26 May 2013

Post 398: Pictures are annoying at the time...

So, another week trundles by of what is the coldest spring since 1979. No sh*t, I heard it on the radio on Saturday morning so it must be true. Ostensibly two things are on the agenda today, firstly, the fact that I want to make more of a song and dance about my parents having been married 50 years and secondly more of a song and dance about the song and dance on Friday night to celebrate Steve and Naomi being over from Melbourne. Thirdly, i've just been transferred some unreal pictures
Friends Shaun and Renae had a similar shindig a couple of weeks back that caused me to write on facebook (my only real way of communicating daily with the outside world, I just take the piss a bit and try and stick to amusing/playful banter, I avoid like the plague any innuendo or slander (that’s for here)) ie:
When Shaun and Nae had their party a couple of weeks ago I said afterwards that it 'was the best thing I'd been to in ten years' Same venue, a lot of the same people, early noughties trance, what's not to like?
I am such a sentimentalist! Even if I spend far too much time taking the piss and ruminating about nonsense online it is so much better making people look forward to things if you can. I was really looking forward to this in the same way I look forward to most things – with a healthy dose of dread at how exhausted I’d feel during and after it – things sadly don’t change, or at least not since this f*cking stroke. Not true apparently, I had a long chat with a chap called Marco who told me two things that stuck in my mind:
1. That the amount I’d improved since I last saw him a few years ago was marked ie back whenever it was I could never have held a glass steadily (arguably, I still can’t)
2. The amount I looked like I was enjoying myself is what made him start DJing.
Almost the exact reason I had started after watching Bettsy – who incidentally was playing last night, but Alas too late for me to have been there. I was running on empty by 10pm when him and his wife Sharon got there, unbelievably, I found this photo (taken in San Antonio, Ibiza featuring Ian and Sharon well before they were married, I think I took it in about 2004) I’d been at the party since 7ish when they got there, I’d gabbled incomprehensibly at a lot of people including Brett and Sylvia, Sean, Ig, Tim, John and Megan, Pablo, Johnny ‘shitcones’ Random, Annabel, Stacey and Kris, Louisa and fiancĂ© John, Ben, Dale, Simon and sexyJoJo and one of my favourite people, Emma, who has been such a big support since my stroke who I just love seeing and others my ruined short term grey cells have forgotten (NOT INTENTIONALLY). One observation I’d make is that the ladies have aged so much better than us men (apart from Simon obviously). The Y chromosome clearly makes men go a bit soggy in the middle, I like to think that I’ve got a better reason than most for that! All except the legend that is Sacha, here on the right in 2002, who assured me that he hasn’t put any weight on for 30 years, lucky b*stard. Just as I was leaving I bumped into Gary, here pictured in 2002 with his then girlfriend, now wife, Jo. This will always be one of my favourite photos from the best days of our lives. As always, I have the brilliant Cheds (Christian and Terri) to thank for ferrying me to and from this. The fact that we both know this lot and they live down the road, can drive, and seem happy to put up with me is nothing short of a miracle!
I’d inconvenienced one too many people (by making them try to understand what my f*cked voice was on about) but it was a fitting party for a couple who have made a hell of an impact. Seeing Stevie loving the music in one of his comedy shirts really made the evening. I found this, taken on the same night as the kiss photo from all those years ago! No wonder I’m so obsessed with taking photos of everything these days!
I think at this point I better go and rest before I go out in a few hours with my great friend and mentor from work Simon Dawes to see comedy cockney Geezer Micky Flanagan discuss ‘Apples and Pears’ at the Apollo, he sure was a funny man although it wasn’t exactly cerebral stuff, but f*ck it.
I’ll hopefully be able to post this on Sunday just before I head to the Emirates stadium in North London to see Baroque anthem Overlords Muse tear Arsenal’s newish stadium a new emergency exit.
So, my parents, they’re not easily forgotten or left till last, in anything. I was quite moved at the 3rd (yes THIRD) party to celebrate my parents 50th Wedding anniversary after my dad gave a great (and very funny) speech without notes to a couple of rooms full of their oldest friends, and then the old boy broke down in tears a bit, as did I. This is what we as a family seem to do when we are faced with everybody who has ever meant something to us. My parents have done it properly, they have lived their lives for their friends and their families. They have travelled the world with Dad’s job and on genuine adventures and created more memories than I could do justice to. This was all brought home to me when I flicked through this unbelievable photobook that my sister and brother had cunningly been working on behind the scenes. When the house they’d lived in since 1980 (the house of their dreams, as dad had said in his speech)burnt down, they thought they had lost everything (including all their old photos of their wedding, honeymoon and travels all over the world. My brother had been first on the scene and by a stroke of utter genius had saved what photos he could and deliberately not told mum and dad. He then scanned what pictures he could and sent them to my sister who had 5 beautiful hardback books made. When my sister presented them on Sunday, Mum’s face was a picture which ironically I didn’t get!

