“He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how” is one of those oven ready Nietzsche quotes that lots of people kind of know without having the first idea where it’s from, and I am one of those people. But that aside, what constitutes an adequate ‘why’? A vague longing to reach the next level of Hungry Shark? An unfinished argument with some anonymous nobody on Twitter on a subject neither of you know anything about? A job to do, the next George RR Martin to read? Really? Any of them going to make bearing that how any more enjoyable? I was talking to a friend today about what you can do with you lose motivation, when you seem to see the big, ragged hole at the centre of it all, the blasted, hanging sphincter of nihilism at the centre of the universe, sucking all light towards its super massive, flatulent void. How can you ever unring that particular bell? Can you ever regain your faith, your belief that there’s some meaning to it all? Can you talk your way back into religion or trust? A few months ago I made some kind of roadmap out of pictures of Jordan Peterson, a fresh prescription for Citalopram and a new found political consciousness – but when I look at it now it just looks like a load of scribble on the back of a joke book, barely legible in the flickering light cast from the always on laptop, twenty four hours a day of radicalisation and bug eyed conspiracy theories…
It seems unlikely that a man can crawl halfway to a hundred in the 21st Century and not have seen the classic Michael Caine movie, Zulu – but here I am, about to watch it for the first time. I’ve never really been that interested, but my curiosity’s been piqued lately by the farm murders in South Africa and binge watching Jared Taylor on YouTube, so here goes. Thunderous, Spaghetti Western style music, a field strewn with red jacketed, pith helmeted corpses being plundered by spear toting black men. An email from my son – they’re getting ready to eat tea at his mothers’. Very nice huts these Zulus have – an immaculate if slightly dusty settlement. My goodness – tens of teenage black girls with bare breasts. All very National Geographic. Dancing and trilling and pointing spears while a vaguely uncomfortable white Swedish missionary couple sit fanning themselves and watching. Goodness, again – the party’s disrupted by news of the aforementioned massacre of a thousand British troops. A quick flick to Twitter. Jews admit they are behind race mixing, apparently. I’m not convinced. A majestic and absurdly beautiful Michael Caine makes his entrance among all the gurning, mutton chopped character actors. A singing Welshman. Bill Cosby’s just been sentenced to three to ten years. Something’s going on up at Rorke’s Drift – a couple of unidentified riders in the distance. Some light bugling. Men trotting off to their battle stations. Ooops – Michael Caine’s just had news that he and his men are going to be slaughtered imminently. Makes some comment about ‘cowardly blacks’. The orders are ‘to hold our ground.’ My son’s had his tea – pasta – and over on Twitter there’s someone saying with a straight face that people can identify as any race they choose. I retweet it so he can be mocked by my small and disinterested coterie of followers. Meanwhile, in Africa, the men of Rorke’s drift are sketching defensive tactics against the ‘fuzzies’ in the dirt with a twig. It looks like they’re planning on hiding behind a couple of bags of grain, though Caine is advocating ‘cutting them down in the passes’. It’s torturous weather for cooking soup, the chef is running his wet fingers through his ginger mutton chops and rolling his eyes beseechingly at the monstrous Technirama sun. The slightly drunken missionary is exhorting a sweating captain to quote some scripture. I think we may be hearing more from the good book before the credits roll. A quick flick back to Twitter to ‘like’ a picture of a trans gender guy who knows he’s a guy. Sanity’s to be encouraged on the rare occasions you glimpse it. No more Twitter. Concentrate on the movie. Everybody’s preparing to do or die in an exemplary English fashion, diligently polishing bayonets, keeping calm and carrying on. Nobody running around shrieking, looking for a safe space to dive into. Not yet, anyway, but it does seem that these troops have yet to encounter their fuzzy foes, so that may change. Here come the cavalry. And there go the cavalry. They’re buggering off. Jolly poor show. And then I’m straying back to Twitter again. Resist. Resist. Wagons are overturned to form barricades, women are manhandled, the arid air’s beginning to hum with rising testosterone. People from the pub and braying with cretinous laughter outside my window. A sound