The sound of heavy breathing as the vultures circle above

 At school they attempted to teach me things yet i learned little, little of academic value at any rate.

I had Tourette’s syndrome you see, and was continuously distracted by the demands of my head and body, constantly searching for something which originated in my head and transferred itself downwards in a series of tics, grunts and tension.

I blinked hard, all the time, whilst also tensing my muscles with jerking motions of the forearm. I also had to line up my vision with the end of my nose and locate a distant object through these ‘sights’ several times a minute, all the time conscious of being noticed and ridiculed, because to be fair, i did look odd.

The grunting was the biggest inconvenience, but this was what made it ‘Tourette’s’ instead of some common or garden tic disorder; the presence of one or more vocal tics.  Vocal tics can be one of any number of things, but the one most commonly associated with Tourette’s is uncontrollable swearing, known as ‘Coprolalia’, which thankfully i don’t have, but i am often compelled to say inappropriate things in wonderfully inappropriate situations, which I often find hilarious, even if no one else does.  This is how my extremely dry/deadpan sense of humour originated, as saying something outrageous whilst maintaining a completely straight face, often confuses the fuck out of people, which i also very much enjoy.

They didn’t know too much about Tourette’s syndrome back in the early 1980′s, especially not in a provincial post-industrial town in the north of England.

The school thought me lazy and easily distracted and chose to beat my condition into submission with sticks and heavy rubber sports shoes, until eventually, i decided to become what they told me i was.

I fashioned for myself a suit of Teflon-coated armour and tailored this to the contours of my psyche. I fought everyone and everything that came within reach, I was very well-defended and nothing could hurt me in my bespoke outfit of violence and intellectual intimidation.

Attempting to ‘un-suit’ myself has proven a little more difficult though, and seems to require a little more than the lubricant and shoe-horn I initially supposed.

So what does it feel like to live with this ‘Tourette’s Syndrome’ thingy then…you ask?

Weeeellll…imagine feeling an extremely high level of discomfort throughout your body, kind of like an electric current, which keeps you in constant motion and never allows you to feel calm.  Then imagine that as you constantly look around for something to occupy your ever-active mind, your gaze frequently falls upon piles of papers which need straightening or something that needs cleaning.

Got the image?

Ok, good.

Now imagine that the straightening or cleaning have to be done repeatedly until they are done right, without any internal indication of what or how right might be.  Whilst this is happening, your body needs relief from the aforementioned continuous electric current and begins devising outlets for it, by way of muscle-tensing or grunting or something similar, all of which need doing right.

Building a clearer picture in your mind?


Onwards we go then.

So, there you are cleaning and straightening and tensing and grunting, possibly throwing in a jerk of the head or a squeezing together of the eyelids for good measure


every minute,

of every hour,






Then you get asked to LIVE!

Oh…you know what i mean by live right?…get a job… manage relationships…progress…achieve…learn…manage money…own a house…a car…nurture children…

No problem…easy peasey…a piece of cake…i’ll get right to it, once i can find a spare minute away from blinking, grunting, straightening, jerking and cleaning,


repeating and


Image getting clearer?




you discover that alcohol will help you enormously with your condition as will some drugs, however you are not informed which ones specifically, causing you to work your way through all of them, only to then learn you have some condition/malady/illness/disease/weakness which removes any ability to control ANY of the aforementioned ‘remedies’ and you use them continuously until you finally skid through the dirt, coming to rest with your toes protruding over the edge of the chasm of mental illness/death, with small stones and dust falling into the void, with only the sound of your heavy breathing for comfort, as the vultures circle above.

Which means that the source of relief has now been removed and, you are informed by the small army of mental health/addiction professionals that has by now gathered around you without you really noticing, must never enter your life again, for the chasm calls and waits patiently, eagerly anticipating your swift descent at some point over your lifetime, all the while whispering to you in your own voice, convincing you that none of this is true and that relief is only £10.00..1 bag..1 rock..1 drink..1 ANYTHING away…whilst you continue repeating and repeating and repeating,

wearing down,

wearing out

wanting to



But you must never again use anything to aid sleep or the symptoms or to help slow the mind.

So…to often hear that addiction is a ‘lifestyle choice’ and that those afflicted are merely ‘scum’, can tend to sting and smart just a touch.

So spare a thought tonight for those who hurt, although the source of their mighty discomfort may not be at all apparent as it races away on the inside, for they need your love and understanding, for without that, they may well become what you tell them they are,

and may well, as we speak, be entering through your basement window with a knife clenched between their teeth, resentment and desperation in their eyes, seeking an explanation…

So…as you by now may well imagine, all this can be a right pisser to live with unaided – straight, no chaser – as Thelonius Monk once put it, and even though i may wish to get utterly hammered and experience blessed relief, just for a few hours, i don’t and frankly, I’m pretty damned proud of myself for not doing.


when i am in full flow;

grunting and twitching and jerking and blinking

and straightening

and cleaning

and repeating and repeating

and repeating

and squinting,

i really MUST admit,


look a bit

of a



3 Responses to “The sound of heavy breathing as the vultures circle above”

  1. you are a bit of a cunt! not sure if the saying inappropriate things, that you/i find hilarious but, nobody else does, is a tourettes thing. i know lots of people who suffer from that, myself included. we love you Drummerboy. keep it coming. this is the only thing worth logging onto facebook for xx

  2. each blog you write reveals more of the man i feel a natural tenderness towards and affinity with. Tourettes is not funny, yet i smile at your descriptions at it’s ‘unfunnyness’ because i see the irony of the man behind the label making it work for him rather than destroy him. you are amazing Drummerboy x

  3. As one of your contemporaries from those school days under Alan Cooper I have greatly enjoyed your writing, stumbled upon through the modern oracles of Google and Twitter…

    …read in no particular order but offering glimpses of a lives seemingly infinitely more exciting than my own! Sorry to read about your father but that tweet and the subsequent binary toil of google revealed another person who appears to have crammed much into his time.

    Still meet up occasionally with mates from those days, Jay Harrison, Jim Ross and Mike Cowell may be names that reveal memories? Whenever we meet yours is one of the names that comes up as we discuss those far-off days of the early to mid eighties…

    So to finish, if it helps do not think any of us thought you looked a cunt…unless a cunt is someone who does not ever follow the “normal”, in which case you were always destined to have all the boxes ticked!

    Love the manchester shots too


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