29 Nov 2009

Post 169: Mediocrity resumed

In the context of that last post this is gonna be difficult but here goes, the first thing I want to talk about is some song lyrics. Since watching 'greatest living Englishman' Bill Baileys Tinselworm show I always laugh at the Killers song with the line 'I've got soul but I'm not a soldier because as Bill points out when you analyse it, it's ' meaningless drivel, you might as well say 'I've got Ham,but I'm not a hamster', well, the message here is to not analyse song lyrics because most of them are 'meaningless drivel'. Unfortunately that didn't stop me analysing another Killers song that I love 'Human', the lyrics for that go 'are we human? Or are we dancer' which makes no grammatical sense unless the word 'dancer' were pluralised or became 'dancing' or maybe it was supposed to be some esoteric Christmas song and should be called 'Rudolph' or maybe I should just blame this weirdness on Brandon Flowers' Mormonism, because that just takes him from being a pretty talented Musician to a plain Weirdo, Mormon's can call me ignorant, I DON'T CARE! So on the subject of song lyrics I was rather affected the other morning by the lyrics to Lily Allens latest song which is odd because I thought a while back I'd stop listening to her Lyrics after her song 'the fear' was all about wanting to be rich and famous and wanting f*ckloads of money, and as far as I could tell it would be garnered by shamelessly taking her kit off or through being with a rich bloke and it didn't matter whether he was clever or funny. As far as I'm concerned she can bloody well take her clothes off, at least she'd be performing some sort of worthwhile service, but her new single 'who'd have known' describes everything I want in a partner/relationship:

It's 5 o'clock in the morning
Conversation got boring
You said you're going to bed soon
So I snuck off to your bedroom
And I thought I'd just wait there
Til I heard you come up the stairs
I pretended I was sleeping
And I was hoping you would creep in
With me

You put your arm around my shoulder
It was as if the room got colder
We moved closer in together
And started talking bout the weather
Said tomorrow would be fun
We can watch A Place In The Sun
I didn't know where this was going
When you kissed me

Are you mine?
Are you mine?
Cause I stay here all the time
Watching telly, drinking wine
Who'da known, who'da known
When you flash up on my phone
I'd no longer feel alone
No longer feel alone

I haven't left here for days now
And I'm becoming amazed how
You're quite affectionate in public
In fact, your friend said it made her feel sick
And even though it's moving forward
There's just the right amount of awkward
And today you accidentally
Called me baby

Are you mine?
Are you mine?
Cause I stay here all the time
Watching telly, drinking wine
Who'da known, who'da known
When you flash up on my phone
I'd no longer feel alone

Let's just stay
Let's just stay
I wanna lie in bed all day
We'll be laughing all the way
Told your friends
They all know
We exist but we're taking it slow
Now let's just see how we go
Now let's see how we go

Let's just stay
Let's just stay
I wanna lie in bed all day
We'll be laughing all the way
Told your friends
They all know
We exist but we're taking it slow
Now let's just see how we go
Now let's see how we go.