like a distant train swells across the veld. Zulus to the South West. Thousands of them/ More bugling. Magnificent composure. Still no sign of the blighters. Meanwhile on Twitter, Today’s bizarre story A woman has been jailed after she beat up a man who tried to remove a Kinder Surprise out of her vagina to get to the heroin inside They look like very nice people. Look away, look away, look away, Twittyland. That damned train again. Orders given to fix bayonets. No safe spaces for these boys, just the heat and the flies and the fixing of bayonets for the imminent slashing and stabbing and dying and killing and HOLY FUCK. All of a sudden,they’re there on the skyline in unarguably unbeatable numbers with their bloodcurdling chanting and their thunderous shield rattling. The British keep their nerve, holding their fire until the first wave of savages are nearly upon them. The next few waves don’t seem to have learned much from the bullet riddled warriors at their feet and just stand there doing their little dance. The English, with their quaint respect for the worth of individual lives are baffled. A lull in the fighting so I send my son an email telling him I love him and wishing him a good night. The drunken preacher in the back of the wagon is rattling the troops with his prophet of doom shtick. Here they come again. Bloody hell, some of the savages have guns, that’s not very sporting…and they’ve got the place surrounded. Not very sporting either. A bit of mutual sniping ensues, with a few brave Brits dying politely of discrete, bloodless bullet holes.
The Zulus, when hit, tend to shriek and fall out of trees. A full on swarm of monkey chanting Zulus now tears down the hill and the two opposing armies spend some time unenthusiastically and entirely unconvincingly jabbing each other with spears and bayonets. This is not – at all – like a battle scene from game of thrones and with an hour yet to run I’m wondering where it can possibly go from here. After ten minutes of this the Zulus pull back and my upstairs neighbour starts ‘singing’ – a low, monotone drone which I can hear beneath the hooting and gibbering of the Zulus. I take advantage of the hiatus to share a cartoon about cats and be rude to someone I don’t know on Twitter. When I return, the English are shooting a wave of capering black men across a mound of corpses. The Zulus are retreating once more. It could go on like this all night. Zulus on the roof – that can’t be a good thing. More hooting. Someone’s set a building on fire. More lethargic, slow motion fighting. Now some cattle and sheep are getting in on the act, Michael Caine’s had his helmet knocked off, and night falls instantaneously. It’s daylight again and the Zulus are doing some kind of Ladysmith Black Mambazo type routine while the remaining Brits slump on their rifles, bloodied and exhausted. Now they’re responding with a rousing rendition of Men of Harlech. It’s a battle of song, with a bit of spear waving on top. Now the Zulus are attacking again. It’s all a bit Space Invaders. Oh, now the Zulus have gone. The Brits are doing roll call, but it’s not taking very long as most of them are dead. Uh oh – ominous music. Shit loads of Zulus. They sing for a few minutes then pack up their spears and go home. The End.
Day one, nestled inconspicuously between day zero and day two, nothing to differentiate it from any other save the fact that someone bothered to push a flag into the earth there, like a comedy cocktail stick in a dog turd, and declare it a place from which to start. Fifty years through a life in a cold, grey England, sluggish traffic dragging itself up the hill along the road on the other side of the rattling glass, breakfast done, coffee done, meds done, nothing left but the endless hungry yawn of the reformed smoker’s restless hours, no more little treats or rewards, no little soothers, no little encouragements to struggle through til lights out.
I came to attention at six, shrugged into clothes dead and mangled where they fell in front of the TV last night and dragged my rubbish round to the front of the front of the house. Came back in, enthusiasm and motivation already leaking through the fissures in my egg timer soul. Burned and ate bacon. This is day one, I told myself, the day on which I start again, the day on which I jettison those destructive, self defeating habits and stride confidently forward to a short but gleaming life of purpose and success, snatching a late but dazzling victory from the gummy jaws of defeat, still gnashing toothlessly after five decades. But first, a little sit down. First, the same everyday distractions, a child sitting playing in his own faeces while the house burns down. Day one again.