Have you noticed – I only blog when I am worried.

Like busses, my health tests tend to come along all at once. Within the last 10 days I have had: my regular hospital blood tests, National Amyloidosis Centre tests part one, more of those to come on Thursday and Friday, glaucoma tests, more of those to come in June, and PSA tests, results today – not doubt more tests required. Ominous letters from the hospital and emails containing incomprehensible results are as common as TV adverts inviting subscriptions to funeral plans or ‘no fuss cremations’ ‘in afternoon episodes of Antiques Road Trip. Nothing blunts your appetite for the transitory absurdity of life than frequent reminders of death. What is deliciously fragile but full of promise morphs into a one way trip to nowhere land. Nothing sinister to report so far I am glad to say but I wish my tests were distributed a bit more evenly throughout the year so that my petty anxieties were less compacted – speaking of compacted I have to go to the dentist to have my newly minted and very expensive temporary tooth thing, yes you’ve guessed it, tested. But on the subject of health here is an interesting thing: my blood pressure is super good – miles better than usual – I could claim it’s all the sports and healthy eating I practice but I can only assume it’s the drugs I have been taking for 15 years taking their time to have any effect. Either that or I am very very chill, but the evidence (see above) is that I am really really not.

I am truly truly sick of health stuff. It not a subject that interests me even when it my health being discussed. ‘How’s it going Chris?’ or worse ‘How are you coping Chris?’ usually provokes an impatient ‘fine’ accompanied by a look of “Really! do you care!” “Do I care to discuss it” – It’s frightening, boring, time consuming, brain consuming, cash consuming (first class tickets to London (in order to avoid Covid close encounters) to the NAC this week). It also causes me to exhaust myself performing the role of how brave I am, how devil may care I am, how resigned I am to the progressive decline of all my faculties until my body is towed to that great scrapheap in the sky like my gold Ford Cortina did in 1983 and Maria’s Ford Focus did just last week. Yep her car died an unspectacular death at the hands of Leon the mechanic  whose graveside prayer comprised ‘Well if all goes well it will be a grand and if it don’t, it will be two and a half grand.’ So the next day we bought an old, but red and shiny Kia, the cheapest car they had in the garage leaving them with a dead Focus, a full spare can of diesel and one of those magnet things to hold your mobile phone on the dashboard which Maria has asked them to recover form the scrappy (this was embarrassing) but not as embarrassing as trying to drive off in the Kia when neither of us could figure out how to start it (depress the clutch)- and then subsequently pulling up to get petrol, accruing a heathy queue and then realising we didn’t know how to open the petrol cap. Tip: when you first get a car read the manual.

I just want to think sunny thoughts do sunny things and dance the night away in a state of splendid euphoria, but while bits of me are in the process of unpredictable decline, sunny thoughts can prove illusive. The secret is to be busy or asleep or watch telly. So I do a combination of those three. TV starts for us at about 7:30. Maria insists it’s light hearted with no subtitles as she has to look down while she’s eating – huh? Just look up and spill it down your front I say – and do. (Important –  remember not to do a zoom meeting with your students with the remnants of last nights pasta adhered to the shirt, one might have slept in, presented in close up.) By 8:00 we are into subtitles or subtitles + gore + brutality and angst. By 9:00 we are both in a state of high anxiety after an hour sharing the suicidal Finish detectives battle with addiction and a brutish and insightless boss and the case of the dismembered girl found by her mother in a suitcase left at the school gates.  So we watch Inspector  Montalbano so that Maria can practice her Italian (Sicilian) I can become utterly confounded by the plot within the first three minutes and we can both relish the moments in true pre ‘me too’ style that Montalbano’s lieutenant helps solve the case by sleeping with the principal suspect who happens to be the spitting image of Gina Lollobrigida only with fewer clothes on. Then it’s bed. I sleep like a baby for 5 hours straight, assisted by the chemotherapy and beta blockers both of which seem to act like anaesthetics. I wake at 4:00, quite often more than ready to do something important. I love the early morning, it’s the most optimistic part of the day and I am quite often super energised. I actually relish a bath at 5:00 am listening to the world service or farming today with a mug of tea propped next to some experimental soap product likely to end up being used for purposes it is not designed to fulfil. I think particularly of the shampoo bar I use as shaving soap, definitely the best shaving soap ever and the conditioner I used as body wash (less successful, rather greasy and no lather to speak of). My morning energies are currently directed to endless marking (blah!) and to three potential conference opportunities to demonstrate my phone box art in order of increasing scariness – namely: Hull, Newcastle, Prague so I have been spending my spare hours reconfiguring ‘the red telephone box that talks a bit like me’ http://k6.gravityisahat.co.uk/ such that I can live video broadcast from it (thus not having to physically attend the conference) with all the audio complexity under my control from within the box rather than in my studio in the house. I have successfully managed this temporary transformation but have created a new challenge. Manual and mind dexterity is not my strong point – so imagine me cooped up inside this small, sometimes boiling hot space manipulating a mixer, laptop running complicated live broadcast software, a microphone, a webcam, a mobile phone, an iPad and a 1937 telephone dial and receiver. (Case in point – tested this at the weekend and attempted to make a 30 second video to include here – i left the video recording for and 1hr and 29 minutes filling my phones memory and then accidentally deleted the lot – this is indicative of my technical incompetence when i have to manage more than one device at once) I feel like RickWakeman in Journey to the Centre of the Earth, (one of the more disasterous 1970’s concept albums) wearing a magicians cape and 18 inch flares while wrestling with what looked to be the innards of Jodrell Bank only to produce the sounds  of incredibly over amplified 80’s video games slowed down a lot. Initially I was embarrassed by the dog walkers seeing this weirdo all wrapped up in technology talking to himself inside a phone box but now I am used to it and have been known to be in there in my dressing gown at 6:00 am, greeting a villager with a friendly wave with no explanation requested or provided.

