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29 Jan 2012

Post 328: Things can only get better

Seriously, what is wrong with people? I used to think I was an ok judge of character but again I have been proved wrong. The majority of people I have met since my stroke have been good to me and not seen me as someone to take advantage of but then again there have been one or two that have badly let me down and undermined what slender faith I have in the human race. I try and devote much of this blog to the good stories and nice people but me being human and I'm assuming the several regular readers of this are human, it is sadly some of our worse experiences that stick in the mind. By the way, any non-humans reading this – I think you'd be within your rights to destroy this whole damn planet, there are one or two nice people worth saving but the human race seems to be a bitter disappointment most of the time. All together: 'We're sh*t and we know we are' etc So the reason for this glum prognosis and my augmented Misanthropy today, if you've been following this blog, my last housekeepers turned out to be the most awful *rseholes. The good news is that they are now gone but they left in a hurry, leaving the parts of the house they lived in as if squatters had been living there.
Of course it's a ridiculous thing to say but it's enough to make you believe what the Daily Mail says, I am certainly starting to mistrust anyone who speaks a foreign language in front of me when they could speak English. This is a patently ridiculous viewpoint but firsthand evidence is what makes me write it. I couldn't care less if I'm labelled racist, I just know how it has made me feel from when I was in hospital and right up to now. Yet another good Samaritan, a lady called Ruth, who happens to be a magistrate has been giving me legal advice about the CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau) action about me withholding payment from my last carers because they did the bare minimum (basically dossing for the last month) and has told me not to mention their names but I will say this, they were clearly running away from their debts after we found TWO letters from debt collection agencies with unpaid bills of over £1000 each in the mess they left. I have copied these and sent them around. I now have to phone up these agencies to stop Bailiffs taking my stuff and I anticipate the credit rating associated with this address is mud. Lucky I don't plan on ever borrowing any money. How anyone would have the balls to try and pursue me for money they didn't even earn while they owe over £2000 is beyond me. This is the 2nd time a carer has run back home from their debts and it is a worrying pattern. I don't subscribe to any religious code of ethics. Instead I subscribe to my own 'don't be a dick' version which is superior in every way and they're being dicks Even if I say it repeatedly, it's obvious how not to be a dick but it's amazing how much of the world just are. There are girls who go on about how they are 'arsehole magnets' when it comes to relationships – sadly, with some notable exceptions, it appears to be like that with me and carers, and the worst thing, it feels like it's my fault. I try as hard as I can to be gracious, to basically not be a dick but people (with the caveat there are exceptions) can't seem to stop themselves. Speaking of exceptions, I've finally managed to get to a gig this month. As gigs go January is like the Sahara desert
without any of the good bits, it's barren because concert promoters quite rightly assume that no-one has got any money and all the sensible people are on detox and going to bed boringly early so there's nothing, ok, apart from Cirque de Soleil and that's hardly pushing the envelope. So I went to see the Maccabees
at a sold out Brixton Academy on Tuesday. Now, I know more about Quantum Mechanics than I do about the Maccabees but I'd heard they were good. It might even have been Nick 'do you know who I am' Grimshaw (a classic twat)
saying something about them on TV that made me take note. It's more because I like going to live gigs by tidy bands at Brixton Academy, it's even better if I can go with a genuine enthusiast. Luckily a lad called Sam
who volunteers for a charity called Remap mentioned that the Maccabees had once showed up at a student party at his house in Bristol. Forget knowing their repertoire, that sort of knowledge'll do nicely, plus he's a new mate and he's the type of guy that seems totally trustworthy despite his passion for Drum and Bass. We have a laugh and we did have a laugh. The Maccabees are an Indie-pop outfit that are good but'll never set the world on fire, a bit like Maximo Park. They'll release another album and keep going for five years, will probably kill it at Glastonbury one year. They'll have a great time! Oh, is that the time? Blah, I'll keep soldiering away at trying to snap out of being a crap human. At least when my new carers start I have some confidence that the house'll not be a pit – that I'll be able to try and live out the next year without worrying I'll be ripped off, forgotten and basically taken advantage of. 2012 will hopefully be a turnaround year and predictions of the end of the world are hopefully exaggerated even if my view of humanity is as lofty as the public's opinion of that woman who put that cat in a bin. Despite being a miserable bastard I'm lucky to still have kind friends like the people I've just had lunch wih, the Tress family
and my fellow fool from university Guy,
who Gina and I have decided (apart from a slightly rounder chin, looks identical to how he used to
although he quite rightly misses his wife and kids who are in the states) (on the Tresses, I've known Gina since university, and she's one of the few girls in the world who can say without any irony 'I need to put some weight on' she's looking 'bang tidy' -an expression normally reserved for tv presenters, models and starlets, her charming husband Olly takes me to allsorts of gigs, their two kids, Bruno and Tallia are damn cool)'bang tidy' is one of my favourite expressions at the moment in the laddish banter I have with my trainer when discussing the merits of TV presenter Holly Willoughby
as 'This morning' tends to be on in the background of my thrice weekly 'torture' sessions. There is a definite sense I have been saved by the 'Iberian connection' of my Spanish trainer Jose and my Portuguese friend Isabel, who between the two of them are kindly covering my mornings and evenings until mid February. I'm having one of those rare episodes: 'I'm lost for words' . this proves how farcical it is to 'mistrust foreigners'. Meanwhile my Aussie weekend housekeeper maintains continuity and keeps me sane. Thankyou Bianca.

