There’s no stopping me now, I’m on a roll. After a couple of months silence I’m out to make up for lost time…or time I haven’t got maybe. I’ve made an executive decision also, all future blog entries will be accompanied by a You Tube Video, and a photo (maybe one or two) from my archives. Just something to mark my life. I’ve got thousands of photos so it could take a while 😉
I’d like to begin with a big thank you following my appeal for Jenny’s forthcoming sponsored run in The BUPA Great Birmingham Run. Already the (modest) target has been reached. No sooner had I started it off with twenty quid, other soon followed, accompanied by some lovely comments. I can’t thank you enough, but please, keep it coming, do it for Beating Bowel Cancer. You can make a donation here.
Earlier in the week I took one of my favourite drives over the top of the Derbyshire Dales. Leaving from my home on the edge of Saddleworth I can be in my county of birth, Derbyshire, within just a few miles. From Glossop to beautiful Buxton, then the long A515 Roman road down across the Dales to Derby, where my Dad lives. Unfortunately the weather was not for sightseeing, it was torrential rain that made th. drive extremely difficult and dangerous. The last time I drove this route was to Y-Not Festival, oh yes, and the rain was torrential. It wasn’t a visit I was looking forward to anyway, Dad suffers from vascular dementia, which makes it extremely difficult for him to understand or remember things. I had already pre-warned him and Marian, his partner of twenty years plus, of what I was about to tell them. I had been putting it off, but in the end I knew how I would feel not being told had it been Lewis keeping details from me in similar circumstances. As a father he had a right to know. Marian knew, I made sure she was aware before I spoke to Dad, and I had phoned earlier to let them know I was on the way and give Marian enough time to get the Birds cakes in. Marian is almost offended if you don’t have a Birds cream cake when you visit. Birds is the local bakery that has somehow become legendary in the area. I do have fond memories of early morning Christmas Eve’s, my Dad and I driving into town at the crack of dawn to stock up on pork pies, but other than that I don’t really like their cakes. I began by going over the chemotherapy I had begun and stopped, trying to explain the reasons why, and how my scans had revealed further spread of the disease. Despite the fact that he had visited me at The Christie when I had initial surgery to remove the primary tumour, he had no idea. “What is it that’s wrong with you?”. “Why can’t they operate?”. “So how long have you been ill?”. Time and time again I went over the same information, and time and again Dad came back with the same questions I had answered just minutes before. After an hour of going over the same details, between us Marian and I decided that perhaps it was best not to tell him that my diagnosis was now terminal. I think Marian decided he could cope better not knowing. I had to respect her wishes, she lives with him day to day, and she had to deal with the consequences. I had tried to explain most of what was happening, but as he had no recollection of me having been ill in the first place, it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to understand. I left after a couple of hours, laden with all the cakes, sausage rolls and pork pie that hadn’t been eaten. In fact the only thing that had been consumed was a small wedge of egg custard I had eaten to be polite. I headed home on the reverse journey, where at least the sinking autumn sun was creating stunning colours as it peeked over the dark clouds sitting on the horizon, casting rainbows from Carsington water to Dovedale. Marian phoned almost as soon as I got home. Dad couldn’t even remember I had been !
