Wednesday, 9 February 2011

How to ruin your life; a diary


4.AM ... I’d been at the laptop for nearly twenty hours trying to construct the perfect covering letter. I was applying for an intern position at a magazine based in Manchester.

It would have been impossible to sleep naturally at this point with all the stimulants prickling my brain, so I downed a bag of Valerian root to knock me out. In that curious state between wakefulness and chemical slumber I began having very convincing delusions of what constituted a good idea. So much so that I deleted my covering letter and instead simply emailed the magazine’s editor this monstrosity:

Hey amigo! It’s Steve, do you remember? We met at that party last week? Do you remember? You were completely out of your mind on cheap vodka and high strength speed. You were speaking in tongues at one point! I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t remember a single word of this. Man, you are crazy. Don’t worry I didn’t upload any of those photos of you to facebook, your wife would shit a brick!

Anyway, do you remember telling me to email you about that intern position that you promised me? Maybe not. Maybe it didn’t happen. Maybe I made it all up to get your attention.   Maybe I just had a vision of all this. I’m a man who does not ignore visions. Neither should you. This is why you should give me the position... immediately...

Yours hopefully?



1 P.M ... to halt the boredom of unemployment, i attempt to trim the hair off my balls. I decide to go in with an electric trimmer. Sadly the sloppy skin of my scrotum just folds between the teeth of the guard and shreds the skin like a bastard. This bleeds a surprising amount. Within seconds my balls are wet and sticky with blood. About an hour later a huge blue/black scab has formed, which wouldn't be so strange except that it's under the skin!


I spent the entire day watching ‘Deal or No Deal’. 

The entire day.

For people who have never seen the show I’ll briefly summarise. Twenty two people with severe mental malfunctions and emotional problems are lined up in a row and presented with a game of chance. Their spongy brains are not really up to coping with the concept of chance or chaos, so they begin to act in increasingly pathetic and disgusting ways as the game goes on. Watching these people try to think is a lot like watching a crippled puppy try to walk, heartbreaking... but ultimately ineffective.

The appeal for the viewer is that these bastards make you angry. You get addicted to the rush of anger. That pump of adrenaline through your heart makes you feel alive. You find yourself standing in front of the T.V, screaming, throwing punches into the air. By the end of the day I was a complete anger junkie. I hated everything and everyone.


4 p.m... I had been inside too long.
Must get out.
Decided to go for an ale.
Maybe two. 

? a.m .... I woke up and there’s feet kicking at me. Someone is shouting “Who is he?”.  Are they talking about me? I wonder. “He stinks” They say. Probably so, but I can’t really get my bearings on what is going. The feet keep knocking me off balance. For some reason I’m heavily, heavily boozed. Hands start grabbing and pulling at me. “Get out you bastard!” Something screams.

“Okay, okay” says the bastard.

The door slams behind me. Why was I in that house? Why were people kicking me? What was going on? I looked up into the sky. I decided it was morning. I was completely twisted on booze. I could barely remember a thing.  It came back to me in drips and drabs. I’d been on the rum the night before. Had a few pints. Then hit the rum. I’d deserved it, stressful week. Then I loose a couple of hours of memory. Just blank tape. I remember there had been a disagreement in a bar. I remember being thrown into the street by a bouncer. Then there’s another gap in my memory. Ah yes. I had needed somewhere to sleep. I climbed in through their window, it seemed inviting at the time. Then something else came back to me. I checked my trousers. Yes. I had actively pissed myself to keep warm while sleeping on their floor. I couldn't very well turn their heating on could I? In the middle of an energy crisis, that’s just rude.

I then began the impossibly long and impossibly bleak walk home.


I spent all day in a feverish boozed up sleep. Swallowing handfuls of valerian when I could.  My sleep was saturated with nightmares about my balls rotting off, tiny feet stamping out my brains and my life being a complete mess.


9 A.M ... check my emails.

No word back from that job.


At least I’m not like those ‘Deal or No Deal’ fuckers. 

Not yet.


