Things are not what they were, but then again, they never are.
There are a few reasons why Merton Barracks finds himself fronting this operation, and not one of the other versions of the collection of bone and gristle that’s sat behind this keyboard. I’m not afraid of being myself any more. That’s not why I remain behind the veil.
Life is so strange.
Why don’t they tell you that in school?
You get born — literally, before you know it — and by the time you reach some level of self realisation you’re already being thrown out into the world on a trajectory you didn’t get much say in, like some sort of volunteer circus human cannonball who was told gravity is a myth.
Nobody soars. Not really. Maybe you get the chance to land on a load-bearing cloud, which carries you along on the thermals of existence to whatever comes next…and next. Maybe you get hooked up on a passing jetliner, bound for the Caribbean or Bali or wherever the beach du jour happens to be, there to languish at the water’s edge until the crabs nibble your toes off.
For the rest of us — don’t ask me the proportion, I cannot tell, but believe it is more of us than you’d hope — gravity is not a myth, and our upward momentum slowly finds itself overcome by the downward drag of reality. Arcing — if we’re fortunate — above the cloud ceiling, to be touched momentarily by the sun’s golden caress, we descend; down, and inevitably down towards earth’s drab embrace, where we land, knee-deep in the treacherous swamplands of normality.
On that plane, I feel I now have nothing in particular to lose from anything. It would be a lie to say I was free of shame, but in reality I have very little of true significance that I ought to be ashamed of, and very little that I am now afraid of. But I am not devoid of practicality or empathy, and if there’s one thing I have learned from the specific circumstances of my life it is the power of consequences.
So. Here I am. Merton Barracks. I sincerely doubt it would take Hercules Poirot or Sherlock Holmes to uncover my true identity, and if anyone cared to do so then I feel that would say far more about the state of their life rather than mine. That is all I care to say about that.
Over the course of my working life I have visited close to forty countries around the world. None in South America so far, and not to Antarctica, and somehow I’ve failed to get to Australia or New Zealand, but with those few exceptions I’ve visited every other continent, and spent the majority of my life resident in countries other than the UK, which is where I was born.
And my list includes places I’m told people are reluctant to go. Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia…the United States…
How do you tell the difference between your hobbies and your work and your own personal madness?
The obsessive compulsiveness still seeps out through the gaps here and there. I gravitate towards repetitiveness. Like a cog in a gearbox, I am comfortable when I am able to lose myself in a process — this weird form of disengagement through engagement. It somehow allows me to be free, but at the same time I bore easily. I do find it difficult to be still and unoccupied, because that’s when my mind starts to eat away at itself and uncover what lies beneath.
The addictive traits are always there to be dealt with, and they’re diverse and uncomfortable. Alcohol sticks with me. The porn problem is long gone. I sometimes long for some weed.
What I do for a living these days bears little relation to where I began, and I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad. My voyage — my life — has brought me to many places, to the weird point where I am now a generalist, but also a specialist in many different things. Technology remains a significant element in the things I do, but I am more involved with trying to help people feel better than you’d probably expect from my job title. For the most part, I seem to spend my days calling out liars and bullshit artists, metaphorically lancing the boils of our economy, and draining the toxic pustules of the scavengers who call themselves product vendors into the already dying remains of our convulsing planet.
Disillusionment is an unfortunate inevitability. Each day I suspend my disbelief on the way in to the office in much the same way as I do each time I step through the doors of the movie theatre, and while I continue to be able to do that I suppose they’ll keep paying me. Perhaps if I can fake it for a few years after the depression takes over completely I may make it to retirement.
I do not have a positive outlook.
The only time I feel truly free are the times when I dance on my own.
Merton Barracks lives in Hong Kong after a life literally and metaphorically on the road.
He is a security technology expert, an autonomous vehicle expert, a counter-terrorism expert, a writer of fiction, a father, a ranter and an exposer of bullshit.
He is also a victim of childhood sexual abuse, who took half a century to face up to what that did to him and also what it made him. You don’t recover. You don’t repair.
Take a look at some of his fiction
Or read about the process of coping