The longer road to recovery

Okay, I won’t need to wait as long as Mr. Shady did between releasing albums!

I’m back in London, back at my supercomputer, and definitely showing signs of recovering from my surgery: some nights, I’m only waking for a short time in the middle of the night, instead of a few hours!  I’m also going for walks in the delightful summer weather, and sometimes even having the chance to pet dogs that are as friendly as the majority of canines in the Worthing area!

I’m grateful for my mother and grandmother taking care of me down in Worthing, but I needed and wanted to come back here; “best mate” was very helpful, driving all the way down from north London, eating my grandmother’s cooking (mac’n’cheese, which she still does well), and driving me back here without any issues (other than traffic, especially around Heathrow).

It was partly because I had a medical appointment on Monday, but I was also hoping to be back at work soon after, in early July; I popped into my workplace after the appointment, saying hi to my team and speaking to HR about the Occupational Health assessment I’ll need to undergo first.  Unfortunately, it turned out they can’t arrange it earlier than the end of July, which means (barring a cancellation and my appointment being brought forward) I can’t resume my job and work my IT mojo until August at the earliest!  And that’s assuming I pass first time, of course…

It’s very frustrating, having to stay home every day, and feeling like some kind of benefit scrounger — but I’m getting paid sick leave, at least for the first couple of months (and hopefully won’t need any more than that), and in the meantime spending very little on travel costs, which is saving me a lot of money… and not having to commute every day saves on stress.

(Even though the exact times I’ve needed the Northern Line — after visiting work on Monday, or helping the homeless last Wednesday — it’s gone spectacularly wrong!)

It’s a good job I’m saving money, because I’m now obliged to start paying back my student loans from the 1990s, due to earning just slightly over the maximum monthly gross amount that would have allowed me to defer for what may be the 19th year running.  Fortunately, both companies who bought my debts from Student Loans have been reasonable and helpful over the phone (even if the one with my 1998 debt doesn’t seem to send stuff through the post any more — fortunately I figured that out in time!), and the total, less than £180/month, shouldn’t break the bank… plus, the limit gets revised in September, so you never know, I might be able to defer again!

There’s also the great possibility that my mother will finally, after all these years, get a new dog (a quiet lapdog is intended), and having July off means I’d be free to go back down to Worthing for a week or so, and help get the doggy used to its new home, and learning a few tricks (not least “sit!”).  Saving money also means I can contribute financially to the upbringing of that mangy flea-bitten cur… oh, sorry!

Being off work also means I can also guide my mother and grandmother through London next week, when they pass through on their way from Sussex to Essex, for the funeral of my grandmother’s sister, my great-aunt (whose husband died nearly a decade ago, ten years after my grandfather), and then back again the next day, without having to take annual leave.

Moreover, I have time for medical appointments appointments — not just the dentist (I certainly need some help there!), but also the local quack, or whoever’s filling in for him (or her) next time… and this is for the reasons I stated in my last post: my mother’s been very unhappy with my treatment at the hands of Charing Cross hospital, not least their apparent inability at our meeting on 24th May to say how much of my brain tumour they actually removed (and imply I’d need radiology), despite their letter (which arrived here a month later) implying I was almost fully cured, and would only need occasional checkups.  She’s urging me to seek a second opinion from a dedicated neurology/neurosurgery hospital, where the staff don’t contradict each other and know what words mean, and I’ll need the quack to help me with that — and to confirm whether CC even sent them the histology/pathology report they said they would, but hadn’t previously because they normally don’t send it to the GP at all!

They’ve got a temp to fill in for me, but hopefully he’s not the new “Faceman”!

The sad thing is, having to stay home and not work during this period reminds me of the summer of 2014, when I’d left Camden on voluntary redundancy, but had to wait for my agency to set up even an unpaid internship in IT, let alone getting income again!  That led into the worst part of my life, when even the internship seemed like heaven compared to that horrible shift-based job, and even that gave a better income than relying on benefits, but I have high hopes that I just need to patiently work on my recovery, as I’m not unemployed or surplus to requirements.


(Indeed, senpai called me up to urge me back to work, as he still thinks one of the other team members is incompetent!)

I’m also, naturally, reminded of 2012 and 2015, the years I recovered (slowly) from the depression I felt in late 2011 (when I felt like I had nothing to live for) and the anxiety I felt in late 2014 (when I also not working, but it was much colder).  And then there’s 2016, when I went to Worthing to help my mother recover from surgery, something I’d forgotten all about until I read my own 2016 diary recently (all I could remember off the top of my head was assembling a shoe rack)!  I guess worrying that my improved life was being paid for, karmically, by her suffering was premature if I too was to need surgery this year (and my grandmother in 2017 to boot, though I barely mentioned it here) — perhaps I’m enduring this to restore balance, and “pay” for a good life.

I know I once said I’d stop looking back in time so much (in the blog category “then and now”), so I won’t look up which blog entry I said that in and link it here, because that’d lend credence to such a foolish notion — it seems life really does go in cycles… and I have hopes that the events of 20 years ago might just repeat.  In the summer of 1998, I’d finished my second year of university but was waiting to find out if my alma mater was competent enough to finalise my student exchange with an American university — if not, I’d already suspended my student grant for a year, and would effectively have to take a year out.

