25 Sep 2011

Post 309: Always trying to do the right thing

'Wake me up when September ends', so the song goes, so...... Not really much to report this week, it's been one of those weeks you get in convalescence, Mum and Dad and my brother have gone away so I feel if anything goes wrong I'm a bit stuck which at my age feels like an emasculation! Freudian psychology aside I still crave independence but I've accepted it's never going to happen ever. I cannot cope now without my housekeepers/carers and I realistically know that my left side and my walking have topped out. My relentless training stops me going backwards now, a fact I have grimly accepted, it has been staring me in the face since I plateaued in hospital 4 years ago. At the time I assumed it was a temporary setback, after 3 years of hard work and not feeling any difference except to realise hard work on the diet and training have helped me shed almost 20kgs. Recovery now is about achieving the best quality of life I can and by trying to achieve the best support I can from friends, family, acquaintances and strangers by keeping a sense of humour and what physical abilities I have left and by doing my best to persuade people I'm still worthwhile. This is my challenge. It sounds reasonable I think. This is part of what Omar ( my neurologist) said, 'medical research is always making advances and you want to be in the best shape you can be in case'. Hmmm, sounds a little bit like I'm clutching at straws, well, it's the best I can hope for, I'm not a blind optimist (or what I call 'a moron'), I'm a logical realist, some might say a bit of a 'cynic' . Any cynicism is based on the fact that everytime I've tried something new, it hasn't worked, like my latest attempt at an anti-fatigue drug, the best I can say about it is it didn't have any side-effects. I prefer 'realist'. I take what I can and try and make things happen, sadly there have been a few things this week that have gone against me. Firstly, my friend Jo drove all the way down here from Basildon on Monday to take me to some local comedy at what I can only describe as a 'dive' in Kingston called the Fighting Cocks pub
to see latest 'big name in comedy', Carl Donnelly,
to be told 'sorry, it's sold out' now, considering the last time I'd been there in (August last year) I'd tried to book and they'd never heard of me when I got there (and the line-up was bigger then) I thought I was on safe ground just turning up, just to be sure I even called them and there was no answer – so Monday was a shocker, to add insult to this I'm still trying to find a home for two tickets to see Julian Lloyd Weber play some Elgar with the RPO at the RAH on Saturday, I should be doing that right now, not this (as things are now, not finding anyone to take me is an admission that life is failing) Which is probably why I get so stressed about it. By the time I publish this I hope there's been some good news. Well, actually there has, although my housekeepers had offered to take me, my parents got back from holiday in the morning. As much as I'd love to treat my housekeepers (they deserve it, and Agnesieka hasn't been to the Albert Hall, however there is some niggling doubt over whether the insurance would be valid with Hassans driving licence, so it's better to be safe than sorry, so my parents stepped in and as ever we had a very nice time, infact during Elgar's Nimrod, one of the alltime great pieces of music, I saw my father wipe away a tear, he wispered in my ear 'your mother came down the aisle to this ' and that was in 1963.'Wow, a seminal moment right there. Sadly there is a slight spoiler to this, I tried to get Coldplay tickets for them playing at the Dome in December and they had sold out in an hour. I like their music but agree with Liam Gallagher
(probably the only thing I agree with him about) "That lot are just a bunch of knobhead students - Chris Martin
looks like a geography teacher. What's all that with writing messages about Free Trade on his hand when he's playing. If he wants to write things down I'll give him a pen and a pad of paper. Bunch of students.” He also more famously said that “Chris Martin looks like a bedwetter” I just think he's a bit self righteous, earnest and worthy, or 'going down the Bono route' as it's known, also given his dress sense and world view had he not started Coldplay I strongly suspect he would have been a Hipster dickhead, but I'll entertain music by Coldplay and U2, but not Oasis because Bono and Martin are not nasty like Liam, they're just tools. As I'm on rock, I did manage to get tickets to see Kasabian on Wednesday 14th December at the Dome in the good seats. Now, I'm at a loss to know who'll be up for this as Olly Cassidy, my usual partner in crime is cavorting around the Far East . Kasabian are brilliant live but last time I saw them (at Brixton Academy) there was about one girl in the whole venue (a real sausage factory as I believe it's known). I want to take two keen people, as this is likely to be great. I'll see if I get any takers as a result of this. I won't hold my breath. If people can go to bars and pubs to see their lower maintenance friends, they will. I would have probably been the same although it does surprise me how little people are willing, or worse, they say they are, but change their minds leaving me up a proverbial creek without the proverbial feeling like post-stroke, what's the point? I can't tell you how much I put into this. Sadly it's a bit late on Sunday now and I think I'll save it till next week to talk about Peter and Imogen's leaving gathering. I'm going to miss them and they should be rightly proud of the turnout, what got me is everyone it seems has 'accessories' now, you know, the adorable little ones that mean you never have to speak adult English to another adult ever again it seems. I love them really, but I'm never going to love them more than the adults who've inflicted them upon us.