(from WAXXX 3.0 February 2011) 

 Liverpool’s own 72a  Rodney Street was found in a recent investigation by the department of health to be one of the worst places to live in the northern hemisphere. Our columnist Stephen Baxendale spent a year of his life there. It ruined him and he never wanted to think about it again. Fortunately we were able to change his mind with mild to moderate use of the Waxxx credit card. So heed this tale of warning, you may think you’re tough enough to live in the ‘shit’, but you have no idea what those crumbling walls can do to your mind.

( Authors note: When originally given the brief for this article I worked at it for two weeks straight, sleeping very  little and drinking far too much, trying to channel the horid memories of this time into words, I turned in a 30,000 word rambling manuscript. My editor politely reminded me of the 1,500 word limit. I managed to cut away all the crazed rambling and got it down to this piece that you see before you, which clocks in at around 3,000 words. My editor, being moderately polite, once again reminded me of the word limit. I ignored him and turned my phone off and stopped answering the door for  a week. I woke up one night and he was in my room with a bottle of rum in one hand and a small bat in the other, he very impolitely reminded me that he was going to get his 'fucking article' one way or the other. On that terrible night we crafted together the piece published in Waxxx 3.0, which is arguably much better and more readable. Perhaps the rum loosened my fingers, or maybe it was the threat of being hit with the bat. It's likely we'll never know.)

Jake had become unwell from the dust, damp, cold and general ruthless condition of the flat. He could barely stand up and spent most of his time drinking in bed. One night, Andrew, one of our other flat mates stayed in Jake’s bed with him. The temperature in his own room had gone below freezing and he suspected if he didn’t steal someone’s body heat he would perish before the morning. Andrew got up in the middle of the night to take a leak. Instead of braving the freezing conditions outside the room, he decides to piss in a small ashtray next to Jake’s head. This quickly overflows and begins trickling sweet, warm urine into Jake’s eyes and mouth. Jake, too ill to get up, asks “Are you pissing on my head?”
Andrew replies, cock still in hand, “No”.

 I describe this scene just to convey what an average night was like in 72a Rodney Street. The conditions were so bad that you might not make it till morning and even your flat mates would piss on your dying head if it benefited them in the slightest.
At 72a the landlord asks for no references and takes no bank details, everything is cash and off the books. As long as you pay the rent you can live in a place that is invisible to the council, the tax office and any other troublesome authorities you might not want knowing you whereabouts. This situation attracts a certain clientele.  It pulls in a spectrum of lowlifes, fuckups, artists, musicians, drug abuses, drug dealers, dropouts, bastards, drunks, perverts and criminals.  This toxic mix of peoples causes the place to become a nest of insanity and misery.

From the outside you can see that the house is a patchwork of half completed extensions built on top of one another. The windows are opaque from years of filth and bin bags are allowed to pile up outside the doors. Somehow the inside was worse. Carpet had been put down, but not cut to size, so it bunched up in hills in places while other bits were bare floor. Pipes jutted out of walls but lead nowhere and did nothing. Years of dust hung in the air so that even in strong light the flat had the constant gray appearance of twilight. The bathroom was a horror, the shower head had fingers of mould growing out of it, which even when you removed grew back in a day. There was no locks on the front or back doors so sometimes you would come out of your room and there would be someone there, having sex or drinking a lager, you’d ask this stranger “Who the fuck are you?” and he’d usually say “Who the fuck are you?”.
Our first night in the flat I took all of this in and muttered “This is low.”
“This isn’t low” Jake said. “This is nothing, I’ll tell you when we’re low.”

Our landlord was was a professional bastard known as ‘The Doctor’. He insisted on being called ‘The Doctor’, even though he had no knowledge of medicine. He was a short fat elderly Egyptian man with a comb over, he wore an old mustard colored suit and constantly chewed a pipe. He could run like a bastard when he needed to and he  had a hell of an uppercut. 

We often avoided paying him rent for a variety of reasons, complaining there was no water, or the rats were eating our food again. Nevertheless a couple of times a week he would walk into our flat with no notice and start howling about rent, we’d give him a little money and he’d instantly become happy and manageable, telling us tales of the women he’d had and the men he’d throttled. He was always looking for Andrew, who never paid him a penny. Anytime 'The Doctor' banged on the door Andrew would run out the back or hide under a blanket until he was gone.

