Nothing but moaning

This post is just about being ill as writing about it makes me feel better – read at your own squeamishness risk and degree to which you can endure moaning.

Spent a bilious 5 minutes on the bathroom floor again, happily overseen only by my loving wife this time. She made me a towel tent with a flap from which to observe her concerned comings and goings, Lawrence of Arabia style. Did I want a glass of water? Groan. Was I feeling any better? Groan. Did I need anything from Waitrose? Groan, Groan. (Not really) Having been on the floor before I was at least able to reassure her that the near death experience would pass in about 20 minutes, which it did, but only after I had attempted, yet again, a reprise of the infamous crawl to the oasis (sofa) routine. It was going quite well when midway it was interrupted by the sudden and alarmingly rapid downward trajectory of my stomach which necessitated, in mid crawl, an advanced driver Sweeny-like three point turn back to the bathroom. Meanwhile two cats had decided that this was just too much fun and so I covered the ground using a grand total of twelve legs, eight of them furry.  Oh how we laughed. NOT!

So I have resolved baths are out, showers are in. I have never liked showers preferring to wallow in my own putridity but I am resigned to having to master the absurdity of bathing vertically. Our shower is a gravity fed head over that bath which is another way of describing a system as far from a power shower as imaginable. It came with the house along with all the other botched features installed by the previous resident, ironically a woodwork teacher. His claims to fame included plastering over an external door rather than removing it. He even put a patch of roofing felt over the letter box. He also bequeathed a splendid set of bookshelves made of hardboard, yes hardboard not mdf. They formed inverted rainbows before they fell off the wall.

My numbers are nearly at the target of 30 somethings!!! With mounting enthusiasm my consultant has recommended a last sprint for the line and I am now on a double dose of thalidomide as it’s ‘going so well’ and frankly I can tell the difference.  It is like a fairy tale sleeping draft. I expect to wake up as a frog or in a castle cellar spinning straw into gold. My consultant describes it as ‘making you a bit sleepy’ I would describe it as stage one Dignitas. Anyway, somewhat amusingly, I had not had the sense to move the dose from first thing in the morning to last thing at night when its sedating qualities would do less offence. He was most amused by the fact that I had endured falling asleep into my Lasagne bowl (Garfield reference) every morning at 11:00 am for a month.  So it’s a bit better now but I am still a lazy bastard and it does provide a convenient excuse for lazing about.

Due to my tendency to topple the zimmer frame is back from the loft. Not exactly a welcome return but I have a strange nostalgia for her spindly presence. The last time she and I danced together I was really ill, (it was right at the beginning of all this) in quite a bit of pain and seriously immobile she ensured that I did not end up in nappies.  So at the moment Nonna and I compete for the least mobile inhabitant of AR. She’s winning by a country mile by the way. (What is a country mile?)

I have a whole bunch of cardiology appointments in November that I am very pleased about. All routine processes, connecting monitors to me to try to diagnose the fibrillation issues. The trouble is that as you know from all my moaning, the chemo drugs also cause palpitations and dizziness so I am experiencing a perfect storm of symptoms at the moment. I hope that does not confuse things because It would be great to get some bit of my failing body fixed. I look at myself with some disdain. I am super-duper unfit. At the royal free there is machine that sort of scans you Star Trek fashion and gives Dr McCoy a summary of your fitness. The results indicate a non-human potentially alien presence with such a freakishly bad BMI and legs seemingly not robust enough to support the weight of the torso that I am surprised they don’t ship me off to Roswell.

My capacity to do anything useful at the moment is zilch. On the other hand my passion for doing useless things remains unabated. More on that another time.

To sum up. I have been on the chemo for quite a stretch this time , it has not been that much fun but I am delighted that it works. I have been very lucky as I gather it doesn’t always work in all cases which must be very frustrating for those poor folk who endure all the symptoms for nothing. So far everything they have thrown at me has had a beneficial effect. I assume that once they have used one drug they can’t use it again as the body becomes resistant, but never mind, I gather there are still lots of options up to and including more drastic things like stem cell transplants. No need for any of that just now as my latest numbers have only been surpassed once since I became ill so I am very happy. To give you some context – When I was first diagnosed by bad thingies were over 1000 (beyond the capacity of the measuring device), now they are 33 with a target of 29, so despite the moaning, and I do enjoy a good moan, I bloody well should be happy!

A sober post

I am feeling rather sober so nothing entertaining below. Maybe wait until the next one.