18 May 2013

Post 397: I'm sorry I write so much

Last time I posed the question ‘does anyone bother reading this?’ I got that grotty email basically telling me what a miserable selfish complaining piece of sh*t I was. Well, I’m not a selfish piece of sh*t, that I’d contest - I’m just saying that given how much elbow grease I put into this, a little evidence that it gets read wider than a few key people would help although I might be willing to entertain the notion I’m a dullard. I dunno, as cathartic as shouting in a hurricane might be, it’s not really THAT useful.
OK, so what has been a massive relief is having Gwen and Gary back. I think the only thing that might be happier than me is Cheese, my greedy, vociferous, opinionated cat. Listening to Gary and him bicker is hilarious:
Cheese: miaow
Gary: you’ve eaten
Cheese: Miaow
Gary: You’ve Eaten
Cheese: MIAOW
Cats are just rude. His miaowing is often comical. Buying a water pistol to shoot him in the face when he miaows unnecessarily has really worked. I’m hardly ‘the Cat whisperer’ am I? I think Cheese might be slightly retarded. Gary will give him his food, he’ll wolf it down, then sometimes turn round and start miaowing again. Feckless Feline! Despite all this we love him dearly, with visitors he is gold and frankly a bit of a tart! Snuggling up to them and dare I say it managing to be gorgeous and even polite! Cheese’s sister Ham continues to be adorable
The Palmers being away really has shown me how reliant I am on them. It’s really driven it home to me how no matter how hard I try to cope on my own, I can’t do it. A 36 year old that can’t cope on his own, doesn’t that sound like an appealing prospect? Who cares what he used to be like? I’m sure there are people with the use of one arm who cope better but this damn fatigue (yawn, heard it) kills most effort I make in its crib. It’s probably almost certainly as savagely tedious to me as it is telling you about it for the umpteenth time, I’m sorry!
It did get me thinking though. I am not by a long stretch someone with unlimited resources but what would that man do?
I’m sure like me they’d say:
‘This isn’t bloody good enough!’
It’s not worth living feeling like this. Would they pay someone to ship them off to the Dignitas clinic or would they tell their neurologist to try harder? I’m reminded of a couple of stories from Keith Richards autobiography (not a man traditionally associated with health advice) about how he’d seen a French doctor who’d given him a vitamin injection that had really seen him through some of the darker days of his heroin addiction, or Keef’s mate that had been diagnosed with MS and packed himself off to some weird therapy centre that would treat patients with Snake venom. Obviously clinically untested but I’m desperate enough to try ANYTHING. I’m definitely not in the assisted suicide camp (YET!) although my biggest fear is becoming more disabled than I am (ie Needing more help)(as being prescribed Ritalin in Summer 2010 did effectively paralyze further my useless left side) My other big fear is a painful lonely undignified slow death (what is probably happening at the moment).
I have mentioned a few times on this blog about my intentions to get out of this country for the winter. Everything was pointing to impossible but a few facebook discussions this week have made things look a bit less impossible. I can’t even remember as far back as May 2011 when I got visited by an old DJ mate, Dan, and his mum Trixie –now Trixie is a carer by profession, but is the housekeeper for a glorious looking guesthouse out near Valencia called the Casa de la Finestra. To cut a long story short, they don’t have guests in the winter and there is a place I could stay, and another old mate of mine lives in Valencia – he’s a pilot with Ryanair and Valencia is their hub and he made all the right noises about the climate and living in that part of Spain in the winter. Basically, I’m sold. The planets feel like they’re aligning. I’ve set aside time to go out there in early November to check it out. Travel at this moment looks like overnight car ferry from Portsmouth to Santander followed by ~a 6 hour drive. I can’t cope with the cold during the winter here, and I need some sort of big project to occupy myself otherwise it would be all too easy to let depression set in even more. I’m fed up with saying ‘this isn’t bloody good enough’. I need to make something f*cking happen. Sure, it is bloody terrifying, and Mum and Dad have (bless them) told me several times ‘it’s impossible.’ Who am I going to call if something goes wrong?’ Well, someone, I suppose, and seeing as it’s a place where people already speak English and live, I have good grounds to feel quite confident.
