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30 Nov 2008

Post 87: Monkey and speech software

I tried earlier to write part of this post using speech recognition software but sadly I have reverted to the keyboard and am using my precious right index finger again. I will persevere, just not now. Surely it is quicker and less effort to use your voice – you'd think so wouldn't you? Sadly a lot of things you would think don't appear to be true if you have a serious brain injury. Dictating into the computer is utterly exhausting because you have to hold your body and head up and what seems to be most exhausting of all annunciate everything as clearly as you can. This appears to make typing with one finger the obvious choice! Another illusion about how to deal with the future, shattered! This is not to mention the numerous mistakes the software makes trying to interpret what I just said. Often I would stare in disbelief at what the software would come up with! And this is good software and my PC is pretty good too. I don't know what I was thinking almost nine years ago when I foolishly bought some rudimentary voice recognition software to run on my 'state of the art' laptop at university, in terms of todays computing power it was like a computer driven by a hamster and wheel. In truth I thought I was being clever, hoping to 'steal a march' on my fellow finalists by dictating my finals notes into my computer. Foolish, I suppose I'll chalk that particular error down to youthful exuberance. Wrong. I was just being a twat!
Back then, the software must have been right less than 5% of the time. I might as well have bought a monkey with a typewriter.
The other massive problem with my more modern software is that dictating versus typing completely changes the style of the ultimate output, something to do with how fast my brain communicates what's coming next to the method of word processing which is odd because I never believed I had a stylistic problem when I could type fast with both hands, that's enough for now, it's late (by my pathetic standards) and if I'm not to have a ruinous start to the week I'd best hit the sack and finish this tomorrow.
Hello again, the reason why I didn't manage to get a full post in yesterday is because a good friend of mine, Mrs Sharon Betts, the inimatable Ian Betts' lovely wife (that's her holding the baby in the picture in post83) – (not the girl with the curly hair, that's Tash!) took me to the Dome to go and see (at her suggestion) contemporary Opera/Ballet Monkey: Journey to the west.
It was an interesting spectacle with the first question that popped into my mind being 'what was Damon Albarn smoking when he wrote this?' It was certainly a feast for the senses, the problem being that mine don't work very well anymore,in particular my eyesight which was seriously challenged by the subtitles that were projected onto a screen off to the right which doubly did for me! Trying to turn my head between the subtitles and the stage proved almost impossible whilst my attempts to read them bore little fruit so every so often Sharon would try and valiantly update me on the plot but me with my newfound 'attention span of a Goldfish' I followed it about as well as your average David Lynch film, all this said I would still recommend it to able bodied people because it is visually and aurally impressive, and it was still a good suggestion from Mrs Betts as I'm an openminded soul. Getting to the O2 is also a doddle and parking is dead easy. This is a good example of my offer for people who are willing to drive my van and endure my company suggesting an event and me getting tickets and it being my treat. This is my 'rent a cripple' service in action. Other events that I've actually just gone and got tickets for on the off-chance that people will offer to drive. Specifically on December 8th (monday) at the O2 I've got tickets to see Steve Coogan (starting at 1830). Any takers? I've got volunteers for the mighty boosh , New Kis on the Block, Coldplay and a couple of others but I tend to send out my 'cries for help to those who have joined the Dom Pardey Trust Group on facebook and we're putting on xmas drinks this Thursday, if you don't know about them but want to then contact me by email or whichever way is best for you This actually links in nicely to another topic. Last Thursday the community psychology assistant came to see me. Luckily he's a nice bloke otherwise I probably would have ordered him out of my house. He has been trying the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approach on me to improve my rock-bottom mood,he said (without a trace of irony) that CBT would suggest going to more shows and seeing more visitors to improve my mood, Brilliant, why hadn't I thought of that?! Life goes drearily on and being disabled remains crap!

27 Nov 2008

Post 86 - Seeing Dylan Moran

On Monday this week I got to go and see yet more stand up comedy which helps because the anti-depressant I'm on ( Citalopram for those that care) is rubbish and makes no difference. If it does I shudder to think what state I'm actually in mentally, dear God! Anyway the comedian in question was Dylan Moran, an Irishman with a totally different style from anyone else I've seen, with other comedians you feel that they've got prepared material that they deliver off the cuff, with Moran although he must have prepared material he delivers it as though it's all off the top of his head like a pint-holding pub philosopher or a smoking shedded social commentator. As someone who probably couldn't pick him out of a line-up beforehand, I think I'd struggle even now although I can imagine him as a young Peter O'Toole which I think is a compliment, it's just that I can imagime O'Toole ranting in the same way after a few, ah, thr charm and hilarity of the Irish drunk! I thought he was quite brilliant and like the best comics he's clearly a genius. Comedians are clearly the cleverest people, more so than rocket scientists and certainly brain surgeons who seem to know bugger all. I feel privileged to have seen so much intelligence (and occasional beautiful girls) during my convalescence. Both make me think it's worth coming out of the other side of this nightmare. Lastly and importantly it remains for me to thank my driver/carer for the evening thoroughly nice man and budding superstar DJ/Progressive house music producer and loyal friend Tim Davison. Cheers Mate!