I suspect I am becoming known as the local nutter. So that’s good news.

Here we are again

Needless to say I having nothing wise to say about Ukraine. I could come out with some meaningless platitudes to signal my concern but that would stick in my throat so instead I will carry on as if all that really matters is me and my family. Turn away now if that offends you.

I am really brain dead at the moment so I have nothing remotely entertaining to say – so I won’t attempt so to do. This post is a guilt post, triggered by a sense of ‘I haven’t posted for ages – I really should.’ I have no idea why I feel this way but perhaps, as I have reported in the past I have a habit of starting things and then losing interest and this blog is a rare example of sticking at something so I feel a compulsion to keep going even if I have nothing to say. blah blah blah blah blah blah blah…..

This achievement contrasts with my ‘work my way through 6 CD’s of Charles Ives songs while pedalling the cross trainer’ fad, which lasted two go’s and about 8 songs. It turned out to be a poor musical match. Many of Ives songs are painful to the ear so combined with pain to the body the result was just pain. I swapped my Charlies’ – Ives for Mingus (Epitaph) – an example of a symphonically long Jazz composition that A admires – assuming it would be an easier listen, but that also lasted only two go’s just enough to finish CD one. I can now declare that distracting myself from the pain of fat reduction routines with challenging listening projects is a non starter. I neither listen nor pedal with any increased enthusiasm. I just can’t find the motivation to try to get fitter even with great music playing in the background. You would imagine, in my circumstances, I would see it as a damn good idea but try as I might even the prospect an early death by fat arsehole syndrome in advance of death by cancer is not sufficient to persuade my errant brain to make any effort. So sod it!

A Poem Perhaps

The steel post preventing cycles using the daffy field path has been removed. Eddie is ecstatic and stopped to remark upon it on his way home from work.

His bike had two flat tyres but it didn’t seem to bother him.

I have done some digging. A trench to ensure that the build up of soil under our new fence doesn’t rot it away.

The trench is very straight. I set it with a string and two sticks. I believe it to be the straightest trench in our garden.

Our ornamental fountain was cut off when the sewer blocked and the plumber gave it a shove.

It is now full of autumn leaves turning black and putrid.

When out walking we can now pat other peoples dogs without worrying about catching COVID. We hope.

The birds adore our feeder. They are fussy about the fat balls preferring the more expensive recipe.

The cats have yet to notice the bird feeder. Do cats ever look up?

Yes when in danger of attack by Magpies I am told.

Our Ukrianian friend Maria who made Maria (Bovino) pasta meat parcels Ukrainian style when she broke her foot cannot understand why the parish church is so empty.

Perhaps she has a point.

News up here, most of you are down from us, is negligible – and that’s good. Maria and I continue to lead a fairly hermit like life although Maria does go into work three days a week – still seated defiantly at her instrument protected by a massive perspex screen with the window open behind her even when it’s really cold. Nonna keeps defying all the odds and soon will be the proud possessor of the BMW of electric beds which will raise her up to a semi seated position and slide her backwards to remain level with her bedside table and associate necessities when she gets breathless – mighty expensive but worth every penny. We also have a petrol generator to provide power during our all too frequent power-cuts, the last one indirectly triggering an ambulance call-out when Nonna was forced to sleep downstairs for half the night which left her breathless and panicky. So now she has a spare bed downstairs, an electric bed upstairs and power to move her between the two and keep the Italian telly on the go whatever the elements throw at us. Can’t be bad. I have a reading week ahead so that means I can concentrate on some fun things rather than the rather endless prep I am required to do to keep up with teaching the latest software. All is good with our four – all very busy and creative which is fantastic.

Arthur is drumming on this album – which we love!


Love xxx

Mary, Joseph, Clown & Doggydogo

Just had my 4th vaccine.

I could go on about how much I don’t like the ritual of Christmas but you have all heard it before and I get quite bored of myself. I love a bunch of people who love it and so I love it too. The end.