Fortunately, in August my grandfather stepped in and made a hell of a lot of phonecalls, and almost single-handedly got the process running properly, for which I thank him — as not only did I befriend an American family and thus have an excuse to revisit the USA (present president notwithstanding), but, as I’m sure you’re tired of me recalling, I actually got a girlfriend for literally the first time in my life, after nothing but failure here in Britain.  So maybe, just maybe, after I’m back at work and appreciated, in September I’ll meet someone?  I’ve had a certain feeling that this recovery process is my final hurdle before my life can be complete…

Having said that, don’t think my previous list is of any relevance in this: the first three I haven’t seen in ages (two because I currently don’t go to salsa or climbing, the third because I’ve simply lost touch after three dates), and the fourth, my Polish friend, has become more like a sister to me — she’s been supportive and considerate during my recovery process (even coming to visit me in Finchley, despite living way out west on the Metropolitan Line!), and I’ve responded by, finally, accompanying her to the “helping the homeless” group she was too shy to attend on her own (after being too busy with her veterinary shift work, or too far away in Poland, to attend with me on previous occasions).

In fact, I regard her as my newest “female best friend” (the original two having their own lives and families now, and living far away) — and you never know, she might just fix me up!  The most interesting fact: I was first contacted by her in November 2017, almost exactly five years after I met “best mate” in 2012 — will she be my (overworked) housemate some day?

— — —

P.S. With so much free time, I have the chance to not only play video games, but to listen to new CDs — including works by Gorillaz, who I still enjoy after surgery as I did before… want to see the (strangely Pythonesque) video of a song I got in G Sides?  Oh, here you go…


Gradual recovery

For the third time, I’ve used a screenshot from “Full Metal Jacket” — this time, because I got my head shaved but still wear glasses!

It’s frustrating that I have to go through this process — instead of working at the job I enjoy, socialising in London and working out, I have to stay down here in Worthing with my mother and grandmother, to make sure I’m slowly recovering my health after that operation.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for my folks taking care of me, cooking my dinner and cleaning my clothes — I just wish I didn’t have so much to recover from, and even if I’m no longer having severe “mind static” attacks, I can’t help but wonder if it’s waiting in the wings…

It’s certainly true that I’ve regained the ability to walk and get about — I didn’t need to use my grandmother’s stairlift to get up the stairs when I came back here — and I’m able hear clearly again: my right ear, which was interpreting sounds rather strangely (missing frequencies?), seems to be picking up everything normally now, while a large amount of wax has come out of my left ear since my scars healed and discarded their stitches enough for me to feasibly dunk my head in the bath.

(A good time to start listening to Gwar again, don’t you think?)

I can go for walks again and build up my steps, but my mother keeps me company when we go down to the seafront, just in case — and since I find myself petting friendly dogs a great deal, it’s a good job she’s staying with me, as I still feel dizzy when I stand up after kneeling down!  Just in the sense of weakness and instability (rather than quasi-memories flooding my head), but it’s worrying, and makes it clear I won’t be fit to return to work for a while longer, though apparently they’ll need me to have an Occupational Health exam before letting me back into the fold anyway.

Worse, I can’t seem to sleep at nights — something that was going on a great deal this time last year, despite that being long before my operation; it may be a combination of the temperature, sleeping in a relatively unfamiliar bed, noise outside (particularly seagulls and drivers), and just simply being anxious all over again (despite my best efforts to deny it).  “Sleep aid” pills certainly help me fall asleep, but they don’t stop me waking up in the middle of the night.  In any case, since I’m taking a lot of medication already (levetiracetam and lamotrigine), I’m a little reluctant to take anything else on top.

However, my mother’s convinced me to try CBD oil (which mercifully comes in vegetarian capsules), so we’ll have to see if that helps with my insomnia and obsessive behaviour, but I’ll need to consult the brain-doctor in London later this month (when I have an appointment), to see if it’s wise to continue.  There’s also talk of taking anti-histamines (which I was previously advised could act against my anti-epilepsy medication), and resuming taking multivitamins (which someone at work, whose father had a tumour, reckons only makes your urine expensive), but we’ll have to see.

Aside from the blood pressure issue, being able to pet friendly dogs here almost every day (something which happens much more rarely in London) has helped me emotionally, though if anything I feel melancholic!  My folks’ hairdresser also sometimes brings her energetic terrier over to visit, and I play with her and take her for walks, but there’s plans for us to get a new, permanent family dog — one who likes sitting in our laps, and won’t trip my grandmother over or bite visitors to the household.  It’s 19 years since we had to have Scraps put down due to her declining health, but my grandmother’s finally agreed to have a new dog around the house… and I’ll be able to walk it when I come to visit in future!

Still, I find this isn’t a good time in my life: despite playing old games like StarCraft and Unreal on my Worthing PC (and Pokémon GO on my phone — we’re right next to a Pokémon gym!), I’ve suffered a bit from depression, apparently a normal symptom of recovering from surgery but being mostly housebound, and probably not helped by medication or the consumption of a great deal of protein (as happened in 2013, when I wasn’t recovering from surgery).  I’ve not been suicidal or anything quite that bad, but I wish I could move things on, and not have to linger here in this town…

Worst of all, though, is that I’ve got calls and arrangements to make, because (a) it seems that Charing Cross, the hospital that operated on me, is being extremely cagey about the nature of my tumour, or indeed how much of it they actually took out; and (b) as of April, I’m finally earning enough that I can’t defer repaying my 1990s student loans (which predate the Blair administration) to the private businesses that now own my debts instead of the taxpayer.

