Gradually madder

Since coming off the chemo drugs and feeling gradually better I have gone gradually madder. I noticed almost immediately that as my body started to run more normally my brain was skating off in the opposite direction. How could it be that a holiday from daily poisoning was making me feel more anxious and disorientated? The responsibility of going back to work with a brimming bowl of teaching was not something that would normally bother me but, on this occasion, I was choking on every morsel of preparation, feedback or marking. My 9:00 till 5:00 Friday (hardly exceptional but necessitating a 5:30 alarm) paralysed my eyelids open. I certainly wasn’t worried, depressed or even sad, actually the opposite, just hyper anxious and obsessively hard working. What was going on??

Yes what was going on? – I failed to ask myself in the rush toward start of trimester. As day one of teaching approached I decided to revisit resort-not-sleeping, a place that had been off my bucket list since the trip to China in the 80’s fiasco, the abandoned to burn by my costume designer fire incident and the dragging my mattress around the hotel corridors looking for somewhere to shack up with the sleep fairy debacle. Anyway in the last few weeks, and after some practice, I manage to achieve that special status reserved for only serious insomniacs of not sleeping for one night AT All! OK so a slight exaggeration – I needed to get up at 6:00 am. I slept from 5:45 till 6:00. I know because I was digital-flashing-clock watching all night. For those of you who have never tried it, I recommend insomnia as way to experience what it’s like to have OCD. I guess it might be a derivative. Your head goes into a loop ‘Look at the time, and I am still not asleep!’ -> ‘I am still not asleep. What time is it?’ -> repeat ad-nauseam. For those of you who have it, and I know some of you in the family suffer, maybe it helps to know we are all in the same club, even if nobody in their right mind would want to be a member.

Tips for surviving insomnia

  1. take pleasure in punching the smug, right-on GP who puts up a massive fuss about giving you sleeping pills and recommends mindfulness (more about that incident when my rage abates)
  2. Read what the brilliant Labour MP Jess Phillips has to say about managing anxiety and insomnia

    “When things are really bad I take medication.”

so refreshing to hear someone say “Take the drugs.” Instead of – go and swim with dolphins with crystals down your trunks.” Yes, she also advocates regular exercise, I can forgive her for that, but a public figure addressing the stigma felt by us ‘softies’ that occasionally need some chemical coping strategies, is just what the doctor ordered, at least for me.

  • And this is the big one – read the back of your drug packets when you are on chemotherapy because ….

I mentioned in passing to my consultant that I was surprisingly anxious and had trouble sleeping despite being in such a positive place medically. I expected an explanation along the lines of – ‘now you have a bit less to worry about, your brain has invented some trivial worries to fill the hole’ … but no, he barely broke his verbal stride (you know the one that goes Him: ‘How are you?” Me: “Good.” Him: “Fine. Shall we say see you in 3 months.”) as he explained that for the last nine months I had been effectively taking sedatives. More than one of the drugs I was taking, even in small doses (I was taking big ones) would put most people to sleep. Thalidomide was prescribed originally both to alleviate morning sickness and to calm the mother down. My body had grown used to daily inputs of self-inflicted narcolepsy and now I was cold turkeying.

So there it is – now it all makes sense.

I am not having an Ingmar Bergman (Persona) moment.

I am having a Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) moment.

The anxiety and sleeplessness has not stopped yet but I have got a grip and a bunch of pills. Meanwhile Tracy Emin, another hero of mine, has taken a bunch of selfies to make all us nutters feel less alone at 3:17 in the morning.

Lisa Marini – London gig March 8th – we will be there

The marvellous Lisa Marini and her marvellous band that includes the marvellous Jack Tustin, Benedict Wood & Arthur Newell are gigging on March 8th at St Pancras Old Church. Tickets and information can be found here

The new album is totally amazing!!!

Lisa’s new website is here

Maria and I will be there and it would be fantastic to catch up loads of family and friends. So book your tickets pronto.

Windy day on Mars

Why the delay in posting? Let me explain.