We were assured by ‘The Doctor’ when we took this dilapidated crack den that the handyman ‘Les’ was going to fix the entire place up in a month. I never saw Les renovate or repair anything. He would walk into our home, at any time of night or day, swearing into his tobacco stained beard and mumbling to himself. He would open and close a door a few times, glare at the hinges, then bark at us to make him a cup of tea, no milk, no sugar. He would then leave, without repairing anything or drinking the tea.

The only time we called on him was when winter came and we realised the heating didn’t work. He came around, laid out all his tools, took the cover off the boiler and looked intently at it for five minutes. Then he bolted upright, shouting “Jesus fucking Christ! The whole systems packed in, we’re going to need new boiler, new pipes, new everything. It’s all fucked!” He then ran out of the house, leaving everything behind. We assumed, he’d ran out to make some emergency phone call to sort the boiler out, but he never came back that night. Or even that week. We eventual called ‘The Doctor’ who said he hadn’t been able to get in touch with Les for days. His handyman had disappeared for good and so had our hopes of renovations and repairs. I took a look at it myself after this, it was only a fuse in the plug, took me five minutes. God knows what sent Les over the edge.
The flat was so cold it was almost impossible to sleep. We would lay in bed watching our breath condense in the air above us. Everything was damp and the bed sheets never seemed to dry out. You would wake up at three or four in the morning, your head would be numb and your arms unresponsive. I had ways of keeping warm but they caused a lot of problems between me and the girlfriend. I’d ceased to be very attractive since I began sleeping fully clothed and with an electric heater which I would spoon all night.
Our other flat mate Pete took it harder than the rest of us.. The stress of simply enduring in such conditions drove him over the edge. Pete found a simple solution early on which set the tone for the rest of our time there: booze. Booze seemed to help every aspect of our lives. We began drinking obscene amounts. We started ‘Beer corner’, which was to be a collection of all the bottles of booze we consumed while in the house. In a couple of months beer corner had covered half the house. There were bottles everywhere, on every surface, in every drawer, all going rotten and attracting flies.
This boozing inevitably attracted debauched parties that started off out of hand and gradually got worse. People would be having sex on any available floor space and strangers would start looting and attacking our property.
Andrew had come from strict parents and had been in a tight educational routine for many years. Something seemed to go awry inside of him when he came to 72a. It was if he turned his back on society. Some even say he turned his back on his humanity.
 He would sleep for four or five days. Then emerge from his room filled with a terrible hunger. He’d start cooking an unreasonable amount of food. A standard meal; a leg of pork, two chicken burgers, four crispy pan cakes, a baked potato, chips and three potato waffles. But while this was cooking he’d eat packets of crisps and then have a pan of noodles, then some toast.  Setting up his terrible feasts he’d use every dish, bowl, and plate in the house, using some to hold sauces, some for salad, other for fruit and deserts. Then when the food was finally ready he’d descend upon it, savagely tearing in it to, finishing it all in  minutes. He’d immediately collapse. His body unable to cope with all this food, his abdomen would cramp and he would cry out in pain, rolling around pounding his palms on the floor. Then came a period of being awake for four days, were he would read classic literature and watch grainy VHS while drinking stolen booze and eating nothing but carbohydrates. Then he would sleep for four or five days…
This eight day cycle continued for the entire year we were there. Like clockwork he would burst into the kitchen, oblivious to their being guest or not, and in his underwear, begin frying a steak, cooking an omelette, putting crumpets in the toaster. He'd eat it all like a hungry mad duck,  then he would collapse with his pains, crying out, smacking the floor in anger. This was very difficult to explain to house guests, but they got used to it eventually.
Jacob began to truly scare me after a few months. He found it hard to fill the hours in our strange little house. He would collect obscure objects that he had found in the street. He’d also taken to tattooing pictures of penises on his body with a needle and biro ink. You would walk into his room and he’d be using a baby’s shoe as an ashtray and prosthetic hand to hold his beer while he tattooed a pair of balls on his ankle, he’d be sitting there as naturally as someone drinking a cup of tea and reading the paper. Before every night out he would drink an entire bottle of rum then and collapse on the floor before leaving the house.  Then at two or three in the morning he would wake up again and begin drinking, he’d go out to the nearest bar and punch the first person he saw.
I saw him once lying on his floor, the vomit around his head almost looking like a halo.
“Will you not admit now Jake, will you not admit this is low?” I said
This isn’t Low. Ill tell you when were low, this is nothing.
What really unhinged me were the rats. I couldn’t beat the bastards.  My flat mates couldn’t see the problem; they hated me for trying to get rid of the rats and held a funeral for each one I got. Eventually I gave up and just had to live with them. After I gave up all their attacks were aimed at me, they knew I was beaten. I came in one day and one was sat on my table, I took a swing at it, but it just sat there, fearless, eventually I left.