In the former case, I may have to go to UCLH in Russell Square after all (as was being planned when Charing Cross was taking ages to actually arrange my operation in the first instance), to see if they can do a new analysis of my brain condition; in the latter case, at least I’m receiving sick pay for now, and not having to use the London Underground to commute, and it’ll be a while before I start paying my personal trainer again — so for a while at least, and maybe until I’ve paid them off, I shouldn’t make a loss overall each month.

I also feel the need to wear a hat, to conceal my shaven head

Anyway, maybe now I should try to sleep again — going to bed around 9pm hasn’t helped this week, and neither has having a bath beforehand to relax me, but I’ve drunk cider this evening, and I’ve got a nasal strip to put on, so my nose doesn’t partially close up during the night; I also took a CBD tablet during the day.  Here’s hoping I have a good night’s sleep, and thus Friday is a better day, and the beginning of a better period of my life, when I finally recover in earnest…

But only at 10pm — I’m not going to bed early like some old codger, dammit!  Why, I used to be able to stay up until 1am playing video games and watching Family Guy, before getting up at 7am to make lunch for my full-time working day…

Dave-ros lives… again!

Yes, I’m alive, and with all my faculties intact (well, no less than before I went under the knife), with my mother coming to visit me in hospital, and friends sending me good wishes separately, including over Facebook.  Unfortunately only “best mate” was actually able to come and visit: my personal trainer was too busy, and although my work senpai was going to come over on Sunday, he was diverted to restore the servers at work!

(I guess the place is already falling apart with me on sick leave?)

I’ve not lost any memories (or at least, I can’t remember losing them… ha ha, no?), and still feel mostly the same way that I did before, but the side effects for now include tiredness and a certain instablility walking, pain in the left side of the head (and need to take painkillers), an occasional “bubbling” that’s presumably in the area of the brain they operated, tightness of the jaw (as they had to impair one of the tendons), and, worst of all, a certain weirdness in hearing: some sounds, especially human speech, sound like they’re coming through a faulty speaker, or over a wonky TV/radio signal!  I first noticed this when my Polish female friend came to visit and her voice sounded strange, and my radio and TV are coming into my head in similar ways, with high pitches especially grating.

On the plus side, the lasting dizzy spells seem to have stopped for now, though the “trigger” still frequently goes off — like a momentary dizziness, or apparent memory, but not leading to a flood.  It’s as though the cause is persisting, but to no avail, as I don’t seem to suffer from “mind static” (touch wood), and everything else should subside over time.  All the issues should (should!) subside over time, as my brain readjusts to my current hearing ability (or I extract the wax that’s interfering), the anaesthetic wears off, and I relax enough to restore my strength.

I only stayed in hospital over the weekend due to the quacks needing to speak to me again on Monday (but not at the weekend, naturally), and since then I’ve come back to Finchley for a few days (with my mother staying in the area to look after me), simply because I’ve got to go back to the hospital again on Thursday for one final meeting before I can stay with my folks and my recovery can begin in earnest.  The quacks have been very cagey about what they took out of me (perhaps partly due to it taking a week to perform biopsy on the sample), only saying that the operation “went well” and advising me to continue taking the anti-epilepsy medication for another few weeks, but hopefully on Thursday they’ll make everything clear…

After that, I’ll be taken down to Worthing so my mother and grandmother can look after me for a few weeks; this will involve cutting my hair short (so it all regrows evenly, and I can wash it again once the scar’s healed), taking me for walks gradually to restore my stability, and feeding me lots of protein and other healthy food, removing my need to move around too much or worry about cooking.  Unfortunately my grandmother herself is not doing so well lately, so I’ll try to support her as well, though I doubt I’ll be able to do very much other than me polite and nice to her; it might be better to get control of myself, so my mother can take care of her mother without needing to focus on me too much.

Most importantly, of course: my computer in Worthing is half-decent, so I can play games as much as I want (I’m working my way through StarCraft at the moment) — and maybe post here as well, since I haven’t forgotten my passwords, or how to write in English!

(Unless I’ve been writing this post in bad Japanese, and not realised…?  Baka, eigo de kaku n da!)

Meanwhile, “best mate” will take care of our billing in London for June, which I’ve helped clarify for him (and paid him my shares of rent and council tax), though good luck to him getting the washing machine fixed or replaced — our landlady’s more focused on us finding a replacement for one of our housemates, who’s moving out at the end of May!

