Well, the end of the year is nigh so I suppose I should jump on the band wagon and pass on my thoughts for a year that is, was and for ever will be 2010.

I guess I should have had a fair idea of how the twelve months were going to pan out back in January after my car suffered an uncalled for assault from the winter ice in a Travel Lodge car park. Not an atrocious matter in itself, but the plastic box lid I was given when requesting the use of a spade and the collecting of salt sachets in a glass because no-one could give me access to a decent amount of the stuff required to melt the glaciers entrapping my tyres was pretty demeaning – not to say, pathetic.

The following month, my dad died. He was 58.

After that, a combination of body and mind problems (oh woe is me) that included some rather intense therapy and the threat of being sectioned (twice, the cheeky fucker!), redundancy (one for me, one for my wife) and the desperation nurtured when trying to sell a house no one is interested in have all ensured the year hasn’t been one of total glory.

But on the other hand:

I’ve seen my distant – and much missed – family much more than I normally would
I’ve made a great friend in a man who was my boss for six months of the year before the economy decided we had do a Red Sea and part
My wife has found herself in a job she loves with people she could happily spend the rest of her life with
We’re currently going through the whole selling / buying process (purposely written in that order) and hope to be in our new home in our new country (Wales – not quite Passport country but a place which demands so much respect for its own language its happy to write its road signs in both English and Welsh) by February 2011.

So it could have been better, it could have been worse. I’ve missed things out for various reasons, but this is, what I hope, a brief outlay of my 2010.

On a separate note, I’ve made some great friends over the last 300-odd days. Admittedly, some were made under the guise of wanting their knowledge, their association, their name or even just their breath if it meant forwarding my writing career (yes, I can be cynical, so sue me!) but am now eager to ensure they remain my friends from here until my dying day. I’m not going to list them all, but I intend to give a few of them some air time, given that they might get to read this and deserve to a have a ‘chest swell’ moment.

Back in February, when attending the World Horror Convention in Brighton (where I met the late, great Ingrid Pitt and was able to achieve my own moment of greatness by being the first person to buy James Herbert a drink before he was dragged away by all and sundry) I was introduced to a great man by Adam Nevill. Mathew F Riley is a fantastic creature who shared a drink, a meal and many a conversation with me and left me wondering if we shared more than just a love of facial hair. The man gave me one of the greatest compliments I have ever received when introducing me to others a few months later and I am so glad he still wishes to converse with me. I cannot praise this person too much – but that doesn’t mean he’s not a cunt! There are limits!

During those few days in Brighton, when the snow was little more than a distant memory or a bad forewarning from a cheap, seaside fortune teller, I dined with the amazingly cool and despairingly intelligent Adam Nevill, talked continuously (and abused emphatically) with Gary and Emily McMahon, both of whom have entered the constrictive confines of my ‘close friends’ circle rather easier than expected but shall never leave (ha!) and hugged outside a toilet the wonderful Sharon Ring whom I had never physically met before but new rather well in digital terms. Since then, I have met, chatted with and laughed along to the jokes of Joseph D’Lacey, shared chips with Adam Nevill’s father, drank yet more ales with F Riley, sipped latte foam with Sharon Ring and have felt a lump in my throat, put there by the wonderful Graham Joyce. This isn’t name dropping. If you don’t wander around in my circle or prefer to stay away from my literary influences, then this is will mean nothing to you. And that ain’t a criticism. Your circles and mine might be a world apart yet we share the same breath and means of telling the time.
I don’t criticise, and i don’t name-drop. I acknowledge.

That’s why I want to say thank you to Kerry Morris-Thuriot, a woman who broke my heart at 16 but apologised and became my best female friend (apart from my wife) when I was 35. I also have to thank Blaize, Eagles, Davies, Turner and Wilsh, all of whom make me chuckle like I’ve joined my nieces and nephew (hey Ben, Jessie and Jodie! Love you!). Most of all, I have to thank Steph, without whom, instead of ending on a potential high, I might not be writing this message (As long as Dai is around, a solitary dance with the razor’s blade is always possible – and could the god of house sales please ensure our sale and buy goes through exactly as we hope and we start a new life next year because we’re both rather tired of the Warrington existence). Cheers, Dearest. You’re the best.

Given I’m wanting to be a writer and I’m a definite reader, here’s a list of books for those who might be interested.

