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28 Feb 2010

Post 188: Going slightly GaGa

This post has been a long time in coming but I'm now going to write it. That sounds like it's going to be a lot more profound than it actually is but this is the situation; despite my life being ruined I am still in a position of privilege. I think it's sad that inequality exists because of an accident of birth but that's the way it is, deal with it!.
I'm glad, proud even, to live in a country where there is some redistribution of wealth that also has amassed enough money to save the life of a person like me without demanding a credit card off a member of my family or some sort of guarantee of payment when I went through the hospital doors 4 years ago. That would have bankrupted me or my family. All those thousands of pounds I have paid in tax in my pathetically short 6 year working life(I started full-time work at 22, had my stroke at 28, I'm now 32)plus the many thousands my dad paid during his working life have earned him (and me) my life. I do object to seeing so much hard-earned cash disappear to pay unnecessarily for the latest ridiculous scandal the daily hatemail has dug up. We don't live in a perfect world, the fact remains that there was a working hospital staffed and paid for by tax £s that saved my life on Christmas day in 2005. Since then I was in hospital for two long years and now the government of the land has washed its hands of me. This is actually a huge relief because the amount that they are willing to spend (and I'm no fan of the social services but that's another story) to look after its infirm citizens is the bare minimum. It would be dramatically worse than the situation I find myself in now. Before this happened I was one of the countries high-flyers, educated privately (my dad worked his *rse off) then I got into Oxford, the lefties and idiots will say everything was down to privilege and nothing to do with me – f*ck off is what I say, I worked bloody hard, despite the privilege of my education I have learnt that nothing in life ever comes easily, and nothing in life is handed to you. Every friend you've ever made is because of energy you've invested in making that friendship work, this is especially evident when you're acutely aware of what using every little bit of energy makes you feel like, whereas saying something or typing a message would have taken seconds and negligible energy it now feels tangibly difficult. Living as independently as I do is also down to good fortune and privilege. The house I live in has been given to me, and was in my family because my great grandfather happened to build it and be the local builder around here so make no mistake despite finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning and facing the day I should feel lucky - b*llocks, it was an accident of birth that caused my stroke, relative comfort and survival is my bloody reward! What an odd reward for my life so far, forgive me for not sounding grateful! I'll be honest, but keep feeling fortunate in mind, living in suburbia does do my head in a bit – Oxshott is the type of place you would only want to live in if you could easily escape on a daily basis, not if you're housebound and all your friends live at least 45 minutes away. Yesterday, I was up at the village hall doing one of my 3 a week walking sessions (which I hate) (imagine training for a marathon, and how unpleasant a 10 mile training run is and you get the idea), I basically expunged the next bit after some sound advice from my neighbour, I may be a stubborn so and so but there are times when listening to other people and compromising is the right thing to do, my ire at the local Range Rover driving, Prada Wearing, designer vagina sporting (probably) corporate financiers wife, lady that lunches while little Chlamydia runs around the local private school playground was too much and tripped my 'irrational intolerance' switch, thankfully I realised I was going to see multi brit award winning 'of questionable gender' bizarro Alexander Mcqueen (RIP)fan
and fashionista Lady Gaga. When I first heard of her I was determined to hate her, namely because I was convinced that young chavettes were trying to emulate her outrageous look. Frankly, the less flesh that particular group shows the better (less unwanted pregnancies), but after watching her on TV at Glastonbury my mind changed, she is clearly rather talented (er musically and her outfits may be a bit threadbare but I liked her music, particularly 'Dance' and 'paparazzi' – anyway, after she cleaned up at the Brits I was expecting great things at the Dome on Friday and for once my expectations were met, despite being in block 108 (not my favourite seats) the show was phenomenal although perhaps the warm up act have wrested the title of 'most godawful noise' away from the band who warmed up for the cult (post ). They were called 'semi-precious weapon' presumably because 'lethal weapon' is trademarked. They were a punk band fronted by what can only be described as an aggressive lesbian using the f word a lot which made her sound more aggressive, it was dire white noise of the worst kind and yet more proof about how headline artists purposely choose the worst rubbish they can muster, in fairness the next warm up act were less bad, but still bad, I had heard of them, Alphabeat, and I think they're Scandinavian. Once they got going, they reminded me of some of the worst moments of the 80s, an unwieldy lead guitarist with a guitar that looked to big for him alongside unremarkable synthesiser tunes, none of which I can remember, luckily they weren't on long and the stage stayed empty for what seemed like ages whilst the production team put on a CD of Michael Jackson's greatest hits. The sell-out crowd then cheered at the end of every Jackson song only to be thwarted by the start of yet another Jackson classic, there are so many, I particularly remember the start of 'thriller' and 'Billie Jean'.Eventually Billie Jean finished and the lady came out to 'dance'
which was quite brilliant. The Dome sound is the best I've ever heard, the top end is crystal clear and the bass is gutterall, solid and penetrates right through you – you can feel the floor shake and I'm in a wheelchair with tyres and suspension! My can lady Gaga sing and unlike most modern 'musicians' who don't let such piffling gimmicks as playing an instrument or writing their own music get in the way of lining their pockets and getting famous (thanks x factor and Simon Cowell) – oh my god that was almost as cynical as Charlie Brooker! Lady Gaga writes her own songs and plays several instruments (most notably Piano).Having established that the music was great, the stage show was spectacular
and I'm not even Gay! Had you been a flamboyant drag queen down the front it must have been apoplectically good. Lady GaGa knows she's a freak and the title of the evening was 'The Monster Ball', so she markets herself as queen of the freaks and invites people to be freaks and enjoy themselves. In this day and age people like lady Gaga clearly think unleashing your inner freak is the way to happiness. In that case I should stop trying to be normal.
Big thanks to Oli for taking me -what a mate! And thanks in advance go to Tanya for taking me to see The brilliant Stephen K Amos record his 2nd DVD at the Hammersmith Apollo last night, an enjoyable night but his 'find the funny' (his first DVD was probably better and the fact I've been to see him so often took the gloss off. Despite this he is a funny down to Earth man with much of his material being about how idiosyncratic it was growing up as a young black man in 70s Britain when people were racist as a matter of course! A lot of his stories are about hilarious instances of unintentional racism like on Australian radio when the interviewer actually said 'Steve, you come to Australia a lot, do you find you get recognised now? What about at night?
, Also thanks to Sacha, Rachel and Suze for coming round to talk to me this week – you guys keep me sane. Alex and fiance Steve for taking me out to lunch yesterday, and thanks to my college mates (~8/9 of us) going for Sunday lunch today, seeing them has made me feel warm inside, them making this effort makes me feel human again. I tried to walk the tightrope between freak and normal person! I just want to add extra special congratulations to Richard Rous and Annabel on the news of their engagement.
Fantastic news, and I'm really struggling not to say something crass about Rous here, this picute will do!