Living under these conditions is not good for friendships. Jacob would do anything to spite Andrew. He’d  pick up Andrews pile of unwashed dishes and throw them into his bed during his four day sleeping cycle or he would burst into the bathroom while Andrew was showering and take a shit, completely naked, when Andrew would complain about this he’d shout “I’ll shit were I like you fiend!”.  Pete was constantly accusing everyone of being a thief and a bastard. If I refused to keep drinking with them they would allow me to go to bed, then to punish me they would use all the furniture in the house to barricade me in my room until I’d realized the error of my ways. One time they kept me in there for twelve hours, Jacob threw soil at me the whole time.
We all came to hate and fear each other. All communal purchases stopped due to the mounting contempt between us all. Bin bags stopped early on and instead we had ‘bin corner‘, which was just a pile of rubbish, which rapidly grew and took over the other half of the house that wasn’t covered by ‘beer corner‘. Toilet paper was always a sore point between us. Pete took to using newspaper, Jacob would tear up Andrew’s clothes into strips, while Andrew used blank cheques. The problem with these things is that they don’t flush, so we had to keep the shit covered remains and add them to bin corner. I once had to use a piece of bread, which was a hard decision because it was my last slice and I was starving at the time.
Eventually the good times had to end.  We had pushed ‘The Doctor’ too far, he could tolerate our sinister nature and our erratic behavior, but one of our parties had been so depraved that the department of health had got involved. The last thing 'The Doctor’ wants is attention, particularly from the government, he just left us a polite note saying we had to be out by seven o’clock, or some thugs he’d hired would be round to sodomise us with claw hammers.
 Pete left for university immediately after reading this. Andrew packed up a small bag of things and became a vagabond. I was neither ready for education or vegabondcy so I was slightly panicked at the situation.
 Jacob secured us somewhere to stay just down the hill from our house on Berry Street. He was in work all day so would have to abandon his collection of bizarre possessions. The new flat was unfurnished and I wasn’t ready to start living in an empty flat. But how to move the shit? I found a wheel barrow in the garden, it was covered in rust and the wheel squeaked but it would do. I started throwing handfuls of stuff into the barrow. I had no time to sort, the stuff from the shit in the house, I’d just have to hope I had a favourable ratio. I had many strange looks wheel barrowing through the centre of town, the urban wheel barrow is not a usual sight.
 I dropped the first load off in the flat. It was slightly better than our last place, but to get somewhere on short notice we had to take another dodgy cash in hand deal. No doubt this would end ugly as well. I imagine I would one day have to manically wheel barrow away from this place on short notice to another corrupt landlord. Then wheel barrow from there…
The bed was going to be a problem. I wasn’t about to start sleeping on the floor. A good mattress is hard to come by. Even a bad mattress like the one I had is hard to come by. I began dragging the bastard down the hill. Mattresses are too heavy and floppy to be lifted by one person so the only answer was to drag it through the filthy streets of Liverpool. The mattress bore all manner of stains and it had probably seen all sorts of horrors through the years. I wondered if it had ever been dragged through the streets by a desperate man. Almost certainly, I imagined.
I got the mattress in and then went back up for one last barrow, it was nearly seven. I was throwing handfuls of crap in when I noticed the girlfriend standing there. “What are you doing?” she asked. I was about to explain when I heard the banging of the thugs on the front door, luckily it was still barricaded so that would buy me some time.
Help me with the barrow!” I said to her. She just stared. I was trying to quietly wheel out the back but the damn barrow wouldn't stop squeaking.
 Fuck. Move move move. I said to the girlfriend, quietly wheeling my stuff into the back yard. I crept out the back door but the squeaking of the barrow gave me away. One of them popped his head round the end of the street and I could see him focusing in on me. He told the others, then they were jogging down the street, Baxendale will not end like this, beaten to death in a flat of filth... and she wont be able to keep up, cant throw her to the dogs yet.
Quickly, get in. I said.
This isnt how I pictured my life Ste.
Get in the damn barrow! I screamed.
They were running now, down the street, shouting things, gripping weapons.  Baxendale begged and she finally obliged and Baxendale was off. Wheeling through the streets like a lunatic, with his cargo in front.  Footsteps and shouts behind.  A voice form the barrow Im leaving you. Baxendale with no time to consider this, must maintain concentration, barrows are notoriously hard to handle, particularly in an escape condition. Baxendale cant take the straight root either. He must wheel through tight corners, lose them, cant lead them to his sanctuary.
Gods balls! Baxendale wails. Took the corner too fast, books spilling into the street. No time to pick them up. Gaining on him now he takes a corner, then another, double back on the fuckers. Now run like a bastard back down the hill and sling shot into street with the momentum. No sign of them behind. Get to the door, keys, keys, where are the fucking keys, open the door, practically break an arm throwing the barrow in,  then lay down in the safety of the hallway.
The girlfriend was glaring at me, saying nothing
This isnt Low.” I lied “Ill tell you when I’m low, this is nothing.

