Current focus of my creative life – My Telephone Box Theatre

…so if you are interested in (possibly) one of the smallest theatres in the world, in computer generated voices, in old telephone technology or finding out more about some old guy trying to figure out who he is – then go here https://k6.gravityisahat.com/wp

and forget this site. If you are a member of my family, want to read about them or about yourself, my cancer, my politics or my cats – stick around on this site.

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  !!!

HANG ON A MINUTE DOES HOP ALNG DO ALL THIS ON HER OWN?

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.

Azimuth?

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.

Phew Nonna OK! & Tuffin 19

Long silence the result of some serious worries about Nonna now happily passed. Not Nonna – the worry!

Poor Nonna has been in hospital with a whole bunch of serious stuff. We were very very worried but after being pumped with antibiotics and believe it or not bicarb, she is back at home and happily prone in front of her Italian telly, happy as Larry. I won’t go into the details she can’t really give her permission (her understanding of the inter web is nowt, nulla) but suffice to say it was a life and death scenario and the latter seemed at first, to her doctors and to us to be a highly likely outcome. To say that because she’s approaching 90 (we had a birthday  party planned in just a week or two) and we should be prepared and possibly resigned to her never coming home was utter cobblers, we wanted her home and better, she is not an Eccles cake or a cannoli beyond its sell by date to be chucked away. Happily she agreed and despite dire predictions, much to our surprise and I think the doctors, her numbers returned to the  sustainable dreadful she has been maintaining for months now and she was discharged. She is beginning to be able to eat again without throwing up, can just about stagger with her walker to her essential services, has carers (who she really likes) help her dress morning and night, Maria makes her lunch, even I  managed to make a passable bowl of pastina when Maria was at work, manages a really complicated diet of new, changed and withdrawn drugs that makes mine look meagre and most importantly is so jolly that it makes us jolly. So now back to the status quo for however long such statistically improbable stability can be maintained – we can all breathe again and to some degree get on with our lives and think again about Tuffin and telephone box art that I just could not focus on while she was in such dire straits.

So here is latest followed by my own health update which is thankfully much less dramatic.

Tuffin 19

Andrew and I have a new game called hanging teddies. We both have teddies but because we are old now we don’t need them. Mine was given to me by my mean Nan, who my mum hates. She is not mean to me but she is mean to the family.  It has short fur and when you turn it upside it growls but it sounds like a cow. Andrew’s has long fur and is quite small and worn out. It doesn’t growl or anything. We attach string round their necks and dangle them out of my window. Because of the porch we can’t swing them very far without them bashing into the walls but we can balance them on the porch roof so it looks like they are going to do suicide  like the lady up the road did only she set herself on fire. The people walking up the road from the station saw us and smiled which is strange because I don’t think its funny. Andrew’s bear was weak and it head and body tore apart like it had had its throat cut. Andrew said the bear belonged to his mother and her mother so she would be cross. I knew about sewing from Mrs Friends class so I showed Andrew how to stitch the head back onto the body just like the boy at school had stitches on his thigh after he fell on some railings. I wanted to do the hanging teddies game again but Andrew said he was going home. Andrew is very weak like his Teddy.

When I grow up I want stitches.

My numbers are still improving so the dose of steroids has been reduced. I feel not too bad most of the time,  bit knackered and the food thing is annoying. Fizzle out in the evening but mornings are good and productive. I could definitely sustain this regime if it has to go on beyond September perhaps forever but I must admit I will miss experiencing  nice tastes. I didn’t think it was important, which it isn’t, but I do spend many a moment gazing longingly into the fridge trying to conjure up anything that doesn’t end up tasting like hoover left overs. I am still on pickled herring, tomato’s, apples, porridge with cream, plain pasta with butter, liquorice, tea and decaf coffee (thank goodness), fried bread, eggs and asparagus. Now looking at my list I don’t know why I am complaining but having been previously such a fan of most foods, provided I didn’t  have too cook them, such a specialised menu does seem a bit sad. I am hungry pretty much all the time which is also a new experience for me, I have lost weight, not a great deal, but my emaciated chicken legs are now even more hilarious when framed by summer wardrobe of three quarter shorts, short white socks, and my Clarks elasticated slip ons, (designed to make shoe putting effortless) -, sadly my belly persists resulting in over reliance on my non existent hips to support said shorts such that upon returning from the hospital a few days ago my shorts dropped to my ankles upon exiting the car much to Maria’s heartless amusement.

