Monday, December 31, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers (& Friends)

On the last day of 2012 all I can say is PHEW, THANK GOD I MADE IT. Well, I have as of 10.58 in the morning. I hate to sound like Eeyore or Neil from 'The Young Ones' but I don't take anything for granted anymore.

It looked dark there for a while, especially on that day in early summer when I was rolling around on my bed in the worst pain I've ever experienced, unable to breathe and simultaneously feeling like I'd been shot in the guts with an assault rifle. But I got through, thanks in no small part to the insistence of my partner Michelle that I go to hospital when she came home from work that night and found me walking all bent over, sweating like a man wearing a camel hair onesie in canopy jungle. And my hospital adventure would have been a hell of a lot harder without regular visits from Geoff and Jackie Lovesy, and Ian and Wendy Askew. They brought me food, they listened to my drug-induced ramblings, and they helped Michelle get back and forth to see me when I was transferred to Leicester. I'll never forget how grateful I am that they gave of their time and their energy like that.

The year was strange even before I fell ill, given my exhausting and impotent battle with the university over their relationship with the Chinese Communists, and the fact that I had had the first seizure in over a year - brought on, I think, by a previously undetected (because I hadn't done it until then) inability to stare at the tiny screen of my cheap flip top phone for too long without making my brain go haywire. I did the same thing, stupidly, the day before my birthday and went down in the street in Semilong, just around the corner from my house. Woke up being ministered to by a nurse who happened to be passing.

That latter detail shows the good luck I have had, in amongst the discouraging little tangles with ill health and death. Why a nurse, of all people? And what would have happened if my partner had been away for the weekend that day when it was really bad? My lung had collapsed. The nurses in Leicester told me that if I'd left it much longer I would have been heading for the worm farm.

I'm not one to look for explanations in fate, or divine protection. I don't deserve to be looked after by anyone; I'm just another guy who's trying to be a decent man and leave the world better than he found it. Luck will do, as an answer to why I'm still here plaguing my few remaining friends and readers with my pontificating and my bad poetry. I can deal with the possibility that life or death are decided by whether you choose to turn right or left at the end of the next road. It's frightening, but it gives life a glorious clarity.

I can also deal with the possibility that there's more than a little kindness in most people, and that sometimes our lives just get in the way of us showing it.

Which is a useful thought to hold onto on the day that the Office for National Statistics publishes data showing that the wealth gap between the country’s rich and poor is twice as wide as any EU member state. I get very depressed about such things sometimes, wondering if we'll ever have the fair and generous Britain that I long for. But when my own experience with other people shows me, generally, exceptional kindness, how can I give up hope?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Step Away From Them

Bunny died, then John Latouche,
then Jackson Pollack. But is the
earth as full as life was full, of them?*

RAVI SHANKAR, virtuouso sitar player, whose death aged 92 was announced yesterday. He is pictured here many years ago with his student and friend George Harrison. How bare the world sometimes seems when great men and women leave it.

Incidentally, can we stop, for a moment, referring to Ravi as the father of (S)Norah Jones? I think his achievements were significant enough to be considered in their own right.

*Frank O'Hara "A Step Away From Them".