Mimi’s and wind

I am back at work and off the drugs for a bit longer – so that is most pleasing. The timing was not brilliant because as I became mobile the students went on holiday for Easter, but I managed a few days of catching up and I must say they seemed quite pleased to see me. I was certainly pleased to see them. I am still a cause for mirth as the distinction between my beard hair and sideburns and the hair on my crown, grows more not less. It really does look as though I applied my bottle of ‘chestnutty adonis’ to the top of my head and could not be arsed to blend it in with “santas snow’ in the lower reaches of my face.

I am avoiding talking family as you know. They are all professionals now and I have to be careful that my indiscretions and anecdotes don’t become their online profiles. The photo above however sends more than the customary tingles of pride down my spine.

Maria and I spent the night at Mimi’s in Soho, which we can thoroughly recommend. It sounds dead dodgy but sadly it isn’t. It’s actually a German run hotel that offers mini 5 star (they say) appointed rooms – the size of a second bedroom in a Barratt semi – with en-suite – but no windows!! affordable not cheap. Absolutely ideal for theatre-land etc. To be honest I found the tomb like mega dark once the lights were out, scary and I ended up focusing on the ‘you are not dead yet’ red power light on the TV. Maria was unconcerned and snoring during my mortality crisis.

I have found my long lost research wind again. The telephone box is a perfect fit with my more academic interests thus allowing me to think and act creatively but produce some of the obligatory academic writing. I will use this opportunity to try to write a draft abstract outlining my ideas, so brace yourselves. 

Computer generated voices don’t fool us. While it is possible to meticulously compose a sentence of two that gets close to doing so, the unconvincing delivery of on-the-fly utterances will swiftly reveal that the machine has no idea what it is talking about. It is in effect lying or acting badly. In this practice based research I attempt to develop a performance scenario in which the voice, the narrative, the time and the setting legitimises this limitation and enhances the users ‘willing suspension of disbelief.’  The voice is a computer rendering of my own voice, the narrative is autobiographical, the time is the future and the setting is a vintage red telephone box on the road outside my house.

Does that sound credible?

Two weeks off the drugs!

I have two weeks at least off the drugs. I already feel a whole lot better and it’s 4 in the morning of the first night/morning. Along with all the other good things the thalidomide acts as a sort of sedative so you feel in a permanent stupor. Now free of stupor I have written a short story and I am raring to go somewhere, don’t know where or how or why. Since January I have lost a stone in weight, I could afford to do that though, and I look distinctly greyer and a bit unwell. My chicken legs are more chickeny than ever and my arms look like Victoria Beckhams but without the muscle tone. So I need to get back to my distinctly flabby pinkness by moving about a bit and eating.

BTW I am going to change the content of this blog in future. Family updates will henceforth be by private e-mail to family and friends. That way I am not boring everyone with the exploits of my deliciously successful and loveable family. Instead this blog will take as its primary subject me. That was always the intention and I got lost in a wave of showing off about them. So unsubscribe immediately if you can’t cope with a monthly update on yours truly. Don’t start thinking what a big head and he doesn’t give a toss about anyone else, he does give a toss a big toss but he is no longer going to write about it here. License for unconstrained egotism.

Now cats, that’s an all together different thing.

Vince has a plague of ticks. He gets them from his nightly jaunts to see the sheep. His ear is covered in monstrous engorged specimens that leave him fur free when they drop off. He is smart cat though and Maria’s efforts to douse him in the appropriate remedy have led to some sophisticated avoidance techniques and not a little outrage. So far she has only managed to squirt something noxious onto his back which appears to have done no good at all. We feel sorry for him because they must either itch or hurt. He does not appear that bothered, more bothered by the attempts at a cure, but he does make for a rather medieval impression lying by the fire covered in blight and scabs and little insects. Not exactly designer cat.

I will catch up soon when I am less hyper.

good numbers

I am very pleased to report that my cancer numbers continue to decline dramatically – so the thalidomide really does seem to be working. The numbers are back to levels I have not seen since I was first treated and each course roughly halves the offending light chains. What does this mean? Well of course it is not a cure. I am stuck with these conditions for ever unless a cure is discovered but while it is held in check I am likely to be able to lead a more active life (ha ha) and not feel so rough. Of course the cancer will gradually make its way back and each time the doctors will weigh up what treatment is best to push it into remission again. I suppose repeating the same treatment is not always the best thing so it may be that they ring the changes. Who knows, but in any case I feel very grateful that it is working cos there is always the possibility that these treatments don’t – so I am a lucky bunny.

