Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Tales From A Wednesday

I don't know about you but I'm sick of this fucking blog. Have you read the last few entries? I mean, seriously, come on! It's all doom and gloom isn't it? There is nothing to entertain, which was the original aim when I started writing this moronic, manic monotony. I got up, I felt bad, I had a crash and felt several degrees worse, I'm actually clinically depressed blah blah blah. So what if I am? There's plenty of people come up with quality writing while in the midst of an 'episode'. So they're all more talented than me too, but try and get into the spirit will you?

So I'm going to try to write something more cheerful and all I have to go on are the events of today. The trouble is it's just a normal Wednesday. A Wednesday at work when it has been my turn to cover reception for the afternoon. What humour could possibly come from any of that? Well none, actually, and anyway it is a strict rule never to write about work just as it is a strict rule never to write about taking heroine or sleeping with girls on the game. I can only vaguely refer to work (see above example regarding reception) otherwise it just gets too complex and dangerous, like trying to tell your girlfriend that you don't like her new hairstyle. Just don't do it.

So what else have I done today? Well I have been to the gym. Around a month ago I decided to take advantage of an offer for LJMU staff (ooh, careful......) which allows me to visit the gym half price. For £13 a month I can get unlimited access to the myriad of pain-giving machinery that lies within the walls of Lifestyles on Victoria Street. What else am I going to spend £13 a month on anyway, other than heroine and girls on the game? Exactly. I had to have an induction at which a strangely small young man called Dave (why is everyone called Dave?) took me through the hows, the whys and the do-you-mind-if-I-dont's of a training regime. Dave's not a great advert for Lifestyles in terms of his own physique. All of the other instructors are either muscly men or girly girls with impossibly small arses. If I had a psychiatrist (which I desperately need, no doubt) he or she might reasonably ask why, if I had to point out anything about the girls it would be the smallness of their arses. Anyway, Dave is different, Dave represents the man on the street and in a way that works. When you meet Dave you instantly feel better about the fact that your last workout prior to joining the gym was when you moodily threw basketballs at (literally at) a basket on the night you decided to give up playing basketball five years ago. Well that's how exercise ended for me anyway. Raising your heart rate by looking at girly girls with impossiby small arses doesn't count.

The best (or worst depending on which way you look at it) thing about Lifestyles is the arm bike, or the Top-XT as they pretentiously refer to it. Basically it's like an exercise bike for people like me who just can't find it in them to get their legs to move. You operate it by rotating your arms in a forward motion, a bit like doggy paddle only with your fists closed because you're holding on to a handle. Two handles, to be precise. I do 10 minutes on this and the level of resistance goes up and down every two and a half minutes. Dave did tell me exactly why this would benefit me at the induction and I bought into every word. What he didn't tell me is that after three minutes I'd be breathing like Anakin after his fiery dust-up with Obi-Wan. But you can't stop. If you stop it becomes 10 times more difficult to get the thing moving again and you're entering a whole new world of pain. I learned this the hard way, naturally.

In terms of weights machines there is nothing really that can be done in a wheelchair, particularly one which doesn't have brakes. Which is most wheelchairs. Taxi drivers, bus drivers and train guards are regularly aghast when I roll in to position on their particular mode of transport and inform that I don't have any brakes. If I'm feeling sexist and partuclarly lacking in wit I will tell them that brakes are for girls, but the real reason I don't have them is that I have experienced the near self-harming agony that is trapping one's fingers in said brakes on too many occasions. Frankly, they just get in the way and I would much rather take my chances that I will roll down the bus aisle and out of the emergency exit onto the St.Helens Linkway than put my fingers anywhere near those contraptions ever again. My legs don't work, I really need my hands and fingers. So, back to the weights machines.

