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30 Oct 2011

Post 314: Hating feeling like I'm now an object of disdain.

In the last six years I have always been looking for signs or signals that the post stroke me isn't someone who gets looked on with disdain which is a good reason not to internet date because no matter how many people appreciate my honesty there are a majority of others who just ignore you 'the silent majority' and trust me when I say that people ignoring you when you try talking to them is the most soul destroying thing in the world. In real life it's awful, online it is bad, especially for someone who was never used to being ignored. I don't arrogantly think I should just deserve attention, I just don't believe in being rude to someone, unless they're bloody rude first or there's good reason or perhaps being ignored as often as I do doesn't feel right given the effort I make, but f*ck it, the world's never been fair. I accept that, I'm not an idiot. However, it's always best if no-one's rude, I'm neither a pacifist or an apathist, I'm certainly not a happy-clappy moron who thinks 'we should all just be friends' – I just believe in not expending one's energy wastefully, something particularly true since my stroke robbed me of most of mine. Anyway my point was that if anyone bothers to invest their energy in communicating with you – doing a Madonna,
Naomi Campbell,
Simon Cowell
or Elton John
is never acceptable. Have some bloody manners! Anyone who behaves like they're too important or above you should just be flung off the planet. Like the other day when Claudia Winkelman
said she would ignore anyone that used an exclamation mark. What a dreadful tw*t of a thing to do! I feel sadder already! There I go again. I deserve to be shunned. Stranger things have happened – I read the other day on someone's dating profile that they had decided to give it a go because a friend had selected someone's husband from an online profile just from the fact that he had used an apostrope correctly. As someone who writes ok English (Probably). I still don't seem to have a chance because physically, I am obviously a letdown. That said the signals that have given me heart in a gig-free week (not including last weekend) have been about how people who I have met since my stroke have made the effort to come and see me. Even though I can never be the most fun bloke in the world to spend time with, which implies I once was: NOT TRUE; FACT, my mate Rachel took advantage of the fact it was half term to take a break from being head of Physics
at the new school she is teaching at near St Albans to come down and do lunch in her former Pizzeria in Leatherhead, the rather excellent Prezzo. I know Pizzas aren't on the diet approved list but getting to see Rach is a special occasion. The new job sounds good for her but it's sad she's no longer up the road. It sounds exciting for her and her other half Matt that
they're buying a place together near St Albans, Oh for that sort of normality! My comparative news (it's not really comparable) is that my new housemate who's going to do my weekend housekeeping/caring who's moving in in early December has just got herself a job in town during the week which is precisely the way it's supposed to work. Nice one B! In other good news, the Mauritian couple (Jean-Michel and Annelise)
who used to live here came to see me yesterday and we had a good chat and laugh about life, the universe and everything and we even had a rather good Thai takeaway meal in the evening. Again, as they've only ever known me since my stroke, they seemed so pleased to see me, I think I can't be all bad. That is reserved for how I feel in myself.
In an example of how concert going and organising is supposed to work, my oldest friend, Dom Icely
mailed me and offered his driving skills and company if I get tickets for the mighty Orbital
playing at the Albert Hall
in April next year, (tickets I have just got, yay) I don't know if Orbital playing at the Albert Hall sounds mental to anyone else but I'm all for it! It'll be immense. Considering the last thing I saw there was the extraordinary Carmina Burana