Top Reads of 2010 (in no particular order):
Apartment 16 – Adam Nevill
Pretty Little Dead Thing – Gary McMahon
Magic – William Goldman
The Millennium Trilogy – Stieg Larsson
Skin – Mo Hayder
The Silent Land – Graham Joyce
Horses’ arse – Charlie Owen
In Praise of Older Women – Stephen Vizinczey
Hush – Jeph Loeb; Jim Lee
The X-Factory
The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters

It’s been a while.

My original intention of keeping this blog up-to-date with ‘my life bulletins’ took a pretty serious knock when I heard someone I respect moaning about the number of people of no particular importance forcing their opinions onto the world via blogs and social networks (ironically, this was said in a blog!). My friend believed – and still does as far as I know – the world doesn’t need to know about a person’s aches and pains unless said person has done something of interest to introduce themselves to the world. In other words, they have to have an element of fame attached to their name for people to be interested. Unsurprisingly I took this to heart and brought my short blogging career to an end, but as you can tell by my writing these words, something has changed. It turns out I need the therapy. I need to moan. And as an email from a stranger proved to me, people are interested in hearing about my aches and pains because my aches and pains are more severe than the average person’s. I’m handicapped. I might not look it but believe me, I am. There are those who presume handicapped individuals need something to prove the existence of their disability: a wheelchair or walking sticks or a body cast. And if it’s not an accessory, they need a physical exclamation mark: a missing limb; a distorted face; a crumbled body like a ball of paper. Apart from the occasional use of the walking sticks, I don’t carry these signatures, but that doesn’t mean I’m no less handicapped. I live with a condition I’m sure my friend would agree with as being a disability. And others in my situation want to hear what I say. They want to hear because, like me, they need to know they’re not alone. And they’re not.

So I’m back. And I will now say what I came here to say

I’ve been asked to change.

“You’re too angry. You get wound up too easily. You’re too self-critical. You need to deal with your lack of self-confidence. You’re depression is ruining your life. You have no patience. You snap too quickly. You’re scaring people. You’re humour is too sick. You take things too far. You need to calm down!”

It’s no secret that I hate the world. Don’t get me wrong, I love and like a number of individuals who walk its crumbling crust, but as a whole, I hate this place; hate this world; hate this fucking existence. I happily do what I can for those I can – ironically enough, even if I don’t know them! – but my loathing for fucking people – simply fills me with fury. I have a number of reasons for feeling like this, but what it basically means is that I take things to heart far too easily and end up hating people for the most innocuous reasons. Whereas others would shrug such minor incidents off – incidents including a promise being broken or someone whom I thought had my interests at heart proving they did anything but – I take it too personally. I let it fester and fill my blood with snapping dragons. I bark for no reason. Yell for no reason. Punch the wall, stick pins in my arm of take a razor to my legs for no reason. I have no outlet so the anger is always there. And I’ll be honest, this notion of the world being filled with people out to fuck me over is getting me – and my loved one – down.

I’ve tried ways and means of ridding myself of this anger, but it simply makes things worse. I don’t like computer games, so they’re out. My disability prevents me from doing anything strenuous so previous interests such as squash are out. I’ve tried Pilates and Yoga and hated both. I enjoyed Tai chi but it did nothing for my frustrations. Sex used to be a wonderful experience but nowadays it’s either painful or maddening because of the pills and their side effects. Reading is dictated by my head’s state and if I’m angry, it’s impossible (I haven’t completed a novel in over six weeks – there was a time when I could get through three a week). I watch films as and when I can, but watching one all the way through is impossible because I either find it too uncomfortable or don’t have the attention span I used to. I barely look at my erotica (not porn) and Batman (not a comic) in comparison to years gone by for exactly the same reason as my film watching and when I get interested in a television series, I can’t handle anything over half-an-hour and quickly lose interest after a few episodes even if it’s fantastic. So the options are few and far between and as a result, my urges to hurt all and sundry for the slightest reason (being interrupted whilst I’m concentrating on this, for example) are intensified by sheer frustration.

I thought writing would do it for me but I was deluded – or too desperate. I thought I could write down everything and it all would be okay. But it’s not worked out like that. I’m angry when I write, which is shown in the type of things I write – the type of thing that more than one person claims to have made them feel ill – but I’m worse if I don’t write. Why? Because I beat myself up about it – as all wannabe writers do, only I seem to take it overboard. For me, not writing means I’m bone idle. I ignore the real reason and blame my inadequacies. If I want a career switch from architecture to writing, then surely I should be writing as much as possible? If I want to write instead of draw, then why am I pacing the room? (because I want the burning to stop in my legs) Why am I not dictating or making notes? (Because I’m an idiot.) Then I lay a massive guilt trip on my shoulders, savour my depression and get angry. If I don’t write, I beat myself up inside my head and as a consequence I make people’s lives miserable, I give them cause for concern and I take myself off to bed. So why don’t I write? Believe it or not, it’s not because I’m too idle, and it isn’t because I believe I’m crap or I have nothing to say.

