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Mad March

Before starting March I just want to cover the last weekend in February - I travelled down to Eastbourne which is a place I love for many reasons but the main one is that my great mate lives there. I consider myself very fortunate to have two buddies; one across the pond and the other here on the south coast and to a degree they’re quite similar as they are both kind, considerate and not as bright as me! (That should get a good reaction!) My visit as always, was relaxing with plenty of food and lots of laughter. On my first day there we had to nip round to his nieces and see the bus they were about to embark on for a Hen Do in Brighton. My mate’s mother went too to make sure they were ok which I found a bit strange as she would probably be as bad as the rest!! The three girls looked lovely and were clearly ready to party. Apparently one of the ‘party games’ involved painting a naked, male model – a bit strange I suppose but different. My mate received a photo of this still-life model and I have to say, us lads decided we ought to apply for the job because either it was cold or this model was nervous which made us all feel very pleased with our lot!! We visited Fuscardi’s, the ice cream place and I had the biggest Eccles cake you ever did see. It was bloody lovely, swallowed down with a cappuccino – absolute heaven. I gave the usual ice cream a miss as it was busy and the owner was away on holiday which was a little disappointing as I like meeting up with him too. We then had a pleasant evening in with friends.

On Sunday we set off to the Emirates - home of Arsenal football club. We parked the car and popped in to a café that we used to frequent some time ago when going to matches. I remembered it well for one of the staff - an attractive girl who had rather large gums when she smiled and while this wasn’t her best feature I still always had a little flirt with her and managed to get a smile. I never got a larger portion or an extra sausage, just that lovely smile! Anyway it was packed when we walked in but sadly no gummy to serve us! How life moves on - then again it was a few years ago!! We went to the ground in this fab stadium and had great views for what turned out to be a decent game; Arsenal won which is always good for the journey home.

It was a weekend full of laughs and my mate had bought me a lovely, colourful picture for my birthday, painted by a local artist of Eastbourne pier and it looks great on my wall; such a thoughtful gift. Talking of paintings, a lady in the States painted a Union Jack for me which hangs in my hallway and reminds me of the time we spent with her on my last visit. She was a friend of my mates and after spending lots of time with her, she is now also a good friend of mine.

I left Eastbourne and headed for a lunchtime meeting with an old, close friend who I hadn’t seen for ages. I arrived, as usual, in plenty of time and called to let her know I was there. We spent a good time catching up and I couldn’t believe how young she looked – I decided it must be the drinking water!! I love the fact that my circle of friends is so diverse and all so caring and great company. When I reflect back I think how life has been kind to me considering the people I’ve met, the countries I’ve visited and the things I‘ve done. If ever I do decide to write a book there are plenty of great memories to call upon, including the person I visited. I then completed my journey home – it had been a long day but a great weekend. And by the way, what glorious weather! Now I really am sounding like my mother!

I’m the first to admit there are times I push myself too far and one this occasion I went flying onto the concrete path trying to do a step up and forgetting my foot prevents this. I fell, banging my head and ribs straight onto concrete which was bad enough but worse than that was the fact that my mother was with me and boy did she fuss. I appreciate she worries and it really did hurt but what felt especially embarrassing was that a guy had to help me up onto my feet. Even so, it’s nice to know there are decent people around who will come to your aid. I hobbled back to the car frustrated as it was a moment of forgetfulness which I know I will suffer from with bruised ribs and headaches. This is another example that brings to the fore the fact that I suffer with an illness which however hard I try to beat, in its own way gets the better of me from time to time. I’m then up at 4.30am as I’ve obviously turned over in bed and the pain has woken me. Hence I am writing this. I end up having to cancel visiting my mate till later in the week. I’m annoyed at this as I know he needs the company and to a degree the reassurance that all will be well. It’s hard to explain the frustration and annoyance as well as the fact that it happened while I was with mother which will just worry her even more. No doubt she’ll try to make me feel better by buying me a plant for the front garden as that’s her way. Ah well, at least we had a good laugh at bingo and having to rest should give me time to practice my harmonica (mouth organ to us normal folk).