20 Feb 2010

Post 187:

I'm going to be a little pushed to post this in time for Monday morning but I'll give it a go. I apologise if it's a bit more sh*t than normal (not that I imagine it makes any difference to anyone, nor should it). I have tried without success to find an old post about how all hospital appointments should actually be known as disappointments because all you have to do when you assess me is take a look at me, shake your head and pronounce that there's nothing that can be done to help me feel a little less dreadful. I don't know how to even begin to express how demoralising this is. On Monday for the 2nd time, the last time was sometime in 2007 I went to see the so-called expert on Stroke rehab, a chap called Richard Greenwood. Now, because of his status and manner and because his name was mentioned as the main man in a book I listened too by another stroke survivor (My Year Off:Rediscovering life after a stroke by Robert McCrum) -a book that made me think that my time away from the real world might just be a year and it served to emphasize how important a partner is for the mental health of a stroke survivor. In it McCrums American wife stoically sticks with. When my girlfriend of seven years left me Imy recall of her sticking by him and helping recover magnified my sense of loss by a million times. I have never felt so awful in my life. I also wanted to kill Richard E Grant, who McCrum sounds just like – here I am four years down the line and I'm nowhere near the real world, I can't imagine ever feeling normal again, even in another four years imagine ever being and if I sound jealous, it's because I am. As Stroke Survivors go, things during my recovery have worked out ok – friends have (mostly) stuck around, I have had great support (both mental and financial) from my former employer, family and friends. I haven't ended up in a care home – but I am still a poor excuse for a human being. I can't ever imagine feeling 'full of beans' about anything ever again, I have lost the love of my life and I keep being told by the 'pull yourself together' brigade that I should put a brave face on things otherwise people won't bother with me anymore. That's the right approach. Make me feel worse. Sadly despite the respect I have for Mr Greenwood he did actually say there was nothing he could do. What he was able to do was refer me to Sonja again who some might remember as the Kiwi consultant neuropsychologist who back when I was in hospital I judged as being to big for her boots but after about a year my disdain had morphed into a grudging respect because I felt she was starting to understand how f*cked my life was. I am happy about being referred to Sonja again, if anyone can notice the difference the last two years might of made, it's her. The other thing that Mr Greenwood has started the ball rolling on is getting me a couple of brain scans I should have had after 'the worst thing I remember in my life' Gamma-Knife radiosurgery back in late 2006 when in order to keep my head still they had to screw an aluminium frame into my skull and leave it on all day, I still remember it was like having my head in a vice all day!, it was just wrong. The original surgery was supposed to get rid of the weakness that caused my stroke. The Scans which were supposed to check the surgery had worked somehow got forgotten. I am now not only terrified of having the scans but I'm petrified of what they might show.
One of the scans, a cunning procedure known as an Angiogram, in which they make a tiny incision in your groin then float a microcatheter up your carotid artery into your brain, inject some special dye, then take an x-ray of your head.
Clever sh*t eh? Only problem was last time they did this I got MRSA. Happy days! As if to remind me of how much I'm going to hate this he booked me in then and there for the 2nd scan I need, an MRI which can be done without surgery or the risk of infection. So off I went to the Queens square imaging centre where lurks a brand new 'State of the art' MRI machine, I mention it's newness because the last time I'd remembered being scanned was at the 'designed for the Crimean War' Royal London hospital in Whitechapel, definitely the worst place I have been to since my stroke (and I used to live in Brixton) where I remember saying to the lady operating the scanner that it looked like the type of machine they'd found on a street corner. If you've ever been in one it's no fun, they're noisy and so claustrophobic it feels like being buried alive except with the noise of a ball bearing whizzing around you. Anyway the machine in queens Square was brand new, so I had high hopes of getting in and out quickly. No such luck, after 30 minutes of laying in the machine the kind Australian guy operating it told me that there was a computer problem and that I'd have to come back, my thoughts are unpublishable.

