It’s difficult not to feel that I’m going to lose most of you pretty quickly but while I’m in that rare frame of mind that I’m inclined to explain it at all, I might as well start with that title. pocketa pocketa queep is a refrain that runs through a beautiful, touching and funny short story by the great writer and cartoonist (and, in these staid times where “normalcy” is as good as policed, it would not be remiss to also remark that he was a great character), James Thurber. The story, the secret life of Walter Mitty, like Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse, which I tend to discuss in much the same way, centres around the mundane life and extraordinary daydream reveries of its eponymous hero.


Most discussions of the secret life of Walter Mitty – and I suppose, a depressing majority of teachers’ directions on how to write essays on it – discuss these reveries as if they were volitional, a means of escaping from the mundanities of his life. I would turn this on its head. In doing so I disagree with Billy Fisher who discusses his own daydreams in the same way in Billy liar. Mitty and Fisher both, as far as I’m concerned, have unsatisfactorily mundane lives because they’re intrusive daydreams get in the way but also, their lives are particularly subjectively unsatisfactory and mundane for the same reason that they have those intrusive daydreams, that is, the disinhibition of mind that is in our own time known as ADD. They want for levels of stimulation most people don’t need and many would indeed find bewildering and at once create it by the physiological self-stimulation of the brainstorms that come about when the mind is insufficiently regulated. When I further remark that I view J D Salinger’s Holden Caulfield in much the same way you may start to see what exactly this means for the “sufferer.” Or maybe not.


However you view it, these characters are the few in fiction who in any way closely exemplify my own experience of the world. Mitty’s fantasies. Billy’s, which in the same vein catch the grandiosity but also, with the psychological depth afforded by the novel, catch too the guilt so common to those who suffer from ADD which, when combined with the mismatch between others’ views of him and his own view of himself, demonstrate how many of these reveries are inspired by emotions, of a need to be loved, understood, respected and vindicated; and this is not to mention the angry reveries too in which he shoots them all down with a tommy gun or, more subtly expressed but often no less vituperous, he confronts them or simply turns them into more acceptable versions of themselves. I know them. They are mine. I watch Tom Courteney talking to Julie Christie in the film version of Billy Liar and exult that so many people would have watched him describe how he has an imaginary country he retreats to, and how she understood! And then it comes crashing down when I see how the others in the town are listening in and mock him…


I write fiction. I have to. My head is so full of thoughts and ideas and imaginings. A veritable “Ambrosia” – Billy’s imaginary country – of my own. But also, I’m so poor at talking, and it’s so seldom you find somebody, as Billy did with Liz, who understands enough that talking to them is a salve and not a further source of agitation and rebuke, somebody who is charmed by you rather than continually disappointed.


But then, writing’s not easy. The ADHD mind is drawn magnetically to novelty. New ideas are ever forthcoming and ever distracting. Sitting still to write is a problem. The mind, too, moves on, and once a story is brought to conclusion in the mind, the brain is finished with it like so much trash, whether it is written, exists only in the form of envelope notes or insomniac dictations, or, most gallingly, is three fifths completed, as indeed this very post was (I had reached three sentences in to this paragraph some four months ago.)

This blog is an attempt to reflect, explore and explain some of these things. It will be flawed, and exhibit many of the lapses I describe above, but if you have read this far, please step in and take a look.


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