last Saturday, Orbital might be a bit different! I've now seen Carmina Burana 4 times, 3 with my parents and it is pretty amazing, one of the most eccentric and schizophrenic pieces of music in existence, yet it is about as powerful as music gets. There's a vast choir (>400 voices) Some of it's in Latin, some's in German, some's in Portuguese, there's a solo from a counter tenor too, a guy who sounds like he was a tenor until someone castrated him. A soprano has to sing so high that she's in dog hearing territory – I reckon the composer, Carl Orff was having a laugh, and seeing what he could get away with, but the chorus takes the roof off, and seeing as my parents have sung it before, they are the natural choice to take me.
How much they love these concerts is as worthwhile as taking people who've never seen the Albert Hall before. On Sunday I made a discovery, that I need to go to the New Victoria Theatre in Woking more often because it's rather convenient and rather splendid for stand up comedy.
It was the Third time I've been to see Reginald D Hunter
and his brand of laid-back observational philosophy is always intelligent and funny. As per two of the times I've seen him the first half was done by the brilliant Steve Hughes whose observations about the world border on genius, I can't do justice to how brilliant he is here. I always suggest that people download an audio version from itunes of his stand up material 'Heavy Metal Comedy'.
Not mincing words, it is some of the funniest stuff I've ever heard! I don't know how Reg can follow him. So after Steve's brilliant comic deconstruction of much of the worlds political structures Reg spends an hour just talking to the audience about how the world would be a better place if women didn't give men such a hard time. Now, there might be some feminists who disagree with this, I'd like to respectfully disagree with them. Reg works from the premise that Man and Woman are happier together, something I totally agree with – and he gives a list of funny examples of how women make the relationship harder than it could be. I like this sort of cerebral observational totally non-confrontational material(unlike say Dylan Moran who says essentially the same thing in the style of an aggressive drunk irish pub philosopher). Reg is almost horizontally laidback when he talks, so there were people saying they were 'a bit disappointed' on the way out. I restrained myself from saying, 'well go and see f*cking Lee Evans'
who as we all know is comedy for thick people. Admittedly it is well done but if you like to see a small cockney monkey play an imaginary drumkit while sweating and gurning you should get into hard house. I continue to do what I think is the right thing by my friends and family and even people I haven't met yet so I can squeeze the best quality of life I can out of this shitty world. Finally, finally, a few weeks ago I went to the funeral of an old family friend, Ian King-Holford – apparently there was a memorial service for him a couple of days ago and for starters there was no access to the church – they never mentioned disabled access in the bible! And the church was too packed for me to even have had anywhere to even park – anyway, I clearly made it on the right day, the reason I bring it up is that I hope when the time comes I have a similarly well attended memorial.Her he is pictured with his widow, the formidable Jinks and their adopted daughter, and my now good friend Rosie.
The thing that gets me is that this post is yawn-inducingly long and I still haven't had the chance to thank all the people I want to and how middle class does this blog make me? It's basically one continuous public thankyou letter and what defines being middle class? Bloody thankyou letters! Someone the other day actually accused me of not being grateful. I was more than furious, because I have always been grateful, perhaps not so good at writing thankyou letters, I'm always either specifically or generally grateful because I'm really not stupid or arrogant enough to not know that I can't survive without help, as pathetic as that sounds.