I don’t know why but I am rather proud of this. It is part of my drug schedule for the next month. I start today. One of the nurses agreed that I was winning the ‘consuming most drugs in one month’ award but I think she was humouring me. Nonna next door requires a small shopping trolley for her monthly quota, but I am definitely catching up. Surprisingly my drug banquet is indicative of good news. The amyloidosis is under control and my heart condition is now getting some attention, so with luck after three months of probable poorliness I might have a period free of so many pills. Won’t that be lovely. Meanwhile juggling the various doses and times necessitates Maria at my shoulder while I sit at a clear desk with all the bottles and blisters packs in a row ticking off my list. As I have overdosed two of three times in the past this precautionary measure is not over the top.

The uni are in the process of finding a temporary replacement for me for the next three months. I am not sure how this is going to work out but the principle issue is my depleted immune system and thus my tendency to pick up bugs. The next few months are bad for this because all our freshers go into totally irresponsible social overdrive and catch everything going which they pass on to us staff. So it’s best I stay away. I managed to catch two colds and two stomach viruses over summer so the indications are that I am a viral sponge at the moment. If I am assigned to desk duties that will be fine because I can work from home. On the other hand its a bugger because our course is recruiting really well and we have a new member of staff with some fresh ideas. It feels a bit like I am regressing to the start of my illness when I had to have tons of time off and wrote loads of poems but hopefully this will be a contained absence and you will be spared my delusions of bardeur. Aren’t I lucky to work in the public sector!

Other than this medical update I don’t have a great deal to report. The boys and girls are all good and busy. Maria will require counselling in order to deal with the fact that they may not all be a home with us on Christmas Day – as a seasonal jape I said let’s go to a Little Chef in Doncaster for Christmas lunch but she’s not quite at the stage of finding it funny  – my proposal to move Christmas to May and have a pole instead of a tree just made things worse. Frankly I could not give a toss about Christmas other than I want my family to be happy and to put the 40 x  full on 100 watt lights I bought at the car boot up on the balcony. So it looks like Me, Maria and Nonna in minus 10 and 1,0000000 lumens on a snowy balcony with a 24lb turkey and three cats. I will send you a photograph.

Talking of photographs I bought a 1960’s enlarger to go with my black and white film development kit. I am quite excited by chemical photography mainly because in the hands of the incompetent, it effortlessly introduces error into every stage of the process.

This is my phone box shot and developed by me.

The theme of error had fascinated ever since my ‘pretending to understand John Cage days’ as a teenager. My PhD research more or less equated to ‘err0r = liveness’ but this, sort of, turned out to be wrong but its the theme of this years Ars Electronica festival. 

https://ars.electronica.art/news/en/ars-electronica-festival-2018/
 

On another topic all together

Having thought for years that I was such an original in suggesting that patriotism, nationalism and the whole notion of borders protecting individual nation states is stupid, I discover that, ‘internationalism’ is a core tenet of Marxism. I found an article on the new internationale  and a contribution by Jacques Derrida on Wikipedia. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specters_of_Marx

It struck a chord with me and seems quite timely if a little depressing – 

‘For it must be cried out, at a time when some have the audacity to neo-evangelise in the name of the ideal of a liberal democracy that has finally realised itself as the ideal of human history: never have violence, inequality, exclusion, famine, and thus economic oppression affected as many human beings in the history of the earth and of humanity. Instead of singing the advent of the ideal of liberal democracy and of the capitalist market in the euphoria of the end of history, instead of celebrating the ‘end of ideologies’ and the end of the great emancipatory discourses, let us never neglect this obvious macroscopic fact, made up of innumerable singular sites of suffering: no degree of progress allows one to ignore that never before, in absolute figures, have so many men, women and children been subjugated, starved or exterminated on the earth’