OK, so here we go. I’m going to enjoy this bit because it’s all about me me me. I’m allowed to be self indulgent aren’t I…a retrospective look at the life of… I’ll start with video. It’s been too long since I concentrated on music, so I’m going to try and take a look back at music and bands that have been influential to me. I’ll start with Muse, who will always make it into my top ten.”Who’s your favourite band?” I can’t ever answer that question, but Muse will be one that always gets a mention. I was introduced to them by Lewis, I remember the day well. We had been to buy a guitar from an old lady who lived in the middle of nowhere. We were buying it for the case, but the guitar was equally good. When we got there the lady told us the history behind it, and how her late husband had been in a country & western band. She told us she had lots more “stuff” and led us to an outbuilding filled with instruments and amplifiers. It was an amazing collection amassed over years. All beside the point. Driving home with the car full of musical stuff, Lew asked if he could put his latest CD on It was Muse – Showbiz. It was loud, angry, dangerous, complicated, aggressive, it blew me away. Forget anything like Black Holes & Revelations or Absolution. If that’s all you know about Muse then listen to their first two albums, Showbiz and Origins of Symmetry. We followed them wherever we could from then on, and at that time it was still small venues, a few hundred people, it was amazing. Years later they headlined the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury, I was so looking forward to seeing them. M and I were in the middle of it, right in the centre of the crowd. The music started as the three of them took to the stage, the crowd went wild…and M collapsed on the floor. She was out for the count, white as a sheet and I was panicking trying to bring her to consciousness. I really thought she was dying. She did eventually come round but it seemed like ages, and I had to get her out of the crowd to some fresh air. I don’t know how I did that as I virtually had to carry her as I cleared Muse fans going wild every step of the way. I did get her out though, and we headed back to the tent. I was disappointed yes, but they were also headlining one of the stages at T in The Park a week later. That Scottish rite of passage festival, for which we had tickets. The video is from that Scottish performance.
T in the Park was always very special to me even though I only went for three or four consecutive years. The first, 2003, I was working, I was among a group of three or four of us, writing reviews and doing interviews, so it was quite busy, and somehow M had tagged along without a ticket, with the other three who had travelled together. I had driven up on my own as I was working in Edinburgh the following Monday. Somehow M and I got together over the weekend and as they say, the rest is history. This video was 2004, from what I remember, a memorable weekend. As well as the significance of Muse, the video is also a great showcase for Dads Flag, which was now becoming well established on the festival circuit. It had started a couple of years earlier as a vehicle for Lewis to be able to find me in the large crowds. He was still relatively young and I wanted him to have some freedom to do what he wanted at festivals (within reason) whilst at the same time to be able to find me whenever he wanted. What better than a large flag with DAD on it. It didn’t take long for the flag in it’s various guises to become legendary, and it accompanied me to every festival for many years afterwards regardless of whether Lewis was there or not. People would come up to me to introduce themselves or have their photo taken with DADS FLAG, it became quite an icon and can be seen on hundreds of videos to this day. Unfortunately it had it’s down side as people realised they could get on TV if they took a flag in front of the stage, and eventually flags became the burden of live festival performances. I stopped taking the flag sometime in the mid noughties when I realised the monster I had unchained. Pick a video from Glastonbury/Reading/T in tn the Park in the early noughties and you might see half a dozen flags, do the same today and there are hundreds, ruining the view of the thousands standing behind them. I’m sorry I was one of those who started it and regret it to this day.
On the health front there is little to report although that doesn’t mean lack of activity. The wheels have been turning in the background to put everything in place. I have a date for the MRI bone scan and follow up appointment with oncologist Dr S. It’s been difficult to arrange the two to coincide with Dr S being available. It’s reassuring to have such a senior oncologist looking after me, but it goes with the drawback of his limited availability as his presence is required around the world, but we’ve got there in the end. I’ve also seen the Macmillan nurse, and talked through those difficult things that have to be addressed. In particular we’ve talked about the final days and our local hospice, Dr Kershaws. Now that the palliative team are taking over management of pain control, different methods are being considered. One of the first things prescribed is valium. I’ve not been sleeping which has been difficult, but they think, and I hope valium will help. It’s not a drug that is widely prescribed nowadays due to it’s highly addictive elements, but obviously this is no longer a concern. I’m hoping that balanced with steroids and morphine it will do the trick. My drugs box is becoming fuller and fuller, and my chemist is rubbing his hands.
The photo, me and my lovely children. I would say that wouldn’t I. Taken on the sea front where Lew and Alana live. Goring-by-Sea to be precise, September 2012, 12 months after diagnosis, one major bowel op and mid chemo. It was a hot sunny evening and we had lots of fun and laughter trying to get the photo right. I’m proud of the end result.