25 Jan 2012

Post 327: This adding insult to injury, it's no fun

I hate using this as a place to grind an axe but this feels like the only place I have a voice anymore. In the last few posts I have been going on about how dreadful my carer situation is. Now, people can normally get on with their lives after people take the p*ss out of them but if people do it to me instead of me just walking away (the irony), I start wondering about whether in the long term it will impact my ability to survive and on an even more Darwinian level whether we, as a species, prey on those weaker than ourselves to get through life. I hope this isn't true, otherwise I'm f*cked. This delightful train of thought started when I discovered that my old weekend carer
(on the right) was stealing from me. Despite getting rid of him pronto, I haven't bothered getting him on the CRB list because the process is too onerous, the amount is so little and he's going back to Bangladesh. The other Bangladeshi chap in the picture Hassan, and his wife Agnesieka (the blonde lady) are my main carers and have been here since April, now since Christmas they have been doing as little as they can which has not made life easy for me, and it's bloody January
– one small mercy has been that they at least gave me a months notice at the end of December. I can't wait for them to go back to Bangladesh on Thursday 26th although they have been living here doing nothing since Monday (23rd) rather feeling like I've got squatters in the house plus as they live upstairs I can't even confront them, bastards. Here were people I trusted. I have tried to make the terms of caring for me as generous as possible with them living here for free including bills plus a cash 'sweetener' which I used to pay to put the arrangement on a more formal basis and to help cover transport costs to the dayjobs they assured me they'd look for. Instead they've just been dossing upstairs. In fact he is usually in too deep a sleep during the day to ever hear the front doorbell. My weekend carer has got exactly the right idea. She found a job almost instantly and thinks that if she lives here for nothing then she ought to look after the house and the cats and socialise with me a bit. My parents think I'm mad about the main caring arrangement, they thought that living rent free plus bills was more than generous and considering my pension isn't a fortune it stretched my financial capabilities considerably. Anyway, as the payer of this money, I thought I was within my rights to withhold payment since Christmas (not including any food shopping they have done on my behalf) I have actually paid them £190 for three shops despite the fact we appear to have run out of a few quite important things more than once in the last few weeks and everything in the fridge appears to be out of date – I feel like a Daily Mail story about to happen. I am normally in a fairly fraught emotional state which negatively contributes towards the energy I have for doing anything at all with my life and this hasn't exactly been an improvement. To add insult to injury (a phrase I have to use too much on this blog), I got a call from a lady at the Citizens advice bureau saying that she's sitting there with Hassan and Agnesieka saying I have unfairly withheld their 'wages'. Would you pay a plumber who came to 'fix a leak' and it was still leaking after he'd had a go at it while sitting around drinking cups of tea? Same principle. I abhor lazy people, and the reason I agreed to let Hassan live here was he seemed like an industrious, conscientious, tenacious and trustworthy guy – and I thought him and Agnesieka were for a while, but this email I sent to them summed it up For starters I don't understand how it's got to £640[what he said I owed them], as has always been the case, the onus is on you to get your weekly pay and any reimbursements on Monday mornings, you clearly forgot to do that. I am withholding ANY payment on the grounds of poor performance (basically taking advantage of me). I am a disabled person and I find it disgraceful that in the last few months you think you have done a good job. You know that you don't deserve this. I haven't fired you or formally warned you because the process for finding new carers is too onerous and I am not in a position to discipline people I rely on so much. I had hoped you would become more conscientious. Here is the list I put together. I had hoped you would see these things and do the honourable thing: Instead you have done quite the opposite 1.Not cleaning the house properly (we alluded to this a lot) 2.Depriving me of a guest room 3.Your mum and sister staying for more than a 'few' days 4.Never waking me up at 9am, I always have to ring the bell (I repeatedly mentioned this - it's in the household manual that it's better to wake me rather than wait) 5.Once forgetting to even wake up when the bell wasn't working and leaving me believing there was no-one in the house 6.Once leaving me without any towels in my bathroom and not hearing me shouting for help for 20 minutes 7.I told Hassan I'd pay for driving lessons so he could swap his international licence -he did nothing 8.Not bothering to even look for a dayjob, instead sleeping through the day 9.Forgetting to give me lunch on Wed 11/1 10.Never answering the front door despite the new bell ringing upstairs 11.I am grateful you have given me three weeks notice, you have however, only been here 8 months, I believe we said 'at least' a year 12.Never being up when Tesco deliver despite me asking if you could be 13.Not helping to find a replacement – you agreed to screen applications, contact candidates and arrange interviews -you did nothing saying maybe it was better Bianca did it because you only check your email a couple of times a day and you're usually sleeping 15.Talking at 3AM – not loudly but enough to stop me sleeping[repeatedly] 16.The last straw – Abeer [the thieving cousin] staying here in secret and even smoking upstairs. Him helping me when you're out is nice but beside the point 17.Abeer using my card illegally without permission to purchase localphone cards.THIS IS THEFT. I am considering involving the police 18.Letting me buy Sonu Nigam [some bollywood star] tickets for you and Agnesieka (£120) knowing full well you weren't going to be here [Not bothering to leave me dinner on two consecutive nights. Instead calling me and asking if I could order a pizza? [are these the actions of 'carers'?] thankfully I have found new carers who I trust, I'm sorry if this feels like a bit of a tawdry saga and 'airing dirty laundry' but I needed somewhere to talk about lifes complexities and to add insult to injury (there it is again) the girl I'd been seeing has just basically said she's 'too busy' to let thinks develop. I'm disappointed and can't not think the stress of this whole situation didn't help. F*CK. Nice girl but being prioritised above anything work related when that person is a teacher during term time is never going to happen. Two learnings: 1.Going out with teachers is always going to be difficult 2.Always ask potential carers from the sub-continent if they had servants at home. If they did they're likely to be lazy as spit. In fact, employing carers whose first spoken language isn't English and hasn't read any of this is a risk. I worry that I am turning into a difficult person which is what I expend most of my effort trying to avoid.

