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28 Jun 2009

Post 138: A little morbid fascination goes hand in hand with some comedy

So, my third post this week, sheesh, where's this crap coming from? Sadly, I struck out with my DVD choices this week, I thought I'd have a go at watching a DVD in bed this morning, my choice of 'The Good, the bad and the weird'
was not a classic but had some acclaim, only problem, it only had bloody subtitles, which I can't read these days. Just to cheer me up, I had also rented 'the Day After' an old American TV movie about the aftermath of total Nuclear war on southern America, the type of film that Steve Guttenberg is inevitably in! What had possessed me to choose this cheery title? A combination of morbid fascination and the fact that I had caught snippets of it on the neighbouring patients TV in the first rehab ward I was on, happy days eh? I had watched it earlier this week and it was thoroughly depressing and made me realise that the overriding human response to death is fear and despair, because we as humans are terrified of the unknown, I know I am. Even in the event of something as horrible as a nuclear war, logic tells me that it would make much
more sense to die instantly,
vapourised by a nuclear explosion rather than suffer a slow, painful, protacted death from starvation or radiation sickness in a bleak semi-destroyed post-apocalyptic netherworld, but the truth is I probably wouldn't have the guts to make the journey to a city centre, because our basic psychology tells us to survive,
which is I think why even though my life now feels sometimes as hard as living through the aftermath of a nuclear war, I could never contemplate not living it.
Enough of that depressing crap! Th
e real reason I initially wanted to write today was to pass on my thoughts about the comedy gig I went to last night. An occupational hazard of going to see as many comedians as I do is that inevitably there will be some sh*t. Now, the headline act I went to see last night who I have seen a couple of times before is sarcastic, cranial,irreverent host of 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks' Simon Amstell.
He was actually pretty good, although I do find it quite hard to square his 'Buzzcocks' personality of being sarcastic,rude and irreverent to all and sundry with his insecure, recently out of the closet, anecdotes of loneliness and trying to find sex, love and long term companionship. Forgive me if I am being myopic , bigoted or just plain wrong but I'm going to say it anyway, gay people I have known have the same long term issues as the Heterosexual community, but they've never struggled in the short term, because, certainly judging by the gay people I have known they have tended to be a shade more promiscuous. I simply don't understand why Amstell has been having a problem. He,s successful, intelligent, funny and famous. It's not as if he has to contend with being in a bloody wheelchair. Anyway his tales of woe were suitably crowd pleasing, and I enjoyed them despite hearing them almost Verbatim at a charity gig last week, the key thing was that the folks who had come with me enjoyed themselves. Regular readers will be forgiven for thinking I only ever take out the same people, of course that's partly true because these are the people who know me the best and I care about most.
Also there was a happy coincidence because I thought my best friend Tony only lived 100 yards away from the excellent Islington Union Chapel
which is literally still a functioning Church, I'm not sure how that squares with plentiful use of the 'c' word whenever it is used as a comedy venue. Naturally, Tony was accompanied by his lovely girlfriend Kate while former colleague, great mate and loyal supporter Simon Dawes and his great wife Yvonne were on driving detail. These two are amazing, their help since I have known them has been priceless.
I am aware that I may have digressed from telling you about the truly awful support acts , best illustrated when Tony said to me afterwards, 'I think 3 of my top 5 worst acts I have seen have been on nights you have taken me to. The words 'ungrateful b#stard' were on the tip of my tongue but he had made a good point.
In my defence they were all support acts and when I see their names in future I shall give them a wide berth. I do appreciate that this sort of vitriol isn't going to do these guys any good and hearing this sort of feedback can't be good for their self-esteem but that must be how things roll in the world of stand-up and I dare to write honest, (ok, slightly offensive) feedback here because it won't be taken seriously by the literally tens of people that read this. From my perspective, at least the b#stards can stand-up.
The first offender was a chap called Tim Key.
Alarm Bells were already ringing in my head (like a comedian with a guitar who isn't Bill Bailey) when he was announced as a poet, and my were the alarms right, he was awful and got that most backhanded of compliments from the crowd, the sympathy laugh.I think at one point I even leaned over to Tony and tried to whisper 'this is sh*t, why doesn't he get booed off?' Of course despite being at the back, since my stroke, I have found it difficult to modulate the volume of my voice, so I have little doubt that my attempted 'whisper' could be heard by everyone in the venue as the shocked faces of people nearby attested.
Main offender was a guy called Arnab Chanda
– Who is apparently about to start a nationwide tour, I suggest to avoid getting lynched or the continued need to cry himself to sleep he revisits ALL his material, particularly the joke about why you can't skip a cabfare in Venice, because you'd fall in a canal, I think Yvonne said it best in the car on the way back when she said her 5 year old son could have done better! Quite. The real bonus was the surprise presence of genial 'beardy-wierdy Daniel Kitson
as compere, despite seeing him a couple of times recently, all his material was new,and he proved he can think on his feet when he picked on a guy in the front row who happened to be an accountant called Hoc, he then uttered the immortal words 'I've got to be careful here treading the fine line between tedium and Racism' Comedy Gold. Apologies if I seemed a tad angry as I wrote the last bit but a computer crash has meant I've had to re-type huge amounts of this and there's little worse than having to reproduce something you thought you had finished particularly when you get as tired as me. So next week looks a bit different, on Tuesday evening I'm taking old friend and the Kiwi authority on progressive house music Markus 'the big man' Buhmann
to see Spinal Tap
at Wembley Arena on their 'one night only' world tour for his birthday. We're being driven there by old Mucka and legend Ian Betts,
we fully hope to 'turn it up to eleven' if I can stay awake, I'm then off to Henley Royal Rowing Regatta on Thursday which is ok if the weather holds,(see post 53 for my thoughts which I suspect won't change).If I can still stay awake my weekend plan is to go and see Irish comedian Andrew Maxwell at the Soho theatre on Saturday, and see the awesome Killers at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday evening. Despite doing all this being exhausting, it's better than sitting at home moping.

