Posts Tagged ‘Life’
I haven’t blogged in over a year. There was no conscious decision to stop, no one moment where I became bored or lacked the words. In fact there’s been many a time I’ve been frustrated to the limitations of Twitter to get a point across I feel passionate about. I don’t know if this post will be it for another year or until next week. But tonight, as I start to type this on Sunday 3rd August I almost have too many things to say.
That recently I had to take a very long and critical look at myself in the mirror and face up to weight gained, health not quite up to scratch (some of you will be familiar with my blogs on suffering from Tinnitus, add to that a pesky and painful foot injury I’ve not been able to shake this year). I’ve always stated exercise is the hardest routine to get into and the easiest to fall out of. But I’ve recently made it to the gym after bad work days when the devil on my shoulder has been telling me to go for pizza and a bottle of wine. Jumped in the pool when I want to be lying in a park finishing my book. Chopping up a rainbow of lettuce, beetroot, tomatoes instead of boiling the kettle to put the pasta in. Showing myself Tough Love.
That during Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games I’ve thought back to the lows I went through during 2012 which culminated in the high of The Olympics. Those days, I still confidently state, were my happiest in a decade of living in London, and will remain the most inspirational until the day I die. I think it changed me, for the better. This past week, watching amazing athletes like Lynsey Sharp set such a positive role model for young girls everywhere has been a complete joy. I type this waiting for the inevitable montage to round-up the games so I can cry the just as inevitable sports tears.
That today I went to Shuffle Festival’s Day of the Dead, set in the beautifully calm and serene Tower Hamlets Cemetery (my Dad and I can’t be the only ones who find cemeteries peaceful instead of eerie)? I sat listening to a crowd of old east-enders relay their tales of what can be best described under the title of “back in the day”. Complaining about all these retro shops in Brick Lane, thinking fondly on the colourful Sari shops of their youth. How when one of them moved to Somerset the first thing he had to do was learn how to say good morning to people, “do that in the east end people would class you as a loony”. How all these kids are moving to Hackney now because they can’t afford Islington anymore (I had to bite my lip, I wanted to tell them we can’t afford Hackney either). It was like listening to my parents and their friends talk, and because of that, behind my sunglasses I cried happy tears. I sat there until the old nana in her wheelchair finally piped up and said “I wanna go ‘ome”.
So this has been a bit of a montage post I guess. To say look after your health, find inspiration in the people and acts that move you, and to cherish your family. Life is fleeting.
I’ll sign off with the words of one of those lovely east-enders that made me smile so much today. Last cockney to leave turn off the lights.
It’s been a little while since I blogged about Tinnitus, seven months have passed since I wrote my last post I Dread The Quiet Of The Night. In October’s Cosmopolitan I get to talk about Tinnitus in an article called Just Be Quiet by Rosie Mullender (and I truly thank her writing about this). Today I met my new Doctor (not Capaldi), back on another NHS waiting list as I transfer to a hospital closer to where I now live. It seemed like time to blog about it again.
2013 is speeding past me in a blur, I can’t help but feel the older I get the quicker twelve months pass. Come November it will be two years with Tinnitus. I’d love to type that since I was diagnosed medical research has come on leaps and bounds but it seems stagnant. A woefully underfunded area and still little, at best conflicting, understanding around the condition. I am still as much in the dark as I was two years ago. But not alone in the dark, I am with my ever buzzing and ringing companion. Never completely in the silence.
But I am also very much not alone in my waking hours either. Since I started blogging about Tinnitus I have received emails from sufferers. A dear friend has also contracted it and we nudge one another to remember earplugs at gigs. Over dinner last week I chatted to my neighbour, a fellow sufferer. And you know, if there’s one little positive it’s having people to talk to about it that know exactly what it’s like. That you don’t need to try to reach for the words or comparisons. A look says it all between two people who know what it’s like to lie staring at the ceiling unblinking and frustrated. Honestly, unless you have experienced it I don’t think you can quite understand the levels of borderline insanity it can send you at times. I hope that you never do and wish none of us ever had.
