I don’t often use the Context filter on this blog (hur hur). This isn’t a personality project, it’s a philosophical one; and while my personality interacts with my thinking, I don’t tend to talk about my recent bus traumas and how my pets are doing here. There are other places for that. However, I have the filter because sometimes things that happen will directly affect both how I think, and how often I get the chance.

I’ve been remiss of late in delivering any thinking at all. Some of the queue of reasons have been discussed before. But a lot of it has had to do with momentum. For most of the last three years I haven’t had any. Meta-thinking has been a defense mechanism; passes the time, keeps my thoughts off the hamster wheel of debt and exhaustion and fear.


Around this time three years ago I was falling off my perch through a combination of over-stress, financial difficulty, long-term depression and severe ill health. Over the course of the next year I found out something about the UK’s social economy. It is not designed for those who’re at rest. No-one should ever be broke here, it’s not allowed; no bank account? You’re fucked. No credit rating? You’re fucked (and have no phone). Too ill to work? You’re fucked. You earn a little money? Bang, gone, and suddenly you now owe a bank some charges. Every time you get to the end of a month with ten quid left in your pocket you end the next month owing forty.

I was realistic enough to recognise that a year of unemployability when already indebted during a massive economic meltdown was going to take time to recover from. I’ve been working in the hope of achieving financial stability in three to five years; well, this is the end of year three and I’m still fucked.

I lost all momentum in my life. Stopped moving. What I couldn’t anticipate is how hard it is to develop momentum from a standing start in a country which is culturally without compassion. Compassion has been replaced by charity in our ethical lexicon. The system is rigged so that not only can those at your own level, who might want to throw you a break, not afford it; the system is rigged so that anyone who can afford it has been taught that the only way to stay rich is never to do so.


Lives have a lot of inertia. If you’re a powerfully motivated person this allows you to make the social equivalent of clouds of tire smoke if you ever come to rest and then try to start up again. Wheelspin is dangerous to drivers and can be lethal in your personal life. The smoke is choking, your environment stinks but you know you can’t get out, and you’re clearly not going anywhere except round and round in circles. Sideways.

Fortunately, some people carry tow-ropes. My break was thrown to me through an associate of a friend, when I got a bar job at a good, independent real ale pub. A better simile would probably be sand-ladders. Once I could get some traction I began to build just a little momentum; in six months I was assistant manager.

Thing is it’s not just me. My close circle of friends have had a pretty shit time the last couple of years. All of us have been spinning wheels; fell down, can’t get up again. Eventually, by linking arms and picking a direction, we’ve all managed to claw out of the Slough of Despond. A liminal phase has come to an end, and as far as I can tell it did so at Halloween.

Starting Gun

I tend to hang out with artists (I can’t draw) and musicians (I can play). One of my deep frustrations these last two years has been watching a group of remarkably talented, if occasionally unfocused, people who average five to ten years younger than me stuck in wheelspin, due to circumstance and what year some of them graduated from university. Something happened at Samhain.

On several different vectors through my friendship circle, the months between Samhain and Yule saw an unexpected acceleration. Business ventures were conceived or suddenly became real. People’s lives and living arrangements and choice of cities started began to kaleidoscope and shake into new shapes. And along with two business partners I drove north to see a pub.

One of my failings is that I’m not a particularly good day-to-day businessman. I’m a good strategist and have proved to my own and others’ satisfaction that I can run a pub, but I’m no good with accounts, don’t understand PAYE forms (who does?) and am daunted by VAT much more than by cask. Other things that are a mystery to me include electrics and plumbing, as I grew up in a house with neither.

Fortunately I have talented friends, and between three of us we cover all the skills we need. A pub was found, and then several more were, and we found one we really like so we went to look at it. Almost didn’t make it due to #uksnow but got there.

We still like it. We’re currently trying to raise the money, and at this stage it’s looking pretty hopeful. I’ve been ready for a while, but haven’t seen any practical way to get from Here to There; no momentum, too much wheelspin. But I’ve been given a good shove now, and it feels like we’re off the line.

Country Boys

All three of us, on one continent or another, are country boys. London has served our youth well and richly [1]; now the time has come to go home. This blog will persist, though I’ll have little time for philosophy and all the less if we can raise the funds we need. That will return in time. What I will be doing here is refocusing on the “Publican” side rather than the “John Q.” Watch this space.

[1] Rich, in this instance, being a strictly metaphorical expression.



Filed under Context, Signal

2 responses to “Momentum

  1. Good luck, I’ve also seen a lot of previously stalled people (including me!) suddenly heading off for the horizon. Here’s to getting a good run up at 2010!

  2. Elly Metcalfe

    Too tired today to give a proper response to this, but I’m so glad that things are looking up so much. You and the others will be very much in my thoughts and prayers, hoping it goes marvellously.

    “If you’re a powerfully motivated person this allows you to make the social equivalent of clouds of tire smoke if you ever come to rest and then try to start up again.”

    Oh gods, yes. Tell me about it. It’s taken me nearly a decade (or possibly even all 31 years) to even *start* getting non-anxious, focussed motivation for the things I want to do. Up to now, even when I have got a few things done, I’ve just been so lost in the tire smoke. The number of disabled/long-term sick people I know who are also exceedingly talented, creative, brilliant and motivated people is quite daunting, and finding a way around the restrictions in order to do some of the cool stuff one wants to do is so difficult sometimes.

    Something new and beautiful really does seem to have kicked in from Samhain-Yule this year, though, for so many people. I’m so glad you’re one of them, John. Much love. :-)