Punctured pussy

I cannot be bothered to mess around with my tenses. I wrote some of this a couple of weeks ago and then completely forgot about it so instead of fiddling around I have simply provided headings to indicate what bits are old news and what bits are also old news but written today – the day I post it.

Two weeks ago…

I was off work for the last week with a cold. Chemo delayed while I get over it and the consultant decides on the best treatment. No urgency apparently so that’s reassuring although I would quite like to get on with it. Most of my colleagues are on strike but I am not. I am very conflicted and quite troubled by the whole situation but in the end I believe less in joint action and solidarity than I do in the notion of striking for causes worth striking for. I was all for a strike against redundancy, students fees, against the commercialisation of higher education even in support of academic freedom but I cannot support a strike to make sure that privileged middle class professionals continue to enjoy privileges in retirement. It makes the academic community come across as having lost touch with what really matters in society. If we only assemble in the cold around our braziers when we are being ripped off rather than other more worthy individuals are being ripped off, our shaky stature as a bunch of people who think about ‘big, important stuff’ can only be made shakier. I am not proud of my action and I am genuinely in two minds but as of this moment it is how I feel. It just seems too easy to be always looking up the ladder at to those that earn more and feel envious, like vice chancellors, while not bothering about those who are clinging on to the rungs below you wondering what it must be like to earn £45,000 for talking about stuff. So I am a scab.

Along with scabbing I have felt quite lost this week and rather in limbo. Partly it’s an energy thing. I have very little. My lungs got really congested and sounded like a badly played squeezebox. The cat at one point thought I was miaowing at him and looked confused. He is quite used to being addressed by the other cats (usually abusively)  but for me to suddenly acquire fluency in cattish, clearly flummoxed him. He actually crawled away as if I had said something brutally offensive about his freckley lip, which I must say I find rather unattractive. It looks as though he has acquired cat leprosy or has forgotten to wipe his mouth after eating chocolate sprinkles.

Moving on …..from my bed I decided to try to prep my software skills in advance of being tripped up by my more dexterous students. Anyway this became quite obsessive and the more I tried the more I realised how little I knew. I realised that learning software without any specific creative goal is like learning piano scales but never playing a tune, deeply frustrating and unmemorable. So I have decided to invent a project, needless to say it will involve my telephone box, that combines all the software I need to learn, in order to teach, utilising the software I need to use in the project. I have yet to come up with the perfect combination but it’s on it’s way.

Written today – the day I post it but retrospecively.

Got a puncture on the way to work two days after returning to work after my cold  – result of the hedge clipping season around this ere bucolic parts. We end up with a road full of razor tipped spines that would be effective at stopping a drug runner’s Cadillac in an episode of Hawaii 5 0h. Fortunately I was within yards of a Renault garage and after pulling my favoured ‘I have cancer in the back and cannot do lifty strong things like repair punctures’ strategy, an incredibly nice team of car sales people fixed my puncture – after some wildly guilty tipping – I was on my way – sadly by that time it had to be back to York (more missed teaching might as well have been on strike) to spend an uncomfortably cold two hours while a tyre place failed to fix my stuck tracking dodads. 4 new tyres later at a 300 pound bill I retired to the restaurant in Waitrose where I opened my vains over the shadow of myself in a cup of indifferent flat whiteness surrounded by the Yorkist pensionable community of ‘free tea or coffees for the over 60’s on Tuesdays’ – ahhh the blood did flow as anaemically as the coffee.

Another 300 pounds. Vinnie got roughed up badly by a black and white farm ruffian who we had seen for the first time the day before. Found Vin in the piano room badly blooded, fur matted with god knows what and very, very frightened – so bad at first I thought he was dead. Yelled for Maria to come down for no particular reason than I was so upset and panicky and needed moral support. We shouted at each other while we ran round the house and up in the loft in pursuit of a cat box, blanket and eventually the cat who was well enough to leg it as soon as he set eyes on the box. It was Sunday but fortunately we found an emergency vet who sedated him and patched him up. He had puncture wounds on his ankle, armpit, ears and neck – he had to be shaved in the relevant spots given antibiotic and pain killers but no stitches. He came home looking like someone who had had ‘enjoyed’ a couple of summers of love at Woodstock – his pupils were like black snooker balls, he was completely stoned but ALRIGHT!!!!! Yep 300 but so so worth it.

