Monthly Archives: February 2024

“The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.”

Please be reminded that this blog is an ego trip. It is about me me me. There was a time when I felt enthused to include news of other loved ones but they didn’t like it much, so I stopped with just the occasional lapse when I couldn’t resist showing off about a book a gig an album or a trip. Trust me when I say there could have been a good many lapses over the years but I have held back – besides which, who in what universe wants to read about other people’s children’s successes.


10 years have passed since I was diagnosed with cancer. For a time I thought my time was up and the idea of ten years hence seemed ambitious, optimistic, unlikely. But here I am, ten years older, STILL ALIVE, a milestone worthy of a blog post at least.


Talking of the blog. I gave it up a while ago. A good move I think. Best not to say things if you have nothing of interest to say. If only I could apply that to life in general. I have never been able to modify my enthusiasm for sharing my thoughts, whatever the quality, and to whomever happens to be in range at the time. How often have I come away from a conversation or a meeting wondering why I felt the need to ‘contribute.’ So much better to have been the mute, thoughtful one and leave my audience guessing what profundity might be silently stirring, but no, off I go with a stream of ill considered deliberately contentious twaddle. Maybe it’s part of my charm or more likely it’s just a childish desire to be the centre of attention. How pathetic! I hate the notion of anything being too late to fix. Sub par physical fitness, excessive greed, old man views on modern matters but in this case my mouthiness is incurable – which brings be back to cancer.


It all began in 2013 with kicking a bonfire, falling flat on my back and triggering a Temple-of-Doom-like runaway rollercoaster of ambulance, pain, chiropractor (useless exploitative crap), physiotherapy (useless but not exploitative) tubes down throat (terrifying), biopsies and finally, sometime in the spring of 2014 the diagnosis that changed everything and realised in vivid Technicolor with full 12.1 Dolby  surround sound most people’s worst nightmare. “You have incurable cancer.” The effect of which cannot be captured in words but would not make for a catchy song either, so best left as empty parenthesises ( ) or the words that my late mother-in-law called forth on so many occasions from too much salt in the tomato sauce or a suddenly deceased family member ‘whata canna you dooa?’


Well it turns out you can do a lot but you need


  1. A wonderful loving family
  2. The NHS (and the right drugs)
  3. A surprisingly accommodating employer
  4. Something to do
  5. LUCK


and it seems I have all five, at least for now.


I would like nothing more than to continue to be so blessed. I despise that last word but just at the moment can’t come up with another. The rhythm of the sentence is pleasing so a monosyllabic final beat is required. Any ideas?


Since 2014 there have been some significant personal milestones mostly medical or related to medical – shame that – would have been nice to have milestones met as the result of great personal endeavour.


  • Giving up alcohol all together finding a substitute vice in sweeties – 10 years during which I have had just a few mouthfuls of fizzy wine to be sociable.
  • Injecting myself in the stomach and awarding myself a VC for bravery
  • Abandoning the stem cell transplant treatment when advised that if it doesn’t work you drown in the blood that collects in your lungs and stomach – nobody wants that do they.
  • Working my way through a few treatment options and finding the optimum drug combo had the ominous ingredient of thalidomide and a yellow warning label about its dangers – somewhat similar to those found on fences around pylons eg. ‘Danger of Death.’
  • Becoming a steroid junkie – boy they make you feel clever
  • Being deconstipated in hospital – not a dignified process but sooooo rewarding
  • Related to above – Becoming unpleasant and gobby due to steroids making you feel like you have superpowers. I still feel bad about how I behaved when I wasn’t discharged speedily enough.
  • Discovering writing as therapy, this blog, lots of poetry of mixed quality, shoddy short stories.
  • The red telephone box that talks a bit like me and associate obsessions. Too many to list and yes, they continue unabated.
  • Going nuts for old phones, cigarette lighters and kitsch from ebay – steroids again – they encourage consumption and extravagance as well as gobbiness.
  • Working from home. Teaching on zoom (yuk) probably for a total of around 4 years – something of an endurance test for me and the students.
  • Dreading the monthly blood results, failing to get used to them even after 10 years.
  • Stopping feeling faint – once the atrial fibrillation was bought under control. The downside is you nap a lot.
  • Last couple of years – Feeling fitter than I have done as amyloidosis goes into temporary remission – very nice to know as it doesn’t often happen
  • Consequently, feeling lucky.