18 Sep 2011

Post 308: No to Hipsters, Yes to Engagements

I was slightly saddened on Monday by the ending of a TV series that has rather captivated me and TV doesn't really captivate me these days because even though I've got large TVs, the stroke has really buggered my eyesight, and wearing glasses doesn't help, see this very early post for why , plus concentrating on something on TV seems to be a million times more tiring than it should be. I'll watch a decent film but I'm unwilling to waste my time on TV. Why? Because I don't feel it's a good use of my time, given my fatigue and physical limitations, I figure I should be resting, exercising , staying in touch with people or writing this crap. I've always figured that letting this ethos slip is a slippery slope towards watching the Jeremy Vile show,
I know I'm officially an unemployed pensioner age 34 but I refuse to behave like I'm on the dole! And I said 'WATCHING the Jeremy Vile show', you have to be a serious wrong'un to appear on it. Luckily the series I was talking about is on in the evening. It is one of those US HBO imports called 'Entourage'
that is supposed to be loosely based on the life of Mark 'Marky Mark' Wahlberg
when he lived in LA. In it a guy called Vincent Chase
(the Wahlberg-alike) pads around LA with his group of mates in tow, with women falling at his feet seduced no doubt by his charm, looks, (and as it's LA) seemingly endless wealth and A-list movie-star credentials, the good news for me is I've only seen season 8, so I need to rent/buy seasons 1-7, although I'm not thrilled at the prospect of all that telly watching, how exhausting it'll be scares the bejesus out of me, I appreciate this is not a typical reaction to a boxset marathon, but that's how it is these days. The answer is having someone to watch TV with but people are busy and I fear I'm much less fun than I used to be. Blah, what 'happy clappy' (usually deluded) 'positive police' type people describe as 'wallowing in self pity'. Fine, if observing that post-stroke life is infinitely (to the power n) sh*tter than pre-stroke life, I'm wallowing in self pity, sorry for not being out of touch with reality, like I say all the time, you can only be positive all the time if you're healthy and feel well, eg try and be positive when you feel like you've had flu for 6 years and might feel like that for the rest of your life, think about this before lecturing me on the benefits of 'being positive'. I agree it's much better to be positive but being positive for positive's sake and (even worse) lecturing people from your anionic (positively charged) ivory tower makes you a c***. Some folks I have a lot of time for fall into this category, but mostly these are just social network internet acquaintances (religious nuts or 'support' group types desperate to stay positive at all costs otherwise people who they've never met and will never meet might think less of them. The thing that struck me about 'Entourage' (excellent subject change I thought) was that although Vince is a bloody good lad it is disturbing the way that he resorts to his money to keep his friends happy, eg he gives $100,000 to a charity to secure his brother an acting role, he casually just hands over his credit card when the Jeweller announces that the engagement ring he's looking at is $1.4 million dollars (he just says 'yeah, fine' when she tells him the price) and he charters 2(not 1, but 2) private jets to fly him and his entourage to Paris, the 2nd jet is so his mate and girlfriend can 'fly anywhere in the world' in order to rekindle their romance, despite this ostentation annoying me, the thing that the show did teach me was how utterly important the right girl can be. My favourite character Ari Gold jacks in his job and business in such a funny way so he can spontaneously move to Florence to stop his marriage ending