I was very pleased to present my family (Xmas) present (see above) –  Btw I revel in the word Xmas – it should be universally adopted as a suitably debunking nomenclature for the pomposity of the word ‘Christmas’ only superseded  by the showy offy ness of ‘Good Friday’ – good for who one asks? Certainly not for our hero. Anyway sadly the family did not reward me with the sort of acclaim  that I felt my ‘David’ deserved. It took me ages, not necessarily a qualification for great art but it did. It went wrong several times but once I had figured how to get all the characters to look startled I genuinely  thought it a work of some genius and thus the tepid applause that greeted its unveiling – well it just ruined my Xmas.

We had all four of our lovelies in shifts and as long as no one said the C word – yep crackers – I must say it was a real delight. They are all very nice people, they all love Vinnie which is an entry pass to my heart. Bobby pissed on me. Lisa appeared on Telly in a series of ultra high energy  micromoments for Sun Bingo that I will compile in a later blog. My presepio (nativity scene] electric light fell down and broke the donkeys ear. Maria and I went to bed at 10 every night after an indigestible bucket of xmas telly (We are that much fun). Av nailed a short story about a Christmas vegetable.  Maria’s foot is still dodgy so the traditional Boxing Day walk was abandoned – ohhhh noooo! Someone cleaned Mitch’s bum cos he can’t reach it being so fat. Geo and Art jammed rather brilliantly on piano and guitar. A&G bought me me the biggest ever book on Jazz theory  – so I have got that sorted now – roll on ‘Ronnies.’ Art then showed me some cunning shortcuts on the bass and this combo of theory and practice has reawakened my enthusiasm for playing after a two year lull. I am very pleased about that. Got a very cool calendar with a series of black and white photos of moments and family- one pic (below) in particular shows Av looking like a supermodel and me looking very very ‘Bexley’ (only my sisters will understand that reference) or if you have seen it Ricky Gervais as ‘Derek.’  Gifted Nonna a very cool incense waterfall thing that she pretended to like but couldn’t see so I nicked it back for myself. I wrote two food orientated stories for the Mogford prize that I enter and fail every year. Submitted three entries in the end because I missed the deadline for ‘Shrewdini’ last year. £45 wasted but who cares! I worked up until Christmas Eve and started again the day after Boxing Day. I prefer to get stuff done rather than have it looming ahead so I am glad to say most of my uni marking is done and it’s not even the New Year. Good for me!

let me off!

So I haven’t been enjoying this last week or two.

Maria has stolen my illness thunder by breaking her foot. I am convinced she did it deliberately. She has grown weary of my malingering and resolved to go for a more dramatic and noticeable ailment that also licenses, or rather requires her to have her lower leg in a cast for four to six weeks and to remain pretty much immobile. She clearly threw herself down the bottom stop at Nonnas hoping to snap that bone just where it matters, right across the knuckle in two places, a half centimetre higher and she would be in a stiff shoe and not a Henry Moore maquette.

So I have to say I am not taking this opportunity to look after her, her mother, three pissing pooing cats, my students, my career and my health philosophically. I am not enjoying the renewed intimacy brought on by adversity and compassion, to inject Maria in the belly with blood thinners because someone once died from a blood clot brought on by a broken foot – huh?? (actually I do quite like doing that bit- I feel like a proper doctor and slightly heroic at being able to stomach it (see what I did there) or to cook her mum a cordon blue pasta at 11:30 in the morning or measure her morphine into her syringe (the temptation to pour the contents of the bottle  down mine, or her, gob being barely resistible). I want my life back. I am not a caring sharing person. I want to write poems, listen to opera or tinker with stuff not maintain my loved ones health and welfare – it’s boring, arduous, stressful and a times potentially yucky.

Amidst all this joy the engine management light came on in the car signalling it had had enough of going and wanted a wee rest. It was like a message from God. “Gotcha you blaspheming atheist smug fat bellied bastard? I give thee cancer, thrice (well twice, thrice maybe still waiting to pass through the machine that sounds like a 1000 rusty cement mixers) and 6 weeks of hard labour. I give thee having to make dinner, breakfast, lunch, hot milk with two hermasetas and bickies, pastina with fresh parsley, basil, some fried tomatoes with garlic and a egg whisked in (I GIVE THEE COOKING thy most hated activity) – I charge thee to empty the back breaking cat boxes ripe with fresh poo, clear up the extra carpet poos triggered by an aggressive encounter, fill the coal buckets, light the fires, clean, vacuum, replenish toilet rolls, gather laundry, put the dustbins out in the right order –  CARE ENOUGH TO GIVE A SHIT if the green one is out on the blue day  !!!


No time for reflection or empathy I don’t like this at all, please get it to stop, please let me off. GOD I DIDN’T MEAN IT!

Actually our lovely ones have all offered to rush up and help. We declined.