That’s all for now — next time, maybe I’ll have something interesting to say… but hopefully not of a negative aspect (e.g. “it turned out to be a Stage 5 tumour, and my head’s more likely to explode now than it was before the surgery”!).  My final hurdle is to endure rush-hour commuting to Hammersmith tomorrow morning for my meeting (with my mother by my side) for the meeting, because after that it’s a quiet taxi trip, and then I’ll be able to take a nice hot bath…

— — —

P.S. Good news, the landlady’s ordered us a new washing machine; bad news, she needs one of us in the house next Wednesday to receive it, and it definitely won’t be me!  And senpai has phoned me to check up, and says I should be fine staying off work until July…

Prelude to departure… for surgery

In 24 hours I’ll be trying to sleep in a hospital room in Hammersmith, wishing this terrifying situation wasn’t necessary, but trying to stay positive and convince myself that (a) the operation on Wednesday morning will go fine, and (b) I’ll recover quickly enough to let everyone know I’m all right.

My friends at work are hoping for me, along with everyone close to me who I’ve told about what I’m facing, but I wish I shared their optimism: even if my life is in no danger (thanks largely to my personal trainer and my long-term vegetarianism putting me in good physical health), it’s still likely I’ll need to take a loooooong time to get well again afterwards, and my mother and grandmother will have to take care of me, when I ought to be taking care of them!

Even the best prospect — that there are no complications and I’m completely cured, without even having to face chemotherapy in future — involves me recovering slowly, perhaps not being able to use a computer for a while (to let everyone know I came through it all fine), and not being able to return to work, or exercise in any significant way, for weeks or even months.  When will I be able to read books again?  I don’t want to spend ages staring at the walls, not even allowed to doze because it’d mess up my sleep pattern!

The only other time in my life I’ve been in hospital for an operation was in December 1993: some adult teeth were defying the system, and needed removal from inside the roof of my mouth before they messed up my existing upper set.  Although it was boring and I slept through it (I thank you), the operation went well, preventing my English teeth from becoming as bad as Americans think they are.

(My dating coach chuckled when I told her, in reference to a Simpsons joke, that a potential Chernobyl had been turned into a mere Three-Mile Island!)

It’s a long time ago, and I don’t remember that much of it, but since I was a strapping lad of 16, and since it wasn’t exactly brain surgery, I was able to recover and say hello to my folks when they visited, probably the same day as the operation took place — tired and feeling lousy (not to mention puking up blood I’d swallowed), but conscious and sane (well, as much as ever).

However, in spite of my youthful resilience, I felt lousy after while recuperating at home during the Christmas holidays, at one point hyperventilating (due to chest pains), and needing to be taken to casualty!  And for several days, while my mouth healed, the only thing I could eat was soft cheese, rinsing my mouth out with boiling salty water… but at least I could play video games and watch TV.

All these years later, I’m naturally older (well, not as older as the dates would imply, ahem) — and this time they’re taking something out of my actual brain instead of my upper jaw… would it have been more sensible for me to decline surgery, and commit to taking anti-epilepsy drugs for the rest of my life… even considering it could get worse and progress to full seizures, instead of the disconcerting but mild dizzy spells I’ve been having for over a year?

Don’t worry, I’m going through with it despite my fears — hopefully I won’t die (if I do, I hereby curse Jeremy CHunt MP to eternal hellfire, for the way he’s ruining the NHS), and maybe I’ll be coherent enough on Thursday to text “best mate” and senpai at work, so they can pass on the good news to my other housemates and work colleagues… and perhaps I’ll also be able to post on Facebook, so all my other friends can feel a sense of relief (and maybe come to see me during visiting hours).

Most importantly, my mother will be there for me, as she’s been so many times before (thanks for correcting me on that Jamiroquai track in my last post, Mumsy!) — and if anything goes wrong, she’ll kick botty on my behalf… it’s largely for her sake that I want to get through this and make a full recovery, though if I’m honest, it’s also for my own sake, as I’m not ready to stop living any decade soon.

(Aside from everything else, I’m determined to see Halley’s Comet when it comes around again, as I missed it in 1986!)

I want to live through this experience — because, in direct contrast to that day in 2011 (yes, I know, it’s the reference that keeps on giving!), and as I said five years after that day, I have every reason to go on living now, and suicide is the farthest thing from my mind.  Even if I were terminally ill (which, technically, everyone is anyway), I’d want to put my affairs in order and live out my remaining days making the most of life, rather than jump the gun (as it were) and end my life prematurely.

Assuming all goes well, I’ll write something here once I’ve got enough of my marbles back to log onto a computer and write coherent sentences; it probably won’t be the longest gap between the times I’ve posted here, will it?  With luck, I’ll say something before the end of May (even if it’s just two words: “I’m alive”), and get back to my old self in June, as a birthday present for my mother.

In the meantime, I shall bring this blog post to an end with one obvious (obligatory?) reference to the blog’s title, as I’ve done so many times before:


Cool things: Gorillaz, Radiohead… and Jamiroquai

It’s about time I did this, and it’s three bands for the price of one — especially since I’m now, in the lead-up to my time off work following surgery, playing a medley of all three as I walk around London… and my mother doesn’t like the first two, but although she likes the third, “boss lady” doesn’t — hence these are musicians I listen to by myself, on my own terms.

(Oddly, I haven’t listened to Eminem or Gwar for a couple of months now, despite getting their albums for Christmas… maybe later in the year I’ll add them in?)