Maybe I'm looking at the world woefully simplistically, maybe I should try harder to embrace materialism but I can't because all my dreams of being able to set up on my own and somehow create a lucrative importing business have been written off in favour of trying to keep my head above water for the rest of my life. A huge weight has been taken off my mind by my former employer John Lewis who pay me a disability pension which keeps me in food and heat, many companies wouldn't do this and would see this as an unnecessary expense. I was discussing writing something like this to my friend and former colleague Jackie at the John Lewis Victoria (Head Office) retired partners christmas lunch at the Marriot on Tuesday
and I was thinking there weren't many businesses these days that would bother putting on an event like this, it is because of the partnership ethos of people before profits, had this happened to me at any other firm they probably would have tried to get away with the statutory minimum. A friend tells me it is partly as a reaction to how well they have treated me that she,my good friend Vicky Denning, went to work there. Without a doubt, working for the partnership was one of the best things that ever happened to me and of my disability pension what's left over plus the paltry (sorry, pathetic) disability benefit the government pays me keeps me in tickets for live events that I can take my friends to. Life is simpler but oh so bloody hard these days.
I was actually supposed to be off to see the delectable Lily this very evening at her sold out Brixton academy gig but a misunderstanding between me and my mate who was supposed to be driving me has meant that's not gonna happen, welcome to my world of constant disappointment (I would stress that this misunderstanding was most likely my fault). I do believe her music is starting to grow on me and she is certainly a very attractive lady, mainly for her great attitude (despite her Mockney) and her beauty and more obvious physical charms -I wish I somehow stood a chance (easily the most ridiculous thought I've ever committed to your no doubt bored minds).
That said I'm off to see Irish GENIUS (not a contradiction in terms) Dylan Moran
on Saturday, I saw Ed Byrne (a man who is trying to be Dylan Moran) at the Hammersmith Apollo last night (Thursday). He was pretty funny but him talking a lot about his wife and wedding (quite humourously) make him sound a lot like Moran who I saw in November last year and getting a bit personal makes you as an audience member feel you are being told one or two rather special things. I found common ground with Byrne's disrespect (disbelief, even!) of how much kudos football, footballers or WAGs get in the modern world which is why it's even more of a mystery that I'm going to Arsenal vs Chelsea at the Emirates stadium tomorrow. Strangely enough the last football game I went to see was Arsenal vs Chelsea at Stamford Bridge when I was still in hospital, oh I almost forgot, the dull draw between Everton and Fulham I went to watch in the pouring rain with Simon Dawes in about Dec 2007, it was so cold I think my left hand went blue. Dear old Mr Dawes had figured it would be a good expedition, in theory, Shackletons expedition to the south pole was a good idea but they almost froze to death then too. The reason I'm going is because my mate Champ likes football and we managed to jazz free tickets because my cousin (Julie) works for the Gooners. We're going as a replacement for him not being able to take me to Muse at the Dome a few weeks ago (easily one of the best gigs I've been to). At least going to the football will get me out of the house! I'm eagerly anticipating seeing Depeche Mode with him at the Dome in mid December which is much more my thing. I've now seen Dylan Moran and have to report he was masterful but I won't ever be going to the Apollo Shaftsbury again in a wheelchair. For starters my cousin Danny missed the first half trying to find somewhere to park, and getting to and from my wheelchair space inside the theatre was unbelievably hard. Enough about our problems. Moran is so brilliant because he justs grabs the microphone and rants, but he's not moaning which would be tiresome, he makes lifes difficulties, complexities and intricacies funny, e.g. trying to chat up the opposite sex is like talking to the bereaved 'there's never a right thing to say' or of the most evil of alcoholic drinks, Tequila 'Tequila's not an alchoholic drink, it's just a way of calling the police without using the phone'. THERE IS NO NEED FOR TEQUILA. Big thanks to my cousin Danny and his mate Ben for braving Saturday night London, minging weather and my company last night, Danny actually spent most of the day here, him and his sister Nicky and her five month old daughter Ava
and did her best to persuade me that her baby is the cutest. Granted she is cute but as I've said before ' When you've seen one young baby, you've seen 'em all'. Danny did say to me after the show that the only thing missing from the evening was some good heckling – I said to Danny 'People aren't mad, taking on an angry Irish drunk with a microphone would be suicide'. The last order of business is the tearful goodbye we have to say to Shaun and Renae
who have been great mates since I met them almost a decade ago. This is the 2nd time, they have emigrated to Australia, after they changed their mind after a year last time, we all fear that this is it this time.

27 Nov 2009

Post 168: Oh dear

A week where having a filthy cold has negatively impacted my routine/ sorry, hated rigmarole, yesterday when I did my walking session I genuinely thought my left side didn't have the strength to keep me upright, so halfway through the session my upper body kept collapsing forwards, Ian was doing his best to stop me hitting the deck and shouting at me to stand up straight – I just couldn't so eventually when we got near enough the house Ian had had enough and decided to carry me back into the house, only problem was that I leaned backwards at just the wrong moment when he was trying to pick me up, even though he's a strong guy I'm a big heavy b*stard and my weight overbalanced both of us, both of us ending up on the floor – luckily, neither of us did any damage to ourselves or each other but it illustrated to both of us the ease with which accidents can happen, worse for me because despite all our efforts it just seems to me that I just get worse! After 4 years I still can't walk, stand up independently, write with a pen, talk properly, or feel/use my left arm or hand, this is infuriating and I'm still blind in my right eye! On this trajectory in 10 years I'll have got nowhere, and the worst thing is that I just seem to get more exhausted. I try to make the most of what I've got but being like this reduces a lot of things to rubble -*rse, I hate writing posts like this – I'll probably write another one (but still post this I'm afraid). I'll hopefully post the other one at the normal time with some content that doesn't make you want to smash your computer.