Yes it’s not the most important but it is the most present, most recent, most tangible change in the last ten years for while surviving is certainly pleasing for me and my loved ones retiring is something less existential and easier to write about.


It means I have more times to do other things that aren’t immediately productive (not that I did that many productive things before but I always felt as though I should be doing them) – I had to do a lot of preparation for lectures and here is a confession dear reader – I knew bugger all about the stuff I lectured on, so the best I could do was hope the students hadn’t read more than me – they hadn’t so I scraped through. There is nothing I know a lot about and this is the essence of being an academic – drill deep – so I could never pass muster -I am a shallow water paddler dabbler consequently it was a slog and I have to say not that rewarding but it did give the impression to others of productivity. PowerPoints and videos got made, work got graded, students got degrees blah blah blah. Anyway, that’s all over and I can’t say I miss much. Had we had a water cooler I might miss standing round it chewing the cud but most of the time we worked quite independently and didn’t see that much of each other. That said I had some really nice colleagues. For the most part we were an uncomplicated bunch in digital media, we didn’t fall-out or row or sulk or really gossip and perhaps I miss slightly the reassuring niceness of a bunch of blokes who like me, admired websites, monitors, computer games, animation, video codecs, youtube, and ip addresses so so so much more than personal relations or the news or world peace or books.


The future beckons and its not so scary as it was, not least because Maria and I have bulldozed aside some of our nervousness about travelling or any changes to routine like parking in a different car park in York. We are far from intrepid compared to just about everybody, but we can get in cars, taxis, on planes and trains and complete the journey without needing sedation and a month to wind down. We have had some nice holidays or as they are described these days ‘we have made memories’ – blaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh – what a horrible Instagram-tainted idea – as if you can make memories by going somewhere. – memories are made whether you like it of not by anything at all, at any time, in any circumstances, they can’t be contrived – a memory is no better if it is framed by the Acropolis than it would be framed by Watford Gap services. Who doesn’t have memories of their crinkle cut fries and urinals.


So what are my plans.


Let’s face I am quite consistent I have been wanting to master walking bass for twenty years now and I still plan to do so. The only thing that prevents me is not practising walking bass on my bass. I frequently imagine addressing this.


I want to make my ring ring cycle yes two rings – get the pun – phone box – trouble is I keep making stuff and not liking it enough to leave it alone. I dismantle it thus destroying what little good stuff may have inadvertently populated the largely empty shell. Anyway I have yet another scheme to nail this one.


I enter poetry and short story competitions from time to time with no success. This is because what I submit is not that good but then what wins is not that good either so I am clearly in with a chance.


Like every retired middle class saddo I am doing duolingo. Italian would be sensible as I have a grounding, but Maria is getting really good and G is off the scale so I am doing German. Nah nah na na.


I did loads of carboot sales selling last year. I had aspirations to do it semi pro but I have completely gone off that. I can’t be arsed with trying to make money I just like sitting around for five hours meeting odd bods. I am prevented from buying anything because we have no room.


I planned to sell semi-pro on eBay. I have completely gone off that. I can’t be bothered to make money it’s time consuming and boring. I like buying but see above.


Thus ends my celebration of ten years of extra existence. I really am lucky.






“The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.”

Samuel Beckett is my hero. This is based on seeing only one play (Godo) and being pretty bored, trying and failing to read some others, getting no further than the first page or so of one of the novels (cant remember which one), listening to, but not ‘getting’ several of the radio plays, and persuading Maria to perform NOT I in Scarborough – so I love what fragments of his work evoke in me but I have no time for the rambley long stuff. The line above is perfected by the unexpected ‘the’ before nothing new.