26 Jul 2009

Post 146: The start of Proms Season and some thoughts about being a hypocrite

Not too sure what to write about today, but I've got nothing much better than to sit here and reaffirm that wherever and whoever you are, you can feel a whole lot better because you're not me.
This Ritalin induced rehab setback has hit me hard and it's not just me that's pissed off about it. Even Ian (my long suffering physio who is usually upbeat about everything) is annoyed because he feels a month+ of his hard work has been wasted. We all hate wasted hard work, which literally is the story of my life. I hate the fact that my only road to recovery is about hard repetitive work that I've already done, the thing that used to bite me before my stroke was computer crashes at work that necessitated re-doing large swathes of stuff, and what was worse? Co-workers/ your boss/IT Gibbons making out it was your fault or worse implying you hadn't done the work and that you'd invented the computer crash. This was one of the many occupational hazards of being a smoker (back then), people would assume (sometimes correctly) that you were a workshy, good for nothing lacklusture, overpaid, waste of space (rather like the royals – more on that later). Often when this was implied I had to count to ten, take a deep breath into my then tar coated lungs and somehow stop myself from strangling them but looked at them like they'd just pissed on my chips regardless of who or how important they were. Possibly one of the many reasons I was never going to make it in the city as I was not prepared to adopt either of the two tried and tested routes to success. These are of course:
Or something only the truly gifted awful city f*ckers could do which was of course BOTH. Now, you might imagine this is a physical impossibility, trust me, it's not,I've seen it! B*stards. I am slightly acrimonious about my time in the city as it was the 2nd worst time I had in my life. I have few great memories or friends (there are exceptions who know who they are) from that unhappy couple of years. I was probably pretty dreadful myself. My only good memories are those of corporate junkets. Taking clients to the Stella Artois tennis was a laugh and having a box at the old Wembley was alright,
even though I was not a fan of Oasis
(I liked some of their songs but loathe the Gallaghers), going to see them allowed me to spend my first proper night on the tiles with Natasha. The first of many.
Corporate Hospitality is what provides me with today's tenuous link because on Wednesday I went to the Albert Hall to go and see my first BBC Promenade concert where my parents and I couldn't help but notice the way that the Albert Hall handled hospitality, it basically involved having a table laden with booze at the back of a box reinforcing to me that corporate hospitality is less about the event, and more about free booze. I think that's a fair assessment. Anyway, tenuous link done, my god it was tenuous, sorry!
Now proms season is underway, I'll probably be going to a few because they're good value and classical music isn't bad at all.I have been to my fair share of quintessentially British events and I remember thinking to myself 'the only thing that could make this more British would be if we had to sing the national Anthem
and lo and behold five seconds later the orchestra struck up the opening bars to the national Dirge!
The Albert Hall is also magnificent. As smug b*stard Jimmy Carr said 'this is the best room in the world', (Post 141) Agreed, it just feels special and unusual. For starters the acoustic discs that reflect sound and the deliberately weird ceiling lighting give the impression that we might be under attack from 'independence day' style flying saucers
and the architecture of the top floor galleries
always makes me think the ceilings are covered with Renaissance Frescoes like a sort of Sistine Chapel.
I am aware that I probably use as many cliches and hyperbole and get as carried away as Sid Waddell
during a hard days darts commentary at Lakeside but Wednesdays performance was superlative and out of the top drawer.
I do however prefer rock concerts and stand up comedy because they are more engaging and classical music is rather soporific which is not great for a chronic fatigue sufferer. As if to prove the point my mum
had to shake me awake at one point to get me to stop snoring! I have made the point before that in my state I often like to absorb music through my eyelids, this was simply what I was doing except for at one particularly jolting occasion during Camille Saint-Saens (who I'd never heard of) symphony no.3 when after a long period of relative quiet, the Albert Hall Organ came in at full chat! It must be one of the loudest organs in the world! The shock was tangible and frankly amazing. I used to love being able to turn music up loud, particularly being able to put on a record on a club sound system. It was so empowering!

