26 Dec 2009

Post 174: The nightmare before,during and after (probably almost certainly) Christmas

Most of this next post needs to be understood in some context, i.e that my family are very important to me, and although I am less keen on Christmas than most, largely because it is the most exhausting event in my calendar but I largely agree with the sentiments of musical and comic Genius Tim Minchin, particularly the bit about ‘these are the people who make you feel safe’ but less to do with ‘drinking white wine in the sun’, well, he is Australian.
I, more than most should understand what it is like to lose something you take for granted but sadly nothing prepares you for it, my luck must be having a laugh! All day Tuesday (my day off physiotherapy, so usually one of the high points of the week) was a total write-off because we only had a bloody power cut! Believe me, nothing in the modern world works without electricity, even gas powered central heating! Staying in bed all day is only any fun if it’s your conscious decision, shivering under a duvet when you’ve nowhere else to go is unbelievable sh*te. Luckily, my neighbour had a gas stove so I could have the occasional cup of tea, and thanks to the patience of my friend Susan who had agreed to take on the housekeeper/carer/cat-feeding duties up until I buggered off to the madness of my family Christmas on Christmas Eve. So, Tuesday was the most boring day in years and I have a lot of boring days.
The stuff I’ve been to this week couldn’t have been more different, last week I went to a couple of concerts (see last post), this week, I had got as a present for Adrienne (my former carer) and Tracey (my neighbour) tickets for the Horse of the Year show, not my scene at all but I’m happy to grit my teeth through if it’s going to be appreciated by people who help me through gritted teeth. Adrienne is now elsewhere so couldn’t come so Ian (my physio and Traceys other half) bravely opted to Grit his teeth with me! The Horse of the Year show is a bizarre experience. Probably as posh and middle class and as unwilling to laugh at itself as Henley. Where having a name like Lucinda guarantees free entry and all the British riders have been called Whitaker or Skelton for years (well in my head that is fact).
From one unshakeably middle class event to another because yesterday evening I got taken to the Dome (they must be starting to recognise me by now), to the Classic FM Christmas Spectacular. It was a sellout which somewhat surprised me. Seeing as I’m not a massive fan of Christmas I was a little surprised I’d bought tickets but my original plans for this had somewhat changed. I’d originally bought the tickets for my parents because this was right up their street. But I hadn’t reckoned with the grandchildren arriving from the states that day. Everything now comes 2nd to these Monsters, I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog how the grandchildren have given my mum a new lease of life. They have their moments and can be very sweet but if you ask me the moments when they are sweet are short. Let’s be honest, they are very American children (you know so they always sound like they're whining e.g. 'mommmmmmmy'or when they ask for something it's because they want it rather than need it so the novelty of their accents has long worn off apart from Maddie at 8 years old the middle monster , somehow she is able to switch her