22 Nov 2009

Post 167: Trying to keep laughing despite being a crippled n****r apparently

A week where I have tried to fill the yawning chasm that is now my existence with comedy and my mum's 70th Birthday, so all comedy then.
My mum is an incredible lady, no-one can believe she's 70, because she looks and behaves so much younger, she is often an untameable ball of energy and stress, running around organising everyone else's lives.
Her impracticality is legendary, I have nightmares about what would ever happen if she appeared on the Krypton factor!
During the spacial awareness round, you know that bloody 3D puzzle, I can just imagine her getting so frustrated, that she would start shouting at it! This is often what happens with say her mobile phone, woe betide anyone who dares send her a text! Having said this and despite her being an easy target, she is a formidable lady without a shred of malice to her being. If there's any it is her willingness to believe everything the Daily Mail says. I have lost count of the number of times she has said 'listen to this' and read me word for word some poisonous article about how this country is being 'invaded by immigrants'. Apart from her believing insidious journalism, what really irritates me is her inability to ignore stuff that is clearly nonsense or a waste of time, after all she is an intelligent, educated lady who despite having the misfortune of going to Cambridge (getting in on her own merits when they barely let ladies in) I always think people of a certain intelligence ought to be able to analyse things so that obvious bias drops out, but my view of the world is often just wrong, I might have even inherited bits of this from her along with my hatred of early mornings and/or being rushed/rushing.
Anyway, her 70th birthday drinks was a jolly evening giving mum a chance to see all her friends and my sister and her 8 year old daughter Maddie (who had come over from the states in secret to surprise mum (apparently mum almost had a heart attack when they surprised her )) There is something about middle-aged ladies and their grandchildren or small children in general that I have alluded to before (post 114 where I say I think small children are like Heroin to ladies like my mum), small children aside, parties like this allow her to adopt what I call her 'Hyacinth' persona, showing off to everyone how wonderful the rebuilt house is (regular readers will recall that the house burnt down when I was in hospital and has been rebuilt). Even though this was a horrific ordeal, the silver lining is that the New House is wonderful and is also now accessible to a wheelchair on the ground floor. I recently got Dad to make a video tour of the upstairs of the house so I could see how it had changed because obviously I can't go up there. It looks nice. Being able to walk up those stairs one day has been stored in that little corner of my mind where I keep my ambitions.
Anyway, the rest of the 70th was a whirlwind of middle aged, middle class people, the type of gathering that an-anarcho-socialist would quite happily send an Exocet missile into, I must admit to having the odd ultra-liberal socialist tendency because of the failure of my parents to see their middle-class poshness with any irony and the politics of my peer group. If I wasn't able to take the piss out of it and myself I would be even more fed up.
So, that was Monday, I have done my best to try and continue the comedy. On Tuesday my indispensable brother and new(ish) legend of a mate Sacha took me to Reading to go and see Marcus Brigstocke's new show 'God Collar'.
A show that makes fun of organised religion, something that strikes a real chord with me because Organised religion seems to be responsible for most of the worlds problems oh, and it has never done me any favours, indeed being a Gentile going out with a Jewish girl a few years ago caused more problems than I care to mention, never again – sheesh that's probably an anti-semitic thing to say, Oh wait, I DON'T CARE, GROW UP. Now I really like Brigstocke because I seem to have a fairly similar view of the World and I sense that I won't be alone in being rude about Reading where the show was. Reading and Coventry must have shared a designer, one who was heavily invested in concrete, local businesses must have then had a competition to see who could have the most soul-crushing and unsightly premises with the overall intention being to rival Slough for grimness, and the cherry on top must be that Satan himself designed the one-way system. Why John Lewis have a branch in the pedestrian precinct has always escaped me. I once went there for a day with the guys who worked for me, and after looking at the way schoolwear was laid out, it was difficult to imagine anyone braving shopping there and now I've seen what a psychopath next doors 7 year old can be the thought of dragging him round a department store makes a day in hell sound like a relaxing spa experience.