21 Oct 2011

Post 313: 'It's not great but it'll have to do' apart from Mel's wedding which was awesome!

'It's not great but it'll have to do' is sadly the mantra I have to live by these days. The lengths I have to go to to do quite routine things is a little scary. The routine thing I did this week which represented getting frighteningly tired was going to my old college friend Mel's wedding near Ledbury in Herefordshire.
Now, in the olden days this would be an adventure involving staying in some quaint old pub, drinking in the beauty and peace that comes from being in the middle of nowhere, and probably making wild kama Sutra-esque love with my other half in the hotel room, very little was better than a dirty weekend combined with a stonking party! However, I don't care what Freud says, my mum was the driver/carer this weekend! She was actually bloody nervous because she'd never driven my van before and was a bit terrified at having to help me do my transfers, because after all I'm a 6'3” heavy b*stard and she's a 72 year old lady. For a start it was the most perfect autumn day, my van is great at eating up motorway miles too, a lesson learned there, although off the motorway at the mercy of bumpy roads it's awful. For my holiday plans for next summer. Jose, my trainer, is up for driving me somewhere (possibly in France) where we could do a combined physio/getaway break, damn I need that holiday! –I have digressed I was glad my mum could make this
because weddings are a bit of a speciality of hers, she just loves being around people and she is great with my friends, in fact one of them said of her recently 'she's so friendly and upbeat', rather a special and unique lady my mum even if she can be a rather easy target to take the p*ss out of, I made her promise before this weekend that she wouldn't get stressed out by irrelevant little things that she could do nothing about and it seemed to help! Even Stopping a couple of times at M4 motorway services (or Cathedrals of despair as Bill Bailey calls them) were relatively stress free which almost never happens! The automatic door mechanism on my van helps a lot (now it's working), there was a very slight chill in the air but in the sun, it was perfect, rather fitting I thought for such a perfectly suited couple. I first met Lucas (Mel's now husband) back in October last year when him and Mel took me to Lunch The writing was on the wall when in our email exchange afterwards Mel sounded like an excited schoolgirl about Lucas. When you find someone special it is difficult to explain that feeling of excitement and nervous anticipation – it's not something I've had for years, but good for Mel and Lucas. Mel looked great in her dress – I don't remember her being as buxom so good work there, and Lucas is a bit of a Greek god! I feel like I've ruined this photo!
But huge thanks for inviting Mum and I, sadly there are no pictures of her highness because she was on photography detail! I have known Mel since we were at Oxford from 95-98 (so a long old time ago). Dear old Mel, she was always the super intelligent girl, always slightly out of breath and always late, running from one thing to another and apparently her driving is Lethal!. She'd always get the best internships and there was an inevitability she'd get a 1st, she's basically the type of person it was an honour and a privilege to be friends with, the same is true of most of them be they from then or since or from whichever walk of life. That is where I note one of the few positive impacts of this stroke, and I know I've said it before, but it really makes you appreciate your mates. I didn't start this blog to be a fawning sycophant but they deserve appreciation for putting up with me before and since my stroke. I stubbornly refuse to forget my mates from all walks of life as long as they haven't forgotten me or turned their backs on me. Luckily, this is mercifully few people especially from the University lot who all seemed to be there
and were glad I'd made it.
it made for quite an occasion! I'm glad I made it. Plus in the last few minutes I've hopefully found an ideal housemate/housekeeper/carer for the weekends and I think she'll be great because of the way she got on with Hassan and Agnesieka (who in my view are worth their weight in gold) – given how quickly I get tired knowing that the atmospere here is going to be relaxed already makes me feel more at ease about next year. Since my weekend jaunt, I had a couple of things in my diary to go to, the first of which was to go and see Aussie comedian Adam Hills at my local theatre in Epsom.
Now I've seen Hills three times before and normally I'd try and rope together a pretty big group but the idea of trying to sort everyone out and coordinate it all scared the sh*t out of me, as trying to just sort out someone who can be bothered to drive me is terrifying enough. Such is life (fear is exhausting) Anyway, Jose took me, and Hills was as usual inspired. Guttsy thing he does. He has decided in his head that Celebrities get far too much attention and that normal people are much more interesting. The show 'Mess Around' is literally just that. He turns up with no prepared material and just talks to people in the audience, and because he's a nice man he doesn't tear a strip off anyone, although my mate Nick is probably still reeling after Adam phoned his wife Sally live on stage after admitting in front of the audience that he was a hedge fund manager and Sally wasn't there because she was at home 'looking after the kids'. Poor Nick was mortified after he was booed. Jose
and I sat deliberately in the back row. Hills was genial and charming (odd for an Aussie) but we certainly laughed. Mission accomplished. On Wednesday I went to something quite different. Being a passionate Atheist I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to see best known atheist in the world, Richard Dawkins, talk about his new book, 'the magic of reality' at the Albert Hall.
I'm glad I did because I have softened my stance on Dawkins, I remain as fervent an Atheist. I've got plenty of respect for the guy but I have often thought he's a bit pompous, prickly and earnest. I think he's a bit more 'human' now, the ' Magic of reality' is Dawkins explaining evolution in a way that can be easily understood, rather than the usual 'rip out the jugular' of religion -big thanks to Olly Tress
for taking me – him taking me see the modern philosopher and atheist intellectual Sam Harris back in April inspired going to this. On another note, Judge for yourself -at Mel's wedding one of my friends took issue at this comment, made in my last post: Approximately 150 years ago musical entertainment was Tchaikovsky writing swan lake, now we have the f*cking x-factor. (my immediate thought after seeing Swan Lake)
Apparently this makes me pretentious. Does it f*ck – In my book I just despise the X-Factor as a pisspoor attempt to make us consume mindless low quality tat in some form or other. A good friend of mine (Steve Williams)
has been putting up a few of his old photos – what a trip down memory lane. I think I was about 27 in this, (not 15)
I couldn't have been happier or healthier! On another note I can offer precious little defence of dying my hair again other than boredom and the fact that I can. I am aware that this is the sh*t stage but it gets less bad. Anyway, having a 'challenging' haircut is the least of my problems.

