#PoemADay14 – Part 5

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8, 2014 by tothersimon

So – it turns out that week 5 is where it all fell apart.

I’d stumbled a bit over the first few weeks – occasionally getting a day or so behind, but in week 5, not only did I get did I get behind but I also got so confused that I couldn’t remember how many day’s I’d got behind and how many poems were outstanding and…well…just everything. General confusion about everything. The poems I did write were half-arsed and I lost track of the dates so ended up writing two on some days and none on others. So this entry is going to be erratic at best. I apologise in advance.

Oh – yeah – I did write and record two little ‘jingles’ for people in this time, so I guess that counts. But it just confuses the dates even more, so I’m not including them here.

28/01/14

Humpty Dumpy sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
The king sent his men and all of his horses.
A most bizarre use of his nation’s armed forces.

Note: I made a flippant reference to this on Twitter, including mentioning that Humpty Dumpty was an egg. It got a load of responses telling me that nowhere does it say that Humpty Dumpty was an egg. Yes. I know that. I was just being silly. Jeez.

29/01/14

My horoscope tells me my future,
My horoscope never tells lies.
Why, just yesterday
I saw Russell Grant say
“You might meet a man with some eyes”.
Their accuracy is quite astounding
And getting it right must be hard.
I’ve made the decision
That to get such precision
They must cheat and use tarot cards.

Note: Valid sentiment. Rubbish attempt at a poem.

30/01/14

The cat looked up at its owner.
“Oh what a great life” she mewed.
“He sleeps for hours then potters about,
Then someone else cooks him some food”.

Note: I was going to write a poem about how I’d like to be a cat, because their life is pretty cushy, then I realised that…well… we do alright, don’t we? So I flipped it on its head.

31/01/14

If planes can be taxiing,
And taxis can be plain,
Can a trainer train a man,
When a man can man a train?

If ships can carry cargo,
And shipments go by car,
Then bikes, trikes, kites and the like
Won’t get you very far.

Note: No idea. Sorry.

01/02/14

1. derful things can happen
2. terrible folk sometimes.
3. dom of speech is crucial
4. writing these kind of rhymes.
5. ever been quite poorly
6. uns of guns come to gloat.
7. o ties;
8. all the pies
9. know which way I’ll vote.

Note: This is basically an idea that never actually reached fruition. You get the point, I’m sure. but the fact that it’s total bollocks doesn’t help. Maybe one day I’ll revisit this format and try to make some sense of it. Maybe.

02/02/14

I recall all too vividly,
That when I went to Italy
An ape landed on top of me
(But worry not, I mean a bee).

Note: I was reading a book about words (as one does) and it mentioned that the Italian word for ‘bee’ is ‘ape’. So ultimately this poem is a joke about that. Which is fine if you understand Italian. In fact, even then it’s probably a bit lame.

03/02/14

Head out with some friends.
We all go to a pub.
A couple of drinks later
Someone suggests a club.
My default response
Upon them saying it?
“I’m going home.
I’m
too
old
for
that
shit”.

Note: One thing I’ve enjoyed about my thirties is feeling like I’m now old enough to say “I’m too old for this shit. I’m going to bed”. This poem is a clunky, heavy handed way of saying that. And I’ve copied the format from how I wrote it in my notepad. I don’t know why I’ve strung out the ‘punchline’ like that. Maybe to make it look longer.

04/02/14

He walked into the office
His clothes were wet right through.
“Got caught in the rain”
He glumly explained.
He dripped on the desk (as you do)
And then I laughed
A hearty laugh.
He wanted to know why.
“The irony
Just tickled me.
Your coat says ‘SuperDry’.”

Note: True story. He didn’t appreciate me laughing at him. Obviously.

05/02/14

I dated a woman from Bicester
Who once went quite mad when I kicester.
I then realised
To my shock and surprise,
That I’d actually kicester twin sicester.

Note: Yeah. It’s the same format as the ‘Towcester’ one from a couple of weeks ago. You know what they say: If it ain’t broke, keep copying it until everyone’s thoroughly fed up of the format.

06/02/14

If I had three legs I’d earn millions.
You’d hear about me on the news.
But I’d still be quite poor,
Cos I’d spend it, for sure,
On custom-made trousers and shoes.

Note: Well you WOULD, wouldn’t you?

07/02/14

Emily, oh Emily,
I like you but you baffle me,
Your name just simply blows my mind apart.
Emily, oh Emily
It doesn’t end with the letter ‘E’
And doesn’t have an ‘M’ right at the start.