‘WHAT THE F*** did we do that for.’

An epiphany

Last week was not good.

I had three hospital/doctor appointments crammed together because it was reading week at Uni. I volunteered to do creativity workshops everyday online. So in between blood tests and more intimate examinations of ones parts customarily keeps under wraps I was introducing Jeff Koons and Brutalism to a group of student designers – actually they were great and it was fun and distracting.

Now that I have a small library of diseases, whenever I am sent for a test for another my assumption is that I will have it. Happily this week I may have dodged a bullet on glaucoma, at least for now but received a graze for prostrate cancer. Nothing alarming I was told, borderline, but necessitating further investigation just to check. (Don’t you hate that outcome) Bugger I thought, not again. More trips up the silver tube to the sound of the archers omnibus (inaudible because of the sound of 100 rusty washing machines on spin cycle above your head.)But so be it – what’s one more worry to add to dodgy blood, errant proteins, a syncopated heart, pumped up eye balls and Covid of course. There is a law of diminishing returns. One disease – terrifying – two – troubling – three – you’ve got to be joking! – four – so what….

I am reading Camus – The Plague. Timely of course. His point is that life is absurd and that even when some massive event comes along that should change the course of everyone’s life we all carry on with our day to day trivia in an effort to maintain meaning. He is right of course, life is absurd but that doesn’t mean we have to feel miserable about it. I agree with Ricky Gervais and if we are lucky enough to be able to be born ( the chance of our existence being trillions of trillions against, the chance of us achieving the conscious necessary to realise we exist being trillions more against) we should enjoy it. We should treat life like a free holiday. An opportunity to do something we love. Of course we need to recognise how lucky we are to be in that position. Most people aren’t. So despite my library of diseases and no doubt more to come I am still extremely lucky to have this chance to enjoy my free holiday – and I am doing just that.

On a related subject. I had an epiphany in the bath while contemplating Camus. I like to contemplate the European literary giants every bath time don’t you? Anyway one outcome of the absurdist view is that we may be able to create meaning in a meaningless world through making art. I am not sure about that – it sounds like the sort of thing that artist or writers would say, after all that’s what they do for a living. Knocking out a quick opera may satisfy them but how about all the poor sods who don’t like opera or don’t like art does that mean their lives are meaningless. Now if life is meaningless there can’t be subsets of lives that have meaning, it’s an ‘all for one one for all’ situation. So let’s accept for a moment that life is truly meaningless or as Camus and the existentialists might say a ‘pile of bollocks.’ What should stop us packing up and going home with a 6 pack of special brew and a family pack of paracetamol. If it’s not about making meaning through art what is it about? This was my epiphany. From the ‘Dove’ derived suds between my legs a voice proclaimed – It’s simple really it’s about providing others with ‘relief.’ Relief from the pain inflicted on all us, but disproportionally on some, by nothing but chance. We are all stuck on the same absurd train journey but some of us travel first class with a free Buck’s fizz and some of us are hanging onto the running boards. There is no reason for this, no meaning in this discrepancy it’s just chance.
So despite the fact that life is meaningless endeavouring to make it as pain free for others is as near to a meaningful contribution that any individual can make. Nurses, social workers, care workers, doctors, even vicars are in that category. Opera directors are not.

Where does that leave me. I do next to nothing for others. I am selfish. I like to indulge myself and in particular I like to make art. Should I stop a devote myself to the service of others. Well frankly, probably, yes. Will I. Absolutely NOT. But you lot should!

lost my way

I have lost my way writing for this blog. I don’t know who or what its for. It started out as therapy and then became a soapbox to make vacuous political gestures (regret, regret regret), then a family diary for showing off about my loved ones, (that probably just pisses people off) then a platform for me to show off about my projects, (that probably just bores people) then a platform for Tuffin to show off (does anyone but me care about my attempts at telling Tuffin’s story) and now I don’t know what it is. I haven’t lost interest, but I have lost my way.

It came about through cancer and that hasn’t gone away however its narrative potential has diminished as ‘cancer world’ has become more routine for me.