and it seems that his business is everything to him, but the love of his life is more important. I hope I don't sound like a broken record but I would literally give all my worldly goods to find the right girl. I know this may sound like a 'mopey guy' kind of thing to do but I've said it – it's that important. Time for another sharp subject change I think, although it's been going on for years I'm starting to see a real backlash against dickheads who think bad things are somehow cool. 'Trying to be cool' has been a phenomenon going on since time immemorial, although the backlash is epitomised (I think) by 'the dickhead song' that a friend alerted me to quite some time ago. At the time it just made me laugh, little did I know it would set me off now. The thing that gets me about this is the notion that bad things are somehow good and therefore 'cool'. Forgive my old fashioned grasp on things but bad things will always be bad in my world, in a similar way good things will mostly always be good. I couldn't give a f*ck about trying to be cool, jesus, even before my stroke. In fact isn't 'trying to be cool' in itself not 'cool', that's another thing that winds me up, the notion that by wearing something bad 'ironically' you're somehow being cool. No you're not, you're deliberately wearing/doing something bad, that makes you a dick at worst, a fool at best. What was even funnier was I was alerted to this website Look At This F*cking Hipster , after a little discussion on facebook – I couldn't stop myself writing Look At This F*cking Hipster and the dickhead song go together, why do people wear 'crap glasses'; wearing stupid things because you're 'being ironic' makes you a c*nt. In a similar way so does having an ironic haircut, I thought being 'cool' was about being laid back about your style and carrying off an image effortlessly – I can tell you right now it takes quite a lot of effort to maintain a sh*t haircut (speaking from experience, how uncool is it therefore to make sure your ironic mullet is looking its er, worst so you can look cool.
Mullets are a disgrace, full stop. Like being a post-modern vegetarian because when you eat meat, you do it 'ironically' [thanks Bill Bailey] I won't even get started on that. What I think is that Modern Artists have a lot to answer for, my thoughts on some of their work is pretty clear from my post on my visit to the Tate Modern, where it's safe to say the high point of the day wasn't the art. I think this was a movement sprung up by idiots who decided to see what they could get away with. It makes me a bit mad. Look for Nathan Barley
on youtube and feel your anger rising while you laugh which seems to be how humour works these days. Sigh. What I do love is how this seems to fit with my whole 'Don't be a dick' philosophy Aside from finding ways to laugh through this, if you read last week's post you'll remember that people offering to drop in on me is what makes me tick, so yesterday (Saturday), the Tress family (Olly, Gina, Talia and Bruno)
had offered to come and see me. I used to go to University with Gina and she tracked me down after going on a family holiday with one of my good friends, her charming husband Olly, and I, now go to quite a few events together, as he's in retail and I was a retailer we have a few interesting discussions but mostly he's just a good lad who's kind enough to take me out, anyway, it was a joy to see them, they must be busy people, them making the time to see me is indeed an 'Honour and a Privilege'. I'll just mention briefly the engagement party I was lucky enough to go to yesterday of a mate of mine I used to DJ with. A kiwi guy with the most unusual name in the world, Daegal Brain – it prompted me to write this on facebook: So good to go to Carla & Daegal's Engagement, great to see some familiar faces and thanks for inviting/putting up with me. Special thanks to Adam Symbiosis [and his wife Susan]
for looking after me. Very moving speeches from the bride and groom.
[Going to these things will always be worth the effort]. Thanks to Jane [from local agency Karen's Angels] for driving. Thanks to the Tress family for coming to see me first. I hop this hasn't been too long.