Derrida lists 10 plagues of the capital or global system

  1. Employment has undergone a change of kind, i.e. underemployment, and requires ‘another concept’.
  2. Deportation of immigrants. Reinforcement of territories in a world of supposed freedom of movement. As in, Fortress Europe and in the number of new walls and barriers being erected around the world, in effect multiplying the “fallen” Berlin Wall manifold.
  3. Economic war. Both between countries and between international trade blocs: United States – Japan – Europe.
  4. Contradictions of the free market. The undecidable conflicts between protectionism and free trade. The unstoppable flow of illegal drugs, arms, etc..
  5. Foreign debt. In effect the basis for mass starvation and demoralisation for developing countries. Often the loans benefiting only a small elite, for luxury items, e.g., cars, air conditioning etc. but being paid back by poorer workers.
  6. The arms trade. The inability to control to any meaningful extent trade within the biggest ‘black market’
  7. Spread of nuclear weapons. The restriction of nuclear capacity can no longer be maintained by leading states since it is only knowledge and cannot be contained.
  8. Inter-ethnic wars. The phantom of mythic national identities fueling tension in semi-developed countries.
  9. Phantom-states within organised crime. In particular the non-democratic power gained by drug cartels.
  10. International law and its institutions. The hypocrisy of such statutes in the face of unilateral aggression on the part of the economically dominant states. International law is mainly exercised against the weaker nations.

Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International (French: Spectres de Marx: l’état de la dette, le travail du deuil et la nouvelle Internationale) is a 1993 book by French philosopher Jacques Derrida. It was first presented as a series of lectures during “Whither Marxism?”, a conference on the future of Marxism held at the University of California, Riverside in 1993.

 

Bogus birthday

This is going to be a tough post to bring off because all I have to report are lovely, positive and life affirming things and let’s face it who wants to read that.

But …My bogus birthday was just great.

I have to say that 28 guests was a wonderful confirmation of just how popular and loved I am. Beat that I say all you not so popular and loved people. ha!

Yes I really believed it. For two days I was a sparkling raconteur and delightful host. My words hung like the ripening Yorkshire figs we have in our loggia – rare, sweet and definitely worth waiting for. You see that is one of the side effects of steroids – in the first couple of days, they make you think you are just sooooo great.

So apologies to all of those whose who were hosed by my over exercised gob. I do hope you have dried off by now.

The band revival was brill and I honestly played better than usual. No rehearsal seems to be strangely beneficial to the Gravityisahat groove.

A lovely lovely four days thank you, thank you, thank you everyone.

But enough of that.

I was surprised to be lumbered with another cycle of chemo on Friday. Somewhat dismayed actually because my sociability and mood is proportional to my intake of nice food as you will see below. The chemo is going well but the consultant is pushing for the tape before my trip to the Royal Free. So in part as an explanation to my guests for my deteriorating enthusiasm for eating over the weekend and in part as an opportunity to provide some dietary tips that have revealed themselves over the last umpteen cycles I posit the Newell Manage your Weight by Getting Cancer diet. Do remember though these suggestions are person and medication specific so you may need to adjust to taste.

Day 1: first dose – eat a lot as your enjoying eating days are numbered. However beware in the next day or two you will feel a compulsion for either McDonalds or Fish and Chips. I have succumbed many times with no ill effect, however transitioning to day three after McDonalds or F&S is dangerous. So if you must today, is the day. You will feel great. Much too great to allow any person with any sensitivity within a mile of you. Jokes will spin off your tongue like A Super Sized Big Mac on the griddle with similarly disastrous effect on anyone’s stomach. You really aren’t king of the world! You are loud, opinionated and arrogant. Zip it!

Day 2: sweets are about to become uneatable, so this is a good day for Rowntrees Randoms or Cadbury’s chocolate with Dime Bar. Toward the evening you will stop being able to taste either salt or sweet so now is also the time for Bovril Toast or Werthers Originals. See note above re McDonalds or F&S and the risk factors. Due to the steroids and the sweets you are now hyper. You believe you have entered space-time and taken possession of it. Hours slip by in incoherent rambling as you revive anecdotes pertaining to anyone that anyone might have heard of that you have also heard of. Lie, exaggerate and embellish your stories till your towering deeds overshadow John Snow that paltry nobody of Winterfell.

Day 3: Bread and water are both fairly disgusting so even bland is out. Sausages taste like Hoover bags. Ginger beer cuts through and some spicy stuff tickles the buds a wee bit. This is a bad day for almost all foods so just bunker down with the ginger beer and, strangely, coffee. Tea is about to cease being your friend. You stop feeling good but there is a delay before you feel bad. Enjoy the delay. Your family and friends will.

Day 4: last day of actual drugs. Tea no longer tastes of tea but of some other milky white substance used in paint production. Appetite is shot altogether. Just about everything is pretty disgusting although porridge with sugar is bearable. Retain miserable martyr face most of the day. Alienate friends with very bad temper. Just like a kid deprived of sweets. Yes just like. No known dietary relief for day four, needs more research. You are in decline.