I go for tests, things go up and down, I take drugs, I get results, I go for more tests, I have trouble parking the car at the hospital it’s so busy and crowded I think I am going to be late, I start to panic, no reason they always wait, I leave my mask in the car, I go back for it, approach the hospital door that opens automatically the wrong way potentially smacking you in the face (maybe a way to generate more custom) report to a very tiny receptionist at the magnolia centre (why name the cancer centre it after a dreary emulsion paint – he he he) whose arms worry me, they are so thin I wonder if she is a patient seconded to reception, she’s always really nice though, I have to stand and wait in a queue, they only allow a limited number to sit inside, I look forward to sitting, I look forward to sitting in all settings (home, work, country walks, beaches etc), in I go, get weighed, have to take my shoes off this time, didn’t have to last time so didn’t wear my slip-ons, laces, what a drag, bending over what a drag, must not fart, bent at this angle compressing belly a distinct possibility, finally sit, next to bald gay guy with partner who looks really poorly, can barely walk, feel very sorry for him but secretly glad I am not that poorly, I smile, he doesn’t, I connect to eduroam super-fast university network that all academics can access in any university in the UK, York is a teaching hospital so it’s available all over the site, super fast browsing of E-bay to check out ‘Evans table lighters’ all too expensive cos of postage from US, French vintage telephones from France similarly out of range cos of VAT and postage from Europe which is about as expensive as that from the US (why?), oh Brexiteers what have you done – scuppered my ‘ancien telephone’ collecting hobby,  called by a nurse for blood test, usual amusing fiasco cos NAC (where the sample gets sent) requires phlebotomist to use ‘vacutainers’ which require a special attachment to avoid two jabs for patient (apparently not cool for phlebotomists reputation) that York NHS doesn’t use, my suggestion to just squirt the blood into the test tube is rejected and he threatens to go to try to find an attachment (it’s a sort of a ‘hoselok’ system)  I say don’t bother, just make two holes I don’t mind, nope he’s out the door down the corridor for what I know to be a fruitless search,  I loll about on the blood taking chair and watch the analyst do whatever she does with other peoples samples, she is Eastern European and I turn on the charm to demonstrate how much I love Eastern Europeans in case she feels unwelcome (thanks again Brexiteers), I subject her to a series of inane questions about the blood test process that I really don’t want an answer to but I am stuck like a record in a groove and cant move on till the phlebotomist returns empty handed and goes reluctantly to get the amazing delightful specialist nurse Helen (who I am actually in love with) who immediately assembles a chemistry set of ‘hoselok’ adapters, clicks then together and completely painlessly syphons off the necessary sample, back to EBay to glide through postcards of Eynsford (always the same ones on sale) and Yamaha Xg accessories  to discover I am sitting on a goldmine of 80’s technology that has come back into fashion), nothing doing in the ‘seaside memorabilia’ collection either, so reply to the slew of university emails inviting me to do staff development in areas I didn’t know needed developing, I still haven’t got to grips with decolonising the curriculum without falling no into the trap of cultural appropriation so I sign up for some much needed help, my consultant calls my name and in a fluster I drop my phone, my waterproof, my glasses and my dignity, gather them all up, stick them all under my arm and trying to look fit and feisty I scamper after him, I have no idea why I am possessed by a sense of urgency but I note it’s contagious, everyone in here does it, it’s as though the last consultant train is leaving the platform and you need to get on before the doors close, he is very chill, asks how I am, I say fine, he says good, any new symptoms, no, looks at my numbers pronounces them fine, suggests we carry on as we are, I agree, tells me to call if anything changes, and go wait in waiting room for pharmacist to bring drugs, meantime bald gay guy and partner have gone so I take a chair near where I know the pharmacist will appear thus avoiding embarrassing waving or shouting when she can’t locate me, offload my arm load of junk and try to reorganise myself, another panic when I can’t find mobile, much frantic patting of every pocket I own until I locate it wrapped in my waterproof under my arm, Jeez I am actually getting old and doddery and stupid, heart rate subsides in time for the pharmacist to deliver a plastic bag of goodies, she offers to explain them, I adopt my professional patient mode and decline, something I will regret once I am at home, say thanks to whatever nurses I pass on my way past the thin receptionist through the smacking door and after yet another ‘early onset’ ballet of pocket patting I pay a modest mortgage for 2 hours use of the multistorey and hit the road back home.

In case you missed the last line of Tuffin 22 it is … Oh yes I go to school now.

Tuffin 23

Our village has a famous river. It is famous because it is shallow so you can walk in it with wellingtons without getting wet socks at all and it has a track through it that lorries can drive through if they are too big for the bridge. So it isn’t really a river it is more of a road with a river running on top. Common people’s cars from Dartford or East Hill don’t use the bridge instead they break the rules and show off by going through the river very fast and making a big wave that fills your wellingtons and probably kills lots of fish. My dad always hopes they get stuck and water gets in the engine and ruins it. At weekends lots of common people’s children come to shout and splash in the river with just their pants on and throw stones and water at each other and at us. I hate them because they don’t know the rules. Luckily they have me to teach them. The bridge is only wide enough for one car small at a time. It is so narrow that it has places to hide at the top so that people don’t get squashed by the cars. I like to stand on guard stopping the small children from getting in hoping they will get killed. That way they will learn the rules like we have to at school. Rules for waiting or eating and playing and drinking from the water fountain and running and going to the toilet without wetting the walls or getting gravel in your knees or spilling ink and getting hit for not folding your arms, and writing in the lines and colouring in the lines and standing in lines with nowhere to hide to avoid being killed.

When I grow up, I won’t have to go to school, and I won’t have to hide.