I was really sad to hear that the broadcaster Steve Hewlett had died of oesophageal cancer. I had been following him avidly and we had corresponded through Twitter. If you have not heard his broadcasts on Radio 4 they are all available as podcasts. His attitude to illness chimed exactly with mine however he was a lot braver and was facing a much grimmer scenario. Truly a great piece of journalism and a model of emotional restraint and good humour. I am so sorry for his family particularly his boys but hopefully his plain speaking attitude to his predicament made his death a bit more bearable for them. He was so free of crap it was inspiring.

It is lovely to hear bits of news from various readers. Please keep em coming. It’s been quite isolating, not being able to drive since January, not that I am sad or anything but just feel a bit disconnected from all the exciting things people are doing. Strangely I have no desire to join any of you, nor in fact to see any other of you, just knowing what you are up to is enough.

Latest drug haul


My latest drug haul. Possibly only another month to go before I get a break. Consultant of the soldier-on view, it’s doing you good, so if possible put up with the side effects. I agree I am not in any pain or anything really nasty. I just a general sense of not wellness that pervades me with a ducky tummy and a spinning head. The real frustration is not being able to do anything for any amount of time. I am more of a bed bound butterfly than I unusually am.

Family news for those that can bare it. George and Avani’s wedding plans go ahead splendidly. Lovely big venue with lovely outside areas. They are organising it with great love, thought and care. I must admit Maria and I were it bit slapdash for ours just relieved to have persuaded some mercenary and incompetent vicar that both Maria, a Catholic and me, an Atheist could legitimately be married in an Anglican Church – a few spondillies settled the matter and Christopher “Leonard” Newell and Maria Bo”h”vino were married on the 27th August 1983 and have remained so ever since – ahhhh

Other family news – Lisa Marini is back from Bali tomorrow after 6 weeks. We are really looking forward to her return not least because we love her dearly and Arthur has been looking forward for the last 5 weeks and 6 days 23 hrs and 59 minutes. He was worried about achieving nothing while she was away except a heavy heart and a tear stained drum kit but he has pulled him self together and – (over proud parent moment coming up) – achieved all firsts in all his performance exams over all 4 years which has got to be good. It matters not a jot to his future career as the Jazz world could not give a toss about what degree you have or whether indeed you have one just whether you can play – a judgement made on the spot – yes hire – no don’t hire. He talks less enthusiastically about theory and essays which will of course ruin his career . On that subject he has two prestigious gigs coming up with the Matthew Read Trio

Ronnie Scott’s (late night slot ) March 27. Not the intimidating expensive downstairs bar but the seedier realer place upstairs. He needs to do a few more years yet.

The Bulls Head Barnes March 28

Both venues have very posh restaurants and great locations so you could always make an evening of it or in the case of Ronnie’s a very long boozey night followed by some prostitution. However take your Amex platinum with you.

We hope to go to Ronnies, if the old man can make it in one piece, and stay in a hotel in Soho emerging from bed to go to gig and then retiring before the jam, the shootings and the drug taking that follows. Anyone want to join. Starts about 11:30 pm though.

Nothing much else to report. We have bought a glass door cabinet for 99p for eBay as my lighter collection continues to expand. The American ones are the best but you have to pay 25% VAT on anything over £18.00 plus £8.00 handling from parcel force so I have to make very cheeky offers to my American sellers who I must say are universally good natured about it, admittedly as they decline my offers. My latest pitch is for a pink Evans set with ash tray and cigarette box – devine darling and only a bit chipped. The cats continue to jostle for power like trumps cabinet . Bobby keeps loosing status and pissing – last time was on Vince’s food. Maria gets hysterical I can’t smell it and kinda don’t care.

Bovril and sherbet dib dab

So my cancer remission results are looking great. Numbers almost back to the levels of 2 years ago and this has been achieved after only two courses of thalidomide – so all the other bad stuff is definitely worth it. Besides I have enjoyed having a good moan. Bowels having dropped out, are now chilling out so other than an arse that looks like the Japanese flag I am intact and very optimistic.