Sometimes I worry that I just might be being boring. No, no, no! I hear you cry. Well, when you have little of import to say, no ripplingly funny cat anecdotes, no hospital misadventures involving poorly arranged gowns or hilarious pensioners getting misdirected by the Sat navs into one way streets (oh wait, that was me in Hull on my way to collect an old telephone from an eBay seller in a car park) it’s hard to acquire the confidence to press finger to keyboard and wax. But I owe it to you all, dear readers, to ensure you are fully conversant with my escapades, unremarkable though they are.

Maria is mid her seasonal Dickens read hence the rhythm of the last sentence.

Christmas is pretty much over and a big family super success it was. Due to conflicting schedules and parental turn taking we had our four early for “fake Christmas.” Maria had done her customary thing with trees and lights and lights and lights and baubles and candles and ribbons and incense and turkey and Christmas cake and lights and mulled wine and stuffing and Christmas pudding and more lights to which I contributed zilch. Why she endures my complete physical and emotional absence during the Christmas preparatory period I don’t know. She is so into it! And incredibly loveable it is too. Day one of the family visit and we blew the main fuse at 2:30 in the morning. Not some trivial circuit breaker but the fuse that is the first gateway between power station and domicile. A big black thing that looks like it was once part of a Lancaster bomber. Its demise indicated that the 9 storage heaters, the tumble dryer the 4 foot blow up Santa, the two immersion heaters and the 3000 watts of outdoor lights bought at a car boot sale (I jest not) could be drawing more power from the grid than the rest of the village put together. Anyway I slept on the sofa with a delighted ex Ferrell awaiting Northern Power who arrived after only a couple of hours with full mining helmet lights and generators to reconnect us. Last time this happened, donkeys years ago, we actually blew the cable off the outside wall and burnt it through like a Roman Candle, this time happily I did not have to lie about our power consumption and blame the previous house owners, as apparently it wasn’t our fault, the supply having been recently upgraded, however they agreed that excessive Christmas electrical joy and the blown fuse were probably not unconnected.

This outage came just a week or so after the 8 days we were cut off from phone, internet, landline, text, Netflix and catch ups of “Strictly.” The result of some over enthusiastic pruning of ivy on the telegraph pole with a chainsaw!!! by two nice ‘Open Reach’ chaps from Cumbria. I must admit when I saw them assault the pole I did wonder whether the combination of delicate electrical wiring, entangled knots of ivy stems as thick as blacksmiths arms and two burly enthusiasts, the bearers of said arms, wielding a chainsaw, a hand saw and an axe would result in the intended ‘pole clearance’ or the more likely “whoops we have cut through the wire but we ain’t the right guys insured to fix it” scenario. Anyway the latter came to pass as predicted. The blacksmiths and I enjoyed an amicable coffee together discussing the incident. My Bulgarian was taxed to the limit by our reflections on the quality of Bulgarian coffee versus Italian. I still don’t know which of us won or indeed if it was that we were talking about but anyway after many apologies they went back to Cumbria and we were left bereft of all digital connectivity. I would like to report how much we both enjoyed ‘being away from the telephone’ that old desert island disks “how will you cope marooned on a desert island cliché”, but actually, if I could have broken out with a digital connectivity yearning rash I would have done. Both of us became really quite anxious and fed up. I was no longer able to contribute my paltry amount of admin to the University, the telephone box was forced into silence, Nonna could no longer summon us (her mobility is now virtually zero) nobody could get in touch with us through any channel except by travelling to York and banging on the front door and the only telly was the telly that dropped down the telly aerial, ie repeats of top gear and QI. I was onto BT support daily, facilitated by hacking into the neighbours poorly secured Wi-fi from our shed, or using the telephone next door at Nons. Four times over four days BT promised to fix it and on three of those four occasions they did not show up. We were so so so pissed off. Finally they arrived with a Cherry Picker from Tadcaster, not a peasant wearing traditional dress with hands stained with purple juices, but a mobile person crane. This time the right people to fix it were present, although staggeringly they had to borrow some of my tools, having been gifted with a new junction box equipped with a lock and no key. Anyway to recap, imagine our surprise and delight when a week after digital connectivity was restored and my blood pressure settled to its normal just below Chernobyl level, we blew up the electricity supply in the middle if the night just as our Christmas guests had arrived. Anyway all turned out well in the end.