14 Oct 2011

Post 312: A Kooky week without being strange

I like to comment on my mate Lou's blog everytime he posts it, this week I found myself writing this: 

Lou, you may envy the gigs I go to but I envy the peace, relaxation and equilibrium you have developed in your post stroke life, each time I read your blog I feel you are more settled. I never seem to get more settled or relaxed, which seems to be the curse of my physical condition. I think not having a proper holiday in 5 years is also a big issue – you have inspired me to find somewhere to go (that I can be driven) next summer. If I haven’t found some way out of this terrible fatigue by the end of next year I fear for my sanity. My other point is amoret [Lou's wife] sounds like Gold – she is the most valuable thing in your world. Take good care of her.
 I write this, not to suck up to him, but because I say what I see. Our stroke's may have affected us in totally different ways (him on the left side of the brain, affecting his speech and vocabulary and mine in the back right brain stem, which affects my movement). So even though we're quite different people from different generations who've had quite different strokes, we seem to see in each other a shared attitude and sense of humour in approaching post stroke life. As I recall I believe he once told me that reading this inspired him to write his post-stroke blog – another person with verbal diarrhoea ;-), whatever, he seems to be a thoroughly nice chap! I hope he thinks the same of me. I've always been the sort of person who probably cares a bit too much about what others think, probably because it is what others do that determines almost every emotion I have in my post stroke life. When I was independent I lived by the same rule but I always had myself to rely on if I ever got let down. To me this guarantees that you'll get a decent outcome, which is why now, I put myself in peoples hands and hope they are kind and by and large people have been decent to me, and honest which most of the time has been appreciated, sometimes it's been painful for me to accept that I'm no longer the sort of tough logical guy who refused to let emotions takeover the decision-making process while recognizing how important emotions were to some peoples characters. I'm an easygoing guy but I can't let stupid or illogical things pass me by, you've probably noticed! In this context I always try to choose good stuff to go to because people's time is precious, and I don't ever want to be a waste of time. I once made the error of asking someone to take me to something they had no interest in and it was excrutiating – never again. I may plead for lifts at the last minute but people have got to want to go (which by volunteering they're implying) as there's nothing worse (in this context) than sitting next to someone who's not enjoying whatever it is and is feeling resentful I've taken up their time. It makes me feel like sh*t! I had to make one of my last minute pleas this week and it worked out superbly! Again it was a midweek music gig at Brixton Academy by a band I suppose not everyone has heard of 'The Kooks'. These things are notoriously hard to get anyone to show any interest but the academy is seriously one of the most awesome venues in this country, if not the world for live music - as a wheelchair user it's probably one of the most challenging, from the bloody awful steep ramp up the steps to get in to the fact that they won't post tickets, we have to always pick them up there which can be quite inconvenient despite there being a piss-taking £6 transaction fee plus getting to/from the disabled section is an utter mission, through a crowd, in the dark on a side-sloping floor – those who've ever been to Brixton Academy will know what I mean – as a venue, it really is an incredible place, outside, apart from the rather cool listed front steps