— — —

Just so you know what they looked like at the start of the band’s career, in “Clint Eastwood”

First of all, Gorillaz, the “virtual band” created by Blur’s Damon Albarn, who provides the singing voice of “2-D”, the lead singer — so named due to the “two dents” in his head left by the actions of Murdoc, who was put in charge of him as a punishment, discovered his excellent singing voice, and decided to form a band with him, taking on himself the role of bassist and manager (signing off his press releases with “Hail Satan!”).  They found a lead guitarist, a mysterious Japanese girl known as “Noodle” (the only English word she could say at first), and as drummer an African-American named Russel (who had the ghosts of his dead homies living in his head).

At least, that’s how they started in 2001, when I learned of their presence through the video “Clint Eastwood” (guest starring American rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, who I got into separately afterwards, thanks to my old American roommate).  I soon bought their self-titled debut album — the first time in my life I’d bought an album when it was new and in the charts — but it took me time to get into them, as they have not one musical style, but about a dozen!  However, I learned that albums can grow on me, even if I’m a little perplexed at first, and later in the year, when I was unemployed and spent a lot of my time watching music channels, I recognised the songs “19-2000” (with Noodle singing in English but subtitled in Japanese!), “Tomorrow Comes Today” (apparently their original video, made before their album), and “Rock the House” (again featuring Del as a ghost who lives in Russel’s head).

However, it’s later that I began to enjoy the tracks that weren’t released as singles — such as “Sound Check (Gravity)”, “Double Bass”, “New Genius (Brother)” and “Latin Simone (¿Qué Pasa Contigo?)”, and added those to my musical rotation (back before I began putting whole albums on my music player du jour), and this persisted with their second album, Demon Days, which I first heard (courtesy of a housemate) in 2005, but only got hold of for myself in 2008.  Much as I enjoy the classic “Feel Good Inc.” (which I liked for the music before I even saw the video), “DARE” (performed by Noodle with help from Shaun Ryder), “Dirty Harry” (with a creepy child choir) and “El Mañana” (the video being something of a sequel to the first one in this list), I’ve also enjoyed the album tracks “O Green World” (very distinctive sound) and “Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head” (guest starring Dennis Hopper, no less!).

I got hold of their third album, Plastic Beach, in 2010 (on a day when I tried to go on a date and failed miserably), but as before it took me a while: at first I only really enjoyed “Stylo”, and I wasn’t even aware it had a video!  However, partly thanks to being allowed to play this and Demon Days in the minibus during my 2013 American camping holiday (by this time I had all my CD albums completely ripped to my smartphone instead of just discrete tracks), I experienced a resurgent interest: two songs in particular, “Glitter Freeze” (featuring Mark E. Smith of The Fall) and “To Binge” (with vocals by Yukimi Nagano from Little Dragon), bring back memories of our drive to Las Vegas.

In 2014 I watched a load of their videos, and again this year, which made me realise how much they’ve done: here’s a list, in approximate story order, of the best songs in Plastic Beach (which I now know to be underrated — it’s a pity they never made it into a trilogy in the end).  Note here that 2-D and Murdoc sometimes as 3D characters, along with Cyborg Noodle (built to replace the real Noodle after her apparent death in “El Mañana”), while Russel, having been replaced with a drumming machine, swims to the island and grows enormous due to sea pollution…

  • Welcome to the World of Plastic Beach” (guest starring the almighty Snoop Dogg)
  • Stylo” (guest starring Bruce Willis, but not on vocals!)
  • On Melancholy Hill” (with the real Noodle still alive, and giant Russel rescuing her at sea)
  • Broken” (a backdrop projection used in concerts — I wonder if they used pyrotechnics and other special effects to scare the audience?)
  • Rhinestone Eyes” (never completed, so this is a storyboard — but fans made an excellent version of their own over the following seven years)
  • Empire Ants” (guest starring Yukimi Nagano)
  • Plastic Beach” (something of a compilation in video terms)

And finally, this year I got hold of their other two albums, The Fall and Humanz; the first was something of a postscript to their 2010 work, and I don’t think any official videos have come out, but I do find “Little Pink Plastic Bags” to be one of the eeriest things I’ve ever heard!  They’re back in the big time with the latter album, which came out in 2017; I’m still learning the songs (as always happened when I got Gwar albums in 2013 and 2014!), but it’s good to see the videos of “Strobelite” and “Saturnz Bars” (the former showing the band having fun in a nightclub, the latter not unlike Scooby-Doo)!  My discovery of these albums is what encouraged me to listen to the band’s works all over again, and I also looked on YouTube to find more of their videos — including Murdoc showing MTV Cribs around their mansion…

— — —

Radiohead were good enough sports to guest star in South Park, although they didn’t play any songs!

It was Gorillaz that got me into their predecessor, Blur, whose albums I’ve been buying from charity shops, and listening to along with other Britpop bands like the Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand and Travis; however, the one I’ve been enjoying the most lately is Radiohead, a group I originally only knew from one video in 2001: “Pyramid Song“, which I saw around the same time as I got into Gorillaz, as I remember speaking to my old American roommate about it when I visited Michigan that summer.  However, aside from their guest appearance in South Park, I knew little else about them…

It was in 2015, when I was putting my life back together as I worked towards an IT career, that I started dipping into other music, buying CDs at charity shops in order to give bands a try, and found I enjoyed The Bends, their 1995 album which had passed me by back in those days; my favourite from there would have to be “My Iron Lung“.  It’s their 1997 album OK Computer (which I happened to find second-hand at the same time as Amnesiac), which contains the most songs I like and recognise: “Paranoid Android” (never mind the silly animated video and listen to the song), “Exit Music (For a Film)” (which I heard at the end of Christina Ricci’s movie After.Life), and most of all, “Karma Police” (a pity my mother thought it sounded “dreary”, but I embrace melancholic music rather than rejecting it).