Note: This was written for another ‘jingle’ for someone. Or at least. It’s a rough sketch for one. I haven’t recorded it yet. You know they say that a joke is rubbish if you need to explain it? Well I’m not going to explain what I meant by this poem. Because that will make it rubbish by default. Although I’m not sure it’s actually clear what I mean… Told you I was having a tough time with these, didn’t I?

08/02/14

It’s not International Sister’s Week;
And it isn’t Hug-A-Nurse Day;
It’s not the Global Day for Grandparents
(Mine are all dead anyway).
You don’t need to share a lame picture
That tells everyone on a site
That you love your wife,
Or your kids are your life.
Perhaps you should just tell them, right?

Note: Yeah. Those bloody Facebook things annoy me. Share if you agree.

#PoemADay14 – Part 4

Posted in Uncategorized on January 27, 2014 by tothersimon

This was the week I really lost it. I fell behind by two days, then made up the time with throwaway rubbish. Even more throwaway and rubbish than usual. To top it off, some Twitter folk had a big falling out. “So what?” you might ask. And that would be a good question – well – some of the stuff posted with the hashtag #PoemADay14 – yes – the hashtag for this little project – has become the target for some of the angry folk on Twitter. It’s a long story, and I’m not sure I really understand or care enough to go into it, but I think I may retire that hashtag. At least until people stop searching it in order to ridicule the efforts of the lovely folk that are taking part in the ‘poem a day’ thing. People, eh?

21/01/14

Kenneth had a ukulele.
Kenneth liked to play it daily.
Kenneth liked to play it nightly.
Ken’s wife smashed it,
And quite rightly.

Note: Poor Kenneth. I quite liked this poem.

22/01/14

Kenneth ordered a curry.
Kenneth ordered it hot.
Kenneth barked at the waiter
“I want the hottest you’ve got!”

The waiter looked at Kenneth.
The waiter nodded his head.
The waiter smiled. “You want it hot?
Yes sir. Of course”, he said.

The food took a little while coming.
The food was freshly made.
The waiter, as a precaution,
Had called up the fire brigade.

Kenneth scooped up a spoonful.
Kenneth took his first bite.
Kenneth turned pink, then red, then green,
Then finally settled on white.

He gasped like a fish out of water.
His facial expression seemed pained.
He looked at his mates round the table.
“Pffft… too mild”, he eventually explained.

Note: Despite the fact that it’s the longest poem I think I’ve done yet, this was rushed and I wasn’t at all happy with it.

23/01/14

What’s that you say?
A poem a day?
A work-out for the mind?
My mind’s unfit
And to prove it
I’m three damn days behind.

Note: This was written on the 25/01 I hadn’t managed to write a poem on the 23rd because… well… I’d gone out for a curry (yes, I know!) and got drunk. It doesn’t happen often. Give me a break.

24/01/14

If you cut me,
I bleed tea.
It’s flowing round
Inside of me.
In my veins
And in my heart
And every single
Body part.

If you cut me,
I bleed tea.
It’s the stuff
That powers me.
Only joking!
My blood’s not brown!
Now put that
Cup and scalpel down.

Note: I have no idea what I was thinking here. Other than that I really REALLY enjoy drinking tea. Oh – and this was also written on the 25/01. The reason I missed this particular day was that  I played a gig with my band, and had other things on my mind. The gig went well, thanks for asking.

25/01/14

If I had the wings of a sparrow,
If I had the arse of a crow,
I’d be far too heavy to fly but
I’d give it a bloody good go.

ALTERNATE VERSION:

If I had the wings of a sparrow,
If I had the arse of a crow,
I’d struggle to find tops to fit me.
They don’t do ‘bird shirts’ at Tesco.

Note: This was more about me mulling over how absurd the popular lines ‘If I had the wings of a sparrow, if I had the arse of a crow’ are. It doesn’t make any sense, but nobody questions it.  The poems themselves are pretty poor. I admit that.

26/01/14

Here’s a fact to share with friends,
To delight, entertain & amuse:
All racehorses have trainers;
All other horses have shoes.

Note: An old pun of mine, crow-barred into verse form. I’m quite pleased with the pun. The poem is so/so.

27/01/14

When I was out driving in Towcester,
I noticed a face on a powcester.
She looked like my old friend from Frome,
But it wasn’t her, I assome.

Note: I had plans to including ‘Reading’ (‘We met at a mutual friend’s weading’) and…others. But I quite like the succinct nature of it. And I’m lazy.

