30 Mar 2011

Post 279: Getting out of the house is crucial

Back in January sometime, I wrote a bit about a program I'd watched about the noughties , one of the most pivotal decades in existence, which probably saw the highs and lows of my life . The thing they thought symbolised the decade was funnily enough the millennium Dome – now I know what you're thinking – when it was built it was a national joke. The press had a field day, a white elephant that was big and white! It was too easy! Richard Littlejohn couldn't have made that up. It was an expensive national disaster. It is now one of the finest arena's in the world and is a perfect symbol of how the world is prepared to pay for it's music, I do pay for the odd mp3 here and there through itunes but during the nougghties to my shame I stopped spending all my spare cash on vinyl, bit the bullet and bought some cd decks, mine were similar to these and for my sins started using file sharing to burn cds to use while DJing, this meant that by the time I got back from work I'd have 5-6 of the latest tunes everyday for FREE, whereas I used to excitedly wait for the postman to deliver (perhaps once a month) a pile of records costing £6 each, I could now do this every day, there's economics and there's common sense - everyone was doing it, so why not dive in? It has probably killed the club scene now which is a terrible shame, but ironically this might have been a good thing, because for every good person I ever met there were probably ten halfwits - I'm hoping the demise of the scene has set people on fairer paths. By and large now, I try and concentrate my expenditure on live events – it's my life these days – finding things to go to that other people can drive me to enabling me to treat people (and myself) to a unique experience. If I'm going to suffer I'm going to try and do it on my terms and anyone who thinks I am doing the wrong thing should contemplate for a second what it feels like to be in my position.
A case in point was going to the Dome on Monday to see British Indie Rock journeymen Elbow, now these guys have been around for 20 years which must make them if not unique, pretty unusual. They came to my attention about 3 years ago, when I first got out of hospital because it seemed every other advert on TV was for their Mercury Award winning Album, 'the Seldom Seen Kid', me being an advertisers dream or 'mug' liked what I heard and bought it on itunes. What an Album. It is awesome. It is proper melodic melancholia – how I've always liked my music, and that was the concert, their new album 'Build a Rocket Boys' isn't a patch on it, and I thought the gig was a bit flat until they played 'the loneliness of a crane driver' and 'the Seldom seen kid', then did I really start to realise quite how good Guy Garveys voice is and that his banter with 16,000 people (a full arena) was really quite funny, genuine and down to earth. Him and the rest of Elbow seem to be the good ole boys of Manchester. Mention music and Manchester, I think of those tw*ts the Gallagher brothers or the Happy Mondays being 'mad for it' or more recently, the brilliant 'Hurts' but Elbow were there first. Guy Garvey in his suit on stage may look like a less Cheesy version of Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley but I know which one I and the older than average crowd would pay to see again. Special thanks are due to my friend Gina's husband Olly for taking me and for being great company. I had feared that I might not find a taker for this one because Elbow aren't exactly 'Take That'. It was good to share my favourite seats in the best venue with a genuine enthusiast. The Albert Hall may be amazing but the sheer scale of a full 02 arena and the clarity, volume and viscosity of the sound is enough to persuade me that the noughties may have been a bit better than I might have otherwise thought.
On the Home front it's nice to have someone I can rely on and I don't have to worry if they're going to be in an 'odd mood' anymore, for someone fundamentally unsettled by this life I am forced to endure, this is quite settling. Thanks are due to the people who seem to genuinely care for my wellbeing, you know who you are.