It’s because of my pain.

It’s too simple to say my pain is the sole cause of all of my anger, but it’s certainly not helping. My demons are too big, too deeply embedded in my psyche for my pain to be the sole (soul?) cause. This isn’t the time or place to talk about those demons, but they’re the reason why I am adamant the world is made up with bastards who wear different masks to hide the same bullshit! The pain simply builds on this, feeding my insecurities and nurturing my frustration. I’ve had 13 procedures, countless consultations, false promises, shite treatment and terrible lies and what’s the outcome?

Good question.

My pills no longer work. My operations failed in their purpose. I now suffer from a constant burning in my legs that stop me from living. The pain in my back is such that I can no longer sleep on my side and as a consequence, when lying on my back, I upset my wife with my snoring. So I either sleep in the spare room or don’t sleep at all. My sleep, when I get it, isn’t the greatest because of the pain and the pill-induced dreams I have so I tend to lie in bed and consider worst case scenarios. And the problem with this? More and more of them are becoming true case scenarios and I’m scared these will follow suit. Such as my ability to walk becoming so painful that one day, I won’t be able to do it anymore without the aid of the sticks or the chair. And then perhaps people will realise I really am disabled and not looking for an easy way out. Or the fear I have of never being able to write again because the pills and pain have taken away the little talent I might have once possessed. These thoughts are there in my head and they feel very real.

I am now back in work. The financial situation has forced me back into the office. There was a time when I had hoped my work could remain home-based, given that I have to sit at a desk and draw all day, but sadly this hasn’t been the case. So if I couldn’t do that, then I wanted to go back part time. Impossible. The nature of the game demands full time. The place I work is 40 miles away from where I live and the driving is excruciating. I then sit at a desk for 9 hours a day, staring at a screen that is slowly trying to swallow me. And this isn’t a ‘oh god, he’s just pissed off at his job’ blog because I’m not. I might hate architecture but I enjoy my place of work because I work with some decent people who fall into the ‘I like’ category. But why should I sit there all day in agony, taking dangerously addictive pills and making mistakes because I cannot concentrate on anything properly for a decent amount of time? Others don’t have to do this but I do. Alright, my boss is sympathetic to my condition and helps best as he can but ultimately he’s there to make money and if I don’t make him money, he’ll fuck me off. I’ve already been in and been told my work standards are slipping. And it’s because of the pain; and because of the frustration and the blinding rage which accompanies this. True concentration is a thing of the past and I’m letting people down. And when I get home, when I want to do the one thing I love, I can’t because it hurts. So I take the pills and I sit and I drool and I feel my brain turning into the same stuff I fill my toilet bowl with after a successful colonic irrigation session. And when the weekend comes around, I try to go out and do the normal thing but the streets are full of people and all I want to do is rip the face off the person in front of me because of who they are: a stranger for whom I feel nothing other than loathing. And when the walking around the streets is over, I’m forced to spend the rest of the weekend in bed because I can’t move and the reason I cannot move is because the painkillers failed in their purpose. I then get angry at myself, at the pain, at the people in the street, at the whole fuckin world etc. etc.

This is why people are telling me to change.

So I am.

Shaun has taken a beating. For the last however many years, through one form or another, he has taken a beating and his response has been to lash out with angry comments, spiteful looks and disgusting remarks. Well, I’m going to do something other people I admire have done.
I’m splitting myself up.

Shaun Hamilton will be the caring person. The one willing to help all and sundry. The one in pain but able to deal with it. The one working as an architect who does what he can for his clients and tries to satisfy the needs of his boss.

Dai Zsasz isn’t that person. Dai is the hateful person. The spiteful person. He swears a lot. He’s perverted. He speaks his mind and doesn’t give a fuck. He hates you because you hate him. He talks about hurting because it’s all he wants to do. He screams abuse because you have what he wants. He is in agony and wants you to feel it.

Two entities. One body.