DESPERATE HOUSE LIVES by Stephen Baxendale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Thursday, 13 January 2011


(From WAXXX 1.0 November 2010) 

that’s how it starts. 

When I woke up the first thing I noticed was that I was on my mattress, but for some reason it was in the living room and underneath a table. My lip was split in two, my eye horribly black and swollen, the white of it filled with blood. Bruises and cuts all over my body. The entire flat was destroyed, all the furniture had been turned upside down and everything was bent out of shape like it had been beaten with some sort of crude bat. The room was littered with signs of chaos, kitchen surfaces completely covered in lime husks, all the upholstery soaked in booze. I sat there wondering, what  bastard has done this to me, and why?

Once I’d fully woken up I realised that the bastard was in fact, me.

The “why” is more complex. I’d noticed that since the Liverpool mephedrone scene has died out people have gone down one of two routes. One being people snorting  any and every illegal, legal and semi-legal substance in an attempt to get a similar kind of high. They’ve not been very successful.  The second being people drinking themselves into a frenzied mess so they can enjoy nights again in a blur of depraved behaviour. These people have been successful, sadly.

I decided I needed to explore this second route to see what it’s about. So I called my research assistant and he came around at once to help out. He brought around two bottles of rum and as many limes as he could carry. My assistant has never believed in the philosophy that one should enjoy alcohol responsibly, rather he believes that the purpose of alcohol is to help you reach rock bottom.

“I’ll make you my favourite cocktail” my assistant said “the bastard”.  Which seemed to consist of just a pint glass filled with rum and a quarter chunk of lime.

“I’m not one for cocktails” he said, then began drinking straight from his bottle.

A rum drunkenness comes on slow. So with a little practice you can drink a full bottle without feeling the effects. But as soon as you finish that last drop you’ve got to get where you’re going as soon as possible, because you’ve got mere minutes before you turn into a weeping mess.

I spent too long in the flat fiddling around putting my shoes on. So by the time we were out the door we were both in the grip of a terrible booze madness. Walking normally seemed out of the question. To get any sort of motion going my assistant was walking sideways with both his arms gripping the wall. I had to lean all the way back so my head was pointed skywards and then to offset the weight imbalance take huge strides with my legs kicking up high. It looked a little odd but at least we were going in the right direction.
“For fucks sake!” My assistant said “We need to get our shit together. the bouncers will be on to us before we even do anything, if they see us walking like this they’ll probably just take us into the back and beat us in the head.”

With a horrific effort we were able to walk upright and forward for just enough time to convince the door staff that we were just a couple of average drunks, but once we got inside it became impossible to hold ourselves together anymore and we became completely crazed.

Liverpool is a different place since mephedrone died. Everyone  could afford it so everyone was on it. People would make ten new best friends every night. After the bars closed and everyone was too wired to sleep there’d be an all night house party in any direction. Now when you look around everyone is doing there own thing, huddled in groups, barely looking up.