I have been trying to divert my thoughts all week. On Thursday night I went back for dinner in Sussex at my parents house where they had invited round Jackie and Selwyn to say a 'Jill Pardey's dinner' goodbye to them before they move to Portugal for their retirement. Jackie used to sit next to me at John Lewis, and not only was she my bosses secretary but she was also my 'office mother'. I certainly attribute a lot of the good things that happened at JL to her 'guidance' – less kind souls might call it 'bossiness' but most of us were under no illusion who was in charge! Jackie and Sel have been great friends to me and have been instrumental in organising support for me. They deserve their retirement – we'll all miss 'em.
In the morning I got a semi-surprise visit from an old mate who has been in Brazil, Tristan. I remember getting an email from him telling me he'd got engaged to his beautiful Chilean girlfriend Macarena (I'm not making this up) but he told me on Thursday that the wedding was in South America in three weeks (!) and they were going to move back to London afterwards. So not only a pleasant surprise at the visit but great news that they're coming back!
I also got taken out to a great local pizza restaurant by lovely local mate Rachel on Monday. She's a teacher at a local school and is usually very busy but as it's half term she found the time and courage to drive my mobility van to take me out to lunch and make my day, even though Pizza's on the banned list, I'm so glad I made an exception. My other attempts to take my mind off everything rested on seeing some stand up comedy. The plan for this looked like it had fallen through when I worked out the people who I had had in mind to take me have in fact emigrated to Australia. Mistakes don't get much bigger and my replacement drivers both called in Sick. As that great philosopher Homer (Simpson) once said 'what are the odds of getting sick on a weekend?...A million to one', so things did not look good for going to see Chris Addison in Epsom last night, until my mum rode to the rescue. She popped in on the way back from some 'Bridge event' (don't ask) and said it would be a shame if I missed it, so I semi-reluctantly agreed to let her take me to the first stand up comedy gig she's been to in her life. Now I'd never seen Addison's stand up but I know from someone who has that he has described the pope with the c word, as correct as that may be with this in mind I was a little nervous. I needn't have been, Addison was excellent and to my mums credit she, despite being a dyed in the wool, middle aged, middle-class daily mail reading ,Waitrose shopper, she was able to appreciate the 'take the piss out of the middle class' humour that is the meat of Addisons material and she rolled with the effing and blinding. Years of having to put up with my dad and yours truly no doubt! What I couldn't believe was Addison saying he was 38, he looks closer to 28, I almost even said to my mum on the way ' I think he's younger than me' but didn't because I wasn't sure and didn't know, very unlike me to hold back on saying something on a hunch, despite not being troubled by poxy facts. Anyway my quest to escape thinking about reality continues this evening with Simon W taking me to see Dave Gorman. Should be a laugh and Gorman should be funny too.And finally, not for the first(or last) a rather shameless picture of pickle being cute!