American accent off and suddenly sound like Hermione from Harry Potter, she also says thankyou which makes so much difference, in fact the only problem I have with her is her inability to control the volume and the times her American accent comes through, I think metal grating down a blackboard is music by comparison and to compound matters we had to go to the f*cking panto in Tunbridge Wells today, let me tell you Peter Pan is to musical theatre as Andrew Lloyd Webber is to the Human Race. I believe my exact words before the performance were ‘I’d rather gouge my eyes out than sit through this!’ By the end I actually wished I was deaf as well, it was a performance of such magnitude they’d managed to secure the services of Alf ‘flamin’ Gallah’ Stewart from ‘Home&Away’ as Captain Hook. Massive.
This reminded me so much of an email I got from a friend of mine that described going to his sons nativity play as ‘worse than water torture’. Well, apparently the kids loved it. Thank god for that. I hate to sound so curmudgeonly but tiredness does that. So, the heroes who stood in for my folks on Wednesday were my college mate Will and his lovely fiancĂ© Liga. The gorgeous Myleene Klass was presenting the evening and a selection of Christmas songs were suitably rousing whilst the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Choral Society and the soloists were excellent although my theory that one of the most beautiful women on the planet Katherine Jenkins would perform was dashed by the arrival of another soprano (who sang powerfully but not as prettily), not the end of the world I suppose, even going to the Panto was not a dead loss as the girl playing Tinkerbell was the spitting image of Clare Danes
but of all the things that lifted my heart was the Asian Mr Magoo-alike who offered me his spare change at the Dome onWednesday.
Anyway, today is Christmas day, about one O’clock and I feel like I have gone twelve rounds with Mike Tyson! My parents house may be wonderful but sadly my room is right next to the Kitchen, the focal point of the house. I would love to be a fun Uncle to my sisters kids but sadly that just isn’t going to happen, I crave quiet and rest these days and my sister has already told me, ‘they’re children, you can’t just switch them off!’. I am however convinced that they must understand a different variant of the English language where phrases like ‘don’t do that, ‘be quiet’ and ‘shut up’ are meaningless to them, my solution is rather too corporal to be palatable but makes me think of this hilarious clip by Canadian comedian Russell Peters, enjoy! . They (the children) are also incapable of communicating in anything less than a shout, and they were up early this morning, little angels. I am in serious Victor Meldrew territory here which just isn’t me although despite Christmas day 2009 being the 4th anniversary of my stroke I have explained pretty clearly why Christmas i’nt my favourite time of year.
It’s boxing day now and the madness has increased in volume another few notches as both my mothers brothers have arrived with their extended families
including my cousin Nicky with little daughter Ava, she's such a smiler (unlike me)
and lunch is about to start. They are all wonderful people but given how I feel I now know what the hypothetical Hell feels like! My parents also keep telling me how much I’m letting them down if I mention to people how tired I feel, seeing as it’s the only thing I can think of I guess I’m a let-down.