Back to Marcus Brigstocke – I don't just like him because he's posh, two fingers to anyone who cynically thought that, probably the Champagne Socialists who read this and shuffle uncomfortably whenever they get called it. No, I like Brigstocke for his humility, his irreverence and his favourite putdown being to tell people to 'grow up' which is mine too. This sort of grown up (not adult) humour appeals a lot to me, it seems to yield a universal way of laughing at everything, combining grown up humour with the puerile and making sure there are no juvenile bits, eg his description of how it was hysterical how his former best mate James used to always get his cock out or how his young children did hilarious but bonkers things and how they had reinvigorated his life. Seriously, if you've ever had any doubts about having kids, go and see this show or it can be as simple as the email I had from a mate of mine saying 'that getting a smile from his one year old son when he got home from work made it all worthwhile'.
So last night I went to go and see 'Welsh angry man' Rhod Gilbert
do the last date (sold out at the Mecca for comedy that is the Hammersmith Apollo) of his Edinburgh festival show 'the cat that looked like Nicholas Lindhurst' so called because he wanted to stop one of his fans in Canterbury coming up with a gift associated with the 'bloody show title', I'm not sure who's weirder, the fan or Mr Gilbert, or me actually, I'm sure that I've always been taught i before e except after c, not in weird apparently, odd or weird blah blah etc. Gilbert was funny and energetic and angry, very angry - I eventually found myself thinking 'calm down' but despite finding Mr Gilbert a little too angry he was still funny although I do find it ironic that someone who so mercillessly takes the piss out of Wales does the Welsh Tourist board ads. The evening was made the more enjoyable because my comedy aficionado companion/driver/carer/mate was the lovely Katie (right) who has worked at the Edinburgh festival and has heard of everyone, she is my new housemate Claires niece and she has already taken me to several events, she will be greatly missed when she goes off for 5 months to do a ski season in two weeks. After the fury that was Rhod Gilbert I took/got taken by a big group of friends to see in my opinion coolest comedian in the world Reginald D Hunter at my favourite venue for stand up the Soho theatre and I have to report that Reg was brilliant and judging from the reaction and the smiles on faces they all loved it which is the most important thing to me. In fact since the show I have still been chuckling at a couple of his gags which if you'll humour me I'll reproduce. Reg, like a lot of career comedians has moved to live in London, presumably to try and perfect that thing that most American's just can't get, irony. The 2nd reason is probably for the reason US comedian Rich Hall says 'when you're a comedian you come to where all the misery is' and thirdly 'because Brits drink like Americans eat'. Apparently this is a good thing. Reg did note that Britain 'doesn't really like British people','It only likes men if they're athletes, women if they're mothers, and children if they're missing'.
He also said that as a black american, he was watching all the coverage of hurricane Katrina and he thought to himself 'I'm only one hurricane away from sucking cock for potatoes'
God we laughed, and proper laughs too, you know the ones that go on to long. This creates problems if you're in the front row,
usually I figure that the wheelchair ensures that the comedian chatting to you is unlikely, not so with Reg, politely asked me my name after one of my slightly too long laughs and then said 'who knew that my market was crippled niggers' he uses the n word as a pronoun apparently and insists that if any of the media ask him for a comment on racial issues he insists on them saying 'Reginald D Hunter king of the blacks', his patience is clearly wearing thin.
I suppose I could have taken exception to him calling me 'a crippled nigger' but I DON'T CARE. Much like with Brand and Ross, they're comedians, they were probably joking, he's quite right when he noted that they would have probably been ok if it'd been funny. Reg rocks. Thanks to my friends for braving the grim weather, Simon and his lovely wife Yvonne for driving me, Simon Winstanley, Jim and Tony and Kate. After 4 years all ofyou have never wavered in your support and even though I am the highest of high maintenance friends you still put up with me. Legends! And because I can't resist having just found this photo, the neighbourhood cats use my house as a bit of a general thoroughfare and doss house, this is my neighbours lovely cat fat frank so called because he's huge and bloody heavy, doing what he does best, not much.