Sometimes your eyes will scan across the room and they’ll make contact witha half remembered face, someone who was your best friend in the world for ten minutes and you’ll both look away and get back to your drink.

I’d started to suspect  that we were all doomed.

My assistant was loosing it a little, the rum was soaking into his brain. He kept harassing the barman and banging his fists on the table and making bizarre booze orders.

“I need seven rums.” He said. “All for me. And three Gins and a pint of wine, for this man” pointing at me. He befriended a young male fresher at the bar. “It’s okay, you’re with me now” He said to the frightened child “Get this kid some damn rum, god help you if it’s not rum!” I turned away from this madness, I could tell this would not end well.

There is an undeniable freedom to being this boozed up in public. Most of the higher parts of the brain have shut down. Your mind becomes like a recording camera that’s been tied to a mad hound that’s running around screaming, pissing itself and crashing into things.

I saw my editor and became panicked. I was long past my deadline and it would be hard to explain that I was not drunk but in the depths of background research. When I approached him I discovered he was completely rigid with booze, unable to move or talk. When I asked if he was okay, he simply handed me a Waxx business card and said “Email me“.

I began to feel like a saviour for all the lost souls in the bar. The booze had shifted gear on me and now I felt frantic and felt the need to approach complete strangers and explain their problems to them. I went over to a group of break dancers, trying to explain that this show of athleticism was inappropriate and unnecessary.  My speech came out garbled and frantic and the group began to get angry. Before things could get any worse I felt the familiar sturdy grip of a bouncer dragging me out.

I was making slow progress getting back to my flat. I had to keep stopping as I forgot what I was doing or where or was. Then I remember my break dancing friends appearing in front of me.
“Is there a problem, amigos?” I said.

I was answered by a quick punch to the face and blood shot up in front of my eyes from my broken lip.  Then something slammed into the back of my head and I fell to the floor. I was thrashing around as wild kicks landed all over my body. I could hear the sound of shoes smacking bone. A lot of the kicks glanced off harmlessly. But some of them didn’t, some of them were hitting vital things, my brains, my kidney, my spine discs.  I suddenly realised that I was about to die. The thought that I was being kicked to death by a pack of break dancers filled me with such horror than I began howling like a small child.

They eventually stopped, out of pity more than anything else. My assistant tells me that he  found me huddled on a street corner spitting blood and cackling to myself. He dragged my bloody corpse back to the flat and carried me up the stairs.

I was pretty low at this point, but I knew it wasn’t rock bottom. I began tearing apart the flat. Blaming it for the madness that had descended onto my life. I was swinging my lamp into anything that looked at me the wrong way. My assistant understood the vibe that I was on and began throwing furniture into the walls. My assistant quickly took off his clothes and became naked, except for a pair of aviators. He climbed out of the window and made his way to the roof. He stood there naked in the middle of the night drinking tequila, shouting at the moon or anyone who would listen.

The need for another beating became terrible. I picked a large pair of cymbals and began roaming around the halls of my building banging them together and screaming my own name. Challenging anyone to pick up a kitchen knife and end this terrible night once and for all. Sadly, the beating never came and I came back into the flat defeated.

When  I came back in my assistant, still mostly naked, had a bottle of high strength vodka and was pouring it all over the flat. He tried to set it alight, to finally put an end to the flat and ourselves. He quickly gave up and fell asleep then vomited.

I woke up shaking, huddled on a mattress in a sea of chaos.

I was still completely deranged by booze and began thinking dark thoughts. What the hell was I doing? What was the purpose of any of this?  Is this rock bottom or could there be more? My body was completely beaten, all my property destroyed in a moment of madness and I‘m not even sure what I achieved. I was too hangover to hold a coherent thought and too badly beaten to use a pen or keyboard.  A man in this state is in no position to criticise anyone, even those people who’re are chasing that long gone high.

As I looked around I began to see a certain beauty to what we’d done and I began to think maybe we weren’t all doomed. Maybe we‘re just all moving on to different things. Maybe this is just how it starts.

BOOZE HOUNDS by Stephen Baxendale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License