22 Jan 2012

Post 326: A time to batten down the hatches

Does anyone read this anymore? I'm not even sure I even would because objectively I'd think that the writer is a bit of a miserable f*cker. I know I am and one of my main objectives is to one day snap out of this. No-one likes a moaner and no-one really gives a toss about one even if said moaner has got a half decent reason, but it's mitigated slightly as long as said moaner makes things a little bit funny or interesting. Well, it's hard to do either when you feel like you're 100 years older than you actually are. I need other people so much, and moaning and attracting people to be friends are pretty much mutually exclusive and although my sense of humour is mostly helpful it really sometimes isn't. Overly sensitive people can sh*t off for starters. The irony here is that I am a bit sensitive now, and I sometimes upset myself. Luckily, I shake this off by realising what I say can often be a pile of Elephant dung
and I should care about it as much as other people clearly don't! So, what has been happening this week that I could tell you that may pique the January bubble of indifference? My view of humanity has been dragged in different directions recently. My misanthropic view that we're all a bunch of shysters has been given weight by the fact my carers have started to behave like they've got to the end of a job, ie they've started doing the bare minimum, this is why Bianca (my weekend housekeeper) and I can't wait for Gary and Gwen to start. At it's most basic level it is showing human nature at it's worst. People would rather be lazy If there are no consequences so rather than be decent human beings, they're not, they're being dicks and sleeping all day making life tricky for me. This upsets me as it reflects badly on what I'm like to live with. I can understand if they were working for a big company, but this is my life they're making worse – I feel a bit like I've become someone to take advantage of.
I'm not that bloke. Thankfully there is another side to this coin. Gary and Gwen can't actually move in till mid-February, so I was a bit terrified of what I was going to do but I have been saved. Jose, my trainer, is going to do Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and my new local friend Isabel has offered to do my other weekday mornings and cook my weekday evening meals, she's also asked a mate of hers to do a couple of hours cleaning and laundry a week. She's just one of these people who lives to help people. I am lucky and privileged to have met her. Would that there were more people like that in this world. I have been fortunate to have met a few and as you can no doubt tell I can't say enough good things about them. They know who they are. My other two main objectives have had to run in parallel to this over dramatic and stressful sh*t. These are of course: 1.Physical therapy, or 'torture' 2.Avoiding boredom On the first, even though almost all the evidence suggests that improvement is unlikely and that I would be foolish to expect to recover use of my left arm or the ability to walk independently or to feel normal I will never fully close the door because I don't deserve to be like this, I work too hard. To this end a neurophysio, whose practice use that electrical stimulation thingamy that I was thinking of trying to get came and assessed me on Thursday. We discussed options, constraints and objectives, and hopefully he's going to send me a written report. The good thing was he wasn't at all a salesman, and he wasn't trying to hawk me expensive neurophysiotherapy. Instead he was pretty conclusively able to tell me that the electrical stimulation product was not the right thing for me, and he has told me what he'd do. Basically, that's the type of advice I'll listen to. Doubtless it will recommend more training, something that terrifies me because I can't afford it physically, mentally or financially. Fully fit people can barely manage to make it to the gym twice a week – the idea of doing more than my 3 training sessions with the prospect of it making no difference makes the prospect of introducing myself to the tender mercies of beachy head style rehabilitation. Is it wrong to feel this hopeless? Going to see Cirque de Soleil last night didn't help. My sister (over from the States on business)
took us to see Totem
