I went to Stories Aloud last night for their first birthday. Yay Sarah. Good work. There were two authors there who both agreed that – newsflash – writing needs to be worked at. It is probably arrogance ( I am reminded of the famous Thatcher reply when asked if she was pretentious – who, moi?) but as writing is one of the few things I seem to be happy plugging away at and quite enjoy I have decided to give a slightly longer piece a go. I have a thing about slightly edgy titles as I believe it accomplishes the internet version of a flashy cover in Blackwell’s et al. The bed bit is coming. I promise.
Her name is, well, that’s not important and I met her through a friend. She has two neurotic cats that I think I am allergic to, in a nice little flat in Oxford. Being the all round super guy that I am I stepped in to cat-sit when she had been let down at the last moment and they had already paid for their tickets.
On the surface it is just fine. A seven-day sideways step can’t be that tricky. Can it?
I have turned on the slightly baffling monster telly two or three times now. Turns out that it is possible to watch all-day police pornography shows with satellite TV. Who’d a thunk it? 20/20 cricket is ok, though not as soothing as Test Match stuff but the gem in all of this is a channel called Sky Arts HD. I didn’t know the Dirty Digger thought culture was anything other than something that grew on old yoghurt.
Opera’s, organ recitals and the like. I was fascinated as they tried to sex-up an organ recital by placing cameras inside the organ and then doing tight-in shots of hands and feet playing the beast then immediately cutting away to the corresponding action shots from within. I am now much better informed as to what happens inside all the guts of the organ. Strangely though, I was just enjoying the impressive panning shots of this behemoth of an instrument and the up-skirt internal organ shots added nothing. Still, I guess they are trying. However, I can take about 20 min then it’s telly off and back to my book, or more usually my keyboard.
I have shopped for what I eat and drink in Waitrose so am more comfortable that I don’t need to survive on Kraft Dinners and an odd little coffe machine. Proper espresso, industrial strength from a Bialetti stove top type thing. There is always that slight frisson of “will it explode and kill me with some cheap cast aluminium shrapnel?”. I find the post-brew survival adds to the caffeine buzz. Cheese, red wine and bananas were also lacking. No fear Waitrose is here so all is good on the comestibles front now.
In my bedroom I have an old mattress that needs changing, an orthopaedic pillow – that also needs changing – but most importantly of all I have a lovely down duvet with nice John Lewis Egyptian cotton bed linen. In her room it is a nice but slightly too firm mattress, bed linen with a bit of synthetic fibres making me sweat like a man on death-row capped off with a synthetic duvet. It doesn’t drape very well but rather it just uses your body as the apex point to form a mini circus tent. Due to my increasing years and general softness – I talk about Rule #5 but don’t always follow it – I want the duvet to settle over me and form a nice and gentle hermetic seal all around my body.
I am not used to waking up in a young woman’s bed slightly cold and sweating on such a regular basis.
So it’s my one hundredth post and I feel that I ought to go above and beyond to delight your eyes and tickle your neurons. Am not sure if length compensates for quality, but here goes nothing…
This post will look back over the last year or so and may even cast an eye to the future. Mostly though it’s going to be a fun if slightly rambling ticklist of what has happened and what I have learned, about myself and others.
Let’s start with the big stuff then. On Boxing Day 2011 we took the very difficult decision to get divorced after fourteen years of marriage. Having eloped and gotten married three weeks after meeting I figured we had done pretty well considering. Our biggest surprise was at how shocked others were. The one ginourmous issue was our daughter and making it ok for her. As we weren’t fighting terribly it wasn’t the down tools and storm out with loads of screaming and shouting scenario so we tried very hard to go about it like grown-ups and included H in almost all of the discussions and very patiently and carefully explained it all to her, because we felt it was much better to be open, honest and to be seen to be acting cooperatively rather than adversarially. So far she appears contented with the fact that we are happier not being married, which is better for her as well. I like the fact we do the odd meal and movie together as a family.
As an aside; I am baffled at how others could even consider using their kids as a weapon to wield against the other person. That is just inexcusable selfishness. Despite our differences I know that L is a great Mum and is a thoroughly decent person. H knows we both love her, we live close to one another and she is always welcome at whatever house she chooses. She is approaching teenagedom so it’ll get more interesting I am sure. I was a ghastly know-it-all. Gulp.
