It’s 10.30pm, Saturday 20th December 2014, amid the mostly inebriated throng of seasonally-adjusted, Santa-Hat (Hate) wearing crowds, whose jollification amplification has been well oiled and ramped up way past 11, the performer/writer/loner, staggers towards Holborn and the 243 bus that will carry him home. His show has come to the end of it’s 4 week run, the applause has died down, the audiences have stood and cheered, plaudits have been given, some accepted, many still attempting to penetrate his inbuilt suspicion of such niceties. The inability to ‘hear and believe’ any kind of praise, still difficult, still, part of his makeup, still very much, a work in progress.
The West-End is glowing, it’s bars and clubs, overflowing, as drinks are dispatched, office parties descend towards overfamiliarity with colleagues normally avoided. It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid, right?
Stamford Hill is as un-festive as you may (or may not) expect it to be, given it is home to 20,000 Hasidic Jews, for whom Christmas, is as insignificant/relevant as say, Paris fashion week. Aside from the blue glow of my slaughtered E-cig, there are no twinkling lights on Stamford Hill Broadway, not one Christmas tree displayed on Ravensdale Road as I stride the final few yards towards chez Mason, I’m tired, oh man, I’m so fucking tired.
I thought I knew what loneliness was, I didn’t, I do now though. That ten minutes backstage, alone. sitting in my dressing room as the audience arrives and I am kept company by the sound of fear and loathing, not in Las Vegas, but in my head as I sit shaking in that tiny room behind the stage.
Bad craziness indeed.
“You’re a cunt”
It it tells me,
“Always have been, always will be and now you’re about to demonstrate exactly why, to these fucking idiots who’ve paid for the privilege.”
The final song of the pre-show soundtrack pours out from the PA system…Ghosts, by The Jam
“Why are you frightened can’t you see that it that it’s you, that ain’t no ghost that’s a reflection of you. Why do you turn away keeping of sight, or don’t live up to your given roles, there’s more inside you that you won’t show.”
I’m restored to sanity, smile to myself and prepare to walk onstage, I’ve got the music in me, it’s all I need, it’s why it’s so important.
“One day you’ll walk right out of this life and then you’ll wonder why you didn’t try, to spread some loving all around, old fashioned causes like that, still stand.”
I offer up a thought to those friends we have lost along the way, speak their names softly, connect, with their memory as the song comes to the end..
“So why are you frightened can’t you see that it’s you, at the moment there’s nothing so there’s nothing to lose, lift up your lonely heart and walk right on through.”
It’s showtime, I deliver, raw, emotive energy, feelings, love, loss despair and redemption…I am in tears at the end, as it should be, thank you for coming, goodnight.
There is no end of run party, I am too tired.
My flat is warm, I turn on the lights to the Christmas tree Tabitha and I decorated together a few days ago, she’s staying with her mother tonight, but I will see her tomorrow, it’s the only gift I desire and worth more than anything you could buy.
My phone rings, there are few people in the world I would answer it to right now, my sister is one of them.
“Hey Ruthie…just got home from the show, you ok?”
“It’s mum, she’s got worse, you need to come tomorrow, please.”
My mum is 82, she’s been in hospital for a couple of days due to a fall, but the tone of my sisters voice suggests that whatever plans I might have made for the immediate future, are about to change.
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”
Then something is seriously rotten in this sceptred Isle right now.
Don’t be poor in this country and if you are, please don’t get unwell, particularly at Christmas. The public-school boys in charge dislike you enough already without giving them added reason to have to try and pretend otherwise. Apparently they’ve got the economy under control now and there’s still enough money left over to give the bankers their bonuses, so let’s not spoil the party by needing the care of the NHS eh?
My sister is at my mums bedside, it is not my mother lying in the bed though, at least it’s not the woman who gave birth to me, nurtured me, did the best she could at all times, made sacrifices in the hope i’d have have a chance of experiencing a better life that she’d tried to deal with. The woman who then had to endure watching her son spend years….well you know my story already.