I have realised that during the course of this blog (in other posts) that I have been guilty of transgressing the one rule I try to live my life by 'try not to be a hypocrite'
Let me explain. I used to actively dislike blokes whose entire raison d'etre seemed to always be about chasing girls. I can think of a few right now and just thinking about them makes me angry, and even want to run over their toes and I realised this morning that that must be what I sound like. It's OK to think it sometimes but not OK to vocalise it. It does people no favours, it'll make other blokes hate you and girls mistrust you. They're a bit like that guy from the Head and Shoulders ads which I recall from part of my time in hospital who called his hairstyle different names dependent on the type of occasion it was. Each occasion had a different girl stroking his hair and him smiling smugly at the camera.
You'll have to forgive my violent thoughts but I couldn't help thinking his smile would have looked far less smug without any teeth!
That's right, they called him Mickey, and his last hairstyle was the 'fluffy puppy'. It's funny how something so innocuous can make you so Angry. Having seen this advert, it is only apathy that stops me changing brands.
The final thing I felt like ranting about was the uselessness of the Royals. Now, the queen I can just about tolerate, I'm sure she's a nice enough old lady and taxpayers probably get acceptable value for money out of her charity work and the foreign fascination with her but the rest of them are a bunch of inbred,thick as two short planks, chinless wonder spongers. What has kindled this ire was the fact that that jug-eared t*sspot Charles
happened to be at the proms on Wednesday. Two specific things made me angry:
1.The entire car park we usually use was closed off so Charlie-boys range rover had somewhere to pick him up
2.The fact that a large crowd gathered and started to applaud him when he appeared.
It made me think of what I once heard miserable scottish B*stard Frankie Boyle had once said on TV. 'the Royals are so pampered that whenever they venture into the real world, how can they tell they're not in a disaster zone?'. I hope the queen lives for another 100 years to stop Charles ever becoming king.
It's got rather like Gordon Brown waiting for Tony Blair to step down now.
As long as serial thicko Charles says nothing or makes none of his usual 'weighty' proclamations Britain will be a less worse place. NB People should consider my mothers thoughts on IT and mobile phones more seriously than any thoughts Charles has on anything and I'm talking about a tech savy woman who appears to believe that any issues with mobile phones are solved by shouting at it. A Not disimilar way to how to make French people understand you. Simply speak English to them in a loud French accent. If they look confused increase the volume and accent. That's bound to do it.

20 Jul 2009

Post 145: A Sublime Musical Experience

I think I might have got a bit carried away with that last post, well better strap in and prepare for me to get carried away again!
I have been feeling exhausted lately (more so than usual) so today being monday morning, facing my exercises with Ian was to awful to contemplate and him being a nice man decided to do some stretches, magnetic and light therapy and massage on my useless left hand. This was kind of him and apparently useful because magnetic and light therapy are two complimentary therapies he really believes in. Already we're slowly seeing my left arm return to useless from utterly useless. Welcome to how I measure progress. Life is sh*t..
In the last post I neglected to mention a visit last Thursday morning from Vicky Denning and her ridiculously cute 6 month old daughter Jemima.
Vicky has been like a sister to me since we met at college. A moral guide, trusted confidant, shoulder to cry on, advisor and my first housemate in London. I like to think I have always been all these things in return but that's probably wishful thinking, she certainly (wisely) confided less in me after Tony and I stitched her up a bit when we delivered her 21st birthday speech.
She has developed from her slightly scatty early 20s into a formidable career woman and mother, marrying PJ
(a top lad) and forging an enviable career, not bad for someone who read Music (which of course there's nothing wrong with) especially as it supplies me with todays tenuous link, here goes, speaking of music (groan) I was fortunate enough yesterday to go to a recital given by one of the best Clarinetists in the world.
I had last seen Emma Johnson
performing Beethovens Clarinet Concerto at the Royal Albert Hall in June (Post 131) with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Surely that represented the pinnacle of a musical career? Yesterdays charity recital in a barn 5 minutes down the road represented the top of a small stalagmite