26 Mar 2011

Post 278:Worried that geeks are inheriting the earth

This being my blog, the following post has been inspired by recent events and things I have read/listened to/seen and as such is 100% honest and any insinuations are probably meant. This post also mentions charity a bit so it seems appropriate to mention the 2nd Teenage Cancer Trust gig at the Albert Hall I've been to this week. On Monday Jose, Bec and I went to the first one (see last post) hosted by John Bishop starring Kevin Bridges, Greg Davies, James Corden and a couple of others. I've seen them all before but despite Bishop and Bridges being brilliant as always, the evening was stolen by Greg Davies the sadistic teacher from E4s comedy series the Inbetweeners , particularly for the jokes about how sex with a man of his age is like thumbing marshmallows into a cats arse and the fact that his dad has now reached the age that he no longer gives a sh*t about what anyone thinks so he just does what he likes! The evening was almost ruined by Angelos Epethimio, who looks like the kind of man you'd tell your kids to steer clear of, and appearances aside, his Jokes weren't funny. On Wednesday I have a kind stranger from facebook to thank for answering my plea for a driver after my lift to go and see Scottish Rockers Biffy Clyro at the Albert Hall Fell through, So thanks Jo! and Biffy were good, I also think Jo was impressed by the Albert Hall – People who haven't seen it before tend to gasp. Biffy were good – very energetic and they passed the acid test – namely I'd see them again. The talks by a couple of Teenage Cancer survivors were particularly moving, I took particular note of how they said their hospital experiences (although harrowing) were made bearable because they were on Teenage Cancer Trust Units, the most important thing being having other Teenage Cancer Sufferers to talk and relate too. My type of injury is obviously too rare to merit special young persons wards plus young in the world of brain injury means less than 60 years old, So for most of my time in hospital I had no-one to talk to except when I had visitors in late afternoon most days, I'll be honest – it was awful, the people who got me through it were my parents and friends who came to see me and the nicer staff. Dom (good name) who relayed his experience on the Albert Hall stage said if he had that year again, he would't change anything because it has made him a better and stronger person, if I had my time again.I'd rather clean out the Glasgow public toilets. Photo's here (thankfully not of the Glasgow loos)