Unfortunately for the less mobile than me it is necessary to transfer from my wheelchair on to the seat to use the chest press, shoulder press, pec-deck and vertical something or other. What is more, if you are small like me you have to raise the adjustable seat to it's highest possible point in order to get your body in the right position for the exercise to work properly. On more than one occasion I have failed to lock the seat properly and have found myself suddenly, sharply and without warning slumping down two feet towards the ground mid-lift. Every time a disabled person has a minorly dangerous episode of this nature the able bodied general public react as if we have just been pushed parachute-less out of a helicopter. It doesn't matter how many times you explain that you are ok and that your arse hasn't actually left the seat, able bodied people will never fail to be mortified by this kind of thing. Many of them compound this by trying to help in some way, like the train driver who saw me pull up on to my back wheels to prepare to roll down the ramp to leave the train, didn't like the look of what I was doing (although I do it almost every day) and decided it might be a good idea to try and instead pull me down the ramp by my shoulders from in front of me. I nearly died. Note to all able-bodied people: If I am not bleeding and all my limbs remain attached, don't try to fucking help me, ok?

All the machines at Lifestyles are operated with a key which contains all the information about your training programme and allows you to access training results at the end of the session. I'm still trying to persuade Dave that it would be useful if he could programme my key to let me know how far I have travelled on the arm-bike (sorry, Top-XT) each session, but he just keeps repeating that if I want the resistance altering I just need to tell him. Thanks. It's all a bit of a pity because the training results have 'neat' little diagrams showing a Tour De France map and the Statue Of Liberty which are a half-way interesting way of showing you how you have done that day. If only Dave could be arsed to tell me what the rest of it all means, strength index, performance index, all of that crap. He steadfastly refuses but to be fair he has got his hands full making sure I don't hurt myself. Though he didn't apply that logic to the last female customer I saw enduring one of his inductions. I don't know what he had said to her but she was genuinely in tears. Poor girl, the gym hurts.

On the way home I was approached by a youth dressed as a clown. I say youth because his mask and clown suit made it difficult to tell how old he was but surely nobody over the age of 12 would engage in such shenannigans just because the date happens to be within a week of October 31. His mission to scare the living shit out of me failed only because I saw him coming from hundreds of yards away around the corner. By the time he got close enough to growl at me and thrust his mock dagger (I know?) in my direction the whole thing was about as scary as Andrew Flintoff in a tent. What was of more concern was the distinct smell of dog turd which prevailed throughout the journey back from the train station and the brief conversation I had with a friend about his gambling problems. I arrived home to find that the last number calling my home phone was my home phone number, and during the writing of this entry the phone rang again, and again it was my home number which apparently called. I'm so glad I pay BT so much for their excellent service.

Just another Wednesday, then.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Binning The Booze

I was off sick on Tuesday. I didn't have a fever, a bug or a biffy water infection. I was depressed. Mentally unwell, if you will.

I'm aware to some that seems ridiculous, overly dramatic, attention seeking, whatever. It's how I felt, and hauling myself out of bed and dragging my sorry arse to work that day seemed impossible. There are several contributing factors to how I arrived in this desperate state, some of which I don't even want to talk about here. These pages are supposed to be candid, open and honest, warts and all. But if I had to rake over some of that shit again now I might not make it to the bottom of the page.

And nor would you.

So let's stick to what we can control, shall we? Booze. On Tuesday morning I had just come off the back of a weekend in Bristol during which I drank far too much. Lager and red wine flowed generously for three consecutive nights, the last of these being Sunday when Emma and I were the last ones left and went for a meal at La Tasca. It is little wonder that my recent problems felt immeasurably magnified. It is now Thursday, and nothing has changed other than the fact that I have not had any more alcohol. While I would stop short of suggesting that I am ready to dance the lambada bollock naked on top of the Liver building, it would be wrong also to deny that I feel better.

I know this because something happened at work yesterday which, if I had come back to it on Tuesday, would have pushed me over the edge. As it was it wasn't pretty and it did affect me, but not nearly as much as it might have done had it taken place a day earlier. Basically I screwed up, not for the first (nor probably last) time. I apologised but there was obvious disappointment all round. Yet I handled it reasonably well, managing at least to avoid plunging into mental meltdown. Progress, considering the hopelessness of Tuesday morning.