27 Jun 2009

Post 137: Glastonbury dreams

This will be the 2nd post I have written at an odd time, I reckon the post below this one will probably be better and hangs together because I have several things on my mind today.
Firstly, I got an email yesterday from the clinical neuropsychologist who was in charge of the TLU (Transitional Living Unit) at Putney hospital, the last place I was incarcerated before I moved to a place of my own, the lady in question (Sonja) is leaving the TLU to concentrate on her private practice which I'm sure is more lucrative than working for the jolly old NHS. Sonja and I probably got off on the wrong foot, I was deeply unhappy with myself and everything so I probably wasn't the most responsive patient to therapy in the world but I like to think we grew on each other and after about a year there I like to think we both enjoyed our chats ( I could of course be mistaken). Whatever, it was sweet of her to email me and say adieu. Judge for yourself whether my response was reasonable, I only reproduce it here because it's a fairly accurate representation of my feelings then and now
-'Sonja!
Thanks for thinking of me and good luck with it all.I wish I could
look back at my time in the TLU with fondness but it ain't gonna
happen because everything about life now is infinitely sh*tter than it
used to be,I only wish the growth hormone angle hadn't turned out to
be a blind alley.
 If I have learnt anything from this experience it is never to hope
something will work because it seems that medical science has no clue
about what works. It is so hard to listen to anyone when deep down I
know they don't have a clue what is or is not possible. I know that
this isn't the most helpful attitude but logically it's difficult to
think any other way! I do however miss our chats Sonja.
D'
She has not replied yet, in my experience no-one likes being told they don't have a clue, particularly in the medical profession when they have reached the lofty heights of consultant. Maybe I need some lessons in learning when to keep my mouth shut but that would be boring.
The 2nd thing on my mind was that I was idly flicking through the channels last night just after I'd got into bed (well before a pathetic 8pm these days because post watershed TV might offend my delicate sensibilities, obviously) I happened upon the BBCs excellent Glastonbury coverage. I was filled with a sudden sadness that Festivaling is likely to be beyond me for the rest of my days. I used to love these sorts of events because I love loud music, I used to go to a lot of dance festivals because there's nothing quite like the feeling of losing the plot with 1000s of people outside. Festivals, Loud music, plentiful intoxicants and loads of people were almost the best thing in the world Рthey were a great leveller and dare I use that awful clich̩, sod it, everyone was in it together (apart from scousers who always seemed to come to festivals to rob people, sad but true), it was being unlikely to ever experience this again because wheelchairs, muddy fields, poor balance, noise, long days/nights and chronic fatigue go about as well together as fish and bicycles.
Oddly, my unhappiness evaporated when delicious Lily Allen, homed into view, I adore her for her attitude as much as her looks, I have expounded her virtues already on this blog so much that a friend reprimanded me for it, I soon told her to get back in her box by telling her how wrong I thought it was to be shagging a married man with kids, I do have a few morals that may not be immediately obvious.
Anyway , the delightful Ms Allen was awesome in front of the tens of thousands who'd come to see her on the Pyramid stage,
I was also impressed by impossibly cute 'little boots' and even by an artist I've been determined to hate because of her stupid name and the legions of chavettes who try to emulate her, but Lady Gaga's rendition of her tune 'Paparazzi' was mesmerising, I may yet be a convert.

