26 Jan 2013

Post 380: A questionnaire about being a writer

I was going to try and avoid starting this with the usual ‘Isn’t January sh*t’ fodder but I don’t shy away from the truth. I probably haven’t helped the cause of trying to cheer myself up by filling in any gaps I had watching the Soprano’s,

a series I have often talked about on this blog. Oh, good idea Dom, trying to make myself less depressed by absorbing yourself in a series which is basically about depression. That makes as much sense as watching ‘Titanic when you’re about to go on a cruise,

or ‘Jaws’ when you’re about to go a beach holiday.

I’m sure if I had the energy to keep going I could come up with loads of these.
On the Soprano’s I often wonder how a bunch of Hollywood Sociopath writers get the depth of bastard that characterises the shower of bastards that the Mafia are just right and not forgetting anyone associated with them. I really do not have a good word to say about any of them. I’ve thought out loud the outcome on this blog before but the best outcome would actually be if they were all on the Titanic and then perhaps were picked off one by one by ‘Jaws’
I am still adhering to my no booze in January plan, and I subscribe to the view of former Blur Bassist Alex James that being off booze is a good thing but ‘nothing much exciting happens when you’re off it. My GP thinks I’m mad with words to the effect of ‘isn’t this time of year bad enough? Why make it worse?’I had also virtually been cutting out caffeine but it yielded no good results so I’ve retaliated and ordered myself a nespresso machine,

what else? Big thanks to my friends on facebook for helping me overcome my choice paralysis! I’ve managed to lose a kilo in January so I’m looking forward to firing up a hip flask with cherry brandy in February

along with drinking some fine red wine on February 1st. Not all of my January plans have been about how to fall off the wagon in February. On Wednesday last week it was about going to a charity comedy gig in aid of ‘Save the Children’ at the Bloomsbury theatre in London, funnily enough in Bloomsbury. These were my thoughts when someone asked me on facebook:

Pretty ok - these things with multiple comedians are never quite as good as they look on paper. Lloyd Langford stole it by saying when some Granny said she wanted her grand-daughter dug up from being buried in the same cemetery as Jimmy Saville - what did she think? That the dead Jimmy Saville was some underground truffle fuckpig that was going to molest her bones. I laughed a lot. I thought Lock was disappointing. Evans as compere was pretty good

Big thanks to my mate, the far better than Derren Brown, magician Chris Dugdale and his show director, Sonic (yes that’s what he goes by) and Sonic’s girlfriend Grace for accompanying me.

Chris has saved the day by doing his unbelievable close up magic at my last few birthdays and he’s agreed to do it this year. My job for next week is to try and sort that out –I’m pretty sure we’ve solidified Sunday 24th March as the Date, so anyone who’s usually involved, save the date. I’ve also volunteered myself into trying to sort out an excursion and dinner at my old college in April
Unfortunately, my writing course isn’t happening this term as the Esher Green learning centre hasn’t got enough enrolments which is a real pity as I think the tutor Anna, is ace. We have been staying in touch over email and she has sent out a questionnaire on writing to a lot of her past and present learners so typically I completed the questionnaire and I thought I’d include it in this post. What a creature of habit I am.
How long have you been a writer?
Well, I don’t really consider myself a writer – rather a person with a surplus of time to realise how unwell I feel, I’ve arrived at the conclusion I have to be a writer by default as it’s the only creative outlet I can physically manage to do since I had my stroke in 2005. I don’t really feel like a writer because it’s not a decision I have freely made. Since January 2008 (probably the time I could first meaningfully have the co-ordination to control my right index finger on a special high-contrast keyboard with big keys (imaginatively titled ‘Bigkeys’) I have stretched what pathetic energy this brain insult has left me with to write a public Blog which is~1000 words a week and has about 1000 readers a week. Even though I am glad I have done it as it gives me something to think about, I also think it is horribly self indulgent and presumptuous. I mean, why the f*ck should anybody care about the inane (probably insane sounding) ramblings of a guy who used to be happy, but whose path is barred to all the good things that living supposedly offers. I don’t want to die, but working this hard to live is not fucking on. I can appreciate that I have digressed from the original question. That happens a lot! Something to do with no Energy and no concentration span. I always was a fidget! Now, I waste energy I don’t have on things that no-one cares about. A lose/lose that is an allegory for the pisspoor thing that now passes for life, so cut a long story short ‘about 5 years’.