in her illustrious career but for the audience it was a bit special. The evening was organised by the Barker family , ostensibly to celebrate my mums university friend Richard Barkers 70th birthday. Richard (a man who is the same age as my mother) tragically has Alzheimers. He can no longer walk, talk or recognise people. So the evening was about raising money for the Alzheimers trust and Crossroads, a charity
that looks after carers recognising how much of their lives they have to give up to look after people. I can identify with this because Adrienne (my carer) basically foregoes a lot to look after me and I don't require 24/7 care. The reason Emma Johnson had offered her services for free was because Richard had been her headmaster at Sevenoaks School several years before. When we had seen her at the Albert Hall we could hear her Clarinet Clearly but she was a fairly distant speck (probably something to do with my eyesight).In this barn (a lovely setting that the Barkers used to let the famous Yehudi Menuin music school use as a concert venue before the School built its own). In this venue I was no more than a yard away from the action. Seeing anyone who is good at anything at close quarters is goodbut this was awesome! Twenty years ago I had been an average (mediocre) clarinetist at school so I could appreciate how hard it was to be producing the sounds we were hearing. Maybe I wa mistaken but I found my eye straying to the ring finger on her left hand and sure enough I think I saw a ring there. I immediately thought 'how proud her husband must be of her. She's a pretty lady who is an incredibly talented musician, my mind strayed to how proud I used to be of Natasha. There are few better feelings than thinking 'wow,she's mine' I was proud of her for her individual unusual willowy beauty,
and the way she would project this image of independence,success and intelligence',
Something that also used to make me proud was when we went to clubs or bars an orderly queue of men used to form to try and chat her up, she would smile and talk to each of them, politely and charmingly turning them down. Inevitably, this usually being in London there was one tw*t who wouldn't take no for an answer and thought they were a bit specialwhich is when I'd usually make my presence subtly known, being 6'3” had its uses) , in every group of lads there's always one, if you don't know who it is, it's you! For my sins when I was single it was sometimes me! Comedienne Jo Caulfield
hilariously observes that this is equivalent in any group of girls, there's always one slut and if you don't know who it is, it's you. Here I go again but this is what I was genuinely thinking when I was watching/listening to Mrs Johnson. I was so impressed, awestruck, starstruck even by the completeness of the person in front of me. I do apologise for being a bit syrupy but This has been on my mind since yesterday. So moving was the performance that stricken Richard even started conducting from his wheelchair. One of his grown up sons then apparently hugged him bringing a tear to Adriennes eye, so she told me afterwards.
While I have been writing this England have just won the 2nd Ashes Test, which reminds me of some of my last good memories before my stroke, when England won the Ashes in that glorious summer of 2005. My great work friend Simon Dawes and I even went to the victory parade in Trafalgar Square.
We had also been present at arguably the best days play of the entire series. The Saturday of the fifth test at the Oval when Freddie
dismembered the Australian batting. Being able to taunt some nearby Australian spectators, famous for their charity and sporting conduct was great fun. The Oval became the countries largest beer garden that day!
In completely unrelated news, nothing gave me greater pleasure than to hear of the recent engagement of my college mate and unparalleled raconteur, the revd Richard Lloyd,
great work!