So the other good news for me is that I am off the drugs. My numbers are the best they have been since diagnosis so the nine months of mildly disabling medicines and three months of not going into work or driving anywhere has been worth it. Pretty much immediately I have started to feel much more normal. I am no longer dizzy, I can drive again, my energy levels are going up and I would swear I can see my legs metamorphosising from something an anorexic stork would be ashamed of, to something the Incredible Hulk would be proud off were he also to be anorexic. As you know the machine at the NAC always reports the ratio of my muscle to bone-matter gristle as laughably poor in my extremities. Basically my arms and legs are barely strong enough to stay attached to my body let alone contribute anything useful. If I find myself in the crouched position, say to retrieve a toothpaste cap, I need to find something substantial to haul myself up on, the sink, a handy scaff pole or a passing visitor will suffice. After a childbirth level of straining and groaning I am eventually restored to homo erectus. Thus; for the most part if I drop something, unless it is really crucial, valuable or embarrassing, it stays right there on the floor until the clean up fairy retrieves it. The alternative being the spectacle of me wheezing my way upright while grappling for hand holds as if I were climbing the Matterhorn without ropes. Anyway all of that is improving and while I am no springy chicken the improvement is massive already.

I have tons of teaching next trimester so I do need to do a lot of prep over Christmas but in between we are having return visits from some, or possibly all of our four. We will be doing another Christmas lunch on Christmas Day for Nonna, just the three of us. To be honest I can’t be arsed but as I contribute nothing to the process it seems churlish to complain and at least I get my presents. Spouserly presents are modest this year as we bought an expensive fence. Maria designed it and to be honest I was concerned that it could end up a bit Guantanamo as it’s about six foot high and of Trumpian substance but I have to say it’s turned out to be a design triumph. The issue has been that easy access to the dog walker lane from our garden has encouraged a steady flow of friendly pups to visit us unexpectedly, either in the garden or occasionally in the house. While I am an enthusiastic dog lover and tend to toward the welcoming, the three cats are not so delighted to see their food vacuumed up by anything from two white devious shiatsu to a dim adorable but not unintimidating Doberman. The fence has the added advantage of curbing that annoying Yorkshire habit of friendliness, manifest in worthless chat about the weather, a topic I simply don’t care about, particularly when I am engaged in lofty literary thoughts on our loggia regarding telephone directories (see below).

The new year looks promising for one and all and I eagerly await the arrival from our four of a novel, a screenplay, an album and accomplishment in Senegalese drumming. They are all being as incredibly arty as I am being incredibly dull. I am currently thrilled by a book recounting the history of the telephone directory which, by the way, began in America as one sheet of card listing predominantly doctors and dentists. No numbers of course, that hadn’t been thought of, just names.

Here is a cultural puzzle for you all I have been considering. There was a vogue, after the invention of the telephone, particularly in France for postcards featuring, predominantly anonymous children but also adults, photographed speaking on the telephone. These were often accompanied by some sentimental verse.

The romantic connotations of lovers communicating over a distance seems clear enough but some fella just sitting at a desk holding a telephone receiver to the ear is not particularly romantic, festive or cool. I know I am missing something here but can anyone think of an example of modern technology which has been repurposed in a similar way? It seems to me a bit like sending someone a postcard of an unknown person operating an iPad and expecting the recipient to be pleased, surprised, amused or moved. I just don’t get it. That said I am completely drawn to this period of rampant eccentricity. The era from 1870 to 1920 is variously stuffed with technical and cultural innovation as well as a mixture of self indulgent angst and wackiness. I have already bored you with my enthusiasm for the music of that period but the more I read, the more I find the “stuff” of that period alluring. Telephones, phonographs, radios, photography and film. I think part of it is a childhood sense that despite the brilliance of the inventions most of them are reasonably easily understood and thus potentially duplicated in Meccano or with a few lengths of copper wire and a magnet, whereas technical innovation today is largely incomprehensible and certainly not reproducible in Meccano.