Where is your favourite place to write?
Favourite?! You mean only – right here in front of my computer – it’s the only place where I am used to the keyboard and screen position. Normal Humans can adapt. I can’t.

What piece of writing are you most proud of?
Bits of my blog are apparently ok. Most of it is self indulgent, depressing, moaning, narcissistic sh*t

Where do you get your ideas from?
Events I go to, people I have seen, audiobooks, decent tv, news, facebook banter –I have some manners and take no-one for granted – so I always believe in saying thankyou to people and sorry to those who deserve an apology. I hate making people wait. A certain family member gets so angry waiting for anything! I’m pretty sure this is where I get a little anger and impatience from, although I like to think I’ve developed into a more patient person who doesn’t get angry about things I’ll never have control over.

What makes you different from all other writers?
Well, apart from the obvious, I hope I have an engaging and readable writing style and a uniquely cynical, sarcastic, realistic, logical, irreverent perception of the world. I believe we all have an inate mechanism for behaving decently towards other people. It is simply ‘don’t be a dick’

What is your favourite creative work by someone else?
Probably Game of Thrones (or ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’)

. I can appreciate the books by George R R Martin – I didn’t initially appreciate the R R significance (Durr!), most of which I listened to and the tv series

has been one of the few things I have eagerly anticipated since my stroke. They are both genius. To write something that detailed he had to of immersed himself in another world of his creation in his imagination which is an all-encompassing energy I’ll never achieve in my condition ever.
Oh well, February is traditionally a shit month too. At least my guts will be warmed by alcohol and caffeine!
While I’m here thanks to my mate Isabel for her great guest cheffing this month not that there’s anything wrong with the slop that Gary gives me. I’m just grateful to eat! The gig I’m most excited about in the next month is seeing the Australian Pink Floyd

at the Dome on the 25th. There will hopefully be a big gang of us. I last saw them in March this year and they are as outstanding as Muse

20 Jan 2013

Post 379: So where do we set our limits?

As it’s January and there is literally nothing happening at all, I have had some time to prognosticate which is always a worry! My first thought has been: How long do you try something before you decide ‘this isn’t f*cking working, time to stop OR to try something else’. Now throughout my life I’ve always been in the ‘keep trying’ camp – you can when you’re confident, able and energetic. What has caused me to have this thought and blog it was working out that the one hand keyboard

I’ve got is really not for me. I’ve given it a couple of goes and it’s not for someone with my deficiencies that relies on the computer for almost all of his interactions with the world. Things change when you’ve had a stroke, you have to be able to listen to your body above the melee of idiots (yup, I’m comfortable calling them that, I could call them much worse things) who using goodness knows what for energy say ‘never give up, keep plugging away at it’ my evidence for saying ‘that is bullshit’ was telling my physios and other therapists (supposedly the experts) at the Frank Cooksey Rehab Unit in early 2006 ‘I want to be as if nothing has physically happened to me’ and they nodded their heads. Here I am 7 years down the line and the chance of me ever being as if this never happened is zero, absolute zip. I am stuck in a wheelchair forever. Well, however drawn out forever is.
When I left Putney Hospital in April 2008 and the Physio told me I’d never walk again I deliberately didn’t listen and adopted the ‘I’ll show them’ approach (the pigheaded one) which has sometimes been effective in the past. I explored all manner of options to try and overcome being stuck in a wheelchair, crikey , my major achievement was losing over 17 kilos (~2.5 Stone) in two years after I got out of hospital by strictly changing my diet (basically giving up all sweet things including not eating between meals) and adhering to a physio regime that had me so depressed that I would genuinely fear my physio sessions. Oh no, I’m moaning again – if anyone wants to tell me off, try having a stroke first! (and one like mine)
The sort-of solution has been a little tricky to explain and unremarkable but it’s quite reasonable – it has been to be realistic with myself leading to this honest appraisal. I am no nearer to walking independently now than I was using the Frank Cooksey’s ceiling tracking hoist