(You may be most familiar with “No Surprises” musically (owing to a scene in The Royle Family where it’s “sung” to Baby David), but check out the original video, with lead singer Thom Yorke almost drowning during filming!)

I also enjoyed Amnesiac (2001), in particular “Morning Bell/Amnesiac” (not available online, but it’s worth noting that the line “Release me” oddly reminding me of Brent Spiner in Independence Day!), as well as the surreal “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” and the eerie “Like Spinning Plates” (both combined into a single video here)… and not forgetting the somewhat jaunty yet sinister “Knives Out“.

However, as with Gwar, it was after I got their second, third and fourth albums that I got their first, Pablo Honey, which by an amazing coincidence I’d bought for “female best friend” ten years earlier!  And as with “I’m in Love (With a Dead Dog)” on Gwar’s Hell-O, there’s one significant song I like: “Creep” (though note this is the “clean” version, of course!).

— — —

Hey, c’mon, I only had cartoon versions of the other two bands, so here’s an impression of Jay Kay in 2DTV!

Both Gorillaz and Radiohead are largely surreal and melancholy, but the former is capable of cheerful songs (though intended to mock manufactured “poppy” music); a more consistently cheerful band, albeit with some slow, quiet songs, is Jamiroquai, who I’ve been playing in rotation with Prince and Michael Jackson (for whom I also own a great deal of music) over the past couple of years, during my daily walks while commuting.

I first heard the band in my mother’s car in 1996-7, when she drove us both between Worthing and Surrey (where I was attending university and she was working during the week), and often played the tape version of their 1996 album, Travelling Without Moving, the songs of which always bring back my memories of those days.  However, I didn’t see any of their videos until “Virtual Insanity” in 1999 (upon returning from my American odyssey)!

Another song I remember, for more poignant reasons (despite, or perhaps because of, its up-tempo jauntiness), is “Cosmic Girl“: I had it as a discrete track in 2012 (before I bought the whole album on CD), and hearing it in early November made me feel sad, missing those days when we drove together, thinking I’d left part of my life behind and needed to reconnect with her, as gratitude for all she’d done to keep me going during the bad times…

(Mind you, it’s perhaps “Funktion”, the long final secret track, which I recall best in this context: someone blows a raspberry in the opening, and I’d always act mock-indignant about it!)

I didn’t get my own copy of Travelling Without Moving until 2014; before that, I’d received a copy of Synkronized (1999) from “good housemate” (surplus to his requirements), and “borrowed” my mother’s copy of Emergency on Planet Earth (1993), which technically means I broke the law (though even ripping my own CDs is technically a crime!); I think she may have also played that one in the car at some stage during my university years (or when we drove to work together in 2003), as at least one song is very familiar.  I later found Return of the Space Cowboy (released in 1994, the only one in which Jay Kay drops the F-bomb!), A Funk Odyssey (2001) and Dynamite (2005) in second-hand shops, so I feel like I’ve got a full collection of their music now… oh, aside from their 2010 album Rock Dust Light Star (thanks Wikipedia), but I’ll keep my eyes open!

I’ve listened to their music enough times to know which songs I like best — in no particular order, and with no tedious references to which albums they’re from, I’d say “Canned Heat“, “Emergency on Planet Earth“, “Little L“, “Revolution 1993” (a long one, but with no video), “King for a Day“, “Light Years“… had enough of me linking to YouTube videos yet?  I’m sure Google aren’t, as it increases their advertising revenue…

Dynamite is my most recent acquisition, and I’m still learning the songs, but one track is most distinctive to me: “World That He Wants” — it creeped me out one morning as I started playing it in my headphones as I set off for work, and thought something had gone wrong: the first 60 seconds are quiet and in the left speaker, before it goes full stereo and high fidelity!

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So there you have it — my three favourite bands at the moment; sorry I’ve spent so long droning on about them (this took me days to write, way longer than my long “cool things” post about Doctor Who in 2013), but it’ll be interesting to see how I feel when I’ve recovered enough from brain surgery to listen to music again (assuming I’m even allowed to put headphones on any time soon!).

I’ve still got 100 of their combined tracks left to listen to in my phone music app’s queue, and I won’t get through all of them by Tuesday (when I check into hospital for the big event), but this just means I have one more thing to live for — or, as Jamiroquai themselves put it: I’m “Too Young to Die“…

I’d say all three artists make me feel both happy and sad in equal measure… which of course is the very nature of music, right?