Did you hear the sound of the mars wind? Actually it was really the sound of the spaceship vibrating because of the wind, but so what. “A windy day on mars.” What a thought.

DID and blood results

The eagerly awaited results of the DID challenge. Paul wins with 25/80 points. Here are the correct answers. You miserable lot hardly any of you even tried. It was mighty hard though

  1. Humperdinck: from Hansel and Gretel the opera
  2. Berg: Hier is Friede – a song (i would guess early)
  3. Dvorak : Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém – Song to the Moon from Rusalka the opera
  4. Korngold: Die Tote Stadt (an opera by the famous film composer set in Bruges – thats why i want to go there)
  5. Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde (last movement)
  6. Tchaikovsky: Romance – actually a violin piece but someone stuck some words to it.
  7. R Strauss: Wiegenlied a song
  8. R Strauss: Morgen another song

I did find the uniformity of my choices a wee bit troubling. Am I obsessed or just unambitious. Most of these choices would have been the same 40 years ago. I discovered Korngold when I worked at HMV in Oxford St just before I joined the army for love – her name was Carolyn and she wasn’t worth it and she had a boyfriend – i nearly tempted her away though – he was a plonker but signifcantly better educated than me. I bought records of all the symphonies of Mahler at the same time (staff discount). The guy who was in charge of selling them to me – tried a not particularly threatening pass on me in a flat in Angel Islington by sharing his collection of gay porn – if i remember rightly it was all black and white and the playmates were exceptionally generously adorned – the second time I have actually run for it – not out of fear – but i simply could not think of a suitable excuse – so while he was in the toilet – i dread to think why – i legged it  (both run-for-its in my early romantic life were in North London within 2 or 3 miles of each other). Actually he was a nice guy – bit embarrassed the next day (he was) – I wasn’t bothered (Swanley Comprehensive made you resistant to all forms of potentially abusive encounters and getting away with out being beaten up, just being made to share some grainy pictures of big willies made the whole incident a laugh that I shared with all my colleagues) He and I got on fine after that – ugly geezer he might of had a chance if he was a bit more of a looker – I think he finally finally believed I really was straight. The Tchaikovsky is a Maria discovery on a Sylvia Sass record – we have searched high and low for the music so she could sing at my funeral to no avail. Berg has been a long-time favourite particularly the stuff which is on the cusp of atonality – I find the agonising struggle between harmony and dissonance really really romantic.  Berg never stopped doing that hence even his most challenging stuff still hankers after tunes. Aha Maria can sing that at my funeral – who’s up for the piano part – yikes – there is an arrangement for piano, harmonium and cello – I can feel an extended family band coming on. Talking of dying – I hitchhiked to Vienna to find Bergs grave. Ended up sleeping in a very rough bit of town next to the street of amorous encounters. I was on the ground floor – it was hot and the windows were open – my german vocabulary remains to this day highly specialised. To digress for a second- I actually slept in a real brothel when stranded by a rail strike for three days in Venice – as you can imagine there was nowhere respectable available. It was a very odd arrangement insofar as I was just put in a spare room all the other rooms being ‘occupied.’ I can’t remember exactly how i came about getting it but I had just finished three months of intensive Italian tuition in Perugia and I was really proud of myself so I was just talking to anyone on the street showing off my coffee ordering skills and enquiries after the location of the zoo or ‘their’ red pencil case. I assume I must have told my story to one of the nice girls I bumped into (The Perugia experience made me very confident – it wore off once back in England) and the next thing I had a not very nice room (i cannot remember a window) for next to no money for three days in Venice, other people were sleeping on the streets. My only regret was that I left my socks and a shirt drying there. The two Strauss songs are on the b side of Jesse Normans 4 Last Songs recording (My mother adored them and listened to them while lying literally speechless (motor neurone derivative) – in her chair in our annex crying with emotion. The Humperdinck always makes me cry despite being kitschy. I think a choir of angelic children descend from heaven to look over the sleeping children in the next scene.  The Mahler is simply the sublimest farewell and slip into eternity ever written (saw his grave in Vienna too) and Freud’s surgery (best museum ever – you get shown around individually by the housekeeper – its just a flat with his stuff in. Incredible vibe.) It’s all the female voice which is the instrument of the wife I adore, all bar two in German and they all probably fit into a period of 1870 – 1930 ish which is my preferred period of all things arty, design, painting, architecture, film the lot. When I say preferred I don’t mean I spend my time studying or even absorbing the art of this period I just mean that this stuff always catches my ear or eye in a way that the early 19th century or anything from the eighteenth doesn’t.