I am aware of the irony (or as some might see it) the hypocrisy of writing something like this next bit on the internet but the internet and this blog is the only medium I feel I can communicate with any authority since my stroke. This is one of the major problems I want to highlight actually. By all accounts any opinions I have probably carry less weight because I have been naturally selected to fail by having a blood vessel weakness which caused my stroke. What worries me is the internet and the advent of political correctness seems to mean that geeks/ nerds and the weak don't get weeded out anymore. I don't mean they should be rounded up and driven into the ocean, what I do mean is I don't want to see wealth and power concentrated in the hands of dorks like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, but my trainer Jose said quite correctly, 'but you don't want it in the hands of premiership footballers'? He's right. My exact reply was 'I want it somewhere in between, but I've no idea how it could be done. This train of thought has been brought about by a couple of things. Mainly because I've been listening to 'The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal' the book, which the Oscar touted film 'The Social Network' was based. Even though I'm no fan of the Jocks that Zuckerberg, (inset Gates at college) stitched up, the story, combined with his smug, self satisfied smile and his obvious nerdiness make me want to give him a dead arm and understand why a few of my mates who know of the situation call him 'f*cking Zuckerberg'.It has also made me loathe anything about Harvard, and I'd thought Oxford was a bit snobby. Harvard makes Oxford sound like a collective farm.It has less of a Meritocracy than the old-boy network,It sounds like the only ways to make it at Harvard (or in America in general) is to have money – I suppose the same could be said of a few of the more toffee nosed cliques in Oxford but they were never the mainstay of University life, whereas at Harvard it was how much your parents were worth, who they were and who you knew to get into the top fraternities and societies and that'd make or break the Harvard experience – the nerds/geeks stateside sounded like they'd band together in computer rooms boasting to each other about how many lines of code they could write in an hour whereas nerds/workaholics over here would keep themselves to themselves more and either spend all their time in the library or computer room – cheap booze, the college bar and other people were a distraction. I'd never condone bullying as I was bullied myself a bit at school and that's about as much fun as having a stroke, but you know the stick Ginger kids get? Well, I think that's unfair, it should be directed at people like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. People who I don't think have the right to their positions of wealth and power. I am not denying that both are clever guys and I'm sure I've always been a massive proponent that intellectual capital is worth a lot more than physical capital. Ie I am glad that Bill Gates is worth more than John Terry, at least Gates is smart enough to realise his vast fortune gets well spent on philanthropy rather than the rubbish that premier league footballers spend it on, usually lawyers fees in their latest attempt to escape speeding charges or hiring expensive publicist's to bury the latest 'scandal', but despite this Gates is a dreadful man, a nerd with few social skills but with the type of evil mind capable of building a software giant that rather than improve IT usage has held it hostage, stifling competition and innovation wherever it could so that it's profits wouldn't be dented. I'm not saying Zuckerberg and Gates pandle the same evil but they are both cut from the same cloth and have both demonstrated deceit and contempt for everyone in getting to the top, it reminds me of the time Gates was in an episode of the Simpsons and takes out Homers internet company by smashing up his house adding 'I didn't get rich by writing a lot of cheques' – Facebook is only worth billions on paper because of it's vast userbase and the sheer value of all the data it has on that userbase. Facebook could probably identify which of it's users are eskimos and sell ice to them! There's amusing irreverence which I love and there are twats who break the rules and show contempt for everyone, this isn't bullying nerds, this is expressing disdain for the worst of them. Zuckerberg and the legion of comic book reading, computer programmer, warcraft playing types, I wish they would just f*ck off back to the margins of society where they belong and let the genuine rock stars, comedians and normal people entertain and look after us.
Along with Chavs, nerds have shown themselves to be people we can do without and any resurgence in their popularity like in dreadful tv show 'the big bang theory' reminds me why these people don't deserve any of our time, only genuine illness gives you an excuse to be weird, otherwise bugger off. Quirky is just about ok. I'm not saying conforming is what people should do, be amusingly irreverent and charismatic. That's my opinion.
What has made my day today (saturday) is the visit from my college mate Gina, her husband Olly and gorgeous sprogs Tallia and 4 month old Bruno plus Olly has agreed to take me to a couple of great gigs which dissolves my worries for a few days.After they left, my temporary carer, Rocio (being camera-shy here) took me to the Dome to see Irish band The Script. I think it's fair to say, Rossi and I are probably not the Script's core market, what with the thousands of screaming girls and the boyish prettiness of their lead singer plus their ballad heavy (exclusive) repertoire but the evening was made by the incredible atmosphere that live music creates and being in the good seats helps. I'm going back to the Dome to see Masculine Manchester Act Elbow tomorrow. It feels good to be getting out of this f*cking house again and it looks like summer might be on the way. The other great thing about last night was the warm up act, I don't say that very often. It was a girl called Claire McGuire who not only had a great voice, she had legs that looked even more amazing than Florence as in Florence and the machine.