Look after your ears beautiful music lovers.
Not many daughters are on the receiving end of a smug dad when they get robbed. My first weekend as an East London resident resulted in my iPhone being swiped as I dashed into a shop on Hoxton Street sober as a judge in broad daylight. My dad, born and bred in the area, has put up with years of people telling them how much Hoxton has changed but when my mum broke the news of this theft he jubilantly exclaimed. “Told you Hoxton hasn’t changed!”.
Out of the two old dears that nosed their way into my misfortune one comforted me and offered to pray to Saint Anthony while the other shouted at me for “being an idiot. you can’t take your eyes off anything for a second in Hoxton It’s crap!.” I suspect my Dad would have sided with her.
Last year I set myself a to-do list. Life happened and things didn’t pan out despite achieving it in parts. I have three Lido’s left to swim in London and I learnt how to ride a bike (albeit not brilliantly yet. I doubt I’d pass my cycling proficiency). This move sparks a mentality of getting back on track as living here was part of the plan.
We sat up on our roof terrace last night with a bottle of wine watching the sun go down and the water returning to glass after a day of long boats passing, plastic bags floating past like lyrics from a Suede song, Laburnum Boat Club plunging in and ragged looking ducks disturbing the canal. I felt the luckiest and calmest I’ve been in a long time despite the bad luck on the first weekend I arrived.
P.S I predict I fall in the canal by the time the year is up.
P.P.S My first week was soundtracked by Kindness, David Bowie, Daft Punk, Bat for Lashes, Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Haim. You can play my mixtape on YouTube here.
The past month or so I’ve struggled with my writing. I wouldn’t describe it as a block. More like the creative part of me was grinding to a halt and I couldn’t find inspiration. About a week ago I honestly thought this blog had reached its end. Maybe it was the endless winter or the soul-destroying flat hunt I’m currently involved in. I’ve been reading books at a slower pace, gone into a trance when I’ve picked up my laptop to write, left my camera at home when I should be out taking photos.
Today I decided to give myself an art overdose in the hope of being wowed and excited by something. First The Light Show at The Hayward Gallery. If you happen to be an art loving Sci-Fi fan this is an absolute must. Leo Villareal’s Cylinder II made me feel like I was stood amongst a million stars, Ivan Navarro’s Reality Show was like the bottom of Doctor Who’s Tardis had fallen out spiralling into a vortex and Olafur’s Eliasson’s Model for a timeless garden felt like I had found water on mars (strobing unreal droplets hopping and falling in a pitch black room).
A short stroll across our dirty old river took me from a futuristic experience back to the 1920’s. The National Portrait Gallery is currently showing Man Ray Portraits. I was trying to commit every photo and moment to memory. From the seventeen year-old boy freaking out at the sight of what I can only describe as a healthy bush of pubic hair on Meret Oppenheim (“that’s just weird!!”). To moments when I found myself welling up at photos of his lovers (Kiki and Lee Miller) and wife Juliet. The one constant thought in my head throughout the whole exhibition was “I think we have less interesting faces now”, which is a testament to Man Ray but perhaps doesn’t say much about my fellow Londoners. I include myself in this of course, especially standing in front of his portrait of Virginia Woolf. I have a terribly dull face in comparison.
I’ll end this post with Man Ray’s words of encouragement to his niece Naomi Savage when she started her own creative journey. It struck the right chord today.
“You don’t need a huge audience. You only need five or six people who care, and there to encourage you… Don’t worry about idealism and practicality… Try to get paid for what you do, and don’t worry if you don’t. Just keep on working. You’ll make up for it time.”
As I was about to leave the house the other day Fleetwood Mac’s Man of the World came on the radio just as my hand hovered to turn my DAB off. It’s one of those songs that will always stop me in my tracks, the regret croaking out of Peter Green in an act of a heartfelt confession.
