A few years ago I made a big mistake: I Googled myself. It’s not a mistake I’ve made again. It wasn’t the flak and antagonism evident in chat rooms and message boards that got to me (I’m accustomed to criticism from my years as the solitary advocate of the wacky idea that Welsh football clubs should play in Wales), nor was my outright rejection and contemptuous dismissal by the entire Welsh establishment bothersome – I merely took it as confirmation that I must be doing something right. No, what was hard to bear was the realisation that many of those who come across my word-configurations (I wouldn’t be so presumptive as to call it writing) simply don’t ‘get’ me; no matter what the topic, points I thought I was making clear were being misunderstood. This was a bitter pill to swallow because it could only mean one thing: I’m a bad writer. I’m in total charge of this keyboard, nobody is dictating a script to me or jolting my elbow as I type; failing to put what I’m thinking into words and communicate my meaning is the literary equivalent of, I don’t know, a shipbuilder building a ship that leaks. Not fit for purpose. Go back to the drawing board or give it up altogether.
Giving up wasn’t an option for me (not because of qualities like perseverance and stamina, but simply because I was past the point of no return) and so eventually I got that bloody book published. Now, as Cardiff The Biography flies off the shelves and various exciting publishing offers cram my email inbox, I find myself in terrible danger of becoming a ‘success’. “You must be very pleased,” friends say. But I soon put them right. For me, being in print brings no pleasure – just embarrassment.
I feel a bit like I’ve been caught on camera taking a giant poo in the middle of Queen Street and the high-definition footage had gone viral on YouTube. Old issues I’ve never resolved are kicking in; issues of low self-esteem and self-confidence, components of ‘Self-defeating Personality Disorder’ in contemporary medicalised psycho-jargon (I blame a combination of Baden Powell and LSD). Anyhow, to cut a long story short: I’m having a nervous breakdown (my 19th).
Not to worry, I’ve always got my famed sense of humour to pull me through…
The Queen pays a surprise visit to the University Hospital of Wales. With no time to prepare, a senior matron escorts Her Majesty around a men’s ward. The matron pulls back the curtain around the first bed, and there in front of them is a nurse wanking off a patient. “Er…because of the short notice we’ve not attached dialysis machines today Ma’am, so nurse is emptying the patient’s fluids manually,” explains matron. The Queen nods and they move on. Matron pulls back the next curtain and again they find a nurse wanking off a patient. “Um…nor have we been able to deal with strangulated bowels today Your Majesty, so nurse is easing this patient’s discomfort by hand,” improvises matron desperately. The Queen nods and they proceed to the third bed. The curtains are pulled back and this time they come upon a nurse actually giving a patient a blow job. “One presumes this gentleman’s with Bupa,” intones Elizabeth dryly.
Not a bad writer: in fact, a very good one. Just bad readers like me. Thoroughly enjoyed your painstaking explanation of the development of my home city, which I never learmed in 15 years of formal education and 40 years of journalism. But I needed to restrict the time spent reading each day or face an overload of frustration. I have long understood how your political views underpin your blog but can only take so much incessant Spartism. Every businessman is a greedy thief: every council representative a corrupt incompetent. God, it’s tiring.