14 Nov 2009

Post 166: Rock'n'Roll Musings

Apart from feeling my usual jaded self on this grim Friday, I suppose I'm feeling a bit Rock'n'Roll after watching Shine a Light, an awesome rockumentary film featuring The Rolling Stones, it films a charity concert they must have done fairly recently, god they are good. Mick Jagger has got to be one of the best (if not THE best) performers in history, directed by Martin Scorsese, it cuts old black and white footage of them being interviewed at their glorious peak in the 70s into this recent New York concert, contains footage of a 20s(ish) Mick Jagger answering the interview question 'will you still be doing this in your 60s?' ,'God yes' is his classic answer, cut to him mincing and pouting around the stage, I allowed myself a smile, here is a man that has enjoyed himself, and I salute that. Seeing the well above average Muse at the Dome on Thursday night allowed me a smile too, both things affirmed to me how wondrous life can really be, and I almost forgot, I saw Russell Brand at the Albert Hall last Sunday. Starting with Brand – to some (eg my mother or feminists or Daily Mail readers) he epitomises everything that is wrong with mankind. A former Junkie and Sex Addict, apart from the fact that being a junkie almost killed him and he is rather boastful about his successes with the ladies, which I'm willing to put down to fame (another addiction which makes him say and do outrageous things). Love him or Loathe him, He is living the dream, he does whatever he wants to make himself feel good. In his case it has been sex, drugs and laughter, now its just sex (and plenty of it by the sounds of things) and laughter. In fact his latest love interest(that's probably the wrong terminology) his latest sex interest is the gorgeous Katie Perry, I have to hand it to him, great work, she must enjoy the tips he gives in his stand up show (which apparently result in said lucky girl 'drinking colour through her brain'), this must be enough for her to look past his reputation.
I'm not saying that Brand or Jagger are good role models, perish the thought but I have convinced myself that the key to my future happiness is through physical recovery, finding love, keeping in touch with my friends, staying busy and laughter. Finding love is the crucial thing I think that is missing from Brand and Jaggers life, in short the pursuit of feeling good should only stop if it negatively impacts the one that you love. Romantic, slushy and sentimental take on things over, I'll get on with things you won't want to chuck rotten fruit at me for: I suppose going to a gig like Muse at the Dome last night comes under the headings of staying busy and keeping in touch with friends. There's a lot within the heading of staying busy, because most things follow from it, I try and stay busy by keeping up with friends (new and old), continuing my exhausting and soul destroying physical therapy and to a lesser extent other therapies and by choosing stuff to do/go to things that will inspire and interest me and my friends which is why I go to so many gigs and Muse Thursday night was absolutely incredible. The gig was first suggested to me by an old mate of mine (Simon Champ) who has often taken me to things, he's a bit of a live music Oracle, and I will sometimes go to things on the strength of his recommendation even if I know sod all about them. He was genuinely excited about going to see Muse, but he fell into a trap that I often fall foul of: Checking my diary. Now, this can often be a tricky business because in the long term plans change, and in between me sourcing the tickets months ago (which were virtually sold out then, his office party for clients got organised and seeing as he owns the company he had to be there, the contrition in his email said it all
Look below at my office party invite for 2000 clients !!! I have fooked up so badly. Our office party " Oriental style "" is this thursday the 12th. The same night as muse !! I simply had not put our office thing in my diary
I can't believe it. I only found out today when a client said he was looking forward to seeing me there ....I want arrrrggggghhhh

Do you think o2 can swap the tickets for wednesday or friday instead ???

I love muse !!! I really really wanna go. Foooooook
F*ck f*ck f*ck” .
Luckily I have made one or two new friends since my stroke via the phenomenon that is internet social networking, which is my only real way of meeting new people these days, and the people who have taken the leap of faith to meeting me are so kind (and a little brave). Because meeting me must be no picnic but hopefully those who have haven't regretted it. I am eternally grateful. It was just such a friend (Suzanne (left)) who stepped up almost as soon as I sent out my panic email, she said she was a big Muse fan and could she bring her mate, Sarah (an even bigger Muse fan (right))?