Until the decision to divorce I had been a stay at home dad for the previous four years so essential to effect the divorce was for me to go back to work. It took a a few months but I landed a decent job as a – get this for a mouthful – Global Strategic Account Manager in the publishing industry. This started in June ’12. It was hard fought for but I won it and was given a decent salary. Result. Oh, and by the way, I was a publishing industry outsider which was the alleged reason why I was hired. Fresh eyes, new approach, we need to turn around a decline etc etc… Ha.
Having have had v. mild MS for the last 20 odd years I am fortunate enough to still be very physically able and am still a bit gullible when silly challenges are suggested. I agreed, with a mate, to enter a 24h, 240 mile (386km for you metric folks) cycle ride from London to Brussels. After all, who wouldn’t see this as a way of raising money for the local MS research team? Oh yeah, we decided to do it on single speed, fixed gear bicycles ‘cos who doesn’t like to up their game by making it a little harder? Uphill? Cowboy up cupcake and pedal harder. Downhill? Relax Grasshopper and spin.
Climbing took a back seat, as did other stuff and I upped my swimming for the cardiovascular benefits, got a proper bike fit and started entering events and training hard. I recall May 27th 2012 being a quite lovely morning. I woke early and as I had an hour or two before the day started proper I went for a ride to make this my first 200 mile week on my fixie. Wham, threw away banana skin (stop laughing) and unsettled myself so much I hit the floor. Hard enough to crush my helmet, shatter my right collarbone and snap my right femur just below the head. I have covered this before but 3 ambulances and 6h of surgery later I was not a well chappie.
My other big MS news is to do with drugs. I have been on a two-year trial and am one year into the follow-up of an oral MS drug. It turns out that it is the hot new thing and had just been approved in the US (approval by the FDA is the big hurdle in drug development). Catchy name as well. Tecfidera just rolls off the tongue. Still, it’s better than Dimethyl Fumerate I suppose. Additionally, it beats the bejesus out of injecting daily. That was no fun carrying around all the paraphernalia.
I got out of hospital after just a week (sheer bloody-mindedness is a powerful thing and being in hospital is really crap) and pushed very hard to start my great new job as it was all part of the “gain economic independence so we could get divorced” masterplan. I was v scared that it would all end in disaster but I didn’t really appreciate just how badly I had banged myself up. Life loves it’s little curve balls though and disaster duly struck! I lost the job after only 2.5 months. Pushed or made redundant? All I can remember is that it was a combination of circumstances, but I certainly didn’t help myself by being very drugged, to the point where I had started to perceive my perma-stoned state as normality. BEWARE long-term opiates. It is v insidious the way in which your reality is altered, firstly with big hits of pharmaceutical grade heroin – much needed roadside and post-operative relief – and then I was tapered onto seemingly harmless Co-codamol tabs. They worked magnificently well as pain control but whilst taking them I was a sleepwalker in my own life and it took quite a while for the after-effects to go. Knowing what I know now I’d go for the pain every time. On the bright side I made some interesting new friends.
Another bike was required but with gears and somehow I came to own a Spin Spitfire, which is c 7.5 kg of titanium awesomeness. A minor hitch is that after the big injuries have abated a bit the smaller niggly stuff is here. My right ankle is still so messed up and I can’t ride this thing of beauty. Still, with the shit winter we have had it is a blessing in disguise. If it had a bell it would sound like “Bllliiiinnnggggg Bllliiiinnnggggg” !
Freshly unemployed I was really feeling at a loss but also felt like I was at a significant juncture in my life, and shouldn’t waste it. On my bucket list has been to earn a degree. Not really to do something with, as that’s a bit late now, but just to do one. I know I am bright but it would be putting my money where my mouth is. Long story short I have been offered a place to read history at Ruskin College in Oxford. I have been told that saying “Oxford” is tantamount to “passing off” and it isn’t part of the university proper, although I’m not that bothered as it is better than going to an ex-poly. It is sort of kind of as there are interrelationships with some parts of “proper Oxford”. Most importantly is that I know I should do it and, short of being offered an awesome job (that is one that is better than just being well remunerated but is actually interesting, with interesting people), I shall.