#PoemADay14 – Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized on January 20, 2014 by tothersimon

This week seemed less of a struggle than last week. Which is a good thing. Only struggled on a few days (note the day when one poem is a whole TWO LINES long). Still – that’s the idea of a challenge, isn’t it? It’s not supposed to be easy.

14/01/14

If I could choose a super-power,
I’d choose the power of flight.
But no – not with this vertigo.
I couldn’t stand the height.
I’d have to pick another one.
Perhaps those x-ray eyes.
But I’d get banned from everywhere
If people realised.
(Like shops with changing rooms,
Or gyms,
Or anywhere with loos).
I need another super-power.
It’s getting hard to choose.
Super-strength? Or super-speed?
Or immortality?
Nah, I’ll just keep the one I’ve got:
Being super-me.

Note: I’d had a couple of drinks when I wrote this. I’m trying to work out whether it’s annoyingly arrogant-sounding, or annoyingly GCSE-English class sounding. Or both. Probably both. I apologise.

15/01/14

If gluttony was a competitive sport,
I think I could win the World Cup
(I’d fill it with sweet and savoury treats
Before gobbling all of them up).
I could be competing
In all sorts of eating,
And gorging on all sorts of stuff.
But sadly ‘real’ sport
Needs skill of some sort
And ‘greed’ just ain’t good enough.

Note: Somebody on Twitter said this was the best one yet. That’s kind of them. But they’re wrong.

16/01/14

Image

Note: A throwaway, two line poem, with a picture of a cute creature. What more could you want? (Actually, if I’m honest, I’d like to change one of the words, but it’s too late now. I think the ‘was’ should be an ‘is’, but hey… what can you do?)

17/01/14

The old man’s eyes met mine
In a steely, unflinching stare.
They seemed to have lost their shine,
Dull grey, like the old man’s hair.
He never cracked a smile,
Never showed his burnt yellow teeth,
His clothes were an old-fashioned style.
His face showing sadness and grief.
I stared at him slightly aghast,
His skin scarred by years of pain,
And then I decided, at last:
I won’t use this mirror again.

Note: This poem seems far more depressing than I’d intended. The general idea’s fine, but I’d like to rewrite some of the dodgier lines. Ah well.

18/01/14

Come, come! To our glorious shop full of potions!
Where the air is soup-thick with perfume.
We’ve serums and creams and butters and lotions.
You want to look young, we presume.
See – age is a number yet also a curse,
Beauty must always mean youth.
And our tubs of goo make time go in reverse.
I’m telling you! You don’t need ‘proof’.
Just step right this way to our range of cosmetics,
Where orange-faced girls dressed in white
Will sell you some cream so you’ll feel less pathetic,
You want to look beautiful, right?
Our youth-making serum contains loads of ‘stuff’
Like science-things we can’t pronounce.
It stops all your wrinkles and cures your dandruff.
It’s two-hundred quid for an ounce.
Our studies show women that use it all feel
That maybe it works in some way.
See! Studies are FACTS! So it IS a good deal.
Now how are you paying today?

Note: This one covers a bit of a bugbear of mine. The ‘beauty industry’ is just… well… pointless, isn’t it?

19/01/14

Elephants have four legs,
And human beings have two.
Not ‘too’ with two O’s,
Oh no,
The ‘two’ with W.

Note: I thought this was quite clever. Until I wrote it down. I think it works better if you say it out loud. Actually – most of these poems do. They’re pretty much designed to be read out loud. Not that I ever expect anyone to actually DO that, of course.

20/01/14

If you go to B&Q,
B&Q is what you’ll do.
There you’ll queue
And there you’ll be.
Hence the name,
Presumably.

Note – I’m particularly pleased with this one. I don’t know why.

#PoemADay14 – Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized on January 13, 2014 by tothersimon

I struggled a bit this week. I don’t know whether I just wasn’t ‘feeling it’ or whether this whole thing has backfired and my creativity has gone into hiding after being subjected to regular abuse, but whatever it was, I had to force some of these out. And I think it shows.

07/01/14

I think about you constantly,
You’re always on my mind.
The most perfectly soft caress
That God ever designed.
I long to lie there with you
Though we’re so far apart.
To feel you soft against my skin,
Entwined around my heart.
I’d give the world to see you now,
Alas I’m here instead.
We’ll reunite, tonight, my sweet.Oh how I love you bed.
x

08/01/14

The thing about Freud
Is…
That he hunted for
Sexual subtexts.

And they are
Not always
Deliberate

Although sometimes
Reading things differently
Suggests a subtext written
Entirely on purpose.