Well of course she could, I am insanely grateful to anyone who helps me out especially if they're helping me out of a tricky situation. We had a quite brilliant night, Muse's sound is like a melancholic post apocalyptic almost sci-fi guitar driven synth rock sound (if that remotely makes sense) which had the sold-out Dome in a euphoric frenzy. Their faster numbers have so much energy, and were almost reminiscent of some Queen tracks, even their slower numbers would capture the crowds imagination because the singer has such a hypnotic voice. There was a lot of hype surrounding this gig. Even Chris Moyles, a man who I can't imagine at a concert, was bigging up how 'amazing' Muse were live whilst after his email telling me he couldn't come Simon had said words to the effect “still gutted I can't come, Muse are the best live band EVER!”
This actually made me feel a bit excited and I find it hard to get excited about much these days.
The actual gig (as you can no doubt already tell) was pretty damn good and what made it all the more special was how much Suzanne and Sarah enjoyed it, as well as bumping into my super-cute friend Steph who I didn't even recognise when she tapped me on the shoulder because she has dyed her hair and cut it shorter(she has gone from long dark hair to short platinum blond and it looks great), I feel I am off the hook for looking at her like she was a total stranger for a few seconds ! It was one of those events where you remember it for the event itself, not all the baggage that comes from going to an event as a wheelchair user, e.g the exhaustion and late night, the parking, the transfers in and out of my wheelchair, the time consuming toilet trips, not being able to dance, not being able to make myself heard, looking asleep in pictures and so on - I wish life was easier! It's Saturday now and I'm once more trying to get ahead of the game and typing very slowly (even slower than usual) desperately trying to stay ahead of a tsunami of tiredness, which is my boring daily battle.
Even a visit from Jo and Gary Butcher came to see me yesterday to show off their latest adorable addition, an 8 week old girl called Sofia. I do love babies, and don't get me wrong when I say this – little babies, when you've seen one, you've seen 'em all, even this couldn't liven me up nor could the anticipation of going to see my favourite comedian Stephen K Amos in Reading with mate Tim ' superstar international jetsetter DJ' Davison and his girlfriend Ellie, who reminded me of a friend of mine so much that I can barely contain it, in fact I can hardly believe they're not the same person. Amos was his usual brilliant self emphasising that although complete strangers may fail to see they have any kind of connection, what we laugh at connects everyone and anyone which is why not having a sense of humour must be the loneliest thing in the world. One of the highlights of the evening was running into the charming and down to earth Mr Amos at the bar (where else) before he came on. I've seen him 3 times now and he always says hello if our paths cross, I guess being 'that young bloke' in the wheelchair with the silly laugh is easy to remember. His humility is especially nice when you consider the BBC have just commissioned him to have his own show on BBC2. Having a sense of humour and being able to make people laugh (sometimes) is the small mercy I cling onto the most. Hopefully going to see Kasabian tonight at Wembley Arena with pal and Music enthusiast Oli Cassidy. Now I have actually been to see them and have to report they're in the same League as Muse but despite the sound being good Wembley Arena is not in the same League as the Dome but Kasabian were fantastic live. though live music can sometimes be a bit rough around the edges there is just something about it that makes it so much better than listening to it on the radio or a cd player.It's the volume, people and atmosphere, it's the intensity, even if you can't leap around like a loon (which I'd normally do(without moshing which I find aggressive and unnecessary aggression can ruin the night,it's good to watch though), but live, loud music gets to your very core and there are few things that do. Which is why I bother now as despite it being harder than if I was a normal person, it's worth the effort. Human endeavor can be pretty impressive, and right now I need constant reminding.
Simon Amstell this evening will provide me with some more. Till next week.