last night at the Albert Hall and as much as comparing myself to Circus Freaks is probably a bit silly, these people are nonetheless humans, everybody including the women had ridiculous six packs, and although I have no desire to balance standing on my hands on a 50 foot pole which is being balanced on somebodies chin, I do have a strong desire to be able to balance on my feet independently. Cirque de Dom if you will. I can just about do ten sit-ups, these freaks look like they'd just be breaking sweat around the million mark. I've been to Cirque most years since I was released from hospital and the evening is made or broken by a couple of things: 1.How close to the stage I am (so I can actually see what's happening) 2.How much the people I have gone with enjoyed it This time we were up in the circle. I would normally post a picture but the Albert Hall door robot expressly forbid this before the performance on the grounds of 'copyright'. As far as I'm concerned for £60 a ticket if we want to take photo's he should offer to do it for us and get me a complimentary drink into the bargain! As it was my mother and my sister
were impressed, and my dad and I were quietly understated in our appreciation highlighting a difference to me in how Men and Women react to these things. Women gasp whilst Men think 'show off' while also thinking ' wouldn't it be funny if he smacked himself in the balls doing this' I went to a thing called Varekai at the Albert Hall a couple of years ago and for a Cirque de soleil show it ticked the right boxes. For a start we were close and my companions for the evening, my neighbour Tracey and local mate Sacha loved it.
I actually went to Totem at the Albert Hall last year so my first thought was 'cheeky bastards, they're milking this a bit', my second thought was a message from my mate Steve who was over from Melbourne last January and I'd offered him and his wife first dibs on the tickets. His reply was poetic and further emphasised the difference between men and women (Gnomes is his wife)
LOL, I went once with Gnomes to one of the C.d.S. shows and ranted about how shite I thought it was, but she loves it! If you fancy it then I'll gladly 'take one for the team' coz I know Gnomes'll love it, or we just go to something on at another venue? Brilliant, Anyway, what made the evening was getting to see my sister! Despite being a miserable f*cker I am so lucky to have mates who take me out. It was the Dabbous family
on Saturday who took it upon themselves to take a break from the lack of sleep that seven month old Louis is giving them to take me out for lunch, my anecdote store is feeling a little depleted. Theirs is the sort of life I wished I had. 2 lovely kids and a pretty solid outlook. Bit late for that for me. My other attempt at avoiding the sort of demoralisation you feel at seeing a slightly overweight lady in a Gym has been listening to Game of Thrones on audiobook. The sheer length of it makes me feel like I've seen a size 18 lady in size 8 leggings sweating like a whore in church on a bike that's going nowhere[a Jimmy Carr joke I couldn't resist crowbarring in because it made me laugh]. Anyway, Game of Thrones is book 1 of a fantasy epic 'a Song of Ice and Fire'.
Just to give you an idea of the scale of this thing is it is over 5 books,
each book handily split into 3 8-hour audio chunks. I am nearing the end of book 2 but finding the time and energy has been a nightmare, luckily book 1 was made into a ten part drama by HBO. I was totally addicted to the series and I can see how people turn into Trekkie type nerds and losers – the Wikepedia site is Encyclopaedic! I almost feel like a bit of a gimp having been on there myself. Anyway, what can I say apart from reading simultaneously and ahead in a thing like this is a massive advantage. Series 2 will be unbelievable. It is basically 'the Soprano's' set in middle earth but the gritiness (the swearing,violence and aggression) of it is offset by the utter insanity of life in medieval times and some of the supernatural intrigue ie Dragons, White walkers (murderous creatures that live in the ice and can only be destroyed by fire), Wildlings etc. Are you interested yet? It doesn't take much with me. Another serious piece of advice, never get heavily invested in something that hasn't had several seasons, you end up tearing your hair out waiting for the next one. I'm fed up with waiting, seeing as I've waited 7 years to get better and NOTHING.

15 Jan 2012

Post 325: What the Dickens?