22 Mar 2011

Post 277: My birthday and other animals

I'm a little bit disappointed this didn't get posted yesterday but I didn't get the time before heading off to the first gig I've been to in ages, the Teenage Cancer Trust comedy event at the Albert Hall with Jose and Bec, details next week despite it's brilliance.
Last week was difficult to say the least, really difficult, one of the worst weeks of my life (the last post says it really) and being in hospital for two and a half years was hideous, at least my 34th Birthday lunch undid some of the mental anguish.
Legally, I think I own this house as I have repeatedly been told, but because my mother still sees it as hers, I pay 'mental rent' and whenever something like last week happens – I.e an unresolvable dispute/crisis, it's deemed to be my fault, cue my parents being furious with me on Sunday morning, my Dad (exact words) telling me to 'f*ck my disability' and that I was a 'failure'. I'll put that down to flippant anger and despite being a firm believer in 'sticks and Stones.....' I was upset. My dad's a funny one – since my housekeeper stormed out last wednesday, he has been over here 4 times to make sure I have someone to help me survive. He also has this intolerance for pathetic, needy people who can't look after themselves. I have inherited this so since becoming a pathetic, needy person 5 years ago, he has this emotional hiatus which can boil over as total disdain or he can be really caring, it's f*cked up. Plus my housemate called me selfish because I'm quite keen on my own self preservation, ie I'm trying to survive under difficult circumstances. When able bodied people who I may have taken on under circumstances of dire need without fully knowing or trusting them (ie my housekeeper and housemate) and they think they're actually helping you in the long-run by making your life tougher in the short run, it's quite simple to me, these people need to be told to stop taking the piss, they're getting subsidised/free living in return for doing very little, all I expected was some common decency and kindness, but that was clearly too much to ask, or maybe I didn't ask right? Is that perhaps more to do with the stroke than with me? Anyway, I have somehow managed to work my way out of this 'Eastenders nightmare' of a storyline by myself despite asking desperately for a lot of help off some good friends. I have got rid of all the f*ckers who have been making my hard life harder, sorted out a new self preservation and survival solution and somehow against this backdrop had an immense success of a 34th Birthday lunch. Pictures here
For a start 60 people showed up (not including children), no shows balanced by unexpectant arrivals. I was expecting a bit more apathy or 'charity fatigue' but I was thrilled. The Bear (the local gastropub) are always brilliant, putting on a great buffet and letting us have the whole of the restaurant extension, bearing in mind we were expecting about a million small children the Bear had laid on some extra chocolate brownies because sugar'll calm down toddlers!
A particularly good showing came from my university mates, who have consistently been great although I was chuffed to see family and family friends, former colleagues and friends who I used to DJ with. Everyone's grown up, most of them have properly grown up, settled down, got married and had kids, despite the fact I am genuinely thrilled and proud of them it is a great source of sadness to me that this is one particular group I can never be part of, because girls aren't interested in disabled guys, I think they'll always imagine they could do better, no'ones ever said this to me, it's what my internal monologue tells me – it is backed up by the fact I have been alone for so long despite looking, I look in the mirror and am disgusted, disappointed and downright ashamed of what looks back. Nothing I seem to do or take ever changes this. Events like this birthday stop the world collapsing further for me, in fact I was chuffed to overhear that this and my christmas drinks are the two events in the year that bring everyone together. That is my mission in life right there -'to bring people together, always has been, despite having a bloody stroke and seemingly becoming an (albeit troublesome) charity case. Special thanks must go to(for picking up the pieces recently), Dad, Angel Jatinder, Jose, the Walm, Aunt Jenny, Rocio (my first carer when I moved home for flying over from Spain to look after me for 4 weeks) and to John and Napat, who have agreed to be my new housekeepers from 20th April.
I wish I could cope on my own, but that's never going to happen. Assisted semi independent living like I do is the right way to go, as long as the assistance is a nice person who appreciate what it's like to lose everything. Finally, I genuinely want to thank everyone who was there on Sunday, the 60 odd people who took the time to turn a very unhappy man
around and big thanks to Ian for helping me walk in and even better for suggesting I do a lap of the room when people were actually there to see it.
Finally, it wouldn't have been a proper birthday without the Magic of Chris Dugdale, a good mate of mine. He amazed us all and the kids that saw it were utterly enraptured – thinking about it, so were us adults . Here he is with his lovely wife Alexis and sister in law Liga. Great people.
Apparently one of my (many) flaws is the way I commit my feelings to paper, be it in this blog or via email. The truth is this is the only medium that I feel I can get my point across since my stroke. I no longer have any confidence in my voice or physical presence or the energy to think 'on my feet' which I used to have in spades. Ironically, I can't even ' think myself too my feet' which can sometimes be pretty sh*t, god that's the understatement of the year.