23 Nov 2008

Post 85: seeing Bill Bailey

Another drab week followed by one jf the best weekends I've had since my stroke, without further ado I better get into why, it will not be a surprise to many that the theme of this weekends brilliance was comedy. On friday evening I went to see observational comedian Michael Macintyre at the Apollo in Hammersmith. The king of observational comedy is Peter Kay but as I'm a bit middle class I've always found it a little tricky to relate to some of Peter Kays 'Bolton' 'working class' observations as I've never been close to having an 'anty Sandra (Not my real anty) a dinnerlady with pink hur'. Don't get me wrong,Peter Kay is genius and hysterically funny. Michael Macintyre is unashamedly Middle Class. The Apollo is also a great venue and even though the disabled area is at the back of the stalls the view is great. Now friday almost didn't happen because bad luck meant that both my friends who had volunteered to drive couldn't make it so luckily my one remaining housemate stepped in and despite the traffic Macintyre had only been on for ten minutes when we got there. Luckily our seats were not located anywhere near the front or somewhere you're at the comedians mercy (although I figure the wheelchair lets me off the hook but you never know). I have seen late comers verbally savaged before! Macintyre seems far too nice for that. He was very good and a few of his observations particularly hit home, for example a lot of blokes like me have what he described as a 'man draw' in the attic full of all the stuff that you really ought to throw out because you're bound to never have a use for them ever again. Things like old mobile phones, foreign coins (usually things that are no longer legal tender in their respective countries, French Francs, Pesetas, Drachmas, Gilders etc...) Triple A batteries of indeterminate age and life,instruction manuals for electrical equipment that has vanished/ is long since obsolete. I must confess to having several of these draws, though not in the attic, in my old flat they were in oft used areas like my bedroom or sitting room. What was their point? No obvious one, instead they used to just sit there in case (predicted Macintyre) you received a shadowy phonecall saying you had to meet some mystery person, furnish them with exactly 39 Drachmas and 13 AAA batteries and then make a call from a Nokia 3210 to move on to the next stage. Friday night taught me that friday evening traffic is not to be messed with and that Sat Navs give nonsensical commands on Hammersmith broadway or for that matter anywhere where you really need help. The Software in them may be more multi-dimensional than the human brain but their capacity to get confused is similar.
In short it was a fun evening. Thank goodness I found a last minute driver! The real highlight of the weekend for me was on saturday. Treating a bunch of my friends to see one of my heroes, Bill Bailey, perform his latest comedy/musical masterpiece, randomly titled T'inselworm' (available in all good DVD shops!I've already got my copy! And as expected it's GENIUS) At one point I was laughing so hard during the live show I had to physically stop myself when I got scared that I might have another stroke when Bill was explaining and demonstrating that in jazz you could get away with playing any chord you like rendering jazz 'sh*t really', On a seperate note I like the way he is opposed to certain popstars who 'fill the charts with evil', the way he puts it is 'there's more evil in the charts than an al quaida suggestion box!' his two favourite targets are Chris de Burgh and James Blunt. I'm the same about Phil Collins and Mick Hucknal, how any of them got to be popular music stars is a damning indictment on this country. My favourite put-down of de Burgh by Bailey happened on Never Mind the Buzzcocks' when he called De Burgh 'the mono browed nanny shagging toss-monger who has inflicted his sentimental mewlings onto a reluctant nation' and of Blunt he said in Tinselworm that he was driving with his four year old son in the back of the car when a James Blunt song came on the radio. His son said to him 'Daddy could you turn this off, it's spoiling my brain' astute 4 year old! Seeing and hearing the laughter the whole show generated amongst my friends reminded me of normal life again and made me feel normal again. A feeling worth every penny of the price of the tickets and every ounce of the massive investment in energy I now have to put into going to events like these but it's so worth it. The highlight was yet to come because Tash had talked to one of the staff and it turned out that After the show, Bill was going to come and say hi to us by virtue of the fact it would mean a lot to me. He duly did and it made my month. It was like a vicar meeting Jesus! Weird coincidence was that his former tour manager had had a stroke and he had visited him in the same unit I'd been in in Putney hospital, I'd actually gone to see this guy (Bobby) to pick his brain about recommendations for how to cope with life when leaving hospital. How weird that I should end up talking about Bobby to virtual comedy Messiah Bill Bailey, Like most of his comedy. Surreal