So I've decided to stop drinking. Completely. That is altogther. The first test of my ability or otherwise to do this will come tomorrow (Friday). Liverpool John Moores University are the Revolution COW (Company Of The Week, clever eh? No) and as such we are all eligible for 2 for 1 deals on food and drink up until 8.00pm. Now the old me, or me as I am otherwise known to myself, would have seen this as a wonderful opportunity to get twice as lashed for half the price. Instead I am viewing it only as an opportunity to prove to an unsuspecting work force that I am capable of acting sensibly and soberly on a Friday night.

And I will do it. I have never felt motivated to stop drinking, no matter what ridiculous scrapes I have got myself into in the past. I've always been rescued by my delusion and my sense of 'ooh it'll all blow over, is it Friday yet?'. No more. Now I have the motiviation that has always been missing. My recent malaise has finally taught me that the consequences of drinking myself into a stupor are far too grave. That it has taken me 17 years to realise this is a moot point. It is better late than never, is it not?

One can only hope.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Back To Bristol

Emma's niece Elizabeth celebrates her first birthday this week. It's a doubly special week in her young life as this was also the weekend of her christening.

Now my religious views (or lack thereof) have been made abundantly clear elsewhere on these pages so I'm not going to bore you with them now. Suffice it to say that my feelings on this have only been enhanced and strengthened by the steaming turdiness of how I have been feeling since the early part of last week. Yet family is family and so it was one's duty to drag oneself off the metaphorical canvas and go down to Bristol for a few days and bloody well enjoy it! Even the churchy bit.

Surprisingly I did. Well maybe not so much the churchy bit. To my mind the female vicar ranted on for far too long about things which seemed to me to have little to do with Elizabeth's christening. In parts she was like a humourless version of Dawn French's Geraldine Grainger from The Vicar of Dibley. As Godmother Emma had had to get to the church early and so by the time we left, it was all I could do not to rip my eyeballs out. Of paticular irritation to me was the lady who came around at the end with a small velvet bag in which, so I am led to believe, we were expected to drop any spare change. Actual hard-earned English currency. To the church. To a God that, if he does exist, is ritually torturing me. I'm sorry, I said I wouldn't witter on about the church but I really do feel THAT bad right now.

So back to the good stuff then. We arrived Friday afternoon following an uneventful journey save for the two or so hours that I refused to speak to Emma because she wouldn't let me play my Joss Stone album in the car. I'm not sure if she actually noticed that I wasn't speaking to her, you would have to ask her. Anyway, the point is that it takes 40 minutes to listen to that album and 40 minutes is not a large sacrifice if it's going to make me feel better. Sadly I am in too much of a savagely desperate state of mind to believe that arguing points like this does any good. So I left it, and we listened to Journey or whatever it was instead. And my blood boiled and my head ached. Over an album. I'm really not all that well. Did I say this was the good stuff?

It's not, but I promise there is some. We met up with Emma's parents Roland and Susan for a few drinks on Friday night. We went to a Wetherspoons known as The Commerical Rooms in which every seat was taken, and which had taken about 20 minutes to get to thanks to some interesting navigation on Roland's part. When we did find a table and settle down with our drinks it was all very agreeable and nice, even the bit where I announced to everyone that I was going to quit drinking next week because it's killing me. With simply perfect timing, it was in the midst of this conversation (nobody thought it a bad idea, by the way) that a man dressed as Isambard Kingdom Brunel came over and offered us free glasses of sparkiing white wine. Even in the last throes of my life as a stupid, retarded heavy drinker I can not bring myself to consume white wine, but I took a glass anyway safe in the knowledge that one of my companions would find it a good home. I was not wrong. Amusingly, Isambard offered me a glass but then had to go back to the bar to fetch another one as the only one remaining on his tray was his. Drinking on the job Isambard? Brunel achieved many great things in his lifetime, so maybe alcohol doesn't ruin everything for everyone. But I'm still quitting, so fuck you.