I’ll answer to both names. There are times when I’ll be both personalities but there are going to be times when only one of them will be in control. Shaun or Dai, I don’t who or when. But I feel this gives me some control. This gives me some freedom to express my frustrations instead of getting pissed off for no reason. If Shaun gets hurt, Dai can protect him. If Dai gets offended, he’ll offend you back, only more so.

There are reasons for the name and if anyone is actually reading this and wants to know what they are, ask away. Otherwise, they will stay with me. It’s not going to be an easy transition and no doubt there will be some who see this as confirmation of my impending insanity, but I’ll say this as Dai: if this is your opinion, fuck you and fuck off.

I don’t make this decision lightly. It’s something my therapist and I have discussed on a number of occasions and we’ve agreed it might be the best way to keep me from being sectioned (something she thought she might have to do if I did not get my anger in check). It might not even work but I have to give it a go. The urge to make others understand my pain just lately has been getting out of control and I need to get it under control before it goes too far.

If people have any suggestions for helping me ease my frustrations, whether they be hobbies, therapies, jokes or insults then please fire them my way. It would be good for Shaun if he heard from you but please remember his invisible disability. As for Dai, he doesn’t really know what he thinks yet. He’s only a few hours old.

Bring on the Ides of March

Posted: March 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

It’s March – and thank fuck for that because there is only one word I can use to describe February: wank! Wankety wank wank wank. Wank.

Alright, maybe more than one.

I’ve no intention of going into the reasons as to why that month will forever be known as ‘Shitfest’ in this house, but those in know will understand why I am glad to see the back of the fucking thing! Thanks to those oh so wonderful 28 days, my head-fuck has multiplied by the power of ten and my depression is so deep it lies beneath the Titanic’s hull (something I’m pretty sure will come across in this ditty). Pills and pain have intensified to such an extent I spent all of Sunday in bed and the hard work achieved on the Pain Management Programme has been wiped out in one hungry swoop. But March is here, bringing with it the spring and new hope and a new start… and all that bollocks. I’m just grateful to the family and friends I have. I don’t really like the idea of acknowledgements on a blog, but as I say, February has been a twat and a few people deserve to know how I feel about them. My brother and his wife have been amazing, but their kids beat them hands down. Cheers to the Blaizes and thank you to all on PMP and FicFac, and a small mention for KM-T who was kind (and daft) enough to worry more than she needed to. And thank you to my wife who once more has proven she puts up with more than she should have to but remains as strong as ever.

On a cheerier note, the end of this month sees my venturing south of the Watford gap into that strangely-shaped locale the media is adamant the world revolves around. (Who knows, maybe it does but it would be nice for the weather men and women to recognise that without the north there wouldn’t be a south and as such, they shouldn’t restrict their panics to just when London suffers ‘extreme weather conditions’ (aka, an inch of snow) and utilize them for the whole country!) I’m off to Brighton for the World Horror Convention. (To those not interested in horror, see ya next time…) an event being held in Europe for the first time ever. As an aspiring horror writer, this is a chance for me to meet some of my heroes (James Herbert, one of those authors who greatly influenced by love for the genre), full fill fantasies (share the same air space as Ingrid Pitt while stealing a strand of air to be used in a future DNA cloning experiment) buy some great books, wonderful DVDs and most importantly of all, get together with like-minded people and friends to celebrate all that is a genre looked down upon by most of the public (looked down upon but often referred to as a guilty secret in the same manner as pornography – which would explain why so many shit horror movies draw in such large crowds. Think about it before you judge.) When there, I’ll finally get to share a drink with the supremely talented Adam LG Nevill, and maybe buy Sarah Pinborough a glass of Pinot Grigio before her career hits the stratosphere and she no longer recognises us lower minions. I’ll get to chat face-to-face with Allyson Bird instead of via a keyboard; I’ll latch onto the devilish Conrad Williams and ensure we both get pissed and stand in awe of Graham Joyce. And that’s to name just a few. If you want to know why I hold these people is such high esteem, read their work. It’ll tell you everything you need to know.

Brighton is also going to be terrifying because my neurosis and anxieties will no doubt come skipping along, forcing me to act like a dick because I don’t know how to behave when either in:

a: A crowd

b: In public

c: With people I admire

d: Strangers… and friends… and family…

So I’m offering an apology out before anything happens, that way I might be able to remove some of my concerns and prevent a few sleepless nights. If my gob runs away with me, I’m sorry; if I start hassling, I’m sorry; if I talk shit, act shit and feel shit, I’m sorry. I’m just a bit odd.