He is back to his old self. Looking less like a Crufts cat than ever, but fully recovered. Scabs (yep scabs again) are falling like autumn leaves. He is unenthusiastic about going out and has wee’d in the warm comfort of indoors once or twice – unfortunately he hates getting his paws wet so the current deluge of rain and snow has given him an additional excuse to widdle on the setee and in Mitch’s sleeping box – a somewhat undeserved insult for ‘leader of the house.’

I was all ready to be put back on the chemo last consultation, and the one before that, but it has now been scheduled to start on the 30th March. It’s another of the mustard-gas based goodies but the regime is not too arduous, it’s all pill based and apparently its normally well tolerated. It will last about 3 – 4 months if all goes well.

My tubes

Our outing to the Royal Free passed without incident. As expected I will be back on the drugs in a week or so. Something called ‘Mel’ I am told. Presumably not after a Spice Girl – it’s one of the old-fashioned cell killers, bit of a classic, the Burberry Mac of chemotherapy. Everything bodily was fine and stable and that is the important thing. Heart is in good order (somewhat to my surprise) kidney function fine, liver flexibility fine – they use a bit of sonar kit that gives your liver a thump and then listens for the echo. You have to try not to jump. My body fat is gross but no one seems to care. One of the nurses was telling me how busy they were getting. What was once one nurse assigned to delivering the plutonium or whatever it is, is now four. My trip through the scanner alone would cost £7000 per go if I was not a UK citizen. I am seriously fortunate. Who knows what the effect of the new drugs will be. As long as they work I don’t give a shit.

Maria and I kind of enjoy our visits. One of us is usually taking on the anxiety while the other is away with the fairies. This time I dedicated my time to getting scared while Maria knitted. In the past she has been hyperventilating while I have been dreaming of butterflies. It is always one of us. The fact that she always comes with me and puts up with my mood, which fluctuates between sombre and downright cruel, should be a for trigger incredible gratitude, however this only ever emerges on the way home – when the bloody thing is over and I can breathe and eat. (Ever since Olivia Hussey in Romeo and Juliet took the unfortunate sleeping draft, anxiety brings about an instant cessation of eating). So I always gush my gratitude on the way home on the tube feeling like a complete wimp.

The environment at the NAC is set up to be quite scary. The lift suffers from Alzeimers so it its very slow, forgetful and doesn’t arrive when you call it. It seems to know you are anxious and enjoys prolonging the agony by providing a guided tour of level L1a and the service zone before finally releasing you at UL3. At UL3 you are greeted by a doorbell into the Amyloidosis Centre which challenges you to ‘Wackamole’ – can you get from bell to door handle before the door locks again. There is normally a stream of knackered ill people waiting for taxis or bottles of wee. We all wrap wee bottles in plastic bags thus maintaining the illusion they are actually wine boxes and we are just off to a 1980’s dinner party for the undead. The staff are fantastically nice – not so the patients. The fact that some are, as it were, on their last legs does not give them the right to be moany or unbelievably boring. One woman entertained the crowd with an account of her glasses fitting in ‘Boots.’

Yet again my sound system for my scary tube ride failed me. I had downloaded ‘late night woman’s hour on ‘parties.’ All was well and I was soaking up the audio rays lying on my gurney – sadly my hyper efficient Romanian technician re arranged my iPhone at the last second and I was fast forwarded to the play out music (sleepy lagoon) from an ancient episode of desert island disks. It was too late to make a fuss, the Romanian was also quite stern, I remembered her from the last insertion, and I was too British – so yet again I lay in silence contemplating 30 minutes of grinding, wiring and a barely audible Mozart piano concerto 21 (the slow movement) – they don’t know that most people of my generation associate this music with a Swedish film from the seventies about bitter sweet love and suicide, hardly fitting for a journey, which other than the absence of the red curtains and the oven is remarkably reminiscent of ones last. Anyway happily after 10 minutes the next podcast must have automatically downloaded and started to play. A more recent episode of desert island disks – and yes I had heard it.