For those of a scientific inclination you may wish to find a pattern in the following foodstuffs. These are the things that don’t taste vile after thalidomide

Bovril, tomatoes, lettuce, clementines, dhal, plain pasta, rice, sherbet dib dabs.

Just about everything else tastes either like wood or like acid. Chocolate for example would probably make me immediately sick.

So a better day today. I am up and at my desk. Very washed out with no energy but mending nicely. I may have another two months of this regime but hopefully I will be raring to go for the carboot season. I will have to go on another cream cake diet as I have lost weight.

Cheesy Wotsits

I am pooping cheesy wotsits. It’s true bright orange floating wotsits. I was rather hoping they were lurid cancer cells I was attempting to flush away but no. After spending two days on the toilet the impression any passing voyeur would have would be that I have been enjoying a secret cheesy wotsit binge climaxing with a celebratory unload of wotsits down the pan. I have never had such lurid poo it looks positively radio active. I am pretty poorly. The conclusion seems to be that I have caught a stomach bug that combined with the ludicrous cocktail of poison has led my system to pack its bags and leave for Alabama where the good Christian folk live. I have psychedelic guts!

I am now fully on my back in bed with my lovely ginger cat, moaning, both of us, him with pleasure me with moan. He will occasionally extend a paw to my cheek to comfort me but gets annoyed at the 20 minute trots. He enjoys a paw massage which I have never experienced with a cat before. You rub each pad and claw and extract any mud or surplus fur, he closes his eyes and basks. I can’t face doing much, all my teaching is cancelled, postponed or dead in the water. The drugs are doing great things I gather so I am not at all sad, just ill – big time.

I can’t even face the news. It just feels like Netflix political horror box set. What nasty nasty people the powerful are. I cheesy wotsit on the lot of them..I have been reading the guardian online every morning for the last two years and I think I have had enough of hearing my own smug voice reflected back by the even smugger voices of Guardian Journalists and even worst smuglicious readers. In fact I think my enthusiasm for trying to engage in political debate is at an end. I have gained nothing, I can see no way of shaping the world in the way I would like, and I think I would find more valuable insights in a novel or a poem or a rom com than the news. So it’s official I give up. I leave it to those who can be bothered with the ignorant mind numbing nonsense of Trump and May and the other phonies to pursue change. I retire to my family, my cats, my poems, my stories my voices and my telephone box. I shall surround myself with the dreamy, if selfish reassurance that the world that matters starts and ends with me and those I love. Tough luck world! I am dead to you and it feels really good.

Btw. On close examination the cheesy wotsits were clementine segments direct from mount to pan. How dull.


can’t think straight, can write can’t think of anything to say – I am stuck at home, can’t drive, or walk, or eat much that doesn’t taste of vinegar can’t do much at all really so I think I will moan. First my hearts beating like a teenager who wants to party that has been grounded for the week. Second I am starving because of the steroids, well not really starving just greedy, but everything tastes vile. Third I am dizzy so that every time I stand up I feel urgently in need of a sit down. Forth I am sweaty and gross. Fifth I am plain pissed off. Grump, grump, grump. Actually this course of steroids has not been a joy like the first lot 2 years ago. The first lot gave me boundless if misguided and uncontrollable creative energy, which I gather is unusual, this time I am just irritated by everyone and everything that doesn’t complement my gruff mood. Beware any cold callers cos I am very rude today. Even the cats demands for constant troughing is annoying.

Boy I am sick of saying how I am. ILL !!! – stop asking – isn’t it obvious. I don’t need sympathy or consideration or good wishes I just need sherbet dib dabs – strangely they taste goodish. Most of all I am irritated with myself and my lack of get up and go. Can’t seem to focus on the stuff I normally like. Tv comedy drives me mad and the adverts almost push me over the edge. A melancholy Scandy holds my attention for a bit but really my favourite bit of the day is bedtime, thalidomide is like a strong sedative. My least favourite bit is getting up which is preceded by a very complex ritual of tiresome drug taking guided by a spreadsheet Maria created for me and competed with sour tasting porridge or toast. Grump grump grump.

