Don’t Look Me in the Eye

Strap yourselves in, this is a long one.

It’s the day after the night before; the projectile vomiting has ceased but everything now is a bit of a blur. There seems to be a never-ending line of consultants, usually accompanied by a bevy of medical students, queueing up outside my room, each of whom comes in, pokes, prods and questions me, before telling me they’ll be putting in a request for a CT scan, or an X-ray, or some other procedure, to be done. I am too muggy to seek clarification for the most part.

There are two things which I do know by now; firstly, one of the consultants tells me that one of my test results has shown that my kidneys are “bone-dry”. As such, I am placed on a liquid only diet (by which they sadly mean water), and a rehydrating drip is inserted into my left hand. Shortly afterward, my hand has swollen up, and I am reminded of Alan Partridge in the ‘difficult years’ (before he “Bounced Back” ™, when he had a breakdown, put on loads of weight, drove to Dundee in his bare feet, chomping on numerous Toblerones:

…whilst also finding gainful employment hosting “Police! Stop!” sell-through type videos:

But I digress: the other thing I know is that I am going to be here for a while. The day before, when I was still on the first ward, I was informed that they wanted to do skin biopsies, three in total: one on my inner leg, one on my stomach, one on my back.

I have only ever heard the term “biopsy” being mentioned in relation to cancer, and I am suddenly terrified. The nursing staff put my mind at rest; there is presently no thought that I have skin (or any other type of) cancer (Yes, I noticed the inclusion of the clause “presently” into their assurances too); rather there are many different variations of psoriasis, and my skin is showing at least three different types, so they just want to clarify precisely what it is they are dealing with here.

The biopsies are done on the ward, under local anaesthetic, a small scalpel incision to each site, duly sutured up. I ask the chap performing the task whether the stitches will dissolve or not; they won’t, and will need to be removed in 14 days.

“So, do I just go to my GP to have that done,” I ask, “or do I need to come back here?”

He looks at me a little oddly.

“You’ll probably still be here when they need to come out.”

Two weeks! I really need to source a phone charger, I decide.

Now, in what seems a rare moment of undisturbed bliss, I decide to check my phone. As I have forgotten to bring a charger, I have elected to keep it turned off to conserve the battery, until a charger has been sourced. I have asked every nurse, consultant, and student who comes anywhere near me if they can find one I can borrow, but one is as yet to materialise.

I have a few text messages, some from friends but mostly from my mother, enquiring, with gradually increasing alarm, as to my well-being; a few missed calls, all from my mother; and one voicemail, also from my mother. The message is just this: “Where are you?”, and I deduce from her anguished tone contacting her should be pretty high on my list of priorities.

Up until now, bar the phone call to tell them I had been summoned back to hospital, and a text to tell them I’d arrived, pretty much all that my folks know is based on a text exchange on the night I was admitted, which reads:

Me: “Not as concerned as they were, but being kept in overnight. Catheter fitted.”

Mother: “Do you mean a cannula?”

Me: “No, A catheter.”

Trust me, by then I knew the difference. (A cannula is a drip inserted into your arm. A catheter most definitely is not.)

But what to say? I genuinely have very little idea what is going on, and as it stands all I can say is that I’ve moved wards, now have my own room, and will have for the foreseeable future.

I ask one of the nurses, Jess, if she would mind speaking to my mother, and fill her in on my situation. Not a problem, says Jess. And so I call home, but instead of speaking to my mother first and explaining what is about to happen, I hand the phone to Jess, who introduces herself and explains that all is going as well as can be expected.

It doesn’t occur to me until she hands me the phone back that I have not played this well.

What I think I have done is this: rather than provide a rather rambling, befuddled account of the past 24 hours or so, I have responsibly provided a degree of clarity from one of my carers.

What I’ve actually done is this: after hours of no contact at all, and where all my parents know is that I have been instructed to get to hospital as a matter of urgency, for reasons unknown, I have forced my mother into an unintroduced conversation with a hospital representative, who is calling her from my phone. They must have thought the worst had happened. (Sorry!)