7 years ago so walking independently again isn’t realistic, I just use my treadmill for general fitness – walking holding on like that keeps my legs strong for my transfers and I hope helps keep my weight in check. What finally made my mind up to dispense with Walking therapy was spending hundreds of pounds of my own money on trying to get my then therapist registered as a neuro-rehab trainer. It didn’t result in anything. It was here I realised that the only people who seem to make a decent recovery from a stroke are stroke survivors who don’t suffer from omnipotent, all encompassing fatigue and recover their ability to walk pretty quickly, ie – it comes back to them within the first year - because that part of the brain hasn’t been completely destroyed. I’ve heard that stroke survivors get tired but that it comes and go’s, mine never goes, I have never met one single other stroke survivor who has fatigue like this. In short, I have been honest with myself and cut my losses: Annoying; painful and wasteful it may have been, This is not ‘giving up’ - at least I did try and was able to do it because of the Dom Pardey Trust –- which subsidised a lot of my efforts to try and recover because that is what recovery from this kind of thing is - guesswork. I think I can honestly say I’d be in a much worse state if it wasn’t for the trust and the general support from elsewhere(friends, family and John Lewis) It has literally been trying whatever is out there if you can afford it, trying to pick a lock with a marshmallow (if you’ll pardon the euphemistic meaning), the state basically washes it’s hands of you as soon as you leave hospital, if I’d relied on community therapy, I would barely have had one physio session a month – instead I have three a week.
No-one has any definitive answers. They can claim they are Neuro-this and Neuro-that and sure it means that they have read a bit more, studied a bit harder, know a few long words and charge a lot more but ultimately their objective, actual factual knowledge about fixing my kind of brain damage is zero, it’s as simple as saying, the brain at this stage of the 21st Century is too complicated for ANYONE to understand or do ANYTHING about PERIOD. Until there is such a thing as a working DNA supercomputer or a supercomputer that isn’t used for espionage our understanding of the brains micro-circuitry will not be detailed enough to understand any of the detail of an injury like mine(and the devil is in the detail)/letalone even start to know how to fix it.
At least I can say with a degree of complete honesty I have given it a
go and I had a much better chance than most because of support from
family and friends and an amazing former employer and yes, I have been
lucky to have had a middle-class background and upbringing and a family who have pretty much supported me unconditionally despite me objectively being an ‘utter failure as a human’ – I know there are plenty of people out there who aren’t supportive and would be happier if I suffered more. Why? What is wrong with you? I honestly don’t think I have wronged anyone since my stroke (or before it even, the worst I might have done is upset someone verbally - genuinely – short of being a little bit flippantly rude on here, I think I’ve only been like that if people deserve it. I am pretty sure that I’ve stuck to my guns, haven’t been disingenuous, inconsistent or tried to be someone I’m not. I have told it as it is and never knowingly misrepresented anyone and never strayed from pretty solid and reasonable core beliefs, I think this is why so many people have stuck by me. I’m always going to discuss sh*t and ‘find the funny’* in life. PERIOD *nicked from Stephen K Amos
The last seven years have been a bastard and I’m pretty sure I have put as much as I could into this and I haven’t been a c*nt about it but boy, could I have been. I’m pretty sure that isn’t who I am.