We moved on to the Harbour and took in a couple of bars overlooking the River Avon. This was a place we hadn't managed to reach on any of our previous visits to Bristol to see Elizabeth and the family but I'm glad we did on this occasion. It's very picturesque and the bars we went in were populated and atmospheric without ever taking on the heaving horror of say.......that one bar that used to sit at the end of Wembley Way.......on Challenge Cup Final day when the only other place you could get a beer was Tesco. We talked about all the usual things, the fortunes of Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham United being particularly prominent, aswell as plans for the following night and how we were all looking forward to everyone getting together. We moved on to Las Iguanas where I wolfed down some extremely spicy chicken wings and then sat back and felt the burn. Well, it was better than some of the other things I'd been feeling that's for sure.

Saturday morning we pursued our dogged interest in experiencing as many city bus tours as one lifetime will allow. After a quick bacon buttie for breakfast we enjoyed a small victory when we found the bus to be accessible and more or less on time. Our driver was Bob, and he almost drove past us, lamely explaining that he couldn't get the bus near to the kerb because there were too many other buses in the area. It transpires that they have moved the bus stops and Bob thinks it's a nightmare. Either Bob is fond of overstatement, or he really does have a wonderful life in which the inability to park a bus by a kerb can be considered nightmarish. His beautiful assistant was Pam, the tour guide who took us through the points of interest or otherwise on our journey through Bristol and in partiucular, Clifton. We enjoyed several views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge without ever actually using it, while Pam regaled us with stories of the city's great history and introduced us to it's fantastical architecture. Unfortunately time was short as we had agreed to meet Roland and Susan, and Emma's brother Andrew in time to see Liverpool play Manchester United.

We did so in a harbourside bar but the view was, shall we say, restricted. There were only two small screens, one of which was partly obstructed by a pillar in the style of a traditionally old-fashioned football stadium. Our seat was also some distance from the screens, so concentration on the match was difficult. What's more, the others left at half-time, instructing us to meet them at somewhere called the V-Shed, further up the Harbour at 7.00. We just about managed to stay until the end of the 1-1 draw, then sneaked in a cheeky kip before re-emerging at the agreed meeting point.

Everyone else was late, naturally, but soon enough friends and relatives started to arrive. Emma's uncle Chris is a particularly engaging fellow, and I managed to take my mind off my melancholy as we moved on to Bella Italia and what can only be described as a 'shit-load' of red wine. Chris is a straight-talking sort of guy, the kind of character with which Yorkshiremen are routinely saddled. But in his case it is true. He was telling it like it is the whole night and I couldn't help but enjoy his forthrightness and no-bullshit approach. We ended up having a drunken, decidely low-brow debate about the wonder and majesty of the Grand Canyon which we had both been lucky enough to experience recently. Chris's daughter Louise is getting married next September and Emma said something to me later about her asking if I would sing at the wedding. I couldn't tell whether Emma was joking or not, or whether Louise had been joking. It was all very confusing, but either way I'm quite sure nobody wants Uncle Kracker turning up on their big day. Besides, it's 11 months away and I can't guarantee my safety for the next 11 minutes, frankly.

After Sunday's elongated ceremony I spent more time righting the wrongs of the world with my friend Chris, and also trying to explain to Emma's sports-mad uncle Ray how Saints managed to lose last week's Grand Final. It really wasn't something I wanted to relive but I battled on gamely, offering excuses about a young team in need of more experience, and how they managed to have the misfortune to run into a rejuvenated Rob Burrow. That might not mean much to some of you but Ray understood every word. He's a very quiet, nice fellow but if there is one thing that can enthuse him it is sport and anything related to it. He's a regular at Rotherham United, which makes me feel somewhat ashamed of whinging about my suffering with St.Helens and anyway I can assure you that things have got much worse since then. So I'll stop. We lost, that's it.

And so the last word on the weekend should go to the star of the show, Elizabeth. Blissfully unaware of the reason for all of this fuss she spent Sunday afternoon entertaining the crowd doing 'Things That Babies Do'. Crawling around towards places she probably shouldn't go with a total lack of regard for any possible danger. Climbing up on the first thing available to show everyone how close she is to standing and walking on her own. Pulling funny faces, staring at stupid adults who have no idea what to say to a child. You know the sort of thing, all done looking resplendent in red.