Day 5: No dose today so momentarily feel the worst is over. You are wrong. The drugs are about to really kick in, hitherto they have just been idling. Wee about 8 times in the night. Feel faint every time you stand up but your taste buds are off the green mile and water tastes a bit like, well, water.

Day 6: Stay in bed – crap crap crap not literally

Day 7: revive better eat lots and lots of everything till you feel sick and sick and sick – joy.

Tomorrow is my Day 7.

X

Holiday highlights or other titles to inspire despair

In no particular order

  • Other peoples dreams
  • Other peoples children
  • Other peoples reading
  • Other peoples meals
  • OTHER PEOPLES HOLIDAYS

Ours was in Gozo, an island of Malta

Personal highlight was not feeling ill

Maria’s personal highlight, me not moaning about feeling ill.

We travelled light as always – note the big bag – one of 6 bags we travelled with – a bag for each day of the holiday! Confession it contained my travel bass bound in bubble wrap as well as all our clothes.

Lowlight – Maltese food – they love American tomato sauce and chips. I expect my Bruscetta to be fresh tomato not a bit of bread covered in butter and KP tomato sauce – boy I am so Guardian reader sometimes

It was hot but not much hotter than here in the UK. We had a fabulous pool and very friendly people. I met a banker who worked for that RBS crook, Fred something-or-other –  Simon was a paraplegic swimmer with no legs. I on the other hand had legs but swam like I didn’t. Snowy, the cat recovering from skin cancer was a frequent if repulsive looking visitor – sort of a zombie cat – much loved and looked after by the guests many of whom come every year to the same holiday village.

It was a really fab break in which we spent most of our time prone in the shade watching others do energetic things.

Maria insisted I occasionally move and I must say I felt much fitter by the end. Landed in Leeds on Monday and am straight back on chemo for another 4 days so somewhat back to square one, hence 4:00 am missive.

I planned to introduce you to my other telephones (pics below). To my satisfaction they all work. Some of the wind up looking ones ring across the house and in the garden when you turn the handles. They are for those occasions when I collapse in a heap and need “pronto socorso” – despite Maria practising her Italian – Malta’s second language we were told – they all seemed to speak Maltese first then English – although Italian tourists abound due to proximity to Sicily I assume. Other wind ups communicate from one end of my office to the other, about 5 metres or so, so of limited utility. The dial phones offer connections to the phone box or an utterly useless but a satisfying connection to a beta test phone box system clone utilising an old French switchboard. I still find it magic to be able to link a 1917 candlestick phone by a 1964 French switchboard to a 2014 synthesised version of my voice utilising a 2018 iphone – well its magic to me – its all about slithering through time and I guess that has come about because at one point I did wonder if my time was about to slither away.

Next weekend we celebrate my Birthday with some dear family and dear friends. The family band will get yet another outing. I practised my bass by the pool so I hope to contribute more effectively this time. My wedding performance remains a source of significant embarrassment that can haunt me in early hours like these.

It was quite simply my worst playing ever to by far my largest audience on the most important occasion of my life so far – and as I have learnt only recently, to augment the pain, there was an American in the audience familiar with southern white rock blues (a fan of the Allman Bros I believe) my all-time favourite band and my preferred genre, and he actually knew what the songs should have sounded like. Those of you that attended the wedding. Did you know that those songs were originally not polymultimicrotonal experiments in alternative tunings and rhythms? Anyway with luck, next weekend will help bury my embarrassment at least in part.

Lost interest a bit in this post so will adjourn for now. Want to rant about something but I am not in the right groove.

Next section for telephone enthusiasts only. Really avoid if you aren’t. Really! 

Piccies – info supplied largely unreliable

Top row from L 

Curl of wire ignore
British magneto probably 40’s
British bell box 30’s onwards
Danish 50’s my favourite handset of all
German 50’s
British  50’s 60’s used on London Underground
A magneto – great for electrocution games – stand in circle connect a light bulb held in your hands between you

Middle row from L

Varous spares ignore

Belgium 50’s very popular
French telephone bell and British insulator
British Engineers test set
80’s Italian onyx set sold by BT
French 60’s with very kitsch velour cover

Bottom row from L

Edge of Grundig radio and a few spare french phones I am selling – ignore
French wooden magneto phone 40’s
British candlestick about 1920 – restored from a conversion to a table lamp

Top row

Danish magneto probably 30’s – often improbably placed in movies cos they look cool

The most popular collectors item – a 1950’s British bakelite phone – this one is set up for a party line
British switchboard connected to phone box – 1940’s – on top it has a 60’s telephone amplifier

Bottom

French switchboard from 60’s -connected to the dial phones above and the the beta test system for the K6 phone box. Took me an age to figure this one out.