Something’s happened, an infection has gripped her, she doesn’t know who she is, let alone who my sister and I are, she can’t walk, talk or take care of herself in any manner. She is on a ward with other elderly women, who I would assume, given their ages and background, perhaps wish for little more than some dignity. What I see, is suffering, sadness, pain and a chronically, underfunded, understaffed NHS, that seems utterly incapable of delivering much of what it would like to.
You want to speak to a doctor? Maybe tomorrow.
You look around the ward for some nurses, there are young girls in scrubs with badges saying they are ‘nursing assistants’ they are wonderful, caring and kind, but they are not nurses.
The nurses that are here, are agency nursing staff, they will arrive, be given a handover, do their 12 hours shift as best they can and leave then neither you, nor the patients might see them again for days, if at all. There will be others who take their place of course, but if you want continuity of care, you’d better have the money to pay for it.
What price dignity?
Ask the Prime minister and his henchmen, I’m pretty sure they have it all covered and the only time they will see a ward like this, is when they’re trying to win votes.
A ward like what exactly?
A ward where I arrived one morning to find my mum writhing in agony in a wet bed, crying in pain and confusion because the lady adjacent had been screaming all night then tried to kill herself by throwing herself off her own bed.
A ward where I saw an elderly woman carrying her own excrement in a nappy mumbling to herself,
“I don’t know why I’m here”
A ward, where, were it not for the constant vigil of my sister, we were told by the staff, my mother may well have died.
THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A SECOND NEXT TIME YOU SEE THAT CUNT CAMERON ON TELEVISION TELLING US THE COUNTRY IS SAFE IN HIS PARTY’S HANDS.
There is so much more I could say, none of which is a reflection on the staff that continue to try to do their best, I know where to direct my anger and It’s not here.
Christmas and New year, came and went, I thought I was tired, compared to my sister and the staff at the hospital, it is utterly insignificant.
I drove to London and back to collect Tabitha and bring her down to Somerset, to spend time with her cousins and possibly say goodbye to her Grandma, it began to look likely.
Many friends in the ‘real world’ and on Facebook etc offered thoughts and prayers, for which I am grateful, but if i’m honest, that gratitude was often eroded by pain, fear and anger, please forgive me if I did not respond to many of you.
Such are the circumstances of my life at the moment, I was forced to return to London on new years day, my sister continued to attend to mum, nobody seemed willing or able to make any sort of prognosis as to what we might expect to happen, Ruth and I both said goodbye to mum on several occasions, whether mum could understand any of what we both said to her, is unlikely, but nonetheless, it was said amid the loneliest of new years tears.
I thought i knew what loneliness was.
I thought I knew what tiredness was.
I was wrong on both counts.
There is a line of dialogue in my show, towards the end, it refers to Tabitha.
“And then she changed her mind, she’s a girl, it’s what they do.”
My mum, is also a girl, a fact i’d long forgotten as she grew older and more frail, forgive me mum, please.
I thought she was going to die, my sister, thought she was going to die, the doctors and nurses, also thought she was going to die.
On christmas day evening, as I stroked her hair and told her I was sorry for being such a rubbish son all those years,in a rare moment of lucidity my mum told me she thought she was about to die.
I got a phone call from my sister yesterday…
My mum is a girl, it appears she’s changed her mind about dying, she has started to make a recovery.
I’ve been meaning to try and write this blog for a while, I thought I was too tired, maybe I am because i know it’s badly written and all over the place, but I can’t be bothered to edit it, or try and make it ‘better’. It’s taken me 60 minutes to write and realise, I am neither as tired or as lonely as my mum has been this past month.
I hope my sister finds the time to read this and realise how much I love her and her kids, she has given herself entirely to the care of our mother, I believe she has saved her life.
I’m staring as at badly written stream of consciousness that I’m about to post after which I will try and find the money to go back to Somerset and do my bit.
My mum knows who I am again, I want to go and kiss her and my sister and tell them I love them both so much.
Happy new year.