18 Jul 2009

Post 144:Unrequited rehabilitation

Another interesting week, well, interesting in an uninteresting way,
I have been thinking a lot which is usually bad news – Ian (my long suffering physio) has been trying to get me to think less when walking. Wobbling and being off balance and being so tired to the point of crying and fear of falling make walking practice the hardest thing in the world. When normal people walk you don't think about it, you just do it.How hard would walking be if you have to invest serious thought in every step which is sadly what I'm condemned to do? Every bloody step is different. Instead of my body and brain automatically correcting things, I have to think about where to put my weight and where I'm overbalancing and often guess and hope that the bits of my left side I can't feel are in the right place and doing the right things to stop me falling over. It is this faith in something I can't feel or control that generates fear and fear is horrible and exhausting. Non-sequitur coming up.
I had so much fear when I was in various hospitals, mainly it was fear about the future and what sort of life could I expect?
Part of this question has been answered now I'm not in a care home , have some structure to my life etc, I still don't know how I'll find a girlfriend/wife, have a family and be happy. I know regular readers will have heard me moan about this before and some might say there are plenty of 'normal' people who are perfectly happy without achieving/aspiring to this rather old fashioned ideal, to that I would say at least they had the chance because it seems that noone has the slightest bit of interest in the pariah that I am now.
In hospital the despair was worse, only slightly allayed by the numerous pretty therapists that I was fortunate enough to encounter. I fell in love (a little) with a lot of lovely girls who in the real world wouldn't have given me a 2nd glance (because pretty girls don't go for disabled guys) I tried to make them laugh to distract them from my malfunctioning body, which seemed to help but in the medium term it was pie in the sky – before my girlfriend left me (to her credit she stuck around for a while, making her eventual departure heinous [yeah,yeah,heard it no-one cares],YAWN etc...)I only repeat it because it was a big deal to me), well I suppose flies are for some reason attracted to sh*t.
I fell for pretty therapists who I couldn't work out why they were being nice to me. I had become this useless lump
that could no longer look after myself, my voice was/is different and I still hate it. I imagine that Stephen Hawking
sounds like Barry White compared to me
I hated myself and suppose I still do. Given this, I couldn't work anything out. I think the first time I experienced this unrequited love was with Orla,
my physio in Charing Cross, she always seemed pleased to see me. This is probably wishful thinking on my part because most of my memories of Charing Cross hospital are garbled and confused. Waking up in intensive care after being in a coma for three weeks attached to allsorts of tubes and machines was rather like waking up in the matrix.
It was like waking up in hell, unable to move.I remember thinking 'oh dear, I've really f*cked up.'
After being in Charing Cross for about 7 weeks, I was moved to Kings in Camberwell and the awful looking and asylum like Frank Cooksey rehab ward. Here I fell hopelessly for two therapists, Andrea,
the occupational Therapist, and Sam, my physio
. I was a terrified exhausted puppy whose voice was a whimper, I felt pathetic and used to look forward to visits from Tash , who got me through a lot of my time in this scary place and any therapy with Andrea or Sam and to a lesser extent my pschology sessions with lovely Tara and my laugh a minute speech therapy sessions with Annabel.
Andrea no longer speaks to me after I admitted having feelings for her about 8 months ago via email. She now appears to be engaged to an able bodied guy. A similar thing happened with Natalie, my neurophysio when I moved out of hospital, when I admitted via e-mail 6 months ago that I was fond of her she stopped speaking to me. I must be awful. The only person who still talks to me after I 'fessed up via email is the lovely Vicki, my psychologist.
She has explained to me that she is flattered but not interested. I am gutted but she still comes to talk to me in defiance of that most paradoxical of all human situations. Why is it better to never talk to someone you used to be close too once an interest has been declared or to take it one step further. Why is it too painful to talk to someone who used to be everything to you? Being human is weird.
After the Frank Cooksey. I moved to the Royal Hospital for Neurodisability in Putney (RHN), where I met and fell for Ali,
a lovely physio who has since married a guy with a Ferrari.the other physios at the RHN were nice enough.
I was also slightly in Love with the Music Therapist, Gemma(sadly no photo), I ceased thinking about her when I found out that her and one of the Rehab Assistants (a funny man called Paul) on the transitional living unit (the TLU, where I was for a year), were seeing each other. While in the TLU I was very lonely and fed up and fell under the spell of a lot of the rehab Assistants, joint 1st were,Natasha,
Nicole(sadly no photo), Toni
and Lucy (Sadly no photo),
I guess the moral of this particular sad story is a demonstration of how hopeless I felt during my incarceration in hospital. I am reminded of the greek myth of Tantallus, stuck for eternity in a tank where he could never eat and drink despite the fact that cool water and juicy grapes were just out of reach of his mouth. I felt/feel like a kidnap victim who identifies with his captors, a sort of 'Stockholm Syndrome'. I'm waiting to be rescued. It's going to take someone special. I hope I just sound like a tortured (and honest) normal person, not a weird (overly honest) person, which brings me on to why on earth I wrote all that.
Some might regard it as overshare, probably not the first or last time that I'll be guilty of that, but I got an email from an old college mate, Richard Rous
asking for sponsorship for his upcoming cycle in the 'etape du Tour' a gruelling amateur stage of the tour de France in the blurb it was 'described by Lance Armstrong as "the toughest climb on the Tour - bar none". Now bear with me, in the RHN lovely Ally used to go on about Lance Armstrong
being her hero, indeed she even called her first child Lance. So I thought of her.
In other news I went to see the 'importance of being Earnest' last night at the Regents Park outdoor theatre last night. I'm sure it's quite beautiful on a balmy summers evening but when it's unseasonably freezing it becomes a bit more of an endurance event. As ever,lovely to be able to take Tony and Kate
and special thanks to Adrienne for negotiating the Friday gridlock in London. The play itself made me think 'does any Oscar Wilde play not take the piss out of the 'snobbery and pomposity of the 19th century aristocracy?' The character of Lady Bracknell was hilariously awful, I particularly remember 'I don't approve of this modern sympathy for invalids, I see being invalid as a sign of weakness' Gosh, I can almost imagine my mother thinking that. Sure, I could probably be called a snob for my thoughts on chavs and my first thought when I see boxer Amir Khan
open his mouth is 'he's done well to not be a Hayes Carphone Warehouse salesmen who gets his kicks out of donutting his modified car
in the evenings in a Lidl carpark' So wrong to think it but there's a ring of truth there!