The next weekend I had planned for my friend to come and we spent time relaxing and having fun; we went for a meal which was delightful. I teased her about her ability to talk so much and when we are in my house she seems so loud - I suppose she’s actually quite normal but I’m used to either talking to myself or sitting watching football with my friends when the words ‘tea’, ‘cake’ or ‘biscuits’ are the few words uttered! It’s strange really when you look at us three males – me, my next door neighbour and the guy from over the road. We are the strangest group of guys you ever did see but somehow it works. Anyway my chatty friend left on Sunday morning leaving me to a day of football, lamb casserole and dessert with my mates. The wind was picking up outside and we knew we were in for a storm. Much later that evening I heard knocking at my front door and there was my neighbour from the other side, standing in her dressing gown pointing to the big cherry blossom tree in my front garden which had blown over, completely uprooted and now lying in the road having narrowly missed her car! How exciting, a little bit of drama. I phoned the emergency line and spoke to a lovely lady who asked what kind of tree it was - I answered “a pretty one” as I had no idea. “Does it have blossom on it?” she asked. I told her it did and that now every car in my neighbourhood was covered in this lovely white blossom, like confetti. Turns out it was a Cherry Blossom! She informed me I was one of many callers and someone would be out soon. At 3am I heard banging outside so I assumed it was being attended to. When I finally got out of bed the tree was still there with orange cones around it - it still looked pretty although the blossom was now covering the roads and pavements. It was quite comical watching people walk or drive past, some with angry faces, (like a Bulldog chewing a wasp), the dog walkers annoyed that they have to divert off the footpath all because of my uprooted tree spreading into the road due to the awful storms. You have to love the British! The following day tree surgeons appeared and shredded as much of the tree as possible and made logs from the rest. It would only be a matter of time before someone on a disabled scooter would show up to have a few logs away or someone local would ask for them and true enough it wasn’t long before there was a knock at the door and a local chap asked for them. In fairness he offered money which I declined and then offered to buy me a beer which I also turned down but it was nice of him. He moved the lot so at least I can take comfort knowing that a family will be warm this winter at the expense of my poor, pretty tree which has left a big gap!

My ribs continued to give me a great deal of pain so practising my harmonica (mouth organ) had to be suspended as blowing is painful, yet funnily enough sucking is surprisingly ok. I really want to try and follow the instruction book so further updates will have to wait for now. I was quietly excited to be playing (well blowing the few notes that I had learnt) so we can but hope that the pain subsides and I’m back sucking and blowing sooner than later as it really is a great sounding instrument. I suppose it’s a bit like when children bring a recorder or violin home from school to terrorise everyone with the racket and while it’s an effort to sit, listen and endure, we do it. So I think my neighbours will do the same for me!

The combination of bad weather, bruised ribs and head have prevented me from getting down to the park for a while and I get messages of concern - some even checking to make sure I’m not depressed. I wouldn’t mind so much if someone checked to see if a busty, good looking woman had locked me away but then again it’s nice to know people care! In the words of Arnold Swarzenegger “I’ll be back” - that little line is for the café owner and dog walkers who I usually see in the park,

I had to visit the doctor as my breathing was an issue and it turned out that the bruised ribs are the cause. One is cracked as well as bad bruising. My blood pressure was taken which was high - where did that come from? I‘ve never had issues with blood pressure. I also have a chest infection - oh the joys! The doctor prescribed antibiotics and pain killers and told me to be patient as it could take weeks to heal. Sometimes I think all this is to test me and I’m concerned that I’ll be a wreck when I go away at the end of the month. After taking it easy for a few relaxing days, watching football and general idling around I decided to venture out to the park. It was a lovely idea as it was blustery yet sunny which is great for blowing away the cobwebs. I met up with a few friends and it felt great to get back to some normality. You wouldn’t believe how much you miss company.

My carousel visits (the hospital training) are still on hold as it is draining and I’m still in pain but I will no doubt return in April when I hope I’ll be stronger. We will see.

A great surprise for me recently was when my son pulled up out of the blue. Yes, my boy, what a surprise. He took me out for a carvery as he needed vegetables after a week of eating junk food while working on an exhibition. It was just what I could have hoped for - no matter how short, time with my son is so precious to me. I miss him even though I know how busy he is, travelling all over the world for work. I look at him and think to myself yet again that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Just as I used to be, he is driven and works hard. We chatted and after our meal off he went again - a brief but lovely time and I appreciated he’d made time for me. A few days later I had a visit from my ex-wife’s daughter - I always struggle with what to call her - what do I class her as since I don’t use names? I guess step daughter? Anyway she asked if she could come over as she and her friends were off on a Hen Weekend and she was having a cake delivered to mine as it was easier. It was quite early so we had a bowl of shreddies with sliced banana and then set off to buy booze and things for the weekend. It transpired I was to be her chauffer for a while as she ran from store to store until she eventually came back to find me taking a quick nap as I waited for her! She did well - there seemed to be a lot of drink! You can’t imagine how difficult it is to accept that I met her when she was just eight years old and now here is this beautiful young lady buying booze, when I remember buying her toys, sweets and clothes! I know I sound like the old fart that I’ve become but I thoroughly enjoyed a great few hours with her.

Earlier I went to lunch with my usual companion and as ever the conversation was great as she’d been on her travels and had lots to tell. It also won’t be too long before she sets off again mid-April, what a life. My sister popped in to fill out forms as I have difficulty writing. I’m trying to master using my left hand and while I’m not doing too badly, writing is proving difficult. Anyway the forms are regarding the property I live in so they need to be clearly written. My ribs have improved although the pain seems to have moved to my back which is weird and my course of antibiotics are finished so I hope to soon start stretching and doing a few sit ups. My sister told me the the MRI scan results are in so a call to the MS nurse will be in order. I seem to be in a reasonably good place health wise, aside from the aching ribs and lack of exercise and I actually feel good. The Neuralgia has taken a break so I guess this week we can chalk up as a decent one and long may it last.