09/01/14

Language evolves, that’s a natural thing.
To deny it, you’d have to be mad.
But let’s not forget all the old-fashioned words
Like ne’erdowell, bounder and cad,

Expunge and avuncular, roustabout, crux,
Hornswoggle, fug and eschew,
Brouhaha, bumbershoot and lollygag,
Shenanigans and ballyhoo.

Bunkum and umpteenth, erstwhile and thrice,
Winsome and rannygazoo,
Flibbertigibbet, humdinger, oaf,
And don’t forget flabbergast, too.

In a world full of acronyms, selfies and chavs,
LOLZ and amazeballs and cray,
Let’s all try spare a thought for these old gems,
We can’t let them just fade away.

Note: I like this one. It pleases me to see a bunch of funny sounding old words crammed together like that.

10/01/14

My children are beside me
  with every step I take.
    They guide me as I walk my lifelong path.
They fill my heart with joy and love
  although they sometimes make
    me fish their number twos out of the bath.

Note: Unfortunately this was based on a true story. One that had happened a few short minutes before I wrote it.

11/01/14

Imagine my fear and dismay;
I cannot recall yesterday!

I guess I should quit,
Trying to think of it.

I don’t like the song anyway.

Note: This originally started as ‘I’ve lost my way’ and the punchline was about the Sinatra song. I’m not sure which version is worse.

12/01/14

There was a young man who pissed glue,
It caused him a problem or two.
He shouted “Oh fuck!
I seem to be stuck!
I must have splashed some on my shoe!”

Note: This one needs explaining. I was originally writing a poem that featured classic clichés like “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse”. I popped onto Google to find some more, and the first thing that popped up when I typed “I’m so angry I could…” was “I’m so angry I could piss glue”. That amused me. I tweeted about it and got a couple of responses. One from the lovely @FrizFrizzle telling me that it’s a quote from ‘Clone High’ (which he highly recommends); and one from the equally lovely @sumarumi suggesting that it would be a great first line for a limerick. The rest, as they say, is a poem about a man pissing glue.

13/01/14

I’m so tired I could sleep a horse.
No wait…
Hang on…
That’s wrong…
Of course.
I mean ‘so tired I could sleep for joy’.
You what?It’s not!
You’re right!
Oh boy.

Note: As you might have realised , this was the poem I was thinking of writing the day before.

#PoemADay14 – Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 3, 2014 by tothersimon

So – here they are, my first attempts at writing a poem a day for the whole of 2014. I’ve been tweeting them each day, with the hashtag #PoemADay14 and it’s lovely to see others joining in, too. I think I’ll probably do an end-of-the-week compilation here – much like this one. I might even include a few words about some of the poems, just to add a bit of context. So – here goes…

01/01/14

Live life like you’re inside a bubble,
Protected from harm, come what may.
Float high above those
Who are burdened by woes
And avoid any pricks on the way.

02/01/14

“Danger!”
“No entry”
“Stop!”
“Wear a hard hat”
“Do not press this button”
“Don’t fiddle with that”
The signs patronise us,
They treat us like fools.
Well, I’m an adult,
I don’t need all these rules.
I can press buttons
And will – look – right now.
See, nothing has happened.
Oh wait…

*click*

*KERPOW!*

03/01/14

They say it’s nice weather for ducks.
By Jove, they are right! Yes! Of course!
The weather IS nice
For ducks (in five spice)
Rolled up in pancakes with plum sauce.

Note: The weather has been pretty awful recently and it seems to be on everyone’s minds. The other thing that’s always on my mind is food, so here’s a poem combining the two.

04/01/14

“Unicorns aren’t real” they say.
That might be true, of course
But have they tried cross-breeding
A narwhal and a horse?

05/01/14

“I can’t find your pulse” the concerned medic said.
“No pulse? Don’t be stupid, man, I would be…”

Note: This is a poem for my Grandad, Joe, whose last words were, allegedly, the ones in the poem. I was told the story many years ago by my cousin, but I have no idea whether it’s true or not. I like to think it is. This poem was originally a bit longer, with a bit more of the story, but ultimately those two lines were all that was needed, I think.

06/01/14

Some wear strange clothes,
Some wear no shoes,
Some look aggresive,
Some look confused,
Some mumble quietly,
Some yell out loud,
Some sit bolt upright,
Some with heads bowed,
Some smell of drink,
Some smell of wee,
But all of them
Choose the spare seat
next to me.

Note: Buses, eh?

I’ve had an idea

Posted in Uncategorized on December 26, 2013 by tothersimon

That’s a pretty rare occurrence for me.