I have the added built-in feature of the crackle and static of listening to it as if it was on Vinyl, or an old wireless radio not quite tuned in, because I have Tinnitus. I don’t mean to romanticise it, making it sounds as if a medical condition that strikes 1 in 10 gives a vintage sound to your world because it doesn’t. It’s funny, typing out the words ‘medical condition’ because I think of it as more of an annoyance, something to suffer and endure. Ultimately something I have been learning to live with since November 2011.
Since contracting Tinnitus I’ve had frustrating experiences from GP’s. When I finally got to see an ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat) Doctor I patiently tried different forms of medication. From tipping my head back to administer a salt spray twice a day to getting down on all fours like a dog and pouring a solution that was uncomfortable and felt like it was eroding the skin inside my nose. The gentle, but firm, smack of a tuning fork over my head is a stark reminder that I should have known better. Actually I had never given much thought to looking after my hearing in the same way I’d floss regularly or go to the opticians.
I dread the quiet of night. Working and living in London I have the constant distraction of noise to help drown out the ever changing noises in my brain. The rattle of the tube carriages and the building site currently outside my office window mean I can sometimes tune out of it during the day. It’s hard to describe how the sounds I hear shifts sides, changes tone and pitch. That I’m convinced alcohol heightens it but can’t know for certain, that some days are better than others. On the terrible and unbearable nights I sleep little, in the morning I am bleary eyed, exhausted and prone to make mistakes (from grammatical errors to not paying enough attention when crossing the road). When the sound suddenly changes I have to ask others around me if they can hear a strange buzzing, I’m sometimes thrown by what’s in my brain and what’s reality. This inability to communicate something only I can hear is frustrating and, how I wish I meant this literally, I sometimes end up suffering in silence.
Next time that song comes on the radio, the one that stops you in your tracks because it brings a long-lost lover to memory, reminds you of a cherished friend long gone, makes you sigh, skip, cry or smile with every facial muscle, pause for a moment. Think what life would be like with that melody, specific lyric, cowbell or the plink of piano keys ruined by a constant sound cutting across it. Or how the lack of sleep or stress will affect your life, and perhaps your relationships. If I’ve scared you then that was my intention. If you are in a band, DJ, just love standing by the speakers in venues or you’re one of those annoying types on public transport that listens to your music so everyone else can hear please think about your ears for a moment. It’s my one life regret.
NB: I started writing this post last year. A recent article by Eddy Temple-Morris for Huffington Post and the fact that it’s Tinnitus Awareness Week made me revisit this with a determination to tell it like it is. You can read his article here
When I was a child I somehow managed to persuade the kind-hearted souls surrounding me to ferry my ass around. Back home in Devon it was our neighbour Kate Loram who would offer to take me on the back of her bike when we all headed out (not my own sisters I hasten to add). I also convinced my cousin, another Kate, to tie an old pram seat to the back of her bike with a ton of old roof rack straps and pedal me around as if I was Cleopatra propelled by mans invention of the wheel. It was named the Crazy Contraption and it lasted well into our late teens. I enjoyed the view while others done the hard work. As this got me to the sweet shop and back I never learnt how to ride a bike.
I can count the amount of attempts on one hand. On two of those occasions I have been extremely tipsy and therefore had that misplaced confidence that goes hand in hand with alcohol. On another I was concerned my sister had got lost on a family holiday to Ireland and as the sun set I decided this was the quickest way to find her (I managed about 10 metres before falling off). On the last of these occasions the friendly constabulary of Kentish Town told me perhaps I shouldn’t be trying to cycle drunk and sing songs from the Jungle Book at four in the morning. That was six years ago.
I quite frequently think it’s something I should learn, that I am secretly an amazing cyclist and will probably progress to the Keirin within a week. So when someone told me that I could have a free bike providing I collect it from Brixton this week I jumped on the Victoria Line without giving much thought as to how I’d get it back to Willesden Green. Despite a bit of rust and flat tyres I instantly adore this bike. The cousin who done so much pedalling for me in our childhood said it’s exactly how you’d want a bike to look. I now understand the excitement children felt at their first bicycle and understand why my friend Steve was able to send me photos of every bike he’s ever had, each with a life history.