Mixed blessings

Last week was pivotal in my life, as two revelations that will potentially change my life forever have come through — but it remains to be seen whether good or bad will come from it…

Firstly, my pay at work has gone up just enough to set me over the monthly gross limit that means Student Loans will probably deny me the chance to defer my repayments for another year.  They may accept the Jan-Mar payslips I’ve already sent them (I only found out my April pay at the end of the month), but if not, I’ll have no alternative but to start paying back my debts, after so very many years of interest.  If so, it means my pay rise will be more than wiped out!

However, a Lannister always pays his debts, and if I’m on a very high pay rate now, it’s surely about time I started, instead of lingering on lower pay packets like I’m somehow gaming the system and am smarter for getting away with it.  So, if necessary, I will indeed start paying it back — but for my sake, not for that of the debt holders, who are private businesses now, rather than the taxpayer.  I’ll feel better getting the debt off my shoulders once and for all, and since my pay will still increase over the years, it’ll get easier.

(Besides, I don’t want to get in trouble for what they may perceive as attempted fraud, and have to pay back all three loans in one go, or else end up in gaol!)

The other mixed blessing recently has been the inexorable time it’s taken Charing Cross hospital to arrange brain surgery for me — something that was supposed to be set up, with a two-month waiting period, back in February.  Indeed, it’s taken so long that I was encouraged to ask for a whole new referral to a different hospital!  While I continue to worry about my brain condition, and wish I could stop taking medication (which doesn’t always prevent me from getting bursts of “mind static” at odd times, though nowhere near as bad as in December 2016), the delay has given me the chance to keep on living, and relax back into my normal routine.  Hey, I even bought new things — a printer (much faster than the one I got in 2012), and a Freesat digibox that I can use to record things!

However, this mixed blessing has now been entirely reversed: on Friday I finally received a phone call from the team my mother and I have been chasing up for months, and it turns out my surgery has been arranged for mid-May, with a pre-op assessment at the start of the month.  Everyone tells me I’ll live through it fine, and that it’s better to get it over with sooner rather than later, but still, I feel a great deal of trepidation — it’s so sudden, and I worry that my life will be on hold for weeks afterwards, as I slowly recover my strength.  And that’s assuming there are no complications, and I don’t need any significant post-op treatment (like chaemotherapy)!

Still, getting it done soon will at least reduce the time before I can start climbing again (if all goes well), and perhaps more importantly, start donating blood again some day in the next decade.  I was called by the blood donor organisation last week, having not been for a while, and the bloke on the phone confirmed that, as I’d suspected, the anti-epilepsy medication I’m taking does indeed disqualify me — worse, for three years after I stop taking it!  So, if all goes well with the operation and I can stop popping pills, it’ll be mid-2021 when I can finally resume making deposits at the blood bank, and thus appease Dracula help people who need transfusions of my rare blood type.

And finally, while this is a serious and intense period of my life, it’s made me realise just how many people I’ve got who care about me (even “boss lady” is being comforting and patient), and want me to get through it alive and with all my faculties intact.  It’s also a mixed blessing, as it means a lot of people would be sad if I died on the operating table, but I have no intention of doing so — I want to come back from this stronger than ever… and I’ll gladly agree to start paying my student loans back if it helps my karma!

Traffic really grinds my gears

Jenny: For your information, pal, that was a yellow light back there!
Starman: I watched you very carefully: red light, stop; green light, go; yellow light, go very fast.
Starman (1984)

I’m more likely to be this terrified than any actual car driver in London, seeing as I’m the one in danger

I’ve finally urged myself into writing in this blog again, and it’s a complaint about people driving (and operating other vehicles) here in London.  Aren’t you lucky I found the strength to type?  After all, I don’t want to neglect this, even if the only people signing up seem to be random addresses, which don’t seem to increase my number of subscribers…

Long-time readers may remember my first ever serious complaints post, and even back then, I was slagging off London cabbies; this hasn’t changed, as they still drive through red lights, apparently hoping that pedestrians won’t start crossing for a couple of seconds — because hey, your convenience is more important than pedestrian safety!  In all honesty, screw the bullies of the road, regardless of how good they are at “the Knowledge” — I’d rather people were late for appointments than I was lying dead in the street.

Having said that, my current medical condition has made me a lot more brash in crossing London streets: if I have to die some day, it’d be a lot worse for it to happen on the operating table, thus risking the NHS’s future, than on the bumper of some arrogant driver who would deservedly lose his licence.  Like the idiot who turned into the side street I was crossing, but didn’t flash his indicators — I calmly walked in front of his SUV without flinching, and refused to hurry up and get out of his way.

(My mother’s probably gasping at my recklessness even now, but don’t worry, Mumsy: I have no intention of actually dying any decade soon!)

It didn’t help back when I worked near King’s Cross, and simply trying to cross the road would often mean dicing with death: drivers would often race the yellow light at the top of Grays Inn Road, but risk getting stuck in the middle of the junction and trapped by the cross traffic on Euston Road — so naturally, they’d force their way through the busy pedestrian crossing at the foot of York Way, acting as though they had right of (no pun intended) way!

And years later, working on the nearby Pentonville Road, when I crossed the foot of Caledonian Road (which in its southernmost reaches is one-way), and a sports car tried to swerve north into the junction!  I suspect it was only the opposing traffic waiting patiently at the lights that stopped him going any further, otherwise he’d have not only endangered pedestrians (i.e. me), but continued going the wrong way up a one-way street!