I’m looking forward to this thing immensely, but I’m shitting myself also as there is a panel taking place called Pitch Black. This will allow me to try and sell myself and my work (at least 2 completed novels, maybe a 3rd) to various agents and publishers. Well, that’s me fucked. I couldn’t sell gold to the Vatican so how the hell I’m going to push aside all of my self-doubts, fuck knows. But I’ll give it a go – well, I say I’ll give it a go but only time will tell. Perhaps my train will be delayed. Maybe the thing will be cancelled. There’s a chance I might get waylaid…

But it’s more likely that I’ll chicken out and self-castigate. You never know – there will be plenty of Dutch courage on sale but maybe that’s even more dangerous…

The event is taking place in a hotel not far from Brighton’s Coach Station. Back in 2005, I provided the designs and calculations for the Brighton Coach Depot, and even organized and drew together the planning application. I have no idea if the thing ever got built, or if it did, if it was built to my designs, but just in case, I advise anyone using the depot for WHC to be careful when walking through its doors. Do not run, shout or sneeze as doing so might bring the roof down. Close doors gently and keep your flatulence to a minimum – anything more than a silent is taking a risk. You have been warned.

Just one other thing before I bring this aimless rambling to a close. The horror community is a close knit one that has to take a lot of shit from people who prefer to accept the image of immature stereotypes. Contrary to popular belief, we all have the same emotions and feelings as everyone else and we all get upset or angry when we’re prejudged and prejudiced against. Just because we are able to tap into the dark parts of our psyche doesn’t make us all nuts or murderers and yes we are able to love and care for each other. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have our twats and I lay out a simple message to the person who thought it a good idea to start a peevish hate campaign against a friend of mine: pack it the fuck in or I’ll get involved. Just because you have talent and intelligence doesn’t make you a better person. Bullies are cunts whatever society they frequent and you’ve been acting a proper cunt in recent months. So grow up.