I could do another considered eight that would be a bit more of a mixed bag. It would definitely have Puccini with Pavarotti, Monteverdi, Muse, Radiohead, Alison Krauss, Britten, Glass, but it has been interesting to release a gut reaction and see what comes out. I kind of recommend it but you may be surprised at what comes out.

I have more hospital results and I am at 33 thingies. They are now saying they may push for complete remission but we are not sure how the NAC defines that. I was told anything below 30 was more or less normal but the NAC are always keen to push it down further, don’t ask me why. Anyway that means potentially another three cycles after this one – argggghhhh! I will have been on the drugs for a whole year. Trouble is they are cumulative and each cycle does makes me feel a little bit weirder. My memory is getting quite bad (don’t worry it is a side effect) and  I get muddled up easily, find it hard to concentrate and am rather bad tempered. These first few days are good cos the steroids counteract the thalidomide so I am able to be quite productive if very gobby, (hence this post) but once they stop and the melphalan really kicks in I do feel quite peculiar. Have not driven other than one trip of 4 miles for months now. I have heart tests on the 19th and 21st this month, if they can fix that it will make a massive difference.

Anyway I am managing to do some university office work, thank goodness for Skype and e-mail. The university has been exceptionally tolerant and supportive so I try to do all the tasks I am assigned without ranting about the meaningless form filling bollocks we are all subject to – so i want to get better quickly so I can resume the rants with a clean conscience.

You will be gutted to know that I have shut down public access to all my poems and short stories as I am planning a few submissions and most competitions stipulate that your work must not be on blogs or published online in any form. The one to have a go at is the Mogford Prize because the prize is 10 grand. I have tried the last two years and failed utterly. You need to write about food as its run by an Oxford based restaurant.



Hate the term. It’s so disgustingly liquid on the lips. It’s an acronym for learning and teaching. At some stage in educationalist history the term teaching was dropped and teaching and learning or learning and teaching  replaced it. It’s meant to celebrate the idea of mutuality. A sort of right on reaction to slam desks and copying from blackboards. Learners teach and teachers learn. The snake biting its own tale. Trouble is when you come to experience it as a learner of teaching that you realise  there is no learning, just teaching, in fact worse than that it’s drilling. ‘Though shalt exercise your educationalist instinct in this way and this way only as failure to do will prevent the award of a qualification that teaches you to teach others how not to learn.’ The argument is that learning to teach is a discursive process with many different perspectives, however any discussion on the need for a system at all is off the table.

Desert Island Disks and Quiz – reprise

A colleague at work sent me his DID selection (yep its the sort of thing we academics do) and it reminded me that a few years ago now I started a thread in which several of us put up our DIDs and we had to identify the song singer etc. That was before Maria and I rushed to Waitrose for organic braised coconut leaves for tonights drinks with Teminimah and Henry. I don’t think I ever put mine up. So here is my selection. I have not really taken the true DID approach of relating them to key points in my life – these are just spine tinglers and have been tingling me more or less since I got into classical music. The other noticeable feature is how incredibly similar they are. I mean more or less the same! I didn’t think too hard so I assume they are soulful rather than clever clogs responses. However some of them are bloody clever.

5 points composer

5 points work

prize – acclaim

good luck



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.

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.

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.


Holiday highlights or other titles to inspire despair

In no particular order

  • Other peoples dreams
  • Other peoples children
  • Other peoples reading
  • Other peoples meals

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


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.