isn't what men do. What men are really supposed to do is hit things until they fall down or flatten out or go in or whatever you are hitting them to make them do. The great advantage about hitting things is you don't have to think; or, at least, you don't have to think anything more complicated than "Now I'm going to hit this thing! There! Well, I sure hit it that time, huh? Now I'm going to hit it again!" and so on. And when you've finished hitting things for the day, you go and drink beer with other men, and watch some more other men hitting things, balls or drums or each other. It's a clean, manly life and as devoid of the need for contemplation as, for example, being one of those women who writes a nice column about how awful men are, hitting things all the time.

But I broke the code, hid between two stools, pointing and sniggering, neither fish nor fowl nor hitting nor lunch; and so now Fate has sent the Curse to drive me mad. At least I know why I am going mad, which I suppose gives me the edge over the others. You may think that anyone who believes himself to be going mad because of a Curse is, in reality, already up and barking with the best of them. But you're wrong. The Curse struck me in the first house I ever owned, and has never left me. I liked the street because it went nowhere. No through traffic. Quiet. Then, a month after we moved in, the Gas bastards came in and dug it up. Then the Electricity bastards. Then the Water bastards. Then the Gas bastards came back. They had to; we didn't have Cable TV bastards in those days. Bastards - reeking bastards with hairy buttock-clefts and pneumatic drills and cans of pop and cheap fags, cupped in the palm, bastards who hit things - did not leave the street for the entire time I lived there.

My next house was in a No Entry street, until we had agreed to buy it, at which point it became an Entry street. The bastards, filled with pent- up frustration, were in there within days, and there they stayed, until I left. Next place: quiet courtyard. Two weeks after I moved there, builders. Hitting. Demolition. Refurbishment. Gas bastards. Cable bastards. Gas bastards. More bastards. Next place: same. Next place, the current one: quiet, run-down-ish street, overlooking shabby office buildings, suddenly becomes sought-after. Result: hitting, gutting, refurbishment, Cable TV, optical phone lines, Gas, Electricity, Water bastards at weekends, snouts in the trough, builders hitting things front, back, either side and, for 15 months and no sign of an end to it, a man in the basement trying to start up a shop. I estimate that at least 1.5 million hammerblows have been struck by his hapless navvies since I moved in, and the worst thing is when his shop fails - they all do, in my street - the whole thing will start again.

So a couple of weeks ago I came here to Boulogne in search of peace. At first I thought it was Paradise. I said so, last week. But the very next day: BANG bang bang bang BANG. Couldn't believe it at first, but just as I had convinced myself it was just a transieBANG bang bang bang BANG. So I had to face it: the Curse had followed me, and escape was impBANG bang bang bang BANG.

Which is why I am going mad. And the reason I know I am going mad is that I am taking it very badly. Until now, I have responded to the vile intrBANG bang BANG bang bang BANGerrible rages. My blood pressure soars. My ventricular extrasystoles come back. I hammer on the walls, scream, weep and curse. I lie under the duvet, ears plugged, helplessly preyed upon by terrible fantasies about smirking, black-toothed builders, farting and scratching as they go about hittiBANG bang bang bang BANG only to howl inarticulatelBANG! bang, bangovially whacking their vast empurpled rubbery tools on the rotting floorboards with cries of simian glee.

But not this time. What has happened is that my brain has ... gone. It can simply no longer cope, and has started feeding me rubbish. Shrinks call this "abreactive fugue" but that's rubbish, too, just like the stuff I get. Lists of Australian fauna. Useless words of brigalow ogham sessile palimpsest startling obscurity. Organ music. Worries. Not useful worries, like "How am I going to get any work done, what with the hammering and the brain rubbish?" but useless ones: "I bet they stop making those nice underpants." Fatuous observations: "Birds like eating bread."

The irony is, of course, that the Curse will provide its own quietus and lead me to the peace I have so desperately sought. I shall be there soon: a quiet, cool chamber, looking out upon spacious lawns; the outside world kept at bay; nothing to interrupt my contemplation. Except my meals. Brought to me regularly by a woman: a very kind woman, smart and attractive in her nice white coat. !