As we approach the new year, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about a ‘thing’ that I could do for 2014.

“What the hell are you on about?” I hear you cry.

Firstly, please don’t cry – and secondly – I should explain – in 2012 I took part in a ‘thing’ whereby people took a photo every day for the whole year. It was a good way of keeping a log of where I’d been and what I’d experienced throughout the year, and, quite importantly for me, it made me constantly keep an eye out for things that might make an interesting photograph. It forced me to look at pretty much everything as though it was a potential photo. I enjoyed that. Manky old shop doorways suddenly had ‘charm’, and I’d find myself crouching down in the street to get the right angle for a picture. It (literally) shifted my perspective. And I enjoyed the challenge.

So I was wondering about doing the same thing for 2014. But I’ve already done that. Wouldn’t it be good if I could do…I dunno… something else every day for the next year?

(No. Not that).

I had a little think about what I could do, and then I wondered if I might be able to write some lyrics every day for the whole year. As you may or may not know (or care), I write songs. The one thing that often holds me back is the lyrics. Once I’ve got inspiration and a couple of opening lines I’m fine – but finding that inspiration often takes months. I am ‘anti-lific’, if there is such a word*. So the challenge of writing a couple of lines of lyrics every day seemed ideal. If I come up with a few lines every day – for 365 days back to back – I’m bound to have something usable, aren’t I? So I’m planning to do exactly that – write at least a couple of lines each day. I can’t impose a huge amount of restrictions on myself because – well – that sort of defeats the object of the exercise, doesn’t it?

I haven’t yet figured out how I’m going to keep a record of my endeavors – possibly on this blog – or more likely scrawled on a napkin in a pub somewhere and then typed out the following day. My aim (and we’ll see if I can manage to keep this up) is to share the lines online – maybe with a little commentary every now and then. Like a lyrical diary. It’s not about showing off my great lyrical abilities – after all, I’m going to be forcing this stuff out of my unwilling brain like Play-Doh through one of those squishy Play-Doh machines – but maybe others will join in if they see my making a tit of myself. I’m not sure there’s any logic behind that idea, but there you go…

There we are, then – my idea for 2014. If you’d like to join in with a couple of lines of poetry or lyrics or whatever, that would be amazing – maybe we could set up a Twitter hashtag or something, and people could search for it and meet up and become friends and eventually poetry could unite us all in one big, arty-farty utopia, free from the shackles of an oppressive society and… and… hang on – what was I on about again? Ah yes…

The only rule is: there are no rules.

Join me. Come on. It’ll be a laugh!

Who’s in?

EDIT: I’ve decided that I’ll be using the Twitter hashtag #PoemADay14, if you want to join in.

*there isn’t

No Laughing Matter

Posted in Uncategorized on November 28, 2013 by tothersimon

Before I start writing the main bit of this blog entry I should probably start with a couple of disclaimers. Yeah. It’s that sort of blog entry. Sorry.

  • Disclaimer 1) This is a blog written by me about my experiences and my personal feelings (or maybe my lack of them). Perhaps I don’t deal with things in the same way as you, I don’t know. But what I’d like you to bear in mind is that this is just a glimpse into how I coped with what could have been, and probably was, a life-changing experience. It’s not written for any other purpose than it’s an experience that I’d like to share with you because – well – parts of it are quite entertaining, I think.
  • Disclaimer 2) There is no disclaimer 2. One was too many already.

So – where to start?

Perhaps I should set the scene. It was 1999. We were all partying, just like Prince had predicted. I was still living with my Mum and Dad and commuting to University each day. I worked at a supermarket and had rather absurd floppy hair. If you’re under the age of 25, here’s a history lesson for you – it was called having ‘curtains’ and, somewhat implausibly, it was perfectly acceptable at the time. I had a long-term girlfriend (we’d been together a few years) and I was, for the most part, very happy. That’s the scene set. Done. Now – onto the good bit…

Well I say ‘good’…

I had a lump on my neck. I knew this because a) I could see it/feel it and b) My brother had been pointing at it and laughing. Brothers do that kind of thing.

The lump in all its glory. Also – the floppy hair.

I’d recently been scratched by our cat, and the bit where it’d scratched me had swollen up a bit. As a 19 year-old floppy-haired male student, I wasn’t the sort of person to seek a Doctor’s appointment for stuff like that. I wasn’t the sort of person to seek a Doctor’s appointment for anything, really. (Note: I am now, funnily enough).