11 Sep 2011

Post 307 (at a guess):A week where it's been about people coming to see me

I've said it before and probably bang on about it far too much but before my stroke I used to appreciate how much people liked being dropped in on at home. Now the logistics just prevent me jumping in the car or nipping on a tube/train that sort of thing is basically finished. The reason people do anything spontaneously is to surprise others and themselves. There is something chemical about the way your body reacts to a positive surprise, things like getting better than expected exam results, getting a promotion, winning a competition, being surprised at a surprise birthday party by a good friend who's travelled from Australia. The reason I mention this last example, was that a good friend of mine did just that this week, appearing by surprise at the Surprise 50th birthday party of the best man at his wedding. (Pablo in the middle, Steve on the right)
It prompted me to write this on facebook: 'Has been really moved by the way Steve Williams came all the way over from Melbourne for Pablo Pabs surprise 50th birthday, I'm quite surprised the big fella didn't keel over in shock. I was just sorry I couldn't be there to see it. I can imagine Pablo going 'I recognise that shirt, there can't be two of them' What I'm thinking now is, 'Steve can get here from Australia and I couldn't even make it from inside the M25!', I'm sure Pabs'll be ok, in fact I know he will, well, since then he's said that the evening plus seeing Stevie 'was the best night of his life', and here's a man I'll hazard, has had a few immense evenings! It reminded me of the time my dad had gone to visit his best friend in a French hospital a few years ago. It didn't sound good for my dad's friend but I've seen Stewart since and the recovery he has made is remarkable. Obviously, Stewart's recovery is testament to his toughness but I can imagine that seeing that a friend had made all that effort to be there must be a real help. Pablo must have felt that when he saw Stevie, I got a similar feeling when people came to visit me in hospital or people come to see me full stop, people making the effort for you is what gives people strength. I don't devote enough time on this blog these days to 'bigging up' my parents about the sheer time and effort they have made. I'm convinced they think my whole post-stroke fatigue thing is something I save up and they get the worst of. I can assure them that's not true. They have been heroes. The upshot of the whole 'Stevie story' was that I got to see him (on Tuesday) out of the blue, I knew he'd made the journey from Melbourne by then and I know how many people he knows, so for him to have come and seen me was pretty bloody kind, the last time I'd seen him had been in January An added bonus was getting to see Jo Butcher and her daughter Sophia who I hadn't seen since February It was indeed an honour and a privilege.
This is pretty much true of most people who make the effort to come and see but few more so than one of my old colleagues, Carole, retired director of John Lewis' biggest business, Furniture, Textiles and Lighting. She emailed me and said it had been far too long and could she come and cook me lunch? On the basis that it is such an 'honour and privilege' to be visited by such a legend, she visited on Tuesday.
She's full of stories (usually about the adventures she goes on) now she's actually got the time. I was not disappointed, this time it was about a narrow escape from a charging elephant in Tanzania. People 15 years younger than ME wouldn't have her get up and go. It's small wonder her and my mother instantly got on famously when they met each other. It didn't end there though, on Thursday I got dropped in on by the Lee's (Pete, his wife Imogen and their two little girls, Beth and Ginni)
in advance of their having to move to California in a month because of Pete's job as a geologist for a US oil company, all I can think is how grown up and what a big step. A big step for me is getting out of the house for an evening out. Even better was Pete had offered to cook Fillet Steak,
after the 'Spiritual' sirloin Kocen cooked me last week this fillet steak was bound to be 'pretty ok', and so it was. Pete and Mo are great company and even though the Steak was great it just feels nice that people do this for me. It will be their leaving bash in a few weeks time and even though they're not leaving forever I know it won't be just me that misses them. So after half a cow, I was lucky enough to be taken to the Bear Yesterday by a lovely couple whose incredible wedding I'd been lucky enough to go to back in august 2009. . So, Jon and Megan, thankyou. Since then they have had a son, Isaac,
who is very well behaved (by which I of course mean he's quiet, it goes without saying he's cute). It may appear to some, that I'm letting my diet slip and I'm letting my tastebuds trump managing my waistline. This is probably partially true but there are worse things to have as a vice, plus Jose (my trainer) records my weight every week and I appear to be keeping it under control. Next week, I'll probably give my views on 'the Inbetweeners'
movie which didn't just have all the funny bits in the trailer and a couple of drama series I've been glued to, 'Entourage'
and 'The Borgias',
I highly commend them both, both beauts from Sky Atlantic.
I'm not much of a TV watcher because it feels like wasted time and my eyesight makes it difficult but there are exceptions.

