So, last week was all about having Christmas drinks on Wednesday. Here is an event that pretty much makes my year alongside my birthday in March. Since Christmas 2005, life has been a massive struggle, I have wrestled back what independence I can and make all the effort I can but my priority will always be my friends and family, who have been great, this has always been an event designed for others, in fact people are even starting to say it doesn't feel like Christmas until these drinks, which is obviously a reputation I'm encouraging despite the fact I'm a bit of a cynic about Christmas. Obviously it is great for my mental health because seeing my friends is everything and my mental health when I'm on my own is at best, sh*te.
This years event was scheduled for Wednesday evening in the same place it had been for the last couple of years but unbeknownst to yours truly it had selfishly gone bust. Luckily my great friend Helen had her eye on the ball and was able to book the Union bar in Paddington basin at short notice.
Although this had saved the day, I realise now how lucky we were with the old place, as it's size and location are ideal for this gathering. Even though the union is a larger space and not quite as central, pretty decent attendance didn't make it feel quite as full as in recent years probably because my stroke has rendered me more of a miserable b*stard than I was before. I'm just grateful anyone turns up.
What from a third party point of view would have been hilarious almost made me have another stroke.
Experience should have told me NEVER to just rely on a sat nav and a postcode to find where you're going, with the drinks due to start at 6:30pm we were probably 1 minute as the crow flies away at 6:25. By 7:30 Dad had stopped the van at the side of the road, declared he had 'had enough', and Mum was in tears in the back. I was in apoplexy but somehow staying schtum. Merry bloody Christmas I thought. Finally dad waved down a cab and got us pointed in the right direction. Nothing is simple these days. My poor parents can barely cope with themselves, let alone with me and my mum struggles with her gift of perfect 20/20 hindsight which irritates the hell out of everyone. e.g 'the traffics always this bad, we should always leave half an hour earlier' followed by 'shut-up woman' from my dad. I love them dearly but hope I'm nothing like them.
After this, literally anything could have happened at the party to have improved the situation so as it was it was great, being a photo junkie, a 'phunkie' if you'll indulge me – I'd asked a friend of a friend to take pictures. He took great pictures and the stress he alleviated was worth every penny. I got to see almost all of my closest friends including people I don't see very often, once again, these are festivities that are made possible by my friends who set up and run the trust -people like my best friend Tony Reid, college mates Helen and Guy and former housemate and trust treasurer, a job he unsurprisingly had to relinquish when he got elected as MP for somewhere in Suffolk. In the middle. One of my favourite people in the world, Alice, recently engaged Karen and Toby and a plethora of other college friends who I wish I was narcissistic enough to mention, although I will mention people who I used to work with Anna and Paul (married now (post170)), Dave and Ed (not married or together even) and Simon Dawes, a man who has been a great mate since my stroke but was something of a mentor when I was at John Lewis. I also had a long chat with Kocen, who told me he'd raised a couple of grand when he heroically ran the 'Marathon des Sables' back in April (post 201), speaking of raising money, the raffle on the night raised £400 and the incredible prizes (including an ipod, digital camera and DAB radio, Arsenal Tickets and a Yoga class)were donated by John Lewis, Tony and Yoga Team ltd and despite my cousins cleaning up it was totally above board despite some conspiratorial mutterings. Helen asked me to write a short update to give to people, here it is:
'I don't think I'll ever say 'it's been a great year' ever again, instead it has been a year that has been more about survival and subsistence. I'm pretty certain that achieving full independence is beyond me so instead I do my best to stay in touch with people via the internet, people coming to see me and finding events for people to take me to. Although many aspects of my life have changed, life is about achieving happiness through making other people happy (as cheesy as that sounds). Seeing other people getting through life easier because of something I've done makes life bearable (more cheese, sorry). The thing that grinds me down is how I physically feel. This is what I would change if I could but nothing seems to. Instead my goals are to try and stay healthy through regular physio (which the trust pays for, a financial burden I or my family couldn't cope with), eating properly and maintaining friendships and forging new ones. Hopefully in the future I might be able to become a writer but I'm not there yet. These drinks are probably the best thing there is for my mental health. They help ease the almost perpetual loneliness that I now live in. Thank you all for coming this evening – stay in touch either via email or by coming to see me. I may sound pathetic, help me to feel less so. Sam, my wonderful yoga instructor has read this and says it sounds 'a little depressing' - she's probably right but I wish it were easier to make it sound 'light and airy'.