My folks tell me they will be down to visit as soon as possible, within the next day or so. They ask if there’s anything I want them to bring; I suggest a phone charger might be an idea, a dressing gown would be nice, but not to bother with any food as I am on liquids only. I dutifully promise to stay in touch as much as I can.

And so, for the next day or so, a daily routine entrenches itself in my life. I am woken at around 6am, when blood pressure and blood tests are done and I am administered with my medication. At some point, twice a day, ointment is applied to my skin. Occasionally, a porter is summoned and I am wheeled off to be scanned or X-rayed for something or other, generally I know not what.

I spend a lot of time sleeping, but it’s the kind of sleep where I’m just sort of bubbling under the surface. Often I will drift off when there is a nurse in the room, and as he or she busies themselves with their checks and tasks, I mutter garbled nonsense at them. Occasionally, one will reply loud enough to wake me with a start, and I feel a little embarrased, enquiring what it was that I’d said.

It’s about time we had a tune:

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The Romantics – Talking In Your Sleep

I think we need to back up a little bit there. Yes, you did spot it, and no, I’m not going to let it slide: I did just mention that ointment has to be applied to my skin twice a day. All of it. Little Jez included.

And every day, when it happens, for reasons which will become obvious, I am reminded of a scene from Dennis Potter’s 1980s BBC drama series The Singing Detective.

Sadly, I am unable to locate any clips of the (infinitely superior) original BBC production online to post, but there was a (nowhere near as good) Hollywood remake, and so here’s the relevant scene. Please substitute Robert Downey Jr. for Michael Gambon as the bed-ridden (due to a much more extreme case of psoriasis then I had) Philip E. Marlow, and Katie Holmes with Joanna Whalley-Kilmer as the foxy nurse. You’ll get the gist, I think:

Much as the nurse tried to make the whole procedure seem as normal and unembarrasing as possible, occasionally the application is punctuated by her saying “And now I’m just going to touch your testicles”, which frankly didn’t help one little bit.

And so to some songs which, once again, will now be ruined by association, ranging from the very obvious:

frankie_valli-grease_s_2

Frankie Valli – Grease

…to the less so:

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Motorhead & Girlschool – Please Don’t Touch

All of this would have been fine, had the rubber-gloved nurse, as I tried to avoid eye-contact, not been singing this*, whilst rubbing the oozing goo into into my every crevice:

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Morrissey – The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get

(*I’m kidding, of course she didn’t.)

Sunday afternoon. It’s lube-time in my room. I am laid on my back, stripped naked, legs akimbo, as the nurse applies the ointment.

She engages in some non-testicular conversation:

“Did you say you parents were coming to visit? When do you think they’ll be here?”

“Literally any moment now.”

At which point, right on cue, the door opens and my parents walk in.

I turn my head (Stop it!) towards them  and say: “Can you give us a minute please?”

They hurriedly exit and close the door.

Moments later, my lubrication ablutions completed, they return.

As they sit and get comfortable, before even a hello is uttered, my father says: “Do you remember The Singing Detective?”

More soon.

I Coulda Tooken

I think I’d better start off this post by declaring that I am not drunk. Whether that is still the case by the time I finish it is questionable.

The reason I feel the need to declare this is because I’m probably going to end up writing some things which are likely to come across as the kind of slurry “You’re my best mate, you are” things you’d only really expect someone four or five sheets to the wind to say.

There you go, that’s the disclaimer out of the way.

You may have noticed recently there has been a lot of Birthday talk on these here pages. A lot of people I know seem to have birthdays around September and October, and I suppose if you think about it logically, at the time of year when we were all conceived it would have been the winter months, dark and cold, and perhaps our parents were huddling together under what used to be called a Continental Quilt when…well, you know…one thing led to another and here we are. (Note to self: I may need to rewrite that bit, it sounds like all my friends’ parents were under the same duvet, which they weren’t, obviously)

Anyway, the thing about birthdays is that on at least one of yours, or perhaps on another totally inappropriate moment – on the school bus, say – you will find yourself suddenly considering the most awful of truths: your parents did “it”.