I do apologise if this has been heavy going and you find yourself looking up and sarcastically saying REALLY or as my current comedy hero Kevin Bridges would say in his distinctive Glaswegian accent ‘did ye, aye’
Speaking of which, thanks to Michael

for taking me to see Jimmy Carr in Guildford on Sunday.

I’ve been to see Carr a few times – now, here is a man who has made it to the top by being a see you next Tuesday. Apologies if the language has upset anyone, I don’t think I can even blame Jimmy Carr, who despite his tax arrangements wasn’t even the worst Jimmy in the news last year!

Also thanks to Gordon, a chap I was in hospital with in 2006 for his phonecalls and generally for bothering to stay in touch, and also big thanks to those who suffered giving this the ‘once over’ this week – you know who you are!
Everyone else, as it appears to be snowing we better declare a state of emergency and await the inevitable chaos and Gnashing of teeth. I was quite looking forward to my annual trip to see the Cirque de Soleil circus freaks at the Albert Hall but I guess that’s out of the question, and Jose has already had to cancel today’s (friday's)torture: Any mature adult who thinks the snow’s a good thing, then thinks about it logically and still thinks it’s a good thing is an Oxygen thief! Well, I wrote most of that on Friday and yes, my mum, the original planned driver, couldn’t make it here from the middle of nowhere to take me to Cirque but instead Gary (my carer) stepped up so it meant him and Gwen could go.

It was the usual cirque fodder.

Probably the sort of thing that people who like ‘Britains got Talent’ would think was the best thing ever! The Cirque Performers are a bunch of sinewy freaks, able to do feats of co-ordination, balance, strength and dare-devilry miles beyond the limits of my unable-to-balance-on-two-feet-brain. At least this time we were relatively close so I could just about work out what was going on,

here’s how I described it in January 2009 it was contemporary dance with elements of rhythmical gymnastics and acrobatics set to an epic musical score with Chinese and Arabian influences but never stepping away from the kind of Parisian street theatre and performance art you'd find around Montparnasse. I think I’ll leave it at that. It was sad Mum couldn’t go because she loves shit like this but great that I could take Gary and Gwen.
There isn’t really a moral to this story except my catch-all philosophy ‘don’t be a dick’!
Lastly, one political word. I’m fed up with middle-class champagne socialists who spend their lives disingenuously trying to be right-on whilst trying to make middle-class people who have always paid their taxes feel guilty for what they’ve got.

Sorry for the non-sequitur, it’s purely the timing!

13 Jan 2013

Post 378: I shouldn’t use the word ‘Fizzle’ so much

I must confess that I am somewhat lacking in inspiration because there’s not a lot to do at this time of year and post Christmas and new year in January are (to everyone in Britain) The WORST time of year. With this in mind, a friend of mine (George) had bravely organised a birthday gathering for her husband (Rob) and another mutual friend of ours(Tim). Now, I chat to a lot of this crowd on facebook, so they know me as a bit of (a lot of) a cynical, sarcastic bastard so I was pretty nervous. It was in a nice sort of bar/restaurant called 25 in crystal palace, the sort of place I associate with wall to wall bugaboo prams – where exhausted sleep deprived 30something mums married to mid 30s corporate automatons come to grab a cappuccino and complain about not sleeping because of ‘little jonny’, all the while wearing their yoga gear en route to ‘Pilates’ to sort out those stretch marks. I would gladly have been one of those Male corporate Automatons but this bloody stroke has intervened. These gatherings are a privilege to go to, to even be invited to, I find them lethally tiring but that has to be irrelevant. I get to meet new people and people I really don’t see very often because they understandly have better things to do. Living, working and surviving in London is hard – without having friends and family and gatherings like this to go to we’d all go mad. Especially those who have been supremely brave and had kids, I know that strictly speaking you’re not supposed to do this but I have always picked a favourite of my friends kids, and up till yesterday it was Oscar, my friends Nick and Sally’s little smiler.