Still – it’s over for another 6 months hurrah!

On tour from tonight – ‘Matthew Read Trio’

Arthur Newell, Matthew Read, Benedict Wood

The Matthew Read Trio kick off their tour tonight with 2 nights doing the early set at Ronnie Scott’s.
Then they are zooming around the country playing music from their second album “Anecdotes Vol. 2”

Click here for tickets to the album launch party at Kansas Smitty’s on February 15th!

Touring schedule.


61 and nearly dead

I am the hospital for a routine eye test for glaucoma so plenty of waiting time to compose a post.

As you know, dear reader, I disapprove of birthdays. I find them a bit of bore. That frigging repetitive greeting, the ghastly cards, the obligatory happiness, the cake, the meal, the pressies are ok, but in my view the whole birthday thing ruins a nice day, during which, with luck, the people you love are knocking around and you can party!

In an effort to address this I moved my birthday to Boxing Day and assimilated it into that other day that annoys me that begins with X. Anyway we had a brilliant family band session in the village hall with all my lovelies participating or enthusing. We managed to avoid all the tiresome birthday prerequisites and at sixty one I felt young and rebellious and ready to rock. Maria and I sung a duet – I was Robbie Williams to Maria’s Nicole Kidman in ‘Something Stupid’. I was brilliant, atleast in my minds ear. Relaxed, smooth, characterful with just a pinch of ironic twinkle! –  Footnote – I was not – I have a recording – starts ok – then a  sort of bee-gees virus afflicts me and as I ascend to ‘staying alive’ heights my tuning goes into first-day-of-the-Suzuki-violin-method-for-a-four-year-old zone. In an effort to correct this I step off the pitch cliff edge arriving at notes, less bat-like, but no less terrible. But it was fantastic fun and an opportunity to show off my new very posh birthday bass amp. Thank you Maria

Listen to this first – (no its not us) – I adore this song and this performance.

Now you can read this

Sixty one is definitely old. I am not a sprightly pensioner in slacks springing from one three peaks race to a triathlon followed by a yoga class. I am old knackered with an elastic waist band balloon belly and very proud of it. Our compulsory worship of those oldies that ‘survive’ as if they are an endangered species of marmoset really annoys me. The old are currently messing things up for the young and the sooner they bog of the better. Except me.

Speaking of bogging off and given that I am writing this in a hospital which is traditionally ‘the last port on ones life cruise,’ when I die I want to be a tiny bit useful. There seem to be two choices that appeal to me. One is a new machine that liquifies and blends bodies with a sort of bio yogurt and then flushes the result into the sewage system or sprays it, silage like, onto the fields to enrich the next crop of edamame beans. It is such a grotesque idea it appeals to my sense of the absurd and my reluctance to endorse the idea of dignity in death. Being dead is not anything at all – it is certainly not dignified.  Being blended in a juicer and flushed down the lav or sprayed about like a goolish jet wash sounds like a Steven King outtake. However the idea smacks of ‘green’ conscience and that is something I would struggle to claim. My Auntie Barbara worked in a hospital in a cancer department. She died of the disease and being an insider she donated her body to ‘the cause.’ This seems like a good thing, besides given the rarity of my condition I reckon the medical students will be racing for their scalpels.

Nonna has a different attitude to death. A recent brush with a stomach virus not only elicited (from us) an obsessive installation of video cameras around her house so we can see her if she has a turn (she was very poorly) (she has been warned not to disrobe, as is her habit, on the landing) but also the purchase of two sets of in-the-coffin footwear from Amazon Prime. Both in black. One styled for winter – more robust, less slippy on the ice and the others, sandals, for summer, black but strappy and cool. While Maria and I appreciate the need to have the right footwear for every occasion the price, £70 for each pair for just one wearing, did seem excessive. Still it makes her happy and us laugh – privately.

Eyes in excellent nick – huh – good – home I go.

