Mongrel Beast


I live with Mongrel Beast.  It’s not a choice I had.  (And perhaps that’s why I resent its presence so much).  To think of Mongrel Beast as a dog isn’t really fair to any canid and doesn’t really do justice to what it’s really like living, trying to live, with such a creature.  But perhaps that is the easiest to comparison to help us, both you and me, to get a handle on what this Mongrel Beast of mine is really like.

So, if Mongrel Beast were a dog, it would be one of those smallish curs that you see in some urban places wandering aimlessly about, purposeless and friendless.  It has never been wanted and it has never been loved.  It is welcome nowhere.  Survival is more a matter of chance than  anything else yet it still holds tenaciously to life, even bereft of sight or hearing, ear(s) or limb(s).  It is of dubious parentage and even more dubious manners.

I say ‘small’ but if Mongrel Beast were a dog, it’d actually be quite large, you know, one of those all-consuming masses of hot, heaving, smelly, hairy dogdom that even the most determined dog lover would feel the need to apologise for any time anyone came to the house.  The kind that doesn’t moult but sort of oozes clouds of fluffy hair; the kind that drools lazily but consistently; the kind that feels the need to pump stale, foetid dog breath in your face; the kind that farts, loud and repugnant, as an icebreaker and room-clearer; the kind that drapes itself casually but possessively across any sofa or bed regardless of its own size or filth.

If Mongrel Beast were a dog, it certainly wouldn’t be the discreet kind of dog that you could maybe sneak into your local pub or even better heeled locales.  It wouldn’t be the kind of dog, regardless of the (im)purity of its bloodline, that could tempt or even charm with looks or eyes even the hardest hearted of dog haters.  Mongrel Beast would be the shaggy, ill kempt monstrosity that all the other dogs wouldn’t be seen dead greeting in the park.  Boycotted by all kinds, given a wide and suspicious berth, Mongrel Beast doesn’t really belong anywhere and it certainly isn’t welcome.

If Mongrel Beast were a dog, it wouldn’t be a stray with all the other strays in an area or region where such dogs are to be found.  Oh no, Mongrel Beast haunts respectable neighbourhoods, a lone spectre of decrepit bad taste, lowering the tone, frightening the children, leaving whispered fear, shock and horror in his wake.  The kind that no kind or soft-hearted stranger would ever consider giving a chance.  It would lurk, wild-eyed, just within sight of the swings in the park; apart from community and society but far too close for comfort.

Mongrel Beast is not the kind of thing that you can take anywhere; it doesn’t do polite company or in fact, company of any kind.  It runs to its mysterious wills and whims, scorning conventions and expectations, acknowledging no master.  It follows you along, like a slinking cur, possessive and obsessive, and impossible to shake off.

Society has tried to name and thus, hopefully, tame a few of its cousins.  (Although whether by naming the beast it is actually tamed or whether the name just allows a formal introduction, a handle by which we can grasp and try to explain the presence in our lives to the rest of society is a different debate).  There was the Hound of the Baskervilles, of course, a creature whose actual substance still remains contested yet looms large and fearsome in the popular consciousness.  Then there is the more slowly popularised Black Dog whose presence and impact cannot be contested but is still a highly unwelcome visitor.

The impact it has had on me is similar (perhaps scarily so) to that portrayed by the pictures and words of Matthew Johnstone as he charts his relationships with his own beast, Black Dog.  After all, it’s not the nature of the beast that is hardest to deal with, to live with, to explain but the impact it has on our lives, our relationships and our outlook.  Perhaps by talking about these creatures openly and honestly we can start to address the issues in a better, more reliable manner.  Perhaps that’s why they need names.

I live with Mongrel Beast.

Candy Floss Nights


(Candy Floss Abstract – I cannot upload, process or post photos at the moment because the gremlins won.  This is the photo you would be seeing).

Soft, magical

Spun strands

Pretty pink


Pegged up

High, out of reach

Attached to the mundane

(Sock dryers, of all things)

Yet still fantastical



But so out of reach

Can I have some?