I know it’s not a contest, but best in show is now Sophia,

Jo and Gary’s 3 year old, she is the image of her mother, which is bound to stand her in good stead later in life, here on the right, with birthday boy Tim, and great mate Simon on the left.

I have Ched

to thank for driving me to this, he knew most of the protagonists. Him and his wife Terri are brilliant for taking and putting up with me. Judging by a few of the facebook photo’s the drunkenness crescendoed. I can’t be the ‘last man standing’ for numerous reasons anymore – chief being ‘I can’t stand’ but I was glad to catch ‘peas in a pod’ Fi (right) and Mim (left)

before I had to bale. Well done to George (left)

for organising such a fabulous event. People need these things. I’m also quite smug that I managed to avoid booze despite this comedy comment a few days ago via facebook:
George: She's like a forcefield of bad influence
Isn’t January a laugh? Well, my first show of the year is seeing the Jimmy Carr-bot 2.0

in Guildford tonight. It’s a sellout proving to me that the middle-classes love a bit of swearing really. Finally big thanks to my mate Gav and his wife Cathy for the lovely thankyou card from his son Rocky (my godson). Not much can warm this heart of stone in January. I now see why my mum forced me to write thankyou letters. Thank goodness her, Dad and my brother (here he is)

have got back from skiing in one piece. I fret these days, I probably should’t, but I just do.

6 Jan 2013

Post 377: 2013 fizzles into life

A good word fizzle....? Anyway, I apologise for the slight religious implication in the above picture –anyway, that famously forward looking institution, the catholic church have said Jesus was probably born in 5 BC, how does that even work? Like I said last time, Christmas was a bit routine – I think you’d be a bit hard pushed in a sample of a hundred 30somethings to find one who said ‘yup 2012, best Christmas ever, and as for new year, I’m speechless’. I was speechless this new year because I was asleep. I was ‘childminding’ for my friend Isabel who was catering at some fabulous wedding. I say fabulous because it was a civil partnership. Getting married on New Years Eve? Now, that is a declaration of intent, and I thought weddings were expensive enough – I would imagine a lot of the guests were just thrilled to have a party to go to. It’s a gay wedding too? Bring it the f*ck on darling!
Isabel’s 13 year old son Kevin

came round here at about 8, we had my last decent meal for a while in the form of a large papa johns pizza at about 9, Kevin had worked out how to wire up his Xbox live by 9:30 and he barely uttered another word before I sloped off to bed at about 10. Textbook modern childminding I thought! I can handle that!
One thought did make me a bit sad though. I am a bit slow in everything I do because that’s what fatigue and disability has done to me but my critical reasoning is all there (well, I think so), trouble is thick people, young children and animals (I’m definitely not talking about Kevin) think I’ a waste of time because you can’t run around, be loud or energetic or be remotely how a 35 year old should be. Children under a certain age for example have no regard for you, so I’m positive my youngest nephew (ok, so he’s already a bit of a sociopath) just treated me as this person to just ignore, barely tolerate or endure because he can always just run away from me and I can’t catch him which he full well knows. He may look angelic here

but you can bet he doesn’t want to be here, whereas the other two have grown up and are aware that existence is sometimes conditional on doing things you don’t like. Charlie hasn’t got that yet. His behaviour is not dissimilar to the behaviour of a domesticated pet –he knows which side his bread is buttered, but there is little capacity for patience or much gratitude although to give him his dues he is learning. There is obviously a vital stage in brain development which is more to do with estrogen I think because women are just more nurturing, kind and understanding than men, according to comedian Steve Hughes, ‘testosterone appears to have two functions, either Fuck it or Kill it’ – if this offends anyone then I’ll be sorry for a couple of seconds, pip pip that’s that, this is evidently when the brain develops empathy, patience and gratitude, ie, all the things that make people nice when they cease to be cute which is how my favourite cat Ham can get away with waking me up at 3AM when she’s got muddy paws. One nuzzle on the nose