Oh one other important thing – Lisa and Arts gig scheduled for July has fallen foul of the Covid restrictions and is rescheduled for December 1st – Your tickets will still be valid – what a bummer though.

Tuffin 17 & 18

After watching real trains I like to get out my train set. I only have one train and two carriages and the track is a circle. It needs two batteries to work and they are expensive and Dad says I need to reserve power and I have to be careful to remember to disconnect everything when I finish playing. I don’t understand why Andrew likes the train set but doesn’t like real trains but he always wants to play with it even on days when I haven’t been at the station first, which is stupid. I am beginning to think that his behaviour means he isn’t the right person to go at the top of my list after all. Jill can’t go there as she is a girl so that is a problem. Sometimes I let Andrew drive the train. He likes to make it go as fast as it can which means it comes off the track. I tell him that he needs to be more careful and make it like the speed of the train real even though it’s tiny compared to the real thing. Because he doesn’t go to the station like me he doesn’t understand this and he keeps making the train crash. In the end I tell him the battery is going to run out and that we have to stop. He doesn’t seem to mind but I feel quite annoyed and hope he moves to Essex soon and someone new and better moves into his house that I can put at the top of my list. Afterwards we go outside and plays trains by walking along the garden wall making train noises. As we are doing it the ten to six from Holborn Viaduct arrives and all the people walk up the road past us on their way home. One of them is the lady who was sick, so I do a really fast train along the wall to get away from her.

When I grow up I want another carriage.

Tuffin 18

I tell mum about the sick lady and she says that most likely she is going to have a baby because that makes you sick. I don’ t understand because I thought having a baby made you happy. If it makes you sick why bother.

Next morning I watch out the window until I see the lady walking down to the station again to catch the two minutes past eight stopping service to Blackfriars. I do this watching most mornings while Mother tidies up after Dad has gone to work. He catches the ten to eight which is the fast train. The number 83. I notice she has a fat tummy that sticks out of her coat and mum says her name is Rosalind and something about her skirt being too short. If there is a baby inside it must be being jiggled about because she is rushing. I think mum is wrong because there is no way a baby could get out of there without making a terrible mess so more likely her big belly is what makes her sick. I get that after too much strawberry pink ice cream especially if it’s a hot day. I wonder if all babies come through worm holes like me and if they do what has that got to do with bellies and being sick. If Rosalind has a worm hole in her belly that would make her sick for sure because of all the gravity swirling round. Also people would be swirling around her getting sucked into her belly and appearing in the future or the past rather than catching the train and going to work.

When I grow up I don’t ever want to be sick again so I will never eat strawberry pink ice cream on hot days.

Tuffin 16

At the bottom of the road is a railway station. I am allowed to go there to do train spotting. I have an Observers Book of trains with all the trains in England and lots and lots of lists that tell you things like how many wheels they’ve got. I go there on my own because neither Jill or Andrew are interested in trains and going on my own is more grown up. There aren’t that many trains going to our station and most of them are the same type but I did once see a steam train but it wasn’t in the book so it must not be English. When I am waiting for the trains, I watch the people on the platforms. Once I saw a lady be sick into her hand, some of it splashed on the floor next to her. I was almost sick watching and everyone near her moved away but she seemed alright and went back inside the station I suppose because she was afraid people would laugh or to wash the sick off her hand or maybe she just went home and went to bed. I would have done that if I had been sick. Another time a blind man was at the station. He had a white stick but no dog. I thought he might walk off the platform and get killed but he stood very still well back from the edge and waited for his train and a man talked to him just like he was normal. I wondered if his dog was dead like March or had run away. I can’t be fun for a dog to look after a blind man all day long because the dog has to always be on a lead and the blind man can’t throw sticks or run fast without falling over.

When I grow up I don’t want to be blind