26 Jun 2009

Post 136: Stress: We just can't deal with it




Guess what has been front of mind this week and has even diverted me from talking about the thrilling subject that is my cat, of course it is the exciting story of Wimbledon Centre Courts new roof. Hardly rocket science from the Wimbledon powers that be. Since time immemorial what has been their main problem? Well the British weather of course, they could have built a retractable roof years ago using the profits they make from the Strawberry tent alone! And who cares if Andy Murray wins? I tend to take a similar stance to Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle in that 'I don't give a sh*t if he wins''.Oh, and in other news some bloke called Michael Jackson
might have died of a heart attack. Damn, I know they say never speak ill of the dead but I sense I won't be a lone voice on this. I guess the question about whether he'll turn up for his UK tour has been conclusively answered now. Just my luck, I had tickets for the 18th July show which I was taking my brother and friend Sacha too. *rse, I was quite looking forward to it, but that's the way the cookie crumbles, The jokes on email are already arriving even faster and less tastefully even than the one's about princess Di. I will remember him for two things, sadly not for his status as the 'King of Pop', Frankie Boyle on 'Mock the Week' doing a lonely heart impression of him when in a high voice he said 'Hi, I'm looking for someone with the Soul of a child... and the body of a child, I'm rather like a scooby doo villian, wearing a mask, hanging around an abandoned funfair'... etc etc.. There is no doubt he was a wierdo. The other thing I'll remember him for is when South Park mercilessly took the piss out of him when he was the 'mystery' man who had moved to South Park , and Cartman thinks it's awesome when he suggests a 'slumber party' I'm sorry but I laughed. I was 'lucky' enough to see this wierdo in concert at the old Wembley in 1995 (I think) and it was pretty good, I have reason to doubt that his planned shows at the Dome would have been much more than him miming/dancing in front of a huge production effort a la Britney Spears, it will still have been a good show but not befitting the so-called 'King of Pop'. The serious point that springs to mind though came to me when I was watching the almost blanket news coverage this morning when some worthy soul chipped in that the latest tour was not all about money as many had I think accurately suggested. It was that Jacko only really felt loved when he was on stage, this made me think about 'humanity' (yet again... sigh, because I have time to think these days). To me, being human is all about the avoidance of death and the pursuit of love. I hope this doesn't sound too trite! Having been pretty close to finding both I'm sure that this is true. There's also something in there about having the freedom to do it, which is the thing that screws me up right now. I may be trying but I have been denied freedom by my own body, which is another thing Michael Jacksons death has taught me. The Human body can't cope with stress, put your body under continued stress and it will fail .I'm convinced it is why my former carer Averil died of a heart attack a few months back, She was under so much pressure to send everything she earned back to South Africa to support her family it's a wonder she lasted as long as she did, especially with having to put up with me! I think putting my body under stress is an integral part of why I had my stroke, I had a stressful life, a stressful job and an extra-curricular life not exactly characterised by restful pastimes, to me the link is crystal clear, first I virtually die, then Averil and now the most famous man in the world – my serious observation is that the human body is not equipped to cope with modern living.