My Mum, however, insisted that I went to get it checked out. After all – it could be something ‘sinister’. Cue teenage rolling of eyes. Mums, eh? What are they like?

I clearly remember swanning into the doctor’s surgery and answering the question “How can I help you?” with the immortal words “I think I’ve got lumpy neck disease”. I probably thought it was quite funny and the doctor probably thought I was a bit of a knob. Nevertheless, he examined me, and after I’d told him about the cat scratch, decided that it might be ‘cat scratch fever’. Over the years I’d had my fair share of illnesses – most things, in fact, but I’d never had cat scratch fever. In fact, all I knew about it was that it was an album by Ted Nugent (I’d seen it in second hand CD shops, whilst scouring the ‘N’ section for Nirvana bootlegs). Cat scratch fever was a great illness to have. It sounded kinda cool and funky and – well – I wasn’t ill, just a bit lumpy. Oh – and I’d lost a bit of weight recently. But mainly lumpy.

The doctor took some blood tests and sent me on my way.

I returned for the results a week or so later (with my Mum in tow, as I remember it). The doctor said that the results were inconclusive and that it was probably a cyst. The results indicated that it wasn’t anything sinister like Hodgkin’s disease – so it was probably just a harmless old cyst, sitting there on my neck. He booked me in for a CAT scan to confirm it and off I tootled, with a spring in my step and a song in my heart.

The CAT scan was weird. I remember a few things – notably that they used a machine to administer the…stuff… into your veins – and that before the scan they managed to squirt some of it onto my shoe. I never managed to get rid of the mark it left. The second thing I remember was the very strange sensation that the ‘stuff’ gave. It made my… er… orifices get warm. Uncomfortably warm. Notably the downstairs, rear orifice. Nobody ever mentions the weird, ‘warm anus sensation’ when they have a CAT scan. Maybe it was just me. Perhaps it was just nerves.

They took the scan and I came out of the whirring torpedo-tube of a machine. I could see them behind the glass panel, looking all serious and debating something, whilst pointing at a screen. Eventually, they said they’d like to do another scan. Fine. Whatever. I didn’t have to be anywhere. So they scanned me again. If/when they make a movie of my life – that scene will be shown with mournful music – possibly in slow-motion. The doctors giving each other stern looks and shaking their heads.

I wasn’t especially anxious about the results because the doctor had told me that it was a cyst and the scans would just confirm that. What’s to worry about? I had pubs to visit, bottles of Smirnoff Mule to drink (ask your parents, kids) and general larking-about to do. I didn’t have time to worry about things.

So when I went back for the results (with my Mum again – though I should point out that she didn’t accompany me everywhere when I was 19/20). We sat down and the Doctor had a serious look about him. They scan showed that it wasn’t a cyst. It was looking like something worse than that. I don’t remember the full conversation, but I do remember him saying that it was looking like Hodgkin’s disease. And I remember my Mum crying.

But – wait a minute – he’d said it wasn’t Hodgkin’s disease! And – oh yeah – what is Hodgkin’s disease anyway?

There was a good chance that it was curable, apparently, and I had to have a biopsy, so they could confirm it. A few days later (due to the wonders of private healthcare) I was lying there, about to have a bit chopped out of my neck. It had to be done under general anaesthetic, so I was in for a while. I ‘d met the surgeon – a nice chap* and he’d talked me through what they were going to do. The details are hazy, but essentially they wanted to cut a chunk out of the lump, dip it in some crazy chemical solution, it’d turn a funny colour and that would prove, irrefutably, that I had Hodgkin’s disease. OK. Cool. Get chopping.

The things I remember about this whole process are:

  •  Waking up after the operation and ordering a bacon sandwich. It came with cress on the side of the plate. Very la-di-da.
  • The smell of general anaesthetic. Ugh. It stank. I sweated the stuff out for days afterwards. Not a nice experience.
  • The massive but relatively neat little slice in my neck. Nicely done.
  • The surgeon looking apologetic and telling me that they’d taken the wrong bit and needed to do the whole operation again.

I think the last one was probably the most significant in this story. Unless you came here looking for bacon sandwich presentation tips.

So I went in again. More general anaesthetic – more stink – and almost certainly more bacon sandwiches. Because the previous operation was so recent they pretty much just opened my neck up and rummaged around without having to do much, I’d imagine. Like opening an easy-access service panel. Either way, when I awoke I had massive blue stiches in my neck and a tube attached to a ‘drain’ coming out of it. Not a household drain. I wasn’t attached to the sewerage system. It was a little plastic pot full of my blood that I had to lug around with me.