13 Feb 2010

Sadly, another week has ended in disappointment and I've got Valentines day to really look forward to, the last post should give a strong steer on how I feel about this most cynical of commerce driven festivals. Thinking about it, it's probably second to christmas in importance to retailers, this picture demonstrates the importance of seasonal sales, remember I used to be in retail. Do not underestimate the importance of these 'spending events' on the financial health of these huge institutions.
Anyway before I fly off on that fascinatingly soporific tangent, I was trying to explain why once again I feel disappointed because a couple of encouraging things did happen this week, I met some nice people and had one or two life-affirming online chats with random people. Nothing quite compares to the empty feeling of helplessness, actually, what's worse is not being able to do something that used to be easy, it's hard not to think that the whole world has got worse, or that other people don't give a toss about you anymore, it's that feeling when no-one answers your cry for help, it's the feeling you get when you've got tickets for a sold out gig that you can't get to because your lift has fallen through. This is what happened last night and has put the dampener on the week. It's not as though I could even have been said to have questionable taste as the gig was the universally lauded Massive Attack
at the Hammersmith Apollo, an easy venue to get to, park at and access, I'm sorry, this is all I can think about but I now understand why verbal or written apologies sometimes aren't accepted. When I get wheeled into my shower every morning and get left to my own devices I figured the way to counteract that lonely feeling was to have a radio. To a certain extent it has worked and I listen to Radio 1 seven days a week in the morning from about 9 till 10– intellectually, it's no great shakes, indeed, when vacant Himbo Vernon Kay came on the radio this morning the first thing he said this morning was 'I'd like to apologize to all me family and all the people I've let down', I don't know if you've been following the news but muppet Kay got busted sending sexy texts to another woman. Now Kay is married to rather beautiful presenter Tess Daly, clearly she had the braincell when this happened – anyway, what I think of their intelligence is beside the point, something clicked in my brain when I heard his apology, and I suddenly understood why my apologies in the past might not have been accepted, because verbal apologies take so little effort and are usually so unproportional to the damage that has been done, Vernon Kay is an *rse anyway. Speaking of which, I know I mentioned listening to Radio 1 seven days a week in the morning, how could I forget Chris Moyles,
his morning show is the right combination of idiocy, comedy, news and current music to render me slightly less depressed about my life and the day ahead before I eat my breakfast. It's like watching Eastenders, people watch/listen to make themselves feel less sh*t. So many people do this that said programme fools itself into thinking it's actually any good, just because something is popular doesn't mean it's any good. Critics/haters (there must be some) of this will say 'hasn't he got anything better to do than criticise popular culture?', well actually, no, I don't. As far as I'm concerned Moyles is a self congratulating questionably funny 2nd rate comedian (maybe I'm being a bit generous there) fat man who looks disturbingly like Mikey 'the pikey' Carroll (from the last post) and Moyles self righteous exercise stories or press up counts or tales of his visits to the gym make me want to be sick whilst his team hide behind like he's a playground bully although I am very fond of carrie's
voice, she just sounds lovely. Jesus, that was a bit of a rant, I sound as angry as I'd be with the guy from the 'Rowntrees Randoms' advert. If anyone behaved like him in real life they'd be on the sex offenders register! Wierdo's that aren't committed, zero tolerance. Much like Colin Hunt in the Fast Show.

11 Feb 2010

Post 185: Dreading V day

I don't want to tempt fate here (this is written before Sunday), but how sh*t was Valentine's day,
or more accurately How sh*t is Valentines day, I much prefer the mooted (on facebook a while back) Steak and Blowjob day which despite it's simplicity and it's cost effective nature is yet to catch on. For as long as it's mattered (since those damn hormones kicked in many years ago - in theory it's 20ish years but in truth I was a bit of a late starter and despite feeling 132, I do still look pretty youngish). As I was saying since it mattered Valentines day has always been a disappointment and despite putting loads of thought,effort and dare I say financial clout (well all I can muster these days) I honestly console myself with the thought that somewhere a girl I care about thinks the flowers, flower, card etc... are from some dark, handsome 'milk tray man'
who cares about them and not from Dom 'in a wheelchair' Pardey. Well, there's nothing else I'd rather spend my slender resources on. I have to live my happiness through the happiness of others these days. That's the way it seems to work now, basic psychology probably says I'm wrong to do this but I'm as bored with theories as I was with Macro-economics when I was a student. Keynes must have bored himself, same goes for Freud. Speaking of theories of conspicuous consumption I couldn't stifle a laugh at the fate of £10m lottery winner and Oxygen thief Mikey Carroll AKA 'Mikey the Pikey' running out of money and now drawing the dole. He was a classy guy too, with 'King of the Chavs' self painted on the side of one of his cars. I know I'm in danger of sounding all Daily Mail about this but stupidity is not a disability and I couldn't give a toss if before he won the money he had a difficult childhood with poor access to education. We have to draw the line somewhere and like Stampy the Elephant in the Simpsons 'some people are just dicks' and should be allowed to fail, it's a shame he hasn't Darwined himself, he doubtless will, because despite being on the dole (a pitiful amount on which I don't know how any self-respecting person could live on) he'll doubtless be able to indulge his fondness for crack and combined with booze and his obese body he'll have a massive heart attack, there are always exceptions to the rule 'don't wish ill of others'. As Super un-PC aussie comic Brendon Burns says 'occasionally, the gene-pool needs some chlorine!' Seriously, if you disagree with that you need to have a word with your 'hippy noodle'. My very first thought when I saw this was 'at last, those bloody cash for gold companies will have a bona fide customer'.
Despite my propensity to rant I continue to try and meet new people through online social networking which after my horrific physiotherapy is my #1 consumer of time and energy. I know it's sad – I have to live with it. Thursdays are now exclusively given over to writing this or doing my writing course which at last is a day I don't dread.