Obviously I will miss people and things in this country but having a stroke makes you feel separate from the real world. All attempts to be part of what was once considered ‘normality’ require stupid amounts of effort, not only by me, but by anyone I interact with. My view will never change. Life is hard enough for people – why make it harder by spending time with someone who’s hard work? I’ve always hoped that people feel tremendously rewarded for making this extra effort. Maybe this was true for the first five years but I’m not sure it’s the same now. Maybe this is a bit un-optimistic to have this attitude? I’m afraid this is realism, honesty and logic although somewhat uncharacteristic it may sound, I was reflecting on the fact that I used to have a knack for drawing out the positive in almost any statement and not in an annoying church-like sermon where the vicar might say, ‘in many ways that’s just like Jesus’ NO IT’S NOT. You may not think it but it’s one of the things managing people does teach you. Not talking about Jesus, but finding ANYTHING positive. Yet another pat on the back for John Lewis. Between trying to sort out going to Spain I’ve been slightly less engaged in going to events largely because when I was booking stuff 6 months ago there wasn’t a plethora of good things.
After taking my friend Isabel and her mate Jolanta to see Symphonic rock last week and they had loved it, it was one of my own favourites Filmharmonic, on Wednesday evening, where the royal Philharmonic Orchestra plays film scores. I have been to this every year since 2008 and I can’t attach enough superlatives to how absurdly brilliant it is. Everyone knows the music to certain films, usually ones by George Lucas (Star Wars, Indiana Jones) or Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park,ET, Jaws) because the music was written by John Williams, a man I would argue has created more memory in the Human Race than any other man. Weirdly, I think the brain remembers music better than anything else... annoying jingles are a case in point! I’ll bet I remember Go Compare and bloody Danone Yoghurt for much longer! Obviously I have no evidence! I am merely an above averagely verbose observer. Back to Filmharmonic, it just serves as a reminder to a packed Albert Hall how brilliant some of this stuff is. This time it was how triumphant the music to Jurassic Park is, and secondly how gutted Hans Zimmer (I thought this) (the guy who did the epic score to Gladiator) must feel about being around at the same time as John Williams (he probably says he admires and greatly respects him but I’ll bet he’s cursing his luck and seething, probably the feeling that Tim Henman gets about any other tennis player and while we’re on Henmanalikes, David Miliband must get that deep seething feeling about his brother Grommit. One man who must love this event more than any other is the RPO Kettle drummer who literally gets the chance to smack the crap out of the kettle drums in practically every piece. Taking Isabel and Jolanta to this was a lucky privilege, as getting to take people to things they love is the purpose in my life at the moment. It might not have been though as by a bit too perfect a piece of symmetry my friends Stevie and Naomi are over from their home in Melbourne and I might have originally asked them and they couldn’t as they have the most packed itinerary ever and were up in Lincolnshire visiting his parents cave. I say that as you’ll see from the next photo that Steve is in fact a caveman, but they slung by to visit me by surprise the other afternoon which was an unreal surprise. They are having a party on Friday with a similar format to the one last week which I described as ‘the best thing I’ve been to in 10 years’ I know what I’ve said in the past about setting expectations high. Well, I’m a pragmatist. Given what a hero my friend Isabel is and has been, I just got back from her 2nd Triathlon where the Dom Pardey Trust has been one of the beneficiaries. My dad and I were so glad we went. She really is a trooper.
And finally, my friend Simon and I dusted down some 20 year old memories last night by going to see our teenage music heroes ‘The Levellers’. A few weeks ago, I hadn’t been sure who to ask and then for some reason Simon had uploaded the Levellers album artwork as his facebook background. You know how I go on about finding the right person for the gig and it being one of the most important parts of my life. Well I got it right. Look at the concentration! This is what I wrote on youtube:
The levellers (remember) playing live in Guildford in May 2013. I loved the fact that they didn't faff around and they knocked out all their greatest hits (so most of 'levelling the land') . What stuff I didn't recognise sounded ok. Not a massive fan of the 'folk' genre but how much better are these guys than f*cking Mumford and sons?! The 'Dreads' and 'dogs on string' count was mercifully low. They've got so many catchy tunes.
Home tomorrow for another round of my LSP’s Golden wedding anniversary (50 flippin’ years!)
I’m sorry I write so much! There are almost certainly other people to thank!

