The Awkward Silence

It’s strange that a couple days ago I was wondering what I was going to put in my next blog. I’m feeling pretty good at the moment, to the outsider no-one would guess that I have cancer. My complexion is a bit pale and I’ve lost a bit of weight, but other than that I’m looking pretty normal. What could I write about feeling fine? BBC4 changed that with a couple of programmes on REM. Nothing strange in that you think, but it led to a series of thoughts and memories that made me think again about how people react to cancer.

I’ve always loved REM. Never really collected their albums, I’ve got a few ’Best of’ , but I’ve seen them live many times. Two in particular stand out. Well three actually, T in the Park was a pretty outstanding performance, but for REM that’s not unusual. I saw them at Sheffield arena, we’d been given tickets at the last minute by a friend. The gig had been re-arranged, the previous date having been cancelled due to Stipes illness, if I remember rightly, and they couldn’t go to the re-arranged date. I had never been to Sheffield arena before, so didn’t have a clue as to where our ticket would land us. As it turned out they were probably the worst seats in the house, so high up that the stage seemed miles below us, and we were sitting, not something I do at gigs. I don’t do arena’s. Despite the fact that I live in Greater Manchester, I’ve never been to the MEN (recently re-named The Manchester Arena), and it‘s certainly not on my list of things to do. Anyway, having made the drive across the top of the Pennines, M & I were not prepared to settle for seats a few hundred yards away from the stage, and so our mission was set. We wanted to swap our (expensive) seats in the rafters of the arena to get down on the floor. After a lot of effort, difficulty, bullshit and distraction techniques, we managed to deceive our way past the many stewards and get onto the floor. It was an awesome gig, I must have said that many times about many gigs, but it was just how I like it. I love to get down there and get into it. M was, as always, looking after me. Despite her being almost 19 years younger than me, it was her who was having to make sure I was safe, little chance of that with me jumping around like a madman. By the time it was over I was drenched with sweat, ok whilst you’re still inside, but when you hit the cold air of the night, it becomes very uncomfortable. I drove home that night, across the Woodhead pass, stark naked. Thank god we didn’t get stopped ! But it still remains as one of those ‘most memorable nights’.

2003 was the year, REM were the headline act on the Pyramid stage, Friday night I think. A truly fantastic performance, one of those tear jerkers, lighters in hand, truly memorable. It must seem boring to people who have never been to Glastonbury festival. There is no other place on earth like it. It brings out the best in both artists’ and audiences, creating such unforgettable performances that lives in the minds of those that were there forever. I can’t describe it, if you weren’t there you would not understand, but those that were there, or have been, know exactly what I mean. It was after REM had finished, last act on the Pyramid that night. I had arranged to meet someone by the sound desk, as everyone was leaving. As I was waiting, with Lew, when I was approached by a lone woman who introduced herself. I didn’t know her, but she told me her story.

“are you……..” she said.

I was taken aback, but not unnecessarily surprised that she knew who I was. I was used to people coming up to me with that line “are you…..?” I won’t go into the reasons as to why people knew who I was, it would take far too long and would distract from the story. I had met M in the same way, she came up to me in the middle of a crowd in front of the Pyramid stage, I think it was between the Dandy Warhols and Ash. Well I know it was, I could not forget. People would come up to me in all sorts of situations with those words….”Are you…”. Little did I know that within a few weeks we would be lovers and embark on a passionate relationship that would change our lives. I’m digressing, back to the real story!

The lady, she came up to me….

“Are you……”

“Yes that’s me, pleased to meet you”

“My husband met you a few years back….here at Glastonbury”

It was a difficult situation. “ So……… “

“ I’ve come back this year, that’s what he would have wanted, we talked about it, he wanted me to come to Glastonbury, that’s where his heart is, where his best memories were”

“………..? ”

“He died from cancer a few months ago, we discussed it, he wanted me to come here. I’m so glad I’ve met you, he told me that he’d met you a few years ago”

I was gob smacked…..didn’t have a clue who she was, could hardly remember who her husband was, not even sure I remember having met him. What the hell do you say? Cancer….oh fuck….

I can fully appreciate the reasons she came back to Glastonbury, that’s where I want to be remembered, but put in that situation I was lost for words, embarrassed.

Now my view is different, my view on cancer is different. I know what it’s like to think that your life is under threat. I know I would be as open as she would be, and, although disappointed, I know what other peoples reactions would be. I feel so ashamed now that I reacted in the way I did. I didn’t know what to say. There were embarrassing silences. But know, so many years later, just how she was feeling, and I know that she was doing just what her husband wanted her to do. She was returning to he place that meant to so much to her husband. That meeting was purely by chance, she could not have known that she would bump into me amongst 100 000 people. But that meeting still sticks in my memory. Maybe she taught me a lesson. Neither of us knew that 10 years later I would be the one dealing with cancer. I feel so embarrassed now that I didn’t know what to say. But at least I understand how others must feel when put in the same situation. I’ll be more understanding when I’m faced with that awkward silence.


If you have any concerns about bowel cancer, or just want more information or check cancer rates in your area you can find all the information advice and help you need here.



This entry was posted in Beating Bowel Cancer, Bowel Cancer, Cancer, Festivals, Glastonbury, Holmfirth, Manchester, Manchester Arena, Manchester Blog Awards, MEN Arena, Music, Oldham, REM, Saddleworth, Sheffield, T in the Park, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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