7 Feb 2010

Post 184: I haven't earned a place in the sh*troom (yet)

'Have you ever googled your own name? It's like opening the door to a room full of people who tell you how sh*t you are' is my current favourite quote from the Armando Iannucci (writer of Alan Partridge) written BBC satire series 'The thick of it'. Maybe I have been spun by 'prince of darkness' Alistair Campbell but his laid back and phlegmatic response to watching 'In the Loop' a film said to be inspired by the mentalness (not a word but who cares) of New Labours obsession with PR and spin doctoring so they don't appear to be as hopeless as they actually are.
The last thing this blog is, is a place for me to have a political rant or a rant about politics because after all no-one cares (nor should they care) about what I think. I have categorically proved this by googling my own name and as far as I can see no-one has gone to the trouble of telling me how sh*t I am. That is reserved for people that matter. People who have made a difference, not people who's bodies have cataclysmically let them down so the only way they can really communicate with people is through sitting in front of their computer and slowly, pathetically and exhaustingly plugging away. I've lost count of the number of people who have pensively and earnestly told me 'it could be a lot worse mate'. I know that - I don't see healthy people giving thanks for being fine all the time, maybe after reading bit's of this or after coming to see me people realise how unlucky I am or how lucky they are, looking down the list of things google comes up with are a mixed bag of pre and post stroke things, the post stroke stuff is a bunch of links to either the trust website or to this blog, which now feels like the only evidence of who I actually am – there's even a link to a specific blog post that I wrote in March 2008 (post 21) about a party some friends put on to raise money for me. Both the party and reading that post made me smile and made me think I must have done a few things right despite not gaining entry to the sh*troom. Actually, now I think about it, I rely on my close friends to keep telling me how sh*t I am which they frequently do! My second favourite quote from 'The thick of it' is the line with which Ollie (played by Chris Addison who's stand up show I'm going to see in a few weeks) dumps his girlfriend with the following blisteringly harsh line 'goodbye, it is over you self-serving, Krypto-fascist, horse-loving, weekend at daddies, posh, vacuous nothing' Ouch! Armando Ianucci knows his comedy writing! That's enough of that, I just want to finish this post by thanking people who still bother with me, I can't possibly convey what it feels like to be forgotten – luckily, whenever I start to feel like this someone emails me and makes a plan to come and see me. On Friday it was the turn of my university housemate, Alex and her 8 week old daughter Anna.
I wish I could look normal in photos. Here's a picture I can't resist putting up of my neighbours gorgeous cat 'fat' Frank and my cat Pickle in my bedroom. Frank treats my house as a thoroughfare. I reckon he'd win many a largest cat contest if such a thing existed! He makes up for his cat fatness by being lovely. Even though I am slightly embarrassed by my loneliness and my feline reliance they provide me with enough happiness and companionship to lessen the derision I see my life with but life could be so much better, my search for someone special continues and I don't plan giving up anytime soon. Again, I've lost count of the number of people who have said to me 'just stop looking and let it happen'. I hate that happy clappy hippy crap, it's as nonsensical as believing in God or saying 'everything happens for a reason',I haven't found one good reason for this happening to me yet. Nothing ever happens to the homebound wheelchair user, I have to make things happen and I have no energy. Clubs,pubs and parties are a thing of the past. It's up to me to meet new people either through my existing friends which is unlikely because my existing friends don't want to treat me like a charity case or patronise me so I compete with fully able people in the internet jungle and it's not easy. I'm sorry if this sounds a bit angry, if it's any consolation it's anger at myself.

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