Happy Birthday Elizabeth.

Monday, 10 October 2011


Two days ago I had another of those birthday things. I got another year older. Another year without succumbing to chronic kidney failure or my neurosis. Can you die of neurosis? Anyway, seems like kind of a moot point since I'm not dead.

It was supposed to be a celebration. It happened to coincide with the Super League Grand Final, an event which saw the Super Mighty Saints (they're officially called that, you know?) take on Dirty Leeds Rhinos for the fourth time in five years. We'd lost all of the previous three, aswell as last year's Grand Final against the even dirtier, downright filthy Wigan Warriors. Surely this would be our year, and what with it being my birthday and all?

Well no actually. We lost again. Stunningly and explicably, given that we were eight points up and cruising with about 20 minutes left. Well, maybe not cruising. Chugging along in a half way satisfactory fashion. Rumour has it that when Michael Shenton scored in the corner to give us a bit of breathing space I actually smiled. May even have punched the air. These reports are of course unconfirmed, and in the cold light of day I should like to deny them strenuously.

In light of what followed in the 20 or so minutes after Shenton's try I would like to request to the RFL and Super League that they do not schedule any more Grand Finals for October 8. Instead, I propose that next time October 8 falls on a Saturday that, should the SMS's be involved, the Grand Final be cancelled and the trophy just be handed to our opponents. Even if it's Wigan or Leeds. Especially if it's Wigan or Leeds. But in secret, in a discreet manner so we don't have to witness it. It's going to happen again in 2016 and, quite frankly, I'm not sure this is far enough into the future for comfort. I'll only be 41 then, and even on this most pessimistic of Mondays I am still reasonably confident that I will still be here to have to bear it. At the current rate, I could be sat there watching us lose our 10th successive Grand Final. All of which really is too awful a thought to even entertain. Honestly, it was like watching your wife sleep with your worst enemy. Ok, it was like watching your mistress sleep with your worst enemy. Excruciating. And all made worse by consuming the kind of quantities of lager normally reserved for Wayne and Waynetta.

Now it is just possible that some people (mostly men) take their sport too seriously. It really is only a game. Except it's not. Not really. At this point, under this kind of stress and pumped full of that amount of alcohol you start posting your every thought on Facebook. Everything shy of 'I'm going for a poo now.' found it's way on to the screens of over 200 unfortunate souls. So if you are one of them let me apologise. All I can say in mitigation is that you have no idea what it feels like to watch your team lose it's fifth consecutive Grand Final on your birthday. It really does put a dampener on things. The champagne, had we had any, would have gone decidedly flat. Even our hysterically drunk rendition of Oasis's Slide Away couldn't really cheer the soul too much, and as for the lady with the mullet who I am quite certain was chatting me up well........Christ. I can tell you it makes you think twice about bringing out Uncle Kracker, or at least it would do if you weren't monumentally pissed and entering a period of mourning for your team's loss. So I carried on regardless, and then the microphone broke, which was probably a sign but I went through the whole rigmarole again anyway. As rubbish as things get, I never bloody give up. Like Saints. Keep trying, maybe you'll get the chance to lose again next year, boys? Brilliant. Saints are becoming a metaphor for my life and I love them for it. Wasn't it rubbish when we used to win Grand Finals? Hmm.

So it was a pretty traumatic birthday, all in all. My mate wrote on his Facebook yesterday that I fell asleep in the pub. I don't remember this, but then I wouldn't, I was asleep. It was probably the only time after about 3.00 in the afternoon that day that I was genuinely at peace with the world. He should have just left me there. Instead what I do remember is rolling home in the rain and thinking, isn't being 36 crap so far? I could have stayed in and watched Russell Grant on Strictly slo-mo, or listened to another desperate wannabe pop star whail their way through another Damien Rice gem.

But it wasn't all bad. I confess to being rather overwhelmed by the number of birthday messages I received. I took the time to reply to each and every one of them (I hope). If you are one of those people then can I just thank you again for thinking of me, especially at what turned out to be such a desperate and dismal time.

Being 36 is crap. So far.