15 Nov 2008

Post 84: Mum's birthday

This missive is probably going to appear slightly rushed because my usual Sunday morning slot is taken up with traveling to my folks place for my mums birthday. Ever the good son I'm hoping what I plan to get her, yes, /i know this is leaving it late and how was I meant to know the local shops closed at 4, not 5? Had I known I would have cut short my visit to my old golf club, where I used to spend a lot of my weekend day-times, only now do I realise how good those rounds of golf were for me and my body. Walking 100 yards now is exhausting with a big metal frame taking a lot of the weight of my upper body. How things have changed. I used to be acle to play off 2, now I'll probably never play again,it feels like such a waste. The reason I was there was because a kindly old Uni friend (James Renshaw) was running an under 35s competition, he had the brainwave of making a proportion of each entry fee a donation to the trust and guess what? They raised over £400! James was originally apologetic that it wasn't more, I told him I was chuffed to bits because£400 goes towards vital Physiotherapy that I badly need if I'm ever to achieve my dream of walking again. Without physio or if matters were left to the NHS community team it would remain just that, a dream. It was also nice to catch up with one or two old friends who had heard about what has happened but haven't had a chance to shake my hand or look me in the eye. It was a nice chance to reminisce, swop stories and remark about how small the world was. It turned out the boss of the golf club used to be headmaster of a Zimbabwean school and knew my old tutor from college because my old tutor had once recruited a Rhodes scholar from his school. This actual guy had been at my college and was actually my rowing coach in the first year. Weird. From my old weekend daytime habits to my nocturnal ones. A Dance Music website I used to frequent, off which I met some of my closest friends have decided to put on a Christmas party with all money raised going to the trust. What makes me feel privileged and humbled is that their decision to choose the trust to support was the result of open discussion on the sites forums, an impossible place to decide anything at the best of times!
And finally hats off to Ben Green, a man who I got to know through said website. He came to see me last week brandishing a cheque for over £500 that he had raised doing a sposnored 10k. These may be dreadful, depressing dark times, but there are occasional chinks of light.

9 Nov 2008

Post 83: Natasha visits with her sister and 'miracle' nephew

This wouldn't be my blog if I didn't make time and space on it to thank those who keep me going/alive, namely those who give up their own precious time to come and see me. Let me star by thanking the very special Natasha, her sister Sally-Anne and Sally-Anne's 'miracle' two year old son Jack. He is indeed a miracle because when Sal found out she was pregnant, she was also diagnosed with some pre-cancerous cells in her ovaries. She was given a fairly stark choice. Abort the baby, forego any chance of having another one and hopefully get rid of the cancer or go full term, have the baby and hope the cancer doesn't take hold and spread. She bravely took the second option. Thank god she did because Jack is an amazing kid, energetic,smiley, curious, hilarious and he has inherited the family curly hair. Poor Taash went through hell for a few months. Having a boyfriend almost dying and a very close sister faced with that awful choice.
I don't think I'd seen Sal and Jack for some 6-8 months so Sal was able to say how much better I Looked. This cheered me up no end,and as for Jack he's a great kid. His talking has improved so much that you have to be so careful about what you say, this is a real challenge for me! It's just nice to see them really, I still hold a bright candle for Tash. She reminds me of how good my life once was. It breaks my heart that she is now with someone else, some city trader who doesn't sound like he deserves her, I wish I could come to terms with this. I always enjoy seeing them because we know exactly how to talk to each other.
From my favourite female conversation partner to my favourite bloke to talk to because the next day I was visited by the Betts family
. Ian Betts is the man in question. We used to try and make each other laugh after one too many by coming up with absurd mixed metaphors, like 'he's come up smelling of trunps' well, it was funny at the time! I challenge people to come up with good'uns! It is great to see how Ian has 'made it' since I first met him.. Not only has he been DJing at some huge events ( Dance Valley in Holland and Headlining the main room at the Ministry of Sound and producing great music, he has also been a great husband to Sharon,and father to 16 month old Olly and when he has found the time (somehow?) to be a good mate to me. Great stuff John Q Best ( My bizarre name that I sometimes and for some reason call him), I'm weird.
Moving on to the weekend just gone, yesterday (saturday) I was generously taken out for lunch by John and Caroline Jackson who have been friends of the family for years. As you can see from the picture (taken about 20 years ago) they have been friends of ours since I looked like a blond girl with questionable taste in rugby tops. Even more bizarrely Caroline is Dom's(the boy with the gap in his front teeth in the picture) mother. Dom and I have been friends for years and he has gone on to marry Alice (a great uni mate of mine.(whole story in post 69) . So anyway they took me out for another delicious lunch at the Bear (the local excellent gastropub) and they said some nice things about me looking better before we all tucked into gourmet fish and chips (to maintain my virtue I had the fish grilled along with a small portion of chips. Dieting is RUBBISH.
I should be on commission from the bear given the amount of trade I've generated for them. I bring this up because I've just got back from a lovely dubiously virtuous sunday roast courtesy of friends Stevie and wife Naomi and Gary and Jo who I described in the last post. Stevie was the promoter of a London Club night (knowwhere) that I occasionally used to play for (as did Ian) and they have remained firm friends. They have been visiting me since I was at 'kings when Stevie commented 'that I was in a much better state than he had feared' Since then I have always tried to pleasantly surprise people.
Speaking of Kings, my amazing physiotherapist Sam, got in touch through the wonder that is facebook the other day .. Not only did we catch up but she was able to give me the name of the manufacturer of a piece of equipment that I used back then which may help me walk again. I feel a bit lucky but that rarest of things, hopeful.
.