12 May 2013

Post 396: Don’t just survive, live!

For the last few weeks I’ve always been starting this with ‘I’ve survived’ so for a change I thought I’d start with a ‘this week I am actually dead’ and go from there. As this is the first ever thing in recorded history to be written by a dead person I expect plenty of media hyperbole but I have a few t-shirts that just about cover it.
My least favourite fictional character on TV will pretty much always be Tony Soprano’s mother, Livia Soprano, she’s a proper miserable bitch, and is always saying things like ‘I wish the Lord would take me now’ which is one of the main reasons I keep the ‘I wish I was dead’ chat to a minimum because it just makes people think ‘you know what, I wish you were dead too’, I'd be no bloody good at 'The Samaritans'. Still, between being one of the most unpleasant characters ever she touches on a couple of key themes. Firstly, the reason she’s so dreadful is she actively resents other people experiencing joy and seems to revel in making people miserable, at least I’m sorry when I do it! She brings up another key theme I think about a lot, that is: ‘the only person you can ever truly rely on is yourself
Livia: Why does everything have to have a purpose? It’s all a big nothing. What makes you think you’re so special?
Why does everything have to have a purpose? The world is a jungle. And if you want my advice Anthony, don’t expect happiness, you won’t get it. People let you down. And I’m not naming any names, but in the end you die in your own arms.