A history degree from Ruskin. How cool is that? I don’t care if it is from one of the newest colleges. Besides, as an Oxford student an entire years swimming at the groovy Rosenblatt Pool is just £80. That alone is a great incentive.
The other bucket-list item I ticked off was getting a 911. It is not as whimsical as it sounds as it has been the only car that has captured my attention ever since I was a kid and, without being too melodramatic, I reckon the MS will get me at some point so before I toddle off to Switzerland I need to know I have had one, once. So I decided to get a decent one that had been well loved and wasn’t going to do its brains in depreciation. It costs less to insure than the massive estate car (station wagon for you dang foreigners) I was driving around in. It requires a steady diet of premium petrol (that’s gas for you dang…) and tyres so I expect to be buying shares in the oil & rubber companies to mitigate the expense.
Who knows what the future holds. I have a good feeling though as I think all sorts of previously unforeseen avenues will show themselves. I am grateful to be here and happy and surprised at the way things seem to be turning out for the better. However, before I get too contented I must never forget that life is a cruel mistress and is probably just waiting for the right moment to bugger things up again.
If there is a lesson then it is only for me, as it smacks of a kind of arrogance to start telling others what to do just because that’s what worked for you. However, it seems to be the formula for many a lucrative line in self-help books so perhaps I am missing out.
My only advice would be the following; Illegitimi non Carborundum which translates as Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down.
As seasoned and dedicated readers of this blog will know, I had a bit of a messy crash on my bicycle on the 27th May of this year. I snapped the right femur just below the ball – of ball and socket fame – and smacked up my right clavicle. This has lead to a permanent metal addition to my right leg and temporary metal in the right shoulder. Call me Metal Mickey. The airport will be fun at Christmas. Previously I have bounced back quickly from my knocks, but this time…oh boy it is sloooow. And I’m frustrated. Really, massively frustrated.
The hip & the shoulder
I have just changed my physio as the nice guy I have now has resisted all my appeals to put together a plan. I want a PLAN. I need something to measure myself against so I have short, medium and long term goals. I need to know how I am progressing and I need to know what the consequences of shirking are. I will happily shirk my exercises etc if I am just dumped with a pile of print-outs from the Internet and a suggestion is made that I sort of try to maybe follow them. I require structure and joint participation.
I am very fortunate to have both a great surgeon and private healthcare – thank you Mrs S, it means alot – so getting the necessary physio and choosing when and where I’ll have the shoulder re-filleted are things I can have a say in.
No pressure on the new physio but I intend to get back on my shiny new bike and do more riding. I plan on walking without my “Well helllloooo, Sailor” roll. I’d like to take a few steps at jogging pace and I want to know I can swim and climb.
‘Cos it’s Friday. 7 more days to go and truly amazed I have come this far with NaBloPoMo. Must be a displacement activity…
Climbing – Until my big bicycle crash in May I was quite into my climbing and still listen to the noise. The better someone is the easier they make it look and this 10y old girl cranking V13 in the US is going to knock Adam Ondra out of the park. Soon.
If you are tight for time then watch from 5 min in.
Hip-Hop and Rock makes the best motivational music. This song would definitely make the DID list:
What’s the work that The Beastie Boys are motivating me to do? I remain stunned at the poorly written volumes of selling self-help books and crappy courses, poorly delivered that are out there. With that in mind I am starting The Compelling Event (means something to TAS and IT sales veterans, my target market) which will be a very niche specialist sales process consultancy and training firm. I have no immediate plans to write a book but I have pretty much got the bulk of the text down for my website. I’ve registered the domains and pretty much got the content written for the website, though presently it needs editing into a coherent and tight message. Whilst the website won’t be getting me business it will serve to prove my presence and add credibility to my message. Selling myself and actual paid work will come through contacts in the first instance.
Want to bring a chill to your spine? Then listen to The Queen of The Night from Mozart’s Die Zauberflote:
This is definitely top of my list for the next opera I want to see. Are you listening, Glyndebourne?