S

Chronically Challenged…

Posted: January 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

It’s difficult to talk about my time on the Pain Management Programme without sounding like I’m fishing for sympathy or compliments. Nor is it possible to tell you about things without it seeming like I cannot shut up about my pain or not-very-impressive injury. Believe it or not, I’d rather not be the centre of attention (and yes, I do realise how stupid that sounds when its said on a Blog). I’d rather be – as Alice in Chains put it – ‘the child that sits [and cries] in the corner’. And if people are taking notice of me, I’d rather it be for my skills than my disability. I know there are those out there who love nothing more than to talk about their aches and pains (and trust me, after 16 days on the pain course, I really do know them) but I’m not one of their group. Notice me for my positives, not my limitations. However, I do feel it’s important I say something, just on the off-chance someone out there reads this and manages to get something from it
[I know. The idea of someone reading this is pretty outlandish, but you have to dream.]
So, to all those in pain – and I mean, constant CHRONIC pain (and if you’re not sure if you’re in constant chronic pain, then trust me, you’re not) – you have to ask your GP about the Pain Management Programme. I say GP for a specific reason. If yours is anything like mine, then you’re on to a good thing because he listens and tries to help without being patronising. However, if your GP is anything like some of the GPs talked about on the programme, and you mention PMP to them and they’ve never heard of it (much like my surgeons and their consultants) then I recommend you change your doctor and find one who does know about PMP (if possible…). You see, the programme is simply wonderful.
What does it teach you? Common sense. What does it give you? Well, you don’t have any extra medication so I guess a feeling of self-esteem and a purpose to life would be the best answer.
Allow me to elaborate: Over the last sixteen days (broken up by snow and Pagan celebrations) I have been taught physio exercises that stretch my muscles without making me want to puke and relaxation techniques that actually do chill me out and ease my temper. I have also discovered I have more than one chronic condition (turns out that as well as being a chronic depressive in chronic pain, I am a chronic insomniac – they do say these things come in threes). This helps to set my mind at rest (as such) because I’m no longer wondering why I can’t stay asleep (turns out insomnia isn’t just an inability to fall asleep but staying there once you’re under). I now know how to pace projects and have been taught the ability to ‘break before you ache ’ – my new mantra.
This basically means that if you know doing something for fifteen minutes will give you a painful flare up, then do it for ten, break, stretch, ready yourself and then go back to it. Admittedly, this doesn’t work perfectly with every activity – for example, driving is painful for me but that doesn’t mean I can pull up on the motorway every fifteen minutes to have a stretch and walk about before setting off again – and you need to have an understanding boss if you’re still working, but it is a practice that can be adapted to suit real world situations. Not all, but most. And if you can’t break before you ache, make sure you stretch, relax and ease up as soon as you can to reduce the amount of time you’re going to be in extreme pain. As I said, it’s all common sense.
As important as this – along with every other class I sat in – is, what is more important is the knowledge that I am not alone. Chronic pain creates a lonely existence, making you believe you are the only one who has to take the multiple painkillers, wakes every morning wondering how long you’re going to go without the agonies (if at all) or go to bed every night wondering how many hours of sleep the pain will let you have (again, if at all). Pain alienates you from your friends and family,. It disrupts your ability to think straight and robs you of your memory. You start wondering about extremes (for instance, I have often wondered if my failing memory is the onset of Alzheimer’s) and forgetting what matters. Your life is pain. Nothing else.
And all you can ask yourself is: why me and when is it ever going to stop?
Well, the answer to the second is easier than the first. If its constant chronic pain, then the answer is it will probably never leave you. Unless there’s a miracle cure around the corner, then you’ve got it for good. One amazing aspect of the course is helping you to accept that. As for the first part, well, I can’t answer it for you. Your life is your life and I cannot say what’s right or wrong with or in it. But if it helps, you’re not being punished for anything. It’s not fate and you’re not being castigated for something you’ve done in a previous life. The truth is, shit happens, and sometimes it happens to you.
But going back to my earlier point (sorry about the fragmented manner of this Blog but I’ve had a pill – somewhat appropriately), the course is brilliant because I now know I’m not alone. I’ve have been talking to people in pain (some more; some less) and been spoken to by people who know, understand and are experiencing everything I’m going through. For the first time in six years I’ve been able to communicate. I’ve not felt like a burden to those around me, nor have I felt the need to suppress myself. For the first time in a long time, I have been me. Admittedly, some might say that’s a bad thing, but what the hell…
So I want to thank everyone who worked with me on the programme for their guidance and knowledge, but most importantly, I want to thank all of those I have spoken to who are in pain. You’ve shown me how to deal with my chronic pain on a physical, mental and emotional level. Something I never thought I’d ever be able to do. I intend to stay in contact via phone, email and Facebook (for those who don’t know about it, type WALTON PMP into the Facebook search – a good man has set up a support page on there and it’s a case of the more the merrier). It’s a shame one guy told me he wouldn’t be able to stay in contact with me because he thought I was too crazy. He was scared of whatever actions I might take were he to give me advice that might turn sour on me (suicide was a daily topic), but being the depressive I am, I’m used to that kind of treatment. However, as for everyone else, good luck with your futures. We’re all going to meet people who won’t believe us, will challenge us and put us down, but it doesn’t matter. Because we know there is a support group for us:
We have each other.
(Christ, I sound like a bad Hollywood movie! ‘Independence Day’ comes to mind)

New Year, New Post, New Me?

Posted: January 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

Happy New Year, folks. Hope you all get what you want and deserve – and if you don’t, then the foundations are put in place for next year.

It’s not often I feel upbeat at this time of year. In fact, this is the first time. Ever. And it might not happen again so I need make a record of it.

The reason behind my optimism is slightly unusual if you’re a stranger to my shores, but makes perfect sense otherwise: pain. Allow me…

Since February 2004, I’ve been in constant pain from a bad back (and yes, I can hear your raised eyebrows and see your disparaging giggles). It’s my lower back; vertebraes L4, L5 and S1 to be exact. I’d love to say I hurt myself wrestling crocodiles or breaking down during a marathon session of fornication that was only ever going to end with someone getting injured, but the truth is, all I did was stand up. I got out of an easy chair. That’s it. Nothing special. Just straightening up with a tray in my hands, taking my empty dinner plate back to the kitchen (we were in a rented place between moving houses so the dining table was out of operation). Something popped just above my arse and all hell broke loose. Since that day (the 24th), I’ve been in unforgiving agony. I’m not going into details because it’s boring for both of us, but suffice to say I’ve had a number of x-rays, scans, epidurals and operations, all of which have left me with metalwork where a disc used to be, screws in L5 and S1 and a prescription drug habit – and still I hurt. A lot. Oh, and I’ve been told by my ‘wonderful’ surgeon that it will remain like this until my dying day, whether that be next week, next year, next decade or next century (please god, no…).