14 Jul 2009

Post 143: I wish time was a little bit faster

WARNING: So it's Tuesday today
and it seems sensible to indulge in some blog therapy but sadly none of this is light-hearted. For the last decade certainly Tuesdays have often been some of the worst days so since my stroke I have tried to make them a little easier by having it as my one weekday when I don't have any physio and I have tried to reward myself by arranging good regular appointments so I have tried to arrange my psychology session with Vicki on Tuesdays but sadly she's on holiday. Regular readers will know that Vicki has become my guiding light. She has been instrumental in talking me down from the despair I felt over Natasha. To be clear, losing Tash to someone else and their subsequent engagement (post 117) was the worst I have ever felt in my life. 'Here he goes again, yadda yadda' YAWN well Vicki has turned this round for me, firstly by finding me a Counsellor, Harry, but also giving me a friendly shoulder to cry on. Harry handles affairs of the head and Vicki handles affairs of the heart. It's amazing how the human psyche (mine in particular) reacts well to kindness, intelligence and beauty. For my sins, it used to bring out the best in me at work, mixed with a large slice of comedy or genuine hard work – this used to make time melt away, and it is rare that that ever happens these days. I am now acutely aware of the passage of time which often seems to stand still, particularly and ironically when you least want it to
, ie when I've got nothing to do or during my physio sessions, that the clock tells me last an hour and a half but feel more like they take the whole morning/afternoon. 'Time flies when you're having fun'
goes the old adage. Time hasn't flown since before christmas 2005!
I have frequently (somewhat cynically) had a go at 'positive thought' as this 'cure-all' which often gets bandied around. There is this school of thought that seems to say that if you ever feel bad then all you have to do is think of something good and everything is suddenly fine. Bullsh*t, it doesn't work like that – trust me, I've tried. Given, it would be helpful to be more positive but how realistic would that be?
I happen to agree with comedian Marcus Brigstocke
who I recently heard say on the radio 4 now show Podcast that 'he'd be out of a job' if he stopped being cynical. Although I wouldn't have a job to lose I'd lose most of who I was if I turned into some perma-positive happy-clappy loon!
This reminds me of the story of a friend of mine who came to see me in hospital,a chap called Paul, or known affectionately to his friends as 'mad Paul'
. Now Paul is a huge believer in the power of positive thought so much so he actually said to me; 'I'm the kind of person now that I would have taken the p*ss out of in the past' but all the same he has one of the biggest hearts of anyone alive.
I'm at the p*sstake stage, because whenever I've tried to think positively I've had laughable results because it just doesn't work for me. I believe it's always important to keep a grip on what is real to help you deal with the real world and it annoys me that so many people seem to think this is the wrong attitude to have especially to recovery from stroke! The 'think yourself better' approach as I call it rather patronisingly says to me that one day I'll just wake up in a different frame of mind, throwing off the negative thoughts that have been holding me back and be able to leap out of my wheelchair and walk again,
this negates the hours of physio that I have done to seemingly get nowhere.
Not even seeing bearded comedy genius Daniel Kitson
reading a rather eccentric 'work in progress/shambles' story that he had conjured at a place callet the Battersea Arts Centre,
that I used to walk past every day, 10 years ago when I lived nr Clapham Junction and always used to think aloud 'I wonder what happens in there?' It confirmed my suspicions last night, the wearing of lots of baggy jeans and trendy haircuts, usually with some sort of facial piercing, I could have been in Hoxton! Last night can't even lift this cloud. Even being able to take Vicki to it was not enough to allay this annoyance. I had a damn good go on Sunday when I went to see Aussie comedian Adam Hills with Paul and Iwona Reeves.
We had a great time, Paul and Iwona are lovely people and even better they're soon moving to London. We were all agreed that Adam Hills is the charming, kind, witty face of Australia (a minority then;-) but he was clearly the nicest stand-up comedian I've ever seen, showing people to their seats at the start and even posing for a photo with yours truly,
to giving presents afterwards to audience members who had helped during the show. The last stand-up event the Reeves' had taken me to on my instigation, Al Murray, the pub landlord, we all agreed, Hills was a million times better and not just because it didn't rain! (It was at the Regents park outdoor theatre).
You've probably noticed that I'm finding the going tough right now. To be brutally honest the going has never been easy even before life fell apart. I'm always trying to make things easier but not always succeeding. Apologies for the serious nature of this sh*t today.



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