Though Are the Wonders of This Brief Life 24 The Spawn of the Swinging Sixties Chapter Seventeen Oblivion in Recession

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

From Though Are the Wonders of This Brief Life Book Two.


The versified piece, Oblivion in Recession, has its origins in rambling notes I made towards the end of January 1993, and which referred to incidents which began on what was almost certainly the 17th of that month and lasted for several days, coming in the wake of a peripatetic week of near-constant intoxication, during which I nonetheless managed to work and socialise in some measure. I believe with all my heart that it is a faithful account of the incidents in question, already touched on in the coda of the preceding piece, accidental inaccuracies notwithstanding. Although for the life of me, I can't recall there having been any howlings in my head, and am a loss as to why I implied there were.

When I set about preparing it for the eyes of the world through a process of aestheticization and versification, the punctuation was significantly altered, with commas inserted in the place of semi-colons and so on. It was also heavily edited, with words, indeed whole passages omitted from the original draft, and other sections removed and then reinserted in areas of the script where I felt they better belonged. The piece was published in rudimentary form at Blogster on the 31st August 2006, while its first “definitive” version was prepared in August 2007. A “final” one was published in December.

With respect to the above-mentioned “peripatetic week of near-constant intoxication”, it had itself been ushered in by a late-night collapse in an Indian restaurant in an outer suburb of South West London, the consequence of an earlier period of near-perpetual drunkenness. I'd been contentedly dining with two companions when I suddenly felt like pure death. I'd then asked one of my friends whether I looked as bad as I felt. Once she'd replied in the affirmative, I got up from the table, walked a few paces headed for who knows where before collapsing as if stone dead onto the restaurant floor. I was taken outside into the fresh Surrey air by two or three Indian waiters. One of them then set about attempting to shock some life back into my prone body by repeatedly flicking ice cold water in my face, while urging me not to give up or something of that sort. This presumably because in the first instance I'd been relatively unresponsive to his efforts. Finally I made a miraculous recovery and was driven home by one of my dining companions.

Within a couple of days, my drinking had resumed its inexorable course towards disaster, ultimately leading to the events depicted in Oblivion in Recession. They marked the end of a period in my life marked by a furious thirst for intoxicating liquor, which could have despatched me to oblivion at any time. The Bible makes it manifestly clear that a confirmed drunkard can go to sleep on any night of any day of any week, and never awake again in this world. But thanks to God, these same incidents were sufficiently terrifying to me that I felt compelled to reach out to Him to help me through them. At some stage as I recall I made a promise to the Lord that if He allowed me to survive them I would belong to Him forever. There have, however, been several relapses of drinking since '93, in the shape of short-lived binges, and a single period of several weeks during which I unsuccessfully attempted a full-blooded return to my old ways. Ultimately, I became unable to drink even a single glass of wine without feeling poorly. Thence, as things stand, I am a hundred per cent sober.

Coming to a state of teetotalism has not been easy for me, any more than has my walk with God in general, and I have had to pay for the way I behaved prior to becoming a Christian, and in a variety of ways I intend to write about but not during this piece. God saved my soul, and the sufferings I have undergone since coming to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are as nothing compared to what would have awaited me had I perished on one or other of the days during which the action of Oblivion in Recession takes place...and of which I had a distinct intimation if I'm not mistaken. It is a fate that I would not wish on anyone, no, not a single soul.

Oblivion in Recession

The legs started going,


In my head.

Thought I’d go

Kept awake with water,


Arrogantly telling myself

I’d stay straight.

Drank gin and wine,

Went out,

Tried to buy more,


Filthy white shorts,

Lost, rolling on lawn,

Somehow got home.

Monday, waiting for offie,

Looked like death,

Fear in eyes

Of passers-by,

Waiting for drink,

Drink relieved me.

Drank all day,

Collapsed, wept

“Don’t Die on Me...”

Next day,

Double brandy

Just about settled me,

Drank some more,

Thought constantly

I’d collapse

Then what?

Fit? Coronary?

Insanity? Worse?

Took an H.

Paced the house

All night,

Pain in chest,

Weak legs,

Lack of feeling

In extremities,

Visions of darkness.

Drank water

To keep the

Life functions going

Played devotional music,

Dedicated my life

To God,

Prayed constantly,

Renounced evil.

Next day,

Two Valiums

Helped me sleep.

By eve,

I started to feel better.


All is clearer,

Taste, sounds,

I feel human again.

I made my choice,

And oblivion has receded,

And shall disappear...

Birth of the New Bohemians

Had my health crisis not occurred, I might have wholly immersed myself in the Neo-Hippie culture of the 1990s, which could be said to have been invigorated by the Rave/Dance youth movement, although in truth it had never gone away, so much as kept a relatively low profile since the early '70s, before going on to form subcultures which exist to this day.

The hip Counterculture which had risen to prominence in the UK in the late 1960s ran out of steam before the middle of the seventies, so that by '76 or '77, “Hippie” was a term of abuse among some Punks. By the early 1990s, however, it appeared to me to be back with a vengeance, and around '92, I'd fallen for it with the sort of fervour one might normally reserve for a long-lost friend, freshly back into one's life.

I was ready to take my attitude of extreme revolt to a further stage of development, and the climate of the times as the century's end approached may have seemed to me to be perfect for doing so. And yet had I succeeded, I may have lost not just my life but my eternal soul, leaving a trail of unholy mayhem behind me. Thankfully, God had other plans for me, and I set about divesting myself of the elements of which my pre-Christian existence had been characterised. From the outset, I began dispensing of books I deemed to be of a negative spiritual influence, while others I salvaged, either to be jettisoned at a later date, or kept indefinitely. At times over the course of the years I took things too far, with the consequence that there were artefacts presenting little if any spiritual threat to me as I see it today which I unceremoniously discarded nonetheless.

In addition to books and albums, I set about pruning the writings I'd collected, mainly short stories and projected novels. Again in this, I went too far at times, dumping irreplaceable writings, when portions of them at least could have been preserved and recycled.

I continued writing after becoming a Christian, but from about the middle of the nineties, found it increasingly arduous to do so, and so started destroying most of what I wrote, believing at the time that through my writing I was glorifying the darkness of my pre-Christian past rather than God. By about 1998, I had almost altogether ceased writing, and didn't seriously take up the pen again, give or take the odd literary scrap that survived my regular Savonarolan purges, until the winter of 2006 when I started contributing articles to Blogster.

I also destroyed hours and hours of diary-like recordings that I had committed to cassette tape since the early 1980s or earlier and which teemed with gross narcissism and decadent sensuality, as well as occasional bitter outbursts of a startling vehemence, so that I no longer recognised them as proceeding from the person of Carl Halling, as well as innumerous musings committed to paper which I deemed ungodly and more often than not with good reason. Were I to have died, I didn't wish to leave anything behind that was of an overtly evil nature.

My efforts were not in vain. By the mid 1990s, Christians of my acquaintance could not have been blamed for being of the belief that what I seemed to be was what I had always been, especially given that what I appeared to be, namely a quiet individual erring a little too enthusiastically on the side of earnest self-denial, was not too far from what I was in actuality, my former gift for deception having largely failed me, not that I wanted to be deceptive, far from it, nor to do anything liable to wound the Saviour to whom I owed so much. Of course, I feared God, but I also honoured Him, and so wanted to do good things for Him.

Submitted: November 30, 2014

© Copyright 2021 Carl Halling. All rights reserved.

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