My neighbour next door has given me an astronomical telescope he has never been able to set up. I have spent the day trying to work out what all the knobs do and learning some new vocabulary eg. Azimuth? I just managed to focus it, upside down, on a tree branch in the garden, not exactly a revelatory celestial discovery but I am going to call that sufficient progress for the day. As a kid I was very keen on astronomy but really only from the point of view of the mechanics of the telescope (especially enjoyed cleaning it) and dreaming about alien invasions targeting all teachers – (I also made a wooden tripod for the telescope which my Nan praised very highly comparing it to something my grandad could have made (he was a great maker). Praise was something she didn’t do and it really stuck with me- I still feel proud – even if she was a dreadful old bat) As for proper astronomy I was too lazy and dumb for the boring hardcore maths and geometry and suffice to say I still cannot be bothered to figure out that bit.

A theme emerges.

My commitment to anything important, or lack of it, is a feature of my life that I will probably regret on my deathbed – if I can be arsed to bother to regret on my deathbed – let’s hope I am too morphinated to regret.  

So, I am in the process of leaving the Labour Party, they don’t make it easy. I can’t really say why I want to leave, or I could but it would just be for bogus reasons designed to sound good but aren’t really true. The truth is I don’t know why –  I have just gone off it. I have gone off ‘causes.’ I don’t think I am a cause type of person anymore. Feel free to criticise, call it giving up or getting old but just now I feel unexcited at the thought of being a member of anything worthy or serious so Momentum and the Humanist Society are next for the chop which leaves only membership of Curries PC World, Blockbuster and a coffee club – a free coffee every 10 – at some long forgotten coffee place in Scarborough. I’ll keep that one.

Yep it’s nearly September/October, my most hated time of the year and I am making Herculean efforts to stave off the grumps.

I have explained the September thing in previous posts, but at the risk of being boring it’s simple – darker, colder, wetter, winter, SCHOOL – the only compensation is better TV but even the new season of ‘Strictly’ just serves as a reminder that it’s darker, colder, wetter, winter and soon you will be stuck inside watching TV on Sunday dreading school the next day,  trying to elicit cheer from dancing celebrities you have never heard of.  

Going back to school was always a massive downer for me (sometimes lurching towards the clinical) and even now my heart goes out to anyone imprisoned by compulsory education confined for 12 years with classmates you don’t like, and teachers who don’t like you. Rest assured ‘young school aged person reader’ whatever some old Tory codger (who went to a school where they wear boaters) or well-meaning liberal education reformer (who went to a school where they teach foraging) might say to you, all school amounts to is is a sentence to be served out, hopefully without being beaten up or having your imagination drained out of you like sump oil from from my gold ford cortina my friend Jonathan sold me after it failed its MOT –  it is absolutely not ‘the best years of your life.’ If possible, find a way to bunk off. My preferred escape was orienteering classes (designed to help us audition mor effectively for service in N.Ireland I suspect)  in the course of which I would orienteer home for a banana sandwich and a Jimi Hendrix tape telling my mum we had the afternoon off for revision. “What revision?” She should have cried but she was much too nice and always pleased to see me. She loved me even when I was a bolshy teenage git skiving off school.

I am just getting to the end of a delightful few weeks of annual leave where my significant achievement has been to relax quite a bit and not obsess about a project. That said I have managed to shift the mental block that has been inhibiting my bass playing practice such that I felt I was letting myself down. I really used to enjoy playing in the family band but then both my boys got to be very good at playing all sorts of instruments and I stayed really bad at one, despite trying really hard and so I became despondent and I kind of packed up and sort of sulked  – but now I am back reenergised  – still a dreadful musician but no longer sulking  – the secret is to do very very little practice, 20 minutes is quite enough, but do it regularly! Also set realistic achievable and modest goals, not I will be the next Ray Brown in a year. Embarrassing though it is to report, I started first day of the holiday by learning where the notes were on the bass fretboard – ok I should have known that already but I didn’t. Once that started to gel I used an app called IReal to practice hitting the root note of the right chord while a song was playing. Went through a big chunk of the Beatles catalogue which was a joy in its own right. Had to slow some of them down but never mind I muddled through. So while I will never ever master walking bass, (something I have always wanted to do – it’s so cool and my composer best mate wrote an opera that centred around walking bass lines) it requires musicianship, taste and a quick brain (so forget that). I can now more or less hit one root note per chord in a jazz standard or Beatles song and occasionally provide a bit of rhythmic variety – that is as long as I have the chord chart in front of me and I don’t get lost in the repeats and whatnot. Ok it’s not much but it very satisfying and I am pleased with myself.