So all in all crap.

So now my official birthday is past (I was slipped an absolutely amazing present by my two sisters – naughty them) I am on to contemplating my August 1 birthday. Given August 1st is a Tuesday we will covene the barbecue and camping in York on 29th July thus my target is to have something memorable playing in the telephone box by then. I have spent the best part of the day on my back imagining what that might be and have come to no clear conclusion. So we will have to wait and see.

I have nothing more to say – Grump!

I am falling to bits

The thing about chemotherapy is that if you are lucky it works – in my case brilliantly – but whether it works or not it likes to leave an impression. So I am peeing blood, my heart is pounding like the flying Scotsman and I am as stoned as Jimmy Hendrix. So an infection and heart issues – great! Basically I am falling to bits while being rebuilt. My consultant is clearly very pleased with the results, concerned about the side effect but basically of the view that I should stick it out – so I am. At present I have trouble walking to the garden gate (were we to have one) so going to Hull and teaching is, somewhat with regret, out. Needless to say this is really tough on my already overstretched colleagues and I do hope to provide some virtual teaching if it can be set up.

All in all an encouraging consultation but I still feel like a proper 60 year old, you know the type, Grammy leg, dodgy heart, always moaning about their illnesses – I’ll have a Pale Ale.

Marmite and Coke and head in the shed

I have entered a short story into a competition. The subject has to be food and drink. The prize is £10,000 and it is to be judged by Mary Berry and Phillip Pullman. This is my entry.


ARGGG – just realised it breaks the rules of the competition so I have had to take it down – sorry – it is brilliant

so instead…

4:00 am Monday – My room is part of my therapy.

This is to be my first and last self help guide. I shall adopt a circumspect and slightly smug tone.

As you know I have cancer and when you have a serious illness it is suggested that alongside conventional treatment you should also retain an open mind about complimentary therapies. Many of these are provide by the NHS for free and they include things like Raiki, aromatherapy, foot massage, head massage as well as talking therapies and group therapies. I had a go at a couple but didn’t get on with them at all so I thought it might be useful to share with others my own alternative therapy.

I will call it shed therapy

I am very fortunate because I have all the normal necessities and my beloved family around me to keep me sane and happy. I would add to this one more thing that has been fundamental to my mental health since I was about nine years old, a house big enough so that I can have a dedicated me space. These spaces are my rooms, or if you prefer my sheds

My sheds are two spaces but they operate as one. The physical space is as you would imagine a room in a house while the metaphysical space is a room in my head. Hence head in the shed (meaning lost in crazy self contemplation) I hate the term man cave for the former but if it helps you dear readers to think in such crass terms then be my guest – a man cave it is. Since the age of nine the physical space I create is orderly, clean and tidy but exceptionally full of stuff. The order is apparent only to me. For example without counting them I would say I have something in the region of 50 drawers in my room of various sizes all containing critical bits and pieces mainly of a technical nature. Most of my furniture is on wheels, the idea being that I could wheel it all out and create a rehearsal space, an idea long since abandoned. I have two scaffolding poles the length of the ceiling, put in when the room was being built that allow me to trail cables across the ceiling and hang anything I like from above, speakers, lights etc. The room has a concrete painted floor so I can freely drill and burn and solder and do all those other man cave things. It is on the ground floor in the centre of the house next to the kitchen so household hubbub is a comforting background buzz. It is paradise.

It forms the perfect analogue of my head. All the things that fill my head fill my room and vice versa. If I am dreaming of theatre I have theatre models and props, if I am needing music I have all the players and instrument. If I need to write I have pens typewriters, rulers, staplers, guillotines, Prit and drawing boards. I have hundreds of tools, gazillions of cables, all my lighters and phones. I have a work bench a vice, a magnifying light. Filing cabinets, books and records. For nourishment of mind and hand I have absolutely no need to go anywhere else. My creative life is completed and rounded by these two spaces. I cannot imagine why, given this incredible abundance anyone would need to travel more than 50 metres. I hereby declare that I would happily live out the rest of my life without moving out of my sheds except to watch telly and barbecue in the summer .

I cannot recommend it enough.
So feeling blue, stressed, or just plain poorly get yourself a shed and pour the contents of your head into it.