Christmas and New Year was lovely. I worked the early on Christmas Day and there was the usual enhanced sense of camaraderie. There was tons of nice food and a hot Christmas dinner. There’s a lot of love in that place. I still can’t believe that they’ve accepted a gobshite like me. I am of course the village idiot, but that’s fine.
There is arguably no working environment more stressful than the emergency department and sadly there are often ill-health consequences. I’ve been supremely lucky in being able to step off the conveyor belt when the alarm bells ring and thankfully I just have a few minor frays around the edges, the worst being tinnitus.
Hypothetically speaking, if I did have a problem, I’d deal with it as usual, in the hardest possible way. It would be like a Ken Loach film. They’d send me to a clinic. They’d ask me to do a test and I’d politely tell them that I couldn’t physically do it. They would then ignore me for three agonisingly uncomfortable hours whilst I watched a load of knackered old blokes shuffling past. Finally they would take me into a room where a very junior trainee practitioner would ask ‘So, why are you here today?’ I’d think to myself ‘Seriously bitch? Why the fuck do you think I’m here?’ Of course I wouldn’t say that – I’d be my usual shy polite self. A jolly consultant would then tell me that I needed an urgent operation and I’d get a letter a couple of weeks later to go into hospital. Fine, but my intuition would be telling me that something else was going on. Besides, it would be the height of May – Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date. Sadly, a comrade would suffer a tragedy and would need my help so I would cancel the operation.
Hypothetically I would then endure three years of misery where a good day would just be uncomfortable and a bad day would be sheer fucking hell. I would see four different consultants and I’d keep saying ‘Yes, but there’s something else going on’. In the end I would be right and grateful for sticking to my minority of one principles. ‘Looking through the window backwards way in.’ ‘Doctor heal yourself – somebody rescue me.’ The snivelling side of me would think ‘shouldn’t the medical profession look after its own?’ But then the hardened side of me would know that every day’s a school day and those lessons are there for me to learn from.
2-4-6 – clear liquids – solid food. I won’t even be hungry. I’ve never relinquished control of my consciousness to anybody before – there’s a first time for everything I suppose. I’m scared.
I gave up drinking and all the associated slob paraphernalia - I'm seven days in. On day one (which was last Sunday afternoon - my most important chill out winetastic time of the week), Trinli and Gwen came to the ranch. Trinli spent 5 years on an island retreat as a Buddhist monk. After we'd walked round the field, we lit the stove. Trinli sat in the corner and announced that he was going to bless the land. he told Gwen and I to talk amongst ourselves and we twittered on about growing and cooking food and running a food business (Gwen is a chef). Trinli produced some oblong cards and a rosary and chanted away quietly for twenty minutes in Tibetan.
After he'd finished, I mentioned giving up drinking and the subject turned to addiction. Trin pointed out that in order to give up an addiction, there has to be something of greater value to replace it. Well there is. There's something deep in my heart that won't go away and I need as much clarity as I can muster. Still I'm struggling - it's nearly wine-o-clock.
On day two, when my old self realised that I might be serious, an argy-bargy storm assaulted my head and I didn't sleep a wink - rage, indignation, disappointment. The twat demons were giving it both barrels. I was scared because I had to go to work. Instead of being my usual half hour early, I did 15 minutes meditation before I went and I was actually fine. On day three, I still didn't sleep but it didn't matter because I didn't have to get up the next morning. This time a load of positive energy came out and my writing conundrum was solved. I have two books to write. The first is in effect chapter 2 of Painting Snails, again written prospectively over 12 months and the second is the novel - Gunman, bowman.
This is the time of the year when several bourgeois Guardian cunts publish their 'self-help' books. 'I was a snivelling self-indulgent nob, but then I got my shit together - buy my book and read about my wonderful diet and exercise regime - learn all about my holistic wellness plan'. Fuck off. Of course I'm just as bad as them.
New Year was wonderful. I resolutely stuck to my guns and avoided having a NYE party, thus breaking a tradition that began when the kids were small. Boff & Casey's niece Emma was over from America and we got invited to their house so that solved that problem. In the end though, at the very last minute, Sam and Tyler and Matt and co were over mooching about aimlessly and I relented and said that they could have a party at our house whilst we were in Otley. Spider came with us to Boff's and we had a lovely time. I took a bunch of Northern 7s and played a few.
We got home about 1.30 and the party at our house was in full swing. I played my hard grinding funk 7s and strayed into disco - Ronnie Keaton, Bobby Rush, Betty Wright, Bee Gees, Donna Summer. I danced the way I'm designed to dance - like a puppet suspended from invisible strings with my feet touching the ground occasionally. I looked around and with the exception of me, Louise and Spider, everyone was Sam and Elias's age and I was quietly overjoyed that this bunch, amongst whom I felt so utterly comfortable, still want to come to our house and hang around with us.
I sipped my way through a bottle of sparkly and when Hannah mentioned that she had a bass, I insisted on teaching her how to play it. I grabbed the Verithin bass from the corner, with a string missing and showed her the rudiments. I then had the brilliant idea to get the bow and arrows out and fire at cardboard boxes in the back yard. At the end of the party, I was the last one awake and by the time I went to bed, it was fully daylight.
I was up again at 1.30 - it was a brilliant sunny day and the sky was incandescent blue. Hannah and I walked to the top of the field. I was in one of those still-pissed-from-the-night-before moods, gibbering away incessantly. At the mere mention of archery, I ended up telling her the Buddha's life story and lent her Eugene Herrigel's wonderful Zen in the art of archery. We have another 7" singles night at the 160 on the 19th. Back home, and amongst the left over booze was a nearly full bottle of champagne. I had a splendid chilled afternoon.
The day before NYE, there was a match on and Boff came over with Emma. When Boff went on the match, Emma and I went up to the ranch. On the way up we heard a loud cheer signifying a Burnley goal. We had a vague notion to do some filming for a potential music video (we made one four years ago) Before setting off, we went through the dressing up bags. She chose a blonde bob wig and I chose my trusty go-to mullet.
I told her about my forming song idea, observing the notion that humanity is a spectrum and that maybe it's not always useful to medicalise every single aspect of it. The chorus is 'We're all on the spectrum of humanity' and the backing track will be heavy funk bordering on disco.
We got the tractor out for Emma to drive, but then it stalled and wouldn't start again - I wanted to film a scene with her driving and me dancing in the transporter box attached to the back - I foolishly left it idling too slowly and it sounded like the fuel line got blocked. We improvised. We had to tie the camera to the tripod with a piece of string because the fitting was wrong. We danced in the twilight to our imaginary tune, with the hum of the match below us, using the tractor, a wheelbarrow and a fork as props. We had one last go at starting the tractor and it worked, so she got to drive it after all.