I went home, looking like an extra from a cheaply produced zombie movie. The stitches they’d used were blue. And BIG. The whole wound was probably three – maybe four – inches across. It wasn’t subtle. To enable me to have showers without accidentally filling up my neck cavity with water, they’d put a kind of plastic cling-film stuff over it and cut around the outline. Remember that stuff you used to cover your school books with? That. The result was that it looked a lot like this:

Image

Only less convincing.

It didn’t take more than a few days of lounging around and being pampered before I was back on my feet. I remember the first time I went out with my new Frankenstein’s-monster-style neck I was a bit paranoid – I wore a top that covered it over so people wouldn’t see. Every subsequent time I went out I didn’t bother. You see far worse things out and about.

I also vividly remember an incident where I had gone for a wander around town with my friend. It was April Fool’s Day (2000). He’d popped into McDonald’s to use their toilets (an act which I do not endorse, I should point out) and I was stood outside waiting for him. A young teenage girl approached me – probably not more than 14 or so – pointed at my neck-scar – still blood-encrusted and gruesome – and said “that’s not real”. She said it accusatorially. Like I was waltzing around with a fake scar on in order to impress people. I assured her that it wasn’t fake – that it was absolutely real and that I’d just got out of hospital the previous week, and she barked at me – like a feral Vicky Pollard – “I DON’T BELIEVE YOU” before scampering off to smoke, drink and have unprotected sex with Wayne, I expect. There’s a part of me that admires her audacity. There’s a part of me that thinks she needs to learn some bloody manners. And there’s a part of me that finds the whole thing rather amusing.

–          Cut back to the hospital –

I’d been assigned a haematologist (nice chap) and an oncologist (nice chap) and – I think there was someone else (probably a nice chap, too), but to be honest it’s something of a blur. Yes – they’d found it to be Hodgkin’s disease as expected – in my neck and another bit under my left armpit – and now they just needed to work out what to do about it. I’d been informed that the recovery rate in cases like mine was very high – 90% or so, I think it was, so I wasn’t worried at all. My view is that you’ve got to trust these people when they say that. Initial conversations were had about the treatment required – in my case it would probably just be radiotherapy. No need for chemotherapy. That was a good thing. We’ve all heard how harrowing chemotherapy can be. That didn’t sound like a lot of fun.

The next consultation went something along the lines of:

“So – you’ll start your chemotherapy on Monday and your radiotherapy a couple of weeks later…”
“But I didn’t think I was having chemo…”
“Yes. You are.”
“Ok. Right…er… Will I lose my eyebrows? I don’t want to lose my eyebrows. People without eyebrows look WEIRD”.
“No, you shouldn’t lose much of your hair – you’ll just go a bit thin on top- and you won’t lose your eyebrows.”
“OK. Cool. See you Monday.”

And that was it. I popped back to Uni to tell them that I wasn’t going back. I realised years later that I never actually told any of the people I used to chat to in lectures. I didn’t have a whole load of friends at Uni, but I certainly had acquaintances. And one day I just didn’t turn up. I wonder if they ever noticed…

I told work that I’d probably require a few months off. They were really supportive. They had a whip-round and bought me a 24 pack of Fosters and South-Park ‘Bigger, Longer, Uncut’  on VHS video. Still one of my favourite films of all time. That was a result.

And then I started on the chemo- and radio-therapy. As you can probably imagine, chemotherapy is not a bundle of laughs. I’d pop to the hospital for a couple of hours every few days (I think it was) and sit with a drip in, while they administered a cocktail of multi-coloured drugs. I have no idea what any of them were, or what any of them did, except one – a bright red liquid – turned my wee fluorescent orange. It was probably just included to cheer me up.

I spent a lot of hours at home lying on the sofa, drinking tropical fruit juice, vomiting and playing Tony Hawks 2 on the PlayStation. What a game. I had to take a variety of pills each day – several times a day – and they ranged from tiny, fairly innocuous pills to massive ones. One pill I had to take each day looked like one of those liquorice torpedoes that you don’t see any more. Except it made me vomit, and made my hair fall out, which I don’t recall liquorice torpedoes doing. I was on a course of steroids which made my face go all chubby and round (it’ll wear off one day) and endless tablets to try and cure the nausea. I’d have a day or two of that – and then a day of two of feeling ok. On those days I went to the pub.