While on holiday we met up with extended family which was lovely and very kind of them as we obliged them to travel stupid distances just because we didn’t know the geography of southern England. Just because Deal is in Kent does not make it close to Tonbridge Wells Chris! I am lucky to have a not boring family that I don’t see enough of but the traditional big do’s where we all meet up on mass don’t do it for me and the last big one for familial ash scattering was marred by a dramatic, sudden and scary bout of appendicitis (not mine) and a general sense of weirdness and overwhelment on my part. Seeing them in small groups this time was just great. It’s easy to forget that family beyond those you partner up with or make within partnerships (ok that sentence is total rubbish as I try to extricate myself from the accusation of old fashioned morality – when I wrote it it read …’family beyond those you marry or make within marriage’ which I must say worked better)  are important and aren’t just for Christmas, weddings, christenings, birthdays and all that tiresome ritual crap that gets on my nerves as, loyal reader, you well know.

Yep I am succumbing to the September grump

But I am not pissed off to be back at work. I will have to do tons of prep, make loads of new videos, learn lots of software and support lots of student who have been derailed during the last year but I like the teaching even remotely so tomorrow I am intent on cracking on with enthusiasm.  

Research wise I finished a draft version, rough cut, of a short film on the phone box over the summer. It’s not terrible but needs lots lots more work, so this time I am returning to work with something to offer up to the gods of research which I need to do after a long period in which I have contributed zilch. Which in university terms is the equivalent of giving up trying – double cross xx for effort – call yourself an academic – huh!

The precise nature of my return to work is a bit uncertain. To Zoom or not to Zoom? I am waiting for a verdict from my consultant on Tuesday on the risks and then further discussions with the Uni. The Uni have been exceptionally supportive, and it seems I can continue to teach from home if that’s what’s safest, so we will see what he has says and take it from there.

In general I feel ok on the treatment – taste buds are still the only noticeable side effect – energy levels a bit low and at certain times in the cycle I am daft as a brush and make loads of stupid mistakes, really can’t think straight but it’s all perfectLy tolerable and the results seem positive. The visits to the Royal Free will kick off again in November (stopped for 2 years) so that’s good as they can do a more detailed analysis of my current state and make recommendations. A close member of Avani’s family lives yards from the Royal Free so I may have someone to talk to if, as we suspect, Maria is not allowed to come with me. It’s not that it’s particularly scary it’s just a lot of hanging around and entertaining oneself waiting for results. She’s a doctor so she can shed to some light on some of the bizarre tests I have to take that I have never really understood the purpose of. Loyal readers may remember the trotting up and down the corridor test and then reporting whether you are more or less tired than when you started trotting – duh yeh! Who would say no?

Tuffin 21 & 22

Tuffin 21

Across the road from our house is a white house. Someone has covered the bricks up in stuff and then painted it white. I don’t like this as I prefer to see the bricks all the way up to the roof. Our house has bricks at the bottom and then tiles. This is also bad but paint is worse. The main thing with paint is you have to keep painting it again when it’s dirty or flaky so the house is always fading away and I prefer strong things that stay the same. The people that lived in the White House  didn’t have any children so some new people have moved in with children and the old ones  have gone away to live in a bungalow by the seaside and then die or that’s what mum says. She seemed to think this was quite sad and I agree because surely it would be a lot less trouble to die in the White House and not have to move your things and have all that curfuffle. The lady and the man next door died and they didn’t move and now there are two new old people next door who look like they will do the same thing soon. The new people across the roads children are both girls which means all the children in the houses near me are girls. This is a blow because although he was weak Andrew was stronger than Jill and could almost jump from six stairs up. The two girls are twins but you wouldn’t know because they are not at all alike. I am suspicious that they are adopted. I have heard that adopted children are very deceitful because being adopted has to kept secret. Mum says that I must not ask them and I must not think that but then she was still sad about the people dying in a bungalow so she was feeling a bit sensitive and short.

When I grow up I won’t die or move to a bungalow by the seaside

Tuffin 22

They are not adopted I asked. They didn’t mind in fact they thought it was fun to pretend they were. They said that their real parents were German and had been captured and put in prison so  their new parents rescued them and brought them here but their old parents were planning to escape  from prison and take them back to Germany to live in a castle which had caves and a lake that you were allowed to play in. I told them about the black swimming pool and they said they would like to see it and that one day I could visit them in Germany to see the lake and swim in it.  They are called Jean and Judith. I said it was a good idea to have the same first letter for their first name because then their initial would be the same so when they want to be more like twins that would help. They told me that there middle names did not have the same initial but they would not tell me what they were because they were German names so they were secret and hard to spell.  I think J and J might go higher up my list than Jill as Jill doesn’t speak German and they can. All my girl friends have a name beginning with J. That makes me think that J is a girlish letter but then John is a very popular boys name and I have a friend at school called Jonathan. Oh yes I go to school now.

When I grow up I want to change my name to Josh and learn German

Di’s statue is dreadful dross – Tuffin 20

I don’t know about you folk but I am unable to sleep, breathe, eat or function normally  since seeing the new Princess Diana statue. I have long ceased getting wound up about the big issues, survival of the planet, survival of the Labour Party, survival of me (that was all quite embarrassing in retrospect) but this atrocity has tipped me over the edge and I have to rant.