17 Mar 2011

Post 276: Anger

Life, which is hard for me at the best of times, is rapidly becoming intolerable. The only good thing on the horizon is my 34th birthday party but I'm at that age where birthdays are sometimes not good things, instead they are a bit of a grim reminder of the fact that fun is now tiring and despite loving my friends, having them is no longer a guarantor of happiness. I will dispense with most of my usual rules about airing dirty laundry although I will mention no names because my very way of life has been threatened this week when my housekeeper stormed out for the umpteenth time. It's quite simple, I cannot survive on my own. I cannot cook, clean or basically survive without the menial things she does and the reason this dispute has arisen can be epitomised by a simple thing – making a cup of tea, a f*cking cup of tea, yes that's right, a cup of f*cking tea. Apparently because my right arm works, I should do it myself. Since almost croaking 5 years ago I haven't been able to walk or use my left hand properly, I've had chronic fatigue and my eyesight is pathetic. I have made it as far as semi-independent assisted living with a lot of luck, kindness and tenacity. It is just bearable if the able bodied humans around you help out, out of the goodness of their own hearts, it's called common decency isn't it?Where are we when this runs out? We're at the end of our tether is where. People who don't see this are deliberately refusing to understand what it's like when the body and brain refuse to work properly anymore.
Storming out on someone in this state is verging on the criminal – I am only glad I have one or two genuinely kind people nearby who rescued me this morning and that I have found trustworthy housekeepers this very same morning who will not derelict basic humanity and allow me to live some sort of life. People who leave others in this state should be ashamed. The blog about my birthday should be up by tuesday and should contain a lot less rage. All I can say to my current housekeeper - well done, it feels a bit like you've held a gun to my head. I know you just want to kill people when you're in a crowd. I hope this has made you feel good

13 Mar 2011

Post 275: Apathy is the enemy

One of the things about this experience has been that it has taught me so much about people and I thought I knew people pretty well!
I guess that the way I have been brought up is that it's always better to do something, than nothing – so throughout my life I've been willing to give stuff a go, I've got this niggling suspicion that I've written something similar before but in the last couple of years I have really noticed (when you rely on people to get off their *rses to help you) when people decide they'd rather do nothing than something. I remember being a student and at times being struck dumb with apathy and there being days when the 'can't be *rsed gene kicks in. When you are an able bodied human there really is no excuse for this, occasionally, you may be in so foul a mood or are genuinely ill that nothing is all you can do. My default setting could be to do nothing because I'm genuinely too disabled and too ill (tired) all the time but that's no way to live and is sh*te. I'm sure I bang on about this too often and this isn't directed at anyone specifically. If it feels like it is - it probably is. Maybe I am asking too much? I'm just asking what I'd anticipate of myself. Just ask yourself this question. Have you ever done nothing when you could have done something (whilst you're healthy and not exhausted)? If the answer's yes, you should try harder.
I'm aware that to some people that might have sounded like a bit of a guilt trip?! Well, it was, as always this cry for help has been cathartic.
Going back to the topic I am incredibly grateful to some friends of mine for helping me out of what could have been a major jam this weekend. As I would expect my long suffering housekeeper was not able to be here this weekend as a friend of hers was having a birthday bash on Saturday evening, which, these days presents me with a bit of a problem, namely, how will I eat on Saturday night? And how will I get out of bed and have breakfast on Sunday morning. Despite trying to figure out ways I could do this without help, we haven't figured out a safe way yet. So, I assembled a 'plea for help' email and sent it to a mate that I'd blocked out time in my diary to go for lunch with on saturday, a lunch that had long since been cancelled because procuring the big college group that we'd hoped for hadn't proved feasible. As luck would have it my mate, Richard Rous and his wife, Annabel, were very up for cooking me dinner, drinking fine wine, watching a comedy DVD and chatting and generally having a laugh, whilst staying in the spare room and taking off the next day. It's this kind of can-do attitude that seems too often be missing these days.
Anyway, Annabel made a great curry – made even better by the recent news I got that Turmeric regenerates brain cells whilst we all got down to the serious business of killing braincells with some quality Malbec. We had a great evening and the Kevin Bridges comedy DVD is classic, people who've never even heard of the man always find it brilliant! Speaking of which I went with my Dad to a lecture about the Brain a couple of weeks ago put on by an old mate Eleanor and I was fortunate to bump into her brother Ben, The bald guya bloke who I've had some hilarious times with. After I met him I nicknamed him Osama Ben Watson because of his penchant for being the most offensive (but usually hilarious) man alive, needless to say, he, like me, for our sins can quote verbatim from that DVD! It is pure gold!
Anyway, the Rous' had to leave early this morning, so my neighbour and physiotherapist Ian (my chief torturer)rode to the rescue. Despite being a sadist he's a nice man.



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