My brother and I are lucky in that respect. I should explain. My parents got married on 22nd October 1966. My brother was born on 29th July 1967 – near enough nine months to the day after the honeymoon, which I think it’s safe to assume went well. (This has also just reminded me I forgot to remind my Dad about their anniversary, my traditional job. Ooops!)

Similarly, I was born on 26th September 1969, almost nine months to the day after Christmas Day, so it’s safe to say the petrol station was closed, or my Dad just forgot to get my Mum a Christmas present, and had to make it up to her in…er…different ways.

So there we have it. They only did “it” twice. Ever.

I’m not really sure why I’m mentioning all of this, except as a preamble into wishing my former housemate and equal best mate Hel a happy birthday, in something approaching a creative way.

A couple of weeks ago, we were out having a few drinks and Hel pointed out that we had been friends for 16 years. Jesus, really? (You’re expecting an “it seems longer” gag here, right? Well jog on, you’re not going to get it. Because it really doesn’t seem that long. And of course by referencing said joke, I have managed to make it, whist simultaneously denouncing it. Oh yes! I am finally revealing myself to be the very epitome of a hitherto concealed post-modern self-deconstructing blogger!)

Anyway, it seems just weeks since we first met, upstairs in what was The Tut ‘n’ Shive on City Road in Cardiff (although she will probably tell me I’m wrong and we met much earlier than that). She was with her brother Llyr, also mentioned often in these pages, who would soon become my flatmate, but more of him another time.

Hel was wearing a Motorhead t-shirt, which I thought was pretty cool. This was before band t-shirts such as this became fashion accessories worn by needy people who had no clue about any record ever made by the bands whose logos graced their t-shirts  (see also Ramones).

As an aside, I have two band t-shirt stories to tell.

Firstly I was at a house party once, and there was a guy there wearing one of these:

amplified-mens-primal-scream-screamadelica-t-shirt-orange-p1831-4202_zoom

You and I know this is a Primal Scream “Screamadelica” t-shirt. But the guy wearing it? No-siree-bob.

“Nice tee shirt” I called across the room to him.

“Thank you” he beamed in response.

“Great album too!” I suggested.

“It is an album?” he replied, genuinely confused. “I just liked the picture!”

Hmmmm…..

Second, I was wearing a PJ Harvey tee shirt at work once, one promoting “50 Foot Queenie” from her “Rid of Me” album. It looked like this:

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I was wearing it ironically, since it has the words “Hey I’m One Big Queenie” emblazoned on it.

Certain folks in my office had never seen the likes. A very attractive girl approached me at the photocopiers.

Her: “I like your tee shirt”

Me: (nonchalantly) “Oh, thanks”

Her: “Who’s the picture of?”

Me: (disinterestedly) “PJ Harvey”

Her: “Who’s that?”

Me: “A really cool singer/songwriter. You’d like her.”

Her: “Oh? What does she sing? What do you recommend?”

My brain: “Sorry mate, I got nothing. I mean, I could have a rummage round some of these boxes of the usual shit you’ve got stored up here and try and dig out some of her songs so you don’t look like a dick, but I don’t think I can be arsed right now.”

Me: “Um….er….ahhh…hahaha…would you believe it…my mind has gone totally blank…..”

Tune in soon for the next instalment of “I am rubbish at talking to girls”

But anyway, I digress.

I asked Hel what her favourite Motorhead record was. Her reply: “It’s actually a thing they did with Girlschool…”

I looked at her in some amazement.

“Please Don’t Touch?” I said.

“Yes!!” she replied, mouth and eyes agog that someone else knew that record.

This one:

motorhead-and-girlschool-please-dont-touch-bronze Motorhead & Girlschool – Please Don’t Touch

And yes, I know I’ve posted that before.

We got talking and somehow got onto the topic of Smash Hits magazine. The more astute of you will have spotted the more-than-occasional homage to their way of writing around these parts. We enquired about each others favourite fact gleaned from those glossy pages. Number one on both of our lists was: “Mark King of Level 42 has insured his thumb for a million pounds!!” Truly I had found a kindred spirit. A Liverpool fan, but you can’t have everything, right?

