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CHRONICLES: PART I – One Week in the Life of Dr. Keith Crichton, an Alcoholic Archaeologist.

CHRONICLES: PART I – One Week in the Life of Dr. Keith Crichton, an Alcoholic Archaeologist.

Here follows the chronicles of Keith Crichton, PhD., commencing from day 20/01/2021 of the Common Era of the Modern Terrestrial Calendar. Reproduced from Datum 262424957931683918849Bai67, recovered from hard drive 138403446666868046480846482222444483620.


Entry: 20/01/2021

What do you get when you cross a Glaswegian with a glass? ‘No punchline’ is the answer, or else ‘A shit joke’. Jesus… So already I’ve tried to be funny, even though it’s at my own expense, and even though I know – and hope – that no-one else will read this except me. Get a grip, Crichton! Ok… Right, brace yourself…

But no… Of all the ways of beginning this, wouldn’t it be better to have an arresting epigram, something like: ‘I have an anti-talent for time. If I have no time, I’m able to build a ship and sail to whichever land I choose, but if I have too much time, I drown in it.’

Not bad. Or: ‘There are too many hours in the day…’

No, too pretentious, too much like wanky Keats. But it’s still a better start than if I described the real Road to Damascus moment which led to this, which came when I realised I’d spent half an hour analysing the movements of a woodlouse which lives in one of the planks of the abysmal excuse for a raised bed which lies in my even poorer excuse for a garden. Usually cigarette breaks are meditative and profound (or so it seems at the time), but that was too much even for me. A fucking woodlouse?! But none of us nowadays are Augustine, or Pepys, or Montaigne, are we?

Oh, fuck me! Help… At least setting that event down allows me to officially promise, before I properly start, and if only to myself, that I will not delete anything which I type here. It’s not as though I can be ashamed of anything after that. This account must be candid, and uncensored. That is essential.

The first entry of this new confessional document begins here:

I know that diaries are pretty daft, and possibly narcissistic, things. It’s also, now I type this, equally stupid for me to have decided to record it on a website, even if it’s a private part of my own which can’t be seen by anyone else. But I had to give it some sense of ceremony; a word doc wouldn’t have cut it.

But yes, diaries being daft… I haven’t written one since I was a kid, in that great age of the ego, childhood. Yet I still recall bits of that diary written by Child Keith, for example:

I learned about ancient Egypt today at school and enjoyed the animal alphabet. Then I had a class by Mister Winnock about Victorian times. He told us about how Victorian children youst to work in factorys and sometimes died in machines. He said we were spitting on the graves of the Victorian children who had to work in factorys because some of the other children in class were not behaving nicely. But he calls us ‘sweet heart’ even when he gets angry. It’s weird. But I’m not like other children, you see. Sometimes I feel [sic, even if doubtless misremembered and – let’s face it – completely made up]

Yeah, yadda yadda. But I need to write a diary again now because I need to record what I’m doing, if only to hold myself to account for my actions and decisions. Because I need to change. I need to stop pissing about with meaningless, mundane crap. I need to stop drinking and smoking so much. I need to stop spending hours watching inane videos online and stressing about the state of the world. I need to start organizing, planning, prioritizing, setting tasks, making lists, aiming at goals, assessing my progress towards them, taking responsibility.

Ok, so let’s outline the two main reasons why this is necessary:

  1. Because I have to (because of financial, health, career, etc. reasons).
  2. Because I can. Today was better than usual. I managed to prepare far more teaching materials for the next round of classes than I thought I’d be able to prepare in one day. I got really fired up by some ideas I had about how to introduce the iconographical and historical context of the Assyrian Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal reliefs (admittedly sexy to begin with), and managed to work solidly from 8:30 until 3, with only one coffee/fag break. Much of that was spent in meetings discussing seminar teaching for that module I’m organising, outlining key objectives, etc., but even so… Overall, my one weekday free from actual teaching has been productive. Also managed to sweep through the usual admin and – far more satisfying! – catch up via email with a few old friends.

So now I’m celebrating with just one more bottle of wine. I bought it together with ingredients for a killer carbonara which I’ll have for dinner tonight. That should compensate for the fact that I’ve eaten only a handful of grapes today. All is well, and I can do all this.

Should email Jim, though… it’s been a while. It’s why the other catchups are nice, especially since most people seem to not want to interact as much anymore. Lockdown started last year and it was all Zoom this and Teams that and virtual calls all over the shop. Now, a year on, it’s like everyone’s trying to be like Yoda on bloody Dagobah.

Jim, though! I should get in touch, even if the silence implies he probably doesn’t want anything to do with me. I haven’t spoken to him since… When, exactly? Oh yeah, of course: that time we went to the pub in the eased lockdown and I ended up making rudimentary sketches of fleas and other insects using the beer which had spilt onto our table… Need to remember not to make that particular faux pas again, regardless of how depressing the conversation becomes. Still, I’ll email him now. He’s probably just been busy. He does have a lot to deal with, come to think of it…

It’ll be fine. And everything else is going to work out too. I’ll have the wine as a reward for my newfound resolution, make and eat the carbonara, fondly remember better times, and then get some sleep ready for an early start tomorrow.

First entry ends here. Far longer than expected!


Entry: 21/01/2021

Remarkably eventful morning today:

  • Woke up early, routed last night’s hangover with a strong coffee and cigarette, then banished it to the void with an almost spiritually purgative shit.
  • Taught a few classes which didn’t make me entirely lose hope in myself, others and the world (inauguration of the new US President today). Probably due to better prep – it really works! Note to self: write and record that lecture for next week…

Afternoon less eventful, but still managed to get more vino and smokes from the most local off-licence ready for this evening. My reformation has to be gradual, after all – no use going full cold turkey, it won’t work. First time going to that offie. Sweet woman behind the counter (friendly questions, eye-smiles). Wine not so good, as it turns out, but here I am drinking the last glass of it regardless. Had forgotten how amazing Fleetwood Mac were… We can fantasise about roads not taken, can’t we?

Should buy more actual food tomorrow after demolishing heap of carbonara last night and forgetting I had little else left food-wise. Another note to self: tub of houmous not sufficient when out of crisps and have only gummy bears and dry pasta left in house. But then I suppose we’ve all taken to buying excuses for going to the shops in order to justify the purchase of yet more booze to see us through the evenings.

On which note, looking forward to tomorrow evening immensely – it’s quite the struggle, waiting to see her… I’ll never remember that first night, a few years back now, after we got hammered and finally felt able to make our feelings known… We ended up discussing the Old Testament, of all things, Chronicles 2, the exile in Babylon. I’d, whisperingly, called her an angel, and she rightly called me out on it by quoting Ezekiel’s vision (“Flatterer, you are! Are you saying I look like an ox and an eagle, and have hooves, and wheels within wheels, and eyes all over?!”). Rare to find that kind of erudition now, but then she’s rare, too. And angels really are proper terrifying there, awesomely so… I love it! And I’ll never forget her eyes that evening… Looking forward to tomorrow…


Illustrated by Andrea Miranda

About The Author

Brett Mottram

Is it a bird? Is it deranged? No-one knows. Dividing available time between university research and teaching, Brett keeps moderately sane by indulging in musical pursuits, penning non-academic pieces of writing, and experimenting in the kitchen

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