Another pretty average week if truth be told. The good news is that I have found new carers. They are the South African husband and wife who used to look after my grandmother till she popped off at 96 (quite a lady) and then looked after my aunt's mother so they're practically family which is easily the clincher. Getting people I trust has taken on more meaning in the last few days after I found out one of my carers was using my debit cards without my knowledge. It's the kind of thing you read about in the 'outraged' right wing press. Luckily, not much has gone and most of it can be refunded but it really shows how easy it is to hoodwink vulnerable people – this sort of thing can't really be got away with with me because I've got my wits about me and a father who pores over most of what I spend. I've got a half decent and trustworthy support structure, it scares me how really vulnerable people even begin to cope. It is yet another example of how it is hard to have faith in human decency which is such a sh*te starting point to have but misanthropy seems to be the only logical standpoint, expect the worst of people and you'll not be disappointed (see earlier ). I don't understand the mentality of doing something to anyone that'd make that person mistrust you, maybe I'm being naïve, but people in need of help should get help if you can afford to help them in my world, I'm not just talking financially. Me going all altruistic here ties in nicely with a lecture I went to this week about a great philanthropist and undoubted genius, Charles Dickens
– if there was one person who embodied the definition of genius -1% inspiration, 99% perspiration – then it is he. I make it my business to take every opportunity I can to get out of my house, and my mum's best friend from university, Imogen Barker (who lives down the road) offered to take me to her monthly CODFAS lecture (Cobham design and fine art society I think) ( my mother goes to hers locally, called NADFAS). Now, I would probably have never dreamed of going to such a thing but I will literally go to anything to get out of the house. Now no offence intended, I have always equated these local societies with Womens Institute meetings
for the bored, retired, middle-aged, middle-class ladies of suburbia. Anyway, this is not in anyway to slag them off but as I firmly believe that boredom
is the root of all evil I'm jolly well going to go if someone asks me, plus it would not be polite, Imogen is a nice lady for asking me. Having got Imogen a high-vis jacket we set off down the road to the village hall. I used to do this exact journey during my fruitless attempt to learn to walk again when they let me use the village hall. Anyway, that's a depressing chapter of my life that doesn't bear thinking about. So,Where the Dickens was I, yes Charles Dickens. I've been to one lecture on him before, that my friend Jackie Kennard organised back in March 2008 in aid of the trust. Dickins was clearly a fascinating 'one in a million' character who derived immense gratification from entertaining people. He had incredible energy and used to walk over 20 miles a day just because he liked walking. This explains why he could so vividly portray London because he had seen almost all of it. Most of his drive came from his recollection of the hardship of having worked in a boot factory when he was a boy, and his family being semi-detained in a debtors prison. The lecturer said that despite his gifts he was probably an irritating character to be friends with because he always had to be right. We've never met anyone like that have we? Victorian England must have been a crazy time to be alive, but I particularly like the philanthropic nature of the super wealthy, sure there are great acts of philanthropy today but none was so marked and close to home as in those times, alongside Victorian austerity was some absurd and amusing excess.
Today, the super-rich seem to horde and invest their money so they can buy the latest fast car.
Equally envy, jealousy and even anger towards them seems to be the prevailing emotions, whereas in Victorian Britain respect seemed to be offered particularly to those that had earned it. Actions, more than words defined some of the greatest Victorians. Dickins actions were so much more than the words of his writings This all comes under the heading of broadening the mind because I have long said I refuse to sit here and rot – hopefully, the arrival of new carers will further reduce worry in my life and allow me to get on with what I should be worrying about, whatever that is. This is yet more evidence that the key to achievement is drive and energy, neither of which I physically have anymore. What has given me heart though, is one or two of the applications to my gumtree advert have actually demonstrated a bit more gumption than in the past. Perhaps I worded the advert wrongly before but the majority of gumtree applications were from someone who had just read the advert title 'LIVE RENT FREE IN RETURN FOR HOUSEKEEPING/CARING' and spied an opportunity to get something for nothing. I'm not an idiot but the number of chancers who just wrote eg 'I think this be a good opportunity for me'. Pardon me while I swear at the floor for a minute. they'd blindly attach a standard cv that tells me they once had a cleaning job, their English is rudimentary and they know how to use windows, yes and by the way we're still in Bulgaria. DELETE, thanks but no thanks Bogdan. Pardon me if that got me angry, at least this time I got some English speaking applicants who bothered to read a bit of this, had some relevant experience, had a plan, some references and seemed a little bit interested in the person they would be caring for. I apologise to and thank these people but this time circumstance has intervened and we've obviously stopped looking but thankyou to those who bothered to apply properly. I say we because I have been helped by solid gold Sheila, my weekend carer Bianca,
as rude as I am to Australians, there are exceptions that prove the rule. Everything associated with the process is my post stroke Kryptonite. It is so unbelievably stressful and tiring for someone in my state. 'Ah, poor you', I imagine people sarcastically saying but this feels like a matter of life and death... Melodrama aside for a second, Gary and Gwen (the S.African couple who have put my mind at ease and it was good luck they happened to be looking. Hassan and Agnesieka are leaving on the 23rd and Gary/Gwen can't move in until the 17th February which as you can imagine was met by panic but this is where I have been saved. Sam, the kind lad who volunteers for charity Remap said he's got a bit of downtime so he's going to do my mornings until Gary and Gwen move in and Bianca has said she will be about, but if anyone fancies dropping in of an evening after the 26th January you will get the warmest of warm welcomes. I hate having to rely on people this way. 34 year olds ought to be able to look after themselves, the best I can hope for is to be gracious, it's hard to believe I can be sometimes because I was an arse last night because I was tired. I suppose one small mercy is that I am able to recognise this, I only wish I had a bit more control of the exhaustion that causes it -as I'm prone to say 'this f*cking stroke' Also as I'm prone to say, thankyou very much to old friends Caroline and John Jackson
for coming down here yesterday and taking me out to lunch. Caroline is the mother of my oldest Mate Dom Icely, who I've known for more than 20 years, and to someone who's known me slightly less time, sorry if I was grouchy....