When we go strolling in the park at night
All the darkness is a boon
Who cares if we’re without a light
They can’t black out the moon

I see you smiling in the cigarette glow
Though the picture fades too soon
But I see all I want to know
They can’t black out the moon

We don’t grumble, we don’t worry about a lot
Oh, when will you stumble, you stumble into my arms
And when you kiss me, don’t you realise
That my heart’s like a big balloon
And like the lovelight in your eyes
They can’t black out the moon

The last 6 months or so in some sort of order

Family – I could not be happier with everything they are and do. Punch my face in I am so f*****g smug! I adore them all.

Wedding – I adored that too. Selfishly, I, yes I, felt very special

Cats  – Vince is obsessed with me – which is flattering but tying. If I am at home for a day he glues himself to me like we are training for the Crufts cat ‘heel’ awards. He still lies on the keyboard and pats me as I type. I adore him.

Health – I am really not bad, better than I really would have imagined a year or so ago. I have managed work very well. I am a pathetic old man going up stairs – I actually dread them – but that may due to the extra belly load of fat I carry. My diet is EAAAAT “eat anything at all a lot”  my at rest pulse rate hit 130 last night – not good – so self-medicated and it’s just got back to normal – hurrah for beta blockers.

Sir Peter Hall. On the night he died and before it was announced and for the first time ever I was googling him to find out what he was up to. He was always incredibly nice to me and tolerated my complete ignorance of most things clever. I was an excellent assistant to him and he was an excellent mentor. We shared many a big breakfast at a greasy spoon in Brixton discussing Shakespeare’s verse. Yep for real.

Politics – I am more convinced than ever that I am right. The End.

Religion – see above.

Donald Trump – I hate myself, why do I wake up every morning and rush to read what he has done in the night. It really is like looking down the toilet after a big dump – you don’t learn anything, you are just disgusted – oh ever since being ill I have become very lavatorial (to those that are offended I promise to find better metaphors) but in this case it really is the most fitting.

Lights in the kitchen – must be bright – moody kitchen lighting results in last minute fumbles for reading glasses and burnt toast. I believe our kitchen lighting totals about 500 watts now. It’s like a sunny beach. Not the place in Bulgaria where Arthur dropped his kegs and danced on a night club bar btw..

Bass playing practice. Sporadic and depressing. How can I still be so bad after so long.

My students – some seem to like me quite a lot – why does it hurt so much when they don’t ? After all I am so nice. Got it! I am very opinionated – some people hate that. Reminder to self be bland – nah. I bought a small group of them coffee – they seemed really confused. In the midst of all this one possible significant creative flowering, I hope – she’s lazy though. Suppose that could be good sign?

Poetry – none

Short stories – none

Ridiculously complicated set ups consisting of computers and what not. – one

 – did it work – not really – were the students impressed – not really – was it worth it – yes – I even made the collapsible table to show it all on.

New lighters – 2 or 3 – one Japanese one on its way. It is on off pink shade with a silver poodle on it

Serious discoveries. The work of photographer Julie Blackmon (below). Grew up in a massive family in the mid west I think – now has loads of children of her own that she photographs in surreal scenarios that are both silly and frightening. I treated myself to one of her very pricey books.

Disappointments – still have not done my chemical photography despite getting the kit for Christmas 2 or was it 3 years ago. Both my girls are keen to have a go but we never get it together – right!! this Christmas maybe.

Strictly Come Dancing – best thing on Telly except Peaky Blinders – why do we continue to under value light entertainment – this show is superb – brilliant presenters, dancers, choreography, music lighting and a great concept. I know I know I am always on about it.

Fizzled out


Julie Blackmon

My hairpiece

My lovely, proud and expanding family at Art’s graduation –

Enough of them  – now all about me –

note my special graduation day hairpiece. Styled by ‘Draggedthroughabushbackwards Hair’ of Knightsbridge.

I know we all focus on ourselves in photos but on this occasion the subtle peek of vest, the dead starling on my forehead

and the Trumpian push/lurch forward into the lens really does add class to the whole composition. Mercifully on this occasion my lower set of wonky, ‘hint of cappuccino’ teeth are hidden.

Goodness I am a dish.

I can feel a seasonal blog post brewing like trapped wind.

see ya