She really is a ghastly character! But despite that being an awful thing to say to even Tony Soprano (one of the nastiest piece’s of sh*t there has ever been on TV) there is a ring of truth to it. For starters, to think we have a purpose is bonkers, and I have learnt, expect as little as possible out of life, you won’t be disappointed, and don’t ever think you’re special. By all means think other people are special because they are and always tell them,it'll make them feel brilliant. I aim to experience joy and to help others experience joy and I try and avoid being envious which is tough because I am basically envious of everyone.
They say that life is about experiencing joy, bollocks, to me life is about surviving, which makes life pretty tedious when survival is hard. You could argue that because I am dead this week I have f*cking failed. Well, Gary and Gwen are back on Tuesday and I can’t bloody wait. I can’t really explain what it’s been like. Well, I’ll give it a go. Imagine feeling utterly defenceless in your own home and always worrying something (no idea what) is going to happen. Exactly, it’s pathetic. And I don’t want Gary and Gwen feeling guilty because that’s the kind of people they are. They deserved and needed that time away. I am in advanced plans to get out of this country for the winter now. Obviously, when I told my parents about the idea they trashed it saying ‘I could barely survive here, how on earth do you even imagine you’d survive in another country?’ – well, I could have just thrown in the towel then and there, but I just need to go and visit this place near Valencia for a week in November to assess its suitability. I need to do something other than just sit here and Gary and Gwen need time off from me, and because I’m so bloody English there’s a 1:1 correlation between my mood and sunshine! Survival, I suppose has been good enough, but it has been down to some pretty special people stopping what they’ve been doing so they can come and see me. Firstly there’s my friend Isabel who has done my morning routine on I think 3 Sundays this month. She has also gone above and beyond, by tidying the place up a bit and changed my linen without me even asking. She has somehow even found the time to launch her own business this month while training to run a triathlon for the Dom Pardey Trust next Saturday. Truly remarkable! Another new friend, Phil, who I met on my writing course has done Monday evenings, here pictured with my brother Chris at my 36th (Phil’s the one in hat!) . Speaking of Chris, between him and my trainer Jose they have covered my weekday mornings which has been some much needed continuity. An old mate (a bit of an old legend(emphasis on the ‘old’ ;)) really) from my DJ days, Marc French offered to do Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, it was nice to have a couple of glasses of wine and talk shop about the old days and my cat Cheese is his new best friend! While he was here we had the great honour of being dropped in upon by some mutual friends Shaun, wife Renae, daughter Polly and comedy Simon. Shaun, Nae and Polly are only over from Melbourne for a week. I was thrilled to have made it into their itinerary. Polly is now a proper walking, talking human. 3 years ago she was just a baby. I’ve heard that happens!
Thursday was a return to late 90s indie rock with scousers Cast at the Shepherds Bush Empire a great venue if you’re not in a wheelchair. It was proper rowdy. Still, old clubbing pals Ched and wife Terri loved it, The lead Singer of Cast is what I’d call a proper ‘calm down’ Scouser but the man’s got talent unlike the warm-up act ‘The Twang’ who (not for the first time in their life I’m sure) we christened ‘the Twats’). And Friday night an old clubbing mate Tim took me to Guildford to see Canadian comedy trio ‘the Lumberjacks’ and it was properly hilarious. Craig Campbell’s story about the ‘wrongness’ (just a bit) of a dutch sex show had people crying with laughter. Him and Glenn Wool reappearing on stage stark bollock naked a few minutes later shocked the GLive audience into hysteria Overdrive. No wonder they were so specific about ‘no photography’.
Anyway, I was pretty sure I could ‘survive’ the last month but life should be so much more than survival! The morsels of joy (and they're thin on the ground) have been somewhat watered down.

6 May 2013

Post 395: I hope, worth the wait.