8 Nov 2009

Post 165: Lots more events

Well, frankly, it has been another week where I have probably bitten off a bit more than I can chew given the new me that I struggle to grudgingly accept, by which I mean I think given the level of energy and lack of zest for anything that this imposter masquerading as me has, I am bloody exhausted! Last Sunday in advance of publishing the last nonsense that counts for a blog post I was taken out for coffee by a couple of college friends - Unfortunately, these days caffeine bounces off me, probably something to do with my fondness for the 'Stewdent and long distance lorry drivers favourite' Pro Plus back in my uni days doing all-night essays, fear and caffeine is a heady cocktail and no matter what they say about student life, it is ideal preparation for the world of work! e.g. my politics tutor was terrifying and I'm sure that 'Nosferatu' is still the most accurate way to describe himNeedless to say that despite my fear of him we used to get on famously and wile away long hours trying to get his blood alcohol level up to 200% proof and Nicotine up to dangerous levels, if smoking and drinking were an olympic sport, he would be a gold medalist, (in fact at one point in his life he was apparently an Olympian!) Anyway, I'm in much worse health – perhaps I should have persevered with my drinking and smoking? Maybe not. Anyway my point is is that caffeine appears to be ineffective, sure, it would be unthinkable to start the day without that psycho-somatic assurance that you've gulped down a mug of an insipid drink that has no effect whatsoever. That said there are those lucky b*stards that caffeine still seems to effect , people who say that they had the 'best times of their lives on a combination of alcohol and redbull'. It's so unfair how much redbull costs because lets face it – it tastes like cough medicine. I remember once having a conversation along these lines in a delightful establishment called Turnmills a legendary den of iniquity in Clerkenwell. Alex James, the blur bassist describes it 'as what seems like a network of Sewers' in his autobiography, in these very 'sewers' two close friends of mine bumped into their future wives a good mate of mine met his best mate and eventual best man. not sure whether they should be ashamed or proud of that? Turnmills is sadly(happily) no more. I spent many an hour being a bit of a DJ Trainspotter in that place, it makes me cringe at how I used to hangout in that bunker like DJ booth one day hoping it would be me spinning the tunes – I did play in the 2nd and 3rd rooms but the main room was reserved for people who were actually good!
Anyway, I have digressed yet again, the point I was making was about the ineffectiveness of tea BUT 'the British Empire was built on cups of tea and if you think I'm going into battle without one, you're very much mistaken my friend' so said Bacon in 'Lock, Stock...' a movie that despite it's being made by that fool of a man Guy Ritchie has more classic moments/lines than blowerscommentating on a Bradman century.
For instance the way that the boys nonchalantly walk into a pub past a man on FIRE makes me laugh just thinking about it and the Scousers who 'rob post offices and steal carsare priceless. I only caught a second of it the other night but it is classic. So this was all inspired by caffeine, ironically, not by drinking it, but the people who deserve credit for taking me out for that ineffective coffee in the first place, uni friends Helen VJ and James Renshaw, who came down here on Sunday to save me from the boredom of another Sunday on my own with only the
company of my deranged brain which just can't seem to cut it these days. Hels has been instrumental in helping me organise my life since the stroke and ever the artist (she did English) even cobbled together the logo for the trust. What a heroine!
So, following the lovely but not chemically stimulating coffee and chat I had on Sunday with Helen and James (James and I had a laugh because it turned out our views on who the most unpleasant man in history (apart from Hitler) coincided. I am seriously tempted to publish his name. His magnificence as an *rse was almost beaten by his son (who James happened to go to school with) and I used to square up to in a certain sport I used to play mostly in my schooldays, the likelihood of him reading this is slender and we think his dad is now worm fodder, A notable (and worthy) exception to the rule 'never speak ill of the dead'. I'll probably find out he's alive now!
So, what I was really going to write about: The bites in this so-called oversize mouthful were: Going to Brixton Academy on Monday for a huge Charity gig called 'the Concert for CARE' Now, as far as I can figure out CARE is one of these charities saving the world working in 70 countries and helps 55 million people to find ways out of poverty each year so says the blurb. In principle a noble and worthy cause. In practice a way of getting a bunch of top talent to perform for free while filling a seizable venue on a weekday, the organisers must be laughing, I'll stop there, sometimes I can be too cynical for my own good! The line-up was huge, topped by the Kaiser Chiefs and Gary Barlow and the thing that had primarily drawn my attention to this gig, the excellent stand up of Dara O' Briian. I haven't been to Brixton Academy for a good few years,Probably about 5/6 when I took a group of my friends to go and see The Chemical Brothers when I used to live about 10 minutes walk away, and a few years before when I'd had heinous, unforgivable taste in music to go to a dreadful thing called Earthdance (I think) headlined by a couple of dreadlocked, black latex-clad nutters called Lab 4 music is best described as 'melodic roadworks' and would probably make small children cry, god only knows what I was thinking. My conclusion, apart from having a blinding time (obviously) was that the Academy was a honky venue for dance music and even though the Chemical Brothers are basically a dance act they were much better because the sound they produce (although electronic) feels much more like a live act so the sound and ambience were better and this was proved to me on Monday. The runaway winners were the Kaiser Chiefs who were awesome. Even though their set was predictably short, 'I predict a Riot' and 'Angry Mob' even had me singing and I don't sing. They were utterly brilliant leaving me wondering when and where they're playing next, hmmm we'll see. The pleasant surprise of the night was the Academy which is so much better as a live music venue than as a dance venue. It's basically a huge art-deco theatre space whose accoustics are suited to live music, this was proved beyond question when Irish folk singer/songwriter Damian Rice sang one of his songs totally acoustically. To