But it’s even worse when drivers are not breaking the law: there’s a box junction at the place where New Cavendish Street (which I walk along to and from work) crosses Portland Place (the road which, further south, becomes Regent Street), but only the southern segments of the two lanes of the latter road have pedestrian crossings with lights, and for some reason drivers are allowed to U-turn from the southbound lane into the northbound lane (which are separated by a traffic island), there being an absence of a “no U-turns” sign.

This means traffic moving through each phase of the traffic light pattern — westbound on New Cavendish (it’s one-way), northbound on Portland and southbound on Portland — can go through the signal-free pedestrian crossing in the northwest part of the junction, and thus there’s technically no safe time to cross!  But oh, if they stopped to let people cross, they’d get fines for stopping in a yellow box junction, which is far worse than running someone down…

(And don’t even get me started on boy racers, who do it for kicks… does anyone, anywhere, respect them?!)

It’s not just arrogant car drivers I hate, however: the other day, at that exact junction, I refused to get out of a cyclist’s way, as he tried to go through a red light while the pedestrian crossing was showing the green man.  I’m sure I have a lot more support here: I have zero respect for cyclists who don’t obey the laws of the road, and act like a red light is their signal to go!  No, idiot, you stop like all the other vehicles, and go when the light is green — got that?  If you can’t cycle safely on the road, DON’T CYCLE!!!

And yes, that also applies to cyclists who ride on the pavement (“sidewalk” if you’re American) — that’s actually against the law, no excuses, especially if you’re just doing it to go the wrong way down a one-way street (which itself makes no sense if the next street over goes the right way).  It always seems to be twentysomething blokes with hipster beards, who nonetheless obey a different law: wearing a helmet while riding a bike.  Why, you’d almost think they were more concerned with their own safety than that of pedestrians!

Okay, fine, one time I foolishly tried to cross Tottenham Court Road (also one-way) without looking first, and had a foreign-sounding cyclist call me a “stupid man” for nearly being hit by him, but am I still being punished all these years later, to atone for causing him a minor inconvenience, and possibly wear on his brakes?  What about the cyclist who knocked down my old work friend outside King’s Cross, while she was crossing at the correct time, and just got back on his bike and left without even apologising?

Fortunately, nearly every time I see a cyclist breaking the law, I see other cyclists on the road obeying the law (possibly even wearing helmets), and I still remember the time in the early 21st century, when I cycled in Worthing, that I followed a cycle lane onto the pavement and got shouted at by a passenger in a parking car (who couldn’t see the cycle lane due to the parked cars between us)!  There are good cyclists, just as there are good drivers (well, my mother and “best mate”, to name two), and a lot of honest, well-behaved drivers are punished these days for violations (parking and moving) that it seems they were tricked into, especially here in Barnet (see, for example, Mr. Mustard’s blog here).

Whatever problems I may have with drivers, I don’t want them ripped off — fines are supposed to change behaviour, not act as a revenue stream, and if a lot of drivers are making the same mistake, surely that indicates there’s an issue with confusing or missing signage that needs to be corrected, not left as it is out of a blatant desire to make money unethically?

However, there’s one group I can’t stand or sympathise with: motorcyclists.  Even after escaping from Caledonian Road, where every passing biker’s two-stroke engine would interfere with my digital TV reception, I’ve hated them all — they deliberately tune their engines to be as LOUD as possible, like they’re compensating for something.

(Maybe they should be forced to put noise-cancellers on their bike, which replaces the engine sound with “HEY EVERYONE, I’VE GOT A REALLY SMALL PENIS!”?  Or would that be stating the obvious?)

But that’s just a side issue: too many bikers drive like reckless (feckless?) fools, endangering real people out of a desire to thrill themselves and act tough.  One time I was crossing Seven Sisters Road near Finsbury Park, on my way to the Castle after a bus journey, at a pedestrian crossing with the green man showing… and one of a group of bikers coming north along the road accelerated and raced through, even though the traffic light was already long since red!  What was he trying to prove?!

And the other day, in the western extremes of the aforementioned New Cavendish Street (near my workplace), I saw a biker, with a passenger, driving dangerously: he swerved and came back down the one-way street in order to turn into a side street he’d missed, and I looked down that road to see him then swerving onto the pavement in order to get around some queuing cars!  At least he didn’t threaten my safety, like another biker who didn’t even slow down when I was crossing a zebra crossing — aside from breaking the law (driving through a zebra crossing that a pedestrian was using), he endangered someone (i.e. me), and deserves a ban!

Phew, I feel better getting all that off my chest… there’s no real resolution or conclusion to this blog post, it’s just a disorganised series of complaints about road users (and pavement intruders) who really ought to change their ways.  But hey, maybe if Peter Dibdin had taught them to drive, they’d be remotely competent?

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P.S. One time when I lived on Caledonian Road, I witnessed two of my hates battle: a London cabbie had knocked down a chavvy cyclist (without a helmet) who had apparently tried to cycle across the zebra crossing right in front of him, and I found myself hoping both sides would be punished for their crimes (the cabbie for not stopping, the cyclist for cycling where pedestrians are king).  Sadly, the chav was up and cycling moments later as the cabbie got a talking-to…