But, fingers crossed, something might be about to change. The sun seens to be breaking through the clouds. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) You see, I’m starting Pain Management Therapy.

Actually, I started it before Christmas – 3 days in Fazakerly hospital – but will be returning from whence I came on Tuesday (5th) for 3 more weeks. The idea behind the ‘intensive’ (don’t you just love that word?) treatment is to teach me new ways the handle the pain and get on with things. Through a series of therapies (physio; occupational and group), the doctors intend to show me how to ‘beat the pain’ – with the added bonus of perhaps weaning me off some of the more liver-damaging drugs I am now dependant on (kids, so ‘no’ to Co-Codamol). Admittedly, I’m not one for the ‘alternative’ therapies but after going through so much shit to get to this point (and it really is a sore fucking point) I’m willing to give anything a go – and I have to say: so far, so good. Okay, it’s only been 3 days, and those days have hurt like a bitch, but I can see what they’re trying to do. Not only is it mind over matter, they’re also showing me I can handle an even more intense pain than my usual standards without resorting to pills. By pulling me from pillar to post and breaking the padlocks on cupboards withholding distasteful memories, they’re proving to me that something is possible.

And though I might regret saying this, I like it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried to live as normal a life as possible throughout this pain. I’ve worked when I shouldn’t, lifted things that were beyond my capabilities and driven further and longer than ever intended. I’ve walked, stood, sat and shit. In other words, I’ve done just about the same as the rest of you. But that’s probably (according to my surgeon) where I went wrong. I didn’t rest properly. Things didn’t heal correctly (or he fucked up. It’s one or the other). So now I’m totally shagged out. I’m knackered and my body feels as fucked as my mind!

But maybe, just maybe, for the first time, I might be able to handle it.

It’s no secret that I’m an oddball. I always have been. I offend without meaning and amuse without intention. I’m a loner who craves company and an architect who hates buildings. I’m a good friend and will defend those I care about to the hilt, even if it means destroying my own credibility/career/livelihood, and I’ll ignore those I loathe, which often means fucking things up before they’ve even got off the ground. This then gives me a guilt complex, dark thoughts and issues I don’t particularly like. I act like a dick. Not a drunken dick, but a scary, weird-type dick. I long for attention and the opportunity to be left alone. I plea for acceptability and yearn for impropriety. I’m more fucked up than some, less than others. But I could always handle these things before the constant pain. Before that annoying, infuriating, screaming, ridiculous pain. It gets in the way of just about anything. I wake each morning and ask myself how much pain I’m in. I sit to meals and wonder if I will be able to finish my food without wanting to puke or take a pill. I go to bed and wonder what time the pills will wear off and the pain kick in (basically, what time I will wake). It no longer restricts itself to my lower back and right leg, it’s everywhere. Nerves are so fucked they will never return to normal. Muscles have wasted away and left me looking like two people split down the middle. I have lost feeling in the one place no man ever wants to lose feeling and there are occasions I have to insert a rather large hose into that very same appendage in order to pee. This is my life. This is how I live.

(Admittedly, it would now all be over if it weren’t for my other half, but that’s a completely different tale.)

There’s a lot riding on these next few weeks but I’m willing to give it a go. It won’t be a failure because I won’t let it be; nor will it be a roaring success because that’s just being delusional. It will be what it is designed for: an aid; a help; a crutch.

And who couldn’t use a crutch?

So yes, it’s a happy new year to everyone, but most of all – and I never thought I’d say this – it’s a happy new year to me. And I apologise if this post appears slightly self-indulgent, but as someone famous once said: fuck it!

S

Oh woe is me…

Posted: December 18, 2009 in Uncategorized

Given that this is my first Blog, I thought I’d break with tradition. Instead of moaning about my own problems – as I normally do – I thought I might allow a few others onto the stage. There are too many out there of whom I think nothing about until guilt has taken a stranglehold, so I just want to advertise the presence of one or two to the world before I slip back into the old routine and start whinging, “Oh woe is me…”

www.donnalouisetrust.org

Donna Louise lived in the same Cul-de-Sac as we Hamiltons during my childhood. I knew her well – though not as well as my brother as she thought he was fantastic (but I out that down to their being closer in age than any charisma he might have possessed). She was a bright, sparkly kid with kiss-curl blonde hair who I don’t ever remember seeing crying once – even when I was sitting at the top of the slide in her back garden, playing with my grubby Luke Skywalker before losing my grip and falling into her. She was the street’s pixie and she made everyone smile.