(apparently, hence the precarious temporary ramp which once caused me to fall out of my chair rather ungraciously last year). In the atrium (which has a lot of marble ) there are some very grand stairs up to the balcony which has a pretty amazing view, the view from the stage must be something!
I've noticed and talked before about the eccentric art-deco styling of he main room
but off to the side of the stage there appears to be a sort of mock Greco-Roman villa
complete with columns. Architectural oddities aside, the main stage is vast and they are obviously accustomed to putting on quite a show.
It was at this point that Michael and I fell into the classic trap that must have happened to thousands of concert goers who've ever gone to the concert of a band they're not all that familiar with, mistaking the support band for the main act.
Michael and I were both nodding at each other saying 'hmm, not bad' while scratching our chins like experts. I was just assuming they were leaving their well known stuff till the end. Then abruptly at 9:30 they filed off. 'Hang on, it's too early, that must have been the 2nd support act, they were quite tidy' I said feigning a complete lack of surprise. I should have known better, I've been to the academy beforeand I should have known there'd be quite a show for the headliners. There was and we weren't dissapointed.
The Kooks sound a lot like Razorlight, which is no bad thing. Their Indie Rock Pop sound is not overly challenging but they were a lot more energetic than I thought they'd be. Obviously their big hits 'Oooo, La' and 'she moves in her own way' were exceptional but a lot of their new album 'junk of the heart'
is very very good (Obviously I've now bought it) – my textbook way of doing things, I'd also like to doff my cap to guitarist, lead singer and frontman Luke Pritchard
who is clearly very talented and has somehow found the time to go out (and keep out of trouble) the lovely Mischa Barton.
They have obviously now split up. But the real hero is of course Michael Lewis
who volunteered to take me because he said it had been ages since he'd seen me and he agreed that going out to see live music at one of the best venues in the world was better than sitting at home on a Tuesday. I wish more people had this attitude rather than worrying that it might make them feel a 'bit tired' the next day. I'm exhausted every day
and it was nice to hear from an old friend who said 'am so impressed with all you do manage to do, which is actually more than most who can run around'. I've said it before, but I refuse to mope for any longer than I absolutely have to, eg because I am bored with feeling like this, I have just had my hair blonded again so if you fancy a laugh come and see me, like you needed an excuse. I also got a list from an internet blogging service entitled 15 reasons to be depressed by today's music industry Here are the edited highlights plus a few of my own entries: The cast of “Glee” has had more songs chart than the Beatles. People actually bought Billy Ray Cyrus' album “Some Gave All…” 20 million people. More than any Bob Marley album Celine Dion's “Falling Into You” sold more copies than any Queen, Nirvana, or Bruce Springsteen record The Black Eyed Peas' “I Gotta Feeling” is more popular than any Elvis or Simon & Garfunkel song Led Zeppelin, REM, and Depeche Mode have never had a number one single, Rihanna has had 10 Approximately 150 years ago musical entertainment was Tchaikovsky writing swan lake, now we have the f*cking x-factor Have you listened to anything by Snow Patrol? They're like Coldplay without any good songs and their lead singer fancies himself as some sort of quasi-intellectual more than Chris Martin does Justin Bieber exists, so does Simon Cowell OK, so those last few might have been contributed by me! My point being - what's wrong with the world? My final point is to all people I've ever met with sociopathic tendencies. Just f*ck off - stop loving yourselves and start living for more than yourselves. I'm just angry with one or two self-centred people this week.