23 Jun 2009

Post 135: My PC has a stroke




I hope this post isn't too long for people to bother reading but without being able to use my computer I've rather a lot of verbal diarrhea to get off my chest (surely not off my chest,yuck). It has been another one of those weeks where sadly not much happened until later on in the week, so the early part of the week was the usual torporous (I think that's a word, well, it is now) torture, fighting fatigue and doing my physio, punctuated by a visit from old DJ mate Jim on Monday, a man who by some miracle had run the Marathon last year with the facebook group 'run fatboy run'. When I first met Jim, probably some 6 years ago he was probably carrying a 'few extra' pounds and him running to the end of my road wouldn't have been something we'd have even joked about, instead he would have sparked up my fag and we would have lumbered off to the nearest (and I do mean nearest) pub, the same goes for friends Simon and Shaun who are running a sponsored 10k for the trust in July, so miracles are possible!
Since, I wrote this a whole two days have passed because my computer froze, refused to shut down, after I'd pressed the 'reset' button, it refused to start up again, despite a couple of well placed emergency calls to friends who happen to be IT gurus resulting in a surprise sunday morning visit from old friends the Betts family. My old Mucka Ian tried to work his magic and dolefully shook his head. 'I don't want to be technical here, but I think it's f*cked', he asked me to describe what had happened when it crashed, I said, I was just downloading a picture of Jim for my blog'. Ian, who knows Jim said without missing a beat, 'that'll be it then'. Joking aside, it has been like being transported back to the dark ages. Everything about this stroke is about starting again, EVERYTHING. I'm sure there are some people who would give their eye teeth to start again. Not me, the rut I was in was fine, thankyou.
Anyway, my brother, by some miracle has got my computer working again after we managed to find one of those nebulous 'restore' CDs that come with your computer and you think/hope you'll never need, instead they get 'filed' somewhere you'll never find them, certainly Ian and I couldn't find them!
So, my computer may be running again but nothing is where it should be. Even finding and getting to work on this document has taken me the best part of Tuesday, it is rather like my computer has had a stroke, let's hope its rehabilitation is faster and more successful than that of its owner! But one thing is certain, I'd be lost without my friends and my brother.
So, without further ado and drama after all the drama, I somehow have to re-find where I was, not the easiest of tasks when you're as much of a scatterbrain as yours truly, that's right I was in the middle of downloading pictures for this, let's hope it doesn't cause a similar disaster!
I don't think it has (thankfully).
So, I think that I was writing about as long ago as last monday!
Skip forward a couple of days to last Thursday when I took my heroic brother and two of the prettiest, loveliest girls in the world out for dinner at 'the Bear', my first proper girlfriend from years ago Lucy (meaning, I believe we actually cared about each other). When I had just moved out of hospital she came to see me and during the course of our chat she mentioned to me that her housemate was a Psychologist and suggested she might be a good person to talk to, and so the amazing Vicki
came into my life – she has helped me so much – chats with her every week are one of the few parts of my therapy I look forward to. Not only is she beautiful (always a bonus) but she has made my outlook on life so much better, and as many of you know, since my stroke this has been my biggest problem. While still on the subject of Lucy and Vicki, it's good to see Lucy is back to being Blonde, Vicki and I both agree, as much as she may have looked good as a brunette a year ago, she is happier being a blonde and even as a brunette man, I have to say I prefer it now. Such deep Philosophical discussion brings me to friday last week where I took Tony, Kate and my Bro to the Dome to see 80s electropop legends thePet Shop Boys (sadly any pictures I took were not easy to (re)locate
It was a bit strange being part of one ofthe only exclusively straight groups there. It reminded me of the days of going to gay clubs just for the atmosphere and music. Make no mistake gay people know how to party and the atmosphere even in a huge venue like the Dome amazing with the Pet Shop Boys reminding us just how many great songs they actually had done and it was with some of the people who have helped me the most since my stroke, Tony, Kate who I haven't known that long but she makes Tony happy which is good enough for me and my brother, we may have not always seen eye to eye but it's as simple as this, our whole family couldn't survive without him. His practical skills and his underlying caring nature. He has been a revelation, I think he genuinely enjoyed the Pet Shop Boys gig as it was the music we grew up with in the charts. The image of Chris Lowe on top of the pops standing expressionless and motionless behind a computer monitor wearing impenetrable aviator shades while Neil Tennant mimed one of their many hits is etched on my memory. When they played 'it's a sin', one of my favourite songs of all time I found myself singing along despite my f*cked voice and poor breath support because I knew all the words.