4 Sep 2011

Post 306 (I think):Some reprieves, I could never be vegetarian

Another week where some last-minute saves made life bearable. Being clear, people coming to see me in Oxshott (and offering to do it rather than me badgering people to do it) is still the most life affirming thing that happens in this life of convalescence I'm now faced with. Today (Sunday) I'm expecting Paul Reeves in a minute, sadly the weather and his motorbike conspired to make that not happen and my mate Jo is taking me out for a late lunch, seeing people like this does help me feel like I'm doing something, for both myself but also for them – it makes my loneliness just 'bad', not 'unbearable'. What especially eats me is when I'm left with tickets to some show or other and no-one to take me, I get so stressed out by that happening and trying to find a replacement especially when my best laid plans fall through at the last minute. I'm sure I've moaned about this before, bound to have. On Tuesday this week I had it all arranged to go to the Proms ( virtually over for 2011, it's the last night on September 10th (I've missed out on tickets this year, primarily (I think) because on the day they went on Sale was the day I got ambulanced to hospital with Appendicitis, actually f*ck it, I would probably have missed getting tickets because getting them is like stumbling on Lord Lucan)
So my plans had gone awry. A panic email to my friend Richard Lloyd (my uni friend and the vicar of the neighbouring village) saved the day. Now we're friends because we were mates at Uni, not to do with religion (in fact, nothing could be further from the truth). I told him about the online spat I'd been having with some god-botherers and we proceeded to have an interesting chat about how Christianity when mixed with Conservative republicans in the US (lets label these people 'imbeciles') produces an aggressive, uncompassionate, literal take on the bible) which in Richard's view couldn't be further from what he believes Christianity stands for (then and now) I'm far from being a convert but this level-headedness and his ability to understand his audience is why people (not just me) hold him in such high esteem. As it was we were treated to a superb evening, with a Piano Concerto by Mozart in the first half and Bruckners 8th Symphony in the 2nd half. Both were awesome displays of talent but I remembered the words of my friend Richard Rous (himself a proper concert Pianist) 'that Mozart was a bit too obvious, safe and therefore dull' perhaps to him it is – to me and the Lloydster – it sounded pretty good. Bruckner's 8th was even better, seeming to get 'bigger and bigger', small wonder I'm no classical music pundit with wordplay like that! However one of the talking points was how much the Conductor looked like Frankenstein's assistant Igor,
looking for fresh 'Brains'. The key was that the shared 'enjoyness Quotient' (something I've just invented) was high and positive.
Speaking of high EQ, this week was probably made for me by yesterday (Saturday 3rd) by an old mate popping in to cook lunch (a rare 12Oz Sirloin) with his girlfriend. Kocen and Freya, I salute you,
it was the best Steak
I've had since he cooked a Steak for me in the Hospital Rehab unit in 2007. I've since seen him at my birthdays but had never met Freya (who is charming – another great couple!). Aside from filling my Kitchen/Living Room with smoke, it was great to see them and eating the steak bordered on a spiritual experience so perfect were the taste and texture. Afterwards we all had the inevitable 'meat sweats' but on a fairly humid day it was bound to happen. After they had gone and I'd had my inevitable lie-down my replacement lift was due to take me again to the Albert Hall and the Proms. Originally I had thought my parents were driving but Mum being in America (seeing the grandchildren) and Dad flying to Ireland with a bunch of old duffers for drinking, eating and if they can still walk, golf. Unfortunately, these were not forseable when I bought the tickets but thankfully a chance call on friday from Tristan found him and his lovely Chilean wife Macarena offering to cook me dinner on Friday evening and drive me to the Proms on Saturday. Brilliant – just brilliant, and even better was that Macca had never been to the Albert Hall.
People who haven't been are as gobsmacked as I am in awe of the place. One lesson learned is always to check what time these thing start. They don't all start at 730, last night's was starting at 7 so it was pretty unsurprising that we missed the Elgar and had to watch the 2nd piece (a modern composition) on the Foyer TV screen. I found myself at one point whispering to the Lady on my left 'is it just me, but this is sh*t?' Thank goodess for the famous Rachmaninov piano concerto in the 2nd half for which they allowed us to take our seats.
Basically, good old Tristan and Macca! So, in a manner of speaking I have managed my situation this week. By no means perfect but it'll have to do. As an aside, I had said a few weeks ago that given the effort I put into this and given the lack of reaction it generates, was blogging worthwhile? I got an email from a comparative stranger that'll keep me blogging for another year 'I sat down to read it for 15 minutes and 5 and a half hours later I was still reading, this thing gives people a much better idea of my life than anything else I could do with one-liners on twitbook.



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