Meeting with the past

What a week, definitely some good stuff and also some real blasts from the past. The main thing has been my regular monthly trip to Brighton to see James dealing with cancer and to visit my ‘old chaps’ Bob and Brian to check they are OK. I took a leave day from work on Wednesday and went down around lunchtime to Lewes to meet up with James. We met in town rather than going to his house, and drank coffee and chatted. He looks well but he has a mega-important meeting next Wednesday which will decide what treatment can be offered from here onwards. The option he is hoping for is radical new surgical treatment only offered at one place in the UK but it all depends on if he is well enough. Cancer is like HIV (and probably many medical conditions) – how you look and feel doesn’t really matter, what matters is what the medical tests tell the doctors about the state of your body.

I stayed over the night at a hotel in Brighton and planned for some real ‘me-time’. I wanted a massage, especially concentrating on my legs, to be followed by a nice restaurant meal and then a drink in the hotel bar. All seemed to be going well. I checked into my nice hotel and went along to book my massage – they do not accept phone bookings any more. Some bastard had got in before me and booked a massage session for 90 minutes. This meant I could not be fitted in until 8.15. That was too late as I would have to hang about for two hours doing nothing and would not be eating until at least 9.45. So I gave up on the massage and went to a trendy Mexican restaurant (La Choza) I keep trying to eat in but it is always full. As it was only 6.30, I was able to put my name on the list of people wanting a table that night – there were about 12 bookings in front of me. So I had a wander around Brighton’s North Laine and found a pub to have a drink and read my book. I got called to eat around 8. It was a very good meal though the standard Mexican menu. I enjoy eating alone with a book and a glass of wine. Nachos and a pulled pork burrito in a fairly frenetic atmosphere – lovely. Then back to the hotel to catch an excellent programme on BBC4 about British pop and fashion in the seventies plus phoning Dave. Finally down to the hotel bar for a glass of rose and more reading before crashing out.

But the biggest incident of my visit came the next morning. As some of you may know I lived in Brighton for 12 years and had a couple of very big relationships down there – one with a guy named Paul. We went out together for over 7 years, bought a house together, got pets, etc. And our relationship finished very acrimoniously including solicitor letters and generally being nasty to each other. I have not seen Paul for 10 years and you can see where this story is going; indeed I suppose it was inevitable we would bump into each other at some point. I was getting the bus to Bob’s nursing home and I heard someone running to catch it. I went upstairs and so did the running man, of course it was Paul. So we had the situation of us sitting on a bus catching up on the last 10 years without trying to prod any emotional angles about our previous relationship or any other major news including the death of his father. It felt really surreal to me, like it was not happening but it was. We were pleasant to each other but it was one of those situations where there is so much water under the bridge and emotional baggage that we could have spent a week talking and not covered all the angles. He got off the bus for work and I carried on to see Bob. Will we talk again? I do not know, time will tell – there really are things we need to sort out but they may be best left alone. I suppose the key thing I took from it all is that I know my life has moved on and that meeting your past is not the worse thing but don’t expect it to be easy.

So from one of the most fucking weirdest bus journeys of my life to seeing Bob who as you may know lives permanently in a nursing home. The weather was great still so I pushed him in his wheelchair along to the outdoor cafe at Portslade we like to go to. He had a coffee and a bacon sandwich – the latter being one of the biggest treats I could give him. We sat and watched the world go by for about an hour and a half occasionally chatting though his speech and memory have been affected by his stroke. But we know each other so well that at times we ¬†could just sit together without saying anything but both enjoying the world around us and each other’s company. From Bob onto St James Street at the other end of the city to meet Brian for lunch at the cafe we always go to. He was in good form despite his leg problems and has so benefited from the zimmer frame/stroller on wheels I have previously mentioned. A nice lunch and he filled me in on all the latest gossip from the older people’s housing complex he lives in. Then we took a long and slow walk so he could go to M&S to get some cakes for the MacMillan coffee morning and I could go to the station. A sign of his good form was the long distance we both walked all on a slight upward slope though Brian tells me it is easier to walk uphill rather than down. For me it was then the fast train back to London and my life there.

What about the rest of this week? In terms of exercise, it has been good with three gym sessions achieved. And on Saturday morning I did my usual jog-run. I was apprehensive for my achilles particularly but all went well and I covered the usual distance in a decent time without too many aches afterwards. For reading, I completed Eduardo Mendoza’s ‘An Englishman in Madrid’. Originally written in Spanish, it is about an English History of Art professor who finds himself in Madrid just before the civil war kicks off. It is a thriller / comedy and features all the main political characters of the time and a lost Velazquez. It was very well written but came across to me as a bit of an Elizabethan comedy of errors with slightly ridiculous coincidences and crossed paths. I have also been reading a Patrick O’Brian book ‘The Fortune of War’ – part of the Jack Aubrey – Stephen Maturin saga. There are several authors whose work I dip into on a regular basis and the boys-own / male bonding of O’Brian combined with swashbuckling early nineteenth century naval battles is one of those. Though I must admit it can be a bit hard to follow when it dwells on nautical words and expressions. The usual story on languages and digital skills. A fair bit of Duolingo but no progress on digital. I am really going to have to do something drastic to move forward here.

In social terms, another big surprise this week was getting back in contact with an old friend on Facebook. I have not spoken with Andy for about 15 years and we’ve had a bit of an online catch up that will hopefully be followed up by a drink. Apparently though he lives in York he is often in London. People slag off how ‘real’ some digital friendships are but I would point out how it gives you contact with people that you would not be in touch with otherwise. Two nights with mum who is fine though I wish she did not eat so much. I went to bed on Monday and she was eating her way through a whole tub of ice cream though leaving the meringue bits she did not like. Time also spent with Dave though he is very tired as he is back at work. On Tuesday I had a good catch up meal with Dom and Tim both who are heavily involved in looking after their ill mothers. We had a nice time and they shared their experiences. Tim recently left the front door at his mum’s open by accident and she went wandering being found by the neighbours whilst he was working on a breakthrough in Ottoman art. And Dom is bravely taking his mum with Saga to Gran Canaria in December.

Only two days in work this week – the third day taken as leave so I could go to Brighton to do my own non-formalised volunteering. It is all systems go to sign off assessments by the deadline of early next week so that the potential grants can then go through the relevant internal and external processes to see if they will be offered. I also arranged for YoungMinds’ Vs project to come and discuss the work they are doing in promoting better mental health services for young people (see my website of the week). About 30 people attended from across my organisation to hear first hand from young people themselves about the mental health issues they faced (such as bullying, attempted suicide, and remote medical services) and the campaigning they were doing as a result of their experiences. Some really emotional stuff and people moved to tears by the young people’s experiences. It is so important for people to be able to appreciate directly the shit that others are going through who are being supported by the projects we fund. I have also been giving guidance to potential applicants including one supporting student mental health and another looking to iron out health inequalities for men.

Wonker of the week: It was going to be Len McCluskey simply because he is a complete dinosaur who keeps parroting the same class war nonsense. But I noticed he was kept under wraps for the Labour party conference. So wonker of the week is David Cameron for his stunningly indiscreet repetition of this private conversation with the Queen including the infamous description of her purring. Such conversations are private and the Prime Minister should be above gossiping – amazingly undignified for the role he fills.

Website of the week:

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