So week 3 of ‘operation ROBINSON CRUSOE’ has gone by and I’m still here, God I’ll be happy to see Gwen and Gary. Luckily, I had a fairly full pattern of events and any gaps have been plugged by the miraculous Isabel. Thankfully she was on the roster for two of the events this week so I feel I might have shown a small iota of how grateful I am. Similarly, I think, to while I was writing last week’s post, she is busy cleaning the house as I type. Amazing, she is clearly the kind of industrious person that we need more of in this world and did I mention that she is heroically doing another Triathlon in two weeks to raise money for the Trust that helps me pay for my physical therapy, I suppose renaming it the torture fund won’t help but it is torture I have to do to retain what independence I do have. Friday night we went to see the delectable Lucy Porter in Aldershot with my friend and torturer (well physical trainer) Jose. I have decided Lucy might have been separated at birth from one of my friends, she has an almost identical manner, style and they look similar. In my head I am giving my friend a huge compliment. When we got back Isabel and I were able to catch up on the last two episodes of Game of Thrones, a series so compelling I even look forward to Mondays ( as it’s on in the evenings).
I will be going back to within yards of the West End Centre in Aldershot (the comedy venue) to the Church opposite for Jose’s baby daughter, Alba ‘ s, christening on Sunday. As Jose and his partner Bec are basically Spanish, I have been told (well warned really) that a Spanish Christening is as significant an event as an English wedding so I’m marginally afraid as I always am about the energy I don’t have. It was fun, and thanks to my Mum for doing the honours and risking taking orders from a SatNav neither of us understood how to work, I only thought we were going to die a few times!
I’ve no idea when/how I’m going to post this. Well, Monday afternoon as it turns out!
Speaking of parties, tonight (Saturday) is going to be an energy-sapper because two of my good mates, Shaun and his lovely wife Renae, are over from Melbourne and putting on a one-off to celebrate them being here and a few birthdays. Shaun and I used to DJ a bit together and he will be laying down some classics tonight. I would go as far as saying it was the best night I’ve had out in 10 years! This lot were the reason I had such a great laughter-filled 20s and being able to see Ian (Betts) aka Bettsy, probably the reason I got into DJing, I used to watch him DJ and think ‘he’s having the most fun here, I want to be in his shoes’ the poor chap couldn’t get rid of me! Anyway, this video might explain, watch for some Betts (c) Slow Motion Dancing. The man is a genius! It was also a bit special catching up with so many old friends! Thanks again to Ched and Terri offering to do the driving, as luck would also have had it the three of us had gone to see big band jazz aficionados Pink Martini at the Albert Hall on Monday and it had been a rather superb concert. We’d been to see Pink Martini in Kew Gardens last year
And it had been a bit special, a real opportunity to see some proper 10/10 girls boogie like they were in a speakeasy in 30s America. Not that my eyesight is good enough for specifics. It is a general observation. Like specifically the pink Martini Singer had changed her hair colour but her chest was generally as impressive!
Now, the Albert Hall is not really the kind of venue until the Pink Martini musical director announced, ‘there’s all this space behind us, and the band play better if people dance’, this was a cue for a free for all. I think the Albert Hall’s idea of crowd participation is a polite cough between movements or singing the national anthem at the proms! Here, there was suddenly a massive influx of people from the Cheap Seats in the circle, The Albert Hall Staff were suddenly at 6s and 7s with no idea what to do. It was brilliant! Seeing as I’m talking Albert Hall, on Thursday night I’d gone to ‘Symphonic Rock’ which I try and go to every year. It is the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra playing recognisable rock tunes or as ‘Old Man Ched’ called it ‘Shopping Mall Music’, the same man who had said on Monday when he dropped me back ‘Don’t stay up and watch Game of Thrones, it’s RUBBISH’ [he hates the genre – Philistine! He is of course right (about symphonic rock but it is rather good being there. Isabel had never been to the Albert hall and her friend Jolanta had only ever been in the third floor circle. I now specifically ask for the platform by the stage, as I have sh*t eyesight and it’s a magical experience for the people who take me. The only problem on Thursday were a group of chavvy Brummy secretary types who’d clubbed together and instead of getting a stripper had obviously got a box at the Albert Hall together with all the Asti Spumanti or Babycham they could drink. They were whooping, clapping out of time and generally behaving like oiks. Usually, even if the Albert Hall is a bit stuffy, it manages to filter out the ‘c*nts acting like tw*ts’, I think the Pink Martini free for all would have been a real mess had the concertgoers behaved in a similar manner, and yes, I apologise to those that get upset that this is a snobbish point of view, but really – TOUGH SH*T.
And finally, a big thankyou to my old schoolmate Owen, for taking me to Guildford to see 4rrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed[thanks to my lovely cat Cheese for walking on my keyboard for that, I run a tight ship here] Owen took me to see a comedian who has been consistently brilliant[certainly since I’ve been going in the last 5 years] Sean Lock. Seeing it was a sellout two nights in a row, I feel like I might have backed a winner!
And to finish off a demonstration of the passage of time. My sister found this photograph (we reckon taken in about 2003) of me with her two youngest. The change is palpable (they’re the two on the left!



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