And finally, enough of my moaning and misery - this event couldn't happen without the unreal effort and energy that my mum puts into it, she is amazing, I may take the piss but lets face facts, No-one else could do this.
Despite deriding her kids it's also a bit special to see my sister. I don't see her much these days and I forget how pragmatic and level headed she is. I'll sign off now, but I shall continue my quest to be a normal person again in 2010. I must confess I'm scared.

19 Dec 2009

Post173: The mighty Basement Jaxx and some other things

I had written another post, but I was too ashamed of it to publish it – me being angry and upset blah blah, if anyone is feeling particularly masochistic email me and I'll send it, but I warn you now some of the more gruesome chapters of the bible are light and airy(perhaps whimsical) by comparison. I'm sure it's this bloody awful weather and the season to be cynical and I've only been called 'scrooge Pardey' a couple of times which is dissapointingly low given the effort I am putting into anti-christmas cheer this year. The real thing I want to talk about is a couple of concerts I've been to this week. The First was Depeche Mode at the Dome on Tuesday, Depeche Mode were a big part of my 13-18 schooldays and I played their album 'Violator' probably until the CD laser had done damage to the CD. Sad. 'Enjoy the silence' is still in my top 5 songs ever. I just couldn't get enough of it. Depeche Mode fans will see what I've done there. Sad. My companions for this little outing were originally supposed to be old friends Simon and Eleanor but 7 months pregnant Eleanor decided a rock concert wasn't the right place for a heavily pregnant lady, I'll go with that. At the last minute I got an email from Simon saying he had an emergency meeting which he had to be at. Normally I'd reply using the word skive but as the word meeting was proceeded with the word 'board' and he happens to be the CEO I thought I'd better let the b*stad get away with it. So once again I found myself with a spare ticket and no driver! One hastily assembled email later my usual plea for help had hit the inboxes of my heroic network of mates and my plea was answered by Karen, an old Uni mate who has taken me out before and was a big Depeche Mode fan. Champ was able to come straight from his meeting and take Karen and I for an amazing steak and dining experience at the Dome branch of the Gaucho Grill. Karen, being a financial journalist spent most of the meal asking Champ questions I didn't understand. Champ spent the rest of the meal saying things I should of understood but I've forgotten how to talk in financial Jargon! The meal was amazing and only marginally dietbusting, I always have to think these days!
Thinking about it now, this probably made my night because I thought the gig was a little dissapointing. Depeche Mode have about 20 good songs, and if they'd played them all,it would have been a great gig, job done. Instead they made the mistake so many narcissistic popstars seem to make at live shows, that the audience might be remotely interested in some of their 'new material':
Anyway, they played enough of the classics to keep us happy but I've been to better gigs. I desperately want to be enough of a muso to appreciate their new stuff but when going to a gig is this hard you don't want to be challenged when you're there. Depeche Mode (3 Essex lads apparently) haven't aged well and have I'd guess adopted the 'Keith Richards' approach to being a rockstar – backed up by Champs entertaining tale about how he'd met a guy once called 'wingnut' who had been 'employed' by Depeche Mode to get girls to come backstage. Nice work if you can get it!
The 2nd gig I went to this week (on Thursday was without a doubt one of the best gigs I've ever
been to (and I'm not lazily saying that). I remember in hospital watching Glastonbury on the TV and Edith Bowman said this 'Here are the Mighty Basement Jaxx'. Obviously my puny TV did them no justice but I had been impressed, I've got quite a few of their more housey numbers in formats suitable to mix but having now seen them live I know they're so much more. My accomplices for the evening were lovely couple Michael and Gaelle (pronounced Gail) who I've known a good few years because we used to go to the same night a lot (Knowwhere) back when life was good.
Anyway, Basement Jaxx were indeed mighty and it also helped being in my favourite seats in the Dome so we could see what was going on and appreciate how bone-crunchingly loud and clear the Dome soundsystem is. I hate to resort to hyperbole but it was awesome! Basement Jaxx are a collective of about 20 musicians with a Carribean Flavour, their repertoire extends from House,Techno, Soca ,Energetic trumpet based Jazz to guitar driven rock. It's like following the best float at the Notting Hill Carnival only a million times louder without the chaos and Carnage (and tins of Red Stripe) that characterise the carnival. They had even given us ear plugs beforehand that were hastily dispensed with (In fact Gaelle pocketed them for her angelic ten year old daughter Lucie to try and help her combat the noise of her grandma's snoring when she stayed at hers (apparently she can be heard through walls!). So both gigs provided me with some relief from banging my head against the proverbial brick wall. Sadly though they don't seem to have much long term benefits. My life these days is trying to find things to go to and organising how to go to them, something that'd take a normal person mere minutes.
Life is pretty rubbish but I survive through a combination of fortuitous circumstances. Take now for example, all my housemates have headed off for christmas and I couldn't have fended for myself. So, I sent out an appeal for help through facebook. This has been answered very kindly by a lady called Susan, a friend from my clubbing past that got back in touch with me through facebook. Following my appeal she has agreed to do the job of my housekeeper/carer until Christmas eve. I am bloody lucky.