8 Jan 2012

Post 324: January, few obvious redeeming features

For once, I've taken the advice of someone who has read this before I published it and re-written large swathes of it because even by my standards it was a little depressing but that's January for you and how much I care about her opinion. Usually once I've written something that's it, given how much time and energy writing takes I sometimes think I might as well be chiselling this into a stone slab.
Imagine making a spelling mistake back in those times, it's positively Monty Python-esque!
It's quite sad how apathy seems to have taken over 2012 so far. That's a general observation, it thankfully doesn't apply to the kind people who have been to see me. Firstly (and most surprising were Jackie and Selwyn
(who I thought were saving themselves from the English January in the relative warmth of the Portuguese house they've retired too. It was rather a nice surprise to get the phonecall 'are you in? Well we'll be round in 15 minutes''What, aren't you in Portugal?' -Resistance is Futile, my college mate James (on the left here)
also popped in yesterday for tea, a man who's just written a textbook,
and most important of all the fair Mel
who took me for dinner last night despite me booking a table at the wrong Plough. The evening was saved by going to my old favourite The Bear, in fact I feel silly having even thought of going elsewhere. The bear was lovely whereas the plough had been full of people you could only describe as tw*ts (you know the type in a restaurant that laugh a bit too loudly at everything). Despite this I think it's fair to say I don't feel brilliant about the future, I'm sorry, it's the truth but I figure anyone deigning to read this is grown up enough to understand that a previously happy bloke might be a little bit upset about basically losing everything. There are two schools of thought about the people you meet online. First, that they're bound to be unconfident, depressive types because they're not happy or confident enough to meet people in the normal way, the second is that in the modern world people don't have time to do anything other than meet on facebook or in the chatrooms of websites that represent their interests. Before my stroke it was mainly the latter and I was in no way depressed. Since my stroke it's been the former, I guess my observation here and probably my opinion that it's a bit of both ie that we as a species feel we have less and less time and we're meeting less and less genuinely happy people. I've got no evidence to back this up but I applaud the happiness and positivity of the new people I have met. And this ties back, the happiest people I have met are the busy ones so get busy living, this actually goes a long way to explaining my mum's happiness and general positive demeanour– she's always busy and any downtime is spent complaining about how busy she is, even though it doesn't sound like it, this is some sort of happiness virtuous circle, so, from now on when she's stressed I'm going to give her more to do – it's the kindest thing! Also- another Stroke Surviving Blogger (SSB) who I only know through his blog and facebook but he sounds OK, Matt Padmore once said 'It's nice to feel useful again' I know this is only one datapoint but it makes sense to me. He's not god or anything!
I mention Matt because he's written a book
about life since his Stroke which impresses me a lot. The lovely Mel has bought a copy and is going to read it to me. So, in conclusion, staying busy is the key to happiness but on your own terms. Ie sometimes the busiest you want to be is to lie on a beach and woe betide any f*cker who asks you to do anything so I guess the point I'm attempting to make is we're as happy as how busy we make ourselves so my example about asking my mum to do something doesn't stand – be funny to do though. Anyway, January. The paltry, pisspoor evidence doesn't exactly suggest I'm getting any better and even if there was a way of getting better I couldn't afford it. The trust, which was set up to give me a way of affording therapy so I could maintain some quality of life and hopefully get better, is basically out of money which is such a tragedy because with it goes any hope I have of maintaining any independence or recovery and it's f*cking January, surely the worst month of the year? I paradoxically used to enjoy it though. It's an irritating cliché to talk about turning over a new leaf. Oh, I was that irritating cliché, much as I am now an irritating cliché of a whingeing disabled person – Why? Well, I used to give up booze in January and so staggered was I by the effects, boy did I tell everyone, and boy, must they have thought that I was some sort of alcoholic! Seriously, I even remember talking about it in a job interview, to the extent that one of my friends even told me it was not a good place to mention it. The effects were as I say marked though. I'd find myself waking up on a January Sunday morning at 9am full of energy and not know what to do with myself! I'd find myself emptying out food cupboards, throwing out ludicrously out of date things and running a cloth over the shelf, for a bloke in his 20s who lived on his own, this was weird. At work the effects were marked too. Now, I'm not a slow guy (well, not that slow) but if I was asked a tricky question, the thinking process and the associated chat and patter was on the tip of my tongue; mental arithmetic was fast and largely correct, bullsh*t
was low, well lower than usual. I'm suddenly fearful that I'm making myself sound borderline incompetent, I wasn't. Honest guv'nor – I was just leveraging (a very 00s word) my experience as an analyst in both stockbroking and consulting (both of which I have no doubt will be grouped within 'the bullsh*ting sector' or 'hot air sector' up there with 'consumer cyclicals') , , mark my words, it should be a FTSE sector, kept buoyant by all the hot air, paradigms and synergies it produces, but seriously, it's still January and the hits just keep on coming – the most acute is that my carers are going back to Bangladesh because they need to quite rightly get on with their lives. Seen totally rationally and dispassionately it makes perfect sense for them. From my point of view it feels a bit like starting again and it's hard to not think that's how thing's will go forever. I challenge you not to be a little depressed at the thought. A non-tired me might think 'yay, new people' but the knackered, pathetic me is the one who sadly writes this. I hate that bloke, I am ashamed of myself for so much as thinking a thought that makes you think I'm a dick, well I wasn't being one in my old life (much), but I'm being one now. I felt pretty rubbish going for an MRI scan on Tuesday. I hate these things,
it's like being buried alive in a nuclear bomb. Since re-engaging with a neurologist I'm having a scan twice a year to keep an eye on the thing that caused my stroke in the first place (the AVM
in my brainstem which threatens to kill me (or worse) if it bleeds again). A scan a while ago revealed it was still there. so tick tock it's always nice to be told you've got something life threatening but there's nothing they can do about it. I'm not even sure what the point of 'keeping an eye on it is other than the misery of having to be scanned twice a year at vast expense which thankfully gets covered by my medical insurance. A legacy from John Lewis who I can't even begin to describe how lucky I am to have worked for. I hope I get used as a case-study for why people should work there, at least something good would come of all this. Well actually my friend Vicky Denning (near the end of this post )decided to accept their job offer (among a few) because of the way they had treated me. She is now director of head-office HR. Now a post this down at heel can only be because it's January. One thing that has made me laugh has been finally getting the photo's from Christmas. I can add another Christmas cliché; my comedy uncle passing out after lunch :