Top row

British bell box 1930’s onwards
Connects to third row – classic and very popular pyramid phone 30’s onwards

Second row
US magneto phone probably 40’s – a bit boring but one of the first in my collection. Rings around the house

Forth row

A/B box used in phone boxes – very collectable sell for £hundreds on Ebay. I was very lucky – lots of lovely tones when you insert coins – brilliant item.

US payphone form 50’s 60’s – love the colour – connected to the beta test system – needed a lot of fixing

The phone in the phone box – you will have already seen this – this links to my synthetic voice via a very complicated and confusing network of bodges. BUT IT WORKS quite reliably.

Boring old phone in our loggia – 50’s I would guess. I am going to replace this with a mini outdoor French phone cabinet and phone and sell these. I have two and will sell them as an internal intercom. They were probably originally used in a police station or railway station – in great condition but boring don’t you agree.

The best bit of this set up is the extending support for the phone. In fact it was quite expensive but I love it’s eccentricity. Its a fusion between an American bell box with a British candlestick phone – note no dial. Another one that causes phones to ring around the house for pronto socorso purposes – its on the first floor of our house.

A chic French phone in the bedroom – one of my favourites – 60’s probably – will ring phones all around the house.

Its less chic partner in the bathroom. Can be extended toward the bath. Still working on this as the set up was deemed a bit ugly. I love exposed wires but not everyone does. It only uses a 3 volt battery btw. No risk of electrocution.   

 

 

trump, me, neutrinos and bargains

Donald Trump and I have a lot in common. I don’t really care about anyone but me. I have a thin skin, I can be a racist and a misogynist, I don’t read, I am not very intelligent, I am scared walking down slopes, I watch a lot of telly, I have a big mouth and I don’t know where Antartica is. Then again it doesn’t matter.

When the neutrino that just penetrated Antarctica escaped the super massive black hole a gazillion years ago it certainly didn’t matter that Donald Trump would one day emerge from a human birth canal and grow up to be a president. Presidents don’t matter, anymore than determined neutrinos. Nothing does. Except of course getting a Build A Bear at the price of your child’s age. Now that’s a bargain!

 

It always began with an object – Part 2

So I was wrong actually it sometimes starts with a place.

In this case it’s the place I was born and a slither through time from a nearby scenic hillside near the North Downs in Kent to the garden of a flat in Forest Hill.

I was born on a hill. It was posh enough to be called a ‘Rise.’ Across the road from us was a wood and until very recently I had no idea that during WWII the rise was a mooring point for barrage balloons. Despite never knowing this I repeatedly dreamt about them as a child and continued to  do so as an adult and yes they are the stimulus for several poems as well as a small collection of books and memorabilia – isn’t that wierd? Or rather – in a sincere but quizzical voice – is that wierd? Find out in an as yet to be broadcast episode of this blog.

Walk through the wood and up the hill like I did with my mum and our dog

turn L at this

and keep walking up as high as you can go – swivel NW and there is London. For me as a child this WAS weird. My home was the bucolic idyll in which roads were paths and pavements were verges. London was somewhere, someplace else, Dixon of Dock Green lived there and he got shot, it sure wasn’t ‘just over there.’

Travel 50 odd years by Tardis (more about that in a later episode). My youngest and his loveliest rent a flat in 2018. The flat has a small narrow garden and a sliver of a splendid view out toward Kent.

In the centre of the view is my hill

 

is that weird?

It always began with an object – Part 1

I suppose I have always had one foot in the past and one in a glorious imagined future. Boy was I/am I deluded. The present has always been a place to dream from rather than a place to do things in. To think about doing without doing is my greatest pleasure but also my undoing in terms of seeing my glorious imagined future through to fruition.

It always began with an object.

  

As a small child I Ioved old, solidly made things rather than toys. I particularly liked gadgets given to me by Uncle George (an ex army horse vet, marksman and collector of junk). Things like lighters, telescopes, musical instruments, oil lamps, cameras, radios, all the things I still love to play with now. He would just give them to me when we visited or send them to me for Christmas. I still have most of them. They had layers of dirt that were satisfyingly easy for an eight year old armed with a sharp screwdriver, a brush and a tin of Silvo to worry away at, to reveal polished brass, leather, silver, Bakelite and glass. I tackled dead insect grime, flints that had decomposed to a sticky grey dust, ancient hand-made screws that had not been loosened in 100 years, electronic components that had literally waxed away to a caramel gloop.  I was an avid and effective cleaner but I almost never fixed them. I could not be bothered to learn how, it seemed unimportant.