14 Dec 2009

Post 172: Happy bloody Christmas

I suppose 2009 has been about trying to consolidate living at home with only limited independence, I have had two carers this year, Averil who tragically died of a heart attack age 56 in March and then Adrienne who picked up the pieces for a while but not being able to find a local day job rather forced the issue and she left after the summer. My housemates, young Polish couple Ilona and Mariusz have stepped into the breach and do a wonderful job of looking after the house, the cat and myself. Courtesy of the trust (without whose assistance I wouldn't have my amazing wheelchair or do nearly as much physiotherapy and therefore be in even worse physical condition than I am in (balancing is still not something I can do and I see the world through the fog of fatigue, I would give anything just to get up one day and feel normal. I do 6 sessions of physio a week (3 exercise sessions and 3 walking practice sessions). Compare this to the 1 the NHS were prepared to give me a month. My goal is to walk independently again (hopefully by the end of 2010. Progress is slow, I describe my walking progress like dragging a dead horse across a plateau! I honestly don't think I'm getting anywhere sometimes but I am lucky to have a local physio (Ian) who still encourages me despite my despondency and it's been good to see Romance blossom between him and my neighbour, Tracey, They are bloody good together, Unfortunately I have remained doggedly single, proving to me that girls are just not interested in guys in wheelchairs, despite meeting one or two lovely local ladies who come round for a cup of tea and a chat every so often, my overwhelming emotions are sadly despair and loneliness and sentences that are far too long. I may not sound like a barrel of laughs but seeing people is what keeps me going.. Inspired by comedian Stephen K Amos I try and 'find the funny' in most things, for the most part I have retained a sense of humour and hope that I can still make people laugh despite everything!
Anyway where was I? Life isn't easy and I hesitate to see how it would be possible without the trust. I may show a certain cynicism about Christmas but it brings people together. Now don't eat and drink too much! Happy Christmas Everyone! I almost mean that!

12 Dec 2009

Post 171: Life temporarily affirmed

I managed on Thursday to re-acquaint myself with my pre-stroke arch-nemesis, I'm talking of course about the hangover which I managed to acquire courtesy of a few too many glasses of red wine at the Trust Christmas drinks at the Album bar in Chelsea on Thursday. The evening for me was beautifully summed by a couple of emails I got on friday morning:
Thanks for having your drinks tonight.

'If it wasn't for you and everyone getting together to see you I wouldn't see so many of the old friends I saw tonight. I had a fantastic time.

Sorry we didn't get longer to talk but I hope you enjoyed it - it was terrific.

Thank you'

'Hi Dom

Hope you had a good night.
It was certainly very well attended.
Great to see you (as ever).
I am nursing a monstrous hangover this morning – no idea how I managed to cycle in….

Similar sentiments, expressed differently, both made me smile! I feel just a bit lucky today because I have such special friends and family, it may be impossible to really get properly involved but it's times like these since my stroke that make me happy, and not much breaks through the clouds these days. It was so good to see everyone particularly some old college mates that I just don't get to see these days. In particular, A man who one would have thought I'd have got to know very well at college, Andrew Forrest
(On the right with Rich Rous in the middle(clearly allowing the Barnet to grow and Roger Evers, a gent who often has taken the time to come and see me since my stroke) Back to Forrie, he wasn't a student, he was junior Dean of Exeter College, in charge of college discipline and dishing out fines and unbelievably we ascertained last night that not once did he fine me, you decide: Was I a goody goody or master criminal? We couldn't quite believe it?! He's now a teacher, thanks go to James Renshaw for finding him. Other college friends were my best mate Tony, with lovely girlfriend Kate, Matt and lovely wife Martha,
Alex (of Dundas fame) who I will always remember from my college days as the 'man about town', recent proud father and charming man Dom Ellis (with less hair than I recall and Su and husband Kit who had come down from Oxford specially, and I could never forget Helen VJ who has been instrumental in keeping the trust going, she was also instrumental in organising a raffle that apparently raised £600 for the trust, money that is sorely needed as the trust needs to raise more money because my physiotherapy doesn't come cheap In fact Hels asked me to write a little something for a trust flyer she was going to distribute on the night which I hope explains the importance of the trust to me:

If you're reading this, firstly, thankyou for not chucking it straight
in the bin and for coming to one of the most beneficial events there
is for my tortured mind. It will be difficult for me for the rest of
my life and events like this make things a little easier much like the
Trust has made my life easier. The NHS would have given me one session
of physiotherapy a month, instead thanks to the trust I do 6 a week.
It feels like hard forced labour all the time but I do it because I
owe you, my friends and family and myself to recover as well as I can
so I can stop being such a miserable bastard and feel normal again! I
might even drink to that! I live to see people and try to stay busy.
Seeing people at home is my favourite thing (apart from Sleeping of
course) and restores my faith in humanity which is sometimes
lacking. Life has often been unbearable since my stroke but it is the
kindness of friends, family and even strangers that has kept my head
above water. Even if I find Christmas pretty hard these days because
Christmas Day 2009 will mark four years since my near death, but this
shouldn't make Christmas a write-off to anyone else. I hope I was able
to talk to everyone this year, see you next year and thankyou. Bah,
Moving on I often pinch myself at the number of gorgeous ladies
that come to this, I am lucky to have met so many down the years, most recently there's Rachel (right) and Suze
who I have met through social networking Behemoth Facebook, both come and have tea with me occasionally. They're both lovely and we've got loads to talk about. I am so impressed by their bravery in coming to the drinks last night. There was also Beautiful Kath and beautiful Helen who I love seeing, they are both among my most treasured friends for so much more than being gorgeous, the same goes for my psychologist Vickiher smile when I see her every week gets me through the week. There are simply too many to mention individually, but I will mention Claudia, who turned up with her charming husband cradling Twelve day old son, Milo. I can't believe I didn't get a picture! On the same theme, it was so kind of 7 months pregnant former colleague Eleanor (right)
to come along, I would have thought she had the perfect excuse to put her feet up at home. I was touched. I was also humbled by the presence of some of my old friends from my clubbing/DJ-ing days, Steve, Anetta and Timmy, Fi, Annabel and 'voice of reason' (these days) Simon. There was also a good smattering of my ex-colleagues from John Lewis, Will and bald man extraordinaire Ed, with Justine who I can't find a bloody picture of. Talented people who I was fortunate to have as friends and colleagues, not forgetting Jackie (My bosses secretary till she retired a few years back) who has helped me so much since I met her. As well as being my 'office mum' while I worked there she has taken it upon herself to introduce me to the JL retirement network which is coordinated by Ginni(centre, next to Jackie. I was also chuffed to see oft mentioned former colleague Simon Dawes there, he has been such a legend!Thanks also go to Sue for her consistent support, although I wasn't alone in being gutted that her gorgeous daughter Alex
couldn't make it. There are many people I have forgotten I'm sure, but I can't forget my family, and their friends. Over the last four years everyone has got to know my family because come and see me and it's more than likely they'll be here at some stage. My mum and dad (left) are no longer spring chickens and their omnipresence since my stroke has been amazing, and has taught me that blood is thicker than water (whatever that means,) they have never given up on me despite the fact that I never materialised into a child that can look after them which is what they have always wanted, sadly life has conspired against that particular plan. Lets not forget my brother Chris (helping me out as usual.
We may have had our disagreements but our family (me in particular) couldn't survive without him. Not only has he made the house that I live in habitable, he is also the only one in our family that can do practical things. We have also kept each other company and having him around is a massive help and does so much to reduce the almost perpetual fear in which I now live. You're probably getting bored now, I lastly want to thank the Enormous effort made by Gordon to be there, here is a man I was in hospital with for a couple of months in 2006, and has remained friends and has proffered me the odd wise word, I know that the journey too/from the drinks was quite a serious undertaking, thanks for making the effort, not just to Gordon, to everyone! This has been a hell of a week,starting with the Bootleg Beatles with my physio, Ian and my Neighbour, Tracey at the Albert Hall on Monday, Marcus 'if you want proof there's no god, look at Jedward' Brigstocke with Simon, Jack and Kel on Tuesday in Epsom, the Brilliant Placebo
at the Dome with Oli on Wednesday, we just managed to fight our way through all the Emo's, Trust drinks on Thursday, and impressionist Alistair McGowan in Dorking with Suze last night, my hangover may be gone but I think I'm due a rest. Apologies to those I forgot to mention from the trust drinks. Also, apologies to those that found this post a bit gushy.



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