2 Jan 2012

Post 323: Some thanks be to everyones favourite time of year

Firstly, sorry it's been so long. I'm sure it's actually been pleasant not having any of my guff to harness your grey matter on. This post has been difficult to put together for a variety of reasons but I'll refrain from my usual whinge (about most of the reasons)but the most apparent is I made the schoolboy error of relying on others (who weren't professionals) to send me pictures around which I intended to weave a Christmas post. It's now new year and I am still sans photographic evidence of Christmas. I have to be a little careful with what I say about Christmas at home. Being tactless is one thing and truth be told a bit of a gift, but being a sociopath and hurting peoples feelings is another. Now, I've made no secret of my dislike for his time of year but there are some good things. I have long said that to be 'happy' humans need to be around other humans. To be truly happy you also have to feel safe and when you are surrounded by your family you do feel safe.My state is why I struggle so much with being happy, because I never feel safe. I never feel I can rely on my body to get me out of things, be they a fall on the floor, a tricky conversation/argument you just want to get away from, feeling exhausted but not being able to dig deep, getting a jumper on because it's cold, not being able to do these things at all or for myself stops me being happy and it's pretty obvious there's no point investing the energy ever trying to be able to do these things again because: 1.I don't have the energy 2.The bits of the brain needed to make these things work and for me to feel normal again have been destroyed. All this talk of 'neuroplasticity' and talk about how 'unused parts of the brain re-organize themselves and take over for your lost function' is all vague hypothetical horsesh*t – I'm sorry brainscientists, you know nothing – the brain is too complicated an organ, it is acknowledged to be the most complicated (and valuable) object in the universe (even the cybermen
know that) and mine is beyond repair. Everything I now do is to try and make my current situation as bearable as possible for my friends, carers, family and myself (in that order). I am 100% convinced that most people in my situation wouldn't have bothered to do anything like what I have done if they'd had a stroke like mine so my mum (or someone) reading an article in the 'Daily Mail' about some lady who recovered is NOT the norm, it is wonderful copy but that's it. People who have recovered have won the lottery.
People telling me to behave like these people is like saying 'put every pound you make into buying lottery tickets, that's sound financial planning. THAT WOULD BE INSANITY. Instead, I try and make as much as I can out of the small mercies I have left: My remaining dignity and my wish to have a normal life;My friends; my family; my carers; my remaining intelligence and sense of humour; my integrity and morals; my material things, etc, etc Christmas for me, is about getting as far away from Material things as possible, even if it is a religio-retail festival -present giving in our family is a rather sweet formality of the proceedings, there are zero expectations unlike when I was an awful indulged child and I would hope for ridiculous things.
The thing that pisses me off about the outlandish expectations of spoilt b*stards and b*stardesses at Christmas is it's always about want rather than need, and the only thing I need is something money can't buy, that is my health and my old life. Since these aren't available at any price and no 'expert' can conclusively tell me what is the right thing to do I seem to be asking an impossible question which I think is [How best do I apply my limited material resources in using my sh*tilly fragile physical and pathetically shaky emotional attributes to recover from what seems to be an irrecoverable injury?]. So that says to me that I'm never going to get what I really need so Christmas is purely about the unmaterial things -namely, the company. Now, as much as I love my family and love seeing them, it is still an endurance event. Most things are these days. Christmas at my 'rentals is all about small talk and 'nailing the clichés' that I associate with a middle-class Christmas that fails to see a shred of irony in anything about it. Everything seems to be taken far too seriously. I.e The turkey barely fitting in the oven causes a row, rather than it being a ridiculous cliché we should chuckle about. Cliché and irony are hand in hand at this thing, it is immense. I can imagine less planning went into the invasion of Iraq! When I had the inspiration for this I thought about calling it 'The twelve Clichés of Christmas' but I'm not clever enough to be able to put that together as strewn as Christmas is with predictable nonsense. But for example, the one that really got me going was lighting the Christmas pudding, walking it around the dinner table,