If further proof were needed, we both love this record, the UK’s Eurovision entry the year after Bucks Fizz:

One_step_further_bucks_fizz Bardo – One Step Further

If I had a pound for every time we had drunkenly attempted to do the dance routine I’d be a very rich man by now.

We’ve spent many a happy night ratted together, me and Hel. There was the time we stayed up all night pissed, and I sent her out to buy another bottle of vodka at 9am, after which we decided it would be a really good idea to watch Jimmy McGovern’s death drama “Hillsborough” (the clue’s in the title as to how happy it’s going to be), spending the next few hours hugging each other and bawling our eyes out.

And then there was the time of the great argument about radishes.

Suffice it to say that on many of the stories I will tell over the forthcoming posts, Hel has been at my side, my wing-girl, a reciprocal deal, I hope. There’s so many stories I could, and probably will, tell you about times we’ve spent together, things we’ve done. For now, I’ll just give you a couple.

Firstly, as a measure of the woman, when I first was moving to London 7 years ago, I gave her a ring to see if she knew of anywhere I could find some digs.

“There’s a spare room in my place,” she said.

“Really? Great! Can I have it….?”

“It depends. Have you got the following things: 1) a DVD player 2) a pepper grinder, and 3) friends who are male models?”

I had the first two, but not the third.

“Meh. We can work on that. Move in when you like”.

And on the day I moved in, instead of unpacking and then letting me get an early night before my first day in a new job, she proceeded to take me on a tour of all the local pubs and get me proper hammered.

More recently, we’ve started DJ’ing together. Usually when you DJ with someone, you have an agreed spell “solo” on the decks, say half an hour on, half an hour off, but I have a need to know what’s coming next, in being prepared and lining the next one up (reasons will become clear in subsequent posts, and yes, those that know it, I am going to tell that story eventually), and she totally buys into this. As a result, Hel and I seem to have such a blast DJ’ing together we spend the whole night conferring about a running order, concurring about what the next record will be, and then the next and the next, with an implicit agreement that if you suggested the next record up, you mix it in. It’s a truly democratic process.

Our most prestigious gig was about a year ago, a private function in London’s swanky Groucho Club (we’ve never been invited back, but we were invited to “turn it down please” on the night.)

Beforehand, Hel had told me she was desperate to play Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”. I wasn’t particularly happy, but had decided I could counter it by deciding what to play either side. The next three records were the sequenced result:

Dance%20Apocalyptic%20Concept%20Art%20-%20Credit%20SAM%20SPRATT Janelle Monae – Dance Apocalyptic

Krista-2_28-2 Taylor Swift – Shake it Off

Britney_Spears_Toxic Britney Spears – Toxic

(What actually happened was as we walked to the venue, I told Hel I had thought of a record that would fit perfectly after Taylor Swift. “Is it Britney?” she asked. Damn you!!!)

(The place went batshit crazy when we dropped the Janelle Monae track, but we’ve never actually agreed which of us thought to play it. But I mixed it in, so……)

Some time earlier, we had played a friend’s wedding (truly any occasion, bar mitzvahs etc etc) and Hel taught me a valuable lesson: in certain circumstances, it is perfectly acceptable to play this:

whitneydance Whitney Houston – I Wanna Dance With Somebody

There’s loads more records I could play now which make me think of her, one of which she would fucking kill me if I posted, but for now, that’s me and Hel.

Oh, and then there’s this:

R-826535-1190720197_jpeg Almighty Allstars – Star Wars

Can’t think why that reminds me of Hel….did I mention she used to work for Almighty Records…? And recorded the odd vocal…? No….? Silly me….

Happy Birthday, hope you have a great one.  Love ya loads.

Here’s an appropriate one:

R-1574277-1274915614_jpeg The Velvet Underground – She’s My Best Friend

(Count yourself lucky I didn’t post The Wedding Present version)

PS: OK, now I’m drunk.