Contrary to what the consultant had told me – my hair did fall out. Great tufts of it. I’d wake up in the morning and my pillow would be covered in hair. I used to gather it up and make fake moustaches to amuse my girlfriend. Or rather – I’d make false moustaches to amuse myself, and then make my girlfriend watch me tit around with a Fu-Man-Chu style ‘tache on. It was hilarious. One thing to note is that I didn’t consider shaving my head until way waaaay after I should have done. You done see many people that previously had floppy hair that are now balding. There’s a good reason for that.

You're allowed to laugh...

You’re allowed to laugh…

The chemo therapy routine rumbled on for a few weeks and I kinda got used to it.

You get some funny reactions when you look like a dying man – all pasty and scarred with no hair – I remember on one occasion, I was in the toilet at the pub. The guy a few urinals along did something which men never do. NEVER. He looked over at me (whilst pissing) and said – “Are you alright mate?”. After I got over the shock of a man striking up a conversation at the urinal, I told him I was fine. “Listen, mate – if you’re in trouble and you need us to sort someone out for you, just let us know, alright?”. How sweet – he thought I’d been knifed or something and was offering to have someone ‘sorted out’ for me. Bless ‘im. The kindness of strangers, eh?

I used to enjoy making up stories about my scar, when people asked me what had happened.

“I was attacked my a man wielding a hamster attached to a stick”

“I got stabbed… by HIM! *points to the person stood a few feet away*”

And the radiotherapy started. The first thing they did was to tattoo me. Yeah. Pretty cool, huh? I’ve got tattoos. Six of ‘em. They’re used to line up the lasers accurately each time. Yeah. Getting zapped by LASERS. Jealous, much? They’d do that every day for several weeks and then eventually I’d get what is effectively serious sunburn under my armpit. That’s what happened. There aren’t a lot of stories around my radiotherapy. I didn’t accidentally get zapped by the wrong thing and given super-powers. They didn’t do the wrong armpit then have to do it all again. I just turned up – chatted to the lovely nurses working there, listened to whatever rubbish they were playing on their CD player to put me at ease (I remember asking them to switch off a Celine Dion CD because it was making me feel ill), and got radiotherapied. Easy as that. To be fair, the ‘serious sunburn’ was pretty grim. My t-shirts used to get stuck to it and… ugh… it wasn’t pleasant. On the plus side, I now don’t sweat out of that armpit, thus giving me a 50% saving in deodorant bills. Every cloud…

I finished my chemotherapy tablets a week early.

Not because I was supposed to. Because I wasn’t paying enough attention and had accidentally decreased the dosage too quickly, leaving me with a handful of spare tablets. Whoops.

Nevertheless the news was eventually good. Everything was working as they’d hoped and I was ‘in remission’. Go me! After that, my hair started growing back – thick and tufty, not silky and fluffy like before. I went back to work, finished my degree through distance learning (i.e. Open University, not getting a train for an hour each day) and eventually – after five years of regular check-ups, I got the all clear.

It’s a  funny thing. I only remember the experience as I have relayed it to you above. It was relatively stress-free for me. Perhaps because I was ignorant of the implications – perhaps because I could only trust what the doctors had told me – that’d I’d be ok – or perhaps because I have an immensely strong character. Ha! I’m just kidding. It’s clearly a combination of the first two. It’s only in retrospect that I think of what my poor girlfriend (now wife) and family (still family) were going through. Jesus. They were amazing, and went along with my ‘it’ll be fiiiiiiine’ attitude. At least to my face. I don’t think I want to ask my Mum what she really felt. I’d imagine it was pretty terrifying. I guess I was in the eye of the storm. I was hoping to sum up this blog with some words of wisdom – something to consider – but… I don’t know what to say. This blog is more an exercise in catharsis than anything else. I’ve never written about my hilarious japes and scrapes with cancer before (and I doubt I will again). Perhaps the one thing to take away from this is that life isn’t always bleak for people who you might assume it to be bleak for. I genuinely had a good laugh. I was off work for six months, I spent half my time down the pub with my mates and my missus, and life was generally alright. That’s not a message you hear very often, is it?

Footnote: I’m not sure what prompted me to write this. I’ve been toying with the idea for many years. Maybe it’s just to ‘get it off my chest’. I’m not sure there’s anything TO ‘get off my chest’. Maybe it’s just that I think it’s too good a story not to share. If ‘good’ is the right word (it’s not). Maybe because I found some before and after photos the other day and thought “Wow. They’re hilarious”. I really don’t know. Since writing this, I have realised that I’ve missed a couple of key stories out, but this blog is already far too long and nobody wants to hear about the time I went to the sperm bank, do they?

*recurring theme – pretty much everyone involved in the process was a lovely person.