Everyone else has some

Do they take it for granted?

Stuffing it in their mouths

Sticky fingered



They move on

They can always have some more

Another time

Any time

But not me



So ephemeral

So out of reach

I’d be so appreciative

Of even just a little bit


Everyone else has some


I can see it

I can taste it

But so out of reach

Perhaps some other time

Why not me too?

Soft, magical

Pretty pink

But so out of reach

This Wind


Illustration by Shirley Hughes


This is a petulant wind

Shakes everything

Buffets everything

It moans and cries

It jeers at history

Mocks at expectations

Whistles at all

It shakes its head

It stamps its foot

Echoes in our heads

Runs us ragged

It blows cold

It blows wild

This never-ending wind

And I will Try to Fix You


There is a fundamental flaw to chronic illness; it is perhaps what I, personally, rail so hard against with Mongrel Beast.  It cannot be ‘solved’, it cannot be ‘fixed.  No matter how hard I, or anyone else, tries.

Here’s a blog post, which I stumbled upon, on the very subject:

Living with Addison’s Disease: Fix It.

Addison’s Disease?  Here’s a link.

The Help Conundrum


Swan's Head with Dripping Beak

Maybe it’s the easiest thing in the world to say ‘oh, if there’s anything you need…’ but what do we mean by that?  Do we mean anything other than that we’re expressing a vague sentiment of fellow-feeling, sympathy, pity, interest, concern …?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s a bit like that other chestnut that we all spout in daily life: ‘how are you?’  (Or other less formal versions, if you prefer).  Is it a greeting or a question?  Do we really want an answer?  And what kind of answer do we want?  The truth?  Or just some socially acceptable platitude?

I like to think that I would help someone, I like to think that I would be prepared to do something other than just utter the words.  And I know that there have been times when I have specified, I’ve asked ‘can I help you with this?’ or ‘do you need help doing…?’  It’s easier, more practical for all concerned, me and them.

Truth be told though, I’ve been feeling more and more redundant in recent years and even pretty utterly useless at times.  I can’t believe it’s four years since we last had a vehicle and that, obviously, completely changed how I could help people.  And when.  And, nastily, it even made me increasingly reliant on other people.  I don’t like that.  I don’t like being a burden (to my mind, at least).

And there’s not an awful lot you can do about it when your body is conspiring against you.  It’s just taken me a longer time than it should to realise it.  Because … well, why would  I want to?  But forgetting, not realising just how much my body is failing me leads to sticky situations.  For example, a few months back, I went to help an elderly chap pushing a wheelchair because I am an experienced pusher and he was struggling and it wasn’t right that he was having to do it all by himself … then I realised that I don’t have the strength to push anything anymore.  Very embarrassing.

But if I can’t help other people, what is there left for me?  My whole raison d’être is to look after people, to care, to help.  It’s what I’ve done my whole life.  It’s the only way I can justify my existence.

Whatever I have, I share, I give.  It’s my nature, not a boastful statement.  Sometimes I give what I do not have.  I do not have energy nor health.  Not anymore.  And so I have nothing left to give.  There is nothing left.  I cannot help myself anymore.

And that is the most painful and humiliating admission that you can ever make about yourself.  I am utterly useless.

What is there left for me?

Off to the knacker’s yard?


So when people say ‘oh, if there’s anything you need…’, what am I to say?  How should I respond?  The same way that I steadfastly respond  to the ‘how are yous?’ – with a smile and a cheerful response?  Because does anyone really want to know the reality?  Because do I really want to share?  Because do I want to shamefully admit that I need a hand, that I cannot manage alone?  Because is there anyone actually listening?  There’s too much heartache and embarrassment in baring your soul to a wall that doesn’t want to know, after all.

I wish that I could be an island, self-sustaining, but I know that realistically that isn’t possible.  Or even healthy.  But I can’t help but feel that there’s a certain honour in trying.  But for how long?  And at what price?

This post was inspired by a post over at Dead Men Don’t Snore.  What do you make of her practical advice?