taking pictures of it while everyone sang 'we wish you a merry christmas' OH MY GOD! What? Why? The food is to be commended of course, mum has this down to a fine art – it is a masterpiece of planning, timing and skill and of course Delia ahem f*cking Smith. I reckon if there was a league table of middle-aged ladies who do this she'd be top 5 in the world and top 3 in Britain. It is amazing. Other Christmas clichés inspired mixed emotions which I'm sure you can infer: Not being able to use the main room before people arrived on Christmas day because it was being used for other things (to play annoying computer games in this instance) – ffs, my sisters kids weren't even here this year
; Everyone being forced to watch the Queen's Speech
despite it not being interesting or relevant It being pointed out in the Queens speech 'doesn't she look good' anyone at that age would look good if they'd led such a ridiculously pampered lifestyle – I'd be surprised if she even wipes her own arse; Being told to shush when taking the piss out of the way the queen says 'often' 'orrfen'. I may be a bit posh but that is absurd. Anyway that is all I will say about Christmas, although I am upset at the allegation that 'at times you appear to be ungrateful' which was levelled at me by my parents, and the reason they said this was 'at times you appear to be in a bad mood' – I wonder why that is? My Dad also told me to change the way I use my chair, ie to stop using it's most useful feature as it might damage the chair and you can't afford the repairs, anyway, despite these being the two most insensitive things they could have said, I'll try and remember this Christmas for how adorable my cousin Julie's one year old son Barney was.
He stayed awake and didn't cry for the whole of Christmas day. He makes me want one of my own. Seeing as I predicate my life on being insanely grateful to anyone who is kind to me but also tell people who aren't to 'sling their hook' I feel insanely grateful to some close friends of mine for inviting Mel
and I around to lunch on new years eve. Now, I have been round to Nick and Sal's before but in order to get in through the front door I have to leave my chair, with the help of Nick and Kocen
(here with his lovely girlfriend Freya)for support I walked through their front door, and was sat in a normal chair. The Icely's (Alice, several month old Arden,
her husband Dom and 2 year old Freddie) It's Nic and his 4 year old Oscar in this photo, as always I failed to get decent photos because my camera is kept in my f*cking wheelchair although I did manage a lens smashing cheesy grin with with the hostess,
anyway it was so good to be invited and to see my favourite ladies,aren't they wonderful,
still as gorgeous as when they were at college back in the 90s
and the happy gathering was completed by Gluckers,
a man who now has his own architecture firm,
oh how time has marched on. I'm glad that Mel seems to like everybody (obviously the praise for her is deafening, as it should be) even if she has been rushed headlong into an onslaught of posh people. My only disappointment was that I wasn't in any fit state to accept my friend Isabel's
kind invite to see in the New Year with her and her friends. I would have been lousy company. The best I managed was watching the London fireworks
in bed (alone). They were so good I was prompted (slightly cynically) to post this on facebook the next day I saw the Westminster fireworks on the Telly and thought they were incredible -immediately followed by the thought 'economic crisis - what economic crisis?' Despite the somewhat serious nature of all of this I had my attention drawn to an internet clip that I dare you not to find funny I think we can all laugh at that sort of misfortune, especially if it happens to posh people. And finally another Stroke Surviving Blogger who I'm in touch with through the magic of facebook appears to have written a book – Halfway gone by Matt Padmore,
available on Amazon.

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