You can tell by the way I’m using past-tense that Donna is no longer with us.

Donna had chronic cystic fibrosis (as if there is any other sort) and died when she was just 16. By this time, I had moved away and I am shamed to say that I didn’t go to her funeral as I found out the horrible news much too late.

From the very beginning, Donna had needed round-the-clock care, something made even more intolerable for her amazing parents as they had to travel miles for the nearest children’s hospice. My brother and I would often be asked to leave the room while her mum or dad treated her, but Donna was insistent that we remained, not wanting her illness to stop her from living a normal life. Her mother would be rubbing her back and chest, trying to break up just some of the rubbish in her lungs to help her breathing and Donna would be laughing and joking (and acting all coy whenever my brother spoke) as her breath was stolen from her by the most violent of coughs. And when the treatment was over, she’d be up, watching the neighbours play badminton in the back garden or going back and forth on the swing or admiring the street’s boys playing football in the road. She was just another, normal kid – only she had an illness that was always going to kill her. And it did.

Since then, a trust was set up in Donna’s name to raise money for children with decreased life expectancy so they don’t have to undergo hateful trips to far-flung hospitals or don’t have to miss out on things healthy kids take for granted. Not just cystic fibrosis, but all cruel illnesses. It has a few patrons (Robbie Williams and Nick Hancock, given that Donna and I are two of Stoke’s better legacies) and has raised hundreds of thousands – but as is always the case with these things, they need more. I’m not saying you should donate; I just ask that you take a moment to look at the website and make your mind up for yourself. Because that’s exactly what Donna did. She might have had an illness that wanted to dictate her life but she refused to let it; deciding for herself how she wanted to live.

www.helpforheroes.org.uk

Soldiers know there is a possibility of their going into battle when they joined, but the least they could have expected is right and proper treatment if they become injured – physically or mentally. And don’t forget the families. What about the poor bastards at home, opening the door to find that high-ranked officer standing in their doorway with a black notice? Do they deserve to suffer because the politicians prefer to keep the funds needed for equipment and rehabilitation for their duck-houses and moats?

British soldiers are peacemakers, not warmongers and whatever your beliefs over what is going on in the Middle East, the individual fighting on behalf of their country does not deserve to be abandoned if they can no longer stand on the front line. They are there at their government’s request, not their own. And if the worst ever happens – which, unfortunately it will – then they should not be made to feel as though they are simply a piece of discarded rubbish. They are proud people and we should be proud of them. And if the penny-pinching bastards in Whitehall don’t want to help them, then thank fuck for Help the Heroes – and not just these people, but all charities fighting to give recovering soldiers and mourning families the best life possible.

www.macmillan.org.uk

My granddad (mother’s father) died of lung cancer the month before I was born, and I once thought I had testicular cancer (the lump was twisted veins, in case you’re wondering). Cancer affects everyone in this country, one way or another and so we have to deal with it. Burying our head in the sands and hoping it will never happen to us (while eating a kebab, smoking a pipe and sucking our mobile phones) isn’t going to work.

It amazes me how much money is spent on research into the fucking obvious when we still haven’t got a bonified cure for all cancers.

www.dogstrust.org.uk

I’m a dog person. Full stop. I don’t mind cats – I certainly wouldn’t be cruel to one – but I love dogs. I’ve always had a dog. They’re the best for companionship and warmth and – even though cleaning up their shit after them isn’t the most pleasurable of experiences – they provide excellent exercise.

Any fuckwit who is cruel to a dog or baits a dog or thinks that the best way to deal with a boisterous dog is to kick it should be thrown into the deepest part of the Atlantic and left to drown.

I hate hearing about dog attacks on humans: kids killed by savage dogs etc. As horrid as this thing is for the families involved – and I really do mean it is fucking vile – what it does is set the media off on a track that is so narrow-minded that a knat would struggle to make its way through the corridors. If a dog is savage, question its treatment. Don’t label it and its brethren with the ‘killer dog’ tag and miss the wider picture.

It’s a little bit coarse, but thank fuck for the Dogs’ Trust.

Okay. That’s it for now. There are others (AIDS; NSPCC; hope for bald men) but these mean a lot to me and I wanted to get them out there. I know most of you will have heard of most of these charities, but I hope that some of you might now remember Donna Louise.

And to those who know me: don’t worry. I’ll be moaning and bitching and whinging very soon…