The excursions don't end there, on Saturday evening, my friend Eleanor took me to a comedy evening which I had spotted and bought tickets too some time ago. Through the wonder of the internet, there is an amazing website I check for news of the latest gigs and events, it's called ents24 and they seem to have details of even the most insignificant things(but equally as enjoyable as the big events) It was through this that I'd found out about the charity comedy gig 'more bums on seats' for homeless charity 'Cardboard Citizens' feauturing a couple of my favourite comedians, Simon Amstell, Richard Herring, Stewart Lee, Brendan Burns and Josie Long were performing.
Most charity events are obviously not as good as going to see the comedian on his own for obvious reasons, they have a shorter set, save their best material for their own shows, there are inevitably one or two unfunny acts but you still get to see some comedy gold, indeed, I'll be able to put some of my theory to the test when I go and see Simon Amstell on tour this Saturday. Amstell was pretty funny and up first talking about his insecurities about pulling a suitable man and how it's made that much harder if the quarry he seeks ends up being heterosexual. I can imagine that ending in tears! His entree, about the Cardboard Citizens had me in hysterics. Cardboard Citizens is a charity that runs theatre workshops helping homeless people put on plays so what did Amstell say? When he sees a homeless person begging he thinks 'f*ck 'em', why aren't they doing Hamlet?'
I had seen Richard Herring do his charity gig set before, it was more or less verbatim, perhaps a little bit filthier coloured by his hilarious opening explanation of why he had grown an actual Hitler 'tache, 'I should explain' he started.
I hadn't seen any of the others live before. Honours go to Brendon Burns for his foulmouthed Un-PC Aussie attack on Englands Chavs, and hand wringing liberal PC thugs who take everything to seriously and spoil the fact that most people are having a laugh and not taking life that seriously.'London needs a wash' he said, having been to the Dome, I couldn't agree more. Indeed despite his aggressive, sweary, shouty comedy stylings this made me think of a serious point. The most dangerous people are those who genuinely believe their bigoted views, more dangerous still are those who are in a position to wield political power, Hitler, George W Bush, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, (I better go on google and check the spelling of that!) and even that awful man Nick Griffin. The other people to worry about, as my good friend Paul Reeves pointed out are the type of people who go to an Al Murray gig and don't realise he's taking the piss. to my mate Eleanor, we were both graduate trainees at middle of the Road British Stockbroker HSBC Securities – we had a laugh about one or two of the people we used to work with and for, the type of people who used to believe their own bullsh*t and love the sound of their own voices, many were scum, speaking of which, I was unable to save Elle from the 'conversation from hell' with the nutter in a wheelchair sitting near us. Having established that he was able to drive a converted car which he had driven to the theatre. Him Having sunk another pint, Elle had pointed out that he had better be careful that he didn't get caught drink-driving. Helpful advice you would think, Mr Nicholas Utter said that he had used to be in the marines and then he was a cab-driver. You know you're not dealing with a nice person when they say ' I used to drive my cab pissed all the time', I tried to chip in and save Elle but he had started explaining his tatoos in an unintelligible voice. He was not interested in anything other than talking to the beautiful lady.
Finally, and my life is probably going to sound like one big holiday, which I can assure you it isn't, my mum took me to the first day of the Wimbledon Tennis yesterday. My mum loved it and that's what counts but it did serve to highlight how tough life is now.
When we were lucky enough (mum and I) to get Wimbledon tickets in the ballot when I was a kid going to Wimbledon was a treat. Seeing the best players in the world slog it out in frankly amazing surroundings was awe-inspiring. Sadly, now I am wheelchair bound and am unlikely to regain any of the co-ordination that made me an above-average protagonist in most things I turned my hand to, I have fallen out of love with most Athletic pursuits, Tennis, as a spectator sport because I haven't a hope of following the ball, this is sadly true of most ball sports, either on TV or live. Sadly my stroke has taken away almost all sport from me either because I no longer have the agility, skill or athleticism to play it ever again or the stamina or sight to watch it (live or on TV).
Sport is now an ordeal, and besides not being able to see anything, Wimbledon is a long day with nowhere quiet to rest, you know you're not into something when you're waiting for it to end. Dare I say that that has become the story of my life. Apologies for ending this 'magnum opus' on such a low.