8 Oct 2011

Post 311: A monologue, but not that of a super-villain

It's October and finally starting to behave like October despite the bizarre heatwave we had last weekend. It actually was rather fortuitous as I had a rather nice visit on Sunday from a bunch of my former colleagues and their families. Now usually a Sunday lunch has us bound for the Bear but muggin's here had neglected to book. Imagine my shock when I phoned up 30mins before wanting to eat and them saying they were full, a table for 4 adults, two hyperactive kids, a baby and a wheelchair bound moron who should have booked wasn't going to happen! Who do they think they are? Anyone might think they're easily the best pub in the area and it wasn't a surprise that they were full on such a glorious day! At this point we noticed the absurd unseasonal weather and decided that takeaway Pizzas and beer on my terrace was the order of the day, Paul
observed 'it's like something out of men behaving badly' – it was this sort of lateral thinking and laddish humour that made Paul stand apart as a merchandiser at John Lewis but particularly his bufoonish sense of humour that attracted Anna to him, that, and deep beneath that Brummie exterior he is capable of some unmatched classics like the best closing line I have ever ever heard to a grooms speech at his wedding to Anna
(another John Lewis Merchie) in December 2009 , Their original boss and mantend of mine (not something dodgy, a cross between mate, mentor and legend) Simon Dawes had also come along with his gorgeous (and ginger) wife Yvonne and their two kids Joseph and Isabel
(who are hilarious). Paul and Anna have just had their first, Emily,
and Simon had said on email that he was going to bring along his slightly older examples as a warning of the dangers that lay ahead. Now, I'm not the most positive person about noisy children but Simon and Yvonnes two are so funny. The bit when Simon made Joseph stand in the corner after he tried to make my office chair on wheels
into a rollercoaster was priceless! So that ended up being a good day! Given the amount I have spouted about these guys it's small wonder I didn't/couldn't put this in last week. This week has been about trying to get a replacement driver to take me to the Albert hall on Wednesday, where the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra were playing a Tchaikovsky portrait.
Now, I would describe the music of Tchaikovosky as like turning up to a knife fight with a machine gun, or turning up to a pub quiz with Stephen Fry, whatever happens it'll be a good result! I'd originally persuaded an old University mate (and concert pianist) Richard Rous and his wife to take me to listen to 'a bit of gay Russian' but it transpired after closer inspection and due diligence of the itinerary that the timings were never going to work, so I hastily assembled one of my panic emails which was heroically answered by my university friend Tristan,
sadly his wife was busy so given my utter antipathy towards wasting tickets I hastily invited the kindly, random Aussie girl who applied for the role of weekend housekeeper , Sadly my reliance on email meant we misunderstood the timings and missed each other so the ticket went to waste. Gah! You can't win 'em all, a subject I'm an expert in. Finally, I had further evidence last night that in my pre-stroke life I can't have been all bad when I had a visit from Gav. He maybe a bit far away these days (living in Norfolk with his wife and 3 children) but between us we worked out we had been mates for 20 years and in that time we have had some ridiculously ridiculous times, from meeting because of our mutual family friends the King-Holfords back when we were 13, (sadly it was Ian King-Holfords funeral last week) to our twenties when I would frequent the clubnight that him and Cathy (his wife) ran and the hilarious skiing holiday in Italy in about 1998 where so much booze was consumed we were lucky not to acquaint ourselves with the Italian police, we were saying last night how many people met their lifelong friends or partners through the clubnight and the ripple effect
it had. Basically, it rocked a lot of peoples worlds, mine included -I played my first gig there. Even though I was so tired I could barely speak we still managed a few glasses of fine wine and a way above average amount of laughter. Usually I crash into bed at a rather pathetic 8pm, instead I prevailed till 10 and last night I went to see my favourite comedian Daniel Kitson do one of the London shows (at a sold-out National Theatre)
of the dramatic monologue he had performed at this years Edinburgh Fringe, here is a review I found that will give you a pretty good idea of what this is. It's not stand up comedy, instead it uses his skill as an orator and his lexographical athleticism to completely capture the audience's attention for well over an hour as he tells a fictitious story he has totally written himself. This is the third one of these I've seen him do and without exception, they have been brilliant. I would go as far as to say this could be a new form of expression. I've probably overstretched my genre defining credentials there but given what I've seen in my life, I'll sit by it. I have Jose to thank for driving me and his sister Sue to thank for coming along too, sadly another ticket got wasted because of yet another communication blunder. This sort of cock-up would have been standard fodder before my stroke, now it feels like a painful waste, luckily it wasn't the driver. The other thing I am glad about is that on Friday morning my Dad and my sister popped in en route to Heathrow and got to see most of one of my thrice weekly training sessions which I'm pretty sure convinced them how hard I work. I may have changed the structure of my physical training but I'm far from allowing myself to start letting people down.

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