I still have this camera. It’s still broken.

I liked to peer into the viewfinder (very tricky you have to do a  sort of sideways glance into a magnified tarnished mirror) and see a future that starred me as its inventor. The fact that the camera had no film did not stop me taking pictures and I still have those tucked away in my head nowdays appearing as a mediocre pieces of poetic nostalgia for nobody to read. As I say my efforts to restore lost functionality were incompetent but that didn’t matter as the goal was to transform these objects into something magical, usually some device with no relationship to the original, utterly meaningless to anyone but me, or if things didn’t go so well, a tin of small disconnected parts labelled ‘parts’. 

Here are two survivors.The labels fell off.

I still don’t actually know how computers work and I certainly cannot fix them. I cant be bothered to learn how… but the dream to make a magic future-transforming-object out of old junk still motivates my computer voice work today.

Hence the phone box – ah so now it makes sense.

To be continued.

Smoked haddock syndrome

I have been avoiding blogging. I just went off it. You know how it is like you go off smoked haddock or mutton. I don’t think I am back on it yet but when the news of my health is generally quite good I do feel more like sharing. Numbers went the wrong way last cycle which pissed me off because I had been quite ill on the treatment (usually a sign that it is working) and quite hopeful that I could be done with it in three cycles. Now the numbers are going in the right direction but I might need another dose to send my light chains back down to where they should be. I collapsed a week or so ago, 999 and whatnot (aborted after a heroic and mumbling-I-am-fine-while-not-feeling-it crawl to the settee), bare arse in the air, Jeremy Thorpe style, in front of my daughter-in-law (she will never erase the image of her father-in law on the bathroom floor deflated, damp and pale like a forgotten sun bleached swimming pool toy) but generally the chemo course has not been too bad. It’s a long time since I haven’t been awake and up by about 4:00 am but I don’t really mind that because me and the no-longer-feral-cat sit on the loggia drinking coffee watching the sunrise. It a favourite thing to do actually, it feels quite Angela Carter. I expect the trees to bleed golden wedding veils in time with my morning yawning and the cat purring.

Here is a truly disgusting photograph I am rather proud of. I am not sure which is more disgusting the meat or the drugs.

It would be so useful if you could predict your response to chemo and plan ahead but you can’t. I guess your body’s response to each dose is impacted by so many variables you are bound to get different experiences each time. In addition it may be a cumulative effect as it does appear to have a bit more impact the more cycles you have. The first one can be a breeze while the fourth can make you quite poorly. Then again sometimes your body seems to get used to it. In summary nobody can prepare you in advance  so you rely on the patience of family, friends and colleagues to just put up with whatever monstrous mood manifestation the chemo presents. Daily chemo life is framed by the uncertainty of how you might feel that particular day but you have to avoid prefacing every plan, invitation, commitment  with ‘well I will… BUT ONLY if I feel up to it.” Quite rightly people think you are making a fuss. Actually chemo is a great excuse for not doing the things you don’t want to do. Despite the potential for overuse, the chemo excuse still carries a good deal of weight – I still find the inhibited in the community will flinch at its mere mention. For example, I am obliged at the Uni to report every sick day and when I return to work I have to meet with my boss and we both have to fill in a form (a stupidly bureaucratic process) so when I took two days off after the Jeremy Thorpe arse in the air incident I duly reported my reason as ‘side effects of chemo’ – I could feel the admin staff digitally splutter as they reluctantly churned out the stock response the uni requires to such confessions. I strongly suspect that what they wanted to say was ‘shit! I am so glad that isn’t me! How does he cope? And why are we making him fill in this stupid form. Anyway I didn’t fill in the form and no one complained. Little victories – stick it to the man!

I have a few other things I want to talk about but instead of a giant post I will do several short ones over the next few days and weeks.

In my crossest moments I confess I agree

“I’m exactly the opposite of religious, I’m anti-religious. I find religious people hideous. I hate the religious lies. It’s all a big lie”, and “It’s not a neurotic thing, but the miserable record of religion—I don’t even want to talk about it. It’s not interesting to talk about the sheep referred to as believers. When I write, I’m alone. It’s filled with fear and loneliness and anxiety—and I never needed religion to save me.”

Phillip Roth