Now the last weekend in March was one I’d been looking forward to for quite some time. I’m not known for trips away on my own and neither am I one to go on about my love for 70s music, so a three night stay in a holiday camp to celebrate the music of that era is something that I consider rather a treat. All month I prayed I’d feel good, especially after the falling I’d had and the ensuing cracked rib which in fairness I could cope with but the Neuralgia and worsening of MS I couldn’t deal with so I’m happy to say that I felt good so off I went down to this coastal resort in a room described as a ‘silver room’ – it was on the ground floor with a walk-in shower - everything a person with MS needs! And to a degree that’s what I got, except this place slept five and was a little tired but I was fine with that because it was close to all the entertainment. On the first day the music was blasting away with hits that brought back so many memories and the live acts were indeed almost live - I’m convinced I caught a whiff of embalming oil as Brotherhood of Man performed! They had hits in the mid 70s and were actually quite good although there was little movement from them! They were followed by one of the Osmonds - Little Jimmy of ‘Long Haired Lover’ fame who had unfortunately suffered a stroke and consequently his brother Merrill stood in for him. How life has moved on but I suppose looking at things in their right context, I am 60 and these stars were performing in the 70s, so now they really are clocking on in years!! The following day there was an Eagles tribute band, a Fleetwood Mac tribute and performances from Slade and the Rubettes who were all alive with the odd new member thrown in! The finale was Flash, a Queen tribute band who I have to say were also great so all in all in was an excellent day of acts well worth seeing. I dined in one of the many restaurants which were also of a good standard. On the Sunday which was day three, there was a comedian called Mick Miller who was absolutely fantastic. I then sat eagerly awaiting Lionel Vinyl who I thought must be a Lionel Ritchie tribute act, but no, not at all. This muppet of a performer, wearing a bushy black wig and ridiculous outfit proceeded to teach the audience how to correctly disco dance, which I took an instant dislike to partly because I expected a tribute act and partly because in my opinion he was an idiot! Fortunately he was soon followed by a Blondie tribute act and Racey and the Bay City Rollers who again were very good. I have to say the whole weekend was a feast of well performed acts and great DJs playing hits of the 70s. Moving onto my other favourite pastime – people watching! These three days were a feast for the eyes but firstly let me point out I may be 60 and suffering with MS, meaning dancing was out of the question but I did actually attract some female attention which was rather flattering – it seems I haven’t lost my touch! There were some lovely, attractive females and the offer of visits to the coast and other parts of the country but there were also some odd sights - yes some were in fancy dress (something I thought better of - although there’s always next time – and yes there will be a next time!) and I will dress for the occasion but I saw ill-fitting shorts, breasts squashed into tops that were ready to burst, guys wearing outrageous, but funny costumes and believing this gave them licence to hit on anything female - it was sheer heaven for someone like me who drank water the whole stay and analyses everything and everyone! I think the average age range was maybe 50 onwards and a lot were in pretty poor condition and still believed they could dance like the old days! So perhaps Lionel Vinyl wasn’t such a bad idea after all. In conclusion I had the best few days I’ve had in a long time; I laughed, received compliments that were greatly needed and MS took a back seat even though I was slow and stumbled from time to time but I felt a little normality had returned to my life and it felt good. I would recommend anyone to take a similar break but importantly anyone with an illness or a handicap should go and relive memories of their youth. Butlins may not resonate with many but it was a refreshing surprise.

On my return from a great weekend I was asked to visit a newly diagnosed lady as the constant worries of MS and running a family were wearing her down. I gave this a little thought and remembered how I was when I was first diagnosed and how alone I felt. I knew nothing really about the illness or how it would change my whole life so I agreed to go along. I met with a friend, who is a care manager and went to visit this lady - I was surprised and a little thrown by this young attractive woman, in her thirties with two young children who’d been diagnosed two years ago. We went inside her home and she explained her level of MS which was actually very emotional as she was a carbon copy of me when I first got hit with this thing. But what an exceptional lady she is - bright but very scared. I started to talk about me and how I’ve coped over the past few years, explaining how for two years I was a wreck, for many reasons and she took some comfort from this I think. Anyway to cut things short, I told her I will always be at the end of a phone if needed. She has my blog details and is on a site called shiftms. I left with all kinds of things whirling round my head. This past year I feel I’ve made MS live with me rather than the other way round and yes I write a blog in the hope that you all understand a bit more about this illness and know that we suffer but still need the everyday things. Whilst I desperately tried not to feel sorry for this lady I just wanted to wave a wand to make it all go away - you see, I am a clown and hide so much and I’m alone and able to hide so much but she is a wife and mother, so she can’t hide. I think she is marvellous and wish her well, I will also make a point of being there for her. That’s it, my emotional rant over and part of the reason I write this blog.

Well that is the month ended and perhaps I should’ve written more about the 70s weekend but feel I said enough. New friends have been made and next month I’m going to meet up with MS sufferers in Sheffield which is something I ‘ve put off but let’s see, until next month!

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