show their respect the crowd stayed totally quiet and lo and behold it sounded fine, it may not be my kind of music but you take notice of that kind of talent and bravery, just incredible. The pleasant musical surprises continued when big boned (ok fat) funnyman James Cordon belted out 'the spy who loved me' after he'd made everyone laugh before he started by admitting 'this sounded so much better in my head', but the big surprise was how good Gary Barlow had been ' quipped Cordon, 'that man is an Adonis, the best I can hope for is that people imagine me as a fat Gary Barlow', Cordon's rendition of 'the spy who loved me' was good though and I think made everyone realise how challenging and exacting solo singing is, because if you make one slip up everyone knows. There was also James Dean Bradfield, far as I know still lead singer and guitarist for the Manic Street Preachers. I have just remembered admitting being a Manics fan in the first love letter I ever wrote, 25 years ago and I still recall Richie Edwards (the Manic's then bassplayer) carving '4 Real' into his arm with a razorblade. My word, music, love and strange memories transcend serious illness and time. He sang a couple of well known Manics tunes 'if we tolerate this' and 'design for life' - no doubt a talented man but I could have done without him describing 'design for life' as a working class anthem, popstars claiming to be working class or socialists (Morrissey, Maximo Park) winds me up almost as much as Bono lecturing us on 3rd world poverty, or as Jeremy Kyle claiming to understand what it's like living Rough or I'm sorry to say healthy people who say 'I can understand why learning to walk again must be so tiring'. How can they understand it? If they think it's the right thing to say it's a nice try at best.
Anyway, the metaphorical (ie non-existent) prizes for the evening go to Rob Brydon who I can't shake as being a sort of Welsh Alan Partridge) for his amazing impressions of Tom Jones and Hugh Grant (ie you looked away and listened but all you could imagine was that they were actually there instead of the funny little welshman, The Kaiser Chiefs (despite Ricky Wilsons new haircut) were the best band and Dara O'Briian takes the plaudits for making us laugh despite regurgitating almost word for word the set he must use for charity gigs, I had seen him the week before at the Palladium in another charity event. The biggest prize of the lot goes to my friends Anetta and her other half Timmy who at late notice took me to both events, my breath was taken away by their help, I would be nowhere without this sort of kindness. I am grateful to anyone and everyone who takes me out but I was genuinely astounded by the way they braved such complicated itineraries to help me. I am profoundly touched and more than a little humbled.
On Tuesday, for once things did go to plan, I'd bought the tickets back in March for Shameless middle class observational comedian Michael MacIntyre at the Dome. It was a sellout which is always a good sign and it was brilliant, for starters we were in my favourite seats in the dome, all his material was new and my consorts (my brother Chris and friend Sacha were laughing away and they are both fairly discerning about what makes them laugh, unlike me who'll laugh at anything, in fact my best mate Tony just told me a corker, his girlfriend Kate said she thought it was crap. Judge for yourselves:
What's yellow and dangerous?
A banana with a machine-gun. Now that is funny.
Anyway, I'd had Chris and Sacha earmarked for these tickets for months, no last minute disasters and Macintyre was on fire (not an intentional reference to his joke about the Kings of Leon song) His observations were spot on, ones that really made me laugh were about male locker-room etiquette and the fact that he can't play snooker with a straight face because he feels like he's giving a handjob to a bloke standing behind him. Despite being very funny I think he was profoundly grateful to everyone for having come out to see him on a weeknight and humbled by having sold out such a big venue. No lectures on 3rd world poverty here, just gratitude and humility which is what he showed when at the beginning he said 'thanks for coming to the biggest gig of my life'! Saying thankyou is often what it's all about.
Finally, Wednesday, usually my toughest day, two physio sessions, and today needing to find a driver to take me to the Dome again to see scandinavian 80s synthesizer ballad bandits A-Ha. Now I am just old enough to appreciate A-Ha, and believe I even owned their album 'Scoundrel Days' on 12” LP as well as a bunch of their singles on 7” vinyl. Those were the days, when Top of the Pops was king Elton John was so deeply inside the closet he was virtually in Narnia! Anyway, I was supposed to be going with my friends the Dugdales, but along the way some wires got crossed and they couldn't drive me but in the meantime Chris Dugdale (practically a celeb himself by virtue of being a great magician (post 162))
had managed to wangle backstage passes, anyway, the upshot was my lift had dematerialised but my knight in shining armour appeared by surprise, my new housemate Claire who is a breath of fresh air by sticking to compliments and not criticisms had said a few weeks back that her niece Katie might occasionally be able to help out, and so she did even though a-ha are a little too old for her vintage, let's face it, I myself have said the 80s should not be revived. Well a-ha are like Philadelphia to Spandau Ballets Stinking Bishop, both cheese, just one smells a lot stronger, and one could argue that neither keep! Enough of the cheese Metaphor! I wouldn't say it's the best gig I've been too but it certainly wasn't the worst, if I was to try and pick between this and Spandau Ballet, it was like chalk and er........
Anyway, the main thing for me was getting there, and Katie was charming and despite accidentally making a 40 mile detour because we were too busy talking we got there and saw the Dugdale brothers after the gig, the big news is that Will has just got engaged, so huge congratulations to him and his beautiful bride to be Liga on the right, Chris (the magician) is on the left and the lovely Helen 'Hels Bells' Turnbull (erstwhile Exeter College JCR president and great friend of mine and Will's at my 32nd birthday back in March.And finally, thanks to Tony and Kate for bringing me lunch today (Saturday), I'm lucky to have friends like these. This evening Katie has driven to the rescue again to take me to my favourite venue, the Albert Hall to see comedy headcase Russell Brand. will be the 2nd time I have seen him (1st time was back in April - post121), and no matter what my mail-reader mother thinks of him, he's bloody funny.



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