To say my journey felt epic yesterday is an understatement. Pushing it from Brixton to Clapham Junction, so I could take it on the overground train, took over an hour. I was genuinely perplexed that Emeli Sande wasn’t following behind me soundtracking it. When I realised Clapham’s Long Road is a literal naming, a steely and naive determination kicked in and I cycled/wobbled my way across Clapham Common flat tyres and all. I arrived just after the curfew for bikes started but I’d come that far and wasn’t about to be turned away at the gates of Mordor (even if discovering Clapham had a retro Wimpy made me want to spend more time there). Knowing I had yet another walk at the other end and the fact it was getting dark made me rather defiant. By the time I got home I needed a nap and nurofen.
Now of course I have the job of cleaning it up and making it road worthy but what are YouTube videos and friends for. Then there’s the small matter of riding the damn thing competently. Watch this space (or watch your ankles if you live near Gladstone park). ♥
I do not have a decisive enough personality to make definitive lists so just off the top of my head this year…
Has been soundtracked by albums from Crybaby, The Maccabees, Friends, Wild Nothing, Mystery Jets, Mary Epworth, Beach House, Zulu Winter, Kindness, How To Dress Well, Hot Chip, Sharon Van Etten, Sleigh Bells, Polica, Toy, The Futureheads, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Grimes, Grizzly Bear, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Jessie Ware, Bat for Lashes and Perfume Genius. I wasn’t blown away by Alt-J (someone had to not be).
I can count the amount of times I went to the cinema on one hand but adored all the films. The Hobbit, Avengers Assemble, Moonrise Kingdom. Most of all I loved Beasts of the Southern Wild and Searching for Sugar Man.
It seems to be a year where I’ve mainly read David Sedaris. However, Anna Richardson’s Little Gods would be my book of the year. Stunning debut novel. After reading Virginia Woolf, A Room Of Ones Own I am determined to work my way through the rest of her books next year.
It’s been a year where I finally got to see Mystery Jets live, and at the Royal Festival Hall with someone who’s support has been unwavering this year. There’s been Gigs where I’ve been with my parents and created cherished memories, gigs of sitting in Hoxton basements and leaning over Heaven’s balcony. Drunk gigs, sober gigs, gigs that have moved me to tears or where I’ve come away with aching feet from dancing so much.
Above all these things it’s mainly been all about London 2012 for me. I hope I am forever changed by the Olympics and Paralympics. It made me kinder, motivated, deliriously happy and proud to be British. Actually, proud to just be a human being. This Public Enemy song will forever serve as a reminder.
It’s been a year of pesky Tinnitus, goodbyes and job changes. It’s been a year where friendships have sprang out of the unlikeliest of places and where I will never underestimate the kindness of strangers. At times you have overwhelmed me with your support and general brilliance (I know some of you read this blog, most of you will never even know you made a difference).
Of course there’s plenty of things I didn’t get round to in 2012. Like swimming round all of London Lido’s, having tea with Ian Hislop, learning how to ride a bike or shaking Robert Jay QC by the hand.
It’s been a year where I’ve decided bravery is one of the most important qualities you can possess. A year of remembering I can breathe underwater.
2012. In equal measures I’m glad to see it gone and reluctant to let it go.
Here’s to 2013. Happy New Year. ♥
NB: Huge thanks to Pete at Flush The Fashion for putting up with my contributions for another year. To Pub Diaries for letting me waffle on in a Q&A. The ever energetic and tireless Dan Thompson for printing my pop up shop piece. To Darren Hayman for letting me talk about my love of swimming and to The Guardian for printing my ‘Six Songs Of Me‘. To Tim for having me on Resonance Radio. And to everyone who reads this. Cheers.