from her and all is forgiven! A few girls I have known won’t get kicked out of my bed at 3AM for being filthy, what can I say, I’m human!
One of my big worries since regressing to the abilities of a child is that life’s virtues like patience and gratitude, graft and quiet contemplation are much harder when you take into account the uncertain things that other people might be thinking. I mean by this that I often wish people who help me are hardwired into my mental process and can anticipate how I need help. Obviously this is impossible but people who have bothered to get to know the post-stroke unimproved me pick it up pretty fast, some even seem to enjoy it. It is devastating being unable to be totally independent. I know friends on facebook will have seen this before but it is a function of how exhausting I find typing that ‘copying and pasting’ stuff I’ve already typed is a bit of an inevitability. Thanks to everyone who virtually rallied round, and special thanks to my neighbours (Tracey, her daughter Emily and son Dylan) who answered my distress call. Here was my facebook post:

Sorry if this looks like sympathy seeking. Well, it is. I have learnt a f*cking awful lesson today. Never take any risks. I was standing, trying to hold a bar with my left hand, it let go[as I have no feeling in it], I then fell backwards and hit my head hard just above my brainstem. Slightly scared I'm just going to drop dead at any minute. Apols to Simon for the repetition.

It’s drama after drama and people (including me) are fed up with it. This is what I wrote about an hour later:

I'm back towards equilibrium grimness now I think. I hit my head so hard on a radiator that I've broken the bugger and it's leaked all over the floor. Fjurk! Sorry to bring anyone down, if I was a blues singer this sh*t might be acceptable to moan about. Thanks for the virtual hug!

There’s not really much of a way of bringing levity to this situation except by commending the things that have been making me laugh. Kevin Bridges latest DVD which I saw live back in September at the Apollo

It is bloody hilarious, a Glaswegian comedian who doesn’t use the ‘c’ word instead of ‘and’, gosh, I must be mellowing! And the Big fat quiz of the year which is mandatory viewing for anyone who could have thought that 2012 might have passed them by. Week on week all I seem to need is 8 out of 10 cats, Have I got News for You and Mock the Week – the actual news is a bit dry in comparison! I know I have been rude about the Jimmy Carr-bot 2.0 in the past but he’s not an idiot, a bit of a smug f*cker but he hosts this format

well and this country is oddly better off by his existence no matter what his Tax arrangements are!

I have worked out I can’t really identify with anybody properly because of the way I sound. What I say is fine but having a proper conversation doesn’t work, you can see it in the other persons facial expression and body language, it’s almost like they’re talking to a small child. It’s the same with other disabled people. Even other stroke survivors, if they can talk normally and look like fatigue isn’t as bad as mine I can’t help thinking ‘your life must be at least tolerable’. Even my poor tetraplegic friend Carlie who died last year could at least speak and feel normal, the rest of her life must have been unimaginable though. Someone also sent me a video featuring a guy with no arms and no legs who just seems to get on with his life because he has such a positive and infectious outlook here he is and the tone of the message was ‘why can’t you be more like this?’ I try, but I can’t because I never feel well enough. End of story.
I wrote all that before I realised it was Gary’s 60th birthday dinner last night (Saturday). Here is a man who after his heart attack over 20 years ago thought he’d never see 50 but here he is together with Gwen making life possible for me,

The meal to celebrate was an orgy of meat at one of those Brazilian places in Fulham. Rodizio Rico. It was marvellous. Gary and Gwen must be proud. The way his sons gang up and take the piss out of the old man is hilarious and he loves it! What a f*cking legend! Unbelievably I avoided Alcohol. But I’m not sure that much meat is in the plan!

In separate news my folks are away skiing in Switzerland.

It's weird not having them around. Not the best skiing by a stretch but as you can see, it is pretty and the mountain air is a bit special I hope they're careful! I now understand how terrifying skiing must be to some people. I am terrified just standing up, I can see that being strapped to a couple of slippery planks at the top of a mountain in the freezing cold -are you insane?



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