21 Jun 2009

Post 134 : Slight I.T. Hiccup.

I’m on the receiving end of a bit of an I.T. disaster today, i.e. my computer won’t start, so this is being dictated to Adrienne who is being a bit of a hero. When I get my computer working again there will be some new stuff, but I don’t know when that will be... hopefully soon. We don’t realise quite how paralysed we are without our computers. I can’t contact 95% of the people I know. I have even called in the help of a couple of my more I.T. savvy friends who have cast their expert eye over the problem and declared that it is beyond their capabilities, which is not a good sign. Anyway, those with my phone number, or know how to get to my house can contact me that way.
Details and pictures of the excellent Pet Shop Boys gig I went to on Friday, and the Cromulant Cardboard Citizens comedy charity gig that I went to on Saturday featuring Simon Amstell, Richard Herring, Stewart Lee and Brendan Burns will be up as soon as I can use my computer again.

Bye.

Bloody I.T!

17 Jun 2009

Post 133: A difficult week despite Britney inconcert

I have toyed with the idea of not publishing this post but I want to make this blog an honest record of what is going through my mind so here goes:
Ian (my physio) is now back so torture has been resumed. Ian actually told me off on Tuesday for never giving myself enough credit for my 'achievements'. Unfortunately my sense of achievement is basically binary, I either can walk independently or I can't. All I know is that I feel terrible and unlike most 32 year olds I can't look after myself. Ian's telling me off was about my continued despondency, something that has often been a particular speciality of mine. I am continually told that I need to give myself enough credit for the effort I make but it seems no matter how much physio I do my left leg still feels like it's made of concrete my balance is still non-existent and I still have no feeling in my left arm. My fatigue still makes me cry and feel pathetic and powerless. What destroys me is that there seems to be a train of thought that believes that positive thought can make you 'think yourself better' which drives me insane and makes me think that there is no understanding of exactly how rubbish this is. I want more than ever to be the energetic, positive, occasionally amusing, 20-something with decent prospects and a future but instead I feel that my entire existence is all about failure. I am aware that this doesn't exactly paint me in a good light but I am fed up with 'happy clappy' positivity', the last three and a half years have taught me that this is much more of a physiological problem. There are clearly some psychological issues at play but psychology hasn't supplied anything more than kind folk to talk to (sorry if that offends some psychologists) . It is with this backdrop of despair and unhappiness that I just had a chat with one of my most entertaining friends, the Revd Richard Lloyd. A unique guy who was in the same year as me at college. Luckily he hasn't taken offence at some of my heretical
views which even non-believers cringe at. He has presided over some of the weddings of my closest friends and I used to often laugh my way round the golf course with him. I would inevitably lose because he'd hit the ball metronomically straight and always be on the receiving end of what I would call 'church bounces'.
Usually, we have pretty jovial conversations. Today, I had to tell him 'that he'd caught me on a pretty bad day'. Doubtless these bad days will reoffend but my old self is somewhere in me, I honestly believe that the love of the right girl(whoever and wherever she is) will bring out the best in me again, I believe it did in the past) but now things could be better. I have my friends and family who have been great but it's not the same as having somebody special, god this sounds like a lonely heart and a cry for help!
Even my recollections of the Britney Spears concert at the pikeydome on Sunday couldn't cheer me up. Ms Spears is clearly short on Musical talent but long on other 'er 'Charms'. The press have been baying that she mimes most of her act, maybe she was when they were watching, I don't think she even bothers to do that. She is a great dancer but sadly between me and Shaun we failed to get any pictures. I forgot my camera memory card and his cameraphone ran out of batteries.Piss-up:Brewery frankly. From our very good vantage point at least Britney looks great again. One unwitting highlight of the evening was the fact that the two gay blokes who had somehow got the best seats in the disabled section(last time I checked being gay wasn't a disability unless the Domes access policy has gone mad) By the end they were up on their feet and punching the air and whooping like morons. I think Shaun, Renae and I were rather more understated in our appreciation, with the most we could muster being we'd enjoyed 'a bizarre concert' and at least Britney acknowledged being a freak with the theme of the show being 'the circus'

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