My life-threatening addiction

By PAUL MCKAY [email protected]

Teacher, Paul McKay, left London to live a self-sufficient existence in the Monchique hills with his partner Martyn. He keeps an assortment of animals and grows a variety of crops in an eco-friendly way – all on a limited income.

Saturday September 5

I am currently suffering mild withdrawal symptoms from an horrific, life-threatening addiction.

Shame and embarrassment have kept me quiet until now, but finally, after reading an inspiring article in my mother’s Chat magazine, I feel ready to share my story and unburden myself once and for all.

I was introduced to Facebook about three months ago and my daily dosage gradually increased until I reached the stage, a few weeks back, where the last thing I did at night was update my status and my first move each morning was to reach for the mouse.

Long summer evenings were taken up playing futile games of scrabble with strange ladies in Ireland. Countdown and Judge Judy were put on hold while I busily poked everyone I knew and some I didn’t.

Lazy afternoons drifted into balmy sultry evenings while I frantically looked at wedding photos and painstakingly absorbed mind-numbing details of acquaintances’ personal lives.

For the uninitiated, a quick explanation. Facebook is an internet site where one places one’s profile, accepts friends who can view one’s profile, view friends’ profiles and play all sorts of games and challenges.

The first adrenaline rush comes as lots of acquaintances from years past ask to be your friend. Contacts from various game sites also become friends and one is transfixed by the hedonism of it all – at last, the popularity that life has denied me thus far.

You can post a message on your status, saying what you are doing and read your friends’ statuses too. Once you are friends, it quickly becomes apparent why you stopped being friends in the real world. The sad truth, and it is sad, is that people’s lives, are very empty indeed.

“Michelle is just going shopping.” (and…?)

“David is really happy – the X Factor is back on tonight.”

“Jayne is excited, her bedroom is being painted today”.

The profiles to really avoid are those who have been recently afflicted with offspring. Despite having to wade through hundreds of photos of sick-stained babies, one has to endure the daily onslaught of little Wayne’s development.

“Spent the day sleeping on the sofa with Wayne – bliss.”

“Wayne slept all through the night.”

“Wayne nearly said mama.”

All the above negativity probably stems from self-hatred at allowing myself to be reeled in by it all. My short holiday to Madrid forced me to go cold turkey and I am now managing my usage independently. I am over the worst.

Saturday September 12

I am now back at work. Full-time work, I had forgotten, takes over one’s life completely.

Martyn is managing the farm during the week and it appears that poultry production is running amok. On my visit to the bird terrace this morning, I was alarmed to discover I couldn’t count the birds as there were so many.

Upon hearing human activity, the ducks congregate at the gate, obstructing entry. To counter this, a bucket containing grain has been hung from the post, grain is flung as far away as possible, the birds stampede after it, facilitating the poultry man’s entry, as it were.

This activity draws the attention of the Guinea Fowl, who now appear to be free range. Their shrill blaring echoes eerily along the valley as they return in haste for their share of the food.

Things are not much better in the swine zone. The pig – Eggs (family sow), in case you are wondering – is not pregnant. Despite a series of inseminations, she has not ‘taken’.

The vet can offer no explanation, saying the pig is healthy and young enough to conceive. A friend has suggested that her seasons are not strong enough because the whole artificial thing doesn’t do it for her. What she needs is the attentions and ardour of a real boar. Watch this space. 

Sunday September 13

We have re-introduced the weekend walks. Martyn, not a keen walker, has agreed to accompany me on a walk each weekend in an endeavour to keep (get) fit. In the past, this has usually ended in disaster. Today’s effort does not bode well.

We left the house at ten’ish after having run the gauntlet of the bird terrace and fed the barren pig. Five minutes into the journey, it became apparent that the car was careering all over the road – something up with the steering.

We continued to Portimão and began an epic four-hour (trans-lunchtime) search for a rent-a-car. This took us up and down Praia da Rocha and back into Portimão, where we finally got a reasonable deal.

Car sorted, short of time, we decided upon a beach and cliff walk from Praia da Rocha to Alvor. A beautiful sunny day, all went well for the first 20 minutes or so. We then reached a slight headland, where the tide was at that ‘shall we, shan’t we stage’.

Being the more experienced beach walker, I watched the waves recede, made a dash for it, saw it wasn’t going to work, stood rooted to the spot and got soaked from the waist down.

A gaggle of 12-year-olds pointed and laughed hysterically, some dragging it out longer and louder than was strictly necessary.  

Undeterred, shoes and socks were removed and we ploughed on until the next headland which was definitely impassable. We took a short break in a beach bar where we overheard an animated conversation in broad Brummie accents about a fight in a pub back home.

Our storyteller was concerned for the well-being of his friend who had been bitten by a man who it later transpired had HGV!

The return journey was uneventful except for the activities of the 12-year-old ASBO hoodlums, who were now busily burying a friend in the sand.

The innocence of this beach-play belied somewhat by the colossal sand phallus they were sculpting with great precision upon his person.  

Sunday September 27

Have just taken a peek at Facebook. You will be pleased to hear that Wayne has just smiled and there are 32 photographs to prove it.