2 Nov 2008

Post 82: Seeing Jason Manford

I'll try and stick to sunday mornings as blogging time, of course that is no guarantee it will actually happen but I might as well try to do this in an organised fashion. People who know me well will probably be at the end already of the exhale phase of a sigh.
Two noteworthy things took place this week. One good and one bloody awful. It's monday for the majority of readers so i'll be merciful and start with the good stuff. On friday evening I went to see stand-up comedian Jason ManfordWho? You may ask but he was quite brilliant. When it started he was one of the captains on channel 4s '8 out of 10 Cats' a friday night panel quiz hosted by smug bastard Jimmy Carr (a man I find quite funny for some reason). I had no idea who Jason Manford was back then I just thought he looked like a fat, funny, Mancunian Michael Owen[] something that he actually incorporates in his stand-up routine. So I decided I wanted to go based on his TV appearances, particularly on the strength of his appearance at 'Live at the Apollo' so I found out he was on tour, booked five tickets (with what spare cash I have I like to treat myself and friends who have been particularly great/loyal to a show that I think we'd all enjoy – it's worth every Penny!). This time on driver/hero detail was my mate Nick[] a man who since my stroke has often been to see me, usually with his lovely wife Sally and fantastic little bruiser of a son Oscar.[].
Also present for this comedy outing was Simon[], a man who has always looked out for me and Gary and Jo[], a lovely couple who I always used to run into at a night called 'Knowhere' a night I very occasionally used to DJ for in better days. Jo is incredibly beautiful and lovely, Gary is a great bloke. They deserve each other. I'm only faintly jealous of what they've got. The hyperbole of understatement there. The evening couldn't have gone better. Manford was hilarious . Highlights for me included his too and fro with the audience, particularly with a 'nobhead from Leeds', and the gag about what you'd do with the money if you won the lottery. Manford suggested he'd buy every ticket for a simply red gig and then not show up adding 'that's money well spent'. Genius. He also said that his ambition was for Michael Owen to become known as 'the thin Jason Manford'. Brilliant!
The thing that was so pleasing to me was how a bunch of people who'd never heard of him were raving about how good he was afterwards. That makes it all worthwhile, I can't wait to see Bill 'the greatest living Englishman' Bailey[] on the 22nd November.
If you're still reading the less good news was that I had a 'case Conference' with the community therapy team, my parents and myself on Thursday to essentially find out why their involvement with my rehabilitation has amounted to nothing and all but stopped. To be 100% clear my #1 Goal is to walk again and I would like to be less depressed by having someone to talk to regularly in my home. In the long run I would like to regain a bit of my former life. Not too much to ask or so I thought. The first issue is that because I used to own my flat I'm not entitled to any state support because government policy dictates that you have to exhaust all avenues of financial income (ie they expect you to consume all savings, monetise and consume all assets and essentially be destitute before you're eligible for any state help) So in my case savings were obviously 0 and could you imagine me, a man who can barely stay awake or alert trying to flog my London flat in the last year or have asked my poor septagenarian parents to try and sell it when dealing with rebuilding their own burnt down house was the priority as well as heroically trying to pickup the pieces of my shattered life. To summarise, I was too undeserving to have much of the community therapy teams 'valuable' input. With this slightly hostile context the meeting was never going to achieve much so what actually transpired made me feel even worse. Imagine if you will a parent/teacher meeting but with all your teachers who clearly dislike you ( probably because since my stroke I've been a deeply unhappy 31 year old man that resents being talked down too like he's at school by a bunch of 'teachers' (therapists) who he respects as much as Robert Mugabe). With this in mind they proceeded to tell my parents that they'd given me plenty of therapy and that the reason it had been ineffective and that my parents had thought the intervention was zero was:
1.I hadn't told my parents
2.I hadn't engaged sufficiently and hadn't done their 'homework' or exercises. You try doing homework when you can't write or are so tired you can barely keep your eyes open or if there is no tangible payback. Speech therapy makes no difference to my speech, psychology makes no difference to my mood/ tiredness,physio seems to only make me tired and Ots (occupational therapists) teach you how to make a cup of tea and if you're tired, go and lie down. Rocket Science!I'm too exhausted to get this wound up!

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