RANT: It is quite simply the worst piece of public art I have ever seen and I looked at loads for my Bridlington project.  The Artist should retire now and do something he is suited for like decorate Hallmark cards from the 1970’s, illustrate 1930’s children’s books or do those posters outside churches to come to a coffee morning. Sorry I do a disservice,  1930’s childrens book illustrators we’re working within the somewhat mawkish sentiments of the time and doing it rather well – this chap has dug up everything that is ghastly about the style – cute kids, mother/Madonna figure, maypole motif, horrible dress, someone else’s face (my vote is for David Bowie) and what seems to be a particularly finely wrought and enormous cowboy belt  to which he had added his own and ‘those brothers’ [I have nothing against them personally but I think we can now be confident that they don’t have an artistic bone in their bodies] particular brand of dreadful dreadful quasi religious kitsch – Sorry I do a disservice –while I despise all religiosity I love kitsch – this is beyond kitsch it is simply indescribable rubbish – lets take it down – melt it  – throw it in the canal and give a proper artist a chance to do something worthy of her reputation and tragic death – I thought the water garden thing was excellent – statues stink anyway – but really…….

Give it the commission to Tracy Emin and see what she comes up – at least it might look like a piece of 21st century art. The photo series below relates to her Cancer and is brilliant. I wish i had done something like it but I am not brave enough.

Ok, got that off my chest.

Busy planning/making a short documentary about the phone box. Learning about photography and film making as I go, so I have a very low expectations of quality. George is mentoring. I have been persuaded to rejoin the university research world and hopefully this will be part of my contributions. Other than uni teaching prep – [l guess the documentary project will contribute to that as well – additional skills and whatnot] – which is still quite intense, everything else has gone on back burner including Tuffin. I have 4 weeks holiday end July and August so we have plans but they are very very flexible to accommodate any last minute Nonna set backs but I want to use some of the time to complete the documentary and revitalise a few other projects which have fizzled out such as my CR-Apps but I also must get out and about… hmm (see below for bike news) .

Treatment goes well. Just started 4th cycle – hopeful for reduction in dose. Tastebuds not so bad this time – side effects generally less annoying. My wakefulness for three nights a week (this is night one) is no fun for Maria so I find a warm spot somewhere under the railway arches and kip there so as not to disturb her. Aside from the damp, the thieving and the violence it’s fine. I slip back in the morning to prepare her breakfast and tend my wounds

We have bought a second folding bike so we can go off on leisurely car jaunts and then take off free as birds – as long as the road is flat (no hills) and pothole free – airfields would be nice – very titchy wheels – oh and a convenient convenience, somewhere to get a snack – oh and a bus back to the car. Full size bikes are such a pain to stuff in car – likely to do back in loading the car never mind having a crash and falling in a ditch.

Maria continues to do things with apricots and exercise her new found passion for paper engineering. Separately I should say. She is incredibly neat and patient, qualities I don’t share, and she’s really good at it, if a tiny bit obsessive – says he.

Tuffin 20

Next to the station and to get to the wood is a narrow road. We are allowed to go down the road all the way to the donkey but no further as then you get to the shooting range where the army try out machine guns and bombs. I really want to go there but Dad says that even though it was in the war there still might be bombs lying about. I once heard a few bangs coming from there but no one was blown up or shot so I think it’s safe as long as you are careful and sensible. On the way to the donkey the road is so narrow that if a car comes you have to climb onto the bank to let it pass. The bank is full of snails and Jill is afraid of snails. They are really big ones the size of the crowns I have in my coin collection that the lady next door gave me before she died in bed. I sent her a thankyou letter but she must have been dead already because when dad went to make sure the house was ok it was still on the mat. On the way to the donkey we once found a mole in the middle of the road. I picked it up but it bit me so I dropped it. I pretended it didn’t hurt but it did and it bled a bit so I kept my hand in my pocket. After that we kicked it with our feet over to the bank to stop it getting run over but it didn’t move again so we left it alone. I think I killed it when I kicked it. The donkey is very muddy but we take carrots for it so it comes to the gate and puts its head over when it sees us coming. Everyone is afraid of it biting them except me. I like animals and they know that. Except moles perhaps but I think they are blind like the man at the station. The donkey has a really fat belly like Rosalind and thin legs like me. It’s not having a baby though as it has a big willy like Brian has when he is in the woods.

(There are lots of pattens in that bit – I must make a list later)

PS -The donkey’s best bit is it’s ears that are big, not sticky out like mine but sticky up. I wonder what donkeys hear like. If wonder if they can hear other donkeys making noises a long way off like submarines can. After all this one is all on its own and is probably lonely even with us there so it might like to hear another donkey even if it can’t see it.

When I grow up I want to explore the shooting range and find a bomb or bullets and I want my ears to be less sticky out.